Jul 30, 2014

Books I've Been Thinking About Lately.

I've been reading all sorts of books lately, most of which I've enjoyed immensely.


'The Fault In Our Stars' by John Green is such a perfect novel of teenage love and loss that I couldn't bring myself to watch the film because I was afraid that it would spoil my mental snapshot of the book.  The protagonists, Hazel Grace and Augustus bristle with youthful bravado and sarcastic wit in the face of their terminal illnesses.  Beneath their facades, though, are wise old souls made so because of the indignation and pain of their illnesses.  Reading 'The Fault In Our Stars' was like going back to my teenage world and mindset, only with better comeback lines and witty repartee.


And then there's 'Kate Gosselin How She Fooled the World' by Robert Hoffman.  I've been struggling to think of how to write about this book or if I should even review it at all.  The title pretty much says it all.  The book is a 'tell all' about the 'real' Kate Gosselin behind the carefully cultivated media image and the mother she truly is when the TLC cameras stop filming.

Originally published in 2012, it has been recently re released after threats of legal action from the Kate camp saw it pulled from publication after its original launch.  It is uncertain why Kate backed down from the lawsuit she filed against Hoffman and her now ex husband Jon but once the legal action went away, the book resurfaced.

Hoffman was initially employed by US Weekly to go behind the scenes with the Gosselin family as they shot what was then Jon and Kate Plus 8, my favourite TLC 'fly on the wall' 'reality' series about the seemingly 'charmed' life of Jon and Kate Gosselin as they navigated life with their twin daughters and sextuplets.  I fondly remember nights sprawled on the sofa watching Gosselin family marathons revolving around trips to the beach, cross country road trips and the minutiae of everyday life with a rabble of boisterously adorable young ones.

Why all the inverted commas?  Because Hoffman's book goes to great lengths to provide the facts about how tightly scripted and planned the Gosselins lives were during filming, seemingly at the behest of matriach Kate.  Hoffman did not actually interview Kate for his book but instead has collected damning evidence of her greed and thirst for fame from sources including emails, journals, accounts from her inner circle and financial data about the family's contract with TLC and their endorsements.

The tone of this book oscillates between sarcastic and withering and paints a picture of a woman who actively pursued high order multiple births as a means to obtaining fame and wealth and who then saw her children as employees rather than innocent little humans she should be nurturing and loving rather than earning money from.

There are personal slights aplenty from Hoffman who lived in the same area as the Gosselin family.  He recounts times when he's been at the supermarket at the same time as Kate and was able to see first hand that the impression she cultivated of going everywhere with all eight of her children to do everything a 'normal' mum does with fewer children was in fact a fallacy.  He tells of the number of times she's been off fake tanning or have plastic surgery procedures while nannies see to her children and personal chefs to their meals.  He's taken entries from her public blog and compared them to her private journal entries about the same life events to demonstrate Kate's ability to evoke sympathy from her fans by slightly airbrushing the facts.  It's like reading a US Weekly article in novel form.  There are verbatim inclusions of all kinds of personal documents to pad out the pages.

Hoffman outlines his reasons for writing 'Kate Gosselin How She Fooled the World' in his introduction to the book.  It wasn't for money or fame (though he does have a family to support) but rather to somehow help the Gosselin children as they navigate life with their mother post filming (the Gosselin family series have now been stopped production as far as I can gather).  It's not clear to me exactly how a scathing portrait of their mother by a man who is meant to be their father's friend helps them with the behaviour and anger management issues they are already experiencing (according to the book).

Perhaps the book's more powerful role is to serve as a cautionary tale to all of us who blog or share information about our families online.  How fair and right is it for us to share every detail of our children's activities and appearance in an arena where that information can then be used by someone else to judge and criticize both the author of the material and subject who never consented to it all in the first place?  

Jul 29, 2014

A Sunset In Words. Save the Date.

