Aug 31, 2010

Chicken Tonight, Yesterday Afternoon and In Between Meals. A Thirtysomething Married Woman's Take On the Emmy Awards.

My Tuesday posts traditionally benefit from the wit and wisdom of Terry Durack and his weekly restaurant review for the SMH's Good Living section.  This week, Terry received fan mail from a 10 year old and made good on her restaurant recommendation to him, an excellent fish and chip shop called The Battery, 15/425 Bourke St, Surry Hills. Isn't it often the difference between children and adults?  That a child can sum up all that she likes about something in a few punchy sentences while we in the adult world take our time over well constructed paragraphs and the development of themes and word images.

Like Terry, I have had a great feed of fish and chips (only a few chips picked out of Mr SSG's takeaway container when we were at the fish market last week to load up on the next 3 months of salmon, ling and cod fillets) but I have moved on this week.  To chicken.  In all it's glorious permuations - the 'real deal' in vaccum sealed packs at Coles, rotisserie chicken from Coles (I Love Coles, it's not just a homebrand, it's also a way of life) in a recent Thai takeaway and in the more ..... synthetic range of chicken products.  I think it was being deprived of chicken (and Sydney Thai) whilst I was away.  I've seriously eaten chicken for at least one main meal a day since our return to Sydney.

It's not all high end or wholesome cuisine at SSG Manor.  Those Otori nuggets were from my Asian supermarket tour in Bankstown last month.  They are chicken nugget flavoured corn snacks.  They are sweet yet a little salty, it could be that elusive fifth taste of Japanese cuisine, umami.  Which is a more exotic way of saying MSG laden.


The Chicken In A Can needs no introduction.




How can anyone resist an ad like that?  Is it just me, or does everyone do the chicken dance on their sofas in sync with the animated cans?  Perhaps it is just me.

Surprisingly, to paraphrase Jessica Simpson, it does taste like chicken.  I had a refrigerated can over my salad and it was fine.  No mystery bits, just chicken that looked like chicken.  I feel as if I have completed one of life's defining culinary experiences, it's right up there with sampling molecular gastronomy, surely.

This is a close up of my other culinary chicken adventure.


Interestingly, these are lighter than they look.  The food equivalent of wearing sack dresses or black footless tights as pants.  Happily, the nuggets are a more satisfying if ephemeral experience.  There is a real danger in forgetting how many you've eaten they just disappear that quickly.

Speaking of quick disappearances, I am rather hopeful of the next few hours flying past.  It's been a long day and I'd love to get home and see Mr SSG and the 2 parcels he is minding for me.  I think one is from the land of Apple - Photoshop Elements and the other may well be from the isle of Kiehls.

But before I go, The Emmy Awards.  As usual, there were many defining looks and beautiful people out and about.  It was great to see that my favourite programmes The Good Wife, Glee and The Modern Family all received acclaim and recognition from their peers on the night.

But this is my favourite photo from the night.  It's as close to star worship a thirtysomething married woman gets.
Image courtesy of gofugyourself.com

I love Allan Cumming's and Archie Panjabi's characters almost as much as I love Juliana Margulies'.  Can't wait for season 2, or at least the boxed set of season one of The Good Wife.

Congrats, Archie!!  Love your work and your boots!!

Aug 30, 2010

The Return To Work. His and Hers Birkenstocks At Yoga.

My body has a great memory.  My first day back at work was not as painful as I had feared.  The alarm clock went off and I instantly snapped into my work day routine.  I was on autopilot on my run (nice that dawn actually features a bit of sunrise these days as opposed to the darkness of a few weeks ago) and found the drive in early peak hour(s) reassuring.  I got to the office, made myself that eye opening cup of Moccona and it was almost as if I'd never been away at all.

Just like for school children back for the first day of term (and possibly for every day of term, you poor parents), I had a clean and pressed outfit laid out last night.  Unlike school - I even included a piece of jewelry, my RPE Lady Melbourne necklace.  At least now I don't have to worry about regulation coloured hair ties, how to make my hair bouff up like Fergie (the Duchess, see below), which colour of Impulse spray to suffocate myself with or even which boys may or may not be walking down the street on the way to school at the same time as I.  Life is definitely so much simpler these days.


The skirt was even better than freshly ironed and dry cleaned because it was BRAND NEW.  I 'found' it on Sunday in my secondary wardrobe.  A Veronika Maine bargain from the DJs winter sale this year.  Very forgiving tulip skirt for the post holiday body I might add.

Image courtesy of news.com.au.
Sarah Ferguson's hair was to 1986 what Jennifer Aniston's is to 1991 until the present.

I was so with the programme, I even made it to yoga tonight.

However, before the body and mind can be challenged in the way of Mr Iyengar, it needs energy.  Preferably chocolate based.

