South Coast beach holiday

31 January 2017

We've just come back from a few days on the coast. We lucked out with sunny days and no snakes and spent our days swimming, reading and exploring new towns. I took plenty of pics! Here are a few of my favourites:

We stocked up on the best kinds of supplies before we left and packed a box of pastries, some nice red wine, a pile of DVDs from the library and chocolate too. It was a hot day and we stopped in Braidwood for cold coconuts and chicken sandwiches at this cute corner cafe. From our window seat we watched a huge convoy of cars heading back to Canberra. Our late booking was paying off.

We rented this beautiful house in Bawley Point. Each morning we had breakfast on the deck and at night Tony made pizza. We took turns in the hammock and I flipped through the entire cookbook collection. Without any reception, I read two books my friend Kristy sent me for Christmas and we found ourselves hooked on the tennis finals :)

We haven't taken a decent road trip since we drove to South Australia at the end of Tony's PhD. It was so nice to spend time by the sea. We swam every day and I watched the waves crash on the beach before dinner. There were two beaches we could walk to but my favourite was Mollymook beach, where the water was calm and icy and there were striped beach umbrellas everywhere.

My friend Sarah sent me a list of her favourite places to visit in Milton, Mollymook and Ulladulla, which made our first trip to the coast super easy. We had veggie burgers and espresso shakes at Pilgrims and took a class at this cheery yoga studio. I loved the little produce shop at Milkhaus, a wholefoods canteen just outside Milton. And we stopped at Cupitt's winery and bought bottle of wine to save for our wedding anniversary and filled Tony's growler too :)

One morning a loud chorus of crickets woke us up before dawn, so we wandered down to the beach to see if we could catch the sunrise. There was a lot of sea mist about, ahead of a hot 40 degree day, so we didn't see much. I did love noticing the subtle changes in light and the arrival of fishermen as the day began.

I came home with a few souvenirs - a funny top, a market bag and tiny mementos from the beach. It's back to work tomorrow but it will be an extra short one. We'll be heading to Sydney at the end of the week to farewell my grandfather. I'll be taking a short break from blogging while I catch up with family but I'll be back next week with more good things to share. Until then, take care xx

Weekend links

27 January 2017

We're packing our (borrowed) boogie boards and heading to the coast this weekend and I couldn't be more excited! We've chosen books and DVDs and are looking forward to being a few minutes from the sea. I'll share a few photos next week. In the meantime:

How inspiring were the Women's Marches? I loved these signs my friend Emma took.

Related - how to fight fake news.

I've been listening to this documentary series all week.

Love this roadside stall.

Obama read 10 civilian letters every day via Joy.

Have you heard Solange's latest album? I play it non-stop and especially love the commentary on race relations in between songs. Brave work.

Lucy Feagins of The Design Files on her daughter's first year.

And I'll be trying these beet burgers :)

P.S I wanted to share something. My beloved grandfather, we called him Goong Goong, died last Friday. He was 88, a very lucky Chinese number. I will miss him so much. He's the last person I saw when we left our wedding reception in 2014. We had a daytime wedding and so had a bubble farewell, instead of one with sparklers. I'm sure I said 'Bye Goong Goong!!' three times but he was too busy blowing bubbles.

I am doing fine. I am sad but in the last week I've learnt so much about his life outside our family - I found this tribute illuminating his dedication to the Chinese community in Australia especially comforting.

And one more thing - it's amazing how all kinds of people show their love and support. From my girlfriend who stayed up late chatting when the news had finally sunk in, to my manager who wanted to know more about him and whether he left a memoir (he did), to my cousin Mel, who sent me a message as soon as she heard, when I hadn't found a way to tell anyone. It makes me see that we can  help each other in so many ways.

Lucky dip dates

26 January 2017

I've borrowed a sweet idea from Sydney stylist Megan Morton. A year ago I read that her family jots down fun activities on pieces of paper and pops them into a vase. It becomes a lucky dip when they have a pocket of free time to spend together.

Inspired by the idea, Tony and I have started a date book, which is filled with different kinds of activities we'd like to do together. We spent a lot of last year exploring places to eat in our new hometown so we're trying think of things other than eating :)

So far we've checked out a cute speakeasy's jazz night where we sipped gin fizzes and ate a huge bowl of olives. We happened to go on a stinking hot night, which was especially great because the bar was underground and air-conditioned - something we don't have at home.

