Oct 17, 2017

Yumboxes, Artwork and A New Easel.

Before I begin today's post, I'd like to take a paragraph to thank you all for reading and responding to my previous post.  The one I wrote as a letter to my twenty-year-old self.  I really enjoyed writing the post to the point of fangirling myself and rereading it quite a few times (and it's only Tuesday).  To have you respond as you have as well though has really made my day.  It seems to be a post and theme that has made many of you reflect on your own lives and it's lovely to see my writing resonate with you both as readers and as people.

The rest of today's post returns to a theme I'm sure you know and love ... mum life through my eyes. Specifically, my writing about aspects of it as if I'm the first woman ever to have discovered or been through what the rest of you just dealt with on an 'as and when' basis with you and your children turning out perfectly fine at the end of it.

First order of business today is the school lunch box.  Specifically, the Yum Boxes that I've purchased from Hello Green.  I bought one each of the original and panino styles (same size but slightly different trays) after putting the word out on Facebook for tips and tricks.   My friends came through not only with the best lunchboxes to use but they also provided lists of foods they make and buy for school lunches. I have photos of their replies on my phone for future reference.

And then I did something I swore I'd never do.  I went to Daiso (didn't swear against that bit) and bought bento lunch accessories.  Up until two weeks ago I was going to be that mother who got behind the school canteen 10000000% by ordering on a daily basis.

This nifty sausage decorating set.

Star-shaped cutters for sandwiches (yes really) and pikelets (which don't seem to be in stock at the supermarket right now....).

And themed picks for chopped fruit, cheese and all those other healthy things I hope Preschooler SSG will suddenly eat for lunch because it looks cute with its Daiso accessories in a Yumbox.  If I could pack a McHappy meal, Popcorn Chicken Go Bucket or a kids plate from Schnitz into a Yumbox I quite probably would but I don't think any of these freeze well.  Which is how I intend to make this daily lunchbox thing work.  I'm going to make things ahead and defrost on the day they're needed.

There will be a two-week lunchbox trial at preschool next month which is why I'm so organized with the Yumboxes and Daiso goodies.  I'm hoping that the novelty for both myself (making the lunches) and Preschooler SSG (eating the lunches) doesn't wear off at the end because we've got around 12 years of my involvement in school lunches ahead of us.

I've been fairly successful with managing Preschooler SSG's art work up until this week.  A percentage is up on the walls of my office at work, another is up on the walls at home, an undisclosed larger percentage has been discretely recycled but this latest piece has stumped me.  It's a 'Suitcase Locker' (as you can tell from the hand printed label at the front) and it contains Preschooler SSG's backpack, a spare hoodie and a rogue dried apricot that dropped in while I was trying to figure out how to lift the locker into the car.  Because we couldn't leave preschool without it.  Believe me, I tried.

The 'Suitcase Locker' is currently pushed against the wall behind me while I figure out what to do next with it and the newish roll of masking tape that's half attached that I'm not allowed to remove. But I have found an answer to our need for some kind of easel for watercolour painting.  This foldable desk easel was from Officeworks and cost $15.50.  There is no assembly required and my plan is to get some board and then bull dog paper onto it.  Still finding the cardboard as I write...

One of Preschooler SSG's current things is crisp $5 bills. I also love them because I'm still going on the $5 Challenge I started at the beginning of the year.  Yesterday, in the spirit of being a good parent, I gave him one straight out of the change slot at the Woolies self checkout.  That $5 note has since been pushed to its physical limit.  It was flapped around to make 'rainbows' appear in the clear panel, it went for a ride on the travelator (literally on the travelator belt... don't worry, no one was hurt), got wiped over with some antibacterial hand wash (see ride on travelator belt) before finally finding itself atop this complex arrangement above a railway turntable.

How long did you last making school lunches?

What's the most excitement you've put a $5 note through?

Oct 16, 2017

Life This Week 16/10/2017: A Letter to 20 Year Old Me.

Dear SSG,

Hello from the future.  I'm writing to you as a 42 year old and there's so much that I think you should know both about your life as it is now and what the future will hold.

