Birthday wish list

23 July 2017

I'm turning 33 in less than a month! On the day, I'm planning to climb a mountain and pack a donut and coffee picnic :) It falls on a Sunday so I might even make my own cake, inspired by this London bakery. Here are a few things I'd love to receive, starting with the latest issue of Cherry Bombe magazine, with Martha Stewart on the cover.

A silk pillowcase, because I always wake up with creases on my face!

This cookbook of Japanese cult classics, so I can make yakisoba and katsu-don at home. I've borrowed a copy from the library a few times and the recipes are straightforward and achievable. One cookbook is never enough... I also have my eye on Salt, Fat, Acid Heat. There's so much buzz about it!

My brother makes the best playlists - I am still listening to the ones he made for my wedding a few years ago! I asked him for an updated one as a birthday present. I'm listening to his show while I wait.

And I'm keen to give a Kindle a go, one with an inbuilt light for early morning reading. I recently packed two books for a four-day work trip, including one hardcover!

Weekend links

20 July 2017

Just a handful of things to share this week because I'm about to head off on a trip! I'll be travelling to Sydney, Adelaide and Darwin for work and my head is still spinning from all of the prep. Right now, I'm getting excited about trading my puffer jacket for a singlet and maybe even going for a swim. Mostly edibles this week:

Lazy butter chicken.

Ira Glass is now a sandwich. If you're a fan, I thought this interview was great.

Do you ever trade recipes at work? I hear Nigella's pea and pesto soup is quick and delicious.

And my friend Kristy added me to the Chat 10 Looks 3 Facebook group this week. I was a bit intimidated at first but it's filled with people sharing recipes, cooking fails and articles. Let me know if you need an add.

P.S - I hope you're well! X

Dark chocolate and caramel brownies

19 July 2017

In July, I made a lot of brownies. Maybe it's because the days were much darker, and colder, than usual. There were also celebrations big (new babies!) and small (winter solstice), and a few intensely busy weeks too. Baking a batch of brownies became my default response.

These brownies can be made in one-bowl and come together really quickly. They're fudgy and rich, and are best eaten with one hand. That makes them especially good for new parents, road trips and unfussy dinners with friends. They also freeze well, so you can have them on hand for especially cold or ordinary days :)

Dark chocolate and caramel brownies
Adapted from Round to Ours by Jackson & Levine

You'll need:

100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped*
125g unsalted butter, cubed
200g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt
80g plain flour
20g Dutch-process cocoa
12 pieces of caramel-centred chocolate (Nestle's Rolo requires no chopping, I've also used Cadbury's Caramello bars, and quarter teaspoons of Nutella in a pinch!)

* It's worth buying the nicest cooking chocolate you can afford. I use Lindt's dark bittersweet buttons, which are 58% cocoa. Lindt Dessert is 70% cocoa and can be found at most supermarkets. Other cooking chocolate will give you a slightly sweeter and less chocolatey brownie.

Here's how:

Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 28 x 20cm brownie tin. You can also use a square 20 x 20cm cake tin and make thicker brownies. Line the tin with baking paper and let it hang over two of the sides to create a sling. It'll help you lift your brownie out of the pan later.

Fill a small saucepan with a few centimetres of water and warm it slowly, on medium heat. Place your chocolate and butter in a bowl and rest it on the saucepan's rim. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. As the water starts to steam and simmer, the butter and chocolate will gradually melt. Mix them together with a wooden spoon.

As soon as it's melted, take the chocolate mixture off the heat and mix in the sugars with a whisk. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking after each addition. Then add the vanilla extract and half of the salt and whisk again.

Sift in the flour and cocoa and whisk slowly until just combined. Pour your batter into your tin and smooth the top with a spoon. Before you pop it in the oven, add your chosen chocolate. Gently push it into the brownie batter at regular intervals. Sprinkle the remaining salt over the brownie, crushing it up between your fingers as you go.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or up to 30 minutes if you're using a square pan. The top of the brownie will be a pale brown and starting to crack when it's ready. You can also use a skewer to test for doneness. The brownie will continue to set as it cools, so don't worry if the skewer comes out a little sticky.

Let your brownie cool before slicing them. This recipe is a good one to make the day before, you can leave the brownies in the tin overnight and cover with a beeswax wrap or clingwrap. Aside from freezing well, these brownies can also survive the post! An entire batch of brownies makes a very good gift, and if you add candles it's a birthday cake :)

Weekend links

14 July 2017

What's on for you this weekend? We have tickets to see The Beguiled (we're watching it in the afternoon because of the gory bits) and I might make my favourite chicken curry. It takes a bit of time, so it only gets made once a year :) For the weekend:

Make your own mushroom burger.

