Jul 31, 2010

Saturday Domestics. The Skinny On My Skinnies. Spending In Order To Save.

I can now say from personal experience that staying home or being at work on a Saturday afternoon are probably the only proven methods of lowering personal debt or at least making your dollar go further.  I've been working the last few Saturdays and I cleaned the house today.  My credit card statements this month speak for themselves.

This was me mopping the kitchen this afternoon.  During that fine break (singular) this afternoon in Sydney.

Is this really our mop?  Oh yes, that's right - Mr SSG broke retired the other one and bought this vision of blue microfibre.  I spent the afternoon trying to figure our how to use it.  Do I just splat it across the floor as is?  Will the miracle of microfibre work its magic and absorb both water and grime?

I rang Mr SSG just to check my technique.  He suggested Googling our mop model to find out more.  I think my problem is our mop bucket.  It's for the Vileda flat mop.  We need the Vileda Supermop Bucket and Power Wringer.  I'll have to look out for it at Coles this week.

Mr SSG got to Perth safely.  His flight was filled with perky, well behaved babies who demanded he test out the camera on his phone with them.  I got home from the airport in one piece.  I only made one wrong turn, looped through Paddington and got e-tagged twice for the Cross City Tunnel.  I took a photo of our mop with my iPhone's camera.

Back to the title of this post.  The skinny on my skinnies.

Way back in April, I bought these bargain priced skinnies. It is now July (August tomorrow - can you believe it?  I'm nearly another year older).  The path of bargain priced denim love does not run smooth.  The Cotton On's are having major zipper issues now and the Ice skinnies are sagging at the knees.  Thank you to the wise readers who told me this would happen.

So, once again, it was time to find long term denim commitment with J Brand.  As luck would have it, Revolve have this great offer going on. at the moment.  If you order from you iPhone (with the new Revolve app) - there's 20% off your order.  Also, it's still free shipping to Australia and the dollar has bounced above 90 cents, US.  

You know what, I still have photos from the food safari.....

From sunnier days this winter.

Stirring wands of dark chocolate and French peach / peche (I prefer to refer to it by the latter) cordial.  

The hot chocolate was good but I don't think I'm ready to give up my chocolate shop hot chocolates and mochas.

Peche Cordial + Louis Roederer = the SSG Manor Bellini

From Simon Johnson - fancy jam.

I really do like the light in those photos.

The quiet night in is progressing rather nicely.  I can't seem to escape good bargains (or dark chocolate) today.  Filled up the car with petrol this morning and felt nostalgic for the gossip weeklies.  With a Kit Kat for $1 - how could I say no?

What is it with Hollywood rom coms these days?  I've seen quite a few good ones this year.  I finally got around to watching Valentine's Day.  It really is great fun and it has a great cast (and soundtrack - will have to find it on iTunes).  I bet Mr SSG is going to regret not watching this one with me.

I know I've said I don't observe Valentine's Day but maybe one February 14, Mr SSG (played by Hector Elizondo in this scene) will wake me up with roses from the garden and a bottle of my favourite perfume.

And I'll (Shirley McClaine) whip out a piece of sporting memorabilia from under my pillow.

Jul 30, 2010

The Supersizers and Favourite Vanity Sized Clothes. The Goodbye Afternoon Tea.

With all my talk of food safaris, detoxing, baking and eating out - the irony of finding this on SBS last night was not lost on me at all.

For those that aren't familiar with the series, The Supersizers are a pair of British media personalities who visit the different periods of English history.  They live the life of a couple of the period from the food to the clothing and popular activities of the day.  Before and after each challenge, Giles and Sue have their health assessed - everything from bloods to weight and exercise capacity.  They are helped in each episode by a chef who faithfully creates all their food.

For this week's episode, the Supersizers went Elizabethan.  Coffee and tea were yet to make their way to British households.  Pastry was a useful vessel for presenting a variety of mysterious meats and animal body parts.  

It was the epitome of mouth to tail eating as no part of any animal was let to waste.

The water was undrinkable so beer really was the safest option and was drunk with every meal.  It possibly made the food taste better too.  

Each night of the challenge, Giles and Sue had their own video cameras and delivered their personal reflections of each day.  It was both frightening and funny seeing how the pair coped with caffeine withdrawal, compulsory and sustained alcohol intoxication and a distinct lack of fibre in their diets.  

The program was food for thought.  Not so much the 24/7 substitution of beer for water but rather the creative use of pastry for making a meal of foods on hand in the pantry.

I'm a recent convert to the convenience that is canned baby potatoes.  They form the basis for my salmon pasties (an idea from the winter Coles magazine).  I chopped the potatoes, added the flaked salmon, some frozen vegetables and a cup of cheesy pasta sauce.  I added garlic and onion powder as well as other seasonings (all of whom have chosen to conceal their true identities in the photo below - though they all look suspiciously to be from the house of Masterfoods).

The most complicated steps for me were actually making the pasties.  I carefully cut out my circles of thawed fat reduced short crust pastry using a saucer as a guide.  It was a bit tricky getting the pastry to stick but we got there.

Baking paper really does help but I had run out so had to use alfoil sprayed with olive oil.

