new beginnings and great advice

i leave for China today. today! it is absolutely crazy. i’ve been packing, getting rid of old clothes, catching up, hugging, chatting… all these things while i get myself sorted for China.

it has been such a long time coming which i think is why it still feels very surreal. this is literally two years in the making, and there have been so many challenges and items to tick off between the thought and the reality. and now it’s here.

you can imagine that i have been having all the deep thoughts about this. as i said to my mum, going to China does feel like the end of my childhood. i know that a lot of things will have changed by the time i come back and that is of course good, and life, but is still hard to wrap my head around.

and then there is all my aspirations for my time in China itself. relationships, academic, language (my oh my do i want to get fluent after 8+ years of language learning!), travel, new experiences… goodness gracious.

with all these thoughts swimming around my head, i consulted my sweet, wise friends. i wanted to know what advice they would give their younger self before leaving home and going to university. while this isn’t my first rodeo, so to speak, i felt like everything that applied to undergrad and different city, would also apply to postgrad and different country. here is what they had to say:

p1160110

Take a deep breath, put on a smile and go out of your room! The best way to be interesting is to be interested – ask questions! Be kind. Everyone you meet is going through a big time of change and everyone is as nervous as you are! Just try to relax and you’ll find your groove with time.

Don’t go into papers with preconceived ideas of how hard it might be. Starting a paper where the lecturer tells you “half of the class will fail this paper” means that you believe it is impossibly hard when actually if you start with an open mind, it might be okay. With a bit of patience and focus right from the start, you might be surprised that you can do it – rather than putting it off all semester only to find it isn’t as hard as you thought but it is too late to get better than an okay mark for the paper.

As time goes by, whenever anything hard happened or I was feeling homesick, or sick of uni generally, I would count the friends and experiences that I would never of had if I hadn’t made the choice I did to leave home and move to Dunedin and that would quickly assure me it had been one of the best decisions of my life.

And make sure your parents are well schooled on what a top notch care package entails!
– Clara

img_8166

My advice to pre-uni or pre-exchange self would be to trust myself more. In really different circumstances with lots of change or other languages or new people, it can get very overwhelming and it was super important for me to realise I was my own best support. You’re you! And you really do know how to look after yourself, whether that means having another coffee or putting flowers in the kitchen or any little thing at all – making small changes to help you feel better can cause a massive shift in how confident and brave you feel over all. Trust yourself!
– Madeleine

img_3918

It’s really exciting to move to a new city so I think an important thing to do is really make the most of the opportunity that you’ve been given! Chances are, you probably haven’t spent or seen too much of the new place you are moving to so I think it’s really cool to get to know the new place you’ve moved to! It’s the perfect excuse to eat out at cafes and explore all the attractions your city has to offer. It’s even better if you do it with others – can be a great way to make new friends because after all, your friends become your family when you are living away from home so it’s really important to build some strong connections and relationships!! You don’t always have to do really “touristy” things either – discover the little things in your new city and become a true local!
– Nileesha

wow. aren’t i so ridiculously lucky to count these wise ladies as dear friends!

the next post will be coming to you from CHINA! wish me luck!

i’m back!

hi! it’s been a bit, hasn’t it?

IMG_6240

…ok, more than a bit!

would it placate you to tell you that the last 4 months have been action packed and contained my 21st birthday, a graduation, two 21st party weekends in wellington and friends visiting Christchurch?

no? how about homemade gingernut icecream, mango tart, yeasted naan, sweet and savoury scrolls, a midwinter christmas dinner and a indian feast?

now I’m just teasing you, aren’t I.

seriously though, I’m well. and filled with happiness and joy to be blogging again, which is just as well, because..

blooming anna is going international!

