09 January 2021

This last week of holidays has been the quietest and the best. It's also been a week where we felt motivated to spring clean. We got rid of the broken bookshelf that's been sitting in the background of Zoom calls for most of last year. I donated books, went to the tip - I even sponged down my front door. Over the phone, my grandmother told me that cleaning at the start of a new year is just what Chinese people do. And it felt nice, like we were starting afresh but also caring for a home that had sheltered us in a very weird year. When it was all done I baked bread, Nigella's old fashioned sandwich loaf, which came out of the oven looking just like the picture. 

New Year's was low key and lovely. We spent the afternoon at my sister's place for a BBQ lunch. My brother-in-law bought a smoker so we had smoked pork and beef ribs, rolls, salads and another pavlova. Then frozen dumplings and sparkling at home for dinner, which felt both lazy and festive. 

In a small way, I've spent some of this week prepping for a future lockdown. Putting meat in the freezer, reorganising the pantry to see what we have and need, buying an extra bag of toilet paper in our storage locker. And making the home extra nice should we be working here for awhile yet. I didn't feel panicked about it but now know that things can change pretty quickly and it's nice to feel ready just in case.

Some random things to share: 

This supermarket sunscreen is really great! Not too thick, smells nice and is SPF 50+. 

After trying a bunch of different yoga videos, I've started doing a Yoga by Adriene series, the 30-day home one that came recommended by a friend. Such a start-of-the-year thing to do but lovely all the same. 

One of my fave and most decadent roast chicken recipes is Alison Roman's version with anchovy-butter and chicken fat croutons

So long 2020

30 December 2020

The Christmas ham is finished and I'm starting to cook meals again. Panettone French toast for breakfast and simple things for dinner like vegetable soup and spaghetti with anchovies, chilli and chard. I'm also watching Bridgerton on Netflix, which feels like Pride & Prejudice, Gossip Girl and Little Women combined (a little soapy but highly addictive).

I'm feeling a little nervous as this year ends, not knowing how the pandemic will play out in 2021. But I've also really enjoyed parts of this year - being able to work from home, spending more time with family (IRL and playing lots of online games), and feeling really loved by those closest to me. 

Tony and I were talking about our highlights of 2020 the other night and mine were all personal projects and events, nothing work-related. They were things like making a wedding cake for my brother and a mini-podcast for my other brother in hotel quarantine. Then there were two special Sydney trips, one to witness a tiny wedding and another to meet a best friend's new baby. And hosting my whole family - with kids and partners - for lunch in July. It was the first time we'd all been together since Christmas 2018. I'm also grateful for all the times I saw my friend Angie - in March for a pasta party, in June right after I learnt that I might lose my job (thankfully, I didn't), and again in October when she visited Canberra to celebrate her birthday.

Tony and I holidayed in Jervis Bay in early December, driving through burnt out areas from last summer's bushfires to get there. Parts of this year have been so scary - terrifying even - and I'm grateful to have gone through it with Tony. Despite it all - bushfires, smoke, intense hail, a pandemic, job insecurity and WFH - we've stayed close, had fun and taken care of each other when things got hairy.

It sounds silly but I've always loved planning and giving gifts and this year they've felt more important than ever. Even when we were preparing for the possibility of job loss, small gifts were something I wanted to be able to keep giving. And while I've sent some presents for comfort and consolation in 2020, next year I'm hoping to send more for celebratory reasons too. Because if this year has taught me anything, it's to celebrate the small stuff and let loved ones know you're thinking of them (especially when you can't see them). 

I hope you have a safe and happy new year, though I know that's not always possible given the shocker of the year we've just had. Thank you for being here and reading along. Old-school blogging has brought me a lot of comfort this year and helped me make sense of it in some ways too. I hope to share fewer photos from the inside of my apartment in 2021 😂



Christmas 2020

27 December 2020

Hello, I hope you had a lovely Christmas! In a very 2020 way, ours was a bit different to what we'd originally planned. We were due to host my family on Boxing Day - 12 people altogether - but the latest outbreak in Sydney meant no one could visit without quarantining on arrival.

At first I was pretty accepting of it all (maybe this year had taught me to roll with the punches?) but I was definitely bummed as Christmas drew nearer. But lining up to collect our annual ham, a big box of presents arriving from my brother in Sydney and doing the Christmas market run helped make it festive again. 

Christmas Day was just the two of us. I made Julia Ostro's spiced maple glazed ham with peach relish (so good!!), these excellent dinner rolls (worth the trip to the shops to buy the weird ingredients) and a Hetty McKinnon potato salad. 

