Mixed Bakery and Brownie Bar Play Dates


I once had a close artist friend tell me that the best way to get out of a creative funk is to collaborate. It’s hard to do that sometimes when you’re in a low place and you think everything you do is crap and no one would ever want to work with you but the reality is you are just tired of you own stuff and you need to be around other people to see your own work from a new perspective. It’s magical to create with someone else and mixing your ideas can spin you off in so many new directions.

This post isn’t about all my low places I’ve been lately, (Though I’m brewing on that post so don’t worry, it’s coming.) but it is about collaborating.

When the royal flop cake happened, I realized that I’m never going to be able to bring my visions of perfect cakes alive so I reached out to a friend from my old neighborhood who has a really great instagram feed and Facebook page. Her name is Elyssa Fournier and she recently started her own baking business called Mixed Bakery out of her home. I look at her beautiful baking pictures every day and wonder why I can’t create like that. I marvel at how perfect her cakes are and how pretty her frosting is and curse my inability to follow directions. But instead of dwelling on my failures I thought about HOW I could fix this problem. And so I asked if she wanted to blog with me.

Elyssa has been baking for 17 years. She used to be a third grade teacher and she even specialized in junior high math for a while but she found herself going home and baking to relieve stress. She loves to bake. She loves to follow directions and be precise. She is exactly what I am not. I hate math and I can’t seem to remember directions long enough to follow them. She decided to become a professional baker and worked in New York for many years as a pastry chef. Then she moved to California and had a family. Her husband is a professional chef so you know they’ve been collaborating for years.

You can guess the rest. We had a blast collaborating! We got together in a coffee shop and dreamt up the idea for a Father’s Day brownie and some other ideas too. I think there will be many collaborations in my future. It just keeps things fresh and if I can’t master baking, why not just ask for help?! What a concept.


Since I wasn’t running around the kitchen trying to burn everything, it gave me a chance to step behind the camera and capture a little more than I usually get to. Elyssa is so good with kids. She was patient while they cracked egg after egg, sometimes getting a little more on the table than into the bowl. Every one got in on the mix. There were a lot of kids there so it was a bit of a mad house but she handled everything with a laid back calmness that only seasoned third grade teachers seem to have.

What I really loved about this shoot was how Payam’s daughter participated. Bug gets tired of having her pictures taken sometimes, plus her dad lives down the street from Elyssa so she wanted to run off and see him. I don’t blame her. It was great to be back in the neighborhood and I’ve been shooting her since the day she was born. It’s more work than play for her sometimes. I can’t force her to be photographed though sometimes I want to. Believe me, I’m not above bribery.

I have to honor Bug when she doesn’t want to participate. Unfortunately that sometimes leaves me looking for other children to ham it up and that can be a bit tricky. Not every kid is photogenic or knows how to follow directions.  So I was super thankful for Payam’s daughter. I haven’t really come up with a nickname for her yet but I think I want to call her Hannah-joon. That’s what her dad calls her. It’s Farsi for my dear, Hannah which I really love. Joon is a super common nickname in Farsi but for me it’s Hannah’s nickname.

So as you see her popping up in more pictures, know how it warms my heart to have other children open up to me and my camera. It’s not always easy and I’m super thankful to the kids that do. Elyssa’s kids too!


Brownie, brownie, brownie…sticky gooey yuminess… Yep. You get the picture. We had a lot of fun making some crazy brownies.


We might have even had a smidge more fun making these brownies than the fathers who are actually going to eat them. Heh. But you know what I always say, it’s all about the process! Who cares that there are chili peppers mixed with sprinkles in your brownie? I think Fathers will take one for the team on this one.

And speaking of father’s day crafts and taking one for the team. I thought lately, I’ve been doing a lot of these dad crafts! I should write a book or something! Well, I’m not writing a craft book (yet) but I am working on another Little Hoo book. Little Hoo is going to have a birthday. And my beach Little Hoo book is out too but the cover is whacked. I’ll link that when it’s fixed. I seriously need to promote it but I am lagging badly.  See above brewing post. Much is on the horizon soon though so don’t worry too much about me. Things are changing and not all for bad. :)

So how about a SAJ Father’s Day crafting round-up? It is that time to make something for Pops! Snap. Snap!

Who am I kidding? I haven’t even started making my dad anything either.

But if you’re looking for ideas, we’ve got the Father’s Day Massage T-shirt with iron on decals. Hemp and bead bracelets for Dad. I love Dad temporary tattoos. A How-to-tie-a-tie printable that’s for young Dad’s and grads. A Father’s Day coloring sheet printable card, of course. A Father’s Day photo cube car for the automobile aficionado dad and the camera cube “Daddy Cam” for the photographer dads. Some cd-covers for good old-fashione mixed-tape style cd’s for groovin’ dads. My most favorite craft: the tiny toolbox for handy dads and last but not least, the monsterized phone-cradle for charging dad’s phone.


Lubna, Lubna, Lubna…


I love photography. I often fantasize about opening a modeling agency and scouting for beautiful people. But not the clichéd version of beautiful people that you see photoshopped in magazines. I would find people that photograph well in all shapes and sizes. I love the challenge of it. Everyone has a story. Everyone is beautiful. It’s just up to me to find that angle and tell their story. That is fun to me.

It happens to me all the time. I’ll be out at a coffee shop and the woman next to me will have the most interesting eyes with wizened smile crinkles at the corners. She’ll be wearing a bright gold coat and her blouse underneath is vibrant purple. I can’t help but stare and think about what a cool photo she would make. I just want to stop her and say, Can I take your picture for my collection? But that’s tacky. Of course, I rarely ever do ask people because that’s just weird and they’ll want to know what I’m going to do with the pictures and they might not have time for such a conversation, etc etc…  Some people do like their pictures taken though. I love those people.


One of those people is my drop-dead gorgeous neighbor, Lubna.  She always wants me to take her picture.  She wants to be a model so that helps of course. I don’t know how I feel about that though. It’s such a harsh industry to be in. But if I can help her put together a portfolio I’m happy to do that. She’s a lot of fun to shoot.

Her face could sell a million products. But what makes her interesting is that she’s Muslim and she can’t show off her body. She has to be covered from head to toe. (Though sometimes she sneaks in some shoulder and when her shirt accidentally falls when she’s doing a cartwheel she really doesn’t want me to throw out those pictures.) She wants to be American and wear tank tops and bathing suits but she’s only 16 and she has to respect her parents rules. So it’s an interesting push and pull between her desire for attention and her good heart that just wants to be a good kid

lubna-4We had fun splashing around in the waves. The water was surprisingly warm.  And dangerous! Well, not really. But the waves have a way of sneaking up on you and getting everything wet. Thankfully, the camera did not get wet.

Since they only have one car in Lubna’s family and they have strict rules about always going places chaperoned, Lubna never gets to go to the beach. She’s a California girl at heart and she loves the water but she doesn’t get to see it much. I always want to throw her in my car and take her places but it’s tricky getting around the entourage that has to go with her. (Believe me, they take forever and it totally cramps my style. I’ve tried.)

Her mom came with us and watched from the shore. I did manage to get one photo of them together but her mom is really camera shy. But I think this photo is my favorite one.


You can see where Lubna gets her beauty. I’m sure Raffa will not like this photo and she’d rather be made up with a lot of make-up but I think it shows so much more of who she really is. That patient worried mother who comes along on her daughter’s crazy whims to be photographed. There’s a lot going on here…

That’s the story I want to tell.