Crocs At Work. Chicketti. Holiday Reads.

I never thought I'd live to see the day where I'd be wearing Crocs to work but it happened today.




www.shoes2u.com.au
They may not look like the Crocs you know and (secretly) love but I assure you, they are.



Here, take a look at the insole.  


For the sake of completeness, the rest of today's ensemble borrowed heavily from my Red Phoenix Emporium archive.


With a bit of Supre in the shape of these trusty black leggings.  It was a bit cold in Sydney this morning.

Now where was I?

To be honest, Crocs would probably be the last brand I'd have thought of in my search for some sturdy black wedges to replace my almost retired Rockports but
I found these A-Leigh wedges on a Mumgo sale a few months ago for $49.99 (RRP $89.99) and thought why not.  They have leather uppers and lots of cushioning in the arches which you don't often get in a $50 pair of shoes.  

www.clogs-online.com


I'm glad I bought these because they really are as comfortable as their much maligned big brothers, the Caymans, only more socially acceptable on adult women in a professional workplace.

www.birkenstock.com.au


In my search for comfort heels, I stumbled upon this unique interpretation from Birkenstock.  The Berkleys are from a limited edition range that is made in Italy.  These are on sale for $99 down from $600 but I'm not completely sold on them.  To me, they seem to personify everything that Birkenstocks aim not to be.  In short, they look incredibly uncomfortable but I'm open to persuasion.  Have you tried Birki stillettos?


In Christmas news, the Ikea starry lights have all officially been put up in the office.  We had the official switching on of all windows this morning.  I took this photo earlier on in the week when we'd only untangled the first set of lights that needed to go up.


Aldi's looking like being my official baker for Christmas 2014.  I've decided that this will be the year of Stollen over fruit cake and that's it now officially okay to start snacking on Christmas baked goods.  These bites are delicious and only $3.49 a packet from Aldi.



I got in touch with my Perth roots with last night's dinner prep.  I made my own interpretation of Red Rooster's famous chicketti (spaghetti in a meatless tomato sauce served with a side of barbecue chicken).  I'm sure Red Rooster meant for the chicken to be the star of the dish but for me, it was always about the spaghetti and the way it came vacuum sealed in a plastic dish my mum would wash and repurpose in the kitchen.

I made my own pasta sauce from scratch using a very simple recipe where you brown one chopped onion with garlic then add some tomato paste, stir for a few minutes before adding a bottle of passata and a generous squeeze (half a tube) of Gourmet Garden basil.  Season and add a teaspoon of sugar before simmering for 15 minutes.  Here is the actual recipe.  I like how this sauce isn't just all acidic tomato tasting.  It's got a bit of sweetness and some oomph from the herbs.  Huge taste pay off for minimal effort and prep.  I might use it as the base for a lasagna next time.  Also, using a pizza sauce sachet rather than plain tomato paste was an ingenious move, if I do say so myself.

Chopped up Chicketti spaghetti for Toddler SSG.  Not pictured is the equally picturesque shredded rotisserie chicken that gives Chicektti its name.

Then pour over your cooked spaghetti and top with parmesan.  It was a bit sacrilegious using fresh paremesan, though.

www.woolworthsonline.com.au


The gold standard condiment is in fact this dessicated Kraft version that has the consistency of soft sand and smells stronger than it tastes.

I can see a day in the not too distant future where Chicketti will be embraced by the Sydney food scene, usurping dude food, macarons, udon and Korean fried chicken.  And you'll be one step ahead thanks to this post.

I know the silly season is mostly about food, drink and gifts but if you're planning some time relaxing with a book, I've been reading a couple that would be perfect holiday fare.

www.beckywicks.com
The first is Latinalicious from one of my favourite travel writers, Becky Wicks.  Becky manages to be everything I need from a travel writer.  She's hilarious when it comes to detailing her misadventures abroad while being very sensitive and respectful of the countries she's visiting (Bali, Dubai and many though South America).  Her memoirs are a fast paced mix of the people she's met, accounts of the beautiful scenery around her as well as references to the current affairs of the region she's visiting.

Latinalicious takes arm chair travellers like myself to places in South America I'd never be brave enough to visit myself.  Okay, I'll just go out and say it.  I know I'm too high maintenance to lodge in guest houses as I follow the Inca Trail and far too afraid to cycle down Bolivia's Death Row.  But as I lounge on the sofa under the air conditioner with a drink with arms reach, I'm more than happy to live vicariously through Becky as she Carnivales in Rio and goes on a spiritual odyssey as she drinks ayahuasca.


www.fantasticfiction.co.uk
'It Started With Paris' is Cathy Kelly's latest best seller. It follows the lives of a couple who get engaged atop the Eiffel Tower before returning to Ireland to prepare for the wedding and the arrival of their baby.  Their extended family and friends get caught up in the excitement of both big events as relationships (and people) change along the way.

