Mar 31, 2012

Plans for Easter. A Few Good Oils.

It's less than a week until Easter!

Which means it's officially okay to be having hot cross buns for breakfast and also to start planning what to do on that glorious 4 day Easter long weekend.  Do you think the Hunger Games hysteria would have settled down by then?  If so, I'll try and persuade Mr SSG to go and see it with me.  There's also that small matter of how to coax my hair into a Katniss Everdeen braid.  I'm thinking large amounts of hair spray and bobby pins.

Image courtesy of
Tori Spelling's latest book, celebraTORI will be released for Kindle on April 3 2012 so I'll be downloading it to read over the break.  Tori's writing always makes me smile.  I've been re-reading sTORI Telling, her first autobiographical novel and it's like catching up with that friend from uni who was always out living a life more adventurous than your own.  Lots of crazy memories told with the benefit of humour, hindsight and maturity.

Long weekend plans aside, I've been adventurous and discovered a few good oils to change up my usual skincare routine.  I've been using the products for several weeks now so my opinions aren't clouded by new product euphoria.

Hemp Hand Oil by The Body Shop, $20.95.
The first is the oil version of one of my favourite hand creams by The Body Shop.  Hemp Hand Oil smells just like the original hand cream.  A couple of drops is all it takes to give your paws lasting moisture.  The oil is absorbed quickly so you won't leave oily hand prints everywhere after applying it.

Agadir Argan Oil treatment spray, $32 from strawberry net.

I bought Agadir's Argan Oil spray as a replacement for MorrocanOil.  Okay, so it doesn't have the same seductive scent as MorrocanOil but it performs pretty well, probably better on my hair which is pretty thick and coarsely textured.  The big advantage for me is that Agadir's product is a spray and I find this easier to use on my hair.  It leaves my hair soft and shiny and I apply it to towel dried hair before blow drying (or not).

Beautiful Skin Cleansing Oil by La Clinica - $40 for 200ml.

The final oil up for review today is La Clinica's Beautiful Skin Cleansing Oil.  This is another winner from La Clinica for me.  Every ingredient (except the natural fragrance) in this cleanser is an organic oil - soybean, sweet almond, jojoba, Argan, jasmine and neroli are just a few of the listed oils.  It can be used either as a cleanser or to remove makeup.  I've been using it as a cleanser and spritz it onto a damp face washer under the shower.  The instructions suggest following up with your usual cleanser but I haven't needed to do this.  It's very moisturising and despite my 'new cleanser' fears (it's nice to have such specific and significant fears, isn't it?), hasn't broken me out or irritated my skin in any way.

Not much else happening around SSG HQ today.  I'm working and enjoying the weekend off housework duty as compensation.

Mar 30, 2012

Contemplating Marni. Better Handwriting.

Not only is it Friday, but we've also hit a pocket of my favourite kind of weather in Sydney.  Sure the mornings are brutally dark but daylight saving ends this weekend and then we get to have dark evenings back.  And yes, the weather each night changes so that often you need 2 sets of pyjamas going (winter and summer) and you sometimes need to change into both sets in the same night.  But the air is so crisp now and the heat of the day isn't accompanied by humidity.

The converse of the pyjama conundrum is that your day wear can be just as dichotomous.  A dressed up short sleeved T and trousers for work one day.

As long as I'm convinced that the necklace and cardigan together are 'inspired' styling then that's all that matters.  Cardi and necklace - Marni at H+M, tank - Big W, black trousers - GAP, belt - Country Road (it's not ageing well....).  Colour co-ordinated hair elastic on my left wrist worn in celebration of my hair solidly hitting shoulder length.
And a bit of an art installation around your neck and spots across your chest the next.  I'm having so much fun with my H+M purchases at the moment, those hours sitting on the newspaper on the cold pavement are a distant memory....

The thing with Marni is that like life, each piece doesn't come with an instruction manual.  How high or how low does one tie the necklaces?  Are they necklaces or neckpieces?  Is it acceptable to have so much competing for attention on your top half - a bold print and a bold accessory?  I will have to research these queries, I think.  And you know how my research goes.  It starts with a casual review of NAP which progresses to contemplation of a purchase and then a dummy run shopping basket fill....  A few days later, I return to the site and find my shopping basket still full and then credit card details are entered.  Perhaps it truly is a blessing in disguise that my laptop is hating wireless broadband right now.

