Life lately

30 August 2019

By the end of today I'll be on holidays, just in time for the first week of spring :) Tony's off too and I'm excited about sleeping in, going out for breakfast, and working my way through an ever-growing list of recipes to try. We'll also be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary at the end of the week - time flies! Here are a few notes rom the last month or so, which has been packed with birthday celebrations, trips to Sydney and some new challenges too.

Cooking, eating & pot luck:
This last month of winter has been dominated by roast chicken and soups. I made an anchovy butter roast chook with chunky croutons and a herby chicken with ginger,lemon and thyme. I now understand that roast chicken and buttery baguettes go together very well. Also on high rotation - porridge with golden syrup.

We hosted our very first pot luck dinner recently. I am so used to planning entire meals when friends come round, so it was a bit of an experiment to have everyone contribute a dish. Tony made his specialty - pesto spaghetti from scratch. Our friend Rinaldo brought his best dish, a buttery and oniony Chinese-Indonesian chicken stir fry that was both sweet and salty. It was excellent over rice. I tried a friend's recipe for a Swedish apple pie and will share the recipe here soon - it's super fast and comforting. Even though our dishes were very different, as a meal they magically worked. It also shaped the vibe of the night, with everyone contributing in their own way and no one single person feeling like the host.

Birthday fun (and the greatest cake):
It's normal for me to freak out a little before my birthday, fussing over how I could or should be celebrating it - almost like it's a personal New Year's Eve. But for some reason, this year that just didn't happen. My birthday crept up on me in the best possible way. We spent the weekend beforehand on a special cabin trip and I had a day off, and saw my sister who gave me a present on behalf of all of my siblings. They'd organised it across three cities, which made it extra special :)

I was in Sydney the week after my birthday and used it as an excuse to go to Sean's Panorama for another celebratory dinner with friends. We ate mussels, oysters and pasta by the sea and ordered all of the desserts, including the creamiest cardamom and passionfruit curd ice cream that came with pistachio shortbread.

Sticking with the belated theme, I made a birthday cake the following weekend. It was a recipe test for a go-to celebration cake I commissioned for work to coincide with the project's first birthday. I am so excited to share the recipe.  It's a one-bowl vanilla cake (with a hint of cardamom) with the greatest and fluffiest choc-hazelnut icing. It happened to pop into my inbox on my birthday too!

Novels & non-fiction: 
It's been an excellent month for novels. I sped through The Farm by Joanne Ramos and Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner - they only lasted a week each. Every night I was busting to head home and read a little more. Of the two, I enjoyed Fleishman is in Trouble the most. It was slightly stressful in parts but also comedic and enlightening too - and reminded me of another book I loved, Less by Andrew Sean Greer.

I've started a new non-fiction book this morning, Bee Wilson's The way we eat now: strategies for eating in a world of change. I'm thinking of adding a memoir, for the times I feel like something a bit more escapist. A Half Baked Idea by Olivia Potts is on the top of my list. It's about a British woman's transition from law into food.

Other stuff:
I challenged myself to apply for a more senior role last month and interviewed for it recently. Going for a job definitely changed the pace of my weeks and gave me something extra to work on after hours. Plenty of good people were willing to share their advice, not just for getting the job but how to challenge myself at work regardless of the outcome. It's been a lot to take in - the application process, feeling extra self-conscious after the interview, the goodwill and support. It threw up some big questions about work and life too. I've learnt a lot from the process and now that it's behind me, I'm excited to get out of my head think about things other than work.


Life lately posts are inspired by Heidi's Happenings.

Hello weekend

24 August 2019

I'm coming to you a little later this week because I've just come back from a trip to Sydney. My days and nights were very full, so I treasured little pockets of quiet where I could find them. A solo breakfast at a favourite cafe, a morning walk through my old neighbourhood listening to a playlist my brother made me (he has a music podcast too!), an early yin class. I've had the nicest start to the weekend - the Canberra writers festival is on and I'm just about to take an apple pie to a friends place for dinner. As always, here are some good things to share:

Grace Bonney on how to know when it's time to move on (and how it feels).

I am counting down the days til Kate Berry's cookbook comes out (this coming Tuesday!) and found this lovely interview from a few years ago about the five things that inspire her.

