Wednesday, April 27, 2011

keepsakes: a giveaway

Occasionally a book is released that I just have to have! 'Keepsakes' by Frances Hansen is one of them. Part cook book, part art book and very much a personal scrapbook, it is a joy to devour. Between the recipes are sketches, stickers and miscellany that combine to represent a collection of memories - it is a celebration of DIY, home making and family life. The beauty of 'Keepsakes' is held in its history; Frances has collated a bunch of handwritten, old recipes and preserved them forever - what was once ephemera is now bound in a book with deckled edges.

I had the pleasure of asking Frances a few questions about her book. Enjoy the interview below.

The lovely people at Hardie Grant publishers are also offering one of my readers a copy of 'Keepsakes'. To make this fun, please leave a comment with the name of your favourite family recipe - I'm so interested to know what food has remained a favourite for generations in your family life. This giveaway is open to Australian and New Zealand residents only. I'll announce a winner next Thursday 5th May.

Jodi: Keepsakes began as a present for a loved one. When did it become a book?

Frances: I made the book over three months; Sept, Oct & Nov of last year. The original version was made three years ago, as a wedding gift for my youngest sister, Fleur Wood who is a fashion designer based in Sydney, I really wanted to give her something special and meaningful as a gift. She loves to cook and my sisters and I are often asking each if we remember a particular family recipe, I also thought it would be a great opportunity to compile all our family favourites, some of my own mostly vegetarian inventions as well as family photos, images of my artwork and other quirky images and inspiration for her.

Jodi: How do you think cooking and art are similar?

Frances: Good Question!

They are surprising similar.... my version of a good cook is someone who can create something out of nothing, substitute ingredients if they don't have something in their pantry or a cook who is inventive and creative when it comes to planning a meal.

My art making process is very similar, I recently had an exhibition at Sydneys' First Draft Gallery, the title of the show was Nothing but Something, the accompanying essay was a discussion around the idea of Gleaning, which is traditionally a food / left over crop gathering activity. Currently I am making large paintings of puddings, this is a direct response to publishing a book about food, I am having heaps of fun painting images of large milky puddings such as Blancmange and Junket, I am just planning a painting based on a 1950's dessert called Raspberry fool.

I don't normally make images of food! Although often my work is concerned with the domestic, my most recent exhibition at Snowwhite, a gallery here in Auckland , was entitled Home & Contents. The work included paintings, embroidery on face cloths, found headboards and a grid of stretched nets and aprons, probably a little difficult to visualise, but the work was a celebration of the DIY mentality, something Kiwis excell at.

Jodi: As a mum of two children, how important is cooking in your home?

Frances: Well, I cook dinner most nights!

I have a very productive vegetable garden so that is the challenge for me, whatever is happening in the garden determines what is on the table. We have a new crop of rhubarb, so I'm cooking with that right now, stewed with homemade muesli. Having younger children has been limiting in terms of cooking, not when it comes to creating birthday cakes, but more the typical dinner, as I work full time, I get lazy and make kid food, although I enjoy the challenge of ramping this up into more exciting adult type food with the addition of a few ingredients, secret herbs and spices....

Jodi: Keepsakes has pride of place on my kitchen table at the moment and it seems to easily attract the eyes of neighbours and visitors. How does it feel to have such a personal scrapbook of history and creativity on the kitchen tables of strangers?

Frances: The original version was way more scrappy, rough and personal, particularly with family photographs, so a certain amount of editing went on when I made the new version. Having said that my publisher made the decision to not edit the pages at all so the book has all these spelling mistakes and other grammatical errors, which would be present in the average persons scrapbook of recipes, (at least I like to think this is the case). My favourite mistake is where have written Golden Sydney instead of Golden Syrup, I think I was about 17 when I wrote that one out and had just moved there.

Overall I feel really happy with Keepsakes, my family and friends who contributed are all delighted to be part of it, it was a pleasure to make, one of those moments where everything works out effortlessly. I actually felt sad when I realised I had completed the last page. It is a little strange to see your personal keepsakes published, but I do think many people have similar family keepsakes of their own and can relate to the material easily.

Jodi: What are your hopes for Keepsakes?

That it inspires others to make their own. I inhertited my godmother's recipe book and it is much more than just a recipe book to me, it speaks so strongly of her personality, and brings back fond memories of her. It was so special to make pages centred around her and her recipes.

