Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter at home. we celebrated easter sunday with a lovely breakfast at our friend's house. sophie is a very effortless host and served up some yummy bircher muesli with blueberry sauce before we tucked into some homemade hot cross buns.

I'd attempted to make two types of buns the day before, the first from this blog, which turned out great and a second brioche based batch from fete magazine, which were very unattractive but still yummy.

I've been baking every day of this break, bread, buns and muffins today and it's been a nice way to relax and take my mind off things. I've spoken to my mum on the phone every day and my siblings most days, and it's been nice. the tears lessen as the days pass and I have really enjoyed their company, comfort and long chats. it's a good reminder to pick up the phone a little more to say hi.

tomorrow I'm thinking of riding my bike to my favourite park and spending the day reading in the sun, with a small basket of snacks of course.

Friday, March 29, 2013

and now for some good things. a much needed home day today. I tried out my new river cottage bread book (it's a bit bossy but I think it's worth it), which yielded a funny shaped loaf decorated with oats, poppseeds and sesame seeds. I took a little nap, made an important phone call, watched a doco, cooked us a hot lunch and read magazines.

yesterday tony bought me this really cute bunch of pineapple flowers to cheer me up, though he did make a point of informing me that I couldn't eat the mini pineapple, which I had no intentions of trying to do. the other flowers are apparently pineapple lilies and I love them.

I also finally bought my dad a 60th birthday present, I have been stewing over it for weeks. in the end I settled on something simple and practical, this puffy vest for winter. I've planned a special dinner for him at a nice restaurant in sydney with our whole family and ordered his favourite cake for afterwards. I can't wait for the day to roll around.

and one very exciting thing, this sunday I have a story on rn's 360 documentaries program. it's a story that is close to my heart and one I had hoped would reach as many ears as possible. in it, tim bravely takes on the task of keeping a radio diary, capturing his feelings and experiences as he prepares to move back into his home after last year's flood. there are some very lovely and some very surprising moments documented in his diary entries. tim's story airs this sunday from 10am on abc's radio national, you can also podcast it here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

today - sad news, intermittent tears, phone calls, hugs and lots of I love you's. finding comfort in music, in tony, in the love of family and friends.

this morning my aunt helen, or dai yee as I have always known her, left this world. I am sad, I will miss her and still cannot believe she's gone.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

city walks. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed walking around the city after work. I snapped these photos walking between my hotel in ultimo to meet my friend for dessert in pyrmont last week. it had been muggy during the day but by night, the weather cooled and the people thinned out.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

chicken, olive and quinoa rolls - a recipe. after a week eating out in the city, I'm very excited to be making my own food again.

this is my very first recipe post, when I moved out of home I was a confident cake baker but couldn't really cook much else. the very first time I made tony dinner, I made a vegetable stir fry and I was so nervous that I measured out all of the ingredients into takeaway containers, which I took to his house to cook up. he was pretty confused.

suzi made these great chicken rolls when we last met for a picnic. they were so good I tried to replicate them later in the week and we've been taking them for lunches ever since.

2 chicken thighs, cut into small chunks
1 lemon wedge
salt and pepper
1 cup of quinoa 
2 cups of cold water
a handful or rocket or baby spinach leaves
one tomato, sliced
a scoop of pitted kalamata olives
some homemade baba ghanoush (we've been smoking our eggplant on the bbq)
some bread rolls (I've been using this burger bun recipe and freezing the buns for burger nights and lunches)
pesto (optional)

to make
first rinse the quinoa in a smalish saucepan and add 2 cups of water to the pan. bring to the boil and then simmer until all of the water is absorbed, which should take about 10 minutes. season the sliced chicken pieces with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon, then fry it in a frypan on medium heat. we have some garlic infused olive oil in the pantry so I use that for extra flavour.

add the cooked chicken to the quinoa saucepan when it is done and then mix through a few tablespoons of olives.

to make the rolls, spread some baba ghanoush over the base of your bun, add the chicken, olive and quinoa mix, then add a few slices of tomato, some cracked pepper and some baby spinach or rocket leaves. pesto is great on the top of the burger bun if you have some in your fridge.

 ta da! that's it. we usually have enough filling for at least 4 rolls. quinoa is so tiny and messy that you're best not cutting the bun all the way through, like a burger otherwise you'll get quinoa stuck in your keyboard or in your lap.

