Feb 26, 2015

The Traffic Lately. The 'Brothers' G.

It's always one extreme or the other as far as Sydney's traffic is concerned.

One day you're over the moon with happiness at the clear run to your local five star shopping centre.  

Superior coffee two doors down from Lulu and its impossibly clear skinned and radiant sales staff?  Only in Balmain.  Where I suspect it's not the yogis who do the hard core coffee drinking.

And the next you're a quivering mess after surviving a 90 minute commute which usually takes 30 minutes in the peak hour.  A shell of your normal self, you are in no fit state to approach the coal face without a coffee and a few minutes deep breathing at the local Lulu Lemon store front.

Unfortunately, the cause of yesterday's cross city road block was a six vehicle collision on the Harbour Bridge that saw buses diverted and all sorts of other chaos.  From what I have read, no one died in yesterday's accident and we are very, very fortunate to live in a city with excellent contingency plans and support services for when things like this happen but I am ashamed to say that none of this crossed my mind during any of the 20 minute waits I had at the lights on Victoria Road yesterday.  It was all 'woe is me *insert f bomb*/ why me *insert f bomb*/ I'm not even going anywhere fun, I just need to get to work without losing my mind *insert f bomb*.  I'm surprised my car let me drive it after all the swearing it had to endure.

It wasn't just me but I got so worked up it might as well have been.  Everyone at work was so late we decided to just cut our losses and just officially start the day with morning tea at 10.  Just as well there were superior carbs on offer.  Courtesy of the SSG Manor kitchen.

There was more drama on the roads today around the cross city tunnel entrance and this time I drove straight past the overturned wreckage of a car and the police manually diverting traffic.  But this time I had the self restraint to not swear but rather to just keep on driving as safely as I could around the accident.

But back to the shops.  Don't you love how random but also essential Daiso purchases often are?  I've finally been able to stock up on spectacle lens cleaning solution which supermarkets and chemists don't seem to sell anymore.  Other things that needed repurchasing included a stitch unpicker because I broke my last one and mini patty pan cases for my next muffin bakeathon.

The Manor kitchen is already feeling the Daiso effect with my new strawberry bag clamps holding together the bags of grains and dried fruits I opened for the muesli this morning.

The colours of autumn are with us already.

And soon, the only bursts of colour in the day will be via a serve or two of fresh fruit.  That does sound a bit bleak.  Sorry about that.

There's been a bit of change in the world of Kiehl's cleansers.

My go to foaming facial cleanser  with the blue writing on the label ($30 a bottle) is no more.  So I've had to go a bit upmarket with this $60 Centella Skin-Calming Facial Cleanser.  Have you tried it?  Along with the Centella it seems to contain Aloe and Chamomile.  That's a triple whammy of calming right there.  So I guess that means it's the goods.

I've started using Aldi's Moroccan Argan Oil shampoo and condition from a special buy a few weeks back.  You were right, Instagram, this stuff is the business.  It does have a suprisingly fresh and pine-y scent that takes a bit of getting used to but the shampoo rinses out beautifully and the conditioner leaves my hair soft and smooth.  Way to go, Aldi!  Can't wait until your new store opens down the road from me.

We were speaking of hair but not of the gym but no matter, I'm going to talk about them both now.  I survived my first PT session in about a month.  And it wasn't too traumatic.  My strength hasn't gone backwards and all that Neila Rey work at home made the push up circuits not as embarrassing as they otherwise might have been.  The break was a good way of boosting my previously flagging enthusiasm for the gym with its weights and machines.  While I did enjoy the body weight circuit training at home, I did find them a bit repetitive by the end of my break and with that, my motivation seemed to flag as well.  I suppose the start of autumn, Easter and the return of comfort foods to the menu is as good a time as any to have found my training mojo again.

Hair wise?  It got done today and gee I was this close to falling asleep as my colour processed.  I lost a few inches and gained some layers which is just what I wanted.

I will leave you on this last Thursday of summer with a mash up that made me smile when my friend shared it with me on Facebook.  The G's of my youth united for the very first time on Jimmy Kimmel.  Kenny G and Warren G doing a version of 'Regulate'.


Feb 24, 2015

Living the Instagram Life.

One of the things I love about Instagram is its ability to enable us to share in the ups and downs of other people's lives.   To have a laugh, groan or fist pump with someone else who captured a moment of their day that you could relate to.  Or aspire to.  I also love the motivational quotes people I follow share with me.  Instagram currently feels like a happier place to be than twitter which seems to be full of spam and ads at the moment.

The mundane, the once in a lifetime, the poignant and the random.  It's all on Instagram along with the perfect flat lays of people's wardrobes and magazine worthy snaps of their houses and holidays.  I enjoy it all as it washes across my iPhone screen in a blue and white framed sea of images separated by blocks of text and emojis.