IMG_0390

Nanjing, China to be exact.

and i can’t wait to share my adventures in the middle kingdom with you. I’m practising my tones, packing my bags and trying to squeeze every last bit of family and friend bonding, new zealand scenic appreciation and delicious flat whites into the last few weeks.

the last 8 months have been fantastic – so special to have this time at home which i may not have had if the terms hadn’t worked out the way they did.

of course cooking has been a great joy this year – always such a treat to use the home kitchen rather than the grotty flat ones i’ve had to contend with in recent years. it’s just as well as i won’t have access to one in China (I KNOW, how will i cope?!)

so, i’ll be back very soon with my no doubt scintillating thoughts on packing (aka the worst chore/activity there is), travel, and my impressions of CHINA!

i’ll leave you with the recipe for mango tart, which was absolutely superb and one of the tastiest desserts i have ever made! I made it for my mum’s birthday, and it went down a treat. this recipe inspired me, and then little and friday plus this lady online helped me narrow down the exact execution.

IMG_3807.jpg

Mango, lemongrass and coconut tart

lemon and coconut sweet pastry
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup toasted thread coconut
1 cup icing sugar
pinch of salt
250g butter, well chilled and cubed
1 egg
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest

Blitz flour, sugar and salt briefly in food processor. add butter and process to breadcrumbs. add all other ingredients and pulse until it forms a ball.
turn out, gather to a dough and wrap in plastic wrap. let it rest for at least an hour.
you will use 2/3 of the pastry. either remove 1/3 immediately or roll out with this in mind. roll out to 3mm thickness and line a removable bottom fluted tart pan.
rest for an hour in the fridge.
blind bake for 15 mins with beans/paper in. remove filling and bake for another 10 mins.
allow to cool completely.

lemongrass custard
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 stalks lemongrass, sliced
600ml cream
1/4 cup cornflour

heat cream and lemongrass in a saucepan to a simmer. turn heat off and let steep for 20 mins. strain and return cream to saucepan.
beat egg yolks, sugar and cornflour until very pale and fluffy. add a small amount of hot cream, whisk to temper, then add the rest of the cream in increments.
pour back into the saucepan. place over a low heat and stir constantly. it is VERY EASY to curdle. when it comes to boil, remove from the heat and allow to cool completely in the fridge.

topping
3 perfectly ripe mangoes

peel mangoes with a potato peeler. Slice the cheeks and the other sides off. slice into half moon shapes 2 mm thick – you are aiming for delicate and flexible but not floppy.

dollop lemongrass custard evenly into tart shell and spread with a knife. arrange mango in rose formation.

serve! and wait for the compliments to pour in (it is just so good).

it’s good to be back in this space, friends!

lots of love, Anna, BA, DipLang, 21 years of age (how official this all sounds!)

podcasts for any mood

IMG_0371_2.jpg

^^because podcast listening is an excellent way to spend a plane journey^^

i’ve chatted about podcasts over here before, but scrolling through the app on my phone today, i noticed i had quite a few new ones that i haven’t mentioned yet so it was worth writing a new post on them.

gosh i enjoy podcasts. they are the best way to while away time walking somewhere, cooking, cleaning, folding laundry or when you’re lying in bed unable to sleep. there’s something about listening to human voices that interests and soothes me at the same time.

here are five new picks depending on how you’re feeling..

when you need a new book to read:
the concept of this podcast sounds like fun for the participants but kind of boring for the listeners, but i assure you it isn’t at all. guests share books they loved and hated and then move on to recommendations. i have loved every episode so far, but my favourites were probably meredith and osheta – for their warmth and enthusiasm more than preference in books. it will make you want to head to the library immediately!

when you feel like some self improvement:
i really adored gretchen rubin’s the happiness project (and just checked better than before out of the library!) so no surprise i’m enjoying her podcast. she chats to her sister (and occasionally her super cute, very articulate 17 year old Eliza) about ways to boost your happiness and quality of life. i found the episodes about tendencies especially interesting, and have figured out i’m an obliger. entertaining and inspiring.

