Favourite books: a mid-year recap

29 May 2018

Somehow, I've managed to read 20 books this year. Relying on library books has definitely helped - they come with an inbuilt deadline, which can be as short as two weeks if it's a new release. Reading also helps me wind down, so I always have something on the go. Here's a quick look at what I've read and loved:


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman was funny, totally relatable in parts, and heartbreaking too. I read it over Easter and was devastated when it was over - I loved the main characters so much.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee was my first epic of 2018. I found it all-consuming in the same way that A Little Life was, only far less traumatic.

Our Town by Thorton Wilder is a classic play that I read for the first time this year. I am fascinated by the minutiae of other people's lives and the beauty of everyday life, so this play felt profound. (This podcast is an excellent companion piece and introduced me to the play in the first place).

(I also read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng but didn't find it as captivating or believable as these three).


And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O'Connell. The most expensive book I've ever bought on my Kindle but I was desperate to read it after sampling this excerpt. It was totally worth it. I am still researching life with kids and found it raw and honest. I only wish it had been longer.

Am I there yet? by Mari Andrew. I follow Mari on Instagram and love her observations of life, its challenges and the crazy ways we relate to each other. This is a memoir with her classic illustrations and written essays and it's great. It's also one of the few books I've bought this year.

Drop the Ball: Achieving More By Doing Less by Tiffany Dufu. Tony and I are trying to share household chores more equally, especially as our jobs change. We've made a start, and while I didn't always relate to the author, this book helped me consider some of the things that've stopped me from doing less. One example: I'm fussy about what I eat, so have made most of our work lunches. Now we take turns, swapping every other day, and I eat what I'm given (and am grateful!).

Talking To My Country by Stan Grant I've mentioned here before. Having spent some time in the Riverina region of New South Wales, I had a strong sense of the places he wrote about from his childhood. The writing is powerful and the book showed me how much I have to learn about the history and experiences of Australia's first people.


I whizzed through Rupi Kaur's two poetry books, The Sun And Her Flowers and Milk and Honey. Poetry normally intimidates me but Rupi's poems are both simple and powerful. They come with a good dose of feminism and insight into what it's like to be a woman of colour today.

The Uncommon Feast by Eileen Chong. I often feel conflicted about my identity, being Chinese Australian. I worry that I'm not Chinese enough because I don't have any language and know very little about holidays and traditions. Eileen's poems, essays and recipes made me feel like I had more culture than I realised, and not all of it is food related :)

And books I've reserved...

Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright
Staying by Jessie Cole
You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (I loved her Death, Sex and Money interview)

P.S Let me know if you're read something great - new or old.

Hello weekend

25 May 2018

It's the start of an extra long weekend for me :) Canberra's newest public holiday is this Monday, to mark the start of Reconciliation Week. We have lots of fun plans. I'll be making an apple pie to take to a friend's place and on Sunday we have tickets to see Zach's Ceremony, which looks incredible. But for now, it's all about leftovers, Netflix and catching up on some much needed sleep. To share:

I've been scrolling through Quarter Cup Crisis, a fun food newsletter about upping your dinner game in your twenties.

The happiest birthday cake.

A nutritionist who craves McChickens - a fascinating first trimester recap.

Michelle Obama has been sharing some sweet photos on Instagram this week, including this college snap and a photo from her wedding day.

A typical day in Venice sounds delicious.

This week I finished Stan Grant's Talking To My Country and highly recommend it. It's a challenging but important read.

Did you watch the royal wedding? I loved that people of colour featured so prominently in the ceremony and on TV. This article best summed it up for me (NY Times). Also... my friend Sarah made this fun discovery: you can listen to songs from the wedding (and the wedding itself!) on Spotify.

I sampled the Soul Music podcast this week and am obsessed. Each episode features personal stories that are connected to a well known song. I've managed to listen to five episodes in as many days, True Colours and Can't Take My Eyes Off You were my faves.

A more disturbing listen - The Daily takes a look at a conspiracy theorist who believes the Sandy Hook school shooting never happened.

P.S Since the start of this year, I've been making monthly donations to AIME, the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience. I'm also looking for ways to mark Reconciliation Week and plan on checking out this exhibition.

Food for the week

24 May 2018

This might sound strange but I've just worked out our weekly food shop - 10 years after leaving home! These are the basics we'll get through each week, with a bit of wiggle room when it comes to making quick dinners and work lunches. It's nice to have a list that doesn't change much, and a fridge that's almost empty at the end of the week.

