New Mexico ain’t bad Lord, and the people there, they treat you kind

Vegan Carne Adovada

Despite having lived a substantial quantity of my life before social media ever wrapped its tentacles around me in a way that felt like love, no one could deny that I’ve thrown myself quite whole-heartedly into it since. Nevertheless I was like, how do I explain the premise of this week’s recipe? Inspired by a tweet I saw? That wasn’t even directed at me? But I guess it’s pretty simple, really, because social media is EVERYWHERE. When I went home for Christmas Mum and Dad were talking about a local Facebook group that is like Craigslist, community noticeboard, judge-jury-and-executioner and then some all in one that started off as a simple meme page. And I was like yeah, there’s one of those where I live but it’s the reverse, initially for students to offload their Psych 101 textbooks and now it’s kind of a Wellington meme page YET also the only conduit I could or indeed would fathom of for like, getting rid of a mattress. And I’m pretty sure every town has one now!

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I count myself lucky to follow so many people on Twitter who seem genuinely incredible, most of them women, and who will so casually drop the kind of powerful or powerfully hilarious tweets that entire teams of television writers would weep hot tears of jealousy over. And while Minka, the person who wrote the tweet that inspired this week’s recipe, is 100% in this category, the tweet itself was highly innocuous. It was December 4th, it was Minka tweeting to someone else the simple words “IMAGINE VEGAN CARNE ADOVADA” – that’s all! I’ll be honest, I was not feeling particularly wonderful that day and definitely not feeling imaginative. But the tweet stuck in my head, to the point where I would literally hear it as if it were a song’s lyric, and at last I decided to actually, well, imagine it. Am I saying Minka’s tweet cured my depression? I’m not not saying it?

Vegan Carne Adovada

Vegan Carne Adovada

a recipe by myself but inspired directly by this recipe of J.Kenji López-Alt and this recipe from I Am New Mexico.

  • 4 dried ancho or poblano chiles (I used 5 large dried Anaheim chiles as this was alas all I could find), seeds and stems removed
  • 4 whole chipotle chiles, canned in adobo (I used the La Morena brand)
  • Zest and juice of a large orange
  • 5 prunes
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (by which I mean, use your preferred stock powder to make this) plus 1 cup extra
  • 1 heaped tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or similar
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 can of jackfruit in brine
  • 1/2 cup of flour or cornflour (use the latter to make this gluten-free)
  • plenty of olive oil, for frying
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly diced
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or date syrup
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Plenty of salt and pepper to taste
  • Warmed tortillas, coriander, rice, to serve

Step 1: The Sauce

Heat up the dried chiles in a large frying pan, till they are aromatic but not smoking. Add the prunes, the zest and juice of the orange, the canned chipotles (don’t rinse them), the vinegar, the nutritional yeast and three cups of the vegetable stock, and bring to the boil. Let it bubble away for ten minutes, and then remove from the heat. Carefully blitz the lot in a blender to form a thick red sauce, and then transfer this to a large mixing bowl. You might find it easier to scoop out all the solids and blend them with a small quantity of the liquid before adding the rest, either way just be careful about blending hot stuff. Stir in the cumin, oregano, maple syrup, bay leaves, and a good pinch of salt and pepper, and set aside.

Step 2: The Stuff in the Sauce

Wash and dry the saucepan and heat up about three tablespoons of olive oil in it. Trim off the stem and then cut the eggplant into rough cubes and chunks, and fry them in the hot oil till dark golden brown on all sides. Tip them into the bowl of red chile sauce and return the pan to the heat.

Now, gently fry the onion and garlic in the same pan, perhaps adding some more oil if it needs it, stirring occasionally and allowing it to soften and turn golden.

While this is happening, thoroughly drain the can of jackfruit and using your hands, pull the pieces of jackfruit into smaller segments. Don’t throw away any seeds or whatever, it’s all good stuff.

Transfer the onion and garlic into the bowl of red chile sauce with the eggplant and get on to frying the jackfruit. You want to heat up another few tablespoons of olive oil in the same pan, and dip each piece of jackfruit into the flour before throwing it into the pan. Your aim here is to leave the jackfruit for long enough that it caramelises and turns golden on all sides – this will take some patience and the flour will go a bit scungy in the oil but it’s worth it for the end result. When the jackfruit pieces are golden brown and the fibrous edges look good and crisp, throw the whole lot, including whatever flour-oil gunk is in the pan – into the bowl of red chile sauce.

Step 3: Marinating, cooking, actually eating

Cover the bowl of red chile sauce and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. When you’re ready to cook it, set your oven to 150C/300F and transfer the carne adovada into a baking dish. Give it a taste to see if it wants any more salt or anything. Use the extra cup of vegetable stock (or honestly just tap water is fine by this point) to sluice around the bowl that you’ve been marinating everything in, to catch any remaining sauce, and tip this over the contents of the roasting dish.

Bake for around an hour, or until everything looks rich and saucy and a little caramelised from the oven’s heat. Serve however you like – heated up tortillas, coriander, and rice is a good start.