Served with a green salad, pasties are a quick and easy mid week dinner.  They also freeze well.  I might trot out this recipe for the AFL Grand Final.  I don't have a meat pie recipe or sausage roll recipe.  Or perhaps Mr SSG and I could have all 3?

It was my last day at my current posting today and we had a goodbye afternoon tea.  I was sad because though it was busy and stressful at times, I had a great bunch of people working with me.  We all pulled our weight, pitched in to do things that weren't always in our job descriptions and were nice and honest to each other.  I was really touched to be told that I'd be missed and to be thanked for what I did.  

There was lots of food.  I contributed  my Snickerdoodles, Katharine Hepburn brownies, assorted junk food and some fizzy drink.  My colleague who was also leaving brought in this fantastic coconut and pineapple cake (my 2 favourite flavours in the one cake) and some Portugese pies.

I found a red, white and blue outfit to match my baking.  White wool scoop neck sweater from Kookai, white fearl (thanks FF and Carly) necklaces, red Hermes clic clac and navy Country Road suit jacket (which I love mainly for its uber vanity sized 'size tag' - enough said).

Which I wore with grey skinnys from that emporium of cheap chic - ICE (you have to look hard sometimes but there are some good 'of the moment' designer knock offs to be had there).  They do vanity sizing on the cheap.

It's going to be an interesting weekend.  Mr SSG is off to Perth for a week and I'm staying here in Sydney on my own.  I might visit a food festival tomorrow and get a chick flick DVD out for company in the evening.

Have a good one.

French Food Safari Part 6: Simon Johnson Food, Alexandria.

Safari followers, are you still with me?  This is the last instalment.  We ended the day with cheeses at the Simon Johnson store in Alexandria.

There are 3 parts to the store. 

The general retail area that stocks a range of foods that are anything but 'general'.  I'll show you some of my favourite finds at the end of this post.

Upstairs is a demonstration kitchen kitted out with the latest appliances and cooktops.  Last  but not least, the cheese roam.  Which housed the 4 cheese we had to taste that afternoon. 

There was a variety of accompaniments to the cheese.  The jars to the left in the photo above are truffle oil.  There was also quince paste and muscatels.  The French usually only eat bread with their cheese but we broke with tradition and had crackers too.

There were lots of interesting things to browse whilst eating our cheeses.

An Allpress coffee bean holder and grinder.

A view of the cheese room complete with my reflection on the back wall.

Fancy cutlery.  Straining spoons and normal spoons.  I think the range comes from the head chef at El Bulli.

I've seen all sorts of food trolleys but this takes the cake....

It's an oil tasting trolley.  Complete with tasting goblets.

I'm curious about the wasabi flavoured oil.

Cous cous and barely cous cous....

A $159 bottle of olive oil.  From a distance, this looked suspiciously like a large bottle of L'Occitane fragrance.

Duchy Originals' fruit drinks.  They are from Prince Charles' project in the UK.

And on that organic and healthy note, it was time to end my French Food Safari.  Hope you've enjoyed the photos and thoughts.

Jul 29, 2010

I Commit To Detox. All American Baking.

And so I find myself in front of me laptop pondering the adequacy of my diet recently.  As regular readers will know, there has been a lot to analyze.

As I clutched one last coke zero, the time had come to make positive changes in my diet.  I like to think that I lead a pretty healthy lifestyle - exercising daily, home made salads for lunch, fruit and nuts for morning tea, takeaway once a week and brushing my teeth after lunch at work.  But there's also many worrying things - coffee twice a day, a daily piece of chocolate, all those places I've been to eat and blogged about (got nowhere to hide now).  It's starting to take its toll.

In recent weeks I've made cosmetic changes to things in my life like my choice of skincare, I've re-orientated my religious compass, I've sought ways to amuse myself that don't always involve 'buying something new'.

Now, it's time to address how I feed my body.  The last big change I made to my diet was stopping my daily diet coke habit 4 years ago (once you've had one root canal, you do what you have to do).  Inspired by cotton socks and her encouraging first day of detox, I've signed up for a one day Urban Remedy detox.  D-day for me will be Monday August 9.  I'll definitely keep you all posted.  It will be the first time I've done a detox.  I like the idea that the juices for the Urban Remedy detox all arrive prepared and ready to consume.  They also sound like they'll be freshly made too.  I'm treating this detox as a time to think more seriously about what I eat each day.  I will be curious to see what effect this will have on my energy levels and appearance too.

So, in the days that remain B.D. (before detox, don't you love all the ominous acronyms and abbreviations?), let's look back at just some of the cooking decisions that have lead to this decision to detox.  Together, let's savour butter, chocolate, white flour and chocolate.

There was my All American baking day.  I embarked on this baking project on the weekend.  We are having an afternoon tea at work tomorrow and the recipes I chose freeze well.

It goes without saying that I wore my All American A&F hoodie during my baking spree.  Here it is fresh from the wash.  I always seem to get batter all over my sleeves when I bake.

My inspiration was once again, that bible of precise baking, Joy Of Baking.