I admit that I found it very slow going in the first half as I struggled to connect each new character I was introduced to with either Katy or Michael.  The characters seemed to move through real life issues like unresolved feelings about exes, aging parents and teenager dramas at a glacial pace but as I reach the final chapters, things are picking up pace.  There's a host of new beginnings on the horizon as well as familial relationships being rebuilt.  And all against the backdrop of soothing suburban Ireland in words that easily wash over you like the sea breeze at the end of a long, hot summer's day.

Have you got any interesting books on your holiday reading list?


The Miracle in the Drain. The Last Week of November.

It just wouldn't be right to begin this post with a breathless summary of everything I did at the weekend to escape the heat with Toddler SSG.

www.smh.com.au
Not when a 7 day old  newborn baby boy  was found 2.5 metres underground in a storm water drain (allegedly pushed in there through the opening seen in the photo above) near the M7 early on Sunday morning - the day it was forecast to hit 44C in the west.  Miraculously, the baby was found
crying but clinging to life and the storm drain was empty of water.

It is alleged the baby had been there since Tuesday.  It took seven adults to remove the lid of the drain to find him, wrapped in a hospital blanket and in distress.  He was transferred immediately to hospital and has survived.  Two of his rescuers (a father and daughter who were on a bike ride) have visited him in hospital, bearing gifts of clothing and blankets.  

After a check of hospital records, the baby's 30 year old mother has been arrested and charged with attempted murder.  She was due to appear in court today and will be in custody until at least Friday.

This woman must have been driven by extremely desperate circumstances and I'm not writing this post to speculate on what these circumstances may have been nor to cast judgement on her.  I just find it incredibly sad that this could happen in a country with first world medicine, widely available contraception options and financial assistance for struggling families.  But it's obviously not as simple as all of that for this mother.

Perhaps this case could be the impetus for the introduction of some kind of policy for the safe and responsible emergency care of newborns whose parents feel the need to abandon them.  A 'no questions asked' law for when a newborn is left in an emergency department or other public place and perhaps having this issue addressed as part of antenatal care for all women.  Even a number of who to call or what to do if you're feeling like doing something extreme.  Perhaps have the information written somewhere in the antenatal information women are given when they book into hospital and make the information available online.  The more avenues the better.  

Something more needs to be done to protect the innocent and vulnerable when their parents are in no state to do so themselves.

Sorry to have begun on such a sad note, but at least a potential tragedy was averted by the kindness of strangers.  That little baby was destined to survive his traumatic start to life and those cyclists and their helpers were at precisely the right place at precisely the right time.


It's officially the last week of November.  And while work seems to be winding down, the rest of your life seems to take up the slack and you find yourself with a billion things that need to be sorted out by year's end.  I've been desperately flicking through my desk calender trying to find (extra) free days for things like car servicing, Santa photos and house maintenance related jobs.  And the hairdresser.  Can't be entering the silly season with bad hair.


Home delivery of almost everything has also been initiated in my bid to find more time.


My Priceline order arrived in record time, hitting my doorstep this morning after a late Thursday order time.


You can get almost everything online except Daiso.  So I still had to pop in on Saturday to get a pump pack to convert some sachets of unused baby bath oil into a shower gel for me.  I love the scent of Johnson's bedtime bath.  It's a comforting scent of lavender with that baby powder muskiness wafting through.  A nice change from the richly scented adult shower gels.


How did you cope with the heat on Sunday?  Living in fear of a threatened 42C maximum saw myself and everyone in the local government area congregate at our local aquatic centre.  I got in early for some laps but by mid morning, the place was pumping.  There were children everywhere, whooping in delight and splashing through the various children's areas.  We left around lunchtime to make way for the wave pool fanatics (the activity pool gets its wave machine turned on at lunch and it dizzy work trying to stand or swim when the waves kick in).  There's nothing like wet hair and that coolness you get from being in the water for ages to help you deal with the heat that little bit better.




I was grateful for the mid afternoon rain though.  It really did take the heat out of the day and paved the way for a wonderfully sleep friendly Sunday evening to ease us into a busy week.



We're back at daycare for our second orientation morning tomorrow.  It's forecast to be a very pleasant 24C maximum, perfect for some outdoor play.