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Without exaggeration, I honestly think this is one of the greatest recipes I’ve ever tasted and were it not for Minka’s tweet I’d have missed this opportunity completely. I’ve never been to New Mexico (where the dish originates) and am by no means familiar with New Mexico cuisine; I had in fact only hirtherto heard of Carne Adovada via Minka’s other tweets about it. With this in mind, I strenuously emphasise, that while I created the recipe that you see above, it is completely and directly based on the recipes that I linked to – one quite complex, one very simple – and I’m just a culinary tourist from a far-away land, rather than any kind of expert in this particular field. Nevertheless, allow me to respectfully explain myself.

In order to emulate the pork that is normally used in Carne Adovada (and I know carne means meat but I’m not about to do something gross like calling the recipe “car-nay”) I went for a double-pronged approach: darkly fried cubes of eggplant, oily and melting and rich; and then jackfruit, coated in flour and fried till golden and crisp: this provides that mild sweetness and, for want of better words, meaty fibrousness. Jackfruit is (a) a revelation and (b) really inexpensive and pretty easy to find these days, however on its own it felt a little un-luscious, hence the pairing. Both of these were marinated overnight in a ketchup-thick sauce made hot with papery, blood-dark dried chiles and smoky little canned chipotles and aromatic with cumin and oregano. I used prunes to sweeten the sauce because it’s what I had and I also felt they had a kind of meatiness to them, but you do what suits – one of the recipes I referenced used raisins, while the other recipe didn’t include any sweetening agent at all.

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The final slow bake in the oven makes the sauce so, well, saucy, and it’s all smoky and hot in this complex-yet-straightforward way and the eggplant and jackfruit melt and pull apart in your mouth and it’s all full-bodied and lush and while there’s a few steps involved it’s unbelievably rewarding and almost meditative to prepare each part of it. Now, when I try to make an existing recipe vegan my aim is more to evoke the abundance that meat or animal products provides rather than “this tastes like meat”, but…it doesn’t not taste meaty, you know? By which I mean I think this would and should be happily received by absolutely anyone. Thank you, Minka!

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Speaking of social media and providing spectacular content for free; this seems as good a time as any to tell you that I’ve started a Patreon page for my writing. Patreon allows you to be a modern day Patron of the Arts, magnanimously bestowing your literal money upon those of us who create in return for (a) a certain glow that I can merely assume only comes from having money and (b) the promise of exclusive content for your trouble. There is no sense of obligation or expectation placed upon any of you individually, it’s just sheer opportunism – like, if I can get money off someone then I might as well get money off someone, you know? And it’s a whole lot easier to be inspired, by tweets or otherwise, when you can comfortably pay rent. So, I entreat you to consider joining this exclusive band of money-havers, but if you don’t I’m not going to like, stop blogging, I would however like to stop talking about money just one time.

title from: White Freight Liner Blues, by Townes Van Zandt, whose despondence is to my ears like electrolytes are to, well, wherever they go – the blood?

music lately:

Last Week in HTx by Megan Thee Stallion, look her up!! She has so many good tracks but I love the way the “bitch I’m from Texas” line in the hook anchors everything in this song.

Thursday Girl, by Mitski, this song literally ruins me and YET I’ve also made a playlist on Spotify that only has this song on it and no one has stopped me, so. I’m obsessed with the nineties singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant buzz on the fourth refrain of “tell me no” in the chorus.

Venus in Furs, Velvet Underground. So throbbing and hypnotic! I’ll never forget the look on my boss’s face when I was playing it really loudly at the tiny German bakery that I worked at in 2006 and they walked in and without saying a word turned it off and then left and got in their car and drove away.

Dues, by Ronee Blakley, from the amazing Robert Altman film Nashville. Blakley performed this in the film as her character Barbara Jean but she actually wrote it herself in real life, and while several of the songs from the film are meant to be satirical of the country genre, this is just a beautiful and achy waltz and very, very real.

Next time: possibly a cocktail but also it’s been too long since I’ve made ice cream, right?

you need to understand there’s nothing fake about this

I’m highly impulsive, all things considered. If asked to come rob a bank, I’d probably shrug and say “well i haven’t got much on this afternoon, so yeah, why not.” Commitment however, is harder. I start ideas and forget them or leave them dangling, half-formed. Creative side-projects, rituals, routines, I can’t even begin to count how many I’ve gotten excited about and then just as quickly dropped. (This blog is one of the few things in my life I’ve managed to maintain, it’s turning ten years old in October.) I don’t know what I want, all I know is that I want it all, and sometimes I worry so much about not knowing what I want that it turns into a weird argument in my head over nothing. On that note, I’ve been thinking heaps lately about whether I want to become vegetarian or even vegan. I feel better when I’m eating lots of vegetables and cook mostly vegetarian anyway. My lifelong hyper-tolerance to dairy seems to be waning somewhat. The environment is like, a dystopian nightmare and we should do what we can to help it. But I can’t quite make the leap to committing. 

So I’ve decided to leave that question for now and just carry on as per usual, because I’m working on this thing at the moment called “not creating non-existent problems to get anxious over because you’re going to be anxious over IRL stuff anyway so seriously, get out of your own way”. 

To that end, here’s a vegan recipe for you, presented without any further overthinking. Jackfruit is being widely celebrated on the internet as a miraculous meat substitute; its cooked texture is incredibly juicy and fibrous like actual animal flesh, and it absorbs flavour beautifully. However, I’m not out here looking for meat substitutes. I’m just looking for good food, which this extremely is. Without being all, “this is vegan food that even meat-eaters can enjoy!”, this recipe for pulled jackfruit is like…unreal levels of delicious. No matter what your primary food source is. 

