Dec 31, 2014

On 2014. Keeping It Short, Sharp and Simple.

My year end posts have a common theme. Extreme navel gazing Deep reflection, an attempt to balance the good and the bad that the year has brought before concluding with deep gratitude for life's ups and downs and the blessings (mixed, deeply hidden or blindingly obvious) that they have brought me.

Which is all well and good but there are those years in your life which refuse to be defined a several paragraphs of prose tapped out to a soundtrack of pan pipe music, under the light of a full moon filtered through healing crystals as a pot of cold drip filter single origin organic coffee percolates.

Yes, this year was different.  And this year's 'year that was' post will be as well.

2014 has already been considered from every possibly angle as I've encouraged Toddler SSG to go to bed or whilst I've been in traffic on the way home.  So in this year's post, I'm aiming for short, sharp and simple.  But just as cathartic to write as those of years gone by.  And they do go by so quickly these days.  There have also been a lot of them go by too.

My take home message for the year is this.

Ah the gym selfie.  You're never too old to try it at least once.

2014 has left me a stronger, better, happier and more contented person. 

Stronger because I've been training like a fiend at the gym which has given me more physical muscle than I've ever had in my life.  The thinking time I've had under those pesky bar bells has given me spiritual strength.  In between the deep and controlled breaths (why is it that men lifting weights always sound like they're in the final stages of labor?  I've always wanted to give them the 'you haven't even been through a gynaecological procedure or childbirth' huff and sideways stare...), I've developed self restraint and magically turned bitterness and anger into pity. I'm pretty sure time should be able to take that pity to the next level of love we're all supposed to feel towards those we'd rather just hate and have done with it.

Having a quiet moment or two back in Perth never fails to restore my inner calm or to strengthen my resolve.

Better because I've realised my own self worth and have made the decision to remain true to the person I was brought up to be.

Happier because how could I not be?

A beautiful, happy and healthy child. A job I (mostly) love and which (mostly) loves me back. My health. And my family.  Of whom there will never be enough words of thanks or actions of deep gratitude to convey to them precisely how I feel.

More contented. With less in some areas but with so much more in others. Finding serenity unexpectedly in those 'other' sources of contentment is perhaps the key reason why I've not only thrived survived this year but ended it a new and improved person.

Scratched out 'thrived' in that last sentence because it's a word that makes me cringe these days.  Along with its humble bragging partner in crime 'extended'.   Our children are not plants and neither are they a home renovation.  They are our children for whom we make the best decisions we can so that they can be the best people that they can be.  Progress reports are what schools write and not what we talk about over coffee or social media.

Yeah.  Best be wrapping things up on that one.  Not having walked in the shoes of a parent of a school aged child and all.

There, I've let it all out. Unfiltered.  With conviction.  And so totally not giving a damn if anyone begs to differ.

Apologies for the opinionated hot air.

Looking back on this photo just made me smile.  So I've put it in this post.  Completely out of context.

Actually, no. I'm not really sorry at all.

Standing under clanking bamboo is so soothing and relaxing.  Not something we can do every day of the week but I thought you might like looking at a picture of it as the next best thing.

Happy New Year and thank you all for reading, for your friendship and just being there.

But champagne on the other hand.  That's readily accessible in the suburbs, in the city and all across this great country of ours.

So here's to us.  And to 2014.  The year that was so many things.

Dec 30, 2014

Festivus Inbetweenus. The Corner by McCafe, Camperdown.

How are you holding up today?

It's been a big Christmas break down on the farm.

In need of a bit of a lie down like everyone on the farm?


I hear you. The foolish bravado of eating dessert, short bread and fruit mince pies with every meal for the last five days has finally caught up with me. I wish it was as easy for humans as it is for pot plants to perk up. A watering can of water here, a sprinkle of fertilizer there.... I'm afraid my recovery plan over the next few weeks is going to be the painful route of eating less and moving more.

Back to my usual salad for lunch today. Even I was surprised at myself that I missed it so much.

I guess that road to recovery should begin today rather than tomorrow or the day after. Which is why I'm having salad for lunch and looking over photos of what I've been eating over the last few days rather than reaching for more cake or tiramisu.


I woke up at the crack of dawn to a silent house on Saturday and managed to convince myself to take on a baking project armed with nothing more than a bracing mug of tea and earnest prayers the gods of massive toddler sleep ins. My aim was to make this red velvet cake for his early birthday celebrations with my family.


I crept around the kitchen gathering the key ingredients including the red food colouring and cocoa that give the cake its distinctive taste and appearance.

The recipe is a little involved but easy to follow. There was even a bit of food chemistry involved with the making of a fizzing vinegar and bicarb paste to add the cake batter.


You know things are getting serious in the kitchen when I actually used both the normal round whisk and a beater blade with my Kitchen Aid. The beater blade really did make light work of the buttermilk (skim milk and lemon juice is a great DIY version) and flour stages.

You can also tell that this was going to be a cake of vivid redness because I managed to use up my bottle of pillar box red food colouring. The one I've had for two years, since the last time I made a red velvet cake.

There was a tense moment when I added the cocoa and red food colouring paste to the batter. Would the cupboards be splattered red? Would I give myself a blotchy red face?


Fortunately, neither of things happened. But I did manage to streak the benchtop with some of the batter as I quickly divided it among my three 20cm spring form tins.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the three tins fit comfortably into the oven.

And a even huger sigh with a fist pump when all three cakes depanned without incident. My prayers worked because it was at this point that Toddler SSG woke up and ran into the kitchen looking for breakfast and some morning Peppa if it was on offer.


Speaking of Peppa, I just can't seem to get the International Day episode and song out of my head. I suspect the reason the DVD is on high rotation at home relates more to me than my toddler.