It was a beautiful sunset in Sydney yesterday evening.  No matter where you were under that rose gold sky, all you had to do was look up from what you were doing and just gaze in awe.  From your car window in peak hour, through the sunroof, out the back window at home, on your walk to the bus or train... it was a magnificent, vibrant canvas of golden pinks, burnished white clouds and soft golden light.  And yes, I was probably the only instragram and facebook addicted Sydneysider to have not caught a photo good enough to upload to social media.  So I'll have to refer you to your feeds for a photo, I'm afraid.

I do have this photo from my desk calender though.....

Guess what's happening in the world of Designers for Target Australia on Wednesday October 8 2014?  Missoni is finally doing an Australian collaboration with Target.  Four different prints from the design house will be featured in the product range of over 200 items for men, women, children and home.  From the press release, it looks like we will be able to buy online and in store.  The price range has been quoted as being between $10 - $169

I'm going to be making a day of it with both an online and bricks and mortar assault.

Here are two of the sneak peak photos from the Target campaign doing the rounds online at the moment.  The campaign model is Mariacarla Boscono and I am in awe of her cheekbones.  But that's by the by.  Doesn't it all look perfect for spring / summer?


It all makes me feel like planning a summer holiday or a day at the beach.  Come to think of it, summer is scarily not too far away at all.  It'll be August at the end of the week!

Back to the here and now and my work day routine.

Some energetic lash finding with my mascara wand.

Today's gym obsession.... cable rows.

After a training session at the gym.  I know this blog is littered with random shots of gym equipment but it helps keep me going.  It's a bit of a drag heading out to train on cold winter's mornings but I do feel much better for having gone and I figure if I keep at it now, summer won't be a desperate frenzy of detox diets and mad exercise regimes.  I have my eye on the prize - some Missoni for Target beach gear.

On the subject of training, I have a new (to me) squat variation to share.

Pistol squats.  I'm linking to a video tutorial and article if you're interested in trying them out for yourself.  I'm at the assisted stage (one arm clinging for dear life to the a sturdy bit of gym equipment) and could be here for quite a while but they are fun to do.

Jul 28, 2014

Early Starts. Underground.

Hello and good morning.  I'm bright and early this Monday morning.

It was one of those working weekends for me but on the up side, it wasn't as traumatic as I thought it would be.  On the even upper side, I'm off the hook for the next seven weekends.  Not that any of us actually count down that way or anything.

Working weekends mean super early starts.  An hour or so to myself in the morning before the adventures of the day begin their journey. 

A quiet coffee and croissant.

Followed by a dash under the roller doors the moment the supermarket starts winding them up for the start of business.  The fruit and veg area looks calm and well rested with its promotional balloons at full perk before the onslaught of the 'shop for the week's 2 (fruit) & 5 (veg)' customers roll through.

A few aisles across, it was a case of coffee meets kaftan chic.  Camilla added a splash of colour and high fashion to the sides of these Grinders coffee tins.  The empty tins cost $5 each.  Would it be wrong to buy them to store my tea bags instead?

It was also a weekend of being brave and confronting fears of the unknown, the subterranean and the very, very dark.

For weeks now, bits of Toddler SSG's toys have been going missing.  A bit of Duplo here, a Mr Potato Head ear there and a hand crafted London bus passenger somewhere in between.  I finally cottoned on to the fact that the gap under the front sliding door actually leads to a dead space under our house and that the gap was just wide enough for those particular toys to slide be pushed into by small fingers.

Armed with a MAG light, I took a few deep breaths and climbed through the trap door under the house.  It wasn't that bad.  I was imagining mice, Jason's hockey mask and bad curtains from the 70s running riot under there but it just gravel and old milk crates.

I ended up finding the toy pieces we were missing plus a few extras from the children of the previous owners.  There's a whole history of childhood memories under our house.  I wonder how many times other parents had done the trip 'down under' in search of bits of Fisher Price and Duplo. I have a feeling I have a few more in my future.  I've just had a look at the Mr Potato Head set and it looks like we are now missing another two ears....

