Monday, April 27, 2009

Diet Tips

If you are trying to lose weight, it is easy to get into a rut. Sometimes you need to refresh and recharge your attitude and your plan to get those scales moving again. Here are some tips that I read recently in a little booklet from Bakers Delight. Most are common sense, but reminders like these are always helpful and often needed.

  • Stock your handbag - stock your bag with healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts or low-fat energy bars. This will stop you making poor choices when you are hungry.
  • Ask for help - enlist family and friends to help you achieve your goals. If they are on board with you they can help steer you in the right direction, like going for a walk with you instead of going for icecream.
  • Believe in yourself - research has shown that people who are successful on weight-loss plans believe they'll succeed. Ignore negative thoughts and say positive things such as 'I can make a better choice next time'.
  • Be aware of why you eat - is it stress, anxiety or boredom? Combat these emotions in other ways such as exercise, or talking things over with a friend.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

27 ways to be greener in the laundry

  1. Keep your washing machine running efficiently. Run a regular cycle without clothes or detergent, adding in a large bottle of cheap white vinegar into the drum. The vinegar will dissolve limescale as well as soap scum, so your clothes will be cleaner with less detergent.

  2. Use cold water to do your laundry - the majority of the energy used by your washing machine is to heat the water.

  3. Choose ultra concentrated detergents and softeners. These use less packaging, as well as less energy to transport.

  4. If you are not using ultra concentrated products, then buy your washing detergent in bulk - this uses a lot less packaging, and is usually about 30% cheaper.

  5. Use only half as much detergent as recommended. This is all that is necessary for all but the dirtiest loads.

  6. Most commercial laundry detergents are made from petroleum-based products, which deplete a non-renewable resource and create significant pollution during manufacture. Where possible, buy greener alternatives that are plant-based and phosphate-free. Even better, make your own - check out Rhonda's blog Down-to-Earth for some great recipes.

  7. Laundry balls are an even better option - these reusable balls use oxygen to clean your clothes.

  8. Homemade fabric softener is just as effective as commercial products - mix 1 cup each of washing soda, white vinegar and water. Add 4 - 5 drops of essential oil and store in a screw top bottle. Use as per regular fabric softener.

  9. Presoak very dirty or stained items. This means you can still use cold water and less detergent for the main wash.

  10. Try and only run a cycle when the load is full to save energy.

  11. If you have to run a half full load, and your machine doesn't have an automatic water sensor, set it manually to use half the water.

  12. Set your spin cycle to the fastest spin possible (except for delicates). This will remove the most water from your clothes, saving drying time.

  13. Line dry your clothes whenever possible. Not only will you save energy and money, but your clothes will last longer as well.

  14. Invest in a portable, foldable line for drying indoors during winter. I have this one, and love it as it can fit a full load.

  15. If you have to use the dryer, then do several loads at one after another. The heat left over from the first load will help to dry the next loads faster.

  16. Heavy items such as jeans and towels take forever in the dryer. Partially dry in the dryer, and then hang to dry over some chairs or a banister. This gives you the best of both worlds. Toss in a dry towel and you will reduce drying time even more.

  17. Try to avoid using dryer sheets as these are incredibly wasteful. If you do use them, reuse them to clean around the house. The slight static charge and the weave of the sheets are great for grabbing hold of dust.

  18. Invest in some dryer balls like these. They can help dry your load 25% faster and remove the need to use fabric softener or dryer sheets. Search them out on the web - I found mine for just $3.95.

  19. Don't throw away the lint from your dryer. Birds can use it to feather their nests. Place outside near the birdbath or bird feeder.

  20. Don't throw way your odd socks - they make wonderful cleaning gloves. Put your hand inside, and dust away with a non-toxic cleaning spray. Throw in the washing machine and reuse again and again.

  21. When it is time to replace your laundry basket, look for a wood or wicker basket instead of plastic.

  22. Recycle your wire coat hangers. Most drycleaners gladly accept these.

  23. Ask your drycleaner if they can hang your clothes in cloth garment bags that you provide. These are better for your clothes and for you (they allow them to breathe, dispersing the chemicals), and saves on using more plastic bags.

  24. Use a "green" drycleaner. More and more drycleaners are using greener chemicals in the cleaning process.

  25. Best of all, though, is to minimise drycleaning all together. Spot clean where possible, and air out clothes that are not soiled. Better yet, don't buy Dry Clean Only clothing.

  26. When it is time to get a new washing machine, invest in a front loader. These are more expensive, but they use significantly less water, less detergent (usually a quarter to half the amount) and less energy and are gentler on your clothes.