And last Sunday we hiked up Mount Ainslie before breakfast, which we've been meaning to do for almost a year. Mount Majura has gone into the book for another time :) I'm yet to convince Tony to go for the lucky dip idea but for now it's been really fun - and we feel like we're getting heaps more out of the city.

P.S We've also started doing chore dates, which is mainly an excuse to eat ice cream after Sunday errands :)

Two lunch goals for 2017

24 January 2017

I ate a lot of peanut butter and banana sandwiches in the last working weeks of 2016, when my brain was on auto-pilot and I traded lunch prep for sleep-ins. Thankfully I'm starting the year with a bit more variety :) What am I eating? Souped-up sandwiches like this broccoli sub and Sophie's delicious pumpkin burgers, which means roasting a tray of veggies when the oven's on.

I've also started stashing a big bowl of cooked rice in the fridge, so I can make these rice bowls with eggs and salad greens (I have an avocado quota!). There's also been pesto pasta and I'd love to copy the tomato, provolone and basil sandwich from Monster Kitchen sometime soon.

Ever since I watched Cooked and picked up a copy of Michael Pollan's Food Rules: An Eater's Manual I've been trying to reduce the amount of processed food I eat. We used to buy ham and turkey for sandwiches so it's required a bit more creativity and preparation but it's been worth it - I haven't missed lunch meat at all.

My second lunch goal was inspired by Erin, who blogged about minimising household waste in 2016 (she posted an honest progress report too). I picked up some beeswax food wraps just before Christmas and have found them really easy to use for snacks like banana bread and sandwiches. They're far prettier than cling wrap too :) Combined with a small collection of lunch boxes, glass jars and a reusable sandwich wrap and snack bag I am making progress.

What are you taking for lunch in these hopeful early weeks of 2017?

Weekend links

20 January 2017

Did you have a good week? Mine was busier than usual and ended on a mellow note. So I'll be taking it easy this weekend - we might go for a short hike and my friend is putting on a backyard movie night. I'm bringing mangoes and raspberries :) Here are a few uplifting things to share:

Farewelling Michelle Obama.

A bright red strawberry crumble.

I love this lunch box!

What to worry about.

Thought-provoking questions to ponder at the start of 2017.

Five slices for Australia Day (I'm making the oaty ginger one).

More beautiful writing from Nirrimi.

Perfect for this time of year - three-ingredient recipes.

And here's another episode of Strangers that moved me.

New year, new podcasts

18 January 2017

Are you listening to anything great at the moment? I've just started getting into podcasts again after a long break over summer. Right now, I look forward to getting home from work, putting on an episode of Strangers as I start to make dinner and unwind.

I really loved Eleven Up, which came recommended by my most favourite e-newsletter. It was a fascinating story that didn't shy away from big ethical questions. I've since enjoyed Jo & Fayaz  (I love love stories - Tony makes fun of this all the time) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman.

The host, Lea Thau, has an incredibly gravely voice and is generous with her commentary too - you learn as much about her life as you do the people who feature on the show. And a fun fact: she also created The Moth podcast and The Moth Radio Hour. So if you love true stories about strangers - I think you'll love this podcast too.

Speaking of podcasts, I've also been dipping in and out of Hidden Brain after discovering it through This American Life last year. Getting Unstuck is particularly great for this time of year.

Coconut and cherry muesli with almonds

15 January 2017

We've just come out of a mini heatwave (it was 39 on Friday!) so I mixed up a big batch of muesli for the week instead of baking granola. Homemade muesli is super quick to make and a bowl keeps me full until lunch time, which is a very rare thing :)

Coconut and cherry muesli with almonds and extras
Serves 4

You will need:
2 cups of rolled oats
1/2 cup of shredded coconut, dried cherries, almonds
2 tbsp pepitas
2 tsp bee pollen (optional, we have a jar in our pantry from making these smoothies. I add it for texture and colour, plus it's meant to be really good for you too!)

Here's how:
Roughly chop the dried cherries and almonds. Place all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Serve with a generous dollop of greek yoghurt, half a sliced banana, a small handful of raspberries and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey. Store the remainder in an air-tight container.

I'm excited to try different combinations of fruits and nuts in the coming weeks, like dried apricot and hazelnut. If you have a nice jar on hand you could easily give this as a gift to new parents or a friend with a lot on their plate.

