Chiffon cake and nice weekend things

10 October 2020

The very best thing I did last week was bake a passionfruit chiffon cake for my parents who came over for lunch. It was the first recipe I tried from the Beatrix Bakes cookbook and the same cake I ordered when I visited the bakery back in 2018. It was so tall and fluffy and tasted just like the real thing :) After a rainy week, we're going to head out for a lunch in the sun and zone out. It was a short week but a big one. Some things to share:

Helen Garner's lockdown diaries interview on the 7am podcast is great. I especially love how the interview almost ends. Via Jess.

One of the nicest things I listened to all week was this conversation between Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton about how they collaborated on Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. It's another podcast by Hrishikesh Hirway :) 

I finally watched Knock Down The House, the Netflix doco about AOC's election that follows three other first-time female candidates.

If you're a fan of Lindt balls, guess what? They come in block for too! My friend Jen sent me one in the mail and it's a revelation. 

Sky Ting yoga's 20 minute strength practice comes with its own playlist and goes fast. I loved taking a look into one of the co-founder's tiny NY apartment complete with a bathtub in the kitchen.

Cup of Jo's Ultimate TV guide looks great! We're going to start Olive Kitterage because I loved the books and Bill Murray co-stars.

And a little bit of wanderlust - camping in Zion National Park, Utah. We're hoping to book a coast holiday soon, it's been so long.

Have a nice weekend!


October joy

04 October 2020

There's the news and everything else 2020 has thrown our way and then there's rainbow birthday cake. I made this for my niece's party and found sorting Skittles into colour groups to be a very calming and mindful activity. Tony encouraged me to make the biggest rainbow possible and it was such a happy cake, art directed by the birthday girl herself with vanilla cake and hidden lollies inside. 

My parents are here for the long weekend and my niece's birthday. We haven't seen each other since June and are enjoying the simple joy that comes with sharing meals and exchanging gifts - just-read books and propagated plants.

Here are some other lovely things gathered throughout the week - hope you're having a lovely weekend:

Bryan Washington on what it means to be a cafe regular during the coronavirus pandemic. A beautiful piece of writing that's less about special occasion restaurants than the casual places we visit most weeks.

Tips for hotel quarantine if you need them. A soda stream sounds genius. 

A highlight of this week was Alana Dimou's food zine arriving in the mail. She chronicled some of the meals she made and ate during the first lockdown. I love the writing (so honest and funny), the gorgeous food photos and the occasional recipe too.

We've been watching The Trip to Greece the TV series, which is on iView. The movie wasn't my fave The Trip film (I didn't know many of the references!) but am finding the television series a lot funnier. 

"Oftentimes when the world feels chaotic, we feel as if it is somehow inappropriate to have joy. Have you joy," writes Cleo Wade. Discovered via the gals at Slice.

Hetty McKinnon has a new cookbook, To Asia, With Love. Reading the intro made me teary - she writes about being a Chinese girl who was born in Australia. Just that description alone made me feel very seen and understood, as did the photo of eggs in a bowl with a fish drawing, which my mum and grandparents have. You can sample some of the recipes here. I'm planning to make the life-changing udon for my parents on Monday for lunch. 

Parts of this interview with American TV cook Ina Garten made me laugh, "I go through the recipe with them and I find out they didn't have any chocolate so they used sardines instead."

And after listening to Home Cooking with Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Herway, I'm getting into his new Netflix show Song Exploder, based on his own podcast (which I've actually never listened to! Excited to check it out too). 


Hello weekend

26 September 2020

I saw two double rainbows from our apartment this week, just days apart. In lots of ways it's been a good week, there was a book in the mail from a friend, early morning walks, a new ep of a fave podcast, and an exhibition opening with friends. But it was a challenging one too as my job continues to change ever so slightly. 

I'm especially grateful to have a weekend with no real plans. It's cold again here, so I'm baking bread, roasting a chicken and maybe making cookies too. All of the good and cosy things :) 

Here are some nice things to share:

Loved this tiny park wedding and the song they played after the ceremony. 

