18 November 2014

she takes your voice and she leaves you howling at the moon


I started writing this trying to compare my approach to food with Alice in Wonderland's love of pretending and supposing and imagining and the comparison didn't quite fit and so I deleted it and started again and deleted it and started again, along the way learning a valuable lesson: I subconsciously just wanted to show that I could use the word "adumbrated" confidently in a sentence (as in, I was going to say that I had adumbrated Alice's words since I couldn't remember where I had actually packed my copies of the books in order to quote them directly.) Long story short, I am pretty annoying and I have lots of ideas about food. 

Long hair short: this also happened. I may be pretty annoying, but am also pretty, comma, annoying.

My hair has never been shorter than shoulder length, and even that was only once. Many years ago. So: the smaller the hair, the bigger the deal, really. And I like it! It was terrifying having it happen, especially when it was really only spurred on by a vague sense of needing a change and also one time I tied my hair into a low bun and thought I looked alright without much hair going on, but I remain all or nothing and so was not going to settle for a mere bob or even an aggressive trim. I'm very happy with the results. It's a whole new Laura! I now have so many new looks! Like "meanest girl in the 1960s boarding school" and "girl in a 1990 edition of Dolly having the time of her life" and "trying very hard to look like Edie Sedgewick" and "Justin Bieber". In case you're wondering, yes, I did keep the ponytail. I plan to plant it under a tree which I imagine will quickly flourish and bloom and grant wishes to passers-by who are true of heart. 


So yes, this salad came about because of an Alice-esque flight of fancy of mine - supposing there was a salad that was mostly made up of the sort of things that normally garnish a salad? As opposed to stupid vegetables? Lettuce leaves and cherry tomatoes were thus combined with the following good things: very buttery croutons, homemade basil almond pesto, fried sage leaves, toasted pumpkin seeds, crumbled feta, and pea shoots. I would've added avocado but none were ripe, but just know that it is supposed to be there also. I mean, this is essentially just "a salad", really, but it's fun to think of it as being comprised almost entirely of garnishes. So that's how I'm going to pretend it is.

I know this is the same dish I used in the photographs for the last blog post, I understand if you never want to read this blog ever again now. 

garnish salad

a recipe by myself. Serves two with seconds, or four one time. 

one or two heads cos lettuce, roughly torn
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (sorry to be a monster, but they do go further this way) 
a third of a cup of pumpkin seeds
three pieces of slightly old white bread
lots of butter
a cup of fresh basil leaves
half a cup of sliced almonds
about 25g parmesan cheese
olive oil
a handful of sage leaves
about 50g feta
a handful of pea shoots

Make the croutons first, and while they're cooking, get onto the pesto. Tear the bread into chunks around an inch wide, although it really doesn't matter. Throw them into a baking dish with about 25g butter (or more) diced and dotted over the top, and bake at 160 C till browned and crisp. 

Meanwhile, using a large knife, roughly chop the basil, almonds, and parmesan till it forms a herbaciously fragrant rubble. Transfer all this into a bowl and stir in enough olive oil to make it a kind of pesto-resembling paste. Set aside. Melt a knob of butter in a heavy frying pan, and once it's sizzling, throw in the sage leaves, removing and setting aside once they're darkened and crisp. Finally, in the same pan, toast the pumpkin seeds until lightly browned. 

Now: put your lettuce leaves, croutons, most of the pesto, the feta, oh my gosh literally everything okay just put it all in a salad bowl and stir carefully so that it's mixed together but not flung out of the bowl. Add a little extra olive oil to what remains of the bowl of pesto and spoon it over the top, and then serve. 

 we've curated the finest artisinal garnishes, just for you

It's easy to make fun of salad, especially since the Simpsons gave us the truism that you don't win friends with it, but when it's as aggressively loaded up with as many good things as this it would be silly to deny its complete and utter deliciousness. Crunchy seeds and nuts, marvelous cheese and other cheese, sweet bursts of cherry tomato and dissolvingly buttery sage leaves. The lettuce has its place too, much as I'd happily eat a bowl of croutons on their own the fresh crispness of it helps bolster everything else and bring it all together. This is one of those things where you could make changes depending on what you have to hand or can find - use sunflower seeds instead of pumpkin, use walnuts instead of almonds (or use actual pine nuts but they're monstrously expensive), use parsley instead of basil, increase or ignore quantities that sort of thing. Salad! It's SO good. Or at least, this one is. 

So, I made another episode of Bedtime with Hungryandfrozen! This time about my love of grapefruit popsicles. I also obviously but totally recommend the first two videos, about cornflakes with chocolate milk and steak, respectively. I do get a little stressed about like, good grief, what am I doing with my life, shouldn't I be doing something super successful in the field of being seen to be talking about food in a media capacity and instead I'm in bed making grainy videos about cornflakes, but...they are pretty fun. 
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title from: Linda Ronstadts' sad, sweet cover of Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. Leaves, lettuce leaves, yeah? My blog, my puns, okay!
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music lately

Zara McFarlane, Police and Thieves. Dad emailed me a link to this saying it was very cool: his opinion was correct. A little jazzy and a lot gorgeous. 

Fiona Apple, Across the Universe. So, so dreamy. 

Taylor Swift, Blank Space. Far out I love this song. The way she says "they'll tell you Iiii'm insane" is so great. 
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Next time: I haven't done any baking in a while and every time I have it has sort of screwed up in some way - fallen apart, overcooked, that kind of thing. So, I wanna counteract that by being brilliant. If that works, you'll see it here first. 

4 November 2014

suburban trees suburban speed and it smells like heaven

look what happens when you move to the suburbs: brunch!

Ah, the suburbs! I say, with arms wide open like Maria Von Trapp on top of a mountain doing an impression of Scott Stapp from Creed in their song With Arms Wide Open. It has been a true rollercoaster ride of being ignored by the neighbour's cat, taking slightly longer to walk to work, and picking fresh herbs from the garden to use as garnish. For real though, I've been cooking so much more than I have done in a long time, and it is good for that soul of mine. And also for inter-flatmate relations, since there's nothing like being plied with brunch. On some recent morning (I forget which, I've been working day shifts as well as night shifts at work and it completely messes with my sense of what day or time it is at any given day or time) I made this for Kate and I  - a kind of improvisational thing vaguely based upon the Middle Eastern dish Shakshuka, using what I could find around me. Those things being tomatoes, a can of 'Moroccan-style' chickpeas, and some eggs. 


