Tiny cabin stay

24 June 2018

Last week we worked for two days and then headed to the Kangaroo Valley for a mid-week cabin stay. We booked a tiny cabin that was off the grid, where we had a couple of horses for neighbours and a fire (plus lots of marshmallows) to keep us warm. It was the nicest way to spend the winter solstice. Here are a few photos to share:

The trip was a tiny step towards car camping. We still had running water, a bathroom (with a composting toilet!), and a roof over our heads. Between the two of us we have zero camping experience, so we figured we'd try this out and see how we went. I loved cooking on a camp stove, and making my first ever fire.

We stopped at Hall for lunch on our way out of town, and stocked up on fancy beers at Hops & Vine. I'm going through a sour beer phase at the moment, they're a happy medium between beer and cider. Food inspiration came from Heidi and Rachel's camping trips - we packed some slow cooked meatballs that'd been stashed in the freezer, and I made my own pancake mix by halving this recipe.

Mornings were chilly and we'd wake up to steamed up windows and fog outside. My favourite activity was making breakfast in the cabin. On our first morning we ate buttermilk pancakes in bed and drank tea until it was too bright to stay in bed. We drove to Berry for hot pies and coffee, firewood and the best mint choc chip gelato.

I packed The Female Persuasion and it was the perfect holiday novel. It was surprising and entertaining, and very accurately captured feminism and gender politics today. We both thought there would be heaps of time for reading and drawing but our afternoons were busy in ways we didn't expect. We built a fire before dark, made pasta and greens on the camp stove and sat around watching the stars come out. On our final night, the winter solstice, we had big bowls of spaghetti and meatballs by the fire followed by s'mores.

It was so nice to have a couple of nights away after a busy first half of the year. We arrived home to sub-zero Canberra temperatures, extra grateful for hot showers and heating and daydreaming about a beachy cabin stay when the weather warms up again.

Hello weekend

22 June 2018

Hello! We've just come back from a tiny cabin stay in the Kangaroo Valley, which saw us building a fire and toasting marshmallows over the winter solstice. I'll share some more pics next week, it was so much fun :) In the meantime, I hope you've had a good week. We have super simple weekend plans, drinks with friends and a bit of babysitting to help my sister with her move. To share:

Do you make smoothies? This clean up tip is kind of genius.

Nerded out and watched The Fourth Estate on SBS On Demand last weekend. It follows journalists from The New York Times during the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

Speaking of, this episode of The Daily helped me wrap my head around why families are being separated at the US border. Via The Bello Collective.

So crazy it might just work... cheeseburger fried rice.

Though after a few nights of making s'mores, I'll probably make this rainbow veggie salad first.

This year's winter dress (super happy with it!).

Claudine put me onto ZigZag, the new podcast from Manoush Zomorodi and her producer from Note To Self. It reminds me of Start Up and I'm already hooked.

And Queer Eye in Yass!

See you next week X

Baby gifts revisited (again)

17 June 2018

At the start of this month our friends welcomed twins, a girl and a boy, and we went to their naming ceremony on the weekend. It was a lovely way to meet them and it so moving to hear their names for the first time during the ceremony.

Lately, my most favourite things to give to new babies is a wrap from Halycon Nights. It takes the stress out of trying to pick an outfit in the right size for the right season, and there are always fun new prints to choose from. We've sent this one overseas, and have seen it used as a swaddle, a pram blankie and a floor mat too.

Next weekend I'm planning to make a meal to drop round to our friends, I'm thinking it'll be this slow cooked ragu, a dark chocolate olive oil cake, and a nice bottle of red wine.

P.S This post isn't sponsored in any way. I just love these little wraps and enjoy picking a pattern to suit each couple and their new babe :)

Hello weekend

15 June 2018

We're in the early days of winter when I'm still excited about the extra fresh air and the chance to cook and eat comfort food. This weekend I'll be making roast lamb with anchovy sauce for friends and baking the apple pie that I stashed in our freezer for the colder days. Yay! I've had my head down at work this week, so here's a very modest list of things to share:

This song on repeat.

Two great reads from Jenny - Obama's final days in office and these ace thoughts on gender equality (demand the ball!).

How to rant productively (NY Times).

Pandora Sykes has excellent style.

There are so many gems in this collection of careers advice.

And I read Jessie Cole's Staying over the long weekend and highly recommend it. It is about her experience of losing two family members to suicide but it's full of life and thoughtful contemplation.

Lessons from a nine-day fortnight

11 June 2018

At the start of this year, I asked to switch to a nine-day fortnight. Technically, it's part-time but my favourite description of it is most-time. I've had every other Friday off and it's been my work experiment for 2018.

I've been curious about working less for some time. 2017 was especially busy, with extra responsibilities and travel. So when I was asked to work on a short-term project at the end of last year, it seemed like a good time to ask for my ideal hours.

