Nearly On My Way. Pappa Rich, Chatswood.

I made it.

I'm at the airport, checked in and past customs with everything I think I needed.  Three hours of solitude are ahead of me before the ridiculous number of hours on the plane and as crazy as it sounds, this is my favourite part of a trip.  The unwinding time before the actual business of being overseas begins.  A time to decompress from the stress and busyness of the weeks leading up to departure date mixed in with the excited anticipation of what is ahead.

I packed as light as I could and I'm dressed for comfort in dark colours (hides the food mishaps) and sensible flats.  I'm still in love with that Missoni for Target scarf so it had to come along on this holiday with me.

Dramatics over the first world problems of doing work trips with a little one to take into consideration aside, it's been a lovely weekend.  Cups of coffee have been taken at leisure by the front window of our favourite cafe as we've watched Saturday morning Sydney wake up.  Walkers clipping along at a brisk pace, the first buses of the morning pulling in at the bus stop and tradies stopping in for a fried breakfast before meeting the first client of the day.

Rhonda (as I can't help calling Toddler SSG thanks to this CO Kids hoodie) has been out and about making the most of this glorious sun.  He's been helping with the laundry and running that mower of his across the lawn.  And sharing apples under the shade for afternoon tea.

We went out for lunch on Saturday to Pappa Rich in Chatswood and I can't recommend it highly enough if you're looking for a place that's both family friendly and surprisingly relaxing to lunch at on the weekend.  Pappa Rich is a bit of an empire in the Malaysian street food scene.  I believe the chain did originate in Malaysia but it's now grown to include several branches in Sydney and there's even one in my hometown of Perth (which is a bit of a Malaysian Chinese stronghold).  The menu includes a wide variety of dishes many Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese people would've grown up with eating at their local kopi tiam (coffee house).

For my mum and aunty, the menu at Pappa Rich brought back fond memories of their childhood and they spent ages agonising over which dishes order for lunch.  The Chatswood Pappa Rich is a few minutes walk from the main strip of shops and malls of Chatswood and as a result, it's less chaotic and noisy and I really did feel as if I was back in Malaysia eating at a hawker's centre.

Space and a secure children's play area.  What more do you need to be an instant hit in pram heavy Chatswood?  Be warned though, while the play area is gated off and secure, the only play equipment inside it that works are two houses.  So you might want to bring along a few favourites from home.  The acoustics are good so it never got too noisy in the restaurant despite the play area being popular and the alfresco area having its front awnings completely open to Archer Street.

But onto the food.  It all exceeded our expectations.  It was all fresh with authentic flavours.  Serving sizes were generous and they were also beautifully presented.  Staff are numerous and very helpful, regularly updating if there could be a delay with a dish you've ordered.  The ordering system is based on your filling out tickets which are picked up by runners but you can also order the old fashioned way.

Apologies in advance but I haven't been able to link prices and full details of each dish from this post to the Pappa Rich website.  I'm blogging from a flight lounge and the internet is a bit temperamental.  They do barista a mean coffee though.

The Mee Goreng had a wonderful smoky flavour from a very hot wok.  You need that squeeze of lime juice over the top of it.

Roti in Sydney (or Chatswood at least) will probably be forever compared to Mamak as the gold standard.  The Pappa Rich version is less oily and a bit crisper.  I actually prefer it.  We had our roti with both dahl and chicken curry.  I was team chicken curry whilst my mum and aunt were huge fans of the dahl.

The open kitchen looks out onto a colonial themed dining room with plenty of dark wood shuttered windows and lush pot plants.  This might be a casual dining restaurant with a high turnover of tables but it has such a relaxing ambience to it, parents of toddlers could almost pretend they were living their pre children lives on vacation somewhere in Singapore.  But then again, that could just be me.

The Hainan chicken rice came with a serve of slightly vinegary bean sprouts which I've never tried before.  This is the ultimate comfort food and the chicken was very tender with just the right amount of flavour.  You must try this with the side dish of dark sauce drizzled heavily over the rice and chicken.

Pappa Rich's nuggets and chips come with a tray of sweet chilli sauce and Kewpie mayo.  Not just a hit with the kidlets.

I know.  Chinese people ordering nuggets and chips at an Asian restaurant.  But hear me out.  The nuggets aren't your average option from the deep freezer.  The breast meat is tender and the batter light and well seasoned.  Even my mum ate one.  Chips?  We were dining with a toddler and every table featuring a little one had this guilty little secret somewhere among their dishes of choice.  Pappa Rich are very relaxed about the leftover situation.  They're generous with takeaway containers for toddlers who end up sleeping through lunch.

