Sunday, January 31, 2010

Using too much laundry detergent?

A while ago, I wrote about ways to be greener in the laundry, and one of my tips was to use 1/2 as much detergent as recommended on the label. So I was really interested when I read this article in the Wall Street Journal about the fact that the majority of Americans are actually using MORE than the recommended dose. According to this article, Method found that 53% of consumers guess, or fill the cap to the top, when pouring their detergent. The article then goes on to say that overdosing on soap will lead to dingier clothes, smelly machines, and even the possibility of damaging the machine. This is especially true with the ultra concentrated detergents, front loaders and high efficiency washers.

The article doesn't even talk about the financial or eco consequences of using too much detergent. In general, a standard dose is half a cap, so if you are filling your cap to the top, you are halving the amount of washes you are getting from the bottle. If you start to measure, and use half the manufacturers' recommended dose, you will be making your bottle last FOUR times as long, a huge financial saving. On top of this, you will be minimising your eco footprint, due to a quarter of the packaging and consumable resources being used compared with using the full cap.

As the article stated, the lines on the caps do not make measuring easy. I like to take a black Sharpie and draw in the line for a regular load to make my life easier. So make the change, and start measuring. Your wallet, your machine and the planet will thank you!

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Yummy Trail Mix

For those of us here in Australia, school is about to go back after the long summer break. For me, that means that Stephen is starting kindy for the first time. I can't believe that day has arrived already! Kindy is only 2 half days a week, but Stephen will need to take lunch and morning tea. I saw this recipe somewhere recently, and adapted to suit the no nuts policy the kindy has, as well as Stephen's taste. I removed the walnuts, and replaced it with sunflower seeds, pepitas and sesame seeds. This mix trail mix is ultra yummy, full of protein and good oils from the nuts, and lots of antioxidants from the popcorn.

Yummy Trail Mix

8 cups freshly air popped popcorn
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
pinch baking soda
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries (Craisins)
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

  1. Toast the seeds in a ungreased skillet on medium high heat for about 5 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160C (300F).
  3. Mix the popcorn and the toasted seeds in a large, well-oiled bowl.
  4. Combine maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 4 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the baking soda, stirring until the mixture is creamy. Pour over the popcorn and stir well.
  6. Spread onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until it is dry to the touch.
  7. Let it cool for about 20 minutes, then stir in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Yoga Day USA

Tomorrow is Yoga Day USA, an initiative created by the Yoga Alliance to promote yoga. Across the US, yoga studios will be offering free (or almost free) classes and workshops so that everyone can expereince the benefits of yoga.

Check out what classes are on offer in your state here.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nautical Looks for both hemispheres

The nautical trend is something that comes back year after year - it is a classic trend that is always there, and for good reason; nautical looks are fresh and clean and great looking.

Summer Nautical
Summer Nautical by chicmummy on

I love the nautical look for summer, and wear variations of it all season long. However, it is very easy to be too cliched with this look, veering into the red, white and blue we typically see. I like to keep the essence of the look, but vary it just enough to keep it looking up-to-date and fresh. Here, I take a black and white striped tank paired with dark denim shorts, and team them with tangerine and black accessories. A black leather tote is not traditionally summer, but I love the toughness it adds to the outfit, together with the black chunky watch. Pops of bright tangerine in the scarf (to be tied around the bag's handle, or your ponytail) and the espadrilles add interest and keep the look light enough for the summer heat.

While most people probably associate the nautical look with summer days, don't discount it for winter. Nautical can be a great go-to style for winter.

Here, I've gone for dark navy as the base, but the look is anything but boring. The dark navy wool jacket and dark denim wide leg jeans create a look that takes its cue from Navy uniforms of the 1940's. The striped breton top is another classic item that pairs perfectly. Black accessories toughen up the look, and a multi striped scarf add some much needed colour while also playing up the stripes of the breton top. This is an easy outfit to wear, and is casual enough, yet polished enough that you could wear it to many different occasions.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Healthier Berry Mousse

I love mousse of any sort, but filled with eggs and cream, it is definitely not something that I should be eating on a regular basis. This mousse is (almost) as good as regular mousse, but much better for you.

