Aug 30, 2014

A Saturday At the Shops.

It's the weekend and it's raining.  Bet you didn't see that coming.

We can't complain too much though.  Gardens are getting watered.  Their rain slicked driveways also happen to make an excellent canvas for sidewalk chalk.  The colours become more vivid and the glitter more intense.

The wet spell has had other effects around the suburb.  People geared up for a big Friday night out gave up half way through a beer as a bus home to their doona and the telly won over the prospect of getting soggy and cold in a beer garden.

And then there were the rest of us who took one look at the sky when we woke up and decided that the clouds were telling us to proceed directly to our nearest shopping centre.  The Chase and Westfield were hives of activity today.

A sleeping Toddler SSG and I dropped into the official opening of Pottery Barn at Chatswood Chase and we were given this Clancy bear for our troubles.  I heard that there was Messina gelato on offer as well.

I have a special place in my heart for Pottery Barn Kids.  Walking through a store takes me back to those blissful (or should that be blissfully naive) days of being pregnant and in that phase of motherhood where it was all about the getting.  The books (that Baby SSG never read), the right baby sling (that Baby SSG loathed on sight) and the travel cot (that yes... Baby SSG never slept in).  Lists were copied diligently from baby websites, the allowances for clothing quadrupled and the advice from knowing people that there was no point in spending heavily on a change table (because the bed or the floor was where most of the changing would actually take place) duly ignored.  That unshakeable conviction that so long as you had the 'right' gizmo, sleep, feeding and crying would all fall into place.  I can laugh now but gee I was earnest and ultimately bewildered when reality kicked in.

Out of all the frivolous things I bought, thought, it was the Pottery Barn monogramed hooded bath towels with the gingham trim that got the most use.  In fact, we still use them now.  They're still fluffy, the embroidery is still as strong as the day I received them and Toddler SSG still loves being swept up and ruffled dry in them after his bath.  The only thing I haven't been able to achieve is a photo as cute and perfect as the Pottery Barn catalogue's.  Do you think trickery and Jedi mind games take place on PB Kids shoots?

Away from the idyllic world of parenting that is a Pottery Barn store, real world parenting was taking place at a cracking pace.  With Toddler SSG asleep, the pressure was on to get through my list of shopping.  Most of it pertained to him anyway.  A backlog of slowly drying washing and a bit of a growth spurt has seen us reach a critical low in pyjamas and sweaters.

Target came through (as usual) with pyjamas.  The store is mostly full of new season T shirt and shorts sets but there were some great bargains on flannel and leggings sets.  Sadly, there don't seem to be anymore Giggle and Hoot themed pyjamas.  The flannels from this year were a huge hit with Toddler SSG.  I did, however, manage to find a set of George pyjamas for $20.  Will the toddlers of Australia manage to sleep this spring / summer without their nocturnal G&H wardrobe?  Only time will tell.

As I rifled through the racks at Cotton On Kids, it hit me.  He's really growing up so fast, isn't he?  It's not just seeing his personality and sense of humour evolve each day (usually at the dinner table and usually over the use of food as art or a physics experiment) but also physically.  He no longer perches delicately beside me on the sofa nor does he look enveloped by his car seat.  How dare those days go by so quickly and how dare I not savour them as much as I should have?  The young girl on the register at CO Kids probably wasn't the best person to explore this with.  Youth.  It always puts melodrama and nostalgia in perspective.

You can't leave the Chase without dropping by Kiehl's.  I'm strictly on a buy to replace plan when it comes to makeup and skin care at the moment.  I've got too much stuff and too little time in which to use it.  Kiehl's Clearly Corrective toner is an old favourite and one I always to have a back up bottle of.

It's going to be spring next week.  Do you think the weather will play ball?

Aug 28, 2014

All This Rain. Objects At Great Height.

Who needs alarm clocks and the flashing lights of their bedside phone to wake them up when the sound of these late winter downpours will do the trick without adding to your electricity bill?

I was up with the rain this morning and *insert gloating sigh*, being my day off, I bounced out of bed at whatever crazy hour it was before 5am and made myself a huge mug of tea.

Then I padded around to the lounge room in my socks and pyjamas to do a spot of DIY furniture assembling.  Readers, prepare yourselves emotionally, it was not an Ikea flat pack I was attempting but rather one from Aldi (not that that's much of a surprise either given my love of Special Buy Wednesdays and Saturdays).

