Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Chocolate Room - Bean Scene #2


Wandering around Westfield Garden City with a sleeping Jimmy wrapped on me, I was loathe to go home and therefore have to unwrap him, put him in the car and wake him up. How fortuitous then, that I came across The Chocolate Room just as I was thinking about food (that happens often, the food thoughts).

Located at shop 1370, within Garden City on the corner of Logan and Kessels Roads in Upper Mount Gravatt, I couldn't go past a place that so blatantly screamed out 'chocolate indulgence'! Especially when I saw that they had a special deal for a coffee and cake at $6.50. Just take my money already!!!

The server was lovely enough to let me change the coffee to a hot chocolate, because if I'd had another coffee, Jimmy would certainly have been up all night as payback. I was even more chuffed when I realised that they have over 20 flavours of hot chocolate drinks!! I'll say it again for emphasis. TWENTY FLAVOURS!!! They even had no problems with me changing to soy milk (an extra $0.50).

Much deliberation saw me choosing a coconut hot chocolate, with a side of apple and raspberry crumble. The things I do for Jimmy!! My hot chocolate came out in one of those nifty little mugs which unfortunately remind me of a bedpan. Not that I'd let that stop me from enjoying this frothy cup of deliciousness! The coconut flavour was mixed into the drink, and there were also some little pieces of desiccated coconut on top. It was delicious and definitely not overwhelmingly chocolate/coconutty at all. Jimmy is too little for marshmallows, and I don't eat them so I definitely appreciated that they were left on the side instead of added into the drink.
The crumble came out presented as a piece of art in itself. There was a big dollop of cream (again, I don't eat it but it's very generous) a swirl of chocolate sauce and a sprinkling of more chocolate, and the crumble, which was more like a little tartlet was heated just enough so that it was warm but not so hot to burn the roof of your mouth off. It was also delicious, which is important as no amount of presentation can make up for bad food in my books!
The staff were lovely, and were obviously dedicated and devoted chocolate lovers themselves. Service was fairly prompt, but even if you have to wait awhile, there is plenty of chocolate deliciousness to appreciate  and tempt you in the display cabinets and on the walls.
With such a delicious range of chocolate and sweets, I didn't look at the savoury menu in detail, but I know that there are some lunch and sandwich options available. Since there are 20 flavours of hot chocolate alone, I'm fairly certain I will be making this one of my regular cafes when I need a chocolate hit!
Do you have a favourite local cafe?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Soft as a baby's bottom

This post is brought to you by Nuffnang and Baby Bumkins.

One thing that has always amazed me about babies (apart from that delicious newborn smell) is just how soft and smooth their skin is. I suppose the term 'smooth as a baby's bottom' didn't come about for nothing! Babies are so new and soft and perfect, that I'm loathe to put anything either in or on them that isn't as natural and gentle as possible.

I was recently given the opportunity to try the Baby Bumkins range of baby wipes, which are sold through IGA Supermarkets nationally at a very affordable price point ($3.99 for a single pack of 80 wipes, or $9.99 for a pack of 3).

About Baby Bumkins

  • Baby Bumkins is committed to being not just another brand on the shelf, but THE brand to care for your precious bub as they grow and develop.
  • Created by professionals with experience, knowledge, scientific expertise and a genuine understanding of a practical product, Baby Bumkins hold themselves to high standards in crafting baby products.
  • Using gentle dermatologically tested ingredients, there is no Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) in any of their products. MIT is a preservative which has been linked to an increase in reported incidents of contact allergy and adverse skin reactions, so it's certainly not something you want near that soft baby bum!
  • They have both a lightly fragranced and a fragrance free wipe option for bubs with sensitive skin.
I'll admit in the past I have been guilty of grabbing whichever wipes were on sale, because you know, babies go through a lot of nappies, and there is always lots of wiping to be done! But then I started to think about it more - much of what is placed on the skin is absorbed into our bloodstreams. I don't put just anything on my skin because of that, so why should it be any different for my children who I use nappy wipes on multiple times a day? The Baby Bumkins wipes bring superior quality at an affordable price. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ingredient list on the wipes wasn't all numbers, alcohol and chemicals - I could clearly understand the ingredients and there was no real nasties included.
The day the wipes arrived, Jimmy was most obliging about helping me test them. He's been sick, and what with all the mucus he'd been swallowing, his nappies were just a bit awful. I was hesitant about using an untested brand but I needn't have been. The Baby Bumkins wipes are lovely. Not too wet, not too dry. Thick enough to protect my fingers and get all the waste, but not so thick that they aren't flexible enough to get into all the little crevices. The handy little snap opening was easy to use one handed, and the wipes didn't get stuck and clumped coming out (a pet peeve of mine!). The lightly fragranced ones were scented just enough, but certainly not overpowering. I couldn't detect any smell (as you'd expect) in the fragrance free pack.
I don't think anyone can honestly say they look forward to nappy changes, but when I need to do it, I like to know that I'm using a quality brand that nurtures, cleans and cares for my baby's delicate bits.

