May 29, 2017

Life This Week 29/5/2017: Hitting the Ground Running.

Has it only been one week?

I spent last Sunday at altitude in between time zones and continents and now that I'm home, it's almost as if I never left.  The last few days have been a blur of mum, daughter, work and me time duties and responsibilities.

Half price has been the preferred pricing structure for quite a few of my favourite things this week.  From Lurpak butter to Maybelline makeup.

After a weekend spent watching winged eyeliner Youtube tutorials, I am determined to nail the look at work this week with the help of my new Maybelline Master Precise eyeliner.

It's been a week of lovely autumn days and with my mum and aunty visiting, we definitely made the most of my days off this week with little trips across the city.  We took the train to Chatswood  on Thursday for lunch at the Ipoh Club at the RSL.

We made it just in time for last orders for lunch.

And wasted no time in eating.  So apologies for the lack of photos of our lunch.  The char kway teow and the perfect touch of smokiness from the wok.  Even my aunty from Singapore was suitably impressed.

My cendol took me back to Singapore and the need I have every time I'm there to have both a cendol each day and a baked good or several from the Hong Kong style bakeries that dot the malls of Orchard Road.

After lunch, we made the trek to Chatswood's TK Maxx at the Mandarin Centre.  I'll be straight with you.  I was underwhelmed.  There wasn't much stock in store and nothing screamed bargain at me.  For some reason, the racks seemed to have a 'picked over' look to them. Many of the things that were ridiculously cheap either weren't my style or were things I had no use for.  Winter weight clothing wasn't that cheap.   My underwhelm is probably a good thing given what went down at the outlets of San Marcos....

And just like that, we're back at the beginning of another working week!

Be well and stay warm!

May 25, 2017

Lovin' Life 25/5/2017: The Rain.

Today's Lovin' Life is in praise of the rain.  It's not often that I feel this much love for the wet stuff so I thought I might as well make the most of it while it's here.

We had an unexpected deluge here early on Wednesday morning.  I was tucked up in bed, electric blanket on as I listened to it drumming on our roof.  The pitter patters, the rat-a-tat-tats, the occasional flash of thunder then a gust of wind cutting through the rain's rhythm.

It was gym morning but for once, the lure of the treadmill overcame any desire I had to just roll over and burrow even further down into the sheets.  It must have been because I got to smell the air as I drove to the gym. There's that particular smell in the air after that first drenching rain after a glorious spell of sunny autumn days.  It's earthy yet refreshing, cooling yet energising. I wonder when one of the major perfumiers will get around to bottling this scent.

The rain requires appropriate footwear to be worn in its presence.  Hiking shoes if you're going to be covering a variety of weekend terrains such as your driveway, the drivers seat of your car, the occasionally treacherous carpark at your local Westfield and then the sometimes slippery flooring of said Westfield as you make your way through errands and offspring shepherding duties.

Or gumboots if all you're going to do is head out your back door and with no other agenda than to splash through as many puddles and islands of soggy lawn as possible.

And then there's the scarves and the water repellant puffer jackets to complete the look.

Dress for the rain and it will respect you in return.  Or something like that.  But only on the weekends.  A rainy weekday is a completely different kettle of fish.  A less rose-tinted one at that where you keep everything crossed that your umbrella won't get blown inside out on your commute and that the wind won't blow the rain at the precise angle necessary to saturate your bag of paperwork, lunch and other essentials.

May 23, 2017

Work Ready. In Praise of Home.

These are the feet of a person who has Dug Deep and survived

a full 24 hours without their phone.  I had to surrender my iPhone to the Apple store yesterday because of how I cracked its screen that first evening in Texas.  I'm pleased to report though that all my sitting around at various tables around the Apple store over the last day or so has paid dividends.  I have a sparkly new screen and I've gotten myself a new case and screen protector.  And they were both securely attached to my phone before I left the store.

Being a day without your phone poses all sorts of existential questions.  Did it really happen if it happened in the absence of your phone?  Isn't it quaint going back to the good old days of simply talking and giving your undivided attention to whomever you may be speaking to?  Can't you feel all the tension drain from your shoulders as you find yourself unable to answer every little idle question your mind may ask because you can't Google or app it immediately?

I can't believe that I've only been home for a day.  The hours have flown by in a flurry of unpacking, decluttering, admin and just being Home.

Home is safe and it's sanctuary.  It's unglamorous and its beds are not made with perfect corners and unwrinkled blankets.  Its bathroom surfaces are not immaculate nor are they festooned with miniature toiletry bottles set in perfectly spaced lines.  Home is simply home and it's so good to be here.

The first thing I did after the taxi dropped me off was wheel my bags in, wipe off the wheels and turn on my heels back out the door and down the road for Real Coffee.  I'm going to need at least one Real Coffee a day for the next month to help me replace last week's Real Coffee deficit.  Sorry, contiguous states of the United States, as much as I love your collage of landmarks, tourist destinations, food, people and shopping your coffee is something I will struggle with indefinitely.  Hawaii (and Alaska), I've left you out of my sweeping statement because I know for a fact that the coffee in Hawaii is excellent.  I'll just have to visit you, Alaska, and see if you're up to scratch.