The nicest Instagram feed.

Really enjoying through this book about minimalism (and powering through it!). You can sample it here.

Wise words from Miranda July.

A fascinating (and slightly terrifying) read about life on the road, with social media. #vanlife

And if you're a fan of Broad City, Abbi Jacobson has a new podcast called A Piece of Work. It's all about contemporary art - she visits MoMA each week with a friend and chats to gallery staff about an artist or a period of work.

Cute mail project

11 July 2017

The other night I sat down to write out a recipe for Naomi Bulger's Meals in the Mail project. I found out about it through Pip and love the idea - you share a recipe that's special to you and post it to Naomi's PO box - no email submissions allowed. She's going to collate them into a coloured book and send a copy to everyone who submits a recipe. How nice is that?

I wrote out a dark chocolate brownie recipe that I've been tinkering with, trying to make it extra fudgy and rich. I'll share it with you next week, it comes together really quickly and brightens ordinary days.

If you want to be part of Meals in the Mail, you still can! Your recipe has to be postmarked by this Saturday, July 15. I almost chickened out because I can't draw and lots of the submissions are beautifully illustrated. But I'm really glad I did it. There was something lovely about sitting down to write a note on a Monday night.

P.S Here's what also went in the post today... a Bill Murray pin! It's on its way to my sister-in-law. I hope it makes her laugh :)

Staying warm and happy

09 July 2017

Since it's the middle of winter, I've been making a special effort to plan ahead, so I don't go stir crazy while the days are icy and grey. The first step is dressing for the cold. On weekends I live in thin merino jumpers from Uniqlo, a black down jacket, and my pom pom beanie (similar), which is equal parts warm and silly.

Then I go outside. On weekends, I've been going on long walks while the sun is out. I walked up Mount Taylor on Saturday and listened to this fascinating podcast about the gut with writer and medical student Giulia Endres. It was recorded at the All About Women Festival and you can also watch the presentation and see all of the funny illustrations.

After that it was time for a big bowl of food. We went out for ramen and miso sweet potato poke bowls at Lazy Su. For weeknight dinners, I am loving Joy the Baker's bowl of food series - the baked eggplant and creamy polenta bowl is next on my list.

And finally, a few things to look forward to... Sofia Coppola's remake of The Beguiled comes out on Thursday (check out the trailer for the original!). And on my to-bake list are these chocolate fondants with sea salt.

(Chocolate fondant photo by Khoollect.)

Weekend links

07 July 2017

How was your week? Mine was peppered with lots of good things, squeezed in around work. We tried out the new ramen bar near my office, sampled the sunniest lemon tart, and I treated myself to breakfast out to catch up on some reading. I'm hoping to go on a hike this weekend and have a poke bowl while Tony's busy in the studio. Things to share:

Pizza toast. Cute and easy.

My dream pyjama-style shirt.

I love today.

funny wedding card.

Tempted to give parkrun a go, have you tried it?

A decadent winter dessert.

And I'm saving the latest episode of How to Be a Girl for a big weekend walk.

Girl power

04 July 2017

How great is this poster? It's free to download from The House That Lars Built and it's by illustrator Libby VanderPloeg. I'm going to print a copy and save it for the little studio space that I'm slowly pulling together at home.

The poster was inspired by In the Company of Women, a thick book of thoughtful interviews by Design*Sponge founder Grace Bonney. I treated myself to a copy when it came out last year and have scribbled down so many great quotes.

Over the weekend, I started listening to Violet Sessions, a podcast that comes out of Violet Bakery in East London. It's hosted by Claire Ptak, who owns Violet Bakery, and journalist Danielle Radojcin.

I especially enjoyed their conversation with Penny Martin, editor of The Gentlewoman magazine and this funny chat with broadcaster and supper club host Alice Levine.  (Side note: check out Alice's pretty apartment!)

And finally, here's something I stumbled across in a comments feed on Instagram from Nirrimi, whose blog I admire. She was responding to a comment about her friendship with another talented photographer Georgia, - "I have a saying, don't be jealous be inspired."

Hope you're having a good week!

Weekend links

30 June 2017

We're gearing up for a cold snap, it's meant to get down to minus seven over the weekend! I was meant to leaving for a week-long work trip on Sunday, which has since been postponed, so I feel like I've scored a bonus weekend. I'm quietly excited about staying rugged up at home. Here are a few bits and pieces:

Baby Angie's Register of Kindness.

How to help.

Before the internet... I used to make collages in notebooks! What about you?