After all, a happy baby is a lovely snuggly one, and that makes for a happy mama too!

Tell me, do you read the ingredient list for the things you use on your skin? Do you have a bub who reacts to the touch or smell of perfumes? (if so, you should totally try out the Fragrance Free version!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How I reduce food wastage

I plan my meals to eliminate food wastage and to use up ingredients that I have at home, in the garden or that I know are cheap and in season. Here is how my meals worked last week.

Saturday, I knew it was going to be a busy day, so I took the arborio rice that I had leftover from my Hello Fresh box, and I defrosted a frozen soup base that I had in the freezer. It's my cheats risotto - I know that my soups are made with good stock and are tasty, so I thin them down with water and use them to make a risotto. This one didn't turn out quite the way I envisaged - I thought I'd taken out a pumpkin soup but it was a red lentil curry! Never mind, an experimental curried risotto resulted... but probably not something I will repeat again. Ha!
Sunday, I tend to make something that I can feed leftovers to Ellie for lunch on Monday as that is a day she's home with me. I had some fresh eggplants and parsley from the garden, so I diced these up, with some onion, tomato and stock, and turned it into a sort of eggplant stew, which I served over rice. Simple meals are taken to next level delicious with the addition of fresh herbs I think!
Monday, I had some of the risotto leftover, so I turned it into arancini balls. Funny story, I thought I'd invented these and was feeling terribly clever with myself until I saw them on a restaurant menu once and realised I'd been pipped at the post! Oh well. These were quick and easy - I took the risotto leftovers, rolled them into balls using wet hands, added a bit of panko crumbs to the outside and then shallow fried them quickly in some olive oil. I've also baked them as an alternative, but Mondays are a bit hectic with two kids at home, so I tend to go for something easy to prepare. I served these alongside some salad greens. No pictures as quite frankly, I was too hungry and forgot!

Tuesday was pasta bake day. We love pasta bake in our house. We always bake big batches as Mr Fork takes leftovers to work for lunch, and I have them at home for lunch. Ellie loves pasta and cheese so it's an easy way to get vegetables into her diet by including them with favourite foods of hers. I took the remains of my eggplant stew, added extra tomatoes for more liquid and some mushrooms that were looking sad in the vegetable crisper, and added this to some pasta before baking. Easy peasy! Since the oven was on, I also put a loaf of garlic bread in as its a special favourite of Ellie's.
Wednesday was designated a hunt and gather day. I've spoken about these before, but basically, it's a day where we all hunt through the cupboards and refrigerator to use up things that are open or cooked. First in, best dressed in terms of portions. It's a bit strategic to have H+G days on Wednesday as well, because Thursday is our bin day so we make sure we minimise anything we would throw out.

Thursday we usually go out to one of our local restaurants for a family takeaway night. We are big fans of our local Vietnamese restaurant - they know us there and always look after us.

Friday is always a quick and easy meal. It's the end of the week so everyone is tired, but also it's well into football season at the moment, so Mr Fork likes to have dinner done and dusted and the kids in bed so that he can watch his game in peace. I don't mind - Fridays, after the kids are down, I tend to take to bed and read a novel or catch up on blogs or social media via the iPad. So, Friday was homemade pizzas. I am starting to get Ellie more involved in the meals we prepare, so she was allowed to top her own individual pizza (bases were just premade wraps as I hadn't had time to make some dough). We put out a selection of ingredients and everyone assembles their own. Here's hers - tomato paste, mushrooms, cheese and some fresh basil from the garden on top.
So that was our week of meals!

