Spring things

18 September 2018

In the last fortnight, like clockwork, the plants on our balcony started coming back to life. It caught me by surprise because I was sure I'd killed them all. Even the parsley. So is the magic of spring, and with it the temptation to change it up in small and simple ways.

In our little home it's meant some spur of the moment spring cleaning. Over the weekend I sorted through the thirty-odd books that'd been stashed under my bedside table and put them away. Now there's a smaller stack of things I'm reading now and am planning to read soon. Makes me happy just looking at it.

I'm waiting til October to bring my spring/summer clothes out of storage but I got a little head start this weekend, folding up heavy coats and bagging a few things up to give away. 

And I actually put some effort into food prep this weekend, after I edited this story about meal planning. The point that stuck? Scheduling regular days and times to do it each week, and making it part of your routine. I make time most days to exercise, but had never thought about food prep in the same way. I always assumed it'd somehow get done.

Over two days I made a half-day rye bread for our lunches this week, a batch of veggie stock, curried coconut lentils for the freezer, plus and a banana, coconut and pineapple loaf. It felt surprisingly easy... possibly because I've been listening to Dispatch to a Friend non-stop since last Thursday and it's all about finding pleasure in cooking. Also, I only planned to make two things (the bread and the stock). Everything else was a because-I-felt-like-it bonus :)

And on Sunday night, the perfect spring meal that's part winter and part summer. I made a roast chicken with potatoes (I love Nadine Redzepi's recipe). Then there was takeaway Gelato Messina for dessert and Flavours of Youth on Netflix. 

Hello weekend

14 September 2018

It's been so sunny and bright in Canberra this week, which has made me feel (and dress) like I'm on holidays. There have been holiday moments - an especially relaxing pose in yoga, leftover homemade muesli that we brought home from our Airbnb, smiley stickers in the mail. And at work, we launched a project that's all about finding more time in your days for the good stuff. I've been working on it for a little while and it's nice to have it out there. Onto some good things to share:

A trail mix cookie recipe with a lovely backstory.

My new favourite Oprah quote courtesy of Girls at Library (thanks Adele for the recommendation!): "Opportunity may only knock once but temptation leans on the doorbell."

Dispatch to a Friend is a podcast I discovered this week. It's all about food, books and our everyday lives as told through letters two friends record for each other. The episode notes of this show are especially beautiful, with beautiful photos, recipes, text conversations and videos that've made me laugh. Can't wait to properly look through it on the weekend.

I found Dispatch to a Friend via The Food Podcast, which I'm getting back into. This episode about walking in Paris was so lovely.

I'm only a few days in but I'm really enjoying Neon in Daylight by Hermione Hoby. My second Brit author in as many weeks :)

Current night-time obsession.

Three Australian Indian girls try on saris for the first time.

A recipe for taco bowls from ABC Life. I'd never made taco bowls before and now I am hooked. The quinoa in this one keeps it light which means more space for chips and toppings :)

And a lovely list of simple pleasures. Some of mine are... cara oranges in spring, hearing my next door neighbour practice her ukulele at night, a whole afternoon to make dinner or bake, walking home with a fun podcast, babies waving, and seeing new leaves unfurl on houseplants.

Chat soon!


Life lately

09 September 2018

I've been loving these early weeks of spring, where the changes are subtle but very welcome. Most mornings I see the sun rise on my way to yoga and then set as I travel home from work. And after an intense month of working on the launch of ABC Life, I'm starting to feel a little lighter too. Here's what I've been getting up to, from learning to fire up (and clean!) a BBQ to a quick trip to the coast.

So many good things at the moment, plenty of them gifts from my recent birthday. My sister gave me a subscription to The Gourmand, a food and culture magazine that comes out of the UK. I've not read anything like it before. The photography is super fresh and the interviews feature chefs, musicians, artists, and even... Cookie Monster. Highly, highly recommend.

I also picked up the latest issue of Lunch Lady, which coincided with our little trip to the coast. There's an incredible interview with Dee Tang about the death of her daughter Kawa, which I read so slowly. Plus, a lovely piece by Yumi Stynes about taking her teenage daughters hiking in Tassie. On the top of my to-make list, the easy pear cake.

I'd been saving Dolly Alderton's Everything I Know About Love for our weekend away. My friend Sarah gave it to me, and the coast always reminds me of her because we've adopted all of her favourite haunts. I love listening to Dolly on The High Low, and her memoir is entertaining and excellent.  Finally, two books I adored last month, Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom and Less by Andrew Sean Greer. But I had to give up on My Year of Rest and Relaxation early, because it was a bit too dark for me and was starting to bum me out.

Milky tumeric tea in the afternoons in place of a black tea. My friend Tegan put me onto it, and gave me a box of her favourite tea bags from Higher Living, which you can find at some Woolies. I was a bit afraid of it at first (so... yellow) and drank it with honey. But now I love it as a slightly spicy pick-me-up in the afternoons and even appreciate its sunshine colour.