I'm going through an eggplant phase and this black pepper eggplant is high on my to-make list.

A beautiful essay about the joy of solitude and what happens when it turns into loneliness, told through food. I love this recipe column so much.

And the latest quick and tasty dinner from Julia Busuttil Nishimura for ABC Life - a Japanese chicken and egg bowl with rice and edamame. We're already big fans.

Catch you next week!


Eco hut adventure

17 August 2019

We stayed in an eco hut in Gundagai last weekend - an early birthday treat. It was our second off-the-grid trip (we stayed in a tiny cabin last year) and I loved how the absence of electricity set the pace for our visit. We stayed busy keeping the fire going, read books while it was still light, and found creative ways to cook with a handful of supplies. It was also a lovely excuse to pack my camera and take a few snaps. Here are a few faves:

The hut was on top of a hill and we arrived just before it started raining for the night. The trip coincided with the polar low (it snowed in Canberra the morning we left!), so we stayed close to the fire and tried not to venture outside unless we really had to. That meant boiling water on top of the wood heater, which probably took two hours. We were super excited by the time we could make and drink tea.

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Fleishman is in Trouble from the library and it's easily one of the best books I've read all year. There is so much action (and lots of sex 😳). It's such a clever (and scary) reflection on how we live today.

We talked about making Lotus burgers on the BBQ for dinner but decided to wing it instead. I'm glad we did because it was not the greatest weather for cooking outside. Instead, we stopped by our favourite cafe in Jugiong for lunch and picked up some supplies. There was delicious pasta from Griffith NSW, plus smoked trout dip, crackers and cake.

I raided the breakfast supplies as soon as we arrived, and made a pasta sauce using the bacon, roasted cherry tomatoes and baby spinach we found in the esky. Tony managed to cook the pasta on top of the wood heater and grilled some greens there too (broccoli, brussel sprouts and sugar snap peas!). He'd made some chipotle salt and a lime vinaigrette before we left home and our dinner was a triumph.

Later that night we ate chocolate and marmalade cake, tucked into some red wine and played chess (I lost, as usual). Then it was time for bed. I am super glad we had a roof over our heads because it was a windy and wet night. We were both a little relieved when it was light again and the rain eased off. Tony got the fire going again and we were grateful for hot showers with fancy soap, and steaming hot drinks in bed.

Before it was time to go, I ventured outside to make eggs and heat up baked beans that'd been left in our esky, along with the leftover greens. I love cooking on a camp stove and the surrounding paddocks seemed extra green after a night of heavy rain. And then it was time to drive back down the mountain, in search of coffee and the road back home.


Hello weekend

16 August 2019

I turned 35 on Tuesday and feel very celebrated. There has been plenty of cake (chocolate, carrot, banoffee pie!), hangouts with friends, and some fun gifts - including a wheel of camembert! This also might explain why this week's offering is a little scant. Nevertheless, for your weekend:

I started listening to the Book Larder podcast this week and am so impressed by the quality of the interviews. Book Larder is a specialty cookbook store in Seattle. I started with the Ruth Reichl episode about her latest memoir.

Side note: I've recently switched from Apple podcasts to Spotify for podcast listening. I am a nerd and was following the acquisition of Gimlet Media by Spotify and was wondering how it'd impact the discoverability of podcasts - something that can be really clunky. So I checked it out. It's much easier to scroll through the archives of podcasts and I've found it to be a better user experience. Nerd alert over.

Two recipes I'm keen to try - Anja Dunk's speedy apple cake via Sophie. And this one-pan Thai curry via Leslie.

And a recipe I can vouch for - green baked eggs from ABC Life. I made this twice in two weeks, that's how delicious the test version came out. I find it hard to eat my five serves of veggies per day  and this recipe definitely helps. Plus it's dinner and brunch friendly!


Hello weekend

08 August 2019

Hi there! I'm writing to you on a rainy morning with a milky tea and honey on toast for company. I am looking forward to having lasagna for dinner (I bought one from a pasta stall at the markets, and am so excited to try it) and have a long weekend of my own making ahead! We're going away for the weekend, for an early birthday celebration and then I have an extra day at home to get ready for the week and maybe bake a birthday cake. Some nice things to share:

Super wise words from actor Beanie Feldstein (she's in Booksmart and Ladybird). Especially this on missing out: "Now every time I go into an audition, I think - this is either going to be me or some other girl. And if it's the other girl, it's going to be the best day of her life... I love my work very hard. I'm deliberate and committed. So if something is meant to be, I know it's meant to be. And if it's not, that opportunity belongs to someone else."

