Apr 27, 2013

Nearly On Our Way.

It's all happening this Monday. I'm flying solo with Baby SSG back home to Perth for a few weeks. I have a three day plan for the packing and it started yesterday with my last Friday skinny mocha in Sydney for awhile.


Then it was off to the sofas outside Target where I had a bit of a sit down whilst I tried to remember all the things I needed to buy.


Even with the mental shopping list, I still walked out with twice as many things as I was supposed to. Toy sales and bargain baby thermals, how coud I resist?


As luck would have it, I found a T2 store on my travels. My latest T2 addiction is their blend of Chai. It has the perfect blend of smokiness and spice for me. My stash of tea bags are coming with me to Perth. Just in case I can't get myself to a Perth store the moment we land.


Today saw me action the second phase of my packing plan. It involved a stealth declutter of my wardrobe. I've finally done it. My maternity wardrobe went to Vinnies today. The empty hangers are now rattling at me, just begging to be draped in some new threads. Which means that some shopping will probably go down in Perth. Another incentive for me to pack light.
Speaking of packing, why can't everything you've laid out on the spare bed magically fold and fit itself into your suitcase? I spent a good hour this afternoon trying to use the power of thought to make it happen but sadly, I've just checked and nothing's moved.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's exciting developments. Highlights will include my trying to pack the pram into its travel bag and then squeeze as much as I can in the gaps.


Apr 26, 2013

Bundie and Cake? A KitchenAid 7 Speed Hand Mixer Review.

In the fine tradition that this blog has of answering the big questions, today's post asks and answers a question that I'm sure has kept you up in the early hours.....

Do I really need both a KitchenAid Artisan Mixer and 7 Speed Hand Mixer in Empire Red?

I reckon yes. And a bottle of Bundaberg rum wouldn't go astray either. Curious? Then read on.....

I think it's fair to say that quite a few of my previous kitchen appliance reviews have been hampered by a wide array of technical issues. From not being able to get lids to work to macarons that ended up looking like whoopie pies (at least I was in the ball park of trendy small cakes for that particular project), you can rest assured that if I say something works for me, it goes without saying that it will do the same for you. Well, the moment has finally arrived. Today, I'm reviewing the KitchenAid 7 Speed Hand Mixer on behalf of Kitchenware Direct. Currently, the unit retails for $99 on their site. And guess what? Today's review is 100% drama free.

Out of the box:
  • Easy to follow instruction manual
  • Hand mixer unit with lockable, swivelling power cord
  • Double turbo beater attachments
  • Single attachment liquid blender rod
  • Drawstring fabric bag for the attachments.
First impressions

As you would expect from KitchenAid, the stainless steel attachments and the mixer unit all had a very solid feel to them.


The mixer is plastic rather than the steel of the brand's stand mixers. The control panel features soft touch buttons.

At the base is the main power switch.

The attachments clip in easily into their designated slots and clip out when the release button is pressed.

Sorry I only got half the bottle of Bundie in the photo. It would have been handy for a size reference for the KitchenAids.

There is quite a significant size difference between the stand and hand mixers, as you can see from this very casually styled photo. The trade off for the much smaller amount of bench top space that the hand mixer occupies is that it's not suitable for the heavy duty mixing required for making things like bread doughs.

The test
At last, the real reason for all my Bundie references becomes clear. I decided to test out the hand mixer using this recipe for Rum Cake.

Say goodbye to sore necks and losing your way when trying to follow a recipe!

To enhance efficiency and accuracy in executing the recipe, I stuck a copy of it to a cupboard door with some BluTak. Why didn't I think of this earlier? It makes reading the recipe so much easier.

There are times in your life where baking a cake nearly from scratch will just have to do. With one eye and hand on Baby SSG pretty much all day (and night), I'm definitely an active member of the doctored cake mix school of baking. The advantages of this kind of recipe are that pretty much all the fiddly ingredient measuring is done for you and that your cake is pretty much guaranteed to rise. It's just a few minutes work to pour out cup measurements of the liquid ingredients and to crack a few eggs and voila! A cake to bake materialises in front of you.

The digital speed display is easy to read. Controlling the speed is simply a matter of pressing the up or donjon arrow buttons.

Mixing the batter with the KitchenAid hand mixer was a breeze. It was easy to see how ell the batter was combining as I went. There was no mess, the batter did not explode out of the bowl during mixing (I started at a low speed) and the handset was so light, I could have stood there all day beating my batter. And the best bit? Cleaning up really was a breeze. The beater attachments clipped out easily, and all I had to do was a quick wash in the sink under running water.

