Jul 23, 2017

The Yin and Yang of Winter. Flik, Victoria and Their Sleek Technique.

The days might be short, the nights best for snuggling under a doona and the mornings best slept in for as much as possible but the pace is hectic right now at SSG Manor 2.0 and its surrounds.  Such is the yin and yang of my life in winter.

Scarf - Zabavushka from Hermes, jacket - OzSale (the matching skirt and trousers were tragicomically too small but the jacket's perfect), scarf ring - Mai Tai Collection.

Sometimes there is little more that you can do but put your best face forward (thank you Hourglass and I owe you one, La Mer super strength eye balm), arrange a scarf that makes you smile about your neck and pull on a pair of black skinny jeans with really deep pockets that look a bit corporate from a distance and swipe yourself into work.  

A miracle worker.  Allow yourself to be seduced by the soothing words of your local Mecca sales assistant.  You won't look back.

It also helps if the people you work with share your vision of how to get through those mad, mad days at the coalface.  By also loving their Coke Zero as much as you do and denying the existence of No Sugar Coke with every fibre of their being.  It's one way to team build, I guess.

This was me at 3pm on Friday.  

We realized that there was still around 4 hours of work left to be done before 5 so I did what I had to do as 'the boss' (sometimes this is a term of affection rather than a title that actually confers the recipient any real power around here but there you have it).  I lead by example.  By which I mean that I actioned a short break during which I hot footed it down the stairs (to 'give my heart a walk' as the signs in the stairwell implore us to do) and bought Coke Zeros for the team.  Change is an evil word on chaotic work days so I had to walk past the 'No Sugar' Cokes at the vending machines and took my business to the gift shop where not only was there a full shelf of Zero but it was also half price.  I'm happy to report that those Zeros turned our day around and life after 3 was a relative walk in the park.

Meanwhile at home, Purple the monkey has just emerged from the spa that is our front loader's 15 minute express cycle and a half measure of Cold Power.  Doesn't he look fresh and newborn like with those staring eyes and clumpy just washed hair?  I was a bit concerned that the tumble dryer would be a bit much for that delicate purple fur so he's had an air dry overnight with day under the sun thereafter.


If your days are punctuated by at least one cycle of preschooler related washing and then, consequently, a cycle of drying you might be interested in these waterproof mattress protectors.  Both Kmart and Target sell them for single beds at around $20 but only my local Kmart had them in stock this weekend.  The Kmart version is a snugger fit than the more expensive one we have (that's currently still drying after a couple of goes in the dryer).  I need two on rotation at the moment and it wasn't a bad price.  Will let you know how it washes and if it does a good job at waterproofing.

Other than that, I'm taking it easy today.  Been pottering around the house this morning getting not much done at all.  Gasp.. I didn't even go for a run or do any cardio this morning.  Just because.

via Google images
I did research some exercise though.  Have you head of Sleek Technique?  It's a set of ballet inspired cardio workouts created by Flik and Victoria, both professional ballet dancers with the most gorgeous British accents (because only would be persuaded by the accents when selecting a fitness app).  I've downloaded the basic bundles to my phone but there are also 'live' streamed classes via their website.  I'll let you know how it all pans out.  At this stage, I'm planning to 'train' with Flik and Victoria on Sundays.  Possibly in my pyjamas.  Perhaps that was giving you just a little too much of a mental image....

Be well and here's to a week ahead that I hope will be less frantic than the last.

Jul 21, 2017

Friday Drinks #14: Recipe Feedback. Thank You.

It really was only last weekend that I was standing on the balcony of an Alpine chic serviced apartment with a sensible pour of Moet with strawberries taking in this view of Lake Jindabyne.

In hindsight, I should've had the drink after attempting to operate that work of the devil that is a combined washer / dryer.

But all's well that end well.  After a few false starts involving a couple of extra wash cycles, I finally got my clothes washed and dried.

