Aug 30, 2012

An Arm Party. Shirt Semantics. Off the Cuff Pasta.

I don't know what blogger is doing these days but I lost this post from last night (Thursday August 30) and have had to rewrite it today, Friday August 31.  The realization has nearly made me cry tears of rage today but I'm keeping my chin up because it's Friday and it's the last day of winter and I'm off on leave as of this afternoon....

I hope I remember everything.

You can never go wrong with an arm party featuring fearls and Hermes.  I wonder if that's a truth universally acknowledged, even.

When I'm not arm partying, I'm worshiping at the church of the fitted shirt a great deal these days.  They're perfect for this warmer weather.

To be quite frank about it, I've been in a parallel fashion universe for most of Autumn / Winter 2012.  Whilst the rest of the world has been going mad for peplum dresses and trousers with loud prints in hard to pull off cuts, I've been hibernating in a range of chunky knits, leggings and flowing dresses.  So this transition to fitted shirts and more structured bottoms has been liberating and morale boosting.

Shirt and trousers - Isabella Oliver Maternity.  Flats -  Tory Burch.  
I also like how white shirts make me feel Dressed and Work Appropriate.  Even if they do have a tie front at the waist.  I was hoping for the 'referenced Japanese ready to wear circa 1990'effect with the obi / tie front today but I understand entirely if you feel that it makes me look more like a Christmas present.

I wore my new Isabella Oliver Maternity ensemble Red Phoenix Emporium's  Petite Four necklace today.  Just between you. me and blogger, I have quite a number of new Isabella Oliver items coming my way as this post goes live.  I am powerless in the face of a good sale on forgiving stretch fabrics.

It was ironic that while I was having a perfect white shirt day, I walked past not one but three school girls channelling Britney from back in the day.
Those girls did not miss a detail.  The black bra under a white shirt, the pony tail, the thigh high school skirt.  At 5pm on a school night, in a suburban shopping centre.  Right under my nose.  And before I'd had my late afternoon snack and a lie down too.
These days, post babies Britney favours a more modest approach to a white top.  I love how she's paired her white jacket with pink skinny jeans in this photo.

I was almost going to call my tie waist shirt a shirtwaister until I realized that shirtwaisters are in fact what Americans call shirt dresses.  Modelled here by the American First Lady of shirtwaisters, Diane von F.  Incidentally, I have a pregnant friend who swears by a DVF shirt dress or two in her maternity wardrobe.  I am this close to investigating this possibility.  I will report back if I do.  Once I've made good use of my Isabella Oliver order, that is.

A shirtwaist on the other hand, is meant to look a little something like this.

Now that we're done with shirt dress semantics, let's talk about off the cuff pasta recipes.  I can tell it's going to take me the entire post to get those shirt references out of my head.

I'm obsessed with creamy pasta dishes at the moment.  But only if there's lots of vegetables involved and the sauce doesn't involve raw eggs.  So I came up with a recipe involving eye ball amounts of basil pesto, sour cream, lemon juice and parmesan cheese.  I've been working with the juice of 1 lemon, 4 tablespoons each of sour cream and pesto, 2 - 3 tablespoons of grated parmesan and a few shakes each of Worcestshire sauce and paprika. This makes plenty of sauce for half a packet of pasta.

Once you've stirred your sauce and seasoned to taste, set it aside and find some vegies.  I'm liking a mix of raw and cooked at the moment.  You probably know this already but if you can source your veg from a non supermarket source, you'll get huge dividends in the taste stakes.  My raw vegies of choice are baby spinach leaves and heirloom tomatoes.  For the cooked component, I've been loving asparagus.  For some reason it's all coming from Peru these days but it is delicious despite the distance it has had to travel to get to Sydney.

The only stovetop element of this recipe involves boiling the pasta and asparagus.  I usually add the asparagus to the pasta pot for the last 7 minutes or so of cooking time.  Once it's all done, drain and return the pot.  I stir in the spinach at this time, then the sauce and sprinkle with chopped tomatoes.

