Aug 31, 2011

Yet More Trying Times.

When it comes to pregnancy and fertility, I am consistent if nothing else.

I went for a routine 8 week ultrasound this morning confident that 6 solid weeks of nausea, bloating, constipation, fatigue and crankiness had to mean something positive.  It didn't.  The heart beat that was there 2 weeks ago was nowhere to be found.  I am going to surgery tomorrow.

The world is  pretty messed up place to me at the moment.  I'm seriously questioning a God that puts a woman through 2 pregnancy losses in one year.  The sadistic cruelty of that second pregnancy being seemingly normal one moment and then non viable the next.

How do you make sense of the world in times like these?  I'm not really trying.  I first got the news whilst lying down in the darkened ultrasound room.  It was broken to me by a young radiographer who possibly never had to go through what she was now telling me.  It's hard to express your true emotions when you're in a pretty compromising position.  Politely nodding whilst speechless at the news was all I could manage.

I got myself dressed and waited in the Quiet Room as my report was being typed and the radiologist was getting things ready to meet me.  I'd never noticed the room on all the previous occasions I'd been to the clinic.  He was going to be a while.  I was allowed to go for a walk to get some air.  The room would be mine when I returned.

Outside, life continued.  The sun was still shining, the traffic still constant, the traffic lights still favouring cars not pedestrians.    I had promised myself a chocolate caramel slice after the ultrasound.  Back when I was cautiously confident that I was just walking my full bladder and bloated stomach to a routine scan where I would see my baby's hear beating on a flat screen television.  I got that caramel slice, I ordered it in my most normal everyday voice.  Not a quaver, not an awkward swallow.  I also ordered my first medium skinny mocha in 5 weeks.

The time for tearful speech was back in the Quiet Room when I made all the phone calls I had to make.  Sent the emails and messages I had to send.  The love and support I received in those interactions made me realize that the cynics who curse society's dependence on the electronic media have got it very wrong.

The radiologist arrived and we met in the Quiet Room.  If there's anything good about mascara and eyeliner running halfway down your face under your glasses, it is that it breaks down patient doctor barriers.  The conversation was not as hard as I thought it would be.  The arrangements were made, people were phoned.  I got back to my office, organized what I had to and drove home.

And here I am.  I'm going to hospital tomorrow and will probably be out of action for a week or so after. It is time that I will choose to spend wisely.  I will not be dwelling on what God is trying to tell me.  Nor will I be questioning my role as a woman in modern Australia - the perennial buyer of chic gifts for other people's children versus the indulgent mother (eventually) of our own much wanted child.  I will try hard to ignore my feelings about the fertility of the world in general.  I will not try to justify, to understand, to rationalize.  The true answers will probably be beyond me for the rest of my life.

Instead, I will look after myself.  Heal and recover.  Do things that make me happy.  Spend real time with Mr SSG.  Be kind to myself.  I will be back on the blog when the time is right.

Take care and God bless.

Aug 30, 2011

The Weeknight Book Club: Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin.

After a long hiatus, The Weeknight Book Club returns.  I've just finished reading another Emily Giffin novel, Heart of the Matter.

Image from
Heart of the Matter studies relationships and the way they change after a few years of marriage and a few children have made their mark on the carefree, impulsive and romantic individuals that met all those years ago.

Tessa is leading a comfortable upper middle class life in Boston as the stay at home wife of Nick, one of the city's best paediatric plastic surgeons.  Tessa gave up her academic career to devote herself to Nick and their two young children.  A decision that ocasionally plagues Tessa with guilt as her mother warned her to never do this and 'lose her self' for a man who may then take it all for granted and cheat (Tessa's parents divorced after her mother discovered her father's numerous affairs).  On top of this, Tessa is struggling to find herself in a new world of boisterous children and tennis playing mothers who gossip and lunch.  It becomes difficult for Tessa to know who her real friends in the group are as the mothers compete for places at private school and juicy gossip.

Valerie, on the other hand, is a single mother to Charlie.  She turned her life around by becoming a successful lawyer on completing a law degree at a prestigious university.  Charlie's father was a mediocre artist whose dreams were much more vivid than his talent and probably does not even know that he and Valerie have a child.

Their worlds collide through Nick.  Charlie's face is burned horifically in a sleep over accident and Nick is the surgeon who operates on him.  Tessa hears of the accident through the catty gossip of the ladies who tennis group.  She feel more compassion for Valerie than the woman whom all the ladies are siding with - a prominent society fixture who fears that Tessa will sue the family for what happened.
Nick takes a liking to Charlie over the months that he treats the boy in hospital.  Nick also befriends Valerie and innocent cups of coffee in the hospital cafeteria develop into dinners which then develop into 'house calls'. 

