Mar 31, 2014

Buns and Blurs.

When you open your kitchen to a jar of chia seeds, you also open it to a whole new world of non dairy milk alternatives.  



With my Asian background, coconut milk meant only one thing to me.  Thick and rich cans of Ayam Brand coconut milk that you poured with abandon into chicken curries as they simmered or else drizzled over desserts.  As I made my first chia pudding last week, I remember thinking it strange that all the healthy living blogs were touting coconut milk as a low fat ingredient.  As I tasted that first rich teaspoonful of vanilla chia pudding, I decided not to question the process and just accept that perhaps that low fat in the health food world was an entirely different reference range to standard dietary guidelines.  Perhaps super foods are super because of their ability to lower the fat content of the ingredients they're combined with?




Sadly not. My ignorance was addressed at the supermarket on Friday when I found this carton of organic coconut milk.  It was near the almond and oat milks - neither of which I'd heard of previously.  I mentioned my mix up to mum who then told me all about the benefits of oat milk and how she likes having cow's milk holidays every so often.  My mum.  Who would've thought?

Chia Pudding 2.0 made with Coco Quench has the same taste as the Ayam coconut milk minus the richness.  Be warned, your pudding will look more grey than pristine white but your arteries will thank you for choosing health over beauty.



It was a big weekend in hot cross bun eating and magazine reading at SSG Manor.


The Prince George edition of the AWW was fascinating not only for the exclusive royal itinerary feature (Good Friday at the Royal Easter Show - am I foolish for even thinking of going?) but also this sample of the latest and greatest in skin care - Revitalift Magic Blur,  L'Oreal's take on the blur cream phenomenon.

The hype over this L'Oreal version has been off the dial, apparently.  There are YouTube videos showing miraculous transformations in skin texture, colour and radiance but also plenty of less favourable reviews.  Which you'll always get with products like this.  I'm linking to this objective review from Musings of A Muse because it reflects my own experience of Magic Blur.  Especially the points about increasing make up wear and minimizing pores.

In addition to the Muse observations, I found that Magic Blur worked a treat on the bags under my eyes and added to what my current under eye concealer (Garnier's BB version) does in terms of brightening and lightening.  It's also a good base of eye makeup and makes getting rid of liner smudges easier than on skin that hasn't been prepped with a bit of blur.

Some people have been using blur creams over their alphabet creams or foundations  but this didn't work for me.


I was so impressed with the sample that I went out and got myself the $24.99 full sized tube.  I snapped up the last tube at my local Priceline.  Garnier's version retails for around $16.99 but didn't appear to be selling as quickly as L'Oreal's.  When in doubt, pick the one that's flying off the shelves, I say.


I've caved and started on the hot cross buns.  Saturday's was an out of this world Nutella version from Cavalicious.  Which I ate after a bacon and egg roll.  Which I ate after doing cardio at the gym involving burpees and skipping ropes.  That's all the reason a girl needs, isn't it?

I think I'll push my limits even further next week with the intervals just so I can have another one of those buns filled with oozy Nutella. I can see myself getting a whole lot better at intervals in these weeks leading up to Easter and I'll have all these fancy hot cross buns to thank.  Or I could just invent some kind of hot cross bun flavoured chia pudding instead.  It's an idea that's growing on me....




Sunday's hot cross bun was from Heston for Coles.  A box of four retails for $8 which sounds expensive but there are places charging $5 for a single bun these days.  I wasn't too sure how lemon myrtle would lend itself to a hot cross bun but the good news is that you can trust Heston, these are deliciously different.  The buns are a brioche and the fruit it plentiful.  I prefer them toasted and slathered in butter.  

Lemon myrtle is a flowering evergreen endemic to Queensland (love the local touch, Mr Blumenthal) and the herb is a common bush food flavour.  It's considered to be lighter and purer than lemongrass.  Can you see now how perfect it is to flavour brioche?


Top - Mix Apparel, neckalce - Red Phoenix Emporium.

Outfit wise, the weekend was all about the stripe.  Such a shame Mix didn't do this top in red or navy.