For dessert, we shared a mountain of shaved ice under the ABC mix of creamed corn, black jelly, rose syrup and condensed milk.

And a slab of toast.  Nigel Slater maintains that the British do toast best but kopi tiam toast comes a very close second.  The bread is light, not Vietnamese bread light nor French baguette light but Malysian light.  It's just a bit dense with a bit of a bite to it when toasted.  When you combine it with a thick layer of butter and sugar, you're closer to home with every bite you take.

I finished off my meal with a coconut slushie, from the Pappa Rich special drinks menu.  It was Good.  There's slivers of coconut flush mixed through finely shaved ice and 'Goldilocks just right' coconut milk.  This is my way of getting on this coconut water bandwagon everyone seems to be riding right now.

And, that's all the news that's fit to print from my neck of the woods.  Thanks for whiling the hours away with me.  We're just about ready for boarding.  Don't be jealous, I'll be thinking of you from my deck chair.....

Take care.

Friday Wrap Up.

And it's nearly a wrap for that last Friday afternoon at work before next week's leave.

A bit of archival silver T&Co to go with my Ralph Lauren navy cricket cardigan.

The casual Friday outfit was worn, the numerous loose ends tied and that out of office email has gone live.

I've had my last Friday dark chocolate skinny mocha from Oliver Brown and dusted off my Frequent Flyer card.  I'm going to live on the edge and not pre order my meal for the plane or even check in online.  Instead, I'm going to get that taxi to the airport and just go with the flow on Sunday.

I'm trying something new with holiday currency and taking most of it on a preloaded debit card.  Fingers crossed it all works.

Reading material wise, I've got work and non work related journals ready to go.  Yes, that is a 2 month old copy of InStyle and yes, it still hasn't been read.

I've found some books for my Kindle that I'm really looking forward to reading on the plane.
The Rosie Effect, the sequel to The Rosie Project, in which we discover that Rosie is pregnant and Don is an expert in all things obsetric.

And a bit of new Cathy Kelly, set in Paris.

Two more members of Toddler SSG's fan club landed in Sydney last night which also signifies the end of such indignations as being given wooden stirrers topped with cappucino froth because your mother forgot to order you a cappucino at the very busy poolside cafe.  My mum and aunty flew in from Perth yesterday and it's been one long party for Toddler SSG as he giggled and showed off to them from the moment they arrived after lunch until his later than usual bed time.

In amongst my mum's luggage were several boxes of pineapple tarts from Taiwan and cakes from Japan.  Toddler SSG has already established a firm favourite of the two kinds of pineapple tart on offer.   The circular cheesecake version isn't quite his thing.  He's more of a traditional buttery biscuit man himself.

And then there was the traditional afternoon bowl of Bhuja Mix my mum would share with Toddler SSG back in the day.  That was still popular yesterday.

I honestly don't know where all those snacks and the solid meals between them go in Toddler SSG's skinny little frame.  Though swimming is hard work.  Especially when you star in an underwater photo shoot half way through your swimming lesson.  We had several underwater photographers at our class yesterday trying to capture the toddlers in a (fully clothed) still like the famous Nevermind album cover of Nirvana's.  Toddler SSG did a Superman arm across his face on his first go but I think we got the money shot on the second.  

So, all that remains to be done is to get home, pack and have a few quiet moments walking around the quiet tree lined streets of home before getting on that plane Sunday for about a day, give or take a few time zones.

If I'm not back before I leave, do take care and have a lovely weekend.

Opaques in Spring. Curriculum Review.

I've had to eat my words about my final goodbye to opaques for 2014.

Power walking on my last Tuesday at work before next week's leave....  Dress - Boden, opaques - Mix, shoes - Rockport.

Because I wore them today just to make sure the random storm activity that's hovering over Sydney at the moment didn't catch me by surprise for the second day running.

But enough about the weather, my outfits and I.

Have you heard about the latest National Curriculum Review for Australian schools?  It's been interesting reading and hearing about the recommendations as well as the way many in education seem to be in agreement about the proposals.  The direction education takes affects us all even if our own student days are ancient history.  Parents of students, employers, clients, the taxpayer who funds education.  One way or another, we all have ongoing ties to our education system.

My own memories of primary school education revolve around Strand crayons which from which I graduated to Faber Castell pencils.  There was lots of reading from actual books.  And then there was lots of actual writing because computers weren't in the classroom.