Let's start with you as you are now.  Congratulations on getting through the hardest year of your six year course.  Your year as an intern a few years later will not be as scary as you think it is right now.  It will take you a while to figure out what you want to do long-term with medicine and you will stumble with your specialist exams.  The failures will hurt your pride badly and you will feel that life will never get better but it will and it did.  The failures taught you to both be a better person and also a better colleague.  It also taught you to reflect that if failing an exam was the worst possible thing to happen to you in your twenties then you actually had a pretty good and lucky life.

It's actually the exams that took you across the country to Sydney from Perth.  A new network and new focus sees you pass the exams, complete advanced training with relative ease and then achieve your next goal of being a staff specialist in a teaching hospital.  You will be blessed to work in two amazing departments with heads of departments who both encourage and motivate you.  Things fall into place, Sydney loves you as much you love it and you find your groove as a boss.  Rumour has it some of the juniors even like working on your team in a specialty that many may not have thought to be interesting / rewarding / glamorous or fun.  Though you never work out whether it's your charisma or the tin of barley sugars you carry on ward rounds that holds the appeal.

You will be a doer rather than a thinker.  Research won't be your thing and that's okay.  It takes doers and thinkers to make a department work and you commit fully to what you can do best.

The other thing that occupies a large amount of your headspace at the moment is why you're still single.  It's a complex that sees you look inwardly with a hypercritical eye.  You're too independent, (nothing wrong with that),  you're too selfish with your time (ditto), you're an overzealous worshipper at the altar of luxe labels (yeah well, that gets a bit better over the years in that you buy less but then you end up spending more on them).  Your future you will wear her bags like armour...  and as a distraction to the orthotic style shoes she wears because she's too wimpy to suffer a day in more flattering high heels.

It's true that no one actually asks you out but it's also true that you don't go out of your way to engage with them either.  You will get that white wedding you so badly wanted.  You will also find yourself divorced with a young child whom you love with every fibre of your being but who also challenges you daily to be the best person you can be when it's often easier to be the not so great.

The whole journey shapes you in ways that you will still discover in the years that pass afterward.  You survived and dare I say thrived.  You will surprise yourself by how easily you move forward from the past and how infrequently you look back on it.  You are also incredibly blessed by the level of support that make this possible for you.  You will not take this for granted and your life will be enriched by all these people you will form deeper relationships with.

There may yet be a fairytale ending to your love life but in the meantime, you're very happy with the life you have and remain socially awkward.  You will embrace Uber, Uber Eats, Whats App, Instagram and Facebook while giving Tinder and Bumble a wide berth.

Being forty-something is not as horrible as you think it is.  You are ironically more comfortable in your flawed but well lived in skin (and joints) in 2017 than you were in way back in 1995 with that (relatively) good twenty-year-old face and body.  If you don't mind me saying (but I know you will), you're so taking that face and body for granted, darl.  And while we're on the topic... leave your hair alone.  Do not chemically straighten it.  Do not get those red highlights.  But I know you'll choose to ignore this and learn the hard way.  Along with the repeated times when you will purchase evening wear that just doesn't suit your body type.  It will take you until you're 37 to embrace both your hair in its natural state and the perfection that is a Camilla kaftan worn as evening wear.

Before I go, though, I'd also like to thank you for:

  • taking pretty good care of yourself - it's really paying off now as I have to face such things as getting life insurance medicals done and people around me are facing harrowing medical diagnoses. 
  • taking up yoga, I'm finally getting back into regular practice and my whole body is feeling the better for it
  • learning from all those mistakes and bad choices
  • persisting
  • for both having realistic dreams and working towards them steadily
  • for writing creatively in your spare time long after your high school days.  It's what started me off writing this blog which occupies a special place in my heart and life. 

All my love and see you on the other side.


Oct 14, 2017

Lulu v Betty: the Tank Edition.

I'll get to the fitness gear review that today's post alludes to in a minute but first things first.  Food news.

The veal and chorizo sausage roll ($19) at The Winery is a sausage roll as its best possible self, in my opinion.  Run, don't walk.

