Mar 31, 2016

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Autumn.

Don't you love how the leaves of autumn look?  Oh, and that lovely slightly scratchy rustle they make across streets and side walks as the wind gently puffs them this way and that?

Don't you love (not as much, mind you) sweeping those leaves up?  And how there never look to be as many of them in the small(ish) piles that greet you at the front gate than how many there actually as as you heave your piles of swept up leaves into the green bin?  It's just one of those autumn things.

And then there's the coffees of autumn.  It's a lovely walk in the brisk morning's air to go get one.  Not too hot and energy draining or too cold and finger freezing.  There's just enough oomph in the air for you to keep your eye on the prize.

Even my toes got to share my enthusiasm for all things autumn.

My silver Nike Air Max Theas arrived from ASOS this afternoon.

I love them already.  They're loud and proud  in the metallic trainer department.  On a younger pair of feet than mine they'd look gangster.  On a more immaculately groomed and fit pair of feet, camp.  But on me?  All I care about is that they're already comfortable and that, therefore, I shall be wearing them for preschooler mum duty this weekend.

In other wardrobe news at SSG Manor 2.0, we have been rocking the two tone / colour blocked outfit hard.

Best and Less was the source for this T shirt for Toddler SSG.  The cape is detachable and in his current favourite colour to boot.

And this is how I interpreted the theme.  The dress is from Zara in Singapore and sits just past the knee.  It's got a shift kind of cut with a ribbed, round neckline.  The sleeves and back of the dress are black.

How's autumn looking where you are?

Mar 30, 2016

In Praise of Tea Tree Oil. Easter at The White House.

SSG Manor 2.0, I love you so.

You've only been a part of our lives for six months but we've already made so many happy memories together.  You're generally pretty easy to look after and your combination of the old and the new makes you both easy to live with and wonderful to look at.

But.  Mildew and damp seem to love you even more than I.  They've been loving your solid wooden doors with passion all over the shop and I've been at a loss as to how to keep them both at bay.  

Until I rediscovered those trusty spray cans of Bosisto's Tea Tree Oil.

And had a close read of the handy hints on the back of the can.  Did you know that tea tree oil is ace at getting rid of mould and mildew?  It has broad spectrum anti-fungal properties and while the strong smell can be off putting, I happen to like its squeaky clean, medicinal scent.

I've just sprayed the mildew deposits on my doors this morning and wiped over the patches with some antibacterial wipes and wouldn't you know it?  Every last trace has completely gone.  I'll be curious so see if the tea tree oil will have longer term effects on mildew control.  I might just spray the problem areas around the house regularly just in case.

I'm attacking the mildew from all angles, don't you worry about that.  There's a tub of Damp Rid in the bathroom as I type.

But enough about mildew.  One of the many things I enjoyed over the Easter break was sharing in the celebrations of my friends through their shared photos and messages on social media as well as through their blog posts.  It was just lovely being a part of it all in a virtual sense.  

This is how the Obamas spent Easter as they hosted their final White House Easter Egg Roll.
The traditional reading one 'Where the Wild Things Are'.  Might see if Preschooler SSG will watch the full thing with me tonight as we follow along with our copy of the book.
The official eggs for rolling.

The guests in costume.
The obligatory collective capturing of the moment for social media purposes.

And that moment when Beyonce, Jay-Z and Blue strolled across the South Lawn of the White House.

Did catching up on everyone's Easter via social media this weekend put a smile on your dial?

Mar 29, 2016

Easter In One Word: Restful.

It's going to be a challenge, but I wonder if it's going to be possible to write a post Easter blog entry without it featuring any photographs of food?  For most of us, myself definitely included, this has been a weekend of indulgence.  But it's also been lovely to have had the time and opportunity this weekend to abandon my usual routines and haunts for a bit of an explore of the area around where we now live.

There's only one direction I usually turn when I hit the main road where I live and that would be left.  The left turn takes me to the tunnel entry point and from there onto work, friends, old haunts in the old 'hood, Ikea and Costco.  But yesterday, I turned right instead.  I followed the curve of the road and watched as the apartments and shops gave way to views of the water.  I saw boats bobbing along lazily on the water and took a turn into the nearest parking lot.

