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!


Soup and Ninja Lego

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

It’s a wonderful thing to know someone for a long time. I have known Renee since we went to kindergarten in 1979 and this is a very long time indeed. I actually still know a number of people with whom I attended kindergarten, and whilst this appears to be relatively unusual it is a story for another time.

Renee and I went through kindergarten, primary school and high school together. We both did science at University in Melbourne, although at different Universities in Melbourne. We also shared a house in London at the end of last century, along with Jason and Cassie*. I was master of ceremony at Renee’s marriage to Jason. We know a lot about each other, including a few embarrassing things (just ask us!) and we have eaten a lot of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream together. Renee is smart and kind and down-to-earth and funny and a genuinely good person.

It was only right and proper that the two of us arranged to have lunch the week of my birthday this year, and that I should I write about our friendship on my developing blog.

Renee lives with her family in the northern suburbs, and so I ventured out of my comfort zone that is the inner-west… Renee and Jason have three children, and their youngest, Jacob, is still at home (but bursting to be at school at with his older brother and sister, whilst still relishing his special one-on-one time with Renee).

Jacob was very excited to be allowed to watch a couple of DVDs about the Lego Ninjas in a row (a particular treat), such that Ren and I might be able to talk relatively uninterrupted over home-made pumpkin soup and umpteen cups of tea. I did have the lego characters explained to me in some great depth at the conclusion of the DVDs, and this of course was most impressive. However, I do hope there is not ever a test that I have to pass about which character had which weapon or magical power.

We caught up on the stories of our lives, of our families and of others we both know. We talked about our jobs and our hobbies and our holiday adventures. We talked about what we might do next (when we work out what we want to be when we grow up). Whilst I don’t see Ren as much as I used to, or as often as I would like with our busy lives, there is a real ease with which we slip back into our conversations. That is part of the privilege of knowing someone for so long I guess – that shared history, and so many shared experiences and stories. We have been talking about what we want to do when we grow up since 1979, but still we’re not sure!

There's always more to say and another cup of tea to be drunk...

There’s always more to say and another cup of tea to be drunk…

Jacob’s impressive and disciplined Ninja Lego collection.

Watch out - they're coming to get you

Watch out – they’re coming to get you

Last century in London and well before hipsters started drinking wine out of glasses. And yes, that is curry sauce in a cup.

Celebrating our new digs - fish and chips on plastic plates with 'Football Crazy' branded wine (GBP 1.99 - value during the World Cup)!

Celebrating our new digs – fish and chips on plastic plates with ‘Football Crazy’ branded wine (GBP 1.99 – value during the World Cup)! London – 1998

The height of fashion and orthodontics.

Debutante fashion, circa 1991

Debutante fashion, circa 1991

What we look like in 2014 – disappointingly similar hair to the photo from 1998, but pleasingly dis-similar from the photo from 1991!

Old friends

Our kindergarten photo from 1979. I think I can still name everyone, how about you?

What a cute and intelligent-looking bunch of youngsters. Ren and KatharineMargaret in the front row

What a cute and intelligent-looking bunch of youngsters. Ren and KatharineMargaret in the front row. 1979

* Renee, Jason, Cassie and Kate were the original residents at the flat in Australia Road, Shepherds Bush. Occasional, and sometimes much longer, visitors included Aaron, Chris, Sammy D, Hamish, Todd Dickinson and Stephen R (now Cassie’s husband!), and a few others besides that.