Dec 18, 2017

Life This Week 18/12/2017: Christmas Plans.

I'm excited, in case you couldn't tell.  It's going to be Christmas Day this time next week and I've been big kid enthusiastic about this since December the first....

I've decided to keep things relatively simple for Christmas lunch this year but I've also gotten it into my head that I'd like to make some of the key things from scratch.  I'm usually packet and premade all the way for Christmas lunch but this year I'm going to challenge myself.  I have a gravy recipe in mind for later but I've already made my fruit mince for pies.  

My spendy but rarely used cast iron roasting tray has been unearthed, washed and is sitting out on my bench for making the gravy.  I hope this is gas cooker stove top safe.  Would be an expensive and potentially explosive error to make if it wasn't.  Can you shed some light?

It was Sammy over at The Annoyed Thyroid who inspired me with her recent post and recipe for Easy Mince Puff Pies.

What attracted me to her recipe was that it didn't require peel or suet.  Instead, the citrus taste comes from a combination of marmalade and Cointreau.

In another Christmas first, I sterilized a large preserving jar in the oven to store the mince.

All my favourites - glace cherries, dates, apricots and craisins.

It was not hard work at all chopping and mixing the fruit,  Especially when I had the scent of brandy and Cointreau wafting up towards me as I stirred.

Then it was off to find a hidey hole for both my jar of mince and the Cointreau.

It's become a little evening routine to take the jar down from its shelf to give it a stir and a deep inhale. I can't wait to see how it tastes in my pies this week.

Our advent calendars have been diligently opened first thing each morning by Preschooler SSG and his very capable hands.  He's even attempted to streamline the process by rearranging the boxes in my Body Shop calendar into numerical order to make each day easier to find in the morning.

It was actually I who let the team down when I got a but flustered about how to assemble the Lego advent plane with two minutes to spare before we had to be out the door for work and preschool.  I googled for the answer

when all I had to do was just look behind the door of that particular date for detailed instructions.  Better late than never, I suppose.

Preschooler SSG's gifts are mostly wrapped and hidden in my wardrobe.  

I've been self gifting on the regular and I've also been dropping hints about what Santa might like to have put out for a snack on Christmas Eve.  So far I've got a jar of marmalade, a couple of melting moment biscuits and a carrot for tradition.

In the fridge, Santa can expect to find a bottle of Chandon with Orange Bitters chilled and ready to go with a tray of ice in the freezer...

Speaking of Santa, here he is at work.  All over my office door, in fact.  It was the nicest surprise to greet me when I arrived at work on Friday.  We take Christmas very seriously at work.  Our clinical support officer assures me that she'll make sure that Santa stays where he is all through next.  Preschooler SSG has been invited to Christmas lunch this week and I've promised him a tour of the Christmas decorations on each ward.

I don't know if you can call it a plan but I have already actioned one of my favourite Christmas must-dos already.  The eating of various leftovers as snacks.  Cheesecake for afternoon tea, trifle for morning tea, fruit mince pies for that meal between breakfast and morning tea....

How are you plans going for Christmas?  Do yours involve braving the fish market or the shopping centres in that last minute rush this week where the all open for close to 24 hours a day?  Best of luck if you are.

Dec 15, 2017

Friday Drinks #18: Double Shots, Good Things Black, Pom Poms and Sad Goodbyes.

There's a special someone I'd like to thank for getting me to this fine Friday...

Raise your hand and bask in the applause, extra shot of espresso in every coffee I've drunk this week.  Your spark each morning never failed to light the candle I've been burning at both ends as I've sort of managed to keep all those spinning plates in the air this week.  Nothing in the major life event category but with my mind being this close to being in holiday mode, anything that involves lateral thinking and sleep deprivation is proving to be a bigger challenge than normal to me right now.

