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Fake food of my fake food, needle felted by Jordan
Today is my birthday. Coincidentally it is also my Free Friday so I'm enjoying a very lovely leisurely day. We began with candy in my shoes, fresh-baked muffins and presents. I received the most wonderful and thoughtful gifts—and so many! An artfully designed wiFi speaker from soundfreaq. The girls and I are listening to Yo-Yo Ma while I write. The new Cooks Illustrated compendium, The Science of Good Cooking, to further my culinary explorations; a gorgeous newly release boxed set of The Complete Sherlock Holmes—stunning cover art and wood block prints throughout—which Jordan has all ready dived into; and the most charming and delightful handcrafted gifts from the girls. 

I am so impressed with the girls ability to do things, to make things, to conceive and execute. Franny knitted a scarf—oh, how I love the colors and stripes!—using two new stitches that she learned while watching YouTube videos. She has a fantastic spatial sense and an ability to self-teach and tackle new concepts. Franny also made me a darling beanie, with a peaked top that resembles the stem of an acorn, that she knit using circular needles, alternating normal and vertical stitches, and all made without a pattern. 
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Fresh blueberry muffins baked by Franny
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Needle felted gnome that we named Toady. He's adorabubble which is beyond adorable.
Jordan ripened her needle felting skills by making a gnome (so tubby & cute!) and fake food fruit. She led me out to the dining room with eyes closed for a surprise reveal of handmade green apples, yellow pears, orange and twin cherries arranged to match the cover art of my blog. It amazes me that she can sit with a blob of wool, to then transform it into the very thing she imagined.

Franny and Jordan are an inspiration to me. They can be shy to talk to a sales clerk at a store, but they are fearless when it comes to devoting their energy to a project. Verbal acuity will happen as they mature; their curiosity and enthusiasm seem innate. The mission will be to foster that passion and creativity throughout their lives.
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With my Bear, and wearing the hand-knitted scarf she made me
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The celebrations started yesterday at work with a beautifully moist layer cake baked by Carole.
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Gorgeous bouquet!
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Tin Cup Serenade at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden's Redwood Grove Thursday Summer Concert Series, with the girls and Caryn
My past birthdays have been fun, melancholic, hectic, full of expectation, but always a time of contemplation. As the start of my new year begins, I find myself in an unusual (but getting more common) sweet spot of laid back reflection. It's been a tough year due to relationship problems that Dave and I face, but it is has also been a year filled with good growing pains. I've stretched these past months in ways that I've wanted to for the longest time. My blog currently offers a creative play space that is easier to attain than juggling schedules for rehearsals or expensive glass blowing classes. I've enjoyed my attempts to try new recipes. My blogging serves as a jumping off point for remembering the past, the preservation of new experiences, and therapeutic as I develop as a parent, partner and individual. 

What are my goals for the new year? Should I have specific objectives? Maybe the golden ticket would be to not set forth a series of intentions but to let each day unfold. But I think that's a bit far-reaching, after all, I called my sweet spot, "laid back reflection." I will always like to plan, I will always enjoy puzzling over meaning. Dave shared with me a beautiful essay,What's on Your Mind? by Joyce Dyer. Dyer speaks to her jumbled thinking patterns and how it feeds her imagination. 
For too long, I’ve mistrusted this mind of mine. I let conventional organization rush in too soon, and I chased away the reflection and associative chaos particular to the way I think — traits I’ve begun to honor now. 

-Joyce Dyer, What's on Your Mind?
I do believe that the act of self-acceptance, albeit difficult for some of us, does cultivate creativity. It's our individual approaches, our zebra stripes if you will, that make our voices unique. So why not acknowledge those quirks instead of trying to eradicate them. Possibly by embracing that my mind likes to mull things over, I might be able to continue my beneficial contemplativeness while letting go of the more debilitating aspects of scrutiny and rumination. Would that allow me to sense more intuitively, to be more in the moment? By accepting the way my mind works, could I lose the exhaustive commentary of self-judgement, and allow life to unfold with a balance of awareness and joy? Self-acceptance also fosters connection; a kindness towards yourself engenders a reciprocal loop of generosity and receptivity to the larger world. So let's start the year not with an agenda, but trust ourselves to know what we feel, to act upon those sensations and to allow our lives to be enriched with love.
 
