Sep 30, 2010

The Processed Foods Of Childood. It's Business (Class) Time.

I was at yoga last night and the funniest thing happened whilst I was attempting Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged forward bend).  My head hit the floorboards (intentionally).

This is an artist's representation and demonstration of what it should have looked like.

Image from http://www.yogajournal.com/
In reality, I was also bobbing my head up and down to check that it really was the floor that I was feeling.  Thankfully, no one else heard or saw me do this.  One of the benefits of having thick hair that refuses to stay in a sleek yoga-worthy ponytail.  To be completely scientific about whether this means I can really do the full pose, I will need to see how far I get at class next week.  Until then, I am savouring the heady (what a pun) moment.

Life has actually been pretty zen since that head on floor moment, it's been just over 24 hours but again, I am focussing purely on the here and now (I'm beginning to sound like a self help manual, apologies).  I got out of work on time after a steady day and made an early assault on the weekly shop.

It's been 20 years since I last ate a Wedgwood Party Pie - they were rectangular when I was a child and the firm camel yellow pastry was full of fake meaty goodness.  These days, it's all about flaky golden pastry and, I suspect, chunks of real meat.
I was strolling along, wired to iTunes when I just found the party pies in the frozen food aisle. I grinned at them through the freezer cabinet door.  They gave me misty water-coloured memories of the way we were (thank you Barbra).

Wedgwood Party Pies were a favourite school lunch of mine.  On Fridays, whilst getting us ready for school and my baby brother fed, my mother would heat up pies for my other brother and I to take to school for lunch.  I still like a hot lunch on Fridays to this day.

Then I found the Sara Lee cakes further along in the freezer area.  These were the favoured after school snack of my classmates and I.  They weren't play dates back then, it was 'going to so and so's house to play after school'.  There was much use of Barbie dolls, running around and imagination as well.  Chocolate was the most popular variety then Sara Lee's Pound Cake (with all that running around and use of brain power, kids were allowed to have full fat foods and childhood obesity rates wasn't prominent on the Government's health agenda).  I don't think pound cake is made anymore, which is a shame, there was something very soothing about the vanilla essence taste and dense moist crumbiness of the cake.

Once again, another childhood fave has gone a bit fancy - there are chocolate flakes on top of the frosting and it's not the thick pasty icing of my memories.

My reward for walking away?

A free chocolate bar.  The aptly named Bar of Plenty.  If I recall correctly, Carly Findlay made toll house cookies out of hers.  A really lovely girl dressed in a purple apron offered me one on a silver tray at Coles.  There was a choice of roast hazelnut and honey roast cashews or the berry version.  This whole paragraph sounds so trippy.  It must have been on account of my watching Glee tribute to Britney Spears episode last night.

It was a rather surreal night of Australian television.  Much has already been said about Sarah Murdoch and the 'hung winner' situation on ANTM.  Perhaps I jinxed things by asking about the finale episode in my blog entry the other night.....

I really feel for everyone involved but the way Sarah handled the mistake made her more human to me (no time to go into it here but I'm a huge fan and find Sarah inspiring).  We've all made hugely embarrassing gaffes in our lives but we have to dust ourselves off and make things right the best way we can.  Sooner or later, we all revisit the memories of what we did with laughter rather than cringing red in the face embarrassment.

Blogger is going all nutso on me. I had a photo of my free chocolate bar it won't upload.  You'll just have to imagine it.  It was casually lying on top of the new Louis Vuitton ad with a conscience.  Bono and his wife Ali feature in it.  Ali is a founder of Nude skincare (of the samples from Mecca Cosmetica that I have yet to try) and has designed a new bag for LV.  Part of the purchase price of which will go to a charity.

Take 2.  Here's the photo for the previous few paragraphs.


I'm a bit all over the shop tonight so perhaps it's not a suprise that Blogger is acting up.  Mr SSG surprised me with a spur of the moment trip this weekend.  We're off the the real (you know how I don't get NRL) AFL Grand Final (Replay) this weekend!!  We fly out Saturday morning and fly home to Sydney Sunday lunchtime.  I'm working late tomorrow night so I had to pack tonight.

The challenge was on.  How little could I get away with for 24 hours away?


I think hotel gyms are the perfect place for a little political satire, don't you?

