Friday, November 21, 2014

Freezer Cooking: Chocolate Anzac Biscuits/Cookies

As a family, we have been watching a lot of documentaries on World War 1, and talking a lot about the war and what the soldiers had to endure during their time fighting on the front.  World War 1, and the ANZACS, are a major part of the Australian identity, and with the centenary next year, I think that now is the perfect time to talk to our children about such a crucial part of Australia's, and the world's, history. One of the things we have been talking about was the food they had to eat, and from that, I decided to make a chocolate spin on the classic Anzac biscuit that was sent to those brave young boys by their loving families back on the homefront.

These are fantastic to make in bulk, and then freeze unbaked, so you can have freshly baked treats whenever you need them. I like to freeze them on a baking tray first, like the pic below, and then place into a zip lock bag to save space in the freezer. If you don't want to pre-freeze them, this recipe can be halved with no problems.



Freezer Cooking: Chocolate Anzac Biscuits

2 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups rolled oats
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 cups dark choc chips
8 tbsp golden syrup
250g butter, melted
  1. Place all the dry ingredients into a large bowl, and stir to combine.
  2. Add melted butter and golden syrup, stirring until well combined.
  3. Using a small cookie scoop (or a tablespoon), place scoops onto baking tray, and gently press down with a fork.
  4. Freeze until firm, then transfer to a zip lock bag.
  5. When ready to bake, transfer to a parchment lined baking tray, leaving room for spreading, and bake from frozen in a preheated 170C/350F oven for 15 minutes.
  6. If cooking immediately rather than freezing, bake at the same temp for 12 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool on tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Makes approx. 50 cookies.




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Monday, October 27, 2014

Product Review: Aerin Fall Essentials Weekday/Weekend Collection


I have a serious girl crush on Aerin Lauder, Estee Lauder's grand daughter, and have had one ever since I worked for the Estee Lauder company over a decade ago! I've previously reviewed her most recent lipstick collection, the delightful Rose Balm collection (these are still the only lipsticks I have been wearing) and I have just invested in her two latest Essentials makeup collections, Weekday and Weekend.  Both of the oversized palettes were designed with easy and simplicity in mind, and contain almost all the products you need for a complete face. The Weekday edit goes bolder, with a slightly smoky eye and pops of pretty colour on the lips, while the Weekend palette heads towards natural and neutral for a carefree Le No Makeup look, with bronzes, soft browns and pale pinks.

 

I am starting with the Weekend palette since that is what I have been wearing the most at the moment.  Despite it being a "Fall" collection, these colours, paired with Aerin's Coral Sand Rose Balm Lipstick and a touch of the Aerin Weekend Gloss, have actually been perfect for the spring weather we are having here in Oz, and I think that labeling this a Fall item is doing it a disservice; I can honestly see myself using this palette all year round.  Down the left hand side you have (from top to bottom) a golden highlighter Glow, the Lip & Cheek Multicolour in Natural, and two lipsticks, Whisper (pale pink) and Cabana (coral). You then have a bronzer in Pretty Bronze, and two eye shadows in Simplicity and Cocoa.


Here are the swatches on my arm, and as you can see, it is the perfect accompaniment to a summer tan, but it would also be great to warm up a fading tan come autumn. I am mostly using the Simplicity eyeshadow on my lids, and using the Cocoa as a shadow liner, followed by quick hit of the Natural multicolor on the apples of my cheeks and a sweep of bronzer in a 3 shape from temples, to under the cheek bones, and then back out to just under the jaw line. A touch of the glow highlighter on my cheekbones, and lastly a swipe of lipstick, gloss, and mascara and I am literally done in just a few minutes.

The Weekday palette is designed for the work week, but come autumn/winter, I can absolutely see myself wearing this cool toned "bold neutral" palette almost every day. As it is, I have been wearing this quite a bit when I want a slightly more dramatic look than the warmer, more subtle Weekend palette. On the left hand side, from top to bottom, we have the highlighter in Beam, (which is slightly more rose gold coloured compared to the golden one in the Weekend set), the multicolour in Natural, and lipsticks in Geranium and Liebling (both of which I already have). We then have the blush in Petal ( a much softer, cooler pink than it appears in this pic) and eyeshadows in Graphite and Graige.



