Jul 31, 2016

Lovin' Life 31/7/2016: Birthday Cake Season.

It's birthday cake season for my family and friends right now which means that the next month is going to be one weekend after another of baking, decorating and eating good cake with the people I love most.

I'm feeling chocolate this year (surprise, surprise) and to kick off the festivities, here's Donna Hay's Chocolate Melt and Mix Cake via Fat Mum Slim dolled up with a few bits and pieces I'll explain later on.

That's 250g of butter being melted for the cake...

Along with all the usual ingredients you need for chocolate cake, this recipe also features a good 1 1/2 cups of desiccated coconut.

If you have one on hand, a three year old can be very helpful in telling you how the batter beating is progressing and whether or not it needs a little help from his spatula.  And to think it wasn't that long ago that I had to carry him on my hip in between cake making steps so that he could see what was going on...

In the frosting department, I've used my favourite recipe for chocolate buttercream frosting from Add A Pinch.

But the star (what a pun) of the show are these chocolate stars from Dr Oetker (an inventor of baking powder and most importantly, SSG Manor's official brand of frozen pizza) whose range of cake decorating products recently arrived on our shelves via Coles and Woolworths.

The giant stars retail for around $4 and come in packets of twelve - six each of milk and white chocolate.  As you can see from my reveal, the stars are very well protected in their packaging and all twelve of my pack were in perfect condition when I opened their box.  To remove them, just peel back the plastic casing a bit and they pop out easily.

I've been YouTube-ing and Googling cake decorating tips this weekend in preparation for all the frosting I have ahead of me this month and I picked up this great tip for the less tidy sides of cake frosters amongst us.  Lay down strips of baking paper under your cake before you start.

It works a treat and the paper just slides out from the sides of the cake.

Are you the birthday cake baker in your family?  Is there one recipe you stick to or do you rotate through a few favourites and new finds like me?

Have you tried any other products from Dr Oetker's cake decorating range?

Jul 30, 2016

Serenity. Census Night. Bad Moms.

via pinterest

The serenity.  I'm really feeling it this morning, Darryl Kerrigan.  I've got the first load of laundry going in the front loader, the bins have been emptied and the recycling basket is by the door ready for when it's warm enough to head out to the council bins in the back garden.  Did I mention I've even restocked the toilet rolls in the bathroom already?  You hadn't thought to ask?  Well, now you know.  We tackle the household chores with gusto here at SSG Manor 2.0 when the preschooler of the house is sleeping in on a Saturday morning.

The sleep in is still in progress as I type and so I've pulled out the fancy tea pot and loose leaf tea (T2s French Earl Grey) and am going to let my sleeping preschooler lie.

via twitter

Did you know that Tuesday August 9 is Census Night?  I was wondering what all the breakfast radio prank calls were on about this week.  This link to the ABS' FAQ page is really handy if you needed to find out more.  From what I can tell, we're all going to get letters in the post next week with a unique household code that will enable  us to complete the census online on the Tuesday.  You can also apply for a paper copy to fill in.

I'm feeling lucky, brave and optimistic which is why I'm just going online on the night.  You'd think that with at least 11 million of us expected to be logging in on the night that all our internet providers will be fully prepared for the pressure on their servers and that we will all have excellent wifi for the duration.  You'd think...  I'm sure it'll all be okay.  After all, if none of the telcos have crashed in the weeks since Pokemon Go has taken over our city then surely their cables and data tower things will be able to handle census log ins.

You know how it's going to be August on Monday....


Well. it's going to be an extra special birthday month for me because Bad Moms is due for release in Australia on August 11!!!  You'd better pencil that one into your diaries.  I've just confirmed my plans to watch Mila, Kristen and Kathryn give our stories the Hollywood treatment.

Will you be watching Bad Moms?  Planning a big day or night out to do so?

Don't forget Census Night either!!

Jul 27, 2016

Words To Live By. Student Daze.


President and First Lady Obama, I will miss you terribly come November 8 from halfway across the world here in Sydney.....  


Your collective eloquence, intelligence, empathy and humanity never cease to both inspire as well as make me a good, long hard look at myself.

Today's piece of Obama wisdom comes by way of a clip I saw of Michelle Obama's last commencement speech from June of this year.  She gave this speech at the City College of New York and a full transcript can be found here.  It was a dignified, inspiring and fitting tribute to the graduating class.  It acknowledged the many and sometimes unspeakable challenges that the students had overcome to get to where they were on graduation day and it also, sadly, confronted the reality that many of these challenges as they relate to race and socioeconomic class would continue to be a force in their futures.

But the First Lady also offered hope of a better, stronger and more united future for the America that these young people would go on to build.  The notion that they should use their success to help others  to better themselves and that unity rather than wall building (take that, Mr Trump) is the way forward for the country they love so much.