Friday, March 22, 2013

hotel life and the most beautiful moments I've ever seen. my week in sydney went quickly, my days at work were full and busy and then at night, I was lucky enough to catch up with a small but special handful of family and friends.

my best friend's new baby was much smaller than I had expected, he was just over 2 weeks old by the time I got to hold him. he was lovely (if not a little tricky) to hold, he was all warm and squishy and smelt wonderful. best of all, my friend was doing wonderfully as a new mum and seemed happier than I have ever seen her.  over the week there was time to revisit a favourite japanese take away place, wave at my old apartment block, eat soupy dumplings and sweet zumbo treats and try one of those frozen yoghurt bars which seem to be popping up all over the city.

it was a bit of a luxury to start and end the day in a quiet city hotel.

during the week I was able to visit my auntie in hospital twice. I had thought about the visits a lot, trying to plan the timing and how I would get there. I had also tried to prepare myself as best I could, for how she might look and feel and how I might react. I expected to be confronted and sad and I willed myself to be present, kind and if at all possible, normal.

what I didn't expect was for the visits to be so touching and uplifting in parts. on my first night, I borrowed a car from my parents and drove myself, my younger brother and cousin over to the hospital. my family has been really lucky as up until now, we've never known anyone to have been very sick. my brother's in high school and hadn't seen anyone he loved very ill before and so I was very conscious of how he might feel and how he might need to be supported.

she was asleep when we arrived and we edged into the room. we whispered to each other at first, no one wanted to disturb her and it took awhile to feel sure of what to do or how loud we could speak. there was a moment that will stay with me forever. my brother looked so sad but wanted to stay. he stood quietly beside our cousin, our auntie's son, who very kindly and calmly explained to my brother why his mum was sleeping and what had happened over the last few days. in that moment, he was trying to support his younger cousin and make him feel okay about what was happening. and then my brother put his arm around him.

there they were, two beautiful teenage boys looking onto my sleeping aunts bed, looking out for each other. it broke my heart but it was a moment of true beauty.

there were moments in my second visit that were like this. no one can control what might happen next but I feel so heartened and amazed that everything my family could do, they did with love, grace and consideration for each other. it is something that has surely changed all of us.

after a very bumpy plane ride, which took me through a few storms, I was home and back with tony. we've had the nicest day just hanging out together and have zero plans for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

solo endeavors. tomorrow morning I fly to sydney for a week of work. I have mixed feelings about this trip, I am excited to sample city life again, catch up with friends, family and cradle brand new babies. but I am nervous too, I'm helping out with some training which is new for me but mainly, this trip may be the last chance I get to see someone who I love, someone who has been endlessly supportive of me and a remarkable person in my life. this trip may include a goodbye.

it'll be a difficult trip to make alone but one I hope I will be prepared for. I also know that nothing is really ever done alone. my colleagues have very generous and given me pep talks and shared powerpoint presentations to help me calm my nerves and to share what they know. and I have had  wonderful friends who have spoken to me in short bursts and at length about the possibility of losing someone to cancer and all of the thoughts, fears, hopes and emotions the situation throws up. tony has been the best, he listens, he gives me advice when I want it and I know he is there. he is very much my pillow in what is a very precarious and sad situation.

photos are of mid-week burger bun baking and a new addition to our living room.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

three things from this weekend. I spent a lot of this weekend napping, falling asleep all over the house so it's a small miracle that there are any photos from this weekend.

tony and I have taken up running together and I'm doing much better since he's joined me on my runs. he ends up running ahead of me and I'm much less likely to give up if he's around. on saturday we ran just under 2km and hope to be able to run about 4km soon.

my sunday sleep in was interrupted by a small asthma attack, which was a little stressful but ultimately okay. thankfully this time I knew exactly what to do and had my puffer by my bed and was able to stay home. still, there's nothing more panic inducing than feeling like you're not able to breathe.

a rhubarb, apple and strawberry crumble is in the oven right now, timed to be ready just as downton abbey starts. and we enjoyed the yummiest pumpkin burgers inspired by sophie's blog for dinner. tony made the burger buns, a babaganoush and an amazing smokey bbq sauce that went with it. and there are plenty of leftovers, yippee!

have a wonderful week.

