Saturday, February 27, 2010

Next Direct Modelling Competition

Next Direct is a British clothing brand that has just launched in the US, and to celebrate they are running a children's modelling competition. If your child is between 4 and 7, and a US resident (which is a shame on both counts since I would have loved to have entered Stephen!) then they could be in the running to win a $100 000 scholarship and a one year contract with Wilhelmina models. Entry is via their Facebook page, and closes on the 15 March.

I am so happy they are launching in the US. I bought clothes from them last time I was in the UK, and found them to be fashionable, of reasonable quality, and a great price (and that was with the terrible exchange rate). Unfortunately, they don't ship to Australia, so I have only been able to look and not touch, but since I have a US mail forwarder, I can now indulge...maybe them launching in the US is not such a good idea after all!

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Disclaimer: I received compensation for this post. However, my opinions are honest and have not been guided by Next Direct

Friday, February 26, 2010

Huevos Rancheros


I love Huevos Rancheros for breakfast, but it also makes a quick, easy and healthy vegetarian dinner. Traditionally, the eggs are fried and served on top of the salsa, but I like to only use one pot, and cook the eggs right in the salsa.

2 brown onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green capsicum (bell pepper), chopped
2 tbs mexican chilli powder (to taste)
1 jar fire roasted peppers, drained & chopped
2 tins diced tomatoes
8 eggs

  • In a large frypan on medium-high heat, saute onion, garlic, capsicum and chilli powder for about 5 minutes, until onion is soft.
  • Add fire-roasted peppers and tomatoes. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes until reduced and thickened.
  • Use a spoon to make some divots it the salsa and crack in the eggs. Cover frypan, and cook until eggs are done to your liking (about 3-5 minutes for soft yolks, 5-7 minutes for hard yolks).
  • Serve with warm tortillas.


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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Going Green in the Kitchen - paperless kitchen

A while ago (OK, ages ago!) I wrote a post on greening your laundry, and promised to follow up with other areas. So today, finally, is the first installment of Going Green in the Kitchen - moving towards a paperless kitchen.

In my opinion, going paperless in the kitchen is one of the most important green steps you can take in your home. People in the US (and I assume the stats would be similar for those of us in other Western countries) use 55 pounds of tissue paper a year (which included paper towels and toilet paper). While I don't think I will ever be ready to give up toilet paper, giving up paper towels has been totally painless.

So, how do you go paperless when as mums we are constantly cleaning up messes? Aren't paper towels more convenient, and more importantly, more hygienic? The answer is a hefty stack of cloth! If you try and do this with 2 or 3 cloths on hand, this is probably not going to work for you. I have about 20 cleaning cloths, and about the same number of tea towels.

For general cleaning of counter tops, I use a damp cleaning cloth (old cloth baby washcloths) with or without some all-purpose spray. For drying our hands, drying dishes or wiping down faces and hands, I use our stash of tea towels. There is always one tea towel hanging on the dishwasher handle for drying dishes. The rest are in the drawer for faces and hands or to use in place of napkins at dinner. For a deep cleaning of the stove or really sticky messes (like spilt juice that I didn't notice) out come the microfibre cloths. I only have 3 of these since they are not used very often. I also have some nicer napkins for the rare times we have guests. I use my cleaning cloths the way I used to use the paper towels. So once I use it to wipe down a bench or table I leave it to dry and then it gets thrown into one of my sorted laundry baskets labelled "kitchen towels". The tea towel for dishes get replaced once a week, while those used for cleaning up the kids get put in the basket at the end of the day. Once a week, I throw all the cloths in together in a single hot load, with some eco-friendly bleach (Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach).

To counter the convenience issue, make using cloth as easy as possible for everyone, I have them all within easy reach. The tea towels are in a bottom drawer so that both of the kids can reach them if they spill their drink or got yoghurt on their faces. The cleaning cloths are in the top drawer of the kitchen bench. The cloth napkins are in the top drawer of the buffet in the dining room make them easy to get for everyone, not just you. Don't get caught up in having a million different types of cloths for different jobs. If you go and look at the range at the grocery store, you will see colour-coded cloths for all the different jobs in the kitchen. I have three simple categories: cleaning cloths, tea towels and microfibre. This keeps it simple, we are not constantly trying to figure what cloth is for what, and saves money.

Before running out and buying cleaning cloths, have a look around and see what you can re-purpose. I had a whole stack of organic cotton baby washcloths, which are now my everyday cleaning cloths. They are super absorbent and don't drop lint so I can use them to clean benches, wipe down the chrome taps or clean the glass splashback. A lot of people don't use tea towels now days, so I inherited a huge stash from my MIL. Fat quarters are the perfect size for tea towels and are a great use for the one or two you may have lying around after a quilting project.