I'm all set on the water bottle front.  I've got Toddler SSG a mini me version of my favourite drink bottle because they are much sturdier than the soft plastic Nuby sippy cups he has for at home.


So far, so good.  Toddler SSG has been toting his drink bottle around the house like a new best friend and together they've reached shelves neither were ever meant to see.  Now, if only his wide brimmed sun hat was as inseparable a friend.

Melting In the Heat. Already. Almost Two.

Some summer loving Sydney-sider I've turned out to be.


It's only day 2 of our first heat wave of the season and I'm struggling.  All those posts and photos celebrating how sensational my city is in the summer are coming back to haunt me today as I sit at my desk in my air conditioned office with a little desk fan running at full tilt aimed squarely at my face. It will not surprise me if I end the day with my head in an open freezer or with a limb plunged in an ice machine.  Not one bit.

Speaking of limbs akimbo....

This is how bedtime rolls on the night before a big day at our house.  High jinks with pyjamas and teddy bears after every wheeled vehicle in the house has been driven to the bathroom, into the bath tub and back to the bedroom.  I've made my peace with the fact that our bedtime routine will forever be more giggles and rolls than quiet and restfulness.  




Yesterday was Toddler SSG's first orientation session at daycare.  I'd attended the two hour parent orientation earlier this week and sort of knew which gate we needed to open and which room we were to meet in but it was all new for him.

I think I was more anxious than he was.  I've been very fortunate to have had the help of my extended family for all of this time while I've returned to work but this has also meant that Toddler SSG hasn't really had regular extended periods with non family members or with children of his own age.  So I wasn't sure how he'd cope with a sea of unfamiliar faces and voices in a new place.


It's only early days yet, but I needn't have worried.  At first, Toddler SSG played on his own after a solo walk around the outdoor play area and its gardens before he settled down on some cushions and played with the dinosaurs and some pretty funky looking building blocks.



As the morning progressed, he lost a little of his reserve and ventured a little closer to the other children at the craft station.  We have another session booked for next week before the real thing next year when I'll no doubt be trying not to cry as I leave him to learn, explore and make friends on his own.


I still can't believe that the wee little baby I placed (screaming) on this play mat for tummy time now sits as a desk with his play doh on top of that same mat.


And the baby whom I used to watch sleeping in the car in the garage (falling asleep in a moving car was as close to 'self settling' as we got in the newborn and infant eras) now sweeps it with his own little broom.

They do grow so fast and that dependence upon you that you thought would last forever dissipates before you even realise it's gone.  I feel incredibly blessed to have been there through it all and that it looks as if I was doing at least some of it right.  May I continue vaguely heading in the right direction with this motherhood gig.  I'm resisting the urge to call it a journey....


It's shaping up to be a busy December for Toddler SSG.  We're going to the Opera House for Babies Proms which will be a performance of The Little Drummer Boy.  Each child present at the performance will be given a drum to play along with during the performance.  Thoughtfully, the Opera House will be collecting up these drums after each performance to give everyone's ears a rest on the trip home.  I'm going to make a day of it and get a bite to eat after the show with some mums from my mothers group.  A cheeky glass of bubbly may well be in order because we will be using public transport there and back.

A week later, Toddler SSG will be coming in with me to work as one of several special guests at our Christmas lunch.  Quite a few little ones have been born into my work family and it's shaping up to be a quite a special (and noisy) reunion.


As my diary gets fuller by the day with Christmas commitments, it's just as well White Linen House are on still on top of my towels and bed linen.  They have a new special deal on linen sets for students.  Click on over to their website to find out more.

Ridiculous but strangely compelling clips and photos from celebrity land have become a bit of a regular fixture on the blog of late and today's post will not be spared.

I have a new favourite hate watch (for want of a better term) video clip at the gym.  It's David Guetta's clip for 'Dangerous' (the song features Sam Stone).  Directed by Jonas Akerlund and featuring a smouldering James Purefoy I know I should hate the video for its ridiculous portrayal of barely dressed women attending to the cars in the pits and the subliminal Mumm champagne logos and colour theme that pervade the entire clip but I can't turn away whenever it's on and I'm on the step machine trying to keep that last number on the display above 120.  Is it James Purefoy's on screen presence?  Is it the hilarity of how video clips have become quasi cinematic productions?  Or is it just the song?

Do you have a current music video hate watch?

The Christmas Countdown Begins.

You can run but you can't hide.  Christmas is a mere 35 days away.  That's five weeks.  I'm trying not to labour the point but gee, hasn't the year gone by at lightening speed?