Toddler SSG loves sultanas but curiously not hot cross buns.  While we ate ours, he had a smiley face custard bun from Bread Top.  All I have to do is introduce him to sushi and then he will have his mother's palate.



He's starting to show an interest in these Crayola dry erase crayons.  I was trying to get him scribbling on the black board because he's been using biros on my yoga mat when I'm not looking.  He's figured something's up because the crayons are breakable whilst the biros are not.  He does like sitting on the board and then scribbling on the floorboards and my jeans though.  It's a start.



Mar 28, 2014

Complacency. Cooking. Chia Seeds.

It has never been my intention to name and shame people for their beliefs in what I write in this blog. Which is why I'm starting my rant today with a photo of myself in first world problem mode.
 
 
 
This photo was taken yesterday as I had to suffer through a morning of grey skies and rain in a comfortable part of suburban Sydney. I'd just survived a tortuous personal training session and then had to walk in the rain along a well maintained road where drivers were mainly observing the road rules and there was a conspicuous absence of guns, barbed wire or UN vehicles. I then had to buy a coffee at a cafe boasting an array of beans, milk and dairy alternatives as well as plentiful amounts of food.
 
I sipped my coffee as I browsed a well stocked supermarket before settling down to read the paper and it was a this point that I found myself livid about my comfortable middle class life and the complacency it has inadvertently bred. One of the day's lead stories was about the poor immunisation rates in my local area.
 
The actual story in the print copy of The Sydney Morning Herald featured a large photo of a mother with her two healthy children who didn't want to stress her little ones with too many injections and who also felt that the chances of them catching the diseases covered by the vaccine were so slight it really wasn't worth the risk. She is correct about the low risk of her children contracting the illnesses but I shan't bore you with the reasons as to why this is the case in Australia.
 
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I'm not here to post images from that article and create yet another focus of ridicule and hate on the internet.
 
Image courtesy of www.bbc.com
Instead, I have this photograph of a child in Syria with permanent paralysis of both their legs secondary to polio. A communicable disease largely eradicated in first world countries thanks to those 'evil and unnatural' vaccinations.
 
This child is an innocent victim of the polio epidemic enveloping Syria as a consequence of the break down in all public health measures in that country secondary to political unrest and war. Do you think they have any chance of a remotely normal life in a country with virtually no functioning public health system?
 
While it could be argued that much of what is going on in Parliament at the moment is ineffectual and inadequate, no one can deny one of the strengths of successive governments in Australia - a comprehensive public health policy that enables all Australians to have access to immunisation. Disease prevention is one of the greatest gifts a country's public health policy can give its citizens. Why on earth would you choose to refuse immunisations on behalf of another person when millions around the world are literally dying due to their being denied access to it?
 
 
 
I'll stop venting my spleen now. I've obviously got too much time on my hands. Speaking of hands, I need to get myself to The Body Shop this weekend for new supplies of my favourite Hemp Hand Protector. I'm down to my last tube to replace the shrivelled thing currently sitting on my desk.
 
 
 
I've been busy in the kitchen with two of Toddler SSG's favourite foods - cheese in all its glorious forms and Coles rotisserie chicken. I've calculated that you can get at least three different meals out of a chicken. There's eating it as is, then there's pasta bake and my new favourite, chicken and spinache quiche-y things. The best news is that all three are very toddler friendly.
 


The recipe I've linked to is less egg-y than other recipes and to make up for the shortfall, it features three different types of cheese - cream, Parmesan and mozzarella. I found my frozen spinach at Aldi where it's 99 cents for a 250g box.


All you need to do is combine the spinach layer ingredients (I used a hand held mixer) and place heaped teaspoonfuls of it over puff pastry cases with a little leftover cooked chicken in them.

 

 

 

I got two dozen mini quiches out of the recipe. Be warned, they're very moreish.


Yesterday afternoon passed in a blur of food prep which saw me come up with three different dishes in the course of a couple of hours. Inspired by a Donna Hay facebook post, I found myself making stove top lasagna using this kidspot recipe. Dry lasagna sheets! It's been ages since I've seen them.


It was very therapeutic breaking up my eight dry lasagna sheets over the prepared sauce and then stirring the result every so often as it cooked on the stove.

