Sep 30, 2014

Culinary Nearlies.

Isn't it nice to be done with black opaque stockings for the year?  And to feel the sun on your  bare legs and arms?

Cardigan - Mix Apparel, skirt - Boden, flats - Rockport.

After a few false starts, I do believe the warm weather is here to stay.  It is nearly October after all.

October in Sydney is Good Food Month.  Restaurants offer month long special menus and promotions, there are food festivals practically every weekend and a food obsessed city gets even more fanatical about the latest must try desserts, places to have coffee and signature dishes from the big names.

I'm not sure exactly how much I'll be participating in Good Food Month this year but I did try to get into the zone over the weekend.  I've been hearing about all the exciting developments on Parramatta's Eat Street and entertainment precinct so I thought it'd be nice to take Toddler SSG on a drive to see it for ourselves.  There's still a fair bit of renovating and road work going on and we were there at a toddler friendly time of early Saturday morning so we didn't get the full effect of the after hours buzz but we were there.

On Saturday mornings, Eat Street is more of a Market Street.  Many of the restaurants are shut and recovering from a big Friday night leaving the cafes to open for the market crowd.  The markets are held on the street and you can take in a view of its wares from behind the awnings of the al fresco dining areas that line Eat Street.

So near yet so far.  Messina loomed on the horizon as we walked but it doesn't open until midday on the weekend.  The queuing area was temptingly empty at ten in the morning but waiting in line for two hours with a toddler just wasn't going to happen.  Even for exotically flavoured gelato.  One day the planets will align and I will front up to a Messina during opening hours and get myself a cup of the good stuff.  It would make my life so much more complete, I'm sure, if Chatswood got itself its own Messina.  Perhaps the people can make it happen?  I'm doing my bit my starting a rumour on the blog.....

As first time Parramatta visitors, Toddler SSG and I took the shuttle bus around the city and stopped off at the park.

Before looping around the court houses and returning to the Westfield.

Where we had a another culinary nearly moment.  Poh Ling Liew was hosting a pop up restaurant in the main court of Westfield.  Poh is the ambassador for Papparich  and is hosting events around Sydney celebrating the opening of new Papparich outlets.  Once again, we looked on from afar at the swish set up and the promise of a lunch of Malaysian Delights.  Papparich are opening at the Macquarie Centre too so I'm hoping to take my mum and aunty when they come over in a few weeks.

Parramatta's town centre has just had a refurbishment with the clock tower being restored to working order and a new water fountain built in front of it.

It was Toddler SSG's moment.  

Bringing along his waterproof parka turned out to be a great idea as he ran through the jets of water and jumped in the puddles.

So what did we actually eat on our little foodie tour?  Maccas.  McChicken Bites for the toddler and a semi healthy soy chicken wrap for me.  We shared a serve of sweet potato wedges which neither of us liked much.  Should've gone with the fries.

In other food news from the weekend, I found these pots of lightly dried herbs by Gourmet Garden at Coles.

You use them as you would fresh herbs and I gave the coriander a go in my salad.  They do add some visual pizzazz though the flavour isn't as intense as the fresh variety when eaten as is.  I suspect they may release more flavour during cooking and that fresh is still best as a salad garnish.

Sunday was New Shanghai dumpling night and Toddler SSG managed to get through a whole serve on his own.

Oh, and I've officially entered 2014 with my new paypass card.  It's now stuck on the back of my phone and apparently it can still work through non metal phone cases.  You can use them to pay for sales of less than $100 and I'm looking forward to mine saving my life on those days when I leave the house with everything but my wallet.

Do you have a paypass card?  Do they really work through phone covers?

Sep 28, 2014

Grandmother Hillary. Moccona Mocha Mug Cake.

Not wanting to deflect any of the joy and congratulations for Chelsea and Marc Mezvinsky for the birth of their daughter Charlotte last week but my favourite former First Lady and Secretary of State has also become a grandmother for the first time.
I reckon Charlotte's got just about everything she could possibly ask for in a grandmother - a go get 'em, can do attitude and a positive female role model but perhaps most importantly an abundance of love.

During the week, I posted a few photographs about #Mocconamoment, a competition that I was asked to be part of by my very favourite instant coffee brand.  The objective of the challenge was to enjoy the box of goodies Moccona sent and to use them as inspiration for an Instagram worthy Moccona moment or two.  The rainy weather last Thursday was the perfect excuse to take to my bed and workshop some ideas.