Toddler SSG's homely looking birthday cake. Stars and pirate candles were both from Coles.


The only hitch I had with assembling the cake was that my slackness in not levelling off each layer of the cake resulted in a very lop sided three tiered cake that threatened to slide down into single layers if my frosting didn't harden up in the fridge. Thankfully the frosting did harden and the lean just held itself at a 45 degree angle.

Homely appearance aside, this is a seriously good red velvet recipe. It's not too sweet (even with the frosting) and the cake is a beautiful rich red. It's well worth using a beater blade because I'm sure this is the reason the colour was so even in my cake. I could even taste both the vanilla and the chocolate of the batter. Toddler SSG loved it too. Mostly the frosting but he did make a good effort with the cake between the frosting layers too.
The frosted cake keeps beautifully in the fridge and a slab makes for a wonderful holiday season afternoon tea.

My other Festivus Inbtweenus food news relates to a new cafe I found next to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. For years, the hospital was a workplace (and birthplace) famous for its highly desirable proximity to Campo's Coffee, Luxe Bakery and ... a McCafe. The McCafe is now a funky but very user friendly cafe called The Corner by McCafe. It's a little bit hipster (how could you not be after living in Newtown for so long) and a whole lot of well priced healthy food.

But while you can hipster up a McCafe, you can never completely take the Maccas out of a McCafe. These iced Ronald McDonald cookies were on sale next to the freshly baked pastries, salads and coffees.

Nicely priced pre packaged meal options.
A cabinet of baked goods I'll have to return to try.

The garden in front of the cafe even features a parking spot for dogs.


The go to order at The Corner is The Protein Box ($9).


You order your box from the back counter which features steaming pots of various slow cooked meats and a mix of salads. Orders are taken at the counter with some table service for coffees. I love the staff uniforms of a brown apron over a chambray shirt and dark trousers.

I ordered the pulled pork box to dine in and it arrived at the table in a lined baking tray with wooden cutlery. I might be a little biased as a long time lover of most things McDonald's but this was a surprisingly hearty and tasty lunch. Definitely an improvement on the toasted sandwiches and wraps of the old McCafe. The pulled pork was tender and lean with a rich and spicy sauce. The salads were fresher and more balanced flavour wise than the recent offerings I've had at Sumo Salad and all for less than a tenner.

Being a McCafe cousin, The Corner is very toddler friendly. The furniture is solid and there's lots of table space. The babycinos are pretty good too though they don't come with marshmallows. There isn't a play area as such for the little ones but Toddler SSG had a great time 'helping' the staff by returning each cup and saucer from our table to the main counter and putting his rubbish in the bin.

Have you been to The Corner? Did the protein box make your insides smile? The baked goods. Did you try the baked goods?

Dec 29, 2014

Christmas and All Its Food.

Hello from the tail end of an extra long Christmas break.  

Today's a bonus day off for me and it's basically been the best of both worlds.  I'm in holiday mode and so's the traffic but with most things open and business as usual, I've actually been able to get quite a bit done.

That being said, I fully embraced the peaceful standstill Sydney found itself in over Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  It was meditative gazing at this tower of Toddler SSG's gifts, the calm before my toddler sized storm.

Not that the peace (or the tower for that matter) lasted long when Toddler SSG woke.  He was up to high doh over it being a special day filled with all the people he loves most.

Presents were opened and once the excitement over the wrapping and packaging subsided, his new toys were put to good use as a means to various mischievous ends.

Christmas Breakfast at Maccas under the watchful eye of our local constabulary.  

Traditions were observed in the form of a hotcake breakfast at our local McDonalds.

The official spearing of the first duck pancake of the meal.

And the non traditional took over for lunch which was a round of festive yum cha in China Town.

And the non official but equally important spearing of other foods.

Posing for a formal Christmas Day selife with mum?

My new Firefly frock from The Butterfly House was the perfect choice for Christmas Day.  Thanks for the heads up in your festive frock guide, Styling You! XXXX

Not a chance.  So much to see and seemingly so little time.

Morning tea with a side serve of toy tractor thanks to the toddler.

Boxing Day was saw me supplement every meal and snack with at least one of my Aunty's home made fruit mince pies.  They flew in with mum from Perth and it's proving difficult for me to stop opening the tin in which they arrived.

And then there was the tiramisu we found ourselves eating in lieu of mid morning coffees.  You do what you have to do when your favourite cafes are shut.

By the 27th, the Festivus of Food was taking its toll and I shopped the pantry and fridge to whip up a 'normal food' dinner of a slow cooked chicken curry.  I highly rate this MasterFoods mix.  It's got a bit of a cult following with the mothers of Instagram and rightly so.  Toddlers will eat any vegetable coated in this very moreish gravy.

Slow cooker switched on, it was time for a bit of cardio at the local shops where I found these cheap and cheerfuls at Lovisa.

Before celebrating how healthy I was being by not eating anything for a full 45 minutes with this brown rice, chicken and broccoli food court salad.

It was off to the pool later in the day for a family swim.

Before heading home (at last) to catch up on the mail.  My Furless Cosmetics brushes arrived.  I'm loving how soft they are and also that they are very well made for the price.

And then it was time for, you guessed it.  Afternoon tea.  Featuring my Aunty's home made shortbread this time.  Though I think I snuck in a fruit mince pie after this photo was taken.

All of which poses the question of how long after Christmas is it sill okay to be snacking on cake, biscuit and dessert?  Should I keep going until the first hot cross buns appear on the shelves at the supermarket?

Hope you've have had a lovely Christmas too!  If you're still on holidays, enjoy!!!!


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