Category Archives: Art Related

Click Here to Start Launch and Power Button Start Cookies

  
This past week, we celebrated the release of my husband, Denis’, debut novel, Click Here to Start.

Click-Here-to-Start-High-Res
This awesome book cover was illustrated by Octavi Navarro.

The book chronicles twelve year old Ted, who is a whiz at Escape the Room Games, and his two friends, as they cleverly figure out what is behind the clues left by Ted’s great uncle – a WWII veteran of the Nisei Brigade from Hawaii. Ted is sure there is something valuable to be found in his late uncle’s apartment, and he has to use his gaming knowledge to do it. Along the way, the trio realizes there are other people searching for the same “treasure”, and they may not be so “friendly”. Ted and his friends have to use their wits and brains to solve the mystery – and ultimately, themselves, in this fact-paced, kid friendly novel.

The audio book, produced by Listening Library, was released at the same time, which was very exciting! It’s narrated by Greg Watanabe, an actor and comic. He does a wonderful job! I love how he’s able to do the different voices of all of the characters, whether they are male or female, young or old, from Hawaii or from the mainland… He gives each of them a distinct personality.

So far, the book has gotten such positive reviews from School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, kidlit bloggers, teachers, librarians, kids. It was named a School Library Guild Section and an Amazon Best Books of the Month Selection.

“As addictive as your favorite video game. I couldn’t put it down.”-Adam Gidwitz, New York Times bestselling author of A Tale Dark and Grimm

“Humor, believable characters, and adventure…keeps readers in suspense to the end. A winner for mystery enthusiasts.”-Kirkus Reviews

“In this clever debut, Markell takes readers on a clue-filled adventure…[and] maintains an energetic, entertaining balance of character-driven narrative and tricky challenges.”-Publishers Weekly

“Markell’s highly entertaining debut novel…is a well-paced read with fully realized and likable characters,…[and] should have strong appeal to gamers, fans of video game-based stories, and reluctant readers.”-School Library Journal

And today from Jean Westmore of the Buffalo News:

“Markell offers plenty of scary suspense, thrilling action, references to literature and movies and lots of humor in his cleverly constructed puzzle. The book is dedicated to “the valiant men of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat team, who fought so bravely for the U.S. at a time when their Japanese-American relatives back at home were being treated so dishonorably.’ His wife’s uncle was among them.”

click-cookies_Melissa-Iwai
For the Click Here to Start book launch at BookCourt this past weekend, I made Power Button Start Cookies. Jamie, our son, was a great help with frosting and packaging. He’s so proud of his dad! 🙂

jamie-_Click-Here-_-Bookcourt

me-icing_Click  

For the cookies, I used my tried and true sugar cookie and royal icing recipe I’ve used for holiday cookies in the past. This time, I used powdered egg white merengue for the frosting, and I think it really made a difference. The exterior piped frosting was perfectly hard. I am just not so great at piping! I dyed the frosting a bright green to match the Start button on the cover of the book. We frosted them green, then later, I piped the Start symbol on top in white. It is an extra step to do the piping and then the fill with diluted frosting, but the results are much better. You get a crisp outline and a very smooth interior with no ridges.

The event was wonderful. Fun to see old friends and new ones. Denis spoke about how he came to write the story, which is inspired by my uncle, Nicholas, Nakabayashi, who fought with the 100th Battalion during WWII. Denis also had fun playing Escape the Room Games with Jamie as research. 🙂

 Denis-and-Aubry-at-Book-COurt
I was surprised that almost all of my 38 cookies were eaten at the event! Only two remained, which we enjoyed after the big event. 🙂 

  

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Filed under Art Related, Books, Cookies, Desserts, Uncategorized

Chocolate Hardware Tools and Book Signing in Brooklyn

Melissa Iwai 2016

Melissa Iwai 2016

Anne Rockwell, the author of Let’s Go to the Hardware Store, and I will be at BookCourt (163 Court St.) in Brooklyn tomorrow  (March 26) at 2 pm to read and sign books. I will also talk a bit about how I created the artwork for the story.

