Three More Sleeps. Nama Is Next Level.

We've got the all clear here at SSG Manor.  Christmas can officially go ahead this year.

Cookie cutter, $4 from Big W.

My emergency dash to Big W after work on Friday yielded this gingerbread man shaped cookie cutter.  My mum is in the process of packing all of Toddler SSG's Christmas gift for the flight out east and it turns out that a gingerbread making set is part of the haul.  So just to make sure that Christmas Day baking with grandma goes to plan (well as close to it when a toddler is involved), I was told to find a sturdy and easy to use cookie cutter for the project.  I've also got an icing pen ready for decorating the baked gingerbread.  It's going to be interesting in the kitchen....


Cropped jeans - $9, Emerson at Big W.  Bangle - $5 on sale, Lovisa.

Big W was also the source for my new pair of dark denim cropped skinny jeans.  They were $9 from the Emerson range.  I'll be straight with you.  My personal dress code for the coming week is dark colours, forgiving waist bands and machine wash only.  I'll be adding a sturdy bangle here and there.  This red one from Lovisa will go perfectly with everything I'm planning to wear this year.


Coles Tropical Jewel Fruit Cake - $10 for an 800g tin.

Things I've put on hold for the next week include my alarm in the morning, the housework and eating sensibly.  Let's start with the food.  I'm loving Coles' Tropical Jewel Fruit cake.


The addition of roasted coconut and glace pineapple to fruit cake can only be described as visionary.

I'm interrupting the festival of festive food with this random shot of what I wore on the weekend.  In a rare non food related moment, I hit the pool with my Missoni for Target bits and pieces and my other pair of bargain find cropped denims for the season.  Mix have some great denim options at the moment and these shorts were $25.  They are a more generous cut than Emerson so I usually go one size down in Mix and take my regular size in Emerson.


Back to the food.  I was on a mission at Chatswood on Sunday with only one thing on my shopping list for the morning.  Chocolate from Royce' which has just opened on the ground floor of the Westfield.  Do not be lulled into a false sense of security with the above blurry action shot of the lack of a queue at the store.  I hear that it was pretty hectic the moment it hit lunchtime.

The Chatswood store is Royce's first in Sydney, the first Australian store opened in Adelaide last year.  There's something about Adelaide and chocolate.  If I remember correctly, Haigh's HQ is also in Adelaide.  Perhaps it's the climate - or the wine.

Royce' chocolate dipped potato chips, created by the company in 2002.  They retail for $19 per 190g box in Australia.

Royce' is a Japanese chocolate company that was established in 1983.  The company's factory is in Hokkaido.

Nama chocolate - $24 for 125g.

Perhaps their most famous product is Nama chocolate - a combination of cream, chocolate and in some flavours, liquer.  Nama has a life of 30 days from the day of purchase and must be kept refrigerated.


I took a something for me, something for someone else approach to my visit to Royce'.  A box of potato chips will be crossing the country to my brother and sister in law while a box of green tea Nama chocolate is currently sitting in my fridge.


My box of Nama chocolate was individually wrapped in a cooler bag with an ice pack which bought me three hours to make my around the other shops of Westfield.  Not that anyone pramming a toddler around a shopping centre gets three hours of window shopping time but it was nice to know that I could've if I wanted to.


125g may not seem like a lot of chocolate for $19 but if I can break out the hyperbole, Nama is next level.



It's creamy yet full of the flavour of velvety smooth green tea.  All soft and rounded textures, it's a contrast to my previous green tea food obsession, the Green Tea KitKat.

It was a huge hit with all the adults in the house.  The alcohol content of this particular flavour had me a bit wary of introducing Toddler SSG to it.  But I do have a feeling that if I try him out on the non alcoholic varieties, I'll be setting myself up for an astronomical chocolate budget.

Phew.  The unlabelled tin did contain diced tomatoes after all.  

But the eats haven't been all calorific this weekend.  I cooked with a conscience yesterday, using up as many tins and packets as I could from the pantry.  I made a shepherds pie based on a red kidney bean and minced beef tomato sauce.  The recipe is on the side of Edgell's 420g tins of beans but there is an alternate recipe on the Edgell's website which incidentally is really easy to navigate and full of short order recipes I'm filing away for future reference.