  27. When you get a new front loader, get a dual connection model that takes hot water from your hot water system, rather than heating it having the machine heat it, which is much more energy efficient.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!! plus Giveaway

Happy Earth Day, everyone!! In honour of Earth Day, I am planning a new weekly series of quick and easy ways you can green your life and home. These hints and tips will help you to save the environment for our children, and save money at the same time.

To kick this off, though, I am not giving a hint or tip, but a giveaway instead!! The fantastic prize is a set of wee gallery Art Cards for Baby in their lovely Garden Collection. These beautiful cards are created from bold and whimsical orginal paintings, and are a lovely way of introducing your wee one to the wonders of nature. You can place them around the crib or attach them to a clip-style mobile, as the black and white is perfect for catching little babies' attention.

To enter:

  1. Comment on this post, and let me know what you are doing for Earth Day.

  2. Subscribe via email or RSS and let me know in another comment for an extra entry.

  3. Mention my giveaway and link to this post on your blog; again, leave another comment letting me know and you get another entry
  4. The winner will be drawn randomly on Sunday 26 April.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Homemade Trail Mix

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am trying to limit refined sugar in my children's (and mine!) food. However, it is still nice to let them have a sweet treat occasionally, so i try to minimise the damage where I can by making it myself from relatively healthy ingredients.

This trail mix is very easy to make, keeps well for about a month in an airtight container and has just the right mix of healthy and slightly naughty ingredients.

1 cup dark choc chips (use good quality chocolate)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped dry roasted almonds
4 cups high fibre cereal (I like All-Bran Dual)

Combine all ingredients. About 1/3 cup is one serve.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Homemade Teething Biscuits

I have been trying to limit the amount of refined sugar and processed foods that my kids get, so homemade things are often the way to go. I recently came across a recipe for teething biscuits that have no refined sugar (the sweetness comes from some maple syrup and apple puree) but are very tasty - just make sure to save some for your baby!

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons unsweetened apple puree/applesauce

  • Preheat oven to 150C/300F.
  • Place all ingredients into a medium bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until dough just begins to hold together.
  • Dust counter with flour, then knead dough lightly until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  • Roll out until 1 cm/ 1/3 inch thick.
  • Cut out using medium biscuit cutter, and use a clean soda-bottle cap or a knife to cut out a small hole in the middle of each biscuit (so they look like doughnuts, and are easy to hold).
  • Transfer to a greased baking tray, and bake for 35 minutes until barely brown.
  • Cool completely on tray.
  • Either eat as they are, or leave out overnight to harden slightly more.
  • Store for 2 weeks in an airtight container.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Quick and easy decor update

The wall above our bed has been bare since we moved into our house over a year and a half ago, and it has been really bothering me. Today, I finally got off my backside and made this quick and easy artwork for the spot (it actually looks better in real life).

I took three large blank stretched canvasses, and staple gunned some wall paper remnants that I found from Laura Ashley. I bought these a while ago, planning to use them for the room, as they have a metallic floral print that goes perfectly with the metallic feature wall in our room. I also liked that the floral print was not too over-the-top floral, but nice and modern and sophisticated.

For less than $50, I had a lovely arrangement that makes me smile everytime I walk in the room.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Children's Playroom

As Stephen and Irini have been getting older, Nick and I decided that we really needed to get a playroom for the kids, since the current situation meant their toys were literally in every room of the house. Originally we were going to make the spare room at the back of the house their playroom, but it is quite isolated from the rest of the house, so we felt that the children would probably not want to play in there when they wouldn't be able to see or hear Nick and I.

After brainstorming for a while, we decided to make the front room in the house, which is meant to be the formal lounge, their playroom. This has worked out magnificently. Firstly, Nick and I had been really struggling with what to do with this room. We didn't want to spend a lot of money on furniture for a room that is hardly ever going to be used, but leaving it empty was making our house look unfinished, as well as providing the perfect spot for junk to accumulate. Secondly, this room is right opposite Nick's office, and has a clear line of sight into the kitchen and lounge room, so both kids fell really secure playing in there even if I am not with them.

On one of the walls, I hung a pinboard to display Stephen's arts and crafts. He is very proud of this, and shows anyone who comes into our house his work. I (very) loosely follow a Montessori philosophy at home, and treating children's art as important is a key tenant of this. Around the pinboard, I put up removable stickers from Stuck Up Kids to give the formal room a more "kid" feel. The table and chairs are the Mammut range from Ikea - they are really nice and sturdy, and the table is lovely and big which is perfect for playing as well as for arts and crafts.

