Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Exciting Giveaway announcement!

I have been very lucky lately, and won a couple of blog giveaways. I was also pleasantly surprised when one of my giveaway winners, Juliana, wrote me a wonderful "snail mail" thank you letter. I can't begin to tell you how great it felt when out of the blue I received an actual, physical card in the mail, just to say thank you. Pretty much the only snail mail I get nowadays are the few bills that are not sent electronically, or begging letters from various charities. So basically, this was a long winded explanation of why I have decided to host a month long festival of giveaways during September!! The giveaways will be all sorts of things that my blog usually covers, from beauty products to home wares to homeschooling resources, so there will be something for everyone. So stay tuned, keep checking in, don't forget to enter and good luck!!

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Carrot Mango Crushie

This drink is delicious, and full of wonderful vitamins. Because this is using all of the carrot and not just the juice, you are also getting all of the fibre as well. The kids will never know what's in it!

Carrot Mango Crushie

2 large carrots, unpeeled and finley grated
1 large mango, peeled and chopped
2 cups freshly squeezed OJ
1 cup crushed ice

Blend carrots, mango and OJ until combined. Add ice and reblend. Serve immediately.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Shop Bop Buys

Just the other day, I was lucky enough to win a $100 gift voucher to ShopBop from the lovely Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen. I went shopping (online) straight away and an hour later I had updated my spring wardrobe with three fantastic accessories.

The first item I ordered was these Tory Burch Reva Straw Woven Flats. I love the contrast of the black and cream patterned straw and I really needed a new pair of flat shoes (and not sandals) for spring/summer. I definitely plan on channeling Jackie Onassis with these in a pair of crisp white denim capris, a black tee, and my oversized sunnies. Even though people think a patterned shoe can be hard to wear, I can see myself wearing this with a whole lot of different items. As well as the Jackie O outfit, I think these would be perfect with a breezy linen sundress or a denim skirt and coloured tank.

The second piece I ordered was this fab House of Harlow 1960 Sunburst Ring. I loved the graphic contrast of the black leather against the gold, as well as the size of the piece. The ring is 2" (5cm) in diameter, so will make a real statement in a retro 1970's kind of way. I think it will add just the right Sophisticated Anachronism touch to both a casual outfit (such as simple black shirt and jeans) and a more dressy one (like a black jersey maxi dress). It would also be great with my Jackie O outfit above!

The last piece I ordered was this gorgeous Peacock Cocktail ring, also from House of Harlow 1960. Like the Sunburst ring, this ring is a huge 2" (5cm), but the nature of the design makes it feel a bit lighter. Can you tell I like statement jewellery?! I already know that I will be wearing this ring a lot over summer.

I had never shopped at ShopBop before, but I was very impressed and will definitely be shopping again, for accessories at least. I was disappointed that they only stock clothing up to a L/12, since they had some amazing pieces, but I guess this is probably more in the hands of the brands they stock rather than theirs. For shoes and accessories, however, they had a fab range that is obviously not limited by size! When browsing, I found it really hard to limit myself to just these three pieces. If I had unlimited bank account, I would have absolutely gone on a major spending spree!

What I really loved about ShopBop, though, was that they offer FREE 3 day shipping worldwide (minimum $100 spend for non-US customers) and free returns for US customers. This makes it risk free to shop online, which is something I really appreciate, since things do not always look as good in real life as they do on the screen. So a really big thankyou to Allie (and ShopBop) for giving me this prize, and giving me a headstart on my spring/summer shopping!

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review: 4 Ingredients 1, 2 & Fast, Fresh & Healthy

I know I am late jumping onto the 4 Ingredients bandwagon, but I recently saw the new 4 Ingredients book, Fast, Fresh & Healthy, on sale and decided to review the whole series. For those of you who haven't heard of 4 Ingredients, this series of cookbooks and recent TV series is a huge phenomenon. Originally self-published by two working mums from Queensland, the original book went on to become Australia's bestselling book, selling over 2 million copies. Based on the premise of every recipe containing 4 ingredients or less, and using simple measurements, the book appealed to busy cooks of all persuasions, from young mums getting food on the table for healthy kids to students cooking for the first time.

4 Ingredients: over 340 quick, easy & delicious recipes using 4 or less ingredients

This book was very hit and miss for me. I was originally impressed with one of the opening chapters that stressed using healthy real foods as substitutes in their recipes, such as raw milk, rapadura, organic products and butter instead of margarine. However, this pleasant surprise was soon diminished when I saw recipes like their recipe for Asparagus Soup (which consisted boiling together a tin of asparagus tips and a tin of condensed asparagus soup with some water) and Profiteroles (1 pkt White Wings Profiteroles mix, milk, cream, eggs) that even went so far in their instructions to say "five simple steps as per the packet". This to me is not a 4 ingredient healthy recipe!

However, despite a few recipes like this that are over reliant on over processed packaged foods, the remainder of the recipes are quick, easy and look delicious. A little tweaking of flavours, and I have been impressed with the recipes I have tried. I particularly like the snack, sweet and kids section as there are plenty of healthy recipes that are very quick to pull together, since I like making treats and snacks for the kids but don't usually don't want to spend hours doing so.

4 Ingredients 2: over 400 fast, fabulous & flavoursome recipes using 4 or fewer ingredients

This was my favourite book out of the series. While there are still a few condensed soups as a key ingredient, there seemed to be less reliance on packaged/convenience foods, and those that are used tend to be healthier options like tinned fish or rotisserie chicken. Again, the recipes for snacks, sweets and kids were my favourites. I just really think that recipes for mains only involving 4 ingredients tend to be too "simple" for our family's taste. But as a jumping off point, the recipes are a great simple base that can be built on to your family's liking.