This is a really pretty colour collection, but it is still very sophisticated, making it a perfect match for those mums who work out of the home, but also for us SAHMs who want to look a little bit more polished every now and then. The two eyeshadows combine to give a cool smoky eye - smoky, but subtle - and the remaining shades complete the look perfectly. The two lipsticks in this palette are to-die-for. As I mentioned in a previous post, Liebling is pretty much my holy grail nude lipstick, my lip colour but better!


Finally, here are the matching lip glosses I purchased as well, Weekday on the left, Weekend on the right. Weekend is a lovely, non-sticky, non-shimmery nude colour with enough pigmentation to wear on its own, but also gorgeous over the top of either of the palette lipsticks to add more shine. Weekend is a sheer beige gloss with a gorgeous golden shimmer. It reads too light for me to wear it on its own, but it is stunning over the top of a deeper colour lipstick like the Coral Sands that I am currently wearing. If you have a fairer skin tone, then I can imagine this would be gorgeous by itself.

Overall, I see myself getting a lot of use out of this collection. Every colour is usable (not always the case in a palette!) and the concept of a curated, all-in-one complete look in a palette is right up my alley as a busy mum. At $70, the palettes are not inexpensive, but in my opinion, I do believe they are worth the price.

Available at aerin.com and various department stores.

  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Review: At Home With Madame Chic by Jennifer L Scott


by Jennifer L Scott finally arrived the other day, and I delved right into it! As you know, I loved Jennifer's first book, Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris, and her blog, The Daily Connoisseur, and refer to both often, so you can imagine my excitement at a new book that was about about incorporating Jennifer's style into you everyday life at home.

Divided into two parts, the first section deals with getting your house into shape, to make it an oasis, a sanctuary, a place you and your family will actually want to spend time in. It is all about cultivating beauty throughout your home, whether that is clearing the clutter, finding a homekeeping routine that suits your lifestyle, or finally being able to keep houseplants alive! What I loved most about this first section was Jennifer's gentle coaching to change your perspective; housekeeping and child rearing can be mundane and tiresome if that is how you choose to see it, so why not choose to see it in an entirely different, beautiful way.

This then leads to the second section about the rhythms of your day, the little rituals, and how we can savor each and every moment, no matter how mundane they may seem. While I found the first section useful, it was the second section, itself further divided into Morning, Afternoon and Evening routines, that I found invaluable.


Two seemingly small things from this second portion of the book have made a huge difference to our days. Firstly, getting up before the kids and being able to enjoy that small window of time to myself has made an enormous difference to my attitude in the morning, and this has flowed on to the children. No more frantically trying to get ready at the same time as helping the kids out, no more scrambling to get us all out the door on time. Instead, we have peace, smiles, cheerful chatter as we cruise along (most mornings!). Secondly, I took Jennifer's suggestion of classical music in the morning, and that is what we now listen to on the school run instead of the news channel that was our previous default. Instead of doom and gloom, we listen to peaceful tunes, and actually discuss composers, what instruments they can hear, what mood do they think the composer was trying to create. I truly believe these moments in the car are setting up our whole day on a positive, joyous note.


I will finish with one final point; while I mostly buy my books as e books (reducing the clutter and all that!), this is one tome I am happy to have in hardback. Not only is the book filled with delightful illustrations, taking the time to peruse through actual paper pages just seems to fit perfectly with Jennifer's over-arching philosophy of being present and enjoying each passing moment.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

I've Had A Facelift!

Did I scare you with the I've had a Facelift title?! Of course, I'm talking about my blog, and not myself personally, but it does look pretty fantastic don't you think? While I liked the old design, it didn't feel that representative of me anymore, so I went back to the wonderful Michelle at Shabby Creations and the design now feels exactly like me. I started the process weeks ago, but due to the unexpected hospital stay, it was probably Michelle's most protracted blog design ever! Thank you so much for your patience, Michelle!

