Multiple Colors in an Invitation Box

Lately I’ve been making glass boxes with multiple colors for the tops and sides. I was always afraid to do them this way, but they’ve come out great! I think my hesitation stemmed from my thought that they wouldn’t be “serious” enough of the occasion, but now I feel they enhance the invitation and make it known that this was a special occasion. A box that shouts, “Look at me!” in a good way.

stained glass bat mitzvah giftstained glass wedding invitation box

Fun and Funky Bat Mitzvah Gift

stained glass keepsake box Abby_side Abby_frontI was recently asked to make a keepsake invitation box for a girl who’s “fun”. Her aunt asked me to make it “fun & funky” to fit her personality. The invitation itself was so colorful it was easy to design around. We decided to make sure it had lots of color, so I extended the bands of color around the sides of the box. I hear she loves it!

Art Nites and Renaissance Faires

Painting at Art NitesArt Nites is going to be at the Robin Hood Springtime Festival! We’re going to lead off a different painting every day. The Faire runs every Saturday, Sunday, and Memorial Day from May 21 to June 5, 2016 (11 am to 7pm). Combo Tickets to the festival/Art Nites painting will be available soon…more details to follow!

Art Nites Painting Event

Dogwood acrylic painting

I’m now finally teaching Art Nites Painting events! I had wanted to get into this for the past two years, bought $1,100 worth of easels, paint, canvas, brushes and aprons. Now, it’s actually happening! I’ve done my first two classes, which turned out great, and I’m on to more.

The Moon and the Monocle (in Willington, CT) is the location for the upcoming event, on March 31st starting at 6pm. The three hour class is $25.00 and includes all materials. Participants will leave with a finished painting!  If you know of someone who’s interested, they can register here

Lessons Learned from the Naked Cake

naked cake with fresh fruit

I’ve been asked to make another naked cake for two weeks from now! Here’s my first one above, made last summer. Well, technically this was my third one, I made two in preparation for this one and brought them in to work for comments and taste testing. I had made two versions: one completely from scratch and the other used a recipe from the Cake Mix Doctor. The cake mix won! Obviously I added my own touches to the recipe, because that’s just what I do🙂

I learned a lot from making these cakes. While they save you some time in decoration they have their own unique issues.

  • You MUST bake each layer so that they are the same color when they come out of the pan. Easier said than done! This means they can’t be on two different shelves in your oven, or they come out lighter or darker and this shows. You can see that my 6″ layer on top is slightly darker than the rest. It’s hard to gauge when baking because you can’t see the sides of your cake.
  • Try not to sugar your fruit on a hot day. This cake was done in July and the fruit was sweating as I was putting it on. I had made them the day before and left them on the counter. I had read NOT to put them in the fridge as this makes them get even more condensation and sweat further. Good advice!
  • I tried a few versions of the sugaring that I found online. In my opinion the best was warm water and unflavored gelatin. Just drag the fruit or leaves through it, and then into superfine sugar. I didn’t have superfine, so I put regular sugar into my food processor and whipped it around on low. Don’t use high, you might end up with cotton candy!
  • Filling: if you’re going to use a preserve for a filling you need to decide whether or not to let it drip out. On Pinterest I see ones where they let it just drip completely. If you don’t want it to come out, make sure to pipe a dam of frosting to hold it in.
  • What to use for fruit? I found the best were smaller fruits. I used grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and red currants. I used sage, grape leaves and vines and raspberry leaves from my garden. As an artist, I look for different shapes and different colors that still relate to one another. My favorite part of this was the sage leaves, the cascading currants and the grape vines trailing around.

It’s fun to create this type of cake. At first I was nervous that it wasn’t going to look good, but as soon as I started to put the fruit on, it magically came together and looked great. Have fun creating one – and I’ll post the next one after it’s made!

naked cake by Anna Harding

 

Stained Glass Set for a Bat Mitzvah Gift

stained glass photo frame by anna hardingHere’s a stained glass Bat Mitzvah invitation box with a matching photo frame. I was originally asked by one person to make the box, then a few weeks later another customer asked for a box – for the same girl! So I suggested the photo frame. I don’t make them too often because they’re just as much work as the box (maybe more!) and so little of the actual invitation remains. But in cases like this, I think it works great. I did ask my first customer if she was okay with it before I proceeded as I didn’t want her to feel like her gift was lessened in any way. The second customer okayed it with the girl’s mom so we were good to go.

stained glass keepsake box by anna harding

stained glass invitation box

Victorian Building Loses to Cheap Junk from China

stafford springs victorian
Maple Grove Inn / Parley Converse House

This beautiful Victorian/colonial house in Stafford, CT was demolished Monday morning. When I drove by in the morning it was standing, by the end of my workday it was a pile of rubble. I had known it was going to be torn down since winter and felt so sad over it. Such a gorgeous building, it deserved to be preserved and cherished by the town. I drive by every day on my way to work, musing about how nice it would be to have a fabulous bakery and tea room residing in it. Unfortunately I didn’t have the funds or really enough experience to make that work.

The colonial house had been built in 1816 by Parley Converse, one of the founders of the local wool mills. It received a Victorian renovation in 1870, then became a restaurant in 1930s, lasting up to recent times. The building was over 5,000 sq. ft. There had been efforts to save it, including a Facebook page but they failed.

It was in very good shape and had served upscale French cuisine. From the story I remember hearing, about ten years ago the owner would only sell it to someone who would renovate it. The listing read, “Turn key opportunity with a little elbow grease and paint….All equipment in place and inventoried…includes period moldings, ornate stairway and porches, 5 marble and 1 slate fireplace.” The new owner did fix it up, and rented it out as a restaurant again. My husband and I were so excited to go to the new Italian restaurant. We get there and were terribly disappointed! Whoever did their “decorating” should have been shot! They ripped out the ornate trim in the seating area and gave it all the personality of a Subway sandwich shop. Awful. In the hallway you could see some marble and a nice stairway, and the front parlour was intact, but only being used to store boxes. The food was okay, but not great. So sad. The restaurant didn’t last long but that wasn’t due to the economy. In fact another restaurant within walking distance was thriving – and even added on in recent years. Oddly enough that place has an ugly exterior but nice decor and the food is excellent. The next tenant was a craft beer tavern but it didn’t seem to even last a year.

According to what a friend overheard the owner was tired of trying to rent it out to places that couldn’t make a go of it and he felt it was the building’s features that inhibited his ability to find a viable tenant. So he decided to demo it and put up – a dollar store! When I told my boss what was about to happen, she was nonplused: she said, “That’s the town with the race track, right? They’ll be happier with the dollar store.” Grrr….perhaps she’s right. The townspeople didn’t put up enough of a fight to save it: people will move on, forget all about the beauty of their town, let people come in and replace it with ugly concrete and steel boxes…and cheap junk from China.

Save the Maple Grove has this video and several great pics on Facebook: