May 3, 2016

Workout Specific Updos, Home Laminating and Meat Lover's Bolognese. The Excitement Of All of the Above.

With my basil is looking this good, how could I possibly not make up a big pot of bolognese?


I keep claiming to have found my forever bolognese recipe but that doesn't stop me from suffering the occasional bout of spag bol wanderlust.  And when I found Adrian Richardson's recipe for bolognese here and noticed that it required a cup of fresh basil, I knew that his was the recipe I had to try today.




Conveniently, the recipe also required a cup of red wine.  As well as two things I've never used in a bolognese recipe before - salami and bacon.  


With all that meat in the recipe and the 150g of butter needed to brown the vegetables at the beginning, it's just as well I intend to eat this zuchetti style.  I think pasta would make things far too heavy.  I'm halfway through the simmering stage at the moment so I think the official verdict on taste might have to wait for a future post.


Being gym Tuesday for me and all, I thought you might like to hear the latest about my fitness journey.  Wasn't that a clever reference to the new season of Masterchef right there?  I think it debuted over the weekend along with The Voice.    Just quietly,  from the look of the ratings, I think a fair proportion of Australia seems to be over reality television contests at the moment. I think we're journey jaded.

But back to gym Tuesday.  I trialled a workout updo this morning.  Mainly to see if a side French braid would keep the layers out of my face better than my usual head band.  Bits of layered hair seem to flop around under the head band and I end up looking like a hectic birds nest by the time I gracefully jump off the treadmill.  Not that it should matter what my hair looks like at the gym but hey, this is the SSG blog and in keeping with the SSG brand core values in general - it's the little things....

Anyway.  My hair did good through cardio this morning.  It all stayed in its braid through the run (hills, readers, I did inclines), a bit of a cycle and then jump rope.  

If you want a do that looks profesh, may I recommend Abby Smith's YouTube tute featuring five quick dos?



Abby also writes a blog here that I've just started reading on Feedly because I love her cheerful style on Youtube.


#armparty #inmyactivewear

Out of the gym, the headband got twisted around my wrist arm party style and I went forth to Officeworks.



Where I saw first hand how expensive it is to replace bits of broken work ID appendages.  The plastic card covers start at around $1.50 per piece,


and don't get me started on how much it costs to replace the plastic alligator clips...

I might just have to save my conference tags from now on.  For their spare part value alone.


I was hoping to find a new Moleskine for New Orleans but just wasn't feeling what remained on the notebook shelves in store.  Might have to go online for one.  Ah, Book Depositary.  Almost forgot about them.


It's always an eclectic selection of things that make it with me to the cash registers at Officeworks.  Today's haul featured my laminator and a set of play money in Australian currency for Preschooler SSG.



I think I've found a new hobby, readers.  It's almost as fun as raking autumn leaves.  How rewarding is home laminating?  Often referred to pieces of paper converted to virtually indestructible and more importantly, water resistant pieces of plastic at the flick of a switch?  As promised, Preschooler SSG's reading signs got laminated (brownie points please, early years educators - for printing in lower case!!).  And of course, my ACORNA skin care regime got plasticised (because apparently plasticated isn't a word though it is closer to the truth) too.



And when I was done, I had to run my laminator cleaning sheet through the unit three times before turning it off.  The sheet is just a piece of cardboard but with laminating being such a precise and orderly procedure, it had to have an official title.

The model I bought was the GBC Fusion A4 sized laminator.  It cost around $360 which was mid range from memory.  Officeworks had A4 laminators ranging from $20 up to around $1400.  I went for this particular model because the warm up time was relatively quick as was the time taken to laminate a page.  It's also quite a sturdy.  Wonder if it would be considered a tax deduction?  Better start laminating something work related next.  


Oh hello, this is my bolognese.  Just added the chopped basil to it.  I think it's safe to say that this one is for the meat lover's pizza lovers amongst you.  It's surprisingly sweet, possibly because I used a milder Hungarian salami.  It's also hearty and a different bolognese all together from the versions I usually make sans salami and bacon.  Looking forward to having a serve with some zuchakini as Preschooler SSG is wont to call zucchini.  He loves making zoodles but hates eating them.

What do you laminate around the house?  

Are you on the journey with Masterchef or The Voice this year already?  Or are you going to be a bit like me and wait until it gets to the business end of the competition but sort of keep up via Twitter?  Or are you completely oblivious?