Chocolate Weetbix with Max Brenner chocolate powder, a healthier  crunchy chocolate milkshake than say... Coco Pops?

The chocolate cereal was a good move.  Tonight we pretzeled ourselves like there was no tomorrow (which there may not be if I fail to get out of bed tomorrow on account of being too loosened up in my major muscle groups).  Then there was my misadventure whilst doing a shoulder stand. I blame MorrocanOil for causing my hair to be silky enough to move my head whilst I was trying to balance the rest of my body on top of it.  On the up side, I survived Mr SSG and I are truly a Balmain yoga power couple.  We arrived and departed class shod in his and hers Birkenstocks for the very first time.  It was whilst we where in Kyoto that Mr SSG chose to see the light and appreciate Birkis for all the arch support that they are.

Enough about me.  I've just checked the news and we still don't have a PM.  Centrebet is telling me that odds favour a LNP minority government but there has not been any real news out of Canberra for the last week so who really knows?  We should all have celebratory barbecue lunches, a public holiday even, when the news finally is announced, one way or another.  How can Australia be without a PM this close to Grand Final weekend?  It's unAustralian.

There has been progress for the miners in trapped underground in Chile though.  Today was the first time they established verbal contact with their loved ones.  The rescue team were finally able to set up a phone line that could reach the 33 trapped men.  Each was allowed 1 minute to speak to their loved ones.  There is also a single supply shoot that enables goods to be transported to the group.  It's apparently the diameter of a soup can.  Theoretically anything that size can be shuttled down the tube. Cans of beer or coke, Mint Slice or Tim Tams, Arnotts BBQ shapes (minus the cardboard box) come to mind.  There must be healthy things too?  Fruit (bananas may need extra padding to prevent bruising), yoghurt, cans of soup.  Sadly everything but 4 months of sunshine, moonlight, fresh air, touches and glances from loved ones.

Well, regular readers may have noticed something absent from today's post.  Japan!

Not for long though.



I found the kimmidoll brand in Market City on the weekend.  I bought this luggage tag as a gift for a friend overseas.  There are pens, bag hooks, magnets and even a baby range.  All very reasonably priced.  They are an Australian brand too.

Gotta go.  I am in the work routine zone.  I'm going to lay out another outfit so that tomorrow runs as smoothly as today.

Take care, have a good one and don't worry, there is plenty more Japan on the horizon.

Aug 29, 2010

Le Cafe de Joel Robuchon, Tokyo.

There's only one way to describe the Nihombashi Takashimya in Tokyo - genteel.

Mr SSG and I visited the store on my birthday (lunch at Joel Rubuchon, dinner at Beige Alain Ducasse, it was such an ordeal).  It's a short walk from the Shangri-La and Takashimya has a special program for hotel guests.  The store offers a personal shopper to help translate your requests to sales staff, your purchases can be delivered to your hotel room at a time convenient to you (with Goyard, Hermes, a Christian Louboutin concession and Louis Vuitton on the ground floor, power shoppers really only have one place to stay whilst in Tokyo) and complimentary drinks at the restaurant of your choice in the store.

I'll not keep you in suspense any longer.  I didn't buy a thing.

The interior is much like DJs in Sydney.  Marble and Grecian light fittings.  There is a lady in each lift who steps out to welcome shoppers into the lift, calls each level as it approaches and presses the buttons (for those with hands full of shopping bags).  In fact, the patrons were very DJs too.  Glamorous young mothers with prams and very elegant ladies who lunch.  

One place where everyone seemed to lunch at was Le Cafe de Joel Robuchon which was casually tucked away on the second floor behind some major European labels.

Authenticity and attention to detail is evident everywhere in the Tokyo shopping experience.  Each area of the big department stores faithfully recreates the experience of a cafe for food, a boutique for the designer labels etc.




The cafe was decorated in lush red with glossy black highlights.



Joel Robuchon is a major culinary entity in Tokyo.  He as least 2 other restaurants in Tokyo, one in Ebisu and another in Roppongi.

Taillevent Robuchon, Ebisu
The desserts echoed the colour scheme perfectly.




Sometimes, there can be too much choice.  My shameful secret - there were times in Japan where the choice of cakes was so overwhelming I walked out of patisseries empty handed.  


Iced coffee.
Club sandwich, french fries, pickles and cold tomato soup. Somehow, tomatoes are sweeter in Japan.
As we ate, perfectly coiffed ladies would glide in, seemingly immune to the humidity outside, dressed in autumn weight clothing.  Their favourite dish from the menu was the foie gras, eaten the French way.  Foie gras is also very popular in the teppanyaki restaurants of the area too.

Lemon tart with cookies.  Covering all the major dessert food groups.
Rhubarb dessert.




