Morning walks and meatballs

29 November 2016

How have you been? As the end of the year approaches, I'm trying to slow things down and savour some of the smaller parts of my day. I've been going on morning walks without my phone and packing better lunches for work. And at night Tony and I have been sharing cold mangoes and dark chocolate, which feels so decadent.

Spaghetti and meatballs is my all-time favourite meal and I've been experimenting with lots of different recipes. I made Molly Yeh's meatless balls the other week, after laughing over the recipe's name with a friend. They were delicious and made of nuts, panko crumbs and parmesan cheese. We're having them again tonight. This recipe is next on my list.

And I'm trying to use Facebook a whole lot less. Last weekend I was actively avoiding it while I made my way through the new Gilmore Girls episodes (nostalgia overload!) and instead of checking it whenever I was inbetween tasks, I ended up being far more productive - and happier - than I'd like to admit. Less Facebook means more time for random food prep and reading. I hope you have a productive and enjoyable week :)

Weekend links

25 November 2016

How cute is this mini sourdough? I'm planning to make them as gift loaves, inspired by this bakery. What are you up to this weekend? I'll be watching the new Gilmore Girls episodes and making a Thanksgiving-inspired dinner. I'm thinking a roast chicken and some kind of pie (maybe this one!). Have a nice weekend:

I'm doing this, who's with me?

A handy gift guide for guys.

DIY snack boxes because more snacks = greater productivity.

Keen to try these shoes (my friend says they're cute and comfy).

A beautiful honey bundt cake.

A moving documentary.

A pay-what-you-like a cake stall.

Being Asian-Australian.

Joy the Baker on Radio Cherry Bombe :)

And we made these mud mug cakes at work this week. They were the best.

Lipstick for shy girls

23 November 2016

Ages ago, my friend Angie came to brunch wearing a fun knitted jumper and bright pink lipstick. It was such a cute look and I made a mental note to give lipstick another go. I asked my friend Alison if she could help, she's make-up artist who makes everything beauty seem easy and fun. Here are her tips, just in time for the festive season :)

Do you wear lipstick every day? How do you get into the habit of putting it on?

Yes, I wear some form of lip product every day - I just don't feel complete or like I can tackle the day without it now!! I think it's such a fun way to introduce a pop of colour into your outfit. As a busy mum with two kids, wearing a bright lip colour means I don't have to spend as much time on my eyes and I can get out the door quicker (well I try to anyway!). 

Are there any tricks to wearing it with confidence? I'm constantly thinking - is it on my teeth? Is it still there? How often should I be touching it up?

If you are wearing lipstick for the first time, try a lighter colour as it can tend to end up in random places all over the face! Or otherwise there are some great products out there that are long lasting and stay, so they're also a good option to ease the nerves of wearing a bold colour. Touching up with lipstick needs to be done regularly - after you eat or drink is a good starting place.

I'd love to know how wearing lipstick changes your mood, outfit or look.

Lipstick is an amazing mood enhancer! I can't tell you how much a bright crazy colour can make you feel adventurous and it definitely brings a smile to everyone's face! Colour reflects emotion and so a lovely bright colour can help brighten, as much as a dark soulful colour can make you feel strong and courageous, or a light colour can make you feel romantic and flirty.

I'm starting from scratch - what can you recommend?

Mac's Vegas Volt is a great punchy coral, perfect for coming into the summer months! Younique's new matte liquid lipstick in Spontaneous is a gorgeous mulberry colour and feels so creamy on your lips. And if you're after a creamy lipstick that stays on then Lime Crime's Matte Velvetines in Red Velvet is a gorgeous statement red - every girl needs a classic red in their purse!

Thank you Ali! Alison is a mobile make-up artist who runs Gypsygirl Beauty. She travels around the Riverina region of NSW and to the ACT too. She also has her own studio in Temora, where she's based. When Ali did my wedding make up, I felt like myself just way more beautiful :) 

Illustration by Danielle Urdinlaiz. Photos by Alison Swanston and Killarney Photography.

Collector pit stop

20 November 2016

We've embraced quick trips to Sydney this year, now that we're a good 200km closer. Most weekend visits are jam-packed with catch ups and events but today we were able to get away a little earlier than usual. We stopped by roadside fruit stalls (hooray for mango season!) and finally checked out the town of Collector.

I've been busting to check out Some Cafe ever since I read about it on Megan's blog. The drive home was sunny and hot so we ordered frittata, salad and sodas. There was also a caramel slice for the road :) The Collector Wines cellar door is in the same building and it's beautiful and friendly. Fun fact: most of their wines are named after Rosaline Gascoigne artworks.