Originally, I planned to use the extra day each fortnight to work on my blog and pitch stories to my favourite food magazines. But the time off also taught me some things about myself that I didn't anticipate. I wanted to share them here:

1. It made me get my finances in order

When I opted to work a day less every fortnight, I was given two options: work an extra hour on the days I was in to make up the time, or take a pay cut. I wanted more time for myself, so I decided to earn a bit less.

In between working full-time and transitioning to most-time, there was the Christmas break, which helped me prepare. I bought a copy of The Barefoot Investor.... and felt a bit embarrassed about it! But it helped me set up a system that kept my spending in check. If you're curious, it's essentially this: you set up automatic transfers that allocate different percentages of your pay to everyday expenses, long-term and short-term savings, as well as spending money.

Over summer, I got rid of my credit card and stuck to the amounts that were allocated for each category. It helped me manage the change in income (a privilege in its own right), while still saving.

Two small adjustments: I now buy gifts that are less extravagant (but no less thoughtful I hope!), and 90% of the books I read are reserved and borrowed from the library.

2. I learnt how to relax

I have a habit of packing a lot into my weekends. Usually they're a mix of things that have to be done (food shopping and meal prep), and fun stuff like trying out new recipes, seeing family and friends, and doing yoga. Trying to fit it all in means that sometimes I'm exhausted by Sunday afternoon.

Having an extra day meant that I could do all of these things and still have some spare time. Early on, I used this time to pitch stories, and apply for an exciting-looking job that popped up. When I interviewed for that job and got it, my focus for the year shifted.

I put less pressure on myself to be creative or productive on my long weekends. Having that extra time helped me see that being well rested helped me feel happier, clear-headed and possibly more creative overall.

It's also changed my expectations of regular two day weekends, which are now less about getting everything done and more about finding things that can wait or be dropped completely. It might sound silly but I've gone from trying at least three new recipes each weekend to cooking once or twice and spending the rest of the time reading, walking and watching movies.

3. I never thought about quitting my job

There have been moments in the past few years where my life has mainly been about work. And so when I've not been enjoying it, or when there have been some big changes like a restructure, it's had a huge impact on my outlook on life and sense of self.

At its most extreme, I considered doing something else altogether. I read books and listened to podcasts about entrepreneurship and overcoming fear. I'd quiz friends who ran their own businesses or freelanced about how they did it. I had this feeling that there was a better way to work and have a life.

Working less shifted the balance in my life ever so slightly. It coincided with my sister's move to Canberra, which made catching up with her and supporting her family in small ways easy. Another highlight was regular brunch dates with my friend who went on maternity leave, and then spending time with her and her newborn baby.

4. And maybe most surprising of all... it didn't need to be a permanent thing

When I started working a little less, I hoped to do it for a year to really give it a go. But lately, I've had a strong sense that I'm ready to return to full-time work, excited about it even. Having some time off has given me time to think, rest, read and get my energy back.

I would totally do it again if it's something I need. Even having the courage to ask several managers for the option (and getting their approval) has let me know that it's a possibility, and one that comes with no judgement.

As of this month, I'm heading back to full-time work. I'm excited... and a bit nervous too. I'll keep you posted :)

Hello weekend

08 June 2018

I'm excited for another long weekend. My sister and her family are coming over for lasagne (my niece's request!) and I'm planning to serve tiny gelato cones for dessert. I also have my eye on this truffle burger pop-up and will be up extra early on Saturday for an overseas mentoring call (!). I hope you have a relaxing weekend. To share:

Scallop pasta = fancy comfort food.

Loved Jamila Rizvi's profile on Extraordinary Routines.

Packing for New York.

Blue cheese scones with a side of podcast recommendations. Are you listening to Caliphate? It's been recommended to me three times this week.

I finished We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates this week. What a powerful book about race, identity and inequality. It also helped me think about my own cultural identity in new ways. 

Speaking of, I'm excited to watch Where Are You Really From? The trailer alone really speaks to my experience of growing up as a Chinese Australian.

Two kick ass winter soups

03 June 2018

Up until now, I've seen soup as a back up meal that gets made when I'm feeling lazy or need a break from pasta. But I'm excited to share two veggie filled soups that will be on high rotation this winter:

Anna Jones's smoked corn chowder is crazy good. It's creamy and full of veggies, with just enough lemon to keep it tasting light. It's not hard to make but feels like a restaurant-quality dish. I bought a bottle of liquid smoke from my local deli for four dollars and highly recommend it for this recipe. We're having some leftover chowder for dinner tonight and I'll be using some spare leeks to make the grilled cheese from Queer Eye!

The cooler weather has had me reaching for Julia Busuttil Nishimura's book Ostro a lot. One favourite recipe, the pasta and chickpea soup with pumpkin and tomato. It's more of a weekend soup, which putters away for an hour or two. It cooks into a rich and silky tomato soup.

I've been making and freezing small batches of stock for soups like these.

P.S On my winter wish list - this merino snood because scarves are tricky for us clumsy folk.