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.

Sephora, APEC, G20 and Sticky Tape.

Australia, it's happening.  All kinds of 'its'.  Almost too many to fit into one hump day blog post, but let's see how we go.  

In no particular order of geopolitical importance ....

From Sephora Australia's Facebook page.
First up Sephora Australia.  Grand Opening Day is Friday 5th December. I know what you're thinking.  They lost our invites in the mail and they left our email addies off the group email offering VIP exclusive offers and platinum loyalty memberships.  

It's been an interesting process watching the launch unfold.  While many of the other international retailers that have launched here have had plenty of fanfare on their global websites and options for you to add yourself to their mailing list, Sephora's website has remained strictly business as usual, at least when I checked last week.

In hindsight, that Sephora Orlando haul wasn't so excessive after all.  Three cheers for serendipitous intuition.

Unofficial sources (commentators on the Sephora Australia Facebook page, actually, perhaps that does make it official given that some newspapers create whole front page news stories from Facebook profiles...) suggest that the brand lineup on offer in Australia will be a severely edited shortlist (pardon the pun) compared to those of the mothership American and Asian stores.  Urban Decay and NARS were names I heard they wouldn't be selling here.  Also, an Australian online store appears to be a somewhere in the horizon kind of affair.  All of which seems to defeat the purpose of a local Sephora for many of us.

I'm emphasizing that all of the above is purely what I've read around the traps and isn't from official sources.  But do you have any intel that could either confirm or deny the above?

I bought four different shades of brown eyeliner from Sephora and have actually managed to get good use out of them all.

But all is not lost, Sydney.  I'm pretty sure Sephora's own cosmetics will be available.  These 12 Hour Waterproof Contour Eyeliners are a must have.  I've been using mine on a daily basis for the last few weeks and I can't fault them.  They apply evenly and last all day.  They even make it through cardio in looking better than I do.  Which isn't that hard but still.

Moving right along.
So this happened at APEC.  The Prime Minister Abbott shirtfronting (oh cool, I looked up my first word in Wiktionary) of Mr Putin over flight MH17 and the need for a public apology for the loss of Australian life on the flight.  On his part, Mr Putin looks Amused.  But that could've been over the Sephora revelations.

The G20 Summit is nearly here and the only facts about it that I can recall off hand at the moment relate to the little things.  Like how all delegates have been warned to avoid the use of gifted USB sticks because they may be the agents of cyber terrorism and not just important PDFs or PowerPoint slides.  And how there is a separate airport for delegates and their families arriving in Brisbane and that their journey through customs will be much briefer than yours or mine.  Oh and I think Mr Putin's security vehicles landed in Brisbane last week where they were greeted by a little welcoming committee.

I'll be sure to update this post when I get around to reading things of actual political relevance.

Work HQ is much calmer at the moment.  I've even reconnected with objects on my desk that aren't the phone or computer.  I love my heavy duty sticky tape dispenser and its endless roll of tape.  It's the best for the lint that's collected on my black, brushed cotton cropped trousers.

Yours in randomness,

Remembrance. A Blog Award.

I'm so glad it's Tuesday.

The only moment I got to stand still and not think about anything on  Monday was while I was in the line waiting for my coffee.

Because Monday was pretty crazy at work.  And so was Sunday.  You get the picture.

I'm so glad it's Tuesday, in fact, that today has a kind of Friday feel to it.  Hence the arrangement I have around my neck.  The necklace and sweater were from Marni + H&M's 2012 collaboration.

I have fond memories of that cold (for an Australian) March morning sitting out on the pavement outside the Oxford Circus store waiting for the store to open.  I had my early bird arm band on and a cup of Macca's porridge and jam with me and was having a grand old time chatting to a few locals I made friends with in the queue.

H&M staff meeting and greeting at the Oxford Circus store as the Marni collaboration went on sale to he public way back on March 8, 2012.

In the queue for Marni at H&M.
It was so much fun and probably the craziest thing I've ever done (and ever will do) in the name of a designer collaboration.  I've been putting off visiting Sydney's H&M but looking through these photos from London has made me want to have a look see after all.  I've heard that the crowds are still insane.  But that's Sydney for you.

Next up in this post is my response to Toni's list of questions from her Liebster Blog Award.
Toni writes a fabulous blog called Something Gorgeous with her friend Giulia.  Something Gorgeous celebrates interior design, food and life.  I love reading the SG team's take on design because they manage to break decorating concepts and themes down in a way that I can understand and relate to.

Thanks for the award, Toni and here are my answers to your questions.

  • What makes you smile?

Sitting on the front porch on a gloriously sunny spring morning feeling the sun on my bare feet and watching it filter through the pot plants.  Thanks mum, for helping me with the repotting and pruning.

  • What is you favourite season of the year?

Late spring in Sydney with its jacaranda blossoms as far as the eye can see.  A bit of purple here and there always makes the world a happier place.
  • If you won a million dollars, what would you do?
Pay off the mortgage and donate the rest to charity.  I'd then keep on living my regular life working and parenting.

Debt free, I'd strive to live these words from Nikos Kazantzakis that a wise friend recently shared with me, "I want nothing.  I fear nothing.  I am free."
  • What does your family think about you blogging?

They take it in their stride.
  • What did you want to be when you were a child?

A professional sand sculptor.  Or a professional barefoot sitter in the sand.
  • Tell a random fact about you.

I can't do tumble turns in the pool.  But I love swimming laps.  Somehow, this works.
  • Are you punctual or tardy? 

There's a clock of some description in every room of the house.

And I wear a watch during every waking hour.
  • What advice would you give to any new bloggers?

To simply write from your heart.  And to write for yourself first and foremost.
  • If you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
God.  And I have no idea what I'd say or ask Him but if you could just put a hand on my shoulder and tell me to 'have faith that all will be well', that would be wonderfully reassuring.
  • What is your favourite post that you've written? (Link please)
As this blog has gotten on a bit in years, I've sometimes worried that I'd get bored of writing and have nothing left to say.  That as time went on and I'd found my groove in life that each day would be the same old same old.

But they haven't been.  One of the great things about having a personal blog is being able to look back at various points in my life and read about how I felt at the time and compare this with how I feel about those same moments now.  It's amazing the detail and emotion that evaporates, even after a year.

The post I have recently enjoyed re-reading is this one from the end of last year (and the end of this year is frighteningly not too far away at all...).  'Dear 2013' was about letting go of and learning from the painful things that happened that year whilst still holding on and treasuring all the blessings that the same year gave me.  It was both the best and worst year of my adult life and I am proud of where I am spiritually, professionally and emotionally right now, relative to then.

It's fitting that my reflections on the past are taking place on Remembrance Day, our nation's day of reflection.  Together, we observed the minute's silence after hearing the Ode read as a brief service was broadcast over the PA system.  

It was a simple and powerful experience that united all of us in silence and stillness.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.


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