Not only is this a wonderful, sort of light and definitely tasty meal, it also reheats well the next day.  Or you can have it cold.

Can you believe it.  The week is just about done.  All that remains is a little thing called Friday before we all head into the weekend and I, for one, head into 3 weeks of annual leave with a trip to Sweden thrown in.

Have a lovely evening.

Aug 28, 2012

It Feels Like the End Of the Week, Even If It Technically Isn't.

There's nothing like having a can of ice cold soft drink nestled next to the hand break to make you feel as if you're in the middle of a summer holiday road trip.  Even if you are on a rather industrial main road, on your way home from work after working through the weekend and the week before it  Is it just me or were there really no violins playing as I typed out that last sentence?

They probably weren't playing for my pity party because they know about this empty suitcase in the spare bedroom.  And how I'm going to be packing it (lightly) this weekend for my whirlwind trip to Stockholm next week.  Where has this year gone?  When I booked it all, September seemed so far away.  Anyway, I'm determined to only fill one half of this suitcase because I'm sure I'm going to go nuts in over Swedish designed toys and baby gear whilst I'm away.  Shopping will be my default cardio seeing as I'm no longer up to the usual hotel gym sessions I commit to on holidays.

I chose to pose weirdly dressed in tops by Metalicus, trousers by Next Maternity, below bump belt by Witchery and necklace by Red Phoenix Emporium.

Isn't it refreshing not having to wear overcoats to work these days?  It's enabled me to let my necklines go wild, in the manner of Lee Lin Chin - one of my ageless style icons.
I love that Lee Lin is never one to shy away from a bit of architectural interest in her choice of news reading jackets, not to mention her impressive array of co-ordinating spectacles.  Actually, I'd have to call me effort Lee Lin lite because my top is soft, machine washable and bereft of buttons, zips or complicated ties.

I'm going to kick back tonight and get into that end of the week mode a few days ahead of my desk calendar.  And nothing says the weekend is nearly here than a bit of home yoga practice, a good magazine and a quick, one pot dinner.

The latest AWW arrived in the post today and it features my very favourite Duchess on the cover.  Food wise, I've got Mi Goreng and beef balls as well as some greens to balance things out in the nutrition department.

Speaking of magazines, I've got some feedback on the Becca Eye Tint that came with the September issue of Madison Australia.  I got the Vicuna shade which is a bronzed brown.  I'm liking it a lot.  It wasn't as greasy as I thought it would be and actually has great colour pay off.  It blends easily and evenly and lasts all day.  The bronzed shade works well for every day.

Well, I'm off to enjoy the nearly Friday I've decided to make tonight.  Take care and have fun whatever you're up to tonight.

Aug 25, 2012

And Then There Was Space. Caviar and Pearl Serum Miracles - Not An Understatement.

When you start your Saturday with leftover ham and pineapple pizza for breakfast, you start your day ready for anything.

One day, I'll actually make that step from reading AGT over breakfast to cooking something from its recipe pages.

Well almost anything.  The sun was shining, spring was in the air and with those two wonderful events came the realisation that the SSG Manor lounge room area needed to be cleaned out and rejigged to make room for Baby SSG's loungeing requirements.  Mr SSG and I figured that he'd need a fair bit of floor space for his jungle themed floor gym, tummy time and his tricksy high chair that is meant to enable him to engage (from a very young age) with adults at their level (at the dining table or from the couch).

Which is why we found ourselves trying to untangle the wiring of the TV and stereo system as the late winter sun did its thing outside.  At least we got to feel and see the sun through the sliding doors.

A fair bit of sacrificing and letting go also went down.  Do you have any idea how gut wrenching it was to part with half my collection of Donna Hay and Super Food Ideas magazines?  In the end, the only way I could decide which to throw out was to see how many sticky tags I'd attached to each magazine.  Any issue with less than 4 tags had to go.  Unless it was a Christmas edition, in which case they were granted festive season immunity and were allowed to stay. 

