WHEN YOU LISTEN / 18

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Been a while coming, this post. So many new sounds and songs going around in my head... 

* Not a newby, but after seeing Jenny Lewis at the Enmore a month or so ago I can't get enough of her. Her as her, and also her as Rilo Kiley. Arms Outstretched has always been a gem, but hearing her sing it with just a guitar and some sweet backing harmonies was beautiful.

* Best Coast / California Nights because the mornings are lighter and it's just now spring and the jasmine has started. The long, dog days of summer are close at hand and I could't be happier about it. This album sounds like I feel. 

* My big sister put me onto City and Colour when I was home in July and I felt like I was 15 again, with her lending me tapes or CDs and knowing what's what way before I had a clue. The Hurry and the Harm came out back in 2013, but is is such lovely introduction to his stuff that I have barely moved on. It's just such a beautifully crafted collection of songs. 

* That there's a new Wilco album makes me happy. That it's called Star Wars and has a vintage painting of a cat on the front makes me happier. That it's a brilliant listen makes me happiest. I mean, of course it would be - it's all the twang and rock you expect of these gentlemen, with just enough good humour and all that wonderful guitar work. 

* Jess Ribeiro, Kill It Yourself is brand-spanking-new and so-damn-amazing. The title track especially - my friend Em messaged me about it JUST as I was listening to it. I love how dark and moody it is, kind of eerie and beautiful. It was produced by Mick Harvey which gives you an idea of how talented this woman is and seems to me like a brilliant fit. Also, I just love the cover. Reminds me a bit of Exile on Main St and a bit of a few years ago

* Apparently, Tobias Jesso Jr's Goon is 'the most depressingly beautiful album ever written. It's like Elton John and Paul McCartney had a love child, and he knows exactly what a break up feels like'. This, from the last person I broke up with. You get the picture - beautiful, sad, sweet, melodic. This guy is a serious talent. 

* The only thing I don't like about the new Jason Isbell album is that he's not touring it. I hear he and his wife just had a baby, which is lovely, but not much good to me here in Sydney. I saw him support Ryan Adams at the Opera House a few years ago, not knowing what to expect and was just completely bowled over. This new one isn't as heartbreakingly tense as his old one, just that strong alt-country sound with his beautiful voice. 

* Ben Salter's The Stars My Destination is one of the best Australian albums I've heard in a while. Boat Dreams is king of 80s Australian rock (and I mean that in a really good way).

* Not sure how I came across Holy Holy, but they've been on high rotation the last month or so. They're playing around the country at the moment, and I'm hoping to make a show - it's kind of melodic and interesting, reminds me of Local Natives in parts. Very smooth and beautifully put together sounds.  

ISSUES

I'm having a few issues, you might have noticed. Technical ones, Wordpress ones, me being inept with settings ones. Sorry if pictures are about 47 times too big for the page, or just not loading, or loading but you can barely see a corner of the page from your mobile / tablet. Hoping to be back, brighter, better, and actually reader-friendly in a week or so. In the meantime maybe make a cake (see last post), go for a walk, or just put your feet up and listen to your favourite Joni Mitchell record because that is Time Well Spent in my book... 

xx Meg 

MONDAY + TUESDAY

I started my week in the kitchen.

On Monday I thought the cold weather was all too much so came straight home from work and poached a few pears in vanilla, cinnamon, star anise and cloves. The house smelt like Christmas, so toasty and warm. I used Mark's recipe, but cut the (brown) sugar by half and added the other spices. My friend D and I have a Porridge Club at work (which is really just us making porridge first thing in the morning - and actually just I call it Porridge Club, he calls it breakfast). Anyway, these pears were so good I have officially declared myself Queen of Porridge Club.

On Tuesday I had friends over for dinner and made the most amazing molasses ginger cake. I'd saved it from the paper and pinned it to the fridge a few weeks ago just knowing it would be good (now online here). The golden syrup, the brown sugar, the cloves and ALL THE GINGER. I probably went a bit far with the ginger because I love it so much, but this cake was all the better for it. It was one of the best I've made (and I have made a lot of cakes). I'm already thinking about when I can make it again, and suspect it will be one of those cakes I make for the rest of my life.

And because you can't serve your friends just cake (or even just cake and wine), I also grilled some chicken and made a beautiful winter salad from Ostro. Another one I will be looking to make again, and soon - I loved the sweet beetroot, the walnuts, the lemony greens and hearty lentils. Just right for a rainy night in with a bottle of red.

That's a good Monday, a good Tuesday.