Healthier Berry Mousse

300g frozen or fresh berries (any sort or mixture is fine)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 pkt Aeroplane jelly Create A Jelly (85g)
1 tin Light & Creamy low fat evaporated milk (310g), chilled

Heat half the berries (reserve the rest) with 1/2 cup water and the sugar over low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Cool, then blend until smooth with a stick (handheld) blender.

Combine the boiling water and the jelly crystals in a heat proof bowl and stir until dissolved. Add berry mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours until just beginning to set - it will look a bit like egg whites. Beat with electric beaters until thick and pale.

Beat the chilled evaporated milk until thick and fluffy (like whipped cream). Fold lightly into raspberry mixture. Spoon into glasses and refrigerate for at least 3o minutes. Top with reserved berries and a sprig of mint.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

5 Minute Makeup Updates

In general, I run with my five minute makeup; its quick and easy and I can be half asleep and still end up looking polished and presentable. Every now and then, however, it's nice to mix it up a bit, and do something a bit more seasonal and trend orientated.

This winter the smoky eye is a key trend, but if you are in a hurry, trying to recreate the traditional look is just asking for trouble. Instead, go for a charcoal grey with a hint of shimmer for a quick and sophisticated look. The Smoky Eye set from bare escentuals is wonderful, with a matching set of light and dark colours. Sweep the lighter colour from lid to brow bone. Then take the dark charcoal colour and carefully press onto the lid only. Blend carefully, taking it slightly into the crease. Line upper and lower lashline with a dark grey eyeliner like Slate Quickliner from Clinique. Finish with two coats of a thickening and lengthening mascara like Badgal from benefit.

For the last few year, a smoky eye has been paired with a nude lip, but this season is seeing lots of bold red lips matched with the smoky eye. This is great on the red carpet and the runway, but in real life is just too much. Instead, take a plum lipstain like Stila's Pomegranate crush and swipe on lips. Top with some lipbalm for a subtly bold (is that an oxymoron, or what?! you know what I mean!) pout. Use the same lipstain on your cheeks for a long lasting flush. These additions probably add another couple of minutes to my five minute makeup, but will really take your look up a few notches.

For those of us struggling through a heat wave rather than the next ice age, shimmery bronze is the way to go. The eyes are a variation on the smoky eye above. Again, sweep the lightest shade (this time from Stila's Eyeshadow Trio in Bronze Glow) from lid to brow. Next, take the medium shade and press onto lid. For day, this is where I would stop. For night, take the medium shade and line the lower lashline as well, and then take the darkest colour and blend into the crease.

I love Cargo's bronzers since they are shimmery without being glittery. Miami Beach, shown above, is a great colour that suits almost all skin tones. The key to natural looking bronzer is to apply an E and a 3 to your face. Looking into the mirror, apply an E to the left side of your face starting at your forehead, sweeping down your temple and across your cheekbone, and then back out and down your jaw line. Repeat on the right side, but this time your action should be in the shape of a 3.

Lastly, a shimmery lipgloss in a peachy, golden or nude tone will finish off the look. I love Stila Lipglazes, and for this look, I would recommend Kitten (peachy), Banana (golden) or Brown Sugar (nude).

So there you have two seasonal updates that add hardly any time, but a fresh new look!

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sick, sick, sick

We are all in the grip of a nasty gastro bug here, so no post from me today, but I am going to cheat and send you off to Childhood 101 who has a great post Lessons Learnt From Toddlerhood. Christie, are you sure you don't live in my house?! Every lesson applys to us 100%.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Beating colds and flus the natural way: From the Archive

Cold and flu season is in full swing for those of you in the northern hemisphere, so I thought you would appreciate a rerun of this earlier post.

For many of us, this season means resorting to a pharmacy worth of cold and flu meds. But is this really the best way to beat a cold? According to the FDA in the US, a old wives remedy as simple as honey beat over-the-counter cough suppressants for effectiveness.

So what natural measures can you take to beat colds and flu? Just like the old saying goes:

Prevention is better than a cure

Drink lots of water - according to Victor Sierpina MD, author of 1000 cures for 200 ailments, for your respiratory tract cells to function properly and fight off infection, you need plenty of fluid.

  • drink at least 2 L of water a day (approx 8 glasses)
  • use a humidifier if you have the heater on
  • use a saline nasal spray such as FESS daily

Take probiotics - "friendly" bacteria such as acidophilus (often found in yoghurt as well as supplements) are believed to help your immune cells, the majority of which are in your digestive tract.

