Apr 28, 2017

Friday Drinks #12: Tickets to Texas. Fitness Inspo. Food News.

 It's Friday and we have so much to discuss.

I knew I wore this scarf and wide grin to work for a reason...

my tickets for Texas came through today and it's only 17 sleeps until I fly.  Behind that wide smile and cabin crew-esque  scarf there's a bit of mild panicking going on.  Visa waiver stuff to do online, bank stuff to organize, packing (oh the packing) and some hectic times at work to survive but I'll get there.  My mum and aunties are flying in ahead of my trip and whatever chaos may be brewing ahead of their arrival, you can rest assured it will all be put into perspective by the time they've taken off their shoes, cleaned the wheels of their suitcases at the back door before rolling them in (don't ask...) and the kettle's been put on.  I can't wait to seem them all and neither can Preschooler SSG.  

And that, my friends, has probably been the most exciting moment of my week.  

Not that I haven't tried to ignite some excitement and interest elsewhere in my life...

Do you find that most of your visits to a 7/11 are slightly 'walk of shame' tinged?  Back in the day, it might have been hangover related but nowadays it's for more mundane reasons such as lost Opal cards or bribes snacks to avoid a public full body foot path tantrum.

Due to a bit of public holiday Tuesday brain, I found myself without a key component of my lunch on Wednesday.  So I had to go to the 7/11 to find it.  Which was great except that the only sized tin of corn they had was huge.  Then came my light bulb moment of using a clean slurpee cup and lid to store the remainder for lunch the following day.  I'm happy to report that my corn kept well in the fridge in its ingenious new packaging.

Remember all that Lorna Jane leggings euphoria around Easter?  When I loved my new leggings so much I was actively engineering ways to spend more time in my activewear?  The love is still there but I seem to be losing my exercise mojo.  Not even the allure of wearing those lower body changing tights gets me out of bed easily at the moment.  Nor, come to think of it, did the motivational words or Instagram feeds of those pretty young fitspo princesses.  I had to dig deeper and wouldn't you know it, - The New York times raised me up in my moment of need with this article they recently published about the life improving benefits of regular running.  It's been proven to add quality years to our lives, it's a cheap and easy aerobic work out, it makes me feel good once I hit the pavement.  To paraphrase Nike, I just have to do it.

The universe also delivered this article to me about HIIT workouts and specifically just how effective a simple skipping rope based routine can be.  It's still a struggle getting out from under my doona on these suddenly cold mornings but having this evidence base is helping to silence the lazy procrastinating voice inside me.

Speaking of the sudden cold change, do you have a favourite bed sock?  Mine are Explorer socks.  The dark coloured and functional original wool blend ones.  I wish they made them for little people too.

Food and nutrition wise, let's start with the healthier food choice first.

Did you know that baking medium firm / hard tofu makes it easier to stir fry?  I baked mine for half an hour (sprayed lightly with olive oil spray first) and turned my slices over at the halfway mark. For the record, I used a firm tofu from Woolworths that was labelled stir fry suitable.

The baking process gives the tofu a bit of character around the edges and makes it firmer on the tooth. A bit like the commercially prepared tofu puffs and deep fried tofu slices you can find at Asian grocers but healthier for you.  Interestingly, Preschooler SSG really enjoyed this tofu stir fry.

Chocolate pikelets.  They're a thing but sadly appear to be around for a limited time only.  I'm hoping that 'limited' means 'years' because Preschooler SSG is loving them for a quick breakfast.

While the pikelets have a strong chocolate flavour, they're not oozing with actual chocolate and neither are they super sweet.  Which also makes them a hit with me.

I've had a fascinated with doctored cake mix recipes for the longest time.  Preschooler SSG wanted to bake cupcakes yesterday so I thought I'd put one of my favourite cake mix life hacks to the test.  To the ingredients for this Betty Crocker mix, I added an extra egg and double the amount of melted butter.

It resulted in a very airy and light batter

which produced these super domed mini cup cakes.