Pulling it all together was some impossibly thick Zany Zeus Greek yoghurt (seriously, it has the texture of buttercream icing) mixed with sumac, dried thyme and sesame oil, with olive oil pooling on top along with torn mint leaves.


If Marmite on toast is the most adventurous you get for breakfast (and that's cool, because oh man marmite and butter and toast together are sublime) then this might sound a little dubious, but obviously it's going to taste amazing, so deal with it and expand your horizons. On the other hand, if you're used to actual proper Shakshuka, this is a not-bad variation on that theme, I guess. Either way, it's thoroughly delicious, with the softly baked eggs melting into the buttery tomatoes and spiced, grainy chickpeas. The tart yoghurt lifts up all these flavours and stops it being too, too rich, but also kind of adds to the luxuriant feel of it at the same time. If you're only inclined to get hold of one herb then mint is what I'd recommend - its icy fresh-sweetness is perfect. But spicy basil and adorable pea shoots also help, if you happen to have some to hand like I did.


baked eggs with roasted tomatoes and chickpeas, also yoghurt with sumac and olive oil

a recipe by myself, but it's not overly original, serves two to three people

four tomatoes
butter
olive oil
a pinch of ground cinnamon
a pinch of smoked paprika
about a tablespoon of brown sugar
one can of Moroccan style chickpeas, or just one can of regular chickpeas and about half a cup of tomato puree
one teaspoon ground cumin
three eggs
basil, mint, fancy pea shoots if you've got them

half a cup or so thick plain Greek yoghurt
one teaspoon sumac
one teaspoon dried thyme
one teaspoon sesame oil
olive oil 
a pinch of salt
more mint

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F. Halve the tomatoes and arrange snugly in a roasting dish. Sprinkle over a little cinnamon, smoked paprika, and the brown sugar, and put like, a teaspoon/small square of butter on each tomato half. Finally, drizzle with a little olive oil and then roast for about 20 minutes, then tip in the chickpeas and the ground cumin and return to the oven for another ten minutes. Crack the eggs one at a time into a small cup or bowl and then carefully tip them into the roasting dish (or just crack them straight in but it's a little easier this way. Return to the oven and lower the heat to 180 C/350 F, and bake for another ten to fifteen minutes until the eggs are juuuust cooked. Remove from the oven and scatter with your herbs and then serve. Oh wait, the yoghurt: mix the yoghurt, sesame oil, thyme and sumac together. Sprinkle over some more sumac, drizzle over some olive oil - a couple of teaspoons - and sprinkle with some torn up mint. 


(this is Kate's instagram. I kinda wanna vow that my next cookbook, when/when it happens, will *only* have instagram photos. Because look at this, seriously.) (Aside: ohhh how I want to write another cookbook.)

When I'm not cooking I'm being fed like a queen by Kate and Jason too, so it's all pretty blissful. (Examples: apple fritters, handmade pasta with roasted butternut, cheese and tomato mousetraps, fried asparagus) I mean I'm still me, y'know, where am I going with my life, why am I so broke (likely answer: dating. It makes you broke), how do you be a human without making it look as though you've read a book called How To Be A Human, will I ever get another cookbook, what's the deal with self-esteem, that kind of thing. But I'm reeeeally well fed. And making progress with the cat!

magnanimous kisses from princess Ariel

What else has been happening lately? I managed to pull together two costumes for two massively fun Halloween parties in a row this weekend, with only things found in my wardrobe (Baby Spice and Andrew WK, if you're wondering.)

(bonus cyberspace me at a recent galactic-themed party. Everything I wear I think of as a costume, but I really love literal costumes too.) 

I also posted a new episode of my super-necessary web series Bedtime with HungryandFrozen.  It's not that great, but I'm personally a bit endeared by it which means statistically at least one of you might enjoy watching it.  And that's all I have for you today, on account of it's kind of hard to type when your arms are flung wide open and you're rapturously yet patronisingly shouting "the suburbs!" to no-one in particular. 
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title from: Modern Lovers, Roadrunner. I am straight up obsessed with this song and have been since the moment I heard it. I'm gonna listen to it about twelve times in a row right now. One, two, three, four, five, six!
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music lately:

Boom Clap, Charli XCX. Just so, so sweet.

I Could've Been Your Girl, She and Him. Zooey Deschanel's voice, I love it. This song, I love it. 

Good Kisser, Usher. Sleek. 
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next time: I made this amazing Ottolenghi pistachio soup, but am not sure if the photos turned out that well...so...?

23 October 2014

maybe if i knew french i could tell you more than i shall do

halloumi for my roomie

First blog post from my new home! Despite being stridently anti-suburb my entire life, including when I grew up in a tiny rural village - I knew at the age of like, two months that I was destined to live in the city - I've adjusted faster than a bra strap to my new life in Newtown. 

(My New Life In Newtown: the spin-off TV show from the TV show I already imagine my life to be.)

I live with my best friend Kate and her also-rad husband Jason, I am practically neighbours with another best friend, I've made friends with the guy who works at the corner dairy already - I actually nearly cried when he said "welcome to the neighbourhood, I hope you're very happy here" but it had been a long day of moving house and I desperately needed an ice cream, so that may have had something to do with it. I live with Ariel the beautiful peach of a cat who I am slowly befriending, and my heart feels so full from simply having a cat around all the time. And I now have a super cool kitchen with a gas burner oven and natural light and a ton of general aesthetic cuteness going on! Yesterday I had my first go in the kitchen, by making halloumi and apple French Toast for Kate and myself. 

fried cheese for my main squeeze

Microwaved Cheese and X sandwiches were a mainstay of my childhood eating (them, golden syrup sandwiches, canned spaghetti and two minute noodles) the most prominent being microwaved cheese and marmite, followed by microwaved cheese and tomato sauce (I know. But: pizza vibes!) One day after reading an American cookbook I'd got out of the library, I discovered the magical combination of cheese and apple together, and the sandwich-related part of my life was changed irrevocably. Something in the sweet, nuclear-waves-softened apple slices and the melting, nutty cheese tasted impossibly good to me, and while this isn't surprising now - I mean, cheeseboards always come with some kind of fruit accoutrement, whether it's fruit paste or crisp slices or just something fruity - at the time it was a pretty radical concept to my unsophisticated rural tastebuds.