So with the prospect of a wireless-less (double negative but it is actually true, I did think it through before typing) weekend ahead of me, perhaps I will have time to familiarize myself with these new pencil grips of mine.

Regular readers and those who have had the mixed blessing of a hand written note from me will know that I have shocking handwriting.  I also now have the added challenge of around 200 black biros which I'm finding a bit hard to write properly with.  So I bought some triangular holders a few months back which sort of helped but they've all now burst at the seams. Don't know why, those darn skinny Kilometricos haven't gained an ounce since the first wore the holders in February....

So I ordered these sculpted beauties which apparently are the 'industry standard' in ergonomic pen holder design and are useful for both left and right handers.  As you can see, it's early days yet.  Too early for any improvement in my handwriting.

Have a lovely day, wherever you may be.

Mar 28, 2012

Jar-Dazzled Moccona. Cut Priced Connoisseur.

Thank you for your thoughts and tweets today.  Everything appears to be going to plan with the tests and the interview went well.  It's about time good things came in threes, don't you think?  That third good think being the SSG fourth wedding anniversary.  Neither of us knows exactly where all that time went but we've had fun (and high emotion) together as it sped along.

Vanilla ice cream - the ultimate comfort food.
We decided a celebrate with a night in.  Preparations for dinner began yesterday and consisted of an eventful visit to the supermarket.  There was a $7 special on cartons of Connoisseur ice cream at Coles and there was only one Classic Vanilla left.  At the very back of the second highest shelf in the freezer.  It took a yogic side bend and some intense channelling of my mind body connection but I managed to get that carton out of the freezer and into my trolley.  

A retro looking shot of my jar-dazzled Moccona, on standby for 0753 cuppa service.  
There was more fun in the instant coffee aisle where the Moccona appears to have been bedazzled or should that be jar-dazzled.  It's limited edition jar-dazzling so run, don't walk.

My idea for dessert was to serve the ice cream with a home made topping.  I found this series of dessert sauce recipes and decided to make the Cherry Ripe sauce.  A decadent dessert that's 100% microwaveable is just the thing for a mid week special dinner.

The original recipe makes 2 cups of sauce, I halved the ingredients for tonight.  Also, I think it's wise to use the suggested thickened cream rather than the pure pouring cream I used because the former would make a smoother sauce.

Firstly, chop 10 glace cherries finely.  Set aside for later.

Resist the urge to snack as you prepare the Cherry Ripes and dark chocolate.  I used one each of the original and dark cherry bars as well as 50g of 85% cocoa Lindt.

Look at that Pyrex bowl full of chopped Cherry Ripes and Lindt.  Isn't it gorgeous?  To the mixture of chocolates, add half a cup of cream.  Microwave on 75% for a minute and stir with a metal spoon.  Repeat.

Mix in the chopped cherries and allow to cool whilst you do something virtuous like eat dinner.

Which at SSG Manor this evening was steak and broccolini.  Don't you always feel ready to take on the world after a good steak?

Ugly is just my way with ice cream, I'm afraid.  Perfect globes with an ice cream scoop are beyond me. I don't think I practice enough.  Anyway, looks aren't everything.  A couple of tablespoons of sauce per scoop of ice cream is a good ratio to start with.  It's generous but responsible at the same time.

How you induce your food coma is completely up to you.  Swirl the chocolate and ice cream together, McFlurry style.  Scoop a bit of each into your spoon.  Eat them separately.  Have some on toast for breakfast tomorrow......

The sauce keeps in the fridge for 2 weeks so don't feel like you have to eat it all in the one sitting.

Mar 27, 2012

Bits and Pieces. Bicarb Baths. Daiso Greenery.

I'm feeling a little 'bits and pieces' today.  Not really here but not really there at the same time.  My mind's on so many things right now.  There's excitement, there's nerves and the good old 'can't wait until it's all done'.  But there's also a whole heap of reflection and a sense of how far I've come in the last little while, in so many aspects of my life.

