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Picture Books for the Winter Months

After such a mild autumn, it is hard to believe we will officially be in winter by the end of the week. It has me reflecting on my favourite books to read the children during the colder months and I remembered a post I had done for the Nature Baby journal a few years back. I thought I would pop it here for the parents to get some ideas of what to read with your little ones when the rain is drumming at your window. Because what better way to pass some time than with a pile of good books?

City Moon  by Rachael Cole
“In the fall, when leaves are coming down, it get darks before we go to bed. After dinner, after tooth-brushing time, we put on pyjamas then coats and shoes…we are going on a walk to look for the moon”  Take an evening walk through the city streets with this mama and toddler, then go for an evening walk yourselves. It’s amazing how your own neighbourhood changes by darkness when seen anew through little eyes. 

Chirri & Chirra. The Snowy Day by Kaya Doi
Translated from Japanese, the third magical book in the Chirri and Chirra series will captivate everyone who reads it. Discover icy worlds filled with bears sleeping in igloos, hot springs with scented flower petals and warm cinnamon apple drinks. An absolute favourite in our home. 

Tiny, Perfect Things by M.H. Clark
Walking along the street can be transformed when you take the time to stop and look for tiny perfect things. A glint of the light on a spider web, the colour of an autumn leaf, this book is a testament to slowing down and looking around. Walk with a little girl and her grandfather and discover that “The world is full of perfect things when you come look with me”

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
First published in 1962, this was first picture book with an African American protagonist to win a major children’s award. Beautiful collage depicts Peter’s slow and gentle discovery of the first snow of the season. 

Out and About Shirley Hughes
Join Katy and her little brother for a year – first the bulbs growing in pots, then trips to the beach, leaves falling from trees, and cozy dark evenings. The beautiful illustrations and sweet rhymes makes this a lovely way to teach about the four seasons. 

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano
Another book of poems following the different seasons, this makes for a beautiful introduction to poetry. The illustrations and poetry make it a joy for both the one reading and the smaller one listening.

Today by Julie Morstad
Not officially a book about autumn or winter, but a firm favourite in our house with lots of ideas on how to keep yourself busy at home. What do you have in your room? What do you like to do when it is raining outside? Choose your favourites and make it a different book every time you read it. 

Corners of our new home












We are so happy in our amazing new space, it is so light and airy. I have already done so much cooking and baking in our big kitchen. But most importantly, did I mention I have a pantry???

Spring time and new beginnings.

It is funny how quickly your expectations can change. Living in a one bedroom apartment with a baby is completely normal in this crazy expensive city. I was talking to a mother just yesterday who lives in a two bedroom with three children. All of a sudden, having a child in its own room seems like an unnecessary luxury. Having a spare room for friends to come and stay? Madness.

Currently we live in a one bedroom apartment. Looking south through the big windows, you get beautiful views over the hills of San Francisco and the Sutro tower comes and goes as the infamous mist rolls in and out. We moved to this apartment as a couple coming to work in this city and soon became a family of three with a baby who sleeps in a converted cupboard where the vacuum cleaner and suitcases used to live.

Nearly a year old, Lilias is well and truly on the move. She crawls at a scarily fast pace and climbs anything she can find. All of a sudden, a cupboard doesn’t seem quite big enough for her bedroom. The fact that it is off the living room is not great for having people over in the evenings. The nine flights of stairs are starting to feel steeper and steeper as she gets heavier, and I won’t get started on not having a laundry.

So we are on the move! We love the neighborhood so much we are just hopping over the other side of the park, a huge move of four blocks, but it is big! It has TWO bedrooms. And a kitchen with room for a table to eat at. And it is only up one flight of stairs. And I am beyond excited. We move next Sunday, so who knows? Maybe my next blog post will be from my brand new kitchen, sitting at my table looking out towards the park.

It feels like just the right time for a move and a new adventure. Springtime in the San Francisco.