How to bake cinnamon scrolls at home! These are a cross between classic cinnamon scrolls and cardamom morning buns. And if you've never made buns before, I filmed the video inside the recipe. 

We just finished watching I May Destroy You (Binge) and it was insanely good. This article answered all the questions I had about the series and its writer/star/co-director Michaela Coel. 

I've just started listening to a new podcast, The Diversity Hires with Christina Lee and Neha Potalia

I also thought this episode of The Cut podcast with Emily Ratajkowski was great (it's based on the essay she wrote for New York Magazine). 

My friend Sarah gave me a copy of Pandora Syke's first book for my birthday. It's a book of essays covering everything from work and the pressure to self-optimise for peak performance to fast fashion. It felt spooky at times as she connected the dots of things that I've lived through - including silly things like discoveringThe Sartorialist blog in uni to the popularity of Zara.  

I surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying the Pavarotti documentary (Stan).

Very clever insights on work, social media and the pandemic from former Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Peterson in Nisha Chittal's very excellent newsletter. 

And what Tina learnt from recovering from cancer in her twenties

Have a lovely weekend


P.S If you're still working from home, I highly recommend leaving your place whenever the mood strikes you (hopefully that's possible where you live). I went out to get big cookies one day, and a pot at Bunnings another. It was just the mental break I needed from being in the same space most of the time. 

Sunny days

17 September 2020

It's been a very lovely week with visitors from Sydney, blue skies and a brand new cookbook. Spring is definitely bringing a lot of colour and happiness. 

We had my brother and sister-in-law over for dinner last weekend. It's still a thrill to set the table for more than two. We served roast chicken, a carrot salad, burrata with herbs and lemon, and salted caramel pannacotta (which only kind of worked) - all from Skye McAlpine's new book.

I've been trying to get back into making sourdough after a few dud loaves (I blame winter). While he was over, my brother helped troubleshoot my starter. I've since learnt to feed and observe it, instead of following a strict feeding schedule that doesn't match Canberra's cool weather.

Today I mixed up my first batch of bread in weeks and hope it works! Making bread during the week is one of my fave WFH perks (along with anytime snacks!). 

I ordered a copy of Carter's Cookbook after seeing it on Sophie McComas's Instagram and it arrived from NZ early in the week. Lately I've been craving a cafe-style big cookie (let me know if you have a fave in Canberra, maybe it's more of a Sydney thing?) and this book has plenty of good options. I can't wait to get stuck in. I'm going to make the green soup with feta and pesto this weekend.

On Sunday we visited a favourite cafe for the first time in months. It's small, so hard to get a seat at the best of times, so we felt super lucky to nab a seat inside with physical distancing in place too. They do doughnuts on Sundays, which was the best excuse to get out of bed.

A couple of other quick things to share - I have more than 20K photos on my phone (!!) and found this article from the NY Times so helpful! I'm going to make a photo book for 2019 and am also making time to review and delete pics from my phone from the past week so I stay on top of things. 

And the ABC Life recipe for this week is a very nourishing one-pot quinoa with sweet potato and beans from Heidi Sze. It's exactly what I feel like eating after winter's comfort food! 

I hope you have a lovely weekend. I've taken Friday off and have a burger date with Tony. I'm also going to get a start on my niece's birthday cake! Tell you more about that soon.


Early spring + a wedding anniversary

10 September 2020

How nice is spring? 😭 I'm suddenly spending a lot more time out of the house - going for walks, seeing family and friends. It's felt especially important as I'm coming up to six months of working from home, with no return date in sight. 

I saw my office buddies last Friday for fish burgers and fries in the sun. I can't remember the last time the three of us were together (maybe late Feb?) and it was just so nice to see each other and shoot the breeze. It made me realise how much I miss being able to work things out together, without having to set up a meeting first.

Tony and I had our sixth wedding anniversary on Sunday and decided to book a nice lunch to celebrate. We hadn't been to a restaurant in months, so it felt extra special. We drank orange wine and ate the most delicious burrata with pistachios and blood oranges. And there was a creme caramel for dessert! 

