Friday, December 20, 2013

this christmas

miraculously, after a few consecutive weekends of lazing about and procrastinating about what I wanted to make for christmas, I finally got my christmas cooking done with just one day to spare!

which also meant that I had the oven on for most of this heatwave.

I decided on chilli spiced nuts for family and wagga friends (so easy and ridiculously moorish), peanut butter and honey granola for tony's dad (who happens to be a fellow pb fan), banana granola with coconut shreds and almond (this recipe is the best!) and some mango and salted coconut popsicles. and then because I couldn't sleep this morning, I got up extra early and made some gingerbread and used all of my new cookie cutters. yum!

tony woke up while some of the cookies were still warm, so this was his pre-breakfast snack. I am so proud of how perfectly golden-brown it is. thankfully this christmas there have been few cooking disasters/meltdowns, although it was already so hot by 8am this morning that my dough was starting to sweat and the bear faces were stretching out into zombie expressions as I moved them onto the baking tray.

so far, I've been really lucky on the pre-christmas present front. we received a hamper from sophie and tim earlier this week and have been enjoying the cheeses, special crackers, and chocolates after work ever since. they also bought me a pair of PANDA SOCKS which bring me great joy.

my work friend from bega sent me this awesome book of letters and another from the southern highlands sent a selection of minimalist cds. I also got a silly rug with a cartoon of a pug on it and a mini chocolate and date loaf from my bread friend kristy.

the lead up to this christmas has been a little melancholic for a few members of my family.  this'll be our first christmas without helen. I had my last proper conversation with her on christmas day of last year. she was wearing this green and white kimono style cardigan that she'd bought the day she got the time wrong for her alternative vitamin c treatment. the next time I saw her she was in palliative care.

in the last year I've lost an aunt and become one myself. sometimes I think about the circularity of this but most of all, I am so thankful for the wonder my new little niece has brought me and my family. without her, I think we may have grieved or questioned for longer. my uncle remarked just yesterday that it was amazing that my niece was alive and here on earth.

this year, tony and I have set a spending limit on christmas presents, which is funny because when we were finishing uni and celebrating our first christmas together, we couldn't afford anything more than presents we could make. I ended up writing tony a non-fiction story and he made me a layered acetate painting. having received an engagement ring that still distracts me when I'm driving means that I'd be happy if I got no christmas present at all from him :)

and on a side note, here's a little end of year bloopers reel that I'm in.

happy christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

summer fruits & ice cream cake

today - a new and exciting blog discovery,  a hot breakfast made by tony's mum, the finale of breaking bad (which I watched with the aid of a pillow to shield my face), leftover mini cupcakes from my favourite city shop and some holiday planning. we're going on a spike lee movie double date with my brother at this super cool sydney cinema.

we ended the week with slices of tony's birthday cake from friday night. I made my very first ice cream cake - and it worked!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

this sunday

I bought my sister and I matching cookie cutters today, I can't wait for her daughter to be old enough to come over and bake cookies with me. she turned 2 months today, so her holding her own neck up is a bit more of a priority and likely achievement at the moment :)

last night my family got together in sydney to celebrate my brother's birthday. I watched the night unfold on instagram, and saw most of my family members holding my new niece and a short video of everyone singing happy birthday to one of my brothers (quietly though, so they didn't wake the baby). I felt like I was at the table with them, which was bittersweet. I can't wait to see them at christmastime.