It is not long before Tessa is alerted of the affair and the lives of she, Nick and Valerie all begin to unravel.  A series of confrontations ensue and the novel ends with new beginnings for all three.
I'll be straight.  This was a well written chick lit novel that was easy to read and kept me turning the pages.  The narrative was well balanced between Tessa and Valerie without the sometimes annoying extremes that Rachel and Darcy were painted as in the Something Borrowed series.  Incidentally, Rachel is married to Dex who is Tessa's brother in this novel.

I found the ending satisfying.  It reflects the reality of long term relationships where no one is perfect and compromises are made however the reasons these compromises are made are never forgotten.  So life within the relationship is never quite the same again.  No matter what either party hopes or pretends.  This is probably the kind of chick lit you read when you're happy and secure about your own life and have overdosed on the details of Kim Kardashian's wedding and Beyonce's bump!

Aug 28, 2011

Girlfriends. Some Kelly Magic.

Sunday mornings start slowly in the city.  After a bit of a sleep in, it slowly stretches and opens its eyes to the hazy morning light.

For a brief moment, the footpath holds clues as to where people were last night and what they were up to.  Then the cleaning crews come through and flushes the evidence away in a gush of water.

The business district is deserted except for the hotels and a few tourist friendly cafes.  Intrepid joggers hit the promenade by the ferries as they stride toward the Opera House.

I find the hotel where my conference is being held and have some time to just sit back and relax in the reception area.  I feel like I'm on holiday just being inside this plush hotel.  Without the drama of having to worry about checking out and rushing to catch a taxi for the flight home which are the big draw backs of conferencing outside of your home city.

The conference was fantastic.  Well organized, excellent educational content and the speakers managed to be both inspiring and approachable.  But perhaps the best part of this weekend was  being able to catch up with my colleagues on both professional and personal levels.  We shared some pretty career defining years together in our training and now here we all are, on the other side.  Our jobs and families have taken us all to different parts of the city and it really is impossible to meet up outside of events like this.  It meant a lot to me to be able to chat about how everyone's made the professional transition.  Say what you like, a good gossip with girl friends leaves everyone feeling better about things.

Scarf - Hermes, scarf ring - Mai Tai Collection, blazer - Ralph Lauren.
It's been a weekend of scarves.  Today I went for orange.

Sigh.  Really went for orange.  After several months of inactivity in the French Friends of SSG sector, it was time to do my bit for the Euro.  I get these ideas into my head whenever I'm in the city for work related purposes.  It just seems ludicrous to not make full use of my time there.  Who knows when I'll be back?  Next weekend for the David Jones Flower Show, actually.

How could I not but a scarf called Magic Kelly?  It's a little bit disco with silver and gold stars on a yellow and black background.  Just what I need for my Monday work outfit, I think.

I hope you've had a lovely weekend.

Stay well and talk to you soon,

Aug 27, 2011

Custom Brunch. Kaftans. The World's Best Spag Bol.

You win some and you lose some as a pot plant in The SSG She Shed.

If you're a Calypso, you're positively blooming at the moment.

If you happen to be a peace lily, you are undergoing a period of intense internal conflict and possibly have some self esteem issues.  Which is why you've been pruned ruthlessly.  A new do is symbolic of a fresh start whether you're a pot plant or post major relationship break up.

Fortunately, the humans of SSG Manor are having no such issues.  Mr SSG had the urge to cook spaghetti bolognese and after a bit of googling, we found Dan Warne's easy but amazing World's Best Spaghetti Bolongese Recipe.  I'm linking and the title's not lying.

My contribution to dinner was to assemble the ingredients.  Plus a loaf of Italian bread from Cavalicious. Oh, and some reading material for when I put my feet up to watch dinner being cooked.  I don't think you can get balanced and comprehensive coverage of Kim Kardashian's wedding with anything less than 3 publications, don't you agree?  Besides, that NW byline about Posh & Harper could not be left on the rack at Coles today.

The strength of Dan Warne's recipe is that all the ingredients are easy to get your hands on and also result in much of the finicky chopping up being already done by people like Coles Market Place (mushies)  and Gourmet Garden (tubes of garlic and chilli).

I remembered my mum's tip for spag bol and bought a 50/50 mix of beef and pork mince.

If your budget allows, go for the organic mince.