Making the switch to a paperless kitchen has been really easy and you will not only help the planet, you will also save money, big time. I've probably saved about $200 a year, based on using 2 rolls a week. So make the switch today, and stay tuned for more Going Green in the Kitchen tips.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pregnancy Fitness


The other day, I wrote about maternity active wear, so I thought I should follow up with some ideas on pregnancy fitness. With both of my pregnancies I kept reasonably active; however, how I kept active was totally different for the two pregnancies. With my first child, it was easy to go to prenatal exercise classes - I took prenatal aqua aerobics, yoga and pilates. The great thing about these classes were they were specifically aimed at pregnant women and modified accordingly. I also got the chance to bond with other pregnant mums, and as a first time mum, talking to others in the same situation can be a great relief. My favourite class was definitely the aqua aerobics - the water kept me nice and cool, and moving in the water just made me feel less clumsy.

With my second pregnancy, I had a small baby to contend with as well, so heading off to classes on a regular basis was just not a possibility for me. Most of the prenatal classes were during the day time, which ruled them out. Instead, I took some non-prenatal deep water aqua aerobics classes in the evenings instead. Making sure I let the instructor know I was pregnant, these classes were heaven. There is something about exercising in deep water when you are the size of a whale that just felt right! My instructor insisted I wear a heart rate monitor to make sure I wasn't overexerting myself, and he modified some of the exercises that weren't suitable.

While I loved these classes, it wasn't always possible to make them. The class often clashed with feeding time, or I just didn't feel like going out of the house. So this is where home DVDs came to the rescue. I found some excellent ones on Amazon that ranged from Yoga to cardio to strength exercises. My faves:

Prenatal Yoga by Shiva Rea - this DVD was one of my absolute favourites! The DVD features three models (Shiva Rea is one) in the three different trimesters, doing the modifications necessary in each stage. The program took about 45 minutes, which included 30 minutes of standing and seated poses, and 15 minutes of floor poses. It was relaxing, but energising at the same time. I actually carried on using this DVD for a while after I had my baby.



Jennifer Gianni's Fusion Pilates for Pregnancy - This is a yoga/pilates blend and really targeted all my muscles. Again, it has modifications for the different stages of pregnancy, and a relaxation section at the end. The reason I did this and the

yoga DVD was this seemed to be more strengthening for me. I did find Jennifer a bit boring, but overall, the DVD was motivating. The best bit is the focus on the pelvic floor. As anyone who has done Pilates before will know, the pelvic floor muscles are vital. This is even more true during pregnancy, so any exercises that help to work these muscles are great.


Leisa Hart's Fit Mom Pregnancy - This DVD was great when I wanted a cardio type workout, rather than a yoga/pilates style one (although there is a 20 minute yoga styled section). Leisa Hart is cheerful and upbeat as she guides you through dance based moves. Like Shiva Rea's yoga DVD, there are women in the various stages of pregnancy to demonstrate the modifications. The whole DVD is 60 minutes, but I tended to do just the 20 minute salsa and the 10 minute stretch sections.


FitBall Great Expectations - this was my all-time favourite exercise DVD. It utilises a fit ball and light weights and gives you an all-over toning AND cardio workout. Using the ball makes the exercise really easy, even towards the end of your pregnancy, plus, isn't there just something fun about bouncing on a big plastic ball? If you are in Australia, check out your local library since it is made by an Australian physiotherapist - I first found it at our library.




So, don't use your pregnancy as an excuse to sloth out on the couch eating bon-bons - save this for occasional days only! Instead, get up, get moving and have a great, fit, pregnancy.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Maternity Fitness Wear

It's really important to keep up with your fitness while you are pregnant (with your doc's OK, of course) as it is great for your bub-to-be and even better for you. But just because you are pregnant doesn't mean you need to resort to wearing your husband's over sized tees and sweatshirts. There are so many fashionable maternity ranges that are now available at all price points. So get some great gear, and get exercising.


I love the maternity active range from Old Navy as it is very inexpensive, great quality, and fashionable. I selected the outfit above as it would be useful for most gentle forms of exercise such as walking or yoga, or to wear over a swimsuit if you are heading to the pool. I also selected the tracksuit because I think it is stylish enough to cross over from active wear into casual wear. Although it is essentially a fleece tracksuit top and pants, the wrap style of the track suit top elevates it above regular sports wear. I think it would also look great thrown over a pair of dark wash jeans. The wrap top will also fit you perfectly right from early pregnancy, through all of the third trimester, and what some like to call the fourth trimester, when you've had the baby, but still seem to have the baby belly as well!

The Puma shoes are a slip on style, a real boon towards the end of the third trimester! Obviously, you wouldn't use these shoes for running or aerobics (if you are still doing these) but for a good walk, or to and from yoga, these are practical and stylish. These will also be a great addition to your post-maternity, new mummy wardrobe when you need comfy flats to run after that growing bub!

