Oct 30, 2012

Really Early Mornings. The Weather Gets Bumped.

Summer is a matter of weeks away.  It's the scent of gardenias in the early morning that always gives it away.  I seem to have murdered my own gardenias but the neighbourhood's hedges are so beautifully scented at the moment it makes my morning power waddles extra special.

I'm a keen observer of the early mornings these days because my body clock seems to have reset itself around Baby SSG's moments of peak activity which are currently 2.30 am and 4.15 am.  He's a stickler for routine, just like his mother and there are days when I actually wake up in anticipation of whatever new little trick he's got for my abdominal wall.  At the moment, he seems keen on the Iyengar Yoga approach to exercise which translates to him holding a limb in a fixed position until at least the count of 8, before switching sides.  The things you learn in utero.

Usually, I spend these early starts trying to get some extra sleep in between wake up calls but this morning sleep evaded me so we sat up for a while and read some Dr Seuss.

I dressed up for the occasion in my Qantas First PJs gifted to me by Mr SSG.  I'm wearing them to death at the moment because they finally fit!  The always helpful Baby SSG has managed to simultaneously keep the bottoms up and fill out the top so that neither half swims on me (much).

Dr Seuss' ABC is officially our favourite Dr Seuss book.  The wacky alliteration makes it great fun to read aloud, Baby SSG got in a few kicks and I found myself laughing out loud.

Something I haven't enjoyed reading recently is the print version of our local daily broadsheet.  Seriously.  What is the point of putting the weather forecast anywhere but the front page?  SMH editorial and marketing departments, what good is it going to do bleary eyed and caffeine deficient readers first thing in the morning if you decide to put it on page 14 one day and page 21 the next?!?!  I'm really hoping that this find the weather report caper is just a trial because if it isn't I'm going completely paperless next week and will just look at the weather app on my iPhone from now on.

In celebration of Half Price Tuesday at our local DVD store, Mr SSG picked up a DVD for us to watch after dinner.

I know that many people think that the book on which the film is based is pretty corny at times but the upbeat and fluffy tone of What To Expect can be just what you need when you find yourself getting stressed about your pregnancy and you find yourself over thinking every little detail.  I'm addicted to the iPhone app and look forward to each Thursday when the pregnancy tracker part of the app tells me what sized fruit of vegetable Baby SSG has grown to.

At the moment, he's a head of lettuce.

The film has had mostly uninspired reviews by the critics but if it's anywhere near as fluffy as the book, it'll be just the thing for me tonight.


By the way, if you're in the market for something from the Roberto Cavalli for Target range, it's on sale tomorrow.  The best news?  Online and in store simultaneously.  I'm going to set my alarm early and organise myself to be internet accessible for the moment it launches.  I'm quite liking the look of the sandals in the range.

Oct 28, 2012

I Should Have Called the Midwife First.

Yesterday began with another one of those picture perfect mornings.  The kind where the sun bathes everything in the suburbs of Sydney with rays of light that bring a smile to everyone's faces.

It didn't matter if you were spending your Saturday kicking back at a cafe or hard at work, you just knew that the day was going to be just that little bit easier with the benefit of having witnessed such a glorious weekend opening ceremony.

Saturday was equal parts kicking back and working hard for Mr SSG and I.  We had our last antenatal class at the hospital and this class, with its focus on the early weeks for new parents, was the session we found most useful.  I was designated note taker whilst Mr SSG was the legs of our partnership and hot footed it down the road at morning tea for team sustenance supplies at Luxe Bakery.

We figured that we'd have plenty of opportunity to get stuck into hospital biscuits come December so why peak too early?  Which is a round about way of saying that the current NSW Health biscuit contractor ain't Arnotts....  Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a student in Perth, Arnotts provided a superior biscuit service to hospitals.  Twin packs of biscuits came in at least 3 different varieties - Milk Coffee and Nice, choc chip cookies and something else I didn't like (which is why I can't remember what they were now) and a cream filled variety featuring Shortbread Creams.  The private establishments and veterans hospital also had Walker's Shortbread in the waiting room because their cliental had quite specific tastes.

Sandwiches have also suffered a similar fate...  They were never flash but they were honest.  Cheese and tomato, beef and mustard, chicken and mayo.  Hand made and sliced onto china plates before being double glad wrapped with a date sticker whacked on the top.  No one is quite sure now where the sandwiches come from  because they all look identical, it's hard to know what's in them from looking at them and they come in plastic snap lock boxes.