So yeah, it was nostalgic thoughts of those sandwiches that inspired this brunch. Brunch is my favourite (well, breakfast eaten at a slightly later hour, basically) (that said I love breakfast any time of day, especially night) (I'm so fascinating!) and so it seemed a good way to break into the kitchen.

french toast for my mensch host (I am nothing if not committed to this bit) (and also apologetic)

My nostalgia was totally correct - this was completely delicious. I mean, halloumi is boundlessly astounding, and the buttery meltingness of it went quite perfectly with the soft, caramelised sweetness of the apples and the squishily fried bread. Cool hits of mint livened it up a bit and made it look better in the photos, and as well as being a pleasure to eat, it was really quite straightforward to make. I mean, I felt a bit nervous promising a lush brunch, it being my first time in this new kitchen and a recipe I'd made up on the spot, but it emphatically worked. Cheese and apple! Together at last, again.

halloumi and apple french toast

a recipe by myself/serves two

this will be easier and everything will stay hot if you make the French toast in one pan and the apple/halloumi in another, but it still worked fine all done quickly in the one pan. Up to you/your resources/ability to deal with doing more dishes. 

four thick slices from a loaf of white bread - slightly stale is good
three eggs
half a cup of milk
a pinch of ground nutmeg
four slices of halloumi
one apple
butter
mint leaves

Mix the egg, milk and nutmeg together until you can't tell where the egg starts and the milk ends. Heat a pleasingly-sized slice of butter in a large pan until it's sizzling, and then carefully dip the first two pieces of bread into the egg and milk, allowing both sides to soak up plenty of liquid. Transfer these to the hot pan and fry on both sides till very brown (I use a spatula/flipper thing to lift them up slightly to have a look underneath, it always takes longer to brown than you think it will. 

Finely slice the apple while the toast is cooking - you don't have to use the whole thing but more is better. I cut off one side and then slice that into semicircles, and then carry on all round the apple till it's all used up. In case you needed to know that.

Remove the cooked French toast to a plate and repeat with the remaining bread. You may need to add a tiny bit more milk to the egg mixture if there's not enough - that bread is absorbent stuff. 

Fry the apple slices in more butter until softened, then scatter them over the two plates of French toast. Finally, briskly fry the halloumi slices on both sides till golden brown, put them on top of the apple-topped French toast, scatter with mint leaves, and placidly eat. 

fresh outta rhymes, to your relief

Other cool things about the 'burbs: I mean, first of all for all my righteous posturing, Newtown is so close to Wellington city, the two neighbourhoods are clasping hands with fingers lovingly intertwined. Also, there are local cats. 

this is moustache cat, whose detectable personality traits thus far appear to be "lurks" and "poses obligingly"

I think I'm going to be very happy living here. 

Oh, and: despite having too many projects and commitments for my laughably small hands to carry, I've decided to start a little web series. Emphasis on little. A few years ago I tried doing some youtube videos and I never really liked them, but did them anyway, but this feels a bit more fun and chill and low-key and me? Anyway, if you like eating food in bed then you might want to watch because that's all that really happens. Normally I'm quite upfront about telling you if I think something I've done is amazing, so this isn't false self-deprecation for the sake of it, but the video is really not that great. But it's something! And that's something. 
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title from: First Aid Kit's quietly twinkly little tune Valse
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music lately:

Emily Edrosa's self-titled EP. It's all rumbly and moody and I love it so much and can't stop listening. 

Banks, Goddess. You shoulda crowned her, cuz she's a goddess, you never got this. Really feeling Banks at the moment. 

Mya, My Love is Like...Wo. Bedroom dance party perfection. And she TAP DANCES in the music video. 
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next time: omg I don't even know but you can look forward to more photos with new interesting backgrounds and also me borrowing all of Kate and Jason's super cool plates to put my food on!

14 October 2014

i had fifteen people telling me to move, i got moving on my mind


All of a sudden, this is the last blog post that I'll be writing from my little apartment that I only just moved into. It's a tiring thought, that I'm moving house again this Friday, but I'm also pretty chill about it. Well, relatively chill considering my usual lack of it. My tarot card for this month was all "look at the facts" and "don't follow your feelings, follow the facts" and "hey: facts" and with that in mind it's easy to look at this move as simply a practical thing that needs to happen and that is going to make things easier in the long run. Also, I absolutely cannot wait to live with my dear friends and their pet cat. Who will be kind of like my pet cat. I actually can't quite comprehend that there's going to be a cat around me all the time, it's a dizzyingly exciting prospect for someone who has wanted nothing more than to just be in the presence of a cat regularly for sooo long. 

Also pleasing: the house I'm moving into has a lovely, lovely kitchen. I can't wait to cook in it to take photos in it (no offense to my current apartment. We can't all be photogenic.) 

 crispy eggplant: it's super. 

So anyway, the last blog post from where I currently hang my hat is crispy eggplant and smoky beef tacos. I made them to impress a girl, but really the girl who I'm most concerned with impressing is myself, and luckily, I was personally way taken with these tacos. I should add, I call them tacos but it would be more accurate to call them "stuff in corn tortillas" since they're not in the slightest bit traditionally Mexican, but yeah.

Honestly, the only bit of this recipe that I really care about imparting to you is the crispy eggplant, which I'm very proud of. It's so crisp! So delicious! And the rest is mostly assembly. But I'll give you the whole lot because, well, mostly because it sounds cooler and slightly more credible this way.  

crispy eggplant and smoky beef tacos

a recipe by myself. (Sorry that this recipe requires liquid smoke, which is a very specific ingredient, but it'll still be delicious without it. Just not smoky. Surprise.) 

one large eggplant
a third of a cup of flour
quarter of a cup of cornmeal/polenta (ideally the coarse-ish stuff, not the super powdery stuff, but whatevs)
olive oil
-
200g steak, some kind of non-terrifyingly expensive cut 
one tablespoon olive oil
one teaspoon cumin seeds
a pinch of ground cinnamon
half a teaspoon liquid smoke
-
corn tortillas
50g feta (or more)
finely sliced cabbage, or green of your choice
sriracha or chilli sauce of some persuasion

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F. Drizzle some olive oil into a large baking dish, and mix the flour and cornmeal together on a plate. Dice the eggplant and toss it in the flour/cornmeal mix, so that all the cubes are finely dusted on all sides. Place the eggplant in a single layer in the baking dish, and drizzle with some more olive oil. Put it in the oven and leave it for around twenty minutes, until all the eggplant cubes are crisped and brown - it may take a little longer or a little less, depending on your oven.