Don't forget the water bottle; it is even more important to stay hydrated when you are exercising while pregnant. I love reusable water bottles, and have quite a few from Sigg and Tupperware, but for $5, you can't beat this cute one from Old Navy.

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Please note, I was not asked, nor paid, to endorse Old Navy. I truly liked this brand and wore it (a lot) when I was pregnant.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Homemade Icy Poles/Popsicles

Well, we may be half way through February, but it doesn't look like the heat is going away anytime soon. My kids love icecream and icypoles, but I like to try and give them a more healthy option than store bought ones.

Chocolate Icy Poles

2 tbs cornflour (cornstarch)
3 cups skim milk
100g (4 oz) milk chocolate, chopped
75g (3oz) dark chocolate,chopped
2 tsp vanilla essence

Put cornflour into a medium saucepan, and then whisk in milk, breaking up any lumps. Over medium heat, cook until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in both chocolates until melted. Remove from heat, add vanilla and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Pour into icy pole moulds and add sticks. Allow to cool completely, and then freeze overnight.

Strawberry Squeeze Icy Poles

3 cups halved strawberries (or thawed frozen strawberries)
3/4 cup apple & blackcurrant juice
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1 ripe banana

In a medium saucepan, simmer strawberries and juices for 5 minutes, then allow to cool. Put in a blender with banana and blend until smooth. Fill moulds and add sticks. Freeze overnight.

Berry Bliss Smoothie Icy Poles

1 1/2 cups frozen blackberries (unthawed)
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries (unthawed)
1 cup lowfat vanilla yoghurt
1 cup apple blackcurrant juice
2 tbs honey
2 tbs lemon juice

Blend half of the blackberries and half of the blueberries (reserve the rest) with the remaining ingredients in a blender until smooth. Stir in reserved berries, pour into moulds and add sticks. Freeze overnight.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hot Mulled Cider

This is just the ticket for you and your kids on a cold, cold day. I can only dream at the moment of a cold, cold day as we sit here on day two of a heat wave, so think of me as you are sipping your way into apple spiced heaven!

Hot Mulled Cider

4 cups apple cider (non-alcoholic) or apple juice
4 cinnamon sticks
2 orange wedges
8 whole cloves
1 star anise
4 cardamom pods, crushed lightly

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Once boiling, remove from heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain into 4 cups, and serve.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Loaf

This cake is very yummy and the kids love it. Even better, it is relatively low in fat for a cake, and is full of pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Loaf

1 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup wholemeal self raising flour
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold mashed pumpkin

  1. Preheat oven to 160C (300F). Grease a 21 x 10cm loaf pan and line base and sides with baking paper.
  2. Sift flours and baking powder into a large bowl, and then stir in sugar and spices.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl until light and creamy. Gradually add oil in a thin stream until smooth and thick.
  4. Fold into flour mixture together with pumpkin. Spoon into prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Cool in pan for five minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dinosaurs Alive! & the WA Museum

Today we took the kids to the WA Museum to see the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit. For those of you who live in Perth, you must take your kids to the Museum. I haven't been for years and the place is unrecognisable. There are great exhibits and a wonderful Discovery Centre geared at younger children. We spent a couple of hours there and had a wonderful time. I highly recommend that everyone with young children take the time to visit. Entrance to the museum is free with a $2 donation suggested. Open every day except Wednesdays and certain public holidays.

The reason we went, though, was not to see the museum (that just turned out to be a great bonus), but to see the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit. Both the kids loved it, although Stephen was a bit scared at times! I would have loved to get photos, but neither child was willing to go close enough to the dinos for a photo op. The exhibit features 7 robotic dinosaurs, including a T-Rex, Stegosaurus, and a Triceratops. They were very realistic (or so I assume!) and there is a lot of information for older children to read. Children under 4 are free, and adults are $17.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Ricotta and Fruit Breakfast Parfait

This was something a bit different for breakfast for me and the kids. Stephen especially liked eating his breakfast out of a wine glass! It is a very balanced breakfast, containing protein, dairy, fruit and carbohydrates, so is great as a school morning breakfast, and since it is best prepped the night before, it makes for a quick and easy morning.

Ricotta and Fruit Breakfast Parfait

2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
300g low fat ricotta (you can use non fat if it not for children)
2 tablespoons icing (confectioners sugar)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup low fat milk
500g assorted berries, crushed (thawed frozen berries are great, otherwise any soft fruit works well)
2 cups granola/muesli

  1. Sprinkle gelatine over 1/4 cup boiling water in a small heat proof jug; stir until completely dissolved.
  2. Using electric beaters, beat ricotta, sugar and zest in a medium bowl until combined. Add milk gradually and beat until thick and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the dissolved gelatine mixture. Chill for 20 minutes until beginning to set.
  4. Spoon into parfait glasses alternately with berries and granola. Refrigerate overnight until set.

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