Snapshots 20.08.15

Luna Park

Daytripping – Luna Park fun


August so far has seen hot weather hopefulness with trips to the beach, lots of good reads, much picture book love and some delicious Sydney food finds for good measure.

Kids’ books

We are fully aboard the Andy Griffiths train in this house, with the obligatory purchase of the latest Treehouse book (made all the more exciting after meeting Andy at the Sydney’s Writer’s Festival this year!). Here are a couple of great articles post 65-Storey Treehouse release: the importance of humour in kids’ books, and why Andy Griffiths thinks many children’s stories are boring.

Other favourite kids’ reads right now: Lulu by Georgie Donaghey, Lisa absolutely loves art by Sophie Norsa, The Cleo Stories by Libby Gleeson, The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo and Why I love Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft (you can read my review for Buzz Words here).


Kids books we love - August


Lulu author Georgie (who signed her book for my kids at the recent CYA Conference) sent us a lovely package of Lulu-themed craft and fun things (like chocolate) – the kids were super impressed to receive something in the mail from a real-life author!


All things Lulu


Other reads

I recently devoured Bejing Tai Tai by Tania McCartney, an expat memoir of the now kids’ author (and brains behind Kids Book Review, one my favourite go-to kids’ book sites) on her expat years in Beijing. I felt swept up in her story as it was so relatable, There were many things that mirrored my own time living in Asia in the late 2000s – everything from maid dramas and navigating expat friendships, to cultural differences and bringing up kids ‘elsewhere’. It’s humourous, warm, insightful – a bit like reading someone’s diary. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of expat or travel non-fiction.

Current reads

I’ve also just read Motherhood and Creativity by Rachel Power, a collection of stories by Australian women who grapple with juggling motherhood with a creative career, whether it be acting, art or writing. It was so interesting to read insights into these women’s lives, especially admired writers like Sally Rippin and Nikki Gemmell. Such a great read for anyone balancing all things kids with a passion pursuit.

Now, I’m reading Emily Bitto’s The Strays (loving so far), with a side detour into YA for uni (Risk by Fleur Ferris and Just_a_Girl by Kristen Krauth – both engaging yet chilling in their own ways).


Weekend wanderings // Sydney



Daytrips, food loves and fun things of late have included:

+ an exploration of the far northern beaches (winter denial), including a pitstop at a great Avalon cafe, Smalltown (like a slice of the inner-west, transported to beachland)

+ Luna Park on a blue sky day, with a side serve of Americana at Batch burgers in Kirribilli

+ a sushi train restaurant with iPads for ordering (new favourite city sushi)

+ oysters at The Gretz and dinner at Hartsyard (balancing all the ‘heartiness’ – ahem, fried chicken – with their amazing broccoli dish)


Wanderlust wishlist

+ this cafe

+ this hotel

+ this restaurant


Snapshots 27.2.15

All the birds singing


All the birds singing by Evie Wyld

My book club just read this novel which was haunting, heartbreaking and fascinating all at once. The female protagonist Jack is a fiercely strong shearer, yet is fleeing from something untoward in her past. There’s something mysteriously killing her sheep, and it seems there could be a link to her troubled past. As the story progresses with one strand propelling forward, the other backpedalling, it all becomes clearer. I loved the split narrative and the way everything unravelled, though the story’s structure divided our book club’s opinions. I was clearly in the love camp with this one, for the story but also the simple yet powerfully evocative language and vivid sense of place Wyld conjured.


All the things at Paesanella, Marrickville

Cheese and charcuterie lovers should head straight to Paesanella’s Marrickville emporium and up the cafe lift to cheese heaven. Along with aisles of packaged Italian delights, a deli counter and fridges stocked with cheese (including Paesanella’s famous homemade ricotta and buffalo mozzerella), there’s also a glass-encased cheese room for ogling, smelling and sampling. New weekend haunt sorted.


