Ready for Easter!

18 April 2019

I love spending Easter at home. By this time of year, I'm often ready for a break and a lazy one at that. This one also has more days off than usual, and I've taken the Friday off after Anzac Day to make two long weekends in a row :)

Over the extra long Easter weekend, we're planning to cycle round Lake Burley Griffin with a picnic (I'm making these pressed mozzarella sambos and will pack some lunch dessert too!), host an Easter egg hunt for my niece and nephew, and have some friends from Wagga Wagga around for soup. I also want to see the giant candle sculpture at the NGA - its head fell off the other day!

I'm also planning to spend a good chunk of time curled up on the couch, reading my fave magazine which arrived from America just in time! I'm also enjoying Ruth Reichl's memoir about her time as a NY Times food critic and Michel Lewis's podcast, Against The Rules, I've recommended the first episode to at least four separate people this week.

Two more things: this heartfelt ep of Death, Sex and Money (the maternity leave line up to fill in for Anna Sale is really lovely), and a creamy cauliflower pasta from Alison Roman.

Finally, a little tradition for Easters at home, I've just picked up a pretty bunch of Autumnal flowers for our place.

Have a lovely and relaxing Easter.


Hello weekend

11 April 2019

I spent a good chunk of this week adjusting to both Australian time and daylight savings. It was the best reminder to be kind to myself as I settled back into work/non-holiday life. I've been on the move too, and have just come back from a trip to Sydney where I had dinner with one of my closest friends and gave a (slightly nerve wracking) presentation at work. As always, I am excited for the weekend! We'll be having ragu with friends and Tony's planned a surprise date for Sunday night, which I suspect will be a ramen date :) To share:

I had to choose a iron-free outfit for work recently because I got distracted by this episode of Style Out There from Refinery 29, that's all about Calabasas style.

Another excellent and heartbreaking episode of The Daily that tells the story of one family's story of loss and survival in the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Also from the NY Times - is human contact now a luxury? Made me think about just how much time I spend on my phone.

Erin Lee Carr has just published a memoir about the death of her father, NY Times reporter David Carr. This excerpt details the night he died.

Would love to try this baked apple oatmeal.

Along those lines... how do you cook your porridge? I used this BBC recipe for years, but have switched to soaking my oats the night before. The quest for perfect porridge is seemingly endless.

Been listening to a lot of Without Fail episodes recently, this one about the hunt for the Golden State Killer is especially good.

And I can 100% vouch for this cheesy mushroom tart that's made from six key ingredients. It's quick to make and will leave you with two tarts - one for now and one for later.

Have the best weekend!


Hong Kong holiday

07 April 2019

Hello! We've just come back from a week in Hong Kong and I have about a thousand photos to share :) This trip reminded of our New York honeymoon in so many ways. We spent our days eating delicious food, breaking it up with trips to art galleries and wandering the city.

It was a big and busy trip, and one that left an impression on both of us. Here are some highlights, from Michelin starred snacks that cost less than $10 to the touristy activities I secretly adored.

The biggest surprise for me was how familiar the city felt. I'd never visited before but so many things reminded me of my childhood - from the smell of dried herbs and ginseng on the streets that made me think of excursions to Chinatown, to the very particular flavours of the food that took me right back to my grandparent's dining table.

I don't always feel Chinese, especially since I left Sydney and moved away my extended family. But in Hong Kong, the majority of people spoke to me in Cantonese. Although I don't speak the language, I was able to remember a handful of words and phrases, mostly in my late grandfather's voice. Unfortunately I wasn't so great at repeating them, and frequently mixed up Cantonese and Mandarin when trying to say something simple like thank you. Also, so many of the older men dressed exactly like my grandfather, which boggled my mind but also made me smile.

We rented a studio apartment in Sheung Wan, on Hong Kong island. We were a few minutes walk from a train station, and walked by shops specialising in dried herbs, fresh fruit and incense every day. If we were venturing into the neighbourhood for coffee or dinner we'd often pass coffin makers too!

Hong Kong is such a vertical city (some of the buildings were impossible to comprehend) and we spent a lot of time climbing stairs. Some would open up between streets, which always felt a little magical. It took me a little while to get my head around the different districts and the layout of the city. My main references were the Hong Kong episode of Travel Man (so fun!) and this illustrated travel journal that Lena sent me. I'd often flick through it at night to read up on places we'd visited, or to plan the next day.

