Sunday, August 31, 2008

Product Review: Bissell Steam Mop

About two months ago I bought a Bissell Steam Mop, and it is one of the best household appliances I have ever purchased. I hate mopping the floor; it would have to be one of my least favourite chores. I would really want to mop the floor in the kitchen on a daily basis, but I just can't be bothered with filling the bucket, lugging the bucket, wringing the mop etc. On the other hand, I love vacuuming. I think it's because it really is plug 'n' play!

So about a month ago, I saw an infomercial for a steam mop, and I thought to myself, "What a great idea!" This would solve all my mopping problems. There is no more bucket, no more wringing, and it works kinda like a vacuum. On the other hand, I NEVER believe anything I see on infomercials (except for the pedegg - I succumbed, and as soon as I receive it, I will review it) so I did some research online to find the best steam mop out there. All the ratings seemed to pan the infomercial model (no big surprise there!) but a consistent rater with consumer reports was the Bissell steam mop. It retails for $199 AUD, ($89.99 in the US) and has a 30 day satisfaction guarantee, so I thought I would give it a try. I will never look back!

What I love about it:

  • it's convenient - it only takes 30 seconds to warm up and one tank of water does my whole house (and i have a lot of tiles)
  • it's chemical free - this is really important to me given I have a baby who is soon to be crawling, and a toddler who constantly eats things that he has dropped on the floor
  • it comes with two machine washable microfibre pads - these seem to really lift the dirt off
  • it's very light weight
  • it does a great job on my floors - they look very clean
  • because it is so easy, I manage to mop my kitchen floor every couple of days, something I could only dream of previously

What I don't love about it:

  • the floors take a bit longer to dry than with a regular mop, despite the heat
  • you need to wash the microfibre pad after every clean, or i found my floors sometimes ended up a little bit streaky
  • the power cord is not long enough - this was easily remedied with an extension cord
  • the colour - the green is just terrible

A few other bits and pieces:

  • it claims to disinfect, but you need to hold the mop head over the area for 15 seconds - not practical for all of your floors. However, it is useful if you want to disinfect a small area, eg when someone has had an accident on the floor. Also, liquid disinfectants like bleach, pine-o-cleen etc also need to be left on the surface (for 10 minutes), so there is no real disadvantage to this.
  • for dried on food stains, shoot the stain with steam, mop some of the other floor, and then come back to the stain. It will then lift right off.

The Bissell Steam Mop is available at Harvey Norman here in Oz, or check out for international stockists.

photo source

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Quick Recipes - Apricot Chicken

Being so short of time this last week (who knew exclusively pumping could be so time consuming?), my stock of quickly prepared meals have been a lifesaver. Tonight, I made a family fave, Apricot Chicken. Yes, I know it is totally retro, and it is definitely not chic, but it is so yummy! I make it in two ways - in the slowcooker if I want ultra quick prep, or on the stove top if I have a little bit more time for active cooking, and need dinner on the table in half an hour. This is great served with cous cous, or rice.

The ingredients are the same for both.

1.5 kg chicken tenderloins (you can use skinless chicken pieces, just increase the cooking time)
825ml tin of apricot nectar
2 pkts french onion soup mix
1 tin apricot halves, drained

Slow cooker method:

Dredge chicken in flour and place in slowcooker. Mix apricot nectar, soup mix and apricots, and pour over chicken. Cook on low for about 4-5 hours.

Stovetop method:

Dredge chicken in flour and panfry on medium high in small amount of olive oil until lightly brown. Remove from pan and keep warm. Pour in apricot nectar and scrape up the brown bits. Sprinkle over soup mix, and stir well. Simmer until thickened. Add back in chicken pieces together with apricots. Cover, and simmer until cooked, about 15 minutes.

What are your favourite quick and easy meals?

