Jun 22, 2017

Lovin' Life 22/6/2017: A Day Off In The City. MINISO. 'He Said / She Said' by Erin Kelly.

I don't get out much.  But when I do, I do like to write about it.  Be warned, this is one of my essay length posts.  It covers a lot of territory as well.

I had a day in the city earlier this week.

A Day in The City.

On My Own.

On A Weekday.

The capitals and one sentence paragraphs I've already flung around in this post with such abandon feel entirely appropriate and suitable for the occasion.  Even if they may not be grammatically correct.

It felt so grown up and sophisticated walking with purpose between pods of dark-suited city people with their security badges clipped to their waistbands. I'm a lanyard around the neck person myself (a bone of contention between occupational health and I but the men wear ties to work and other women chunky necklaces, actually I wear the necklaces too..... never mind).  I guess they do things a little differently in the city.

My first stop was MINISO which is in the basement level of one the central malls, I think it's Galeries.

So much to discuss.

A little more upmarket and with a noticeable difference in quality than Daiso (who I will always have a soft spot for), Miniso was doing a brisk lunchtime trade when I stopped by.  Selling a little bit of everything, I succumbed to their clever marketing strategy and walked out with quite an eclectic range of things.  All essential to everyday life, of course.  Prices seem to range from around $5 to around $25.  K Mart and Target, meet your beautifully designed and made competition.

These rainbow hair brushes were $5.  They have dazzled my thick and unruly hair with both their vibrantly coloured bristles and superior bristle strength.

If I needed a new fry pan, this is the one I would have bought.

Mini So lego for $4.

Handbags and soft toys, all around the $5 mark.

My haul. If there was any uncertainty regarding my Chinese roots, let this photo reassure you.  Footlet socks, hand sanitizer and cheapish ($25) blue tooth devices (because who wants to pay hundreds for stuff that will be obsolete by the time the warranty runs out).

I've tested out both the headphones and speakers, by the way.  They're easy to link to iPhones, sound quality is excellent as well.  Be warned that while charger cables are included with each, you will still need to find USB enabled power sockets if you like to charge things at the wall . The headphones are a bit of a small fit though or maybe I just have too much hair.  All in all, very happy with both.

Life enhancing shopping done, it was time for lunch.

By the way, this is how hot green tea is done in city food courts.  Warmed and pre-bottled.  It wasn't too bad actually.  I just had to get my mind to shift from the preconceived idea that all bottled drinks must be served icy cold or with a cup of ice.

Dessert was done the traditional South East Asian shopping mall food court way with a bag of pre-chopped fruit.  Singapore, I need to return to you soon.  I miss those little bags of pineapple, paw paw and watermelon.  The chocolate isn't a traditional food court thing.  It's just me.

Sephora was my next stop.  But isn't the music so loud?  Screens were flashing everywhere which only added to my hot and botheredness.   It was all so distracting that even though I found a whole display of roller ball perfumes, I couldn't focus well enough to pick a favourite. I might just have to go online one of these days and hope I didn't confuse the names of what I tested in store.

As much as the day was fun and exciting, it was also a relief to be able to take my old lady self away from the main shopping and eating hubs and slightly off the grid to the quiet 'back streets' of the city.  By which I mean the ones which are mainly lined by quietly industrious offices and discrete serviced apartments.  The sensible foundation undergarments of the CBD so to speak.

Soft ribbons of sun slipped through between the shadows of trees and buildings that were less sharp edged and glittery than the office towers and shops a few streets across.  There were flashes of warmth here and there by way of little hole in the wall cafes to break up the seriousness of the office blocks.  I relished the luxury of the empty space around me as I walked between my fellow pedestrians.

There were no headache inducing flashing flat screens of the high street retailers.  The only music to speak of was the chatter of people against the sounds of espresso machines and the occasional bus or taxi.  It's how the work day city does peace and quiet and I rather like it.

My little wander put me in the right frame of mind for the train ride home and the little walk afterwards back to my suburban life.  The one that I sometimes feel is a bit predictable and greige but that I know I secretly love all the same.

Not that I can't wait until I get to do it all again....


Day off Tuesday was also consumed by a new page turner I highly recommend.

'He Said / She Said' is Erin Kelly's latest and you can read The Guardian's review here.   It's a slow-burning, suspense read.  The kind of thing that Erin Kelly does so well.  It took me a few chapters to get my bearings and pick up the momentum but once I did, I couldn't stop reading.

