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.

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.

With thanks to her majesty, the Queen (part two)

A lovely birthday, Cool stuff, Food stuff, Interesting places, Out and about

The second part of my birthday long weekend involved adventuring in Central Victoria, an in area of our Garden State of which I am particularly fond.

We commenced by visiting Castlemaine and enjoying the delights of the local artists’ market. Castlemaine is a great place. I pretty much spent my school holidays there growing up, as both parents hail from the ‘maine. It’s become a pretty cool town in recent years (with many people moving there and commuting to Melbourne, it’s also known as ‘North Northcote’ to some). The market is good, and has a broad range of artists, including a couple of my favourites – the printmaker Bridget Farmer (I have a couple of prints, and have given them as gifts) and Cathy from the Industrial Sewing Workshop (I have their fabulous Arrietty’s Bag as well as some bicycle gear). We also did a quick spin of the Rotary Art Show which was exhibiting in the Market Building.

Castlemaine now has many excellent places to eat that could easily be found in inner Melbourne (including Northcote!). However, one of the best places to have lunch is Tilley’s Team Rooms (no website), in a little covered mall off the main street. It is a very low key establishment, with slightly old-fashioned decor. Glenda has been running the show for a bit over 17 years (long before the hipster food places began arriving). It was a favourite of my Grandmother’s before she died, and this is another reason I like to go there. You cannot get quinoa, freekeh or a pea foam reduction, but the coffee and tea is hot (country-hot, not Melbourne-hot), and the tea comes with an extra pot of hot water without one needing to ask. You can usually get jelly slice (although on this occasion, another customer beat me to the last slice and I had to settle for chocolate cheesecake).

We next headed up to Bendigo, another regional town that has become cool in recent years. Growing up in Ballarat, I always thought Bendigo was some sort of try-hard Ballarat, but it really is a great town in its own right. I wouldn’t mind living in the Bendigo-Castlemaine region one day.

Greg had booked us into the new Schaller Studio hotel (Art Series Hotel) for the night. It had only been open about six weeks and is a fantastic hotel, near the hospital and close enough that you can easily walk into the town centre. The service is excellent and they even provided us a bottle of sparkling white when they realised it was my birthday weekend. As the name may suggest, the hotel is furnished extensively with Mark Schaller’s art and is very funky indeed. We actually own a Schaller, which added an extra layer of meaning for us. The only criticism I would make is that they openly provided cage eggs for breakfast. I found this quite surprising, the breakfast buffet being otherwise fine, but I guess it is good that they were transparent about it.

Going out for dinner in Bendigo on a Sunday night reminded us that it very much still is a country town at heart – hardly anything was open, even though it was a long weekend, and full of tourists. We dined at the Rifle Brigade hotel, they provided us a good, modern pub meal, with fast but friendly service.

On Monday we went to the Bendigo Art Gallery to see the touring exhibit on the Royal Academy of Arts. The Gallery is known for its blockbuster exhibitions, particularly for securing V&A exhibitions from London, and is generally excellent. The Royal Academy of Arts exhibition was no exception, but pleasingly the Gallery also has a broad collection of Australian art, and a recently renovated and expanded wing that includes a cafe. Despite being chilly winter’s day, the sun was shining and the sky was blue, and we enjoyed walking around the extensive gardens surrounding the Gallery and into the town centre.

On the way back to Melbourne we made the effort to turn off the freeway into Malmsbury to visit the famous bakery. Growing up, the road from Melbourne to Castlemaine went right through the middle of Malmsbury, but the freeway has now bypassed this and many other small towns. The bakery is great, and it was pleasing to see that plenty of other people continue to turn off the freeway. They are very proud of their Dundee Cake, but we went with a vegetarian mushroom pie – hardly traditional fare, but yummy none-the-less. The tea came with the extra pot of hot water.

The weekend concluded with a lazy night in West Footscray with wine and home-made pizza. I also had the joy of knowing that I had the rest of the week off and could sleep in on Tuesday morning. So the birthday long-weekend was over, but the birthday-related festivities continue!