We've been watching Succession lately, and while I'm hooked, some episodes just feel like a lot of talking in offices.

A few other sunny things. Like everyone on Instagram, I rushed out and ordered an iced latte in the first week of spring. It was barely over 20 degrees in Canberra but worth it. I found a cute new place to buy homegrown seedlings and changed over some of my pots for spring. My boss was right, it's really nice to have a hobby on the go! 

And it's strawberry season already 🍓I've been making the roasted strawberries from this recipe (the lemon yoghurt cake is great too!) and serving them alongside a plain dutch baby. And I made this lovely strawberry, rhubarb and almond crumble last weekend. My new daggy ritual is to vaccum the house after I finish work on Friday and make a nice dessert while listening to a podcast or nostalgic playlist. It makes the apartment feel fresh again and puts a bit of distance between work and the weekend. 

P.S You can bake fried rice in the oven and it's really good. Hetty McKinnon's version has all the flavours of instant noodles but feels a lot healthier!


Hello weekend

29 August 2020

 I had a nice week! It's been sunny pretty much every day (which always helps) and I've been getting out of the house whenever I can, even if it's just a walk up the street for a loaf of bread in the middle of the work day. 

This weekend I'll be baking a cake (lemon with roasted strawberries) and setting up a bullet journal. I've been curious about it ever since I read this piece in the New Yorker because I am the person with four different note books on the go at any one time. A friend is also going to layout and print a wedding album for us, only six years after our wedding. I'm excited to pick out some favourite photos. Her advice was to choose ones our older selves would enjoy.

Birthday presents are still arriving in the mail, including this knitted prawn my sister-in-law Hannah made. When we visited her and my brother in Sydney very fleetingly in May, I noticed some hanging in the window of their apartment. Up close, it's surprisingly detailed, from the multicoloured wool to the dangling legs.

This week at work felt really busy and a bit sad tbh, with nine people leaving the team. Little after work things like making some cookie dough for the freezer while listening to the Michelle Obama podcast have helped. There were also lots of walks, with Tony and a nice solo walk with the latest ep of Highly Enthused. I bought myself this little bag for walks and grocery runs, because I don't really need a proper handbag at the moment and it's been so light and great.

We've been watching lots of Catastrophe (Stan) this week and it's nice to start a new show that has plenty of seasons :) I'm still making dutch baby pancakes. My latest was a plain version of this ABC Life recipe, served with roasted strawberries and it was excellent! I also wanted to share this week's Life recipe, a warm pasta and roast veggie salad from Heidi. We had it one Sunday afternoon and it was lovely.

Finally, I've been listening to the Rabbit Hole podcast from the NY Times. It's about the internet, algorithms and how they keep us online. The sound design reminds me of RadioLab. It's a pretty intense show, so I listen to it mainly on weekends. It makes me think about some of the darker aspects of being online (even though I love it and work on it), especially having read this piece about a YouTube influencer recently too.

P.S There's a new Sofia Coppola movie coming out in October 🎉

Snow day + good things to share

22 August 2020

It snowed today! The weather app teased to it for almost a week and then the snow icon disappeared on Friday night. Still I was very hopeful. Snow or just the possibility of it makes the very chilly end of winter worth it. At about midday, after debating whether we were seeing light rain or actual snowflakes, we put on our puffers and headed onto our balcony in time to see it snow for a good 5-10 minutes. You can't really see it in these photos but I promise it was there! It always feels special to see snow falling in the city.

I felt really flat this week - a combination of it being the tail end of winter, heading back to work after a break and the final changes for my team being announced after we were hit by job cuts. It surprised me because I wasn't expecting it. I also realised that I was feeling lonely, the result of being a little too cautious about coronavirus.

While Canberra still has no cases and has only light restrictions, I definitely changed my behaviour as I watched what happened in Melbourne (and a bit in Sydney too). I started to feel really nervous about going out to cafes and busy places and hanging out with people indoors. My friend at work told me that she'd heard somewhere that only 10% of worry is actually productive, so I'm trying to be braver. It's definitely a work in progress but a good realisation to have had.