This last visit to Sydney was especially family driven. We celebrated our nephew's second birthday and spent some time with my grandfather, who has been in and out of hospital. There was also tea and The Good Weekend quiz with Tony's parents, and pizza and Pictionary at my sister's place. It's lovely to be home, it's storming and we're planning some kind of pasta for dinner. And after a week of taking a break from the news last week, we may also watch this. Have a great week :)

Weekend links

18 November 2016

I took the day off work today and it was the best decision I've made in a long time. I slept in, went for a long walk, did some Christmas shopping and had lunch with Tony. We're having homemade pizza tonight and hoping to check out this night market too. It definitely feels like the holidays are on their way. Here are a few relaxing things for the days ahead:

A Scandinavian-inspired brunch with meatballs.

Simple gifts for the home (I'm especially interested in this book).

How to make Kung Pao chicken at home.

The Food Podcast was love at first listen. I just finished the food rituals episode

I also found this podcast about farming in Japan incredibly relaxing. 

Two new presidents, two very different New Yorker covers

And I've just discovered Chris Ware's latest graphic novella, The Last Saturday.

Have a great weekend!

Canberra bus shelter cake

I made a cake in the shape of a Canberra bus shelter this week for a special city-wide bake off. The theme was Canberra icons, and I decided to make a concrete bus shelter because I'd worked on a story about them earlier in the year and fallen in love with their unusual round design. It also happened to be a super simple cake shape. Here's how it came together:

I wanted the cake to be sturdy so I baked and froze three white chocolate mud cakes on a quiet weekend while Gilmore Girls played in the background. I doubled the recipe and ended up with heaps of leftover batter, so there were cupcakes too.

The last time I made a novelty cake (a rubber ducky no less) it was rushed and messy, so this time I was a bit more organised. Earlier in the week Tony helped me sketch out the basic details of the cake, working from my bus shelter mug. He also mixed the colours for the fondant while I traced the shapes I needed and cut them out.

The next night I iced and assembled the cake with Rocky 3 was playing in the background (Tony's choice). It was surprisingly straightforward, mainly because I followed Joy the Baker's excellent how-to-frost-a-cake tutorial which meant the usual things that go wrong didn't. Eye of the Tiger helped too ;)

My office was hosting a mini bake-off that was part of the bigger event, so somehow I had to get my very tall and heavy cake to work. This was not a good way of transporting it. It almost slid into my lap at the very first turn even though Tony was driving very carefully. The rest of the drive was tense. Thankfully I had a giant sheet of baking paper to gingerly hold it in place. Next time I'm investing in a fancy box.

And here's what it looked like on the inside - like a wedding cake! Because it was such a giant cake, plenty of my work friends wrapped up slices to take home to their partners and kids. It reminded me of the slices of birthday cake I used to carry home from parties, wrapped up in napkins.

The Canberra-themed bake off was in support of PANDSI, a local post and antenatal depression support service. Supporting women's mental health is so important to me and you don't have to donate money to make a difference. Sometimes it can be as simple as texting a friend to say hi, organising an afternoon walk with your neighbour or dropping off a meal to a family member that can help difficult conversations begin.

A new cookbook + an indoor picnic

13 November 2016

I messaged my friend Maayan the other day to say that I'd found a recipe book that summed up our friendship, written by Molly Yeh who is Chinese and Jewish. Soon we were planning a picnic so I could try out a few recipes, mainly the scallion pancake challah and the homemade hummus.

We picked the worst day for a picnic - it was blowing a gale and raining in unpredictable bursts so we relocated to my apartment for a picnic inside. Tony made cups of tea for everyone while May and Sam unpacked chicken pate, cold meats, snowpeas, radishes and mangoes.

I also made a salad and had white chocolate cupcakes and strawberries ready for lunch dessert. I took a photo of the challah before it went in the oven, in case I stuffed it up mid-bake. It's filled with spring onions, chilli flakes and sesame oil.

Molly Yeh's cookbook is awesome. If you read her blog, it fills in some of the blanks about how she came to blog about food and how she met her husband, Eggboy. It's also really entertaining and packed with new recipes. I've made three things so far and I'm slowly working my way up to the cake on the cover that has suspended sprinkles inside!

Here's what else I've been flipping through lately - I picked up Sophie Hansen's Local Is Lovely at the library yesterday and added some sourdough starter to her pikelet recipe. And we're having burgers tonight from the Huxtaburger book, which was a birthday present from my friend Kristy :)

P.S If you're a Molly Yeh fan-girl like me you might also like her interview on My Open Kitchen and Radio Cherry Bombe. Recipe-wise I made lots of friends with these chocolate and green tea cupcakes (and learnt how to use a piping bag), changed my mind about tahini with this sheet cake and this quick peanut butter cake is worth memorising. Also she's the best on Instagram.

Weekend links

11 November 2016

It's been a weird week, hey? I took comfort in these thoughts and this work ethic. And after a busy week at work, I'm looking forward to a restorative weekend. What do you have planned? We'll be seeing some friends, re-watching Her and I'm making my first-ever challah. I'll let you know how it goes. Just a few things to share this week:

Things to do now.

Radio Cherry Bombe's post-election coping strategies episode is smart, nuanced and heads into surprising territory.