Danny MacAskill is a professional street trials rider (think parkour on a bike), and his latest Imaginate creation finds him pedaling through an enormous play land filled with giant everyday toys where he rides, hops and tumbles on, over and across. I've always dreamed of playing in an environment like this where I could be tiny Alice among jumbo-sized objects. If only there were enormous red-capped and white-spotted toadstools, wooden spools of thread doubling as tables, and other huge, but still adorable, fake food; now that would be my ultimate play space!

Check it out. It's amazing! And be sure to view through the credits to watch the outtakes.
 
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Sunnyside up!
Was just out for a lunchtime walk when I came upon this flower. I think it's a variety of poppy. A bush filled with sunnyside up eggs--that makes me giggle!
 
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Jordan bought these salt and pepper shakers for Franny for Christmas last year. Jordan is the pea pod with her eyes closed, Franny is the one with her eyes open.
Having twins is like having a set of peas. The girls certainly are as close as two peas in a pod. It is the most amazing thing to have twins. When I was little growing up as the only child in the house (my brother and sister are much older), I played all sorts of imaginary games by myself. I was often lonely and always wished I had a sibling my age. When I see the girls engaged in each other's play, mirroring and matching each other's enthusiasm at every turn, I feel so happy that their youth is so opposite of my own. I'm amazed at the closeness of their bond, and just a bit envious, too. 

Most of us spend much of our adult lives searching for someone to be our companion, and in many ways, Franny and Jordan have all ready experienced that kind of affinity. They will surely have many friends in their lifetime, many boyfriends and—dare I say—lovers, and hopefully life partners who will cherish and respect them and who will be the fathers of their children. But from the beginning, they've had not only an ideal collaborator in play but a sister who is intimately familiar with their rhythms, preferences and needs. They have someone to rely on, to cheer them on, to learn from and occasionally to feel in opposition to. Although it does seem likely that my Jane Austen-loving, Victorian dress-obsessed girls will want to get married, it is my hope that their early closeness with each other will aid in their independence from the men in their lives. I hope they might be free from the longing and angst that many of us are familiar with when it comes to relationships. Maybe that craving for connection is not as great when you've experienced a deep attachment from the very beginning? I wish for Franny and Jordan—and all young girls—the courage to follow their ambitions with joy and openness, to engage in meaningful relationships, and to revel in their own unique strength, creativity and intelligence.
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Pea pod serving tray with three pea bowls.
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One of my favorite magnets that's been around since before the girls were born.
 
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Created by latte artist, Kazuki Yamamoto.
A Happy Cat made from a latte? Einstein in foam? The Japanese have such a love of the cute and the whimsy.

See more images from today's NPR article by Maria Godoy, "Masterpiece in a Mug: Japanese Latte Art Will Perk You Up," featuring work by Japanese latte artists, Kazuki Yamamoto and Kohei Matsuno, also known as Mattsun. Kohei Matsuno's website contains a video of him creating his art, literally painting with espresso! And both tweet images of their daily frothy creations. 

Ephemeral art. Totally cool. 



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How can one sip away something this cute? Latte creation by Kazuki Yamamoto
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It's Kiki from Hayao Miyazaki's animated film, Kiki's Delivery Service! I love this film! I think this is a Mattsun latte.
 
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Greg's crinkle fries: Fisher-Price, circa early 90s
My nephew, Greg, got these as a gift from his mom many years ago. Greg must have been only four or five, and I was ready to jump on him and steal his new toy. I had always loved fake food and collected things when I was little, but in my early adult years, I practiced restraint. That is until Greg unwrapped these crinkle fries. My love for fake food was rekindled and has never waned again.

