Good habits return

28 May 2020



I ate a lot of chips at the start of isolation, afternoon tea too. And now I'm suddenly remembering... vegetables 😂 It's like everything's happening in reverse - more and more of my good habits are returning as the city starts to open up. There were a couple of weeks where I'd forget to leave the apartment, maybe because I was so nervous about being outside. Now we're going for walks most days and starting to visit some of our favourite cafes and ice cream shops again. It's small stuff but really nice.

I'm super excited about Movie Night, a way to rent and stream films from my favourite Sydney cinema. Even though I live in Canberra, I often look at what's playing because the curation is always great with a nice mix of indie films, cult classics and docos. I reckon I'll start with either the Ryuichi Sakamoto documentary or Yellow Is Forbidden, which is about a Chinese couture designer.


Being at home for so long has helped me improve little corners of the house. My bedside table no longer has books on, in and under it. Instead it's just a few special-to-me things, some from my time in Wagga Wagga and newer things like a bunch of flowers my sister-in-law dried. It's a nice reminder that things can look good without spending a lot of money.

Most nights I read a couple of instalments of 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith before bed. I've never read any of his books before (and only realised he was a dude a couple of weeks ago!) and the concept for this book is so unique. Originally the novel was a serialised column in a Scottish newspaper. A new one came out every day, which means you can read a bit of the story every day without too much effort. It's been the nicest way to ease back into reading after a long break.

My friend Irini recommended the book after reading the first instalment of a comic series I've been involved with at work. She's also the reason Tony and I became obsessed with High Fidelity on iView. We watched the first ep after hearing about it on a podcast but didn't love it right away - and I'm so glad we went back and kept watching.


It's been super nice to grow stuff again! A friend at work says it's just nice to care for something and I'm finding that to be very true. I'm also loving chef Roy Choi's posts on Instagram this week from his funny pep talks ("Be the turtle") to dreams of becoming a florist.

Finally, some recipes to share. I made Julia Ostro's pasta e fagioli this week and had forgotten how magical it is. It's super flavoursome for something with a couple of simple ingredients. I also spent Monday testing her newest recipe for ABC Life, peanut butter and chocolate blondies with salted peanuts. It's super delicious.

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Seedlings, yoga and takeaway dessert

22 May 2020


This week was a really good one. I've been able to do yoga more regularly (treating myself to a digital subscription has really helped), finish a book and put birthday cards in the post. It's been nice.

In the kitchen, we've been trying to get through our tinned food stash, which has mainly looked like fried rice made with tinned peas, corn and carrots (which makes an easy dish even faster). The lone tin of prunes in syrup has become porridge topping, along with my new favourite thing - bananas grilled in butter.


This weekend I'm going to plant some seedlings for winter - spring onions, English spinach and baby cos lettuce. I bought them from a sweet front yard stall in Canberra, which I stumbled upon while looking into microgreens (this blog post intrigued me). You slide your cash under the front door and pick up a free packet of broad beans on your way out. Aside from the excuse to go somewhere new, I love that the seedlings are grown locally and suited to Canberra's very cold conditions.


We also treated ourselves to fancy desserts this week, something Tony and I used to do when we lived in Sydney. We'd meet in Newtown after dinner, which was halfway between his share house in Chippendale and mine in Lewisham, and find somewhere to eat cake or ice cream. I got a slice of miso chocolate tart with delicious dark cherries and Tony chose the other dessert special, a Basque burnt cheesecake.

And there were lots of family hangs too! I chatted with my parents over a video call and beat my brothers at Monopoly again - during the pandemic we've played almost every week. The game is always fun but so is the video call/hang out. Especially if I win :)

Here are some things to share for your weekend:

I loved Madeline Albright's interview on Death, Sex and Money. It's especially good for the times in a you-can-get-through-it kind of way.

We're making this kimchi, udon and butter dish on repeat. It's fast and super spicy (via Highly Enthused).

I bought some... nice instant coffee, something I never thought I'd be into! I had some sachets from Reuben Hills and they made such a difference when making mini tiramisu, chocolate cookies and a faster version of this coffee and banana smoothie.

We watched The Half of It last weekend on Netflix and it was such a great romantic comedy that ends in a way I didn't expect. It's very heartwarming viewing.

On ABC Life, a satisfying and super quick udon noodle soup from Hetty McKinnon. I love the egg drop in the soup because it's something I grew up with!

I also had the great pleasure of working with illustrator Grace Lee (she appeared on the blog years ago!) on her comic about moving to Japan and finding her feet overseas. It's a six part series and you can read episodes one and two now. There are some very honest and heartbreaking moments coming up. New episodes come out every Thursday.

And a song I've been listening to on repeat.

Catch you next week!

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Hello weekend

16 May 2020


For the first time in ages, I have plans for the weekend at home :) I made lazy pastries from Midnight Chicken and spent the morning planting some cuttings while listening to this episode of This American Life that recently won a Pulitzer.

We've eaten a bunch of meals from the freezer lately, so it's been super nice to make something decadent for Saturday dinner again. I've been craving bolognese and was planning to make Marcella Hazan's iconic recipe, until I saw Deb Perelman's version which looked easier to use. Hers has one carrot, instead of two tablespoons of carrot.