I often get like this before a 'big' day.  Which is one way of describing tomorrow.  The day will begin at the crack of dawn with tests to see how things are going with regard to the Sooooo situation.  Then I have to re-interview for my job because the position is now being made permanent.  And then, Mr SSG and I will be celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary.  Quietly, I'm thinking, with a home cooked dinner and some illicit ice cream for dessert.  I am sorely tempted to get some Cherry Ripes to make a sauce to go with the ice cream.  If I get around to it, I will share the recipe for the sauce.  The one I've found is 100% microwaveable which is always good for a mid week dessert.

Anyway.  I'm getting a full 24 hours ahead of myself.  Better get on with today's post....

Firstly with a quick snap of what I wore when my mind was on other things...

Trousers - next, T - Emerson at Big W, belt - Esprit, bangle - Marni at H+M, bag - Louis Vuitton.
When in doubt or indecision, I go for black and white with an arm party for interest.

Sometimes, even I'm baffled by the things I bring home from Costco.

But this 6kg (resealable) bag of food grade sodium bicarbonate was a bargain just too good to refuse.  I use bicarb everywhere around the house - cleaning, to deodorize the fridge, to wash my hair and even in cooking every so often.  It was a purchase that would pay for itself.  Possibly over decades.  Despite my widespread use of the cheap as chips salt, the actual amount I use for each purpose is probably a tablespoon here and there at most.

As I was mulling over how this bag of bicarb could be with me for the next decade, I had a helpful thought.  Don't people make bath salts with bicarb?  Google tells me they do indeed. At quantities of around a cup per bath....

So I gave it a go this evening.  A scoop of bicarb followed by a drizzle of that delicious Pomegranate Noir bath oil.  It was bliss.  The salts made my after work soak even more soothing and conducive to productive thoughts about the challenges that tomorrow will bring.

An electric eraser and a bag hook from Daiso.  My pink bag hook is still going strong.
I've finished putting together the prize pool for the work fun day.  I was shopping for green snacks last week and the second half of the prize pool had to be green gadgets.  Where else but Daiso would you be able to find useful bits and bobs that have to be green?

It was actually harder to buy the prizes than I thought because my workmates are all so different in age and lifestyle, but I think I've got most people covered.  You can never go wrong with a portable cutlery or kitchenware.  At least that's my take on my purchases.

I hope the prizes go down well or at least with a laugh.  We're also having a green themed lunch on the day.  I will report back with any interesting food sightings!

I'm signing of for now.  I have an early start tomorrow and you're right, I do have to figure out what to wear.

Mar 26, 2012

The Weeknight Book Club: Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

Sometimes, the novel you start whilst trying to finish another turns out to be The One.  

Image from

The One that keeps you reading all weekend, right up until Sunday night.  The One that makes you tear through your chores (even the shopping related ones) and lose all interest in the week's worth of TV you've recorded on IQ.  Just so you can kick back on the sofa with your Kindle and return to a world vividly painted by words alone.

As I look back on the book reviews I've done on this blog, I realize that quite a few of them are about works of fiction relating to World War II that have been written by contemporary authors.  I think the artistic freedom of fiction writing enables the messages of the past to be delivered in fresh and engaging ways to new audiences.  It is the perfect vehicle to make sure that as a civilization, we truly never forget the horrors of past world wars.

'Sarah's Key' is set in the present day Paris (early 2000s) with an alternate time frame of the Paris in the midst of World War II.  The novel begins in the world of 10 year old Sarah Starzynski, a French born Jew of Polish descent.  It is 1942 and Sarah's comfortable suburban life with her parents and 4 year old brother. Michel is rapidly disintegrating in the face of the increasing government dictated persecution and segregation against French Jews.  In a country already suffering the restrictions and fear of war, the added factor of what to 'do' about 'the Jews' divides communities as citizens do what they have to in order to survive.  This often means turning a blind eye or enabling some horrendous brutality against fellow human beings -  in addition to fighting for essential supplies.