Laura and Kit are a young couple who travel the world watching and photographing eclipses.  It began as Kit's obsession but Laura caught the interest along the way.  The book is divided into sections based on the phases of an eclipse and told through the eyes of Kit and Laura.  The plot shifts in time from the beginning of their relationship, to the time their paths crossed with the enigmatic,  changeable Beth and the present time / aftermath of the couple being witnesses in the trial precipitated by the conviction of Beth's rapist.

For whatever reason, Laura can't seem to let go of Beth even after the verdict has been reached.  Beth stops by Laura's work one day.  The encounter moves on to drinks and before long, Beth is having adult sleepovers at Laura and Kit's house.  Laura justifies much of Beth's behaviour as a way of coping and moving on after the rape and the trial.

On his part, Kit seems to have an animosity towards Beth that is out of proportion to a reasonable annoyance at her invading his house and relationship with Laura.  He does thaw slightly though when Beth begins showering the couple with thoughtful and extravagant gifts.

Is Beth really as disturbed as Kit and Laura's narratives imply or is it Kit and Laura who have the secrets to hide?  Initially, the 'he' and the 'she' doing the 'saying' of the title may well have been Beth and her attacker but as the years pass, so much of Kit and Laura's relationship seems based on their assumptions with the facts behind them open to interpretation.

To say any more would give things away and spoil the book for you.  Astronomy is a pretty niche topic but in Erin Kelly's hands, it's the perfect backdrop for her plot and its characters.  The nomadic life that is required to be a dedicated eclipse chaser adds depth to the unpredictability and unstability of Kit, Laura and Beth's lives.  The references to how our social media footprints are 'forever' and can be used to track us down when we mean to hide and be anonymous gives the novel currency and its readers food for thought.

You just have to read 'He Said / She Said' this winter.  Preferably under your doona in either the dark of night or in the eery light of the dawn.

Jun 20, 2017

Shoes and Sweaters.

I'm a woman on a mission.  There've been a couple of niggling issues in my wardrobe that I've put off fixing for one reason or another.  

The first is the elephant sitting in my shoe cupboard.  A number of pairs of sensible work shoes that have stretched a half size too loose or the right sized killer heels that are just too painful to wear for a full day at pacing the lino and concrete at work.

I've managed to get my loose shoes to drop a half size with these Scholl Gel Activ inserts.  They're around $14 per pair and come in a variety of cuts depending on the kind of shoe you're using them for - flats, mid and super high heels.  They only come in one size for up to an Australian 8.  My feet are a half to full size up from this but desperate and determined times left me with no choice but to get them and hope for the best.  As for stockists, look no further than my good friends Priceline and Chemist Warehouse.

In my comfy shoes, the inserts provided the perfect amount of 'fill' to prevent my feet swimming around as much as they were.  They have a peel off backing and you then just stick the inserts into the heel of your shoe and press down.  It is suggested that they be changed every 6 months.  The only problem is that my heels were still slipping out the back as I walked.

Which is where @immashoeaddict on Instagram stepped in to save the day.  She put me onto suede heel grips. They retail for around $5 for a pack of four versus around $8 for the Scholl Party Feet version.  Yes, for the purposes of research for you, dear blog readers, I bought both.  I've only seen the suede version at Priceline while the Party Feet are more widely available.

This is how the Gel Active insoles and Party Feet Heel Shields look in that frustrating pair of work heels I have.  They're Rockport which I thought would be synonymous with all day comfort but sadly, while they do have more arch support than the average heel, I just can't stand for more than around 10 minutes in them or walk in them for more than around three.  A deal breaker in my job.

But I refuse to give in.  Now that I've plastered them in gel inserts, I'm going to take them for a spin into the city for you.  If my feet survive that then I'll be wearing them into work.

This is how the suede heel inserts look.  They need around 8 hours 'setting' time before they can be worn.  To be honest, I think this means that they'll stick and wear better than the gel version which slipped a bit when I tested them out.  I've been proved correct about the gels.  They do migrate around the heel as the day progresses.

My second wardrobe issue pertains to winter knits for work.  I've been all about the skivvy since the beginning of time (1998 to be precise, the year I first joined the 'real' workforce).