Proof that spending the morning dealing with the consequences of magazine hoarding hadn't really taught me much, I decided to buy Madison magazine today.  For the first time in around 5 years.  I think it was the free Becca creme eyeshadow that won me over.  The eyeshadow looked rather sheer and shiny when I tested it on the back of my hand.  I just hope I won't look like a bronzed oil slick when I wear it to work this week.....

It will be interesting to see how I go reading Madison, actually.  Will it take me on a nostalgic trip back to those young(er) relatively care free days of my life when I'd just started earning 'real' money and didn't have any financial obligations beyond next month's credit card bills?  A time in my life when fashion editorials were the inspiration for my purchases rather than the enticing emails I now receive from etailers like Gilt, My Habit and the Outnet?

I did manage to get out for a bit of a bask in the sun today.  The flat leaf parsley in the back garden was looking particularly good today.  It's amazing how well most of the garden does when I choose to ignore it.  I'm hoping to use the parsley in the cous cous that's going with tonight's lamb chops which are presently marinating in the fridge.

I've been meaning to write a review on La Clinica's Firming Lift Caviar and Pearl serum ($100 AUD for 30ml) for quite a while now and now is as good a time as any.  I was initially given a sample to try with my last order and wish to thank the ladies at head office for their thoughtfulness.

The serum has been on high rotation on my shelf of skincare for quite a while now.  I use it once daily, in the morning, under my usual moisturiser (Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream with a drop of La Clinica's Organic Rosehip Oil).  The serum has a light texture, is unfragranced and a little goes a long way.  It doesn't leave any residue or film over the skin and you're good to go with the next step of your toilette pretty much straight away.  It does not contain SPF and is not tinted.  As with the other products in La Clinica's range, the ingredients are certified organic and made in Australia.  The website lists salons where the range is stocked but mail order is quick and easy too.,

Firming Life Caviar and Pearl serum has a number of anti-ageing properties and has the primary goal of improving skin elasticity and firmness.  What I actually noticed first is that it has somehow worked miracles on the shadows and puffiness under my eyes.  I've been casually looking at myself in the rear view mirror on my way to work in the morning over the last few days and yes, even in the harsh morning sun, I'm looking more well rested these days.  And I look exactly the same on the drive home in the setting sun.

La Clinica serums in their standard packaging as opposed to their free range state amongst the clutter of my dressing room.

I'm telling you, readers, rear view mirrors and the unflattering sun over Sydney don't lie.  As you can see, I'm a bit of a La Clinica serum hoarder.  Like toothpaste and tissue paper, a person can never have too many back up holy grail facial serums.  I'm sure I've mentioned this before but it does bear repeating.

That's about it from me on the sunny Saturday.  The chores for the day are done, I have an almond croissant and some magazines for afternoon tea as well as the prospect of a few AFL games on the television to endure watch with Mr SSG.  If either of the Perth teams or the Sydney Swans firm up as grand final contenders, we are on for a weekend in Melbourne.  So go the Dockers / Eagles / Swans!!!!!!!

Aug 22, 2012

First Lady Frocks. What Happens In Vegas. Target Treasures.

Remember this old faithful ASOS dress from last year?

Well, Michelle Obama does and she loves her's just as much as I love mine.

This is a snap of Michelle in her ASOS (with Barack) from last night's Entertainment Tonight interview.  Their interview was probably the best thing about ET, actually.  Sometimes all that in your face celebrity gossip and 'whooshing' sound effect that comes between each shocking revelation can get a bit overwhelming.

I could watch the Obamas all day, to be honest.  They're both such vibrant, real and eloquent people.  And it's not just eloquence in a very academic way, they both seem to have a knack for relating to their audience when they speak at the varied engagements they're both invited to.

