old fashioned vegan fudge

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It’s 2020! Hasn’t this year got off to a smashingly awful start? Aren’t we doing well, at being terrible? I wasn’t even sure how to articulate all of this and then fortunately – and I mean fortunately on a minuscule scale – I ended up writing a poem that was published on The Spinoff, about how everything feels right now. The thrust of the poem, and indeed, how I feel about 2020, is that it seems like all the bad things are global-scale, and all the good things are only small and anecdotal. Hence its title: Anecdotal Happiness.

Who knows what this murky new decade will bring, but I’m starting it here providentially with a recipe for fudge – proper, old fashioned fudge, with that dense, granular texture like hard-packed wet sand, where you can feel the sugar softly exfoliating your teeth as they slide through it. Creamy and rich with no particular flavour other than that of caramelised sugar – the very best flavour there is. Tiny squares that burst into dissolution in your mouth and almost make you cough from the throat-burning sweetness.

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This recipe tastes just like the fudge that I used to make as a child, despite having not quite the same ingredients – since this is vegan fudge – though I suspect you might detect a fluttering taste of coconut from it, especially the longer it sits. Fudge is, frankly, quite a stressful undertaking, with all the magma-hot boiling sugar and careful timing and so on. But even if it all goes wrong it will still be incredibly delicious. The first time I made this – as you might be able to see in the photos – I both boiled and beat it a little too long, giving it a slightly crumbly dry texture. The second time I was more cautious and was rewarded with perfection.

At any rate, if you go in confidently you should be fine – I feel that food, like horses, can sense your nervousness and reacts accordingly, but even as a child I managed to make this without any mishaps. Although when I was a kid it was always microwaved fudge, poured into a buttered upturned Pyrex lid, perhaps with a little cocoa added in if I wanted to be extra fancy. I think – unless you grow up in a particularly moneyed and permissive environment – those occasional childhood moments where you’re allowed to experience such pure sugar rush end up sticking with you in a more emotional way, and is probably why, now that I’m vegan, I’m always trying to recreate such recipes (like the lemon curd) because, without butter and cream and so on, they’re now further out of reach culinarily as well as just from the passage of time and so it makes that emotional pull feel stronger.

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Does that make sense? What I’m saying is: this fudge tastes wonderful, you should make it.

With the dawn of a new decade comes changes. When I started hungryandfrozen.com in 2007, in the decade before last, I thought it would be super cute to have all my blog post titles be the lyrics of songs that related somehow to the recipe, rather than just the name of the recipe itself. It was indeed pretty cute. Initially. As the blog enters its thirteenth year I have decided to finally retire this quirky notion. My motivation is partly mercenary – I honestly shudder to think what these song lyrics titles have done to my site’s SEO, and what might have transpired had my recipes been slightly more easy to google. But it’s also motivated by sheer exhaustion – I was actually, genuinely, running out of songs to plunder for lyrics. That might sound like exaggeration, but I’ve written nearly 700 blog posts so far. The whole thing was honestly giving me anxiety every time I had to find a new title, which is stupid, since only a small number of people even read this blog, probably because of all the obtuse titles making everything so hard to find! So from now on the blog posts will just have the title of the recipe – which feels strange, though perhaps not quite as strange as it feels for you reading this mini-essay breaking down my feelings about this inconsequential aspect of my blog.

Also – as well as reading Anecdotal Happiness, you may also wish to read my recent essay, that I’m very proud of, about Dawn Schafer, the teenage vegetarian from The Baby-Sitters Club. She was not necessarily the most loveable of the cast of babysitters, but looking back, she was remarkably ahead of her time.

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Old Fashioned Fudge

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup coconut cream*
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup*
  • a solid pinch of salt, plus more to taste

* Use full fat coconut cream, and look at the ingredients list to make sure there’s at least 85-90% coconut extract. If you are in America and can’t get golden syrup, try using light corn syrup or even maple syrup instead. The flavour of golden syrup is spectacular though, it’s worth hunting for.

1: Get a sheet of baking paper and place it in a regular sized oven dish – the sort you’d bake brownies or a slice in. That said, because the fudge sets so quickly you can really turn it out onto anything – even just a baking tray. Whatever it is you end up using, just make sure there’s baking paper on it and it’s ready to go.

2: Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve. Continue to let the mixture bubble away for seven minutes (set a timer if this helps.) You may need to occasionally reduce the heat to stop it bubbling over – hence why a big pan is useful – but ideally it will be properly bubbling the whole time.

(Seven minutes should do the trick but for peace of mind you can also try carefully dropping a spoonful of the mixture into a glass of very cold water, if, once it’s dropped to the bottom, you can pick it up and it holds its shape between your fingers, then the fudge is ready. If it dissolves into the water then you need to keep boiling it.)

3: At this point remove the fudge from the heat and start stirring it vigorously – but carefully, this stuff is HOT – with a wooden spoon or similar implement. The timing of this stage is quite crucial – you want to stop just as it starts to thicken up and lose its gloss – the very second this happens, quickly spatula it into your prepared tin and use the back of a spoon to press it out into an even layer. Wetting the spoon first helps.

If you beat it for slightly too long it’ll seize up and suddenly feel like cement, it’s still very edible but will just be quite crumbly.

4: Allow to set in the fridge for a few hours before slicing into small pieces – about an inch squared works for me. Store the fudge in an airtight container somewhere cool.

music lately:

Pull Back The Bolt by Minimal Man, from their 1984 album Safari. This has a kind of Gary Numan fizziness to it and this incredible combination of urgency and dizzy exhilaration. I just want to listen to it over and over and over. If you’re sitting around glumly all like “it’s a while since I’ve become completely obsessed with a song,” this could be the one.

Werkin Girls by Angel Haze. I was obsessed with them in 2014 and this song – from 2012 – still has the impact of one freshly-baked this morning. I love the way that whiplash-speed rapping slides into the swagger of the chorus.

Next time: I am prosaically but understandably keen to make the most of summer food while it’s still summer.

