Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Two years ago, I was on a bus from Washington D.C. en route to Manhattan, when I took my iPad out to watch the film “Woman in Gold”. It was an insightful film about Maria Altmann’s quest to reclaim the Klimt painting of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I that was stolen by the Nazis during the second World War.

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Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann in Woman in Gold

And it was also then, that I realised the painting, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, was sold to the son of Estée Lauder and was on display at the Neue Galerie in NYC. Guess what I did the minute I arrived in NYC? Dropped my luggage at my Airbnb, and dashed off to the gallery, braved the long crowds, and saw the piece in person. It was one of the most breathtaking moments in my life.

This has become the inspiration for my tutorial for the Australian Cake Decorating Network’s February edition of Cake! magazine. I’d like to showcase my latest cake, inspired by Gustav Klimt’s painting, Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Many elements from that painting were used to design this beautiful piece, and one of my personal favourites is the textured gold leaf!

I hope you enjoy this tutorial, as much as I was inspired to make it!

To read on how to create this piece, click on this link http://joom.ag/wH5W/p22

Happy Birthday, QEII!

I wanna brag a little. Ok, may be a little more than just a little.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II turned the big 9-0 this year, so a big “Happy Belated Birthday” to her because her real birthday was in April. It will be a public holiday here in Australia for the Queen’s birthday on Monday, so I thought this post is rather timely. When Nadiya Hussain, the winner from the Great British Bake Off made her a cake for Her Majesty to cut, my heart only wished if I, little ol’ me, would ever have the same privilege  to make one too.

Then Cake Masters Magazine, in the UK had a call out for submissions on cake designs to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, and I jumped on the occasion. I may never make her a real cake since she’s kilometers away, but hey, I can make one as though I was asked to, right? And as though she’s made another official trip Down Under. This is probably one of the very few opportunities that I can do so, and off to the drawing board I go!

I thank my friends and family (yes my parents had some input) on the design that I decided on, and ta-daa!!!!

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Happy birthday, Your Majesty!

Yes, it’s very clean and simple. I was gonna go for the Queen’s favourite flowers, but Uncle Google didn’t seem to have an answer for that (or there are what people believe that she likes). The one thing I knew before getting on the Internet was she loves her corgis. Like, they’re fluffy. And ridiculously cute with their little bums. So I knew I wanted a feature on the cake with a corgi, so I thought why not have a corgi wear St Edward’s Crown?

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Happy birthday, Your Majesty!

The next design element (thank you Robyn!) was the overall tiers. I picked the Queen’s gowns and dresses. The top tier was what the Queen wears to formal white-tie functions, simple, a lace dress that seem to catch the light a little, with the navy blue sash. I fashioned it as though it was an embossed design for the top tier, and I used an impression for it and added a pearl luster so it catches the light. I added the Queen’s royal cypher painted gold (which stands for Elizabeth II Regina) against a purple plaque which happens to be one of the colours on the jockeys who ride Her Majesty’s horses.

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Happy birthday, Your Majesty!

The bottom tier was designed based on Her Majesty’s coronation robes. This was a fantastic challenge on picking what elements of the robes to use. I later on decided to paint on the Tudor rose, the maple leaf, the fern, the wattle, and the four leaf clover. The dress itself was so ornate with gold and silver threads, with pearls and crystals arranged in a lattice design. I decided on a simpler approach and to have them piped instead.

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Happy birthday, Your Majesty!

I think this cake screams “Her Majesty!” quite fittingly, and I secretly hope deep inside, she will like it! Thank you once again to Cake Masters for allowing readers to make such a momentous celebration sweeter! It’s available in their June edition, together with some amazing tutorials. I may be biased, but I think it’s one of my favourite editions to date 🙂

 

Vincent x

Getting My Cake On with Kaysie Lackey

When I started cake decorating as a hobby, I was so immersed in it that I wanted to learn from as many resources that I could find – books, magazines, online tutorials, you name it, I had it. It was when I went on to Cake Masters that I was introduced to Kaysie Lackey. Her tutorial on the Klimt cake really got my head spinning. Everything in that tutorial, I absorbed as much as I can. She referenced artists, took their techniques and styles into an edible medium and achieved spectacular results. She had a great eye on colour and had a very carefree attitude. That was two years ago, when I knew I must attend a course with her!

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The finished product! Beautiful, isn’t it?

When she was coming to Australia this year, I was excited. She was going to be teaching a series of classes at Special Treats by Carolyn, which were Nigel the Owl, Blown Away Betty, and Benedict the Bull. PS: I love Carolyn when she gets such amazing teachers! Big ❤ to her!