I hope you all like it, and if you read my blog via email or a reader, please click on through to check it out!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Gratitude

 The last few weeks have made me really realise the true meaning of gratitude, friendship and community like never before. Three weeks ago, my daughter was admitted to hospital with a serious and potentially life threatening illness, which meant a stay at the children's hospital for herself and me. Obviously it was a stressful and challenging time and to add to the problems, both sets of grandparents were overseas! 

However, as soon as our school community found out what was happening, they rallied around us in a way that I probably thought didn't exist anymore. Freshly cooked meals were delivered to me in the hospital, since I was staying there 24 hours a day. Little friends came to visit and cheer up the patient with treats, stories and hugs, as did here teacher. A stockpile of fresh and frozen meals were waiting for us when we came home so I didn't have to worry about cooking. Even my son's school community rallied around with a gift basket for both my daughter and my son, together with offers of help and support.

I truly cannot describe to you how all of this makes you feel when life feels like it is spiralling out of control. Modern life is busy, we all know that, but all of these friends found time in their already jam packed days to lend a hand, and I will be forever grateful. When you watch the news, listen to the radio, pick up a paper, it is so easy to think that society and community are disappearing, crumbling away as the frantic pace we all seem to try and keep up with runs ever faster. But I am here to tell you that is not the case, not at all. Community does exist, it is just waiting for its moment to shine like a blazing ray of sunshine on a stormy day.
So a huge, huge thank you to my friends at both my children's schools. My words truly cannot come close to how grateful I feel, and how thankful I am that I have all of you in our lives.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Looking towards my spring summer capsule wardrobe

For a number of (mostly health) reasons, this has seemed like a really, really long winter that will just not end, and I am hanging out for the warmth and the sun. Prompted by Jennifer L Scott's (author of Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris) latest you tube video talking about planning ahead for your next season's wardrobe, I thought it would be the perfect time for me to re-evaluate, and look towards my spring summer capsule wardrobe.



The first thing I like to do when deciding on my capsule is to decide on the colour palette. I think this is a really crucial step when you are limiting your wardrobe - you need to choose colours that suit you, go together AND that appeal to you. Despite what some experts may say, I think all three elements are equally important. It is no point having a wardobe of colours that suit you if they don't go together, and similarly, what could be more depressing than looking at a sea of flattering, well co-ordinated colours every day that you simply. cannot. stand! I use the wonderful blog Into-Mind's philosophy for developing a colour palette - you choose three core colours (in my case periwinkle, navy and cobalt), two neutrals for support and balance (white and tan) and four accent shades to add variety (celadon, apple, rose and coral).



I'm still using a variation on the ten item wardrobe concept, as defined by Jennifer L Scott in her fab book, and I've found that 18 core items seems to be the magic number for my wardrobe (tees, cardigans, blazers all count as "extras"). I could absolutely get it down to 10 if I had to, but the concept is meant to be a flexible guideline and not a rigid set of rules, and I find that 18 items seems to be the right balance for my laundry habits and to suit the wide variety of weather we get over a spring/summer. The items will change slightly as we move out of spring, and head into summer proper. Here in Perth, Australia we have spring weather that can range from cool and rainy to really quite hot, but as we move into summer we head into heatwave territory, where the average temp is over 35C (95F). As such, the sweaters, most of the cardigans and almost all of the blazers will get packed away, and in will come a couple of pairs of shorts.



This time around I though I would show you how you can take one piece through 3 levels of dress, from  1 - casual, 2 - chic and 3 - elegant. The first outfit, level 1 casual, is what I call my base level of casual, the level at which I would be happy to leave the house in. It's the type of outfit for weekends watching the kids play sport or going to the park with them. It's pretty simple but still comfy; a tee, flip flops and a pair of khakis, but made stylish by upgrading the flip flops to a leather pair, using a leather trimmed tote and adding in a cool cuff.