The Imperial Palace Gardens, Tokyo.

The parks of big cities are a welcome escape when the sky scrapers and crowds threaten to swallow you with their size.  They really are the heart and lungs of congested, concrete metropolises.

I took these photos when we went for a walk in the Imperial Palace Gardens in Tokyo.

Yes, I have discovered the power that is Editing Photos.  I hope the vivid greens and blues don't trip you out too much.

Why immortalize the gardens of Tokyo on your blog like this.



When you can coax out any green or blue the clouds hid from you on the day with a bit of colour tweaking (learned from a patient youngster on YouTube, the TAFE for the digital generation).
To the left, 20th century office blocks, to the right, a forrest of trees conceals the perimeter of the palace gardens.  In the middle, a lone swan.  Each section of the moat surrounding the palace has its own name.
The east meets west in Tokyo is even more pronounced in this photo.



It was so peaceful in the park.  Despite the early hour, quite a few people were out and about.

The men in the background of this photo appeared to be getting dressed for work.  I hope they hadn't spent the night on the benches because it was around 7.30 am when I took this photo.

The moat that surrounds the Imperial Palace and Nijubashi Bridge, leading directly to the front gate of the palace.


Part of the official gateway into the city - the Sakuradamon Gate.  It doesn't lead anywhere at the moment.
Detail of the wooden gate as you walk through it.

Statue of Kusunoki Masahige - the 14th century samurai who fought the shoguns for power over Japan.  He is considered the idol of samurai loyalty.

The public are not allowed anywhere near the Imperial Palace unless it is officially open on either New Years or the Emperor's Birthday.  It is still the private residence of the imperial family.  This is one of the palace gates.  Don't think it's the main one.
After the park, we strolled through the streets and returned to a world of granite and marble.




Even the drain caps are beautiful in Tokyo.

That's coke zero zero - sugar free and caffeine free.  What's the point, I now realize in retrospect.

Each tree is lovingly cared for and nurtured.



In less exciting news, I found prunes at one of the fancy basement supermarkets.

That's not my trolley, I only bought 1 package.

Our eclectic breakfast.  Invigorated by the fresh air and greenery, we tried for a healthy breakfast - hence the prunes and yoghurt.  Mr SSG bought some vegeterian noodles (you microwave your food at the store before you leave) and green tea flavoured bread rolls.  I just had to have a sandwich and hot coffee (with the mercury hitting 28C in the morning, I know, I know).

Fried pork cutlet is a perfectly acceptable sandwich filling in Japan and I  wholeheartedly approve,

Aug 28, 2010

Hello Kitty In Harajuku. Was That A Love Hotel In Shibuya?

For a change, my laptop and I spent yesterday quietly focussed and goal orientated.  The only window that had been open (mostly) has been Word and I didn't update my facebook status for several hours.  I've finished the draft of my life or death paper and have emailed it to my co-authors for their review.  Fingers crossed. I am back at work on Monday and can see from now that there will be few spare moments to tackle abstracts and tracked changes.

So now I'm free!  

Catching up on current affairs.  I'm showing my age by flipping past the antics of the Twilight stars,  Taylor Momsen and Lourdes (including her mother, Madge the Immortal).  My persons of interest? Jennifer Aniston, Brangelina, Beyonce, Paris and Posh.


Britters has been missing from the front cover of NW for way too long.  I feel as if the natural order has been restored.

I had to slip in my bottle of Moroccanoil (one word, apparently).  It co-ordinates perfectly with the colours of both magazine covers.  It's good stuff, Moroccanoil.  I've been using it daily since getting back from Japan and it's made my hair soft without residue build up, just like what the bottle says.  It smells lovely too.  Pretty much Elin or Brit (post AMAZING MAKEOVER, as per the cover of NW) worthy hair except that I'm not blonde.  I'd like to be able to tell you more about Who but Mr SSG has made of with it, congratulating me on 'finally buying a magazine that has something to say about the world'.

Which leaves me now to my own devices on this glorious Saturday morning.  I'm planning to take it easy.  Going for a run this afternoon (just couldn't do it this morning) after shopping running some errands in the city.  I've gotten it into my head that this is about the time in my photography learning curve to embrace the magic that is Photoshop Elements.  I'll give it a go tonight and see how my snaps look afterward.

Before I go, let's relive the SSG tour highlights of Harajuku, Aoyama and the search for Love Hotel Hill....

If I've said it one too many times, I'm sorry but it was HOT.  Before arriving in Tokyo, I had grand plans of intense explorations of each area of Tokyo based on my guide book recommendations.  Mr SSG and I would ride the metro to the designated stop, walk beyond the shopping centre attached to the stop and explore a park, a museum and one or two landmarks - at a minimum.  After all, isn't Japan a really small country, wouldn't everything just be practically on top of each other... and wouldn't the weather be just like Sydney's is now?  The sunlight sort of looks gentle and pleasant....