International cake artists like Kaysie don’t come very often, and I knew I had to attend a class, which I chose Benedict the Bull. She first appeared at the Cake, Bake and Sweets Show in Sydney last month, and I jumped on a ruching and gold leaf workshop instantly when I learned of them. Fondant is such an amazing thing – give it some modelling chocolate, and it stretches like a dream. Stab into it with some modelling shapers, and you get this beautiful fabric-like texture. Add some coloured dusts, and you create dimension of the textures that you made. And a deep cerise heart, and some gold leaf – bam! Fashion-inspired cake! But poor cake suffered in Sydney’s dreadful humidity, and it went out in the bin when I checked out. RIP cake 😦

When August came, I waited in anticipation for the weekend to come where I get to spend two whole days with Kaysie. Kaysie’s classes have been known to include very unique armature. She has a Craftsy class, called Sculpting Magic, which takes you through creating safe and sturdy armature for novelty cakes, and going for a class in person will better familiarise me with armature and the endless possibilities.

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Kaysie Lackey with her pavlova!

Kaysie is an excellent person – apart from sharing her life experiences, she talks about what she learned from teaching in other countries. Her suggestions are well-rounded and objective, and very willing to listen to other people’s knowledge. She studied the whole anatomy of the bull and explains what needs to be done to our cakes to achieve them. She looks at each student’s piece and shows you what needs to be done and encourages you to be confident every step of the way. Did I mention she loves show tunes and musicals? Her eclectic taste in music reverberates the room over the two days on her iTunes as we move along from construction of the armature to making the bull’s tail. Or cow’s tail, as some decided to add udders as part of the gender reassignment process.

The one thing that I’ve been nervous about is modelling chocolate. I’ve had some success making it, and then I struggled to get it to the right consistency. But Kaysie showed us how to make it her way, and using it during the two days reminds me of how beautiful it is to work for sculpting and modelling, so much so that when I touched fondant, it felt weird. Its pliability and ability to blend are big advantages, whilst its heat labile property may not be so appealing to people who have hot hands like me. Kaysie then shows us in marrying both fondant and modelling chocolate together, you get a product that showcases the best of both medium! I’m in love!

Kaysie also shows us throughout the two days on how to use the Innovative Sugarworks sugar shapers – they are amazing! Sadly, my hands struggle to go into certain corners, and Kaysie uses different tips effortlessly to achieve the texture that she wants from the bull’s nostrils right to the buttcrack (haha!). The shapers are an extension of the finger tips and it creates more effects on sugar work than what my fingers can physically do, and so I cannot wait to slowly familiarise myself with the different shapes of tips and making full use of them.

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Kaysie explaining how to use the sugar shapers

Somehow, we managed to spend way more time than expected with Kaysie. We spend an extra hour on Saturday, and a whopping four an a half hours after 5pm on Sunday. Oops. As hungry and tired as I am, I think I managed to get as much as I can out from my time spend with Kaysie and everyone else, and it was a great success.

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We’re finally done!

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Moo!!!!

As much as we spent such long hours during the weekend, I didn’t finish my cake. We got to the part where I painted my bull’s spots. Kaysie gave me some direction on finishing the colours, which I did a week after. The result?

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Moo!

Yes, this bovine beauty. My recollection of this cake was when we were creating expressions with the eyes, I wanted excitement in his eyes. He turned out looking anxious and in desperate need of a Xanax. Thank goodness for Kaysie who came to save my poor bull. I love Benny, but he will be cut up for some good cuts of “meat” as he is hogging a lot of space in the house. He is a reflection of the fantastic memories I had with Kaysie, and that big learning curve that I had from the weekend.

Thank you Kaysie for your efforts in bringing your knowledge and wisdom Down Under, and I know we will get to see you very soon!

Alice? Alice? (You can finish the phrase in your head!)

Hi everyone,

My name is Vincent, or more endearingly, Keng Seng (dare you to pronounce it properly 🙂 ). And I’m a self-professed class tart. That name was given to me last year as I breezed in and out of cake classes as I made that a 2014 new year’s resolution to enrich my skills in cake decorating. Some of you might think, why? Well, we keep learning until the day we die, so why not? It was money well spent, in my opinion.

But I knew there was a class not to be missed, especially when the class is by Handi Mulyana, from Handi’s Cakes. He was coming to Melbourne this year to spend time to show us how to make his Alice in Wonderland cake, and how could I refuse?