Below, we have a textbook example of 'packing for one night away', courtesy of Mr SSG.


That's really all there is.  There will be none of that 'putting in the stuff you use in the morning' before zipping up the case for the taxi ride for Mr SSG.

If I get enough chances to practice, I just might get it one day.

Have a lovely evening and if I don't write again before flying out - have a great long weekend, or a weekend of good sport at the very least.

Sep 28, 2010

The SSG Faculty of Thrift Acquires OPI For the Greater Good. Online Shopping Attains Bipartisan Support in the Manor.

Our suburb is in spring cleaning mode.  It just hit me this  morning when the sun streamed through the slit between the curtains and I realized it was nearly bulk rubbish collection day.  It is beginning to feel like a flea market on our street with neat stacks of old bed frames, suitcases and the like on both sides of the road.   Mr SSG and I have contributed one arthritic golf caddy, a cardboard box and suitcase that has burst its zipper (it had nothing to do with my overpacking).

Being one suitcase down is a dire state of affairs.  It's just tempting fate to summon Qantas to offer $200 business class tickets direct to New York.  Something drastic had to be done.  Mr SSG braced himself  and made his first online purchase yesterday.  He was promised one day free delivery....


Unfortunately, the parcel that arrived today did not bear his name.  Rather, it was for the attention of the SSG Faculty of Thrift.  $45 worth of Art and Craft supplies.


Those crafty people at Trans Design.
It's not looking all that art and crafty under the lid though....




The title of this post gave it all away.  This is, of course, my order from Trans Design.  I was tipped off about this fabulous site by some regular readers of this blog.  $7 AUD for a bottle of OPI nail polish?  Shipping included?  The retail price here is $20.  There is a flat rate of $18 USD to ship a box of the size in my first photo.  This fits 9 full size OPI nail polishes which are $5.24 USD each.  

The Faculty of Thrift was intrigued.  Does the ACCC know about this?  If  not, had any pedicure loving Australian alerted them to the price gouging inequity?  Not to my knowledge.  I was left with no choice.  For the greater good of our country, I had no choice but to place an order.  Truly, in 2010, no Australian should have to pay $20 for a bottle of OPI nail polish.  After all the stressful uncertainties we have had to face this year with the Government and the AFL Grand Final.  It's the last straw.


Left to right: At First Sight, Lincoln Park After Dark, Coney Island Cotton Candy, Chocolate Moose.

Real university faculties may have their walls full of donated paintings and sculpture.  The fingers and toes of the SSG Faculty of Thrift will be adorned in wearable art.

Economies of scale dictated that I just had to order the full 9 bottles.  The un-photographed one was a bottle of OPI top coat.

Left to right: Canberra't Without You, Got the Blues For Red, Hopelessly in Love, Diva of Geneva.
I just need to wait for my manicure to dry before typing that report for the ACCC.

I'm turning in early tonight.  If you're staying up, hope the final of ANTM is exciting and eloquent.  Do tell me what Sarah wears.

Sep 26, 2010

Huong Xua, Cabramatta. Contraband Hair Clasps.

Wasn't today's sunny weather Glorious, Sydneysiders?

By breakfast time, it was clear that today was not going to be a day wasted indoors.  An adventure was in order.  It was exciting enough opening a new jar of jam but I was also figuring out how to get to Cabramatta for lunch.  


Perhaps using google maps would have been easier but I need an actual map to turn upside down and to the side so I  can really orientate myself.

The jam is delicious by the way, fruity,  not too sweet and has a thicker consistency.  It was handmade on a farm in Somerset and is part of the Prince of Wales' initiatives in organic farming.  I am not sure if Camilla is a fan but if she isn't, she should be.  I got mine from Simon Johnson.

I had more strawberries for morning tea.  This time from Coles where fresh strawberries are going cheap at $3 for 2 punnets.  I had wholesome ambitions of chopping those strawberries for a smoothie.  Then I opened the fridge and found some left over champagne, as you do.  A spontaneous strawberry cocktail was born.


Then I got to work on my mission to eat my way through Cabramatta.  I was inspired by Lorraine's post from last year on her blog Not Quite Nigella (if you don't read NQN on a regular basis, you are missing out) where she wrote about an impressive day tour of Cabramatta involving no less than 9 restaurants.  Lorraine, it was a legendary effort and sadly, we were no match, managing to only have one lunch and dessert today.