I'm sure I had something else to write about, as fascinating as that potted history is.

Ah yes, the notebook.  Remember several months ago when I started writing about baby experts and their books and my apprehension at reading them?  And how many of you advised that just going with the flow, getting to know your baby and trusting your own instincts served you far better than say page 143 of Save Our Sleep ever did?  Well, thank you because you speak the truth.  Not that I didn't think this at the time but I think that reading the books was a comforting exercise at the time and I had to read them to put things into perspective.

I have 12 pages of notes from yesterday's all day class (versus at least a couple of thousand pages of the closely printed text of the baby experts' tomes).  The bulk of my bullet points dwell on how to interpret a baby's behavioural cues and a list of things to work through in order to find an answer (if one exists).  There was no talk of 4 hourly routines from week 2 of a baby's life, no discussion about fore milk and hind milk but rather some very down to earth advice.  The essence of which is that:

  • the first 6 - 8 weeks as new parents is going to be tough and that the only realistic routine will be to do things in the same order at whatever time they need to be done
  • the best kind of expectations of yourself at this time are low expectations because they can always easily exceeded
  • that you cannot spoil a newborn and that you've got until about 10 months of age before a baby can be 'accused' of his consciously having his parents wrapped around his pudgy little fingers.

Something tells me that I'll be referring to my little note book more often than the books (if I return to them at all).

It looks as if Baby SSG's set of wheels are just about ready to roll.  Don't ask about his parents' set of wheels.  Car shopping is my least favourite activity in the whole world.  We've possibly left it too late and the current plan is to decide on one model from one brand and go to one dealer and do a deal on one Saturday morning.  Before going off to Chatswood for dumplings at New Shanghai.  Our collective parents are not to be told about the fact that 'shopping around' does not feature in our strategy.

Anyway, the Bugaboo is now road ready with a cup holder and a pair of bag hooks from Babychic.


The hooks are plastic and do not 'close off' like the metal ones that look like camping accessories.  The maximum weight per hook is 2 kgs and a pair retails for $13.  They attach to the handle of your pram via sturdy velcro straps.

The pram now features a bona fide baby bag.  A real one that comes with a change mat.  That doesn't look like a baby bag.  It's the Marc by Marc Jacobs Preppy Nylon Eliz-A-Baby bag and I have Blithely Unaware, baby shopping genius to thank for bringing it to my attention.  We are now baby bag twins and it could well be impossible to tell us or our baby boys apart should you see us both in the same spot.

The MJ is worth considering if you're in the market for something light weight and roomy with lots of internal and external pockets, the top zips shut.  The bulk of the bag is wipe clean nylon and the trims are synthetic.  The straps are comfortable to hold and the shoulder strap is removable.  It does retail for $350 at Shopbop and other American sites.  I was lucky enough to have a 20% off code from Vogue's Fashion Night Out last month which took a great deal of the sting out of the price.  It's also smart enough to double as a work satchel in the longer term.

Oct 25, 2012

Letting the Pictures Do the Talking.

It's nearly Friday and thank goodness for that.  Work has been busy and it's amazing just how draining a day of meetings can be.  I've been non verbal all afternoon to recover and an only capable of communication via email and Word documents.

All I feel like doing right now is kicking back and talking around some of my Instagram pictures (a shameless plug for my account, ssgblogger).  So today, let's borrow from late 1960's counterculture and turn on, tune in and drop out as we let the pictures (rather than the drugs) do the talking.

First up, is there anything better than coming home from work after a long day?  That whole process of dumping your keys on the coffee table (being careful to not hit the decorative glassware), taking of your jewelry and then going belly up on the sofa with a magazine.  Especially if Hugh Jackman is on the cover and there is the promise of a whole host of Christmas cooking ideas within.  It is only 61 days until Christmas, after all.

Purple seems to be the colour of spring.  The jacarandas and other flowering plants around where I live have coloured the streets a regal shades of purple.

Purple was also my go to colour to wrap a gift for our friends' new baby boy.  I bought baby L a beautiful grey knit blanket from Seed.  It doesn't seem to be on the website anymore.  But take my word for it, it's a thing of beauty.  A simple geometric design in shades of grey and white.  It's trans seasonal and would work with any number of outfits.  Not that either of these points would matter much to baby L.  I think the blanket's softness will the point of interest for him.

However, I did find this as I was searching....
Santa Bear Bodysuit
It's not just any bodysuit, it's a Santa Bear bodysuit.  I know I promised myself to never dress Baby SSG up like a department store during religious holidays but the Santa Bear graphic is just too cute.  For those of you who are interested though, they retail for $39.95.

