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Twigs & Memories

 I’ve had this arrangement, in various forms, in my house for a number of years. It’s just a bundle of curly willow twigs that I grabbed from my friend Keri’s garden some years back. She had a big pile of prunings of it, and was quite bemused when I ferreted through her pile and took a bunch home in my car.

I love twisty branches and interesting natural shapes. I guess it’s in my blood, because my grandfather used to collect interestingly-shaped driftwood and mount them on pieces of slate. I still have several pieces of his, and I love them. He used to drill a hole in them and my grandmother would put in a plastic flower. I didn’t like plastic flowers, so I tossed them.

Anyway for some years I just kept them in a vase in the entry hall of my old house. And one year someone came to the door selling poppies for Remembrance Day (11th November) and I bought a poppy in memory of my dad. And then I bought another two in memory of two of my uncles, who were his good buddies and in his unit. They later married his sisters and became my uncles. 

And because I wasn’t going anywhere to wear these poppies, I on a whim, twisted their wires onto the curly willow twigs. And I liked the effect.  Guess Nana’s plastic flowers had left their influence. <g>

Since then, every time I’ve come across someone selling Remembrance Day poppies, I’ve bought a few more and added them to my twigs. When I look at it I think of my dad, and my various uncles.

The poppies are slightly different every year — one year they had a brooch attachment on them — but I just twist them on with florist’s wire. And I weigh the vase down with river stones and glass marbles, because the twigs are quite long for such a small vase and it can easily overbalance. But I like the vase being small and black —it suits the  arrangement I think.

For years nobody commented on my twigs and poppy arrangement. Now I’m in my new home, and the arrangement is in the living-room instead of the entry hall, and several people have commented on it.

One person said, “Oh I like your japonica arrangement,” (Japonica is also called flowering quince).  I love it when it flowers in early spring, with pretty blossoms on bare, elegant branches.  Another friend, who I sent some photos of my new house said “OMG I love those flowers  under the picture — what are they?” And when I explained, she asked me to grab some curly willow twigs next time I visited Keri and she’d put Remembrance Day poppies on them for her dad. 



Mother's Day

My mum is long gone, but I still miss her. I don’t think we ever stop missing our mums, do we?

This is one of my favorite photos of her, taken when she was a schoolgirl. Cute, eh? She was a smart little cookie and won a scholarship to a posh boarding school when she was quite young. I don’t think she was very happy there — the other girls were very snobby, and she was just a girl from the country, not posh, not rich, just smart.  I think she was quite lonely, and though she made friends all her life, none of them came from her schooldays. But she did well — as well as being Dux (top) of the school when she graduated, and winning a bunch of prizes (mainly books with certificates inside them), she was very musical with a gorgeous voice. She was also athletic — she once did 22 backflips in a row!

She’s been especially in my mind lately, because as I pack up this house, getting ready to move, so many of the things I’m packing came from her — china, glassware, silverware, and various gifts through the years. Some of them I never use, and I’m trying hard to stiffen my resolve and give them to charity. (I’d rather give things to the charity shop than sell them on line.)

I  confess, I’m not having huge success. I’m packing some things that I know I shouldn’t, and will take them to the new house, and I’m telling myself that I’ll have more resolution once the move is completed. We’ll see . . . 

Hot Cross Buns

Around Easter, the supermarkets here stock hot cross buns. I love them. They’re soft fruit buns, subtly flavored with cinnamon and other spices and studded with sultanas or currants and sometimes other fruit. On the top is an icing cross. Some supermarkets have also come up with chocolate buns and other combinations — even fruitless ones! — but for me, the only one is the traditional one. I’m having these ones for breakfast.

They’re best slathered with butter — real butter, not margarine. I left the butter out on the bench last night so it would be soft for my buns this morning, but it was a chilly night and I don’t have the heating on yet, so as you can see, the butter was still pretty firm. But never mind, they’ll still be delicious with my morning coffee.

Some people zap them in the microwave or pop them in the oven to heat them up, and if you’re baking them at home, they’re yummy straight from the oven. (There is a recipe here from a favorite site, which includes a a no-knead version, and another one from the BBC. I haven’t tried them but they’re both reliable sites.) But hot cross buns are still delicious cold. When they get a bit stale I’ll toast mine, though there’s probably no danger of them lasting that long.

I once read a regency novel where the heroine was eating “cross buns” and I blinked when I read it, and then realized that the author must be American, and was being literal because the buns were not hot. I chuckled, because hot or cold, we still call them hot cross buns, and I’ve never heard them called “cross buns” which conjures up an image of a seriously grumpy fruit buns. I suppose we call them that because of the old nursery rhyme — “Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny two a penny hot cross buns.”

When I was growing up, Mum was very strict about not eating hot cross buns until Good Friday morning, and they were a real treat. There are still people who wax furiously about them becoming available weeks before Easter. Not me. The moment I spot them in the supermarket  I snap them up. (They usually bake them in-house at my local supermarket and the smell is irresistible.) After Easter, they’ll disappear again, and though the supermarkets still sell fruit buns they are not the same — the taste is quite different — so Easter is the only time I get these yummy treats.

Whether or not you celebrate Easter (culturally or otherwise) do you have any special food you eat at this time of year?