I also ordered myself a little christmas present today, tao lin's novel taipei, which I've been intrigued about ever since I heard this interview with the author. the book has been a little tricky to locate but I ended up finding it at readings (hooray for free shipping, an aussie owned company and their excellent gift guide).

this afternoon I've planned a home-cooked feast for tony's birthday (his parents arrive on friday), tried out some coconut scented white nail polish, written christmas cards in my pajamas (and contemplated walking to the post box across the road in my pjs to send them..) squinted during the scary parts of breaking bad (we're halfway through season 5) and we have lots of leftover summer bolognese for dinner. hooray!

hope you had a good weekend.

cold snap, cheesecake and new work

we drove to the town of coolamon this afternoon to eat cake for lunch. it's becoming a bit of an a annual pilgrimage, there's an excellent cafe and gift shop that's only open friday through sunday, which only serves cakes, biscuits and scones, along with tea and coffee.  all of the sweets are homemade and it's my favourite kind of cafe.

we snacked on ginger creme biscuits and shared a slice of lime pie and reminisced a little about our time in wagga. next week will mark three years since we moved to wagga, we arrived in 2010 in the middle of a flash flood and I started my new job on tony's birthday, leaving him home alone in a new town.

back then, we knew one person who lived here, who happened to be an old high school friend of tony's mum.  a lot has changed in three years, and now wagga wagga feels like our home. I'll always be glad that came here and made the move together.

last week was a busy one at work and I was stoked to have two stories go to air. last month, I had the
surreal task of illustrating a couple's fight with sound effects. you can listen to the story here, it's a true story that was based on the theme of 'failure.'  it's about a misunderstanding that escalates overnight and it's read by the writer.

the second story was a little longer in the making.  earlier this year, I invited a mum and her adult son into the studio to interview each other about the son's life altering motorbike accident after hearing about the incredible blog they kept together to document his recovery. in many ways, it's a recorded conversation where they venture into previously unchartered territory and ask each other about some confronting experiences that came with the accident and the months of rehabilitation that followed. I found this story endlessly fascinating to work on and it made it onto the radio last week.

and now, I'm preparing for a big week of birthdays. there are no less than 3 this week, including tony's on friday. I'm planning to make him a lemon ice cream cake with a gingernut crust and try out this recipe for milo cupcakes for my milo obsessed work friend who turns 31 on tuesday. fingers crossed both cakes work out.

hopefully it'll be warm enough for the ice cream cake, in the last few days I've gone back to porridge eating and ugg boots! so far, this is a very strange summer.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

an impressive tea cake and other things

how great is this tea cake? it was filled with apple and the strawberry flavoured icing was very strong, much like the pink sponge in the photo below.

this year I've been visiting a writing group that meets every friday in a town about an hour from wagga wagga. they're a really impressive bunch. the group is made up of women of different ages and interests, they've also lived in very different places before settling in their current town. the group gets together to share work and to carve out some time in their week just to write. the first time I visited they put on a spectacular lunch midway through their day. we ate hot quiche, salads, sandwiches, fruit, cake and local orange juice followed by coffee and tea. it was part of their weekly ritual of writing and sharing their work, and over lunch talk turned to personal and town news. they say that they're beyond precious as writers, which I've observed to be true, they encourage and critique each other openly and admirably.

last week I caught up with them for the last time in 2013. we ate sponge cake filled with cream and jam and each writer reflected on what they'd produced in 2013.

in the past few weeks, my job has taken me to some unexpected places. some weeks I'm hanging around new mums at a playgroup and then I'm recording a local band, enthusiastically covering a song in a courtyard that backs onto the lagoon.

lately we've been shopping for christmas presents (we're all done and wrapped!), visiting our favourite cafe in town, and helping a friend celebrate her last day of work with some super rich brownies and a delicious lamb dinner.

this week we also started planning our wedding cake, which was very exciting. it involved listing our favourite cake flavours, and sending photos of cakes we liked. we're hoping that tony's friend's mother-in-law will make the cake. she is a professional cake baker and we like the idea of going with people we know and like - it makes the planning seem less wedding-y, which is good because the wedding industry can be intimidating and off-putting sometimes.

maybe the highlight of my week was skyping my sister and her family. it was the first time tony got to meet my niece, and we had so much fun shouting at each other and giggling at the baby, who was apparently very curious about what was happening. 