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hubris, and asking help from my readers

Hu*bris- noun: excessive pride or self confidence

As our mothers have always said, pride becomes before a fall, and boy, did I fall hard. After my post about breastfeeding, and talking about how successful I have been this time around, life decided to knock me back down a few pegs. That night (I mean really, that night) feeding started to be a bit painful on one side. By the next morning, the nipple had started to chafe, and by the following evening, it had cracked. It was so painful, I was sobbing as I was feeding Irini. After a quick call to the breastfeeding counsellor at the Australian Breastfeeding Association, I stopped feeding from that side, and expressed milk instead which is still painful, but nowhere near as bad as Irini feeding. However, I have never been able to express as much milk as she needs, so Irini was feeding much more often on the other side. Now, that side has got a nasty graze on it, is even more painful than the cracked nipple, and I can't feed from either side, so I will have to resort to formula as a supplement tonight.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with a lactation consultant, but I am asking all of my readers: if you have been through this, how did you get through it, and do you have any tips for me?

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Perth Baby Expo

I just came back from the Perth Pregnancy, Babies & Children's Expo, and all I can say is, WOW! I don't think that I have ever seen so many pregnant women or prams in one place in all my life. For my readers living in Perth, I highly recommend going. There are some great bargains to be had, and some lovely freebies (usually requiring leaving an email address - I have a hotmail account set up just for these kind of things!).

Print off this voucher for free entry all weekend.

The Nutricia stand had a nice little freebie showbag that contained a jar of baby food (6 months+) which will come in handy for days out once I start Irini on solids in a few months, as well as a little juice box of their Hint of Juice, which Stephen likes.

Bambini Pronto was giving away free Steady Cups if you signed up for their emails. I already have some Steady Cups (a pack of 4 is $10); Stephen loves them because they look like his Daddy's mugs, and I like them because they are hard to tip over.

There were also various formula companies giving away toddler milk samples, which I like to keep in the car in case i am ever caught short somewhere without enough milk.The bargains kept on rolling (are they really bargains if you spend too much money overall!) but I kept myself to buying only everyday items, things I would need over the next couple of months or things that had been on my wishlist and were on sale for a great price.

The Woolworths section had a Heinz and a Johnson's stand, both of which got a great workout. Johnson's had wipes selling at 2 for $5; they are usually $3.99 each so I bought a dozen. Heinz had three different packs for $5 - two Heinz baby organic packs, each containing three jars ($1.50ea) and either a vanilla custard or rice cereal ($3.50ea) as well as a bonus baby spoon - and a Little Kids pack that had a packet each of Little Kids Bikkies, Rice Crispy bars and Muesli Fingers. These were all great value, and are things that I will definitely use, so it was worth it to stock up.

Stephen has a lot of trouble drinking juice boxes, as he is always squeezing them too hard, squirting out his juice. I have been meaning to buy one of these "Dwink" boxes that stop that, but haven't gotten around to it. Bambini Pronto had the on sale for $8, usually $9.95.

Even though Irini is still fully breastfed, it won't be long before she'll start drinking water, and I would prefer if she went straight to a cup instead of a bottle for regular drinks (she has an occasional bottle of expressed milk now). The Dr Brown's Training Cup was the only sippy cup that Stephen was able to drink out of. I also like the more natural sucking action required which makes up for the fact that it is not a true spill proof cup. These were also on sale, so I bought a couple of pink ones for her.

I also got a Bebe Pod plus, reduced from $99 down to $70. Stephen had the original bebe pod and it was great, but I have no idea where it has gone. Irini is already getting frustrated that she can't sit up by herself, and this is a great way to help her with that. I used to sit Stephen in it to read to him if he didn't want to sit on my lap, as well as using it to feed him solids in the early days. The new version even comes with an attachable tray.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In Celebration Of World Breastfeeding Week

I realise that World Breastfeeding Week was last week, but better late then never, I say!! I know everyone pushes breastfeeding as best (the whole "breast is best" message ad nauseum) but the reality is, it is not that simple. With Stephen, I only managed to breastfeed for 5 weeks, despite appointments with lactation consultants, medication and much grief both from my inner voice, but also from well meaning strangers and health professionals that didn't know the whole battle, I mean, story. With Irini, we are nearly at five months, and still going strong. In honour of World Breastfeeding Week, I wanted to share with you all the items that have made my journey with breastfeeding much easier.

My most treasured item at the moment is my Boppy pillow.