Meanwhile, slice the steak into strips, and mix in a bowl with the olive oil, cumin seeds, cinnamon and liquid smoke. Fry briefly in a pan over a high heat till decently browned. Finally, either microwave the tortillas or sit them in the oven for a bit to warm through. Layer them up with cabbage, the smoky beef, the crispy eggplant, and a handful of feta, then drizzle with sriracha. Or do what you like, it's just stuff in a tortilla, there's no strict order to proceedings. 



The eggplant is the star here - each little square of it beautifully crispy and crunchy on the outside, blissfully melting and soft within. The beef is perfectly nice, but I'd happily have this with just the eggplant. Or in fact just a bowl of the eggplant itself. That said, the spicy, cumin-y meatiness of the steak is a delightful contrast, and feta just makes everything more fun. (Considering testing this theory by taking some feta to my next dentist appointment.) And there's something sort of pleasing about food you can assemble according to your own sense of proportional decency, and then eat with your hands.

well, I was impressed by me. Although I'm both easily impressed and in possession of strong feelings about tacos.

As well as living with a cat (oh my gosh, living with a cat), I'll also be significantly closer to this particular dingus. All that animal closeness and also friend closeness is most definitely going to be a worthy reward for the actually ridiculous amount of packing I still have left to do.

We both just heard Kim say "dinner!" She was saying it to Percy, my reaction was all Pavlov's Dog. Or maybe Pavlov's Dog's Friend.

Oh hey guess what, I was on Radio New Zealand recently talking about a couple of recipes, it was highly fun, I love being on the radio so much. Which is weird because I tend to prefer to have an audience, but I guess just having peoples' ears is also still gratifying. Anyway, feel free to listen to it, it's only short! And excitingest of all, I had another Crush Cake story published on magnificent important website The Toast. It was for Lucy Liu, who is the ultimate queen of my heart, so it took forever and a ton of thought to write, but I'm proud of it.

Finally, I say this all the time, but forget ye not that if you want to get your hands on a copy of my cookbook, you can only do this by ordering it directly through me. It's a reeeeally good time to buy a copy, since it will be one less thing for me to have to cart over to my new-house-to-be...but also it's a good time to buy a copy because it's a seriously wondrous cookbook. And I'm the author, so I would know.

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title from: White Stripes, Hotel Yorba. This band is really important to me and this song is delightful.
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music lately: 

Sky Ferreira, Everything Is Embarrassing. It really, really is. 

Lykke Li, I Follow Rivers. Such a perfect, moody, intense love song, I love it.

M.I.A XXXO. This song is underrated I feel, I love how it's so oddly mournful sounding yet so upbeat at the same time, and the chorus fully reminds of The Real McCoy.
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next time: New kitchen, new house, new Laura! 

2 October 2014

and the ice cream's melted and it's dripping down my neck

grapefruit curd ripple ice cream 

What the actual what, it's suddenly October. Evenings are lighter, summer is closer, Halloween approaches, asparagus exists. This has been a tumultuous year and as each month reaches out its hand to the next month I always think this is the one, this is going to be my time. May is going to be chill. June will be good. July! July shall give me that nice mellow status quo. And each month, things stay ridiculous. So my new philosophy is to just go with the flow, let everything happen and wash over me, and just try to be happy. Or at least try to try. 


Something very happy-making: I was given a supermarket bag full of grapefruit from a friend's relative's tree recently, which is really exciting. Firstly, living in the concrete jungle that is Wellington (well, it's quite small, more of a concrete flower patch) you forget what it's like to just have people with trees overflowing with abundant fruit that needs getting rid of. Secondly: I adore grapefruit. They're all bitter and intense and relatively under-appreciated and those are qualities I can respect in both my fruit and my humans. All the recipes that I found online seemed a bit bleak (lots of dry-looking vague-coloured grapefruit cakes?) but the good people of Twitter shrewdly suggested grapefruit curd and ice cream. And then I remembered my own cranberry curd ripple ice cream from a few years ago and thought this could be a cool variation. (Cool, get it?) (Sorry) (not sorry.)

Queen Leslie Knope: I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself

The grapefruit curd recipe makes enough for the ice cream and then some leftover to either spoon into your mouth (as I did) or spread onto your toast (I did not make it to that stage but I'm sure it's good.) Apart from some necessary fear and respect for the grapefruit curd mixture as you make it - it can so easily overcook and turn into scrambled eggs! - this is really, really easy. In fact the only trouble I really ran into was that I kept spilling curd over the side of the pan as I was stirring it. Constantly. Like, I really lost quite a significant quantity of the overall mixture. Being clumsy is not as charming as romantic comedies would have you think it is, I can tell you.


Grapefruit curd is this incredible meeting of silky texture, pure sweetness, and fizzingly citrussy fragrance. The bitterness of the fruit is softened first by all the butter and eggs and then further by being swirled through thick cream, but still hovers in the background like a friendly ghost. The dollops of not-entirely-mixed-in grapefruit curd that freeze amongst the cream give bursts of near-sour flavour and the whole thing is just pretty ravishing. And easy! But importantly, ravishing. I realise the recipe looks a bit lengthy but really all you have to do is stir stuff then stir stuff then stir those together, I just tend to overexplain so you feel completely at ease. (I tend to overexplain literally everything actually, and to be honest putting people at ease is not usually the outcome, but hopefully it works here.)

grapefruit curd ripple ice cream

a recipe by myself

two grapefruit
four eggs
one cup sugar
150g butter, diced very small
one and a half cups cream

Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit into a relatively large pot, and mix in the eggs, sugar, and diced butter. Now stir constantly over a low heat with a spatula - making sure to constantly drag it along the bottom of the pan so that the curd doesn't settle on the heat and cook too quickly - until the butter has gently melted into everything. Continue stirring over a low heat till it's thick, or turn up the heat a little as you stir which will speed things up a bit. Either way, keep stirring, keep it moving. 

Once it's thick, remove from the heat and spatula into a container/bowl and refrigerate it till it's cool, by which time it should have thickened up even more. 