* Image, B Chaet

SUNDAY / 23

Still heavy with a head cold today. I'd meant to go away to the farm with friends for their mid-winter bonfire this weekend, but I felt the stress of too many things to do and a very sore throat, so decided to stay home. It's a hard one, when you know it will be a wonderful time, but as I said to my mother, 'you can't do all the things'. So I stayed home. In the end, I was too sick for work last week and felt foggy all weekend, a runny nose and the like. By SUNDAY I'd pulled myself together and roped my cousin Flynn into helping me move the old washer and sideboard I was getting rid of. We hired a van, he calmed my nerves while I drove it, we stopped at the bakery (of course), I took a picture through the dusty window (above) and, pleasantly, we managed to shift it all without any drama. We even had time for a cup of tea and the Saturday paper quiz with my grandmother in the afternoon sun. She's doing well, though she's had a rough time of it. Every day with her feels like a blessing, as does a gloriously bright winter afternoon after being sick in bed for days. It was a good one.

YEAR TWO.

YEAR ONE.

ON MY MIND / 12

So much to catch up on. It feels like an age since I've put my thoughts down here - the bits and pieces that are on my mind. The internet is one hell of a busy place, and you probably don't want to miss out on these bits of goodness... * Well if this doesn't make you happy, or restore your faith in awesome, then you're doing something wrong - the Skatergirls of Kabul are officially my favourite humans. Small, feisty, rough and ready for anything with those elbow and knee pads.

* Some of the nicest pictures I've seen in all my winters - a few days out of town with good friends, as captured by Rachel Kara. Isn't every damn shot stunning? And heart-warming? And making you want to buy new old boots and go for long walks in the cold, crisp afternoon? I love it.

* I'm always saying sorry, and while good manners are important to me, I really needed to read this. On that note, how are you with accepting compliments? A guy I was dating recently pointed out that I never let something he says rest - I always have a silly, self-deprecating something to say back, instead of a simple, gracious 'thank you'. Last week a friend said my hair looked lovely and long, which was sweet, except that I responded with 'oh, it probably needs a cut', even though I only had it cut a few weeks ago. So I'm working on that. My friend Marni is wonderful at giving compliments - she's always very warm and utterly genuine and enthusiastic, to me ('your eyebrows are really good at the moment') and to complete strangers while we're ordering laksa ('that skirt looks so amazing on you'). I love her for it, and I mean to do more of it.

* I was going to talk about Thomas Keller's chicken recipe, which I'll be roasting up next week sometime I think, but best you just go over and read what Molly thinks about it. Molly's food / life writing at Orangette is the literary version of listening to Joe Pug for me. It makes me Very Happy. It inspires me, it heartens me and warms me and reminds me that all the things I love and care about most are all that is important (being family, friends, cooking and eating, and being a good and kind person). I remembered, reading her post, about how I sat at a table next to Thomas Keller when I was in the Napa Valley a few years ago. Jordy and I had eaten at French Laundry the night before, full to the brim of the most spectacular food and wine and so spoilt that we slept late, had a bubble bath and went to the Bouchon bakery for a late lunch of pastry and there he was, Thomas Keller, sitting in the autumn sun in his chef's whites and smiling. TK!

* I have a secret habit of watching and loving film trailers. It's kind of silly I suppose, but I like nothing more than settling down with a cup of tea and finding all the things I want to watch (even though I rarely get to the cinema). These three looked wonderful - each warm and sweet and intelligent and a little bit quirky (one, two, three).

{picture all the way from my day at Le Pompidou a few weeks ago}

BABETOWN

I've been in Sydney nearly nine years now, and I still feel like I'm settling into it; finding new places, new things to marvel at, new friends. One of the nicest things about writing here on Sugar Mountain is making connections. A comment from a reader makes me over-the-moon happy. It is always wonderful when someone responds to your writing, when something resonates or they just want to say 'thanks' or 'hey'. Writing in a medium like this often feels distant and anonymous, so it's a real dream when like-minded folks find you and you find them.

In the last six months this writing has lead me to two very talented, inspiring and damn fine ladies whose work I have loved for some time. A comment here and there on Elize's beautiful photographs or Ngaio's amazing illustrations and before you know it you're going for dinner, going for walks, going to gigs and having ciders on the couch together. You're friends. It's pretty wonderful.

I found this post from Stevie really compelling; it made me think about how fulfilling and important these kinds of female friendships are to me. An email from my friend who is moonlighting as a curator in NYC at the moment, who I am so proud of, who I can be so real with. Text messages with my cousin that are just so sharp and completely hilarious, nightly talks with my sister who gives me strength and support just by being her. Friends that I work with and go for pho dates with, who know me inside and out, know my daily habits and probably all my worries. Long overdue and rambling emails from friends in Adelaide, friends in London. Morning cups of tea and kitchen talks with my housemate that are so easy and aligned we are, increasingly, pretty much the same person.

It's a blessing, really, to have so many babes in my life.

* Pictures from Olive and Oak.

