Dec 28, 2015

What 2015 Meant to Me.

2015, we've been good for each other and I'm a little sorry to see you leaving so soon.  I've just read over my previous year in review blog posts and they've all been so earnest and introspective which reflected where I was when I wrote the posts but this year's been different.  It's been life lived refreshingly at face value.  No hidden agendas, no hidden meanings.  The good's been good, the bad's been bad.  I've lived it all in the moment and with a clear head and heart.  And it's been remarkably refreshing despite the chronic lack of sleep that I'm slowly getting used to.

So let's get started on what 2015 meant to me.

From vases of sunflowers on cafe long tables,

to the comforting hug of brilliant sunshine on difficult days, I've felt love and light on each and every one of your 365 days.

You've brought me wanderlust and a sense of adventure (via the kick arse GPS in my car) as I've set about exploring new (to me) corners of this city who has been so good to me.

As you leave, I'd be grateful if you could hand over some consumer feedback to the incoming 2016.  Keep up the good work with bringing new friends and good people into my life.  If I could have a couple each year for the rest of my days, I'll be very happy indeed.

It's a rare year indeed that provides nothing but positive major life events.  Toddler SSG started daycare earlier this year and his new friends and teachers have taught him so much about life and learning.

The circle of life brought me back to one of the first places I ever worked at in Sydney and it felt like a reunion with old friends over numerous cups of excellent coffee that Balmain is famous and loved for.

New York City was as exciting to visit this year as it was that first time back in 1999.

Much like Sydney, there's always something new to see and do.

But there's also a sense and depth of history deeper than the 200 or so years young that European colonised Australia is.

A visit home to Perth was restorative.

And I became an aunty twice over this year as well.

Buying double of everything still hasn't lost its novelty.

2015 was a year I reached a few personal milestones.

Turning forty wasn't as scary as it might have been.  It's the new thirty as far as I'm concerned which then runs contrary to my other thought about how age is really just a number.  Whatever.  With so many life events done  and dusted, all that's really left to do with my life is to continuing living every moment of it as fully as I can.  Armed with the age related resilience, persistence and self belief that are compensation for a body that's getting on a bit and a mind that's carrying a fair bit of responsibility.

And of course, there was that moment I held the new keys for the first time.  Keys that to me have symbolised every possible cliche riddled meaning that keys could possibly have.  To the city, to the future, to success, happiness and joy.

In a way, 2015, you have also been a key to all of the above.  So thank you, godspeed and goodbye.

Dec 26, 2015

Christmas 2015. Happy Days Indeed.

In the immortal words of Adele, 'hello from the other side'.

We were off to a good start when I managed to beat my little elf to the tree on Christmas morning to play Santa.

It's been the most joyous Christmas I could have asked for this year.  Full of everything I wanted it to be.  My parents flew in to join my brother, sister in law and I.  We celebrated the first Christmas of one nephew and received live photo updates of my other nephew's celebrations in Singapore.  There was an embarrassment of food made and selected with love.  And I also hosted a guest who would otherwise have been alone for Christmas Day this year.  That's pretty close to perfect in my book.  Oh, and the weather was even pleasant enough for an evening walk before bed.  Happy days indeed.

It's even involved a little treadmill time to give all those festive kilojoules something to do.

A little time to centre myself before that final attack on the shops Christmas Eve.

I've adapted so easily to this Christmas break business.  Was Christmas Eve really only on Thursday?  And today Saturday?

Christmas Eve was all about the dessert.  I started at the crack of dawn with the jelly layers for my trifle.  It has to be Aeroplane jelly for me and I only like to use red coloured jellies.

Some might daub their sponge roll layers with straight sherry but I like to add a couple of tablespoons of jam as well.  Heating both over a low flame helps dissolve the jam into your wine.

Next up is the precision art of arranging the sponge roll slices around the inside of the trifle bowl.  This is my $10 Kmart one that survived being pitched over the front gate.

Long story short, I like to pour cooled but not set jelly over the sponge and fruit layers and allow each to set in the bowl before adding the next.  I did a separate layer of canned pear in one jelly and peaches in the next.  I went from darkest coloured jelly (port wine) at the bottom to lightest (strawberry) at the top but the ombre effect really wasn't that obvious at the end of the day.  

 Over the top of the last jelly layer went some jam roll painted in more of the sherry and jam mixture.  And then the custard.  I added a little whipped thickened cream into the custard.  And into the thickened cream, I add about 50g of finely grated white chocolate.  Because it's Christmas. Over the custard went the rest of the whipped cream.

This is a non boozed up baby trifle I made for Toddler SSG.  Instead of sherry, I used some of the syrup from the fruit to moisten the sponge roll layer.

And here are the mother and child trifles chilling out on Christmas Eve in the fridge.  Along with the champagne.  And the rum balls.

And then it was Christmas Day.  And we started as we meant to continue.  With superior food and lots of family love.

My Aunty was Christmasing in Perth this year but she was with us in spirit by way of her famous shortbread.  The chocolate cake is Fat Mum Slim's epic recipe, dressed for the season in red and white icing candy canes.

Smoked salmon, dill and creme fraiche on blinis for breakfast with a mimosa, what more could ask for at breakfast?  I'll be straight with you, they weren't home made blinis but were lovingly microwaved straight out of the packet.  I added a little lemon juice, zest, chopped dill and some mustard to the creme fraiche.