Whip the cream until it's thick enough to hold its own shape when you lift the whisk/beater up out of the bowl, but not so much that it's like, entirely solid. Whisk in one cup of the cooled grapefruit curd, and then spatula this into a loaf tin. Take another half cup (or up to one cup) of the grapefruit curd and spoon it here and there over the cream in the loaf tin, dragging the handle of a spoon or something similar through it a little to ripple it. Freeze for several hours before eating. 


You want to eat this within a couple of days - it'll still be delicious after that, but will take on a sliiiightly grainy after-texture. This is just because it's only cream and curd and doesn't have anything else in it that makes regular ice cream last so long, but the pride you have in making your own damn ice cream will hopefully up the deliciousness.

I'm trying to make the most of eating on the cute little balcony pictured above, because...ya girl is moving house again. The reason this time is fairly straightforward and pragmatic - neither of which are qualities I'm used to embodying, but here we are - I can't afford to live where I am right now. My rent is too high for what I earn, and neither of those factors are going to change dramatically anytime soon, so I'm just going to find somewhere else. It'll be stressful, but also: whatever. It's practical. Delightfully, I'm going to be moving in to a friend's spare room for a bit while I find my feet (and hopefully find myself) while constantly singing the theme tune to New Girl (even though I maintain I am most definitely Nick, not Jess) (if that doesn't make sense, you should totally watch the TV show New Girl, starting halfway through season 1. It's pretty sublime.) So at least I'm already coolly prepared for life to Stay Ridiculous during October.

Stay Cute in the face of everything

PS, I say, in the hushed manner of someone shyly sliding you a note in class, don't forget you can now only order my cookbook directly through me. My pile of remaining cookbooks is starting to get smaller and smaller...
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title from: School's Out by Regina Spektor (were there ever two sweeter words?) it's rambling and conversational and sad and happy and I love her voice so much. 
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music lately: 

Chelsea Jade, Nightswimmer. Formerly dreamy dreamboat Watercolours, she's now Chelsea Jade and this song is as much of a swoony trip as ever.

Ella Eyre, Love Me Like You. Ouch.
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Next time: Well, I still have a lot of grapefruit. 

22 September 2014

i still love you, girl from mars


crunch time

Well. Gosh. I hung out with friends on Saturday night and as we watched the election results unfold we all started to feel increasingly bleak and baffled and like getting very drunk. As I said in my last post, pre-election, everyone's politics are personal and you're entitled to them, but it should come as no surprise whatsoever that I'm not so much "left-leaning" as "riding through your town on a sustainably farmed unicorn brandishing a rainbow flag and leaving a fearsome trail of blood from my liberal bleeding heart". And so, the results were not what I was hoping for and voting for. But here we are, and all that can be done is that we try to support the vulnerable and the needy and the children and so on and make the best of things, yeah? Which is what we should all be doing no matter who is in power, and ultimately what I'd hope anyone in power would be aiming for in some form. Also, said friends had adopted a cat that day and other friends brought their pet corgi along to the party so there was much comforting snuggling and patting to be had. 


I made this Mars Bar Cornflake Slice to bring along, thinking rightly that something sticky-sweet and deliciously immature would be ideal on such an intense night. It is adapted from a recipe in my queen Nigella Lawson's book Feast, and you're actually supposed to spoon the mixture into little cupcake papers. I thought I had tons of them but could only find like, seven, so panicked and threw it all into a flan dish and hoped for the best. And joyfully, it's so damn excellent in slice form. I was worried it might be a little plain - I considered putting caramelised peanuts on it, or drizzling over melted dark chocolate - but it was stupidly perfect as is. 


If you haven't had a Mars bar in a while (and why not, when their ad insists that a Mars a day helps you work, rest AND play, all things I could use some help with) they are a layer of soft squishy chocolate nougat, with a layer of caramel sauce, all covered in chocolate. The breakfasty-comforting taste of cornflakes - slightly malty, slightly nutty - along with all that caramel and sugar is wonderful. It's crunchy, it's chewy, it involves melting chocolate bars with butter, and it's so, so easy. I liked it so much that I made another trayful this morning just to have them around (and it allowed me to feel like a good flatmate and leave a note on the fridge telling everyone else to help themselves to it.)

mars bar cornflake slice

Adapted from a recipe from Nigella Lawson's important book Feast

three 75g Mars Bars (or similar weight made up of whatever size bars you can find)
70g butter 
four cups of cornflakes
a pinch of sea salt (optional)

Break the mars bars into pieces and melt together slowly over a low heat with the butter. The nougat filling will take the longest to break down and probably won't incorporate entirely, so don't worry if the mixture isn't completely smooth. Stir in the cornflakes and spatula the lot into a baking paper lined baking dish. Use the spatula to flatten it out evenly, sprinkle over a little salt if you like, then refrigerate till solid - around half an hour. Cut into thick slices with a large knife. 

You can use whatever kind of baking tray you like, but I used a round metal flan dish. I think I chose it subconsciously because I have this thing where if I'm cutting up a slice from a round dish it feels like all the rounded-edged pieces are mere offcuts and I get to eat them all. Even though I'm going to eat it all anyway? Gotta get your thrills somehow, I suppose.

a cat showed me the vaguest hint of non-indifference and so I was eternally joyful

I enjoyed being up home, trying to get the cats to bond with me, talking about knitting with nanna, making dinner for Dad and a birthday cake for Mum and generally having swell family times. Roger, pictured above, has been with the family since 2007 and my weekend at home was pretty much the first time he's ever shown an interest in me. I am a pushover who will gladly accept this. 

I have been selling heaps of my cookbooks which is exciting - let me remind you that if you want to buy a copy, going directly through me is your only chance while my stocks last. If reading my words isn't enough for you, and how could it possibly be, you can also listen to this super cool interview I did with Harry Evans for his radio show Common Ground. We discussed libraries and halloumi and the election and the writing process and social media and I got to pick two songs to play and it was just really, really fun and lovely. You can either listen on iTunes or on Harry's site. Yay interviews! 

At least no matter what happens in life you know you're never going to have a fight with a corgi over politics. 
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title from: 90s cuties Ash and their song Girl From Mars. 
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music lately: 

Underworld, Rez. Listening to this song honestly makes me feel like I'm a flower petal adrift on late summer evening breeze. Literally.