The storage system is also from Ikea (the Trofast range). The bins hold assorted toys and blocks, with each bin having one category of toy in there, which is making for easy and independent cleanup. The shelves to one side will hold the puzzles and our Montessori equipment which is currently in the back room. All of the toys and puzzles are accessible by Stephen, so he doesn't need me to get anything. The easel was a lucky score from Toys-R-Us. I bought it for $59, and it is solid wood with storage bins, a white board, a black board and the paper roll on top. I've since been back and they are selling it now for $259!! The little step stool (another Ikea buy!) means that Stephen can easily reach all of the paper.

The rug is the final buy from Ikea - it is actually much brighter in real life (I had to take the pictures at night) with bright primary colours. It is a lovely thick rug, made from pure wool which makes for easy cleanup if anything is spilt on it. The room is finished off with Stephen's Feber Chalet cubby house which is great for imaginative play (there is a little servery window at the back with a picnic bench - we play shop, cafe etc from there) and large foam shapes that Stephen and Irini crawl through and roll over and build into forts etc.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kid's Easter Craft Tutorials

I just made these quick, easy and frugal Easter crafts with Stephen, and he loved them. For once, I was able to drag him away from drawing and playdough!

Easter Basket

1 Paper plate
Assorted items to glue on - i had feathers, foam shapes, scraps of tissue paper and cellophane, and a few other bits for Stephen to pick from
3 - 4 eggs cut out of construction paper
From the base of the paper plate, cut out a semicircle, and then glue this to the remaining semi-circle to create a pocket. Make sure you leave a section of the semicircle near the flat edge unglued so you can slip things into the pocket.
Decorate the plate, and then slip in the Easter eggs into the pocket.
Easter Egg

Cut out an egg shape from a piece of paper (I used a piece of printer paper) and fold in half length wise. Unfold, and paint on dots of paint in different colours. Refold paper in half, and press firmly, smoothing your hands over the page to smear the paints (Stephen loved this bit even more than the painting itself!). Reopen, and leave to dry.

Easter Bunny

1 toilet roll
2 large hearts cut from construction paper
1 medium heart cut from construction paper
1 tiny pom pom
1 cotton wool ball
To make the ears, glue a medium heart to a large heart, and then glue this to the top of the toilet roll. Glue the cotton wool ball to the base for the tail.
Glue the remaining large heart upside down to the opposite top side of the toilet roll for the face. Glue on the tiny pompom for a nose, and then draw in the eyes and whiskers.

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Product Review - Zann Clip

ZannClip recently sent me a range of their hair clips to try out. These clips look unusual, like a spiral spring, and they are quite revolutionary, designed to not leave that dent in your hair like a regular barrette does. Despite their strange appearance, I was very impressed! They are easy to put in (the website even has instructional videos for you) and they stay in all day. My one proviso is that you have to make sure you buy the correct size for your hair and what you want to use it for.

I was sent a large, medium and small clip. I have a fair bit of hair, but it is very, very fine. The large clip just wouldn't stay in when used like a normal barrette to clip my hair back and I spent all day putting it back in. When I switched to the medium sized clip instead, the problem was solved. My hair stayed back all day, and it didn't leave even a bit of a dent in my hair when I finally unclipped it.

The large clip was still useful, though. I like putting my hair up into a quick updo, especially in the heat and humidity that we have been going through. With a quick twist and roll, the clip kept my hair up all day. Here is the video instructions that I followed:

While the Zannclips are not as good looking as some of the fancy barrettes available, they are still attractive, and come in a range of colours (I liked the dark brown, which blended into my hair colour) as well as 24K gold or platinum plate. The colour-coated clips are $10, $11 & $12 (for S, M & L) and the metal plated clips are $21, $22 & $23. Zannclip currently have a spring special running: buy any 3 items and receive 20% off.

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image courtesy of Zannclip

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

$100 Jewellery Gift Voucher Giveaway

I have two $100 gift vouchers to giveaway for Kailis Australian Pearl Jewellery at Ecali Fine Jewellery to someone who lives in Perth, WA. Please leave a comment for an entry, or become a follower (and leave another comment to let me know) for a second entry, or blog about this giveaway (and leave yet another comment) for a third entry.

Please note that you must live in Perth to win, as you must visit the store to buy a piece; only one voucher can be used per item; and the vouncher must be used on pieces with a full recommended retail price over $500.

So, if you were already looking at buying a piece of jewellery, then here is a great opportunity to save some money.

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Great Giveaway at Diary of a Quilter

For those of you who are craft inclined, check out Diary of a Quilter for a spring giveaway. She is giving away three amazing prizes to celebrate the opening of her fabulous Etsy store. Make sure you check out her store for her great quilt kits (with more to come soon) as well as the rest of her blog. She has some wonderful and inspired ideas on there.

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Bottled Water

Did you know that Australian's spend over half a billion dollars on bottled water each year, even though we have some of the safest and purest tap water in the world? Even worse than the amount we are spending on bottled water is the environmental impact the production and disposal of the plastic water bottles has.