With Mr SSG driving the SSG mobile.  As Mr SSG casually noted, it's nearly done 100 000 km which means that we get to go car shopping soon.  It will be hard to say goodbye to my car, it's been with me for so many important moments of my adult life, it's been my constant companion for 6 years.  Triple J was our sound track.  I've only just rediscovered the Js this week.  It's been way too long since I tuned in.  It's a welcome change to the commercial FM stations at the moment and has introduced me to some exciting and new (for me) music. I do miss the days of Maynard and Michael Tunn though.

By the time we arrived, Cabraramatta was heaving.  The car parks were filling fast.


It was almost like being in Asia - there was a Hong Kong Shopping Plaza, a Lucky Plaza (memories of Singapore) and the scent of good food being cooked.



There was a festival atmosphere in the air.  Celebrations for the Moon Festival occurred last weekend.



Today, families, couples and gaggles of teenagers were enjoying the sun and in search of Sunday lunch and groceries.

Local women set up their own stalls in the mall area.

As seen on TV but unfortunately, I didn't have any room for the custard cakes.



Red lanterns and a sausage sizzle.

We found Huong Xua, 2 John St, Cabramatta, tel:9755 0388.


All the tables were full just before noon but turnover was quick and we were soon seated.



I didn't need a menu, I had the Not Quite Nigella blog post open and my mind was made up.  I was going to have the bun nem, fried spring rolls with noodles.

The fresh green walls mirrored the generous serves of mint, basil and lettuce that accompanied all of our dishes.

To start, Mr SSG and I shared some cray fish cakes.  I like how the Vietnamese serve fried food with large amounts of salad and zingy sauces.

Crayfish cakes.

The fish sauce based dipping sauce also featured lightly pickled vegetables.  There was a second sauce that was a deep purple colour and tasted of prawns.  It was only when we had eaten that I passed by other tables of diners and saw that the 2 sauces are actually mixed together to taste.   I should have asked in the first place.

The bun nem were delicious.  Not greasy and generously filled with pork mince.  This was a very popular choice at lunch today.  The rolls are made with rice paper rather than the spring roll skins favoured by the Chinese.  It was filling and suprisingly light.  I did some strange things involving wrapping lettuce leaves around pieces of spring roll.  It was a very tactile meal.

Bun nem, fried spring rolls filled with pork mince and served with salad and vermicelli.

There was a choice of additional sauces including soy, hoi sin and chilli.

There was a thermos of hot tea at the ready on the table too.  It was perfectly acceptable to pour  a little on the table and wipe it down with the tissues or you could drink it.

Mr SSG had beef and vermicelli soup.

Huong Xua on Urbanspoon

 
Well nourished, we began to explore the city.

Flowers for sale.

A bewildering array of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The city gate at the mall.

"The world is for us to share and to respect".

There were many stone sculptures in the city centre.  Many were of animals and relate to the astrological signs of the Lunar calender.



There 8 Ingredients Dessert (or 3 for a smaller up) involves your choice of an array of beans, jellies and canned fruits that are served on ice with a little syrup.

8 ingredient dessert.





There was too much choice.  I played safe by opting out entirely.  I had a coconut jelly instead - a cup of jelly with a thin layer of coconut cream on top.

The coconut jellies are the white topped desserts to the right.

No trip to Asia is complete without bargains and here are mine.  Let's call these my no name hair clasps which happen to bear designs very similar to others that the discerning readership of this blog will find familiar.  I found them at one of the beauty wholesalers in Cabramatta.  The white clip was around $8 and the beige was $7.




Sep 25, 2010

Liz Hurley's White Jeans. Taking A Punt on Phantoms.

Does anyone else ever look at their fingernails and wonder, how and why?  It's actually very relaxing having a visual to focus on as you engage in a little deep breathing and attempt to clear your  mind of the trivial and irrelevant.  I'm at work, having a little quiet time and taking a break from researching topics I need to reaaquaint myself with for the coming week.


As your mind clears and your posture becomes less stooped, your personal existential journey begins.  How did I get that French manicure?  Are those fingernails really mine?  White really suits my skin tone.  I really need a pair of white jeans this spring.  Do I realize how much maintenence is involved with white nail polish and clothing?