when you want a little girl power:
Lena dunham’s short series women of the hour was really enjoyable for me. while the advice segments are way too short to be satisfying, the personal testimonies from some very cool ladies and lena herself were interesting and mind opening. and they’re all so friendly and supportive of each other’s work! very cool indeed.

when you’re after a twisting tale:
the modern love podcast features a modern love column from the new york times being read aloud by an actor, then a short interview which follows up with the writer of the column. these columns are about love but they kind of remind me of a roald dahl short story in that there’s always a catch, or a twist. lovely to listen to thanks to the skilled narration and also intriguing to hear the follow up.

when you’d like to hear an interview:
in the twisting circularity of media these days, i initially downloaded this podcast after reading this article, which i’m pretty sure i came upon by way of a blog links post, so – thanks internet, is what i’m saying. i’ve enjoyed listening to a handful of episodes, the one about talking about sex with teenage girls, maggie smith and the creators of spotlight and the big short in particular – really well reasoned, interesting interviews. terry is a lovely interviewer (as are the others on the show) and i appreciate the depth and breadth of what they talk about – for something so blindingly obvious, interviews can be so good or (often) so bad. these are in the former category.

let me know if you try any of these! and of course, tell me what you’re loving. back soon!

the art of alone time

DSCF1049

being a raging ENFP, I’m not terribly good at being by myself, especially for long stretches of time. the uncomfortable feeling I’m told introverts get after being social for too long is what i get when i’m alone for too long – insufferable cabin fever. this used to manifest itself hugely around exam time, where hours spent being silent studying in the library would drive me cuckoo. frankly put, i want to be around (friendly) others most of the time.

however, as I get older, i’m learning to appreciate time spent alone. this was put to the test when my mum and sister went away for the easter weekend, and i had the house to myself for 4 days. Now, i was working for two of them, (hence why i didn’t join the trip to my favourite place), but two days and three evenings is quite sizeable for this extrovert.
but anna! I hear you ask. just because your mum and sister were away, don’t you know anyone else in christchurch? well yes, i do, but easter is a time of going away/spending quality time with your family that i feel like it would be weird to try and arrange social activities during it – not to mention that my two days off were good friday and easter sunday, on which nearly everything closes. popsicle date at the petrol station, anyone?

so – what have i been up to? relishing my time! while typically i greatly dislike cooking for one, we had lamb shanks in the freezer, which i just love. I used a great annabel langbein recipe to make them and also whipped up baked apples with custard. i hadn’t made the latter before, but we had cooking apples and i was intrigued – and they turned out great! the skin of the apple gets crunchy and flaky, kind of like a baked potato, and the inside turns to pure tangy fluff. and i guess the custard doesn’t hurt either ;)

my mum, feeling guilty at abandoning me, also left me lots of other treats, so come monday i may have trouble fitting into my work clothes!

to accompany this supreme comfort food, i read a dear katie fforde book, who i can always rely on for a sweet heart warming read, watched nz bachelor (i’d saved two episodes expressly for the purpose), and discovered a new web series (to make up for the hole in my life after finishing the lizzie bennet diaries and emma approved).

……i would also like to point out that i did laundry, went for a few runs, cleaned my room and vacuumed the house for when my mum reads this post ;)

my alone time also doubled as learning time. it’s very easy to get by without knowing how to do maintenance things around the house when you live with a. parents or b. boys, and as I have spent my entire life with one or the other, i duly know very little about all this.

BUT! the gods evidently decided this weekend i would learn real life adult skills, when the gas (that powers our stove) ran out on me one day, and a fuse tripped the next. to youtube i turned initially, before admitting defeat and phoning my mum. however, next time these things occur, i will be equipped and ready – i’ll even volunteer to be the one to sort it out! i’m still a little hazy on the whole tire changing thing (despite observing it being done twice), but, as I’m still on my learners, I have no doubt the time will come the very first time I’m driving alone (when i finally get my restricted licence).