This unassuming fruit, which has been cooked prolifically in South and Southeast Asia for centuries but is just starting to hit the nation of White Moms on Pinterest (which is, I freely admit, where I come in) offers an incredible textural experience that’s hard to achieve in vegetables – a real chewy, fibrous (that word again, it’s kind of gross sounding but you know what I mean), cellular density, with heft, and richness, and, well, meatiness. On top of which, cans of it are way inexpensive and it has a wealth of vitamins and minerals and other stuff necessary to keep your body from crumbling into a pile of dust. I saw one of those Buzzfeed cooking videos that everyone shares on Facebook showing how to cook this fruit into “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” levels of submission, and it looked easy enough, so I thought I’d give it a go. 

The prevailing wisdom is to smother your cooked jackfruit in barbecue sauce before roasting it, however I have a weird quirk whereby I enjoy all the components of barbecue sauce, but actual commercial stuff makes me feel queasy (it’s something to do with bad associations from a drunkenly consumed Hell Pizza, I believe). Hardcore American barbecue sauce is all good – you know, the kind that has a picture of a horse holding a gun on the bottle and is called something like “Sweet Sammy Applebuttock’s Family Favourite”. That’s kind of hard to come by here in New Zealand though. With that in mind, I mix together a collection of things to make a flavour approaching barbecue sauce, but if you’re less delicate than me you could just tip in half a bottle of supermarket stuff and be done with it. 

And again, again, I can’t emphasise how amazingly delicious this is. Once you remove it from under the grill, half of it is all juicy and sauce-smothered and then the parts that have been scorched and caramelised are crunchy and crispy and oily and it’s all just kind of heavenly. I bought some plain steamed buns from the same supermarket I got the jackfruit from (Yan’s, if you’re in Wellington like me) microwaved and halved and stuffed the pulled jackfruit into them and it was a transcendent experience. I’m pretty obsessed, I can tell you. 

pulled jackfruit

a recipe by myself, the cooking technique is by no means my discovery though

  • two cans of green jackfruit in brine
  • olive oil
  • six cloves of garlic
  • one cup (250ml) vegetable stock (literally just water and stock powder) 
  • two tablespoons American or Dijon mustard
  • two tablespoons tomato sauce
  • three tablespoons maple syrup (or brown sugar, or honey if you don’t mind it)
  • one tablespoon soy sauce
  • one teaspoon ground cumin
  • a dash of ground cinnamon

Set your oven to 240C/450F. Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a shallow roasting dish and pop it in the oven to heat up while you get on with the jackfruit itself. 

Drain the two cans of jackfruit and slice each wedge into thinner segments. Roughly chop the garlic cloves and cook them in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat until they’ve softened a little. Tip in the jackfruit and stir briefly, then add the vegetable stock and raise the heat. Let the jackfruit simmer for about ten minutes, then remove it from the heat and using a wooden spoon or whatever implement you feel, mash the jackfruit roughly so that you have lots of fibrous bits and some still-solid bits. 

In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, tomato sauce, maple syrup, soy sauce and spices. Tip all of this into the pan of mashed up jackfruit and mix it together thoroughly. Remove the tray from the oven and (carefully, because it might spit) transfer the jackfruit from the pan onto the tray in an even layer. Pop it in the oven for about fifteen minutes, then change the oven setting to grill and leave the jackfruit for another ten minutes or until you have lots of caramelised browned crispy bits. You could move the tray up a level so it’s closer to the grill, but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn. 

Eat however you like. 

It’s a while since I’ve been so damn jazzed by something, and I’m probably going to make myself sick of it before long, but I’m enjoying being obsessed at the moment and can’t stop thinking up different ways of using this magical fruit. 

My other obsession currently is almost equally as wholesome: I’ve got back into reading books. I’ve always been an alarmingly fast reader and would get out up to forty books at a time from the library as a child, but then, I had a lot more time on my hands. Between a full time job, the entire internet at my fingertips, and the attention span of a goldfish that’s accidentally taken some Class A drugs, I kind of fell off the whole books thing. So there’s a lot of concentration involved. But I feel like it’s doing me some good – using my brain for something that’s not a screen for once, escaping into another world and being far away from myself, absorbing other peoples’ ideas, that kind of thing. I’m averaging a book a day: The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes by Chris Tse, The Abbey Girls Again by Elsie J Oxenham, Iceland by Dominic Hoey, Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau, and Anastasia Ask Your Analyst by Lois Lowry. I’m pretty pleased with myself. 

Meanwhile, I have more cans of jackfruit at the ready in my pantry because this is all I feel like eating for the foreseeable future. At least I can commit to something.

title from: Our Lady Peace with their song Clumsy. Of this song, the band says “you can be destructive without being malicious by being clumsy” and I’m like, metaphorically tagging myself on Facebook under this sentence because it’s so relatable. 

music lately: 

In further relatable news, I’ve been enjoying Cheer Up Try Hard Tear Up Cry Hard by Wellington artist Alexa Casino. You can listen to more songs if you click on that link, which I highly recommend you do with your time.