On the other end of the food healthiness spectrum (or perhaps not as I have heard that rice crackers are full of salt and nothing carbs... but I refuse to delve too deeply into this) I actually rather liked these rice crackers with green kale.  They are a bit salty (but perfect with a cherry tomato or two) but have a light, crisp texture.  They also taste earthy and well... whole foodish.  In the nicest possible way.  I wonder what the sweet carrot variety will taste like?

I've been on a tank top for the gym odyssey over the last few weeks.  For years, I've been a dollars shoes, bottoms and bras kind of girl with relatively fewer dollars going to tops which I've sourced from Big W, Cotton On, Aldi and Target.  They've been mostly disappointing falling apart after a few washes or just not being cut in a flattering way (always a priority in activewear, let's be honest).  I have had success with a couple of tanks from H&M purchased in desperation in San Antonio earlier this year but sadly, I must have just gotten lucky because they haven't restocked that particular style in any of the other stores I've visited since. 

Then I discovered the joy that is the 'We Made Too Much' tab on Lulu Lemon's website.  I managed to find the Train Times tank ($69 AUD RRP) there for $39 in selected shades.  Here's a visual (obviously not on me... sigh....).

Image via Google - lulu fanatics
I know, it does look rather short, flimsy and thin strapped but guess what?  It's actually a very flattering cut on!!  It held up well with both cardio and weights and works well with all my sports bras.  I'm that girl at the gym only without make up or a full manicure....

Despite the close fitting top half, the tank actually flares a bit so it hovers just around the waist at the front but a bit higher around the back so you can wait in line apres gym at your local cafe with both the Lulu logo of your top and the Lorna Jane back waistband branding visible.  You don't even need to ask how I know this to be true.  I also can vouch for how well these machine wash.  I've already washed mine at least five times and they've not sagged, faded or gotten sheer.

Motivated by my success with the Lulu tanks, I branched out to Sweaty Betty.  The UK activewear brand of the moment and not my favourite Sydney PR person of the moment.

The Zero Gravity leggings are meant to be the thing to own from the brand but I've got this thing going with my Lorna Janes.  Five pairs worth of Lorna Jane commitment to be precise so I don't really need any more spendy leggings right now.  

Sweaty Betty offer both free global shipping with minimum spend and a 20% discount on signing up for their email.

My purchases took around a week to get here and arrived perfectly packaged in this draw string bag.  I bought the Pacesetter Run Vest ($80 AUD full price, $64 AUD with the one time discount) in both khaki and black (of course).


The fabric is light and similar to my Lulu tanks but the Pacesetter is made of sheer fabric which is pretty flattering in the darker shades that I bought.  The khaki version as seen in these photos has detailing at the neckline and around the arms with a contrast striped panel at the back.  The black version is plain stitched with no fabric contrast.

There is a fair bit of extra fabric on these tanks and that's not usually a style that I go for in activewear.  These are tops that are definitely made for upright exercise only, I'd say.  That being said, it's nice to have different looks among the tops I wear to the gym.

Performance wise, the Pacesetter is very comfortable and I was able to complete both cardio and weights in it without fear of straps falling down.  Just a note about the khaki shade.  Sweat marks do show up a little in this colourway.  So maybe not the top to wear if you're heading out straight from working out.

I've been wearing these tanks with plain black tights but I have a feeling that the way the models are styled with patterned bottoms might be go instead.  Wash and wear wise, I've only washed these once a piece and they've held up but I think the Lulu's might just have the edge.

All in all, I think my first foray into dollars tanks for the gym has been a success.  Of the two brands I've tried, Lulu is still my favourite.  It's relatively more nicely priced (especially at outlet prices) and the cuts seem to work better for me.  However, there's a lot to be said for having a few items of gym gear that are a bit street and just a bit um... sexy?  Don't know if that's necessarily the best word for activewear.  How about athlesexy?  You know what I mean.

Have you tried any fancy activewear brands recently?  Love or leave?