Then on Boxing Day, my sister and her family came round for leftovers with a cold soba noodle salad, a massive cheese platter my sister made and my first ever pavlova. We video chatted with the rest of the family in Sydney and played a family quiz my youngest brother made (I came second and won a prize!). 

And now we're settling into a lovely routine of morning bike rides and coffee, making up plates of leftovers for lunch and dinner before watching and re-watching movies. We're making our way through the five Small Axe films on Binge and loving them (the playlist too!). I'm reading Bryan Washington's novel Memorial, which may be my favourite book of the year. Podcast-wise, The Year in Good News from The Daily is really nice. I liked Mari Andrew's list of nice things to do during this particular Christmas. And I'm listening to The Avalanches new album, We Will Always Love You.

Tony and I keep talking about the smoke haze that covered the city last Christmas. Even though this year has been hard in its own way, being able to see blue sky and go outside for walks and rides while on holidays feels special.


So many things

14 December 2020

It's my last full week of work for the year and I'm going into it with Tony's leftover birthday cake in the fridge (a cheesecake with jelly on top!), which seems very right for this point of the year. We spent last week at the beach - our first time in Jervis Bay - and had the nicest time going for daily swims, and eating every single meal out. I've lots of things to share, which I've been amassing over the last few weeks. Hope you enjoy: 

Writer Bryan Washington was so good on The Sporkful, where he talked about food and read excerpts from essays and his new book Memorial

I've been wrapping Christmas presents while watching the Hillary documentary series on SBS OnDemand. I like comparing notes with the fictional novel Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld and found the series via Lisa Marie Corso's newsletter.

I've had You Were Meant For Me stuck in my head ever since I listened to this extremely nostalgic episode of Song Exploder with Jewel

Heidi's cauliflower pasta bake with shells is so comforting and easy - and heavy on the veg! 

David Chang's new podcast Recipe Club is really fun. Each episode is based on a food item, with three food guests choosing a recipe to match the theme. They make all three and dissect the process, outcome and rank them. It's kind of about learning to cook more intuitively but it's also really silly. The brownies episode is my fave so far.

If you're a Smitten Kitchen fan, you might enjoy this New Yorker interview with Deb Perelman. I've never cooked a Smitten Kitchen recipe that didn't work or that I didn't like!

Also on the topic of food, a recent episode of The Daily documents a day at a New York food bank. Over the weekend I read about Heart of Dinner, a New York food pantry that specifically caters to older Asian Americans who are isolated and have limited access to food. I love the hand decorated bags and their culturally thoughtful contents - with things like tofu, soy milk, rice. Closer to home, I've been donating to St John's Care, who run a food pantry for the local community and will be hosting their annual Christmas lunch as a takeaway affair this year. 

I've just started listening to Days Like These, tuning into an episode about one family's experience of the summer bushfires in Mallacoota. It was recommended by Julia Busuttil Nishimura in Sophie Hansen's newsletter. 

I finished Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half while on holidays. I really enjoyed her first book The Mothers but was totally captivated by this epic family story. In a way it reminded me of If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim, maybe because of the intergenerational plot and detail.

Finally, Michaela Coel's interview with Louis Theroux on his podcast Grounded is excellent. 

Back to Sydney

07 December 2020

We went back to Sydney a few weekends ago, to meet a lovely new baby, see my grandmother and so Tony to pick up some prints. It'd been six months since we were last in town - maybe the longest stretch we've ever gone without visiting.  We ended up visiting a bunch of favourite places and two new ones. A highlight was Happyfield, a really cheery diner in Haberfield that serves fluffy pancakes, hash browns and English muffins filled with sausage, egg or bacon. I'd seen it on Alana's Instagram (side note: her pandemic food zine is gorgeous) and we're already planning our return trip. 

I've made a lot of my own long weekends this year and we arrived in town on Friday, just in time for lunch. We went to Cherry Moon, a bakery in Annandale that I'd heard about on Highly Enthused. We'd thought about coming here the morning after my brother's wedding in March but were pretty zonked - plus I was meant to be back in Sydney the following weekend for a hen's! That was the same week that everything shut down, so it's been this funny thing I've been meaning to do since then. 

We stayed in Balmain so I could be in walking distance of my friend but also because it's such a lovely part of Sydney. During uni, I worked as a part-time counter girl at the Adriano Zumbo store on the main street (pre-Masterchef when it was busy but not crazy). So staying in the area was nostalgic. We ate at old favourites - which were as good as I remembered from 15 years ago. We ordered dinner from Teriyaki Boy and ate it in the park and then gelato from Rosso Pomordoro to eat in bed because it'd been a big day.