To be honest, this pillow is useful for bottle feeding (I used it for months with Stephen) but is a true lifesaver when breastfeeding. It helps raise the baby to a comfortable height, and takes the pressure off your arm. The removable slipcovers mean that it is easy to keep clean, especially if you have a chucky baby like me! The pillow also has so many other great uses, such as assisting with tummy time, helping your bub sit and propping them up, especially after a feed.

My second item is not an item at all, but a breastfeeding position. With all the problems with Stephen, we were so focused on getting my supply up, that using the lactation consultants to help me discover all the comfortable positions was simply not possible. This time, however, with more time available to utilise the LC without having to worry whether my baby was going to starve to death, I learnt how to feed Irini lying down. This make night times such a breeze. I simply bring her into bed, pop her on my breast, and then doze off while she sucks away. When I wake up, she has usually finished and I put her back to bed. If you want to try this, then the Australian Breastfeeding Association in Australia, or the La Leche League in the US have great counsellors and info that can help with this.

My third must have is the Bebe Au Lait, also known as a Hooter Hider!

These chic nursing covers are so much easier than trying to manage a muslin cloth or a blanket when trying to feed discreetly. Even better, the Bebe Au Lait has a rigid piece that keeps the top open, so you can maintain eye contact with your baby when feeding. I also use it to cover the stroller when Irini is trying to sleep. For World Breastfeeding Week, Bebe Au Lait has a promotion running all of August that includes 2 nursing covers and a Bug and Pickle set for $75, saving over $19!

My next recommendation is to invest in some nursing tops.

Glamourmom make some fantastic cami style tops that can be worn all through pregnancy as well as nursing. The tanks mean you can nurse very discreetly without baring your whole stomach or breast to the world. They come in a range of colours, and can be worn as a simple tank on its own, or, as i like to use it, as a layering piece underneath a wrap dress. This is the only way I have found to wear dresses when nursing!

My last recommendation is the LilyPadz nursing pads. These are a breathable, non-absorbent nursing pad that, unlike regular nursing pads, are invisible under clothing. I love these!!

What are your must-have breastfeeding tools? I would love to hear from all of you nursing mums!

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Pick Me Up - Calm Me Down

These two wonderful and fragrant mood mists are great to have on hand when you need a quick pick me up on a sluggish day, or a moment to slow down on a rushed and harried day.

Pick Me Up

1 drop eucalyptus essential oil
2 drops geranium essential oil
3 drops peppermint essential oil

Calm Me Down

2 drops bergamot essential oil
1 drop frankincense essential oil
3 drops lavender essential oil

To make the sprays:
  1. fill a clean, dry mini spray bottle with 4 ounces of distilled water
  2. carefully add the essential oils
  3. tightly close and shake well. shake well before each use
To use:

  • spray the air around you
  • mist your hair and skin
  • spritz on linens to leave a light scent (they won't stain)

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Family support

People often ask me how I manage two babies under two years old. I honestly can say that without the support of my family, I would be living in a messy house with bare cupboards, my hair would be a mess and my whole life would be upside down. I think it is really important to embrace the help of those around you, whether it be from family or friends. When I think back over the last 4 months, I realise that without the help of my family and my husband's family, there is no way I would have been able to cope, let alone try and be a chic mummy.

From the day I came home from the hospital, I wasn't allowed to lift anything heavier than my newborn for 4-6 weeks. my parents virtually moved in, arriving early in the morning, and not leaving until late afternoon/early evening when my husband came home from work. While they were there, they helped look after my toddler, did the laundry, did the dishes, took out the trash, cleaned the house; basically, they did everything around the house that I couldn't do.

Even now, my parents are always there when I need help, even if that means walking Stephen around a shopping centre for a couple of hours while I go to the hairdresser or accompanying me to the child health nurse to keep one of them occupied while the other one is being seen. My MIL has also been fantastic. She takes Stephen (my toddler) two mornings a week; this means I can make it to (and sit through, undisturbed) a Weight Watchers meeting, or clean the house, or do any other errands that are difficult to finish with an active toddler in tow.

My advice to all of you is to take up people on their offers of help. If you have family that are willing and able to help, then utilise their help. Take turns with a friend to look after the kids; she can watch yours for one morning this week, and you can watch hers for a morning next week. This way you both get a break to do those things you just can't seem to manage when looking after small children.

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