Street Chant, Salad Daze. It's so so dark and shadowy and hypnotic and good.

Charli XCX, How Can I. Sad pop sad pop, whatcha gonna do when it comes for you.

Buzzcocks, Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't). Oh, this song!
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Next time: I was given a ton of grapefruit from someone's tree which is pretty exciting, therefore maybe it will be something grapefruitly?

14 September 2014

like peaches 'n cream, she's gonna wish on stars and touch the sky, you know what I mean



Laura please don't knock this off the ledge onto the walkway below Laura please don't knock thi

It was a full moon in Pisces this week, so I don't need to tell you that this particular horoscope stirred up some intense emotions. Luckily for me I was coolly prepared by already maintaining a lifestyle of nonstop emotional intensity! Also luckily there were lots of nice things going on, like eating a giant pretzel Momofuku cake for my girl Kate's birthday, dressing up as Columbia for a special screening of Rocky Horror at work, more pats with Percy the corgi, and discovering and then watching the entirety of in one evening, the truly heart-wrenchingly delightful TV show Faking It. It was also the excellent Tim's birthday, and I made him this peach balsamic barbecue sauce as a present (what is our friendship if it cannot withstand my coming out and breaking our engagement?) I had a half tin of peaches in the fridge and many spices and condiments in the pantry and a budget that stretched to one small red onion. This recipe that I found appealed to me because of all these reasons, but also there's something oddly pleasing about making your own preserves and sauces and such, and I thought the peachiness might add a sweet, summery Americana vibe to something already so very American. (Also...I had half a can of peaches in the fridge.)


Apologies for including a fiddly specialty ingredient like liquid smoke, but it's not that hard to get hold of a bottle of it in fancy food shops or online, and if you like things to taste smokey then you can either find some or sigh perpetually about how nothing tastes smokey. (That's as much tough love as I can possibly muster: buy this thing if you like, but only maybe, and either way I'm sorry.) If you can't find it you'll still have a deliciously peachy sweet-sour sauce, but as soon as the liquid smoke is stirred in it suddenly becomes like sunshine on your shoulders and protein seared on magma-hot metal (said protein could be tofu, I'm easy) and your hair being scented like woodchips for days and being ravenous and everything taking so, so long to be cooked through so you have to drink a lot of beer while you wait. So like, you might want to get some.

peach balsamic barbecue sauce

adapted from this recipe on damndelicious.net, makes around 250ml

one tablespoon olive oil 
one red onion, diced
one tablespoon chilli sauce (or to taste, I used sriracha which is kinda mild, hence a tablespoon)
one teaspoon cumin seeds
two large ripe peaches, diced, or the equivalent of canned peaches
two tablespoons maple syrup (or golden syrup or honey - maple is smokier though) 
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
one tablespoon dijon mustard
one tablespoon tomato sauce/paste/similar
about half a teaspoon of liquid smoke
salt and brown sugar to taste - it definitely needs salt, sugar though? Depends on you.

Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the red onion till it's soft but not browned. Throw everything else in, except the liquid smoke, and allow to come to the boil while stirring constantly. Simmer for about ten minutes, then either blend it till smooth in a food processor or use one of those stick things that you use for pureeing soup (they're genius! So little washing up to do!) (my new flat has one, I've never used them before) (anyway) and pour it into a small jar/small jars or directly into a bowl to serve alongside/on top of your dinner. 

(red and white twine to evoke The White Stripes)

This sauce is so delicious. And I'm not entirely a heathen, I didn't go eating Tim's birthday present, there was in fact enough to fill a jar for him and a small ramekin leftover for me. I intended to pour it over rice or something but I just ended up eating the lot with a spoon. The aggressive throat-pinching sourness of the vinegar and heat of the chilli sauce is mellowed by the sweet, sweet peaches, and the spices give it depth and, well, spice. And as I've already iterated at feverish length, liquid smoke is also good. It doesn't make an awful lot but then at least you don't have to stress about desperately pressing bottles of it onto visitors forevermore, and if it's really not to your tastes then at least all you wasted was a couple of tablespoons of this and that. Conversely, if you really love it, the recipe is very easy to double or triple. Barbecue sauce for all! I always thought I hated barbecue sauce actually, but it just turns out that I dislike the particular overly sweet nothingness-paste that gets swirled onto certain takeaway pizzas, which tastes like neither barbecue nor sauce. And it certainly doesn't taste like going on for paragraph after paragraph about sunshine on one's shoulders, etc.

I'm flying up home this afternoon for the first time since Christmas, so that's something. Am looking forward to seeing my family and the cats (the cats are family but you might not pick up on my implications unless I spell it out for you) and spending time knitting and reading the next Harry Potter. I'm so obsessed with Harry Potter, a chill seventeen years after the first book was published.

Okay so now some time has passed and I actually am at my parents' place, which is testament to my disorganisation, but also the passing of time, I guess.
Poppy the cat and I both feel the same way about Harry Potter: nuzzly. 

Finally: It's election time in New Zealand! Can't wait for it to be over so that I don't have to see billboards everywhere, but am looking forward to voting. It's completely appalling that prisoners can't vote, but hopefully my own small vote and my right to do it can help be a snowflake in an ever-rolling snowball of good change. Your politics are your own business, but what you do with them can affect everyone, you know? 

But also: you can now buy my cookbook directly from me! Which is exciting because ya girl remains flat broke, and unlike when it was sold in stores, every dollar from books sold through me goes straight to me. Yay though, right? My cookbook isn't so easy to get hold of anymore so if you're wanting a copy you better get moving as my stocks are limited...
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title via: Britney Spears' important song Brave New Girl. It's easily one of my very favourite songs of hers, that kind of headrush-pop that fills my heart with glitter. 
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music lately: 

Dum Dum Girls, Coming Down. Six minutes and thirty-two seconds of dreamy sad perfection. 

Sarah Jaffe, Lover Girl. Was listening to my favourites Dark Dark Dark on Spotify and looked at related artists and was like, "Spotify, show me something new!" So I tried listening to this woman and I immediately loved every single song I listened to, starting with this. 

Rita Ora, I Will Never Let You Down. Adorable and hopeful and happy.
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Next time: seems like all I have in my pantry right now is pasta, which I'm happy about because I love pasta, so...yeah. We'll see?  

