Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finish dishwashing tablets

When I first moved out of home, I took great pride in keeping my house clean. Vacuuming was done regularly, bathrooms were wiped down after every use, spills were cleaned immediately, and dishes were never left to sit around in the kitchen.

Fast forward a few years, add a husband, two hounds, two small children and some very messy chickens, and my standards have relaxed. Some might even say deflated. I do stand firm that I like to wake up to a clean kitchen however. I just can't cope waking up to dirt and clutter first thing in the morning.

Thank goodness for my dishwasher. It certainly gets a bit of a workout these days. Also, it takes FOREVER to empty it as Ellie likes to help (and I'm certainly not going to stop that!) but she can really only cope with one item at a time. Maybe two. Heaven help you if you try to assist though - often I get told to "stop mama, I will do it myself".

Those of you with dishwashers of the machine variety, I'm sure we can agree that not all tablets are created equal. While I used to be a fan of buying whatever was on sale, these days I'm a bit of a fan of Finish Quantum Max tablets. They seem to cope well with whatever I've thrown at them - dried on cereal clumps, leftover coffee dregs, remains of Mr Fork's bacon and egg fry up breakfasts, and, my personal gauntlet, baked on cheese after making a lasagne or a macaroni cheese bake. It's handled all of those with gusto and given me sparkling results.
Wins all around, especially for this time poor mama who loves to cook but hates waking up to a feral kitchen!

Do you have any tips for keeping your kitchen clean?

**Disclaimer: I was given a pack of dishwasher tablets to use, but no compensation was received for this post.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Acknowledging good customer service

If I receive shabby service by a business, I'm not backward about coming forward. I will often, if I have time, raise it at the time, and failing that, will write directly to the business management to let them know what happened. If there is no way to contact them privately, I'm also ok posting about my experience on social media and tagging them appropriately.

Having said that, I find that lots of people don't feel the same about acknowledging when a business does something good for them in a customer service capacity. Which is a shame, as if someone does a good job, I think they need to know about it. I'm certainly praising my children every time they do something remotely wonderful.

With that in mind, I wanted to share my recent experience with FitBit.

Back in 2013, I talked about getting my FitBit Flex. I've pretty much worn it fairly regularly ever since, although I have stopped tracking my sleep as it's just depressing with Jimmy.

I had a bit of trouble finding a picture of myself wearing it actually, but here is a sad example focussing on a large bunch of parsley harvested from the garden...
Last weekend I noticed that it wasn't on my wrist. I could pretty much narrow down when I lost it, as I remember trying on a bracelet at a shopping centre, and it was definitely on then. We then went back to the car, I unwrapped Jimmy and put him in the car seat and then we drove home. It wasn't anywhere in the car or at home, and I couldn't find it using my phone to try and sync, which meant I never got into BlueTooth range of it. As a last resort, I emailed FitBit, knowing the device was low on charge, to ask if there was any way to locate it while there was a tiny bit of juice left.

They responded a few hours later saying, well no, not really. But could I please upload a copy of my receipt and a few other details, and they'd see what they could do about "getting me back on track".
Lo and behold, despite my receipt showing that I purchased the device in July 2013, as a gesture of goodwill the company is going to send me a gratis replacement. In fact, it's already been processed and is on it's way to me.

Completely over and above anything I expected for something well over two years old. Well done FitBit - that's outstanding customer service right there and I'm a very happy stepper!
Have you had a great customer service experience lately?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dining at 5 Boroughs Stones Corner

Stones Corner is going through a bit of a revamp at the moment. Previously full of brand outlets, it had a period of being quiet and a bit rundown and now it's starting to become a delicious foodie hangout. Which makes 5 Boroughs (9/401-405 Logan Road, Stones Corner) a perfect fit - casual, friendly, good value American street style food.
Double beef burger
Dining with the family for Saturday lunch, the fitout won us over with the mix of large and small tables, all undercover and just perfect for sitting and watching the street view.