I am soo late to this party but I started listening to 2 Dope Queens last weekend and am an instant fan. The advice episode with Tig Notaro was so funny it interrupted my cooking :) Also, Michelle Obama. Their Spotify playlist for Women's History Month is also super fun.

So keen to try this popular Smitten Kitchen recipe - one-pan farro with tomatoes. I have cooked with farro once before and it was a disaster but I feel like Deb would never let me down.

And a funny cartoon about doing your best.

Catch you next week!


Tiny joyful things

07 August 2019

Because it's Wednesday, I wanted to share a few things I look forward to every single week. They're tiny joyful things that are part of my routine and help to punctuate the week. Let me know if you have any too! I'm always looking to add lovely things to my day-to-day.

On Monday mornings, I read Sophie's newsletter before breakfast, usually while stirring some porridge. It's a gentle way into the week and it's usually filled with recipe and podcast suggestions, bright pictures and reflections on the season. Monday is also the day a new Unstyled podcast episode drops, and I'll save the episode for a bus ride home later if the week (if I can manage it).

Midway through the week, a favourite blog column comes out. It's called The List and it's written by Leslie of Cupcakes and Cashmere. I have her author page bookmarked on my phone, and it can be the nicest way to unwind after getting home from work.

Round about the same time, a new episode of The High Low comes out too, just as I'm craving something funny/cheery to listen to before and after work.

Anywhere between Thursday and Saturday, I get excited about doing the market shop. It's when I gather ingredients for new recipes I want to try (for work or just for fun). Most weeks I stop at a farm shop in my lunch break or on my way home, and get to the markets every now and then. Or I convince Tony to make a date out of it, and we drive to a favourite produce stand in a nearby town and stock up on veggies after brunch or coffee out. There is something about the colours of the produce and maybe the possibility too that makes me feel so happy and creative.

On Saturday, kind of like how the weekend paper used to be a morning ritual for me, I read Cup of Jo's list of links from the week and always find something to read or enjoy. Erin posts a lovely end-of-week wrap too, and the stories she links to are always surprising and broad-ranging.

And something that happens throughout the week - coffee after my yoga class. The teacher normally brews the coffee, and it's always a lucky-dip to see who sticks around to hang out. Last week, after class coffee came with bonus homegrown lemons.


Hello weekend

02 August 2019

Happy August! I am so excited for the weekend. I had a bit of a teary start to the week (for no apparent reason), which prompted me to make more joyful choices for the remainder of it. You have to make things easy for yourself sometimes! We had the nicest a mid-week dinner out (katsu curry, dumplings and honey ice cream did the trick) and I squeezed in chapters of my book before bed. I have lots of little plans for the weekend ahead - a trip to the farmers markets (I tend to chicken out in winter cos the mornings can be so icy), making a batch of bolognese and watching Booksmart at the movies. Hopefully after eating this burger :) Here are a handful of good things to share:

On our drive down to Sydney last weekend, we listened to a couple of episodes of Heavyweight, including Alex and Rachael. I hadn't listened to this show since it came out a few years ago, and it was just the thing for the drive - funny, surprising and entertaining. A new season starts soon.

If you're a fan of The High Low, I really enjoyed this How To Fail episode with one of its hosts Pandora Sykes. I tuned in while mixing up a lemon syrup cake one weeknight which felt perfect. I listened to the Samin Nosrat episode just yesterday - and especially loved her final failure.

I am daydreaming here, but how nice does this NY yoga studio look? Via Passersby.

This stir-fried lettuce bowl with ginger fried rice (and an egg!) takes me right back to my childhood, when we ate wok-fried lettuce covered in hoisin sauce. This recipe looks simple and delicious.

And if you've hit your pasta quota already this winter, try this warm kale salad instead. It was gobbled up in our house and I'll be making it again soon.

P.S If you're in Canberra on Saturday, Tony's having an open studio day.