Feb 26, 2013

At Last. I've Made A Quinoa Based Salad. Banana Peeling Magic.

Oscars fashion this year appeared to be all about the drape.  Beautiful, long gowns with fishtail skirts, trains and interesting details at the bodice.

I thought Charlize Theron looked fabulous.  The short hair really suits her.  

I don't mean any disrespect to Charlize and her outfit but I couldn't help but be reminded of her look when I gazed at these salt and pepper shakers at the cafe where I was having a coffee this morning.  Yes, it was a good morning at SSG Manor.  Everyone awoke relatively well rested, bathed and dressed and out the door by 9am.

But back to the salt and pepper shakers.  Their comforting weight in your hand, the way a flick of the wrist allows them to impart great flavour onto your food.

A case in point is this chicken, random vegetable and quinoa salad I magicked up from things in the fridge the other day.  The dressing was simply vinegar, olive oil, garlic and a few grinds each of salt and pepper.  You have no idea how much I feel that my body is now a temple by virtue of the fact that I've finally made a salad based on quinoa.  I am sure Charlize would approve.

I probably should flesh out this post with a food fact or two, shouldn't I?  Did you know that if you peel manky bananas from the bottom up, you end up with a banana without any of the peel fibres stuck to it?  Makes life much easier when you've got to peel quite a few for banana bread.

In other exciting food news, I stopped myself from putting hot cross buns in my shopping basket and got these Weis coconut rough dessert bars instead.  Intagram tells me this was a good decision.  I'm planning to confirm this after my gym session this evening.  I'm attacking the weight machines for the first time on my own, people.  Be very afraid for the youngsters in the immediate vicinity because I can see myself deafening them as I clank the weights down way too hard.....

I don't know if this happens where you live but the streets of my neighbourhood have a very different feel on a weekday mid morning than they do on the weekend.  I'm so used to the Saturday morning crowd of people getting brunch and running around doing errands.

However, during the week, the crowd is somewhat more sedate.  The footpaths are the domain of older residents and their walking aids as they slowly make their way to the cafes or to the cars of relatives who have come to pick them up for appointments.  The dress standard is also kicked up several notches as neatly pressed white linen skirts walk past me at the shops whilst collared shirts and broad brimmed hats sit under the awnings at the local cafe.  The noise level is discrete, never rising above a gentle guffaw of laughter.  I finally realise that what's missing from the soundscape are mobile phone conversations and the purring of 4 wheel drives in a great hurry to be somewhere five minutes ago.

I like how there's a time of the day and week that's just right for everyone who lives in our neighbourhood to enjoy the shady, tree lined footpaths.

Feb 23, 2013

Farewell, Fitness Groundhog Days. Colour That Faded To Grey.

Well, I did it.

I managed to not get swept away in the torrential downpours this morning and made it to the gym to survive my first personal training session.

Today's workout has left me inspired and excited about exercise in a way that I haven't felt in quite a while.  If truth be told, pregnancy not withstanding, I've been having fitness groundhog days for quite a while.  Running the same run, swimming the same laps, walking the same walk day in and day out.  Though the activity always leaves my mind clearer, there hasn't been any challenge in what I was doing.
Kettle weights!  The weight shown is for illustrative purposes only.  I'm only on the lightest possible size right now but am enjoying using them already.
I was pleasantly surprised at how painless my fitness assessment was.  My trainer went through the goals I put forward and explained what was realistic and what was not.  She was keen to take away the focus from weight loss and to focus instead on body measurements and improvements in reps and weights I was capable of using on the various machines.   She didn't say anything about banning sugar or carbs and was realistic about how much I could really change my diet given my feeding schedule with the baby.  I'm really glad about this because I don't do well with severe dietary restrictions.  If I'm 'allowed' to eat something, I tend not to go overboard with it.  Forbidden fruit and all....

I managed to mostly hold my own at most machines.  I'm looking forward to seeing how I go with the programmes my trainer is writing up for me for the coming week.  We're aiming for an efficient 45 minute workout so it's all going to be short, sharp and hopefully will deliver long term, sustainable results.