PS: Consider truly starting your decade correctly by supporting me and my writing directly through my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, poems, reviews, short stories.

it’s time to face facts and not mince a word

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When I was a kid, it felt like every day from December 1 onwards was basically Christmas Eve. As an adult working in the hospitality industry it’s like, literally every day is just another shift to clock on and I might start idly organising Christmas-related things at 11pm on the 23rd if I’m feeling sprightly. This year I’m instead occupying the odd world of freelancing, where you’re always working but it never looks like it, where no thought can go unexamined but for the question, “is this content?” Working for yourself means no Christmas parties and a very biased HR department, but on the upside, most of the toil can be done in track pants on the couch. Nevertheless even with all this sitting down I still find myself astonished at the haste with which this month has moved.

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Even with the big day itself getting precariously close it’s not too late to make one last objectively unnecessary but subjectively delicious thing, and this Rhubarb Vanilla Christmas Fruit Mince from Nigella Lawson’s wonderful book Feast easily fits the bill. Fruit mince is confusing on so many levels – why does it sound like meat, why would I actually want to eat a bunch of sultanas, how is it overly sweet yet rudely flavourless? Not this stuff though. The inclusion of rhubarb, sour-sweet and fragrant as it collapses in the heat, and lush vanilla, makes for a wonderful rush of flavour. It’s hefty and plummy and wintery yet somehow lively and vivid. The dried fruit absorbs all the intense flavour as it cooks, and it all tastes immensely luxurious. Plus it’s incredibly easy to make.

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(I freely acknowledge that I went slightly overboard with these photos, like, you can barely even see the jar in this one, but the decorations were just sitting there on the table! What was I to do! Be tasteful? At Christmas?)

Rhubarb Vanilla Christmas Fruit Mince

Adapted just slightly from Nigella Lawson’s Feast

  • 1kg rhubarb, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced into 5mm pieces
  • 300g brown sugar 
  • 2 vanilla beans*
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 250g raisins
  • 250g sultanas
  • 250g currants
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (or similar – I used dark rum)

* I only had one vanilla bean, so added a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract at the end. Vanilla beans are also sometimes called vanilla pods. I also just did double sultanas because I don’t really favour raisins. 

Place the rhubarb, sugar and mixed spice into a good-sized saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans into the pan and then slice up the beans themselves and throw them in too. Turn the heat to medium bring it to a good simmer, stirring to prevent the sugar burning. After five minutes, add the dried fruit and simmer for a further thirty minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the alcohol. Transfer into clean jars.

Nigella reckons this makes 1.25 litres, I got a bit less but still heaps so by all means have some jars on hand.

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Obviously you need to choose your audience here but a small jar of this would make a lovely gift. It can also, of course, be made into slightly untraditional pies, or stirred into cake batter, or heated up and spooned over ice cream. Nigella recommends spreading it on toast like jam, I think it would work particularly well on a toasted bagel. I do enjoy marinading myself in Nigella’s Christmas-related material – nothing else quite makes me feel so resolutely contextualised in the season.

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Meri Kirihimete! Whether Christmas is something you delight in, politely acknowledge, or have no connection to, I certainly hope either way that the 25th is a nice day for you.

PS I absolutely recommend my last blog post where I rounded up a ton of edible gift idea recipes. The day is still young!

title from: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Love by Barbra Streisand, an unreleased song of hers that would be otherwise a standard workhorse pleasantry if not for the remarkable D5 belt at the end that she holds for ages, truly one of the queens of possessing vocal chords.

music lately:

Pop A Top by Andy Capp. This early reggae track from 1968 is joyful and mellow at the same time, just what we need at this frantic time of year.

Thursday Girl, by Mitski. This song was my number one most played track on Spotify for 2019, which could be partially to do with my making a playlist consisting only of this song on a loop and spending many hours playing it while staring mournfully into space. It’s just devastating.

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by the sadly late but never forgotten Elaine Stritch. If everything is feeling too comfortably sugary this Christmas, there’s always Stritch to reinvigorate your senses, her singular, matter-of-fact bark is like a cold bucket of lemon juice to the face. In a good way.

Next time: I did make some amazingly good fudge that I’d like to share with you, whether this happens before the end of the year or not is in the hands of Fate (and nothing whatsoever to do with my own diligence.)

PS: What is the true meaning of Christmas if not directly supporting me through my Patreon? It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, poems, stories, the opening sentences of the novel I wrote.

hearts a-bubble in the rubble

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This is my last blog post [dramatic, Harold Pinteresque pause] from Wellington for a while as I have relocated myself back to my parents’ place for an indiscriminate quantity of time, it is in fact where I’m writing this from, having arrived home yesterday. (And kudos to my parents for driving down, calmly arranging my belongings Tetris-like in the back of the car, and driving back up the island with me.) Now initially I was like “okay I’m probably going to leave by the end of April” and my best friends Kim and Kate were like “wait…no” and I was like “well okay fair enough” because that’s the kind of agreeable person I am. But you and I both know that there had to be an end point to my freeloading gleefully off Kate and Jason who I’d been hitherto living with since the last time I talked about all this, and so now has come the time for me to finally take responsibility for myself, by freeloading off my parents instead.

Unlike the aforementioned pause, my exit from Wellington was neither dramatic nor Pinteresque, purposefully so. On Friday I had an Aunty Mena’s curry noodle with Kim and Kate. Two nights earlier I made dinner for my dear friend Charlotte (who you may remember from such hits as sternly making me get rid of half my clothes and advising me to make snacks and joining me in ageing into a new tax bracket back in April called “Old Enough To Be Paul Giamatti’s Hag Ex-Wife In An Indie Film“) and that’s where this recipe comes in. It’s not what we had for dinner, (though I wouldn’t have a problem if it were) but was served as a cute post-dinner sweet thing for us two cute post-dinner sweet things.