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The class last weekend was such a wonderful and calming experience. Cake decorating for me is my zen, and I knew I was in my element as I learned from the master himself in those two days. After day one, you have so many learning outcomes that can be achieved from this class. It wasn’t just learning how to make such a jaw dropping, topsy turvy cake, but it involves basic cake decorating skills –  the wrap method, how to achieve sharp edges, how to have a stable internal structure for carrying cakes, how to cover a sphere, the list goes on. It felt like a good refresher course – most of the skills that I have acquired so far were online tutorials, but it felt good to have someone show you once again and to troubleshoot (which I did of course, make errors with my cake – Handi did say I will have to cover the cake again if it were him, ack!)

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Absolom and the card soldiers! Love how vibrant Absolom actually looked, especially with his um, shisha?

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Alice falling into the cake!

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The mad hatter and his supersized gloves

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All the lovely sweet treats!

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The clock that gave me grief the whole time during class – it wouldn’t stay put despite numerous attempts to keep it in place. It was in an awkward spot where the clock could not rest properly, which probably contributed to it. I came home and redid the clock and gave it a gold finish too. Looks much better!

We had such a blast on the first day, everyone at the class were focused and concentrating hard that we finished half an hour earlier than scheduled. We had so much on the second day however to complete that we went over by an hour and a half! I was exhausted after the second day, but to have learned so much in that two days was rewarding. Initially, I was nervous and a little shy to ask questions, but come day two, I just wanted to finish and so I kept asking stupid questions. I look back at the class and enjoyed every single moment of it. Big thanks goes to Sarah from The Cake Stop who has not only housed us all and was extremely patient and hospitable, but have gone above and beyond in making our class enjoyable. Oh and her mochas are awesome too!

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The Cheshire cat grin. I feared it would have been difficult, but turned out to be much easier than I would’ve imagined

Thank you so much Handi for a great class as always, and I know I’d love to have another class with you again! I’d highly suggest any of his classes to anyone at any skill level too, you will not be disappointed!

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The obligatory photo with Handi, licking the lollipop 🙂

What Australia Means To Me

Happy 2015!

I hope everyone had great Christmas and New Year celebrations, and heading into the new year with lots of great plans for the year!

I wanna share with you my excitement – my first sugar artist/cake decorators’ collaboration ever!!!

I couldn’t be more happier with the opportunity to work with some fantastic veteran cake decorators in the business from Australian Cake Decorating Network to showcase our creations for Australia Day today! Our theme for this showcase was “What Australia means to me”, and we could not wait to share our different interpretations of our own Aussie experiences in sugar art.

I’ve been in Melbourne for ten years now, and I asked myself what was the common theme in my so-called developmental years of my life living on my own in a foreign land and becoming myself. And it was always food… then there was wine… and then coffee. Before I came to Melbourne, I did not touch a glass of wine or coffee as I didn’t know how to appreciate them. But in recent years, I’ve come to learn how to taste it and appreciate it, and now I have a better understanding for it I seem to enjoy it a little more now. And so my mind was set on having these elements part of my cake design.

I wanted a challenge, and I came up with an idea of a bottle of wine pouring into a cup of coffee (I would never know what coffee and wine tastes like, it may be an acquired taste but who knows?). The cup of coffee will sit above a chef’s hat, and I’ll have something next to the chef’s hat. Easy!

How wrong I was!

When cake designs don’t fit the mould of standard cakes or stacked cakes, the challenge comes in creating a strong and stable structure inside the cake so everything pretty much stays the way it is! I usually get nervous because it means having to work out what kind of tools are required that I will have to go to Bunnings to buy them. I get intimidated in Bunnings – something about hardware and power tools just doesn’t sit well with me. And so I looked up as many novelty/gravity defying tutorials to understand and construct a structure that I find best suits this piece, and headed to Bunnings.

On to the details of the cake.

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I’m somewhat a foodie, and as much as I love just having two-minute noodles, it’s interesting to know of upcoming restaurants and fantasise of the restaurants that are on my bucket list. My chef’s hat is representative of that – fine dining is vogue these days, with food styling and #foodporn going off in social media. It is also a tribute to all the great Aussie chefs – what great culinary talent we have in this beautiful country, showcased by television shows such as Masterchef. I could go on, but we have Jacques Reymond, Shannon Bennett, Luke Nguyen, Christine Mansfield, Maggie Beer, Kylie Kwong, Peter Gilmore… et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I really can go on. Lastly, the chef’s hat is symbolic of the logo that is on The Good Food Guide that many foodies refer to to find out the ratings on the go-to restaurants not only in Melbourne, but in other states too.

