Feb 28, 2010

Saturday night. Date night at Sydney Shop Girl Manor.

The Scene: Saturday night after Restorative Yoga that was mentally but not physically restorative, SSG and R are in the lounge room settling in for the night.  R has thoughtfully phoned for the takeaway (pizza - Duos in Woolwich, you do great pizza with generous amounts of topping and perfect seasoning).

Sport of some description is on the TV.   Several types actually, R is channel surfing.

R: You can watch anything you want, SSG.  (handing over the remote)

SSG:  Okay, I'll just put on my DVD.

R: What did you get?

SSG:  The Coco Chanel story - the one with Audrey Tatou.  The September Issue wasn't in.  Might get that out next weekend.

R:  There's more than one?  

SSG:  The other stars Shirley McClaine in it, I think it's a made for TV version.  I'm not ready for Shirley as Coco.  The concept is messing with my mind.

R:  Is it in French?

SSG:  Oh, hadn't thought of that.  (As the opening credits role in French)  

R:  (fiddles with remote)  I've put on the English subtitles for you.

The opening scenes of the young Chanel in an orphanage start.  The film is so beautifully shot and I think it is right that this is a film spoken in French.  Spoken English just lacks the cadence to convey the mood and essence of Chanel and the era.

R:  Yes, it's a beautiful film.  I wonder how she goes from this to starting her business?  There must be some rich man involved.

I reckon that's the story.  Might pop off to bed then and listen to the cricket.

The film starts looking a bit more arthouse.  

R hesitates before really heading off to bed.  SSG's previous record of choosing DVDs for date night has been rather high in the 'award winning foreign language film about complex relationships where passion is expressed non verablly by the pulling off of clothes by consenting adults in atmospherically backlit rooms' stakes.  

SSG usually gets a bit flustered when this happens and insists it's all 'essential to plot and character development' but R is not so sure.  Is it bordering on soft porn if it's in an award winning film with serious and respected actors?  Does his wife have unresolved issues about self expression?

He finally estimates that it would be highly unlikely that a film with such Good Clothing would get to that level.

Film proceeds in much the same way as R predicted.

I loved the film.  Audrey Tatou was entirely convincing and the fashion was fabulous.  Especially her white silk pyjamas that she later had made with a black border at the collar.  There was  fantastic scene where she walked out of her shop in her PJs with heels on and a black jersey cardi over the top.

My other favourite look is the navy and whie striped boat necked top and how she was inspired to create this look whilst walking on the beach at dawn, in evening dress, the early morning after the long night before with Boy.

Boy, her financial backer wore a white camelia in his lapel.  So sad that he died but I suspect leading the double life of a married man in London and being the lover of Paris' revolutionary fashion designer would have caught up with him sooner rather than later.

Coco's formal sitting room was just as it was when Rachel Zoe visited it in her show.  I don't know if this is high praise of the historical accuracy of the film or even particularly relevant but I am a big fan of Rachel Zoe.  R also likes the RZP.  He and Rodger (Mr Rachel Zoe) see Eye To Eye.  I eagerly await season 3.

Feb 27, 2010

The last cake of summer 09/10. A lazy Saturday in.


If you're in Sydney at the moment, I  hope you're loving this weather.  The mornings are not too hot and though it is getting a little darker for those of us who wake up at the insane hour of 6am on a weekend just for the hell of it, us early birds are rewarded for our efforts with the beautiful colours of the sunrise.

It is also the last weekend of the summer.  Daylight saving is going to be over soon.  A new season will be upon us soon.  Almost time to pack up the summer clothes and prepare for the cooler months ahead.

With these thoughts in my mind, I embarked on my last baking project of the season.  

The mission, to use up 6 over ripe pears that have been languishing in my fridge for the past week.  Along the way, I used up lots of other stray bits and pieces in the pantry and fridge.  A very satisfying achievement that ties in nicely with Frugal February.

I found this recipe for a Fabulously Sweet Pear Cake on one of my favourite American cooking sites, allrecipes.com and it sounded perfect for my purposes.  Spices and fruit are one of my favourite baking combinations.



I love how the house is filled with such fragrant and comforting aromas as this kind of cake bakes.

