Christmas in February (!) and other fun things

20 February 2021

We had a Gee family reunion last weekend, to coincide with Chinese New Year and because the Sydney and ACT border was open once more! Lockdowns happen so quickly these days that I didn't feel sure it would happen until everyone was on their way.

We went to yum cha, exchanged Christmas presents (!) that'd been held onto from our postponed December gathering, and just enjoyed being in each other's company for two jam-packed days. I sent my brothers home with granola for the week ahead - it still feels weird that everyone comes to us. It used to be Tony and I jumping in the car for Sydney family celebrations, and I really appreciate being able to play host.

On New Year's Day I took my first ever cultural day of leave at work - something I only learned about this year. It meant I could spend the day with my parents. I can't remember the last time I was with family for the New Year, especially after we left Sydney, and think it may have been around 10 years ago! We had lunch, went the the art gallery and just hung around at my house. It was lovely.

In other news, Tony made a label for a local winery. It's a pet nat that's just gone on sale and we've been having fun spotting it in wine shops around the city.

We also might be moving. We learnt this week that our apartment is for sale, which could mean staying on depending on who buys it. Every other time we've moved in the last 10 years, we've had just 2-3 days to find a place and do a frantic search and see what we get offered. But this time we might have a couple of months to look and find a place, which is kind of exciting. I'm hoping to find somewhere we'll really love rather than a place that'll do the job. And having been home and working from home for so long now, I'm thinking a change could be a very good thing.

Finally, some fun (and bleak) stuff to share: 

I laughed a lot while listening to Louis Theroux interview his cousin Justin Theroux on his podcast Grounded. My friend Farz recommended this ep - I didn't know much about Justin Theroux and wouldn't have listened otherwise but it made my Thursday. 

Remember the Reply All Test Kitchen series I recommended a few weeks ago? Turns out the company that made it is just as toxic as the one they were reporting on 😑 While it's not totally surprising, it is very disappointing and confusing.

My friend Sean's father was on Conversations, telling the story his time as a teacher of a one-room school. It's an incredible story and I've just reserved his book from the library. 

I watched the final instalment of To All The Boys I Ever Loved Before: Always and Forever on Netflix last weekend and loved it. I only got into the movies after a cousin recommended them and I'm so glad I did. There's something very powerful about watching a teen rom-com with an Asian girl as the lead.

And I'm really enjoying Under the Influence with Jo Piazza, a podcast series about the rise of mum influencers on the internet and Instagram.

Hope you're well!


Pasta, pickles and podcasts

06 February 2021

We passed this cute flower stand in Exeter last weekend, during a visit to the Southern Highlands. It was such a lovely trip, we had lunch at Moonacres in Robertson, visited the big potato (!) and stopped into Pecora Dairy to buy some cheese. Tony's mum made the nicest buttermilk chicken and cous cous for dinner and I also visited my uncle's place and admired all his fruit trees. It's super rainy in Canberra this weekend, so I'm going to make poke bowls and watch The White Tiger on Netflix. I am keeping everything crossed for next weekend, when my Sydney fam is coming to visit for Chinese New Year. So looking forward to it - I still have some Christmas pressies to give!

Some things to share: 

I'm listening to The Test Kitchen, a Reply All series about Bon Appetit and systemic racism. 

Hetty McKinnon made a cheese and Vegemite scroll recipe for ABC Everyday and it's super fun!

Highly recommend making Zuni-style pickles. They're super zingy ands so good for pickle and cheddar melts. 

My latest WFH afternoon pick-me-up is Heidi's chocolate oat milk.

I'm really enjoying Lisa Marigliano's new podcast Tough Love, which drops every fortnight. It's about this weird slow-motion pandemic time and also about the big things you think about in your mid thirties - work, family, and having kids.

I made fusilli alla Vodka this week and it was so good. 

And finally, I really liked this interview with chef Roy Choi. He has such an interesting and open outlook on life. I've mostly seen him in Chef show, and have started watching his LA show Broken Bread and am definitely going to hunt down more episodes. 

P.S My tomatoes are ripening! Every morning I go out and see what's ready for picking. It's daggy and nice.

Summer days

23 January 2021

I took an early break yesterday and rode up the street for library books, ice cream and banh mi. It's nice to be back in the habit of riding. Mostly I like feeling the air in my lungs and the sun on my skin, especially while I'm still working from home and in the apartment a lot.

I've started making Sunday a phone-free day, mainly to take a break from Instagram, Whatsapp and the news. So far, it's meant that I end up finishing a book on Sunday morning - Where the Crawdads Sing last weekend and Leave the World Behind the weekend before that.  Two thrillers in a row, a total accident. 

I've been fully embracing made up meals, partly inspired by some enormous homegrown squash and zucchini that were given to us but also because I've been a bit lax around restocking the pantry. Last Sunday I made a dutch baby pancake, which is super fast if you're serving it with fresh peaches rather than roasted fruit. 

I've also been filming food videos for work again, which left us with a raspberry and vanilla ice cream cake to get through, along with a container of leftover plain semifreddo that tastes just like ice cream. I made the NY Times Cooking version of ice magic for it one night, and it was so great! It's essentially a handful of chocolate melted over a double boiler, with half a teaspoon of coconut oil mixed through at the end to help it set, which takes about five minutes and makes more than enough for two.

A handful of other things to share:  

Molly Wizenberg's Granola No. 5. Unfussy but somehow very tasty, over ice cream but mostly with yoghurt and mango for breakfast.

My love for ice cream during the pandemic is clearly still going strong. I want to make these super cute ice cream hedgehogs

Zoe Foster Blake's list of Melbourne recommendations makes me want to think about interstate travel again. (I still feel funny about flying!) 

Ann Patchett's essay These Precious Days is beautiful. It's long but worth making time to read. 

And we're watching and enjoying Pretend it's a City on Netflix. 

Hope you have a lovely weekend. It's going to be so hot in Canberra!



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.