Overall impression
  • A two thumbs up, must have in the kitchen. Even if you do have a stand mixer, it's very handy to have a small hand mixer for quick mixing tasks.
  • The unit was very easy to assemble, use and clean.
  • It's lightweight and compact so you don't need to find bench space for it. It easily fits into a drawer or on a shelf. Which is enough to justify buying it, really.
  • Though powerful, the hand mixer barely bakes a noise.
  • The only negatives I can think of is that it may not work as your one mixing appliance if you need a mixer capable of making dough or pasta. It could also get messy with the beaters if you were needing to add things to what's being mixed as you went. The stand mixers have a clear advantage in both these areas.

But what about the cake, I hear you ask? Did that metric cup of Bundie go to a good cause?

Indeed it did. The baking cake filled the chilly morning air with the warm scent of rum. My cake rose perfectly.

The rum butter glaze bubbled temptingly on the stove. Wouldn't a bowl of it make a great dessert fondue? Hold that thought, I might just have to make it happen the winter.

I poured half the gaze over the warm cake while it was still in the pan. Poking holes into the cake helps with the absorption if the glaze.

Then, the make or break depanning moment..... And wouldn't you know it? The great gods of non stick Bundt tins (aka Anolon) were watching out for me. The cake came out in one golden crusted ring of rum scented perfection.

Taste wise, there was just enough rum from both the glaze and the cake without it being overpowering. The texture was very smooth and this makes a soft cake. It does have the giveaway 'processed' feel of having its origins in a box of cake mix and a bag of instant pudding but for the amount of effort required, I can't complain. It's a handy, from the pantry kind of recipe to have on hand when a cake is urgently needed from you. You could even freestyle it with a different liquor if you wanted.

The KitchenAid 7 Speed Hand Mixer used in this review was kindly provided by Kitchenware Direct. I thank them for their ongoing support of this blog.

Apr 25, 2013

Justice, Freedom and Peace. Lest We Forget.


ANZAC Day grows in significance for me as each year passes. Each day between one April 25 and the next seems to bring more news of conflicts overseas which see more of our serving men and women called into tours of duty. The issues more complex, the line between right and wrong increasingly blurred, the definition of peace more and more subjective. As I move from childhood, then adulthood and now into parenthood - the human cost of war is brought into even sharper focus.


I don't think it's possible to live in this country and not cherish the ANZAC spirit. Justice, freedom and peace are the qualities that ANZACs past and present fight for. For all of us. It's not just a matter of not forgetting today but also remembering the sacrifices made on our behalf every other day of the year and acting towards each other accordingly.

Apr 24, 2013

When the Sun Shines. Cleo 2.0.


And before you know it, we're simultaneously halfway through the week and on the eve of a public holiday. I don't know exactly what I've done to feel as busy as I have but there it is.

I've had a bit of a sit down with a coffee and a good read, my thoughts are collected and here I am, tapping away on my iPad. Let's see where it all takes us today.

May I just say how beautiful this autumn has been so far? Granted there have been a fair few grey days filled with downpours but when the sun comes out, life is beautiful. There's just enough warmth in the mid morning air and the occasional breeze to ruffle the leaves and flowers. It's one of those simple pleasures to be able to take the time to savour it on a random working day.




More midweek cheer was to be had whilst I was doing the groceries. It's not every day of the week that you get greeted with a Lindor ball on entering Coles. There's a new caramel flavoured variety that's just launched and I will be able to tell you after lunch if it even comes close to my all time favourite peanut butter version.



In news that has made me feel really ancient, Cleo magazine has just unveiled its relaunch issue. Apparently, all the sex tips and nudity that were its trademarks just aren't what the young women of today want from a magazine. Instead less sex (but not none at all) but more fashion and lifestyle will be the new direction for what Cleo's publisher says is a more conservative readership.


Perhaps there isn't some deep psychosocial reason to explain this return to conservatism. It could just be disenchantment with the too much information approach to relationships that reality television, leaked videos and navel gazing celebrity news (closet Daily Mail online fan here) have given us in recent years. On the other hadnd, it could also be a yearning for fluffy, feel good fun that seems to be in short supply in other media. A sort of return to relative innocence in one aspect of life in a world that seems hell bent on pulling everyone at any age the other way.


I was curious to see what the new Cleo looked like close up, so I had a quick look whilst waiting at the check out. I didn't make it last the cover. It looked and read an awful lot like Dolly magazine to me. The love heart graphics around a supermodel wearing a head band decorated with cats ears, the 'so you're single' self help article, the new, pink font of the title.... It's been at least two decades since I last read Cleo and another since I last read Dolly. Have their respective demographics merged?


Have you read the new Cleo? Have I misjudged the cover?





Apr 20, 2013

Angkor Wat. Adventures In Denim.


