In Praise of December 1. A Chococentric Advent.

I love December 1.  It's my favourite date of the year.

It's the official start of summer and boy did the weather get the memo this year.  It was balmy by the early afternoon with enough of a cool breeze blowing through the shaded areas of the city to take the edge of the heat if you were so inclined.

I met a friend for a long overdue coffee and a catch up in Darlinghurst and I was pleasantly surprised by how relaxing it was sitting on the sidewalk outside the hidden gem that is Posto No 19.  The trees, high end interior design stores and the terrace houses that surround the cafe are worlds away from the somewhat seedy party scene that the area is famous for at night.  There was not one shred of evidence of a rather big night before to be found anywhere on the tidy streets and foot paths.

And of course, that little celebration of a miraculous birth, love, family, gifting and food we like to call Christmas.  That's another thing I love about December beginning.

My stash of Merryteaser reindeer got gently unpacked from their Costco mega pack carton and found themselves artfully arranged in my special crystal vase on the 'good shelf' high, high above the fireplace.

The 'good shelf' also now features a DIY Advent Calendar I hastily crafteed together this morning (better late than never).  I bought the kit from Target and though its sticker priced it at $15, I got it for  only $5.  Tip for next year, readers - advent calendars go on sale a month before everything else Christmas related does.

The Target kit looked very Kikki K inside the box with lots of silver, beige, grey and pale blue motifs decorating the pre cut boxes and decorations.

It was very easy to put together and the only extra equipment I needed were my scissors and some sticky tape.

And there you have it, my good shelf is officially dressed for Christmas.

Naturally, the chocolate of choice for the calendar are these champagne flavoured Lindor balls.  Toddler SSG's advent treats will be half a Merryteaser each night after dinner.  Who am I kidding?  It's going to be a whole reindeer each night especially when his grandies come to visit.

It's shaping up to be a rather chococentric Advent at SSG Manor 2.0 isn't it?

You're right, though, Advent isn't just about chocolate.  I made a start on my L'Occitane calendar tonight.  My first gift was a tube of Ultra Rich Face Cream.  It's going into my future trip packing stash of toiletries right away.

And Toddler SSG started on his Thomas calendar.  That's Salty who was hiding behind window number 1 by the way.

By the way, thank you Twitter for putting us on the right track as to which number to start with when opening our calendar windows.  88% of the vote when to starting with number 1 so that's where we started except for with the Target calendar.  Never hurts to hedge your bets.

Where did you start with your calendar?  1 or 24?

Have you got a non chocolate themed calendar (or two) running at your place?  Which ones?

The Last Weekend Before December.

Chances are you were doing one of the following in Sydney last night.

Getting wrapped up in the magic of T Swift's 1989 concert.  From everything I've heard both in the press and from friends, it was one heck of a show.  The atmosphere must have been electric and all the photos on my Instagram feed made it look as if everyone had a truly amazing night at the performance.  I'm trying to catch up on Youtube today.

Even our personable Premier got in the act with this post to his Facebook page:
Sydney might not have gotten any surprise appearances from any of Taylor's A list pals but we did get glow in the dark arm bands and a two hour wait in the carpark after the concert as 79 000 people all tried to leave the ANZ Stadium simultaneously.

Or perhaps you were having a quiet night in.  Recovering from the work Christmas party Friday night or logging in a few hours of sleep into the bank in preparation for the month of shin digs that December often is.

Toddler SSG at that prized spot in the Santa line where you have full access to Santa's Garden just before getting your turn in Santa's sleigh.

If you were me, you were having that quiet night in with your coloured pencils because you needed all the sleep and calm you could get to face the mental and physical challenge of getting Santa photos done on a Sunday at your local Westfield.  I didn't have it in me to face trying to get to the QVB early to secure a time for later in the day so I did the only slightly less challenging thing of getting to Westfield half an hour before Santa did and hoping for the best.  Along with 10 other families.

We got there in the end and we couldn't have got there without each other.  We shared mobile phones, snacks and looks of solidarity as we tried our best to keep our children in line (and in one piece) and their outfits as clean as possible for their photos moment with Santa.

Toddler SSG was so excited to see Santa that he climbed straight onto the sleigh and happily hammed it up for the camera.  We have another beautiful photo this year and I love how there's already a memorable story behind each one.