Kitchen envy :)

A sweet baby blanket (makes me want to bring out my sewing machine!).

When you're too lazy to make a pie, there are always galettes. Sweetsavoury and cheesy.

I love Japanese fusion pastas and will be trying out this one over the weekend.

And if you're looking for something fun to read, I've reserved this book from the library. The first two in the series were hilarious, especially as audiobooks.

Enjoy your weekend!

Three of a kind: Chocolate cake

29 June 2017

Every now and then, life calls for a good chocolate cake. I still remember the one I grew up baking, it came from a pink Family Circle cookbook and was the cake on the cover. It had two layers, lots of buttercream icing and a pile of chocolate curls stacked neatly on top.

I remember mixing it up in a big plastic bowl that was '70s brown. I also remember making it with my sister at our grandmother's house. We invited our younger brother to sample the 'yummy' cocoa and water mixture, which I still feel bad about it!

In the decades since, I've settled on three favourite recipes:

Smitten Kitchen's 'I want chocolate cake' cake is my go-to recipe because it's unfussy and totally satisfying.

Magnolia Bakery's super rich chocolate cupcakes are denser than any cupcake you can buy and excellent with Molly Yeh's green tea frosting.

Finally, if baking a chocolate cake the size of two roasting tins appeals to you, Ruth Reichl's giant chocolate cake will do the job. It feeds 20 and it's also a great base for novelty birthday cakes :)

P.S Don't feel like cake? Here are my five favourite choc chip cookie recipes.

An easy weekend

26 June 2017

This weekend was a good one. We watched Dave Chapelle's Block Party (it's still so good, here's the trailer if you haven't seen it), had a brainstorming cafe date and went out for dumplings with my friends from work. This was just half our order...

There was also a visit to the farmers market in sub-zero temperatures, and brunch with a friend at the botanic gardens. I've been clearing out my bookshelves and sharing books I've finished with friends - turns out it's a good excuse to catch up too.

It was one of those weekends when there seemed to be enough time for everything. I made granola for the first time in ages (this peanut butter and honey one is lovely), went for walks in the winter sun, napped and almost finished my book.

Not all weekends are like this (I wish they were!) and it was a good reminder to let the small things slide every now and then in favour of a relaxing weekend.

Weekend links

23 June 2017

It was cold and foggy this week so I bought a new pair of gloves, slept in and gave my bike a rest :) After a packed week of work, I'm very relieved to see the weekend. We're going to eat dumplings with friends, and on Sunday I'm catching up with my very first Canberra friend. For your weekend:

A tiny mission for this week (I made a submission!).

My ideal work outfit (plus a few TV shows to check out).

A would-be 'terrorist' on trial via Jacqueline.

I needed a new cosy jumper so I ordered this!

Are you a Twin Peaks fan? I've never seen it but after listening to this podcast I'm keen to check out the remake!

And a kale and coconut curry for Sunday night dinner.

See you next week!

Gatherings + a winter solstice dinner

22 June 2017

On Saturday afternoon I raced the sun, trying to make it up Mount Ainslie before sundown. My friend had sent a text earlier in the day - Saturday marked her mum's birthday and she was hosting a celebration at sunset to remember her.

I parked my car and walked around quickly, looking for the group at the mountain's summit. I saw them huddled beneath big bunches of coloured balloons and ran to join in. It had been a grey day but the sun broke through as it headed for the horizon.

The balloons were passed around and as I looked up at mine, I thought of my grandfather. Late last year, my friend's mum was starting to get sick just as my grandfather began to spend more of his time in hospital. Sadly, neither would see it through 2017.

After we released the balloons and watched them float away, there was birthday cake. It was blackforest, the birthday girl's favourite. I made a mess trying to slice and plate it in the dark but it still tasted good. We said our goodbyes when it was too cold to hang around talking, just before the fog crept in.

The gathering followed an afternoon tea at my neighbour's apartment. She made lemonade scones and we carried a still-warm lemon slice downstairs. We met our neighbours in the carpark when we moved in, they were a few weeks away from welcoming their daughter. Now they were packing up their house, ready to move to Wellington and wanting to give us their TV.

I spent Sunday picking up supplies for my first-ever winter solstice dinner party. On my list - red wine, gooey cheese, pork sausages, broccolini and a jar of fancy cooking chocolate. I made the lazy movie night spread from the Round to Ours cookbook, so there were spiced nuts, a sausage and fennel pasta and a big plate of brownies to finish.

Sabine and Andy joined us - both of their husbands happened to be overseas - and they brought the best gifts! Andy arrived with a container full of homemade bliss balls and Sabine gave us supplies for mulled wine, for the next freezing night.