The Look by Roxette, ugh this song is so perfect.  

next time: SAFE TO SAY probably more jackfruit? 

oh baby you’re young but that’s okay, what’s give or take nine years anyway

Apparently I’ve been in such a daze from life being, y’know, life, that I completely missed my blog’s ninth birthday. I realised it while sitting on the floor drinking wine, (thanks, floor-wine) and figured I ought to at least try to play catch up and make something nice for myself in honour of the occasion, even if now it’s several days after the fact. That something nice is Halloumi and Pancetta Mac and Cheese from my cookbook. Seems appropriately garish and celebratory and self-referential, no?

I’m honestly really proud of myself for maintaining this blog for basically a third of my entire time on this earth. My attention span is so short that I often can’t make it to the end of a 90 minute movie so to get to this point in my life and still have this blog with me is very heartening. And I haven’t just maintained the blog, I’ve believed in it and loved it fiercely. Do you believe in something right now? Something that you’re working on and constantly creating and pouring yourself into? Well I can’t express how hard I believe in this blog. I know it sounds like hyperbole when I describe it as “probably the best food blog in the world”, but trust me: I literally never use hyperbole. I LOVE hungryandfrozen.com. Believing in something you’ve made is not a feeling that comes along every day. Let alone every day for nine whole years!

 don't you just want to dive in don’t you just want to dive in

I suspect – there’s always something with me, isn’t there – that the reason I’ve been so distracted is that I’m going through this charming patch of feeling panicky all the time, real awesome stuff like immediately overheating and feeling like I’m going to throw up and my heart’s pounding really hard and I forget my own name. Is it better to feel creeping dread over absolutely nothing, or to actually see something specific that causes you to panic? Let me tell you, my brain is super woke and does not discriminate. Why not both? it says, with arms wide open. Luckily I’m immensely good at telling myself sternly that the show must go on and also have some helpful resources at my shaky fingertips. I just thought I’d tell you this because why not, it happens, it’s no big deal. It’s soooo chill how not-chill I am. Unfortunately though it does seem somewhat tied up in my feelings about this mac and cheese that I made. Fortunately, this mac and cheese tastes amazing no matter what’s going on in my life. Or indeed, yours.

 this mac and cheese also has no chill this mac and cheese also has no chill

When I wrote this recipe for my cookbook – several years ago now, gosh – I wanted to make something wilfully ridiculous. So there’s not merely an entire block of halloumi fried up and stirred through it. There’s not just pancetta, that fancy-pants cousin of bacon. There’s also 500ml of cream in the white sauce, instead of the usual milk. Well, go big or go home, you know? I can’t deny that this is all very rich and intense for the sake of it, but it’s not overpowering – just soft and comforting and punctuated with mouth-fillingly buttery bursts of halloumi and salty pancetta bits. It’s honestly very non-threatening – splendidly enormous enough for a casual dinner party but still recognisably the classic comfort food that you can eat while horizontal on the couch watching, oh, the golden era of The Simpsons or something.

It’s also really easy to make. You can just serve it straight from the pan once you’ve stirred it all together, but it looks wonderful transferred into a big serving dish and browned a little in the oven, even if it does mean more dishes.

pancetta and halloumi mac and cheese

A recipe by ME from my COOKBOOK which you can’t BUY ANYMORE but it’s still NICE that it happened

  • 300g dried macaroni
  • 150g pancetta (or streaky bacon if it’s too expensive or you can’t find it)
  • 200g halloumi
  • 20g butter
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 500ml cream
  • Fresh nutmeg

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and cook the macaroni in it according to packet instructions.

Dice the pancetta and fry in a large pan till crisp and dark pink. Lift it out of the pan with a slotted spoon, and arrange evenly in the base of a 20 x 30 (or thereabouts) oven dish. Slice the halloumi block in half lengthwise, then into slices crosswise. Fry these in the same pan, then evenly arrange the slices on top of the pancetta.

Still in the same pan, melt the butter and stir in the mustard powder and flour. Continue to stir till thick, then slowly stir in the cream. A whisk is particularly good here. Simmer till thickened. This won’t take long. 

Drain the macaroni, tip it into the roasting dish along with the cream sauce and mix carefully. Retain a little of the macaroni cooking water to stir into the sauce if it’s tooooo thick. Grate over a little fresh nutmeg, and bake for 20 minutes till golden on top. 

As I said, you could also just tip the drained macaroni, fried halloumi, and fried pancetta directly into the pan of white sauce and serve it from that. Whatever works! 

Serves 1. Or like, slightly more people. 

You can trust me about this mac and cheese. It’s truly, truly good.

It’s weird, having got some of the things I wanted so badly – a cookbook, specifically – and having them not turn out the way they did in my dreams, has made me a little unsure of where this blog is going next. If all I do is keep on writing about recipes and my sweatiness levels I guess that’s okay. I love the idea of having some kind of funny web series that gets turned into a cool TV show eventually; or to perhaps write a more low key, storybook cookbook that I have a lot more creative control over. On the other hand I truly believe there are far too many cookbooks in the world right now and the last thing anyone needs is another one from me.

In the last nine years I’ve been a million different people; done a zig-zag career path from finishing my BA at university to working in marketing and public health; to travelling; to government administration; to diving into hospo and suddenly running a bar. My hair has changed colour a zillion times, I’ve moved house too many times, I’ve skated wildly about on the Kinsey scale; I’ve hidden immensely hard stuff and probably talked way too much about other immensely hard stuff. I got a damn cookbook deal offered to me. I still continue to love writing with all my heart and I love inventing recipes and being excited and inspired by other peoples’. I love feeding the people I love. I really love the sound of my own voice, apparently. So without any real sense of direction from here, I’m going to settle for just being proud of myself for making it this far with hungryandfrozen.com by my side, just us two, still together after all these years.