'Big Kids' Nurofen has been a constant companion on the kitchen table this week as I've tried to fight the fevers on Preschooler SSG's behalf while also tempting him to eat with all his favourite foods.  Fortunately, it looks as if he's turned the corner and is well on the way to recovery for another busy weekend of birthday parties and Christmas celebrations.

I dusted off this old favourite from Zara Singapore this week.  I didn't dust it off as well as I could have because there's a rather large grey spot on the right shoulder that I only noticed when I got to work.

I've also revisited an old favourite in the make up world as well.  I know I raved about Maybelline's Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner a few months back but it dried out after a few weeks for me so I was back to square one.  Enter MAC's Fluidline gel liner in Blacktrack  ($35 AUD and now available online via Mecca!!).

Truth be told, I probably should have stumped out the extra clams in the first place because MAC products last for ages and are always reliable in terms of consistency, intensity, longevity and finish.  Blacktrack is every bit as good as I remember it.

Still on the topic of all things black.  Remember my Carolina tunic?  The one whose care instructions were wash, dry and wear (and look fabulous - my parentheses)?   Word.  I've just taken my Habana tunic off the line at the end of a sweltering 42C day and it's beautiful.  Looks as good as when I unwrapped it on delivery.  

Did you know that the fabulous Mai Tai has a range of bag charms at her online store?

It might be the height of summer but I still have a special place in my heart for mink pom poms....  They're my little nod to the white Christmas we are worlds away from here in Sydney.

I've had to say a sad goodbye this week.  Every Thursday for the past two years, Preschooler SSG and I have gone to a music class featuring ukeleles, imaginative and music based play, story time, singing and a whole host of fascinating perscussion instruments from around the world.  I really enjoy going with Preschooler SSG because it gives us a chance to interact with each other in a different way to how we do with the rest of our home and work routines.  A bit of singing, dancing and percussing together helps let off steam as well as allowing us to express ourselves musically.  I'm tone deaf and can't keep the beat at the best of times but it never seems to matter in class with Miss Jo.

Yesterday was our last class which meant saying goodbye not only to all of the above but also the wonderful group of friends we both made over the two years.  The mums and extended family of Preschooler SSG's classmates are all truly good, kind and fun people.  As we got to know each other, we'd take turns keeping an eye out for each other's children and it was heartwarming to see the way each child warmed to each of us.  As a one time parent of one, being accepted by the other mums gave me a wonderful chance to be an 'aunty' to a group of children of a wide range of ages.  

There was never any tension among the children which I found fascinating.  Sibling rivalry seemed to get let at the door as the older children did their thing together while being sensitive to the different level of maturity and skill set of 'the babies'.  

As usual, we were all in such a rush when class ended that we forgot to take a class photo.  So my abiding memory of our Thursday music class with Miss Jo will be our ukelele and the fact that I still haven't gotten around to replacing the missing string...

Have you had to say a sad goodbye to a group of parents you've grown fond of this year?

Be well and have a great weekend!

Dec 14, 2017

Lovin' Life 14/12/2017: Summer Living.

Summertime and the living is easy.

Being stuck in traffic in the Inner West is almost a joy when the sky outside is as blue as the Transport NSW bus you're waiting behind.  The tree I see in the distance reminds me of the groves of pine trees back home near Cottesloe Beach, another place of many happy summer memories in my heart.

The track pants of winter give way to track shorts in Preschooler SSG's wardrobe.  I found these at Cotton On and possibly love them even more than their wearer.  That faded chambray blue, the comfy elasticated drawstring waist and those embroidered palm trees. Cotton On Kids is where you'll find them in case you were looking. I've linked to the style but unfortunately, I couldn't find this design online for you.

In summer it's never too early to head to the pool when you're visiting friends.  And if you're told that you have to wait until the adults have had lunch and gotten changed then you occupy yourself by dressing an obliging stone lion in your gear while the adults get their act together.

Summer is all about the hat.  Remember my recent search for a white Panama with a black band?  Well,  the search is over thanks to Sydney based but Columbian made lifestyle label Carolina.  Isn't their packaging lovely?