Having a small celebration to mark the solstice had been on my mind for some time, ever since I read about an annual summer solstice ritual in this beautiful book. My week so far had been stressful so hosting a midweek dinner actually brought a bit of the weekend to the house :) We lit candles, filled up on winter food and stayed up late listening to music as we cleaned up. I forgot there was work the next day.

Fun stuff

18 June 2017

Even though I was sick for part of last week, there were a few things that made my days comfortable and happy. At the top of my list - Sleepover, a Canadian podcast hosted by Sook-Yin Lee. The premise of the show is zany - three strangers meet up with the host and spend the night together at a hotel. Each guest brings a problem they'd like some help with and three episodes are born.

The very first sleepover features an eight-year-old who can't read, a grumpy old man (think Carl from Up) who has control issues, and a 25-year-old Buzzfeed writer who isn't speaking to her dad. It's surprising and hilarious, and it would be a good podcast to listen to on a road trip with friends. It also made me miss Mystery Show.

Phoenix have a new album, Ti Amo, and it's an instant mood booster. J-Boy and Goodbye Soleil are my favourite tracks, I've also been revisiting this album from 1998!

I stumbled across a beautiful new cookbook the other week while I was shopping for a birthday present. Round to Ours is by Laura Jackson and Alice Levine, who run a supper club together in London. I have lots of cookbooks but this one is especially inviting. It's organised into events, from winter feasts to movie nights with friends (and pasta). It's worth it for the salted caramel brownie recipe alone.

Fun fact: Alice is from the My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast. The girls also have a funny online show called My Pop-Up Restaurant.

I bought these heat-tech socks from Uniqlo last year because they looked cosy. They're super warm and not too expensive. I've been wearing them on freezing morning rides and to bed at night :) And while we're kind of on the topic - these briefs are the best.

Weekend links

16 June 2017

Happy weekend to you :) I hope you have something fun planned. We're going to eat curry and watch Bottle Rocket tonight, it's the only Wes Anderson film I haven't seen! Just a few things to point in your direction this week:

The best 25 films of the 21st century (so far).

'Race is only one element of difference' - stories of interracial marriages then and now.

A fun round-up of great American home cooks featuring writers, fictional characters and old-school food bloggers.

Are you baking anything this weekend? I'm going to try these whole lemon bars.

Finally, this essay by Helen Garner looks at how one woman came to drive her children into a Victorian lake. It sounds tough but it's also illuminating and moving.

Three mid-year goals

15 June 2017

I'm terrible at setting big-picture goals (too scary!) but small ones, I can handle. Right now I have three - including making more time to read. If I'm up early, I stop into a cafe on the way to work so I can read a chapter or two before the day gets away. Dinners have also become simpler to free up time, we're making quick tortellini and big batches of soup.

I'm also planning to make a jar of snacks for my yoga studio. It's not a big project but I was inspired by a great quote about creativity in Lee Tran Lam's zine about work. It comes from Beth Taylor, who's described as a 'serial multi-tasker':

"Of course I would love more time for my creative work, but I'm trying to take the approach that I want my whole life to be an expression of creativity - so doing things like gardening or going on a bushwalk and thinking random thoughts. Not just seeing it as needing to have a certain number of works finished. My latest project was getting a street library for our street."

Finally, I'm trying to focus on one thing at a time. Lately, I've been really good at stressing out on weekends as I think about alllll the things I could be doing in the little time I have left. Chilling out is never on the list! I found this article from Cup of Jo so helpful.

Aunt life: Baby gifts, simplified

13 June 2017

I put a brownie slab in the post today. It was wrapped in foil, sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard, and then carefully slid into a padded bag. I hope it arrives in tact. The parcel is on its way to my friend Jemma, she had a baby girl a few weeks ago. Aside from the salted caramel brownie, there was just enough room in the package for a cute onesie and a handwritten note. When Jemma had her first baby, she asked me to make a breastfeeding cover with nipples on it... so I did.

When my friends first started having kids, I wanted to give something big and useful as a way of cheering them on and helping them prepare for the new baby. Back then I saved up for baby bags and slings but these days my gifts are a little simpler.

I've been sending two things - something soft and practical for the baby like a onesie or a bunny rug. Halycon Nights has awesome prints as does Target, which I discovered through Jodie's blog. Then I send something delicious for the rest of the family - like a big batch of choc chip cookies.

P.S How beautiful does this book for families sound?