Stand up paddleboarding

After a quick lesson post-paddle board hire at Rose Bay surf club on a recent pale grey early morning, I was soon skimming over the surface of crystal clear water, with rays visible on the ocean floor, schools of fish darting around and gardens of seaweed underneath. This was the perfect place and time to learn, with calm water and not too many people or boats around at 7am. Paddle boarding feels like a full body workout, yet is also quite calming, and is something I’ll definitely seek out on future beach breaks.

Weekend wanderings: Rosebery + Zetland

Coveting all the kids things at Koskela

Coveting all the kids things at Koskela

Our latest weekend wander was around Sydney’s post-industrial (and still a bit industrial) inner southeast. Rosebery and Zetland (just south of Redfern) are home to some fantastic finds, from off the radar factory outlet stores to cool cafes and furniture designers. In a matter of metres you can shop for discounted Zimmermann clothes, then lunch at the latest outpost of Newtown’s famed Black Star Pastry (everything here is good, but we tried and loved the roast pork banh mi and the brownies – heavenly!).

Rosebery’s Black Star Pastry – bakery heaven

Rosebery’s Black Star Pastry – bakery heaven

There’s more deliciousness on offer in Koskela’s inhouse cafe, Kitchen by Mike, in a huge warehouse conversion right next to Black Star. Koskela itself features an amazing edit of homewares, furniture, books and textiles by talented Australian designers, plus rotating art exhibits. Right now the colourful works of Melbourne artist Miranda Skoczek are brightening Koskela’s immense space (showing ’til 25 May – go!).

Miranda Skoczek’s vibrant paintings at Koskela

Miranda Skoczek’s vibrant paintings at Koskela

There’s also much to love and covet in the kids’ corner at Koskela, from the old school lockers to the wooden toys and colourful cushions. There’s a well-curated selection of picture books, featuring most of the CBCA 2014 shortlist and lots of crafty kid wares.

Koskela’s picture book edit

Koskela’s picture book edit

Venturing to next-door suburb Zetland, we also visited small contemporary art gallery Sullivan + Strumpf to see an exhibition by Japanese artist Hiromi Tango featuring installations bursting with colour – a 3D, abstract reflection of the inner self. It’s also on for a few more weeks and there’s an interesting group exhibition on the second level too, which we lost ourselves in for a while.

One of Hiromi Tango’s captivatingly colourful installations

One of Hiromi Tango’s captivatingly colourful installations

This is but the tip of the Rosebery/Zetland iceberg – definitely an area of Sydney worth unearthing for food, coffee, art and shopping finds, design inspiration and repeat pastry-fests.

Where to wander:

Black Star Pastry: 85-113 Dunning Ave (cnr. Hayes Rd), Rosebery
Koskela/Kitchen by Mike: 1/85 Dunning Ave, Rosebery
Sullivan + Strumpf: 799 Elizabeth St, Zetland
Zimmermann Outlet: 2E Hayes Rd, Rosebery

{Sydney} Weekend wanderings 10.11.13

Armchair Collective

Image credit: Armchair Collective

Sydney weekends mean wandering to me – from exploring new places in our ‘hood to venturing far and wide, often in search of good eats. Here’s a little round-up of some food, finds and fun from recent weeks, which will hopefully inspire you to set out and explore your city.

The last few weekends have been a blur of kids parties (sooo many kids parties), beach walks and cafe hits and misses. We recently ventured to the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Month’s night noodle markets in the city (twice) and now have a full blown Mamak crush (best roti this side of KL). We’ve dragged our kids out for Mexican, Vietnamese, and too many places for babycinos.