I left the gym so inspired that when I stopped off for coffee on the way home, I managed to say no to the slices on offer.

Sydney has been having one of those weeks where all the colour of daily life has now faded into a soggy grey, just in time for the weekend.  I'm glad I managed to live at least some of this week bathed in colour.

I finally managed to bust out those printed jeans from Sussan and Baby SSG wore a summery pants suit from the very kind D who posted it to him all the way from the UK.

I reconnected with my local swimming pool.  Laps are so soothing.  I gave the play equipment a miss but it was pretty to look at.

I made an attempt to multi task one evening by trying to put on my face cream whilst keeping one hand on the baby.  I'll be straight with you, it was an epic fail.


Perhaps I need to streamline the number of things I need to put on my one face but somehow it doesn't quite feel right putting on cream with just the one hand.  It's a bit like washing your hair with one hand or even with one finger in a bandaid.  I shall put the Ponds Institute onto this and see if they can explain it.

Not the actual time right now but I will say that draining an entire hot cup of tea by 6.20 am is a little luxury that is worth its weight in gold.
I seem to have found myself an oasis of time right now so I'll carry on.  Who knows when I'll be back with time to blog....

M, a wise twitter friend recently put me onto the idea of baby slings.  She swears by her Sleepy Wrap sling with her gorgeous baby, A.  Always one to be a joiner when it comes to the pursuit of a sleeping baby, I jumped on the Sleepy Wrap bandwagon this week and got one off ebay for under $50.  What I like about the wrap is that it's easy to take your baby out of the wrap, the more structured slings are quite complicated and also quite stiff and firm.  The wrap can be worn like a bohemian top in between baby needing it which makes one less thing to freak out about as you try and think about your daily business outside from your baby's wellbeing.

In hindsight, I should have worn the wrap rather than taken the pram to mother and baby yoga on Friday.  Not only would wearing the wrap have made me look the part of a yogic yummy mummy but the path to the studio was actually quite complicated.

There was lots of scenery along the way.

But the closest parking was several hundred metres away, up a single laned road.

And just when I thought that this flustered, pram toting dog would have her day - I realised that I had to enter the studio from the back entrance which was up a lane way and up a flight of stairs.....  The class was great fun and the obstacles to getting to class soon forgotten, but I think that I'll be leaving the pram behind next week and carrying Baby SSG instead.

These days, my posts can't go by without either a photo of coffee or being powered by a cup so here we go.  This was taken after yoga.  As you can see, I was the fallen mother who went down the road for a skinny cap while everyone else stayed on for a mug of herbal tea.

And that is well and truly all I  have to say today.  I hope you have a lovely weekend and I'll see you again when I see you!

Feb 20, 2013

Congee In A Cup. Cards.

It's been a while since I've written about a food that sounds so wrong it has to be right.

May I present rice congee in a cup.  Another one of those crazy food finds of mine from Costco.  The congee comes in a box of six containing two each of chicken and mushroom, seafood and vegetable flavours.  The retail price was under $8 if I remember correctly.  Each cup is around 800kj a serve.

The first one I tried was the vegetable flavour.

To make up a cup, all you have to do is empty the foil sachet of dry congee into the polystyrene cup and add 300ml of boiling water.

Then, leave covered for three minutes.

I was pleasantly surprised at how things looked when they were reconstituted.  There were a whole lot of corn kernels and other vegetable pieces.  The taste was mild, I actually added some soya sauce and white pepper to mine.  The consistency of the congee itself was fine.  I think these will come in handy in the cooler months as an alternative to cup a soups.

Birth announcment from tiny prints.  The weird deidentifying smudges are my work....
In one of those better late than never moments, I finally got around to getting baby birth announcements printed.  The beautiful images are courtesy of Karen Coulstock who was absolutely brilliant in coaxing newborn Baby SSG into position.  She has the patience of a saint and I'm so happy with the set of images she created for us.