 
Twenty minutes later, I stirred through the cottage cheese and then let the mozzarella melt off the flame. Other versions of the recipe require you to put the whole pan under the grill and this would probably give you a nicer end result but I was feeling a bit lazy and hadn't had the foresight to use an oven friendly pan.
 
 
Not the most styled lasagna photo out there but this is how my one pan, stove top lasagna turned out. It's a hearty and filling dinner, I like how there's a sort of bechamel sauce happening with the stirred in cheeses - all the taste without too much effort. Perfect for this cooler weather. We just had a green salad with it last night and there's three tubs in the freezer for later.
 


My last bit of excitement in the kitchen involves this recycled glass jam jar. Eating out of repurposed glass jars. How cutting edge and ahead of the curve.....

 

I am now an official chia seed groupie. I reckon I'm only about 6 months behind everyone else but this is significant progress in my relationship with super foods. The last ones I embraced were cranberries and psyllium - both of which are around 20 years into their superfood life cycle and are thus practically part of standard dietary guidelines.

There has been so much talk about chia seed puddings and breakfasts lately. Not only do they look delicious but I'd also heard rumours that you wouldn't even be depriving yourself in the taste stakes if you had a chia pudding rather than an almond croissant or wedge of chocolate mousse cake. I had no choice but to investigate.

Chia pudding - simply measure, mix and refrigerate. Too easy.


I bought my kilo jar of chia from Costco for $20 which isn't too bad considering the RRP is $30 according to The Chia Co website.

The vanilla chia pudding recipe I followed yesterday is this one from A Beautiful Mess and requires a cup of coconut milk. It makes a very rich pudding, only a few tablespoons are enough for a rich and filling hit of decadence and healthiness (is it even possible that these two words can simulatneously describe something?). I added some maple syrup to my serve which gave it an earthy sweetness. Fresh fruit and chopped nuts are also meant to be perfect accompaniments to your chia pudding.

I've found some other recipes that use almond milk so will try this next.

Are you a late adopter when it comes to super foods?

 

 

Mar 26, 2014

Closure. Life Afterwards.

I haven't had the right words for my feelings about MH370 until now.  

www.ibtimes.com
It's official now. the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean and there are no survivors.  Over the coming weeks, the how and the why will try to be elicited.  The mission of the aircraft and ships diverted to the area is now one of salvage, not rescue.

For the piece of  mind of the loved ones and family left behind, I hope that those who died suffered briefly.  That there last moments were not spent paralyzed with fear.  That they were able to find peace with the God of their spirituality and leave with calm and the knowledge that they were entering a place where nothing more could be taken from them and nothing more could hurt them.  That they have been given closure in the depths of that ocean.

Will there ever be firm answers to the ambiguities of this crash for those that have been left behind?   Is satellite data and a messages from dignitaries enough?  Or the text messages sent in English to the largely Chinese speaking relatives expressing regret and sorrow?

Would being able to hold a piece of paper with government crests, stamps and signatures somehow make this ending real?  A tangible end to a period of torment, fear and uncertainty.  Official documentation that the worst has happened and that your anguish has been 'formally acknowledged'?

Grief sometimes needs both psychological and physical end points for it to end and in turn set a mind free for new beginnings and 'life afterwards'.

A bit deep and dark for a Wednesday.  Might have to return later with a return to mindless banter.

Take care.

Mar 24, 2014

An AM Girl Finally In A DAB+ World.

It was out with the old and in with the sort of new on my bedside table this weekend.



I had to say goodbye to my clock radio.  The one I bought with my first payslip.  While it still tells the time okay, it was making some strange noises, especially on the AM dial.  On top of the usual hisses and snaps were crackles and pops.  A bit like Rice Bubbles, really.  And then there was the spookiness of still being able to hear the radio playing after I thought I'd switched it off.  Radio Rice Bubbles and demonic possession?  The radio really had to go.