I also made a bunch of treats to bring to the event!

First up are dark chocolate and milk chocolate tools. I bought a cute tool mold here to make the candies. I melted chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl in the microwave at 30 second intervals (about 1.5 to 2 minutes). Mixed well to get rid of any lumps and poured into the molds.

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Getting the chocolate in the nooks and crannies takes a bit of time. You can nudge the chocolate with a spoon. Then, I wiped the edges clean with a damp paper towel and tapped the mold hard on the counter several times to get rid of any air bubbles. I found the dark chocolate to be easier to work with. Then I stuck it in the refrigerator to chill. The milk chocolate took longer to harden. Also, I discovered that the longer you let the chocolate chill, the easier it is to remove.

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To do so, you just turn the mold over and gently press on the shapes. The chocolate should snap out in one piece.

Finished tools -- they are so shiny!

Finished tools — they are so shiny!

I wrapped the chocolates in foil, and then printed out my illustrations of tools from the book and affixed them to the wrapped chocolates.

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For the toolbox, I made gingerbread. I used the same recipe I used for my Haunted Gingerbread House and Magna Tiles, but made one and half batches. I was inspired by this blogger’s cute tool box, but I made my own template, and I used a breadstick instead of a straw for the handle.

The trick is to roll the dough out on the baking sheet on parchment.

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Then, using a template, score the dough gently with a knife. Bake for 15 minutes. While the dough is still warm, cut out the shapes. This ensures a sharp clean edge.

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Then I frosted the pieces using this recipe. I am not so great at frosting and made my flooding icing too thin. 😦 So my toolbox is not so pretty. But it holds my chocolates well. I made a divider out of card stock that is labelled “dark chocolate” and “milk chocolate” on each side so people can choose their favorites.

If you are in the Brooklyn area, please stop by and say “Hi” and grab a chocolate tool! 🙂

0325161813_resized

 

Chocolate Candies

1 bag chocolate pieces

  1. Pour 5 oz. of chocolate into a medium bowl.
  2. Heat at 30 second intervals in the microwave oven, checking the chocolate each time. You don’t want to overheat it. When it is smooth and silky when you stir it, stop heating. For dark chocolate it was about 90 seconds. For milk chocolate it was a little longer.
  3. Pour chocolate into candy molds. Be sure not to overfill. Nudge chocolate with a spoon or knife into nooks and crannies.
  4. Wipe around mold if you got chocolate in between shapes. Chocolate will come out easier if all the edges are clean. Tap mold hard several times on counter to remove air bubbles.
  5. Chill in refrigerator until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  6. To remove, turn mold over and gently press on the bottom. Chocolate should pop out easily.

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Filed under Art Related, Children, Cookies, Desserts

Pistachio Cranberry Biscotti for the Holidays

pistachio cookies Melissa Iwai 4

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Wow, Chanukah has already passed and Christmas is just days away!

I haven’t had a chance to bake much this season because of all my art projects, but managed to combine my two loves for this batch of Pistachio Cranberry Biscotti.

I’ve been making these biscotti pretty much every year, but this time I changed it up by adding orange zest and a 1 tablespoon of orange juice to the batter. I thought they’d be pretty with some white, so I drizzled melted white chocolate over the biscotti.

I mentioned combining my art and baking — this is what I created — an illustrated recipe for They Draw and Cook. 🙂

cranberry pistachio biscotti Melissa Iwai 2015

It is featured on their site this week as a Red and Green recipe.

I know it is hard to read the recipe so small! Here it is for your printing purposes (note: the white chocolate part and orange juice is not in the illustrated recipe because I didn’t have enough room!):

pistachio cookies Melissa Iwai 2

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice

1 cup salted shelled pistachio nuts

1 1/3 cups dried cranberries

1 large egg, or white, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water to  make egg wash

1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted (optional)

pistachio cookies Melissa Iwai 5

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line baking sheet with parchment.