In a more successful collaboration between glassware and technology, may I present one of life's simple pleasures?  A spotless upcycled Bonne Maman glass jam jar fresh out of the dishwasher.  The label even managed to come of perfectly and in one piece.  They're my favourite glass jars to repurpose.  The wide necks make it easy to pour things in, perfect for making salad dressings.  The red checked lids are pretty spesh as well.  So's the jam...

Reporting back on Sally's Chocolate Zucchini Cake.  My goodness this cake is a winner.  Sorry about the TMI photo of my plate from after I ate a wedge for dinner (the zucchini justified this decision completely) but you must make this cake and frost it plus excessively adorn it with chopped chocolate chips and a dusting of chocolate sprinkles.

The cake itself bakes to a very dark, rich yet light texture.  It's seriously cafe / patisserie level perfection.  Not terribly sweet on its own, a rich chocolate buttercream frosting is the perfect match for the cake.  Everyone at work loved it, my work mate wanted the recipe (high praise indeed as she makes a mean cake herself) and Preschooler SSG thoroughly enjoyed his share too.  

I hope zucchinis will be around for Christmas because I intend to bake this for our family lunch and my breakfast the next day (after I've done my traditional SSG Manor 2.0 to Rushcutters to Bake Bar for coffee quarter marathon of course).

In a marginally less decadent fashion, this is a lovely baked salmon recipe you may want to add to your work night dinner rotation.  Inspired Taste have created this recipe for sour cream baked salmon.

Here's a screen shot of the ingredients...

I added some chopped dill I had in the freezer.  The recipe is great for the weeks where I've been baking with sour cream as it uses up the rest of the tubs I buy and would otherwise waste.

Can't wait for the weekend.  My uni besties and I are having dinner on the Sunday.  One is flying in from interstate and a couple are gamely crossing bridges and accessing tunnels to visit the 'hood.  We're having Japanese which will be excellent but it's a shame that China Diner won't be open for them.  Next time....

Wishing you a lovely weekend and the anticipation of a great week thereafter.

Before I go, I just wanted to extend a long overdue thank you for all the lovely comments you've written here, on social media and via email.  Life's so busy and I don't always get to reply to all your comments directly.  It's always wonderful to read your feedback especially that you find yourselves able to connect or relate to the things I write about.  It makes me smile and it keeps SSG going.

Be well.

Jul 20, 2017

Lovin' Life 20/7/2017: Next Time, Canberra.

I have a confession.

It's taken me 40 years to visit our nation's capital for the first time.  Even more embarrassingly,  all I did in a cultural sense is drive past the Canberra Museum and Gallery

before stepping straight into the pretty swish (and very warm) Canberra Centre's Big W five minutes before closing.  May I place myself in front of you for judgement by saying several somethings that are 'so Sydney'?  Everything closes so early in Canberra.  There's so much space you can even walk around the shops on the weekend without once having your personal space invaded.  Why does Canberra need a 23 stop light rail (oohhh... asking for it with this one...)? You hardly have to line up for anything!

Except for burgers...

On our homeward bound pit stop in Canberra, we had high hopes of taking the boys to Questacon for the afternoon and possibly swinging past Parliament House.

But the lure of the CBD Dumping house and its pan Asian menu proved too strong.  So we had an early dinner instead.  

A greatest hits collection of each of our favourite dishes - chow mein, fried rice, kung pao chicken, pad thai (mine), a double serve of xiao long bao and ice cream served Chinese restaurant style (the boys).

I think it was pretty obvious we were from out of town when we left.  Whilst native Canberrans were sensibly rugged up and walking briskly back to their cars or onwards for biggish night, we had our noses pressed to the window of the dumpling kitchen.

So, tell me everything.  How long would we need to stay to visit Canberra properly next time?  Any suggestions for things to see and do with an adventurous and curious preschooler?

Jul 18, 2017


I was tempted.  Very tempted.

A day napping under a favourite blankie with the winter sun filtering in through the shutters waiting for Preschooler SSG to get home from preschool.  But I'm back at work tomorrow and things had to get done.