Menu Planning and Spaghetti Fridays

I am not a planner. Life can take me where it wants, and that is just fine. I feel this way about cooking as well, never having been one to plan what I am going to cook at the beginning of the week and do one big shop in preparation. Part of my day with Lilias is going to the deli/market/grocery store a few blocks from us and choosing something to take home and make for dinner.

But lately I have been in a rut. A very deep one that has made me not look forward to either the shopping or the cooking. I don’t know whether it is because we used to eat out quite a bit at exciting and inspiring cafes and restaurants and I got ideas from them? Or that now I have a nine month old to think about cooking for as well as us? But I felt like I was making the same stuff over and over. And not enjoying it.

So I decided to do the unthinkable. Menu planning. Sitting down in the weekend with cookbooks and planning what we are going to eat for the week. And I have to say, it has been working a treat! It means I actually cook to a recipe from cook books I may not have looked at for a while, I can look at the week as a whole and make sure we are eating a variety of foods, there is no waste of food that looked good at the market and then was never actually used, and it means I am trying a whole lot of new recipes in the kitchen. I don’t know how long I will keep it up, but for the moment it is getting me out of the rut.


I still cook seasonally by only picking recipes that use ingredients that I know I can find at the market at the moment. And if something looks really good when I am out, I will pick it up and find a way to incorporate it into that night’s meal. It has been making things a whole lot easier and given me more time for adventures further afield with my little Lilias. We have been loving going for long winter walks on the beach- there is something so beautiful about a grey cold day and a stormy looking ocean. Makes me not mind the cold wind in my face and leaves both of us feeling fresh and new and ready for a big dinner.


I may be cooking all different styles of food from all different cook books, but it is nice to come back to your favourites. So on Fridays? Not going out for an after work drink and getting home at 3am, nope, those days are over… for now. Instead? Spaghetti alla puttanesca. Red wine. Bliss.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Serves four (or two very hungry people)

A very generous pour of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 dried peperoncino/ generous pinch of chilli flakes
5 anchovy fillets
400g red, ripe tomatoes or 1 tin tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
100g pitted black olives
1 large tbsp capers
roughly chopped parsley


Firstly, pour yourself a glass of wine and put your pasta water on.

Put the olive oil, minced garlic, chopped anchovies and chilli into a frying pan over a very gentle flame to let the garlic soften and anchovies melt down into the oil.

Peel, deseed and roughly chop the tomatoes if you are using fresh ones, otherwise open the can and add them to the pan. Raise the heat a little so the pan reaches a bubbling simmer and then finally add the capers, tomato puree and the olives.

By now, the water should have come to the boil. Salt generously and add the spaghetti.

Allow the sauce to bubble away and reduce a little and then add the parsley and finally the cooked pasta.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Buon appetito and have a good weekend x


Living Small

We were recently featured on the amazing blog Living Small, where a fellow New Zealander interviews and photographs those who are making small apartments work for their families. In a difficult renting market such as San Francisco, these stories make up every day conversations at the playground, cafe or bar and it is fascinating to hear how many people you can fit in a small space (family of four in a studio apartment anyone?). Yes, it is difficult not having a laundry and having to carry a baby and stroller and groceries up nine flights of stairs. But I also think it is wonderful for our daughter to have this beautiful city as her back garden. You never know who you may walk past on the street or what may be going on in the park; there is always something to see or do.

Speaking of which, we have tickets to go and see Yotam Ottolenghi in a couple of weeks. I am so excited- he really has changed the way I cook and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say. So after flicking through his cookbooks, I mixed a few ideas together and made this- an Ottolenghi inspired salad for your weekend.

Kumera and Eggplant Salad

Serves two with enough for lunches the next day, or four for dinner with a nice piece of meat.

1/2 cup of quinoa
1/2 cup wild rice
2 large Kumera (sweet potatoes)
1 large eggplant
1 large handful of baby spinach
1 small handful of fresh coriander
Pistachio nuts
Sunflower seeds
1Tbsp pomegranate molasses
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil

Cut your kumera into wedges and your eggplant into cubes. Put these in to roast with some olive oil and salt for about 45 mins at 180/350 or until they are beautiful and golden, a bit crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. Now cook your quinoa and wild rice and leave aside to cool. Finally, roughly chop the spinach and coriander.