2 Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda &powder &salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, vanilla, orange zest and beat with mixer  just until a dough forms.

3. Add cranberries and pistachios and mix at low speed.

4. Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead several times. Halve dough, then form each half into a 13 by 2 inch slightly flattened log on baking sheet, Brush logs with egg wash.

5. Bake in middle of oven until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet on a rack 10 minutes.

6. Transfer to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices with a serrated knife. Arrange slices, cut side down, in 1 layer on baking sheet Bake in middle of oven turning once until golden and crisp. 20 – 25 minutes total.

7. Cool completely and drizzle with melted white chocolate if you’d like.  Put the melted chocolate in a sandwich bag, seal, and snip a hole in one corner. Squeeze and drizzle chocolate over cooled biscotti. Chill in the refrigerator to set chocolate.

 

 

 

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Giveaway

2000 giveaway

I’m doing a giveaway on Instagram to celebrate reaching 2000 followers!  I’m giving away the original signed sketch of Portrait Bombers to one winner. It was one of my most popular Inktober drawings last month and got the most comments on Instagram and Facebook. To enter for a chance to win, just follow me on Instagram if you haven’t already, and tag a friend who might be interested in the comments there! I’ll choose someone at random on Friday the 13th (November 13, 2015) at 5 p.m. EST. 🙂 

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2014 Round Up Top Five Posts

Looking back on 2014, I am happy of all the things I accomplished in my art life, but cooking took a backseat this time….  I won’t lie, most popular posts were from previous years! Number one was Creamy Pesto Sauce from 2013 for some reason in April of this year:

creamy pesto ravioli2

It is a really good recipe, I have to say — check it out!

The top posts of this year were Adventures with Jello — also in April (am I sensing a trend here?):

flubber jello

Check out my Flubber Jello!

California Dreamin’ — our recent trip to California and my mom’s yummy Migas!

With refried beans, crema, and chopped scallions

With refried beans, crema, and chopped scallions

And Tex Mex Scramble (another fav I always cook) and my illustrated recipe of it for They Draw and Cook:

tofu2

Click to view larger

Click to view larger

And last but not least — another easy weeknight meal: Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions and Mini Pizzas!

pizza 2

Hope everyone has a wonderful, exciting, prosperous 2015!!!  See you next year! 🙂

2015 copy

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Kashi Healthy Treats and Advent Challenge

kashi treats 2

 

Whew, the holidays threw me for a loop!  Hope everyone who celebrates had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We went to Illinois to see my family and had a great time!  I was remiss in my photo taking, but I drew a lot. 🙂  All my daily sketches are on instagram.

 

This month up until Christmas, I am doing an Advent Challenge put together by Faye Brown Designs. Every day (in place of my daily sketches) I do an illustration inspired by her prompt.  At first I wasn’t going to do one every day, but so far, I’ve done seven, so that’s seven for seven!   They are all made digitally, and it is the first time I’m actually painting with digital brushes.  I bought these amazing brushes you from Kyle T. Webster for Photoshop, and they’ve really changed the way I work.  They are SOOO much better than the ones that come with Photoshop. There is no comparison.  Here is a nice review of them in Wired Magazine.  He is an amazing illustrator and he started making brushes for himself.  When he started selling them, he made a bucketful of money because they are so awesome.

The illustrations I’m making  take a lot longer than my 30 minute paintings – sometimes an hour to two hours!  So it’s kind of a heavy load to carry… But I’m having so much fun with these brushes and  at the end of the challenge, I’ll have 25 designs (if I can maintain the pace) to choose from to make into some greeting cards.  🙂 Wish me luck!