If you’re not already sick of my boundless ability to talk about myself like I’m a topic that affects us all; may I suggest on this anniversary that you check out some classic cuts from HungryandFrozen: a few of my favourite posts. (I basically started scrolling backwards through my blog and picking some here and there and only made it as far as 2013 so this whole exercise is flawed. The simplest solution: set aside an entire day to read my whole blog from the top. I remain unconvinced that you have anything going on that would be more fun and worthwhile than this.) Nevertheless as a starting point: My blog post about honeycomb sauce that I wrote in the style of a Babysitters Club book; the recipes I made for Nautilus Estate Wines; my post-election Mars Bar slice; my portmanteau triumph, Sore Throatmeal; and tbh the last blog post I did about mint, pea and avocado salad was pretty good.

Here’s to a billion more years of hungryandfrozen.com. *clink!*

title from: Liz Phair’s delicious I’m-an-older-woman track Rock Me. I love the line “you don’t even know who Liz Phair is.” Such scathing. 

music lately: 

my little brother sent me this track by a band called HEX suggesting I might like it. Considering they’re called HEX and this song is called The Moon, I was like yes, I love it sight unseen. (It’s a really good song though.) 

New music from the swoony Laura Lee is always a treat. She has a bubbly clubby new track out called I Feel and I love it!

Lana Del Rey, Born To Die. If you feel like you haven’t done enough lying down on the floor and wailing lately, let this song inspire you. Ugh I love her, in all her manipulatively emotional glory. 

next time: I mean at least I have a whole year now to remember my blog’s birthday. 

i fell asleep in tuscany and dreamed, the one thing missing was you

If I sound hysterical and shrill, like a man, at any point in this blog post it’s because my old flatmate and always-friend Charlotte and I took our gay selves off to see the heavily acclaimed film Carol, starring Cate Blanchett’s Aggressive Feline Charisma and Rooney Mara’s Quiet Strength and Vulnerability. Basically it’s an Important Lesbian Film and each frame of it is so beautiful that you could print the lot out and pin them sequentially to your bedroom walls and spin around forever and ever watching the story unfold as you get dizzier and dizzier from happiness and, well, spinning around. Honestly, go see it. Even if you’re like, “sounds a bit gay to me, and I’d prefer that kind of thing kept behind closed doors thank you kindly,” (in which case I really don’t know why you’re reading this blog anyway) just know that the performances are so entrancing and the costumes and sets and cinematography are so artful and the music is exquisite and it’s nominated for a zillion Oscars, which means even a bunch of conservative dull old men thought it was worth watching.

Anyway: any money I used to get through tips at work (which is never much, as New Zealanders tend to be incredibly reluctant to tip hospo workers, but that’s a story for another day – actually, that’s the whole story) used to go towards bus money to get me in and out of Newtown. Now that I’m no longer beholden to those busses, all expensive and stuffily overheated and so slow they were definitely going backwards at several stages during the journey, I can spend my tip money on other things. Like vegetables at the market! I have not been to the vegetable market since, I can confidently estimate, around May 2014. Luckily that’s not the last time I actually ate a vegetable, but it’s certainly the last time I felt any sense of ecstasy from buying one. Two taut-skinned, richly purple eggplants for four stupid tiny dollars! A huge bunch of cavolo nero for one and a half dollars! A perfect avocado for eighty cents! (Ah yes, there’s the hysteria.)

With great quantities of vegetables comes great quantities of searching through pinterest and marvelling at the superior lives being led by everyone in America with a blog. I found this incredible-looking recipe for cavolo nero cooked in a carbonara type sauce; and so that became my lunch yesterday within a matter of minutes.

I’m still 100% enamoured with my new house by the way, not least because of its proximity to the vege market making it easier for me to achieve non-scurvy.

putting up some artwork always makes a place feel like it’s mine, all mine. 

My bedroom is feeling more and more like a haven every day, and I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to know the kitchen better, not least because my roommate has a ton of sexy-and-functional cookware that I can play with. And it was one such item – a rather gorgeous shiny saucepan – which I used to swiftly make this recipe. I love cavolo nero, or Tuscan Kale as it’s also known – its leaves are so mutedly dark green and thick, holding their shape under heat while full of almost meaty, rich flavour. Obviously you could fry socks with bacon and cream and they’d be fairly palatable, but throw these heavy leaves into such a mixture and the result is incredible. The recipe I found online wasn’t quite carbonara-y enough for me, so I shaved in slivers of fresh nutmeg, warm and delicate, and added plenty of sharp, crumbly parmesan. I really didn’t measure any of the quantities, which is why the recipe is a tiny bit vague, but if you follow your instincts (essentially: as much cavolo nero as you can be bothered slicing and washing, as much bacon as you can be bothered slicing, and so on, will be as much as you need.)

tuscan kale carbonara

adapted a bit from this recipe at the stone soup. 

several large cavolo nero leaves – around half a bunch
two rashers streaky bacon
butter or olive oil for frying
four tablespoons of cream
fresh nutmeg
parmesan cheese
freshly ground salt and pepper

slice and discard the stems from the cavolo nero leaves (or brew into a nutritious tea or something if that makes you feel guilty), and either keep the leaves as they are or slice them into ribbons. Slice the bacon into small pieces and fry in butter or olive oil till sizzling and crisp. Remove from the pan – I just put them onto the serving plate I was planning to use – and throw the leaves into the pan. Sprinkle a little water over if you like, and just stir and lift them over a high heat till they soften and darken a little. Return the bacon to the pan, and pour over the cream, allowing it to bubble and thicken, which it should do rather quickly. Remove it from the heat, and use a vegetable peeler or small grater to scrape a little fresh nutmeg into the pan, followed by as much parmesan as you feel like. Finish with as much salt and pepper as would make you happy. 