Tomorrow, I'll make a mini tiramisu because the start of the week is always easier when there's dessert in the fridge. It's also perfect for the six ladyfinger biscuits we have left in the pantry. And I have plans for outside the house too! I'm going to see my friend Sarah for takeaway coffee! And a walk!

Two other things... this week I watched Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates on Netflix and really enjoyed it. And this recipe for chickpeas in a rich tomato sauce is a new favourite comfort food in our house. It's a decadent meal that feels really good for you too.

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One night away (!)

13 May 2020


Last Friday we woke up at 6am, put on proper clothes (and shoes) and drove to Sydney for a wedding where we were the only guests. At first I was really nervous about leaving our home in such a big way but we checked and checked again that we were allowed to travel, talked a lot about what we were comfortable with and what precautions we'd take (physical distancing and so much hand sanitiser) and then started to get excited about being part of a very special day.

The roads were so quiet and I was super relieved to find lots of places to wash my hands along the way (this is sad but true). We made it to Sydney in record time and stopped in to see my brother Zac and his wife on our way to the ceremony. We had a belated wedding present to deliver and had never seen their place. It was a visit with lots of space between us, because of my sister-in-law's work as a doctor. We watched them open their pressie from the doorstep, and they ran to the other side of the room so we could step inside and have a quick look around.


We gave them a framed print of Tony's and a smiley spatula, my sister-in-law handed me a bunch of dried billy buttons and a Devil's ivy cutting in a jar of water. The entire visit lasted less than 10 minutes, and yet it was completely thrilling. Zac and I have seen each other a lot over video calls, usually over a game of family Monopoly, so it was crazy to see his house/background IRL. I was so hyper as we drove away.

We'd originally planned to do a day trip but because home visits are now allowed in NSW and the ACT, we were able to go to the wedding and then back to the couple's place for champagne, lunch and cake. I made a little wedding cake, this lemon yoghurt cake, which I topped with a honey, elderflower and creme fraiche icing and edible flowers. It was a simple and pretty cake that perfectly matched the special but low-key vibe of the day.


We treated to ourselves to a night at the Paramount House Hotel in Surry Hills, which had discounted rates because of all of the shut downs. Because it was kind of on the way, we drove there via the city so we could visit my brother Derrick and his wife on their final night of hotel quarantine.

I'd seen my parents and Derrick's friends wave to them from the street over Instagram and thought it would be fun and a little bit silly, which is my favourite kind of thing. It took a little figuring out, but like seeing Zachary, it was totally thrilling. Even from very far away with a window and several storeys between us.


We haven't ordered any takeaway since the pandemic started (just bake at home crossiants!), but definitely made up for it during our one night stay. The hotel is right opposite Chin Chin and they were offering room service, so we ordered a big bowl of noodles and veggies, which were piping hot on arrival.

We put on Asia Rising Forever, a video concert featuring all Asian artists that Derrick had been working tirelessly on in America. The whole concert is 4.5 hours, and we watched it in three sittings - some at night, again in the morning and the rest when we were back in Canberra. The diversity of acts was amazing, and it was kind of like watching a mash up between Rage and PopAsia, only all the acts were Asian, which blew my mind.


One of my favourite parts of the stay was... room service coffee! I loved waking up, picking up the phone and having a hot coffee delivered to my room and being able to drink it in my pyjamas. We also ordered breakfast from the cafe downstairs, and may have eaten bacon and egg rolls in bed while watching more music videos.

Everything about the trip felt new and very exciting, from the pretty skies on the highway drive home, to seeing family from afar, and being both witnesses and photographers at a very intimate wedding. It was also so different from our last trip to Sydney in March. This time round we spent time with a total of five people, instead of mingling with 100+.


Hope you are safe and well this week! Here's a film snap from the wedding - I had one chance and blinked 😂

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Presents and projects

06 May 2020


I sent an email to myself while working last week, a clear sign I'd hit a wall. It was easily my most restless week to date. But things turned around. There were tiny nice moments, like listening to music while driving in the rain and seeing bright autumn leaves on my way to get groceries and remembering that seasons still change, even though we're inside.

This is going to sound strange but there's something about seeing packets upon packets of toilet paper at the shops that brings a great sense of relief. Like we're at a turning point where things will continue to get better (I'm really hoping for this!).

I've ticked three funny things off my stay-at-home to-do list, growing spring onions from their roots (extremely satisfying), a Zoom yoga class with my favourite Sydney studio, and a pear and blueberry crumble. I've also been working on a lovely project that I've been busting to write about.


I've been making a podcast for two! Or a mini morning radio show. Every morning, I send my brother and sister-in-law a song introduced by a friend or family member to help brighten their hotel-quarantine stay. They moved back from America at short notice and while they were packing and preparing to leave, I hatched a plan to make their hotel stay a bit warmer.

Each morning there's a different host, from high school friends to siblings, new buds from their time in London, and one very special guest - a lead singer from a fave band! I asked everyone to record a voice memo sharing where they are, what they can see and hear, plus one thing they're looking forward to. I also asked them to choose a song and introduce it. The idea was to bring the outside world into their Sydney hotel room.