I had a minor win at the pool this morning.  My shoulders and neck survived 40 minutes of swimming at a very relaxed pace as the pool nannas strode the length of the pool with purpose as they chatted away.  I am a nanna at heart, aren't I?  That's my black puffer jacket hanging up in the change room alongside the ladies' collection of puffer in sensible, sturdy go with everything colours.

Then there was a cake to be baked for tomorrow's morning tea.  I busted out my anniversary bottle of Queen's vanilla essence for the occasion as well as a specially bought tin of non Dutch Processed cocoa because that's what Sally said to do.

I found the Master Blend vanilla extract less viscous than its every day, work horse cousin.

Today's recipe was Sally's Chocolate Zucchini Cake for which I used my Odd Bunch bag of zucchinis.

They really are in there ... somewhere.  I'll let you know what the team at work think.  I think they'll all be so grateful at the thoughtful addition of hidden vegetables to their chocolate cake.  More so than your average preschooler, truth be told.

I'm all good for a while in the Korean seasoned seaweed stakes thanks to the Asian grocer at Top Ryde.  Wish Bondi Junction's Westfield had something similar.  While a girl has got to have all the labels and great parking just up the road, she's also got to eat.  I use this seaweed in my brown rice sushi bowls.  Mainly because it tastes great but also because I'm too lazy to roast and prep the more culturally appropriate nori sheets myself.

For a woman who loves a Coke Zero every once in a while, the idea of these diet noodles leave me cold.  Probably because there isn't a Mi Goreng flavour.

And that's about it from me for today.  I'm eagerly awaiting a call back from my work IT help desk.  I'm attempting to install a key that will enable to me access work stuff from home and it's not working.  Despite that mug of coffee and my last, treasured bottle of Coke Zero.  I've heard rumours that you need a really, really old version of Windows to get it work laptop wise and an early series iPhone if you want more mobile access.  Neither of which I can readily get my hands on right now.

Oh well.

Jul 17, 2017

The Snow.

And after an epic 5 hour drive home/ test of endurance / battle of wills just like that, we are home. 

Preschooler SSG's treasures from our weekend away, as found in the bottom of my handbag.  His Grill'd lamb model only has three legs.  It's going to be a very long day....

Our bags are unpacked and stowed away, various delicate cycles of washing have been run for the ski gear (despite this, I will still need to go over them with waterproofing spray after they've dried) and the groceries have been bought for the coming week.

After an indulgent three days of chips and indulgent energy dense meals on account of the cold and all the energy I expended to 'keep warm' (under my thermals and ski gear),  these carrots and zucchinis from The Odd Bunch were a sight for my vitamin deficient eyes.

But I wasn't so vitamin deplete that I had to walk past these wheels of Margaret River Club Cheddar.  I'm on for morning tea at work this week and Good Cheddar is the cornerstone of any work related talk fest.

As far as first family road trips go, heading to The Snow isn't a bad destination.  Just driving far, far away from the city was a holiday in itself.  Endless, perfectly maintained roads ribboned in front of us.  The high rises and offices of the city gave way to warehouses before finally becoming a series of landscapes of farm land, forests and mountains.  

We were blessed with perfect weather, great coffee vans at our rest points and travelling in a group made all the little dramas less catastrophic than they might have been.  There were always at least two pairs of adult eyes on the boys and we automatically slotted ourselves into parent on duty shifts.  So we all managed to get sleep ins, a ridiculously long hot shower, phone time or just that luxury of some time not spent with your mind half on what your preschooler may be up to in the next room.

It's just as well, really, because I found myself lost in the view outside on our balcony on more than one occasion.

I'd start off trying to have breakfast at the dining table

before migrating to the couch to kick back and watch the beauty of the sunrise unfold before me.

Oh there was a lot of aged leather couch time.

There were two things I did with all that time.

The first was to drink endless mugs of tea made on the bench top of the kitchen that I was secretly hoping I could bring home with me to Sydney.  The clever use of space, the bench top, the beautiful exposed brick feature wall, the wooden finishes...