This is the Monaco hat ($129.99 AUD) made from Iraca palm and I love it to bits already.

In the frocktastic department, Carolina have an amazing range of easy wear and easy care dresses and tunics. If you're either over kaftans or in need of some contrast to your collection of them, Carolina's range of neutrals, stripes and romantic florals is worth a look.  Nothing's overly trendy or revealing.  Instead it's all about looking instantly effortless yet on point for summer the moment you shimmy a tunic over your head.  This is the Habana tunic ($189.99 AUD) in black and it's got a high / low hemline and sleeves that you can wear buttoned down like a shirt or else rolled up thanks to handy internal straps in each sleeve.  

I'm still working on my Palm Beach-worthy tan (and abs) but at least I have the hat and frock to pretend I'm there as I waltz around Woolworths trying to remember what I wrote on the list I forgot to bring with me.

Someone finally got their swim over the weekend which gave him a chance to test out his new pool weights which were a birthday gift.  To me they look like fluorescent jellyfish but what you're meant to do with them is throw them into the water and dive down after them.  The fabric 'tentacles' are a bit more fun to search for than the standard hoops and sticks that swim schools use.  They also look very pretty in the water.

Within the space of ten minutes, my little orange tail (that's the actual name of his swimming level at swim school) had taught himself to dive down and find his swimming weights.  He's now asked to be taken to deeper pools with 'really big slides' so he can try them there and then, presumably go down those 'really big slides'.  It's going to be wet and wild summer...

And you know what happens after Sunday afternoon backyard swims, don't you?  Post swim snacks that are both appropriately summery and suitably festive.  I have fond memories of my eight-year-old self eating her body weight in fruit, jelly and lollies in wet bathers while drying off on my towel in a patch of sun.

The snacks were a bit more fancy over the weekend, though.

My cheesecake garnished in a more orderly fashion than previous years thanks to Preschooler SSG.

Strawberry Santa Hats which my friend made just for the children but I managed to sneak in a couple with my champagne...

What do you love about summer living?  If you're not a summer person. what gets you through?

Dec 12, 2017

Bingo and Other Things.

What's a girl to do when you've been stalking summer since November and it arrives at peak intensity overnight?  Probably be more grateful and prepared than what I was today.  It hit 30C in Sydney today.  The sun rose to a sultry morning that was equal parts haze and humidity.  I'm never at my best when I wake up to that pair.

Some frozen banana chopped over a tub of Chobani's delicious banana and chia yoghurt helped cool me down.  I'm also liking belVita's breakfast biscuit range with the yoghurt filling sandwiching them together.

Preschooler SSG was more on the ball than I.  Thanks to his foresight, the freezer was fully stocked with Zooper Doopers and their 'healthy' cousins.  They were savoured and saviours today.

Among the things that are stuffed into my 'too full for just under a fortnight to Christmas' freezer is this doll.  

She's a baby LOL Suprise and those toys are the work of the devil.  A gateway toy to that worrying world of plastic landfill and mindless consumption.  I'm taking this far too seriously but I refuse to ease up on the side eye I'm giving child toy reviewers on YouTube....

Can you believe that this little plastic bauble cost $12 at Woolies?!?!?!  There's also at least 45 of them to collect....   Apparently the thrill is unwrapping the plastic layers to reveal bits of paper before finally getting to the doll and her (poorly made) accessories which all look a bit frightening to me.  But then again, I find the whole unicorn trend bewildering so I'm not the best judge of these things.

But I digress.  The reason she was in the freezer was because her nappy and hair are suppose to change colour when you give her a bath in iced water.  We didn't get the full effect following the instructions so the freezer it was and still is.  She does make quite a freaky 'ice cube' but I'll spare you the visuals on that one.

More useful and value for money items in my freezer right now include pretty much the entire selection of mains for Christmas lunch.  Courtesy of Aldi, of course.