May 2, 2016

A Royal Vogue Cover. Meanwhile In Suburbia.

It was always going to be hard to get the cover pitch perfect when your covergirl is HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and the occasion is Vogue UK's centenary.  But I'll just go out and say it.  I'm a bit disappointed.  While I respect everyone involved for not airbrushing the cover photo to oblivion, it all looks so unspectacular and unglamorous.

www.online.com
But perhaps this gives the cover more impact than it otherwise would have if it were photo shopped perfection and couture clothing.  We've come to expect nothing less than models, celebrities and public figures looking like themselves but 'better' on magazine covers that to see The Duchess look like the happy and busy thirtysomething mother of two that she is makes her cover stand out for all its comparative 'normality'.  I think when you're already as influential on global fashion trends as Kate is, you really don't have much more to prove to Vogue or its readers.  And I like that about the cover.  It's just how good were the outfits for the recent tour of India?  And similarly, the random paparazzi shots we sometimes get to see in the Daily Mail.

www.telegraph.co.uk
Apparently, the editorial features seven photographs of The Duchess and it is rumoured that the clothing she selected for the shoot purposely steered clear of couture or anything too revealing.   Again, decision respected.  And while the detractors are already grumbling about how 'Boden' (see the Daily Mail link earlier in this post) I can almost guarantee that I'll be online in search of high street interpretations of at least one piece from the editorial....  I wonder which it will be?  Might have to get on with sourcing a copy of the issue.

For the Duchess Kate fans among you, what's your opinion of the direction Vogue took with the cover and the editorial?

Meanwhile in suburban Sydney....



Three year olds who've been promoted to goggle wearing at swimming refuse to take them off after class.  Even if they have to do the shopping in them with mum.



I went to About Life dressed in a Duchess Kate inspired Breton top and dark denim jeans.  No photo because the Duchess wore it better and this post is (mostly) about her.  Found my white miso, stocked up on frozen edamame but said no to the kombucha.  But if it's your jam, they have at least four different flavours of it for you in the drinks fridge.  Sadly no Coke Zero but yeah, anyway, can understand why.



Those Coconut Lindor bars from the Sunday shopping?




Like a Bounty but better.  So.  Much.  Better.  

Isn't it nice how the coconut trend has gone from water, to oil and now to Lindor  varieties?  I love a superfood trend that crosses the boundaries like that.  It's so lovely to be able to co-ordinate what I use on my hair and skin with the chocolate I'll be eating on the same day.  You can't say that about chia seeds now, can you?  



Preschooler SSG and I took advantage of the 26C(!!) afternoon that was our first Sunday of May and went for a wander on Darling Harbour.



We caught the last day of Signspotting - a collection of strangely worded street signs from around the world.

It was a bit quirky for us.  Who has time to read signs and 'get' them when there's a large body of water to  try and jump into against your mother's wishes?


Or if the Darling Harbour Carousel is within line of sight?  And its playing The Wiggles on a continuous loop?


We got our disco pink tickets and saw the sights of the Darling Quarter as we bobbed around the carousel.


The Darling Quarter's playground is pretty spectacular but also very busy on weekend afternoons when the weather is as perfect as it was Sunday.


There was so much to climb and so many water fountains to dart around.  Preschooler SSG was beside himself as he ran around the jets of water.  He found an empty cup which he filled under the jets of water before scuttling over to the sandpit with his watery load.  No wonder he fell asleep an hour before his usual bedtime last night.

Here's wishing you a happy Monday and start to May.  Can you believe it?  The Christmas things will be out at the supermarket anytime now....


May 1, 2016

Lovin' Life 1/5/2016: Autumn's Leaves and Cinnamon.

We've only got another official month of autumn to go.  It's all a bit sad, really because it really is such a beautiful time of year in Sydney.  





It's the golden orange leaves that have my heart, actually.  I never noticed them as much at the old house but here, autumn leaves have blanketed the front courtyard of our house for the entire season already.




I love the look of the leaves, the sound they make in the wind and, strangely, the satisfaction of sweeping them up each week.  I share yard duties with my next door neighbour.  She does the backs of our houses and we do the front sidewalks.  I'm beginning to understand and treasure how much these little kindnesses mean in a neighbourhood.


Leaf Thursday has become a thing for Preschooler SSG and I this year and I hope we get to continue our tradition for many years to come.