I ordered the cards from tiny prints.  I've admired the tiny prints cards I've received from friends for quite some time now and finally got my chance to have some of my own made up.  The web site is so easy to navigate and there is a wide range of card style to choose from.  When you order your cards, there is a free service where a representative of the company reviews what you've created and fine tunes any minor issues for free.  Customer service is lovely, with lots of friendly email communication.  The company is based in the US and it only took a week for my cards and address labels to arrive in Australia.  I'm definitely going to use tiny prints again in the future.

Aside from that deviation into the evil world of processed food via that congee, I'm embracing as much healthy living as I can.  I'm saying yes to carrots and the daily gym plan is going well.

The gym isn't just about the fitness, it's a bit of an outing for me as well.  I get to wear things that don't have to be breast feeding friendly and I leave the house with a relatively lighter load than the baby bag that is full of things to cover all the potential dramas that may unfold when you hit the road with a baby.    

There's all the familiar benefits of a workout when my time is up at the gym but these days, the added bonus is coming home the little man and his need for a cuddle when he wakes up from his nap.  Baby SSG has gotten to a size now where I'm not so afraid that I'll lose grip of him when I hold him koala style on my chest.  We're currently experimenting with the Manduca baby carrier which has so far given me a half hour here and there to do my own thing at the computer, under Baby SSG's supervision, of course.

Feb 18, 2013

New Perfume, New Body, New Parents.

You've got to love a Monday that starts with a new bottle of perfume!  Chloe is one of my favourites.  The bottle is so chic as well.  It has single handedly lifted the glam factor of my dressing table by a factor of ten million.  A quick spritz of perfume is about the extent of my beauty regime these days so I might as well be doing it in style.

In other news, the looooonnnngggg road to post pregnancy recovery has begun in earnest.  I finally joined the 24 hour gym down the road from home.  I start with my personal trainer this coming weekend so in the meantime, I've been left to my own devices with the machines.

I took so many things for granted about my body and my level of fitness before I was pregnant.  My body looked the same each day, my clothes all fit the way they were supposed to and I had all that time outside of working hours to get in some exercise at the drop of a hat.  I wasn't delusional about my physique but I was happy with what I had as a function of how much effort I put into sensible eating and exercise.

I'm trying not to be precious now and whinge about things, having had a dream run in terms of the pregnancy and how I've recovered since giving birth.  May I just say that pregnancy has taught me a lot about body image.  Watching how my body changed during the pregnancy made me more accepting of the non pregnant me,  I also have a sense of achievement and wonder at how my body managed to do all that it did to create our little one.  But the fact is that my body has changed and a lot of hard work is in order over the coming months.  I accept this and am going to look at what I now need to do as a series of challenges with small goals along the way to keep my spirits up.  The focus will hopefully be on how I feel and what my body can do rather than how quickly the kilos drop on the scales.

I was never a gym junkie in my former life.  Gyms were places I went to when I stayed in hotels.  But I am starting to see the benefits of having fitness indices displayed in front of you with each work out.  I'm also liking the variety of exercises having access to all the machines at the gym now affords me.  I was in a bit of an exercise rut last year, doing the same things over and over, week in and week out.  With the guidance of my trainer, perhaps I may end up with a better body and level of fitness than what I had before.

It's early days yet but I'm loving how I feel after each gym session.  My small, suburban gym has a clientele of normal, everyday people and their commitment to getting fitter is my inspiration to keep finding an hour out of each day to work up a serious sweat amongst them.

Baby SSG and I went to our first new parents group meeting today.  Baby SSG did us proud by managing to be both the first baby there and the first to start crying.  I'm so glad I decided to be part of the group because the other mums and dads are a lovely bunch.  It was both a relief and a pleasure to talk to them today about how things are going and finding that we were all in the same boat of highs, lows and lots of stuff in between.  I felt like we are now going to be facing similar challenges together and because we all live so close to each other, it won't be too hard to continue meeting up after our series of 5 scheduled sessions finish next month.  I'm scheduled to provide morning tea for next week so I guess I'd better start thinking of what to bring.