I added some semi retired vegetables from the fridge to the mince.



And some butter and full fate milk to my boiled potatoes.



Which pretty much guarantees a light and fluffy mash every time.


The pie got topped with cheddar and parmesan.


And once baked was served thus to the toddler in his special Christmas plate.  So.  I loved it.  The combination of beans and mince in the pie took away some of the heaviness of a purely mince based version yet it was still filling and had a more 'exotic' taste than its meat loving cousin.

In hindsight, I should've known Toddler SSG wouldn't be overly fond of my pie.  Too many visible vegetables and not enough hash browning or French frying of the potatoes.  Perhaps mark 2 should feature a potato gem or French fry topping?  I'm sure I've seen something similar done on an American home cooking website.  If I track down the recipe, I'll let you know how it goes.

Three more sleeps, people!  Three more sleeps!

Take are and stay calm at Westfield / Woolies / Coles / The Dan and The Co.


Carrying On. Christmas At Work. Schnitz is the Schnitz.



It's like a cloak of solemnity has draped itself over Christmas celebrations and preparations in Sydney this year.  With flags at half mast to honour the victims of the Sydney siege and the news of 140 children and teachers being shot dead in a military school in Pakistan, it's been difficult to know when the right time was to allow the festivities of the season back into our lives.  But 'carry on as usual' we have been advised so carry on as usual I guess we should.


For me, Christmas preparations have begun in earnest over the last couple of days.


Presents have been wrapped and are currently safe from prying hands on the floor under my desk in the office.  I'm going to begin hauling them home tonight.


Shopping lists for the three C's in my life have been completed, I've been to all of them except Chatswood.  Desserts have been planned, their recipes stuck onto the kitchen cupboards and I'm setting my alarm for an early start at the Westfield in Chatswood tomorrow. I've even made restaurant reservations for every long weekend meal that we won't be eating at home.



The official drink of Christmas was bought on the Costco run.


And the infamous work Christmas lunch has been consumed.  My contribution was a large dish of tiramisu using my favourite recipe from Kidspot.


Don't you love it when Aldi had the key ingredients as special buys a few weeks back?


Folding the cream and Kahlua flavoured mascarpone together always makes it feel like Christmas to me.


And then there's the fun of fitting together the sponge finger biscuits in a kind of tiramisu tetris.


There was a slight hiccup when one batch of Kahlua cream and mascarpone wasn't quite enough for my assembled tray but some quick thinking with my spare tub of mascarpone saved the day.


Day saved, it was some quick work with two crumbled flakes before putting the whole lot into the fridge overnight.  The pyrex dish and lid were another Aldi special buy (suprise, surprise).


The set comes with an ice/heat pack and an easy to carry insulated carrying case.  All for only $39.99.  It made transporting the tiramisu to work less stressful than usual.  Nothing broke, leaked or exploded en route and I even had time for a last coffee from my favourite cafe before the girls shut up shop for the holiday break.  Before I forget.... $9 Havianas are this Saturday's special buy for men, women and children.  You're welcome.

Christmas lunch was a great success.  The tiramisu was well recieved and Toddler SSG had a wonderful afternoon as one of a select group of nappy wearing special guests.



From the glass panelled over railway pedestrian bridge



to the heavy duty roll of sticky tape on my desk, there was something new for him to explore everywhere we went.  Flights of stairs were climbed repeatedly with gusto and without fear.  Lift buttons were pressed with delight and the highly polished lino floored corridors devoid of anything breakable were just asking to be run along.

Chilling out in the garden with some Subway and a message for anyone caught in his tail wind.  I love this T from Cotton On Kids.

I was a little concerned that he wouldn't eat anything at lunch so we shared a pre lunch ham and cheese roll from Subway, just in case.


I needn't have worried because Toddler SSG found a new favourite food in the form of briyani which he devoured in between his crowd pleasing acts of swimming along the carpet, playing peek a boo and using my legs as stilts as I walked.  No wonder he fell asleep the moment we hit the road for home and slept soundly until I pulled into the garage.


Today's been a little less hectic at work but being the last Friday before Christmas, casual was key in the work outfit stakes and fancy was the word for lunch.