My tax return came in the day after my birthday (timing!) so I treated myself to Skye McAlpine's new cookbook, which looked so great! I'm making an osso bucco from it tonight because it's good snow day fare. I've also tried the creamy lemon pasta, which was sunny and fast, so perfect for the end of the week. 

The cookbook has so many recipes with sage, so I bought a sage seedling to plant along with other herbs like thyme, parsley and rosemary. It was going to be my weekend project, repotting them... and then it snowed! There is always tomorrow.

I'm also reading Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld and really enjoying it (the sex scenes though!). It's a fictional take on how Hillary Clinton's life could've been if she never married Bill. When it came out, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it but it got rave reviews from a few people I follow and they were right!

We've also been making ram-don, the instant noodle dish from the movie Parasite. A workmate recommended this video and we used the same technique. There's a great Asian grocer in the city so we found the exact varieties of instant noodles as well as some diced wagu brisket that wasn't as expensive as it sounds. It's pretty delicious - we've already had it twice in one week! 

I'm also excited to share Julia Ostro's sticky pork meatballs that bake in the oven with broccolini and are served over brown rice. And an ABC Life recipe I think I've made six times - a dutch baby with caramel apples. It's so lovely for lazy weekend breakfasts and I filmed the little video that's in the recipe. 

Finally, if you're looking for something to watch this weekend, I highly recommend the doco Boys State, which is on Apple TV. It follows a group of American teenage boys as they head to a camp where they learn about the US democratic system and play it out, competing to become Governor. It's such a bizarre ritual and the doco is so thrilling and scary in parts too. We watched it the other night and can't stop talking about it. 

Thanks as always for reading along! 


Birthday trip

17 August 2020

I turned 36 last week and rented a cottage about an hour from Canberra to celebrate. Tony snapped this photo on the way home, after we pulled over so I could take a photo of this Accidentally Wes Anderson hall. We got really lucky with this trip - we're still able to travel and felt safe pandemic-wise because it was just the two of us, and we weren't planning on eating out. Instead we stocked up on yummy supplies in Canberra, from make-at-home ramen to freshly made baguettes for our first lunch in the house.

We stayed at Hold Cottage and it was so nice to be in a house for a change, with a bath, backyard and a fireplace. So much of this year has been about being alert and doing our best to look after ourselves and others - it was nice to feel taken care of for a few days instead. There were fresh flowers in most rooms, a tea bar and these funny sabers for roasting marshmallows (I'd brought extra long skewers that were never going to cut it).

If I lived in a house with a fireplace, I'd be making s'mores all the time. They're so good! We roasted our marshmallows, assembled our s'mores and then snuck them back near the fire wrapped tightly in foil so everything got properly melty and oozy - a bit like an ice cream sandwich in reverse. 

My birthday was really relaxing. I slept in, read Molly Wizenberg's new book The Fixed Stars and went for a long walk around town. My family took turns singing verses of Happy Birthday, which they sent in instalments over WhatsApp, which made me laugh. 

I drove up the road to visit the egg farm and it made me miss road side stalls - I used to see them all the time while working in Wagga Wagga and driving round the region. When I went to Adelong in summer, I'd follow the handmade Figs sign down a windy road and directly into the packing station. There were apples and beans to be found in Batlow, citrus and pumpkins in Leeton and Hay. 

We took a small leap of faith when we booked this little getaway. At the time Tony was out of work and my job was uncertain and we were both pretty freaked out. While it was tempting (and sensible) to stay home and save, we booked this holiday with some money I'd stashed away for something fun. I figured it'd be nice to go somewhere regardless of what happened. 

In the end Tony ended up working most of the time we were away - he scored some last minute teaching right as semester was about to kick off. And by then we knew my job was safe. In any other year, we would've thought working on holidays was a total bummer, but not this year. 