Inspiration found me in the shape of Not Quite Nigella's recipe for 5 Minute Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake and the Parisian mug that came in the Moccona parcel was the perfect size to 'bake' in.  I consulted the Google Culinary Institute for a recipe I could adapt and finally found the Instructables version which was unique in being quite specific about the amount of beaten egg required for a single cup of cake.  It turns out that a whole egg can make things a bit gluggy and dense.  I've included the original recipe at the end of this post.

I found it easier and less messy to mix the cake batter in a separate bowl before pouring it into my lightly oiled (with spray) mug.  You need to be precise with the measurements for the dry ingredients and this is what I used - 4 tablespoons of plain flour, 4 tablespoons of sugar and1 tablespoon of Dutch processed cocoa.

I placed 3 tablespoons of chocolate chips in my mug.

As Toddler SSG ate a few for afternoon tea.  He's only seen me bake with the distinctively purple packets of Cadbury chocolate chips twice but he can recognize the packet on sight and knows to stand at my feet quietly with an innocent look on his face to get his share.

To the dry ingredients add your wet - 2 tablespoons beaten egg, 1 tablespoon of oil (3 seemed a bit excessive) and coffee (2 tablespoons boiling water, 1 tablespoon milk and 1 teaspoon of Moccona).

Then pour the batter into your mug and stir in the chocolate chips.

I only needed to microwave mine on 'HIGH' for 1 minute.  The edge of my cake came away neatly from the mug at this point so I knew it was pretty much cooked.

Be warned, this recipe makes a very rich and moreish cake.  It turned out much tastier than I expected, it was very moist despite my reduction of the oil down to a tablespoon.  It also kept well for the next day.  I reheated in the microwave for 10 seconds and it was still cake like in texture and not rubbery which sometimes happens with microwaved cake.

What a dangerous recipe to know!!

This is the original recipe from the Instructables website.

Instructables 5-minute Chocolate Cake

  • 4 tablespoons flour 
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons whisked egg 
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chips
  • splash vanilla or other flavoring - try peppermint or cinnamon

For a fudgier version, omit egg.

  • Add all of the dry ingredients to the mug and mix.
  • Add the egg and combine well. It gets pretty pasty at the point.
  • Stir in milk and oil.
  • Add chocolate chips* and splash of vanilla. Stir well
  • Microwave for 3 minutes in a 1000w oven, or 4 minutes in a 700w oven.

Sep 26, 2014

The Loveliness of Boden.

It all started on a Friday night, as many a good virtual shopping basket often does.  With spring finally in the air and a long week behind me the scene was set for a bit of a wardrobe update for the new season.

For inspiration, I had my mood board / necklace stand decked out in my Lovisa finds from the last few months next to my computer as I browsed.

Boden is a British label I've just discovered and it's a label who in turn, has just discovered Australia.  Boden began its life in 1991 originally as a British mail order business focusing on menswear but it was obviously too good to be kept a secret from the rest of the world and Boden is now a world wide retailer who distributes around 50 million catalogues each year and sells clothing for men, women and children under an umbrella of labels.

The Australian website has recently launched featuring all items in Australian dollars, a flat shipping rate of $10 per order and 10% off everything.  I love the feel and look of the website.  It's so quintessentially British with its gentle humour and warm turn of phrase.


And then there's the clothes.  Oh, the clothes.  Work co-ordinates that make you want to wake up in the morning and get dressed for a day at the coal face.  And not just in 'pay rise black' as Boden refers to the shade but in a host of beautiful jewel tones and patterns.  For those of you who're a bit dark at the local high street labels and their obsession with things that real women can't wear to work and don't want to wear at the weekend then Boden is a site (and sight) for your jaded eyes.  Dresses that are either fitted or flared and run at reasonable lengths (no billowy sacks).  Tops for work and for the weekend that go beyond button down shirts or plain Ts.  Plus quirky finishes like contrasting linings of spotted fabrics.  I'm not here to put down our local offerings but it's just that none of it has been me for a very long time and it has been a little disappointing to go out window shopping and not feel compelled to walk into any of the chain stores except to buy things for Toddler SSG.

