Winter reading stack

31 May 2016

The stack grew accidentally. Books were bought, borrowed from friends and checked out of the library. Then they were scattered around the house - on coffee tables, beneath the bed, stashed hopefully in handbags.

Stacked neatly I can see that I have  enough books to get me through winter. The three I'm reading right this minute:

Care Packages by Michelle Mackintosh 
This book is beautiful - with pastel coloured pages and super cute layouts. Best of all, it has a sweet philosophy on gift giving and caring for the people around you.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham 
Because the last season of Girls was great and over far too quickly. If you've seen Girls and Tiny Furniture, you'll be able to recognise a number of real-life experiences that were turned into storylines and characters.

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl
This cookbook reads like a book, so much so that I've been reading bits before bed. Here's the podcast that made me sure I wanted to own it. As a cookbook, every recipe I've tried so far has been delicious and genuinely enjoyable to make.

And because the stack has gotten quite big, I figure that another book or so won't hurt. I have my eye on the latest Don DeLillo and can't wait to pick up the third issue of Lunch Lady magazine. I've also reserved Helen Garner's Everywhere I Look from the library as an audiobook. It should be excellent, Helen reads it herself.

Weekend links

28 May 2016

Tony and I are both home this weekend and I'm excited to make my favourite pizza and plant a few new things for winter. On Sunday our friends are having us round for pancakes and I'll be making a novelty birthday cake for a friend at work, starting with this giant chocolate cake as a base. Should be fun! Have a lovely weekend.

A new book on my favourite subject - care packages.

French toast for one or two.

Show the girls the snakes - brilliant radio from The Kitchen Sisters.

Go where you are loved.

From Vietnam to Bowral by my friend Sean (make sure you click on the audio).

Super cool Paris travel diary.

An inspiring podcast with children's picture book author Oliver Jeffers (inside a very cool blog).

Speaking of Oliver Jeffers, I would love to give this book to a little person.

And I finally found a perfectly sized (and priced) mini speaker for listening to podcasts at home (and by found I mean I copied my sister - some things never change).

Two after work projects

24 May 2016

Being on holidays always gives me a creative boost and I came home from Sydney excited to start a few small projects to break up the routine of full-time work. It's early days but here's what's in the works:

A sourdough starter from scratch

Up until now I haven't felt brave enough to make my own starter or home for long enough for it to develop - it's a 21 day process. But for some reason, this week just feels right. On Monday I rode to the fancy organic shop after work to pick up my supplies - organic sultanas and flour. Tony bought the muslin cloth and I'm using a recipe from this book. I've just mixed up the starter and I'll know if it's worked in a week or so.

The Photo School

Last night I wasn't sure if I had the energy to start an online course but within minutes, I was scribbling down notes, doodling diagrams (and clouds with faces) and learning simple but very important  techniques from this course. It was developed in part by Kate Berry of LunchLady, whose photos I adore. If you're interested, it's on sale :)

P.S I've been experimenting with Snapchat this week and so far it's been really fun. If you're interested, I'm posting little updates of my side projects most days under sonya.gee

Winter is coming

22 May 2016

On Sunday it was a glorious 21 degrees, warm enough to wear ballet flats instead of boots and sit outside for coffee. But I know that much much colder weather is to come. Last year it snowed.

My friend Olivia has been living in Canberra for seven years and we met up for lunch a month or so after I moved here. I asked her lots of questions about life here and she mentioned that it would get pretty cold, usually as of Anzac Day. And so when autumn properly set in, I emailed her and asked how I could best prepare.

Here's her advice:

My essential winter item is a navy wool coat bought in Hong Kong a few years ago. It has a very classic silhouette and the extra length to the knee helps keep out the wind chill. I didn't learn to distinguish between wool and cotton until I got to Canberra :)

Uniqlo's Heat tech range is really warm without being heavy so it's great for layering.

Gloves and scarves are a must and I like to keep them extra bright. Not a big beanie/hat person but I got a pair of Ugg ear muffs last winter and now I don't know what I'd do without them (especially for bike riding in winter). Invest in a good pair of boots too.