You'd think that in the age of smart phones, tablets and ...... Kimye being on the cover of Vogue (couldn't resist yet also can't bring myself to put the actual cover in this post) that finding a digital clock radio would be a breeze.  Well, it wasn't.  There aren't that many digital radios on the market and most of them are clunky and expensive.  There were only two clock radio options at the retailers I browsed and this Bush Horizon version ($77 at Harvey Norman plus $7 for superfast, next day delivery) was my pick because it had the larger, back lit display.  Despite it having all that cutting edge digital technology, it looks a bit seventies styled, doesn't it?

It was so easy to set up, literally plug it in and the time and date are set automatically and digital stations are automatically scanned for. You can set two different alarms for weekends, weekdays or daily.  The only hitch is that if you like that hour of radio before it switches itself off function, you need to manually set the timer on this radio each time you listen.  

The radio also plays FM stations and presets are possible but I only listen to one station at night, ABC News Radio and it has been HEAVEN listening to crystal clear BBC documentaries before I go to sleep each night.

Quite a few things seem to have reached the end of their life cycle at SSG Manor recently.  I had to retire a couple of pairs of Birkenstocks because they were getting too grubby and their soles were showing too much cork.  Mumgo recently had a sale of a few styles and I bought two pairs, one in black patent and the other in a glossy red.



I think that should cover all my wardrobe options.  There was a stage in my life where I had about 5 pairs of Birkis on the go.  I had a pair for practically every occasion.  It was that time in history where drapy, architectural skirts worn with Bonds singlets were all the go so it wasn't as bad as it sounds.



I wonder if I need those toe socks for winter?


Or should I just wear my pink Croc ballet slippers in the cooler weather instead?  I actually wore my Crocs straight from Toddler SSG's swimming lesson out to the shops the other day.  Totally forgot to swap them for the pair of Birkis I had ready in the car.

Dress - Mix Apparel, necklace - Red Phoenix Emporium.  Gotta love pink with navy and white.

For the sake of completeness, this is the rest of what I wore.  You can't go to Ikea without having a selfie in one of their compact and modern bathroom displays, can you?



I had this fancy open sandwich for lunch.


Whilst Toddler SSG had his first ever plate of meatballs and chips. I wonder how Ikea get their meatballs so smooth and juicy?  Do I want to know?  I'm just struggling to get my home made version up to scratch.  Perhaps I need to mouli my mince beforehand.



After lunch, we sort of melded into the various mothers groups that had assembled at the cafe for lunch and in the crush of slow rolling prams, Toddler SSG decided to have a nap whilst his mum and grandmothers gossiped and tried to find places in their homes for yet another piece of Ikea.  There's always room at my place for Ikea cookies.  I forgot to take a photo of them for you but I'll try to remember when I get around to opening them.

That's it from me today.  Stay safe if you're in stormy Sydney today.  May the roads be kind to you.


Mar 23, 2014

A Busy Weekend. SSG's Definitive Guide To Dining Out With A Toddler.

The storm clouds are rumbling as I type this evening but gee, it was a spectacular Sunday in Sydney.






We were at Birkenhead Point today for lunch and a bit of a browse.




Picture perfect blue skies and fluffy clouds were framed by the floor length shop windows.  That luminous natural light that you get on days like this shone over my favourite cafe in the entire complex - Charlie Lovett.  My find of the day was frozen spinach for 99 cents at Aldi.  My mum and aunty are more patient shoppers than I am and were rewarded with a blouse at the DJs warehouse and novels at the nearby bookstore.  Toddler SSG was content with lunch overlooking the marina and a run alongside the boats afterwards.

I sometimes think that my weekends are actually busier than the working week.  Chores, activities, getting out and about.  I mostly get there in the end but it's often a bit touch and go.


In the midst of the chaos, taking a moment to focus on that view at lunch today or the live jazz that played as I regrouped for the weekly grocery shop are the little things I like to do to help me not be a slave to my watch and to do list.  There will forever be a million things that I need to have had done yesterday but the time to enjoy today is now.



I said goodbye to the rental Corolla yesterday.  It even came with a Thrifty branded car seat for Toddler SSG.  While I'm excited to have my car back with both rear view mirrors, I'm beginning to miss just how confident I was with reverse parking the Corolla.