I was able to christen my Babushka measuring cups today.  I love them.  I am now on the lookout for a set of quirky measuring spoons and a spatula.  In the background is my froggy-luna, a double bladed mezzaluna from Furi knives.  I think it was Nigella Lawson that brought the mezzaluna into domestic kitchens all those years ago.

Back to the recipe.  As above, you basically allow the sugars, nuts and chopped pear to sit for an hour or so (while you go fetch a Saturday morning coffee and get a DVD) before getting on with the next step.

Then, on to the pan.  My ode to Anolon continues - this is my large springform square pan which again is almost unstickable.  Some of my other tricks to make sure the base doesn't stick - grease proof paper on the base and a dusting of cinnamon sugar on the sides of the greased pan.  I got the Cinnamon Sugar in the Woolworth's show bag from the 2009 Good Food & Wine Show.  The sugar caramelizes as the cake bakes and looks prettier than white flour on the sides of a cake.


I actually forgot to puree the pear and nut mixture.  Oooops.  Remembered just as I poured the fruit into the flour mix - too late.  Never mind.


Another thing American baking is keen on is apple sauce.  Many of the home bakers in the US substitute apple sauce for some of the vegetable oil required in cake recipes.  Seems to work for me too.  I ended up going for 1/2 cup of oil and a 1/2 cup of apple sauce.

And then into the oven.  I decorated the top with leftover pear slices.  Fingers crossed it'll turn out.

Looks promising.  Skewer definitely came out clean in the middle and cake has pulled away from the edges of the pan.  Pear slices did not burn.  

Feb 26, 2010

Nonna By Nature Part 2. Tried and tested white powdery stuff. Powered by 1.81 standard drinks.

Friday evening is my favourite night of the week to blog.  Having survived the working week, the weekend stretches out before me.  Potential adventures seem limitless.

I am still observing Frugal February.  Only two more days to go.  So I'm celebrating at home, with R (who is transfixed by the cricket - tonight's game does not rate for me, I am not feeling the style of the team uniforms and therefore see  no reason to pay much attention).

I am however, still feeling blue - in a literal sense only, thank goodness.  Okay, it's not a true nonna beverage but then again I am not a true nonna.  Let's all just embrace the facade together because it's Friday night.

Patient readers, observe the size of the bottle.  A mere 1.81 standard drinks.   I'm at 0.61 standard drinks at the moment which is obviously the right time to be starting a blog post.

Tonight's exploration of frugal centres on my favourite DIY, cheap as chips, fail safe beauty tricks.  Do  not ask me about the science.  All I know is that they work.   Google was my every faithful friend in the researching of today's star products.

The themes are white powdery substances and the colour blue.  Powdery white because it's the winter Olympics - Go Team Oz - a second gold medal.  And you thought I was going to work it all around Sydney Mardis Gras, George Michael and how all the celebs manage to fit into their couture awards season dresses.

Blue needs no explanation.  It is the colour of many things I find fun and attractive.  Defensiveness and paranoia are most unbecoming in a blog so it would be best if I just move on.  I'm rapidly moving on to 1.21 standard drinks.


Asprin makes the best face scrub ever.  I crush a couple of soluble aspirin in a mortar and pestle (I broke my cute white one on the bathroom floor - had to substitute this heiffer of a mortar and pestle for the photo shoot, from Victoria's Basement at 60% off RRP - score).  Mix with a creamy cleanser (to help the aspirin stick to wet skin) and use as a scrub.  Leave on the skin for 10 minutes or so and then wash off.  I am loving Kiehl's gentle foaming facial cleanser at the moment.

This leaves skin soft.  That's all I can say really.  Can't promise radiance, plumpness, improved texture, a billionaire husband or the ability to snap back to instant litheness on day one post partum or anything else miraculous.  But, it just works, it's cheap and it doesn't irritate my skin.

Sodium bicarbonate

For those like me who cannot was their hair to squeaky clean-ness no matter what shampoo and conditioner they may use.  This trick really removes build up on your hair and leaves it soft, clean and as if you were on your way to your day job as the Pantene girl.

Mix a teaspoon of bicarb with your regular shampoo and apply to hair.  Leave in for a few minutes and then rinse out thoroughly. 

Condition and then style as you usually would.