i also took the opportunity to give the fridge a going over. with my food bag, we use up the majority of our groceries at the end of each week, unless we have leftovers from the recipes or bought extra stuff. I found beetroot, broccoli and radishes in the fridge and decided a salad was in order. riffing on a couple of ripe recipes, and stuff i’d seen online, i made this creation for my lunches this week.

i really like it – i prepared the beetroot in both raw slim juliennes and soft roasted cubes, plus blanched broccoli and edamame, sliced radishes, toasted sesame seeds and a tangy dressing (pomegranate molasses is amazing). i initially planned to make quinoa to go in it, but then i came to my senses.
However, if you like quinoa (i just don’t), feel free to toss it in – i’ve seen quite a few recipes which include it.

now, i’m off to enjoy what’s left of my alone time before my family gets back – i’ve enjoyed my weekend off so much that it may be a blow to have company!

enjoy what’s left of the easter weekend friends – my love to you all.

DSCF1050

beautiful beetroot salad

five beetroot, peeled
4 radishes, finely sliced
1 head of broccoli, chopped into 1cm bits
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
350g edamame beans, defrosted
optional extras that would also be nice: mint, kale, spinach, dried cranberries

dressing:
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp olive oil

preheat the oven to 180C. take two of the beetroot and dice them. roast in the oven with a little olive oil for 30 mins or until caramelised and tender.
julienne the three remaining beetroot. i used a mandoline – if you don’t have one, it may be easier just to coarsely grate them – it’s up to you. know that you will end up with red stained hands no matter what, and gracefully accept this. definitely make at least one bad joke about getting caught red handed (if you are alone while making this, there will be no one to groan despairingly at your lame humour).
boil the kettle. put the chopped broccoli in a large heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water. put a plate or lid on top and let cook for 3 mins or so. get a piece of broccoli out and taste to test the done-ness. if tender drain the broccoli, and try to get it as dry as possible.
to make the dressing, just mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

toss together beetroot, broccoli, radishes and edamame. pour over some of the dressing – you don’t want to drown it. you can always add more later on if the salad needs it. scatter over sesame seeds and toss again to combine.

enjoy! i think spinach or kale would be nice, if you feel you need more greenery in your life. i’d be happy either way.
good served for lunch by itself, or dinner accompanied by chicken, fish or tofu.

DSCF1052

7 QT: autumn and entertainment

IMG_7624

 

1. hi honey bees, how are you going? life is great and busy with me. I found out some stellar news which has tinged my world view rose pink for the next wee while and am still enjoying christchurch and home living. my job is going great, it is challenging me and very grateful being able to get it as my first ‘proper’ job out in the world.

2. i’m still going great with my reading! i read americanah which was brilliant – i thought the main character had such a strong sense of self and her critiques of race in america (“by a non american black”) were skin crawlingly dead on. i definitely felt a few twinges when the attitudes of ‘liberal whites’ were dissected as it made me realise just how easy privilege is to take for granted. a very thought provoking analysis plus a gripping love story. the scenes of nigeria also just drew me in – a country i had never thought much about visiting. i love how books can make you so wanderlusty.

IMG_7697

3. we are into the 4th week of my food bag and absolutely loving it. i see so many ads for blue apron around (especially the dreaded sponsor post, shudder) and they drive me up the wall, so i feel kind of awkward saying this, but we have found my food bag absolutely perfect for our needs! we have been getting the veggie bag and it is just the perfect amount for 3 ladies. our favourites included bang bang tofu salad with sesame rice, halloumi pappardelle with lemon mint and garlic crumb, and malai kofta with spiced vegetable pilau. so, so good, and i think fairly inexpensive too! the three pictures are of honey soy tofu with wasabi mash, lentil cakes with avocado and caramelised onion, and kale salad with pumpkin, dukkah and haloumi.

4. we are in autumn now but it really feels like we have jumped straight into winter! the weather has been so so cold and i’m realising just how spoiled we were with summer – it is a big shock to the system! i am not ready for winter coats but try telling pesky metservice that.