A taste of autumn I'm definitely bringing with me into winter is cinnamon.  I'm dusting it on everything at the moment.  In my baking, on my baked oats, on my weetbix.  Again it's that golden orange hue I love.  Not to mention its distinctive warming fragrance.  But did you know that there are different grades and species of cinnamon?  Well, allow me to give you a potted history.
 
This all started when I started using my 300g mega bottle of ground cinnamon from Costco.  I thought Saigon  cinnamon sounded exotic but I was in for a treat when I opened the bottle.  The scent was amazing.  Heady and mellow it made the supermarket cinnamon I've been merely surviving on smell anaemic.  In my baking, Costco's Saigon cinnamon hit the spot in away that again the supermarket versions could only dream about.

I've been researching Costco's brand of cinnamon and it seems that it's pretty pure with no added fillers, colourings or flavouring.   The reviews on Amazon are pretty impressive and there's lots of useful information in the comments if you're interested.  Cinnamon is associated with many health benefits including positive effects on blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, its role in anti inflammatory pathways and being cardioprotective.  Plus it even tastes good!

Saigon cinnamon differs from that of Ceylon and the cassia types in that it has the highest concentration of cinnamaldehyde and another essential oil unique to the cinnamon species which is reflected in its higher price.  There is the issue of coumarin levels (don't worry it's not the coumadin of warfarin fame) being highest in Saigon cinnamon but coumarin is found in many other foods naturally.  From what I can gather in my reading, aim for less than a teaspoon of cinnamon per day to stay safe on the coumarin issue.



Autumn means the start of soup season for me.  Always best served with a side of buttered white toast.




Not strictly autumnal but it seems to be this time of year that the chocolate brands decide to launch new products.  Must be because it's a reasonable lead time until winter sets in and we all cocoon in our houses with comfort foods and ugg boots.  I got both versions of Lindt's new Lindor flavour - coconut and dark chocolate.

What are your favourite things about autumn?

Is cinnamon a favourite flavour of yours?

Apr 30, 2016

This and That On A Saturday Night.

Hello!

Bedtime was early tonight.  The house is quiet in the nicest possible sense of the word.  And I appear to be on top of the laundry and cleaning for a change.  Possibly because I've turned a blind eye to quite  a few things but possibly not.  I'm going with the latter tonight.  




It was one of those hectic weeks and by Friday night, all I really wanted to do was have a Dr Oetker spinach pizza topped with basil from my herb pot, tomato and some extra cheese for dinner.  So I did.


Overjoyed to have been able to really taste my coffee this morning!  So glad to be seeing the back of you, annoying autumnal head cold.


Preschooler SSG and I stepped out this morning to celebrate my first day of feeling like a full member of the human race since I caught some kind of cold last weekend.  There are lots of things that are annoying about getting older and busier but the worst is how long it takes me to get over those simple bugs you get every year as the seasons change.  To go from being totally over one in three days to still struggling after six really sucks.  Especially when you've got twice as much to be adult about now as you did back then.  It's also ironic given the number of vitamins and superfoods that make up my 'so now I'm forty' diet.



My newly healthy self cooled her hiking shoed heels at the edge of Westfield's play equipment after lunch today as Preschooler SSG did preschooler HIIT for half an hour (mostly) within its boundaries.  There was a brief interlude on the Wiggles ride but $2 later, he was back suspending himself on the pyramid cushions and tearing up the steps.



Back at SSG Manor 2.0, my trusty cherry red Le Creuset casserole made an appearance on the stove for another batch of Jamie Oliver's Brown Windsor soup.  When you're cooking with your best pot, sipping your afternoon cuppa from a bit of Wedgwood really is the only way to do it.  I received this mug from a beautiful friend a couple of years ago and while its too beautiful to be used everyday, it's also too beautiful to spend its years in its box on a shelf for safe keeping.  I usually have my breakfast cup of tea in it and it's such a beautiful way to start the day both on account of the mug and also the memories I have of my friend.



I found myself a bit of a gift to self in my wardrobe this afternoon.  This LUSH gift set was an extra from my Christmas present shopping last year and it has been sitting in my wardrobe ever since.


The soap is called 'Respect Your Elders' and now that I'm an elder and a mother, I think it's rather fitting that it now graces the soap dish in my shower.  Alongside a cake of ARCONA's kiwi cream bar cleanser.  Between the two, I'm certain I'll be able to fight all my visible signs of ageing one shower at a time.