Oct 13, 2017


There are those days where the most sensible course of action to take when they end is to sit yourself in your car with a sneaky bottle of whatever beverage you really shouldn't be drinking and have a bit of a solo debrief.  A few cycles of deep breathing, a simple mindfulness task (Denyse shared a great one recently where she takes the time to look around and individually name five things she can see before allowing her mind to move on) and a few minutes to process the events of the day.

If I could only use one word to describe Wednesday it would be 'stretched'.  But I'm a blogger so of course I'm not going to stop there.

Wednesday was the day that had it all.  It began so well with a chance meet up with a girlfriend and fellow preschool mum in the line for coffee.  Over the course of power chat we managed to laugh, debrief and give each other the strength and patience to keep on keeping on.  While we didn't have the perfect answers for each other, we do have solidarity and that sense of not being 'the only one who...' which is probably more important as we fumble our way through this working mum gig.

And then the day kind of unraveled.  It felt like I was already running out of time from the moment I switched on my computer and logged on.  Lunch ended up being eaten en route to various things like mandatory fire training with my work girls (which predictably ended at the newsagent in search of their secret stash of Coke Zeros) before we all had to run in opposite directions to get stuff done and mutter darkly about whether that really was the time already...

But it's always those days when your mind is in power ward round mode that the universe decides that it requires a different plan of attack from you.  And as frustrating as it can be to have your rigid plan for the day disrupted, the universe must be obeyed.

So I slowed down, stopped rushing and listened.  Really listened.  To decisions being made that nearly made me cry as they were told to me but that I had to respect and execute because of my respect and empathy for the people who were making them.   To the waves of familiar sounds around me that signal the routines of a busy hospital on a weekday.  To the thoughts within my head.

I also let silences happen.  I didn't rush to fill them with meaningless pleasantries or assumptions.  I let the silence and the time do their restorative and calming work.

I ended the day acutely aware that I'd probably given the best of myself but that the most important person in my life also needed me to be that best possible self in those challenging hours leading up to bedtime.  So we sat outside a cafe and had chocolate ice cream in a cone with sprinkles (don't worry, I had my wipes handy) at 6pm while we talked through our days and discussed various pieces of preschool art.  Then we made our way home where we still had our differences about what to eat for dinner and when the best time to have a shower was but there was a definite air of peaceful compromise and an agreement to disagree to it all.

How do you cope with being stretched?

Oct 12, 2017

Lovin' Life 12/10/2017: Balmain. Efendy.

Balmain is a little peninsula of Sydney's Inner West that will always have a piece of my heart.

Its skyline of beautifully restored terraces, its winding and sloping streets, the laid back sheen of both luxe and quirkiness that its residents exude. It makes for a heady mix.

It defies categories and stereotypes. Boho luxe, hipster, glamour yogi... none do Balmain justice nor do they define it.

And then there's that glimpse of the water as you descend the streets. There's nowhere else quite like it in Sydney.

I was in the 'hood Friday night for dinner with my work besties.  I found myself at our meeting point a little earlier than planned.  Accidentally on purpose, I suspect.  The sun hadn't yet set, the skies were clear so a little walk through the streets off Darling was the obvious way for me to while away the time.

Quintessential Duck Egg Blue is a furniture store that's opened since I last visited.  It specializes in found antique and industrial furniture.

The day will come, I hope, that I'll be able to furnish SSG Manor 2.0 with one or two pieces from them.

If you look closely at the photo above, you'll be able to see the reflection of where we met for dinner.

Efendy is a Balmain institution.  It's a Turkish restaurant housed in a converted house with a beautiful courtyard where you can also dine.  We were spoiled with a long table by the fireplace.

May I recommend the Vishnosna?

It's a prosecco cocktail featuring sour cherry juice and it was just what I needed to celebrate both the end of a long week and a weekend ahead spent with good friends.

The staff were endlessly kind and generous.  We were gifted several dishes throughout the night.

One of my favourite dishes of the night was this one featuring melon and fetta.  I often find Turkish food challenging to appreciate because some of the flavours are so foreign to me but Efendy made quick work of that.  I'll definitely be back and also intend to explore Anason, the restaurant in Barangaroo that Efendy's chef has also opened.