I also feel like I've been treated to lots of very lovely red wine in the last month, from my birthday and other special events. I only ever manage one glass in each sitting but it's always lovely to have a taste.

Eating and cooking:
Weeknight dinners have been extra simple of late. Making a double batch of congee on Sunday nights is easy and gets us through the start of the week. This is also a simple but hearty dinner, a coconut curried lentils with salad and rice. Simple meals at home also help balance out the lovely meals we've had out lately, and the fact that we've become very regular visitors to Gelato Messina since it opened in Canberra last month.

On weekends, I look forward to testing recipes for my new job. I made my first ever burger on a BBQ one Friday night (we only lost one patty!), and this week I'll be trying out a one-pot pasta for spring. I try to only make these recipes when I have plenty of time and am looking forward to cooking. I'm all about cooking for pleasure these days! I'm also slightly obsessed with cooking with fire and can't wait to BBQ again. Is a whole fish too ambitious?

We've also been experimenting with Dinner Ladies, since they're now delivering to Canberra. I've bought meals for friends and family in Sydney before, but this was our first time actually ordering for ourselves. It really saves us during the weeks that we're both flat out. We can cook at the start and the end of the week pretty well, it's often Wednesday night that brings us unstuck. We normally order a soup, a pasta sauce, and something for the oven like a spinach pie or lasagne. A funny side effect - because the main part of the meal is already made, and just needs reheating, I put more effort into making some veggies as a side.

Some time away. I often daydream about going overseas but actually get so much out of long weekends and road trips. We spent a couple of nights in Milton, in a lovely loft with chickens and bees and a big veggie patch. I made pizza on the first night, and a continental breakfast for us the next morning :)

We had a few lazy days chatting, going for walks and hanging out in cafes. The weather was cool and grey, which made piping hot fish and chips by the lake extra satisfying. One of the highlights was stopping into Casanova's, a newish cafe in Braidwood, for scrambled eggs and coffee on the way there and mind-blowing sourdough pizza and pasta on the way home.

I used to come home from weekends away and rush into prep mode for the week - unpacking my bag, doing a grocery run, and a bit of meal prep. Now I'm all for stretching out that holiday feeling for as long as I can! Which mainly means putting a movie on at night and eating something easy for dinner.

I started and finished the Caliphate podcast in a single week and learnt so much. I also loved this episode of The Food Podcast, featuring Australian lifestyle and food photographer Luisa Brimble. It was a perfect weekend listen, gentle but inspiring too. Lindsay Cameron Wilson also has the most imaginative episode intros, and an enviable voice too!

Music wise... I'm still hooked on playlists from my yoga teachers. This one from Evie always peps me up, and I've added this playlist to my rotation for work tasks that need my full concentration.

We saw Crazy Rich Asians the first weekend it was in cinemas, and it was a pretty trippy experience, sitting in a full cinema waiting for it to start. It was a little bit nervous too, because lots of Asian Australians and Americans had said that seeing so many Asians on screen had made them cry.

It did get me in an unexpected way, the music during the wedding reception scene reminded me of all of the Chinese weddings I'd been to as a child. It helped me see that while I don't feel especially Chinese in my day-to-day life, my culture is still very much a part of my life. The movie was fun but I still prefer the book to the movie! There's a bit more chaos and drama. I'm also keen to see Spike Lee's latest film BlackKkKlansman soon.

A trip to Hong Kong, which we might take in December. I've been curious about it for a little while (it looks like Bladerunner), and a few friends have moved there in the last little while. Let me know if you've been and have any hot tips! We've also been talking about going back to Wagga Wagga for a weekend, before it gets too hot. And I promised my niece I'd make her a unicorn cake for her fifth birthday! Thankfully professional cake-maker Le has given me some much needed pointers.

All the signs of spring. Not having to wear a jacket outside, the flowers on our deck blooming, being able to open up the doors of our apartment to let fresh air in. Heading back to the farmers markets on a Sunday. Having things calm down a little at work, and leaving the office on time. Celebrations of any kind! Birthdays, anniversaries, retirements. Hanging out with friends new and old.

Hopeful and energetic now that spring is here! I'm also feeling creatively inspired from reading a handful of excellent books, hearing Bridie Jabour at the Canberra Writers Festival, and from working with food writers and chefs. It's a really nice feeling and I'm going to try and hang onto it for as long as I can.

Thank you for being here, as always!

Monthly recap posts inspired by Melbourne ladies Heidi and Pip.

Hello (long) weekend

06 September 2018

I'm posting a bit early this week because we're about to head to the coast for a long weekend. We're celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary and plan to make pizzas in our Airbnb, drink loads of  coffee and sit by the sea. But first, we're going out for a pork knuckle at a favourite local cafe. Cute, huh?

In lots of ways, I feel like our wedding day was a little preview of things to come. It was so much fun, overwhelming in parts (walking down the aisle! Seeing all of our friends and family!), and a totally uplifting experience. While the joy isn't as extreme in everyday life, it's definitely there. And it is endlessly comforting.

Only a handful of things to share:

When Obama checks your homework.