The most unlikely grocery staples have gone festive since the start of November.



Mariah Carey's definitive cover of 'All I Want For Christmas' has now had it's official yuletide debut for season 2014 on easy listening radio.  Which gives me licence to embed it into this post and play it repeatedly to myself as I type.

Do you have a Christmas cover version that will forever say Christmas to you the moment you hear it in the middle of November?


Wedgwood blue 2014 Carol Singer Christmas ornament, $47.95 from David Jones.

I've begun making key purchases this week.  The first was one of Wedgwood's 2014 Christmas ornaments from David Jones.  Setting up an actual tree this year is going to only end in tears, tantrums and a trail of ruin so I've decided to buy something to put away for that year in the not too distant future where we will have a tree up for Christmas.  I bought a blue carousel for Toddler SSG last year and reckon I'll be continuing the blue theme until he hits 21 when I'll then give him the whole set for his own tree.  I couldn't find the carousel online this year otherwise I'd link you up to it if you were planning to buy one for a First Christmas-er in your life.  

I used click and collect for my purchase and it was impressively quick.  I ordered Friday afternoon and it was in my preferred store Saturday morning.  Currently, DJs have their entire range of Wedgwood Christmas decorations at around 20% off RRP.  This bauble ended up costing $47.95.

Today's Special Buys at Aldi have provided the bulk of Toddler SSG's Christmas gift haul.  A toy piano ($39.99), a set of Caterpillar trucks ($16.99), a sink and dishwasher play set ($39.99) and a toaster and kettle set that look remarkably similar to the real deal in our kitchen ($19.99) should keep him amused for a while. 

While fancy Christmas keepsakes are all well and good for adults, for the little ones, it will mostly be about the presents (or their wrapping paper) and being the centre of attention at Christmas lunch.  Today's trip to Aldi yielded an impressive array of toys to start off my stash of things for Toddler SSG.  I'm trying to not be too gender stereotype specific.  After all, we all need to know our way around both a kitchen and a car.  

As for the piano?  I'm hoping he'll have a better ear and sense of rhythm than I. I'll be curious to see how he will take to it, actually.  His favourite television programs often feature someone on a keyboard so I wonder if he'll be able to copy what he's seen.



I still have no idea what will be on the table for Christmas lunch but at least I've got toddler tableware.  I found this set at Coles for $4.90 on the weekend.



Coles were also selling these Peace, Love and Joy decorating blocks.  I've put them on my desk at work as a focal point for a desk top Christmas arrangement I'm still workshopping in my head.  I'm trying to remember where we put last year's decorations.  We need to put those starry lights up again this year.  It was so lovely walking into the office first thing in the morning and seeing the lights twinkle as we opened the door for the day.

Sorry.  Too much Christmas in a late November post.  What else have I been doing?


I colour co-ordinated my snack pack of Arnotts Shapes with my outfit yesterday.  It's been so long since I've eaten a packet of Shapes.  Cheese and Bacon is my favourite at the moment.  But Barbecue comes a close second.  It's just as well I love a green frock too because I can dress to match my next packet of Shapes which is going to be Barbecue according to the luck of the draw in my multi pack.


Barely a day, week or month goes by without it being recognized as some kind of awareness day for mostly very worthwhile causes.  I'm going to put this out there and suggest we may November 19 Clean Your Makeup Brushes day.  I finally did mine this morning and I shamefully cannot remember the last time I did.  

How about you?  Cleaned your makeup brushes lately?



That's about it from me.  The day is winding down nicely and it's my day off tomorrow.  And the toddler and I have a day of adventures and new experiences planned.


Kale, Chicken and Angel Curves.

I dipped my fork into uncharted culinary waters on the weekend.


See that kale artfully arranged in my biodegradable Sumo Salad take out carton?  I ate it.  Every last bitter and stringy shred.  I'd like to say I felt cleansed and nourished after all of that but my mind couldn't quite convince my stomach.


Instead, I sipped wistfully at my (unactivated) Coke Zero and hoped that Pete Evans wasn't looking over my shoulder to see how I was going with my choices from his eponymous menu.


My aspirations to be a cleaner eater weren't helped by the extreme lunch envy I was feeling towards what Toddler SSG was eating.  I don't think he's met a xiao long bao he hasn't liked.



As an aside, don't forget it's 40% off all makeup at Priceline today and tomorrow, online and in store.  I'm multi tasking and have just placed my order online (back ups of my favourite Maybelline mascaras and L'Oreal serum) as I've been writing this post.  Did you pick up anything exciting or did you go the tried and true route like I did?