Armchair Collective

Image credit: Armchair Collective

One of my favourite cafe jaunts has been to Armchair Collective in Mona Vale. We were in the area anyway for a birthday so took a beach detour afterwards. The cafe looks kind of 70s from the outside, but inside is like a colourful beach shack. It’s a combined cafe and homewares store, and I fell a little bit in love with the ikat cushions, Moroccan ceramics and hippy luxe by the beach vibe of it all. The menu offers a great mix of typical cafe fare, not particularly experimental but hearty, wholesome and with high quality ingredients. The salad of beetroot, pumpkin, spinach and quinoa with goats cheese was light on the quinoa, but vegetable heavy and featured a tangy dressing – virtuous and delicious. There’s also a great BRT (with rocket substituting lettuce). If you’re stopping by for a post-beach takeaway Single Origin, you can also pick up a bunch of hydrangeas to go from the onsite florist, which adds to Armchair’s already colourful and inspiring aesthetics. And yes, the beach is a short walk away at the end of the street, so it’s an excursion-worthy combo.

On last weekend’s agenda: a school fete where I scored big time at the book stall (a wine box worth of books for the grand total of $15, including four cookbooks, some kids books, travel anthologies and novels, including one by my favourite travel writer, Pico Iyer. Score!), and a girls’ night to Icebergs Dining Room and Bar in Bondi with two of my food loving friends. Sipping cocktails on the glass-panelled balcony perched over the iconic Icebergs pool and a sprawl of surfer-studded ocean was not a bad way to kick off a Saturday evening. Dinner was a fishy affair, with shared oysters, school prawns and crab, with cod and delicious sides including my favourite, the lemon drenched kale. Icebergs had a kind of special occasion, date night vibe, but was nevertheless a beautiful setting for a catchup.

As for this weekend – we made a round two visit to Chi and Co. and it was just as good, if not better, as we had an extra person this time hence more dishes! If you go, the XO pork belly is a decadent, spicy, rich must-have. We also gorged on cannolis, jam doughnuts and lemon tarts at the Italian sweet-fest Pasticceria Tamborrino in Five Dock (they have everything from arancini to gelato, and all the cakes, biscuits and Italian desserty things you can think of – heaven).

How do you like to spend your weekends? And how was yours?

Devoured & discovered {30.08.13}

The signature son-in-law eggs at Chi & Co.

The signature son-in-law eggs at Chi & Co.


Best recent (Sydney) eats: woodfired goodness at new restaurant Ester in Chippendale, home-style quiches, flaky sausage rolls and Little Marionette coffee at Petersham’s Pig & Pastry, luscious French toast with ricotta, rhubarb and salted caramel at West Juliett (WJC again?! I know), drinks at Mary’s in Newtown, the delicious pork hock hash at Excelsior Jones and the best. meal. ever. at Chi & Co. in Canley Heights (blog post coming soon!).

+ Homegrown: our celery is finally ready and while not as ‘chunky’ as shop-bought it’s one of the lowest maintenance veges we’ve grown and doesn’t seem to have attracted pests – highly recommend it if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs!


+ Loving: this series on surprising things about motherhood around the world on A Cup of Jo. It focuses on American expats living in different countries (so far there’s Japan, Norway, Congo, Northern Ireland, Mexico and Abu Dhabi), with families adapting to local customs and attitudes around babies and kids (cue flashbacks of own experiences with babies in Cambodia and Vietnam. The attention, the non-stop advice and old wives tales galore!). The diversity of each experience is what makes this series so compelling.

+ Also: this blog series by Australian freelance writer and author Allison Tait on social media for writers (though lots of the ideas could be applied whether you’re a writer or not). If you’ve ever wondered how google+ and Pinterest could be relevant for writers, this series offers some great insights. And may just entice you to expand your social media repertoire.


+ Orange is the new Black is so addictive
+ Taking the road less travelled with a baby – some helpful family travel tips from All Abroad Baby
+ A fascinating, disturbing and emotional documentary on being a woman in India (you can watch the whole thing on youtube)

Devoured & discovered {13.07.13}


+ Sydney eating adventures of late include dinner and drinks at Miss Peaches, the revamped upstairs area at the Marlborough in Newtown (think all things cajun and deep south), delicious desserts at Hartsyard, the best Thai in ages at Senyai in the city (enhanced by cool Bangkok shophouse decor), an insane Turkish brunch at Efendy in Balmain (if you try nothing else, order the dips), and about a gazillion visits to West Juliett Cafe. If you go you HAVE to have the choc chip cookie with pink salt. Other things you should try – Persian love cake at Brickfields in Chippendale and the shakshuka or hommous and falafel plate at Cafe Shenkin in Erksineville.