Feb 15, 2013

Pink Champagne, Shahs and Safaris.

It's raining hard outside.  Typically, this would have to be the day I was so on the ball that I managed to get a load of washing out on the line the moment it started.  On the plus side though, the house is an oasis of calm.  Major maintenance has been attended to, I've turned a blind eye to everything else and everyone is either having quiet time or napping.  It's time for me to enjoy this hot cup of tea next to my laptop and tap away a few soothing paragraphs here on the blog.

Cocktail hour, SAHM style.....  Bottle confusion was not an issue. 
The one tradition Mr SSG and I have for Valentine's Day is that we don't celebrate it.  The glass of champagne I had yesterday, the first for close to a year, just happened to be pink and to be consumed on February 14.  I enjoyed every drop of it.  I have to say that having an opened bottle of champagne in the fridge makes me feel a bit reckless and bit like my younger self.  Except that my younger self would've opened the bottle on Friday night and quite possibly would have mixed up a champagne cocktail or two as she debriefed from the working week and ordered home delivery for dinner.

If you were interested, the champagne was a find from Costco.  It cost around $15 from memory and I'm very impressed with how it drank.  I haven't just been paying lip service to Frugal February.

I don't know if you're a Priceline shopper but one of the problems I have is making it too late to the bricks and mortar stores to take advantage of the specials.  Or else finding certain items not being stocked at the branch that I frequent.  There's also the issue of lugging your purchases around with you as you do the rest of your shopping.  For some reason, I only ever go to Priceline on 'window shopping'  as opposed to grocery shopping days so there's never a trolly to hold my purchases.  It's a first world problem, I know.  Anyway,  I finally got around to using Priceline's relatively new online shopping service.  Delivery was prompt and all those first world problems have disappeared.  The only down side is that those discount vouchers for members can't be redeemed online.

I have a new reality TV addiction and I have some lovely ladies on twitter to thank for this one.  It is.... Shahs of Sunset.  The series follows the lives of a group of Iranian American friends who live in Beverly Hills and it's hard not to like the openly gay Reza and Lilly the Persian Barbie.  On the surface, Shahs looks like just another glossy reality TV series but at least everyone seems to have embraced their natural skin tones.  There isn't a hint of orange to be seen on anyone.

I know it's caked in layers of eyeliner, hair spray, labels and tight dresses but there's something more to the series that I'm intrigued about.  Many of the cast would be unable to live the lives they do now if they had grown up in the oppression of their home country.  Lifestyle and career choices taken for granted in the US would have been punishable by law in Iran.  I'm also fascinated by the tensions that exist between the generations and how parents and children deal with them.

The other exciting TV news from this week is that Maeve O'Meara is back with a new series of Food Safari on SBS.

Government House, Darwin
Last night's episode celebrated the rich culinary history of Darwin and the Northern Territory.  It was fascinating and I regret that I didn't have the chance to sample much of it when I was there last year.  Aside from the Indigenous cuisine, Greek, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai foods also have a very strong presence in the Top End.

The climate also ensures that practically everything can be grown or cultivated in the region.  There has also been an intriguing blending of cultures - sambal cooked the Indigenous way is a firm favourite in the area and a favoured way of cooking fish in the ground has been borrowed from the traditional land owners by relative new comers to the area.  It's not just the food that was a delight to watch, everyone is so friendly and relaxed!  Conversation is peppered with the local slang and everyone's a 'love'.  I can't wait for next week's safari.

Until next time, take care and talk to you soon.

Feb 12, 2013

America's Broken Dream.

I'm definitely not the first person to observe this but holidaying in a foreign country gives you a very different feel of the place than if you were to live there as an ordinary citizen.  For the most part, my impression of what life is like in the real world of a city has been restricted to casual people watching whilst abroad or else through a diverse range of reading material.