My sister-in-law remembered how I coveted these fries, and when her sons went off to college and she was going through old boxes, she saved these for me. For that, they are incredibly sentimental and among my favorite in my collection.

Yes, they are plastic and too uniform and the box is not realistic as a french fry container, but there's something about them that make it work. I'm not sure how I will ever quantify this, but it's like an Andy Warhol -- they POP!
 
There's two kinds of fake food: the replica fake food like the food displays in the windows of Japanese restaurants, and the cute kind. My collection of fake food is the cute kind. 
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peas & carrots in a mini blue colander!
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Super realistic fake food always has a plastic-y look to it that doesn't work for me though I was enthralled by these displays as a little girl. Photo credit: Lombroso
And my ultimate favorite kind of fake food is much harder to define, but I like to call it functional fake food. fff is adorable and should have a high design quality. It's cute but usable, playable. You can cuddle with it, use it in the kitchen, or maybe it's a funky display item. It's realistic but does not try to be exact. There's always lots of whimsy. Hand-crafted is good and natural materials are best.
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On the other hand, here is plastic fake food that is super cute. The difference is that these donuts are not trying to look realistic so the plastic doesn't detract from its playfulness. Children's toys are a great source of fake food. These donuts came as a half dozen from Lakeshore Learning many years ago. The frosting comes off and can be mix n' matched with the bottoms. 
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Wood food is best, and Haba is the best of the best! These butter cookies evoke the real thing but leave lots of room for imaginative play.
 
This is super special fake food because it was hand made by my daughter, Jordan. She made these just for me in her needle felting elective at school. 

Included are a sake nigiri (salmon), kappa maki (cucumber roll), tekka maki (tuna roll), and my favorite part, the wasabi!

I went to my favorite Japanese food store, Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley, and bought the wooden platform for full presentation effect. For those of you who don't know, Tokyo Fish is an amazing Japanese specialty food market with exceptionally fresh sushi-grade fish. They also carry a select inventory of fresh vegetables and our favorite fresh tofu from the Sacramento Tofu Company. Also attached is a small gift store with Japanese cooking utensils, dishware and other gift items. 
On my wish list is a Hangiri, a Japanese wooden mixing bowl specifically used for making sushi rice. The wood helps to absorb excess moisture from the rice so you can get the perfect texture for sushi.
 
After owning fakefood.com for over a decade, I've decided to use this as a venue for my experiments in the kitchen, my experiments to forge a creative and healthy life, a place to think about the good things, and a place to work out the hard things. And ultimately, a place for me to showcase my extensive fake food collection.  

My hope is that my entries will help me adapt to the ever-changing nature of my personal goals, my family and my relationship to my husband, Dave. I find myself experiencing some major growing pains, but it's also an exciting time of new found strength. I hope my blog is a place where I can include photos of my daughters alongside my searches for solutions to difficult questions. I'm not sure how appropriate those two things are sitting side by side in posts, but it is me. 

fakefood will also be a place to read about my cooking adventures. I love to watch cooking shows, but I get frustrated by recipes that have too many weird ingredients, use too many pans and have no awareness that most of us don't have spacious kitchens or an extra abundance of time to spend in the kitchen. I love to cook, but most of the time, I'm coming home after a full day at work and I just want to eat good food and fast. So what you will find here are simple recipes, many of which will be credited to real chefs, but you will know that they are tried and true, simple and delicious, include a few tips of my own, and possible to make in a small kitchen on a crappy electric stove. It is my hope that as I catalog more cooking experiments, my abilities will evolve and more recipes will be my own. Small kitchen and big flavor is my goal!

And lastly, fakefood will have many, many photos of fun and adorable fake food.

Thanks for reading & hope to hear from you,
shawn