For me, the most moving comments of her speech are those contained in the clip and more specifically the following quote that contains words to live by.  

You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage.  Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages. 
Michelle Obama, June 3 2016, New York

Every once in a while, your forty something working mum self needs a day to sit back to think, write and be self indulgent.  With my thinking part of the day well covered by reading Michelle Obama's speech, I then spent the rest of my alone time at the library reliving my glorious student days.

Geeze, they were good and simple times.  Admittedly, a world away from those of the graduating class of City College who learned life's sometimes harsh lessons years before I would ever be taught them.

Clicking away at a lap top, reading some articles, scrolling through your social media, taking some notes, committing bits and pieces to memory all whilst daydreaming about the weekend / what you'd do with your first real pay cheque / your next study break of the day.  Besides study materials, things like mints, lip balm, lip colour, a hot drink in an insulated flask, snacks and a change of clothes were all necessary things to mule from home to the library for a big day of student-ing.  Because as we all well know, actual studying is only a fraction of what goes on during a day at the library as a uni student.

Rose tinted glasses off, it was time to return to my fortysomething working mum reality which may have more wrinkles, saggy bits and responsibilities than my student life reality but it also has some significant advantages attached to it.

First up being a bit of disposable income with which one can purchase care packages from Mecca Cosmetica.  I bought myself some new tinted moisturiser and primer by hourglass today and I'm going to keep my new things in their wrapping until I either run out of what I'm currently using or I have a day that even chocolate can't fix.

And secondly, with age and wrinkles comes self awareness, confidence and love.  It's been an interesting few months as a mother for me in that I'm starting to feel more comfortable in losing my mummy self for a few hours every now and then for a night out with girlfriends and workmates.  A night out every once in a while is a logistical challenge at times but the few hours of adult time it creates for me make it all worthwhile.  But I always look forward to coming home, slipping off those heels and shrugging back into my mum clothes.

What do you remember of student life?  Am I the only person who daydreams of the good and simple times they were (relatively speaking...).

Jul 26, 2016

Winter is.....

Winter is...

The Ren coat from Jigsaw, skivvy - Uniqlo, black shift dress - Metallicus.

being given a big bear hug by  your new coat on the way in to work in the morning.

Weekends in winter are all about...

seeing the winter sun lit beauty of Circular Quay from the train station as those around you look down at their phones for Pokemon

walking out of the train station and onward to the water full of green and gold ferries cruising this way and that

waiting in line to walk into the igloo outside the MCA which houses an art installation inspired by swamp land

joining the crowd for this year's Aroma Festival at The Rocks

which celebrates our city's love of coffee, chocolate, live music and queues....

Being a Preschooler in The Rocks is....

trying to stay still and not touch anything as you wait for your special, not too hot hot chocolate

comparing your Italian gingerbread man with you best friend's

Italian gingerbread seems to be chewier and less buttery than other varieties.  It's very moreish.

Just some of the different shaped gingerbreads on offer at Casa Di Miele's stall at the Aroma Festival. 

getting up close to the cannon at Dawes Point to figure out how it really works

 before running with endless supplies of energy and laughter through the park

and back down to The Rocks

to take in some live music before heading home for more boring things like a bath, dinner and a very early bedtime.

Winter is all kinds of beautiful.

Jul 25, 2016

Not So Secret After All.

I belong to a closed group on social media that has brought together a large number (several thousand) of mostly female members of my profession.  The one thing we have in common besides our profession is that we are all parents.  The aim of the group is simple.  It's meant to be a place for us to discuss whatever it is that's on our minds that relates either to work or parenting or both.  Ground rules have been established and agreed upon with the moderators of the group being proactive and sensible in their application of the rules to posts and comments.

So it was hardly a surprise that I took to the group like a duck to water.  And it's been a lovely community to be part of.

But as with most things on social media, there was an incident recently.  A member of the group had found the support so useful she casually mentioned it to a friend to see if she was interested in joining.  The friend then replied that she'd actually heard of the group through a mutual acquaintance who was also a member of the group.

Unfortunately, the group had not been referenced in glowing terms.  The mutual acquaintance had taken it upon themselves to screen shot the more 'inane' posts and then used those screen shots for a few cheap laughs.

I know we're all adult women and the members of this group presumably have a reasonable level of resilience, maturity and intelligence to rise above this incident but the jibe hit its mark.  Some members became even more considered in what they posted, others noted how things like this reflect more on the observer than the observed and the majority carried on as normal.

We could analyse this deeply about how women should all be 'leaning in' to support each other.  We could also glibly observe that women seem to be their own worst enemies who tear each other down.  But my initial thoughts were a bit more basic.