Which is where Liz or should that be Elizabeth Hurley comes into the picture.

I haven't kept myself fully up to date with New Idea, Women's Day or Hello so I'm not sure exactly where Liz is at with her life at the moment beyond being a mum, in a relationship and having a swimwear line.
I do know that she has moved on from the safety pin dress and Hugh Grant.  Possibly onward to sheer saris, as the The Daily Mail noted on February 24 2010.

Image courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk/


But surely the white jeans will be forever?
Image courtesy of http://www.denimology.com/

Is there just the one pair that is immaculately laundered by her full time maid or does she have 10 identical pairs (possibly also maintained by said maid) that fly everywhere with her?  Were they from the denim floor at Bloomingdales in Manhattan?  The place where every woman can find a pair of jeans that instantly make them look taller and thinner.  And then go to the ground floor and buy MAC and Kiehl's at what appear to be wholesale prices for visiting Australians.

It is all open to conjecture and speculation - Liz's jeans that is (not the superior shopping experience that is Bloomingdales).  Liz started being a celebrity way back in the day when the precise details of an actress's wardrobe wasn't widely known in the public domain.  Back when supermodels not actresses graced fashion spreads, cosmetic campaigns and the covers of the glossy magazines.  When the famous and genetically blessed knew their turf and stuck to it.

However, now is not the time to be wallowing in the past.  So I was browsing on Revolve today (of the free international shipping fame) and found myself a pair of white skinny leg jeans.  They are by Citizens of Humanity and they are called Phantom.  After a bit of googling, I discovered that Kourtney Kardashian wears them.  She's curvy by Hollywood standards and has just had a baby.  She looks radiant and as close to 'a really well toned normal woman' as she'll ever be - within weeks she'll return to her pre-baby perfect body.  So as not to be completely star struck, I also noted that there were also favourable reviews by Revolve customers.  I took the plunge and bought them.

I'll have a chat about them when they arrive. 

In the meantime, what about the AFL Grand Final today?!?  A hung parliament and now a hung Grand Final.  Which means we all get to relive the traditional Grand Final festivities next Saturday.  This time around, the AFL Commission has decided that they will play into extra time should there be another tie.  Good times and a result in just over two hours.  Perhaps hung parliaments should be managed in a similar fashion.

I wonder how the teams are faring?  The build up to the game today and then the news that they will have to do it all again next weekend.  I don't think the fans will mind.  It's a dream come true for some AFL fans I know - 2 consecutive weekends in front of the television with a supply of pizza, chips, party pies and beer for sustenence. I am so sorely tempted to fly to Melbourne that weekend as it will be a long weekend in Sydney.

Sep 24, 2010

Curry and the Commonwealth Revisited on Friday Evening.

I don't know how you're feeling about the week from the perspective of Friday evening but I'm so glad the week is done.  Perhaps the Planning Committee for the Delhi Commonwealth Games isn't quite feeling the joy.  So little time, so much to do.  There is lively debate in Australia at the moment.  I can understand the reasons athletes may choose not to attend.  Public opinion is divided and it has been interesting to listen to the perspective of Indians in Australia reflecting on how life really is in India when large amounts of money and lucrative government contracts are involved.

There is the small matter of having to work most of tomorrow but it's okay, I start at lunchtime.  That softens the blow somewhat - I can stay up late tonight and can also plan a lazy Sunday. Is planning a lazy Sunday a contradiction in terms though?  Thought so.  I'm passing the buck to Mr SSG.  Don't worry, I'm sure the final outcome will make its way to the blog.

I've spent the week clothed in shades of grey and black.  It's been wintry here in Sydney but come Friday, it actually got rather warm.

Which was  a great excuse to exercise creativity when wearing jeans.  An occasional event in the SSG dressing for work schedule.  A scarf as a belt.  Exciting times.  I'm not quite brave enough to wear red faux lizard leggings as pants as seen kerbside as I was driving home from work.  The images that sear themselves on your memory when you're in peak hour traffic.


CR navy jacket, beige Kookai top, Paige Premium Denim jeans and that vintage Hermes Ceres scarf that's been around for a while on this blog.
On arriving home, I decided to unwind by making a pie.  The perfect dish for using up wilted vegetables and things in the freezer.  The recipe is based on one I received from the people who do our fruit and vegetable home delivery, Flemington Direct.