It's been a while since I've used LUSH soap and I'd forgotten how much fun they are.  'Respect Your Elders' contains elderflower, bergamot, buchu and olibanum.  It has a soothing smell that's neither sweet or musky.  I also love the deep purple colour and the peeks of elderflower blossoms through the soap.

www.lushusa.com


I'm bringing the Rose Jam shower gel with me on my next big adventure.  Don't know where the time has gone but it is now only 38 days until I leave for New Orleans.  I've been looking forward to the trip for so long.  Getting on that plane and being unreachable for 20 hours has been a carrot dangling in front of me through crazy days at work and challenging moments in the preschoolerdome.  But now that it so close, I'm beginning to miss this crazy juggling act and the way it constantly tests the boundaries I thought I had in every aspect of my life.

That was a bit left of field.  Don't know quite how that paragraph relates to the first sentence about the shower gel but yay, major trip shower gel decision made.


Besides finding the official shower gel of New Orleans 2016, the other big decision for me was what to do about phones an SIM cards whilst away.  I did try a Telstra travel data pack for a trip once before but it annoyingly didn't work at my destination.  Fortunately, Telstra were good enough to refund me the cost.

Having a local SIM in Singapore was so convenient that I decided to do the same for the US and have just ordered  US SIM from Telaway.  It's prepaid, data is included with unlimited calls and SMS to Australia.  You also get to keep your Australian number with this SIM.  For my trip of 10 days, the SIM cost $59 USD and will be mailed to me in Australia so I can set it up from the airport.  Fingers crossed it all works.

Do you have a favourite mug?  Is there a story behind it?

Have you tried prepaid SIM cards for travel in the US?



Apr 29, 2016

The Weeknight Book Club: 'A Mother's Story' by Rosie Batty with Bryce Corbett.

"I have joined a club, a club that nobody ever wants to join.
How on Earth, when you become one of these tragedies — these worse-case scenario tragedies — how do you live with murder?"
'A Mother's Story' - Rosie Batty
“Violence towards anyone, man, woman or child, is never acceptable and never the right choice. It is similarly not okay. As the Australian of the Year, I’m committed to building greater campaigns to educate and challenge community attitudes. I am on a path to expose family violence and to ensure that victims receive the respect, support and safety that they deserve. And to Luke, my little man, you did not die in vain and will not be forgotten. You are beside me on this journey and with me every step of the way. Thank you.”
The concluding paragraph of Rosie Battie's speech on accepting the honour of Australian of the Year 2015.

www.mpnews.com.au
For readers who may not be familiar with Rosie's story, she is a tireless crusader against family violence a well as our 2015 Australian of the Year.  Rosie's identity to the wider public came as a consequence of the most tragic and devastating circumstances.  On February 12 2014, Rosie Batty stood 50 metres away from the cricket ground where her 11 year old son Luke was killed by his father Greg Anderson.  Greg Anderson later died in hospital after being shot at the scene by police.

I started reading Rosie Batty's memoir 'A Mother's Story' with both curiousity and apprehension.  How does a mother even begin to be able to put down on paper the painful nightmares of both an abusive long term relationship and the violent death of her son at the hands of her former partner?  Would the memories be too confronting and too graphic?  How would I relate to her story as mother and as a woman?

I've come away from reading 'A Mother's Story' with even more admiration and respect for Rosie than I had before knowing her and Luke's story.  It must have been incredibly difficult but also a testament to the good person that Rosie is to keep her discussion of Greg and his severe mental health and personality issues on a respectful and factual tone.  Rosie writes with such a warm and engaging voice it was somehow 'easy' but also jarring to read about the violence she and Luke suffered at Greg's hands.

In her memoir, Rosie provides an insight into how her childhood may have shaped the romantic relationships she found herself in as an adult.  She remembers being a young child in denial about her mother's death for several months in the hope that there had been a case of mistaken identities at the hospital.  She also remembers her stoic and somewhat distant father doing his best without his wife before eventually marrying a lovely woman who provided stability, boundaries and routine for Rosie, her brother and then a stepbrother she came to love with a passion.

Restless legs and a desire to see more of the world saw Rosie leave the family farm in rural England for adventures around the world and finally a working holiday in Australia that extended itself due to her love of the place and its people.  In Australia, Rosie begins to understand some of the issues within herself surrounding marriage and men as she navigated the dating scene.  The failed relationships each served as learning experiences for Rosie and she was always able to end things and move on.  Until she met Greg.