Friday night saw me attempt something I never thought I'd ever do - take Toddler SSG into the CBD for dinner.  My brother and sister in law were here for the weekend and as they were staying at the Shangri-La, we decided to have dinner there.  Everyone ended up having a fabulous evening and everything went to plan.  Does this now entitle me to now write a parenting post about it?  You betcha.

I may be smug but I am also very self aware.  The outfit I wore to dinner was both right and wrong.

Dress - Moschino, wedges - Rockport, horn bangle - Mai Tai Collection, obligatory 'it could be a long night' hair lacky worn as a bracelet - Priceline.

Right because I wore wedges instead of heels.  I'm pondering my collection of spendy shoe boxes and shoe bags and wondering when and if I'll ever wear any of them ever again....  But I digress.  A fancy night out with a toddler requires you to have both the illusion of longer legs thanks to heels but also the ability to run sprint and lunge at short notice.  More about this later.

The dress wasn't a great idea frankly, see the sprint and lunge issue and add the need to kneel and crouch.  It did look nice though and leopard is a print I'll always have a fondness for.

Like real estate, stepping out with a toddler is all about location, location, location.  Hotels and other places with wheelchair access are perfect because there will be plenty of space for exploration and that pram.  If you do decide to taxi it in, maxi taxis are great if you can snag one.  All you have to do is wheel your pram in up the ramp into the boot.   No need to fiddle around trying to fold your pram on a busy street or driveway.

Specific details about location to consider are:

Hotel Lobbies


Toddler SSG making friends with the concierge.

Plush carpet alternating with shiny marble under your feet, friendly staff and guests who all tell you how cute sir is looking this evening, a birds eye view of the buzzing taxi rank and its very climbable golden luggage trolleys - it's Toddler Shangri-La as is.



Oh I forgot.  The floral arrangements.  Oh, the floral arrangements.  Lifting each and every perfectly centred glass bowl in the path of your toddler.  Multiple times.  If you haven't worked up an appetite for dinner already, you'll get one just by keeping the flowers safe.

Pristine Conditions for Stair Case Exploring

Polo - Cotton On Kids, skinny jeans - Next, sandals - Clarks.  With a mother who often wears her skinnies with Birkis, the jeans and sandal situation will not be a surprise to you.

Hotels do a superior winding stair case.  The kind you'd be struggling to replicate at home. Conveniently carpeted for maximal comfort when crawling up / stumbling down, numerous and with in built safety grips.  What better way to work off some of that energy from that pre dinner nap?

Shiny things that light up




ATM machines, the lights on the lift buttons.  As an added bonus, obliging guests may even invite your toddler to press the lift buttons for them and reward your unusually compliant child with a thumbs up and smile.

There's Something For Everyone At A Buffet



Hotels really can be a home away from home.  An Ikea table setting for one at Cafe Mix at the Shangri-La.  Surreal, I know.




Ever wanted to know what toddlers eat at seafood buffets?  Basically, foods from the neutral spectrum of the colour wheel - naan, water crackers, the middle of dinner rolls and banana.  Onion bhajis are fine too.  There were issues with the melon not being ripe enough.  



Thank you to the chef manning the fondue station for cutting Toddler SSG's banana for him.



And thank you, Mr Chandon for this celebratory Friday night glass of bubbles with bonus rock melon cube.



The adults were in prawn, crab and oyster heaven.



Special mention has to go to the desserts which were the nicest I've ever eaten at a hotel buffet.




The chocolate mousse cake was rich, as light as air and trod the fine line between taste and texture so perfectly, one slice really didn't feel like that much in my stomach.


Which is why I had room for a slice of the cheesecake as well.  You know how hotel cheesecakes often have that thick, rock hard biscuit base that's often caked in butter?  Well, the Shangri-La's was none of these things.



It's just as well I was doing laps of the lounge area outside the restaurant with Toddler SSG in between courses.  It turned out to be an excellent way of finding room for all the desserts on my plate and a bit of my mum's lemon meringue tart.



I ended the night with enough of a sugar rush to get me through the rest of the weekend.


And Toddler SSG managed to squeeze in a little nap while we waited for a taxi home.

Toddler naps on location.  Always a sure sign that a good time was had by all.

Have you had a night out with your little one recently?  Were you rewarded with a solid night's sleep afterward?



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