The additional ingredients did give the cup cakes a 'could be home made' taste.  We iced four of the cup cakes (that was all the included icing would stretch to!?!) and froze the rest.  I think I just might be able to make some frosting from scratch when we get around to defrosting the rest of our cupcakes.  The star shaped funfetti was from Woolworths.  The sprinkling was ably done by Preschooler SSG.

Apr 27, 2017

Lovin' Life 27/4/2017: Sun, Water, Zoo.

What's not to love about life when your Sunday morning looks a little like this?

Preschooler SSG and I took advantage of the last Sunday of the April school holidays and used it to visit Taronga Zoo via the ferry.

The weather was perfect and we started the day with a sneaky bottle of soft drink (me) and a Dory ice cream (Preschooler SSG).

There was plenty to see before we even got to visiting our favourite animal friends.  Vice President Pence, his family and their massive entourage had similar plans to ours.

There were police at the ferry stop, a motorcade in front of the bus and those particular looking men with neat dark suits, closely cut hair and a tendency to speak into their wrists all over the place.  Police were discretely standing in the bushes (see photo of what looks like nothing but tree tops above the motorcade photos) and the suits did their best to blend into the crowd of casually dressed for an autumn summer day families.

Satisfied that his beloved giraffes were being well fed by their keepers, Preschooler SSG heeded the siren call of the water...

a paddling pool with probably the view to end all views from paddling pools in Australia.

Meanwhile, I looked on from the sidelines as I guarded the last of the 3 spare sets of clothes I'd brought along in my trusty red 'excursion' back pack.

Do you reckon that if I wish long and hard enough that this weather will stay with us all through winter as well?

It's worth a try.

Our next stop was the seal observation deck.  Where we were lucky enough to spot this seal basking on a favourite ledge of rock.

The fairy penguins next door were swimming at a more blink (or fiddle around with your iPhone) and you'll miss them pace.  We managed to catch this solo penguin skimming across the top of our frame.

To finish of our visit, you guessed it, more water based play.

Preschooler SSG was oblivious to the farm animal feeding session that was taking place next to him because he had this play area to tackle.

The troughs of water are meant to be pump filled by the children but were also being climbed into and sat in by quite a few.  But somehow, as most things eventually do when a mass of preschoolers descend upon them, it worked.  Those who weren't keen on getting into the troughs were happy to pump and splash around those who did.  There was plenty of water for everyone.

You can't say goodbye to the zoo without hugging a koala on your way out.

And then we were homeward bound.  Past the Opera House with its extra vice presidential security detail and onwards to the train at Circular Quay.

Apr 25, 2017

ANZAC Day 2017.

It's been a special Tuesday.

Not just because breakfast involved several defrosted hot cross buns.

Or because I managed to make it onto a bus and then straight onto a train platform without either spilling my coffee or being asked to dispose of it.

Today was an extra special Tuesday because it was Preschooler SSG's first proper ANZAC Day.  His first words this morning were 'It's ANZAC Day!!' and he knew that instead of going to preschool, we'd be taking the train into the city to watch the parade.

There was a sense of both pomp and circumstance on the platform.  We met military band members giving impromptu concerts and we saw others quietly prepare for the day with a good cup of coffee.  Veteran families had wore medals with a quiet dignity or else accompanied their veteran family members with pride and care.

And then there was a heart warmingly large number of families like my own who were taking a few hours out of their public holiday to pay their respects at the march.

With his sprig of rosemary firmly pinned to his chest, Preschooler SSG proved to be a keen participant in the parade as he gave our returned service men and women applause as they passed us on the parade.

I've usually observed the parade along George Street but with all the construction work going on there, today's route went down Elizabeth Street instead.  The backdrop of ornate buildings like the MLC Centre was the perfect touch of formality to the proceedings.

I didn't expect to be moved as much as I was by today's march.  I found myself at first tapping my feet and swaying a little to the beats of the bands but then I paused to look a little closer at the faces of those marching in front of me.  Veterans of all ages and ethnic back grounds, their relatives and the volunteers.  There was such a strong sense of unity and mutual respect in the air this morning.