It was all Ikea and much more sturdy and substantial than I had imagined an Ikea kitchen would be in real life.

But, I digress.  The second thing I was doing was getting lost in the world of Dominic Smith's 'The Last Painting of Sara de Vos'.

You are in for such a treat if you haven't already read this novel by Smith, an Australian who now resides in the US.  Where do I begin?  This novel jumps time between centuries and decades, it drifts gracefully between cities (New York and Sydney), it is part modern-ish romance, part art history and part intrigue.

The Sara of the title was a Dutch artist of the mid 1600s who was the only woman to be admitted to the Guild of St Lukes in Holland as a master painter. It is her painting of funeral in the mid winter that Ellie, now a respected art historian at The University of Sydney and the Art Gallery of NSW successfully forged in a fit of young adult rebellion.

I loved everything about this novel.  As a person cringingly ignorant of art history, the insight into the world of 17th century painters, art forgery and the politics of modern art galleries was fascinating.  As an adopted Sydney sider with a long term casual but committed relationship with the US, I enjoyed reading Marty's views of Sydney as an American outsider (from New York, a very privileged part of it... Manhattan I think).  As someone who still believes in imperfect love stories in a rom com world, I was entranced by Ellie and Marty/Jake's liaison.

I did manage to tear myself away from the wintery printed world of Sara de Vos as well as Preschooler SSG's Frozen vision of winter as imagined by the Disney studios (the boys watched the DVD twice over the weekend) and get out the door to see some actual snow.

After we got past the good natured parking and security team at Perisher, that is.

So far from Sydney but I still couldn't escape its parking dramas.

Luckily the shuttle buses were frequent and efficient.

Preschooler SSG loved Perisher.  We spent the morning (two hours) on the very family friendly snow play zone towards the front of where the actual ski runs were.

For a first timer on the snow, he definitely was not his mother's child.

Plastic fruit bags do have a purpose in life.  They're great for keeping new woollen socks dry inside the supposedly waterproof snow boot you wore as you jumped in a puddle of melted snow....

He plunged head first into the snow, snow boot first into puddles and kept dragging his sled higher and higher up the hill on his own.

 Sometimes he'd take me along for a ride but mostly he'd tear down alone without fear.

I think he'll be in snow school skiing or boarding next year.  Whichever of the two puts a little less of a chill down my spine.

We forgot to bring our Sydney carrot to make a Perisher snow man but found this beautiful young man made by people more practiced in snow man creation than I.

How could you not love a place like the Snowy Mountains where villages are named things like Smiggin Holes whose trees look like this against a sky of endless pristine white cloud and bluer than blue sky?

Sunday was as picture perfect as Saturday.

After bidding farewell to our lovely apartment, we made tracks for Thredbo.  Where the skiiers and snow boarders are hardcore as is their accommodation.  There's a whole village bordering the runs and it winds up hill with as much organized chaos (and understated money) as the older suburbs of Sydney's east.

But first coffee, hot chocolate and donuts.

After a morning of competitive sledding, Preschooler SSG decided he was up for a chair lift ride,  Actually, we have to call it a 'flying chair'.

Because that's what Preschooler SSG felt like he was doing as we bobbed gently in the breeze too many metres above the ground.

There was so much to see.  So many numbers to count off.  So many signs to try and read while his mother tried to hide her moments of panic.

It was so restorative being up above the action.  Looking down on the skiers, the water, the trees and the snow with the sun on my face and my lungs full of mountain air.

I'll never be a skier.  A person who's earned those beers and hot chips at the bar after doing a few black diamond runs without breaking a sweat.

But I'll always enjoy the chance to just be out there in the snow.  To feel it crunching under my snow boot shod two left feet.  To take in the colour of the skiers against the snow.  To feel that sun, to breathe that air, to absorb the unforgiving beauty of a very special part of the world where I'm very much the guest and not the master.

Until next time.


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