Eventually, Sarah's family runs out of luck.  They find themselves on a list of Jews who are rounded up by the police for some unclear purpose.  Sarah assumes it is a day trip of sorts and by a twist of luck, manages to hide her brother Michel from the police by locking him in their secret place in a wardrobe.  She takes the key with her and somehow, under the watchful eye of the police, conveys what she has done to her relieved mother.

What unfolds for Sarah is a series of Holocaust related atrocities that until recently, many French citizens may have known little about.  Sarah and her mother two of tens of thousands herded into inhumane conditions as part of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup , cruelly code named 'Operation Spring Breeze'.  The objective was simple, to sort out the 'Jewish Problem' in German occupied France.  Men and women were to be rounded up in mass arrests, detained in holding areas and then transferred to various work and death camps across Europe.  To fill quotas as quickly as possible, children somehow got caught up in the arrests.  The main area where these innocent people were coralled was a velodrome which was ill equipped to house thousand of men, women and children in sanitary, let alone comfortable  conditions.

De Rosany paints such a vivid and graphic account of the abuse and deprivation that the young Sarah sees and suffers.  It is testament to how shocking the events were that a narrative like this could be built from witness accounts because limited formal research into the period is available.

Within days, Sarah herself realizes that she has grown old and perhaps cruel as she does what she can to survive.  She knows that there will be no escape and that her parents have died.  It is only the hope that Michel is somehow still alive and well in the wardrobe at home that keeps her going and eventually prompts her escape from the Drancy internment camp.

The parallel plot that runs initially in alternating chapters with Sarah's story is that of Julia Jarmond, an American born journalist living in Paris with her suave French husband and their 11 year old daughter Zoe (who was born after a traumatic history of failed pregnancies).  Julia is a journalist for a French publication aimed at American expatriates and she is given the assignment of covering the 60th anniversary year of Vel' d'Hiv.  In 1995, President Chirac had formally apologized for the crimes committed against over 42 000 French Jews who were sent to Auschwitz.  Only 800 returned at the end of the war.

Julia's challenge is to find people willing to talk about this shameful period of the past and to get a more human angle to the story.  Vel' d'Hiv is now a housing estate and most of its young population have no idea of the area's dark past.  Julia happens to find out about Sarah and the fact that Sarah's old address is that of an apartment owned by her in laws.  The search for what happened to Sarah and her brother then takes on a more personal note and Julia begins asking questions of her in laws that many appear reluctant to answer.  Sarah's probing unearths a secret that the family had kept for decades, since the end of the war.

There were many reasons that this book grabbed and then held me until the end.  Firstly, it is the first novel about World War II that I've read that deals specifically with the Vel' d'Hiv.  Secondly, there were the issues explored through Julia about life as an American expatriate in Paris.  It becomes obvious as the novel progresses that loving Bertrand, Julia's husband, is by no means an easy task despite his physical charm.  Their relationship reaches breaking point when Julia's longed for second successful pregnancy is announced - at the worst possible time for Bertrand as he struggles with growing old and the fears of what a caring for a new baby would do to his relaxed and privileged lifestyle.

After Sarah discovers the fate of her brother, the structure of the novel changes and we lose Sarah's first person narrative and the rest of the novel is told through Julia in a series of entries dated months apart.  I found this unsettling and disappointing.  However, the reason for this technique becomes apparent when Julia finally discovers what finally happened to Sarah after her escape from the camp and how the effects of that period of brutality shaped and scarred Sarah's adulthood.

Fortunately, my fascination with 'Sarah's Key' doesn't have to end now that I've finished reading the book.  Kristin Scott Thomas starred in a 2010 film adaptation of the novel.  I'm going to look for it at my local Video Ezy this weekend.

Mar 24, 2012

Pomegranate Noir Scented Baths.

There's no denying the distinct chill in the night air in Sydney right now.

I'm starting to need a hot cup of tea after dinner these days.

Made whilst wearing my pink ugg boots and flannel pyjamas.  Themselves further signs that winter is approaching in SSG Manor.

