Nov 29, 2015

The Last Weekend Before December.

Chances are you were doing one of the following in Sydney last night.

Getting wrapped up in the magic of T Swift's 1989 concert.  From everything I've heard both in the press and from friends, it was one heck of a show.  The atmosphere must have been electric and all the photos on my Instagram feed made it look as if everyone had a truly amazing night at the performance.  I'm trying to catch up on Youtube today.

Even our personable Premier got in the act with this post to his Facebook page:
Sydney might not have gotten any surprise appearances from any of Taylor's A list pals but we did get glow in the dark arm bands and a two hour wait in the carpark after the concert as 79 000 people all tried to leave the ANZ Stadium simultaneously.

Or perhaps you were having a quiet night in.  Recovering from the work Christmas party Friday night or logging in a few hours of sleep into the bank in preparation for the month of shin digs that December often is.

Toddler SSG at that prized spot in the Santa line where you have full access to Santa's Garden just before getting your turn in Santa's sleigh.

If you were me, you were having that quiet night in with your coloured pencils because you needed all the sleep and calm you could get to face the mental and physical challenge of getting Santa photos done on a Sunday at your local Westfield.  I didn't have it in me to face trying to get to the QVB early to secure a time for later in the day so I did the only slightly less challenging thing of getting to Westfield half an hour before Santa did and hoping for the best.  Along with 10 other families.

We got there in the end and we couldn't have got there without each other.  We shared mobile phones, snacks and looks of solidarity as we tried our best to keep our children in line (and in one piece) and their outfits as clean as possible for their photos moment with Santa.

Toddler SSG was so excited to see Santa that he climbed straight onto the sleigh and happily hammed it up for the camera.  We have another beautiful photo this year and I love how there's already a memorable story behind each one.

Armed with our photo pack, we celebrated with a well earned snack of Max Brenner chocolate buttons and a couple of hot beverages.
Target's $5 wall clock.

We then went on a soothing lap of Target with C who was in town for the weekend.  Despite being emotionally spent from Operation Santa Photo, I still managed to remember what I needed to be at Target for.  Another of these $5 wall clocks.  They're so light weight and go with practically any kind of interior design concept you may (or may not) have for your house.  They also look like they'd cost more than they do.

Unfortunately, Target was yet another high profile victim of the adult colouring in craze so they didn't have any felt tips in stock.  Which is how I ended up at Eckersley's again.  This time for these fancy Stabilo textas.

I needed them to for the book of Owen Davey's Travelogue posters I'm starting on.  The book itself was a sub $5 find at Aldi yesterday.  The prints just look like they needed more solid blocks of colour than what I could achieve with pencil.  However, felt tip colouring in isn't as easy as it looks.  You need to be so decisive and to have such a sure hand to prevent colours from bleeding or looking uneven on the page.

Before I leave you, I have a make up tip involving plastic knives that might come in handy.

If you're on the verge of ditching a pan of makeup because it's got build up on in that's preventing you from being able to take up much product on your brush, this video may help you save that product.

It turns out that the build up occurs because oils from your skin or other makeup and skincare react with the powder and form the hard film layer.  To remove it, all you need to do is scrape the layer off using a plastic knife, packaging tape or a firm bristled brush.  The knife worked best for me.

And there you have it, November is just about done and dusted.  It's December this coming week!!!!!!!!

Nov 26, 2015


Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and readers.  Now that Abe has officially been pardoned by President Obama making Abe TOTUS, may you all have a lovely Thanksgiving with your family and friends. And all that food.  And the promise of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales - the previews are looking very tempting this year...

I imagine that Thanksgiving dinners can be as difficult and stressful as Christmas dinners so if you're at your wits end already, here's Matt Bellassai's guide to winning this Thanksgiving.

Closer to home, today's big news in fashion is Target Australia's big reveal of the latest designer to collaborate with them.  Bonjour John Paul Gaultier!  Bonjour nautical stripes, edgy interpretations of denim and leather as well as iconic tailored suiting!
This is the only image I've seen of the range which sounds like it will be Missoni For Target like in size and range with clothing for all ages as well as homewares.  Launch will be sometime in 2016 and after my credit card got a break this year with the Dion Lee collaboration, I can see myself strategizing my haul from the Gaultier range the moment it is fully revealed.