While we were in town, we dropped off our first Christmas presents, ate cherries with my grandmother and asked her about meeting the Queen (!) and I got to hold one of my oldest friend's new baby after watching the little one do a full body stretch after a nap (is there anything cuter??). And suddenly it's December. 

Almost summer

21 November 2020

It's starting to get properly hot in Canberra, so I've made a hard switch to cold food. This weekend I'll be making Hetty McKinnon's chilled soba noodle salad with quick pickled cucumbers and avocado. It's delicious - I made it the other week to film a video for work and it's somehow refreshing and filling at the same time. It's so good I'm going to make it for Christmas.

Also on my list is this simple lentil, pesto and cherry tomato salad from a few years ago. It means I can still do some fun cooking over the weekend (making pesto!) without turning the stove on. 

I have a new, lazy dessert inspired by Elizabeth Hewson's cookbook Saturday Night Pasta. She recommends serving a simple dessert of ice cream, olive oil and sea salt. I was intrigued and a little scared but it's totally delicious! I have a container of cheesecake base crumbs in my freezer, leftover from the time I made this jelly tart - and I've been sprinkling it on top of this ice cream combo for a little extra crunch.

This might be the most 2020 thing but I bought myself a flour subscription! The flour comes from a mill in country Victoria and every month it's a surprise selection of flours plus a handmade zine with recipe ideas. I've never baked with Rosella wheat flour before and have heard it's the best for cakes and sponges. But first up, I'm going to try my hand at Russian Rye bread (I'm imaging it with smoked salmon, which I haven't had for almost a year). And I'm going to take some to Sydney for my friend Angie to have a play with. 

I'm starting to feel excited for Christmas and the summer holidays. I haven't had a week off since March, which happened to be the same week everything was shutting down. It wasn't the most relaxing week so I'm very much looking forward to three weeks off this December. 

In the meantime I'm watching The Crown at night (yay!) and seeing friends for pizza picnics, yummy lunches, and morning coffees.

Hope you have a lovely weekend! I'm going to walk up the street to get the paper and a coffee (there's a new place near our house that's great!), and maybe some baking supplies. Claire Saffitz's cookbook Dessert Person arrived this week and it's so much bigger than I anticipated. I'm thinking of starting with her pistachio pinwheel cookies.

And then on Sunday Tony's taking me out to lunch at our favourite restaurant :) He sold a big painting this week and we feel like celebrating.


Hello weekend

14 November 2020

I have a bad back at the moment (which makes me feel so old!) and was lucky enough to see a physio yesterday to get it seen to and strapped in time for the weekend. Now the pain is subsiding, it's actually been a nice excuse to hang around on the couch with a heat pack and do a little less. Still, I'm planning to make ravioli for dinner 😜 I've been squirrelling away lots of good things to share. Hope you enjoy:

The joy that is this episode of The Sporkful podcast with special guests Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway that's all about cookies! 

I've bookmarked this beautiful Christmas cake and added it to my shortlist. 

Speaking of Christmas, if you love baking biscuits as gifts, Julia Ostro has a lemon and almond shortbread over at ABC Life. 

My new favourite TV/movie snack aka fancy Malteasers. I blitzed through all four seasons of Insecure in the last month (on Binge - so so good!!!) and we've just started watching The Queen's Gambit on Netflix because we've heard so many good things about it.

I really needed to hear this podcast about taking care of yourself at work in 2020, which was recommended by a lovely coworker.  It's from Harvard Business Review's podcast Women at Work. Surprisingly, one of the biggest takeaways was not fixing work but knowing who and what you care about and letting that lead the way. 

I treated myself to the cutest packet of nail stickers designed by Beci Orpin :)

Fired up, ready to go. A sweet animation of an Obama speech that popped up in the week of the US election. I'm super keen to watch The Way I See It, a doco about Pete Souza, the official White House photographer for the Obama and Reagan administrations. 

It's still been cool enough for comfort food and the week of the election (and let's be honest, non-stop refreshing of news sites) I thoroughly enjoyed the delicious distraction that was making Heidi Sze's chicken sausage rolls. This recipe makes heaps so we had enough for two dinners with enough for another two stashed in the freezer. 

I have the longest list of new recipes I want to try, including Hetty McKinnon's kimchi mac and cheese and salted caramel peanut butter cake

I'm still doing yoga at home and loved this energising flow from Good Vibes yoga in Melbourne.

P.S Check out my baby eggplant! My friend Angie brought a seedling down when she visited for her birthday and has a very inspiring Insta account for her veggie garden that's mostly grown in pots.