It's a mere 15 days until sunny pre dinner walks on weekdays will be the story of my life.  I'm frantically getting things organized for maternity leave.  Each day seems to turn up a new form I need to fill out or a new person I need to email.....

I felt a bit crazy taking as many photographs of strawberries as I did a few weeks ago but I think the best of the strawberries have now come and gone.  It was just as well I ate them to the point of intoxication when they were at their best.

The other strawberry in my life, Strawberrynet is still at the top of its game.  My latest parcel from them was a sight for sore eyes.  I was down to my last drops of Argan Oil hair treatment and Aesop Resurrection Hand Balm when that familiar purple ribboned box was left at the door.

Another week, another food obsession. This week, it's all about wasabi peas.  They make me type faster.

Something I've really enjoyed but probably sounds very strange is reading aloud to Baby SSG.  He seems quite content to hear me chronicle the adventures of Poo Bear, Christopher Robin and the rest of 100 Acre Wood each evening.  I've fallen in love all over again with A.A. Milne's prose and Pooh's unique cognitive processes.  Turn on, tune in and drop out, indeed!

Have a lovely evening, everyone!!!

Oct 24, 2012

Iyara, Gladesville.

There are so many things to love about daylight saving.  For one, those extra hours of daylight at the end of the day make it so much more appealing to go out for dinner.  Even on a Sunday night.  My traditional night of having a long lie on the sofa (as are most nights of the week these days but it is mandatory on Sundays).

Just up the road from where we live is a whole range of restaurants waiting to be explored for a twilight dinner this summer.  Iyara Thai is one of our favourites so Mr SSG and I thought we'd kick of the season with dinner here last Sunday.

The interior of Iyara is decorated in dark wood with fresh floral arrangements dotting the dining space. Richly coloured cushions and flickering candles added some warmth to the tables.  An open kitchen sits to the left and though we get to see the chefs in action, the scent of wok cooking over high heat doesn't waft into the dining area.  It just felt so relaxing sitting back in a beautiful space and having dinner cooked for me.

Pud Puk Bong

The first dish we ordered was the Pud Puk Bong ($12.90).  It's a dish of wok tossed water spinach with red chilli, oyster sauce and soy.  It's a lighter version of a Malaysian Chinese dish which uses blecan and dried prawns as its flavour base.  Both Mr SSG and I loved this, especially the chunks of long red chillis which added more crunch and sweetness rather than heat (as we thought they would).

Kay Yan Khao-Neaw
Next up was the Kay Yang Khao-Neaw ($15.90), a dish of grilled chicken with sticky rice.  The chicken is marinated in Thai herbs and light coconut sauce before being flame grilled.  The result was tender chicken with a bit of a kick that went perfectly with the sticky rice and salad.  I liked how the sweet chilli sauce had a richness that is lacking in store bought versions.  It also wasn't sickly sweet.

Prawn Pad Thai
Mr SSG and I are both huge Pad Thai fans so our order wasn't complete without Iyara's Prawn Pad Thai ($18.90).  It was served with an intricate egg omelette laced over the top of the noodles and side servings of peanuts, sugar and chilli flakes.  The noodles used in this version are finer than the usual rice noodles served at other restaurants.  Once again, the flavours were light and balanced.

Prawn Pad Thai after I broke the omelette over the top.
The egg omlette provided a good contrast in texture to the silkiness of the noodles and the chewiness of the prawns.  Any place that serves a generous amount of prawns in their noodle dishes gets high marks with with me and Iyara did not disappoint here.

As the daylight finally surrendered to the night, Mr SSG and I walked home with pleasantly full stomachs and a vow to make twilight Sunday dinners a regular event.

Iyara on Urbanspoon

Oct 22, 2012

Idle Lavender Daydreams. A Bosisto's Lavender Oil Giveaway.

I have a lavender bush in my front garden, just next to the letter box.

Just walking past the purple flowers makes me feel like I'm the lady of the house in an English manor.  I get the post then walk across the lawn again (trudging across it as if I were wearing an English manor type outfit featuring a sensible tweed skirt and a labrador with a gleaming coat of golden hair), inhaling the scent of lavender as I do so.  I could very well have segued into a Provence reference here instead but the English version of the dream seems a bit more tangible to me and my Anglophile upbringing here in the Antipodes.  What a fascinating sentence that last one was, I have no idea how it adds to my argument but it does contain some rather pretty words.


