Apr 30, 2014

Bananas. A Japanese Stir Fry. Monochrome.


The Georges of the world can always be counted on for some light relief in the headlines.

www.gossipcenter.com

Just as Prince George left our shores for the long flight home comes news that the other George C is now engaged.  Congratulations, George and Amal.  


Meanwhile at my desk, I  posted my banana #weareallmonkeys photo on Instagram yesterday.

Intrigued?  Well, allow me to explain and in doing so demonstrate just about all my knowledge of international soccer.


This is how Brazilian international and Barcelona full back Daniel Alves responded when a 'fan' attempted to racially abuse him by throwing a banana on the pitch during a game at Villareal.  The nonchalant brilliance!

What was even more inspiring was the way sporting stars and celebrities then took up the cause by posting photos of themselves eating bananas with the hashtags #weareallmonkeys and #saynotoracisim.

Image from soccer player Neymar's Instagram.  He and his son are holding bananas in a show of support for fellow player Alves.

Amid all that is cruel and unjust in the world, 'little' things like this going viral on worldwide social media help remind me that while racism will always be a form of prejudice simmering in the background of society, there will also always be people willing to take a stand against it.  They don't always have to  be dramatic statements either.  Often seemingly trivial actions are enough to create significant impact and hopefully changes in mindsets.

Donald Sterling, an NBA team owner was handled by the game's Commissioner over racist comments he made about African American fans being present at NBA games.  Sterling has been barred from the NBA for life and forced to pay a fine of $2.5 million dollars, the maximum penalty the NBA can enforce for his comments.  There is significant pressure also for him to be forced to sell the team that he owns.

Professional sport often gets a very bad rap in the media for the highly publicized dramas in the personal lives of its athletes.  However the way the sporting world has reacted to the above incidents plus a current Australian campaign that addresses homophobia in sport have done a great deal to demonstrate the willingness these agencies have to try and change prejudices that were previously perceived as endemic to sporting culture.



In more lightheaded sporting news ('sporting' because it took place at an indoor swimming pool that has been used as an Olympic training facility), I can report that 100% of the ladies swimming at my local at the weekend swear by Vaseline's Spray Moisturiser - Dry Skin Repair after doing their laps.  The change room was buzzing with that distinctive noise these sprays make.  The product is so easy to use, rubs in quickly and really does last all day.  It also has a very pleasant fragrance.




I also have the results of groundbreaking research from the SSG Manor Test Kitchen.  Whilst the internet may say that tapioca flour is a good substitute for cornflour, I don't think they were talking about stir fries.



I made this Japanese Chicken and Celery Stir Fry on the weekend and coated my chicken pieces in tapioca flour.  Which basically saw the whole base of my wok seize up in a golden crust of flour in about 2 seconds rendering it impossible for me to cook the chicken properly.  I got there in the end after changing pans but it was a bit frustrating at the time.  I'm off the get cornflour tonight.



The stir fry itself is a keeper recipe for me.  I had no idea dashi could be used in stir fries.


The recipe is very quick to put together and the bit of chilli added to the sauce wasn't overpowering.  It keeps well too.  Possibly because the celery holds its crunch well through the stir frying process.  I added some carrots for a bit of colour.

Necklace - Red Phoenix Emporium, sweater - Mix Apparel, slim fit cuffed pants - Next Direct.
With the cooler weather and darker skies, monochrome has officially re-entered my wardrobe.  This sweater from Mix is pretty toasty.  I wish they also made a dress in this knit.



Mix's opaque tights are officially The Business.  They are a 'soft' matte black that hold their shape, are super soft and haven't laddered on me.  Despite me often pulling them on in the half darkness as I try not to fall onto the furniture around me.

Necklace - Red Phoenix Emporium, dress - Witchery.

And here we are today in a Witchery stretch dress circa 2012 with a necklace from RPE's 2014 #eastergram sample sale.

Have a lovely day and stay dry!


Apr 27, 2014

Fully Electric. Prince George's AWW Tim Tam Brownies.

You have no idea just how good it feels to have the electricity restored to your entire house.  The electrician popped in to fix things Saturday morning and I'm here on Sunday evening still enjoying my return to civilisation.

It's the red blinking lights, ever since the electricity returned, I can't help staring at them every time I'm in the kitchen.