On the nights Mr SSG is in charge of dinner, hot chips from the fish and chip shop down the road feature as the carb of the evening.  Not that I put up much resistance.  In our minds, it all balanced out in the end because the chips (though doused in vinegar and ketchup) were eaten with home made salad and baked fish fillets.

For some reason, I always seem to visit Jo Malone as the weather gets cooler.  It must be the fragrances of hers that I like most.  They're often quite heavy and woodsy.

It was probably overkill celebrating my giving myself my first subcutaneous injection (without passing out and whilst standing in the kitchen) by getting and then bathing in this Jo Malone bath oil....
Today's purchase was a new bath oil.  To celebrate the fact that our bath is now fully functional as a bath since we changed the shower screen a few months ago.  The scent is Pomegranate Noir and I am very tempted to get the perfume as well.  It is a fruity fragrance but the raspberry and pomegranate in it give it a darker edge.  I had my first soak in it tonight.  I'm looking forward to many more baths this winter.  I can't decide what I love more - the soaking or those first steps you take after a bath with those newly and deeply relaxed muscles.

I did my shopping at the counter in DJs in the city and the lovely sales assistant gave me a sample of the matching body cream as well as a sample of the Dark Amber and Gingerlily Cologne Intense.  The latter is still wafting around the study from the Jo Malone bag sitting on the floor.  I'm feeing very centred in the olfactory world right now.

I also did a quick scouting round of Priceline today.  Nude Magique is in stock.  As is the Studio Secrets Smoothing Resurfacing Primer.  You might want to get a ticket to London and have a holiday on the side if you want either of these.  They retail for around $15 AUD in London and are $29.95 AUD each at home.  I know there are reasons for this - some legitimate and others not but it doesn't surprise me that many brands consider Australia the 'Treasure Island' of retail because they can charge pretty much what they wish here and largely get away with it.  There is talk now of local retailers demanding fairer prices from suppliers and finally getting online in a meaningful way but perhaps the horse has already bolted.

But enough about the business side of things.  I've talked previously about how good Nude Magique is (so much so that I would even repurchase at the Australian retail price) but the primer is also worth a look.  It has the consistency of a mousse and blends in very easily.  There is no frosty shimmer action, even though it looks pink in the pot.  Which means that you don't get a freaky white cast to your face when you apply your base over the top and look at yourself under work lighting conditions.  It also made my skin feel pretty smooth too.  Another L'Oreal product I'd pay Australian retail for.

Before I go tonight, I'd like to thank everyone who commented and gave such helpful feedback on my previous post.  I think the thought of starting was worse than actually doing it.  I'm much less anxious about the daily routine of treatment now that I've gone and given myself that first injection.  And lived to tell the tale.

Hope you're having a lovely weekend.

Mar 23, 2012

The Posts That Begin With Soooooo.....

Sooooo.  That's going to be the code, I think, for all future posts about pregnancy.  Not so much a code but a warning, I guess.  Because I know that this blog means different things to each of you and to me.  The book reviews, the food reviews, the travel, the shopping, the riveting details of my everyday life captured for posterity with those unforgettable photographs stills (that sounds so much more 'photojournalism')...

But for others of you, the posts about pregnancy and infertility may resonate more.  Pregnancy and infertility.  Two words that have been dwelling on my mind more than they should given the amount of sadness and pain that they have caused.  Given their prominence in my world right now, how could I not blog about them.  I hope it's a two way street.  That the writing that helps me deal with them could perhaps help even one of you feel less alone in all of this at the same time.

Probably best for me to not try and over explain but I just wanted a way of identifying these posts from the others to give everyone fair warning. Feel free to comment or email if you feel it's all getting into over sharing and overly hormonal territory.  Much appreciated.

Okay.  So I'd better follow protocol.


Here I am.  The Trying Times are behind me and it is now Time To Try (Again).  Isn't the passage of time a beautiful thing?  It must be the mind's Photo Shop or Blemish Balm.  It smoothes over the sharp edges and casts a warm glow over even the ugliest times.  Then again, it could have been all those holidays and the resultant shifts in time zone.  However it happened, the past is now in its place and all that remains is now and the future.

