Today is my birthday so I thought I would share some pics of me for a change. So this weeks guest photographer is my mum. I love these pics, they tell a lovely story.
My excitement is building as the time approaches for us to have Ava’s portrait done by Michael Shapcott, as part of his Drawing A Drawing 365 project.
A little while ago I came accross this project on the Kickstarter website and fell in love with Michael’s style and his intention with this project (Kickstarter and the work of Michael Shapcott). Since then, I have been keeping up to date with his blog, looking at the lovely pieces he has produced so far.
I have found that I am instantly drawn to the ones of children. I think this is mainly due to the fact that I have my own daughter on my mind but also I find their expressions are more natural. They don’t seem to be as self concious so they ‘pose’ less. I love the amount of detail Michael uses in his portraits and the washes he uses in the backgrounds – they add a lovely depth to the pieces.
Taking photos of Ava is fun but is always a challenge. It is not easy to capture the expressions that I love and see everyday. The moments pass so quickly and she isn’t a fan of the camera, sometimes getting a bit annoyed with me when I bring it out. It has made it quite difficult to pick photos to send to Michael for the portrait and I am feeling a bit of pressure with it, as the limitations of the images I send through will have a direct impact on theillustration I get back in September, it is quite nerve-wracking.
We love chocolate cake in our house and I have my favourite chocolate mudcake recipe that I generally pull out for birthdays but for Ava’s Party I needed an alternative. For Ava’s actual birthday day I made a three layer mudcake with pink (Ava’s request) buttercream frosting. After a big lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant with my family I consumed far too much of that pink chocolate cake which resulted in absolute repulsion at the thought of eating any chocolate cake in the near future.
Inspired by a large bowl of lemons sitting on my dining room table and a love for citrus flavours I decided on some kind of lemon cake. After a quick google search for ‘Lemon Birthday Cake’ I came across this recipe and fell in love. I have never had anything like it and now feel as though I had been living under a rock. It is the cake version of a lemon meringue pie and however invented it is a genius.
I LOVE this recipe, it is really quite simple and so very delicious. The meringue frosting is a crisp white rather than the yellowy colour you get from buttercream and although it is really sweet, it is light, lovely and easy to eat without that sickly feeling. The frosting is also really fun to work with and just magically makes a spectacular looking cake without much effort.
The cake I made was by no means perfect but I was so proud of this cake that I was telling everyone how awesome it was for days. Everyone should try this cake.
The Shopping List
250grams butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted self-raising flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter
3 lemons, zest grated and juiced
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1 tablespoon white corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
…And what to do with it
Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans.
To make the cake: Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4-inches above counter, then dropping flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely.
To make the filling: Place the ingredients in the double boiler over boiling water. Don’t let top pan touch the water. Cook and stir until mixture begins to gel or thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
To make the frosting: Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
To assemble, add 1 tablespoon of filling to the cake pedestal. Run hands along the side of the cake to remove excess crumbs. Place the cake layers on the pedestal, spreading filling between the layers and on top. Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining filling. Frost top and sides of cake with frosting.
Garnish with a lemon wedge and a sprig of mint or whatever you desire.
Leading up to Ava’s birthday I had the quandary of what theme to go with. We weren’t having a big shindig, just a little gathering so no need to go crazy(Although I always tend to go a little over the top). I had a few colour combos in mind but in the end the decision was quite easy as Ava has been having a total rainbow phase. I didn’t think she would be ‘into’ anything this early in her life but she loves rainbows, has been pointing them out everywhere, drawing them, talking about them and singing ‘ sing a rainbow’ on a daily basis.
Having Ava’s birthday in the middle of Winter, it was nice to be surrounded by colourful streamers, lanterns and the rain clouds worked well with the party theme, reflecting a little of the the real world outside at the same time. Ikea plates are great for kids and we use them regularly so they were a great alternative to disposable plates and fit in perfectly with the colour scheme.
The benefit of living in a city with such great street art is that there is an ever-changing gallery open for everyone to see for free. The colourful laneways are a welcome relief on grey wintery days and I think Melbourne would be a sad place without these flashes of colour.
Last week Ava and I went with my sister Monica on a trek around to find all the key spots for street art in the CBD. I found a handy route to take on google maps and it lead us to some great spots. Although I knew where most of these places were I still felt a little like a tourist pulling out my map and trying to figure out which way to go next. I must say though, this wasn’t a bad thing, it was refreshing to go away from my normal haunts in the city and explore a little.
Ava had a great day, she loves travelling by train and didn’t mind being pushed around all these strange places (although some of the laneways are quite stinky). She loved all the paintings on the walls but was especially impressed by the digger working away down ACDC lane. That is her watching the workmen in the pic above with a spectacular piece behind her.
I love the different styles used in graffiti, the patterns and textures appeal to me greatly and I makes me think of how these processes could influence my own work. I would definitely like to gain the confidence in my work and the freedom to explore that appears to come through these pieces.
Here are my favourite instagrammies from the last month or so.
I am not a tattoo kind of person. I don’t think I could ever decide on a design to put on my skin forever and I would be forever picking at it’s faults. However when I was younger I absolutely loved temporary tattoos. As a teenager I would buy bubblegum chuppa chups to get the tattoos and I thought they were great even if the selection of imagery was quite limited. I can’t really remember why I wore them or even what the piccies were of but having just come accross Tattly I want to wear them again. Is it acceptable for an adult to wear a temporary tattoo?
Alongside Berlin and New York, Melbourne is considered one of the top ranking cities in the world when it comes to street art. Over the last 30 years or so Melbourne’s reputation for street art has grown with a diverse display of skills, styles and techniques with big names from around the world such as ‘Banksy’, ‘Blek le Rat’ and ‘Above’ coming to soak up and contribute to this thriving scene. This has meant good things for local artists as it has become recognised as a true art form rather than destruction of property, enabling and encouraging local guys to make a name for themselves and be acknowledged for their own distinct styles.
Growing up my view of graffiti didn’t stretch far past bad tags and colourful displays along the suburban train lines. Even at this stage I could appreciate the difference between art and pure vandalism and it is not surprising that most of Melbourne feels the same way. The ‘City of Melbourne’ acknowledges ‘the importance of street art in contributing to a vibrant urban culture’ recognising the difference between ‘illegal graffiti’ and art worth keeping. The ‘City of Melbourne’ has a process for artists and property owners to apply for permits to legally contribute and preserve quality work and they have a listing on their website of all approved pieces.
More recently my interest in Street Art has grown with exposure to different, creative methods used in Street Art (see Yarn Bombing), some gorgeous photo’s taken by my friend and photographer Mel Riddell, and the work Daragh has been doing with Sydney Street Artist ‘Phibs‘ (The first pic on this post features one of his pieces). Daragh produced this vid of Phibs doing some work at Strike Melbourne Central.