The morning messages and songs were inspired by this episode of the Soul Music podcast, which opens with an astronaut talking about the songs that were piped into his shuttle each morning, chosen by family members back on earth. The song he remembers was Can't Take My Eyes Off You, chosen by his wife to mark their wedding anniversary apart.

During this time at home, I haven't been too good at reading or doing anything other than working, cooking and being on Instagram - until this project came alone. I started working on it over the Anzac Day long weekend and woke up with a real sense of purpose and excitement each day, as new audio recordings popped into my inbox. It was so good to be editing audio again, I'd forgotten what a wonderfully intimate medium it is. And it's been so much fun to sample all the chosen songs - from K-pop hits to Mozart. There are only three episodes to go and I'll so miss this joyful little project.


In Canberra, you're now allowed to visit one other household, so on Sunday when Tony was busy painting I went to my sister's house to deliver a belated birthday present. It was a short visit but a very uplifting one! We gave my nephew a mini golf set and he took to it immediately. I also got to see my niece's wobbly tooth IRL and see their hermit crabs in action.

At the moment I'm watching Mindy Kaling's Never Have I Ever on Netflix and loving it. I'm strangely into teen dramas at the moment and also caught up on All The Boys I've Loved Before. I'm excited to watch the sequel and another movie with a Asian main character, The Half of It. I'm totally going to watch the Netflix adaptation of Michelle Obama's Becoming too.

And I must've turned a corner because I'm reading a book again and really enjoying it. After listening to Gabrielle Hamilton's much talked about NY Times essay, I downloaded her memoir Blood, Bones & Butter. It's a wonderful read, full of adventure and action.

I hope you're going ok wherever this finds you. Things that've helped me this week - exercise and fresh air for energy and good sleep, and salad. I'd completely forgotten about salad, even though I used to eat some version of it for lunch every day at work. On that note, this is a lovely dinner that isn't pasta. A tofu, brown rice and brussels sprout salad from Hetty McKinnon. And good relaxing music, complied by my brother.

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Standing in the warmest light

26 April 2020


Years and years ago, my friend Matt wrote me an email that included the line 'standing in the warmest light'. I can't remember the context but that line and its sentiment stood out to me. I remembered it again this week as found myself warming my feet in the sun. It seems like a lovely way to try and make it through this period at home.

Today we welcomed my brother Derrick and his wife home from New York. They're in hotel quarantine in Sydney and getting a video call from them once they'd checked in was nothing short of thrilling. It's such a relief to have my whole family back in Australia, especially at this time.

It's a long weekend here in Canberra, so I've been making Anzac biscuits, chicken stock and an eggplant melanzane, which was our special Saturday meal. I followed my friend Angie's advice and oven roasted the eggplant to skip the frying and breading stage and used smoked mozzarella too.


It's been an excellent weekend for recipe testing too. In the coming weeks I'm planning to make this mushroom stroganoff again (it's so creamy) and a childhood favourite - beef rendang!

The weirdest things make me teary these days, including songs on this playlist, this video of a dad watching his baby being born over Zoom, and my workmates in Sydney offering to drop a hotel care package to my brother. People are so nice.


I remembered the documentary podcast Soul Music this week and listened to the Toto's Africa episode which is excellent. It's a wonderfully distracting podcast because it doesn't refer to the world at present, making it truly escapist. And I made my first ever Dutch Baby, inspired by Jessica. I used the NY Times recipe, which was crazy easy and so much faster than making individual pancakes.

And that is me for another week!

Stay well,

S

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Peak iso

19 April 2020


How are you going at home? I vacuumed a lampshade this weekend and felt a real sense of achievement, which tells me I've hit peak isolation.

Podcasts make me feel connected to the outside world, mainly The High Low, Sugar Calling and Highly Enthused - I loved their at-home facial tips. Listening to them reminds me of our years in Wagga Wagga, when I'd listen to RN on the radio at night to find out what was happening beyond our town.

Saturday's become our day for nice dinners and video calls with friends. This week I roasted a chicken (and smoked out the entire apartment, prompting an oven clean on Sunday 😑), made some potato wedges and opened a bottle of orange wine. I've also been eating a lot of chocolate. My friend Irini sent us a box of Easter eggs that's as big as a board game and has the most delicious hazelnut praline filled chocolate bunnies inside.


I'm trying to be less fearful as the numbers in Australia continue to improve, while still being sensible. It helps me enjoy this time at home a little more. I'm also trying to let go of a scarcity mindset when it comes to cooking and shopping. It's small thoughts, like when I catch myself wondering/worrying if I should use two eggs in some muffins or save them, just in case.

I have two tiny hopes for the week ahead - to eat more veggies and move a little more. That's it!

If you're after any food inspo for the week, this tomatoey soup with chickpeas, pasta and spinach is delicious and great for days when you're feeling under the weather. I've also been baking out of this beautiful zine - the PDF version has just gone online. I made peanut butter granola and ginger and chocolate muffins and feel somewhat ready for the week ahead.

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