I went a bit (just a little) spendy on the cheese.  Yes, that wedge of Paremesan Reggiano was $15.75 but a little goes a long way and if you grate it all at once and freeze it, none of it will go to waste.  And you get to tone your upper arms in anticipation of a calorifically delicious dinner.

I had to leave Mr SSG to it because I had a work conference to attend in the city.

Wrap top - Cotton On, skivvy - Country Road, scarf  - Hermes Zabavushjka, scarf ring- Hermes, cuff - Hermes, belt - Hermes, jeans - Hermes.. heh heh, gotcha - J Brand.

Been so slack about this - but here we finally have an outfit shot!  Embrace the intention if not the startling originality of the outfit.  I am trying to regain some form.

George Street was celebration Sydney's annual Fashion Festival.  Colour blocking seems to be a big trend this season.  I took inspiration from the bold yellow and read of the banners and .......

That sticker on my Big Mac carton made me feel special.  There is nothing like a serve of french fries to settle a squeamish stomach.  
Went to Maccas of the golden arches on a red background for a special order Big Mac brunch.

They were true to their word on my very detailed receipt.  A freshly made Big Mac 'W/O Lettuce Shredde'.  The upstairs bit of Maccas Pitt & Park is actually pretty hipster glam in a low lit, deep brown sofa kind of way.  Which is why I felt compelled to whip out my bottle of sparkling water for lunch.

It wouldn't do to leave my homage to Fashion Festival with a meal at Maccas.  I went to the source over at David Jones.  Where I made several interesting discoveries.  Firstly, the annual flower show start this Thursday September 1, 2011.  The store is already being set up in preparation.

Sneak peak of some of the props for the flower show.
And secondly, it is incorrect grammatically to begin a sentence with 'and'.  No, I don't think that the other thing I discovered at David Jones.  Ah, yes.  I do not think colour blocking will work for me at the winery wedding in November.  After a stroll around Ladies Designer Fashion which is all spring / summer in my very winter black knee high boots, I have decided that the only thing to wear to this wedding will be a Camilla kaftan.  We shall not question the logic, we will merely accept it and take steps to make it happen.

Image courtesy of
The designer on the runway with some of her work.
I've never really appreciated the power of a Camilla kaftan before but I think the time has come.  There were some beautifully embellished ones at DJs and I think the Yarra is more than ready for a wedding guest to arrive there in one.  I notice that wedges are the shoe of choice on the catwalk but I'm thinking flat sandals.  I never do well with heels at wineries.  If it's not heels sinking in the lawn it's heel tripping me up after the champagne starts.  You can't win.  The genius of a kaftan is that they are really very forgiving and are so long and drapy no one really looks at your shoes so you can go for comfort.  Plus, mussed up hair is the only hair to wear with kaftans and mussed up will be the best I can hope for on a weekend away in wine country.  So many other things to do than blow dry one's hair.

Coming home from the seminar was memorable.  I could smell Mr SSG's bolognese sauce way up the road from home.  It was such a welcoming scent and sight to return home to after a busy day.  Mr SSG did something a little different with the carrot and zucchini.  He cooked them separately by roasting them in the oven with a little oil before we added them to the sauce and pasta on serving.  The vegies caramelize this way.

It's  bit different but it worked.  Thank you, Mr SSG!  You can cook again, any time you want.

That's about it from me.  I'm going to hit the sofa with my magazines.  Will report back with anything exciting.

Take care!

Aug 25, 2011

Gourmet Traveller Dreams, Continental Cook In Bag Reality.

There's a lot to be said for modern architecture.  Yes there are the bold lines, environmentally friendly features and sleek surfaces.

But what I love most are the floor length windows that make full use of the sun.  Standing in front of those windows whilst waiting for the lift on days like today makes work an (even) more enjoyable experience than it usually is.

SSG the necklace debuts here!  I'm wearing it with my orange Target cardi and lots of afternoon sun.

The days are finally getting longer and I walked to the car park feeling the sun through my clothes and on my face.  I could still feel the glow of the sun on my skin as I settled in to think about dinner at SSG Manor this evening.

Everyday suburban life is all about ironic juxtapositions, isn't it?  We get glossy food and travel magazines in the post and read them at the dining table or on the sofa, idly filing restaurant names and destinations in the 'One Day....' filing cabinet of our memories.  Then we look at the kitchen clock and realize there's only an hour to get dinner ready and more alarmingly, possibly 10 minutes of energy and concentration left in our bodies with which to do this.  That's when I find myself reaching for products not to be found within the pages of Australian Gourmet Traveller - Continental Cook In Bag meal bases.  In keeping with the summer vibe, I went for Portugese Chicken tonight.