and finally, a few good things to share:
today the plan is to make pancakes for lunch, watch a movie in the afternoon and bake some kind of cake :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

a trip to the coast

hello, sorry it's been awhile. I'm finally spending a weekend at home, after making mini trips to canberra, sydney and the coast for the last 5 weeks. it's lovely to be home, and to have tony back as well. he ended up drawing 194 portraits during his drawing stint at the national portrait gallery, and got some nice media coverage too, if you're interested this interview is especially good.

this weekend, we've watched movies, eaten chocolate cake at dinner time, had breakfast at our favourite cafe and gone walking around town.

and today, my main mission is to recreate this super yummy tofu burger I had at a vegetarian cafe in bega last week. it was my first ever tofu burger and I've been obsessed with it ever since.

I spent the last weekend in bega, and I was so excited to see the sea. I had never been to the south coast before, and I had the best time. it was a trip that had been a few months in the making, and I carpooled with a work friend after getting the bus to canberra.

here are a few highlights, starting with the view from the greyhound. the driver was actually really reckless, which made for an interesting trip. at my pick up point in wagga wagga, he hopped out of the bus and forgot to put the handbrake on. still, I managed to fall asleep on the way to canberra (listening to a podcast which was a slightly freaky experience), and I made it to canberra in one piece.

in bega I was the very first person to stay in my friend's guest room - an amazing vintage caravan that's parked out the front of her place. she'd only just finished restoring it.

I fell asleep to the sound of frogs (I was actually really scared that a frog would find its way into the caravan, spiders too) and woke up to the sound of birds and a beautiful bush view. I read comic books and peeked out my window to see when my friends in the main house were up. it was so relaxing.

the caravan had these cute battery powered paper lanterns, and I also had a candle and a headlamp for light.

here are a couple of shots from inside the main house. there was no shortage of food, and we had lots of local treats, from special jersey cow milk and yoghurt, to lamb and breads. I brought some homemade banana granola and sean brought a giant pear tart which we snacked on after dinner each night.

we spent the weekend going for drives and walks. I saw dolphins, a seal, a goanna, an echidna, a massive stingray and a (dead) snake during my stay. we picnicked by lakes had the yummiest gelato in bermagui and on sunday, went for a long walk to the coast where we sat on rocks and snacked on chocolate coated licorice and apples. 

that's it for me for now, I'm off to buy tony's birthday present and veggies for the week. this afternoon, I'm meeting up with my work friends to plant seedlings in our office veggie patch.

have a good week!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

a few quiet days at home

in between city visits, I've been back at home in wagga wagga.

most of the time I've been busy working but there has been time for a lunch break spent in the memorial gardens in town. to borrow a phrase from amy, in the paris end of town.

at work I'm nearly finished a story I've been working on quietly since mid august. it's a bit of a side project and I've been finding pockets of time to edit it and add to it, and I think it's nearly there.

one of my colleague has been generously lending his ears, he has with quite a bit of my work this year and it's been a great experience to work on it with his guidance. often I'm impatient and I'll be frustrated that particular stories are not yet finished, especially the ones I'm really excited about but working on something over a couple of months and being encouraged to go back and fix different parts with a few creative suggestions has really helped the story develop.

every time I listen back to what's there, I understand it a little better, and the time in between often brings me clarity (and sometimes, confusion).

^^ last week on a rainy and freezing morning, I met up with a friend for a coffee before work and snuck in a few pages of my comic book before she arrived. it was the best way to start the day.

this week, I've been catching up on vodcasts from the radio with pictures event in sydney, I think I've gone a bit comic mad. a friend illustrated this one (I loved it because of the talking dog) and this one surprised me and broke my heart.

maybe one of the trickiest and unexpected things about being home alone is cooking for one. with a trip  away every weekend, each week becomes strangely about buying just enough, eating what's left in the fridge and minimising food waste.