Best.  Amenity kit.  Ever.  Love your work, Qantas!!  I'm hanging on to this eye mask for my next flight.

I'm all unpacked and the suitcases are back up on their storage shelf.  Preschooler SSG's new gets have been parcelled up according to size and season and I'm remarkably un jetlagged.  I even managed to lose some weight (from my person not my luggage) this trip.  How does that even happen in Texas?

Perhaps it was these crudites at Dallas Fort Worth.

Or these 'are they Eames' recliners I relaxed on between flights.

I can't resist a Khloe cover.  Ivanka?  Neutral to negative.

Or perhaps it was getting up to speed with the latest on Khloe's life, love and body that saw me deplane with more energy than I had when I flew out.

It's taken two days but I'm ready to return to work tomorrow.  I've gone through all my work emails and snail mails.  Things have been shredded or recycled.  I've even stocked up on my beloved small, lined yellow index cards.

My slice for morning tea has been baked and is ready to be sliced.  Gotta love an AWW recipe - easy, economical yet very moreish.

I wonder how I'll feel about work after I get through tomorrow......

May 22, 2017

Tales From Texas #4: On the River. Heading Home.

You can learn a lot about life just looking out on the San Antonio River.  

I took one last stroll along the Riverwalk on Friday night.  Families, friends and co-workers were all out enjoying the cool summer's evening and there was still plenty of light left in the sky.

It was the kind of evening made for looking out for the little things happening around me.

A pair of ducks preening and gazing at their shadows reflected off the water.

The sense of peace and tranquillity that washed over me as I walked through this series of fountains in a kind of hanging garden that occupied the ground floor entrance of a fancy hotel along the Riverwalk.  An Irish pub sits right opposite these fountains but you don't really notice its noise and rowdiness when you're sitting bathed in light and the sound of the water.

It wasn't so much people watching as practically walking into them.  There is no privacy on the walk.  While there are trees, boats and buildings everywhere - there really is no place to step out and away from the crowd and the endless activity.  This violinist was taking a break between sets at a nearby restaurant.  His bandmates had all whipped out their phones and were scrolling or calling on them in the way people might have had a cigarette decades ago.  The sleek phones in their hands seemed incongruous against their traditional instruments and costumes.

Elsewhere, cheeky preschoolers dressed for a big family dinner out reminded me of Preschooler SSG back home as they jumped and teased each other dangerously close to the edge of the water.  Their giggles filled the air and their parents had that universal look of trying to maintain discipline in public using the lowest levels of voice and gesture possible (it's all in the hiss and in the eyes when parenting in public).

It was also the Friday night before National Armed Forces Day so many service men and women were out for dinner with loved ones in their uniforms.  Strangers would go up to these men and women, shake their hands firmly and say thank you.  It was beautiful to watch these interactions bridge genders, ages and cultural groups.

And now here I am at the airport waiting for my connecting flight to Dallas and taking advantage of my final hours of free and fast wifi.  I'm ending my annual fast food fest on a high note with this chicken Philly sandwich from Charleys Philly Steaks.  I think the secret's the pickle and the fact that the sandwiches are made from scratch right in front of you.  The sandwiches are worlds away from Subway...

I've eaten my last onion rings for a while too.  I'm yet to eat more than about 5 rings in any given serve I've ordered this trip.

Chocolates have been bought as gifts for back home.

I couldn't find that highly Instagrammable Starbucks unicorn frappe but I this Ghirardelli Nob Hill shake for Instagram instead.

And I've had Ranch with my salad.

Aside from all my food traditions, I've also had the luxury of free time to make full use of the hotel's excellent fitness centre.  I swam twice (!!) and got to sit poolside in the sun with my banana and Diet Pepsi.  For some reason, Coke Zero is as rare as hen's teeth throughout the San Antonio area.

I did some yoga and even managed a headstand without any major injuries.

But it's time to head home.  To Preschooler SSG, to our mostly routine but always busy life, our house, our beautiful city, work and all the minutiae of everyday life.

To having to drive myself places, to having to make my own bed, to doing the laundry.

How did you feel at the end of your most recent break?  Wishing you could stay?  Happy to have holidayed but just as happy to be heading home?

May 20, 2017

Tales From Texas #3: Globetrotting Treadmills. The Coffee Machine.

I'm officially ruined for the treadmills at my local 24/7 gym in Sydney.

Behold the shiny and tastefully appointed 24/7 gym at my hotel here in San Antonio.