Weekend links

09 June 2017

What do you have planned for the long weekend? I'm going to check out this market, make a big batch of meatballs and Skype my brother in London :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my last post on Facebook and Instagram! I treated myself to a magazine subscription to celebrate my job news and have a bunch of new ideas for posts. For your weekend:

A kid's drawing transformed into cake.

Seven things we can do to combat climate change.

Did you see the dancing policeman at One Love Manchester?

Life as a stay at home dad.

(Almost healthy) peanut butter fudge via Frankie.

I watched Wonder Woman last weekend and loved it! Surprisingly it was 80 per cent story and 20 per cent action.

And I've been listening to the 74 Seconds podcast, which tells the story of an African-American man who was shot dead at a traffic stop in Minnesota last year. His girlfriend streamed the immediate aftermath on Facebook Live. While it doesn't sound like an easy listen, it's an important story that's told sensitively.

Catch you next week.

A small favour + some news

07 June 2017

Can I ask a favour? I've been thinking about this space for the last little while and wondering about the kinds of things you'd like to see here. After reading this post, my brother Derrick asked if I'd ever write more about some of the meatier topics I mentioned. My friend Adele asked if I'd make short videos for the blog, like I do for work.

When I started this blog, I was living in Wagga Wagga and I had a simple goal - to share things that I would rave about to my own circle of friends, whether it was an observation about marriage or a recipe for an amazing cake (this one comes to mind). I'd also grilled a cake recently (by accident) and wanted to show that life get messy sometimes, even if that's not what we see online.

I've loved interviewing like-minded women about everything from style to bold career moves to baking for Annabel Crabb. Our move to Canberra felt big and it took some time to settle in, and work out when I could blog when the pace of life felt so different.

A few things have changed since then. Last week I was thrilled to make the shift from being a contractor to being a permanent staff member. It's a huge load off my mind. It also made me think of this space and how I can use my time to make sure I'm writing about things you care about too.

So if you have a moment, I'd love to know what's on your mind these days. Is there anything you'd like to see more of here? Something you used to see and miss? Over to you and thank you for sharing this space with me :)

How do you work?

05 June 2017

I stumbled across a great quote about work at the hairdressers the other day. It was part of this tongue-in-cheek exit-interview with the cast of Girls, as the series finished up. The show's executive producer, Jenni Konner, asked the questions and I especially loved Lena Dunham's response to what she would change about her time on the show:

"Making my deal with HBO as a 23-year-old woman, I felt that I had so much to prove. I felt like I had to be the person who answered emails the fastest, stayed up the latest, worked the hardest. 

As much as I love my job, I really, like, injured myself in some ways. If I had felt like, "You're worth of eight hours of sleep, not four; you're worthy of turning your phone off on a Saturday," I don't think it would have changed the outcome of the show. [But] I could have worked with a sense of joy and excitement, rather than guilt and anxiety of being 'found out'. 

Can you relate? I used to pull some crazy hours when I was in my twenties and am much more sensible these days (and productive too!).

Weekend links

02 June 2017

Did you have a good week? Mine featured everything from Nutella donuts to the flu shot, with a few early starts mixed in for good measure. We have simple plans for the weekend - a walk in the winter sun and a visit to the National Indigenous Art Triennial. I hope you stay warm and cosy. A few things to share:

Pizza chicken!

A plant-filled apartment (and daily rituals worth copying).

One man's living wake.

An old-school way to keep warm.

I love lists like this - the best podcast episodes of 2017 so far.

"How much should I be judging you on your life decisions?"

The cosiest dinner set up.

Sydneysiders - this Beci Orpin workshop looks like so much fun.

And I'm tempted to try this video diary app. Have you seen it? Here's some inspiration.

Winter prep

31 May 2017

I've been watching movies and TV shows set in winter to ready myself for the season :) Last Sunday it was Manchester by the Sea (so intense!) plus most of Master of None season two was filmed during a snowy New York winter. Now I'm excited about beanies, patterned coats and feel brave about leaving the house.

Make-believe winter aside, I'm a bit more prepared for my second winter in Canberra. Most of it comes down to having the right clothes. While we were in Melbourne, I bought a top and a dress from the Obus merino range. I'm happy to report they're warm, flattering and rarely need a wash.

On rides to work, I'm wearing thick ear warmers (bought on sale in summer!) and two pairs of gloves. I also have a puffer vest that my friend Angie gave me for my birthday last year. It keeps me cosy around the house and while I'm working on my veggie patch or doing the market shop.

And after a two weeks at home, we now have pumpkin soup, spaghetti bolognese and ready-to-bake choc chip cookie balls in the freezer. Let's do this.

P.S Here's one more (heart-breaking) winter flick.