It finally happened yesterday.  The outfit I planned to wear to work the next day actually got worn to work the next day.  I'm a serial offender of not following through with my work wardrobe plans.  I've got Sydney's erratic spring weather as an excuse for the moment but as summer rapidly approaches (as in approaching as quickly as next week), I'll have nothing to blame except for my own whimsy.

I accessorised with this Lovisa bargain that I bought ages ago.  Subtle bedazzling with diamante is always a good look this close to the official start of the festive season.

Today's shaping up to be a staying in and seeking air conditioning kind of day.  It was already 29C at 7.30 this morning.  Toddler SSG and I hit the shops early for the groceries and breakfast.  I even managed a bonus 5 minutes of work related reading and highlighting with my coffee.

The butcher at Woolies is a bit old school British.  Sausages come wrapped in paper - just like they do on episodes of Nigella and Jamie.

And how retro are these minced meat crowns?

Do you set your work outfits out the night before?  And do you always wear what you put out?

Nov 24, 2015

Going Carless. Goals.

It's been the perfect day for attempting to reduce my carbon footprint by going carless for a day.  The sun and that soft hint of a breeze seem to be practically shouting at me to get outside and enjoy them while they're here.

The best part of my swim this morning was quite possibly the post swim coffee in the courtyard that adjoins the pool's cafe.  I won't lie though, it was relaxing in a vigorous kind of way churning through my laps as my mind floated from one thing to the next.  It's my way of meditating, I guess.

We've been embracing yogurt here at SSG Manor 2.0.  Toddler SSG's current favourite is strawberry flavoured Petit Miam Squeezie.

And I've discovered Chobani's lightly sweetened yoghurt.  I was devastated (but not completely surprised) to discover that the secret to why many dessert yoghurts taste so good is that many of them are heavy on the cream.  Chobani's does have cream in it but it's not as rich as others I've tried yet it doesn't taste sickly sweet and fake like other low fat yoghurts.  

We all need goals in our lives and I've found a new one.  To be able to perform an acceptable blow dry on my own hair.  I day 'perform' because from the YouTube videos I've been studying, doing the perfect blow dry / blow out is an art form in its own right.  There's so much technique in the way hair is sectioned, the way you wind it around the brush, how you unwind it off the brush (my biggest weakness) and of course how you angle the hairdryer at your hair.

I'm taking it one step at a time.  Today I've managed to achieve 'root lift' and my hair doesn't feel like straw.  If I ever get overwhelmed on my journey to perfect DIY hair, I'll remember how far I've come with winged eyeliner!

Can you perform a salon blow dry on your own hair?  Any tips or tricks you'd like to share?

Nov 23, 2015

The Tree and A Recipe.

Our Christmas tree this year manages to tick quite a few boxes off on my list.

It's kind to the environment but still festive, toddler friendly and toddler safe.  Plus it's within my line of sight from the kitchen, the dining table and the sofa so I'm guaranteed a view of the lights most times of the day.  Not bad at all, actually.

Our 'tree' is actually my beautiful dragon plant that's been with me since I first moved to Sydney.  He began life as a clipping from one of the plants at SSG Manor.  Since then, he's survived a miraculous number of years under my care.  His pointed leaves and spindly branches always looking remarkably healthy despite my patchy at best attention to them.

Christmas decorations from Woolworth's current range - priced form $4 to $10.

This year, he's decked out in a selection of decorations I found at Woolworths on the weekend.  We've gone a bit Scandi Chic with the cushioned heart bunting with its button and jute detailing.

LED Christmas lights, $12 from Woolworths.

The star and heart decorations elaborated on the theme.

And I know the colour changing low voltage LED lights aren't technically part of the aesthetic but when you're celebrating Christmas with a toddler, there have to be lights and they have to be on 24/7.

Today's recipe share was inspired by a disappointing dinner I made using one of those liquid meal base sachets which you pick up from one aisle of the supermarket then take around to the fresh foods section in order to find all the ingredients the packet tells you to add.  I usually have at least moderate success with these sachets and those that don't have much flavour during the cooking process can often be rescued with a splash of this, that or both in the final minutes of cooking.

