Friends. Financial New Years Day.

First up, I'd like to apologize in advance if this post makes even less sense than usual.  I'm in the throes of a major cheese and cake coma from morning tea at work today.

We outdid ourselves with the line up of cake, cheese, crackers, prosciutto, gourmet lollies that graced the conference table today.  There was barely any room for notes and files but we improvised.  We also chair hopped so that everyone had fair access to the 10 different cheese on offer and the three home baked cakes too.

I know that sugar is the enemy and that we're all meant to be quitting it and I know that we all snack far too often on processed, salty foods but you know what?  Our once a week morning teas are good for our smiles and souls.  We feel spoiled by our colleagues and somehow a sneaky wedge of home made chocolate cake with a mug of catering quality tea in the tea room feels as luxurious as a weekend brunch at a trendy inner city cafe.

That warm and fuzzy feeling from morning tea got me thinking about all the other treasured friendships in my life.  June has been a difficult month for quite a few people I know and I think there's a great sense of relief within them all that June 2015 is finally behind us.  Done, dusted and never to rear its hurtful head again.

From my perspective, June 2015 has encouraged me to be a more supportive and present friend.  There are times when it's hard to know what to do when a friend is suffering.  For me, the line between crowding them or seeming to avoid them or appear to 'not care' is finer than you might think.  I've made some tentative steps from behind the veil of apparent aloofness I sometimes think cloaks me and been 'forward'.  I've asked people how they're travelling, I've told them things about myself that I hope hasn't been too much information or oversharing and I've checked in on them.

I don't know how much I've helped and I'm not intending this to be a 'look at me being a wonderful friend' kind of post but it has felt right.  The kind of right that sits in your heart and reminds you that even when you think you're going through pointless crap, someone out there will one day get some comfort from your ability to work through said crap and be all the better for it.

Conversely, while I've been trying to be a better friend, my friend have come through for me as well.  To all of you with your supportive words, sense of humour (dark, absurd or otherwise), great shares on Facebook and preciously relatable moments shared on Instagram, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Being the Financial New Years day and all, I could't write this post without mentioning something new and financial.  Meet my new Nike Dunk Sky Hi Essentials.  ASOS currently have them on sale at $118 from $169.

Do you want to hear the embarrassingly superficial reason I bought them?  To wear to the park.  Where no other mum ever wears hiking shoes and stretched out of shape jeans (together or separately).  I know I should be above comparing my off duty wardrobe to those of other mums but I was a voracious  teenage and pre Toddler SSG reader of womens magazines.  Wardobe comparisons are an unfortunate part of the territory that remains with me despite my quitting the reading material years ago.

It's not that I want to prove anything to anyone (at least not consciously) but as the big 4-0 looms ahead of me (next month!?!?!), I just suddenly feel like wanting to wear all the things.  To turn the concept of age appropriateness on its head.  To make my legs look longer, my thighs narrower and to draw attention away from my mum pouch that looks more like a food baby these days.  Apparently, a wedge heeled sneaker could do all of this for me and be more comfortable than Spanx.  Which are possibly one thing I'm not in a hurry to ever wear again.

It probably will end up looking a lot like mutton dressed as lamb but ASOS have an excellent returns system but also, I'm too old to care and too young to know any better!

As I wait for my Nikes to arrive, I'll be dusting of my partner in crime's pair in preparation for our next trip to the park.

Have you ever felt bad about that state of your weekend / off duty wardrobe?

Did you think about your numerical age before purchasing a pair of Sky Hi Essentials?

When Life Gives You Lemons.

It's been a day of making a list, checking it twice, taking it everywhere with me and being pleasantly surprised to have gotten everything ticked off.

My lists aren't usually in order of priority.  I just write down whatever I remember first and come back and add things as I remember them.

I do, however, like ticking things off my lists in order of most enjoyable to least.  Which is why the cheesecake got done first thing in the morning.

Nothing like a bit of cooking along to a YouTube video first thing in the morning.

I took advantage of Toddler SSG's sleep in make my favourite lemon cheesecake recipe from the One Pot Chef.

It's easy, more addictive than the Aldi Special Buys page and only requires five ingredients.

It was very soothing unwrapping, blitzing and pressing as I put together the biscuit base.

The recipe makes a large cheesecake.  Fortunately, I managed to find my rectangular springform cake tin during the great spare room declutter of June 2015.

Because it ended up being the perfect size for the cheesecake.  Being springform, tin foiling the base was a snap.

I don't know about you but the most frustrating days aren't necessarily the ones during which lots of bad stuff happens but rather, the ones that start well and go to plan until lunch time before a series of small little annoyances build up that leave you feeling overwhelmed, a little bit stupid and completely over it all.  Which then leads you to become so distracted by said small stupid things that you end the day in a state of counter productive self doubt.  Thankfully, no harm was done yesterday and I woke up to a new day with new focus.