I loved some of the more touristy activities, like a trip to The Peak which overlooks the city. My uncle suggested we avoid the crowds by taking a mini bus from Central, which wound around the mountain and gave us a different view of the city (most of the time we got around on the train or on foot).

One night we ordered xiao long bao (soupy dumplings) at the Din Tai Fung in Tsim Sha Tsui, before walking down to the pier to catch the Star Ferry across the harbour back to Central. Our ferry was called the Morning Star, and it was super fun to see the city lights and their reflections from the water.

I also wanted to ride the Central to mid-levels escalators, because I'd heard they were the longest in the world and I'm a dag. Tony's friend Anton lives in Hong Kong, and met us for lunch before taking us to the escalators. We didn't ride the whole way up (they go through different suburbs) but hopped off at Tai Kwun, a grand colonial style building for Chinese tea. The city can feel really busy, so it was nice to spend some time in the quieter parts. Anton also took us to two places we loved...

The PMQ building in Sheung Wan where we stopped for cookies and cake at Levain bakery before wandering through the building, checking out the craft and gift shops on each level. There was also an entire floor that was dedicated to cooking classes!

Tony's favourite place in the area was easily Craftissimo, a low-key craft beer shop with streetside seats, which suited us a lot more than some of the high end bars in the city.

I left for Hong Kong with a nine-page document full of food recommendations that I'd pulled together from my friend Alkira, our Airbnb host, Hetty, and Heidi's blog.

I printed it out and kept it in my backpack, ready to reference whenever we were hungry and in a new location. My favourite meal was at Forbidden Duck in Causeway Bay, where we went specifically to eat char siu, which is barbecued pork that's sticky and sweet. As a kid, this frequently made an appearance as a takeaway dinner, in the same way a charcoal chicken might. This version was nostalgic and new all at once, which very much summed up my Hong Kong experience. We ate it with garlicky gai larn, big bowls of jasmine rice and pesto chicken spring rolls (Tony's pick!).

We spent a bit of time in local diners, and especially loved the Sang Kee Congee shop in Sheung Wan, which was a last minute recommendation from Hazel. We ate big bowls of beef congee, which arrived with lava-like bubbles forming in the middle of the bowls. We also lined up for a late-night second dinner at Kau Kee, which specialises in beef brisket and also serves Ovaltine.

Early on in our trip, we had lunch at Maxim's Palace, a beautiful yum cha restaurant in City Hall that overlooks the harbour. There were chandeliers in the dining room, an English-style tea setting, and the food arrives on carts. It was the nicest way to ease ourselves into the city.

My friend Laura took me to Dim Dim Sum in Wan Chai, which is casual and excellent. I am still dreaming of the rice noodle rolls and custardy pig buns - I only wish I'd been hungrier that day! In the same area we loved Cheung Hing Kee (there are also shops in TST) for pan-fried soupy dumplings and Kam's Roast Goose. Both have been awarded a Michelin star recently. We joined the line too late to eat dinner inside Kam's and ended up getting takeaway, which included a small bottle of goose gravy which was insanely good.

We mainly ate savoury food but I tried a Hong Kong egg waffle and loved it. We stuck to the Mammy pancake chain (some of the locations have been awarded Michelin stars) and the most popular order - egg waffle with banana and choc chips. The fillings are baked into the waffle, and they make each one to order. They became a favourite afternoon snack.

Finally, we took a few breaks from local food. I have a soft spot for Shake Shack, and was super excited to find it in Hong Kong. There are two shops but the one in the IFC mall also comes with an incredible view of the city. For coffee, we often found ourselves at NOC Coffee, The Cupping Room and Barista Jam (with lots of expats!).

We timed our trip to coincide with Art Basel, an international art fair, but by the time we arrived in Hong Kong the event was sold out. Feeling more than a little crushed, we quickly bought tickets to Art Central, the alternative art fair to make the most of the art scene. By the end of the day, we'd been given a VIP pass for Art Basel, and were pinching ourselves.

We raced back to the convention centre for the night viewing, and one of the first pieces I saw was a Takashi Murakami flower sculpture, which I adored. We returned the next day, and I watched Tony nerd out as he saw the works of some of his favourite artists - often for the first time beyond a picture in a book.