Voila, salon clean hair with minimal fuss.  Actually the only fuss is remembering to bring bicarb into the bathroom in a little dish to mix it with the shampoo.  It's quite a big fuss if you've already gotten into the shower and turned the shower on.  Thankfully, I only share the house with my husband and he turns a blind eye to the wet footprints between the kitchen and the shower.

I do this every week - I have thick hair and it collects more Pantene than the number of times Sydney has changed its metro plans (boom tish).  It may be too harsh for you to do the rinse this often.  I just find it more effective than all the cleansing shampoos I have tried.  I have a sneaking suspicion the hairdresser I go to must do a bicarb rinse on my hair, it has had so much build up in the past.

Klorane dry shampoo

Diverging from the blue theme.

Okay, not super cheap, around $14 at priceline but often on special for $11 or less - all the popular stuff at priceline seems to suffer from price rises at about 5000% the rate of inflation.  I am getting Wayne Swan onto this.  It's an outrage.  First Lucas' paw paw ointment (it's in a red jar and orange in colour so didn't cut it for this post) and then Klorane dry shampoo spray, it's unAustralian.

This stuff is the bomb.  Perfect for those days when life gets in the way of your getting home at a timely hour for you to wash and dry your hair.

Random frugal tip that isn't based on a blue or powdery white product

I think Deborah Hutton once volunteered this tip in The Australian Womens' Weekly (the nonna magazine of Australia).  It was definitely someone blonde and with whom the target market of the AWW could relate.

Super easy.  When you think you've got the last of your product out of the tube, think again.  Do not hastily ditch the tube, declaring you've 'hit pan' but with a tube packaged product (personally, I think this is Cheating, it's easier to hit tube than pan in my experience) and are hence Entitled to hit up DJs for their latest GWP offer.  I am yet to use the stuff I get GWP but that will be the subject of another post.  It's the size issue.  How can anything sample size be effective and why are all the GWP make up products in the Insipid range of the colour spectrum?  Big issues for a Friday night, readers, big issues.

Walk.  Away.  From.  The.  Bin.  And.  Find.  Your.  Scissors.  Snip the tube in half and observe the amount of product that remains within the tube.  Enough for at least a week or so.

And I think I'm done.  If this post does not get me a letter from The Queen in recognition of services to frugality (or at least a feedjit entry from Buckingham Palace) or Respect from Shannon Lush of Spotless and Speed Cleaning fame then I don't know what will.

Happy days are caffeinated days.

Things I'm excited about this lovely morning.

I found my copy of The Sydney Magazine in the office. Note the ring on Our Latest Premier's left hand.

I got a free coffee on my work frequent sippers card.

Everyone (including myself) survived the night.

I'm observing casual Friday in topshop jeans, bonds white T and a red clic clac.

It was pay day yesterday.

Happy days are caffeinated days.

Have a great day y'all.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Feb 25, 2010

Our Latest Premier has my trinity ring. Sydney Shop Girl, Sydney Magazine and Adriano Zumbo - a trinity of another sort.

Well, the excitement about today's Sydney magazine was justified.  Once I got past Our Latest Premier on the cover, and the 20 questions put to Our Latest Premier, Christina Keneally and The Leader Of The Opposition, Barry O'Farrell - henceforth known as BOF (because BO would have been so very wrong).  It was very atmsopheric photography,  I thought.  Both were dressed sobrely  and they were seated together yet apart in a variety of ways looking credible and thoughtful.  Can't work out the exact reason for the photos except that they seemed to fit around the text rather nicely.  Which I haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Our Latest Premier and I have the same trinity ring.  It's a sign.  I'm not sure of what, but it's a sign.  She has a bond with the people.  I am not sure if Sydney Shop Girl is ready to endorse her but this has certainly helped warm her heart.  Surely a true puppet premier would not wear Cartier?  But I digress.

Sydney magazine food articles are definitive despatches.  The restaurants and stores reviewed are quite diverse in location, nationality, price and style.  Often there are places you've been (so that you feel 'in the know' and 'a local') but also less well known places that give you yet another excuse to drive across the toll ways and beyond your local area.