For weeks now, I've been eyeing this construction site in the food court around the corner from Oliver Brown (home of my Friday morning coffees) and next to Maccas (home of my hump day fix of ice loaded post mix coke zero).  An entire eatery devoted to all things schnitzel?  How could I not drop in for lunch one day? Especially as the schnitzel house down the road at home had recently closed down before I'd even had a chance to try it.


The thing I have with schnitzel is that I think about it more often than I eat it.  I'm no good with a fry pan at home so buying a schnitzel for dinner from the supermarket is never an option.  And while I know it's the pub meal, it's been a while since my social life allowed for a quiet one down at the pub.  I mean I can have one these days it's just that it's bound to be noisy and highly likely to be spilt down my jeans.

Enter Schnitz an import from Victoria.  They serve a variety of schnitzel rolls or wraps as well as the old fashioned schnitz on a plate along side the world's most addictive food court beer battered chips.  I won't lie.  I ate at least a quarter of a family sized serve of chips on my own.  My three workmates and I figured we could get away with ordering a family serve between us because after all we've been through together this year, we'd definitely bonded enough to consider ourselves as family to each other.



The schnitzel wraps all have the coolest names.  I splashed out with the Parmageddon wrap ($13.50) and wolfed it down before I got an Instagram photo of it.  So perhaps technically it didn't happen so perhaps I won't need to hit the treadmill tomorrow.  But it was an impressive food court experience all the same.  Freshly cooked mushrooms, sun dried capsicum and a rich tomato sauce together with the lightest crumb on a schnitzel I've ever tasted.  What more could you ask for on a Friday afternoon?

Anyway, I'd best be off now.  I've suddenly remembered more things I need to do for Christmas.

Have a lovely weekend everyone and I plan to be back next week to officially say Merry Christmas!!


Stay Safe, Sydney.

The Sydney I know and love has become a darker place today.

Like millions of other Sydney siders this morning, I hit the road with nothing more than my mobile phone and a head full of thoughts for the coming day.  A bit tired from working the weekend, happy that the sun was out and forecast to be with us for the week, more than a little excited to be one day closer to the Christmas break but a bit panicked that the Christmas shopping wasn't anywhere near started.  A normal head full of thoughts in this crazy, loving and united city we're  all proud to call home.


www.news.com.au
But by mid morning, news of the siege on Martin Place broke on the television in the tea room and our world changed.  Our thoughts changed.  What we thought our city was changed.

The religious freedom and harmony we have taken for granted while the rest of the world has been in buried in zealotry and unspeakable violence sadly appears to have succumbed to the forces we have so far managed to keep from the blameless on Australian soil.  Over the coming days, tensions are going to rise with wounds old and new being violently opened.



Eerily, mobile phone networks appeared jammed as facebook, twitter and messaging services failed to transmit our thoughts, prayers and hopes for the innocent people involved.  And all we could to was listen to our radios or watch televisions for any news, any certainty as to why and for the fate of the hostages.  Despite the ability for us to check in and instagram wherever we are for coffee on a Monday morning, the exact number of hostages in the Lindt cafe remains agonizingly vague.

I have memories of being in the CBD during police drills for high security events.  George Street was effortlessly cleared as special vehicles and conveys took to the carriage ways with speed and precision.  I remember feeling safe and reassured that the drills were taking place.  Perhaps they were a bit over the top but better safe than sorry.

Unfortunately, the day for safe has arrived.

Stay safe, Sydney.  And stay united with your fellow Australians.

Christmas Travels. Uniqlo in the City. 'Big Little Lies' by Liane Moriarty.

As much as this weather appears to be threatening all hope of a sunny Christmas Day, I wasn't going to allow it to get the better of me on my day off yesterday.




Which is how it came to be that Toddler SSG and I set off for the city in the midst of a mid morning downpour armed with nothing more than his pram, my Opal card and a flimsy umbrella.  I'm seriously loving my Opal card.  I'm not at the same level of expert usage as commuters who manage to get free fares each week but I do appreciate the convenience of a one card for all modes of public transport system. High five, Transport NSW!!


The grey skies and rain slicked footpaths might lead us to believe otherwise but the buildings of the Pitt Street Mall were shouting Christmas with glistening baubles here


and silvery, dangly Christmas trees there.