Today, however, I'm all about the relatable and  real life moments shared aspect of Instagram.  And this is what my day looked like.

Being a 'day off' Tuesday, it began with a bit of a sleep in and a loiter at the gym before donning my mum uniform of a black T, cropped skinny jeans, black Havs, no makeup, hair back in a pony and a couple of accessories slipped on as I dashed out the door ahead of Toddler SSG.

I took a few moments at daycare drop off to catch up on the communication book for Toddler SSG's room.  Each day, the educators write a few paragraphs about what the children did and how they enjoyed it.  Their comments and activities give me some ideas about what I can do at home with Toddler SSG.  Walking around his room and seeing the progress in the craft that the two year olds are doing gives me a chance to share some of this world of his that is separate from the time we spend together.  I forget the dramas it took to get us to the front door of day care today and say a silent word of thanks for having the chance to be able to reflect like this.

It's back into the car with some easy listening radio on instead of the Giggle and Hoot CD that is currently mandatory audio whenever the car seat is occupied.  A little bit of Elvis gets me into the frame of mind to make a start on the day's jobs.  Including a stop at the servo.  

Where the impossible happened.  That's the air machine at the servo set to 32 psi and guess what?  I managed to fill all four of my tyres to 32 psi without the error alert going off on the air machine or the low tyre pressure sensors going off on my car's computer system.  It's only taken two and half years of owning my car to make this happen.  Persistence and patience, that's what it was.

I celebrated my car tyre breakthrough with a coffee and bonus trip to the post office to pick up a work related parcel.  A parcel's a parcel though.  It's always nice getting things in the post.

I'm on for morning tea at work tomorrow so I took my coffee home and got started.  First up was an old school, no bake lemon and coconut slice.  Featuring a Milk Arrowroot crust.  I'm intrigued about the New Look Pack advertised on this packet.  It's Coming Soon so hopefully all will be revealed soon.  Do we even need a New Look Pack for a biscuit that we love for tasting the same as it always has?

Anyway.  Was too lazy to haul my food processor out of storage so I blitzed the biscuits using my Braun stick blender and its bowl attachment instead.

Ahhh.... the sight of a lined lamington / slice tin...  A soothing sight indeed.

The crust smelled and looked beautiful thanks to the lemon zest.

My no fail method for pressing a crust into a tin involves using a sheet of baking paper under your hands as you press.

While the base was firming up in the fridge, I got started on my Nutella Muffins using this recipe from Mother Thyme's blog.

I wanted something quick, easy and not too over the top and this recipe was perfect.

I can also confirm that a half cup of Nutella is equivalent to most of a small jar of Nutella.  Which is perfect because this then leaves you with a couple of extra table spoon fulls just for yourself.  Not wanting to be wasteful or anything, of course.

Then disaster struck in the form of my simultaneously having a front loader that refused to drain and non functioning power points in the kitchen and laundry.  Luckily, I managed to get the muffins baked beforehand.  I love how they look innocent enough to be served for morning tea but are actually made up mostly of Nutella and chocolate chips.

And even luckier still, thank YouTube for your video tutorials on how to drain a Bosch front loader.  Did you know that baby socks are the most common thing to wrap around and clog a front loader's filter?  Neither did I.

This is the video for future reference.  It's so calm and makes it all look so easy.  Perfect for if things are getting a big frantic in real time.

Back to the slice.  The crust of which had managed to chill nicely in the fridge whilst I was sorting out all those other dramas.  The icing is made of softened butter, icing and lemon juice and I was a bit sceptical at first about it all coming together to make a spreadable icing but it did.  Though I did need some extra lemon juice.

As for evenly spreading the icing over the slice?  May I present my patented tip and sip technique.  So easy yet so effective.  The icing managed to slide evenly over the slice in a glacier like fashion simply by my tipping the tin this way and that.  It's slow work which is why you need a drink in your other hand as you work.

And here's the finished slice ready for some more chilling time in the fridge before it's ready to be cut up for tomorrow.

Okay.  I think that's it.  There can't possibly be any more drama left in today.  I'm going to find some lunch, read the paper and wait for the electrician.  It's almost going to be relaxing going to work tomorrow.

Feb 23, 2015

The Last Week of Summer. The Cracker Poll. Julianne Moore.

Can you believe it's the last week of summer?  Already?  Which means it's just about the end of bright printed pencil skirts and bare legs season.

And the nearly end of bare slightly tanned arms accessorised with chunky steel watches season too.

But I won't lie.  I am looking forward to puffer vest season.

And to pulling on my weatherproof hiking shoes for a city slicker's hike through the wet lino at Coles, through the puddles on the sidewalk and through piles of wet leaves.  I always feel much more adventurous and closer to nature when I get around at the weekend in jeans and hiking shoes.

