i’m back!

hi! it’s been a bit, hasn’t it?

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…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!

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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.

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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!)

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the art of alone time

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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.

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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.

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butterscotch walnut scrolls

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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

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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

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^^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.

catlins calling

i’m in wanaka at the moment, which is definitely rates very highly in the nz pretty places list, but i wanted to backtrack to a day trip i took in the midst of exams with my very dear clara and jess.
we all had a significant break between exams which we wanted to exploit to do some adventuring, and the catlins topped our little bucket list.
a quick geographical representation of where all these towns i talk about situate themselves in nz:

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^^going anticlockwise, we have Christchurch, Timaru, Oamaru, Dunedin, the Catlins, Invercargill and Wanaka^^

the catlins, of course, are that picture the very lowest on the map, and are a drive down the east coast from dunedin.

our top picks to see were:

the purakaunui falls

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nugget point + lighthouse

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the mclean falls

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and we were more than content to allow for any other serendipitous occurrences on our way, which included a sheep traffic jam (only in NZ), a visit to a kitsch café with an alarming amount of frog figurines, a donkey sighting, teapot land (oh gosh) and two more waterfalls.

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we sure packed a lot into one day!

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happy new year!

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how are you? happy new year to you and yours, oh goodness it’s 2016. how futuristic does that sound?? given that i still read best before dates and think 2010, thats quite recent isn’t it … oh, that’s 5 6 years ago!

 

not terribly much to report since i chatted here last. i had a gorgeous family christmas complete with divine food and cute presents, and i’ve been working lots since then, back at my café job. it’s been lovely slotting back into a place that although much of the staff are different, the same vibe, procedures and environment are the same – much easier, i suspect, than this time last year when i was struggling along trying to learn everything and digest it as well as i could!

 

when i haven’t been working there’s been boating adventures, lots and lots of swimming in the lake, and the other day we zipped off to queenstown, which is just an hour’s drive. we visited the nz cafe of the year, bespoke kitchen, and had an extraordinary lunch of smoked salmon, poached eggs, rosti and salad, along with a shared chia pudding delight and some terribly healthy and delicious raw truffles which we devoured later on.

 

before i launch into this year’s intentions, i wanted to quickly check up on my 2015 ones, in the spirit of being accountable and reliable and all that 😉 (and yes, i did have to check the original post haha!) they were:
  1. consistent with running
  2. stop interrupting
  3. figure out postgrad
  4. give back to community
  5. blog
ok..
running – yes, i was good! i didn’t manage the half marathon because of a pesky injury but i have high hopes i’ll do one this year.
interrupting – ugh, i suppose i’m more aware of it now, so hopefully that will lead to a reduction? still a tough one, i have so many thoughts that i want to share!
postgrad – well, i’ve completely submitted my application for the course that i very very much wish to pursue, so it’s a waiting game now!
community – ooh, i did this! i helped to organise and MC a perfectly fantastic series of panels on an issue very close to my heart.
blog – yes, as my recent 50 post anniversary shows 😉

 

as for 2016:

 

i feel less fervent about my resolutions this year, i suppose because i know this year is going to be quite a different beast than any i’ve experienced before. last year i felt the year ahead was a predictable meander of uni, friends, parties, study, exams, and repeat. this year, i’m living at home for the first 2/3, working, and then fingers crossed i’ll be zipping off for some postgrad study in september somewhere quite, quite different from dear old dunedin! i think therefore, because i don’t really know what my life will look like this year, that it’s harder to pin down any particular self improvements or missions.
i do have a few flexible intentions, and these can of course be expressed by a collection of my much adored pinterest quotes:

 

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  1. stay ‘tremendously interested’ in my passions
– i adore chinese, french and economics (barring macro, naturally). while i hold out hope that my job will include any of these on some incremental level, chances are a typical workday for me won’t involve application of economics thought, a chat in chinese or an article in french, so i need to find ways to keep these alive in my everyday life. i would quite like to get a subscription to the Economist (and look super smart reading it 😉 , and absolutely keep up my languages via podcasts, articles and hopefully an obliging friend who’ll bear my dodgy grammar. just 30 minutes or so a day will surely have meaningful and positive effects so i just have to think big picture (when all i want to do is refresh instagram or blob in front of reality tv)

 

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  1. be brave
this year, as i’ve said, is going to be markedly different. there is going to be lots of change which isn’t something i generally care for. i am also most likely going to be in the position frequently where i don’t feel entirely comfortable, whether it’s because i don’t yet know the ropes, or it’s not an ideal situation. i really really want to be brave in these situations, not to stress myself out or worry or get teary (it doesn’t take much!) being able to remain calm and positive is so important in life, and it all comes down to me and my reaction. and if i can figure out at least some of that this year, and how i can help myself be this way, so much the better.

 

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  1. be a good friend
this applies to both friends in the same place and separated geographically, the latter unfortunately comprises most of my dear uni friends! staying in touch with these gems is very important, as well as nurturing friendships in christchurch so that i have more mates than my mum and my sister 😉 i’m hoping to establish standing weekly/fortnightly dates with some of those local friends, so that our busy lives don’t get the better of us now that friendship isn’t so convenient and effortless as it is when you’re an undergraduate student!

 

i think that just about covers it – i could add in things about exercise, or healthy eating, or projects, but i think i’ll leave it there. so, one last time, happy 2016! all the kissing heart emojis to you sweet things xx

19 days

..until Christmas!

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hello! did my title freak you out a little? just maybe? how is the christmas shopping going?

the christmas spirit is well and truly alive in our house. we put our christmas tree up on the 29th (first time ever in november!) and it is as pretty as a picture. we also have stunning spiky star ornaments in the entrance way, and new fairy lights in the outside area, plus our wonderful fabric advent calendar.

i’ve been working full time this week! it feels good being back into the swing of things and i’m enjoying the work i’ve been doing. plus it’s comforting finally having some money finally entering my bank account instead of just leaving it – paying rent on our flat in dunedin until 31 Dec is no joke.

my hair is getting longer hallelujah, and some careful application of fake tan has me a pale golden, so i’m feeling good at life. i’m also trying to eat better which is much easier a) at home and b ) in summer, with all the beautiful fruits and vegetables in season right now.

reading: just finished Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling and The Vacationers by Emma Straub. Mindy is just so great! i adore her (though danny on the mindy project is starting to stress me out!) The Vacationers i would give maybe a 3.5 star? not a book i would recommend shouting from the rooftops, but one i enjoyed reading on our visit to corsair bay the other week. need to get back to the library for some more books!

cooking: lots of salads from the ripe books – the two in the picture are gado gado and autumn brown rice. both delicious!

making: a book of my university experience! i just bought an art notebook with unlined pages and went to town. I was inspired by this book and this lady. here is a sample page! (except now i’m having second thoughts about the bagel decision – kiki beware does a sensational veggie bagel and bacon buttie bagel … qualms!)

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i just wanted something that was not a photo album and that recorded all the little details i would be likely to forget about my daily life for three years as a student in dunedin. having it pretty and funny (at least to me, low standards remember) was an added bonus! there are way more pages, so i can just keep adding to it as i think of more things to include. a lovely creative project for my last week or so of holiday.