Here are some of my favorites so far:

bear copy72

DOG copy2

penguin copy

ETI copy

Today’s was:

7 polar bear

To see more daily, I’ll be posting at:  http://instagram.com/melissaiwai1/

I’ll leave you with a quick recipe I made up for a high fiber high protein low sugar snack.  I love Kashi cereals, and I had a coupon which I used to buy a box of Kashi GoLean Crunch cereal.  These crunchy treats satisfy my craving for a crunchy sweet chocolate snack, but are packed with fiber and protein without artificial ingredients.  🙂

kashi treats

Kashi Healthy Treats

1 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped finely

2 teaspoons coconut oil

stevia or other sweetener to taste

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1  cup Kashi GoLean Crunch Cereal or other Kashi cereal

 

1.  Melt chocolate and coconut oil together in a medium sized bowl in the microwave at 30 second intervals until melted.

2.  Stir in stevia and peanut butter until combined.  Add cereal and coat evenly.

3.  Line a large plate or baking sheet with parchment paper.  Make six balls of cereal mixture and arrange on plate.

4.  Chill for about an hour until set.

Makes six treats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MATS A Course and Root Vegetables

Melissa Iwai 2014

Melissa Iwai 2014

So… I started taking an intense online design course, called Make Art That Sells, taught by Lilla Rogers.  This, along with several book assignments and prep for a gallery show and an art auction makes for some busy (though good) times!  For any artist wanted to broaden their range, I highly recommend this class.  Every week focuses on a different market.  Last week, it was Bolt Fabric.  Our assignment was to create a fabric pattern that had the theme “vintage kitchen” that is inspired by root vegetables and vintage casserole dishes.  So this is the pattern I designed.  It was really difficult for me, but I won’t bore you with the gory details. If you want to read about my process, you can do so on my website blog.

For the warm up — or mini assignment, we were to explore vintage casserole dishes and root vegetables.  So the first thing I did was buy a bunch of veggies and the local green market.

root vegetables

After several days of drawing and drawing and more  drawing and painting the vegetables in different media, they met their final destination:  The oven.

root vegetables to roast

This is three yams, one large parsnip, a bunch of carrots, one large turnip, and one beet (the beet is wrapped in foil).  Unfortunately, my celery root had gone bad, and I couldn’t use it!  Basically it’s about 5  cups of chopped vegetables.  I coated them with olive oil,  seasoned them with kosher salt and dried thyme, and roasted them at 400 for about 30 minutes, tossing them halfway.

cooked root veg

 

The vegetables really shrink!  But it was enough for a side dish at a pot luck dinner we went to that evening.

And here is my final submission to the class with more coordinating patterns (not so happy with these — it was a struggle!!  But I’d like to do more and improve my craft…)  If you don’t know already, there is a great site where you can upload your designs to be printed on fabric — Spoonflower.com. I’d love to use my pattern to make an apron or some tea towels. 🙂

MELISSA_IWAI_ROOSTERPITCHER_4A_WK1

 

Roasted Root Vegetables

Non-stick spray

An assortment of root vegetables, such as potatoes, yams, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery root

about 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

kosher salt to taste

1 – 2 teaspoons dried thyme

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with foil and spray with non-stick spray.

2.  Chop vegetables into 1/2 inch cubes.  Try to make them all about the same size so they cook evenly.

3.  Pour onto baking sheets and spread out into a single layer.  Drizzle with olive oil (right onto baking sheets is OK) and mix with hands to make sure everything is nicely coated.  Season with salt and thyme.

4.  Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring and flipping halfway through.

Roasted Beet

1 or 2 beets

olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Wash and dry beets.  Brush with some olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.

3.  Set on a baking sheet (sometimes the juices leak out, and it’s not pretty if it gets on your oven!) and bake for about 60 minutes until tender.  You can test it with a knife.  It should be soft like a cooked potato.