Focus is what you need plenty of when attempting to prepare 3 blocks of cream cheese for a cheesecake.  For some reason, the cardboard packaging was much harder to open this morning than it was the last time I made a cheesecake.  Would Kraft have changed their cardboard, I wonder?  

It's the big issues in Australian food production on a Tuesday morning.  Allen's have just announced today that they will be discontinuing Spearmint Leaves and Green Frogs due to poor sales.  Red frogs (which outsell their green cousins ten to one) will be staying, as will Sherbies.

Oh, and Arnott's Shapes don't taste like they used to.  Their flavour toppings are no longer 300% packed full of artificial flavours and colouring and the biscuits themselves don't have that flaky crunch that they did back in the eighties.  But I suspect you've already discovered this yourselves. 

I did get there in the end with the cream cheese.  Here it is cubed for a bit of softening up in the microwave.

The One Pot Chef runs a tight ship on his videos.  I had to cheat and press pause in between stages.

The secret to his family recipe cheesecake having so much volume and hold is the juice of two large lemons.  

We are advised in the video that bottled lemon juice will not work.

This is the freshly pruned lemon tree from which my cheesecake's lemon juice came from.  I'm always impressed at just how much juicier home grown lemons are than the ones I get at the supermarket.

The cheesecake's all set to come with me to work tomorrow for morning tea.  Just hope I remember to take it and my lunch out of the fridge before we leave.

Another lemon from the tree is starring in tonight's dinner.  It's a slowcooker kind of winter's day in Sydney and I'm making Rachael Ray's Honey-Lemon Chicken with Potatoes.

There's a warming aroma of thyme, lemon and honey in the air.  I've got my ugg boots on.  The heater's thermostat is clicking periodically.  A little watery winter sun is shining softly through the kitchen window and onto the tiles.  It's hard to resent winter when you get to enjoy the odd day like this.

What are you cooking for dinner tonight?

Will you be sad to see Spearmint Leaves and Green Frogs off the shelves at the supermarket?  What will you now do for grass and leaves as decorations for your next birthday cake or cupcake?

'The School Run'. Back To MAC She Goes. Noodles and An Interview.

I know it defies logic but I feel bad when my $3.99 Kindle downloads kind of suck.  I feel sorry for the author whose royalty from the $3.99 sale is going to be proportionally much less than that of the author of a $16.99 download.  And while we're on that point, why do paperless downloads cost as much as physical books?  Then I feel a little ripped off that I had to part with that $3.99 in the first place.  See what I mean?  My reaction makes no sense at all.

The ebook in question is 'The School Run' by Sophie King.  It's pure, unadulterated chick lit and revolves around a gaggle of parents whose children all attend the same school.  At times, their lives intersect for 'secret' reasons and at other times 'dramatically explosive' ones but I just wasn't feeling the love, tension or bond with any of the main characters.

King's writing is perfectly solid and perhaps that's my problem with 'The School Run'.  It's a dense, butter cake for the school cake sale gone wrong kind of affair.  I felt like I was pressured to get into the minds of a different character with each chapter.  The light relief characters and situations I love most about this genre were few and far between.  The obligatory reclusive older person with a past wasn't complex enough for us, as readers, to empathise with.  I had no reason to pity her or to attempt to reconcile her actions with the unresolved issues of her tragic past.

Another aspect of the novel that left me feeling rather ordinary was the pervading sense of defeat within the parents in raising their children.  No one seemed happy about anything.  Everyone was pressed for time, underwhelmed with where their lives were, holding onto the last shreds of a crumbling marriage and defeated by their nasty children.  And therein lies the magic of my favourite chick lit authors.  Their ability to weave the everyday and overwhelming into characters whose lives are sprinkled with the occasional dose of whimsy and strange coincidence.

I know that life's like that at times for most of us but the reason we read the chick lit genre is for a bit of light relief and to get lost in the lives of characters who are a bit like us as they negotiate the ups and downs but also a little different with regard to high drama and romantic entanglements.  It's escapism and we love it.  We love it because we can read about it in our pyjamas with a mug of tea and not have to worry about the remote being taken away from us or our monthly data download allowance being exceeded as we would with other forms of home based entertainment we find ourselves limited to at this stage of our lives as parents.

Says I as I write this post at 5 in the morning whilst listening to iTunes through headphones on my iPhone whilst the little one sleeps.

In non chick lit related news this weekend,

I went back to MAC to purchase the eyeshadows I knew I should have bought with the money I frittered away on that 12 shade palette with a cult following that's currently back in its box in the too hard basket of my make up collection.  To be fair, it's the only thing in that basket right now.