It's a weeknight people, condiments in a jar and dried herbs rather than fresh flavourings are mandatory.
I had a couple of corn cobs to use as well.  I remember Brasilian Babe at Motherhood, Career, Fashion mentioning that her family loves cooking corn in the oven wrapped in foil and I decided to follow her lead.

I buttered my foil (I think dull side against the corn is meant to be the most energy efficient) and then dabbed a paste made of salt, pepper, seeded mustard, horse radish and parsley flakes over this.  Then I wrapped my corn in the foil and baked for half an hour.

The chicken and corn were served with some salad greens and the last of a packet of mini tortillas I had in the freezer.  It was delicious.  The chicken was very tender and had just the right amount of spice in the meat.  I am feeling holier than thou because I could have chucked a right at Oporto's chicken on the way home but made my own Portugese chicken meal instead.  Of course, this will be short lived holier than thou-ness.  It's Friday tomorrow and I'm on my own for dinner too.  A burger at Maccas has been on my mind all week!

Aug 24, 2011

I Talk Perfume Over An Afternoon Bowl of Choco Pillows and Skim.

It always happens at this point in winter.  The endless cycle of knit tops, tailored bottoms, black hoisery and shoes get the better of me and I find myself getting restless for spring and summer.  The problem is, the weather in Sydney just isn't coming to the party.  I think I'm going to be stuck under layers of insulation (clothing and otherwise) for a good month at least until the sun decides to stick around for longer.

In the spirit of change though, I've decided to inject a bit of variety into my fragrance wardrobe.  And it's cost practically nothing.  I took a lucky dip into the Ikea clear plastic boxes of cosmetic samples in the spare room and come up with 3 new perfumes to try.  Samples are fancy these days, they all come with spray top lids.  No need to un cap and potentially pour out half the tube on the carpet by mistake like you did in the 90s.....

I was feeling particularly aspirational (and wishful) in my choice of perfumes. I picked two Victoria's Secret fragrances and an old school Estee Lauder classic, White Linen. White Linen dates back to 1978. It was way before Liz Warne nee Hurley (allegedly!?!?!) was representing Lauder. Otherwise it would have been called White Jeans - boom tish. I am actually older than White Linen.  The sample I have is called Pure White Linen, actually.

Image courtesy of
Whose spokesperson is Gwyneth Paltrow.  It's okay,  I'm not older than my perfume after all.

This perfume thing is getting too psychoanalytical for a Wednesday afternoon.

That's better.  I've just made myself a bowl of chocolate cereal for afternoon tea.  I always seem to think better with the benefit of a bowl of cereal and milk.  Let's talk perfume.  Still psychoanalytically but with that added kick of sugar and non artificial colours and preservatives.

The Victoria's Secret scents are good fun.  They're bold and easy to wear.  They don't last for a long time on my skin but they're there for a good time.  Bombshell is sweet and very pink.  It's the one your younger self would have reached for to spritz on before spending the (weeknight) evening in the library at uni sitting a discrete 2 desks behind and to the right of Him.  Dream Angels Heavenly is warm and musky.  It's what your slightly younger and freshly worldly wise self would spritz for an evening of doing whatever it is feels right when you've broken up with Mr Right Now and are completely confident that you are not only too good for him but that you're doing perfectly fine on your own as an independent woman who won't settle.

Pure White Linen by Estee Lauder is a more sedate affair.  It has a restrained sweetness to it.  The kind of sweet you need when you're not feeling full of the vigour of life in the context of working full time, running a household, running out of ideas for dinner and no longer being in your twenties.  It's sweet in a perfume for when circumstances don't permit you to have a glass of your favourite wine.

I should have Choco Pillow cereal with skim more often when I blog.  This caffeine free cappucino alternative clearly agree with my creative mind.  Good thinking, SSG.

Have a lovely evening, all.

Aug 22, 2011

Beef Rendang. Designated Driver to the Yarra Valley.

It was only last weekend that I dim sum-ed for the nation.

However, I didn't have any cha siew bao.  So, for the sake of completeness, I had my share this morning for breakfast.  The Asian grocer at Top Ryde has an impressive selection of frozen yum cha treats and I went a little overboard stocking up the freezer.  All we need to know for today is that this brand of cha siew bao delivers the goods on those weekends when the thought of lining up for a table proves too much.