Price wise, we're talking a little more than ASOS or Next but still cheaper than say Country Road or Cue.  And now that I've received my order I can vouch for the beautiful finish of Boden clothing for the price point.  Substantial fabrics, generous cuts and everything I ordered was fully lined with pockets to boot.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

After an email confirming my purchases and inviting me to both obsessively track my order and sit back with a cup of tea,  I really did get my order within the 3 - 5 working days as promised  by the site.

It arrived packaged in a navy spotted post bag dotted with Boden-isms.

My order even had a faint scent of lavender when I opened the individual garment bags.  I made the mistake of reading the enclosed catalogue and am trying hard not to place an order for one of practically everything on its pages.

This is what I ordered.  I've listed the price I paid as part of the 10% off promotion with the full price in brackets.  All in Australian dollars.  Most things come in a regular and longer length.  There's also a useful suggested size guide based on what you've bought from a range of comparable brands.
The spot jacquard dress $133.20 in orange ($148.20).  The spots have an embroidered border to them, giving the classic dress a bit of a twist.

The Beaufort shift dress $133.20 ($148.20) which I'm wearing today as part of that good old shift dress with black opaques look.  This dress does run a little short but to hashtag inappropriately, #yolo.

Shift - Boden, necklace - Lovisa.

I love it when a plan comes together, the shift worked brilliantly with one of my $7 Lovisa specials,.

This is the Sophia skirt $97.20 ($108) - it's pretty, it's a lovely print and fills a void in my skirt collection.

Have you discovered Boden?  Are you as obssessed as I am?  How did we even walk out the front door in our pre-Boden lives?

Before I leave you to a weekend of finals football (ho hum....), Target have revealed the full collection of Missoni collaboration items on their website.  What's more, you can even create a wish list that will be emailed to you on launch day which is Wednesday October 8.  Less than two weeks to go!!  My wish list is looking a bit over the top right now.  Given that I'll be off on holidays soon after.  We will see.

Have a lovely weekend!

Sep 24, 2014

Pondering. A Favourite Muffin Recipe.

The weather right now is my most favourite thing to wear.  

It goes with everything.

Necklace - Red Phoenix Emporium, dress - DVF.
It flatters every skin tone and makes monochrome prints pop.  I'm loving being able to finally wear my frocks and to be losing all those winter layers.

Doesn't everything look more vivid in the soft sunshine of spring?

Pardon the lack of a pedicure.  I'm hoping to get back on the wagon by the summer.  Ironically, it's proving harder to maintain a regular pedicure regime than it is a fitness one.  Go figure.

The sun warms the pavement on our front verandah just so and it's one of life's simple pleasures to just sit there with a mug of tea, your legs outstretched as you feel the warmth radiate from under your feet.  If you're lucky, your toddler will be on the driveway reversing his ride on car with more precision than you've ever managed with your car that's fitted out with power steering and parking sensors.  Which will then give you a few minutes to ponder the state of your jeans and how you managed to get hand shaped dirt marks down both legs as well as up a bit and over the front of your top.

I love a good ponder.  Another of life's simple pleasures.

The good thing about pondering is how portable it is.  You can ponder anywhere and at anytime.  Like at 4.45 on a Tuesday morning when breakfast has to be assembled before you've even had a chance to make yourself a tea cup of tea.  That's another of my morning time savers, having tea from a tea cup.  I find tea cools faster that way so you can actually finish a cup with breakfast and still have time to get ready for work.

I can't remember what I was pondering when I took this photo of Toddler SSG's breakfast but it was very soothing.  It could have been about creative ways of presenting breakfast fruit.  Actually, it was.  Kiwi fruit buttons are the official name for those slices of fruit you create by teaspooning off the top layer from a sliced crossways kiwi.

I realize now that the mini muffins in the photo are not from the same batch I made using the recipe I'm going to share below.  But we can pretend.

Best Recipe's Basic Muffin Base is my current go to muffin mix.  I like that it's an easy one bowl affair and that the resultant muffins are moist and depan without too many tears.  Prior to using this recipe, I'd had a run of bad mini muffin experiences where whole batches failed to loosen from the tray in one piece.  We ended up just eating the muffin tops.  It wasn't quite as fun as eating those donut ball 'centres' from Puffin' Fresh Donuts.

Back to the muffins.

