What kind of name is Ylva?

A lovely birthday, Interesting people, Walking in the park and reminiscing

The question “What kind of name is Ylva?” was famously posed by Kate Hudson in the 2003 movie Alex and Emma* (the actual movie scene can be viewed here). The exchange, with Luke Wilson, goes on:

Luke: “It’s Swedish.”

Kate H: “That’s not a real name! Who made that one up? Jacques Cartier?

Luke: “It’s her name okay.

Luke is absolutely correct with his answers, the name is indeed Swedish. I would add that Ylva is the very best kind of name, for the very best kind of person. It being, in fact, the name of my fabulous friend.

I have known Ylva since our University days. I did straight Science and she did Science-Arts. It was during our Honours year in 1999 that we got to know each other really well, as part of the School of Botany Honours cohort. One of the photos attached to this post is a photo of Ylva, Ruth and me in 1999 – Ruth was the third member of our little botanical gang that year (and she has subsequently run away to live in Gippsland). Ylva and I also shared a house in 2004-05 with Cary (see the photo of us resplendent in pink) and Ryan.

She speaks Italian, Swedish and, I think, can more than get by in Spanish and French. She knows about art, music, architecture, film and science. She is good at crafts, and understands the significance of the first day the temperature rises above 20 degrees in Spring each year. She does trapeze and rides a bike (and likes the combination of bicycles and doing good so much that she is actively involved with the charity Bicycles for Humanity). To sum it up, she is one of those freak-over-achieving people and one day she will be running the world. I think she should also be an ambassador and she is incredibly tolerant of my need to make frequent jokes about having another Ferrero Rocher (and you either get this reference immediately, or you don’t). Alternatively (or perhaps concurrently) she may also run a circus, or become a best-selling author after moving to a country property with a big, rambling garden.

Ylva has been on maternity leave over recent months, following the birth of her son Paolo (huzzah!), and she has also moved to the north side of town (this seems to becoming a big trend amongst people I know). So during my recent week off work around the time of my birthday I locked in a visit. Her new neighbourhood is friendly and her new house is wonderful. It was also an opportunity for me to give Ylva her birthday present which I have been forgetting to give her for many, many months – yikes!

I tried a recipe for a Frank Camorra raspberry and yoghurt loaf that was in the Age newspaper in March (I have included the web link, although I had actually saved the newspaper clipping old-school style), of course using my new KitchenAid. It worked out really well, I had no cause for concern about using frozen berries (the recipe says to use fresh ones). I was able to match the loaf with some clotted cream (you can read about my recent and first experiment here).

I arrived late morning, just in time to enjoy a piece of cake and a few cups of tea. There was a house-tour, excellent conversation about everything under the sun and plenty of Paolo time. Paolo had a lot of important information to impart (often when his mother was saying something) and activity to show me with great earnestness. As the sun was shining, we decided to amble out and go to Ceres for lunch. Ylva is fortunate to be within walking distance from Ceres, a community environment park with excellent gardens, a nursery, a grocery store, market, education facilities and a café called the Merri Table. Being an environment park, the café menu is organic and locally-produced where possible. The food is hearty and the facilities are child-friendly. I had the black bean tacos (see photo) and these were great.

We wandered back home in the afternoon sun, just in time for a little more tea and cake… but where had all the time gone? Why doesn’t time fly like this when I’m in the office? There was still (is still!) so much to talk about. However, the every day practicalities of our lives could be ignored for only so long, and it was time to leave. Ylva also had a lovely gift for me, one that she’d actually purchased whilst living in London for work for a few months last year (how organised is that?). A beautiful botanical history book (Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History). True story – whilst returning to Australia, Ylva’s suitcase somehow ended up on the tarmac and a plan ran over it. This book was in the suitcase and Ylva was able to point out a couple of war wounds on the book (if you looked closely). Many other things in the suitcase did not fair as well as the book!

* The sad reality is that I don’t think many people have heard of this (seminal?) Hudson-Wilson film, let alone seen it.


Biscuiteer biscuits in the post

A lovely birthday, Food stuff, Interesting people, Walking in the park and reminiscing

A tin of Biscuiteers biscuits arrived recently – belated birthday biscuits from the UK from my wonderful friends Sarah, Paul and Olivia Ryan.

A parcel in the post. But when I turned the card over to discover my biscuiteer, it was completely blank!

A parcel in the post. But when I turned the card over to discover my biscuiteer, it was completely blank!

Very exciting! Yummy biscuits and the dilemma of what to use the empty tin for...

Very exciting! Yummy biscuits and the dilemma of what to use the empty tin for…

Biscuiteer belated birthday biscuit... pretty spectacular!