But, most of all, behold the treadmills.  This is me doing my morning run in the southern hemisphere from the comfort of my treadmill in the northern hemisphere.  It's actually a kind of virtual journey through New Zealand.  The glaciers, ranges, beaches and surrounds of Queenstown.  Along the way I got to read some interesting facts about the region and 'ran' past a number of tourists, hikers, sunbathers and locals.  I actually wanted to and did run much further than I normally do on treadmills.  The incline adjusts automatically to reflect the terrain of what you see but the speed is entirely up to you.  I can't wait to see where I'll explore on tomorrow's run.  As a person who doesn't camp or hike, this is as close as I'll get to experiencing the beauty of more remote parts of our world.

I'm also quickly getting used to cold, damp towels straight out of the fridge post run.  Perhaps I could make my own at home?

It was a special moment in my hotel room earlier this morning.  I conquered a long-term stumbling block of mine.

I managed to get the in room coffee machine working on my first try!  Without soaking the desk or short circuiting the machine.  It's so easy - once you read the instructions.

Do you ever bring your own cutlery from home?  Just in case?  Not only does it help reduce landfill and waste but it can get a bit bleak eating meal after meal with plastic cutlery.

May 19, 2017

Tales From Texas #2: The Riverwalk and The Alamo.

These are even more interesting times than usual to be in the US.

I can report from the front line that Anderson Cooper has been rationing his signature eye roll in the wake of news that a special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate President Trump and his political relationship with Russia.

This morning saw us bid a fond farewell to a grey skied and wet San Marcos but not without one last trip to the outlets to remove a rogue security tag from one of our bargains.

We then hit the road for San Antonio is the company of our wonderfully chatty cab driver and ultimate slashie, Mr R.  A cab driver/business and property owner/marathon runner/single father to seven/pig and goat farmer, /ex-military/retired police officer and former weight lifter - there were many stories to be told and pearls of wisdom to be shared with us.  The hour's drive passed in no time.

It was still a bit grey when we checked in, here's a view of The Tower of the Americas from my room window.

The striking colours of the flowers and boats on the San Antonio River popped against the greys and khakis of the water and the Riverwalk foot bridges.  The present day network of bridges and sidewalks one storey below street level came into being after a a disastrous flood of the area killed many in 1921.  It took until 1938 for the San Antonio River Beautification Project to commence and the result now is a 4km walk through sidewalk eateries, shops, a theatre and of course, the boat rides.

It wouldn't be a US trip report post without some gratuitious photos of my meals so here's lunch.  From Dairy Queen, it's a beef taco salad bowl and a 'small ' serve of onion rings.

Dairy Queen.  Does the very name bring you back to that Judy Blume novel stage of your life?  Coincidentally, I was reading about Judy in the American Airlines inflight magazine on the way out here.  Apparently Judy's given up writing and now owns a book store that gives her ample time to just play with books and share them as opposed to all the frustration and stress that I assume must come with writing a book.

You'll be happy to know that after going off on that tangent and thanks to the powers of American fast food, it stopped raining, the skies cleared and we were left with this weather.

Every so often, we'd climb the stairs to street level (cross reference streets above the walk are sign posted on the bridge arches.

This is South Alamo Street that took us to, funnily enough, The Alamo.

The Alamo has a fascinating role in American history.  It's been many things including a monastery, a garrison and a chapel.  It's now a preserved historical site that's very popular with tourists and school groups alike.

A view of the Emily Morgan Hotel from the grounds of The tAlamo.

The Alamo Cenotaph commemorating those who died in the Battle of The Alamo.

It was so restful and cooling walking the grounds inside.

I spent a lot of time just sitting and taking in deep breaths of the 'tree filtered' air in the shade.

We then made our way back to the Riverwalk and jostled along with the other tourists making the most of the sun to have a drink or a bite to eat.

There were almost too many choices.

I loved the mish mash of architectural styles along the walk.

Festive umbrellas on the terraces above us added to the all day party atmosphere.

Judging from the benches and seats dotted along the walk, many use the paths for a bit of exercise and not just as a means of getting to dining destinations.

Look who I found on my walk!

The Riverwalk's very own CVS where I bought such exciting things as milk, Raisin Bran pots and contact lens solution.

It hit 32C by mid afternoon and that was my sign to head back to the hotel to do a few laps in the outdoor pool.  I was only out there for a 10 minute swim and despite being slathered in SPF 50, I do believe I have the beginnings of a tan.  Should go down a treat in Sydney next week!

And I'm just about ready for bed.  It's an early start and a long day for me tomorrow.

No excuses for not hitting the fancy hotel gym first thing tomorrow.  My gym tank top crisis was averted thanks to H&M.

And I've had enough practice with these talking crosswalk buttons to kind of guess what the digital voice is trying to tell me for when I try to walk to the convention centre tomorrow.  Even locals turn around to ask me what the button just said as it launches into some kind of calm but insistent monologue.  I don't know if you'd had much to do with automated emergency devices like defibrillators, but crosswalk button man sounds exactly the same only he has more to say on the street than in an arrest situation which adds to the difficulty in understanding him.

Take care and be well.


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