Snapshots from Sydney

28 February 2017

I caught the early bus to Sydney on Sautrday to hang out with my family and celebrate my special nephew's third birthday. I came home on Sunday night with a stash of presents and a belly full of treats. Here are a few photos from my phone:

On Saturday morning I decided to brave the sideways rain and pick up a box of fancy donuts on the way to my grandmother's house. It was worth it - after lunch my Dad and I sampled all the flavours and ranked them. He went back for seconds, eating them in reverse order so he could end on his favourite.

Later that night I showed my grandmother what Facebook looked like on my phone, after she pulled out an old article about the charity Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chan set up after their daughter was born.

Before I left Canberra, I made a batch of sugar cookies for my honorary nephew Bryn who turned three last week. I really wanted to make a number three cake for him but didn't want to brave the bus with it! The cookies were a hit - I lost count of how many he ate :)

My friend Vanessa organised a picnic at Nielsen Park for the party and it was a beautifully sunny but not too hot Sunday. We ended up having a mini treasure hunt, hiding presents behind bushes and rocks. I chose a Duplo digger set, which he loved.

I came home with some surprise gifts! Vanessa gave me a hefty fry pan from France as a belated Christmas present - it's meant to be sturdier than a cast iron skillet. My mum gave me a funny eye mask and my friend Jill lent me a copy of Julie Koh's short stories, which I'm going to start on the weekend.

After a full year in Canberra, the novelty of living so close to Sydney still hasn't worn off. I fell asleep on the bus home and am already planning my next trip to see a play and try Ume burger.

Weekend links

24 February 2017

What made your week? For me it was cool morning rides,  chilled green tea and a new magazine :) Tony's busy prepping for an exhibition opening so I'm heading to Sydney to hang out with family and friends. I'm packing three types of cookies and will share a few pics next week. Until then:

Everyday underwear.

Apartment envy parts one and two (make sure you check out the illustrations!).

My idea of a romantic dinner.

Words to ponder.

A memorable birthday party.

This ad gets me.

Winding down with this old-timey playlist.

Chocolate and cinnamon twist bread - with sourdough!

And we just booked tickets to Chimerica.

Dispatches from my kitchen

22 February 2017

My kitchen has pale pink tiles, appliances from the '80s and a walk in pantry. I'm there on Monday nights, making yoghurt and listening to music as I ease back into the week. And this year I plan to spend more of my time prepping food for other people.

I didn't make any resolutions at the start of the year, just a wish-list of fun things to do (try out boogie boarding, sample a Manhattan - that kind of thing) and some loose goals. One of them was to make meals for friends, family and colleagues more often, which perfectly suits my introverted self :)

Here's what I made this month:

One of the first things I made was a three layer coconut cake for a 40th birthday party my workmate was throwing for his partner. I loved working on something so celebratory. I found a few sparkly candles at the cake shop in town and spent a night listening to TLC while gently throwing desiccated coconut at the freshly iced cake. It was messy and fun. My friend sent me a photo of his partner blowing out the candles while he held the cake and it made my day.

I made a plum cake for my grandmother the night before we drove to Sydney for my grandfather's funeral. A friend from work had brought in a huge container of dark purple plums from her mother's garden and baking the cake gave me a real sense of purpose.

After the wake, my extended family gathered to partake in a Chinese tradition, where you eat something sweet after a funeral so you can remember all of the good memories you have of the person. We shared my cake, ate mini Magnums and passed around bags of butterscotch lollies and jubes. We laughed and joked and it felt good.

My most recent dispatch went to one of the reporters at work and his wife who are expecting their first baby any. day. now. It was a good excuse to use my new cookbook and bake a batch of coconut choc chip cookies. I managed to stash a lasagne in our freezer too, which always feels good. And inspired by Yasmeen's cute little snap, I bought a packet of nappies with smiley face pears on them too. I don't expect every month will be this busy but I'm happy to be off to a solid start :)

Weekend scenes

20 February 2017

The next few weeks are going to be busier than usual so I decided to keep things slow on the weekend. I slept in, listened to my favourite podcasts (and can recommend this mini-series, parts two and three) and made a big batch of meatballs.

I caught up on some reading too and loved this interview with Jazmine Hughes, who is 24 and an editor at The New York Times Magazine. One quote really resonated with me: "I'm trying to be a person that says to people, 'That makes me feel uncomfortable.'" May we all have the courage to speak up when we hear casual racism and sexism.

Do you have anything exciting planned for the last week of summer? I am going to make this the week I go to bed on time :)

Weekend links

17 February 2017

This week I embraced bike shorts (so I can cycle in dresses) and was floored by Moonlight. Have you seen it? It's the most thought-provoking film I've seen in some time. I hope you have a fun weekend ahead - I'm going shopping for cookie cutters tomorrow and making spaghetti and meatballs for dinner :) Here are some things to share:

Make your own Monte Carlos!

Are we living in a bubble?

Love this poster.

Lin-Manuel Miranda on creativity (his Galentine's Day playlist has been powering my week).