One of yesterday's themes was children's books.  The sling bookcase cost $39.99 which I was pretty happy with because I'd seen similar advertised for around $60 online.  It took me half an hour to assemble mine (half of that was attributed to toddler factors involving running with screwdrivers and attempts at eating the polystyrene packaging whilst skidding across the floorboards on the cardboard component - toddlers are so resourceful).

And it doesn't look too bad at all.  It even sits evenly on the floor and is robust enough to hold quite a few soft cover books as well as two blankies.  I'm not sure what I was hoping to achieve with putting the bookcase in front of the television because it got pushed away by Toddler SSG when he realised it got in the way of his pushing the buttons on the DVD player.

From what I've heard, quite a few Aldis have already sold out of the bookcases.

But you might have some luck tracking down the books on offer.  The soft cover Kate Toms books are $2.99 each and are just adorable.  They are clever takes on favourite nursery rhymes.  Not too wordy with vivid and vibrant illustrations for each verse.  I'm loving 'Hey Diddle Diddle' myself.

As a heads up, next Wednesday is $90 1000 count sheet set day so get in early.....

Bookcase assembled and filled, it was time for a bit of Play Doh time for Toddler SSG

while I tended to my collection of Jamie Oliver stickers.  Thanks to my local Woolies being sticker happy with any purchase that's remotely close to $20, I got my first $5 mug today.

Which is currently still in its box sitting on one of the few remaining shelves above Toddler SSG's reach that has any storage capacity.

The prime position at the top of my wardrobe went early.  Spendy perfumes, books highly vulnerable to being torn apart, art supplies at risk of being ingested.  The glamour around these parts.

In other Woolworths sticker news, I'm also collecting the Top Gear stickers that come with petrol purchases at the Caltex Woolies servos.  I was already fond of that particular servo on the way to work because the bowsers had little TVs which told me the weather forecast and selected highlights of the news but now that they're giving out Stig stickers?  I refuse to fill up anywhere else.

With all this talk of obsessive supermarket sticker collecting and things being kept at sensible heights off the ground, it won't come as a surprise to you that I rocked up to the hairdressers in my off duty uniform of hiking shoes and ancient 'skinny jeans' (skinny as in how they make me feel rather than look, they've stretched like the figures and modelling featured in our current Federal Budget).  Happily, I walked away after two hours of restful solitude and Kindle reading with rather glamorous hair.

How are you bearing up with all this rain?

Aug 25, 2014

A Weekend and A Half.

Toddler SSG hasn't quite got the hang of crayons or play doh but he does have a way with expressing himself through interior design.

It was a weekend and a half in the busyness stakes and I wish today was a long weekend Monday because it would've been nice to have today off to recover.

How can you  not be happy when you're wearing orange?  It is the new black after all.

Saturday got off to a busy start with a half day at work.  I have to admit it sounds worse than it actually was.  Provided you don't have to go in every weekend, working on a Saturday can be more efficient than on weekdays.  Less distracting buzz, shorter queues at the coffee cart, more parking spaces.  All of that wasn't enough to convince you about working Saturdays?  I do see where you're coming from.

Anyway, taking the glass half full option, I did get a head start on spring by wearing my Lauren orange sweater from the outlets in Orlando.  Gee that holiday seems awfully long ago.  I think some holiday visualisation is in order this week.

SSG Manor's new cordless phones.  If I can figure out how to answer calls and dial out, I'll be happy.

But back to the weekend.  I just had this list of things that needed to get done.  The cordless phones at home died simultaneously so I had to track down some new batteries.  That didn't work which meant I had to get new ones, assemble them and try not to have a fit whilst figuring out the instructions.  Why can't home cordless phones be as intuitive as smartphones?  We have the technology, Uniden.....  we have the technology.

There were some fun things on the to do list.  I spent all my Priceline vouchers on my desert island beauty itemts - tubs of Lucas' Pawpaw ointment and the brown shades of Models Prefer's pencil eyeliners.  I also got a new Blur Cream, this time from Loreal's Nude Magique range.  The cream comes in two shades and is a thinner consistency than the sister product in the Revitalift range.  Which probably explains that while the colour match is better on me (the medium dark shade), it doesn't have as much of a miraculous effect on my skin as Magic Blur.  I got my tube for $10 off with a Priceline coupon, bringing the price down to around $16.  Which still isn't cheap so I think I'll persist with it rather than ditching it straight away.