IMG_7682

5. the bachelor usa – thoughts? i was rooting for jojo buuut i also think lauren b and ben are sweet together so i wasn’t overly sad, especially since jojo is going to be the bachelorette!! exciting stuff!! Plus the bachelor nz is back too! haven’t decided who i like yet but the two drama queens naz and claudia are hilarious in their scheming – my favourite part is when they throw each other under the bus at any opportunity. good old homegrown tv.

6. we went to visit some 3 week old puppies the other day and they were just so cute – enjoy the photos!!

IMG_7633

7. my weekend starts on friday and i’ve got a few fun things planned with friends – i can’t wait! i love not having to carve out time for study/readings on the weekend – i feel like i have so much more free time than when i was a student! well, guilt-free free time maybe…

IMG_7653.JPG

I plan on doing having some great sleep ins like this little pup!

talk soon! happy friday xoxox

butterscotch walnut scrolls

IMG_7503

hi! let’s catch up on life shall we?

i just began a new job! i know what you’re thinking, you’ve been unemployed for nearly a month Anna? what are you doing girl! weeeeellll… long story there. I arrived back from wanaka on the 2nd of february, then raced up to wellington to visit my cute friends on the 7th. the day before i left, i placed two rather fateful job applications on trademe jobs. one a rather aspirational choice – a job that i loved the thought of, that would challenge and excite me – and the other a café job, so a pretty safe bet. the latter got in touch with me a couple of hours later, and i went in for an interview that afternoon. after two hours of straight interviews, i was offered a job on the spot, and was told to be in touch the next day to confirm i wanted the job, or the offer would disappear. i decided to take the job – it seemed frankly dumb to turn a guaranteed job down, and i knew that i really needed to get earning.

a couple of days later, while in wellington, i was contacted by the dreamy job for an interview. regrets!! the fact i was in wellington and so not able to come into the office wasn’t the worst of it – i started the other job the very day (friday) i was back in town and knowing hospo, would be required to work over the weekend as well. i just didn’t know when i would be available for an interview, and didn’t want to burn bridges with the job i’d just acquired – after all there was no guarantee i’d be offered this other (awesome) job. i sent back an apologetic reply and was so annoyed that i wasn’t in a good position to take advantage of the chance to interview. i soon fell out of touch with these people, and thought i’d lost my chance.

once i arrived back to christchurch, after a truly blissful time, i got straight into working at the café. it was… weird. fully anticipating to struggle heaps the first day (because, well: it’s the first day, it’s never going to be this hard or intimidating again!), it actually was not too bad, but in the days that followed, i could just not shake my unease about the environment, and the prospect of spending 40 hours a week at this place. my coworkers were weirdly forthcoming about how much they adored working there, and especially working for the boss – this machiavellian figure alternately up in the attic-like office, or prowling the floor, and the amount of rules down to the atom frankly irritated me. i’m all for a structured environment, but this felt clone-like. my doubts were confirmed when a throwaway remark about not enjoying being put on the feral dishes prompted a meeting (in the middle of my shift) up in the aerie, and when i confirmed that the job wasn’t really for me, things got nasty.

however! silver linings, y’all, because the very next day after my ungraceful exit, i made a visit to the workplace of the lovely job, and it turned out that things around the office had been busy and the job was still available! so, i went in for a couple of interviews, and at the end of the second one, was offered the place. i was absolutely over the moon, and texted all my friends, who had listened to my travails with kindness and sympathy. i am a working lady again, and frankly couldn’t feel better. the best part is, no matter how challenging or testing my new job becomes, it is always going to appear wonderful compared to the other one!

i also have a recipe for you! cinnamon scrolls are a favourite of mine – i find they’re the perfect amount of sweet without being sickly. and i have been eyeing up deb’s recipe for sticky pecan buns since she posted it! i have a favourite bread dough recipe which i used instead of her’s, which actually is a recipe for baps from the lovely (and kiwi) destitute gourmet. these were very forgiving, flexible delights and served very well for a sunday morning tea with one of my sweet friends. paired with strong coffee, they are a delight. and they even freeze well fully cooked too! i used our homegrown walnuts but either would be fine. enjoy! xx