My early primary school teachers were Mrs Murdoch, Mrs Stanley and Ms Stevens (a trailblazer in our conservative neighbourhood with her mini skirts, boyfriend called Pete who happened to be a policeman and whom we met on school camp along with Ms Stevens' mum who came along to babysit Keisha but I digress... I grew to love science because of Ms Stevens' terrarium project using cut up soft drink bottles).  They were all firm but fair.  They'd go through our work with red pen, correcting grammar and spelling.  Encouragement or constructive criticism was given and then a golden peacock sticker affixed to the top of your page if it was particularly good.  And not everyone got a sticker.  And we all turned out all right.

From what I can gather, something changed in primary school teaching and the emphasis moved from phonetics and the three R's to education based on themes and the curriculum seems to have gotten really crowded.  Effective communication didn't seem to require correct spelling and grammar to be deemed effective.  Then NAPLAN came in highlighted disparities in numeracy and literacy across the nation that had some correlation to students' socioeconomic status.  And then the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results hit the media and it found that Australian teenagers' performance in maths, science and reading were falling further behind the results of South East Asian nations despite all the money being poured into the new curriculum.

Enter the 2014 review with Education Minister Christopher Pyne calling himself Captain Co-Operative in his goal of getting the states and the Commonwealth to work together to turn our education system around.  The key recommendations of this latest review aren't ground breaking.    A move away from the themes (and the challenges of incorporating them into every subject syllabus) and a swing back to the basics of phonics and numeracy.  A decluttering of the range of topics and capablities that need to be taught, especially in the primary years to emphasize depth not breadth of knowledge.

Interestingly and somewhat controversially, there is also a call for the education system to show a greater emphasis and appreciation of Australia's Judeo-Christian heritage.  In a time when we've made considerable progress in healing racial vilification of the past and are trying to calm the religious tensions of the present.

I'd love to hear from any teachers or other education specialists who may be reading this post.  What are your thoughts on the review?  What were and are your experiences with the current curriculum?  Will the proposed return to basics be more effective in equipping our children to negotiate study, work and life in general?  To compete at higher level in the global playing field that education seems to have become.

But most importantly, will the schools of the future teach Toddler SSG  really important life skills like:

- how to reset the work printer when it's been off line for a day.  And how to clear the backlog of printing jobs by placing them in the printing tray rather than leaving them on the printer.

- the most efficient way of dividing a loaf of banana bread into single serve slices for the freezer?  Without a set of kitchen scales and with minimal mess or loss of baked good in the cutting process.

Horizontal Rain. It's All About the Brows.

It actually rained through the car park at work this evening.

Horizontal sheets of rain just blew across and through all ten storeys of it drenching everything in its path.  Which worked well for my car because it was long overdue for a wash.  The rain fell with such force even my hubcaps got a pressure clean out of it.  But the one thing I'm most grateful for is that the roads seemed okay on my commute home and that there weren't any major accidents in my neck of the woods.  The storm was magnificent to look at from behind the windows of work but it was treacherous to be driving through.

Still on the theme of extreme driving conditions, guess what?  I officially completed my Toddler SSG's Top Gear sticker book today.  All 64 stickers are present and correct.  A special shout out goes to the cashier at my local servo for generously giving me a whole box of stickers this morning.  The odds were definitely in my favour for finding the six I needed to complete the collection.  I know, can you think of a more exciting way to spend your morning tea break than with a mug of Moccona and a carton of collectible stickers?  

On the off chance that you did do something even more exciting at morning tea this morning, please share. 

I'm still obsessed about my new look brows.  I forgot to get that castor oil for them from the supermarket at the weekend but the internet tells me that olive oil is another one of a total of 14 home remedies for thick eyebrows.  The list makes for an interesting read (onions?!?!) and I'm sure there's something on it that you've got around the house already.  Perhaps we could each try a different thing on the list and compare our results at the end of a six month trial?

But of course there was a bit of spendy makeup use to celebrate my new brows.  After years in hibernation, I got out my Chanel brow compact and found it a joy to use now that my brows have an actual shape to them.  I don't know if Chanel still make this particular kit of brow powders and tools (tweezers and two brushes) but it's worth the dollars if you can track it down.  The monogrammed tweezers are one of those luxe beauty tools you buy just to gaze at but the brow powders themselves mix to a shade that'll flatter everyone.  The bristles on the mini brushes are firm enough to deposit colour evenly and sparingly through your brows and nowhere else by mistake.

Toddler SSG's stamp of approval on his Ikea rug.  I've run the Dyson over it a few times but that footprint is there to stay in all its Chanel glory.