Here's what's always on the list:

Apples and bananas for snacks.

Berries if they're in season, to make packed breakfasts a bit more exciting.

Avocados and tomatoes for work lunch sambos.

Baby spinach for smoothies, emergency tuna pasta and chickpea salad (a super easy weekday lunch).

A bunch of parsley for salads and soups.

Lemons for avocado toast, pastas and salad dressings.

Yoghurt for lazy breakfasts, porridge and curries.

Milk and bread.

Things like carrots, celery, onions, eggs and cheese get bought a couple times a month if that. If we're both home for the whole week, I'll also shop for ingredients for two dinners.

And just in case you're wondering, I look after 95% of the food shopping as a trade off for Tony doing all of the laundry! I love grocery shopping -  this was my favourite book as a kid.

Am I missing something delicious or great? Let me know!

Hello weekend

18 May 2018

It's been so nice having my sister in Canberra, especially this week because we were able to celebrate the launch of The Motherhood together. Carla wrote a chapter of the book (you can read her contribution here), and after the Canberra event, we went out for a fancy meal to mark the occasion. I'm going into the weekend a little under the weather so my plans are very simple. I'm hoping for croissants and coffee, and hopefully a movie too. For your weekend:

"Can you make a decision on your own?"

The soundtrack of my week. 

Double denim.

Chickpea sandwiches seem to be everywhere... and now I want to make one! (But which one?).

Can't wait to see Tully. It's written by Diablo Cody, who also wrote the script for Juno.

Finally, my royal wedding treat (baguette not included).

P.S Thank you to Sarah for this pic!

A mind trick

16 May 2018

My friend Irini introduced me to a sweet little saying that's been keeping small worries at bay. It's super short: the universe decides.

For a champion worrier like myself, it's a good reminder not to stress too much about the things I have little control of - or can't change.

And while we started using it when we were planning a trip we both wanted take but couldn't quite commit to, I've found that it applies to so many other parts of my life, big and small.

P.S I've been experimenting with the Headspace app this week. I'm four days in and enjoying the guided meditations - and the super cute animated vids that explain how it all works!

Hello weekend

11 May 2018

It's suddenly freezing in Canberra, so I'm layering up and making ragu. I planned a tiny cabin stay for this weekend - only I accidentally booked one that was too far away! We've postponed the trip and now have a surprise weekend at home. I reckon we'll see this exhibition and go out for poke bowls... or just stay close to the heater, order pizza and read. To share:

What pregnancy feels like via Erin.

I listened to Dolly Alderton's podcast Love Stories this week because I love The High Low. The latest episode with writer Marian Keyes is lovely (her Irish lilt!).

Love this bamboo cutlery set for picnics and lunches on the run.

Success at work ;)

So curious about raw tomato sauce for pastas.

Two books I'd like to read: Curtis Sittenfeld's latest and Sloane Crosley's book of NYC essays.

Making friends as an adult can be tricky but sweet, which is why I loved this episode of Nancy.

A new favourite banana bread, with chocolate and crystallised ginger.

Tiny brag: Tony's in the Salon De Refuses at the S.H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney, which is the second-cut of the Archibald prize. It opens this weekend!

"No person can be summed up by the best or worst thing they've ever done."

And I'm going to watch this week's Four Corners, 'I Am That Girl'. Read the article here. Thank you to the brave women who told this story.

A date night trick from Terrace House

06 May 2018

Tony and I are obsessed with Terrace House. It's a Japanese reality show where six strangers, always three guys and three girls, share a house. Unlike Big Brother, the cast can leave the house to go to work or uni, and exit the show whenever they want.

We're in the middle of the third Netflix season (new episodes come out on May 22 - we've been checking!), and are waiting to see how a few new relationships pan out. Dating is a huge focus of the show, and the dating culture is pretty formal. Usually one of the cast members asks someone they're interested in when they're free. Once they settle on a day, the asker starts making plans.

I love the surprise element of the dates. So the other day I asked Tony when he was free and planned a mystery date for him. He asked a lot of questions - what he should wear, when he should be ready - and it was heaps of fun. We ended up going to his favourite cafe to try out the dinner menu. I drove the long way to there to keep him guessing :) A few weeks later he returned the favour, and planned dinner around my favourite dessert in the city (banoffee pie!).