Eating alone in Tokyo.

Chocolate and cashew slice.

Everlane is now shipping to Australia!

And I made Molly Yeh's super quick peanut butter cake this week. It was therapeutic and delicious. I took it to work with strawberries on top :)

The market shop + a favourite treat

09 November 2016

I've never been one for meal planning but I've found a way to make it flexible and easy. Most weeks I head to the farmers markets with two meals in mind. This week it was spaghetti and meatballs (my favourite) and a sausage and kale soup. The week before it was lasagne (Tony's favourite) and Sophie's coconut Thai stir fry. Bonus points if the meals have a shared ingredient!

There are also weekly staples, usually apples, tomatoes, salad greens, eggs, lemons, yoghurt and a block of really nice cheese. All up, it's enough fresh food to last us the week and minimise food waste.

I really look forward to the market shop and there are so many to choose from in Canberra - they run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Sunday market is my favourite, I head there as soon as I wake up and it's always buzzing with people and every kind of cute dog. And now that it's warming up, I get an orange slushie (with a blood orange swirl!) for the trip home.

P.S Here's what student nutritionist Kate Levins buys each week, I've also been inspired by Yasmeen's weekly market shops and food writer Michael Pollan.

Cute shoes for Summer

07 November 2016

It was 26 degrees today and so I'm putting my boots away for another year and am on the hunt for summer shoes. Here are four pairs I have my eye on, starting with these pale suede slides that I could wear to work and on the weekend too.

My super stylish friend Irini wore these Adidas slides when she came to visit and I'm tempted to copy :)

When I was in high school I had a pair of knock-off Birkenstocks from Big W that made this horrible farting sound as I walked. Now that I have a job that pays more than four dollars an hour, I can afford this snakeskin pair to wear to picnics and the Sunday markets.

And finally this is my go-to shoe for running errands, going for afternoon walks with Tony and for holidays too. I own the same pair in black and am seriously considering a white pair.

Weekend links

04 November 2016

What are you doing this weekend? I'm making a layer cake and have a stack of new books to read (this finally arrived, so did this and it's beautiful!). And now that it's finally sunflower season, I'm hoping to pick up some happy flowers for the house. Have a great weekend:

Woman of the year.

A forest school for little people.

Sydney is changing via Lachlan.

29 recipes to make and freeze (I made the world peace cookies this week, they're a little fiddly but worth it, especially if you eat them warm!).

How to find tiny slices of joy.

The secret to love is kindness via Emily.

So excited about this.

"The more I shift my attention to people and places around me, whether it's chatting with a stranger on the subway or listening to my little cousin Goldie practice her ukulele with her hamster on her shoulder, the more beautiful I feel." Girl crush!

A gift giving challenge

03 November 2016

I love shopping for presents and can easily go overboard at Christmas time but this year I've set myself a few simple rules. Here's what I have in mind:

Making use of my local book shop

I try to support my local bookstore instead of buying books online. I feel like it's good for local business and hopefully better for the environment too. And if they don't have the titles I'm after, they're always happy to order them in. Bonus: my local bookstore has a loyalty program :)

One or two people at a time

Instead of trying to tick people off my list when I'm out shopping (and getting sucked into special sales), I'm focussing on one or two people every week. Often it's a family member and a friend. It's really nice to mull over ideas during the week and seeing what comes up.

Staying local

And I would love to limit my shopping to places I can walk or ride to, either from home or my office. There are so many great independent shops in Canberra (lots of gallery gift shops too!) and I figure it'll be a fun way to shop, and environmentally friendly too.

Two small ideas - in the past I've given family presents like a zoo pass or an oversized beach towel. My friend Angie will often pick a theme for the little people in her life, one year all of the kids received a pair of PJs featuring a print of something they love. Last Christmas my friend Sophie gave Tony and I lunchboxes and we used them that day. Can you guess which one is mine?

Listening to...

01 November 2016

I'm always on the hunt for new podcasts and last week I started getting into Death, Sex and Money from WNYC Studios. It's hosted by Anna Sale who has the gentlest way of broaching big issues and asking personal questions. She describes the show as being about "things we think about a lot and need to talk about more."

It's not a new podcast - it's been running for two years - which means there's an excellent archive to trawl through. I really enjoyed Ellen Burstyn's interview with the legendary Gloria Steinem (such a great idea to have contemporaries in conversation) and was moved by We're Not Going to Have Karl Again and this interview with a young Korean woman who talks about her life after her father's murder.

Most of the episodes are between 20 and 30 minutes which makes them the perfect length for lunch time walks or daily commutes. If you're a fan of Conversations I reckon you'll like this show too. It's a little freer in format, just as intimate and philosophical too. And while some of the subject matter may sound troubling, each interview is handled in such a sensitive and fascinating way, which makes listening in so worthwhile.

P.S If you're already a fan, there's an interview with Anna Sale on The Longest Shortest Time. And this interview about how she managed her maternity leave is also great.