While over at the Opera House, the stage in the studio was all set for Babies Proms, a special presentation of The Little Drummer Boy.


The promised individual drums for each audience member were temptingly stacked on either side of the stage while a central square of carpet was sectioned off for the toddlers to sit down on for the best view.

Toddler SSG on the stairs.

Well, most of the toddlers.  Toddler SSG made an early break for the stairs leading up to the stalls.

Free range Toddler SSG celebrating his hard won freedom.

After which he managed to evade two ushers before making  break for it out onto the main concourse overlooking the harbour.  Perhaps one of the good things about all the rain is that the area was mostly deserted save for a few hard core joggers who deftly wove around Toddler SSG with a smile and a wave.


Fortunately, the Drummer Boy himself lured Toddler SSG  back into the performance with his impressive percussion skills.  There's something about seeing and hearing classical music instruments up close that entrances even the most spirited toddler.  Eventually.


After the performance, we had our packed lunches in the foyer, Opera House style.  Which totally justifies that glass of Chandon I treated myself to.


Toddler SSG made a bee line for the packet of Smarties in his lunchbox, followed closely by the party favour.  I will say for the record that his teddy bear shaped Vegemite sandwiches were the nicest ones I've had in a while.  It must be the butter.  Or their shape.


It's only now as I look back on the hastily taken iPhone photos I took while trying to stay dry that I truly appreciate just how cool the Lego Christmas tree in the Pitt Street Mall is.  Billed as the largest Lego Christmas tree in the Southern Hemisphere, you just have to see it for yourself.  Candy canes, a sleigh, toy soldiers and a surfing Santa surround the tree making it a fun tribute to Christmas on both sides of the world as well as a site that would trigger many a happy childhood Lego memory for practically all of us.  I've seen lots of happy Instagram photos of the Lego Advent calender and I'm going to get one for myself next year.



Ahem.  So there's this place called Sephora that's just opened in Westfield.  And this was the line outside a packed store on a rainy day.  I just couldn't do it.  The waiting, the rain, the poor toddler with places he'd rather be.  Do you think the frenzy will be done with after New Years?  Because that's the earliest I'll be returning to try my luck.



Fortunately, there were places we could go without having to languish in a soggy queue.  Uniqlo was one of them.  In fact, we caught a lift that took us straight into the store.  Toddler SSG did well with all the colour and the people to watch.  Unfortunately, there was nothing in his size but I'm pretty sure he'll be big enough for a Uniqlo puffer jacket next winter.


But I did find myself some new PJ pants.  Technically, they are Relaco (for RELA-xing and CO-mfortable) 3/4 shorts but I'm among friends, aren't I so PJ pants they are.


The Relaco range is available in a shorter length as well and appear to be just in ladies wear.  They retail for $19.90 a pair and have a drawstring and elastic waist plus pockets - all the essentials in pyjama pants.  There were so many prints to choose from, I had trouble just picking one.  But I was determined and I found this festive coloured floral pattern that should go down well for Christmas.


www.deadline.com

Before I go, I have a book find.  It's been the perfect bedtime read for this bleak weather.  Liane Moriarty is an Australian author who has great success in the US with her novels.  I find it hard to fit her work neatly into any one genre.  She writes for adults about relationships, mysteries, romance and suburbia.  And she does so with wit, humour and an arresting ability to paint multiple strong characters in each of her novels.  Characters you may or may not relate to but who are complex and leap off the page at you.

I'm loving 'Big Little Lies' (link to Liane's webpage).  It tells the story of a murder that shatters the picture perfect world of Pirriwee Public, a primary school in beach side Sydney.  I've read about a quarter of the book and I still don't know who actually got murdered and I know this is mostly Liane's intent but I've also been swept up into the lives of each of the main characters.  The kindergarten mums and dads, the elderly widow who lives near the school and the dialogues of the school staff that intersperse the narratives of the lives of the mums and dads.

It's a fascinating world to read about in the hands of Liane's imagination.  The traditional stereotyped mums and dads we laugh at and hope we never will become are shaped with a combination of humour and humanness in 'Big Little Lies'.  I'm not sure when the actual murder will come up in the novel and if it will be solved by the final page.  But I don't care because I'm having such a blast reading this novel.

Have a lovely weekend!

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