And then I tried a chicken, leek and bacon casserole mix and it was so underwhelming I almost cried into the leftovers.  None of the vegetables cooked properly, the sauce was thin and adding cream to it only highlighted the bland nothingness of the taste.  I'm trying really hard to lose the last container of it that's lurking in my freezer right now.  How could chicken and leek taste so wrong together?  How??????

There's nothing like disappointing dinner to motivate me to google search for a better option.  And I've found it, dear readers, in the shape of this recipe for a Chicken, Leek and Bacon casserole from

Making the casserole saw me christen my red cast iron roasting dish.  The one I've only owned for five years, give or take.  The chardonnay I used for the casserole's white wine requirement was a gift from a good friend and foodie whom I am sure would be very happy to see her gift put to such good use.  Yes, I didn't let the rest of the bottle go to waste and yes, it is a very, very nice chardonnay indeed.  Thank you, I - for your friendship and the memories that came back happily to me as I kicked back with my sneaky Sunday afternoon glass.

There was one packet involved in my cooking of the casserole but it wasn't entirely my fault.  I was too early for the day's fresh garlic to be unpacked so made do with garlic paste.

The casserole was well worth the effort of dicing, browning, sauteeing, baking and then reducing.  We served the casserole with bread and steamed greens.  That was all it needed,  There are no photos of the final dish because dinner was a tag team affair of three adults trying to eat in between tending to the needs of a toddler and an infant whilst simultaneously having an adult type conversation.  Not that we'd have it any other way.

The recipe serves as least 6 adults and looks as if it's going to freeze and reheat well.  And my roasting dish survived the stove top to oven transition unscathed.

Do you indulge in a bit of stove top cooking with your roasting dishes?

Are the lights up at your place yet?

Nov 21, 2015

The Chocolate Rough Slice Recipe. The Heat Yesterday. Getting Organized.

First things first.

Cindy F requested the CWA recipe for the chocolate rough slice I made the other day.  So while I'm waiting for today's photos to upload to my Google drive, I might as well share the recipe here.

Chocolate Rough Slice

From the CWA Biscuits and Slices book given to me by my good friend T.

Recipe by Mary Hanslow, Orielton Branch, Tasmania.


  • 1 cup SR flour
  • 1 dessert spoon cocoa
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup dessicated coconut
  • 110 g butter, melted
Chocolate rough topping:

  • 1/2 a 395g can of condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.  Line an 18cm x 28cm lamington tin with baking paper (personal note, I'm going to try making in a smaller tin next time as the lamington sized tray produces a very thin slice and my topping almost didn't make the whole top of the base).
  2. To make the base, sift flour, cocoa and salt into a basin.  Stir in sugar and coconut, then add melted butter and mix well.  Press into prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes.
  3. For the topping, simply combine all ingredients in a basin and mix well.
  4. Cool the cake base slightly.  Cover with the chocolate rough mixture while it's still warm and set aside.  Cut into slices when cold.
  5. Devour!

I think this photo just about sums up how I survived the 43C scorcher that was Friday.

While much of Sydney was at the beach or seeing how many minutes it took their icy poles or gelato to melt as they walked outside with them, I was following the air conditioning across the city.  From the car to work then back into the car to the gym and onwards to Woolies, it was an almost uninterrupted run of icy cold air.  Toddler SSG managed to stay just as comfortable at his air conditioned day care where concessions were made to the heat in the shape of the sand pit staying covered over for the day.

On our final air con stop for the day, Toddler SSG and I found this USB column fan for the princely sum of $5 at Woolies.

It's plugged in at my desk and punches well above its size in the cooling breeze stakes.  It oscillates 70 degrees and there are different fan settings from low to high.  One of the best occupants of my USB ports in recent times, I reckon.

There's only one way to make dinner when it's still around 30C outside and that would be to do it while staying out of the kitchen for as long as you can.  A Dr Oetker spinach pizza is a perfect option.  Especially when you get professional about it and reheat on a pizza pan.  

And here we are on Saturday where the temperature has hit a maximum of about half of what it was yesterday.  It's so exhausting keeping up with the weather right now, I earned that sticky bun breakfast I had this morning.