SUNDAY / 22

 Certainly the first time I've written the words 'yacht racing' in relation to my day. But yesterday, that was my day. A friend / colleague bought a yacht last year and asked if I'd like to join her for a few races this season. Without any idea of what it might involve, I went ahead and said I'd love to. It was a lot to take in, and mighty hard work, but so amazing. I'm kind of obsessed with how the skipper was reading the wind and the harbour, charting direction in degrees as we tacked between pins. It was daunting trying to move quickly with the sail (I was on the winch), but once I got a feel for it, I found it pretty exhilarating. It was a warm day, and fairly still, so nothing too serious for a beginner like me. YEAR TWO.

YEAR ONE. 

CRISP WHITE SHEETS

 Oh golly, I'm such a sucker for a nice hotel. And not just the plush ones, but the well-designed, detailed, thoughtful and interesting ones. Staying at hotels makes me happy, always has.  When we were young my parents would spend school holidays on the road between Sydney (where we're from), and Adelaide (where we lived). It was an 18 hour drive - sometimes we'd do it in one go in the old van, and sometimes we'd stop halfway. Our preferences at that time were for hotels with a pool (for tiring us out after a day in the car) and bunk beds. We once stayed in a cabin that had triple bunks which was so amazing and revolutionary that my sister and I barely slept and my little brother forgot to pack his Lego the next morning and it had to be posted home to us. My favourite part was always the breakfast card that came with a TINY pencil and I would sit there for ages deciding whether to tick the 'cornflakes' or 'ricebubbles' box, saying things like 'I wonder if the apple juice is good'. In the morning we'd all stare transfixed at the small door in the wall where they slid the breakfast tray through, the toast in a little paper bag and the plastic samples of honey an absolute prize to be treasured and carried home in case you might, sometime, somewhere, need just a tablespoon of honey.

On this last trip I was able to stay with friends a bit, and found some very good AIR BNBs (CPH and Paris). Other towns I was only there a night or two, or landed late and wanted something easy to just walk in to (the emails and key handover coordination can be tedious if you're not staying long). Not to mention there's something I love about the anonymity and ease of hotels, the way time feels in-between and of course, the crisp white sheets. My stays are as follows (clockwise from top left):

* SP34 in Copenhagen - this gem was close to the station and an absolute dream after a day of trains and buses in the UK, and a late flight to Denmark. I managed to marvel at the lobby, have dinner and a wine in the bar, then crawl into my little bed. It was super central and from here I got a good feel for the town before heading out to Lasse's. 

* The Michel Berger in Berlin was perfect - very relaxed, fun and super comfy. Hurrah for interesting details, beautiful big courtyards and a damn fine selection of cocktails. 

* HTL Kungsgatan was a nice little find in Stockholm. It was on the city side of things, close to the station which was useful, but not a very interesting area. It ended up being cheaper than the AIR BNBs I found in Sodermalm though (a more dynamic part of town), and it was pretty sweet to have all the niceties of a good hotel, especially the Swedidh breakfast with berry jams. 

* The ACE in London (pictured) for my first few nights was brilliant. But I had a last night in London before I flew home as well, and booked The Hoxton at Holborn on the recommendation of my boss. She has very good taste and, as expected, I loved it. So much so I forgot to take a picture, but I'll tell you it was my favourite of the lot - wonderful space, just-right details (cute paperbag of breakfast at your door in the morning - granola, yoghurt, juice and fruit so you can get straight out into your day) amazing location (Holborn is between Covent Garden and Bloomsbury, if you don't mind) and just all the good parts of a big hotel with the charm of a small one.  

SUNDAY / 21

 Home again. I landed yesterday, and after a shower and a cup of tea was down to the Art Gallery of NSW for a morning lecture on Regency England that I'd booked months ago and forgot about, home for a brief nap and then a two hour yoga intensive with the amazing Kell. It was a wonderful, if long day.  So Sunday I took it slow. A sleep-in, lots of Lady Grey, five loads of washing and the last of the unpacking. Somehow I bought towels. In Europe. I don't know who does that, and quite why I carried them about, but the blue was a limited edition Nathalie Du Pasquier that I couldn't resist from HAY in Copenhagen, and the two mustard Orla Kielys were a last minute addition in London, after the dress I bought then exchanged for a slightly different style was discounted and I ended up with a credit note. The towels seemed easier than a teapot, so here I am with towels. I'm good for towels. 

I spent the afternoon making an apple, pork and sage cassoulet (good slow winter cooking) and catching up on yesterday's paper. 

YEAR TWO. 

YEAR ONE. 

SUNDAY / 20

A slow morning at the markets buying flowers for Cecile, two long cafe cremes with Lauren, and then a steak frites lunch at the local bar before I got the train back to Paris. In France you can drink rosè on the train, and the light rain made nice patterns on the window as we wound our way north.YEAR TWO.

YEAR ONE.