October: Sex, Bees and Fragrant Cupcakes

With spring definitely in the air we’ve been looking forward to the warmer weather here at Laneway Learning, and what better way to start off than with Urban Beekeeping, courtesy of Robert Redpath of Bee Sustainable and his bees? The arrival of spring signifies the beginnings of the majority of a bee keeper’s yearly work as this is when the hives are waking up and getting stuck into business. Springtime is when hives will typically swarm to start a new home elsewhere, new baby bees are in abundance and the worker bees are busy gathering lots of nectar to make some of their delicious honey. We learnt that the flavour of honey is strongly influenced by the type of flowers that the nectar is collected from and that an average hive of European bees can produce up to 40 or 50 kg of honey every year!

With our taste buds ready for something sugary, Maria Yebra came back to Laneway Learning ready to satisfy our cravings in Next Level Cupcakes. With cupcakes at the ready we coloured, rolled and moulded fondant to create our own little edible masterpieces. Although the majority of these were cute little dragons in purple or red there were also a few flowers, hearts, initials, and a duck. And boy, were they tasty! You can look for more cupcake inspiration over at her blog.

Following on with the crafty theme Michelle Lackenby of PaperLab came to Laneway Learning to teach us two Japanese binding techniques in Japanese Bookbinding. After learning a bit about paper and Oriental bookmaking we got hands-on learning the different stitches for stab binding and hemp leaf binding. By the end of the class we each had a set of two books: one soft and one hard bound; a stylish hemp stitch book and a beautiful stab stitch book. Great for doodles, philosophical musings or giving as a gift!

Next up Samantha Taylor of The Powder Room got us to work out our olfactory system in Perfume: Fragrance Masterclass. As we peeked into the secretive and intriguing world of fragrance we learnt all about perfumers, what raw materials they use and how they put it all together. As the evening wore on we tried different perfumes, discussed the differences between designer and artisan fragrances and learnt how to choose scents that suit us. Who knew that there was so much to a smell?!

Clare Burder of The Humble Tumbler came back to Laneway Learning not once but twice this month for her fantastic Wine: A One Night Palate Trainer. With taste buds tingling we learnt that a wine who’s flavours come from grape variety and age only is known as a ‘simple wine’, in comparison to ‘complex wines’, which derive some of their flavours from the wine making process and in-the-bottle aging. We discussed the differences between various types of wines, from Riesling to chardonnay, pinot noir to shiraz, and even tasted some of Clare’s homemade salami to see how fat affects tannin. Finally, with all of our new knowledge we talked, smelt and tasted our way to improved wine connoisseur status, and are now thirsty for more!

Later on, after being welcomed into The Little Mule with some crackers and homemade pickle, we settled down to learn about the basics of Pickling: More to Jars Than Jam! with Anne Shea. The first thing we discovered is that there are at least three different ways to pickle something, by refrigeration alone, pasteurising or freezing. Fridge pickling is probably the easiest and gives delicious pickled veggies that are ready to eat in just a few days. However, these shouldn’t be kept for more than a month or two at most whereas pasteurising and freezing are ideal for preserving things when you find a bargain at the Vic Market. During the class we were also treated to some homemade cherry pie, with the cherries again having been tended and jarred by Anne at home.

In Crochet 101 lover of all things wool Karen Cramer came down to Laneway Learning to teach us this happy, simple little craft. Starting off with the basics we first learnt how to hold the hook and handle the yarn before moving on to the three basics stitches of crochet: chain, slip and treble stitches. Where crochet once seemed to be all about doyleys these simple series of loops can in fact be used as the basis of unlimited design ideas – everything from clothing, jewellery, accessories or even entire coral reefs!

The class that everyone was excited about didn’t fail to deliver as Kate McCombs taught us the ins and outs of Sex: Pleasure Physiology. With plenty of puns, sex trivia and vulva puppets Kate taught us some grown-up sex ed aimed at maximising the feel good aspects of sex. This class was far more enjoyable than the stuffy, anatomically driven education most of us received in school, instead looking at the importance of pleasure for our overall sexual health and ways to go about it.

Finally, in Penguins! Alisdair took Laneway Learning on our first ever field trip! We met at The Little Mule when we learnt all about penguins, and specifically about little penguins which are native to Australia. These cute little flightless birds are a popular tourist attraction down at Phillip Island but did you know that they are also permanent residents of St Kilda’s pier? After stocking up on interesting facts we jumped on a tram and headed down to the beach. Once on the pier Alisdair took out his red filtered torch (white or blue lights can damaged the penguins’ eyes) and showed us the penguins in their natural habitat – tucked in amongst the rocks at the water’s edge. So cute!