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This recipe is one of those easy no-bake slices where you melt some stuff and cram some existing processed foods into that stuff and press it into a tin and then walk away hoping for the best. It’s a legit genre that is gleefully fun to both make and eat; the sort of thing you imagine showing to your eight year old self being all like “look! I’m an adult and I can eat this whenever I want! Golden syrup in chocolate!” and then eight year old me would be like “I eat golden syrup sandwiches almost daily though” and I’d be like “well now there’s a housing crisis and the earth is boiling alive!”

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This particular slicey thing (I feel increasingly unable to refer to it with normal words, Charlotte and I were all like “cronch” and “crosp” back and forth at each other in regards to it in a manner that I can only assume was charming and humourous) is a humectant and sticky amalgamation of chocolate, golden syrup, coconut oil and peanut butter with the weightlessly crisp rice bubbles. It’s definitely sweet but it’s tempered by the bite of sea salt, the almost peppery intensity of the golden syrup, and the cocoa bitterness of the chocolate. (That being said I used the most mellow dark chocolate I could find as I don’t think that the hardcore 80% stuff would be served well here.) It evokes the chocolate crackles – as they were called – of childhood high days and holidays and there’s something marvellous about the contrast between the pure aerated crunch of the rice bubbles and the thin, snappish crunch of the chocolate on top. The peanut butter, though present in small quantities only, absolutely makes the whole thing taste like peanut butter and if you’d understandably prefer a more mild richness then by all means substitute almond butter or similar. I like it served as cold as possible to counteract that boisterous sweetness, but on the other hand it has this amazing gooeyness as it approaches room temperature. Basically there’s no bad way to eat this. Have it for dinner, even.

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Chocolate Caramel Rice Bubble Slice

A recipe by myself

  • 1/2 cup golden syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter or almond butter
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 150g dark chocolate (I used Whittakers 50% Cocoa Chocolate)
  • 3 cups rice bubbles
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Line a regular size baking tin – the sort that you might bake a batch of brownies in, or indeed, use to make a slice such as this very recipe here – with baking paper. One day I will actually measure what size this tin is so I can just give you the size of it rather than describing it vaguely but today is not that day.

Bring the sugar and golden syrup juuust to the boil in a saucepan and then immediately remove from the heat. Add the coconut oil, peanut butter and chocolate, stirring rapidly till the oil and chocolate has melted, and then tip in the rice bubbles, folding them through the mixture thoroughly. Spatula this mixture into the baking tin and use the back of a spoon to press it down into an even layer. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle it over the top, then sprinkle over the sea salt. Return to the refrigerator, and slice into squares once cold.

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I’ve been doing lots of writing and planning while staying at Kate and Jason’s but now that I’m in the middle of the countryside surrounded only by further countryside I’m going to really head into overdrive; I’m waiting to hear back from a post-graduate paper in editing that I’ve applied for (despite what these blog posts might suggest, I actually……..love editing people’s writing and I’m good at it) and I’m applying for jobs that I can do remotely and I’m just going to make things happen in an unencumbered manner! As I said, I exited the city in a low-key manner which is maybe weird because leaving Wellington after thirteen years should seem momentous but it doesn’t quite feel like anything’s significantly happened since I still don’t have a fixed abode, it’s like I’ve managed to rip a hole in the cosmos and discover a new timeline outside of time (and then freeload off that too.) I mean, as I said to Kim: “just because I’m moving myself and all my belongings home to my parents’ place 700 kilometres from Wellington doesn’t mean I don’t live in Wellington anymore!”

P1180819(did someone say the word “crisp” in an unnecessarily mangled way?)

P1180818(sounds like a job for – once more with feeling)

P1180823(GHOST!) (I’m going to miss this guy.)

Lastly, thank you as always to my Patreon patrons who have been supporting me from the ground up, you are wonderful people with shrewd business acumen. If you, too, wish to have shrewd business acumen then I suggest signing up to my Patreon yourself. In doing so you will be able to receive all my gratitude and all the exclusive content written just for you.

title from: Barbed Wire Love by Stiff Little Fingers, sweet and snarly.

music lately:

Synthy’s 1981 remix of O Superman by Laurie Anderson. The original is one of my favourite songs but this remix is perfection, retaining that soft quizzical mood of the original while mixing in this airily digital-sounding and decidedly rumpshakingly appealing beat. I first heard it when TV Disko played it at Laundry bar and I nearly blacked out from how hard I was frantically trying to express that I appreciated his music-related decision-making.

Love’s Not A Game, from the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, sung by David Hull and most of the cast. It’s drawn pretty directly from Luck Be A Lady Tonight and yet I think it’s actually genuinely better than Luck Be A Lady Tonight? David Hull’s little wink and shoulder pops and Donna-Lynn Champlin’s enthused tap-dancing and Gabrielle Ruiz’s fouettés and the cast chanting “Odds! Sixes! Dice! Monogamy!” If any of these words have aroused your curiosity (there’s got to be someone out there) then you may enjoy this piece I wrote comparing and contrasting Fleabag, (also a TV show) with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Ooh, by De La Soul feat Redman, the sound is so warm and everyone sounds so charismatic and self-assured and I just love this song so much!

Next time: I made a ginger crunch slice tonight that I’m very happy with, I will nevertheless have to eat several more slices of it to be sure.

sometimes I think you’re just too good for me, every day is Christmas, every night is New Year’s Eve

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With last week’s post being absolutely enormous I thought I’d make this one fairly low-key, calm, brief. But then I watched classic Christmas film Die Hard for the first time ever and it’s really hard to not feel seasonally hyped up after that, right? So instead I decided to do the absolute opposite and give you something high-key, vast, yet still fairly calming in its own way: my annual round-up of recipes from this blog that I think would be worth considering if you’re wanting to do the home-made edible Christmas present thing. Whether or not Christmas is something you acknowledge, be it for religious reasons, self-preservation reasons, or something else entirely, there’s no denying that it’s going to literally happen this very month and besides, you could use this list at any time of year that you have a person for whom a gift is required. I for one think there’s nothing more delightful than the tangible and consumable result of a person’s concentrated time and effort as a gift, not to mention the joy of stomping on the delicate, exposed foot of capitalism by DIY-ing it yourself. (That said – and look, no one is out here defending capitalism, don’t worry – I’d also like to throw my voice to the chorus urging you to consider shopping local/small/ethical/indigenous/gay/generally independent this season.)