My most recent surprise date for Tony was an artist talk at the National Gallery of Australia that was part of the Terminus exhibition by Jess Johnson and Simon Ward. We're both big fans of their virtual reality and video work, having stumbled across it on trips to Melbourne and Sydney. It was cheap and super cheerful afternoon - the gallery talk was free and we rode our bikes, stopping on the way home for lakeside beers and snacks.

Our Terrace House inspired dates have been fun. Having been together for 10 years (!), we're used to deciding on date activities together... which sometimes means discussing some of the finer points - like do we have enough money in the bank that week? On surprise dates, the person who asked pays :) It also reminds me of those early months of dating where you don't always know where you're going and are up for pretty much anything.

Hello weekend

04 May 2018

Hi! What are your plans for the month of May? I have one small goal - to go for a walk every day, even if it's for 10 minutes, because it helps to clear my head. I think I can do it. I hope you have some nice weekend plans! We're going to see Jess Johnson give an artist talk (her video work is trippy), and I'm planning to get souped up porridge at the markets. Making my week:

Nicole Byer's podcast Why Won't You Date Me? is super funny, real and an instant mood shifter.

I made a lemon olive oil cake this week that was dense and delicious. Here's the recipe, only you'll want to switch the oranges out for lemons.

Two nutritionists take us on a tour of Woolies and share their healthy picks. I especially loved their cereal aisle selection. (Check out Kate's Instagram story highlights if you can't see it).

If you're looking for something new to read, Caroline and Kate have us covered. Meanwhile Joy's all over the latest cookbook releases.

Hoping to make these peanut butter and chocolate brownies on Sunday.

And the best thing I saw this week was my two-year-old nephew blowing out the candles on his birthday cake. It's crazy seeing someone do something for the very first time.

Simple dinners + a weekday vegetable soup

01 May 2018

What are you having for dinner these days? We love pasta (this quick tuna pasta gets made every other week) but we've also been on the hunt for other quick meals. Here are two we've enjoyed recently:

Sweet potato tacos, which looks complicated by mainly involves roasting sweet potato with spices and making some quick pickles.

Mother-in-law salmon, made with pantry ingredients but fancy enough to serve to guests.

About once a month, I'll make a simple vegetable stock on a lazy Sunday. I use the pot we use to boil pasta (instead of our 20 litre stock pot!), and simmer it for as long as I can. It becomes a cheat's minestrone on Monday or Tuesday night, which usually lasts until Friday, when Tony will make something fancier for dinner.

The secret ingredient is... parmesan rinds, so hang onto them :)

A minestrone style soup for autumn 

For the stock, you'll need:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
An onion, quartered with skin still on
A carrot or two, roughly chopped
Two stalks of celery, roughly chopped
Any other uncooked veggies that you have lying around, such as potatoes, zucchini, cabbage, tomatoes, also roughly chopped
A small handful of parsley, with stalks
1-2 bay leaves
A few peppercorns

Here's how: 

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and then add your firm vegetables (such as onion, carrot, celery and potatoes). Cook for a couple of minutes until beginning to brown and then add any soft veggies you're using (like zucchini, tomatoes and cabbage).

Add any herbs, I usually use parsley, bay leaves and thyme, along with some peppercorns then fill the pot with cold water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes.

Strain the mixture and then store it. My pot fills a big container for minestrone during the week, and fills a small container which is frozen for future meals (like this one-pot french onion pasta).

For the minestrone, you'll need:

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2-3 small potatoes, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
A large pinch of chilli flakes, optional
1 zucchini, diced
1-2 tomatoes, diced, also optional
About 4-6 cups of vegetable stock
A 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2-4 tablespoons of pesto
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
A parmesan rind (or three)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan, to serve

Here's how:

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, then add the onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the carrots, celery, potato and any other firm vegetables you're using and cook for another two or three minutes. Add the garlic and continue to fry for a minute, seasoning the mixture with salt, pepper and pinch of chilli flakes. Then add zucchini and tomatoes if using, and stir gently for a minute.

Add a tin of tomato, pesto, chopped parsley and stir. Then pour the vegetable stock over the mix and add the parmesan rind. Bring the soup to a gentle boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes.

To serve, remove the parmesan rind and season to taste. Serve with grated parmesan and crusty buttered bread. Or a grilled cheese toastie that's buttered on both sides :)