Princess, 36C is 36C no matter where you are on the planet.  Most sensible people only venture  into the heat to get from A to B and did you notice the distinct absence of tourists on the Metro with you?  Another interesting point to remember is that for the most part, the Japanese don't seem to feel the need for Arctic temperature air conditioning in their public buildings.  I'm used to the brief scurry onto a hot road before re-entering another freezing building.  

I'm getting to the point.  I have to be straight.  My exploration of Tokyo is rather short on culture.  It was an achievement to step out of the Metro exits, walk for 30 minutes before seeking refuge with a cold drink or in a shady shopping centre.

Harajuku station was a case in point.

If I crossed this bridge, I would be able to explore Yoyogi Park and observe both youth culture and the natural beauty of a Japanese park.  However, as my face melted and my clothes started sticking to me, my will started to crumble.



If I stayed on this side of the bridge and walked down this avenue, Meiji-dori, surely air conditioning and and ice cold drink couldn't be far?
Meiji-dori is another shopping avenue that lacks the massive billboards and awnings usually found in areas like this.  Store signs were discrete and were set well back from the street, behind the wide sidewalks on either side of the road.

Meiji-dori won.  We walked into a branch of a local coffee chain and revived with an ice coffee.  I quite liked the coffee in Japan.  Better than France, to be honest.  There is a real taste to it even  in coffee chains.  In addition to granulated sugar, gum syrup is offered to sweeten cold drinks.  You can also add milk - see how much smaller their portions of milk are compared to ours?  It was the same with yoghurt.

By day 3, I had abandoned my foolhardy routine of a hot coffee on a daily basis.

Finally, I felt as if we were in the real Japan.  My first Hello Kitty sighting.



Conveniently, selling ice cream.

One strawberry sundae with 2 Hello Kitty waffles and cornflakes at the bottom.  Gone in 60 seconds.
I think kimonoes are beautiful.  I couldn't resist taking photos of women wearing them.  The contrast of the gown and its fabrics against the modern city backdrop is one of those  unique images of urban Japan.



If you take a walk through the side streets off Meiji-dori, you will find narrower streets of more indie boutiques.  There is a European feel to the way these streets are decorated.



All cultures are appreciated here.  Beyond the high end European labels, many lifestyle brands representing disparate elements of youth culture have staked their claim in this part of the city.



It got a bit cheeky at times....

That was a cheap pun.  I'm pretty sure this was an underwear store.  

Further along, we discovered some of the educational facilities in the area - nice to take a break from the shops once in a while.  This statue is outside Tokyo Metropolitan Children's Hall, I think.


An organic grower's market at the United Nations University.

Despite the heat, there were people just casually browsing and eating as if it were a mild spring day.  Can you tell how badly I cope with the heat, yet?
I think Japan out Frenches the French.  This is one part of the window display for a Japanese branch of Pierre Herme.

It didn't matter which part of Tokyo I found myself in, if we are talking cakes and biscuits,  it goes without saying that the stores would be immaculate and that the baked goods would be treated as if they were high fashion accessories.

Some groundwork for fellow shopaholics.

This is a Ralph Lauren mansion.  It is a separate building behind the main avenue of designer shops.  You are greeted at the door by a buff sales assistant (you've seen the ads, well the staff just walk off the photoshoot and get back to work).  One can then walk inside and look at the crystal chandelier from the wood paneled 'study' that stores the standard issue polo shirts.  There is a marble staircase under the chandelier that leads you up to some serious clothes in a series of airy rooms decorated in the Ralph Lauren style.  It is a bit of a spectacle.



I  may have told you about my map reading problems.  And that the problems magnify when I'm feeling hot and bothered?  

Our next mission was to find Love Hotel Hill.  Not that we were in need of another hotel room (it would prove to be very difficult to say goodbye to our current digs...).  I was just curious.  Much is said in the Western press about them and I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

We found ourselves in Shibuya, at Dogenzaka which is where they are all meant to be.  After much map turning, looking at street signs and asking friendly 7-11 staff whilst we stood in front of their air conditioners or the beer fridge (if you happen to be Mr SSG).

If you were a Love Hotel, you'd want to be discrete at street level, wouldn't you?

Really hope this is a Love Hotel.
But still have a little sign indicating what was on offer.


I sticky beaked past the front door but sadly have nothing juicy to report.

Definitely the right street.

My curiosity satisfied (sometimes it doesn't take much), we made our way back to the metro.

I love the futuristic skyline of Japanese buildings.  It made me feel as if I was on a movie set.

Mural on a wall inside the station.



Have a lovely Saturday!  I'll be back soon.

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