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THE HUNGRY AND FROZEN MODERATELY INDISPUTABLE LIST OF EDIBLE GIFT RECIPE IDEAS FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

Caveat 1: Because this goes so far back through the archives, the majority of which I spent neck-deep in butter, well, there’s going to be some butter. I’ve marked accordingly whether a recipe is vegan, also gluten free if applicable – I see you!
Caveat 2: Because this goes so far back through the archives the continuity/life details on display in any given post might be kind of jarring and this is what happens when you write about many details of your life for eleven years! But if we can handle our TV characters like, changing haircuts and so on throughout the course of a series, so can we handle such things here.
Caveat 3: (And just know that I couldn’t help but hear “O CAVEAT THREE-EE-EE” in a superloud, third-time-round, “O come let us adore him” vibe in my head) I moved my blog over to WordPress halfway through this year and all the formatting completely fritzed out, so just know, every single individual blog post that I’ve linked to here that does have, y’know, line breaks, has had its individual html edited by me, and I haven’t quite managed to catch them all yet. This caveat is more of a weird flex, but.

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Category 1: Things in Jars

Too easy! Jars make everything look pulled together and clever, whether it’s the unsinkable salted caramel sauce or some pickled-into-submission vegetable. To ease any anxieties – which you admittedly might not have even considered having, but that’s why I’m here –  on the part of both giver and receiver, I advise including a gift tag with some recommendations of how to use the stuff within the jar ( and “consume in one go in bed” is entirely viable here.)

Subsection A: Saucy Stuff

Subsection B: Stuff stuff

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Category 2: Baked Goods

As easy or as hard as you like, whether it’s some cookies in a takeout container with a ribbon around it (and honestly: those takeout containers – you know the ones – are always useful to have around so it’s not a cop-out) or whether you go full out, make someone an enormous Christmas Cake and find a tastefully yet jaw-droppingly stunning plate to serve it on and make that part of the gift too. To maximise on tis-the-season seasonality I recommend embarking on all baking projects late at night with some kind of liqueur by your side, it just feels right.

 

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Category 3: No-bake Novelty!

This is (a) lots of taxing recreations of candy you can get for like forty cents at the corner dairy, (b) lots of stuffing existing products into other existing products and (c) nevertheless the most fun category.

And one more for luck:

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Almond Butter Toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 heaped tablespoons crunchy almond butter
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • sea salt

Line a baking tray or tin with a large piece of baking paper.

Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat, without stirring at all. Let it continue to bubble away for five to ten minutes, until it just starts to turn golden – even though it’s boring for a while, don’t walk away or lose focus or it WILL burn, it just will – and as a pale gold cast creeps across the bubbling sugar, at this point immediately remove it from the heat. I hate to be harsh but if the sugar has turned a dark golden brown this means it’s caramelised too far and will taste harshly bitter and burnt; better to start over with more sugar and water than to try to forge ahead, I promise (I speak from much experience.)  Stir in the almond butter, and, working quickly and carefully, tip the lot onto the sheet of baking paper, coaxing it around with a spatula if need be to make it an even shape/thickness. Sprinkle over a good pinch of sea salt. Allow to set and get completely cool, then break it into pieces. 

Melt the chocolate however you prefer – short bursts in the microwave does it for me – and dip each piece of toffee in the chocolate before returning to the baking paper lined tray to set again. Sprinkle over more sea salt if you wish. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

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This stuff tastes not entirely unlike those magical Daim bars (or Dime bars as they’re known in the UK) with a buttery, snappish crunch that is somehow sweet enough to taunt the teeth with impending fissures and yet mellow and balanced enough for you to eat an alarming quantity without giving it a second thought. As is or chocolate-dipped: novelty perfection. (And especially delicious if kept in the freezer, for some reason.)

I guess humans make traditions to give us something to cling on to in a harsh world, something that marks the passage of time other than the time itself, and making this list has become something of a tradition for me so it’s nice to visit it again, even as my eyeballs throb from all that painstaking hyperlinking. Even if you don’t make a single thing on the list – and you’re under absolutey no obligation to – the fact that you’re reading this far means you’re part of my tradition too. Sentimental, yes! But as I said: I watched Die Hard for the first time, so, you understand.

title from: Sade, The Sweetest Taboo. The sultriness! Ma’am!

music lately:

The Pure and the Damned, Oneohtrix Point Never ft Iggy Pop: “Someday I swear we’re gonna go to a place where we can do everything we want to, and we can pet the crocodiles.”

Turkey Lurkey Time, from the 1969 Tony Awards performance from the musical Promises, Promises. Another tradition! Every year on December 1st and not a moment sooner I rewatch this and every year I am breathtaken anew! Michael Bennett’s audacious choreography that cares not for your chiropractic bill! Donna McKechnie (in the red dress), triple threat, rubber-legged, spinal chord cracking like a whip! The lyrics which are SO STUPID! The final minute which every time makes tears spring to my eyes at the sheer magnitude of it!

Whack World, the album by rapper Tierra Whack. Every one of her songs is precisely one minute long (which is just perfect for me) with its own precise personality. I particularly love Black Nails and F**k Off.

Next time: less REALLY will be more, I promise. 

and her pink skies will keep me warm

I was a very righteously-opinioned child. For example, I took the mathematics curriculum as a DIRECT PERSONAL SLIGHT against myself and would injuriously huff about it at any given opportunity (and especially in opportunities that weren’t given.) Like, in any schoolbook from my youth I’ll take jabs at it – not least in the actual maths workbook itself where I’d constantly write evaluations of my work complaining about how unfair and stupid maths is, and take great pleasure in defacing each and every possible blue-lined square with colours and stars and patterns. God help the defenceless teacher if there was an “about me” section in any piece of work – I’d be all, “I’m Laura Vincent and I hate war, people who don’t understand the genius of the Spice Girls, and the fact that I have to do pointless, irritating mathematics.”  

 the rose tint

the rose tint

That’s just one example. I was also vehemently against the colour pink, simply because I wanted to rebel against the generally held gender norms that pink was for girls and blue is for boys. I definitely went through a distinct Barbie doll phase (I was in it mostly for the fashion, but I do remember being with my cousins and pretending to burn a Shaving Ken at the stake while several other Barbies danced around him triumphantly as we sung Sacrifice by Elton John – “we’ve got a Shaving Ke-e-en, and he’s our sacrifice”) but after a point I truly felt like not seeking out pink things made me somehow more superior. Pink was obvious. Obviousness was weakness. 