Various vegetables diced and then par boiled form the healthy part of the pie filling.  No need for a side serve of vegies tonight. 


As I look back on the week in dinners, I realize that I've had quite a few curries.  Then I had a little chat about yoga the other night and tonight, the games in Delhi.  I'm not going to mess with a good theme (India).  I'm going to carry on the theme with a Curried Chicken Pie (perhaps if it involved Keen's Curry Powder, it's more of an Anglo-Indian theme).

The flavour component of the pie - curry powder and cream of chicken soup plus an egg to bind.  I can't remember the last time I opened a can of cream of chicken soup.  It's not exactly glamorous.


It's Friday night.  We can all make like the late Keith Floyd and brown our chicken, onions and garlic with a soothing beverage on hand.




The browned skinless chicken breast fillets are combined with the vegetables and the curry powder/egg/can of soup mix.  Plus more seasoning if you are so inclined.

That pie filling is a rather vivid shade of mustard....

To assemble the pie, defrost 2 sheets of puff pastry.  This is the first time I've finished a packet of puff pastry before it has succumbed to freezer burn.  I have my decor pastry box to thank for this.


I have come to the conclusion that it is easier to make an attractive looking normal pie (with a pastry base and top) rather than the healthy low carb version (just a pastry top).  That extra layer of pastry also goes down a treat.


Right.  Better get to bed.  Have a lovely evening and if you're having an AFL Grand Final do tomorrow - I've got my fingers crossed for good weather for you.

Sep 23, 2010

Ueno Yabu Soba, Ueno, Tokyo.

I don't have a great track record with hunting down restaurants listed in travel guides.  Despite the clear maps and detailed addresses, I always seem to get lost.  Or distracted.

It was even more of a challenge in Japan because of the way addresses work there.  After walking around aimlessly for the first few days we were there, it suddenly clicked.  Addresses are based on where a building is in location to a block on a street and the numbers in the address reflect this.  There are few street numbers.  An anomaly in a country as precise and organized as this.  Or perhaps not, it must make sense to someone otherwise the system would not remain in place to this day.


When we were in Ueno, I had my heart set on visiting Ueno Yabu Soba, 6-9-16 Ueno, Taito-ku.  It is famous for its zaru-soba, or buckwheat noodles.  

To quote my guidebook, "Look for the black granite sign in front that says in English, 'Since 1892'."  Perhaps some of my conviction to visit lay in the fact that it had a sign that was partially in English.

Whatever the case, I must have had my sat nav Birkis on because in amongst all the laneways of the area, I found the sign, as described.



Here's a photo of the restaurant's more prominent signage against the backdrop of the numerous other businesses that were crammed along the narrow streets.



It was one of those firsts that Mr SSG had to celebrate with a cold beer.

Due to the extreme heat and humidity, Mr SSG had to drink the largest bottles of beer available in Japan to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
Flushed with a sense of achievement (and the 36C heat), I sat back on the second floor of the restaurant and gazed outwards through bamboo blinds.



We started with tamagoyaki, a rolled omelette that is a little sweet and flavoured with dashi.

Tamagoyaki

Then the famed zaru soba.  It is such a light yet filling meal.  I don't really eat this at all in Sydney and am now inspired to hunt it out for lunch as a change from my usual favourite of several sushi hand rolls.


The question is, how to eat them?  The noodles arrived topped with nori but there was a bottle of sauce on the side plus an empty bowl under a dish of condiments.  

A couple sitting next to us sensed my confusion and kindly set me on the right path.  The noodle sauce is poured into the bowl and the garnishes added to taste.  Then, chopstick swirls of noodles are plunged into the sauce before being slurped up.  The slurp was emphasized.  When you have finished your meal, the waitress will pour either hot water or stock into your noodle bowl and this is drunk like a soup.

Toward the back of the eating area is a glass enclosed area where the noodles are made by hand.


There were also take home packs of ingredients.


Back to Sydney time.  I've just watched the first episode of Glee Season 2.  Wasn't it brilliant?  The song arrangements made me smile.  My favourites were Empire State of Mind, What I Did For Love and Telephone.  I'm off to Itunes to download.

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