Anyway, the highlight of last night's interview was a confession by The President about George Clooney.  Obama wryly admitted that the only times he found his office inundated by his staffers was when George was scheduled to pay a visit to the White House.

Speaking of people who love to keep it real and relate to their audience, Prince Harry was really come into his own over the last few months.  His parents raised both he and his brother to be princes of the people and after a few false starts, Harry seems to have come in his recent engagements at the Olympics and also during interviews he's given with his brother.
But I think that deep down, he's still a 27 year old who likes to have fun with his friends and completely let down his guard in private.  In Vegas.  At a private function.  As a single man amongst friends.  Where what he was doing was a bit misguided but not actually harming anyone else.  The only problem is that when you're as famous and eligible as he is, friends with camera phones forget that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  There's a part of me that admires his spirit and his apparent lack of concern for what others think of his actions but at the same time, I feel sorry for him that his sense of fun and recklessness makes him such an easy target for the media and his so called friends.

In less scandalous news this week, have you heard about the latest collaboration with Target?  Roberto Cavalli will be releasing a line with Target Australia at the end of October!  That's our Target, readers! I'm so excited.  Twitter has told me that shoes are also involved.  All I can think of are the prints though.  This is probably the Target Australia collaboration to get excited about.  Not unless you count The Very Hungry Caterpillar infant clothing range that's already dropped in store.  But I understand if that didn't exactly rock your world.  I now spend twice as long as I usually do in Target stores because there's whole new departments that suddenly seem very relevant to my needs.

Including the electrical appliances area.  Target are currently selling the Bella pod coffee machine for $239 and I'm at the serious contemplation stage of purchasing one.  This is further than I got with the Air Fryer a few months back.  The reason I'm so keen?  This particular brand of pod has a Belgian hot chocolate variety in addition to standard coffee and it's meant to be really, really good.  I know Nespresso has George (my second Clooney reference in the one post!!) but I don't think even he can beat at home hot chocolate from a coffee machine.

This turned out to be a rather busy post, after all.  Hope I didn't lose anyone along the way.  Take care and have a lovely evening.

Aug 20, 2012

Brownies, Burritos and Jumeirah Janes.

After last weekend's birthday cake fiasco, I wanted Sunday's baking project to be foolproof.

So I played it safe with a brownie mix.  In bulk and from Costco, naturally.  I'm a big fan of Ghiradelli's dark chocolate squares so choosing their brand of brownie mix (studded with three different kinds of Ghiradelli chocolate chip) over the competition at Betty Crocker was a no brainer.

Don't you love a box of brownie mix with a resealable top?  My massive 3.4kg box of Ghiradelli brownie mix contained 6 individual bags of dry mix, each one making around 16 brownies.  There's a handy conversion table on the back of the box telling you how many bags of mix and other ingredients are required to bake a certain number of brownies in different sized trays.

All you need for one bag of brownie mix is an egg, 1/3 cup of oil and 1/3 cup of water.  The biggest challenge of my baking session was working out how to line the base of loose bottomed square Anolon.

If there is one key step in making these brownies, it is to whisk the oil, water and egg together first before adding the dry mix.  This way it's a much easier and quicker task to get a smooth brownie batter.

That Coke Zero in the first few photos was my little naughty snack of the day.  To distract me so that I wouldn't lick the spatula I used to mix the brownies.

The brownies take 40 - 45 minutes to bake in an 180C oven.  I'm not usually a fan of cake mixes but I have to admit that this brownie mix really impressed me.  It produced brownies of a fudgy consistency and the cake component of the brownie tasted like a rich, dark chocolate cake.  The choc chips melted a little and because I ate mine warm, it was like biting into a self saucing chocolate pudding.

Ghiradelli's Triple Chocolate Brownie mix gets four thumbs up from me (Baby SSG's count as well and he added a few kicks to reinforce his opinion) and just two from Mr SSG.  Ghiradelli choc chips are also available at Costco on their own so I'll definitely get a packet next time I'm there.