Out of respect for our veterans and the ANZAC Day commemorations, none of the retailers in the city were open for the duration of the parade.  Walking the quiet arcades gave us more time to each reflect on our nation's history and what the suffering of the past has given us.

Australia has definitely not forgotten.

Apr 24, 2017

Life This Week 24/4/2017: An Upgrade. Mugs. Books. ANZAC Day Plans.

Say what you like about the price premium and slick marketing of Apple products but at the end of the day, they tend to work the moment you take the out of those sleek boxes, charge them up and turn them on.  There's been a technology upgrade here at SSG Manor 2.0.  My previous cheap for a reason laptop suddenly refused to even turn on after a few weeks of freezing whenever I attempted to log on and the best thing to do with it at that point was to recycle what I could of it and bid it a kinda fond farewell.

Preschooler SSG was on hand to road test keyboards and touch pads with me and I now have this shiny new laptop to take away with me on my work trip.

And it wouldn't be Apple without the discovery that the dongles (aka plug in whatsits) have changed yet again leaving me with a rather pricy and largely redundant collection of older style whatsits.  They're actually called USB-Cs nowadays....

There's also been newness in the kitchen.  It's only taken me about 5 years but I've finally made (some of) a recipe from Jamie's 15 Minute meals.  I was a huge fan of the 30 minute meals series.  Each episode was mildly frantic and I loved seeing the completed meal served to Jamie and his friends as the credits rolled.  Of course I never saw how long it took to prep all the ingredients or how many people it required to clean the kitchen afterwards but it was very satisfying television.

I know my limits with complex, multiple steps simultaneously cooking which is why I only made the 'mains' component of the 'Fish Tray Bake' meal on page 170 of the book.  The Cheat's Banoffee Pie was very tempting and it is meant to make 10 serves but it was a Tuesday night so time (and minimal clean up) was of the essence.

I was very impressed.  I often make cream based sauces for my baked fish but this tray bake was very different.  The base ingredients of salmon fillets and asparagus were jazzed up with chopped fresh lemon, tomatoes, basil, garlic pancetta and anchovies.  I didn't have the prawns that the original recipe called for, I'll definitely be adding them the next time I make this.

And then all you do is bake the lot.  It took around 25 minutes for mine to be properly done (I did crowd everything together in a slightly too small tray though).  There's all kinds of flavours going on in this meal, would you expect anything less from a Jamie meal?  It's definitely worth trying if you've got a family of fish lovers to feed.

We have a new bedtime favourite at our place.  'The Day the Crayons Quit' by Drew Daywalt is genius.  The book is a collection of 'letters' from the disgruntled crayons belonging to a young boy.  I love it as much as Preschooler SSG does and Oliver Jeffers' illustrations set the tone perfectly for the dramatics of each letter.  I've got 'The Day the Crayons Came Home' on my list of books to place on my next Book Depositary order.

There's a new 'thing' to collect at Woolworths right now.  Marvel Superheroes discs.  Expect the parental swapping to get a bit hectic over the next few months...

We have Mother's Day gifts sorted for my mother and aunty when they arrive.  Preschooler SSG will be giving them each one of these mugs.  They're actually meant to be used to make microwave mug cakes and come with a spoon and a cake recipe but I bet you the ladies will be using them for their cuppas on account of their size and large, easy hold handles.  I found them this week at Woolworths for $7 each.

There's also a soup mug version which I got for myself.

I've had to replace quite a few mugs this week and my other source was Kmart.  The tall mug with sipper lid above was $3 as was the massive mug in the photo below.  They're bone china and dishwasher safe.

Crazy nights in - a mug of peppermint tea, the latest Aldi catalogue and the company of one of Preschooler SSG's many stuffed animal friends.

It's ANZAC Day tomorrow and I'm expecting it to be a day of quiet reflection.  I hope to be up to listen to some of the dawn service on the radio and to pause with respect and thankfulness as I do so.

I'm also planning to take Preschooler SSG into the city to observe part of the ANZAC Day Parade.

What will your plans be for ANZAC Day?


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