Jul 25, 2014

Returning to the Routine. Makeup Misses.

I'm still here, it's just that the week seems to have gotten away from me.

The mornings have been a blur of waking up, rugging up and heading to work.

It's been a week of trying to re establish Routine.  A word steeped in anxiety for the parents of toddlers who've just returned from holiday.  Sleeps are getting better, clinginess is abating and I'm gradually finding a bit more time to myself in the day to get back into routines of my own - like the brisk Friday morning walk for coffee.  Why, I've even found myself a half hour to write this blog post!

Getting my energy levels back post that head cold.  I'm feeling more human for being able to get out and get my heart rate up for a bit at the gym.

Opening my Cotton On order at the breakfast table because it contained an emergency supply of track pants for Toddler SSG and he kind of needed them right away.

Loving these leggings from Cotton On.  They're the core compression ones from the Active range, in the Active Core Capri style ($24.95 from memory).  They sit pretty high at the waist and hold those areas in that diligent Russian twists and fit ball contortions have yet to touch.  What's not to like about that?

It's also been a week of shattered compacts.  First my MAC Studio Fix died and now my Laura Mercier blush has suffered a similar fate.

This Maybelline Fit Me pressed powder ($14.95) in Sun Beige sort of comes close to Studio Fix but not quite.  

The colour is a reasonable match but it's a bit drying on me and ends the day looking patchy.

To replace my blush, I thought I'd give Physician's Formula pH Matchmaker ($21.95) a go.  It's a blush whose hot pink tones are meant to settle on your skin and fade to the perfect rosy blush to complement your skintone.

It comes in a snazzy light up compact.

Unfortunately for me, the end result was anything but natural.  It's quite pigmented and the shimmer did nothing for my pores.  I ended up looking a bit hot and bothered on both days that I tried to wear this to work.

The moral of the story for me?  Stick to what works.  As luck would have it, I received a StrawberryNet 'We Miss You' discount in my email today so the blush situation is sorted out but sadly, StrawberryNet no longer carry MAC so I'm going to have to find a counter to get my StudioFix.  Or perhaps I'll just go online this weekend.  Any other MAC raves I should have a look at?

There's still one part of my routine that's been missing - Offspring.  I've heard that terrible things happened this week and that I just have to catch up if I'm to make any sense of the final two episodes of the season.  Number one thing on my weekend to do list, I think.

Hope you have a lovely weekend.

Jul 22, 2014

Lemon Juice and Lemonade Cake.

I've been struggling with a cold for the last couple of days and have been missing my get up and go terribly.

Honey and lemon for the time poor just flip the lids and squeeze.
These squeezy bottles of honey and lemon juice have been my constant companions.  I've been sipping at mugs of hot water spiked with honey and lemon all day at work in a bid to keep my voice going.  For the record, that Coles 99% Lemon Juice is the goods.  My throat has held up and my voice has survived the talkfests that have been the last couple of days.  The lemon juice is also lovely drizzled over salad.  I reckon lemon juice is just about due for its time in the sun as the superfood of the moment.

Toddler SSG hosting afternoon tea in Perth last week and I thought that it would be nice to bake a cake for the event.  I don't know which side of the fence you sit on when it comes to cake mix doctoring, but I am a huge fan of the concept when I'm pushed for time and need to come up with a cake that's guaranteed to rise perfectly.  I found this recipe for Sprite / lemonade cake and was able to whip it up in almost no time at all.

Fizzy cake batter.  

Simply place a packet of vanilla cake mix, a bag of vanilla pudding mix, 4 eggs, 1 cup of lemonade and 3/4 cup of vegetable oil into a mixing bowl while keeping one eye on your toddler who will be either clinging to your legs or emptying the kitchen cupboards.  If he's trying to do both simultaneously, abandon the baking project and go out for a coffee instead.

Beat ingredients together on low to combine then on medium for two minutes.

Then bake at 180C for 25 minutes in two greased and lined 9 inch / 20 cm cake tins.  Cool before removing from tins and frosting.