 

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Citrus Tonic and My Sketchbook

citrus tonic

I’ve been sick AND busy, and this is about the extent of my experimenting with recipes!  I made this in my Vitamix:  One whole orange and one whole lemon.  You can add honey or sugar for sweetness, but I like it tart and left it out.  I had such a sore throat and was congested, and this really hit the spot — kind of like an epic Vitamin C kick in the pants.

Then I decided to paint it:

oj

Recently, I’ve begun painting every day in my Moleskin sketchbook as a daily routine.  At first it was really hard, and I felt super self conscious about what I was painting, but I’ve finally found a certain level of comfort with it.  I don’t really care how they will turn out — it’s the process that counts — or rather, the practice– a kind of meditation.  Sometimes I am so tired and exhausted at the end of the day, especially when I was really sick, I only spend ten to fifteen minutes on them!

To read more about the development of this practice, go here.

To see my daily sketch paintings in the future — I plan to do continue to do one every day — right now they have been focussed on street life in Brooklyn — follow me on Instagram! 🙂

Citrus Tonic (really nice for when you’re feeling the cold bug taking over your face!)

One navel orange, peeled

One lemon, peeled and seeded

Honey, agave, sugar, or other sweetener if desired

1.  Process in blender and drink up!

 

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DIY Terrariums

jamie's terrarium

I have a recipe today for you, but it’s not of the edible variety!  (sorry)  I wanted to share it with you all though, because it was loads of fun to create, and it makes a great project to do with the kiddos if you have them.

First off, the inspiration:

Lilla Roger’s Round one Global Talent Search (GTS) assignment — Create wall art related to terrariums with some text in the final piece. I just love her assignments.  They are very open ended yet structured enough to push me to create something I normally would never, ever create.  That’s why I decided to do it even though I never thought I would make it through to the next round.  You have to understand — the GTS is intense!  I had only read about it in blogs last year, and I would never have even entered had I not experienced the joy of the Bootcamp!  In the end, 999 people entered and only 50 made the cut! I didn’t, but it was a great experience.  A HUGE congratulations to the people who did make it though!  Looking forward to seeing what you came up with in the following round!  Go here to view their artwork  There are a lot of yummy pieces there!  But honestly, I saw SO many amazing, beautiful pieces in the private forum that I loved and thought for sure would make it that didn’t.  There is a lot of great art out there! It was so inspiring to see all the different creations and interpretations of the assignment.  Each one was truly unique.

When I began researching terrariums for my assignment, I was instantly fascinated by all the different types.  I love learning how things are made, and I found a number of sites that had tutorials.  We had some extra glass vases lying around, and I had just seen these adorable mini succulents in the plant store around the corner, so I thought:  We have to make some!

Jamie and I spent one sunny Saturday afternoon shopping for the ingredients (dad was off playing jazz piano with our friend who plays the bass guitar).  This is what we came back with:

ingredients

Actually, we had the glass vases and rocks at home.  We bought the mini succulents, cactus potting soil, and activated charcoal (from a pet store).  The charcoal is not required for a succulent terrarium — I’ve seen tutorials where it was included and where it wasn’t.  But we got it because it helps to drain the water, and keep smells to a minimum.  I didn’t want to take any chances with over watering our little plants.

Then we began layering:

soil and rocks

First we put rocks at the bottom, then some charcoal (it is the black bits in the photo above the white rocks), then some potting soil.

putting in rocks

Then we planted some plants and covered the soil with more rocks.  That’s it!  The whole thing took about 5 minutes.  Jamie added some Go Gos to inhabit the terrarium and keep guard.

jamie's terrariumI planted two more, and here is the trio (the little guy in the pot was too large to fit in a glass one!):

all three terrariums

It makes our window sill so much nicer!

plants on sill

 

Here is my final (painted) terrarium!  Since there was an elephant living inside, I decided to fill his space with lots of moist plants and give him a few friends to keep him company. 🙂

MELISSA_IWAI_GTS14A1_CULTIVATEJOY

 

 