IMG_7515

Butterscotch Walnut Scrolls

adapted from smitten kitchen and destitute gourmet
3 1/3 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
50 g cold butter, in small cubes
1 packet instant yeast
1 ½ tsp sugar
125 ml milk
125 ml warm water
Blitz the flour, salt and butter in the food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs. Whisk in the yeast and sugar, then slowly stir in the liquids. Knead until a smooth soft dough (about 5-10 mins) and then put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size.
Butterscotch 
100g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup cream
1/3 cup honey
1/4 tsp salt
Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat and swirl occasionally for 3-5 mins. Pour into the baking dish and pop in the fridge to cool before assembling the scrolls.
Filling
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
30g butter, melted
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Stir together sugar, salt and spices. Put the dough on a floured bench and roll out to a large rectangle. Brush with melted butter and then sprinkle over sugar mix. Roll up and gently cut into 12 equal slices. Sprinkle the walnuts evenly into the butterscotch dish then arrange the rolls on top. Either let the rolls proof again immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight – then let proof in the morning.
Heat the oven to 180C. Place the scrolls in the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes. Let cool on the bench for 5 – 10 mins before inverting the dish on a platter. Serve with pride!

happiness & heroines

 IMG_3761
^^the only thing this opposite-of-a-hoarder collects^^
if you know me in real life, this post will come as no surprise to you – i looooove period dramas. in fact, #1 on my bucket list is to be an extra in a period drama. starring in one is just a little too unrealistic, you know? and if there’s one thing i appreciate, it’s an achievable to do list ;)
If i somehow got access to a time machine, Regency era London would be my first stop. but since time machines still belong to the realm of science fiction (a genre i’m much less partial to, by the way), i escape to this world via the page and the screen.
i’ve been on quite the historical classic bender recently – I read a couple of Heyer’s, Northanger Abbey and North and South, so i thought i’d write a post about my favourite places to get my fix:

 

books:

Georgette Heyer
my favourite author of all time. My grandma introduced me to her books when I was 13 and ever since then I’ve read every book of hers I could get my hands on. i just love their impulsive heroines, dashing heroes, hilarious characters dialogue, exciting plots and of course the perfect romantic endings. why none of her books have been turned into films or mini series is such a mystery to me!
my favourites: arabella, these old shades, devil’s cub, regency buck and the black moth.
Jane Austen
i’m a little slack in that i’ve only read pride and prejudice and northanger abbey (I know, i know) but her film adaptions are so great!! sense and sensibility is currently on my bedside table so i’m excited to let you all know my verdict.
Elizabeth Gaskell
i just read North and South but haven’t made it to the rest of hers yet – but apparently wives and daughters and cranford are both excellent!

 

films/mini series:

Sense and Sensibility with Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman – oh my goodness Rickman is INCREDIBLE in his portrayal of Colonel Brandon. This film has such an amazing cast and I could watch it over and over.
Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth – the definitive pride and prejudice adaption. colin firth and jennifer ehle are perfection as these characters.
Northanger Abbey with JJ Feild – the book drags in places so i reckon the film does a better job of advancing the story along, and Feild makes a very charismatic Tilney. love it!
Emma with Romola Garai – the best emma adaption! Garai is a sparkling Emma.

 

adaptions:

the Lizzie Bennet Diaries – haha you knew this was coming. so good!
Emma Approved – also fantastic – the leads have incredible chemistry and I’ve always had a soft spot for Knightley, who is portrayed impeccably.
From Prada to Nada – great fun, a lot less trashy than it may appear!
Clueless – again very true to the novel and with gorgeous leads.
and last but not least..
Austenland – i actually enjoyed this so much! if only austenland actually existed … you know i would totally visit.