After all that struggle with Toddler SSG to get those tracings of his feet on Saturday, I finally got this perfect foot print on Sunday.  It's a Chanel (of course) eyeshadow he shattered after cracking the lid off a Dior quad.  It was a pretty expensive weekend of sensory play.  Taking the glass half full approach, I reckon I've now got more than enough reason to finally get on that Urban Decay Naked eyeshadow palette train.  It's on my newly drafted Orlando shopping list.  The one that can only be actioned after I sort out the dramas with the chip in the new credit card my bank sent me after my original one was 'under threat' of fraud.  Don't think there'll be enough time to get a new one before I fly this coming weekend.  I'll have to see what I can do on my day off this Thursday.

Hashtags, Threading and the Miracle of Kiehl's.

Some hashtags never get old.

It's been a whole three days since #missonifortarget launched (give or take 24 hours for the online launch) and I'm still getting a kick out of searching for Instagram images bearing this particular mastige hashie.  I've been inspired by how planet Instragram have worked the range into their homes, how they've styled it on themselves and how adorable their little ones look in the junior range.

I've also realised, too late, that I should've tried a 16 in the girls' range of cardigans which were so much prettier than the women's range if truth be told.

Aspirational fitness at its best - the latest LJ magazine and a #missonifortarget pouch in my gym bag.  I did actually work out for a bit before styling this Instagram worthy moment at the lockers.

I've found new Insta buddies through shared ownership of various pieces from the range.

Marni via Lovisa meet Missoni via Target.

And mixed my high street finds with abandon.

I was back stalking the range at my local Target today and thankfully there was absolutely nothing left in my size clothes or shoe wise.  I even left without a set of bangles that did fit but still weren't quite what I was hoping for (after a fourth viewing, what was I expecting to change, exactly?).

Which is just as well because the universe provided, as it often does, via a heavily reduced Lovisa necklace.

I managed to find this acrylic flower necklace in amongst some new stock in that Marni-esque style Lovisa do so well for their price point.  $12 down from $29.99.  I can see this necklace being on high rotation in my work wardrobe.  

The past and the future of my brows.  Goodbye Tweezerman and hello threading (spool of plain old white polyester thread for photographic representation only, I think professional threaders use a far more robust thread for their work).

Can we change tack and talk brows for a bit?  Good.  Because I've quite literally, been killing my brows with kindness over all of these years.  Tweezing, waxing, tinting, drawing in, setting with hairspray applied with an old toothbrush(!! blame YouTube).  You name it, my poor brows have probably undergone it.  The great irony, though, is that I knew that they looked kind of mismatched but then went into more is more mode which has only made things worse.

It all changed yesterday when I finally saw the light and got eyebrow threading done for the very first time.  I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier.  It did sting a little (not as much as the young man next to me might have implied when he mentioned that he 'just about died' the first time he got his done) but on a spectrum of banging your thigh on the edge of a sharp coffee table and trying to sort out your long service leave if you're a government employee, it was nothing compared to the coffee table.  A bit of a stinging snap really.  Very short lived at that.

What impressed me most was how precise the shaping and symmetry was.  Even after that first session, my brows definitely look more even with a good arch to them and even have more colour to them (in a less confronting way than brow tinting leaves them).  I've been advised to stop plucking between threading appointments (four to six weeks) and to apply castor oil over my brows to help encourage lush brow regrowth.  Might duck down to Coles when it cools down this evening to get that castor oil.  Because all that was involved was the single use thread and some antiseptic, I have had absolutely no skin reaction.  At $20 a session, it's cheaper than waxing and laser which seems to be getting rather cheap these days.  Just a bit scared about laser for some strange reason.
Just going back to the photo of random things I swear by to get me out the door looking presentable (because beauty routine would be a bit of an exaggeration).  That bottle of Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate  ($91 for 50ml) is a bona fide miracle worker.  It's got my skin feeling so soft and looking so smooth that the beautician was at a loss for things to suggest I use.  Which is a unique personal first for me.

This time next week, I'll be in packing panic.  Hopefully I'll have gotten my US dollars already and found my passport.  The plan is for my mum and aunty to be here distracting Toddler SSG as I get organised for the Sunday flight.  I swear I'm getting more and more disorganised with each successive work trip.  I mean I don't even have my shopping short list written down yet!

What I do have is this abstract tracing of Toddler SSG's feet in biro and mine in red Artline 70.  I was hoping to get perfect footprints from him so that I could buy him shoes for the next couple of years when I hit Orlando.  He was obsessed with the Artline so I used it to trace my foot first before hoping he'd play with it and stand still on the page so I could whip out the biro for his feet.  It was all too hard.  I'm just going to go off his current shoe size, I think.


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