It'll be Toddler SSG's first season of jumping through muddy puddles.  He's already so attached to those Crocs yellow wellies that he's been wearing them around the house and to bed.

It's been a lovely start to the week.

As one of those people who seems to need an awful lot of stuff to get anything done, I think I've just about got the stuff on my desk ratio right in the new office.  There's my new name and other details stamp because even I can't read my own block capitals when I'm forced to block capital anything more than my name).  If you're in the market for self inking stamps, Speedy Stamps is the place to go.  They may be pricier than the online printers who sell stamps but the quality and size of each stamp impression is worth the extra cash.  Especially if it's work related and hence tax deductible.  I found it really easy to design my stamp online and there are true to size templates on the site to help you select the best sized stamp for your needs.  Mine ended up costing $58 but the wrist ache it's saved my dodgy writing arm is money well spent.

I also have a new supple of the rather dreamily named Odyssey 2500 stapes for my heavy duty stapler because there's nothing more irritating than trying to staple more than three pages together with those normal desk staplers.

And last but not least, my elephant paperweight is standing on my desk diary to keep it open to the right week.  It's also guarding a favourite ball point which has both great sentimental value as well as the ability to write like a dream.

Before I go, I'd like to leave you with the answer to a question that may or may not have been causing you no end of sleepless nights.

Is it okay that your idea of recovering after a big afternoon at the gym is a handful of home made pineapple tarts all the way from an aunty in Malaysia, a can of coke zero and a totally non ironic read of a Michelle Bridges interview?

Actually, that was a bit rhetorical to be asking after the event.  It was very restorative at the time though.

No, the big question is this...

Just what cracker or crisp bread should you buy a toddler when you're desperately trying to be a more responsible parent by moving on past the Arnott's Shapes multi packs?

I posed the question to Facebook over the weekend and this is what my responsible parent friends had to say.


Cruskits were the clear winner with 8 votes.  Followed by Saladas and rice cakes (3 votes each), Vita Weets (2 votes) and finally Premiums and Ritz got 1 vote each.  

Wasn't that more exciting than the Oscars?


Speaking of which, congratulations Julianne Moore for your Best Actress gong for 'Still Alice'.  You looked beautiful in Chanel.  But most of all, thank you for your decision to star in this film.  Alzheimer's Disease like all the other dementias is a devastating and cruel diagnosis for both patients and their loved ones.  I hope that 'Still Alice' and your role in it encourages people to understand what dementia does to everyone who is touched by a single person's diagnosis.  And that through this understanding may we find the power and voices to make our governments do more and give more to dementia patients.

It is one of the sad ironies of the world that a common disease like dementia isn't 'glamorous enough' to attract the same star studded fundraising efforts as say 'the cancers' or heart disease.  I am not in any way being dismissive of what charities have done to further research and treatment in these conditions but may we not forget about dementia.  And that though there isn't a cure for any of them at the moment, may we see it fit to support charities that ease the suffering of patients and carers.  Many of whom carry on with quiet dignity doing the best they can for as long as they can.  Without the benefit of ribbons, daffodils or red noses.

I'd best be getting off my soapbox now.

Feb 21, 2015

Controlled Crying. Muffin Mania. The Great Indoors.

These fire crackers and lantern were just about the only bright things in the sky today.

As the clouds continued to gather, it became pretty clear that it was going to be one of those indoor and brooding kind of Saturdays.

Did your Saturday supplement carry this article about controlled crying?  It was perfect Saturday morning breakfast at a favourite cafe reading.  There were the usual case studies on people who'd tried it with varying success, reference to all the big (as in best selling) names in controlled crying literature and perhaps what made the article most interesting to me, interviews with people who were actually well versed in the current evidence base for controlled crying.

As informative as the article was, I have to admit that this was the most memorable quote from the article for me, "he has that trait particular to doctors of looking extremely clean: clean hands and fingernails, a very clean ear as he turns to order from the cafe waiter".  The journalist was describing Howard Chilton, a paediatrician based in Sydney who was the director of neonatal unit at the Royal Hospital for Women from 1978 - 2000.  As I look down at my unmanicured nails chopped down to the quick and the skin of my hands that's gone a bit shiny and leathery (in looks and feel) from having the oil leached off it from constant handwashing and glove wearing, I guess I can sort of see what the journalist was alluding too in her description.  Actually, let's call a spade a spade.  I've got pleather hands.

But back to the article.  The messages that I came away with reflect what I have come to believe after attempting controlled crying half heartedly (I couldn't bear the crying from both of us) and after a couple of trips to sleep school (thumping the mattress next to Baby SSG to get him to sleep made me more tired than him).   Controlled crying seems to work for some babies over the age of six months and not for others.  There isn't a good system to predict who will respond and who will not.  And that longitudinal studies haven't been able to show a sustained ' benefit' on sleep hygiene in those that were control cried versus those who were not.