I've written previously about my apprehension at trying again by whatever means.  Since the Trying Times, I've been alternating between realism (cynicism) and hope (thank you my beautiful family and friends and inspiring library of self help books). The realist wears comfort flats and dwells on the fact that success rates per cycle are not a rolled gold 100%.  The high heeled hoper on the other hand is confident that at the end of the day, statistics are just numbers (and that if you wear heels with everything, your legs really do look longer and your hips leaner).

Today, it's hard to not look at the next few weeks as an adventure.  I am starting my first IVF cycle with all its attendant blood tests, injections and ultrasounds.  There are some things even I wouldn't make you suffer through and a happy snap of the kit from the clinic is one of those.

Even with a glass of wine on the kitchen table, there is no disguising:

  1. The number of needles involved, they do look small though.  Practically invisible - without my glasses on.  But this may not be the best injecting technique.
  2. The fact that it's not just a matter of stabbing somewhere and hoping for the best, I have to dial up a dose ... somehow and mix stuff up without letting any air in.  Seriously, why is there no app for this?!?!?
  3. How yellow sharps containers really are, you never really notice it at work but in someone's kitchen, it really is hard to miss and somehow incongruous.  I don't think anything KitchenAid could compete.  
  4. The fun times to be had at work next week whilst under the influence of The Hormones.  What better time to try and conquer my pituitary axis then the week of some major interviews?

Who really knows what the next few weeks will bring?  I can hope and then I can reflect upon my track record.  Or I can do neither and simply be in the moment.  And not exhaust myself and make an intense time any more draining than it has to be.

I'm hoping that all of this won't be too disruptive to everything else going on in my life but if I'm away from the blog for a while, you'll know why.

Take care and have a lovely weekend,

Mar 22, 2012

Where Art Thou Wagon Wheels?

That's the question for you today, readers.

I paraphrased 'Romeo and Juliet' because right now, a local supermarket without Wagon Wheels is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. I looked everywhere.  The biscuit aisle, the chocolate aisle and even the impulse purchase section right in front of the cash registers but to no avail.  According to the Arnotts website, Wagon Wheels are still part of their product line but not at Coles, it seems.  Perhaps the youth of today no longer relate to country and western imagery the way us children of the 80s did back in the day.

It's clearly not easy being a snack food packaged in green because I couldn't find the second item that came to mind either - Milo chocolate bars.  There is now Milo porridge (even I know when to not cross the line when porridge is involved) but it appears that chocolate has gotten too hip to be seen fraternizing with Milo. Speaking of Milo, did anyone else love sprinkling it over buttered white bread as a teenager?  Please tell me I'm not alone and that it's not a bad thing for me to thinking of doing it all over again in my thirties...

My green obsession relates to a work fun day where the theme colour is green and for which I am in chrage of prizes.  Thankfully, I managed to get the rules relaxed a little so that even if a food wasn't green, it could still be part of the prize pool if it had green packaging.  It made me feel a bit nostalgic and just a little bit old when I realized that 2 snacks from my childhood seem to have gone into retirement but I soldiered on and kept my eyes peeled for flashes of green in the aisles at Coles.

As all good supermarket snack runs should, I began in the confectionery aisle.

So many good, chocolate coated mint memories - Mint Patties andPeppermint Crisps as well as some new finds like Dairy Milk Bubbly.

And to freak everyone out - non mint flavoured M&Ms in green packaging.

Then up a bit to the biscuits for those good old Barbecue Shapes.

Before a quick scout around the Asian snack section, just to make it a bit multicultural.

How did I go?  Did I miss out on any of your green favourites?

Don't you just love how things happen at the darndest times?  I've been struggling with today's post and the concept of blogging in general. Do I need to refocus, change direction, stop?  Then, the universe intervened and I received an email from the Sydney Writers' Centre stating that I'd been nominated for an award for the blog.  Voting begins in mid April but don't worry, I'll be sure to remind you all.  I'm really flattered to be nominated and I think it's the push I need to persist and work through my current blogging brick wall.

It's a sign.  It ain't quite over for SSG.


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