For me, the incident brought home yet again, the message we tell our children and ourselves.  Nothing on the internet is completely private no matter how well vetted and secure you might think an online community is.  The internet is also forever thanks to a well (or badly) timed screen shot.  If you put it out there, you need to be prepared to deal with the consequences good or bad.

But I do wonder about the screen shot person and whether any of us who use social media are in any place to judge.  The attack was personal to us because it came from within the group.  It was also the work of our dear old friend Anon.

The thing is, I've been having far too many chuckles over Melania Trump this past week and the made for memes controversy over the striking similarity of her recent speech to one Michelle Obama gave several years ago.  I've also voiced an opinion on the final reveal of who The Real Housewives of Sydney are.  With regards to the latter, I'm bitterly disappointed that the fixtures on Sydney's social pages that I'm most intrigued by kindly declined their offers to be a local housewife.

It was all light hearted, the people at the centre of the attention wanted the intention in the first place.  Where's the harm?

Potentially everywhere for the people at the receiving end who meant for their actions and words to be received in a certain way.  You can't control how people respond to anything you share in a public forum. Taylor Swift put it so well with the line 'haters going to hate'.   But you also need to protect yourself in the event of the worst case scenario (and then some) by exercising a bit of discretion and judgement (preferably of yourself, not others).

Are you a member of an online forum?  Do you find yourself fully reassured by the fact that your group is 'secret' or 'private'?  Or do you conduct yourself as you would elsewhere on social media?

Jul 24, 2016

Lovin' Life 24/7/2016: Getting Things Done.

It's been a week that's worked out better than I thought it would.  Illness, busyness and all the other ness-es nad itis-es that pop up like road blocks in front of you when all you really have energy to do is follow the script and stick to your routine to get the job done.

It's been a good week at work.  Even got to drive home in the sun on Friday.  Not the greatest view but there's nothing like driving past the familiar signs and landmarks that say you're homeward bound and seeing them bathed in golden, late afternoon sun.

I've really enjoyed just sticking to my exercise routine.  I often throw my own pity parties about hard it is to train as hard or as often as I did way back when but then I remember all the excuses I used to make to myself as I stayed that extra half an hour in bed or faffed around on the sofa glued to my iPhone.  Perhaps I've got the rose tinted glasses (or trainers on) when I try to remember my exercise regime BC (before child - boom tish).

The windows of opportunity to get my weights and cardio in are so small these days that I have to grab them and make the best of what I have.  With illness and sleep deficit taken into account this week, the cardio hasn't been as intense and the reps haven't been as high but I did what I kept at it in the company of my stoic and silent crack of dawn gym buddies.  We mostly don't speak to each other but I find their presence and their individual routines both soothing and motivating as I do my thing (on the lowest weight settings).

I made a batch of slow cooker bolognese for the freezer on Saturday.  In a Chinese kitchen, one browns their mince, onions and garlic in the wok....

I gave thanks to my last Costco run for providing me with the dried herbs I needed but thought I'd run out of until I opened the spare bottles and boxes cupboard in the kitchen.

I have two secret ingredients for my bolognese.  One of them is barbecue sauce, preferably Sweet Baby Ray's.  It has to be the 946ml bottle from Costco.


And celery salt.  I find it helps balance the flavour of my bolognese if it's too sweet.  It's the perfect salty kick for tomatoes.  There's something in it (quite possibly celery) that works so well with tomatoes in a way that salt or soya sauce do not.

Went the extra mile today with those grated carrots as well as all that pre slow cooker browning and frying.
I've been attacking Preschooler SSG's toys one play set at a time.  We are not a household where the cardboard box that a toy is purchased in remains the container for that toy one month let alone one, five or ten years down the track.  If you were ever to be passed on any of our toys, they'd mostly be in a lucky dip carton comprised of cars, trains, building blocks, wooden food, puzzle pieces and Kinder Surprise toys.  I remain envious and in awe of friends who have the toys of their grown up children still in their original boxes.  

But I digress.  I found these clear plastic boxes with tray inserts on sale at Woolworths this week.  They're made by Sistema and with the 50% discount cost from $4 per box and insert.  They were the perfect containers to house our button threading and magentic shape sets.  Fingers crossed this new packaging withstands the hard knocks of life with Preschooler SSG.

But perhaps my proudest getting it done moment involved the car.  I managed to both fill the petrol tank and all four tyres.  It did take me 20 minutes and it did involve giving a wide berth to a cyclist who was also filling his tyres but I did it.  Actually, we did it.  My fellow drivers and I.  There's some kind of well choreographed tango that everyone who uses this servo seems to know.  People fill their tanks nose to nose (because of the craziness that is different cars having their tank inlets on opposite sides) then they reverse out and around others, people remember who was waiting first for a bowser and circle around to give them enough space to pull in.  Somehow, it all ends well.

Do you still have the original packaging of toys from your childhood or those of your children?

What are your secret bolognese ingredients?


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