Honestly, this is such a perfect lunch for one – I rakishly deglazed the pan with more cream just to make sure I was able to scrape up all the bacon juices, and recommend you do the same. If you want there to be more to it there’s nothing stopping you serving it with thick slices of bread or stirred through a tangle of pasta, but untampered with, this is total excellence. The only thing I’d do if I owned some was to pour in a little dry white vermouth with the bacon (which is Nigella’s influence: she says “I use this ingredient” and I say “how high”.)

As well as tasting wondrous it’s also very beautiful in its own way – those dark, wrinkly leaves flopping about artlessly with the pink of the bacon and the gold of the cream. This is absolutely going to winkle its way into my regular rotation of recipes – especially because you could always use regular kale, or indeed, silverbeet or spinach – just with the latter two, make sure you add the leaves right at the end because spinach, especially, will wilt into nothingness soon as look at you.

If you’ve got to this point in my blog post and are still totally endeared by me (in which case: well done on your accurate opinion) then I would like to direct you to my new recipe index that I’ve been working on. I’m super proud of it on account of it took a lot of html code copy-pasting and a TON of URL copy-pasting to make it happen, and it’s still a mere work in progress, but it’s already so gratifyingly pretty and useful! (Oh yeah, and as soon as I posted this I brazenly went to update the recipe index and made all the html disappear somehow and now it looks rubbish, so uh, bear with me please.)

PS: even if you never eat another vegetable in your life, just make sure you go watch Carol. And then come shriek with me.
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title from: the important Janet Jackson and her beautiful song Runaway
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music lately:

I cannot stop listening to Rihanna’s new album Anti, especially the dreamydreamydreamy Work featuring Drake and the oh-no-now-I’m-sobbing-forever waltz that is Love on the Brain. (The waltz: a totally underrated time signature.)

I also cannot stop listening to Modern Lovers, something about Jonathan Richman’s voice makes me feel in full teenage dirtbag mode. Obviously I have two ears and a heart and so am obsessed with the song Roadrunner, but maaaaan, Hospital and the early-Who-y I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms are so worth a re-tread.
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next time: I was given a copy of Nigella’s new cookbook and it’s very beautiful and exciting and I cannot wait to cook my way through it…

we’re so much more than pointless fixtures, instagram pictures

*lou reed voice* shiny shiny 

I’ve always been one to self-absorbedly imagine that I’m in a scene in a movie while doing otherwise mundane things like staring inscrutably out the window while on a train or sitting inscrutably on a park bench or getting a coffee by myself, inscrutably – I know I’m not the only one that does this! It’s like, this is the quiet bit in the indie movie where the camera stays fixed on me for an almost uncomfortably long time while I do something very normal but in an utterly enigmatic way. Right?

Anyway after spending the longest time of only listening to podcasts when getting to and from places, I’ve started listening to music through my headphones on my phone again (having got the Spotify app and an ad-free premium account) and wow, nothing enhances the “I’m a mysterious and important character in an indie film that you’ll guiltily download because you can’t stomach spending $25 on a ticket during festival season or waiting forever for it to have a limited-at-best release” feeling like walking down the road utterly immersed in your own personal soundtrack. Sauntering in the dark to Lazy Line Painter Jane by Belle and Sebastian – the lyrics are stupid but the beat and the melody are heavenly and the coda makes the mere act of walking seem like art; striding through the rain to Shazam by Spiderbait feeling like a complete brat as you jaywalk (in my defence the roads in Wellington are ridiculous and there’s nothing to do but jaywalk); drifting dreamily, almost floating, through the industrial end of town to Julee Cruise’s Rockin Back Inside My Heart. I know this is the most pretentious thing I’ve written in a long time and I sound like a teenager who has just discovered Morrissey (you should’ve seen me when I was a teenager who had just discovered Morrissey) but like, it’s just so, so, so long since I’ve done this and it’s such a small thing but it’s so amazing. That’s it, that’s the story: listening to music through headphones is nice, did you know?

*freddy mercury voice* hash! Aaa-aah, saviour of the universe!