Tiny jerkfaced me could never have predicted that in the year 2017, I would embrace the very shade that I so long derided (okay so from the years like, 1999 – 2014 I was honestly neither here nor there on it) in the form of Millennial Pink.

Millennial Pink is a real phenomenon (there’s a great article charting its rise to prominence) and I ADORE it. In these garbage times, this shade is soft, it’s kind, it’s calm AS HELL, it’s really, really pretty. And it’s increasingly charmingly genderless, which I feel lil no-wave feminism me might have appreciated. It’s the colour of soothing tumblr aesthetics, of Drake’s puffer jacket, of Rihanna wearing pyjamas in the club, of watching makeup tutorials till you fall asleep, of brutally plain late 90s slip dresses, of rose quartz crystals, of Jenny Holzer truisms, of the icing on top of cream buns and doughnuts, of peonies and rose petals, of bleached and coloured hair on Instagram, of sun-faded walls with bright green plants propped up against them, of fluffiness and softness and dreaminess. 

All of which possibly sounds stupid but like, I like what I like. 

Hence why I found myself starting with a colour as an inspiration point and working backwards from there, and ended up with this extremely delicious toffee.  

I had some almonds kicking around from making orgeat for work and in the spirit of sustainability or the illusion thereof, I decided to surround them with crunchy, buttery toffee and smother them in rose-tinted white chocolate. Anything caramelly just bloody does it for me, and I sheepishly prefer white chocolate over the other sorts, so this resulting slice was extremely 100% my idea of a good time. Making toffee from scratch does require some patience and a healthy fear of getting too close to the relentlessly boiling sugar. What you get though is the most glorious stuff – your teeth sliding effortlessly through the silky, vanilla-y white chocolate into hard, almond studded salty toffee which shatters as you bite down into chewy caramel crystals.  It’s intense and it’s wonderful.

millennial pink salted almond white chocolate toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 250g butter
  • one and a half cups caster sugar
  • a decent pinch of sea salt
  • one cup of toasted almonds, blitzed in a food processor so they’re rubbly and chopped
  • 250g white chocolate
  • one teaspoon vegetable oil
  • a few drops of pink food colouring

This recipe looks really really long but it’s just a convoluted way of saying boil stuff then chill it then cover it in chocolate, it’s all pretty straightforward I promise. 

Line a regular sized brownie pan with baking paper . In a large saucepan, heat up the butter, sugar and salt and allow it to come to the boil. Let it bubble away, stirring only occasionally (it might seem like the butter won’t absorb into the sugar but as it boils the sugar will take it in, give it a few gentle stirs though if it eases your mind.) After a while, take a spoonful of the boiling sugar and drop it in a glass of cold water. Let it sit for a few seconds and then taste it – the texture you’re after is a good hard toffee crunch. If it’s more fudge-like, then you need to let it carry on boiling. 

Once you’re at this point, remove it from the heat and dump in the almonds. Give it a quick stir and spatula it briskly into the waiting brownie pan. This is like, the hottest thing on earth and it will continue to bubble VERY disconcertingly in the pan so just let it settle down for a bit before you put it in the freezer or it will throw your entire ecosystem in there out of balance. 

Once the toffee is cooled and firm to the touch, melt the white chocolate gently with a teaspoon of vegetable oil and add the merest droplet or two of pink food colouring. Stir gently and add more colour if you desire but go slowly! I used literally like, three drops for this stuff. Spatula it evenly over the surface of the toffee, and gently bang the base of the tin against the bench to settle any lines in the chocolate. Return it to the freezer, and then when that is finally set, slice it however you like and eat the damn stuff. 

 pink is the flavour, solve the riddle

pink is the flavour, solve the riddle

To be honest almost every time I make something starting with aesthetic instead of flavour or texture as the inspiration point I end up screwing up the recipe completely, as though the universe is admonishing me for being driven by such base instincts, but this worked out perfectly. Proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that wanting things to be pretty is like, not the worst. I ended up taking it around town and dropping off tasters of it at various beloved establishments before bringing the rest to work for my team like some kind of actual heroic angel. I know there’s some still waiting for me tonight when I go to work and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Just one woman’s opinion, but go forth and embrace pink. Oh and maths really does suck, I was right about that one. 

title from:  Frank Ocean, Sierra Leone, from his extremely very perfect album Channel Orange. 

music lately: 

I am regrettably completely head over heels for this guy from the UK called Rat Boy, who was clearly bred in a lab with the express purpose of being to my personal taste. Sample song: Revolution. 