The rules of cake mix doctoring are that it's fine to bake a cake mix based cake but when it comes to the icing and frosting, made from scratch is the way to go.  However, if you're going to use pre made frosting then you can doctor this as well.  There are lots of ideas out there on the net including mixing the frosting with cream cheese, butter or icing sugar.  I ended up beating my tub of Betty Crocker with 1/4 cup of sifted icing sugar and a scraped down vanilla pod (you can use vanilla essence too).  The icing sugar gives the frosting an easier to spread consistency and the flecks of vanilla made my frosting look a little fancy.  However, the rule was right.  Store bought frosting is best reserved for desperate times.

I topped the cake with these zoo themed icing sugar toppers.  The cake itself had a light yet dense texture and was very moist.  The lemonade gave it a zingy taste.  It's the perfect party cake.  The next time I bake this cake, I'm definitely going to make the frosting from scratch.

Our host slept through the savouries.

Hoot pyjamas - Target.

But awoke just in time for the cake.  His favourite part of the cake?  The icing sugar hippo that made his lips as blue as the sleeves of his new Hoot pyjamas.

Jul 19, 2014

More Senseless Loss. Home. Snaps of Holiday Places.

As trying as yesterday's flight home from Perth was for all involved (45 minute total body toddler tantrum that lasted through to touchdown and the entire 20 minutes we were on the runway waiting to disembark), talk of my immense relief at 'surviving it' would be clueless and insensitive in light of the tragic news of MH17.

Image from Reuters.  The cross made by the power line carries grim symbolism for what it towers over.

The innocent soles that were lost were children who had barely lived their lives, parents who would never see their children reach adulthood, people for whom July 17 2014 was just another day on the job.  In addition to all of this is the loss of 6 AIDS researchers who were on their way to a world conference on AIDS in Melbourne.  In them, we have lost not only individual, irreplaceable lives but also a large piece of the fabric of the world's current and future knowledge on a virus that kills millions each year.

The weather in Sydney today seems to be in mourning for the lives lost on MH17.

Grey skies and fierce winds have been with us all day.  It's been a day for staying indoors and making inroads on all those jobs that accumulate when you've been away for a bit like waiting in the Saturday morning queue at the barber with a coffee in hand or hand on the birds' food as the case may be.

Skoot ride on suitcase - $49.99 Aldi (special buy from last month).

We're mostly unpacked.  This suitcase scooter I bought for Toddler SSG travels well.  Unfortunately, Toddler SSG hasn't quite taken to sitting on it, preferring instead to tip it on its side and roll its wheels with his hands rather than on the ground.  I'm hoping he'll enjoy scootering on it by the time we're ready to travel again.

I've seen to the mail, including this parcel from Cotton On.

Socks - Cotton On Kids, $10 for 4 pairs at the moment.

Which contained these glittery spotted socks for Toddler SSG.

Nala circular scarf - $10 with any other purchase at Cotton On.

And a circular scarf for me.

Books for sale at Elizabeth's Secondhand Bookstore, Rockeby Road, Subiaco.

Been going through my holiday snaps too.  Aren't these blind date books genius?

I found this new pasta cafe, Tommy Sugo tucked under the IGA up the road (on Broadway) from mum and dad's.

It's very tastefully accessorised with wooden cutlery for the pasta takeaways.

And nifty striped paper straws (as well as the more durable but less attractive plastic version) for juices and smoothies as well as freshly baked amaretto biscuits that perch on top of each takeaway coffee order.

I didn't have room for their almond croissants but all good cafes seem to have these on offer for breakfast.

The beans on offer last Thursday.

I think I've scored an extra long nap from Toddler SSG this afternoon.  Good haircuts tend to that to a boy, I guess.  I'd better make the most of it and fold the laundry if there's any chance of it staying folded en route to the wardrobes.  And perhaps I should look up the last few weeks' of Offspring on Tenplay.



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