In the spirit of embracing change, I've branched out into V neck sweaters ($49.90 AUD, heaps of colours).  Uniqlo do a brilliant range of machine washable merino wool fine knits.  I just pop them into a laundry bag whenever I wash them.  They hold their shape pretty well and air dry fairly quickly even in the winter.  They don't even need to be ironed (black hides so many sins...).  I started with the skivvies last year and this year, I've branched out into the V necks.

Still on the V neck theme, I splashed out on some Uniqlo cashmere.  These sweaters have an RRP of $129.95 but they had a recent promotion which saw the price come down to $99.95.  I've heard mixed reports on the quality (early pilling) but at the price and for pure cashmere.... a girl can't expect everything.  I will update on wear and longevity over the next few weeks.

Jun 19, 2017

Life This Week 19/6/2017: A Week Of Difficult Adulting.

via Etsy

You know how full-time adulting is hard?  I think it's such a shame that you can't sometimes pause your subscription of it like you can a gym or Netflix membership.  

Life this week has been a series of reality checks.  It's been a week of having to adult with every fibre of my being.  

It's been a week full of reminders about just how delicately balanced the various roles and responsibility of my life are. A week full of those unscripted moments that remind me of how easy it still can be to find the joy when things have all managed to go pear shaped simultaneously.  It's also been a week where I've had to acknowledge that the buck stops with me whether I like it to or not.

It's been a week of personal growth and while it's been tiring and headache-inducing, it was one of those weeks that I had to have.

Work has been hectic.  It always is coming off a long weekend but I had the added challenge of juggling an unwell preschooler and his needs with a patient list that was off the scale in terms of both numbers and complexity.  Usually, life plays ball and it's either one or the other but this week I had the list that truly had it all.

My initial reaction to that first day back was to rush home, give Preschooler SSG a huge hug and have my 'lunch' of buttered toast at half past three as I went over my notes and went over plans and diagnoses in case I might have overlooked something.  Fortunately, nothing came to mind but it was a good chance to process the drama of the day.

Friday at work was even more action packed than Wednesday but at least I was doing it on the back of a day off with a fighting fit Preschooler SSG.  We shared a gingerbread man for morning tea.  Perhaps it was the 'foot' that was part of my share that kept me kicking on through the day that was Friday....

I had the chance to be a trial examiner for our college's clinical exam on Saturday.  Ironically, it's probably more nerve-wracking being an examiner than it is a candidate.  So much time has passed since I did the exam and I've become so foccussed on what I do on a day to day basis that I've basically lost the breadth of knowledge I had when I passed the exam.

Funnily enough, I actually really enjoyed the morning.  Armed with good coffee and a 'morning of' cram session with my index cards and textbook from back in the day, I reckon I got at least a pass as an examiner and I even learnt a fair bit from the excellent candidates I was lucky enough to have on the day.

Sometimes, there's only one thing to do when the universe royally disrupts your work life balance.  Plan and book a holiday for a month's time.  Preschooler SSG and I are officially heading to The Snow next month.  We're going with old and dear friends.  Our group have no plans or ambitions beyond enjoying the journey there and back, sharing a lovely house for the weekend and creating some memories for the boys.

How's your week been?  Was it a week of hard adulting and teachable moments?

Jun 15, 2017

Lovin' Life 15/6/2017: Time, Change and Motherhood.

Maybe it's because my new baby days are officially behind me now or maybe it's because I'm more of a softie at heart than I realised but I'm really loving new baby news at the moment.

It's crept up on me.  At first it was just the predictable response to celebrity and royal pregnancy announcements but things are now decidedly next level.  I'm only marginally less excited than the new mums who've included me in their shared album / social media updates on their little ones.  I can actually see the likeness of mum or dad in the photos.  On more than one occasion I have flipped through my own volumes of Preschooler SSG's baby photos (both the hard copy photo books and my iPhoto albums) to reminisce on a more personal level.

And then there's the gifting.  It doesn't matter that I buy exactly the same thing each and every time (Bonds Zippy Wondersuits in both a tasteful grey toned stripe and a polka dot colourways), I'm always a bit 'first-time soon to be mum of a newborn' when I shop.   A little bit starry eyed and a little bit day-dreamy as my hand brushes against each of the approximately 83 different styles on display.  Only without the compulsive need to either go to the bathroom or the nearest Maccas the moment I've paid for my purchase.

If you've been a long-time follower of the blog, you might appreciate how much of a turnaround all this is from where I was five to six years ago.  I referred to them as 'trying' at the time - the miscarriages, the treatment for the miscarriages, the decision to start IVF, the early weeks of that one special pregnancy.