DIY Terrarium (Open Air Succulent Type)

Some large mouthed vases or glasses

Rocks

Activated Charcoal

Potting soil for succulents

Succulent plants

Any mini figure or object you’d like for decoration

1.  Wash glasses and dry.

2.  Fill bottom inch with rocks.

3.  Add about another 1- 2 inches of charcoal

4.  Add potting soil.

5.  Plant succulents starting with the biggest first.

6.  Cover soil with rocks.

7.  Add mini objects if you’d like to live in the environment.

 

 

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Kahlua Egg Cream


kahlua egg cream top


Last summer we got a Soda Stream, and we’ve been addicted to it ever since.  I don’t know if we save money with it necessarily (we have to buy the cartridges  of CO2 and we drink waaay more soda water than before we had the Soda Stream).  But it is better for the environment because we  never buy bottled drinks anymore (unless traveling).

We have a collection of syrups that we have amassed, and it is fun to mix flavors and experiment. Denis always drinks Cola Free, which tastes like Coke Zero.  Jamie likes Root Beer, and my favorite is Diet Cream Soda.  I like being able to sweeten the water to my own taste, which is usually not as sweet as canned soda.  The Cream Soda flavor pairs well with a dash of fruit juice.  Recently, I’ve been drinking it with about a tablespoon of tart cherry juice.  With apple juice, it tastes just like Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider.

Another fun aspect of having soda water around is being able to make the quintessential Brooklyn beverage, the egg cream, at home!  An egg cream, as you might know, does not have eggs in it at all- – just syrup, milk, and soda water.  It’s a retro fountain drink, and since you have to drink it immediately after the soda water is added — it’s not something that can be bottled.

Even Jamie has mastered the art of making a good egg cream.  For a traditional Brooklyn one, you must use U-Bet’s!  But if you can’t get your hands on a bottle, any chocolate syrup would work.

syrup

The next important factor:  You must use a new bottle of sparkling water/seltzer/club soda or a freshly made bottle of Soda Stream soda water!  The carbonation is key to creating a really good egg cream head.

egg cream 2

To make one, pour syrup into a tall glass, add milk, then the soda water.  Stir to combine and serve or drink immediately!  The lovely head goes down pretty rapidly.

As you might know, I LOVE Kahlua and I like finding ways to use it in recipes.

 

dusted

Check out my Kahlua Tiramisu here.

I decided to try my hand at a Kahlua Egg Cream.  You could make this with Chocolate Syrup if you wanted, but I wanted a vanilla one, so I used Soda Stream Diet Cream Soda syrup.  It was heavenly!

kahlua egg cream top

Last month the  MATS Bootcamp class I’ve been loving for the past five months, ended.  I was kind of sad to finish, because being in the class was such a great experience.  It was so inspiring, and I met so many other great artists taking the class.  My work has greatly improved in the process as well — it’s helped me to approach it differently and really focus on creating a lot more personal pieces for myself.  I will be taking more of Lilla Roger’s classes in the future though, so that is something to look forward to!

The theme for our last assignment was our favorite beverage.  Of course I had to do a piece on soda water!  Here’s my version inspired by vintage beverage ads:

soda water final copy

Traditional Egg Cream

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup (preferably U-Bets)

about 1/2 cup milk

Soda water

1.  Add syrup to tall glass.  Add milk.  Slowly add soda water making sure the head comes to the top (depending on how strong your carbonation is will determine the speed at which it rises).  Stir to combine syrup.

2.  Drink or serve immediately.

Vanilla Kahlua Egg Cream

2 teaspoons cream soda flavored syrup

2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon Kahlua

1/3 cup milk

Soda water

1.  Add syrup to tall glass.  Add Kahlua, then milk.  Slowly add soda water making sure the head comes to the top (depending on how strong your carbonation is will determine the speed at which it rises).  Stir to combine syrup.

2.  Drink or serve immediately.

 

 

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