+ Making: kale chips! These are a bit like kai phen, a dried Mekong river weed snack we loved in Laos. Healthy, crunchy, savoury and yum. Here’s a quick and easy Japanese-inspired kale chip recipe by The Tart Tart on A Cup of Jo. Mine turned out a little soggy at first (too much oil) so I ended up putting them back in the oven for a few more minutes (10 minutes in total). They were delish, but my other tip is to go easy on the soy sauce if you don’t want them too salty.


Canberra is the next destination on my travel radar, somewhere I haven’t been for years and years! Any recommendations for good coffee, delicious eats, quirky shops, cool markets or other interesting things are welcome. Also on the agenda are Questacon, the National Gallery and maybe Cockington Green. Basically re-enacting our year 6 Canberra school excursions but for our much littler kids. Ok, and for us!

+ I just discovered the excellent travel blog In Search of a Life Less Ordinary and am now playing serious catchup. Check it out for perspectives on travel, expat life and location independent work, plus this beautiful ode to Sydney (and why we shouldn’t take living here for granted). In a sea of Sydney-based blogs written by Sydneysiders, it’s fascinating to read one from an expat’s perspective (le fabuleux destin by Melbourne-based Kristina is another great example in this genre).


+ The Book Salon is a just-launched online hub for all things writing, with a free e-book download  called 50 essential resources every writer needs, featuring well-curated advice and inspiration for writers. It’s a go-to guide for the ‘best-of’ writing advice that’s out there, from blogs to books to podcasts. I can’t wait to see what else this site has in store.

+ I just got wind of a new collection of short stories called Holiday in Cambodia by Laura Jean McKay, published by Black Inc. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy, but in the meantime you can listen to her reading a chapter called The Expatriate. As an ex-expat in Cambodia, I felt a little squeamish and cringey listening to this. The annoyance, the sense of entitlement… eek! It really captures the sometimes uneasy relationship between local and expat, and those lost in translation moments that permeate seemingly trivial moments.


+ Loving reading Through My Looking Glass, a blog packed with motivation and inspiration, with a dose of Sydney cafe love
+ Are you multi-passionate? Let the ridiculously insightful Kacey explain
+ And also: Three signs you’ve found your passion

What have you been eating, making, reading, listening to, writing, watching, discovering or dreaming of lately?

Devoured & discovered {9.04.13}

West Juliett Cafe

+ Latest café crush: West Juliett in Enmore. Opened a few weeks back, the café is in a similar vein to Cornersmith or Bread and Circus, with a focus on natural, high quality, seasonal ingredients. The coffee’s great, the space is airy and white with large windows and a few industrial/vintage touches, and the staff are lovely. New favourite.

+ Speaking of crushworthy things…Gold Fields is a JJJ Unearthed band from Ballarat who are on the verge of wonderful things (they just played SXSW, toured the US and appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, hello big time). The good news is they are touring Oz in June and… I have tickets! Cannot. Wait.

+ Local Mexican eats: La Lupita in Canterbury is the pop-up restaurant belonging to the Al Carbon taco food truck crew. On a nondescript stretch of seen-better-days Canterbury Road amongst boarded up shopfronts, the restaurant has a casual, fun, converted garage feel, with charcoal grilling action, delicious tacos and the occasional mariachi band! See their FB page for when they’re open as it’s different each week.