that said, this week I made a very yummy banana granola (I was sceptical about the banana part but it's actually really yummy) and have been obsessed with sophie's apple, cabbage and halmoui salad. I've made it twice in the space of a week. yum.

and now to work!

have a good day.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

a weekend treat

I've been eyeballing the east hotel for months now, and this weekend we treated ourselves to an overnight stay in one of their apartments.  it was awesome.  usually we're pretty budget focused when it comes to accommodation and but this week marked the halfway point in tony's 5 week long drawing project (and his hundredth sitter) so we celebrated a little.

we used all of the fancy bathroom products, ate cookies and drank special tea in our lounge room for the day and finally got a chance to relax and hang out. after our stay in such a lovely hotel, I came home and immediately changed my sheets and straightened out my bedroom :)

I had the nicest weekend in canberra. I scored a lift with some friends on the friday night, and then home again on sunday so it was extra relaxing.

on saturday morning before tony started work, we visited an old friend of mine and her husband at their new home, which they'd recently renovated. they cooked us a huge breakfast which we ate in the surprisingly hot canberra sun.

may and I used to work together at a handbag outlet and later a posh clothing store in bondi while we were still at uni.  when we were shopgirls, we'd daydream about careers, eat lots of chocolate and talk about boys.

it was surreal to see her again, at a time when we were both living in new towns, working in the areas that'd we'd hoped to, with her married and me recently engaged. we compared notes about what it has been like to leave sydney, and some of the challenges of making friends in a new place, especially as adults who don't like sport.

later that day, my family arrived to visit tony at the gallery. they'd driven down from sydney for the weekend and took it in turns to sit for tony, before we lunched together in the gallery's fancy looking cafe.

I took this photos of them inside james turrell's within without work, which they loved. I regret that each photo has a slight pink tinge from my thumb!

during his stay in canberra my little brother managed to eat 5 eggs in one day and after having his portrait drawn by tony, he declared that he was having the very best day.

it had started with a maccas breakfast, an ice cream before midday, a bacon and egg roll for lunch and would end in zachary polishing off a deluxe burger with fries at our favourite burger stop in canberra.

in the few quiet moments of this weekend, I read parts of chris ware's jimmy corrigan: the smartest kid on earth, which manages to sadden and entertain me. I sat for tony whilst reading my comic book and he drew this:

now I'm home again and it's quiet, and I hope that I can finish my book tonight.

have a good week!

Monday, October 21, 2013

and then there were three

I spent the weekend at my sister's house, hanging out and cuddling her brand new baby. colette was born about 2 weeks ago, and since her birth, I've been lucky enough to receive a new photo of her every day. but nothing beat getting to hold her. my mum and sister snapped photos of our first meeting, and in every single shot I'm just staring at her with a dopey grin on my face. kind of like this...

everyone who had seen her kept telling me she was tiny - and she was. she was also very sweet, she cried once during my 24 hour visit and spent the rest of the time making a funny assortments of baby sounds.

my stay was short and my sister made sure I held colette whenever she wasn't sleeping or eating. I think I got the hang of holding her properly and by the end of the visit, I could hold her 3 different ways and put her onto the change table. which was quite an achievement for me. she was too cute to be afraid of. here's colette mid-feed with her doting dad:

when colette was sleeping, I hung out with my sister and brother-in-law. we chatted and ate and when my sister went off to nap, I set about cooking a few meals for their freezer. by the time my sister re-emerged, I'd made a giant baked bolognese, a batch of brownies and was planning a creamy chicken and sundried tomato pasta for dinner.

by the time I left, I'd added some almond and chia seed bircher museli to her fridge and baked some anzac cookies, which the new mum and dad ate straight from the oven.

it was an overnight stay that was exciting, relaxing and over too quickly. I will always remember it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

this week in canberra

on monday afternoon after work, I sped down the highway and listened to music and podcasts as the sky changed colours. I had a few days off, and I was going to visit tony in canberra.