Armed with our photo pack, we celebrated with a well earned snack of Max Brenner chocolate buttons and a couple of hot beverages.
Target's $5 wall clock.

We then went on a soothing lap of Target with C who was in town for the weekend.  Despite being emotionally spent from Operation Santa Photo, I still managed to remember what I needed to be at Target for.  Another of these $5 wall clocks.  They're so light weight and go with practically any kind of interior design concept you may (or may not) have for your house.  They also look like they'd cost more than they do.

Unfortunately, Target was yet another high profile victim of the adult colouring in craze so they didn't have any felt tips in stock.  Which is how I ended up at Eckersley's again.  This time for these fancy Stabilo textas.

I needed them to for the book of Owen Davey's Travelogue posters I'm starting on.  The book itself was a sub $5 find at Aldi yesterday.  The prints just look like they needed more solid blocks of colour than what I could achieve with pencil.  However, felt tip colouring in isn't as easy as it looks.  You need to be so decisive and to have such a sure hand to prevent colours from bleeding or looking uneven on the page.

Before I leave you, I have a make up tip involving plastic knives that might come in handy.

If you're on the verge of ditching a pan of makeup because it's got build up on in that's preventing you from being able to take up much product on your brush, this video may help you save that product.

It turns out that the build up occurs because oils from your skin or other makeup and skincare react with the powder and form the hard film layer.  To remove it, all you need to do is scrape the layer off using a plastic knife, packaging tape or a firm bristled brush.  The knife worked best for me.

And there you have it, November is just about done and dusted.  It's December this coming week!!!!!!!!


Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and readers.  Now that Abe has officially been pardoned by President Obama making Abe TOTUS, may you all have a lovely Thanksgiving with your family and friends. And all that food.  And the promise of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales - the previews are looking very tempting this year...

I imagine that Thanksgiving dinners can be as difficult and stressful as Christmas dinners so if you're at your wits end already, here's Matt Bellassai's guide to winning this Thanksgiving.

Closer to home, today's big news in fashion is Target Australia's big reveal of the latest designer to collaborate with them.  Bonjour John Paul Gaultier!  Bonjour nautical stripes, edgy interpretations of denim and leather as well as iconic tailored suiting!
This is the only image I've seen of the range which sounds like it will be Missoni For Target like in size and range with clothing for all ages as well as homewares.  Launch will be sometime in 2016 and after my credit card got a break this year with the Dion Lee collaboration, I can see myself strategizing my haul from the Gaultier range the moment it is fully revealed.

It finally happened yesterday.  The outfit I planned to wear to work the next day actually got worn to work the next day.  I'm a serial offender of not following through with my work wardrobe plans.  I've got Sydney's erratic spring weather as an excuse for the moment but as summer rapidly approaches (as in approaching as quickly as next week), I'll have nothing to blame except for my own whimsy.

I accessorised with this Lovisa bargain that I bought ages ago.  Subtle bedazzling with diamante is always a good look this close to the official start of the festive season.

Today's shaping up to be a staying in and seeking air conditioning kind of day.  It was already 29C at 7.30 this morning.  Toddler SSG and I hit the shops early for the groceries and breakfast.  I even managed a bonus 5 minutes of work related reading and highlighting with my coffee.

The butcher at Woolies is a bit old school British.  Sausages come wrapped in paper - just like they do on episodes of Nigella and Jamie.

And how retro are these minced meat crowns?

Do you set your work outfits out the night before?  And do you always wear what you put out?

Going Carless. Goals.

It's been the perfect day for attempting to reduce my carbon footprint by going carless for a day.  The sun and that soft hint of a breeze seem to be practically shouting at me to get outside and enjoy them while they're here.

The best part of my swim this morning was quite possibly the post swim coffee in the courtyard that adjoins the pool's cafe.  I won't lie though, it was relaxing in a vigorous kind of way churning through my laps as my mind floated from one thing to the next.  It's my way of meditating, I guess.

We've been embracing yogurt here at SSG Manor 2.0.  Toddler SSG's current favourite is strawberry flavoured Petit Miam Squeezie.

