Cheesecake with Cranberries, Blueberries or Strawberries

I have been neglecting my blog for the past few months, but now that summer is over and life is slowly moving indoors I will make an effort to post more often.

I haven’t tried any new recipes for a while, but we have done a lot of baking over the summer. My husband and I are BIG fans of cheesecake. For a good month recently we made cheesecake almost every week. We stick to the classic recipe on the Philadelphia cream cheese package, and then I usually wing some sort of a topping. My favourite so far has been cranberry sauce (I had some left over in the freezer). It was absolutely perfect–the tartness of the cranberries complemented the cheese-y goodness of the cake perfectly. I also tried to make a quick blueberry topping–I simply simmered some frozen blueberries in sugar and a little water. Everyone liked it well enough, but I found it a little bland. If I try it again I’ll give it a go with some fresh blueberries instead.

Not the greatest photo, but it was late when we made the cheesecake, and it was half gone by morning so there was no opportunity to get a photo of the full cake in the light of day.

Here is the Philadelphia brand recipe for cheescake:
1 ¼ cups graham crumbs
¼ cup butter, melted
3 packages (250 grams each) Philadelphia Brick Cream Cheese
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs

Mix graham crumbs and butter, and press onto the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan. (I pre-butter the pan as well to ensure the cake doesn’t stick). Beat the cream cheese and sugar with a mixer until blended. Add the eggs and mix at low speed until just blended. Pour the mixture over the crust and bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 350 F, until the centre is almost set. Once the cake has cooled refrigerate it for at least 4 hours. Add any toppings once the cake has been refrigerated.

The cranberry sauce was made using a slightly modified recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything:
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 ½ cups sugar (I used only 1 cup)
2 cups water

Combine the cranberries, sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool before refrigerating. I like to blend the sauce to make it smooth and remove all chunks.

The blueberry sauce was derived from the cranberry sauce recipe: I simply used four cups of blueberries instead of cranberries. However, I do feel that blueberries require more sugar, especially if you’re using frozen blueberries. In the future I would increase the amount to two cups of sugar…

For the last cheesecake I made a strawberry topping. Once again I just simmered some strawberries (freshly picked from a local farm!!) with some sugar, and then blended the mixture to make it smooth.

And now I’m in the mood for more cheesecake!

 

 

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Trees in Winter

This week’s drawing started off more as a quick practice sketch. I had saved a photograph from an old calendar because I liked the trees in the foreground.

Unfortunately I cannot give credit to the photographer as their name was not mentioned in the calendar.

When I first started I was thinking it would be a quick pencil sketch, but after completing one drawing with my new coloured pencils I found I was itching to do it again.

I had some trouble with the tangle of branches and leaves in the top left corner, so I intentionally kept the trees in the background a little messy to create some continuity (of messiness). Overall I like the effect of the lighting and shadows on the snow, and the mix of all the different greens and blues. I also feel quite at home looking at the drawing; it is a typical scene I might encounter on any given day between December and March and I find it quite comforting.

Safranbolu Houses

Despite having the intention to blog regularly I never seem to get around to it. Thankfully I’m a little more dedicated to my art. Here’s a small drawing I recently finished of some heritage houses in Safranbolu, Turkey.

It’s based on a photograph I took while on a family trip almost nine years ago .

I bought myself some Derwent soft drawing pencils recently and I have to say I am loving them. Usually I prefer keeping my pencil drawings black and white, but these coloured pencils are opening me up to a whole new world…

Colourful Fish

Two posts in two days? How can this be?? Because I broke my wrist last Friday and now I can’t drive, so the time I would normally spend commuting I am instead spending drawing and blogging! I was able to finish the fish yesterday afternoon before hubby got home with the kids.

It may be a while before I am actually able to frame and hang it in the kids’ bathroom because my left hand is still mostly indisposed. This is what my left hand was doing while I was drawing:

More Drawings In Progress

I haven’t made the time to update my blog in the past few months, but I have been making some time here and there for my art. So here’s yet another post of some “drawings in progress.”

A few months ago I started a drawing to hang in our stairwell landing. It was inspired by a large mirror with a thick and colourful mosaic tile frame that I fell in love with at Pier 1 Imports. I never bought the mirror and I still regret it, so I thought I would make a drawing that reminds me of it.