I'm not ashamed to say that it was a weekend of pre packaged cooking at SSG Manor.  The fiesta of packet opening continued last night with mini burritos built around a quick chilli con carne I made with the last of my organic beef mince.

Even the condiments were off the shelf and ready to go.

I'm always too greedy when it comes to filling a tortilla.  So I had to eat mine open with a knife and fork.  I'm obsessed with cos lettuce at the moment so there was a layer of it over the tortilla as well which added to the general bulk of my burrito, I'm sure.  Anyway, it was all good on my fork.
Before I go, a quick Weeknight Book Club recommendation.  Dubai Wives is an easy reading page turner that's a potent mixture of chick lit and suspense set in the emirate that has captured my imagination both times I've been lucky enough to visit it.  The writing is strong and the characters multi faceted.

The plot is actually several sub plots involving affairs and relationships between men and women from different stratas of Dubai society.  Tensions escalate when one of the main characters is murdered and attempts to find her murderer reveal yet more secrets for many of the women.

Everything about Dubai fascinates me.  The dedication its ruling monarch has to creating a glittering oasis of perfection in the middle of the dessert, the transposition of so many different cultures into its malls, the people and the sense that not everything I saw and experienced was the whole story about Dubai.

Dubai Wives does a great deal in answering that last question I have about Dubai.  Zvedzana Rashkovich has set out to portray a diverse cross section of women in Dubai and how their standing and safety in Dubai society depends greatly on their wealth, their family and where they were born.  Wealthy socialites (both local and expatriate), an artist, house maids and exotic dancers all cross paths with each other but perhaps unexpectedly, also trafficked young girls and an 'ordinary' housewife.

Through her solid writing, Rashkovich created the Dubai I know and love about the place.  The glamour, the fashion and the industries that keep the emirate running.  Her references to places that I've visited sent me off on little day dreams as I read.  However, she also portrays a side of Dubai I never saw a hint of.  The underworld and the sex industry that finances it, the women who voluntarily enter this golden city telling themselves they're strong enough to do whatever it takes to get themselves a better life.  Heartbreakingly, girls who have no choice to enter the industry are trafficked in from India and other countries and find themselves with no way to escape but through the drugs their captors give them.

Jumeirah Janes?  It's a local term to describe the expatriate wives who live in one of the more expensive and exclusive parts of Dubai and devote their considerable spare time to shopping, lunches and physical self improvement.

Aug 19, 2012

Life Beyond the Diamond Collective. Bathers for Bumps.

As the key demographic groups for  print and online newspapers start to demarcate quite distinctly, it's probably not unexpected that the lead articles on the home page or the front page of each edition differs accordingly.  As an avid reader of both media, I'm getting the distinct impression that the broadsheet (soon to be tabloid) form of the Sydney Morning Herald has the late twenties to early forties woman in the middle of its viewfinder.  The weekend supplements have long been the stomping ground of 'female friendly' commentary but have you noticed the changes in the regular sections of the paper?  Or is it just me.

It started a couple of years ago with the articles on page 3 or 4 that would appear every couple of months but have lately begun to appear on a weekly basis. 'Women's interest' topics such as IVF, childcare, motherhood in the context of a career outside the home would be written about in the context of emerging research released by respected academic institutions.  Of these, IVF would be the star performer with and the director of every service in the Sydney area invited to comment.

As you know, IVF is a topic close to my heart.  It's been interesting monitoring my own reaction to the articles as time has passed and my situation in life has changed.  Initially, I read the articles casually and stored the relevant information in that dusty filing cabinet of my memory full of random information that had no particular purpose.  As I was approaching my own treatment I tried not to read them but snuck a look at the 'happy photo and personal narrative box' of the articles and offered a virtual hug for the couple and new bub featured and a silent prayer for myself.  Now that I am in a post IVF phase of my life, I read with a deep feeling of thanks for myself but also some reflection and hope for the many who are still facing the uncertainties and pain that accompany the great hope it offers.