Two new books that I can't wait to read - a book about joy and where to find it and Bill Cunningham's secret memoir, Fashion Climbing.

How I Work, a new Australian podcast I've been listening to this week. I especially enjoyed this interview with Rachel Botsman, which came highly recommended by Sophie.

A recipe for Hetty McKinnon's pumpkin and lentil salad with honey-miso dressing, which also happens to be the very first recipe I commissioned and tested for ABC Life :)

And The High Low is back!! Can't wait to dig in.

Catch you next week!


Five things I've picked up from slow living books

03 September 2018

I've read a bunch of slow living and minimalism books over the last few years. Some came highly recommended by Insta friends, others had beautiful covers or grew out of blogs I read regularly. I've loved the ideas they've explored, and on a practical level, how they've influenced my spending habits. Out of the books I've read, here's what stuck:

Try going without

There's a section of Erin Boyle's Simple Matters book that's about... baby stuff. And while we don't have kids, her advice on acquiring new things makes sense. She writes, "At the very last, you can stall the onslaught (of baby gear) by deciding to wait and see what you might end up needing rather than making many purchases in advance."

It's helped me see that even though a fancy bag for yoga clothes (and the very substantial amount of food I take to work everyday) would be lovely, a green bag actually does just fine.

Some habits are worth breaking

Reading The Year of Less helped me see that I had a handful of habits that I'd continued without much thought. Like... buying the latest issue of an indie magazine because I owned all of the other issues to date (and their spines collectively made a rainbow!).

What you paid for an item isn't a reason to keep it

Of all the books I've read, Goodbye Things is probably the most extreme when it comes to decluttering. The most useful tip I took from it was not to get hung up on what you originally paid for something you'd like to get rid of. It's a privilege to be able to take this approach. But it helped me sell boxes of books to the second hand store in Canberra.

There's no need to stock up

Another tip from the book that mainly applies to my pantry: There's no need to stock up. Our pantry used to be so full that I'd accidentally buy things we already had that were stashed away in hard to see places. This has also applied to my greeting card collection, which used to be huge!

Find free 'third' spaces

I loved the concept of a 'third space' from The Art of Frugal Hedonism. Basically it's anywhere that's not your home or your work, where you feel at ease and part of the world. That space is easily cafes for us!

Now that it's warming up, Tony and I can return to a favourite third space - our balcony. It looks onto a busy-ish street and it's lovely for people and bird watching, morning sun, and lazy breakfasts. We also live close to the lake, and sometimes take snacks, tea or even a pizza down to the foreshore for more people and dog-watching and a change of scenery. 

Hello weekend

31 August 2018

I made one really good call this week. Midway through the week I left work on time, instead of trying to finish a million last minute things. Home alone, I put on a funny soundtrack and made spaghetti and a salad for dinner. It sounds small but I was super chilled out by the time Tony got home. This week I've been listening to Caliphate (truly amazing journalism) and finished reading Less. I'll miss it! For your weekend:

How to make a kitchen altar.

A winning pear tart from Hetty McKinnon's new cookbook.

On managing the tricky balance between work and who we really are.

Adore this series on single women and their spaces. Every now and then I daydream about what my apartment would look like if I could choose all of the things.

Plus some recipes I worked on for ABC Life recently - the pink grapefruit drizzle cake from this post (note the instructions for getting a bundt cake out, inspired by my mishap), and a grilled cheese sandwich with jalapeno cream.

P.S - Here's an update on how I went with my daily vacations this week. On Monday I started a new podcast, on Tuesday I went for a lunch break walk with a friend. Wednesday featured lunch and a hot chocolate from my favourite cafe. I planned to walk through town and buy a gift on Thursday but lucked out with a lift home instead. So I went with some extra nice face stuff at night (mainly birthday exfoliant and fancy face oil). And today's vacation was homemade burgers, beer and my very first  attempt at barbecuing! We lost one patty but it was worth it.

Daily vacations

26 August 2018

The weekend felt both exciting and long. There were pockets for reading, a surprisingly thrilling carousel ride with my sister and four-year-old niece (the Canberra merry-go-round goes fast), time for coffee and pastries out with Tony, plus a trip to the Canberra Writers' Festival to see Bridie Jabour. It was a happy weekend and I didn't get the Sunday blues, at any point in the day.

It could be because on Saturday I stumbled across a lovely idea in Stephanie Rosenbloom's book Alone Time. It comes from two researchers, Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff, and it's called the Daily Vacation.

'Here's how it works: 

Each day for a week, plan and take a daily vacation by doing something you enjoy for twenty minutes or more. The vacation can be something as simple as going for a walk around your neighbourhood, or thumbing through a book or gardening. Aim to be in the moment, and "to see things as if for the last time."'

I'd love to try it this week! I could read my book (just started this, and already loving it), walk into the city after work as the sun goes down, take a bath with the last of my winter candle, listen to a new podcast, bake a salted caramel slice.

More ideas on how to spend your daily vacation, and savour happy moments, right this way.