First up, the Katharine Hepburn brownies.  Legend has it that Ms Hepburn gave this recipe to a gossip columnist as part of any interview decades ago.  All I could think of when I thought of Katharine was pearl stud earrings, immaculate hair, a good scarf and a stiff drink.

Image courtesy of www.rottentomatoes.com

True to her image, these brownies have a hard and glossy exterior but were something quite different once you bite into them.  Rich, sweet and very decadent.

The recipe in the link is very detailed and exacting. It is worth persisting and following it to a T.

Here I am melting my unsalted butter and Lindt dessert cooking dark chocolate.

Then adding the dry ingredients.  Lots of sugar and not much flour.  My kind of brownie recipe.

I chose to leave out the nuts.  In hindsight, this recipe could be doubled because it made a rather thin brownie.

Then I made some Snickerdoodles.  These are a buttery biscuit coated in cinnamon sugar.  Apparently, the name is a corruption of a German word and the biscuits have been in existence since around 1899.  I am pretty sure Snickerdoodles are an American biscuit.

I started with the rich butter and egg filled biscuit batter.  Batter makes me smile.  I was feeling terribly American as I was baking.  I even called my KitchenAid a stand mixer and Fox news was on in the background on pay TV.

The cinnamon sugar is used to dredge rounds of dough.

This could have been a doughnut recipe for all the sugar and cinnamon going on.  Which reminds me, I haven't eaten a piping hot fresh cinnamon doughnut in ages nor a 100% synthetic Krispy Kreme one either.  Random last thoughts before detox.

It was very satisfying flattening my cinnamon sugar coated biscuit dough balls with the bottom of a glass tumbler.

There was enough extra cinnamon sugar to be bottled in one of my bargain Ikea spice jars.  Will have to find a good use for the sugar.  Might make some toast out of it.

The final product.

The biscuits keep for ages and are crunchy and buttery with a cinnamon kick.  Best served with a cup of tea for dunking.

All my baking survived the freezer.  They are defrosting right now and I'm off to rustle up an American outfit for tomorrow to go with my baked goods.

Jul 28, 2010

French Food Safari Part 5: Belle Fleur Chocolates, Petersham.

Are you still with me?  My coverage of the French Food Safari is taking on epic proportions.  Blogger is dealing with this in its own way by mysteriously changing font for this post, probably in mouth watering anticipation of the chocolate contained herewith.  It doesn't matter what I do, random lines of text jsut keep springing into larger sized fonts. 

As far as I'm concerned, a food safari just wouldn't be complete without chocolate. To accommodate this, Marie took us to Belle Fleur Chocolates, 584 Parramatta Rd, Petersham, tel: (02) 9550 0650.

The owners of Belle Fleur are not French, they are just north, from Belgium.  But the chocolate is so seriously good, they just had to be included in the safari.  

Belle Fleur is famous not only for its delicious cream laden chocolate made from exotically sourced cocoa beans but also its ingenious use of chocolate as a sculpture medium.

Jan Ter Heert, the owner of the Belle Fleur was indeed part of Masterchef. He was on one of the challenges. I regret not stocking up on these buttons and cocoa powders for my baking.  Never mind, I can get across to the Rozelle store.

At the front of the Petersham store is a large glass walled room featuring lots of chocolate art or is that chocolart.

A model of a town hall in Belgium.

A  more earthy inspiration for art - our council rubbish bins.

In the photograph above is Jan Ter Heert's orginal family store in Belgium.  Back in the day, chocolate wasn't the only food they sold.  The store was a combined patisserie, cafe and catering business.

Speaking of origins, this is Belle Fleur's selection of single origin chocolate.  The cocoa for each chocolate is sourced from a different country.  Just like single origin coffee, single origin chocolate appears to be the next big thing for an increasingly discerning market.

I love the sense of humour on the produce information cards.  Especially the suggestion to 'upgrade your phone' with a chocolate one.

We had a very generous tasting of 5 different chocolates.  Including these dark chocolate cooking buttons.  They tasted delicious just the way there were.

It may have been all the sugar, cocoa and cream but my eyes seemed to be playing tricks on me. It was a case of SSG and the Chocolate Factory.

Chocolate coffee sets on a glass shelf in front of me.

Chocolate champagne to the left of me.

A drawer of chocolate light bulbs, piglets and streudels.

Cannoli and the famed cream caramels (to the far right in the photo below).  The cream caramels are a bite sized piece of heaven.  There is a layer of cream and also caramel inside each one.  I like chocolates that deliver what their names suggest.

Single origin chocolate truffles and ... macarons!  Jan sighed audibly as he admitted that ever since Masterchef it has been mandatory that every chocolatier in Sydney has to sell macarons or find themselves in chocolate Siberia (if that means being on your own with mountains of chocolate, that may not be such a bad thing....).

The macarons were even better than the ones I ate in Paris.  

I know it's not the greatest photo, but here are the chocolates I bought home.

The cream caramels, dark chocolate salted caramel centred chocolates and the Peruvian truffles.  They were the same chocolates we sampled at Belle Fleur.  They didn't last long.  Even Mr SSG, infamously oblivious to the charms of good chocolate, was unable to stop at just one piece.  


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