South African born writer, florist, painter and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, has baked a mouth-watering delicacy today - a passion fruit Victorian sponge, known in South Africa as a granadilla cake.
Keryn wasn't raised by her mother. Instead she was cared for by her grandmother, and it was her grandmother who taught her how to bake. Despite her mother's uselessness at anything to do with domesticity (you go, girl!), she was inspired by granadilla cake. One day she arrived back in South Africa without warning, just in time for Keryn's school fete. This inspired her to slap on an apron and march into the kitchen with the grand announcement that she was going to bake a granadilla cake. But tradition bored Keryn's mother and she added her own personality to the cake, which included peppermint flavouring and blue icing. The cake didn’t rise and it looked a sorry offering on the ladies cake counter at the fete. Imagine a flat blue cake with granadilla seeds lodged like dead flies in the icing. Keryn's never forgotten that cake because they took it home with them unsold. I have to confess that blue icing has that effect on me too.
This week, when Keryn's Country Home magazine arrived, there was a story in it about a retired man who bakes for his family, and he'd declared the Victorian Passion Fruit sponge the all-time family favourite. Keryn was inspired to make one in memory of her mother, and she thinks this recipe worked out well. She likes to think that, sans peppermint, she's inherited some of her mother's drama. Fortunately for us, she hasn't inherited her sense of aesthetics.
P.S. A little birdie told me that the granadilla cake is no longer, and that Keryn ate two slices. Well, you would, wouldn't you...
Opera singer and strange bedfellow, Kanen Breen, says we'll have to take his word for the fact that he's been consumed this week with writing a duet for the Strange Bedfellows performance, Under the Covers, at The Vanguard on December 16.
A number of factors have contributed to this being the case, apparently: 1) He's never written a song before, let alone a duet; 2) he can hardly play the piano; 3) the app he's using on his iPhone to score it legibly keeps crashing and erasing his efforts, which means that whatever section he's been working on has to be reconstructed from his bizarre and meandering, illegible scribbles. The end result of this is that he gets a completely different result every time. Very frustrating (in light of these developments, a blood pressure check may be in order, Mr Breen).
In spite of these limitations, the duet has gone from being a two and a half minute ditty to a full blown ten minute rock opera involving some pretty salacious behaviours in which Jacqui will be required to do her best Michael Hutchence impersonation (you'd best come home from Honkers toute suite, Jacqui, because all manner of mischief is underway in your absence).
Kanen's really been enjoying the challenge of trying to get a musical notion out of his brain and onto the page intact. The lyrics have been coming to him at all hours of the day and night, so he's been keeping a sparkly pink notebook beside him at all times to soak up the 'poetry' as it flows forth. One can only imagine. The lyrics have been coming to him at all hour
He can, of course, reveal none of this before the premiere, but he assures us that his composition will divide the punters and horrify his parents should they choose to attend. Isn't that precisely what children are for?
Lest we think his efforts too intangible this week, he's provided evidence of another (unexpected) screen transformation, which got underway yesterday. He went and saw a great act at The Vanguard in Newtown last week, and noticed an annoying door at the back of the stage that breaks the mood onstage every time someone steps through it. This, of course, prompted a creative inspiration, and Kanen immediately thought of four IKEA doors that he found on the nature strip near Jacqui's place that have languished in her garage ever since, waiting for a purpose. Their wait is now over and they're destined to become quite fabulous in due course. If you've been following Kanen's work, you'll find this very easy indeed to believe.
Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been getting about twenty passion fruit a week off her vines. They've built up over the past couple of weeks, so she decided to make a passion fruit and apple jelly for this week's creative contribution.
The recipe was largely based on a recipe for passion fruit jelly from a beautiful book called 'Salt Sugar Smoke' by Diana Henry. Trish followed it fairly roughly, and referred to and borrowed bits from the Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall recipe for hedgerow jelly that has become her trusted recipe for all jellies. And because she can't resist playing around, she added a hint of chopped fresh chilli and a couple of bay leaves. Why oh why did she not make notes, she wonders. She's going to have to make it again, keeping proper notes, so she can post it to her fabulous food blog. But, of course, that's hardly a problem - the jelly is a gorgeous tart and tangy delight, and her passion fruit vine is obligingly producing an abundance of fruits all year round. This is the kind of problem it's rather nice to have.