Outwardly, Greg Anderson appeared a departure from the 'type' Rosie was learning to avoid.  He had good prospects, presented himself well and for a short time, their relationship was romantic and filled with the good things about being a couple.  It didn't take long, though, for the veneer to chip away as more than one of Rosie's friends advised her to be rid of him.  Inappropriate comments, menacing behaviour and an obsession and misinterpreted perceptions of organized religion made many people around Rosie feel uncomfortable in his presence.  Greg appeared to have a temper as brittle as kindling, delusions as to his self worth and ability as well as an impressively sized sense of entitlement.  He wasn't able to hold down jobs and it was always someone else's fault when he lost a job.

With the benefit of hindsight, we'd all run away from the Gregs of the world but something made Rosie stay.  A sense that she could somehow rescue him from his failings.  And then the news that she was pregnant with his child.

As the pregnancy progressed, so too did Greg's descent into permanent unemployment, fits of abuse and intimidation and periods of what sound like psychosis with hallucinations and feelings of paranoia.  Rosie realised that she'd be raising their child on her own and gladly made plans contingent on this.  She also hoped to give their child the chance to get to know their father.  There was a point when she could have moved back to England with the baby to live with her family but fear and a hope that things would change kept her in Australia.  It was also hard for her to give up the life she had created for herself.

Despite all his issues, Greg knew that Rosie and Luke were important to him.  Luke represented his legacy to the world and Rosie a meal ticket.  It was in his best interests to keep them both on a short leash and under his control because as the man he'd now deteriorated into, it was really unlikely he'd be an attractive proposition to anyone else.  In addition to violence, his tools were a cunning mix of working the legal system, playing up to the police when they attempted to arrest him and playing to Rosie's emotions as he called her to pick him up from train stations and to give him a place to sleep at night.  For Rosie, it was much easier to give in and keep some kind of peace for the sake of Luke.

But as Luke grew older, his initial adoration of his father gave way to suspicion and embarrassment.  Greg would often meet Luke at cricket practice having slept rough in his car overnight.  He'd then proceed to offer religious sermons to other parents.  He was rarely violent to Luke but would insinuate all sorts of untrue and inappropriate things about Rosie's relationship with him.  

Yet Greg was also a help to Rosie as she tried to provide everything she could for Luke in a financial sense.  Greg would share pick ups and drop offs, he'd help around the property.  Isolated in Australia, Rosie was somewhat dependent on Greg and it was something Greg used to his advantage.

Luke and Rosie were offered respite from Greg during his spells in communes and monasteries.  Rosie finding herself in a long term relationship also seemed to deter Greg.  Unsurprisingly, though, he eventually sabotaged that relationship leaving Rosie again vulnerable to him.

The lead up to Luke's murder represented a time where perhaps Greg realised that his grasp on his son and former partner was rapidly weakening.  They just didn't need nor want him in their lives. Court orders and other family law matters were frustratingly slow to enact and Greg just wouldn't engage with the process.  The police seemed powerless to protect Rosie and Luke because firm evidence of an immediate threat from Greg was always just out of their line of sight.

So the inevitable happened.  Greg took his revenge on Rosie by killing Luke and leaving Rosie to live the rest of her life grieving and suffering.  While that was his intention and Rosie did and will still grieve, her life has been given new purpose and meaning to advocate for those who have suffered through family violence.

The fall out from Luke's death shattered Rosie but also forced her to rebuild herself into a woman determined to not let Luke's death to have been in vain.  Along the way, Rosie looked clung to the 'small mercies'.  That though so physically close to the murder scene, her back was turned at the time of Luke's death.  That Luke would have died almost instantly during the attack.  That Greg also died shortly afterwards.

'A Mother's Story' left me inspired.  It's the kind of book that makes you reflect upon your own life.  To find the small mercies, to continue finding the courage and energy to live fearlessly and to not live with regret.  To Rosie's way of thinking, regret over decisions made in the past do nothing to change what has actually happened.  And flawed as some of those decisions may have been, they did bring a beautiful person into the world.  His time on earth was too short but his memory will live on forever within his mother as she continues her work because of him and the other hims and hers who need her voice to speak for them.

More information about The Luke Batty Foundation can be found here.

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