As well as being an absolute BOP, Charli XCX’s song Boys is like…Millennial Pink condensed into one explanatory video. 

next time: It’s (SOMEHOW, and I suspect HIGHLY ILLEGALLY) September now, so like, let’s shuck off the heavy winter food and get into spring (it’s honestly colder outside than it has been all year but a gal can remain optimistic!) 

good year for hunters and christmas parties

It’s suddenly December which is really interesting because this year has actually been twelve years long instead of twelve months long! Please don’t try to argue with me on this, there’s literally no evidence to the contrary that you can present me to make me think otherwise. Anyway, so I made some majorly delicious vegan pasta on Sunday night but then on Monday night I was incredibly nauseous and throw-uppy and blamed it, with rather horribly specific evidence, on the leftovers of said pasta that I’d eaten that day. Unable to face thinking about the pasta any time soon and rather desperately running out of cute metaphors for my life; I suddenly remembered! Every year I do a round up of my own blog posts featuring recipes which I think would make good edible Christmas presents. Or indeed, presents for any time or persuasion; I certainly don’t expect all of you to be celebrating or even acknowledging Christmas but nevertheless, tis the season for presents to be in season and I shall not be left behind.

 these honey thyme roasted peaches will make you merry OR bright, but not both I'm afraid these honey thyme roasted peaches will make you merry OR bright, but not both I’m afraid

There’s this video on youtube where it’s Bee Movie but it speeds up every time someone says “Bee” and honestly that’s what Christmas is like every year (okay I guess I have some cute metaphors left up my stylish yet affordable sleeves.) I don’t intend for this list of stuff to put any pressure on anyone – just do what you can, if Christmas makes you feel all meaningful and stuff then act on it or don’t; it’s just another day but if there’s someone you feel like you want to do something for then gosh, there’s not much nicer than presenting them with something they can eat. Yes, capitalism is everything and greed is good but a small, homemade item, that you took time and effort to create with your own two hands (look at them! Those two hands!) is rather unbeatable. That said, if you were already planning to give me personally like, a crate of champagne or the princely sum of forty dollars, don’t let my starry-eyed pronouncements change your mind.

Cookies: you simply can’t go wrong with them even if it’s only you that eats them and no one gets any and you pretend you weren’t “doing” presents this year

So! With that whiplashingly mixed-messagey preamble out of the way, let’s get festive! Festoon your bod with tinsel! Wear a garland of cranberries! Bathe in eggnog! Snort some snow! Wait…not that last one.

The HungryandFrozen Highly UnDefinitive List Of Stuff You Can Make for Presents for Literally Any Occasion but Wow It’s Nearly Christmas oh My God Where Has The Year Gone

Category One: Stuff in Jars!  

The stalwart backbone of edible giving. Jars look all twinkly and pretty and like you’re the most accomplished so-and-so ever but just quietly, it’s all rather low-effort.

Subsection A: Saucy stuff

  1. Cranberry sauce (this is stupidly easy and you should make it to go with your main meal anyway) (vegan, gluten free)
  2. Bacon jam (Best made at the last minute, because it needs refrigerating) (gluten free)
  3. Cashew butter (vegan, gluten free)
  4. Red chilli nahm jim (gluten free)
  5. Cranberry (or any-berry) curd (it involves a lot of effort but it’s so pretty. Just like me.) (gluten free)
  6. Rhubarb-fig jam (gluten free)
  7. Salted caramel sauce (gluten free, has a vegan variant) (you can prise salted caramel from my cold dead hands where it shall be clamped forevermore, regardless of trend or whim)
  8. Peach balsamic barbecue sauce (vegan, gluten free)
  9. Berry chia seed jam (vegan, gluten free)
  10. Matcha mayonnaise (vegetarian, gluten free)
  11. Honeycomb Sauce (the new salted caramel, get out of here salted caramel) (gluten free)

Subsection B: Stuff stuff

  1. Orange confit (This is basically just slices of orange in syrup, but is surprisingly applicable to a variety of cake surfaces. And it’s so pretty. And so cheap.) (vegan, gluten free)
  2. Apple cinnamon granola (vegan)
  3. Strawberry jam granola (vegan) 
  4. Buckwheat, cranberry and cinnamon granola (vegan, gluten free)
  5. Marinated Tamarillos (vegan, gluten free)
  6. Taco pickles (vegan, gluten free)
  7. Pickled blueberries (vegan, gluten free)
  8. Honey thyme roasted peaches (gluten free)

 I'm just really proud that I made up a Christmas cake recipe okay  I’m just really proud that I made up a Christmas cake recipe okay

Category Two: Baked Goods.

One for you, seventeen for me. I can’t impress upon you enough how much buying some plain brown butcher paper and plain-ass string will embiggen your baked goods without you really having to try at all. If you’re not into the wilfully rustic aesthetic, either buy a cute plate or box and use its transporting properties as part of the gift, or heck, just use plastic take out containers and wrap a ribbon around them. Either way I’m pretty sure all of the following will be rapturously received.

  1.  My Christmas Cake is amazing. It just is, deal with my lack of coyness. Even if you decide at the last minute to make it on Christmas Day itself, it will still taste so great.
  2. Christmas-spiced chocolate cake (Also a good xmas-day pudding) (gluten free)
  3. Chocolate orange loaf cake
  4. Vegan chocolate cake (vegan, duhhh, gluten free)
  5. Chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies
  6. Cheese stars (make twelve times the amount you think you need)
  7. Coconut macaroons (gluten free)
  8. Chocolate macaroons (gluten free)
  9. Gingerbread cut-out cookies (vegan)
  10. Coconut condensed milk brownies
  11. Salted caramel slice (hello again Salted Caramel! Your persistence is as admirable as your deliciousness!)
  12. Fancy tea cookies
  13. Chocolate olive oil cake
  14. Cinnamon white chocolate banana loaf
  15. Cinnamon bars
  16. Coffee caramel slice
  17. Everyday chocolate brownies
  18. Cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream
  19. Cranberry white chocolate cookies
  20. Peanut butter cookies
  21. Secret centre mini-pavlovas (gluten free, potentially dairy free)
  22. Avocado chocolate brownies (gluten free, dairy free)
  23. Bobby dazzler cake
  24. Chocolate-dipped brown sugar cookies
  25. Flourless double chocolate cookies (gluten free, dairy free) 
  26. Salted chocolate cashew butter slice (vegan, gluten free)
  27. Smoky triple chocolate buckwheat cookies (gluten free)
  28. White chocolate gingerbread brownies

 Homemade Schnapps: two words that need no longer strike fear into your heart Homemade Schnapps: two words that need no longer strike fear into your heart

Category Three: Novelty!

This is mostly either homemade recreations of things you can buy from the corner dairy for fifty cents, or sticky-sweet things where you melt one ready-made thing into another. It’s frankly the best category and you know it.