2 September 2014

when we walked through little italy i saw my reflection come right off your face


Ya girl is back. Or at least, ya girl is trying her best to be back. I'm still nowhere near being unpacked (my room somehow gets more embarrassingly messy the harder I try to clean? I dropped out of science early in high school but I'm pretty sure there's nothing in all academic teachings that could explain this phenomenon) but I'm cooking more and attempting to get back on the freelancing stallion and am generally determined to recapture my ambition. For something. I mean, I never lost my ambition of being outstanding in the field of excellence, I just lost my drive due to Extenuating Circumstances and if I'm being scrutinisingly harsh, which I don't enjoy, I probably got a bit exhaustedly complacent in that position of, well, not even trying to try. I'm not sure I'm quite approaching my old burn-all-candles-at-all-ends level, but I am rewatching a lot of Parks and Recreation to re-absorb all of Leslie Knope's power ("there's nothing we can't do if we work hard, never sleep, and shirk all other responsibilities") and I am trying to write more and I am going to start doing my chocolate cookie dough pretzel thing deliveries again!



Because ya girl is also somewhat broke. Moving house and being too busy/tired to maintain several sources of incoming cash is an expensive pastime. But also I miss scooting around town and dropping off parcels of deliciousness, like some kind of no-strings-attached moderately profitable fairy godmother. So if you're in the Wellington CBD region and want some of the good stuff for yourself or for your secret admiree, all the information you need is here.

As I said in my last post, I have started watching The Sopranos, and despite my immediate misgivings at the violence and boring wife-is-a-thankless-harpy outlawish-schlub-husband-is-horrible-and-also-the-beloved-hero tropes, it's so compelling. And it makes me crave Italian food something fierce. Initially I wanted to make meatballs but mine tend to fall apart and I didn't have it in me on this particular day to bounce back from that kind of failure, so instead I went for something very easy - pasta all'amatriciana. I was hoping that it would translate to something to do with matriarchy, but it gets its name from being a dish from the region of Amatrice. Which is nice in its own way - this is just pasta with bacon and tomatoes, but calling it by its proper name gives it a more official, elegant vibe, like, oh I'm just casually making myself this traditional recipe from a beautiful town in the Lazio region of Italy, how bout you?



It really is very simple though, and therein lies its charm - gloriously saucy enough to feel like you're doing yourself a favour, fast enough to not be stressful, familiar enough to serve up to fusspots. I feel like I've had several bad versions of this in my time at cafes that weren't trying very hard, but home made it's highly glorious. Thick tomato sauce, salty-sweet bacon, barely-melting parmesan - all twirled around ribbons of thick, comforting pasta. (Well, I for one find pasta comforting, it's probably my favourite food.)

I slightly adapted a recipe from the Scotto Family, whose book Italian Comfort Food I own and adore. Half a cup of olive oil may sound terrifying in these austere times, but it becomes part of the sauce, making it rich and deeply flavoured and delicious and more than otherwise just a can of tomatoes. However, I understand you using less. Olive oil is expensive. Their recipe called for bucatini pasta but I am a heathen and adore pappardelle, and it was on special at the supermarket - however if you can't find it, my sneaky and ingenious trick is to get sheets of fresh lasagne and slice them into wide lengths. Or use whatever pasta you fancy.

pasta all'amatriciana  

adapted slightly from a recipe by the Scotto family, serves two (or one with leftovers for lunch the next day, aw yeah) 

half a cup olive oil (or less, whatever)
100g pancetta or streaky bacon, diced (I used bacon but pancetta is superior if you can get it)
one onion, diced
one can chopped tomatoes
150g pappardelle pasta (or other pasta)
parmesan cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, or until preeetty tender. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan, and fry the bacon in it till crisp and sizzling. Remove the bacon and set aside - I just put it on the plate I served the pasta on - and tip the onions into the still-hot pan, stirring them and allowing to cook until softened, but not browned. Basically until that harsh onion taste has been cooked out. At this stage, tip in the tomatoes and stir over a high heat till the sauce is thickened somewhat - maybe ten minutes - then tip in the bacon and stir again for another five minutes or so. Drain the pasta and stir it into the sauce, still over a high heat, and then remove from the heat, add as much parmesan as your heart desires, and serve. 



I haven't bought parmesan in forever, because every time I pass it in the supermarket I passively-aggressively sigh at myself like some kind of lazily-written thankless shrew wife in nearly any TV show and say "oh...no, no I shouldn't, that's expensive" even though the price is never going to change and I could pay a lot more for something else and have a lot less fun. I really should've bought some sooner, a fresh grating of it makes so many pastas and risottos more wonderful, and a little bit goes a long way. As I said a lot when I learned the phrase false economy: that's not false economy!

and it feels like home

There are a lot of things I don't do that cause varying degrees of incredulity in people - can't drive, can't ride a bike, have never changed a lightbulb in my life - but what seems to cause the most gasps is the fact that Harry Potter completely passed me by. I never read any of the books and at most I have half-watched the first movie. But I know several people who are majorly passionate about this series, and I have been wanting to read something that is charming but which I can gallop through for some time now, and so I just...started reading Harry Potter. Three days later I am up to book three, and can say with some authority that I now understand the resilient hype. It's so good! Hermione is so relatable, that overachieving, keen-to-inform-you-of-her-overachieving hero! Minerva is so icily awesome! Dobby sucks! A lot more of things referenced frequently on the internet make sense to me now! Hurrah for reading. Between Hermione and Leslie Knope, I'm at least surrounded by good influences. Now to allow myself to be aggressively influenced...
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title from: PJ Harvey, My Good Fortune. I've loved this song since I first heard it in 2000, with its jangling chevron-like melody and satisfyingly ridiculous drawing out of words at the end of each refrain. And PJ Harvey is obviously a goddess. 
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music lately

Beyonce's performance of a medley of her entire self-titled album at the VMA awards. This is so important. I cried, I got the chills, I cried again. I'm getting chills just typing about it, thinking about her face when she sings Jealous or the sight of her standing in front of the word FEMINIST in enormous lit up letters or when Blue says "good job mommy", I mean, just watch it. 

Liane La Havas, Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye. This wistful, dreamy Leonard Cohen song is made even more dreamy by her voice. 