Instagram tells me that the Turducken is rather salty.  However, I'm still excited to see what it will taste like on Christmas Day, the handy graphic on the box assures me that all my favourite festive meats feature in the roll all the same.

I also found these bags of frozen prawns that are going to feature in some noodles and fried rice that I'll be making for dad.

I'm still a bit dark about that $12 doll bauble thing.  This is what $12 also gets you at KMart.  It's a bingo set that's well made for the price point and has occupied us both for far longer than the frozen doll and her bits and pieces.  The set features a fun to spin bingo cage and a master board that pulls out from under the cage counters and cards.  The only thing that's missing is a key with the rhyming slang aka bingo lingo for all the numbers.  Not a biggie, though, I'm sure Google will be able to furnish me with a list. 

We've been playing all afternoon and it's been a pleasant way to while away the hours away from the heat. 

Other than that, it's been a day of steadily ticking off the little things I've been meaning to do.  The post office, a new wall clock for Preschooler SSG's room and putting his latest preschool photos in some nice frames for my office and also as a gift for my mum and dad.

Know any bingo lingo?  If I sound a bit funny when next I write, you'll know I've gotten my hands on a list of some of it....

Have your children latched onto an annoying toy courtesy of YouTube University?

Dec 11, 2017

Life This Week 11/12/2017: Today I Will....

Today is Monday.  Not just any Monday but the Monday a fortnight before Christmas.  It's also a Monday in summer - the most magical time of the year to be in Sydney.

So while I will accept that today is Monday and henace will be a crazy day at work I will also acknowledge that there's also an undercurrent of shoulders unwinding and brows unfurrowing on the floor and in the lifts and stairs as everyone looks forward to that magical time when beds and wards close and activity winds down around the hospital.  The Christmas decorations are up and ward Christmas lunches have been planned (they're like the lunches you might have at your work only alcohol free and we don't get dressed up unless it's to put tinsel or reindeer ears on our heads or  garish Christmas ties where more tasteful patterns and muted tones would normally be worn).

'It's nearly Christmas' is the thought that's on everyone's minds today as we catch up from the weekend. It's the thought that keeps us going and keeps us smiling.

So today, I will make a concerted effort to keep my mind on 'nearly Christmas' as that not so distant prize on the horizon as I calmly deal with the realities of today.  

Nearly Christmas is....

warm summer mornings spent at a favourite cafe playing board games with Preschooler SSG as we sip our respective soothing drinks

it's time spent with family doing ordinary things but doing them with more laughter than usual because togetherness is a thing of joy

it's spending the evening at our 'almost beach' up the road with our bare feet being hugged warmly by the sand as the waves lap close by

it's running at dawn down to Rushcutter's Bay and being lulled into a steady pace by the clank of the boats that loom so close as you round the park

it's that languid post-run walk home with a cup of coffee in your hand as you try to think of what it is that you have to do when you get hone only to realize that there's not any urgency to whatever it was because it's the holidays

Nearly Christmas is also when I get a bit of downtime which I usually spend

swimming before spending twice as long as I did in the pool by its side lounging on a deck chair

being dressed for comfort as I attack the mountain of neglected work reading that's piled up from The Winter.

Then Nearly Christmas becomes Christmas, bringing it with all of the above plus special moments that instantly become precious memories.

After Christmas and until after the New Years Public Holiday finds me in cycle of three hourly extravagant meals made up of Christmas leftovers, late nights in bed spent reading, hours putting together Lego and doing such frivolous things as hitting the changerooms of fancy stores at the post-Christmas sales. 

As the city slowly wakes up, finds its usual high levels of energy and returns to its usual routine so too do I.  Begrudgingly and a little reluctantly.  But it has to be done.  I wonder how fast the break went by and also how fast the year that preceded it went as well.

But being back at the coal face isn't without its attraction.  A whole new year of work means more holidays to be taken and with them new places to be explored or familiar ones revisited.

Today I will think off all this with a smile that reaches my eyes.


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