Most of us are now aware about our impact on the environment and are trying to do our bit to minimise our carbon footprint. We try and drive less, we turn off lights, and use timers in the shower; however, we happily chug away on our plastic bottles of water. British research has found that drinking one bottle of water has the same environmental impact as driving a car for one kilometre. Nearly 200ml of oil is used in the production, transport and storage of each litre of bottled water. And the majority of the bottles are not recycled, but end up in landfill.

So what can we do? Firstly, stop using bottled water! Invest in reusable bottles to tote around with you. I have a wonderful Sigg bottle that I carry everywhere with me. If you don't like the taste of your tap water, get a water filter or add some natural flavourings to your water. See this post for some great ideas. You can pick from filter jugs that sit in your fridge (the cheapest option) to top of the range units that filter and chill your water for you at the sink. Secondly, for those times where you have purchased bottled water, make sure you recycle the bottle.

Baby's Got Style have a special offer at the moment: Buy 2 Alex & Charli 400ml non spill-reusable alloy bottles (similar to the Sigg bottle, but half the price) and receive a free Alex & Charli insulated bag and carry strap FREE. while stocks last

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Green Juice

One of aims for My Best Year is to really improve my health. I remember reading a while ago that Martha Stewart drinks a green juice every morning for health and vitality, and I was reminded about it again yesterday when I was reading one of Dr Sears' books. This morning, I made it up and I am planning to make this a daily habit.

I used a juicer to juice a bunch of spinach, a stick of celery, one carrot, one apple and one pear. I think mint and ginger would be a great addition, so I will try that over the next few days. If you don't have a juicer, then blend a bunch of spinach with some apple and orange juice.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Product Review: Bebe Delice

Just after Irini was born, I was at a baby expo and purchased the Bebe Delice, having read some great reviews about it. This 5 in 1 system is an appliance that you can use from birth to prepare all of baby's food.

  • it cooks fresh food
  • it blends
  • it warms baby bottles and jars
  • it sterilises baby bottles
  • it defrosts frozen food

I never used it to sterilise bottles, since I had an Avent sterilizer that could take 6 bottles at once, but I used it whenever I wanted to defrost and warm up Irini's frozen expressed milk. It really came into its own, however, when she started on solids. It was so easy to make up fresh meals for her; toss in some chopped fruit, veges or meat, add water to the base and switch on. In 5 - 10 minutes, the food was cooked, and blended, ready to serve, and I had enough to last 3-4 meals. The blender was also useful when I wanted to blend up what the rest of the family was eating to serve Irini. I have found this so useful, that it is permanently on my benchtop!

This retails for about $189; however, the Parents, Baby and Children's expos are coming around Australia over the next few months, and I purchased mine there last year for $150. For more info, check out Rose and Lily.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Monthly Breast Exams

This is your reminder to perform your monthly breast self-exam. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women today. Please take five minutes to do this important check. Early detection could mean the difference bewteen life and death.

There are two important ways to check your breasts. The first is by looking. A mirror should be used to check the breasts for pulls, dents, odd colouring, or lumps. The best positions for inspecting are leaning forward, arms on hips tightly, or standing upright with both arms over your head. When checking the breasts, keep in mind that both breasts should look the same, especially around the nipple.

The second way to check the breasts is by feeling. There are two ways to do this part of the exam and it is best to use a different one each month. One method uses water or oil on the skin to help fingers glide over the skin more easily. The shower can be a good place for this kind of exam. The second way is to use a thin T-shirt or sheet over the breasts. In both of these ways, the little skin lumps and bumps are less noticeable. Feel the breast tissue for any areas that feel different from the rest of the breast. Sometimes a difference will be a ball or lump. Yet other times it will be a thickened band or a deep, hard area that does not move like the rest of the breast.

When feeling the breasts

  • Check the breast in two or three positions, such as lying down, standing up, and even leaning forward.
  • Use the palm surface of the fingers, not the tips, to move the breast.
  • Divide the exam into parts. Examine one part from the outside of the breast into the nipple, and then from the inside to the outer edge. Realize the breast tail goes into the armpit, so the exam needs to include that area.
  • Remember the nipple is important, too. There is less breast tissue right under the nipple, so any lump there is a concern. The value of checking for discharge from the nipple is a debate since regular, hard squeezing of the nipple alone can cause a discharge. The gentle exam done towards your nipple is usually enough to show if there is a discharge. Any blood from the nipple needs to be evaluated by a doctor.

Breast self-exam is not a substitute for mammography or for regular exams by a doctor. Be sure to keep regular appointments as recommended by your doctor.

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