P.S Five recipes to make for friends

Money well spent

12 January 2017

My attitude to spending shifted last year, prompted by a switch to contract work and our move to Canberra. Inspired by Emily I thought I'd share some of the best things I bought last year, starting with an everyday staple - Aldi's organic spaghetti. I bought it on a whim and noticed the difference right away. It's surprisingly delicious for dried pasta!

I bought a serious raincoat that's windproof too so I could ride my bike all year round.  I love that it's black, looks good on and does its job. It keeps me super dry in the rain (it's more effective than an umbrella most of the time) and the high neck keeps the winter chills out.

This little bottle of peppermint oil has brought me a lot of relaxation, especially at the end of long days, or when I haven't been feeling well. I squeeze a couple of drops into the shower which makes peppermint scented steam that's instantly calming. Mine's from Muji and a $20 bottle is still going strong after a year - even though I've taken to using it daily :)

My sister showed me this Moki Bluetooth mini speaker when I stayed at her house last year. Hers is bright pink and she uses it to play music for her daughter, wherever she happens to be playing. I copied and use mine daily to listen to podcasts while I'm getting ready for work, making dinner or to play music if I'm doing some yoga at home.

Chipotle Tabasco is a discovery my friend Angie made - she puts it on rich pasta sauces and lasagnas to give them an extra kick. She owns a giant bottle from Costco and I found this bottle at our local supermarket for $5. We put it on pizzas, pastas and oysters if we're being fancy and love it for being smokey and spicy at the same time.

I sorted out my sunscreen situation last year and use Mecca's To Save Face Superscreen 50+ every day and in the warmer months, I'll wear Aesop's Protective Body Lotion too. I'm happy to report that both sunscreens last a long time and smell and feel great too, which can be hard to come by in a sunscreen.

And here's my biggest purchase of last year - a Trek Lync 5 commuter bike, which I bought on sale. I went from riding a fixie to having 27 gears and integrated lights! I managed to clock up over 1,000 km last year and solved so many problems riding to and from work. I de-stressed too. While it was a big purchase, it's saved me a lot in parking fees and a gym membership too. And I love that it's all black :)

Summer 2016

10 January 2017

I had a glorious three weeks off over summer. I watched The Crown, tried a whole bunch of new recipes and hung out with friends at the beach. Here's a little look, starting way back on Christmas Eve...

Before we left for Sydney our neighbour Pia dropped by with a small gift and a bauble for our tree - she was giving one to every apartment in the building. Earlier in the month someone wrote Joyeux Noel!! on the whiteboard and by the end of December it was covered in festive messages in lots of different languages. Tony and I mainly contributed pictures :)

Tony's family had a dinner on Christmas Eve, so I spent the morning baking a few sourdough loaves before we drove to Sydney. We grazed on my mother-in-law's annual gravlax and played cars with our nephew before it was time to open presents and eat. It was a humid night and my sister-in-law served up the yummiest cheesecake for dessert, with a thin layer of whipped cream spread on top.

My extended family packed into my aunt's house on Christmas Day for lunch - all 23 of us. I spent most of the time with my three-year-old niece. I gave her a jewellery box with Emma Wiggle inside and she loved winding it up and watching her spin. My uncle made the best lasagne because his son mainly likes to eat cheese :) We had turkey, ham and prawns too before digging into the panettone I'd made.

We made it to the beach twice during our four day stay in Sydney :) We had a quick dip at Balmoral Beach on Christmas Day and a breakfast picnic with Tony's family. Even though it was packed, I saw a family offer up their shady bench to an older couple who were looking for a spot.

On Boxing Day we went to visit our friends who live in Coogee. We shared our Christmas spoils for breakfast and ate mangoes with yoghurt and golden syrup (which is a revelation), homemade cookies and special nut chocolates before walking down to the beach for a swim.

After braving the holiday traffic, we made it home and finally slowed down. We ate meals on the balcony, rode our bikes into town and read new books we picked up in Sydney. I even managed to make a zine for friends and family that's filled with my favourite recipes from 2016, which felt great.

I'm going to miss the sleep ins, the movie-watching and the decadent desserts but in a couple of weeks we're heading to the coast for a beach holiday. We booked too late to stay after Christmas but now it seems like very clever planning :)

Plus I've figured out one little way to hang onto the spirit of the holidays - I've made a list of new things I'd like to try like a Manhattan, boogie boarding and a recipe cinnamon scrolls. I'll keep it close as the year kicks into gear.