The great thing about most of Ottolenghi’s salads is that you can eat them at room temperature. This means that you can make them when you have a minute and then come back to them when it is time to eat- ideal for entertaining or if you manage to get your baby to have a sleep during the day!

So, when you are ready, combing the quinoa, rice, vegetables and herbs in a big bowl with the dressing of pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Crumble some feta and sprinkle some shelled pistachio nuts and sunflower seeds on top for a bit of crunch. Voila! You have a delicious and satisfying dinner all ready to go.

A Celebration

I had always been a bit negative about American style baby showers, but Sunday proved me wrong. My friend Kelly organised the most beautiful day for me with every little detail thought out- the room decorated, fresh spring flowers everywhere, waffles and fresh berries, champagne, lemon and lavender cocktails, games and fun. There was even a surprise arrival of two friends who now live in Los Angeles! As I looked around the room at all these amazing people I did not know even existed this time last year, it made me realise how I am not having a baby in a foreign city without friends or family, but in a beautiful sunny city Ollie and I happily call home, surrounded by amazing and caring friends. So thank you to everyone who helped make this day so special.






Apartment Living

I have never lived in an apartment building before. Ours is certainly not a fancy one. It has carpet reminiscent of an English pub complete with the smell of old cigarettes lingering, there is no lift, and rubbish bins are lined up in the centre courtyard rather than a manicured garden. But I love buzzing in the front door and seeing the packages that have been delivered, checking to see if there is one for us, or post in the number 12 slot. I love walking up the four levels to our door, passing the smells and noises of other people’s life. Fried onions and garlic at number four, curry at number seven. Sometimes a door is left ajar and I can peak into a crowded hallway, strange to live so close to someone and yet know nothing about them. I look out our kitchen window, across the courtyard to two abnormally large cats who sleep in the sun on the outside stairs, other people’s windows, other people’s choices of lined up bottles and plants.


We have been in this building for five months now. We know our neighbours on our floor. We have all our things from New Zealand and it feels a lot more like home. Books threaten to topple, art is on the walls, clutter is accumulating, and as of Saturday, we have plants growing on the fire escape.


Five months on and Autumn has arrived. The lower sun means we have bright light streaming into the living and bedroom for most of the day making perfect spots for curling up with a book or a bowl of pasta. It also means finally bidding farewell to stone fruit and berries and welcoming more wintery apples and pears, as well as piles of pumpkins. I am loving the comforting, hearty food- lentils with pasta, chicken pie, soups and pumpkin ravioli which I will blog very soon.


To Market, to Market.


The weekend was lovely. We went to a beautiful cafe and drank iced coffee in the shade of trees bowed over with the weight of fresh plums. We bought a car (feeling very grown up right now as it isn’t a Toyota Carolla) and went on an adventure to Sausolito. We sat beside the wharf in the sunshine, had a beer and enjoyed incredible fish and chips at a place called, very originally, Fish. We drove over the Golden Gate bridge with me singing the Full House song and then drove to Twin Peaks to look over the city.


Sunday was a trip to the farmer’s market to find some cheap produce. There were tomatoes, berries, and zucchini of all shapes and sizes. I am currently attempting to do some pickling and jam making; results have been mixed, but I will blog about that later this week. Back at the market I was drawn to the fish monger after our delicious fresh fish the day before. There was some beautifully pink salmon which didn’t have a price tag but was quickly wrapped up with ice for me to take home. Turns out that not everything at the market is cheap produce so I had to think of something worth while to do with this piece of fish.