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Maps. Wait. 
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next time: reading Harry Potter just makes me want to eat enormous feasts with hearty puddings and lashings of whipped cream, even though that's actually more of an Enid Blyton thing, there is a natural echo of her words in JK Rowlings' descriptions of food. Will see if I can make floating candles and a ceiling that looks like the night sky happen too. 

25 August 2014

you may come full circle and be new here again


So I've moved house! Last week was so weird. But it's Monday now, and every Monday is like a little January 1, where you can start all over again. I have the day off work today and decided it would finally be the day I get my act together and buy some food and then cook that food for myself, for the first time in ages. My two options thus far for the last week or so have been buy food from cafes or takeaways, or sit in bed and contemplatively eat expired Golden Grahams cereal by the handful or a bag of twisties, scattering orange twistie dust everywhere (and here I'd like to apologise to my teddy bear, Avery, who looks like he has purchased a very bad fake tan.) The first option is not financially stable and the second option will probably have some weird effect on me eventually like dissolving my bones or giving me scurvy.

So, after eating some twisties in bed, I propelled myself towards the supermarket with the hopes that I'd inspire myself by the time I got there into knowing what it was I actually wanted to buy and make. I wanted something that could be done in one pan, so I wouldn't make too much mess in the new kitchen. I also wanted something vaguely nutritious. I had grand intentions to buy a ton of fruit, but then remembered that winter is when fruit is all "nah, not in the mood to exist right now", but potato and fennel are both present and cheap, and halloumi is the best way of making something half-assed feel celebratory and highly lux. And so, this salad appeared.

halloumi, fried potato, and raw fennel salad

a recipe by myself. Serves one, but it takes little rocket science to work out how to make it serve more.

one medium sized potato - I used a red one
half a large fennel bulb, or all of a small one
four thick slices of halloumi
olive oil
butter
juice of half a lemon

Dice the potato very finely - the smaller it is, the quicker it will cook. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a decent sized pan and wait for it to look sizzling, then throw in the potato and allow to cook till crisp, stirring occasionally. It'll feel like it's taking forever but the whole process really only takes about ten minutes - just make sure you let them sit till they're plenty golden. Undercooked potato is no fun.

Finely slice the fennel and arrange half of it on a plate. Tip the potato on top of it, and then top with the rest of the fennel. Heat some butter (I used about 25g) in the same pan, and fry your halloumi slices till very golden brown on each side. Slide the halloumi onto the plate, scatter over some of those feathery green fennel fronds, because what else are you going to do with them, squeeze the lemon juice into the buttery pan and then spatula all that over the halloumi. 

I'd started watching The Sopranos last night - a show I hadn't made any effort to seek out despite its general acclaim, on account of I don't fool with violence and I also don't need another TV show about a lawless white man who treats the significant woman in his life horribly and yet is received as the hero while she is the shrew, going through season after season of ultimately self-inflicted tension. However. I was with a group of people and the opportunity presented itself and I do have a very soft spot for the sadly late James Gandolfini. And wow, yeah, it's a very well-made show, and I can see how it impressively influenced later HBO and HBO-style shows. But where I'm going with this is oh damn I wanted some meatballs or Bolognese or eggplant or pretty much anything aggressively Italian to eat after watching it. Alas, this salad is what happened instead. Luckily, this salad is hugely excellent in its own way.


Fried potatoes and buttery, melting halloumi are so good together it's almost stupid, their textures both echoing and diverting from each other in a crunchily sybaritic fashion. The fennel itself also brings crunch of a different kind, not only stopping the entire thing from being burdonsomely rich, but also lifting the golden flavours of the halloumi with its faintly aniseed flavour. But then of course I pour over the melted butter from the pan, in case it's not quite burdonsomely rich enough. The squeeze of lemon brings it all together, and with very little effort you have yourself a massively amazing lunch.


In lieu of a carefully staged photo of the dish sitting on a beautiful table, because there is none, here's a photo of it on my lap on the couch, where I ate it. Four slices of halloumi is ideal - any fewer and you'd start to feel sad halfway through that the good times were nearly over, any more and you'd probably end up uncomfortably full but still doggedly determined to finish it because halloumi is halloumi. A scattering of sumac or mint leaves wouldn't hurt this in the slightest, but for a hastily assembled meal it's pretty great as is.

So, am slowly getting unpacked and used to my new world. My new bedroom has kind of got no natural light whatsoever, which is...something...but the people are nice and there's unlimited internet and I love being so central, right in town, and I'm gonna eventually get there and have all my stuff where it should be.

Like this dress, back on the wall where she belongs (admittedly rather crumpled from the moving process, but like, same)

I feel like now that I'm no longer in this pre-move limbo zone I very much want to get my life together and cook heaps and write heaps and do heaps and really just be as super excellent as I can to continue propelling myself towards being lowkey ridiculously famous and adored by all.

If you ever do want to feel adored by all, by the way, my advice for you is: visit a dog. My darling friends Kim and Brendan spontaneously adopted a corgi who needed a home, and she is the most loving tiny dingus that ever lived. She's like the hearts-for-eyes emoji existing in a corporeal form. I visited her on Friday, because she needs company and I needed dog hugs. As soon as I walked in she ran up to me and gazed up at me with such joy in her eyes, I actually felt my bones melt. And not just from eating all those twisties. I visited her again today for the same reason, and she was just the snuggliest thing ever, greeting me with a face that said "hi, you're perfect and I love you indiscriminately and also everyone around you and everything around you!"
We get on well because we're both fluffy and needy and have great eyeliner. 

Percy still has a lot to learn about taking selfies, but luckily Aunty Laura is here, and uncharactaristically patient.

So yeah, new house, new blog post, new hund friend! A lot of things in life are still very hard to deal with but I'm greeting the future with one hand in my pocket, and the other one is giving a peace sign (oh wait I started singing Alanis Morrisette there.)
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title from: Gil Scott-Heron's contemplatively perfect song I'm New Here. The low rumble of the guitar and the low rumble of his voice, "told her I was hard to get to know and near impossible to forget"...so sad I'll never get to see him live. 
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music lately:

Janine and the Mixtape, Hold Me. The anthem. 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, So Good At Being In Trouble. The...other anthem. 

Nicki Minaj, Jessie J and Ariana Grande, Bang Bang. This song goes OFF. I intend to dance to it many, many times. Am also just generally pro anything Nicki Minaj lays her hands on or says or does. 
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next time: Maybe some bolognese or meatballs or something, yeah?