This weekend, 'women's interest' took a different turn at the SMH and made it to the front page...

to introduce Sydney to its latest demographic, the 'Diamond Collective'.  In a counter attack on the seemingly endless articles about fertility, motherhood, parenting and families, this article focussed on high disposable incomes, the 'I deserve it' approach to high end shopping, living for the moment and retail strategy.

I'm not convinced that being part of the Diamond Collective confers any particular benefit to its members but to retail analysts working on the Sydney area, it's a gold mine.  Apparently this segment of the sisterhood spends enough (in the right places) to fuel the expansion of global luxury brands into Sydney.  While the finance and banking sectors are down at the moment, DC industries (advertising, fashion, telecommunications, marketing) are still paying and employing in Sydney and at proportions for women that are the highest in the country.

A facebook funny....

There was much talk (as opposed to statistics) in the article about frequent holidays, weekly manis, pedis and facials and 'being into property'.  The researchers hypothesized about the impact of a 'very real' man drought in Sydney on reactionary spending and aggressive career progression.  The women quoted in the article just seemed to be getting on with their lives and doing what they'd been brought up to do - to work hard, play hard and enjoy what life has given them.  They (and I) are in a very fortunate period of Australian history, despite what the stock exchange tells us.  As women, we are no longer told why we can't do things but rather why aren't we doing it.  We lack the financial obligations to our siblings and parents of previous generations of women.

The Diamond Collective seems to be about being trying to put a dollar value on 'what feels good for me now'.  By definition it is a transitory phase in a woman's life.  The black and whiters would call leaving the collective growing up and finding what's really important in life.

Life for those of us who never quite made the cut for entry into the Diamond Collective still enjoy shopping, mind you.  They just like to congregate in suburban shopping centres with lots of clean bathrooms, ample and easy parking as well as wide collection of reasonably priced snacks.

Camilla Franks has finally opened more stores across Sydney!  For years now, I've been admiring photos from her collections online and in magazines but have never quite been able to find what I've liked in the limited retail outlets where she was previously stocked.  The store in Chatswood is a riot of colour and print and the lovely sales assistant went through the season's future drops on her computer with me.  We workshopped which styles would suit me and I promised to return when the new season prints arrive.  There are some stunning wedding / fancy event pieces in the collection.  Should I start fake tanning now in anticipation, I wonder?

The rest of my shopping trip was very unglamorous and non Diamond Collective.  My new spectacle frames are still in Italy somewhere on account of the nation's 'summer holidays'.  I won't be able to rock an academic Coco Chanel look at work this week after all...

Left: bather bottoms and tankini top.  Right: Grace maternity bathers.  All by Speedo.

And then I went bather shopping.  I could be facetious and say I was exploring resort and cruise wear but the picture speaks a thousand unglamorous words.  I'm finally leaving my foolish pride behind when I go to the pool and wearing maternity bathers instead.  I don't know I've left it so long.  They're right up there with maternity skinny jeans in the comfort stakes.

I bought the Grace maternity bathers ($90) rather than a standard tankini top and bottom set because the standard tops barely cover my torso as I am now.  Though the Grace style isn't a racer back, the straps stay are adjustable and stay up through a 45 minute lap session.  The leg is pretty low and there's good coverage from behind.  The neck sits fairly high and there's plenty of give in the mid section without it being too baggy there.  The fabric is chlorine resistant and much softer than standard bathers.  I'm going to be living in these togs for the rest of the year.  I'm going to refer to them as a maillot from now on, they remind me of the bathers women wore on the French Riviera back in the 1950s.

With my maillot in tow, I lolloped (there's no other way to describe who I walk these days) off in search of a solid snack before heading home.

Have a lovely day and take care.


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