Begin again

15 January 2019


I made a mental list of all the things I love doing in the final days of 2018. There was nothing too fancy, just things like picnics, yoga classes, weekends away, watching movies at the cinema, going to the farmers market, and meals out with good friends. I figured by making a list, I'd have something to fall back on during the year whenever things start to feel a little crazy.

There are a couple of things I'm being mindful of in this early part of 2019. One is rushing around a whole lot less, because I can get addicted to getting things done. And now that I'm back at work, I've been making an effort to eat my lunch and really enjoy it, without the distraction of my phone. It was weird at first (lots of staring out the break room window!) but I'm slowly getting used to it and am feeling physically better for it. I'd love to know if you're trying anything new at the start of this year, if you'd like to share :)

My yoga teacher has a lovely take on thinking about the future. Rather than setting big goals, like getting a new job, she instead thinks about how she might like to feel in a few months or a year's time, and who she might like to be then. I'm keen to give it a try.

Hello weekend

11 January 2019


Do you have much planned for the second weekend of 2019? After last Saturday's quick trip to Sydney, I'm looking forward to doing regular weekend things nice and slow. I'll be heading back to the markets, slow roasting some tomatoes for a pasta sauce, and maybe baking a giant lamington :)

The start of my year has been quieter than usual, quite deliberately. I've just started to listen to podcasts again but am trying not to have something on constantly. Same goes with lunch breaks, I'm experimenting with eating and nothing more - no reading blog posts (my fave!) or scrolling through Instagram. It's been really nice and contemplative.

To share:

I loved Alison Roman's How to Eat in 2019 for her real-life take on having people round for dinner.

10 ingredients to always have on hand.

We powered through this podcast series about Bikram yoga (and the man behind it) on our way to Sydney and back. It reminded me of Missing Richard Simmons in part (which I loved) and went to some unexpected places. Highly recommend.

One of my favourite ABC Life recipes to date, mango and haloumi tacos = summer in a taco. I'll be making this again and again until the mangoes are no more. Side note: I usually prefer flour tortillas (they're so soft and chewy) but this brand of corn tortillas are changing my mind.

And we saw The Favourite at the movies and loved it - it's almost as kooky as the trailer. So tonight we're going to watch The Lobster from the same director on Netflix :)

Catch you next week!

Favourite books 2018

08 January 2019


Did you read anything great in 2018? I read a mix of new (and hyped) novels, memoirs, graphic novels and essays, and managed to finish more than 40 titles (I didn't have a goal but totally counted!). My favourite place to read is in a cafe, because I'm less distracted by my phone and... all the things I could be making in my kitchen.

Cafe reading usually happens about once a month, often when I'm travelling for work and getting breakfast out on my own, or if it's a really great book, I'll ride to work extra early and stop for a coffee midway and squeeze in a chapter or two. It's one of my favourite things to do on holidays, with Tony usually excited to sit and draw. But most days, I read right before bed :)

I shared my faves from the first half of the year but wanted to make an updated list of my overall highlights. With books, my biggest win for 2018 was relying heavily on the library for most of my books, including new release cookbooks. I reserve lots of titles, as early as I can, which means something new is waiting for me most fortnights.

Novels

If you're looking for something entertaining that's also heartfelt, I really enjoyed Less by Andrew Sean Greer. It was one of the funniest books I read last year that was scarily relatable in parts. I also loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

When it comes to epics that take you into other cultures, families and relationships, I'd recommend An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I've also just finished If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim, which reminds me of Pachinko in some ways and Grave of the Fireflies too.

The Female Persuasion was my first Meg Wolitzer book, and will definitely read more. I could totally relate to the main character's understanding of feminism changing and evolving - especially as she enters different life stages.


Non-fiction

My all-time favourite non-fiction book was Alone Time: Four seasons, four cities and the pleasures of solitude by Stephanie Rosenbloom, a travel writer for The New York Times. Each chapter focuses on a topic, like the art of savouring food or how we often feel the need to capture solo experiences with our phones. The writing moves effortlessly between Stephanie's experiences as a traveller and academic studies and theories. I liked it so much I bought a copy after retuning a borrowed one to the library.

I read a lot of Obama related books this year! To Obama, With Love, Joy, Hate and Despair by Jeanne Marie Laskas tracked the two terms of the Obama presidency through the thousands of letters sent to his office, and interviews with the staff who organised and read them (as well an interview with Obama himself).

We Were Eight Years in Power was a denser and more difficult read but it broadened my understanding of African American history as well as contemporary US politics. There's an essay in it about Michelle Obama that touched on what it's like to grow up in a neighbourhood surrounded by your own kind, which helped me understand what I only encountered racism later in my life. I also read his earlier book Between The World and Me, that's written as a letter to his son. It's excellent and if you're picking between the two, I'd recommend reading it first.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders helped solidify my approach to spending money, and buying things more consciously if at all. It was also a revealing book, and wasn't just about minimalism as an ideal.

And in the lead up to Christmas, I listened to Leigh Sales read her latest book Any Ordinary Day. I am very easily spooked by tragic accidents and terrorist attacks, and could relate to how being in a newsroom can make you hyperaware of all these things and more. Each interview in the book seemed intimate, happening at her house of the individuals, so it was extra special to listen to this as an audio book.

Memoir

I love love loved Dolly Alderton's Everything I Know About Love because it's very much a book about finding out who you are (often the hard way), the beauty that comes with close friendships and the comfort that can come with being alone.

I listened to Becoming by Michelle Obama, because she reads the audio book. I may have written this here before but I found her book so affirming, and looked forward to listening to it after work and on weekends. I am trying to hunt down a copy of the book so I can look at the pictures :)

I also enjoyed two NYC-themed books, Sloane Crosley's Look Alive Out There, which is actually a book of very funny and surprising essays. Also Mari Andrew's Am I There Yet? was the perfect book to read in a transitional year, and before starting a new job.

Let me know if there's anything great that I missed!

Summertime feast with gravlax and sorbet

04 January 2019


After roasting a chicken on Christmas Eve, baking a ham on Christmas morning and then a pavlova roll on Boxing Day, I came to my senses and decided to leave the oven alone. For New Year's Eve, the entire meal was made without heat, which was just as well because we'd had a run of days over 35 degrees and no air conditioning at home.

I bought myself a copy of Alison Roman's Dining In for Christmas and made her gravlax using some whiskey leftover from the Christmas ham and dill leftover from a salad. My mother-in-law Wendy makes the most delicious gravlax as a Curran Christmas tradition, and I was nervous making my own, because I hardly ever cook fish and have never cured anything in my life.

We had a back up NYE plan to go out for tacos but ended up eating the delicious salmon with sparkling rose, fresh bread and butter, and a simple salad with an addictive dressing I discovered on Christmas Eve.


For dessert, there were retro sorbet cups served in grapefruit halves, which were super refreshing, and some fancy chocolate my brother brought all the way from London. I bought the best sorbet I could find (blackcurrant and fig), and am still working on my sorbet swirling techniques.

It was such a special but easy summer dinner where everything's made in advance, and just ready to be served. I'd make again for friends, or just a Saturday night :)

Hope you've had a wonderful start to the year - still can't believe it's 2019.

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