For anyone reading who's in need of a couple of chicken based toddler food ideas, I thought I'd share a couple of success stories I've had with Toddler SSG.  



First up is a recipe for chicken strips.  These have always been a favourite with Toddler SSG.  I used to make them with thigh fillets but as he's grown, so as his appetite so I've switched to making mine with chicken breasts which are a bit easier to work with.  You also get a nice looking final product that's easy to hold and eat.  



I used Annabel Karmel's Krispie Chicken Nuggets  to make my latest batch of chicken strips.  My mum and Aunty taste tested them with the toddler and all three of them gave Annabel's recipe two thumbs up.  The secret with Annabel's recipe is that she pre soaks the chicken breast in a buttermilk marinade which is lightly seasoned with a bit of thyme.  These leaves the meat tender and full of flavour even if you oven bake your strips like I did.

A united nations kind of crispy coating - rice bubbles, panko crumbs (pictured) plus cheddar and parmesan.

I free styled it with the crumb coating and used both rice bubbles and panko crumbs.



This was my super efficient processing line of dishes - the marinaded chicken was dipped in seasoned flour and then in the crumb and cheese mix.  Things didn't stay this neat by the time I finished making all my strips.


I used a mixture of grated cheddar and parmesan cheese for my strips.  I also froze them on plates lined with baking paper before dividing them up into individual freezer bags for storage.


To cook, I simply placed straight from the freezer strips on a baking paper lined tray and baked for 20 minutes in a 200C fan forced oven.  And there you go - chicken that's yummier than anything I've had from a fast food chain.


Chicken mince hasn't found its way into many recipes at the SSG Manor kitchen but when I found this Spicy Chicken Roll recipe the other day, it was a sign that chicken mince was due for its moment on Toddler SSG's dinner menu.  I know this first photo of the key ingredients looks very processed and pre packaged but with a kitchen loving and curious toddler under foot, it's just safer for me to keep chopping and blending to a minimum.




I sneakily snuck in some grated carrot and green peas into the mince mix but in hindsight, should have heeded S's advice and blitzed everything in the food processor.  I don't think there's a toddler on this earth who can't spot cooked peas a mile away and pick them out individually from whatever it is they're about to eat.   I didn't need as much water in my mince mix as the recipe suggested, possibly because of all the extra vegetables I added.



The recipe suggested sprinkling paprika on top of the egg washed rolls but I skipped this in case there was too much spice for a toddler's palate.  The idea of only partially slicing the individual rolls before baking was a good one because it certainly helped keep my rolls together.  You then slice down fully for the last five minutes of baking.


Is there nothing more perfect for Sunday dinner than home made sausage rolls?  Especially when you forced yourself to eat kale for lunch.  I'm really going to have to let go of this kale issue at some stage...

Customary shot of Toddler SSG's dinner on a lime green Ikea plate.  Note the easy to find green peas..  
Flavour wise, the mild taco mix was just right for us.  If you like more heat, go for the spicier versions and perhaps add some paprika.

My serve of the chicken rolls - with a side of salad greens.
I also had to have tomato sauce with mine.  I have this powerful puff pastry savouries with tomato sauce association in my mind that I just can't shake.

From the Angel Curves website.

So Kim's hit the headlines (and the internet meme circuit) yet again with 'some pictures'.  I'm trying to unsee them myself so I won't link you up to them here but I'm sure you've seen them too.  Anyway.  I had to share this photo of Kim apparently at the gym because I actually met a real live person wearing her Angel Curves waist trainer at the gym the other day.

It was all rather surreal.  I was minding my own business (whilst wearing my undergarments under my gym gear) when I somehow managed to open the door of the ladies area and walk into some kind of situation.  Some of the regular ladies were huddled around the changerooms loudly looking up 'Angel Curves ... the Kim Kardashian one' on their phones as one brave soul wore her's over her top in the manner of Kim herself.  I have full respect for her and how she managed to do 15 minutes on the step machine without passing out.  I don't think I would've fared as well wearing a waist cincher that aims to create 'compression in your core, stimulating thermal activity and ramping up perspiration' (from the Angel Curves website).  I won't lie; I did a google search myself which is how I came up with that last sentence.

Kale I will try but an Angel Curves corset?  Count me out.

Have you done or seen anything crazy done in the name of fitness or clean living?  

I'm off to the gym after work today so I'll see if I can find anything wacky to share with you in my next post.



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