And I've discovered Chobani's lightly sweetened yoghurt.  I was devastated (but not completely surprised) to discover that the secret to why many dessert yoghurts taste so good is that many of them are heavy on the cream.  Chobani's does have cream in it but it's not as rich as others I've tried yet it doesn't taste sickly sweet and fake like other low fat yoghurts.  

We all need goals in our lives and I've found a new one.  To be able to perform an acceptable blow dry on my own hair.  I day 'perform' because from the YouTube videos I've been studying, doing the perfect blow dry / blow out is an art form in its own right.  There's so much technique in the way hair is sectioned, the way you wind it around the brush, how you unwind it off the brush (my biggest weakness) and of course how you angle the hairdryer at your hair.

I'm taking it one step at a time.  Today I've managed to achieve 'root lift' and my hair doesn't feel like straw.  If I ever get overwhelmed on my journey to perfect DIY hair, I'll remember how far I've come with winged eyeliner!

Can you perform a salon blow dry on your own hair?  Any tips or tricks you'd like to share?

The Tree and A Recipe.

Our Christmas tree this year manages to tick quite a few boxes off on my list.

It's kind to the environment but still festive, toddler friendly and toddler safe.  Plus it's within my line of sight from the kitchen, the dining table and the sofa so I'm guaranteed a view of the lights most times of the day.  Not bad at all, actually.

Our 'tree' is actually my beautiful dragon plant that's been with me since I first moved to Sydney.  He began life as a clipping from one of the plants at SSG Manor.  Since then, he's survived a miraculous number of years under my care.  His pointed leaves and spindly branches always looking remarkably healthy despite my patchy at best attention to them.

Christmas decorations from Woolworth's current range - priced form $4 to $10.

This year, he's decked out in a selection of decorations I found at Woolworths on the weekend.  We've gone a bit Scandi Chic with the cushioned heart bunting with its button and jute detailing.

LED Christmas lights, $12 from Woolworths.

The star and heart decorations elaborated on the theme.

And I know the colour changing low voltage LED lights aren't technically part of the aesthetic but when you're celebrating Christmas with a toddler, there have to be lights and they have to be on 24/7.

Today's recipe share was inspired by a disappointing dinner I made using one of those liquid meal base sachets which you pick up from one aisle of the supermarket then take around to the fresh foods section in order to find all the ingredients the packet tells you to add.  I usually have at least moderate success with these sachets and those that don't have much flavour during the cooking process can often be rescued with a splash of this, that or both in the final minutes of cooking.

And then I tried a chicken, leek and bacon casserole mix and it was so underwhelming I almost cried into the leftovers.  None of the vegetables cooked properly, the sauce was thin and adding cream to it only highlighted the bland nothingness of the taste.  I'm trying really hard to lose the last container of it that's lurking in my freezer right now.  How could chicken and leek taste so wrong together?  How??????

There's nothing like disappointing dinner to motivate me to google search for a better option.  And I've found it, dear readers, in the shape of this recipe for a Chicken, Leek and Bacon casserole from

Making the casserole saw me christen my red cast iron roasting dish.  The one I've only owned for five years, give or take.  The chardonnay I used for the casserole's white wine requirement was a gift from a good friend and foodie whom I am sure would be very happy to see her gift put to such good use.  Yes, I didn't let the rest of the bottle go to waste and yes, it is a very, very nice chardonnay indeed.  Thank you, I - for your friendship and the memories that came back happily to me as I kicked back with my sneaky Sunday afternoon glass.

There was one packet involved in my cooking of the casserole but it wasn't entirely my fault.  I was too early for the day's fresh garlic to be unpacked so made do with garlic paste.

The casserole was well worth the effort of dicing, browning, sauteeing, baking and then reducing.  We served the casserole with bread and steamed greens.  That was all it needed,  There are no photos of the final dish because dinner was a tag team affair of three adults trying to eat in between tending to the needs of a toddler and an infant whilst simultaneously having an adult type conversation.  Not that we'd have it any other way.

The recipe serves as least 6 adults and looks as if it's going to freeze and reheat well.  And my roasting dish survived the stove top to oven transition unscathed.

Do you indulge in a bit of stove top cooking with your roasting dishes?

Are the lights up at your place yet?


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