  1. Moonshine biffs (like homemade Milk Bottles!) (gluten free)
  2. Raw vegan chocolate cookie dough truffles (vegan, gluten free)
  3. Classic lolly cake
  4. Homemade peppermint schnapps (vegan, gluten free) (this is some harsh moonshine but also SO FUN. Weirdly, more fun the more you drink of it?)
  5. Forty-Four (Homemade Coffee Orange Liqueur) (as above) (vegan, gluten free)
  6. Candy cane chocolate bark (No effort, vegan – well, I think candy canes are vegan – gluten free, amazingly delicious, just store it carefully so it doesn’t melt)
  7. White chocolate coco pops slice (gluten free) 
  8. Homemade cherry ripe (gluten free) 
  9. Mars bar cornflake slice
  10. Chocolate cookie dough pretzel things
  11. Brown sugar malteaser cardamom fudge
  12. Peanut butter chocolate caramel nut slice (gluten free)
  13. Crunchie Bar Slice
  14. Homemade bounty bars (vegan, gluten free)

Delightful Bonus Category: Stuff to bring!

At this time of year there’s a lot of suddenly needing to provide, whether your flat is having an end of year dinner or you’ve been invited to some kind of celebrational potluck or indeed, you’re hosting or attending some kind of group Christmas Day thing. It’s all very overwhelming and there’s nothing I like more than holding your hand throughout it all and assuring you it’s going to be chill and fine and as long as your banter is good and your personality isn’t entirely awful people really won’t remember or mind about the food. On the other hand, they definitely will remember the food like, in the moment, as they’re eating it, so to ensure a good good time may I suggest some of the following – these recipes all look like a big deal and are super delicious and crowd-pleaser-y but won’t be immensely taxing upon your time, wallet, or eggnog-covered bod. Okay some of the recipes require a lot of slow cooking. But they reward you richly, promise.

there’s no “I” in hummus

Savoury Stuff

  1. Roasted kumara with feta, walnuts, thyme and breadcrumbs (vegetarian)
  2. Hummus with avocado, pine nuts, and pomegranate (vegan, gluten free)
  3. Root vegetable stew with saffron, cinnamon and turmeric (vegan, gluten free)
  4. Barley, lentil and eggplant salad with pomegranate and mint (vegan, gluten free)
  5. Rice, charred corn, avocado, watercress and almond salad (vegan, gluten free)
  6. Miso-poached potatoes with butter (vegetarian, gluten free)
  7. Tomato and pomegranate salad (vegan, gluten free)
  8. Wasabi cauliflower cheese (vegetarian)
  9. Peach mozzarella panzanella (vegetarian)
  10. Cinnamon-golden syrup roasted butternut squash (gluten-free)
  11. Chorizo wellingtons
  12. Slow cooked beef cheeks with cinnamon (gluten-free)
  13. Demi-lasagne
  14. Slow-roasted garlic and lemon chicken (gluten-free)
  15. Half-coq au vin
  16. My pulled pork recipe (gluten free)
  17. My Christmas pulled pork (gluten free)

Sweeeeeeeeet

  1. Blackberry fool (gluten free)
  2. Gin and Tonic ice cream (gluten free)
  3. Girdlebuster Pie
  4. Caramel pretzel ice cream
  5. Cranberry curd and white chocolate ripple ice cream (gluten free)
  6. Billy Crudup’s grandmother’s chocolate fudge pie (forreal)
  7. S’mores pie (dairy-free)
  8. Blackberry Chocolate Chunk Custard Cookie Pie (vegan!)
  9. Strawberry Ice Cream Cake
  10. Water chocolate mousse (depending on your stance on honey, vegan-adjacent, gluten free)
  11. Lindt chocolate puddings
  12. Peaches in muscat (vegan, gluten free)

 did you know that you can eat one of these after a meal instead of brushing your teeth?  did you know that you can eat one of these after a meal instead of brushing your teeth?

I hope this list is of some use to you, or if nothing else, moderately entertaining to read (seriously at this rate I’m counting “moderate” as a total win.) Because I changed over my blog platform this year all the links I’d previously copy-pasted were broken and it took me foreverrrrr to painstakingly look up each recipe and copy-paste it back, and please be aware that if you’re clicking through to a way older recipe from this blog’s lifetime there might be some formatting issues or I’m talking like it’s 2009 or whatever. The recipes hold up though and honestly, we could all do worse than to be inspired by me this Christmas (I, for one, am going to try to be.)

title from: Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes, aka the musical form of the expression “waaaaaaaghhhhhhh”, so listen with caution

music lately:

Mariah Carey, All I Want For Christmas Is You. I am but human.

The performance of Turkey Lurkey Time, from the musical Promises, Promises, at the 1969 Tony Awards. It’s my small tradition to watch this every year but only once December 1st hits; it’s the most ludicrous song but something about the adorably deranged and yet technically ferocious dancing and Donna McKechnie’s rubber-limbed movements, like she has no regard for her bones whatsoever, and Baayork Lee being a total delight, and the third woman who is also great, and the way the ending comes together somehow makes me COMPLETELY emotional.

Peach Kelli Castle, Sailor Moon. Surfy music plus TV is very my sweet spot, I’m afraid to say.

next time: probably back to normal-times food like this never happened, I know it’s December but I’ve still got to eat, but after making this list all I want to do is like, pickle things and dissolve things into yet further things. 

looking good when it comes to the crunch

When I was a child I joined, for some odd reason since I really only loved dancing – although I do remember saying loftily, at some point, that “I want a busy life” – an organisation called Brownies. It was like a pre-Girl Guides/Scouts activity group for sprightly, do-gooding young gals and you’re welcome to google what their aspirations are but my main memories of it are as distinct as they are strange – a billowing brown sack of a dress that was the uniform; performing an elaborate song and dance about snails as some kind of occasional treat; going away on camps that had the inexplicable themes of Snoopy; Wombles; and Rock’n’Roll respectively; and the constant working towards getting badges for various exploits, such as Planting A Tree or Something. 