Which is how I discovered Lyne Park and the delightfully named Sugar and Spoon cafe that overlooks the Lyne Park Tennis Centre.

Coffee not's technically food... it's a vitamin.  So I'm not really thwarting the aim of this post to be nothing to do about food.
How could you visit the Sugar and Spoon cafe and not report it to Instagram via a photo featuring sugar and a spoon?  Brown sugar really does work in coffee.  I might even try this at home.

Across the carpark from the cafe and tennis centre is a beautiful secure playground.  Beyond that, though, is this view out onto Rose Bay.  Google maps tells me we're looking at Sydney Harbour and Nielsen Park in this photo.  But aren't there specific names for the bits of land that jut into the water?  For want of a more eloquent and educated way of framing the question?  South Head.... I wonder what and where that actually is.  I really regret not doing any geography at school.


Further along the bay, closer to the city is where I took this photo.  Catalina's is to the left and the plane preparing for take off is either a Cessna Caravan Amphibian or a de Havilland Beaver.  Information I obtained from Sydney Seaplanes' webpage.  It was quite a sight watching the little plane run up speed atop the water as it wound its way through the bay before steadily soaring into the air.  We're all so used to seeing the huge planes that get us between airports on their massive runways as they prepare for their takeoffs that it's hard to fathom any plane doing the same off a body of water.

This is me simply sitting on the water's edge dangling my feet above the water as I felt the sun on my face and basked at the prospect of the weekend possibly going on forever and ever.

There was only one place to be on a wet Easter Monday morning in the company of a preschooler who wasn't going to an Easter show: The Australian Museum.

The cafe is located on the fourth floor and the view from the floor length windows is stunning.  To the right was this view of ships docked in the harbour.

While over to the left was this view over Hyde Park, St Mary's Cathedral and the roof of my new local pool at the Cook and Phillip Park Aquatic and Fitness Centre.  Heading in tomorrow, actually.  Should get to a fair speed given the energy I've stored up in preparation from the hot cross buns and Easter eggs these last few days.  Better get in a couple more buns this afternoon just to make sure.

And this is the last photo I took this Easter long weekend.  A collection of eggs at the museum.  Their colours are so calming to look at, there's something very restful about the way they're arranged and the way they nestle into each other.

Restful.  That's the word that describes this Easter for me.  Restful.

Mar 28, 2016

Australian Print Media: Then and Now. 'Cuba on the Edge of Change'.

The print media landscape in Australia has changed markedly over the last few months.  At first, the changes were all pretty peripheral to my interests.  With Bauer Media taking over the interests of ACP Magazines in Australia in 2012, low lying, low readership titles were the first to go.  Then titles like Top Gear and lads magazine Zoo Weekly went.  On a personal level, no great loss to me (but perhaps a gain to feminism and respectful relationships between men and women in the case of Zoo).
Then Cleo ceased to be after forty or so years of being in print in Australia as of February this year.  I have fond memories of my years as a Cleo reader in uni (and before then, the issues I sneakily caught up with at work).  But yes, just fond memories of a different era both of my life and in the media.  Celebrity, fashion and make up news seemed to move so slowly back then.  You'd only have to read a magazine a week (if you were truly obsessed and then again, the same things had a habit of cropping up time and time again in the different Australian publications) to have some idea of what was going on.

Then, the internet and social media exploded with the wide availability of smart phones and reasonable data plans.  Celebrities communicated directly with their fan base, bloggers began to give you the low down on practically any fashion or beauty trend you might be pondering and YouTube gave us doable tutorials on everything that were  created by relatable, everyday people just like us (but different because they had better clothes and makeup than us).  So as the way this kind of news has been delivered to us and the fact that you can find most of it for free off the internet made magazines like Cleo redundant.  I get that and no hard feelings but thanks for the memories.