My imagination then goes into complete overdrive and I imagine myself, one day, picking my lavender and carefully tying it into bundles before hanging it upside down to dry out in my spare room.


With this dried lavender, I saw myself making scented heat packs from scratch, filling bowls of potpourri for the lounge room and perhaps even trying my hand at home made, hand pressed lavender soap.  In short, I saw the very foundations of SSG Manor being infused with the scent of lavender with myself reaping its numerous benefits in the process.

As luck would have it, my lavender scented dreams are not as improbable as they may sound.  Bosisto's, the Australian company behind the nation's favourite brand of lavender oil, saved my poor lavender bush and sent me a sample pack of their products to use instead.  What's more, to celebrate 160 years of business, they have 4 prize packs to give away to you as well.

Bosisto's use a premium pharmaceutical grade oil (Lavandula anustifolia) in their products.  Because it isn't a blended oil, it does have a stronger and cleaner scent than many of its competitors.  Aside from the lovely scent, there are a number of therapeutic benefits associated with lavender oil:

  • it can aid sleep and relaxation
  • it helps to eliminate odours around the house
  • it's a dinfectant
  • it can provide relief form insect bites
  • it can treat mould and mildew.

The products I have been using (and which will also be in the prize packs) are:

  • Lavender Spray 100g (RRP $13.73 AUD at Woolworths)
  • Lavender Solution 400ml (RRP $11.95 AUD at Chemist Direct)
  • Lavender Oil 25ml (RRP $8.95 AUD at Pharmacy Online).
Bosisto's is currently stocked at Woolworths, pharmacies and Priceline as well as other select outlets.  This is the link to the official website.

Bosisto's Lavender Spray

This is the newest product in the range and can be used directly on the skin and around the house. 

I've been using it on my yoga mat which simultaneously achieved three things: my mat got cleaned, I relaxed more deeply into my downward dog and I am sure a bit of the oil seeped into my back muscles in my subsequent poses.  The actual scent itself really is 'cleaner' and more refreshing than the blended versions I have previously used.  It's a light scent with some hints of citrus that doesn't get cloying or denature into that synthetic smell after a time like some oils I've tried.

Bosisto's Lavender Solution

Again, this product is suitable for use both on the skin and on household surfaces.  A couple of capfuls can be added to your bathwater for a relaxing soak (more economical than my infamous Jo Malone bath oil obsession too).  The solution can also be dabbed directly onto acne to promote healing.

Lavender solution in action next to a whole range of free loot I got from Coles as part of their Mother and Baby's Club.  Supermarkets love new mothers....

I've been using a little solution mixed with water to wipe down various surfaces around the house as an alternative to my usual pain stripper strength spray cleaner which has been getting on my nose recently. The nursery area may not actually exist right now but at least it smells fresh and I'll probably try to use lavender oil over harsher agents when I clean the nursery later as well.

Bosisto's Lavender Oil

This is the most concentrated product in the range and the uses are as for the others but you only need a few drops on your linen or in the bath.  A capful will help go down well in a load of washing and keep those cheeky monkeys on the bed linen smelling nice!

Now, onto the competition details.  As I mentioned earlier, Bosisto's / FGB Natural Products have 4 prize packs to give away.  The competition is open only to Australian readers.

To enter:

  1. Email me at sydneyshopgirl@hotmail.com with a postal address and your follower name (twitter, instagram or GFC)
  2. Winners will be selected at random
  3. Your prize pack will be sent directly from FGB Natural Products
  4. The competition opens today, Monday October 22, 2012 and closes Sunday November 4 2012.

Best of luck!

Thank you again to FGB Natural Products for their sponsorship of this giveaway and for providing their fabulous products for review.

Oct 21, 2012

A Moveable Feast, Crave Sydney 2012.

Yesterday was one of those busy Saturdays.  The kind where the entire day was accounted for but at the same time, the anticipated great weather made spending the night in seem like a bit of a waste.

Which is how I came to make plans to head down to George Street for A Moveable Feast, the final night of Art & About Sydney.  It's so much fun being in Sydney right now with all the art and food festivals that the city has organised for this time of the year.  The city council seems to have hit the right mix of free and paid events which have managed to draw large and diverse crowds who have managed to have fun, drink responsibly and combine food with art in all its permuations.

Jacket - Zara, T - Isabella Oliver Maternity, necklace - Red Phoenix Emporium.

I was dressed for a day of adventure in my trusty denim jacket, worn over a white T and some statement jewellery as a nod to the more artistic elements of the day.