Biscuiteers belated birthday biscuit… pretty spectacular!

The Biscuiteers are a London company specialising in, you guessed it, biscuits. They are a great idea for a gift, and I have used them for friends and relatives in the UK reasonably often. I have their cookbook which is a great guide to making biscuits, and I heartily recommend it. I have baked many good biscuits from this book, including with my nieces, although not quite up to their standard of icing (yet).

Very special to get a tin sent all the way here, as the postage is not insignificant.

Mysteriously, the enclosed gift card did not say who had sent the biscuits to me. My biscuiteer was unknown! The card was completely blank. I deduced it was probably related to my birthday.

My sister-in-law Suzanné has previously sent me a tin of THANK YOU biscuits from Biscuiteers last year, and I had first learned about the company from Sarah Ryan. These two wonderful women were on the top of my ‘most likely’ list. The time difference to England meant the solution to my mystery was a few hours away, fortunately I could eat a biscuit or two with my tea to tide me over.

It was indeed Mrs Ryan who had sent the delightful parcel, although Suzanné had also considered sending me some for my birthday (she sent me a lovely Polli necklace that arrived a few days later). Sarah had stuffed up the message entry whilst using purchasing the biscuits online – rather than been mysterious on purpose. I would have gone the mysterious explanation myself, but she is too good and honest for that!

I first met Sarah Thacker (as she then was) back in January 1997 when I arrived to spend a year as a resident tutor at King’s School Bruton, in Somerset, which is in the South West of England. We have been firm friends ever since. She is a woman of the finest character and it was fitting that there was intrigue surrounding her family’s gift to me (yes, there is an ‘in’ joke there). I was the non-bridesmaid at her marriage to Paul Ryan in 2000. Sarah has been on an odyssey of sorts over the last year since she turned 40, and you can read about our visit to the Savoy Hotel here.

And here is an excellent photo of Sarah that sits on the bookshelf in our study. It was from 1997 or 1998 and we are having tea in Oxford. She is talking on what now appears to be a big, black brick with an antenna at its peak, but at the time was an incredibly sophisticated and cutting edge mobile phone! I thought she was the epitome of cool, and there was not an ounce of irony (although the photograph might now suggest otherwise).

Such a model woman - I want one of those phones, so retro!

Such a model woman – I want one of those phones, so retro!


High Tea in West Footscray

A lovely birthday, Food stuff, Interesting people

This post has been delayed because I am still catching up from my technical difficulties a few weeks ago… there’s still a few to follow in a non-linear fashion.

We decided to have a high tea with my family to conclude the festivities of my birthday week. It gets more and more difficult to get everyone in my family together (especially as some live overseas), and so it was wonderful that so many were able to come.  It was only right and proper that there be plentiful tea, sandwiches and cake. It was quite a success, even if I do say so myself!

Greg used the interweb to learn how to turn plates from the op shop into glamorous tiered displays. Easy to take apart and store as well, although the drill bit is very blunt now. His handiwork was much admired and he is a man-for-all-seasons (or something).

I was able to put my new KitchenAid pleasingly through its paces. We had mud cake, scones, savoury puffs and pikelets, sandwiches, flourless orange cupcakes, vegan flapjacks, and biscuits. I’m probably forgetting something, and then people also brought more food. Including some yummy, but quite frankly quite confronting, age-appropriate biscuits made by Nat and Josh (no elegant obfuscation of my real age!).

Len and Judy came down early to help make crustless sandwiches and other organisational support. Judy had made a wonderful fruitcake (she is known for this in our family), iced with stylish minimalism.

We had the immediate Taylors (besides Matt and Suzanné in England who had held a parallel tea party in my honour on my actual birthday), Taylor/Strijder Aunts and Uncles, cousins and a group of Iretons as well.  Greg and I did observe that it is on occasions such as these we see the opposite nature of our families. The Taylors are very loud, eat a lot and could be confused with the Paparazzi. The Iretons are not loud, don’t eat as much, and never seem to take photos. Having said that, we all get on famously! This is a large number of people to cosy (cram!) into our little house (I think around 24), but fit we did (people are happy to be cosy in if not for too many hours, there is a point at which it shifts most noticeably to crammed).

Rather excitingly, it was also the first party that baby Isabelle has attended – so I am quite honoured. She certainly provided the Taylors with more reason to get snapping with their cameras. In addition to several nieces and nephews running around and having adventures and who are very used to ignoring adults with camersa. Josh brought a Polaroid camera along which added further interest to the afternoon.

Another tradition in the Taylor family is over-catering. We eat a lot, and you don’t want to under-cater (disaster!). So many of my guests took goody bags away with them and my workplace also enjoyed left over cake for a number of days.