this trip was particularly special. in my bag was an elaborate felt box, which housed my engagement ring. it had been ready just in time for the trip. I told tony that I'd wait for him to put it on, and had not so secretly hinted at a proposal re-enactment.

tony politely declined but we did go out for a really yummy japanese meal to celebrate. since then, I've been trying to do lots of things with my right hand, so I don't damage the ring or get moisturiser in it. it's surprisingly difficult and I've realised just how rough I am with my hands.

in lots of ways this little trip to canberra felt a lot like the week we got engaged. it was totally relaxing and fun and we were super excited to be in each others company again and ate all of our meals together to celebrate.

tony's just over a week into his 5 week drawing stint at the national portrait gallery. in that time he's managed to draw over 50 portraits, and have people sit for him for anywhere between 5 minutes and 2 hours.

on my tuesday I sat for a one hour portrait, and unlike his drawings of me at home in my daggy pjs, I dressed specifically for the occasion. a few other people were lurking while I was sitting for him, so I left a little earlier than I'd liked, I really like my portrait but wish I'd stayed longer for a bit more hair :)

I managed to sneak in a 15 minute sitting on wednesday afternoon just before closing time.

we sought out brodburger one night and we both agreed that the burgers were the nicest we've ever had. the buns weren't buttery or brioche like many trendy burgers and everything was spot on, from the giant pickles to the juicy medium-rare meat patty. the fries were also super hot and salty, which is surprisingly hard to come by.

next time I'm going to order a few baby burgers so I get to try a few different flavours.

and here's a few shots of hotel life. my mother would be so proud of my economical supermarket breakfasts. and I always eat the free hotel biscuits, these shortbread ones were especially nice.

on my very last day in canberra, I walked to the national library of australia and put in a request to see an item from their collection. it was a zine that I'd made in 2008, for my very first for the annual zine fair at the museum of contemporary art in sydney.

I'd only recently discovered that it was in the national library and so I decided to visit it. I mainly wanted to see it, to check whether it was really there and also to take a photo because I am stoked that one found its way into the collection.

the zine is kept in a special reading room and arrived in an archival plastic bag. I was given a blue sheet of paper and instructed not to photocopy it (so ironic) and to handle it with care.

it is unreal to think that I'd touched every page of this wonky little publication when I made it. it was a painful and last minute process. when I took the zine out of its special bag, I turned it over to see a sticker of its collection on the back of the book, and a barcode and National Library of Australia stamp on the inside cover.

my ten year old self high-fived me in that moment. and I ended up staying, to leaf through the zine and see what was in it. it sounds kind of silly and vain to read something you've written yourself but I have to say, reading this zine was like going back in time.

the zine was very much a best-of book of a blog and project I'd been working on at the time. I was in my final years of uni when I started it, and reading over what I'd written, I found myself cringing a little. but at the same time, I was in awe of how excited and lacking in self consciousness I'd been at the time to write like that. it reminded me that I do really like to write and that I should do it more often, without worrying about who might read it.

there were also a few milestones contained in this cardboard cover. I'd documented the day after my sister had gotten married, the day I met tony over lunch to pick up a lego man for the project - I hardly knew him then and later found out that the lego man was a ploy to hang out. there are new, fleeting and lasting friendships documented too.

after taking a few sneaky photographs I left the library in a daze, I felt proud of myself but also in awe of just how much has happened in the last 5 years. I decided to treat myself to a tea at the very fancy hyatt across the road. I had an orange peoke tea, a miniature passionfruit swiss roll and read my book while I waited for tony to finish work.

the hotel was a world of its own. classical music played loudly in the bathroom that smelt strongly of flowers. the porter wore a ridiculous outfit, complete with puffy hat and puffy knee length shorts made out of the same intricately patterned fabric. people ordered white wine at 3pm, others had important looking meetings, some were pilots.

I was on the road by 6am this morning, bound for home and work. I was sad to leave tony again, and managed to miss my turn off.