Here's what you need to place in a large bowl:
2 cups SR flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup veg oil
1 cup milk

I made buttermilk by adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the milk.  I like that lighter taste and texture buttermilk seems to add to baking.

My flavour add ons were - 3/4 cup choc chips, 1 mashed banana and a generous teaspoon of vanilla.  The recipe yielded 30 mini muffins for me.

I baked at 180C for 20 minutes.

The muffins rose perfectly and also had a lovely crust which is key when you're not baking with lined muffin trays.

How are you adjusting to spring?

Sep 22, 2014

Finds In the Sunshine.

Picturesque normally doesn't describe car park exits but I couldn't resist taking this photo on my way out of Rhodes yesterday afternoon.  The blue sky and fluffy clouds reflecting off the still water in the distance and the way that the endless blocks of high rise apartments somehow don't manage to look and feel as oppressive as they could.  If you make a right turn from this exit, tall trees arch over you as you drive.  It's soothing in the winter when the branches are bare and uplifting in the spring when the branches do a leafy green sway.  In a city as congested and as urbanized as Sydney, you take the beauty where you find it and soak it up.

Relief ... found that ticket tucked away in an obscure pocket of my purse.  Why can't these things be smart phone app-ed?

Sunday was all about errands for me.  And being grateful for small blessings like finding my car park ticket in the nick of time and saving myself $42 in lost ticket fees.  I'm having a bit of bad run with car park ticket panic.  It's that bad I can't actually remember the last time I left a shopping centre car park without some mild anxiety over the whereabouts of my ticket and a feverish search of every pocket of my jeans, purse and handbag.  It never happens at work because I wear my pass around my neck.  The day is nearly here where I'll have to do the same at the shopping centre.....

The Rhodes trip was Ikea related where I discovered that halogen globes are so last week and LED is where it's at.  They're a pricier globe so I hope they last three times as long, to positively correlate with the price difference.

Something that was a real find was this Smakryp bath toy set.  It costs $4.99 and features a boat base that you can pull apart to get all the bath water out at the end of bath time and two stacking cups that form a tower over the 'cabin' of the boat.  One cup has a spout and the other has a base full of holes to give you a shower effect when lifted high.  The set is a huge hit with Toddler SSG already.

COK Beach Boys sweater - $10.

Cotton On Kids have the best range of tops for little boys.  They carry a full spectrum of options from long sleeve to short sleeved Ts, hooded tops, button down shirts (if you're feeling fancy and patient), polos (if you're a time poor mother like myself who likes a bit of formality but with only two buttons involved and fleece hooded sweaters that don't have ties that can get caught up and tangle.

I couldn't resist these two items from the 'hipper than your mum' designs that COK has been rocking this last couple of seasons.  And they were both at ridiculously reduced prices.

COK - Rolling Stones T - $10.
The Costco bulk buy fruit run involved a side trip to the central aisles, a region of Costco I rarely leave empty handed.  Yesterday was no exception.

You mean can't feel the visceral glamour of my shopping trolley radiating from your screen?  I've been searching for years for a Booney Hat.  This one looks virtually uncrushable and has a toggled chin strap.  It promises not to die like the straw hats I've previously owned have - slowly and crinklingly.  They're $18.99 from memory and I'm taking mine to Orlando.

Opinions may be divided on the Booney Hat but have you checked out the Havianas on sale at Costco right now?  Run, don't walk.  Don't even pause to shut the front door.  They're $11.99 a pair and come in both men's and women's sizes.  The women's selection was looking pretty sparse by the time I discovered it late on Sunday but the colours available are - gold, silver, brown, red, white, black, hot pink, deep blue and aqua.  I'll be curious to see if these last much longer than my $5 Cotton On pairs.

Necklace - Lovisa, sweater - Mix Apparel.

I'm still loving that $7 Lovisa necklace from Friday.  I think I need it in every colour it comes in.  May Lovisa extend their sale price accordingly.

It's been a crazy, crazy day at work today.  That unanticipated kind of crazy where your and your colleagues constantly exchange 'what the... ?!?!' looks as you struggle between laughing and working on your frown lines.  Ah well, we're on the home stretch and at least the sun is shining and the craziness involved us being evacuated for a bit out into some of that sun.  Yes, that was me clutching my half finished mug of 10am tea.


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