Jodi: Any plans for another book?

Frances: Absolutely

Monday, April 25, 2011

bump: stormy weather

28, almost 29 weeks. Buba pressed one whole foot into my hand last night - the connection was precious.

Apart from slight pregnancy insomnia I'm still feeling vitalised and generally well. When I was 15 weeks I went to visit a local naturopath who specialises in fertility, pregnancy and women's health. A few of my students had been to her to help them conceive and they seemed to have a certain glow about them as they grew their babies. I really wanted to do something for my wellness too. I didn't want to spend an entire nine months feeling sick and tired. Plus, I was also aware that with Che attending Montessori there would be a higher chance of catching viruses and bugs - I wanted to boost my immunity.

Within a week of visiting my naturopath, who subsequently listed a number of reasons as to why I was exhausted, prone to sore throats and getting reflux so early on in pregnancy, I felt the best I'd felt in years. And I'm not exaggerating. While I was breastfeeding Che I relied heavily on a coffee and sweet treats each day to boost my energy levels yet by 4pm I was exhausted. Constitutionally I run on nervous energy - I tend to be anxious, easily stressed, easily fatigued and will catch whatever bug is being passed around. If you know anything about Ayurvedic medicine, I'm typically vata. Because of all those cappuccinos and brownies I had an overload of sugar in my body which was subsequently affecting my digestive system.

I've been taking a gestation tonic for my and baby's wellbeing, a natural probiotic, a vitamin C powder plus a few extras for baby's development. Even though I'm pregnant I've got more energy than I have had since Che was born. I constantly feel well which makes being pregnant all the more enjoyable. Because of my lift in energy I'm not craving bad, sugary foods either which is good in so very many ways.

It came as no surprise to me that my body was out of balance. I'm so thankful that I listened to my self and made the commitment to see a naturopath, even though the financial cost is significant. It's been the best thing I've done and I'll continue to consult herbs when in doubt.

It's incredibly comforting to feel strong and well while growing new life.

Edit: For those of you interested, Naturopathy involves a practice called Iridology. My naturopath is Catherine Chan and she is a specialist in iridology. To give you an example of how profound the practice is - she managed to tell, from looking in my eyes, that my right breast was prone to blocked milk ducts when I was breastfeeding Che, that I'm hyper-flexible in my hips and that I'm easily agitated - as well as a list of other complaints. I told her that it sounded like I was falling apart and that I'm so grateful for yoga, otherwise I probably would have already fallen. Good luck to those of you seeking wellness. x

eggy goodness

We rose early, to the excited squeals of the little one who found mini chocolate eggs scattered on the rug. Then we spent the day painting and hunting them and came home with a big bag of chocolate loot. And I'm wondering how on earth we are going to eat them all. Che and I made raisin bread too - sweetened with two tablespoons of marmalade jam. Highly recommended, the recipe can be found in this fabulous book.

It's been raining, often pouring, like it does every Easter around these parts. The kettle has boiled a few too many times today and I'm thinking of upping my self-discipline and saying no to another egg - the chocolate is causing reflux and unsettled sleep. Sometimes the sugar just isn't worth it, although the sweetness....well, you just can't ever get enough of that.

For sweet blog goodness go visit my friend and neighbour Em at The Beetle Shack.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

tick, tick, tick

...goes the clock and the pen. This week I've managed to get the carpets and the ceilings cleaned. Daniel and I embarked on a pilgrimage to Ikea where we managed to shop, eat and pay within three hours. Not bad. When we got home Daniel assembled the flat packaged items without being asked to. This made me very happy. I thanked him by cooking chicken noodle soup for dinner - made all the better by adding chicken stock from the roast the night before.

The last few days have been glistening with sun and I've done countless loads of washing. We just discovered that Daniel is allergic to house dust mites and a few pollens and so I've been washing, airing and rearranging all of our winter woolens and blankets. Nothing like strong sunlight to whisk away the cobwebs and the sneezes.