Friday, March 8, 2013

picnic in the park. it has been quite a week and it's not over yet, I have one more day of work and then a delayed weekend. but despite the early starts and general busyness there have been a few lovely things that have kept me happy.
  • check out this amazing pinata cake diy that my brother sent me. it reminds me of the humpty dumpty easter egg that's full of smarties! I can't wait to give it a go.
  • I loved this incredible story from paper radio about one lady's love for ham radio, which ultimately led to some serious intergalatic communication. I jumped out of the car beaming after listening to it, which was slightly embarrassing. 
  • new emoji icons! a small reward for finally updating my iphone software. there's a pig snout and a battery in the latest release. strange but welcome additions.
  • the gorgeous photo my friend messaged me of her less than a week old baby having a big smile in bed with her partner. it was heart melting! I can't wait to meet him in two weeks time.
  • and a working day spent in yackandandah, victoria. I crossed the border this week to work with suzi and she prepared a picnic for us to share in the park. we ate rolls filled with chicken, quinoa, olives and homemade babaganoush and snacked on pineapple in the sun. 
  • my yackandandah souvenirs, which include a giant bunch of rhubarb purchased from the local museum and some homemade tomato sauce. tony has promised to make sausage rolls this weekend, yipee! I think the rhubarb might be transformed into pie filling.
have a good weekend!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

long days on the road. lately I've been spending about 3 days on the road, often driving for hours to reach the town I'll be working in that day. I cherish these days, I love being out of the office and working with people face to face. it's something I longed for when I used to work in sydney. but there are trying parts of these days too. sometimes I'm on the road by 6.30am and not back until the early evening. I often come home dusty, sweaty, dehydrated and hungry. sometimes a little sunburnt.

but I always come home with a new story, and I love the feeling of constant discovery even if it's just visiting a tiny town like the one pictured above, which is somewhere between lockhart and the rock in nsw. I am often inspired by the littlest moments and exchanges that I witness between people on these trips and I am grateful for these glimpses into other people's lives. at the best of times they can broaden, challenge and enrich my understanding of life.

this week I've been to culcairn, lockhart and milbrulong. tomorrow I'll make my last trip for the week, heading to wodonga in victoria and possibly to yackandanda too!

one silly thing I do when I'm on the road... I try and stop into the local bakery to see what kind of biscuit specialties they have. I've discovered most towns have their own version of an iced vovo or wagon wheel and I'm happy to sample them all.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

mini weekend. my weekend started at lunchtime today, after running my regular writing workshop at the library in town.

so far I've had a lovely nap in this much anticipated cooler weather, enjoyed a generous square of tony's mum's famous jam slice for afternoon tea and a long chat with a good friend in sydney. this weekend we are celebrating the birth of a little boy who entered the world this morning, the first in my friendship group and I can't wait to meet the little guy in sydney in a few weeks time.

tony's dad is visiting this weekend and he has very generously agreed to deliver a special care package for me when he drives home on monday. so tomorrow I will be baking a cake and some bread to be sent along with a big box of local veggies to someone who really needs it.

we might also buy a raised garden kit so we can put in some veggies for autumn!

if you're interested, here are two great podcasts I listened to this week:
  • tit for tat - the story of sandra wilson - a fascinating look into the complex life of one of nsw's longest serving female prisoners. sandra was 20 when she shot and murdered a stranger.
  • harper high - part two - this two part series was devastatingly good but also heartbreaking. this american life sent three reporters into a chicago high school which had been troubled by gang violence. the series starts here.
p.s - do you like my new plate? I bought a polka dotted dinner set last weekend for $2 a piece!