But now, the cost cutting and centralising of material in print media has hit a nerve.  Fairfax Media  recently announced plans to cut 120 editorial jobs that would affect newspapers such as The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review.  Newspapers I read on a daily basis. Newspapers that contain articles I often read and reference in my blog posts.

I guess the writing's been on the wall for a while now.  Cut backs in the glossy supplements that used to bring a little style to the sofa as I lounged back on it to read the weekend paper.  A less than functional smart phone app for the SMH that's been promising a new and improved user interface for months now.  Phone calls from the subscriptions department when I forgot to restart my electronic subscription when I moved house.  Firewalls blocking the odd article I try to read from The Australian when I click links from Facebook posts.  Declining readership and subscription figures eat into budgets which then affects the quality and scope of what a newspaper can deliver to its readers.

It's all left me a bit underwhelmed about newspapers in our country.  On the one hand I understand that newspapers are a business and as such need to turn in a profit.  But the internet has made so much information available to me free of charge.  I'm comfortable with paying for electronic subscriptions for a couple of newspapers but it does start adding up beyond this.

I'm still a loyal subscriber to The SMH and I hope to one day introduce Preschooler SSG to the simple pleasure of being able to read the paper in the morning over breakfast (probably from an iPad rather than from a print copy) as we get ready for the day ahead but gee, moving, eloquent articles accompanied by breath taking photos are thin on the ground these days.  You know those articles that take you to another world, deep into its people, their thoughts and how it is to live as they do?

Which is when I started clicking on my New York Times app button on my iPad more frequently than usual.  Which in turn rewarded me with this stunning photo essay, Cuba on the Edge of Change.  The text is by Azam Ahmed, a foreign correspondent with the New York Times who is based in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, I could find no specific attributions for the stunning photographs that accompanied Ahmed's words.  The image above was the lead photo for the essay.  The vividly coloured but ancient car. the young woman who looks aged beyond her years, deep in thought about just surviving in her achingly beautiful country where everything just takes forever to happen if it hasn't already fallen apart.
I am woefully ignorant of the history of Cuba and I haven't visited the country myself but the photos made me look and the prose made me stay.
How do you feel about the state of newspapers and the print media in Australia?

How do you imagine the job cuts at Fairfax will shape local newspapers?

Do you subscribe to any foreign newspapers?  Have you been reading them more diligently now in the wake of the changes Australian newspapers?

Or is it a case of the grass being greener?  If you're a reader from outside of Australia, has anything changed much for your local newspapers?

Mar 27, 2016

Lovin' Life: 27/3/2016. Easter Kindness.

It's still the Easter long weekend, how can you not love life today?

These are a few of my happy place memories from the weekend so far.

Watching Preschooler (I'm on notice now since I accidentally called 'long daycare with preschool hours' just 'daycare' the other day)  SSG lick the whisk after we made icing for our cake together.

The icing was for this cake.  The one where I realised, too late, that I'd forgotten to add a cup of oil to the carrot cake batter component of.

Well, the cake was a huge success even without the oil.  There was just enough spice in the carrot cake with all the sweetness coming from the orange glaze.  The unique twist on having the cream cheese baked in as a filling rather than as the more common cream cheese frosting somehow made it less decadent to me.  Once something is baked into a cake, it would be sacrilegious to scrape half of it out in the manner of trying to be 'good' with the chocolate ganache on top of a layer cake, for example.

I baked the cake at a lower heat than the recipe specified and got in early with my sheet of foil to prevent it from browning as it baked.  I also refrigerated it overnight in an airtight container which I think also helped prevent it from drying out.  Without the oil, the cake had a little toughness to its texture and the cream cheese layer was a little dry but when you consider that the cake was virtually fat free, they were minuses I could happily live with.  When I do make the cake again, I think half a cup of oil would be more than enough for me.

The stem of a champagne flute framing my cake action shot belonged to this glass.