Trish made some pre-dinner snacks featuring the jelly:
- Buckwheat blini with cream cheese, passion fruit jelly and fennel.
- Fried goats cheese haloumi served with lovage and passion fruit jelly.
For dinner, she made baked fish with lemon and olive oil. She served it with roasted broccoli and, of course, a passion fruit and apple jelly accompaniment. Way to dine in style, Trish.
Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has roped in her resources to create some funky jewellery this week. She's been making felt ropes - a.k.a. dreadlocks - to turn into necklaces. The necklaces are light and colourful, just the thing to wear with one of Telena's exotic creations.
Telena is busy creating a stock of these for the Christmas Show of the North Shore Craft Group in November. She tries to always have some new ideas for these exhibitions, and the dreadlocks are fun and quite quick to make.
Telena starts by rolling long lengths of fleece in a bamboo blind, joining each piece into a loop, and felting until they've shrunk and become thick, dense felt. When they're strong enough, she can hit them hard on her table, so they have therapeutic as well as aesthetic value - a great way to release those inner frustrations.
Bang! Pow! Wallop! Ah...I feel better now.
Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has been on holidays this past week and she was determined to put a positive, creative foot forward. She's written a few new songs that she wanted to record, and she also wanted to re-record some songs that she posted to her You Tube channel and website a few months ago, because our primitive technology let her down then and we've invested in some better equipment since.
Like most great plans, this one went awry. She spent days recording her songs, only to later discover that the technology was still delivering a sub-optimal result, in spite of the fact that it all looked good when she checked it on the video recorder at the time. So her planning, efforts and early preparation came to naught, and she's had a frantic dash to the finishing line today, with Steve helping to get the audio working better. This is a live recording made with pretty basic equipment, but it's the best we've managed yet and she still sounds awesome.
Stephen Bennett has been a legend this week, all but finishing our new garden infrastructure to allow us to grow more flowers. It was hot here today, so it took a heroic effort to finish these front beds. We need to get in a bit more soil, and we're still trying to decide whether or not to pave the pathways with some kind of mosaic design, but the beds are almost finished. It's been a huge job over the past few weeks and I know Steve's looking forward to getting back to his usual creative pursuits.
Steve has also been busy with his camera, taking photos for our urban farming blog, photographing my jewellery, and getting out and about for the odd landscape shot whenever he can. He's particularly pleased with the abstract images he was able to create with the photos he took of a few stumps he found lying about. They're really very cool.
I've been juggling creative activities with some pretty heavy work commitments this past week, and I was grateful for the public holiday on Monday, which allowed me to make a couple of pieces that were high on my priority list.
Reiki practitioner, Yama Mehry, commissioned me to make him a lapis lazuli pendant. It wasn't a small piece by any means, not when you consider the size of the gemstones in your standard retail outlet, but it was definitely small by my standards, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy it was to make. I'd forgotten that the challenges I deal with when setting very large stones are unique to large stones. Far be it from me to ever chose the easy road.
Still on a lapis theme, I made a large pendant for my friend Linda, to accompany the blue polymer flower I made her last week. This is a big piece, roughly 40mm x 30mm, and the stone is an absolute beauty - a deep, dark blue flecked with gold and featuring a sparkling gold stripe. Linda's really going to look the business in this.
Yesterday I indulged myself by playing around with a design that I've been thinking about for a while.
I've had a lot of positive feedback about the red polymer flower I made in our 30 day creative challenge. Every time I wear it, I get compliments, and I like it so much myself that I've been thinking about adding more flowers to my repertoire. I'm absolutely brimming with ideas, but I decided to start with a flower ring. I made the rose out of polymer, using some rose leaves from the garden as moulds, and I strengthened the flower and gave it a glass-like finish with resin. I set the rose on a blackened copper base with a sterling silver ring shank that I etched with a floral design.
It was hard to do justice to this piece with a camera because the surface is so reflective, but 'in the flesh' it's really quite gorgeous. If I'd had any doubts about it's potential popularity, they were dispelled early in the construction process. I had two 'commissions' for the ring before it was even finished. Hannah and Georgia took one look and said 'please could you make me one of those, but with a pink rose?'. The answer is yes, but I can do better than that. Brace yourself for an onslaught flowers in the coming weeks.