Outside of the art fairs, we both really enjoyed the Pedder building. It houses a handful of contemporary art galleries, including Gagosian, and you can walk up and down the stairs between them. We also visited Pace and White Cube galleries nearby, and saw a James Turrell installation at Asia Society Hong Kong Center.

We hardly did any shopping while we were away but my favourite souvenir from our trip are easily these polaroids, where we attempted to recreate an Erwin Wurm sculpture!

I loved how colourful the streets were in Hong Kong - from the brightly coloured buildings in pinks, purples and pale greens to the neon signs. It was also surprisingly green, from pot plants lining the streets, to orchids spied in other apartments from our Airbnb. I'd love to add a bright purple orchid to our apartment as a little reminder of our trip.

I'm so glad we could make trip, it's something we've been talking about for some time. It was the perfect city for both of us and affordable too. While our days were packed, there were things we didn't get to do this time round - mainly hiking and trips beyond the city to the sea side village of Stanley but we feel like it's a place we'll visit again.

P.S - If you're planning a trip, one of the most practical tips we were given was to pick up an Octopus card for public transport at the airport. You can return it when you leave and get a refund for the cost of the card and any credit left on it. We found public transport to be so easy to use and inexpensive. Also - there's an in town check in service at Hong Kong station! It meant we could check in our bags in the city in the morning, and explore the city unencumbered before our evening flight.


Sweet things

28 March 2019

Here's a favourite cosy corner of our new place, where I've been watching a lot of Netflix, writing in my journal and eating snacks :) I wanted to share a few cheery things before I head off on holidays at the end of this week...

I started using the Seize the Day planner over the weekend, after hearing about it on Radio Cherry Bombe. It's a 12-week reset, that's focussed on how you want to feel as you go about your days. It's a slightly different take on goal-setting journals (I've tried a year-long one in 2018 but found it hard to maintain), that's based on the premise that most of us know what is good for us but often need a reminder to put that into practice.

The timing is especially good for me - our surprise move and work picking up for the year pushed me into some stressful territory. I'm excited to take a step back from it all, and try to be a bit more thoughtful about my time. Side note: I emailed and bought the PDF version which cost $US10, because the actual journal costs a bomb to ship to Australia.

I love the idea of a Sunday night roast, and this one just past I tested this chicken and plum tray bake from Julia Busuttil Nishimura (of Ostro fame). It's a brand new ABC Life recipe that also breaks down the anatomy of a tray bake, in case you'd like to branch out on your own. I was so looking forward to the meal (and was thinking about it on the way to yoga at 7am!) but also the fact that it was going to be simple to make. Bonus: We had a strawberry and rhubarb crumble in the freezer, a gift from my parents, which made the perfect post-roast dessert.

Queer Eye is back and is the ultimate pick me up! So far I've watched the two episodes featuring women, which both had real tear-jerker moments. Watching them made me see that I too am terrible at accepting help, but needn't be. Just this week, instead of trying to buzz around and do it all, I said yes to Tony making dinner and asked him to organise it another night when I wanted to jump in the shower instead. No regrets.

And finally, holiday planning! We'll be heading off to Hong Kong soon and I've been collecting tips from all over the place. My former workmate Alkira sent through a five-page document of all her favourite food places (from soupy dumplings to where to buy the best roast goose). And Lena sent me a copy of her book How to Hong Kong, an illustrated travel journey, which I'll definitely be packing for context, story and inspiration. Right now, I am reading tons of blog posts about packing but not actually doing any packing :) Here are my faves from Leslie, Jordan and Caroline.

I'll be taking a break while we're over there to soak up all of the food, atmosphere, and art so catch you here again soon. X

Hello weekend

22 March 2019

Hello! I am on my way home from a work trip to Sydney that also included surprising my mum for her birthday. After any kind of travel (even short trips away), I am busting to make my own food again. This weekend, I have two exciting recipes to test and eat. Maybe some planning for Hong Kong too. To share:

Six months on the road (with four kids and a caravan). Loved reading about the everyday moments that make it worthwhile.