The next outfit, level 2 chic, is the type of outfit you would see me in most days. It's still simple and comfy but kicked up a style notch. This is what you would see me in if you bumped into me running errands or picking up the kids from school. With this particular outfit, I've gone for a bit of pattern mixing, making it easy by keeping the colours the same, navy and white. The shirt looks great on its own if the day warms up and the flats are super comfy for running around in. Adding a roomy tote and some simple jewellery completes the look.

The last outfit, what I describe as level 3 - elegant, is probably the most dressed up I get on a (semi) regular basis. I would wear this level for a parent teacher evening, a school concert, or a lunch out with the girls.The linen blazer is not too formal, and the statement jewellery is simple and elegant.



Using a navy pair of drapey pants (a new buy for this year), here are another three levels of outfits using the one item. Whether you are wearing level 3 on a date night with your husband, or watching the kids at swimming lessons in the level 1 outfit, you will look stylish and appropriate for the occasion.



Finally, I've put together three more outfits using the capsule pieces, just to show how truly versatile a capsule can be. These are all outfits I plan on wearing through the season, and the nine outfits that I have shown you really just are the tip of the iceberg. Even the outfits above can be taken up or a down a level simply by changing the accessories. Add in some heeled sandals and some jewellery to the navy maxi and singlet and you've moved from casual to chic. Swap the gold sandals for the brown leather flip flops, switch out the tote to a canvas one, and lose the jewellery, and you've taken the sleeveless shirt, jeans and cardi from chic to casual.


These capsule wardrobe posts are some of my most popular, so I am planning more over the next few weeks, and please leave me a comment if there is something specific you would like me to cover!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Independent mornings with Uncle Tobys Quick Sachets

 

As anyone who knows my parenting style will attest, I am all about fostering independence and self sufficiency in my kids and breakfast time has been one of the most successful learning opportunities for this. In summer, we are all set - Stephen (7) and Irini (6) are perfectly capable of pouring themselves a bowl of cereal and topping it with milk and some fruit. Winter was a different scenario, however, when a nice and comforting breakfast is just what is needed before a long day at school, but seemed like it would be beyond them.


Thankfully, Uncle Toby's came to the rescue when they sent me some boxes of their Quick Sachets to try and these have truly been a win:win solution for our family; not only do the kids love them, but they are a healthy option that ticks all my boxes, especially where the kids independent mornings are concerned.

Uncle Toby's Quick sachets are so convenient and tasty; already portioned out, and with a handy milk guide built into the packet, it is so simple for my son to pop the oats into a bowl, measure in the milk, and then microwave them. 90 seconds later, a delicious bowl of warm and comforting oats are ready to go. Made from whole grains, and with no artificial flavours or colours, these are a wholesome choice that set the kids up for the whole day.

So what should you do if you want to move your kids towards independent mornings?
  • Create a system - I have a routine chart listing the steps that the kids need to follow to get our day on its way. Think about what your kids could do by themselves and what they would need help with. My kids are capable of dressing themselves, making breakfast and packing their bags. I make lunches and make sure they are ready to go to be packed.
  • Make it child friendly - it's no point expecting your son to make breakfast for himself if he can't reach the breakfast cereal! Set things up to succeed - all of our breakfast supplies are in one spot in the pantry at child height, and they have a dedicated spot in their closets for their uniforms.
  • Take a chill pill and don't cry over (literally!) spilt milk - there will be accidents, especially in the beginning, and this is all part of the learning process. 
  • But be sensible and foresee (and hopefully prevent some) problems - a seven year old pouring a full 3 litre carton of milk is only ever going to end in disaster. I pour some into a smaller jug when we have a full carton.
  • Let them wear the consequences - we all learn from our mistakes and children are no exception. Unless you want to be the year 12 parent still running forgotten sports kits to school, stop now. If my kids forget something, they (generally) will need to do without it AND explain to their teacher why they don't have it. I once made my son walk into school without shoes since he forgot them (really, how do you forget your shoes!!) and guess what, he's never done that again!
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Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post and no compensation was given to me. Uncle Toby Quick Sachets were  provided to me for review purposes through Product Talk by Nuffnang. All opinions expressed are my own.

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