Diners place their orderat the counter for a selection of burgers, hotdogs, sides and drinks. There are also vegan options. Say what? There is a vegan burger and a vegan hotdog, so this little eatery is perfect for catering to all tastes. Our order included a double beef burger (the meat patties are preservative free and served medium so slightly red in the middle) ($15), a 5B vegan burger ($12.50)  with a housemade quinoa and black bean patty and a childrens beef slider ($10) with a serve of chips and a juice included (not shown).
5B vegan burger with cute quinoa tails
The buns were fresh and soft, the filling tasty and very moreish. We also indulged in a side of ale battered onion rings ($8) and at Mr Fork's insistence, a plate of ginger pepper caramel chicken wings ($15).
The standout for the table was definitely the onion rings, which were crunchy, golden and one vegetable that Mr Fork was certainly happy to eat more of!

5 Buroughs is unpretentious and a hit with diners, so I'm glad we got there early. I'll be back to try the vegan hotdog because I have a thing about supporting restaurants that offer vegan options.

5 Boroughs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What's in my kitchen, October 2015

October sort of snuck up on me this year. I was happily plodding through September, and before I knew it, it was a whole new month! Early September was my birthday, so there were celebrations for that, and then late September was Ellie's birthday, and that turned into a bit of a birthday extravaganza. We had a weekend away to go to see LahLah in concert (my favourite of all the children's performers!), lots of cake, and extended celebrations what with immediate family, extended family, friends and daycare. Then I blinked, and it was a whole new month!

October has brought an obvious change in weather, with lovely hot sunny days. Of course, it means early sunrises which means the children wake earlier, but it's easier to leave the bed when it's light and warm. It's also school holidays and while that doesn't affect me yet as my children are too young for school, it means parks are more crowded, parking is harder to find at shopping centres, and the sounds of children playing are everywhere through the neighbourhood. It's a lovely time of year.

In my kitchen is...

Fresh eggs! Yes, two of our four chickens have finally become productive members of the household. On Ellie's birthday, we got our second ever egg (the first was a few days prior) and since then we have regularly gotten one egg a day, recently increasing to two. They are averaging about 53g, so slightly smaller than regular eggs, but they certainly (I am informed) make up for it in flavour.
In my kitchen is...

Fresh made, rustic looking banana bread. Made with the first egg our chickens laid (a double yolker no less) and the black bananas I rescued from the fruit bowl at work. I loathe bananas and I don't eat egg, but Jimmy and Ellie loved this loaf. Half of it is still in the freezer, sliced up and ready for when I don't have any fresh baked goods to give them.
In my kitchen is...

Moon cakes! Not the traditional type though, instead these ones are handmade for me by my mother-in-law. They are vegan friendly, made on a seaweed (agar) jelly and filled with bean paste. No egg yolks in sight. When I regularly travelled for work there was a lady in Sydney who would make me the most delicious vegan moon cakes, with layers of flaky pastry surrounding a bean or taro paste. I can't find any commercial ones like that locally, so I've missed out for a few years. Not this year though!
In my kitchen is...

Birthday cakes! Ellie had two this year... one was a puppy cake that she'd insisted on ever since she saw them at Bread Top. I'm all for it if I don't have to make it for her! This was the cake we shared with family and friends.
She also insisted on taking a chocolate cake to daycare to share with her class (I think she just wanted to extend the birthday celebrations). A simple mud cake decorated with smarties. It was a bit of a hit with the other 2 and 3 year olds in her class I'm told. A friend of mine told me afterward her son asked her if he could bring a cake "with buttons" for his birthday. Ellie overheard him and apparently corrected him, with much attitude that, "those are not buttons, they are decorations". My three year old with attitude.
In my kitchen is...

Vegan meringues. Finally I jumped on the aquafaba bandwagon and tried some meringues. While they were a success, I'm not sure I'll make them often as I found them super sweet.
In my kitchen is...

