Dec 26, 2017

Christmas Living.

I could get used to living like this.

It's been four days since I last drove out of this carpark but all that feels like it was a lifetime away.  I'm heading back in tomorrow.  Only for one day.  It's going to hurt but it has to be done and then I'm back off for another week or so.  Topsy turvy, fluid times but it's a welcome change in my work routine so I'm enjoying it all as it unfolds.

This Christmas hasn't been so much about the things as much as it has been about the people, the doing and the places.  It's one of those things about Christmases as you get older, I think.  

You can get stuff any day of the week all throughout the year but the Christmas break is one of those few times of the year where you can gather your favourite people around you both physically and in your heart and mind.  It's a time that's all about togetherness.  

Sydney changes over Christmas.  In a good way.  That up and at 'em, go hard energy recedes (if only for a few days) and gives way to kindness and patience.  The whole city slows down and its people redistribute themselves throughout the country and across the world to be with the ones they love.

It was my thing this Christmas to wake up each morning, have a leisurely mug of tea and a chat with mum and dad and then head out for a long run. Some days I turned left towards Rushcutters

before looping back and finishing off with a bit of window shopping on my homeward journey.

Other days have been about turning right instead and being richly rewarded for it.

There's this magical stretch of Rose Bay where the sidewalk is lit by the soft glow of street lamps while the water shimmers softly under the light of the rising sun and the occasional light from a boat.

The soundtrack of these runs has been this inspired mix on Spring.

These runs have been a refreshing and very restorative way to begin my days and I'm going to miss them when I get back into my regular routine.  

One of my favourite shop windows this Christmas, it heavily references the film, 'Black Swan'.

Running aside, I've been pottering about the place noting such things as the excellent price of mangoes this Christmas.  Stopping to chat with strangers about the merits of Kensington Prides and which trays at Woolies have the ripest, right for eating right now mangoes and which should be kept for later.

I've been generous with the butter at breakfast because all that running is hungry work and the body needs to refuel as it sees fit.

My staycation dress code has been pretty much activewear

or shorts.

 Except for when we went out for dinner

which called for some Camilla held in place with a hair elastic in lieu of a 38-week baby bump.

Dinner featured all my favourite things.

Duck pancakes,

Honey King Prawns and ...

Deep Fried Icecream.

All those happy-making, feel-good foods from my childhood.  Mum and dad loved the trip down memory lane too.

The weather's been all over the place with that string of sweltering days giving way to thunder and much-needed rain before leaving us with slightly grey and humid ones.

To look at it positively, at least the hot days made it mandatory to have a scoop of ice cream with our fruit mince pies.

And the cooler weather made sure that all our efforts to make gravy from scratch were not in vain.

Like everyone else, I've been in the kitchen for a fair proportion of the break.

It got to a point on Christmas Even when precise measurement of the amount of Cointreau needed for the trifle's sponge fingers was superfluous.

This was closely followed by a panicked session of dodgy Santa photo-shopping/ evidence creation just in case Preschooler SSG woke up in the middle of the night as I was getting his presents out of their hidey holes.

Christmas Day dawned cool and grey.  Too cool for champagne (!!) but not for a mug of Moccona with Kahlua and some sponge fingers...

Which I ended up needing to steady my hands as I battled with batteries,

Hot Wheels tracks with fake Lego (who was the genius who thought that combination up!?!) assembly,

Brio railway construction

before we finally settled down to a bit of soothing Lego construction.  Preschooler SSG decided to improve on the Lego vision of this bus by making this mobile phone-toting dog its passenger.

Aldi delivered with that Black Forest Stollen. It's the best for morning tea and breakfast...

Christmas lunch prep was much less stressful than the day before which saw my puff pastry do battle with (and lose) against the heat.  My roasted potatoes turned out perfectly!  Fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside.

The weather on Christmas Day was perfect for eating and it's just as well, really.

That Chandon with Orange Bitters was perfection.

As was that gravy.  I'm never using packet mix again.  Incidentally, the Aldi turducken was delicious and its leftovers make great toasted sandwiches.

My cousin brought this briyani which he made from scratch.  It was amazing and a lovely contrast to the roast.  

This year's trifle was Donna Hay's White Chocolate and Raspberry and you just have to make it for yourself if you haven't already.  I've been eating the leftovers as post meal 'fruit' ever since Christmas Day.  The jelly is made from scratch and the combination of tart cranberry juice with raspberries is a perfect contrast to the richness of the white chocolate ganache and vanilla bean mascarpone layers.  Don't get me started on the Cointreau sponge fingers.  This is going to be my forever Christmas trifle,

This is why we run, readers.  This is why we run.

My annual Lego building intensive has begun with Preschooler SSG being my very able assistant.

And I'm looking forward to my second 'almost week' off to see me into the New Year.  Might spend it revisiting some of my favourite places.  Will definitely spend its mornings doing more of those runs.

I hope all is also well in your world.

Dec 21, 2017

Lovin' Life 21/12/2017: Joy In My World.

We're getting just a little bit excited here at SSG Manor 2.0.

Boxes on lists are being ticked off at a cracking pace as we get to the pointy end of the countdown to Christmas.  

My mum and dad fly in tonight to stay with us and provisions have been bought.

Sorry dad, couldn't get that 'proper' brand of Hokkien noodles you like.

Our traditional massive Chinese restaurant pre-Christmas dinner has been booked, the Peking Duck pre-ordered and the waist-friendly outfit selected.  This Camilla kaftan has served me well through that one time I went through the third and fourth trimesters 5 years ago and it's making a comeback this year in as good as new condition.  Might be a sign that I need to peruse DJ's collection of Camilla during the post-Christmas sales.  Strictly online only...  I'm not that crazy.

Guess what this is?  It's a pineapple upside down cheesecake and Delish reckon that it's a dupe for The Cheesecake Factory's offering.

You will need all of the above plus some salt and a half dozen eggs.

In true Delish style, there are many shortcuts in this recipe from using a packet cake mix to melting the butter for the upside down pineapple layer in the tin in the oven.

Drying tinned pineapple rings on kitchen towel.  Is there anything more retro-fabulous?

You can never stud an upside down cake with too many glace cherries.  I ate the rest of what I had for a very sugary breakfast.

My tip is to follow the advice of comments on Delish's webpage and to bake the cheesecake in a water bath.  Just be sure to wrap the bottom of the tin in several layers of alfoil.  Amazingly, the pre-baked cake layer didn't get soggy or burned from being baked again with the cheesecake filling.  I'm pleasantly surprised that my cheesecake turned out as fluffy as it did and with minimal cracking on top.  I was a bit hasty in removing it from the springform tin though so there's a bit of dodgy business around the edge as you can see.  Nothing a bit of tinsel can't hide / fix.  Thanks for the idea, @robbjody.

And here's what my cheesecake looked like when it got assembled.  I'll feedback about how it tasted in a future post.

As busy as this time of the year gets, there's always time for an indulgent session at the hairdresser.

My hairdresser finally convinced me to give balayage a go.  I'm loving it sick.  I wasn't sure the colour would show up on my Chinese hair but it does and I'm feeling as Bergdorf Blonde as a fortysomething Chinese mum can reasonably feel.  Just a bit nervous about how long I'll be able to keep the colour looking as fabulous as it does today.  I love my swimming in chlorinated pools and I love my haircare from Priceline and Woolies.

Before I go, I'd like to wish everyone whose been Lovin' Life and reading along here in general, a Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.  May you be extra kind to yourselves over the next few weeks.  Do and eat what gives you joy, take deep breaths, surround yourself with love.  Send those texts, make those calls.

Be well and see you when I see you. 



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