Today's magazine featured a review of Sydney's favourite artisan bakers and dessert makers.  The taste makers on the sweeter side of the palate - which is definitely where mine sit.  I guess no article would be complete without a nod to Adriano Zumbo of Balmain.

He's in the heart of Balmain, on Darling Street.  And one day, after 6am yoga, I broke my resolve.  R and I did Zumbo for breakfast.


The sidewalk sign didn't lie.

And here's the start of breakfast.  We also ordered a divine banana bread with dulce de leche spread. 

This is a close of up of my very yummy choc mint macaron.  Unfortunately we were too early for all the super fancy and creative desserts to be available for sale.  That was probably a good thing, what we did manage to eat was calorific goodness and my pancreas was recovering for the rest of the day.  One day, I will return and sample more macarons and the trademark wittily named desserts.
I still have the rest of the article to get through and a list of other bakers to visit.  Next month, I'm going on a magical mystery bus tour of the great dessert places of Sydney.

In the meantime, here's a photo of the iconic Laduree in Paris.  One of the spiritual homes of le macaron, le eclair and le decadedent packaging for baked goods.

Feb 24, 2010

Yoga and yolks.

I like Wednesday evenings.  It means I've survived hump day and it's the down hill slide to the weekend.  It's been a hectic week and I've managed to get by without a major dummy spit or panic attack. Caffeine helps.

Conveniently, it was a restorative class at yoga tonight.  Slower poses, held longer but I still felt pretty stretched after class.  Making progress with the shoulder stand.  I am straighter in the body and doing less of this > at the hips.

Then, it was time for my usual yoga night dinner - poached eggs on toast.

My secret weapon - poach pods.  All you need to do is spray them with cooking oil, crack an egg inside and poach for your desired time.


I got the time right tonight - the yolks are the perfect runniness.  Accompanied here by multigrain toast, salad, cracked pepper and a bit of light reading material.


How could I forget - the tomato sauce.  It must be an Asian thing, I eat tomato sauce with a lot of random foods, even fried rice.

Hope you've all had a restful evening.

Is anyone as excited as I am that Sydney magazine is coming out with the SMH tomorrow?  I just love the photos the best.

Feb 23, 2010

Terry Durack endorses Sydney pub grub. Sydney Shop Girl endorses both Terry Durack and Kerry O'Brien.

Continuing my theory of hormones being the answer to the unexplained in human behaviour and emotion, I present Sydney Shop Girl on testosterone.  I have officially moved on from greige and discovered the blues.

I was greeted by this blue Holden ute in our driveway when I got home from work.  R was giving it a home for the night for a workmate.  I love the blue.  I am so cut that I missed out on corporate tickets for AC/DC that R's work was hosting.  It would have been worth the permanent hearing loss and having bourbon and coke poured over my handbag and into my birkis to have seen the coroporate and flannel brigades collide.

Then I decided to address the issue of our arthritic front gate with a liberal application of WD40 - my panacea for anything around the house involving doors and hinges.

No dressing table is complete without Jo Malone, Hermes ... andWD-40.  

To the background of the cricket, we sat down and had dinner.  Again, made while the ironing and clothes folding was going on.  Roasted carrots and potatoes add comfort to any meal.  I dressed the vegies in a donna hay dressing of olive oil, mustard, honey and white wine vinegar.  

Yeah, it's not that bloky a meal but I hear pub grub is becoming super fancy these days.  My beloved Terry Durack (the best thing to have happened to the SMH's Good Living since they lost my other beloved Bill Granger) says It Is So.  Which means It Is So.  I love Terry's reviews.  I love Terry almost as much as I love Kerry O'Brien.  They both remind me of my dad possibly because they are as old as dad but also because they are pretty on the ball.

Today Terry featured the Four In Hand pub menu.  I so want to go.  I am working on R.  The Four In Hand is not in the CBD, not 'corporate' and therefore not 'work' for him and I think I can seal the deal with value for money. 

FYI - in my Terry link - he was dining at Rockpool which is another one of my Sydney loves.  Rockpool has the best steak, chips, display of Riedel and the endorse Aesop.  What is not to like?

Velcro is not the hallmark of a polished shoe.

In the words of Faux Fuchsia - this would be called a bow arrangement at the neck.
Very useful tip for dragging a T shirt from Target up to the ranks of polished work wear.  Though the effect was ruined later by my biro drawing itself all over the front of my top.