Coconut yoghurt, by Nudie. I'm super chuffed with this find. It's quite new and only available in Woolworths at the moment, but it's very affordable (6.99 for 500g) compared to other brands. It's also not too sweet, so I can make savoury and sweet dishes with it. There are currently 3 flavours available (natural, vanilla and blueberry) but hidden in the vanilla and blueberry "natural flavourings" is honey, so only the natural flavour is vegan friendly. Nudie have said they will look into making the others vegan friendly, perhaps switching to rice malt syrup instead. Yay for companies that listen to their consumers!

I am linking this post in with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's monthly In My Kitchen event. Go have a peek through other kitchens around the globe!

What's in your kitchen this month?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Meals wrapped up

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Mission Foods.

I've written before about the lengths I'm prepared to go to in order to make lunch exciting for Ellie. If I'm honest, I just like making sure people around me are eating good food. It's why I use refillable pouches instead of buying ready-made. It's why I'm happy to spend ages boiling and shaping eggs, and cutting shapes into sandwiches.

When it comes to food, my philosophy is everything in moderation, and mostly whole foods. In practice, this is actually pretty easy. If a product has too many ingredients and I don't recognise most of them; I'm probably not going to eat it. If I have a choice between buying a commercial cake, or whipping something up at home, I'm going to (usually) whip up the home version. And I'm going to use good quality, real, whole food ingredients to make it. Sure, I'll switch some things around. Probably use something a bit more nutritional than plain white flour. Switch copious amounts of regular sugar to a smaller amount of rapadura, coconut sugar, maple syrup or the like. If it's for me, I'll switch eggs to something else, and more than likely I'll add a bit of this and a pinch of that as well.

In our house, fat is not a bad word. Fat is a good thing. Avocado and good quality oils are encouraged in our house. Those that eat it get real butter slathered on toast. So, my home made cake will be good. It'll be chock full of yummy real ingredients with minimal processing. Then, I'll just make sure I have people on hand to help eat the delectable creation. Or, I'll freeze half of it for later. Because… no one NEEDS an entire cake… and everything in moderation right?

Real food to me is recognisable. It's a tomato that is red because it was ripened in the sun and is bursting with flavour. It's nuts, and grains and gorgeous colourful fruits and vegetables. Although I make my own bread at home, if I'm out and I get a choice, I'm always going to pick the seedy loaf because I just think, if I can see seeds and grains and goodness because it isn't too processed, then YAY!

So I was delighted when asked to try some of Mission's Red Quinoa and Chia wraps (available in WOW and selected supermarkets for $4.79). Hello! Chia! Quinoa! Wraps! Wraps are a great excuse for everyone to do a make-your-own lunch or dinner. No excuse for not eating what's on your plate when you constructed it all yourself. And something about a wrap just screams EXOTIC over the poor old sliced bread. Especially when you can see the seedy goodness!
I have to be honest. These wraps are amazing. There's no artificial colours or flavours. They had visible seeds all over so I just felt extra good about getting lots of omega-3 fats, calcium, dietary fibre and protein (from the chia version) and plenty of amino acid goodness from the red quinoa. Sure, it's probably a negligible amount but every bit helps and THEY TASTE SO GOOD!
Red quinoa seediness
I had mine stuffed full of avocado, fresh tomato, refried beans, fresh greens picked from the garden, corn kernels and some hummus. For extra decadence, when I took some to work the next day, I also tried toasting it in the sandwich press. So good, and a tasty, healthy lunch to boot.
Ellie and Jimmy didn't eat theirs as a traditional wrap. Jimmy doesn't have the dexterity and Ellie likes to deconstruct everything. But the both loved the meal and ate everything in front of them. That's a win, wrapped in a great big dose of healthy!

I envisage these would also make a great treat option too, served with some banana and Nutella, then cut up into little mini scrolls. I'm sure they'd be devoured in no time.