Sunday saw me shed all pretension I had that I was a casual but chic weekend dresser (I might have been in contention pre Toddler SSG but it's all about pockets and wash'n'wear come Friday night around here right now).  The newly recovered Toddler SSG needed a little outing to break the monotony of his isolation at home during his flu and a outing we did go.  It was jeans and hiking shoes to the local soft area playground where Toddler SSG did his thing through the tunnels and up the middle of the space ship climbing tower.

Before he asked to be hoisted up over a bin so he could throw away some litter he found as he played.

Then it was off to do the groceries.  I've made the unilateral decision to shop at Woolies for the next three months.  Woolworths is running a collect and save sticker promotion featuring a range of Jamie Oliver china.  I have my heart set on a set of six mugs which means I need 30 stickers plus $30 to get them.  600 dollars worth of shopping at Woolworths before the end of November.  Can I do it?  Are you collecting?  Aiming for the whole set or a more manageable (!) goal like mine.

We were through Sunday's list of chores around 4pm.  Just in time to be driving under this glorious sky.  Spring really is nearly here, it really is.

And here we are, Monday afternoon already.  I've got my old favourites on - a Veronika Maine tunic dress and an original RPE FF necklace over a Kookai wool skivvy.

As well as this strawberry and kiwi salad to go with my lunch and mug of green tea.

Life is good.  It's busy and full of the unexpected but it is also good.  Very good.

Hope you're having a lovely start to the week.  May it stay a good one for us all.

Aug 20, 2014

The Week Night Book Club: 'Eating for England' by Nigel Slater. A Rough Draft For 'Eating for Australia'.

If you haven't already read Nigel Slater's 'Eating for England', you're in for a treat.  It's one of those perfect winter reads.

The inspiration for 'Eating' came as Slater when he was asked by the American press about what defines the British attitude to food.  He recalls struggling to find an eloquent answer but the reward for that struggle to us, his readers, is 'Eating' - a collection of short essays, lists and memoirs about food in Britain.  The past, the present and the future.  He liberally references the celebrity chefs and cooks of our time and lauds them for their positive influence on the modern culinary identity of his beloved country.  Those whom he finds less inspiring are left anonymous but his word caricatures of them leave their identities blindingly obvious.

Some of my favourite essays explore Slater's fond memories of childhood snacks and cakes that have such a powerful emotive allure as much for the personal context they hold in his life as for their taste on the tongue.  Toblerone, the various biscuits in variety packs.... don't we all have fond (and not so fond) memories of the foods of our own childhoods?  'Eating' also gives us a glimpse into the various tribes of modern home cooks in Britain and their cousins are also at large in Australia, I suspect.

I found 'Toast', Slater's other biographical work a little confronting and difficult to read at times due to Slater's observations of life with his stepmother after the death of his mother but 'Eating' was deliciously warm and comforting from the first chapter to the last.

Do you think that one day (soon, I hope) one of our own prominent food writers will write 'Eating for Australia'?  The stories they could tell.  Until the real food writers of Australia release 'Eating for Australia', here are some of my favourite food memories to start the ball rolling.

How NICE biscuits seem to taste of coconut and how you can hardly taste the sugar densely baked into the top?  And how NICE biscuits grow on you with age.

The evolution of our desserts from honest apple crumbles and pavlovas to decadent, glossy quadruple chocolate extravaganzas of cake, mousse and ganache?  And you don't just go out to eat these delicacies either.  Everyone (except myself) seems more than able to whip them up at home thanks to Masterchef and Adriano Zumbo's cook book and cake mix.

The phenomenon of Hot Cross buns being available in supermarkets earlier and earlier each year. Not so long ago, January 2 seemed early for me.  Now it's pretty standard to seem them stocked around December 24.... 

How Mi Goreng is the default dinner option for so many of us when calling for home delivery seems a bit too much effort.

My favourite lunch was and always will be sushi, green tea and some fruit.  Interestingly, I much prefer the sushi I find in Australia than the real deal I found in Japan.  It seems to be one of those foods that has adapted itself to local palates.

Chocolate. So many chocolate coated happy food memories.  The mass produced stuff we now get from all over the world.


The artisan products from the chic chocolate boutiques dotted around the country.