I am my mother's daughter in many respects but the one thing I lack is her sense of adventure and love of spur of the moment vacationing. A case in point is the post holiday catch up phone call we had yesterday. What was meant to be a brief trip back to Malaysia to catch up with her brothers and sisters ended up involving an impromptu side trip to Cambodia to take in Angkor Wat. My mother reasoned that since she was in that part of the world, she might as well continue on her quest to see all the Wonders of the World. She managed to talk a brother and a sister into going with her and together they took a 'very pleasant two hour flight' to Cambodia and landed at an 'interesting airport nestled in some beautiful greenery'. The majesty of the temple filled her with awe and the steep walk left her invigorated. She highly recommended that I get myself there one day.


Hearing about my mum's little adventure made me think about my own life and how a little bit of excitement wouldn't go astray. The soaring temples of Cambodia may be off limits for me right now but my local Cotton On is only a short drive away, nestled within the walls of a very baby and pram friendly shopping centre. As an antidote to the grey skies and rain, my mission at Cotton On was to find some new skinny jeans to add some colour and interest to my SAHM uniform of jeans and nursing tops. It takes a brave woman in her late, late thirtysomethings to go in search of jeans at a 'youth' label but after a particularly efficient workout, I was riding on a rush of endorphins and that reflected self confidence you get from having just shared the air and weights room with the hard core body building set at the gym.


There's lots of good news to share about the skinny jeans situation at Cotton On:

  • They have a special offer on selected styles at the moments, two pairs for $60 - online and instore
  • The current cut acknowledges women with hips and waists, the waistband doesn't sit super low
  • The leg length is fine for people of 'average' height, I'm around 167cm tall and they weren't swimming on me
  • I'm between sizes so went up a size in the interests of public decency
  • There's a fair bit of stretch in the denim
  • I found the range of colours and prints both interesting and wearable.


So, with Baby SSG guarding the change room door in his pram, I faced the difficult task of choosing the two designs I thought would get the most wear from as well as being different enough to what I already own to justify being bought.


The suspense must be killing you. Here's what my jeans look like on actual models.



Maison skinny leg jeans
Traveler paisley print in Robin Hood green


I love the paisley print on these Maison style jeans. Not to mention the fact that they're in a shade of green called Robin Hood! I might have to accessorise with a quiver of arrows or with a feathered cap.

Ritchie skinny leg jeans in red

My other choice was a solid red. Though the style name is different, the Ritchies are the same cut as the Maisons.

The challenge is now on to match them with my existing winter items. And also to not go overboard and go back for the camouflage and olive green styles....

Apr 18, 2013

Of Toothpaste and Toothbrushes.

I've been pondering doing something about the colour of my teeth for quite some time now. Celebrity worthy perfect white teeth sound great in theory but the maintenance required is right up there with keeping your hair that shade of Bergdorf blonde. Frequent trips to the dentist (for the teeth), care with the foods you eat and drink (for both, I guess), the cost (ditto).... It all sounded too much like hard work.

Until I happened to be given a tube of Colgate's new Optic White toothpaste to review. My review today will also include Colgate's new Slim Soft toothbrush. Both are available at retailers including Priceline, Coles and Big W. Optic White retails at $7.99 for a 110g tube and the Slim Soft toothbrush is $3.99 for a single and $6.99 for a twin pack.
Optic White toothpaste
General observations:
  • Sturdy flip top tube in a shade of iridescent red I'm quite liking. Looks rather chic on the bench top in my bathroom.
  • Is more expensive than regular Colgate toothpastes, around $3 more from my research. It's also at the pricier end of other supermarket whiteners.
  • Definitely has a different taste to regular toothpaste but not as unpleasant as I thought it would be. It tasted a little chalky and less 'minty' than what I usually use. In the scheme of things, I'm more than happy to live with this if it will give me lovely looking teeth.
  • The key ingredient in Optic White is hydrogen peroxide. Colgate clams this is successful in both removing surface staining as well as deeply whitening teeth. The brand's research promises teeth three shades whiter after four weeks of use.
  • I've not experienced any sensitivity of my gums in the weeks that I've been using Optic White twice daily.
  • It's too easy! All you have to do is use the toothpaste. No additional treatments, no food restrictions, no appointments.
  • It's fine to use with both electric and standard toothbrushes.

You might be wondering why I've included a photo of my front loader near the end of a cycle at this point. It was noted in other reviews of this toothpaste that the longer you can leave some product on your teeth, the more rapidly you'll notice the whitening effect on your teeth. Emptying the washing machine took just the right amount oif time to let my teeth 'soak' a little while longer.