They twinkle at me from the dishwasher (and now that its back in action, no more heaving piles of washed plates teetering over the sink).


And from the bottom of my kettle.


It's feeling more homely in the lounge room too.  My table lamp shines softly from its corner in the evenings.  

Speaking of the table lamp, the sunnies sitting on top of it are also worth a mention.  I recently lost my trusty Target polarised lensed sunglasses.  They'd been perched head band style on the top of my head for the better part of the last two years.  They were great for driving, light enough to wear all day (often on my head when I'd forget to take them off after getting Toddler SSG and all his things into the house) and indestructible.  

Given the rough usage conditions, I wasn't keen to spend too much on a replacement.  I found these Kirkland Signature brand ones at Costco and they ticked all the right boxes:
  • great as a head band (priorities)
  • lightweight but sturdy
  • stayed put on the bridge of my flat nose
  • polarised lenses
  • the frames are a go with everything dark brown tortoiseshell
  • came with a case and lens cloth
All for the bargain price of $34.99.  There is an aviator style as well that I might get as a spare pair.
With the electricity restored but minus the lizards from earlier in the week, I've reclaimed the kitchen and cooked a few things this weekend.



The first was this sausage casserole from taste.com.  I mean, how could I go past yet another recipe featuring all my favourite sauces and a packet of Continental's French Onion soup?



I used these sausages from the freezer.



And these secret weapons to make the perfect mashed potato topping.



A large amount of grated cheddar was also involved.




And the end result was perfect for the cooler evenings we're having right now.




Some reviews of the recipe commented that the gravy tasted a little fake due to the soup mix being involved.  I won't hear a bad word said against French Onion soup mix but I did add a can of chopped tomatoes to my casserole.


 I also added some chopped carrot and celery which bulked up the sausage layer of the casserole.  This is definitely going to be a recipe on high rotation at SSG Manor this winter.

I got a bit enthusiastic with the brownie making and got out my Dutch processed cocoa...  didn't actually need it.

I'm still in the grips of Cambridge fever so my next project was some baking from the AWW's Prince George commemorative issue.



Tim Tam brownies featuring .... Zumbo Choc Brownie Tim Tams.  How inspired.

Coarsely chopped Zumbo Choc Brownie Tim Tams.  Sigh. 
I can't find the recipe online so I'll pop it in here for you.  Should we rename them Prince George's Tim Tam Brownies?  In honour of the cover baby?  Or should they be the Royal Tim Tam Bilby Brownies?  It's all too hard, I'll just stick to what was printed.

Tim Tam Brownies
(from The Australian Womens' Weekly, April 2014)

Ingredients:
  • 125g butter, chopped
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup SR flour
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped coarsely, extra
  • 8 Tim Tams, chopped coarsely (that leaves you with 2 whole ones for you if you're using the five pack Zumbo editions).



Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan forced).  Grease a deep 20cm square pan, line and allow paper to extend 5cm over sides.  (Remember that Lurpak butter and brownie tin promo from a few years back?  I used my tin for this recipe and it's the perfect depth.)
  2. Combine butter and dark chocolate in a medium saucepan; stir over low heat until just melted.  Cool for 10  minutes.
  3. Stir in sugar and eggs, then sifted flours until combined. Fold in extra chocolate and Tim Tams.  Spread mixture evenly into prepared tin and bake for about 35 minutes.  Cool in pan.
Suitable to freeze.  Butter mixture suitable to microwave.




Taste wise, these brownies are the perfect combination of rich, slightly bittersweet batter with pops of melted chocolate and biscuit.  However, perhaps my technique was off because I found these brownies on the dry side.  I could have baked a little too long for my oven but even the batter that I ended up with was rather doughy.

Have you tried this recipe from the AWW?  Was your experience similar to mine?  Any tips?




I will say, though, that the brownies went perfectly with a glass of Chandon.  A totally decadent and spontaneous high tea at home.


With drink in hand and brownie crumbs all over my trackie pants, I was all set for an afternoon of Duchess of Cambridge wardrobe debriefing.  All the major news sites  have gone into outfit overload.  Every item the Duchess was photographed in has been priced, sourced and critiqued with the kind of attention to detail we all know we really should be devoting to the forthcoming Budget but gee, where's the fun and frivolity in that document?