Are you a sandwich or a wrap person? If you love wraps, I highly recommend Mission. I'd love to hear what your favourite filling is in the comments.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Five things I need every day

They say all you need is love. Well, that's all well and good, but to make my day run smoothly, I need a few extra things in it too. Here are my top 5 daily needs:

1. Coffee. I just have one a day, but it has to be a good one. No instant stuff. I buy beans from my favourite coffee roaster and make my brew with a plunger, then a dash of soy or almond milk. Once I've had my coffee, the day can start properly.

2. Cuddles. I am a tactile person. I love snuggling and cuddling and holding hands and being touched. Except when Jimmy wants to touch me all. the. time. Then I get over it quickly and start to feel touched out. Still... tactile affection is a winner. This picture makes me smile every time I see it. Jimmy crawled up after his feed and thought this was a perfectly acceptable way to fall asleep. I just love his chubby little arm cuddling my head!
3. Touch free time. Much as I love my babies, being constantly needed by someone, constantly touched, constantly on guard in case they get into trouble... it's draining. I definitely need a few minutes of time to myself each day, usually at night before bed. I have quiet time, read a book, catch up on emails and news, and just unwind from the day.

4. Movement. Working in IT, and having a baby to nurse, huge parts of my day are spent sitting down. When I can, I like to get out and move. This could mean I take the kids to the park. Or I find some great tunes and we all dance like mad things around the house. More trivially, I might get off the bus a stop or two early and walk a bit more. I just feel better if I've gotten up and done some exercise for the day.
5. Order. The state of my house, in particular the kitchen, often reflects the state of my mind and moods. I can't feel restful and calm if I'm surrounded by mess and disorder. I don't need things to be spotless, that's an impossibility with small children, but I need things to be tidy and ordered. Before I go to sleep of a night, I make sure I've done a quick whip around the house to make sure toys are put away, discarded clothes are in the laundry, dishes are done and the kitchen, dining and lounge rooms are looking presentable. I feel much better if I wake up and I'm not presented with a huge visual list of things I was too lazy to do the previous day!
So that's what helps me have a good day. Do you have any things you need to make sure your day is the best it can be?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Servicing the car

Yesterday I had to take the car in for it's scheduled service. Luckily for me, they're close by. Unluckily, they didn't have a way to transport me, Ellie and Jimmy home in the courtesy bus since we needed two car seats, nor did they have someone free who could drive us home in our car then take it back with them.

When I say close by, my Fitbit tells me it was 1.5km. Which isn't really that much... when you're an adult and can walk at your own pace. However, when you are also trying to get the toddler who walks at a snail's pace and the baby who doesn't walk yet home too, the task becomes somewhat more difficult. Cue babywearing for the win!

Both my children have hated the stroller and refused to sit placidly in it. They scream blue murder if I try to put them into it, so, I suppose that gives me a good excuse to buy all the wraps! I packed two to take with me, just in case I'd have to carry them both home. Luckily, I didn't though, as both of them together currently weigh about half of what I do! Ellie was happy enough to walk alongside me and, bless her, stop to look at and comment on every little thing of interest we passed on the way home. Here is a sample of all the "beautiful flowers mama!" (weeds) she asked me to photograph for her...
Jimmy was wrapped cozily onto me, and when he got tired of looking around and chewing my sunglasses, dozed off against me. Is there anything sweeter than a snoring baby and a walk in the sun with a toddler who thinks everything is amazing?

Thank you, babywearing. By the way, for those interested, the wrap I'm wearing here is a Didymos Inka, 100% cotton. It's lovely and floppy now and the size 4 is perfect for me to do front carries and if I wrap precisely, a double hammock or ruck on my back.

On the flip side, how awesome would it be if services could be a little flexible and help out mothers a little instead of sticking rigidly to company guidelines!?

Do you babywear? What has it helped you get done lately?


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