Over autumn and spring you can find some great one of a kind jackets/coats in local markets and op-shops. A recent favourite find is a moss green cape thingy with a hood from Westside Markets that reminds me of something out of The Lord Of The Rings.

Have fun shopping and layering!

Two extra tips:

Moisturise!! Canberra winters are much dryer than Sydney.

And make an extra effort with exercise starting now. It's hard I know, but keeping it up is important for fending off colds etc. Winter here is super cold but the days are usually pristinely bright and beautiful so get outdoors when you can. There's heaps of bush walks, country drives and wineries to explore locally.

So far I've added a wind and waterproof jacket like this one to my wardrobe to help me keep riding and two merino cardigans (with spots and stripes to be exact). Hopefully a pair of ear warmers and a good pair of gloves will have me covered for the colder months. And on my wish list - a woollen TV blanket.

P.S Now that it's colder, I'll be making these individual chocolate fondants for the freezer. Once they're made you can have a hot dessert in 15 minutes flat.

Weekend links

20 May 2016

Have you had a good week? I'm heading back to Canberra tomorrow after spending the week at my sister and brother-in-law's place. I've learnt lots about little people and managed to tick everything off my list - cups of tea with my sister, quiet night-time cuddles with my newborn nephew and lots of adventures with my niece. I also managed to make a few dinners and spend an afternoon shopping in the city. I'm pretty pooped :) Have a great weekend:

This documentary looks great.

Snapchat explained.

Equal pay.

The case for homemade pasta.

A (friendly) post-it war.

A malted milk latte for a sleepy Sunday morning.

The Obamas in 1996.

A souvenir from this week - finding out about Hey Duggee, a super cute kid's show.

And a funny podcast about pickling disasters, public fruit trees and the beginnings of Marrickville's Cornersmith cafe.

Neighbourhood date night

19 May 2016

Last year when Tony was on an art school residency in Canberra, I would drive up to see him on Thursday afternoons and stay for a couple of nights. It was a good excuse to visit a city and the change of scenery was good for the soul.

Because we spent a good chunk of last year apart, Tony and I always treated ourselves to a meal out on Thursday nights. It was a fun way to explore different parts of the city and sample food that was hard to come by in Wagga Wagga.

Now that we live in Canberra we've kept up the tradition, partly because Thursday is the almost-there day of the week that feels worthy of a little celebration. Plus it's a fun way to explore different suburbs in our new city.

The other night we went on a neighbourhood date in Braddon, which is a suburb between our two offices. We had drinks at a microbrewery and walked over to one of our favourite cafes, which is open for dinner one night every few weeks.

We sat in the front window, ordered all of the sides and tucked into to very delicious chicken burgers. And there was just enough room for a gelato dessert. It was really fun to try out a few new places in one night. Next up, I'm keen to explore Dickson.

The best bolognese

17 May 2016

I made it to Sydney and have had my first full day looking after my two-year-old niece and helping my sister around the house. Tomorrow I plan to get cooking and while I thought I'd pack at least one cookbook, instead I'll be relying on tried and true recipes that can be found online.

I made this 'easy' spaghetti bolognese on Saturday night and it was delicious. It's from Ruth Reichl's book My Kitchen Year, a cookbook that I've been reading before bed. It follows former New York Times food critic Ruth Reichl in the year after she loses her job, when the iconic American food magazine Gourmet is shut down at short notice.

I made a mental note of this recipe early on and instead of having to look it up in the index when I wanted to make it, I remembered that she'd made it for friends who had come to help her pack up her office early on in the book.

I'd make this bolognese on a wintry Sunday night, if I was having friends round for dinner, or if I happened to get home early from work and wanted something a bit more special for dinner. It's slow cooked and buttery and has just the right amount of topping. Spaghetti bolognese is one of my favourite dishes and I also really love Donna Hay's summer bolognese (it's got a great chilli kick) and Rachel Khoo's version too, where it's all about the bacon.