4 Ingredients Fast, Fresh & Healthy: over 400 sensational new recipe using 4 ingredients or less for a healthier mind and body

Their last book has been written in conjunction with Deepak Chopra, but other than a very superficial overview of Ayurvedic principles, I really can't see what his input was. The recipes are along the same vein as in the previous two books, although my impression was of a lot of curry recipes. I was glad to see almost no processed/convenience foods used, other than items like mayonnaise and curry paste, which could easily be substituted with homemade. Unfortunately, the recipes in this book just didn't appeal to me or DH that much. There was really nothing in here that I was inspired to cook.

Overall, I think these books are great for those who are really time pressed, or those just starting out with cooking. For cooks with more experience, I think most of the recipes are better used as the starting inspiration for a quick and easy meal to be tweaked rather than followed directly.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summery Mocktails

This post is definitely for those of you in warmer climes, and not for those of us shivering away here in Australia! These mocktails are deliciously refreshing, full of fruit, and great for you and the kids. Why not have a mocktail party with your kids, and get them to help make the drinks, and then decorate them in fancy glasses?

Mock Pina Colada

serves 2

1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup chopped pineapple (fresh or tinned)
1/2 banana, peeled
1/2 tin coconut milk

Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy.

Tropical Treat

serves 2

4 icecubes
1/2 mango, pureed
2 tbs passionfruit pulp
1 tbs grenadine
125 ml tonic water

Combine all ingredients except tonic water in a cocktail shaker and shake well. Pour into 2 chilled glasses and top with tonic water.

Cranberry Cosmo

serves 2

1 cup cranberry juice
1/2 punnet hulled strawberries
1/2 cup watermelon, chopped and frozen
1/2 cup ice cubes

Blend all ingredients together until smooth.

Honeydew & Kiwi Spritzer

serves 2

1 wedge honeydew melon, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 kiwifruit, peeled and chopped
1/2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup ice cubes
375 ml can sparkling apple juice

Blend first 4 ingredients until smooth. Pour into long glasses over ice and top with sparkling apple juice.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Time4Learning Teaser...

Stephen has just started loving to use the computer, so I was super excited when I was given the opportunity to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, as always, so be sure to come back in a month to read about Stephen's and my experience. Time4Learning can be used for homeschooling curriculum, summer skill sharpening, and as I plan to use it, afterschool enrichment. If you are interested in trying it out as well, find out how you can write your own curriculum review.

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Disclaimer: I will be provided with one month access to Time4Learning. All opinions will be entirely my own.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review: NAN Pro Toddler Milk

I was recently sent a tin and some samples of NAN Pro Toddler milk to try out by The Soup. To be honest, I haven't used formula with Irini since she turned one and we switched to cow's milk. Despite all the advertised benefits, I have never really felt that an artificial baby milk was as good as regular old-fashioned cow's milk (especially now that we are using raw milk) so the minute we got the go-ahead from the child health nurse, regular milk it was.

However, since I was sent it for free, I decided to give it a try. The first thing I did was check out the ingredients. It was prominently labeled "no added sucrose", but I wanted to double-check that they weren't being shifty and putting in other forms of added sugar such as glucose syrup etc. Thankfully, there were no other forms of sugars added, nor any other nasties such as soy protein or colours. The only added flavour was natural vanilla.

I started giving it to Irini as a replacement for her usual milk on its own and in smoothies. She seemed to like it, but no more or less than her regular milk. Where I really found it useful was when we were out and about, since it meant I didn't have to bother with cool packs etc.

The NAN tin and ads tout its benefits: beneficial probiotic bacteria Bifidis BL, vitamins and minerals, all of which are great additions and make it a well rounded product. In my opinion, since Irini eats very well, she would be getting all of these from her regular diet, which includes raw milk and homemade raw milk yoghurt. So would I buy this for her? Bottom line, no. I would probably buy it if I was going away on holidays since I have to admit it was very convenient when out and about. If Irini was a picky eater, I would also probably consider it. But for a regular toddler with a relatively good diet, I would think you would be better off putting the $15 a tin towards your toddler's regular food instead.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

DIY Spa Beauty Recipes from Spa Magazine

I'll admit it, I'm a beauty junkie, and if I could spend a few hours a day at my favourite day spa, I would. However, both from a time and money perspective, this is certainly not my reality! So I was totally excited when I found this collection of 17 DIY spa recipes from Spa Magazine.

I gave myself a little spa day yesterday while the kids were with my parents for a few hours. Yes, I could have done the laundry or mopped the floor, but I decided a couple of hours of self-care were just as important. I started with a full body scrub made with coffee, coconut and sugar. It smelt so yummy, definitetly good enough to eat! After rinsing it off, I popped on the Face Mask for Sensitive Skin, minus the royal jelly (since I didn't have any) and then hopped into the spa for a nice long soak. I used their bath tea sachet recipe as a basis, except I cut back the quantities and stuck the mix into a clean stocking sock. Hey, it might not have looked as good as an organza sachet, but it worked!

An hour or so later, I was a different person inside and out!

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Winner: Australian Style Giveaway

I am sorry I am so late posting this! Congratulations to the winner, Juliana (SoigneeGirl) whose second comment was selected by randomnumber.org. I am so disappointed that only 2 people entered :( However, because of that, I have decided to give Rebecca a prize as well! Could you both email me your mailing addresses, since for some reason I can't access either of your profiles. If you haven't contacted me within 5 days, I will rehold the contest. Thanks again to Juliana and Rebecca for entering!

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