And then it was time to get down to get lunch started.  If you ever have trouble with cutting your Hasselback potatoes too deeply, place metal skewers on either side of your potato halves to prevent your knife from going too deep.  A handy tip from the Woolworths instore magazine.

A handy tip from me is to do all your Christmas lunch roasting and baking in disposable foil trays.

And here was our spread for lunch.

The cheese platter was epic as well, if I do say so myself.  There's something about a good wedge of cheese on a cracker of some sort that does wonders for a conversation, don't you think?  Or perhaps its the wine that goes with the cheese and crackers, who knows?

Dessert number one were Sally's mocha cheesecake brownies.

Which required this much chocolate and they were, accordingly, delicious.

And this is how the trifle looked when it got fully dressed with berries and can of passionfuit pulp.  Of the two desserts on offer, the trifle ended up being the more popular and went home with our guests in little care packages.

No matter how much I eat for Christmas breakfast and lunch, there's always room for an earlyish dinner / late afternoon tea.  Which in my case was a second go at the cheese plate and some more of that festive chocolate cake.

I wasn't feeling as rusty as I feared I would this morning.  Must have been because all that food yesterday was made with love....

But seeing the Bake Bar open and ready for business on a detour on my way home was a sight for sore eyes none the less.

I do love a festive family morning coffee and pastry run.

Braved the Boxing Day sales today!  At not one but two shopping-opolises.

Went all fancy for a new bottle of make up brush cleaner.

It's a spray on called Brush With Success and is $24 for an 150ml bottle.

The rest of my shopping was all related to Toddler SSG's threenager party that's coming up in a few weeks.  Big W's Party Shops are The Source for all things party related.  I'm going all DIY again this year (as I always do).  I have a theme and I have a menu.  It's unlikely to go to plan but it's going to be a memorable morning all the same.

Do you have any good ideas for party games that newly three year olds might like to play?

Dec 23, 2015

This Close To Christmas. All You Need Is Love.

Just stopping by to take some time out from the tightly scheduled timeline that is the lead up to Christmas Day.  It's my last day of work today before I get just under a week off for Christmas.  I'm so looking forward to spending the time just being a mum / aunty / daughter /person with no definite plans for the day.
Remember back in 2010 when Stella McCartney designed for Target?  Word on the street is that the JPG collaboration is set for release in Australia early in the new year.  

3/4 sleeve top - Mix, cropped tailored trousers - J Crew, belt - Hermes, bangle - Target, relaxed stance - because it's my last working day before my Christmas break begins!!!!!!!!

Besides that, look what I found in the bottom of my wardrobe?  My Stella for Target LOVE bangle.  It was in the box I store my fancy belts in.  Being Christmas and all, I decided to wear both the bangle and a fancy belt to work today.  This time of year, all you need is love and possibly more hours in the day on Christmas Eve.

How are you dealing with it all?  My kitchen bench tops are barely visible from under the carefully balanced piles of things that need to be cooked and baked.  There are recipes stuck to cupboard doors and my cooking timeline is somewhere on the dining table.  But at the same time, it's a relaxed kind of busyness this time of year. The traffic is heaven, everyone has a smile on their face and a 'Merry Christmas' on their lips and a week off is this close.

The Christmas alcohol has come down from the top shelf of the pantry, ready to be pressed into service for the rum balls and trifle.

A dusting of desiccated coconut over rum balls is as close to a white Christmas as I'll be getting this year and it's one of my favourite culinary images of the holiday.

I wish blog posts came with wafts of fragrance attached to the relevant image because these rum balls smell fantastic.

The sausage rolls have all been baked and frozen for a quick reheat on Friday.

If you don't already, blitz your mince, bread crumbs and additional filling ingredients in the food processor before assembling you sausage rolls.  Not only does it make the vegetables invisible but the meat becomes so finely blended it really does have the texture of sausage filling.  I set aside about a third of the mince before processing and added it back in at the end.

Presents have been wrapped and returned to their hidey holes around the house.

It's practically my duty as an aunty to be extravagant with Christmas presents for my nephews.  I couldn't resist these Indigo Jamm wooden toys.  Kidstuff have an extensive range of this and other beautiful brands of wooden toys both online and in store.

But I've also tried to be practical.  Toddler SSG is getting this storage wheel for his Thomas mini trains.  I'm hoping this will also mean that starting from Christmas Day, stepping on a train will no longer be a daily event in my life.  My local Target have sold out of the wheel and it wasn't available online either.  I ended up buying ours from the ABC Shop.

Now all that remains to be done is for this weather to get with the program and start behaving like it should for Christmas Day.  I'm sort of resigned to the fact that we're set for a wet and grey Christmas in Sydney this year but miracles are also what the season is about.....

Tomorrow is going to be an action packed day of cleaning and food preparation here at SSG Manor 2.0 and I'm not sure if I'm going to be back here at all (but never fear, I'm aiming to do my usual cathartic end of year essay just in time for New Years).  So I'd like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.  You are all such supportive readers and lovely people and I am grateful that my little corner of the internet includes you.

Take care and much love,

SSG xxx


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