I spent the afternoon baking a chocolate cake which ended up being a total flop! But it was a good excuse to make a second cake and light even more candles the next day when we were home in time for the weekend. It was another rainy one, perfect for lots of reading in bed, homemade chai (from this newsletter) and chocolate cake.


So many cooking projects

10 August 2020

I make danishes now! And proper potato gnocchi, instead of the cheat's ricotta kind. I've been tackling a bunch of bucket list recipes on wet weekends and while I've been feeling nervous about spending too much time out of the house (again). 

One Saturday I made potato gnocchi, which was no where near as fussy as I figured it would be (a potato ricer helps!). And it was nice to try the winter gnocchi recipe from Ostro because I love the summer one so much. Our new weekend ritual is to buy a house brand bottle of red wine from Blackhearts & Sparrow (always under $15 and good) to go with our fancier than usual dinner. I love having new rituals in this weird time.

But of all the things I've made lately, I'm most proud of my cream cheese danishes! I bought myself a NY Times Cooking subscription a few months ago and have been using it at least once a week. A little while ago, I saw these danishes on Instagram and thought they were beautiful. I've never wanted to make pastries before because it looks so hard but the recipe promised to take just half an hour to make the dough.

The recipe seemed so straightforward I wasn't sure the danishes would actually work. The next morning I filled them with cream cheese, left them out to proof before baking. We treated ourselves to some bake at home croissants from a local bakery early on in the pandemic, so I also froze some danishes to see if they'd work in the same way. They totally do - which is a win for lazy weekends. It also means I can add them to food care packages for friends.

Ta da! We loved eating hot and crunchy danishes very soon after they came out of the oven. I can't wait to make them for my parents - we used to have a Sunday pastry tradition growing up. Hopefully travelling between Sydney and Canberra becomes safer again soon.

It's been really lovely to take a break from cooking mainly work-related recipes and using cookbooks and the internet instead. It's probably my main way to unwind and get off my phone and away from the news. Last weekend I also tried this coconut-gojuchang glazed chicken after seeing it mentioned a couple times in interviews and newsletters. Basically all the cool girls on the internet were making it. It's really delicious and easy and deserving of the hype :) 

In between all the eating and cooking, we've been watching a ton of TV. Lately The Great, Normal People and Love Life - clearly making the most of our Stan trial :) 

I'm also loving a Facebook group my coworkers tipped me off too. It's called Food Cuties and it's an Australian group for people who love food, home cooking and swapping recipes. I saw an ABC Life recipe posted the other day, with someone describing it as "the tits". Made me laugh! 

Hope you're keeping warm and well wherever you are.

Birthday wish list

02 August 2020

I wasn't sure whether to make one of these this year because everything feels so different. But giving presents, planning presents and sending presents brings me so much joy.  So because it's officially Leo season, here's a very home-themed edition of nice things.

HAY has super cute dish sponges (of all things) shaped as rain drops, fish and penguins. Just to make all the washing up a little bit nicer.

Weekend mornings used to be spent heading to yoga but now I look forward to sleeping in and reading a book in bed with a cup of hot tea. So I've been eyeballing pretty pillowcases from Rachel Castle, and love the look of this polka dotted one and garden pillowcase side by side.

I haven't had a polaroid camera since I lived with my parents and love the new mini ones. This year I've wished I've had one to capture all of the in-person catch ups that feel extra fleeting right now. How nice would it be to hang onto a photo of a catch up and give them to friends and family too? This may also be motivated by the fact that I haven't printed a single photo from Tony and my wedding, almost six years ago.

We treated ourselves to some Haigh's Chocolates over Easter and everything we ordered was so good. Especially the honeycomb block and these little marshmallow blocks. In our house I'm always worried when we're out of chocolate (or running low). It's totally chips for Tony!

Scents have never been so soothing to me. Earlier in the year it was anything to mask the smell of bushfire smoke. These days it's more about walking into another room and feeling like you're in a different place or space because of some nice room spray or fresh flowers. And because we're in the final (and probably coldest!) month of winter in Canberra, this nice smelling body oil would be so nice.