I repurchased Shroom which has been part of my life for most of my thirties.  As I head into my forties, it looks like it's going to be there with me too.  I'm also trying a Pro Longwear shadow.  Apparently it's Pro because of its lasting power, size and quite possibly price.  The shade is Always Sunny and I think that that's a wonderful outlook to have on life as well as on one's eyelids.

I made the most of the actual sun outside and am pleased to report that my Target cheetah print frock is totally wash and wear.  The iron's in the photo for dramatic purposes only.  The dress came off the line crease free after being machine washed.

Toddler SSG was very certain in his pronouncement that we were eating 'leaves' for dinner.

The cooking caramel towards the upper left of this photo makes the seasoning of these noodles.  This particular brand is the one my entire extended family use.  It's made in Malaysia but I'm pretty sure it's easy to find at local Chinese groceries.

Said leaves were going into a large wok of Hokkien Mee.  For which I controversially used spaghetti.  So fusion, I know but pasta as noodles is a thing with Chinese aunties.  It's all those urban myths about what actually goes into our own imported noodles that's got everyone a little concerned about the little ones' diets.  So wholesome and healthier, quality controlled pasta it is for quite a few households where aunties do a lot of the cooking.

The recipe I used is this one from The Food Pornographer's blog.  She posted in back in October 2011 and I'm so glad it's stood the test of time.  It's her mum's recipe and the posted recipe comes complete with mum's notes and adaptation suggestions based on reader feedback.  Well worth a look if you're a fan of these dark and richly seasoned noodles.

I did all the work for Toddler SSG in this sectioned melamine plate from Daiso.  The grated carrot I thought were well hidden in the pasta were returned to me individually.  I need new tricks.

It's been a tough week on the china here at SSG Manor so the Daiso run included a couple of mugs that should make weekday mornings cheerier.

Just quickly before I go, this Dion Lee for Target dress was styled up on the weekend paper's fashion pages as was this Mia Freedman interview.  Both were compelling for different reasons.  The latter was a considered article that was neither fan girl nor complete hater but I was still surprised was allowed to go to press.  As for the former?  I'm more fan girl than hater.  I'm just not sure if it's going to be a piece that's going to work in my current phase of life.

Love For All.

Eloquent and considered as always. It wasn't just about the hard fought 'victory' it will also be about respecting religious differences whilst also celebrating love for all going forward.

It's these few and far between moments that leave me inspired that we will leave our world a better place for our children and theirs.

The Park. One Pot Pasta.

 It was lovely at the park yesterday morning.

Toddler SSG and I arrived before the clouds got too grey and heavy and also before the mid morning crowd.  We had the play area to ourselves and all the lawn and playing fields to run around too. The air had a fresh coolness to it which for some strange reason made us both feel like running as fast as we could so that we could take in huge lungfuls of it. Or perhaps I'm overthinking the relationship between toddlers, their parents and wide open spaces.

 The groundsmen had just finished their morning rounds and joined us in the queue at the cafe for coffee.  Coffees in hand, we each found our own little corner of the park for a bit of quiet and a sit down as we prepared for the rest of the day.

Which, for me revolved around the curious anticipation over whether or not a recipe I found for one pot chicken pasta would work.  Long time readers of this blog will know about my love of the quick and easy for weeknight dinners and also of my love of slowcooker recipes.  Well, I've recently discovered wonderpot pasta recipes which are great for the nights when you're willing and able to put more energy into dinner than turning on an oven or setting a slow cooker but also find it too overwhelming to decide what to get for home delivery and then have to stay in presentable clothing for when the delivery person comes and you have to meet them in person for the food and payment exchange.

The first recipe I tested out was the One Pan Chicken Alfredo from Number 2 Pencil's dinner saving blog. The blog is full of quick and easy recipes that I'm hoping to test out over the next few weeks.

Let your timer and stove do all the hard work in this dish.

The recipe is incredibly easy and the ingredients readily available. It's the kind of recipe that you could plan for in your weekly shop because now that I've made and tasted it once, I will be making it weekly.  All you need to do is brown some chicken and garlic and then fill your pan with pasta, cooking cream, stock and herbs.  I used dried parsley instead of fresh so had to cook mine rather than use it as garnish at the end.

I did make a bit of a mistake with the volume of chicken stock.  It turns out that 14ox of stock is closer to 400 ml than the litre carton I poured in.  It was easy enough to drain off the excess once I realised my mistake and it didn't affect the final result.  In fact, my sauce ended up being on the more liquid side of creamy which I personally prefer.

The sauce gets its richness from the 2 cups of grated parmesan you add to the pot after cooking and off the flame.  I then added a squirt of lemon juice to lighten the flavour as well as some extra ground pepper.

It was a huge hit with the both of us and much nicer than anything that could come out of a packet.

Shift - Target, jacket - J Crew, leggings - Costco.

Hope you're having a lovely Friday.  I'm going to be living it in leopard.


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