According to the instructions on the packet, you can microwave them from frozen - 1 1/2 minutes on high.  I decided to go with my bamboo steamer because I tend to get a rubbery texture whenever I microwave breads.  It took about 10 minutes and the dough was perfect.  Fluffy without any soggy patches.  The filling was generous and the pork lean with a thick and tasty gravy.  I think they cost less than $3 for a half dozen.

Oh yes, the slow cooker beef rendang from Saturday.  All I did was combine a 400ml can of low fat coconut milk with a tin of Rendang sauce.  Then I mixed this with a kilo of diced chuck steak and a chopped onion.  This was cooked for around 8 hours on low.

Yes!  That left over dessicated coconut from the rum balls at Christmas has found a legitimate use.

For the final hour, add 2 teaspoons of kecap manis and a 1/2 cup of dessicated coconut.  Some advise fresh coconut if you can get it.  I wasn't too sure about this step but it adds great texture to the gravy.

And I got to use up this quarter head of cabbage that was lying in the fridge.
Again, I wasn't sure about the steamed cabbage segments as a side dish.  But apparently the Dutch East Indies version of Beef Rendang is often served with cabbage.

Oh I am a doubter.  Cabbage is actually an excellent accompaniment to  Beef Rendang and rice.  It has a slight bitterness and its firm texture holds the thick gravy well.

Will you forgive me for yet another blog post about my eating and travel plans?  There hasn't been much else to choose from - I did some ironing and the bathroom on the weekend and the crazy weather hasn't inspired me to do any non grocery related shopping.  Australia just lost most of its domestic steel manufacturing capabilities today with massive job cuts as the AUD refuses to stay down against the USD.  It is also the beginning of a new era for Libya.  Oh, Kim Kardashian got married again too.  The full details won't be available until the television special in .... October.  Yeah,  whatever, I think I can wait until then.

Image courtesy of
Though, it looks like I will be in need of a new frock.  I'll also need to learn how to drive from Melbourne Airport to the Yarra Valley.  Mr SSG and I are off to a wine country wedding in November and it appears that we've left if a little late to book a room at the hotel the bride and groom nominated as the base for the weekend's events.  Which only means one thing - the only places with vacancies over the weekend will inevitably be the 5 star premium properties.  I didn't say there was a problem with with leaving things to the last minute, did I?

Mr SSG was online and and the phone all morning trying to find a place to stay and he finally found Chateau Yering - a Relais & Chateaux property 10 minutes from where the wedding will be held.  It's going to be old world, country manor heaven.  We stayed at a sister property in Eperney when we were travelling around Paris (that city again, it's never far from the mind of this blog) and it was a luxurious step back in time.

The Drawing Room, Royal Champagne, Eperney.

Chateau Yering promises to be just as fabulous but with a local flavour.  It's a crying shame that I'm designated driver for the entire weekend that we will be there.  However, quite a few of our friends will also be at the wedding and a long overdue catch up over a long weekend in the Yarra is a pretty good deal for what I hope will be just driving down long, straight and wide country roads.  I'm just debating whether or not to go on a hot air balloon ride for breakfast?  The nanna in me is thinking not...

Aug 21, 2011

White Wings' Homestyle Creamies Are Australia's New Tim Tam.

There are two things I love after my Sunday swim.  A long hot shower and my post swim snack with a strong cup of tea.

Today's snack was inspired by Miss Kitty-Cat's recent post in praise of White Wings' Homestyle Creamies.  The almost empty shelves at Woolies and Coles speak for themselves, the people love Homestyle Creamies.  I was among the fortunate few who got my hands on a couple of packets at Woolies yesterday.  The Raspberry Jam and Whipped Cream as well as the Whipped Passionfruit Cream varieties.  I've linked to the official product information page if you need to know a bit more about the range.

I'm sure cream and jam filled short bread biscuits and a hot cup of team are what the Australian swimming team have after their Sunday training sessions at the AIS.  If not, they should be.

These are seriously good biscuits for a supermarket brand.  The shortbread biscuits are buttery and have a good crumb.  The raspberry jam taste like raspberry jam and the whipped cream isn't just sugary white icing stuff.  They are the kind of biscuit that will be part of my post swim refuel for a very long time.  Australia, meet your Tim Tam equivalent if you're not big on chocolate biccies for your afternoon tea / crisis carb.  Homestyle Creamies look like they'd be easier to post than Tim Tams in a care package to expat family and friends as well.  To go with the Arnotts' Barbecue Shapes and Allens' or Natural Confectionary Company Snakes.

Have you tried the White Wings range yet?  Do you have a favourite variety?


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