Do you have a favourite suburb in your city that you may not live in but love all the same?

Have you eaten at either Efendy or Anason?

Oct 10, 2017

IT. T2. The Weekend.

The award for most embarrassing call to IT went to me last week.

Turns out that this socket marked 'HEADSET' is meant for actual headsets and if you plug the handset into the headset hole you have the problem of being able to make calls and hear the caller only to have them not able to hear you.  It's always a special moment when the IT guy manages to diagnose your problem from the door of your office...

via google images
Landline phones that aren't cordless are such a novelty these days that I even had to check with Google Images that I named the parts of an old school telephone correctly.

Meanwhile down at the local pub, Preschooler SSG and I walked past this racehorse in the beer garden.  I presume he was there waiting for a drink in addition to / as a reward for doing a bit of promo work for the spring racing season.

From Ballina via a work mate comes this photo of The Big Prawn.  She was there for work on Friday and thought we might like to share her view of that mysterious world beyond the wards.  It was pure coincidence that we met for dinner that night and ate ... prawns.

Order has been restored to the tea shelf in the wall cupboard above the kettle at SSG Manor 2.0.  My T2 peppermint tea bags (all three bags of them) arrived on Friday and I can't wait to be soothingly blanketed by sips of the brew when I get home this evening.

I'm trying something new for work lunches.  These Peckish vegetable crackers come in various flavours including carrot and kale.  I'm a big fan of their regular range so have high hopes for these.  Will let you now how they go with sour cream and Continental Spring Vegetable dry soup mix dip (that's literally what and all it is).

While I was at the supermarket I tried to find a red permanent ink marker and the only way I could buy one was in a twin pack with black.  The stationery stockpiler in me was secretly happy to be able to add an eighth black marker to my stash.

In more exciting and very late breaking news... I've discovered Uber in a big way.  My friend put me in one to get home on Friday, I downloaded the app that night and have spent the weekend Uber-ing.  

While I have enjoyed the convenience, ride comfort and safety, some of the company's shadier moments do trouble me.  Hopefully the attention drawn to these incidents and decisions have precipitated change in the company's practice because it's a service that I'm pretty happy with so far and it seems to be giving many people a chance to make some extra money when it suits them.

Judging from my Instagram, the weekend was one of the most exciting ones I've had in a while.  In addition to fronting up to the gym the morning after the night before, I was at a conference for work on both days.

I'd forgotten just how draining it is to actively listen to presentations and discussions in 90 minute blocks.  It was a very rewarding weekend though on both an educational and social level.

The conference took place at the University of Sydney.  I've worked next door for quite a while now and it's only now that I've been able to take a bit of a stroll through it's beautiful campus.

It's always a bit disorientating and surreal wandering the campus of a university that isn't 'yours'.  You have no idea where different faculties are, of the names of key buildings, where the canteen is, the various libraries people go to for both study time and a bit of a gossip....

Yet there's something very familiar about the energy in the air.  It's stately yet young, full of tradition but also spiked with the now and the new.  There's also a sense of peace and reflection courtesy of the trees, statues and manicured lawns.  It's hard not to let your mind return to memories of your own undergraduate days.  Some so vivid it really seems like it was only yesterday rather than the twenty or so years ago it really was.

With the last presentation under our belts by lunchtime on Sunday, cilosophy and I decamped to Surry Hills (via Uber, of course) for lunch at The Winery.

It's just the perfect place to kick back for a couple of hours with a good friend or several and talk about everything and anything.

Wondering what these drinks were?

They were pomegranate and bubbly spritzers topped with Turkish fairy floss.  I rate them at least an 11/10 and consider them a drink to revisit as often as possible.  The kind you might even ask the bartender at another venue if they could kindly recreate for you just because.  You'll be the first to know if I can ever make that happen.

To excellent friends and their company for Sunday lunch in a little slice of Sydney you'd be too unhip and out of the loop to visit on your own.

Why does the universe always direct me to buy fruit on the way home from times like these?

Do your workmates send you interesting bits and pieces while they're out and about?

Are your memories of uni or further study still vivid?

Be well.


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