There were bonus brownie points to be had in the dragging up in the ranks stakes - my hair was pinned back into a low bun.  Minus points for very comfy ecco sandals with velcro ankle strap.  Velcro is not the hallmark of a polished shoe.  With all this plussing and minusing, I am not really sure where I stood with the fashion police by the end of the day.

I love this scarf.  It's the Ceres scarf.  Ceres is the goddess of agriculture, grain and the love a mother bears for her child.  I got it off Ebay which makes it vintage.  It was a bargain buy but has signs of wear.  My local drycleaners (who treat me like a daughter, knocking off a few dollars here and there each time I turn up with random sections of my wardrobe) even dry cleaned it twice for me when I first got it because it looked so old.

Feb 22, 2010

Destination Unknown. Emotional greige.

Because it's nearly Mardi Gras and even navel-gazing blog posts need dance anthem inspired titles.  I love you big time, Alex Gaudino and Crystal Waters.

Every so often, you hit turbulence in life.  There are all the expected (or at least anticipated) shocks and bumps.  Somehow, being prepared makes them a little easier to accept, even if coping seems out of the question and close to impossible.

I've hit some strange emotional turbulence and, like the most dramatic head banging, meal tray toppling plane turbulence, it has come out of the blue.  I don't know why, I just feel all sorts of emotions for no good reason, for unpredictable amounts of time.  It's not delirious happiness or rock bottom depression - it's just vague 'neither here nor there feelings' without precipitant.  Uninspiring, unflattering, unsettling emotional greige.

Coincidentally, I think this photo captures the essence of greige.  Both in tone and composition.  I am on my own personal crusade to give greige more recognition.  It has its place in fashion and I think it should be a key shade for A/W 2010.  Which isn't actually all that far away.  Damn.  I'm contemplating saving for a Kelly, falling pregnant and trying to survive the training year.  I think a Kelly is a small fair price to pay for surviving the double rigours of pregnancy and getting my letters.  Oh and damn also for the prospect of having to buy maternity clothing.  That's a lot of damn for one paragraph.

Sigh,  Fasten your seatbelts, we're in for a bumpy ride.

So, I've taken it to the blog.  If it's out in the blogosphere, it could very well dissipate as a carbon emission, as the megabytes pip through wireless modems, or however it is that data dissipates these days.   No ones's paying for carbon emissions these days so it's like they don't exist ergo hopefully the greige will cease to exist.  Sentences containing ergo.  They do not work well on Monday nights after 15 hour shifts.

In times like these, I like to blame hormones.  Mine, the ones in the chicken I got from Coles, contraception, the stuff in the water.  Hormones.  Any hormones.  Which was working well for me until R correctly (bless) pointed out that I don't get 'hormonal'.  Apparently my skin changes (from dodgy to downright disaster) but no, R only observes cyclical skin changes and no emotional ones.  R delivered that observation about my skin in such a matter of fact way one night I was floored and had no idea how to react.  It's not a 'girl' thing to say.  He couldn't understand why not.

I reckon the simple answer is that I need a holiday.  R and I need to get on a jet plane out of Sydney and immerse ourselves in a strange place.  Just the two of us.  Even just planning a holiday will give me a sense of freedom and something to look forward to.  It doesn't matter how much you love the place you're at (physically and emotionally), sometimes you've just got to get out there and mix things up a little. As a creature of routine, this is a pretty bold statement.

The complex answer is that I am drifting along in a spiritual sense and need to get re-anchored.  I reckon I'm brave enough to tackle this too.  It's easy to drift away from religion when life is treating you well.  Then and unexpected drama happens and you're left feeling alone, empty and cut adrift.

If nothing else, writing this has given me food for thought and given words and identity to what I've been feeling.  It's a good start.

I reckon it's worked.  I am all greiged out.  I have nothing left to say on the matter of uninspired emotions.  I consider myself purged and ready to embrace the world in colour. And black.  And grey.  And beige.  But no more greige.

I heart The NY Times.