But there are a couple of facts that are indisputable.  That before six months of age, babies don't learn to self settle with controlled crying, they just 'extinguish', which means, in the words of Dr Chilton, 'the baby just gives up'.  And that by the age of twelve months, one's ability to regulate stress and establish keys to resilience such as self worth and a sense of security have pretty much been set up for life.

However, family life isn't just about baby.  Controlled crying in older infants where parents are on the brink can be an option.  Parents are more confident with their child as they get closer to a year old and when you can sense there's a bit of rebellion and pushing of boundaries emanating from your child in the manner of The Force, you tend to feel better about fighting back a bit.

The one thing that we all forget though, is that in the context of the 18 years or so that you'll be raising your child in a 'hands on' manner, the months of crying and fragmented sleep is "really, really short" as Dr Chilton advises in the article.  It is true yet it is possibly the last thing you want to hear when you're in the midst of it personally.  But it is true and there will be greater parenting challenges to follow.

I'm pretty sure that someone wise told me that 'the battle of parenting that precedes the one you're currently facing gives you the strength and confidence to face the present challenge'.  That and the fact that there will always be some aspect of parenting that you feel will break you and that your job in times like this is to keep yourself healthy and sane by whatever means necessary.  Or maybe I've managed to learn all this in just over two years.  On the back of having only one child and working only part time and with a lot of support from my extended family,

George PJs - for a mere $7 today from my good friends at Target boys sleepwear.

I'm sitting here blogging as Toddler SSG sleeps soundly (in those new Target jammies) after putting himself to bed.  He will now mostly sleep through the night but even if he does the 2am and 4am wake ups, they're both easily managed with a pat on the back.  Which is just as well because we both need all our sleep to face the days in the life of spirited and active toddlers who are at that very frustrating age of knowing what they want, knowing sort of how to get it but not being able to tell anyone what it is they want or how they are feeling.  Except in whines or shrill screams.

One of my 'doctor hands' holding the first patty case tube I've emptied in my life.

Aside from mulling over the controlled crying article, I've somehow managed to finish off a 100 pack tube of mini patty pans.

It all started on Tuesday when I discovered the power of the patty pan lined mini muffin tray.

It's like magic.  Your muffins really do depan perfectly when they're baked in a lined tray.  Who would have thought?  My days of overbaking to try and get a crust thick enough to make depanning easy are over.  Hello lightly textured, soft muffins!!!!!

Since that moment of enlightenment, I've been baking muffins non stop.

There's been a batch of chocolate and zucchini muffins.

Look at all those hidden vegetables.  And in chocolate, no less.

Every last strand of chocolate coated zucchini was eaten at morning tea.

Then I tried my hand at Donna Hay's sour cream based muffin recipe from Modern Classics.

These were my favourite, texture wise.  They were so aerated and moist and rose to perfect domes.

And my last batch were based on a basic muffin recipe from the AWW.

You begin by crumbing butter into your self raising flour before adding the buttermilk, sugar and eggs.

I added over ripe banana and pear to these muffins.  And some chocolate chips.  The AWW recipe makes a cakey muffin.  They don't rise as high as some other recipes but they're a nice comfort food, taste of home kind of affair.

And I think we are sorted for breakfast muffin options for at least the next six months.  I hope I still have room in the freezer for some hot cross buns....

The great indoor have been made a bit more bearable for Toddler SSG with these finds from Daiso.  I really rate the bubble wands.  The wands are short and sturdy, easy for toddlers to handle while the bubble mixture makes perfect, non watery bubbles.

The squares of green felt are for a colour matching exercise a family friend told me about.  The exercise is as follows: buy swatches of green, take to park, match swatches to different green things you see there or vice versa.  My family friend is a man of few yet precise words.  I'm planning to try them out at the park.  There's lots of green there, we'll be busy for hours.

And we also got a few mini 'spiky' balls.  Not in the photo because Toddler SSG was bouncing them off a wall and shouting 'ball' and 'throw' interchangeably as he did so.

A trip to Aldi earlier this week provided the rest of our essential supplies for a day in.  The floor puzzles are working well because they 'puzzle' bit only goes in one direction which makes it easier for Toddler SSG to stay interested in what's going on.

The DVDs and CD need no further explanation.  I had heard last week that ABC2 was reprogramming their usually lifesaving 3 - 5 pm time slot and filling it with sport this weekend so I made sure I was prepared.  We managed as best we could...

About the only thing I didn't buy at Aldi was this week's special buy of the gel nail kit.  Have you tried it?  On account of my needing to maintain journalist defined 'clean looking' doctor looking pleathery hands, I've managed to talk myself out of getting it.  But I'd love to live vicariously through you.


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