DSC_0348A little cup of coffee ended up in this piece because I think it is a personal habit of mine that I order when I go to a good cafe for breakfast or brunch. I’ve been hooked to coffee in the last two years or so. My favourite is mocha (in case you have a trivia competition about me), and not everyone makes a great mocha. My housemate Lynn made a remark about “brunching” – it was something that I observed many people do these days as a main meal on a weekend morning and myself, and having a cup of coffee seems to just make it all better. I can share one of my New Year resolutions, and that is to sign myself up for a barista course this year. After all, it is something that I intend to pick up to fulfil my dreams of having a cafe, isn’t it?

I had to chuckle 🙂

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The wine bottle is very Australian in my opinion – it is something that I notice from my days in university, people bringing a bottle to a restaurant or ordering with their meals. I never fancied it, and to date I probably don’t really drink that much. Something about pairing the right notes of a wine with the food that you eat is such an art, I think my taste buds have not acquired that talent yet. But I do enjoy a good little sip of a good bottle, and it would be blasphemy to not include wine into my piece.

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The last element on my showcase is the cheese platter. This idea was thrown to me to create the cheese platter like a map of Australia. Boom! Why didn’t I think of it?! I had a great time creating it, and having brie cheeses and green olives with some crackers is like an indulgence after a good meal.

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I hope you liked my piece, and do look out for the other pieces on the Australian Cake Decorating Network page to look at some more awesome creations from the other decorators!

x Vincent

Do You Mahjong?

For the biggest part of my childhood life, mahjong was a weekly social event for my family. It usually involves a session after lunch, that may stretch into the night, interspersed with dinner with my grandmother, my aunt’s family, and my own family. My brother picked it up at quite a young age, and I, got dragged into learning it too soon after. He always had a good eye for tiles, and would often win games between my cousin and I.

For my brother’s birthday this year, I thought this may be a great source of inspiration for his birthday cake. I immediately knew that the colour of the back of the mahjong tiles had to be gold, to remind him of the mahjong set that he has not played with since my aunt purchased for him in Hong Kong and is in my mum’s possession in Malaysia. To start, I struggled to find what would be the best way to create a replica of the mahjong tiles. And then I realized that the only way to do so is to make a mould of each of the mahjong tiles, and to do so I remembered watching Verusca Walker’s tutorial on Learn Cake Decorating Online on how to make molds – done!

I did not follow all the steps on making the mold, because heaven forbids, if anything happened to the real mahjong tiles that I had, I’d be in a lot of trouble with my family! I am sure some families keep mahjong sets as somewhat of an heirloom, and I did my best in avoiding any damages made to the set that I had. So instead of forcing the whole tile into a blob of unused fondant, I rolled out fondant “tiles” enough to grab hold of the indents and detail on each character, and I let them harden up. Once they become firm to use, I can then make an impression on the cut-up mahjong tiles. Oh wait, I just made impression moulds!

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My impression moulds! Notice the detail left on them 🙂

The mahjong tiles were made with white fondant with CMC powder so that it hardens faster. I eyeballed when I was cutting them into individual tiles, ending up in tiles of different sizes – should have followed the exact dimensions and carefully measured them, dang it! Mahjong tiles, I have come to learn over the years, come in different thicknesses depending on how the owner likes to hold it in his or her hands. Mine were fairly thick for this cake project, which gives it plenty of room to paint on the colour at the back of the fondant tiles. Once they have been cut into individual tiles, I pressed the impression moulds firmly onto each tile so that it leaves the imprint that I need to paint on later. And all there is to it is to use gel colours watered down with vodka to paint in the indentations left behind by the molds to create the characters. Do they look alike to you?

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Can you tell them apart?

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They look like the real mahjong tiles, I think

I placed a birthday message on the cake with more confidence this time, with a big thank you to Karen from Lick The Bowl, who showcased a quick video tutorial on how to use Tappits and how to arrange lettering on a cake. I found it to be very useful and it definitely saved me a lot of time, so thank you to the Australian Cake Decorating Network for organizing it!

After I had the cake, and later on the tiles and the birthday message, I thought it lacked something. It needed a burst of colour, and it occurred to me that “real” mahjong games need chips for it to feel that you’re playing. Without further ado, I went on to cut fondant “chips” – probably the easiest part of making the cake. The different colours denote different denominations when playing, and I had the chips marked with an indentation and painted gold. All that’s left was to assemble the components on the cake, and it was ready!