The cool change made it much more pleasant to things done.  I've managed to get through my errands in record time.  Starting with the all important trip to Officeworks for a work desk diary and replacement insert for the flicky calendar I have next to my desk phone.  I know there all those fancy designer stationery brands on the market these days but I'm a Collins girl.  That plain blue binding of the diary with its pages full of sensibly spaced lines and larger print days and dates and the often thought provoking daily quotes on the flicky calendar - they are all such a fundamental part of my working day I don't think I'd be able to function if I suddenly decided to change things next year.

This is one for the 'You'll Never Guess What I Found At Officeworks' files: colourful magnetic numbers and letters.  Ironically, I've not had much success tracking them down at Big W or Target but Officeworks seems to have really gotten into the educational resource side of things.  The magnet sets cost $9.95 each (numbers or letters) and there are also lots of posters, flash cards and craft supplies for the little ones in the same area.

I can also confirm that the much anticipated AWW Christmas issue is out.  I found it at the newsagents when I visited to pick up my Next order.  Two birds with one stone and all.

I reckon there's only one way to start reading it and that's with a champagne flavoured Lindor ball.  They have officially arrived at Woolies.  I think Target has them too this year.

That's it from me for today.  Looking like being the perfect kind of afternoon to be curled up with a book right now.

Have you gotten yourself next year's diary yet?  Going traditional or a bit tricksy?

Nov 19, 2015

Playing It Safe.

I'm still very much in the novelty factor stage of this the second day of our first heat wave of the season.

Mini - GAP, T - Cotton On, necklace - Red Phoenix Emporium.

It's been lovely to set out for the day in my favourite warm weather off duty uniform of a short sleeved T, a denim mini, my trusty Birkis and  a string of beads.

And what better place to retreat to in order to escape the heat than the walk in refrigerators of your local Costco?   Actually, the beer fridge at Dan Murphy's works just as well but it's perhaps more difficult to justify lounging around in if you don't actually drink beer.

It wasn't just all about supersized chocolate soft serves and trays of sushi at Costco, you'll be happy to know.

I'm pretty impressed with Costco's $14 sushi tray.  It easily feeds two and comes with plenty of all the essential condiments for sushi - soya sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.  Toddler SSG was a big fan of the teriyaki chicken roll.

And neither was is just about my getting a new pair of black Wayfarers with polarized lenses.

I made it my mission today to sort out a couple of home safety issues I've been a bit slack about since the house move.

The first was a supply box in case of a future power outage.  We had an hour long black out on Sunday evening and my kind neighbour dropped by to check that we were okay.  It turns out that the last one that hit our street saw alternate houses without power for about a week after a line got sliced in half by a tree and it took that long for things to be repaired.

As an aside, if you ever want up to the minute news about blackouts in your area, the Ausgrid site is excellent.  It provides updates on locations of blackouts, when they started and when it is anticipated they will end.

Not wanting to be left in the dark (it's the heat, it's far more cooling to be literal rather than aiming for witty right now) next time, I found myself an LED lantern type torch as well as a set of magnetic work lights that are powered by AAA batteries and are meant to be weather and shock proof.  I also stocked up on batteries and now everything's ready to go on an easy to locate shelf.  But touch wood they won't be needed anytime soon.

It would be more romantic and exciting to have based my emergency kit on candles and matches but four words - toddler in the house.

Which brings me to home fire safety.  Beyond making sure all my appliances and power points are safe, I've never really thought about how to prepare myself in the event of a fire at home.  Thank goodness for work fire safety training then becuase our instructor got me thinking about what I needed to do at home.  The first thing was to purchase a couple of fire blankets and to make sure that one was in the bedroom since fires often occur at night and the one in the kitchen could be too far away.  The next was to have a plan for how to evacuate the house.  Fortunately, this is only a single storey house so all we have to do is climb out a window and run for the street but for those with double storeys, knotted bed sheets ready to go make effective 'ropes' to climb down.

The fire blanket's not the only thing currently living on top of our fridge.  Meet my $10 Kmart Trifle Bowl with at least nine lives.  She's survived being thrown over a 3 metre high fence onto the paving when the delivery guy popped by the other day.  Without a single scratch, chip or crack.  She's made of stern stuff and I can't wait to see how she makes this year's trifle look.

How are you coping with the heat?

What was the most miraculous survival of a parcel delivery that's ever happened to you?


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