Apr 26, 2014

The Class of '87.

After all this time, you're probably very familiar with how my Saturday mornings roll. Willingly waking up at the crack of dawn because I don't have to be early for work, amble to the gym, do my program, find coffee and a croissant, read the paper and then head on home with a side trip for any urgent groceries. This morning was no different, except that I found myself lingering over the paper a little longer than usual.
 
 

 

It was all because of an article I read in the print version of today's Sydney Morning Herald. I've been trying to find the online version to link for you but I've not been able to find it this morning. Anyway, it's on the top of page eight and has the following headline: 'Salary gap opens up as life and family get in the way'. The article describes the findings of a longitudinal research project conducted by the University of Sydney Business School. The subjects were the university's law graduate class of 1987 and the aim was to follow the career paths of the graduates over time.

The graduates were first featured in the SMH in 1989, smiling up at the camera as they embarked on careers on equal salaries in Sydney's most respected law firms. I was in year nine at the time and shared their optimism about career trajectories and equality. It was late twentieth century Australia after all, we weren't being naive, we were believing what we'd been taught and thought we were seeing around us.

You know how you don't come to this blog for journal club or critical reviews of statistical methods and selection bias? Good. Because all I have to go on today are the key findings as discussed in the newspaper article and a few of my thoughts.

First, the key findings from the study:

  • At the end of the study's follow up period, the men were generally earning higher salaries than the women
  • The 'tipping point' for women (presumably between staying at their jobs or leaving them) was three children. Any number less than three seems to be the magic number for staying in the workforce, albeit in a part time position.
  • With regards to workplace discrimination, women reported being subject to it on the basis of family responsibilities and gender whilst for men it was more commonly on the basis of disability or ethnicity.
  • 25 years after both men and women mostly beginning their careers in large law firms, 29 percent of men and 11 percent of women were still working in them. Two thirds of the men versus a quarter of the women are now on salaries of greater than $300 000.

I don't think it's too hard to extrapolate these findings to other professions (except modelling perhaps) and as sobering as they are, they don't actually come as too much of a surprise to me now that I'm a mother of one who's 15 years into my own career. I can relate to the study's findings of how mothers often have to pass up promotions, forgo seniority and put hard limits to the number of hours they can devote to their working roles. I understand the direct relationship between hours worked and take home pay. But perhaps it's not so much discrimination but rather 'biology and circumstance' as one member of the cohort noted.

 

As wide as the gap still looks on paper between men and women in white collar professions perhaps a short coming of the stated findings of the study was a lack of reference to how fulfilled each graduate is now compared to how they were back in the early days of their professional lives. After all, for most of us, our careers are just one part of our lives and those lives become bother more complex and precious as we get older.

 

I've been fortunate enough to have had full time work in the profession I trained for since I graduated from university. I've achieved the goals I set for myself in my career. Motherhood came relatively late to me and has made me re-evaluate where I'm heading with work. But we all have turning points in our careers, don't we? Illness, a desire to follow our hearts for a change, a yearning for a different life, fractured relationships and other major life changing events. Life happens to all of us, regardless of our gender, and we just have to make the decision to see the good that each stage of our lives offer us.

 

And yes, I couldn't discuss being a working mum without at least referencing all those cliches. Prepare to be nauseated. Motherhood came to me when I needed it most. It forced me to change my priorities, to know my self worth and to do what it takes to give that beautiful little life the future he deserves.

 

 

One day on and my retinas are still burned....

 


I can hark back to that unsettling shopping trip yesterday when I happened upon the ugg thongs and thereafter lost my will to dart through the spendy boutiques in search of a new something to covet. Being a mother has broken that hollow cycle of needing to buy more and be more simply because me was all I had to devote my time, resources and energy toward. Life for me now is real. It is good and it is bad, it is joyous and it is painful. It also has a purpose outside of myself that that can't be rated on a scale or quantified purely in dollars and cents.


Apr 25, 2014

The ANZAC Day Parade. Some Shopping.

Aside from it being a day of reflection, ANZAC Day also marks a turning point in Sydney's weather.



Since I've been here, ANZAC Day has invariably begun with rain.  As if the weather too is paying its respects.




Unfortunately, it wasn't just quiet sobs from the skies this year.  There were torrents of tears raining down upon the police, veterans, relatives of veterans and band members.