Which I enjoyed as I took in a view similar to this one that greeted me at every turn I took up to my friend's house in that little slice of heaven on earth Sydney calls the Northern Beaches.  It really is magical driving across the Spit Bridge on your way in.  Boats bob gently on the water either side of the bridge and the sun always glitters off the water.  Always.  It's only twenty minutes or so away from me (in heavenly long weekend traffic) but it feels like a different world completely. To all of you living in the Northern Beaches, how do you drag yourself (if you need to) away from home to deal with things like work, school drop offs and the shopping?

The egg hunt was an exercise in friendship.  The bulk of the eggs were found quickly by the eldest but there was enough to be excitedly discovered by the preschoolers.  The eggs were then shared out a little more evenly and rationed between healthier meals over the course of the day.  My friend and I made an executive decision to hold over the giant Kinder eggs for today.  We're both just a bit curious ourselves to see just how giant the surprise will be inside the eggs...

There's been random kindness along with the friendship this Easter long weekend.  Preschooler SSG was having a moment in the middle of the busy local bakery cafe we often visit for breakfast and no amount of reasoning or reassurance was going to make things right for him.  So the baker on duty popped over to our table and crouched on the floor to have a chat to the preschooler.  After a few minutes of chatting, this chocolate cupcake was offered and politely accepted.  And peace was restored.  It was such a lovely thing for her to have found the time to do on a busy morning as her delicious baking was flying off the shelves and lines of customers were snaking across the cafe and out onto the pavement.

Thank you.  On behalf of all the parents who've been there.

Mar 25, 2016

Easter Baking, Without the Oil. Languid Long Weekends.

It's not a bad life, this time of the year.  The weather's cooler which makes it that much easier to take advantage of the relaxed sleep routine (or lack thereof) of the Easter Long Weekend.  

I just seem to have so much more time on my hands today, for some reason.  Housework's getting done, the laundry's up to date and I even got around to finally setting up the right click on my apple mouse. Yet I don't feel rushed.  Maybe it's because it's unusually quiet in the neighbourhood this morning.  The engines of the lone cars that have driven up our road this morning are an oddly conspicuous sound today in the absence of the usual morning  bustle and chatter of your average day around here.  Silence, or quiet, can often make time slow down for me.

But back to Easter.

I could get used to a diet of hot cross buns (plural) for both morning and afternoon teas.  With a high butter to bun ratio, of course.  Preferably 1:1.

ASOS has brought some pretty respectable spend and save codes to the table as well.  Which was all the convincing I needed to get these Silver Air Max Theas today.

Between these and last year's black Sky Hi Dunks, my autumn / winter casual footwear needs are pretty much met.

Just baked my cake to bring to the Easter egg hunt tomorrow.  It's this Cheesecake Swirl Carrot Bundt Cake.  Full of spices, orange and a 3/4 cup of applesauce - it smelled like hot cross buns as I baked.  And not because I was eating them as I baked....

It's always a special moment when you're doing your public holiday Friday baking and find that you have exactly enough plain flour to bake your cake.  Because there's nothing worse than panicking about where to find your flour when everything appears to be shut.

This carrot cake is a two mixture affair.  The cake layer is all the things I love about carrot cake - carrots (a given), lots of sultanas (you can add pecans if you wish) and a good brown sugar based batter.

Here's the cheesecake layer getting made while I get to the pot of tea I brewed as sustenance for the morning's baking.

And then disaster struck.  I realised, after half the cake batter had gone down under the cheesecake layer, that I'd completely forgotten to add the cup of oil called for in the recipe.  And it was all going so well too!!

Fortunately, the 4 eggs, applesauce, rising agents and the cream cheese layer appear to have done the trick all on their own.  I'm suspecting that the cake is going to be a little dry when we eat it tomorrow but that may be a good thing in the context of all the chocolate eggs that are going to be devoured as well.   My friends and I have very relaxed expectations as to how well the hunt is going to go tomorrow.  It always helps, though, to make sure that the parents are well catered for food and beverage wise.

I'll be drizzling the orange glaze over the cake tomorrow before we go.  I've also chosen to bake the cake in a large, square, loose based tin.  I've never had much success with depanning from a bundt tin.

Have you ever had success with a cake where you've forgotten to add oil?

Will you be Easter egg hunting this weekend?


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