Material Girl

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I was talking with a friend two Fridays ago about some of the ideas about ‘stuff’ that have been buzzing round my head for the last little while. She has been reading a book I probably would like, The Sacred Year, by Michael Yankoski, and quoted a line that I just loved. To be anti-consumerist, you have to be a materialist. Isn’t that profound? Valuing stuff means, well, valuing stuff! For her, this answered the creeping doubts she had had about the worth of her ongoing efforts to keep a beautiful outdoor dining table safe from the sun and rain. The shine and lift of wood grain cared for is a beautiful thing. Not to throw away something that becomes difficult to care is no less beautiful.

That is my very roundabout introduction to my little ‘material girl’. There is a second hand shop up the road that had a stash of beautiful cotton and linen doilies, table runners and napkins all cotton and linen, hand embroidered or lace edged. I came home with a little treasure trove of them. I barely managed to wait for them to dry before beginning this little doll. As you can see I have guessed and sketched a pattern – so I hope that she works out! So far she is very sweet, with her little butternut squash shaped body and tiny embroidered tummy tattoo. I am not sure why exactly a doll. Perhaps she speaks to my love of the material world (no pun intended!). Perhaps she is a creative, ‘making’ style response to my learning and churning over the ideas of the sacredness of stuff and our embodied lives. Or maybe she is just a pretty distraction from my homework. Maybe, but I would like to think there is more substance to her than that!

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Suprise (of sorts)!

The punchline goes like this; “… and so her very-lovely-and-thoughtful husband bought her set of Propert Swift-Whip egg beaters for her birthday”. The story is; however, somewhat more complex than that phrase alone suggests!

It starts a long time ago when, on the occasion of his father’s early death, a young man, the third son, inherited his father’s repetition engineering workshop in Chatswood. While his employees trained him to be their manager – it was his humility and care for them that won their respect and loyalty. One of the regular orders they filled was for the Propert company, small components of their Swiftwhip egg beaters were formed by the metal working machinery in this factory.

The manager was my grandfather, my grandfather who would come home to his big, busy family, his hugs sprinkled with brass splinters as he helped with homework, dinner and bath time. The Swiftwhip egg beaters in our kitchen at home are not only good quality, but they stir up my mum’s memories of a happy childhood, her family and a dad who came home smelling of engine oil. When we cook together, using the beaters, she often shares these stories from her past with me. Especially now that my grandfather is no longer with us, I had begun to think that I would like a set of beaters for my kitchen, to share in this aspect of my family history. I didn’t think I had verbalised this wish until a weekly uni writing task required reflection on a food or drink related artefact and I based my work on the beaters. I shared the task with my husband and my mum, who read it to her mother. Mum and Min were especially enthusiastic, helping me to get the details right – it was special that I had the opportunity to write about something (and someone) so dear to them.

Whether or not I had voiced my interest in finding a Swiftwhip beater set before, at this point, everyone (it turns out), including me, had tuned into my interest. You can imagine my delight then, when I then discovered a set in a Pop-up antique shop in Geralton just before Christmas. I was thrilled with my purchase but a little hurt that my mum was somewhat reserved in her response – I was hoping for a little mutual celebration. My grandma was much more encouraging, texting me back quickly and asking me a few questions. When I excitedly told my husband, he almost looked disappointed and when pressed, pointed out my mistake. I had, inadvertently, broken the un-written rule of family-Christmas-and-Birthday-gift-buying-and-giving spectacularly! The rule in our family is that you can’t buy something for yourself just before either event because this is the time when when everyone else is trying to find you gifts and you may use up their ideas, or worse, ruin their surprise. Which I did.

What made it worse was that my grandmother had tried to buy a set of beaters for me too, but when Asher also bought some and told my mum, she managed to avert the first disaster by organising Min to give her set to someone else. Either way I would have spoiled the surprise with my spontaneous purchase!

What made it funny was that one of Asher’s student’s had given him something very similar to what I had for him for Christmas (a gift I knew he would love) – so we were both in the position of being a little disappointed that our lovely surprise gifts were both spoiled ahead of time!

In the end, really, the rigmarole has only made my two sets of Propert Swiftwhip beaters more precious. People precious to me had heard my wish for beaters that were precious to my family and now we have some in our kitchen, plus an extra set! I imagine that this story will be told again, over a bowl of eggs beaten for custard or egg-and-bacon-pasta, to our kids in the kitchen. I hope I will be able to hand on a heritage of happy family memories and shared time in the kitchen to our kids too, maybe even some decent beaters as well.

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Aprons for Christmas

These aprons were Christmas presents for my grandparents! One of the most satisfying things to sew, nice and quick (they are a good gift to whip up!) but all the seams are neatly finished so they look tidy – which is satisfying for a sewer like me.

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Modeled by my (slightly silly) brother, this one was for my grandpa, a BBQ apron for boys! It was made from an up-cycled tablecloth from Vinnies.

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A cute elephant themed apron for my Minnie-grandma. She’s always loved elephants and is the gentle matriarch of our family, somewhat like family structure of the large mammals she has long been fascinated with.

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This pretty doily apron was for my Grandma-grandma, pretty and traditional. I think I want one like this too! The doily was very pretty and a find from a second hand shop.

Old fashioned date cake

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This is one of my grandma’s recipes. I’m actually not sure which grandma, I think Grandma, as opposed to Minnie. Anyhow. It is a very moist and delicious cake and looks great cooked in these old fashioned nut loaf tins. Although, a word of warning. The nut loaf tins are small. They do not need much mixture. They can’t take much mixture. Otherwise they have blow outs. I managed to rescue mine … but it was close. They make lovely gifts, see photo above. This particular one made its way to a Pre-Primary classroom to feed the teacher, the parent helper … etc. It looked pretty and apparently made morning tea a bit of an occasion!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dates
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bicarb soda)
2 cups self raising flour
1 egg

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C.
2. Prepare baking tins (either grease and line a loaf tin or grease the inside of a cylindrical old fashioned nut loaf tin).
3. Finely chop dates.
4. Add dates, water, sugar and butter to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Continue cooking till dates are very soft and all ingredients appear to have combined.
5. Add the bicarbonate of soda and remove from heat (the mixture will froth and aerate).
6. Pour into a mixing bowl and allow mixture to cool (about 10 minutes).
7. Add the flour and egg, mixing well to combine.
8. Place in chosen baking dish – the nut loaf tins will take about 1/3 of this mixture. Remember not to over fill these, the tin should be between 1/2 and 2/3 full, any more and you’ll have an explosion (the pictures that didn’t make the blog post!).
9. Bake in a moderate oven till cooked through when tested with a skewer (at least 30 minutes … depending on your pan!).
10. Enjoy!