I rearranged the bedroom too - in preparation for the creation of baby's corner. While it would be nice to create a whole new nursery for baby I think it's completely unnecessary. Che was in our room for his first two years (and he still comes to visit in the middle of the night) so I'm well aware that this baby does not need a room of his or her own just yet. We're lucky in that our bedroom is definitely big enough for a king size bed, a baby and a few extra bits of furniture. I'm keeping the colour scheme soft and neutral with little bits of handmade goodness here and there; a moses basket, a vintage mirror and a chest of drawers. I'm a few rows off finishing a hand knitted baby blanket and there's a wooden bird to hang from the ceiling. Then I'll wash the baby blankets, little singlets, onesies and socks. I'll buy nappies, wipes, muslin burp cloths and tui balm. And then I'll wait. For baby.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

'round here

It's so hard for me to grasp how quickly the weeks are flying by. In the next few days I'm heading into the third trimester and to celebrate, I'm nesting like mad. Daniel arrived home at 7.30am a few mornings ago (he was out photographing another sunrise) and I already had the vacuum cleaner on. An ominous sign for him because it ultimately means that he has to join me. Later that day when I was cleaning the skirting boards he told me to stop. It was time for tea and rest. I obliged. It's so wonderfully primal, the instinctual need to prepare and feather and ready our home for the little one's arrival.

The autumn sun has been consistent and glorious - perfect for drying newly laundered Orla Kiely bed linen, ideal for walks up and down the street and sublime with afternoon tea at the sunbathed, rose-decorated table. I'm writing my to-do lists and amending them daily - they include things like: find a new car, get a new fridge, air the moses basket, wash the baby's clothes, fit the car capsule, go to Ikea (obligatory for a pregnant couple, no?) clean and organise the kitchen cupboards...

There's also a few things I need to buy before July. I wrote a guest post about them over at little lottie loves.

Within the flurry of nesting I'm reminding myself to go gently. Day by day. By day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

to the lighthouse

On Sunday, in luminous autumn sunshine, we ventured north to the lighthouse and explored the rock pools. Che threw rocks into the water for a while, then hitched up his pants and paddled before venturing a little further out towards the sea and finally immersing himself in the water. He had been sick for most of the week - the sunshine and salt air worked wonders and he returned home with rosy cheeks and a keen interest in researching coral.

In the afternoon it poured with sweet smelling rain so we stayed in, drank tea and read books. And then we ate shepherds pie and climbed into bed for adventure-induced sleep. Now that autumn is well and truly here it is so good to dream with the doona pulled right up to my chin. And to feel the dancing moves of the little one, kicking, flipping and high-fiveing - all. night. long.

Monday, April 4, 2011

all snug and cosy...

and warm inside. That's how I felt after my birthday weekend. Daniel went out early on Saturday morning to photograph the sunrise and came home with a bunch of flowers and a paper bag full of freshly baked croissants. The croissants were, without doubt, the best I've ever had. We topped them with lashings of raspberry and blueberry jam and we enjoyed them with a few cups of tea. I opened my presents from my boys, a collection of books I'd been coveting for ages, and then headed out to teach my pregnant students.

In the afternoon two friends from Sydney celebrated with hot chocolate and brownies at one of my favourite local cafe's (Daniel made a film there a few months ago) and I treated myself to some ink & spindle goodness in the gorgeous new gallery, the pear house.

That evening, dinner at mum and dad's and on Sunday, I taught an all-day birth workshop to seven pregnant couples. Most of the "Pregnant and Prepared" workshops that I teach attract first-time parents. But on Sunday, six of the the seven couples were already parents and many were preparing for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). It was incredibly inspiring to see the determination in these pregnant women and the unwavering support from their partners.

Friends of mine and past students came to share the birth story of their beautiful baby girl, Nylah Pixie. It was the first time I had met Nylah and while holding her she found my gaze and chatted with me in her coos and aahhs for a good five minutes. Her muma had attended my classes throughout her entire pregnancy and it became so obvious to us that Nylah recognised my voice from when she was in the belly. The connection was precious and the moment absolutely melted my heart. Nylah's birth was swift and powerful - her muma's waters breaking soon after her blessingway. Nylah swam into the world a mere three hours later.

Sunday concluded with a big bowl of vegetables and noodles cooked in homemade chicken stock. And it was cool enough to wear my new toast slippers. The perfect end.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

bump: birthday belly

25 weeks pregnant and 27 years old. My Mum and Dad hosted a little birthday party for me complete with balloons and a hearty meal of roast beef and Yorkshire puddings (in celebration of my birth in Ascot, England). Che helped me blow out the candles on my homemade raspberry and peach sponge cake. It was the perfect end to a beautiful day - full of special treats and my favourite people. I love birthdays.