What is Sharia law?

I can't wait to pair these mini meatloaves with this chocolate pudding when the weather cools down.

Why a black Bachelorette is a big deal.

And the first part of this episode of This American Life is so good.

Easy banana ice cream

16 February 2017

It's been a long hot summer but I've found a way to cope - homemade banana ice cream. Right before the last heatwave hit, I picked up some cooking bananas at the markets and stashed them in the freezer. The plan was to make smoothies but many batches of ice cream were made instead :) 

Easy banana ice cream
Serves 2-3

You will need:
2 bananas, frozen and chopped into small pieces
75g greek yoghurt
2tsp honey or more to taste
A dash of vanilla extract

Here's how:

Place all of your ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture into a plastic container and freeze for 30 minutes. Using a fork, mix the ice cream in the container, taking care to scrape around the edges. Freeze for another 30 minutes or up to three hours, depending on how firm you like your ice cream. Just be sure to stir it every 30 minutes or so.

One hour will give you a frozen yoghurt-like consistency, Tony prefers it at the three hour mark, when it can be scooped like ice cream.

Try topping it with dark chocolate chunks or you could even make your own ice magic while you're waiting for it to set :)

Books I read this summer

13 February 2017

I read a bunch of different books over summer from a memoir to a Japanese novella. I even read a psychological thriller by accident! Here's a quick round-up:

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
My friend Kristy sent me a copy of this Japanese novel from 1987 that includes the novella Moonlight Shadow. I got into the story straight away, it's reminiscent of Haruki Murakami novels from the same era. It's a mysterious and lovely story that had me craving a katsu curry.

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me by Bill Hayes
I love books set in New York City and this one was particularly special. I received it a few days after my grandfather died and it brought me a lot of comfort and joy. It's about moving to a new city and starting again while grieving. But it's a love story too - the writer starts a relationship with Oliver Sacks. It's a book I want to buy for friends and it comes out in April.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
I enjoyed the quiet drama of this book, the characters and the writing too. It was surprisingly addictive, which meant it was over all too quickly. It reminded me of Modern Lovers, except with a little more action.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb
I spotted this book on Anne's Instagram (which is great for book recommendations) and was immediately intrigued by the title. It's a fun and practical read that's helped changed the way I spend (and think about) money. Tony enjoyed it too. The chapters are short, so it's a good one to read on lunch breaks or while travelling.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
This book featured in two of my go-to reading lists but I panicked when I picked it up from the library -  'Unsettling, psychological horror...' was printed on the cover. I finished it quickly (I can't handle suspense) but it's not a genre I'll be returning to anytime soon.

I'm starting Messy tonight. I normally read novels (non-fiction sometimes makes me feel like I'm still at work) but I've heard a few podcast episodes with Tim Harford and could learn to live with a bit of chaos :) If you're curious, he pops up in these episodes of Hidden Brain and Planet Money.

I am always on the hunt for recommendations - especially for novels. Are you reading anything great at the moment? My sister-in-law recommends The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

P.S Here's how to find more time to read.

Weekend links

10 February 2017

I hope you had a great week. I managed to do some yoga, check out a storytelling night and visit my favourite Japanese diner. I'm planning to see a movie this weekend to soak up the air-conditioning and we might do an early Valentine's Day brunch (I'm keen to check out this cafe). Have a great weekend :)

A clever drink bottle for hot and cold days.

A cute (veggie) cookbook.

Let's make frozen honey cream.

The best supermarket cheeses, ranked.

Love, interrupted.

Three physical sunscreens.

A cool profile of Australia's first school lawyer.

Loving this upbeat album.

Who puts broccoli on a pizza?

Weaving with tree branches.

And 12 romantic books that won't make you gag :)

The news today

07 February 2017

How are you keeping up with the news in these crazy times? I work in a newsroom, which means I absorb a lot of local news but lately I've been try to get a greater sense of what's happening overseas - specifically the US.

Just today I started listening to The Daily, a new podcast from The New York Times. It recaps the biggest stories and issues of the day in a way that's not quite news, analysis or a documentary but somewhere magically inbetween.

A new episode comes out every weekday and they're around 15 to 20 minutes, which makes them easy to listen to on the way to or from work. So far, it sounds like a few of my favourite podcasts combined - it has the brain power of The New Yorker Radio Hour and the down-to-earth style and surprise of Radiolab's More Perfect. Here's an episode I found especially fascinating.

P.S I'm a big fan of Insiders when it comes to keeping up with politics at home.

Checking in

05 February 2017

We made it back to Canberra last night, just in time for dinner. After a few emotional days in Sydney, we baked a homemade pizza and watched a funny movie to unwind (it still made me cry!).

It's lovely to be home. I've been leafing through library books (inspired by Emily) and freezing bananas so I can make some no churn ice cream later tonight :) It's been so hot! Tomorrow I'll be heading back to work and tuning into the Four Corners Trump special at night.

What've you been up to? And how are you feeling now that it's February? My friend Amy is writing a letter every day this month!