The chocolate bars we love from overseas for reasons including their unique flavours and the fact that they're only readily available on holidays which makes them stash worthy when you get home and unpack your luggage.

And last, but not least, our obsession with limited edition Tim Tam flavours.  I'm a sucker for new release Tim Tams but somehow always end up feeling a little underwhelmed after eating them.

Like Nigel Slater, buttered white toast is my ultimate comfort food.

Especially when served with a bowl of homemade chicken soup.  Ever since I realised just how easy it is to make most of my favourite soups, I've said no to tinned and packet soups.  Except for French Onion soup mix from which you know I can make approximately 5219 different dishes from.

Have you read 'Eating for England'?

What are your 'Eating for Australia' memories?  Let's crowdsource this.

Aug 19, 2014

The Rain. In Praise of the Early Morning.

On the bright side, how clean are our cars looking now?

We've hit that week of endless late winter rain in Sydney and while it's been soothing listening to it from the warmth of my bed at night, the soggy days have been a challenge to negotiate.  Boggy front lawns mean cabin fever for toddlers who would otherwise dash straight out the front door the moment it gets opened and someone says 'shoes'.  At work, the usually immaculate and uncluttered granite tiles and lino are have their surfaces marked at intervals with yellow caution beacons.  We clip along between them in black coats and scarves, holding our umbrellas.  If you imagine hard enough, we could be indoor skiing rather than rushing to offices to login to computers.

What I do love about all this rain is how perfect the world looks at that precise moment when the first fine break of the day begins.  The light just so, the sheen on everything from the rain... it's like you're driving through a movie set for the scene 'dawn breaks on a busy motorway through industrial Sydney' rather than 'so glad I've made such good time to work this morning'.  I wish I had taken a photo of the scene from my dashboard this morning but you'll just have to imagine it.  

Was your commute in this morning picture perfect or soggy?

All rain slicked footpaths lead to one thing - the morning coffee run!

How was your weekend?

I was out and about enjoying that part of them I call my own - the early mornings.

When the sun is just shining through the clouds that were to later bring us all this rain.

And you get a hint of golden sunrise through the trees across the road.  Just visible through those ominous rain clouds.

SSG Manor becomes a hive of industry in the early hours.  The usual boisterous busyness of toddler activity makes way for slightly less frenetic but equally important tasks.  Light bulbs get changed, bathroom cabinets get restocked and microwaves get cleaned.  Did you know that heating alternating dishes of vinegar or bicarb dissolved in water almost gets rid of the burnt smell in microwaves?

In the event of a toddler sleep in, it's off to the gym after the housework gets done.  I'm slowly but surely making my way up the weight plates on the Smith machine and each small increase brings with it a sense of achievement.  I've made my peace with those pregnancy kilos that love me too much to leave me and I'm hoping that they've hung around to change into muscle rather than fat.

At least that's what I tell myself as I linger quietly over the paper and an apres gym almond croissant and skinny cap.

Sunday morning saw Toddler SSG venture out for his first proper yum cha.  Technically, he's been quite a few times but always seemed to miss out on any actual eating of yum cha due to a variety of reasons.  He wasn't quite solid ready the first few times and had to make do with delicately gnawing at rusks before banging them on tea cups.  And then there was the time he managed to sleep right through an entire yum cha - right through  the din of chatter, trolleys and jangling carts of cutlery. 

But on Sunday, the planets aligned and Toddler SSG yum cha-ed with the best of them at Rhodes Phoenix (which was overflowing within an hour of their 10am opening time).  Suprisingly, the yum cha pigs in blankets wrapped in their warm, sweet spiral of bread weren't really his thing.  It was all about the Beggar's Noodles for him.  

And the jelly, of course.

With a full tummy, it was off to Ikea to test out the play kitchen before a post yum cha nap in the car on the way home.

Wet Sunday afternoons just say Allen Key DIY, don't they?  Stretching out barefoot on the floor with a cup of tea on one side of you and an open carton of Ikea on the other.
I managed to put together a Mala paper dispenser without losing any fingers or toes.  The dispenser costs $14.99 and the rolls of paper $7.99.  I'm thinking of lining panels of the walls with some paper as well as the walls in preparation for the toddler crayon adventures that are going to be starting this week.  I'm not sure how washable the paint on our walls is and if the crayons really do dry erase of them.


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