  • look for yoghurt that is labelled "live cultures"
  • supplements often contain up to 10 times the amount as found in yoghurt
  • probiotics are especially important if you have been taking antibiotics, as these kill good bacteria as well as bad

Eat well - seems like a no-brainer, but it is amazing how many of us forget that a constant supply of fruit, vegetables and protein are essential to your body's defenses working the way they should.

  • your grandmother told you an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and it seems she was right. Apples (as well as red onions) are an especially concentrated source of the antioxidant quercetin, which is believed to be highly protective of immune functions.
  • make sure you get your 2 fruit and 5 veg daily.

Keep you hands in plain sight - your hands are the major transmitter of the cold virus. Keep them clean, and keep them away from your eyes and nose, which are the main entry points for the virus to enter your system

  • this is especially important when using shared equipment like phones and computers. Wash your hands well after touching these, as the cold virus can survive for quite along time on hard surfaces.

What to do when you know it's about to attack

Keep your nose clean - carry on with the saline nasal spray, or use a neti pot to flush out your nose.

  • the saline solution removes germs from your nasal passage
  • it also removes debris that can prevent mucus from draining properly
  • the salt is also a great disinfectant

Supersize your vitamin C - while getting vitamin C from your diet is important, it will only get you about 200mg if you are consistently eating your 2 and 5. Studies have shown that you need 500-1000mg to help protect against infections taking hold

  • take an ester-C supplement, as well as eating lots of fruit and veges
  • red capsicums (peppers) and blueberries are great sources of vitamin C, even better than citrus

Too late, it's already here

Broken record - keep up with the saline nasal spray! Not only does it flush and disinfect, adding back some moisture helps prevent reinfection.

  • use whether you have a stuffy OR a runny nose
  • use up to 5- 15 times a day
  • a pressurised spray like FESS is better at this stage than a neti pot

Honey, honey - stop coughs in their tracks with honey. Coughs are the body's way of clearing out your upper chest, so let it be when you can, but when you need a good night's sleep, then take two teaspoons of honey (one for children over 12 months). It works by soothing the throat, killing the germs, and helping to block the cough reflex in the brain

  • take neat - having it in a hot toddy, while comforting, doesn't work
  • the darker the colour of the honey, the more effective
  • manuka honey from New Zealand has been proven scientifically to be the most effective of all
  • never give honey to babies under 12 months old, due to the risk of botulism

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

The essential white shirt: 3 ways

The white shirt often pops up on the lists of "must-have" wardrobe items, and while I not usually a believer of said lists, I actually agree with this one. A lot of SAHMs don't see the need for one, and it is usually relegated to "the wardrobe I had before I had kids". However, don't discount this wonderful piece! A white shirt really lights up your face, making you look more awake and fresh, and it is such a great neutral building block for some great looks.

Here I have taken a classic white shirt from Old Navy. For a real workhorse that will last, buy the best quality that you can afford, that can be washed and bleached when necessary. Choose a classic fitted style that won't date, and with no extra details (like ruffles, frills, etc) so that it will be the most versatile.

The first outfit is a dressier take on the white shirt outfit, perfect when you want to feel more confident and pulled together at the Parent Teacher Meeting. I love a knit skirt since it so comfy, while still being polished. A dark grey is more versatile than black, in my opinion. Top with a classic trench and a chocolate tote, and you have a classic, but somewhat boring outfit. Add in a chunky necklace in a bright pop of colour and some bootie style shoes, and the outfit is now chic and modern.

The second outfit is perfect for lunch with your girlfriends, or Sunday brunch with the family. The slightly distressed jeans and the black Converse sneakers are a wonderful contrast to the glam, rock chic earrings. I also like that the sneakers make a traditional white shirt and jeans combo more youthful.

The last outfit is perfect for running errands, going shopping, or even the school run. Like the last outfit it is a traditional chinos and white shirt outfit that everyone has seen a thousand times. But by adding in some chic accessories, you instantly go from boring and frumpy to chic and stylish. Simply picking a belt, some cute ballet flats and a large tote in similar, but not matchy matchy, tans is a great way of creating a put-together look. I would roll up the sleeves to show off a large hammered metal cuff.

So there you have the essential white shirt 3 ways. I am sure if you take a good look through your own wardrobe and accessories collection, you can find many, many more!

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