Image courtesy of www.sewnews.com

There are so many great things about the internet.  To me, one of the greatest gifts is has offered me is the chance to go online and read newspapers from around the world.  One of my favourite newspapers is The New York Times.  I find their photography and standard of journalism arresting.  I think its a newspaper that really does have it's finger on the pulse of New York but at the same time covering the bigger issues affecting Americans.  I'm such a fan I even have the iPhone app.

It is a fascinating insight for non (and wannabe, that's me) Americans into the United States beyond the carefully (and sometimes artlessly) crafted 'bigger, glossier, better, faster' facade of American life that is presented to us in the mass media.  I like the paper's portrayal of  'real Americans' as opposed to 'reality (TV)  Americans'.

I especially love the human interest stories and photo essays.  During the worst of the GFC, there were stories about everday Americans and their struggles that brought tears to my eyes.  Somehow, the NY Times narrates American life in calm, thoughtful, measured prose - even in times of high drama and emotion.  A different school of journalism to the personalities of Fox News (my right wing guilty pleasure).

My favourite story from today is this .  It's the story of Freda Rosenfeld, a Jewish, yoga loving, vegetarian lactation consultant and her journey across New York helping new mothers.  It's a heart warming story and Freda sounds both down to earth and very skilled at what she does.

I want to be as wise yet 'real' in my profession and also to be that comfortable in my skin when I'm in my 50s. 

All this talk of NYC.  It's making me want to get back there as soon as I can.

Feb 21, 2010

Photography, philosophy and the art of patience.

Well, Frugal February is 3/4 of the way done and I have survived!!  This weekend was ideal.  As I had my photography class all weekend, there was no time to go to the shops or browse the net.  I was also so busy that I didn't waste the whole day logged on to facebook and blogger.  Okay, so enough of the self righteousness.  What did I actually do?

I have survived my weekend photography class.  There were many times that I felt so disappointed with my photos, they seemed even worse than the ones I took before the lessons.  However, I came away with objective imput from our teacher and many, many areas that I can work on over the next few months.

I haven't done any 'adult learning' classes in years and forgot how much fun it is.  I met so many different kinds of people and it was lovely to have a whole weekend in which to immerse myself in my hobby with like minded people who all had their own stories to tell.

Started off the day with a hearty breakfast.  I had a huge Maccas craving this  morning.  I haven't eaten a hash brown in decades.  Each bite took me back down memory lane - the breakfasts in Fremantle we'd have with mum and dad after a swim.  Maccas brings families together, it's not just advertising psychology.  


Don't you love the diversity of classes offered?
Class was hard core.  There was so much theory yesterday, I was exhausted by the time I got home.  I tried the practice exercises but failed miserably on my own.  Didn't matter what aperture I used, everything looked equally focussed and flat.  

Luckily, there were great subjects to practice on whilst our tutor was talking.  There was a genius young lady in our corner who taught us oldies heaps.  I feel so old.  I'm in my mid 30s and there's no escaping I ain't in my late 20s any more.  Sigh.  Cue a moment if intropsection and development of my changing identity and role in society.  Photography really does look into the soul.


So, we have great depth of field as demonstrated by the focus of all the loops of the notebook on the left and a shallow depth of field on the right.  I've been reading all this theory for months but could never make the leap of executing the concepts until today.  I love you spiral notebooks and coffee cups.

Then is was off to Hyde Park to put it all into practice.

Where theory (eventually became reality).  Must remember to use the magnify function on my camera to check the quality of my images as I take them.  That way I can actually see what is and isn't in focus.  Everything looks sharp and it's hard to get the details on the standard play back images.  I also got ideas for images that didn't translate to great photos, but it's give me something to work towards.  The bubbler was a good idea but is out of focus in the final image, for example.

Then, the fun bit - making like speed cameras.  We were there to practice using shutter speed, panning and composition of moving targets.

Yay - the motorbike is moving and the foreground is focused.

Got the moving taxi and there is context with the background in focus.

And finally, a bit of free time to explore what we'd learned.  I missed a great shot of the memorial completely reflected in the pool in the foreground.  Duh, duh, duh.......
By the end of the day, I was getting the irrits.  It was both hot and humid and there were people everywhere.  With the benefit of a cold shower, fresh clothing, a cold coke and dinner - I'm pretty happy with how far I've come in two days.

Patience and perserverance, where would we be without them?


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