I had the opportunity to watch the documentary 'America's Broken Dream' on 4 Corners last night.  It was a disturbing look at the lives of three different American families and their struggle to survive in California (one of the few US states with much in the way of welfare) and Florida (where the suburbs surrounding a Disney theme park are now populated by Americans who live for years in one bedroom units normally meant for Disney tourists because its cheaper than paying rent or a mortgage).  Each family was living some version of the American Dream, holding down regular work and content with their lot before job losses and long term unemployment sent them all in a downward spiral in terms of their standard of living and quality of life.

The plight of these families had echoes of the Great Depression and the work house period of English history.  It sent a chill through me that progress seems to touch every aspect of our lives except for how the poor are treated.  It made me feel ashamed of the fact that what I loved most about my recent visits to the US was the fact that everything was so cheap, personal tax rates are low and everyone I met seemed happy in their job.  Surely that must mean that the cost of living is so low for the locals that living in comfort must be easier to achieve than in Australia?  What I didn't factor into my glib assumption is that with minimal tax comes minimal spending on tax payers.  Those people I saw happy in their jobs were probably earning the minimum wage and depending on our tips to keep their heads above water.

After watching the documentary, I found it hard to be just a casual observer of American life.  So many people's lives seemed destroyed by factors beyond their control - the financial crisis, the mortgage crunch and the (lack of) comprehensive government support for Americans when they need it most.

It was hard not to feel anger on behalf of people who were forced to live in motels or in their cars when their houses were repossessed.  It's hard not to question why children are placed into foster care because their parents are in dire financial straits when surely giving those parents some kind of financial aid would be better for the family in the longer term.

While the parents of the families were able to put on a happy face and try to be upbeat about the future, the pain of living a hand to mouth existence had already scarred their children.  Three year olds living in cars were able to tell their mothers that they were 'not happy' living the way they did.  Ten year old boys spoke of being 'the man of the house' and trying to shield their mothers and sisters from the pain and uncertainty this lifestyle entails.

Sadly, as President Obama prepares for his first State of the Union speech in his second term as President, the dreams and hopes for the country's future are probably strongest in his powerful speeches as opposed to in the hearts and minds of quite a few Americans.  As 'America's Broken Dream' so eloquently reveals, something terrifying is happening to the middle class who for decades worked hard, paid their taxes and enjoyed a high standard of living as the fruit of their labour.  I hope someone finds more than words for these people and that they do so soon.

Feb 10, 2013

Chinese New Year Traditions - Interpretations Thereof.

Happy Chinese New Year!!!!

If you are observing the celebration, I hope you have a lovely day filled with family, food and red packets.

Baby SSG has gotten into the swing of things already this morning with red packets from his grandparents.  In return, he has blessed us with what is now coming up to 3 hours of sweet, sweet continuous sleep.  This could be the calm before more storm.  SSG Manor is facing up to the 6 week growth spurt this week and I've heard it's a shocker.  Between the tension of wonder weeks and growth spurts, there aren't actually that many weeks where the experts tell us to expect calm and predictable behaviour over the next couple of years. Mr SSG and I are facing up to this with a few emotional crutches - humour in all its permutations, foxtel and a well stocked fridge.

Even if you're not observing Chinese New Year, I reckon you deserve to follow a few of the traditions all the same.  Trust me to remember only the pleasant ones....

Ideally, you should have something new to wear today.  I'm improvising with a new cake of soap and lip balm.

More importantly, you are not to do any housework at all.  It's bad luck to sweep the floor.  I think doing the laundry doesn't augur well either so go ahead, play around with the clothes pegs like I did this morning.

Following on from the not lifting a hand in the direction of cleaning equipment, I also don't think you're meant to be doing the cooking yourself today either.

Do not even make yourself toast or pour out some cereal for breakfast.... have leftover lemon and poppyseed syrup cake instead!

And go ahead, order in takeaway for dinner tonight or go out somewhere fancy.

Enjoy yourselves today and may the year of the snake bring you and yours much luck and prosperity!


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