Speaking of all the small things; I still haven’t replaced my lost SD card for my fancy digital camera, partly out of not wanting to spend excess money and partly out of a self-flagellating sense of punishment. As such my phone has graduated from being merely my best friend and confidante to my main camera. Which also makes it slightly harder to get a decent bundle of blog-worthy photos happening for any one dish I’ve made at any one time. In lieu of that, I’ve decided to do a wee round-up of some food I’ve made and quickly instagrammed lately – united they are greater than the sum of their parts, or something. All three of these things – peanut butter cookies; sausage and potato hash; and tomato and feta tart – are stupidly delicious and the recipes can be imparted to you super quickly, so…yeah. No harm done.

peanut butter cookies

one cup smooth peanut butter
one cup sugar
one egg
one teaspoon baking powder
dark chocolate

set your oven to 180 c/350 F. Mix all the ingredients together, roll the mixture into rather small balls (the smaller they are, the less likely they are to crumble) and place on a paper-lined baking tray. Press down slightly with the back of a spoon to flatten them juuuust a little. Bake for about ten minutes, then let them sit for ten minutes (important so they don’t crumble…again) before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool. Melt the chocolate and spoon it over the top of the cooled cookies as you please. Makes many. 

If you’re a gluten-free person you will likely have encountered some version of this recipe already a million times but man it’s good – soft, chewy, salty-sweet cookies, the throat-coating peanut butter cut through with the crunch of bitter dark chocolate. I’d usually prefer milk chocolate here but using dark makes them dairy-free too – I made these to take into work one evening in a kind of a sustain-the-troops kind of move, and also because I thrive on presenting people with food that I’ve made whether they want it or not.

sausage and potato hash

four fresh pork sausages
two large floury potatoes
one onion, diced 
dried thyme
oil and butter
two eggs
HP sauce and/or ketchup/hot sauce/whatever other condiment your sodium-caked heart desires

It’s fairly uncool but if you microwave the sausages in a bowl of water for three minutes and then microwave the potatoes for three minutes (give both of them a stabbing with a fork first) then your life will be an awful lot easier. Otherwise consider simmering them in a pan of water for a bit first or just plough ahead and hope for the best. 

Heat plenty of olive oil or similar in a large pan. Gently fry the onion until softened and golden. Roughly chop the sausages and tip them into the pan, allow them to sizzle and brown. Then dice the potato fairly small, and add to the pan – try and get as much surface area touching the base of the pan as possible to encourage browning and crisping. Put a lid on the pan for about five minutes to allow the steam to cook the potato through, then remove the lid, turn up the heat, add a knob of butter and the thyme and allow everything to sizzle like whoa. Push everything to the side and crack the two eggs into the pan and allow them to fry till you’re quite satisfied. Remove from the heat; divide the sausage and potato mixture between two plates, top with the eggs, and apply as much sauce as you please. 

I made this for my wonderful girlfriend and myself on Sunday when we were both varying degrees of hungover and indecisive (okay, well she fried the eggs – I’m just not that great at eggs and she is) and it was the absolute perfect thing. Cheap, fast, fried, carb-loaded, slightly greasy, sustaining, nourishing, hot, covered in salt and sauce, and the ideal accompaniment to watching 21 Jump Street. From which we can learn two things: one, Dave Franco has ascended to being The Superior Franco, and two, Channing Tatum’s acting career is the greatest thing to happen to America this century.

tomato and feta tart 

one sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
half a tin of chopped tomatoes
one tablespoon cornmeal
about fifty or so grams of feta cheese
thyme leaves
a little oil, milk, melted butter or something for brushing the pastry with

Set your oven to 200 C/400 F and place some baking paper on a baking tray. Put the sheet of pastry on top and score a one-inch border around the edge – this is where you use the point of a knife to almost-but-not-quite cut through it, like you’re drawing a slightly smaller square inside of it. This is gonna make the edges puff up and make a fetching border once you bake it. Sprinkle the cornmeal over the middle of the pastry, drain the tomatoes well and spread them evenly across, then sprinkle/crumble the feta on top of the tomatoes. Brush the edges with melted butter or whatever if you like, and then bake for about 15-20 minutes until it’s golden, puffy and risen around the edges. Sprinkle with salt and strew with thyme leaves. Slice into bits and snarf the lot. 

Look, if you have some ready-rolled pastry in your fridge or freezer then you have the makings of a good time no matter how meagre the rest of your pantry supplies may be. You could literally just bake a piece of pastry and it would still be a charming snack. I mean, I wouldn’t be above such things. Tomatoes and feta are obvious pals so don’t even make me try to explain it to you, but there’s something fun about the tangy feta once it’s warmed through and how it contrasts with the relative sweetness of the tomatoes and the buttery, puffy pastry. This is another one that I threw together for my excellent gf and myself one Sunday and it’s the perfect lunch for two – cut it into four squares, have two each, put a little rocket or spinach on the side if you’re feeling outlandish, and deliciousness shall abound.

*no particular voice* this is a tomato and feta tart
As I alluded to before I’m trying so hard to spend as little money as possible right now, on account of how living paycheck to paycheck is no fun, but I also decided to ignore that rule and hoist myself off to a cafe to write this blog post over a coffee. Also it’s payday today! I doubt I’m gonna be able to afford to replace my SD card any time soon, so you’ll just have to get used to these phone-photos, but honestly instagram is so great that I’m not even too bothered (that said if you’re feeling like you’re too rich right now may I remind you that I have a paypal, pal) – somewhat unsurprisingly I love making my life look more dreamy and hazily lit than it really is. Just as I’m massively digging soundtracking my life like I’m the first person who discovered how to do this. Some might say it’s whimsical, some might say it’s insufferable and not even particularly interesting, but as long as they’re saying something I really don’t mind.
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title from: Queen Beyonce, with her drown-in-the-sexy song Rocket from her incredibly important self-titled album. Don’t listen to it unless you’re ready to fall over sideways. 
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music lately: 
Misterwives, Twisted Tongue. Uhhhh this is such a good pop song, I can’t even deal and I frankly refuse to deal. 
Beach House, A Walk In The Park. Another good one to make your way from A to B to. The perfect child of Billy Idol’s Eyes Without A Face and The Pixies’ Where Is My Mind (a perfect child that I never knew I needed, to be fair.) They’ve just been announced as coming to Laneway festival next year and I MUST GO. 
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next time: I mean technically it’s Spring, despite the weather being more appalling than it has been all winter, and I am determined to hunt down some asparagus. 

