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.