I divided the paper into randomly sized sections and drew a different pattern within each section. I’m still not sure how many colours I will use overall, perhaps I will choose 10 to 15 colours and use them in different variations (the mirror had a similar number of colours). Or perhaps I will just go nuts, and add a million different colours. We shall see…

I recently started another drawing that was inspired by the mirror drawing. I enjoyed making the patterns, and I thought it would be fun to also make them within a specific outline. This was around the time I was painting the cabinet in our kids’ bathroom, which is why the outline ended up being a fish to be hung in said bathroom:

It’s almost done, I just need to finish the tail…

This last drawing was mostly unplanned. One day I got a sudden urge to attempt something with watercolours, and I decided I would tackle a photograph of my parents’ house that I had been intending to draw in pencil.

There is still much to be done before it’s complete, but I am happy with the direction it’s heading in…

Maple Tree

Another “drawing in progress” is complete! We have an absolutely lovely maple tree in our backyard and I stare at it and soak it in everyday. It was particularly beautiful one morning after a light snowfall, just as the sun was rising:

maple

When I first sat down to draw all the branches seemed a little daunting, and I wasn’t quite sure how well it was going to turn out. But once I started I didn’t want to stop, and I actually enjoyed making the millions of tiny branches. Perhaps because I had a new pencil that I kept sharpening every five minutes–fewer things are more satisfying than using a new pencil.

I tried to capture the early morning light by adding just a hint of colour to the sky, the trunk and the major branches.

mapletree

The only thing I wish I could re-do is the hedge–I didn’t leave enough lighter coloured spaces so it’s lacking adequate depth. But at least the branches and blue sky draw the eye upward and away from the depth-less hedge.

Janice & Yalexy

Not too long ago I posted about the Facebook ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative I participated in.  And not too long ago I also finished the second of the surprises: I made a portrait of my friend Janice and her husband Yalexy. I quickly sifted through a few Facebook photographs until I settled on this one:

janice

They both look so happy in this photo and it seemed like it would make a nice portrait.

The first attempt didn’t go so well:

janicefirst

Yikes! Time to start over…

The second attempt was much more successful.

jan

I really struggle with portraits, so I don’t attempt them very often. Yalexy’s eyes were very difficult to capture, I think I erased and redrew them at least four times. When I look at the portrait on it’s own it seems good enough, but when the original photo and the portrait are compared side by side I feel there is a lot of room for improvement. The general shape of both their heads seem a little off, and Yalexy’s gaze appears a little cross eyed. Both of their hair gave me quite a bit of trouble too. But overall I would have to say I’m pretty happy with it. Although I think I am done with portraits for the next little while…

Framed and ready to go:

janframe

Happy New Year to anyone reading this post!!

 

Keys for Dani

Back in January 2016 I took part in the ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative on Facebook:

I want 2016 to be a kind and loving year. I’m participating in the ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative: The first 5 people who comment on this status with “I’m in” will randomly receive a surprise from me at some point in 2016- anything from a book, something homemade, a postcard, absolutely any surprise!
There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me and I find something that I believe would suit you and make you happy. These 5 people must make the same offer on their Facebook status. Please copy and paste this message in your own status (don’t share it), so that we can form a web of connection and kindness.
Once my first 5 have commented “I’m in” I will message you privately, to get your address.
Let’s do more nice and loving things in 2016, without any reason other than to make each other smile and show that we think of each other. Here’s to a more enjoyable, friendly and love filled year!

Three friends replied that they were “in,” and I have only now finished the first of the surprises. My friend and co-worker Dani likes to collect antique keys, and when I couldn’t find her an actual set of old keys I decided to simply draw some.

keys

Not having any old fashioned keys myself I had to look online for the source photograph. Credit goes to photographer Michelle Rhodes.

keys

I’m quite pleased with the end product, and I’m also proud of myself for having completed it fairly quickly (about 4-5 hours). I’m always frustrated by how slowly I draw, but the more I draw the faster I get and that makes me very happy. I’m also happy that Dani liked my drawing and promptly put it on display in her hallway:

danikeys