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“Chips” were made to give the cake a burst of colours

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Colourful!

Cakes like these are meant to impress and evoke memories, and my brother was impressed with it, I hope. And I hope that you may find some techniques useful in this blog post.

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Bello!

Any guesses what does the title mean? That’s “hello” in Minion talk! And I had myself (trying to) imitate a minion to get into the mood of my cake project after my big show in Sydney. You know, the craze fad that everyone was going through with the minions from Despicable Me – bananas, the colour yellow, but most of all the amazing 3D minion cakes every other cake decorator was popping out of their… homes/bakeries. And I knew that I was dying to get my hands into making one too, but I was patiently waiting for the right cake project to come along!

When I was gonna start on my project, I made extensive reading and research into making this cake – and I knew a couple of things were essential:

  • The cake had to follow strict dimensions of how a minion should be – I mean, if you did a blow up an enlarged version of the minion Dave on the Internet, you’d follow the proportions closely, e.g. the width of the minion, in proportion to the height. I picked a 6″ diameter (the real measurement is 5 inches, but hey, more cake!). The height was going to be a challenge, as I know it would be an eight inch cake or so in height. So a double barrel cake (will talk more about this). Run away now?
  • All the other parts in making the minion had to be exact as well – we need to ensure the size of the eyes/goggles are not too big or not too small, Dave’s limbs are not too long that they become crazy and weird.
  • The colour of Dave had to be right, and looking back at the cake, the yellow tone and the colour of the jeans could be better.

A double barrell cake (which means having two 4-inch tiers of cake stacked on top of each other) may be a daunting process – during the process, there is a risk of tearing the fondant as you lay it on the ganached cake as the weight of the fondant may tear it, and you may end up with a minion that looks battered all over and had a lumpy appearance to it. I never made a double barrell (I admit) and so I had to plan carefully and take deep breaths as I was working on it. Support is very important for a tall cake as you do not want it to topple over or sink or basically having a huge accident with it, and in this case I will recommend having a central dowel (plastic or wooden is fine, I used a plastic dowel in this case which measured about 7 inches long). The dowel is secured onto the cake board with a hot glue gun, before you assemble the cake. Once that’s set up, you can stack the next tier of cake on top. I forgot to add that you’ll need to have smaller support dowels around the central dowel when setting up the bottom tier of the cake – this prevents the cake from collapsing and sinking. I put four dowels cut to height and stuck it in the cake.

Once that was done, I can safely put the top tier on, and starting carving away to create Dave’s head. A lot of people would usually bake their cake in a bowl or a football cake tin to save time carving, I didn’t, so I had to carve it 😦

After a floor full of cake crumbs, ganache all over, and I’m happy with the shape of my “Dave”, I then start to put ganache all over the cake with my offset spatula, then using my amazing scrapers from The Cupcake Lady (if you haven’t purchased a set, I would suggest using this) and a little purchase from the Japanese store, Daiso. Such an amazing investment especially when I want to make curved edges on the cake, this does it for me without getting my hands dirty trying to rub my hands on the ganache (I promise my hands are definitely washed three times before I do this!!) to achieve the same effect. Easy!

Cake all ganached! Does it look like the print copy of “Dave”?

Thanks to these scrapers, my life was so much easier!

Thanks to these scrapers, my life was so much easier!

My smooth little minion! Count my lucky stars!

My smooth little minion! Count my lucky stars!

Next was to put the fondant on, which was a hurdle for me – I was surprised I didn’t curse that much as I thought I would have, glad it didn’t take many attempts to cover it and have a nice, smooth finish! Once that’s done, all there needs to be done was to create “Dave”‘s accessories – googles, eyes including the irises, his smile + tongue, hair (painful to do!), his outfit, logo, and the list goes on, to create my perfect minion! Ta-daa!!

 

 

 

 

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Tried this with the sun behind me as my backdrop, how does it look?

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Baby got back!

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“Dave” loving his mini birthday cake!

I didn’t take many pictures for this project, but hopefully you get the idea. I just love him, and hopefully the customer loved it as much as I do (as far as I know, I’m sure I stole a few crumbs here and there and the cake tasted yum as always 😉 )
My photography skills will need a lot of brushing up, if anyone has any tips on improving my photos do pop a message and I’m happy to take in anything constructive!

Poopaye (which means “goodbye” in Minion language)! Tulaliloo ti amo (which means “we love you” LOL)!