+ Coconut oil is being espoused everywhere in health and wellness blogland right now, though it has some critics divided by its purported health benefits. Never one to shy away from a superfood trend I’ve jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon lately – so far I’ve used it in stirfries, to cook popcorn with and to roast sweet potato in. The taste and fragrance is delicious and if it does what it says on the tin so to speak, I’m a coconut oil convert.

Also loving…
+ the last days of sunshine at Bondi Beach + ferrying to Bundeena + Manu Chao live at the Enmore + drinks at Waterhorse + eggs benedict at Excelsior Jones (with magic ingredient – celery salt) + contemplating whether your 30s are ‘do or die’ (scary!) + Mad Men’s return + chlorophyll water + Hobart travel plans

How about you?

Links to devour {Feb 2013}

Personalising your blog, writing advice and the perils of photographing your food – just a few of the things I’m currently devouring online…..

+ Branding and design extraordinaire Nubby Twiglet addresses ‘How can I share more of myself on my blog?’ This is a question many bloggers grapple with (including me) and it can be scary to put more of yourself out there for anyone to read. But it is true that blog posts of the more personal kind make for more compelling reading. I feel like I used to write more openly about myself and my life in my former blog and that devoured has a more detached, distant voice. I really want to take some of this advice on board to try and personalise my blog a little more!

+ I’m sure every food blogger and social media meal-sharer in Australia cringed after reading Tim Ross’ piece on MamaMia basically paying out taking photos of your food! It’s true that everyone seems to be a food critic these days in some shape or form, and while some people might take it too far (standing on chairs?!) I don’t see what’s wrong with taking an indiscreet picture or two of a restaurant meal, whether it’s to instagram it or to accompany a review on a blog, or even for inclusion in a feature for a website or a magazine. I actually like to look at other people’s photos of food, for inspiration on what to cook or to help decide what’s next on my restaurant radar. I do feel self concious taking food photos though (more-so in Sydney than I used to in Asia, where noone seemed to mind!) and do it a lot less these days, especially as I’m more word-oriented and my food photography leaves alot to be desired! But that’s just me. To everyone else, keep the food photos coming!

+ Writer Allison Tait has started a great series on her blog Life in a Pink Fibro called Starting Out, where freelance writers share their tips and insights on writing for a living. Anna Spargo-Ryan writes about working out what kind of writer you will be, timely for me as I feel a bit all over the shop at the moment, one minute doing corporate writing, the next, travel features for the web. Then, embarking on fiction for adults while also trying my hand at children’s picture book writing. It’s like I want to do it all and I’m not sure if I can, or if I should just pick one avenue and concentrate purely on that. Megan Blandford offers some sound advice on making a career out of freelance writing, with some hard truths about pitching and rejection (the scariest part of any writing journey), and Karen Jane Charlton questions whether you need to do a course to be a writer.


+ The best 10 cafes in Sydney’s inner west {via Concrete Playground}
+ Paperman is a short and sweet Oscar-nominated animation set in 1940s New York {via A Cup of Jo}
+ Inspiration for healthy, easy snacks to make {via In Spaces Between}

Two must-see movies (set in Asia!)

Because Asia is a place so close to my heart I’m a sucker for any show, movie, book, blog or anything set in my favourite continent. So I was pretty excited when I found out about Wish You Were Here, an Australian-made movie partially filmed in Cambodia (specifically, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville). It’s about two couples on a carefree holiday in Cambodia, and only three return to Sydney. The opening sequence of markets, food, colour and life in Phnom Penh made my heart race. Beyond the nostalgia and wanderlust the movie evoked I also loved the plot and the acting was fantastic. Totally recommend it to any Asia-philes!

I also recently saw Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a tale of a motley crew of new retirees heeding an ads’ call to retire to a supposedly palatial hotel in Jaipur, India. As well as the funny, uplifting and sometimes sad stories it reveals about the characters, it portrays India in all its colourfully chaotic glory. It made me wish I was jostling in a crazy market or tearing around India’s streets on the back of a motorbike. Armchair travel can be a wonderful thing, don’t you think?!