Salmon and Lentils with a Spicy Yoghurt Dressing

1 cup of puy lentils
2 cups water
3 zucchini
1 small head broccoli
A handful of fresh herbs- I used coriander, basil and Italian parsley
A handful of baby spinach
1 big salmon fillet
Pinch of fennel seeds
Olive oil
Sea salt
Half a cup of thick natural yoghurt
juice of half a juicy lemon
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 tsp paprika


First of all, cook your cup of lentils with two cups of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about twenty minutes. While they are busy bubbling away, bake the salmon with some lemon juice, salt and a pinch of fennel seeds. You don’t want to over cook the salmon, so depending on the size of the fillet, this should only take about fifteen minutes. Fry the zucchini and broccoli in a pan. I used a mix of yellow and green zucchini- they are just so pretty! Roughly chop the herbs and spinach and once the lentils are cooked, add along with the zucchini and broccoli. Break the salmon on top and then dress with a dressing made of the yoghurt, grated garlic clove, lemon juice and paprika. I also added some of the red onion I had pickled- it added a nice vinegary bite that complimented the earthy flavours of the lentils perfectly.


This week I will let you know how my pickling/jam making goes, tell you all about the amazing looking restaurant we are going to for Ollie’s birthday, and about the book reading at a dive bar tonight. Until then, thank you for all the kind words and feedback you have given me so far. I have been overwhelmed by everybody’s response, so thank you x


Far from home

When anyone in a café, bookshop, second hand kitchen store (places I have been frequenting this week) asks me where I am from and I tell them New Zealand, they all seem to say “Oh that’s so far away”. Yes it is. New Zealand is far from everywhere, and moving away means knowing that you won’t be popping home for weekends. When I lived in Italy and was just doing nannying jobs I was very aware of the cost and distance separating me from my friends and family. But that was a few years ago and I had no sense of permanence. Everything was temporary and I knew that it wasn’t long before I would be moving on again.

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Now I feel differently. I know that we are here for a good few years. And although that is an exciting thought, it also makes me feel far from everyone. Two of the most amazing people I know just got engaged, I want to have a drink with them at the Love Shack. It is one of my most special friend’s birthday today, I want to have a long dinner around her table with bottles of her favourite chardonnay. Then in a few weeks there is the marriage of one of my kindest and calmest friends to her long time boyfriend, I hate that I am not going to be there to celebrate with them.

But this is what it is to live in a world where there is opportunity, to experince living in a new city. We have skype, emails, facebook, instagram, snapchat, to keep in touch. I even posted some letters, cards and post cards this week.

Soon I will have work, be busy, have friends I have collected around me. And for now, we have a beautiful apartment that is feeling more and more like a home.

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Cooking in a new kitchen

I have a kitchen. My very own, do whatever I want, fill it with whatever I want, kitchen. With this comes the fact I have nothing to go in the kitchen. A crate of things from New Zealand comes over in a couple of months, so it is a matter of working out what we can do without, and what we need immediately. Luckily we went out for dinner with a couple of new American friends on Sunday night to a cool wee local gastro pub called Magnolia with delicious beers and burgers. Steph lent us a pot, 2 knives, forks and spoons so we are good to go for a while! This means I am having to get creative with one pot. Here’s my first attempt…



Pinch of fennel seeds
Pinch of chilli flakes
Tbsp of fresh thyme leaves
1 onion
1 stick celery
4 cloves garlic
2 chicken thighs
1 cup green lentils
1 tin tomatoes
1 cup of stock
Handful of green Sicilian olives
Handful of fresh parsley
Grated parmesan

Fry the onion, garlic, celery, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and thyme slowly in lots of olive oil. Once they have softened, turn up the heat a bit and add the chicken thighs so they lightly brown on each side. Then add the tin of tomatoes, the lentils and the stock, season well with salt and pepper then put the lid on and walk away. After about half an hour/45 minutes (I may have forgotten to check a clock) your lentils and chicken should have cooked. Try to schmush up the tomatoes as well as you can- they should have fallen apart a bit by themselves- and add the olives.

Serve this in a bowl with parsley and parmesan on top and some chunky sourdough bread on the side to mop up all the delicious juices.

This is served in our beautiful new bowls from Heath Ceramics– such an inspiring shop. We got a voucher for there from some amazing friends and got to spend it this weekend. Definitely worth checking out. Thanks guys!