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. 

share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie

My flatmate is an actual sweetheart, and has done you all a favour. She used her professional photographer skills to be like “have you tried changing the white balance in the settings” and now I can finally, after starting this blog seven years ago, take pretty decent and decently pretty photos inside at night. See?

This recipe is from Katrina Meynink’s really gorgeous book Kitchen Coquette. It’s from a chapter that lists ideal recipes for the first time you cook dinner for someone you’d like to pash exclusively on a regular basis. I really can’t speak to how effective it is in that regard…but if you ignore the brief and make it for yourself you (a) can’t get your heart broken and (b) get to eat both pies.

chorizo wellingtons 

(I find the name particularly cute since I live in a place called Wellington. Also cute because these are not nearly as much of a horrifying undertaking as the traditional Beef Wellington.) 

a recipe from Kitchen Coquette by Katrina Meynink

100g frozen peas
60ml (1/4 cup) cream
2 chorizo sausages 
zest of a lemon

1 sheet of puff pastry


Set your oven to 180 C/350 F. Cook the peas in boiling water till very tender, then drain them and throw into a food processor with the cream, and blitz it into a smooth-ish puree. 

If you’ve got fresh/proper chorizo, squeeze the filling out of the casing into a hot pan, which is incredibly disgusting but in an undeniably rewarding way. If you’ve got the type that’s more like salami, just slice it into 1cm rings. Either way, fry till it’s crisply cooked through and then stir in the lemon zest.

Slice the pastry sheet in half down the middle. Put a generous spoonful of the pea puree about an inch and a half from one end, then put some chorizo on top of that, then fold over the other end – turning your rectangle into a square, essentially – and press down on the edges, using a fork to flatten and seal them and also to make cute forky indents that will look nice once it’s cooked.

If you have any extra cream left it’s nice to brush some over the pastries, but it’s not essential that you glaze them with anything. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is evenly golden. 

If you’re feeling resourceful, or if you see the word resourceful that I’ve said just now and think “hey that could be me” then make double the pea puree and stir the rest through pasta sometime. These pies are dinner perfection – they feel special, but they’re incredibly un-taxing to make, the juicy spicy chorizo against the soft creamy peas is wonderful, and flaky pastry makes everything more fun. If you’re not sausagely-inclined, this would be great made with some kind of vegetarian substitute with plenty of smoked paprika added, I daresay.

Speaking of things that I dare say, I’d like to introduce my super cool sponsors (there are some more to come, also, I’m just impatient) over in the sidebar on the right. They are all gorgeous wonderful businesses that I love, but also many of them have an online shopping component in case – for once – not living in New Zealand means you feel left out. And in case you’re feeling all concerned and betrayed because I’m talking about commerce and profit, I cannot possibly care, for the following reasons: I think I’m a good writer whatever it is I’m talking about so just keep reading, silly; I’m a grown woman generating money out of something I love; and Swonderful Boutique only went and made a dress named after me. Truly, you can buy the Laura Dress yourself, isn’t that the most? To say the least? 
My friend Kim, who was one of the photographers for my cookbook and who I trust with my frozen if-it-ain’t-a-selfie-I’m-terrified photo face, came over to take some snaps of the dress upon me. 

The Laura Dress. I am that Laura. 

*plays the theme song from New Girl*
so many accessorising possibilities: with hat or hatless, repeat, hatless
why the smug smirk, Laura? Because the exquisite cut of this dress celebrates how stacked I am and sometimes my eyes disappear when I smile too broadly.

Bonus outtake: me recreating Blair Waldorf’s awkward photoshoot where her best friend Serena helps loosen her up. “Give me more tiger, give me more tiger!”

So thanks Swonderful for this blessing of a dress and thanks to the rest of my sponsors for being rad.

And thanks above all, to pie: always there for me.

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title from: Pink Floyd’s thematically on-point song Money. I used to be into Pink Floyd in an incredibly co-dependant kind of way, which is why it’s probably advisable to not get tattoos too early in life otherwise I’d be covered in, I don’t know, the lyrics to Shine On You Crazy Diamond or something. These days I’m more just nostalgically fond of Pink Floyd, because they wrote some ridiculously catchy tunes and took themselves SO seriously, to an almost adorable level. 
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music lately:

Tim Paris featuring Coco Solid, Rain. Moody and 80s and unsettling and excellent.

Miley Cyrus, Wrecking Ball. Just can’t stop listening, it’s so full of feelings and emotion and references to building construction, two out of three of which I am really into.

Jennifer Lopez, Baby I ❤ U! One of her most cruelly undercelebrated songs in my unhumble opinion.
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next time: Unfortunately for you, probably not another elaborate photoshoot of me, but who knows, I mean, life, huh?