Food, family and homesickness

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When I was a kid, the chore I hated the absolute most was getting the rice cooker going. We had an ancient model that my mum had had for yonks, all yellowed plastic peeling at the edges and an industrial-sized bowl that was just about enough for our rice-mad family of four. I would have to crouch down to the floor of the pantry, open up the giant container that held our household supply of rice grains, and methodically count out 8 or 9 cups to be ladled into the cooker. It usually took a few goes to get it right, mostly because I would lose interest somewhere around the third or fourth cup and muddle up my count, and then have to start all over again.

Objectively, there were (of course) worse chores that could be dished out, but there was something about the monotony and the repetitiveness of that job that conspired to push it to the top of the most-despised list. But there was no getting around it – in our Filipino household, rice was the foundation for most of the meals we had together as a family. There was always rice in the cooker ready to go, (whether dished up by me or someone else) and somehow the grains stored in our cupboard never seemed to run out.

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5 comforting books to read

5 books perfect for comfort reading

Looking for a soothing read to get you through these uncertain times? These are the books to settle down with.

Much like a giant bowl of mac and cheese or a bag of your favourite chips, there are some books that exist to comfort the soul and soothe a stressed-out mind.

You know the ones I’m talking about. They might not have an award-winning sticker on the front or a cavalcade of literature purists singing their praises, but they sure as hell do wonders for when you need a hefty dose of escapism.

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Food is the only thing keeping me sane right now

A love letter to cooking at home in the time of Corona.

It’s a crazy, mixed-up world out there right now. Shops are shut, we’re all hanging out in chaotic group video chats instead of seeing each other in real life, and there’s no telling when things will go back to normal.

On a personal level, our London life came to an abrupt end last month as it became clear Covid-19 wasn’t just going to blow over. I think up till that point, we still hoped things would settle – but with borders closing down, we decided to get out and go home while we still could. The whole process of deciding to leave, packing up our flat and getting on a plane took less than two days, and the strangeness of that experience only added to the general feeling that we are in the end times now.

We touched down in NZ on the 21st March, just in time for Jacinda Ardern to put the whole country into lockdown. Since then, we’ve been trying to get used to the new normal – except things don’t feel very normal at all.

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Birds of Prey is the feminist action movie we needed

The new Harley Quinn flick is a riotous, rainbow-hued confection of a film that’s the cinematic equivalent of a shot of adrenaline

All hail Margot Robbie.

After emerging from the decidedly mediocre Suicide Squad as the only cast member to make any lasting, genuine impression on screen, the Australian actress (who also pulls double-duty as a producer on this film) managed to take that glimmer of momentum and run full-tilt with it on Birds of Prey.

Helped in no small part by the assured direction of Cathy Yan and a Christina Hodson-penned screenplay that perfectly balances comedy with character beats, Birds of Prey is an action-packed thrill ride that’s yes, female-focused, but above all, outrageously fun.

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Why do we care so much about the Oscars?

What that little gold man really says about our movie-going tastes and preferences – and what it doesn’t.

The Oscars are the undisputed juggernaut of the Hollywood awards season, capping off a series of self-congratulatory ceremonies every year and imbuing – for what it’s worth – an inherent value to its winners and nominees that goes beyond a simple award.

As much as we always wring our hands and rant and rave over who should be nominated (and win), the cultural cachet associated with these little gold statuettes has only gotten more pronounced. Even as box office numbers have declined and the movie-going audience has splintered, Hollywood still puts on the same show with the same pomp and circumstance each year – and we still get up in arms about who deserved to win and didn’t.

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3 women, 3 great TV shows

A show for every mood.

I hate the phrase “strong female character”. I understand the intent, but also, the fastest way to turn any potential consumer off a cultural product is to reduce it to marketing speak, a catch-all term meant to encompass a complex set of messages, all obviously designed to target ‘us’. And by ‘us’ I mean any viewer who wants to see real, human women on screen rather than sexed-up, overblown or underbaked caricatures.

‘Real’ women, to borrow another cringe-inducing phrase, can be sexy, or funny, or boring by turns. Depending on the time of day, the situation, or any number of factors, we might be angry, silly, resigned, joyful, jealous, hopeful, none or all of these at the same time. We’re strong and weak; perfect, and also flawed – because that’s how humans operate.

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5 books that will change your life

Book recs? I got you.

If you’d asked me as a kid, I probably would have told you I preferred reading books to hanging out with most people.

My parents always had to remind me to stop reading at the dinner table, and my favourite thing to do on weekends was go to the library and take home a big stack of new books to last me through the week (nerd alert).

Honestly, there’s something special about the escapism of reading, and the power of a good book to imprint itself on your brain for weeks, months and years afterwards.

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Things no one tells you about moving to London

Little fish, meet big pond.

Some people spend their whole lives dreaming of getting away, of leaving the familiar behind to dive headfirst into the uncertainty of being a stranger in a strange land.

On the other hand, I never even considered living anywhere other than New Zealand until a few months before it actually happened.

I love travelling, but I’d always been a holiday kind of person – leaving for a short spell before retreating back to the comfort of home. The idea of upending my life, with all its dependable routines and structure, to start from scratch in a new country was utterly alien to me.

And then, I met someone.

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