Fortunately, the early grey skies and coolish temperatures gave way to a day of brilliant sunshine and arm baring warmth.  Which all pointed to perfect evening conditions for a night of open air entertainment.

A Moveable Feast was a street party on a closed off section of George Street (from Woolworths down past Town Hall).  The main attraction was that all 8 of the City of Sydney's new food trucks would all be in the one place for the first time since they started operating earlier this year.  The trucks were parked along both sides of the street and there was entertainment at either end of the area.  A DJ / live music area near Woolworths and deck chairs infront of a large screen down the other end.

The night was scheduled to kick off at 7.30pm.

And this was the crowd at five minutes before opening.  It was food truck to food truck people.  Lines of 10m snaked across the road and around the dining area for each of the trucks before any had even opened.

I could barely move from one truck to the next and it was almost impossible to see where one line started and another ended.  Luckily, the usual Sydneysider food queue etiquette prevailed and people were really helpful and there were no queue jumpers.

Because of the crowd, it was impossible to get too many exciting 'front on' photos of the food trucks so these will have to do.  There is an official food truck iPhone app that keeps tabs on where they will be on any given day as well as a website which will give you more details about the menus and pricings at each cart.

Pre orders were being taken down the line at the Jaffles truck.

This is as close as I got to Cantina Mobil.

Gelati was being served next door.

It turned out that for once, standing on the side walk was a less crowded option than being on the street.

The crowd in front of Urban Pasta (before it had even opened its shutters for business) was at least 10 people deep.

 The healthier options were also extremely popular.

Agape Organic, which is the mobile version of the restaurant.  I was hoping to try their spelt pizza but lacked the resolve to join the queue.

One of the prettiest trucks on the block is the Vegie Patch.

It has little flower boxes on its walls.

Turnover at LetsDoYumCha was rapid.  Patrons were given plates in advance of their reaching the head of the queue and the servers were on the ball the whole night.

The counters were replenished with massive bamboo steamers of yumcha as rapidly as their predecessors were being cleaned out by hungry punters.

I only had it in me to line up for food at one truck and that was Tsuru.  My stomach wanted only one thing for dinner and that was one of their pork belly buns.

With my eye on the clock and the rest of me swaying to a DJ mix that covered everything from Lionel Richie to current club hits I cannot actually name, the party was definitely in full swing.  Perhaps the lines were so slow to move on account of everyone in them dancing to the music.

It took close to 45 minutes to get within line of sight of the the Tsuru trick.

I finally got to order and though my ticket was blue (to match my jacket), it felt like the golden ticket.

The menu is short and sweet. The most expensive item was the Bento Box ($15).

5 staff members danced around each other inside the cramped confines of the van as they cheerfully filled orders as fast as they could.

The chicken satay skewers had their own holding bay on the front counter, just behind a large squeeze bottle of their accompanying sauce.

It was too much effort to find my way back to the deckchairs with dinner.

So I ate it street style.  Standing on the sidewalk under the lights of a rather empty Woolworths.  The bento box contained a pork belly bun, 2 skewers of satay chicken, some pork crackling and a pandan pancake for dessert.  And a bonus red paper crane.

It was the perfect street side meal.  The chicken skewers were bathed in a rich peanut sauce and then a brown one with depth and spice.  The pork belly bun was soft and the pork itself was very tender.  The coriander was pleasant contrast to the fattiness of the pork.  To my surprise, the pandan pancake worked.  It had a chocolate hazelnut filling and reminded me of the Japanese pancakes that are often made in front of your eyes in the basement food halls of department stores in Singapore.  If you ever find these in Singapore - go for the cheese or peanut varieties.  

I did clap my eyes on some art...

This mural on the back of the aptly named Eat, Art, Truck.

And the Meals on Wheels circus performers who were warming up on the side walk before starting their show.

Al Carbon is one the newest trucks to start business and their set up had be intrigued.  The truck is where you place your orders, under the 'immigracion' sign.

Under the canopied area to the side of this is where all the action is.  The meat is flame grilled and the flavours inspired by Northern Mexico.

There was even a little bar area as well.  It looked like one huge party and I think this will be the next food truck I have to try.  I will stalk them using the iPhone app to see where they will be next.

After my brief post prandial stroll, it was time to head home.

I left as the music was still pulsing, the strobe lights flashing and as the yum cha baskets that fed the performers started to pile up behind the stage.  I hope A Moveable Feast returns next year and I'll remember to get in line much earlier too.


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