There was also, however, access to Girl Guide biscuits. If you’re in America I know you’ve got Girl Scout cookies of all different flavours and permutations because I’ve like, seen movies, but here in New Zealand we had but one, plain, vaguely sugary round mass-produced cookie to push onto the masses, damn it. I still have, at my parents house, a Girl Guide Biscuit box that’s used as a storage container for old stage show programmes and booklets, the vessel itself by this point providing as much nostalgia as that which it contains. 

Anyway so where I’m going with all this is that during Girl Guide Biscuit season everyone had an overabundance of them because New Zealand is small and there’s only so many people you can palm them off to before the degrees of separation means that literally every third person is your aunty and yes they’ve already bought three boxes and no they don’t want any more. 

So you made Girl Guide Biscuit slice: crushed up biscuits held together by an appealing buttery, sugary, cocoa-y gunge. It’s magnificently delicious and so much better than just choking down another plain dry biscuit for no discernable reason whatsoever (seriously, why would you eat these biscuits? They’re SO PLAIN. NO OFFENCE IF YOU LIKE THEM, YOUR OPINION IS VALID AND I RESPECT IT.) 

I recently came into possession of an unmarked shopping bag full of packets of biscuits very similar to these – the kind of nothing-spectacular biscuit that you’d make a cheesecake base out of. It was just some leftover stock from work, in case I made that sound far more excitingly illicit than it is. I’d held onto them for a while, just knowing that the perfect use for them would present itself to me. And lo; I started making batches of this Crunchie Bar Slice, an incredibly souped up version of the original Girl Guide recipe, and bringing it in for the people I work with at the bar on Fridays or Saturdays to provide some kind of sugary boost to get through the long shift. 

And then I kept making it every week. Smashed up biscuits, which I stirred into a buttery, sugary, cocoa-y mixture with milk chocolate melted softly into it and topped with sparkling golden smashed up Crunchie bar honeycomb dust. And it got to the point where I was like, well this is cute and I’m going to take some photos of it and blog about it. 

And then I realised I kind of buried the lede here: the people I’m making this slice for aren’t just my colleagues, they’re…my staff. Because I have become General Manager of the cocktail bar I work at. Large and in charge, queen bee, those kinds of words, y’know? Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that nice? Not to undersell myself but if you were all “Laura, quick! Describe yourself!” I’d be like “…despite all my rage I am still just…a rat…in…a cage? Am I doing this right?” but here I am, with all this responsibility and a wonderful little team to look after and nurture and a fancy cocktail bar to run. I’m going to be straight up with you, I’ve never been in charge of ANYTHING in my life and I really thought this was how I was going to live out my days, always the bridesmaid never the manager; so obviously I’m determined to learn everything immediately and be a spectacular juggernaut of a success by approximately forty minutes in to my first day on the job otherwise I’m a complete failure. I’m also trying really hard to be nice to myself and let myself learn stuff slowly and go with the flow. Literally both these things at the same time. 

More importantly though, this slice tastes incredible and is so easy to make. It’s a textural triumph – the bite of the biscuits against the soft, fudge-like chocolate, ever so slightly gritty from the grains of sugar and the bursts of crisp Crunchie bar dissolving on your tongue. The chill from the freezer and the (once more for the people in the back) plainness of the biscuits counteracts any oversweetness, although by all means feel free to put, I don’t know, chocolate chips or drizzled white chocolate or something on top.  

As per, my recipe is really long and over-explainy but I strenuously assure you, this is easy to make. Actually the only real effort involved is reading through the recipe without being put off by how wordy it is. 

crunchie bar slice

a recipe by myself

  • 150g butter
  • one cup sugar
  • 50g milk chocolate (this is generally the size of a chocolate bar) 
  • one tablespoon of cocoa
  • one egg
  • one packet of malt biscuits/plain cookies/the sort of thing you’d make cheesecake base from
  • one regular-sized Crunchie bar or similar honeycomb style bar. 

Get a rectangular tin – the kind you might bake brownies or slice in – and have it sitting there along with a large piece of baking paper to line it, while you make the slice. I sometimes put it in the freezer if I’m in a hurry so that the mixture starts to cool as soon as I spoon it in. Whatever!

Using a rolling pin or something heavy, carefully bash the unopened packet of biscuits on all sides so that you can feel them crumbling beneath the surface of the packet. You don’t have to have created dust, just attempt to smash them up a bit. 

In a large pan, melt the butter gently over a low heat. Stir in the sugar and the milk chocolate, allowing the chocolate to melt into it. Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa, then open up the packet of biscuits and tip them in, using your hands or your spoon to crush up any larger bits. Finally, stir the egg in as quickly as possible – the mixture will still be warm so you don’t want the egg to cook against it – and then spatula the lot into your waiting tin. Use the back of a metal spoon to press it evenly down into the corners. Finally, give the unopened Crunchie bar a bit of a bash as well, then open it up and sprinkle the golden chocolatey dust evenly over the surface of the slice, using the back of that spoon to push it in. 

Freeze for at least an hour, and then use a large knife to cut it into slices. 

As you can see from the recipe it’s really just a couple of pre-packaged things held together by not much at all, but a thick slice of this, straight from the freezer in the middle of a busy shift or indeed, any time at all, can leave you feeling briefly invincible. I accidentally typed invisible just now instead of invincible but same difference, all things considered. 

If bopping about making things that can be sliced up and received with happiness are your thing right now, may I also recommend my recipes for Ginger Crunch Slice and/or Peanut Butter Chocolate Caramel Nut Slice.  

PS: I’m honestly so excited about this sudden career trajectory, definitely come visit me.  

title from:  Neneh Cherry’s perfect song Buffalo Stance. 

music lately: 

will I ever stop listening to Disappear by INXS? Will you ever stop asking me stupid questions? 

Kill Em With Kindness by Selena Gomez sounds aggressively of this moment, but wow it’s so good. Your lies are bullets, your mouth’s a gun? Hello. 

next time: I have some frozen prawns in my freezer. So maybe something prawn-y.