Weekend links

13 May 2016

Do you have any plans for the weekend? I had a big week at work and am hoping to do as little as possible for the next few days. So far my plans include baking some cookies for my sister, packing my bag for Sydney and catching up with friends for dinner. There's also a slow-cooked spaghetti bolognese that I'm going to try out. Here are a few things to share:

Sunday morning in Paris.

A quick broccoli soup.

'Not another girl in a shift dress' = super cool work wear.

Pretty rugs.

I emailed Tony this tortellini recipe and he made it for dinner twice this week.

Being a surrogate for a friend.

Good looking chocolate.

Secretly fleecy yoga pants.

Doctored instant ramen.

This podcast series about making with artist Ben Quilty and composer Andrew Ford that my friend Vanessa recommended.

I made this podcast for work.

And I've shared this here before but I just wanted to remind everyone that it's lemon delicious season :)

Have a lovely weekend.

Aunt life: Moving in

11 May 2016

Next week I'm catching the bus to Sydney and moving in with my sister and her family for a week. It'll be the first time I meet my nephew, who is two weeks old today. The plan is to help out around the house and mind my two-year-old niece as my brother-in-law heads back to work.

I'll be bringing a big jar of cookies (these ones feel extra special) and so many little gifts for my niece - a miniature bed for her favourite toy, pink pug socks from my friend Sally, a new book (most likely this one) and Peppa Pig cookie mix.

We were living in Wagga Wagga when my niece was born, and this time round I'm feeling lucky to be living just that little bit closer. I'm looking forward to holding my nephew for the first time, chatting to my sister and cooking for the family when I get the chance.

P.S The last time I stayed at my sister's place was for my hen's party, and I bought my sister, niece and I matching pyjamas for the occasion :)

A very good baking book

10 May 2016

After the duck cake there was a cake of a simpler kind, a flourless chocolate fudge cake made for a special morning tea at work. It was baked late on Wednesday night and as I pulled it out of the oven, I knew I'd made something special.

I've had the The Cook and Baker cookbook since late last year, Annabel Crabb raved about it on the podcast she shares with Leigh Sales and off I went to find track it down. The best thing about it? Knowing that the time, effort and ingredients that go into any recipe will definitely pay off. And most of the recipes are straightforward, which is great because most of my baking happens after work.

The chocolate cake was for a special send off at work, for a long-serving and very lovely guy who was a day away from retirement. I'm really enjoying being part of a bigger office, I've gone from having six colleagues to 40 or more. It gives milestones like this one the ceremony they deserve. I also learn so much from the tiniest interactions and it's slowly changing my work for the better.

P.S Thank you for all of your lovely comments about the rubber ducky cake. Here it is in transit to the event, which was packed. People were lining up around the hotel just to get in. My friend Louise was there right at the end and says my cake went for $100. It was also on the news that night! I was thrilled - with the cake and the opportunity to support an excellent local charity.

Weekend links

06 May 2016

How was your week? Mine's been productive but surprisingly chilled with enough time to read, bake cakes and go out for pizza. It's been nice. Tony's away for work this weekend so I'm planning to sleep diagonally, take long baths (with face masks!) and go window shopping for winter clothes. Here are my highlights of the week:

A solo trip to Paris.

The Netflix history of us.

Love this autumn outfit.

Dinner party advice from 70-year-olds.

This budget wrap (and the insightful motherhood tangent) courtesy of Crabb and Sales.

I love this scarf with eyes.

My brother's Prince tribute - really great music, especially at the 27 minute mark.

And something funny via Ali.

Catch you next week!

Family WhatsApp

04 May 2016

How does your family stay in touch during the week? My family is hilarious on WhatsApp, exchanging photos and funny stories throughout the day. Being the only one living outside of Sydney, I'm grateful.

Rubber ducky cake

02 May 2016

On Saturday Canberra is going to host a cake-off that features every single cake from the iconic Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake book. I've signed up to make the first cake that sprang the mind -  the rubber ducky.