Last year, I became a manager for the first time. It was a little scary (hello self doubt), but it also got me thinking about the different ways that each of us work. So I geeked out with this Without Fail interview with Patty McCord, Netflix's former chief talent officer.

Molly Yeh's baby meal prep is next level (and applicable to non-pregnant folk too).

While it isn't new, I adored this video from This American Life's Video 4 U series.

And from ABC Life - falafel wraps with a two-minute spicy yoghurt and harissa sauce. I made a batch on Sunday night, and they kept us fed for four nights, including one night entertaining. Will definitely make again. Meal prep = more weekday Netflix.

Settling in

17 March 2019

Here's a tiny glimpse into our new place. We're starting to feel settled and at home after our first few week here. A couple things have helped, mainly unpacking, getting the internet sorted and...

Homemade meals. Right after our old apartment was inspected and we returned the keys, I went to a lovely book launch where my friend Sarah presented me with a giant bag of food. Inside, a homemade taco kit featuring this very delicious pulled brisket and a box of almond brownies.

It was perfectly timed - we'd eaten out a lot by that point, out of necessity and exhaustion - and I knew we wouldn't get to unpack the kitchen until the weekend. Plus, tacos are the perfect moving meal because they require almost no cutlery :)

And then on Saturday morning, we received a delivery from my parents. A very exciting box, filled with more than a week's worth of dinners (and a large strawberry and rhubarb crumble!) from The Dinner Ladies. They'd chosen all of our favourites (meatballs for me, lasagne for Tony, plus some warming curries and soups), and I love seeing them lined up in the freezer. Food truly is the best gift!

One of my favourite things about our new place is the view of the mountains, which is so very Canberra to me. Being higher up also means we get the nicest views of the sky. The other day I went out onto the balcony to stare at the sunset and realised we had a view of the iconic Telstra tower and Parliament house (just).

March is a big month of festivals in the city, and on Saturday night we discovered that we had an excellent view of the whole city when the fireworks festival kicked off. We're already excited about New Year's here :)

And something kind of silly... one of my favourite bakeries started making hot cross buns a few weeks ago. I waited til we were moved in to buy our first box, as a mini celebration.

We got through a lot of unpacking this weekend, and will are planning to return to normal life tonight with Netflix and couch time. And we'll welcome our first guest tomorrow night. My friend Sean is in town for work, and we'll have a simple dinner with flatbreads, grilled veggies and falafel. I'll share the recipe soon, I'm testing it this weekend for work.


Hello weekend

15 March 2019

Hello! We're dedicating ourselves to unpacking this weekend, starting with a trip to IKEA after work today. I am looking forward to spending time in our new place and just hanging out, which doesn't seem too far away. Loads of good things to share, including plenty of podcasts that powered me through the last few hours of packing last week:

I've been really enjoying the culture episodes of The Daily, specifically What Hollywood keeps getting wrong about race and Reckoning with the real Michael Jackson (which managed to be entertaining and chilling). Both feature Wesley Morris, a critic for the Times, which made me curious about checking out the Still Processing podcast again. Having read Michelle Obama's book Becoming, I found the episode about her book especially great.

If you're in the mood for something more poetic and heartfelt, try this interview with restauranteur Jose Andres. His views on fatherhood and community are particularly insightful.

I also found this episode of Radio Cherry Bombe very inspiring. In it business owner Michelle Mannix shares what it was like to open and then close a cafe in Brooklyn. It's also March, so I also appreciated the refresher on setting goals and reevaluating how you want to feel in different aspects of your life.

Contemplating making another sourdough starter - I managed to neglect and kill two last year but am feeling ready to dedicate some time to it again.

Smitten Kitchen is 13! Deb posted the recipe for perfect spaghetti and meatballs to celebrate. This was the first recipe I ever tried.

Nigella's chicken in a pot (with lemon and tiny pasta) also looks very comforting.

Plus, the easiest and crumbliest shortbread cookies from Thalia Ho, inspired by Greek biscuits dipped in icing sugar. I shared some with my honorary nephew, who just turned 5 (!), and he said they made a very good gift :)

P.S I went to the loveliest book launch in a Canberra backyard earlier in the week, hosted by the lovely Lean. It was the launch of two books by Emiko Davies and Annabelle Hickson. The food was so delicious, I am hoping to pick up a copy of Emiko's cookbook soon!