There were tears often accompanied by one or all of the following: fear, anger, jealousy, powerlessness and yearning.  At the time, it seemed and was all consuming.  For me, time and motherhood have been powerful healers.  It's not so much trying to 'hold on' to the past that sometimes sees me take my mind back to those days, it's a sense of awe at how much life can and does keep changing.

It's left me curious and excited about how time and change will work their often unexpected magic on the rest of my life.

Has time and change given you closure on something in your life?

Jun 13, 2017

Snapshots From A Suburban Winter.

When compared to winters on a farm, by the beach or nestled in the forest or mountain ranges, suburban winters do tend to come off a distant second best.  The natural landmarks that set off winter to its best advantage elsewhere tend to be obscured or erased (as the case may be) by the man made - roads, signage, high rises and houses, shopping centres, official buildings, monuments and vehicles.  So what you're mostly left with in a suburban winter is a kind of everything as usual only wetter, greyer and colder than they are at other times of the year.

Winter in the suburbs is dark commutes sign posted by the glow of brake lights and being deliriously grateful when that snaking line of lights is actually moving.  It's checking the weather on your phone to plan whether or not your laundry needs to be tumble or line dried.  It's trying to remember your umbrella every time you step out the door.  It's trying to believe that 'summer bodies are made in the winter' as you debate whether or not to go for that run in the morning or that second wedge of home made cake.

But winter in the suburbs also has its little moments.  Less spectacular ones than seeing the mist roll over mountains or the crashing grey choppiness of the ocean against a bleached blonde, deserted beach but moments all the same.

That patch of blue sky beyond the almost bare branches of the tree that arches over your house.

The typical Sydney queuing and Instagramming of the cafe opening of the season.  The Grounds of the City has officially opened in The Galeries.  I have responded to this by showing my age and stage in life by Instagramming but not queuing.  Who am I kidding?  I'll be there the next mid week afternoon I have off...

The harder it rains and the colder it is outside, the more tempting a dip in a warm, steamy indoor pool is.  

Preschooler SSG got his last Yellow Tails ribbon after his swim this week.  He's now officially an Orange Tail.

And I Pond's Cold Cream Cleansed after mine. If your skin tends to get dry and tight in this weather (with or without the swim), this cleanser might be your thing.  It's around $7 and while it has a slight retro floral scent, it doesn't sting my skin or leave it tight.

This winter, we've discovered board games here at SSG Manor 2.0.  Monopoly Junior has been a surprise hit.  I found the rules and board layout were easy enough for Preschooler SSG to get the hang of and the only unit of currency is $1 bills.  The Chance cards do need a bit of explaining to younger preschoolers though.  Also, be prepared for lots of exasperated 'But I don't have any money left, mummy!!' comments.  Complete with exasperated 'empty hands up' signs.

Have you tried to find a Snakes and Ladders set recently?  It's harder than it sounds.  I tried a couple of speciality toy stores before hitting pay dirt at Kmart today.  This set was only $5.

My mention of this Magic Tracks set on Instagram sparked a lot of interest so I will definitely report back with a full review.  Another KMart find ($20 for the track and one battery operated car that runs at a decent speed with lots of flashing lights), my reasons for purchasing were purely selfish.  I have high hopes that the collective glow in the dark of all 11 feet of speedway track will help me see any stray toy cars on the floor at night.  Before I trip on them.  Cross everything for me, readers.

I know.  Ending the post on a photographic high, aren't I?  Did you now that tumble drying puffer vests with a tennis ball in the drier helps return the puff to your puffer?  I still have to perfect my technique.  I used the tennis ball on the puffer clothing setting on my drier and the cycle only went for 3 minutes after which the vest was neither dry or puffy.  Any tips for a young player?

Jun 12, 2017

Life This Week 12/6/2017: Public Holidays.

Public Holiday Mondays are my favourite kind of Mondays.  I revel in their energy or lack of it.  It's probably a very different story to that of the holiday destinations of our state but in the city and surrounding suburbs, quietness and stillness are the order of the day.  The streets are strangely empty of cars and trucks, there's less hustle on the footpaths.  

Everyone's out in their long weekend Monday best (active wear, whatever your preschooler pulls together and insists on wearing out of the house.....) and your 7am coffee is under no pressure to be gulped down stat from a takeaway cup.  I think it should be law that all coffee purchased over the long weekend should only be dispensed in proper cups and saucers.