Undeterred, everyone who had a role to play in the parade this year did so with dignity and purpose.


It was hard not to tear up as the human face of past wars marched down George Street.  I can't begin to imagine the memories that the music, uniforms and forbidding skies must dredge up for the veterans.



The whole city paid its respects today.  Behind the barricades, shops were uncharacteristically closed for business.  Roaring buses were diverted well away from areas that were the focus of today's commemorations.  




As the procession disappeared from view, the empty streets echoed the distant sound of the pipe bands.  And then, almost as suddenly as the city's usual activity was interrupted, it started up again.  Safety crews unclipped the gates, the police removed road blocks and the streets roared back to life.

The streets and arcades felt different as I walked along them this afternoon.


Medals worn proudly on pristine uniforms stood out against a backdrop of delicate cakes and pastries.



And on footpaths normally heaving under the feet of youngsters with headphones and phones fused to their bodies the ANZAC spirit took centre stage.


www.hellomagazine.com

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have just left our shores after attending an ANZAC service in Canberra.  It's also a long weekend and as I was in the city, shopping also occurred today.





Which justifies me posting this photo I took on my travels after the ANZAC parade.  It was a pretty clever poster in the front window of Peter Alexander.  Oh, I also think this nifty segue seamlessly enables me to now talk about shopping for the rest of this post.



Speaking of PJs then, guess what I've finally found!  Flannel PJ bottoms.  Not as Sussan (my usual go to) and sadly not at Peter Alexander (out of my PJ price range) but at Cotton On.




What I like best about the CO PJ pants is that the bow is just there for decoration and not part of a draw string.  Draw strings are the bane of my life.  I'm forever losing ends in waist bands.  And who has the energy to go searching for them when your doona beckons? 




In other signs that I'm accepting that winter is nearly upon us, I stocked up on opaque tights at Coles.  The Mix Apparel range is currently 30% off which works out to be $6 - $7 per pair depending on the style.  In what was an especially productive trip to Coles, I also got this stash of MaltEaster bunnies at 50 cents per bunny.

All of the above was a bit of a shopping retrospective.  What did I buy today, I hear you ask?



Nothing in the above photo.  The sequinned ugg boots are pretty snazzy but ugg thongs?  I've been holding off on the non essential fashion purchases because of my upcoming trip and I love how when I'm starting to lose willpower, images like this come along to strengthen my resolve to keep my credit cards zipped up in my purse.  I was actually looking for a plain black scarf which I think I'll now be mail ordering from Uniqlo because nothing on the street today was what I needed.

What I did buy today were supplies for the trip so that there won't be any last minute freaking out on the way to the airport.  Everything from Priceline.

Deodorant - $3.89, Akin Rose Hip Oil - $15.99, L'Oreal Revitalift wipes - $7.99.

  • Deodorant - self explanatory.
  • Rose Hip Oil is the best for surviving 15 hour flights.  I use it on my hands and face.  
  • Face wipes are a much more user friendly option on the plane than trying to wash your face at the tap in the confines of the toilet cubicle.



Listerine - $2.29, La Roche Posay mineral water spray - $9.99, Batiste dry shampoo - $4.99, Bioderma micellar water - $19.99 (!! it had better work, didn't realise the half sized bottle cost that much)

I have a feeling that I'll be exceeding the carry on liquids limit if I bring all of these on board with me.  Will have to check the restrictions.  Anyway:
  • Listerine 
  • A mineral water sprays always comes in handy.  I'm trying a new brand - La Roche Posay.  Will update with my thoughts later.  
  • Dry shampoo in a tropical scent.  I haven't used Batiste before.  Hope it's okay.
  • I tracked down a travel sized bottle of Bioderma's micellar water.  Will do a compare and contrast with Garnier's.


L'Oreal Gentle Eyes and Lips make up remover - $12.99.


Speaking of Garnier, I've had to buy a separate eye make up remover today because the micellar water doesn't remove liquid eyeliner on its own.  I'm liking this one by L'Oreal.  It's effective without being to harsh or leaving my skin feeling oily.  I used to buy this all the time before that whole fixation with Shu's Cleansing Oil and it's just as good as I remember.

Don't you love long weekends?  I've gotten through all the housework and shopping that needed to be done with two whole days left to spare.


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