  • I'm impressed. It's been just over a week and I'm already seeing results. My teeth are normally strained and probe to yellowing. At the moment, they definitely look cleaner. Not a perfect dazzling white (yet), but much better than usual. It will be interesting to see how good they'll look in a few weeks' time.
Colgate Slim Soft toothbrush
Bristle comparison.
Colgate Slim Soft on the left, my regular Colgate toothbrush on the right.



The unique selling point of this toothbrush is its size. The bristles are softly tapered and 17 times slimmer than those of a standard toothbrush. The toothbrush head is also noticeable slimmer than those of others on the market. The aim of these modifications is to provide a gentle and more through clean.


Toothbrush width comparison.
Colgate Slim Soft on the left, my regular Colgate toothbrush on the right.


I was a bit sceptical that Slim Soft would have any advantages over current toothbrush but I was pleasantly surprised. By jingo, it's a toothbrush that can really clean! The finer, softer bristles actually did clean my teeth more thoroughly than my firmer toothbrush with its fancy bristle arrangement. If you have sensitive teeth, the Slim Soft toothbrush is definitely worth considering.


And there we have it, all the latest on my dental goings on.


The products discussed in this review were provided to SSG by Colgate-Palmolive and Magnum PR. I would like to thank both parties for their support of this blog.


Apr 17, 2013

Team Hazelnut.

I've found instant coffee love.

Hazelnut Moccona, how I love you.

Let me count the ways.

You're like toothpicks for my eyelids, only less painful.

You've single handedly (and deliciously) kept me awake since my 2am wake up call.

You smell so good first thing in the morning.

It's so much more satisfying sipping at you from a mug than battling with a jar of Nutella or the wrapper of a Kinder Surprise with one hand for a hazelnut fix.


I'm very much team hazelnut but what about you? Are the vanilla or caramel flavours more your thing? Or is flavours instant coffee even more of a travesty than the regular stuff?


Apr 16, 2013

Pimped Up Brownies. A Rebel Fix.

When the skies are grey and there's no chance of the laundry drying on the line anytime soon, there's only one thing to do. Bake. With large amounts of chocolate and butter.

With my Lurpak brownie tin and blocks of butter from yesterday's successful mission ready to go, the logical thing to bake was brownies. I'm all about the packet mix these days and Donna Hay heeded my call with her chic blue box of Caramel Fudge Chocolate Brownie Mix. All you need in addition to the mix are 2 eggs and 125g of melted butter. Coles online tells me that it currently retails for $8.67 (precisely) per box.
When most of the work of baking is done for you, it's hard not to resist the temptation to engage in a spot of brownie bedazzling. The things I chose to bedazzle with were sea salt and some squares of dark chocolate. The sea salt because of my salted caramel obsession and the extra chocolate? Well you can never have too much chocolate in a brownie and I was hoping to achieve that rivers of melted chocolate effect with each bite of brownie.
A few words about preparing your brownie tin. If you're short on time, a quick way to line a greased tin with baking paper is to wet a scrunched up piece of baking paper and ease it into the prepared tin. No finicky cutting required. The moistened paper readily fits into the contours of the tin. That was one of the many great shortcuts I've gleaned from watching Jamie's 30 Minute Meals.
The caramel component of the brownies comes as a ready made slab of caramel which you then chop and add to the mixture of eggs, melted butter and the supplied brownie mix.
The Donna Hay mix produces a pretty stiff and fudge like batter. It didn't take long at all to achieve this consistency with hand mixing.

After pouring the batter into the prepared tray, I pimped up the top surface like chocolate and sea salt were going out of fashion. And yes, the Lurpak tin was the perfect size for the amount of brownie batter I had.


I baked my brownies for 55 minutes at 160C in a fan forced oven. Whilst the brownies turned out to be chewy and moist, my excessive brownie pimping proved to be fortuitous because the extra chocolate added a bit more depth to the chocolate flavour which seemed a bit subdued in comparison to other brownie mixes and recipes I've used. The caramel pieces baked to a chewy, gooey stickiness and the addition of some sea salt gave the caramel a recommended for mature audiences kind of finish.


I've been watching clips of Rebel Wilson hosting this year's MTV Movie Awards and wondering whether she landed the show an MA rating too. Rebel took the hosting gig to places it's never been before and she did it with flair and talent. Aussie cliches, self deprecating quips and double entendres came thick and fast as she sang and danced her way through the show. She owned each element of her performance and that's what made it such great viewing. Rebel was as much fun hosting the show as she is in her movie roles. Which doesn't happen as often as you'd hope in Hollywood.


I got another dose of Rebel with 'Pitch Perfect' on DVD. It felt like Glee's slightly edgy older cousin whose off at uni. The singing and dancing had me tapping my feet and singing out loud. And you've got to be happy with that on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.


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