It's been a soggy here in Sydney but that has failed to dampen my Public Holiday Monday enthusiasm.  If anything, the relentless rain and grey lit days have made easing into the third day of the weekend even easier. 

Preschooler SSG and I have been stepping out in our wellies in search of puddles.

And we've slowed down to a public holiday pace as we walk.  All the better for appreciating the little things around us that get lost in our usual rush.  This is one of my favourite street corners in Waverley.  I love how the jewel like colours and tones of both the terrace and its garden change with the seasons.

My new soup mug does not lie.  Happiness really is a big mug of soup.  With lots of buttered toast for emphasis.  It's the perfect public holiday lunch.

My annual soup making frenzy has begun with a batch of pea and ham soup.  There was a run on bacon hocks at the supermarket and I was about to make do with pork bones and a bit of smoked ham but thanks to the legendary efforts of the deli counter staff, a hidden stash of hocks was discovered out the back and I was personally given one.  Love your work, Woolworths.

I have noble intentions of losing myself in a book or two today.  My days of nonchalantly reading my Kindle over a solo meal are long gone so I think I might aim to do my reading under my doona later.

Possibly while living on the edge and sipping a mug of instant coffee at the outrageous hour of mid afternoon!!  The havoc that will play on my sleep wake cycle.

Unfortunately, like all good things, public holidays must come to an end.  I like to ease the pain with a homemade potato wedge based dinner.

What do your public holidays Mondays look like?

Jun 10, 2017

A Long Weekend Saturday.

There's something about the start of a long weekend that just calls for putting on your best cape before stepping out for the day.

My job as the mum in the situation was to not crush that ambition on a particularly wet and grey winter's morning while still being true to my mum priorities.  Behold this Batman cape poking out from the neck of a sensible zip up polar fleece sweater.  Compromise is a beautiful thing.

The cape went for a swish at breakfast and then onwards to our local health food grocer.  It was a bittersweet visit because the store store will be closing at the end of the month.  I believe Harris Farm will be moving in soon after so watch my Instagram for our breathless first visit / comparison to Whole Foods....

My caped crusader and I stopped by the Harry Hartog bookstore in Bondi Junction after lunch.  I'm embarrassed that it's taken me this long to visit.  It really is a celebration of the written word and of all those varied people who adore reading.  Stepping in store is like wondering into a favourite aunt or uncle's study.  There are leather chairs to ease into, quirky stuffed toys and models atop upcycled shelves and tables full of literary finds.  I finally bought Preschooler SSG a copy of Mem Fox's latest book 'I'm Austrlian Too' as well as another book to add to his airport / plane themed collection.

In Daiso Bondi Junction news, I can report that there are high stock levels of my favouite bobby pins.  They've got superior hold and grip, are virtually indestructible and come in practical, solid cases rather than on cards which I find a bit fidgetty to use one handed.  Because it's always one handed and slightly awkward whenever I try to pin my hair into an updo.
via Google images
If you have a preschooler who loves a bit of craft and you're looking for something a bit different that's also not too hard to clean up after, these High Bounce Ball Kits ($19.95 at the Australian Geographic Store) are worth a look.

All you basically do is assemble ball moulds and fill them with the included glow in the dark crystals.

The moulds then get submerged on cold water for a minute before being allowed to set for another three.

You then open the mould and prise out your very own bouncy ball.

This is just a few from our collection that I'm housing in a zip lock bag for the moment because I don't really want any to escape across the floor and get tripped over.  They might be glow in the dark but I still (after all these years of being a num) don't always look down at the ground in front of me as I walk around the house.  

There's also been some wet weather baking.  Today's recipe was Sally's Easy Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake.  I actually made mine using strawberry jam.

Sally has this genius idea where you mix your jam with some of the cake batter to create a more defined swirl.  

I haven't had the best luck with pound cakes in the past but Sally's recipe rocks.  It makes a very moist cake.  I'm still not convinced about the almond essence but that could be because I ate the cake straight out of the oven.  The almond flavour may tone down a bit in a cold or room temperature cake.  One technical point is that I found that my cake browned very early so I had to cover it in foil halfway through baking.  It's got a pretty thick crust as you can see so my oven was too hot to start with as well.  I set it to 180C so will use a slightly lower temperature the next time I make this recipe.


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