On Saturday, Mr Fork and I make a point to sit down and write up the meal plan for the next week, doing the grocery list at the same time while we're checking the fridge/freezer/pantry supplies. If it's not on the list, we don't buy it. This also helps prevent tantrums from Ellie while shopping, as we've already discussed treats and what we are buying at home as a family, so she understands.

Do you meal plan and chain meals together?

Friday, April 24, 2015

This week I am

A bit late with my Thursday post, so here is Three Things Friday! Blog post writing is so heavily influenced by the here and now. The mood that you're in while writing, your surroundings and the moment surrounding you. So this post is probably a reflection of this for me right now.
1. Tired. I started writing this post at 3:45am on Thursday morning, with the intention of posting it later at a decent hour! It's cold - the thermometer in the kitchen shows me that it's about 10C in my house. I'm wearing a tracksuit and socks, but no slippers, as I left those in the bedroom and Jimmy is wrapped against my chest and currently screaming blue murder so I don't want to take him in there and risk waking Mr Fork. Jimmy has a cold (thank you Ellie and daycare drop offs!) and he is so snotty he can't breathe while lying down. He can barely breathe upright and he's most grumpy about it. Mr Fork and I have been taking it in turns to stay up with him. It's not improving anyones mood at all to be honest. In fact, I'd do almost anything for a good night's sleep at the moment. Baby colds are the worst. You can't give them anything, you can't do anything for them, they can't even blow their nose. Poor things.

I shared this picture on Instagram because after being up allllll night, Jimmy fell asleep after the daycare drop off yesterday. Yes, he's on a pillow and that doesn't really meet SIDS guidelines, but I didn't care. Of course, fate made it so I wasn't the least bit sleepy, but I did lie down and have some much needed quiet time. How cute is the teddy on his head?

2. Cold. Winter is coming (like that GOT reference??), but it feels like it's already here. There has been a definite change in the air in the last week - mornings are chilly, and a glance around at fashion shows that scarves, long sleeves, boots and layers are all making a reappearance. Of course, it's all well and good to be cold outside when I'm tucked up in bed with lots of blankets to keep me toasty. It's quite another to be cold when I'm awake all night with the small man.... serenity now!

3. Sick. Hence the lateness of this post. Jimmy's snotty nose has morphed into a cold and with the close proximity he and I have, I was bound to get it. The terrible thing is I can't take anything good to make myself better as lots of things transfer through breastmilk. So I'm dosing myself with plenty of fresh lemon and ginger tea, and some probiotics to boost both our immune systems. I feel rubbish, but a mama rarely gets to indulge that... so on I trudge! The view isn't too bad with all the snuggles we are having for comfort though... look at those tangled lashes and rosy cheeks!
How is your weekend looking?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Keeping pests at bay

Disclaimer: I received samples of Mortein products to use. All opinions are my own.

Ants. They're the bane of my existence I tell you! I don't mean to imply that I have a dirty house, although it certainly isn't at the same sparkling standards I had pre children! However no matter how much I clean, with a toddler, a 5 month old who is just starting solids, and two hounds living with us, there is bound to be food crumbs, sticky substances and unidentifiable objects around which must look pretty attractive to the average ants which might be lurking around the place.

I have a confession to make. I'm terrified of creepy crawlies. I hate having to get close to them to evict or eradicate them as required. That's why I'd much rather stop them from coming into the house (and therefore anywhere near me!) in the first place. Luckily, there are some great products on the market that let you do this, and if you're time poor (and lazy) like me, you can choose a set and forget automatic option like Mortein Naturgard Auto Protect. It comes in both a Eucalyptus and an Odourless option, but I prefer the scent free choice for our house.
Tip: Don't give ants the chance to find a food source. Cover food (check fruit!), clean cooking and eating utensils and make sure your bin is sealed.
You simply set up the device in an appropriate location and the odourless spray (which is made with 98% natural ingredients) is released at regular intervals according to the time selected. Genius! You can also switch it off for the times and days that you don't need it. Now, I feel much safer from infestations of cockroaches, ants, flies, mosquitos and moths. Hurrah!

Now, you may note that of the pests I listed above, spiders (ugh) and a few other common ones aren't mentioned. Let's be honest here. I live in Australia, home of venomous spiders and other scary pests. So in addition to my automatic pest protection, I also like to have a portable solution to use the instant I see a crawling beastie.

A staple in my cupboard is therefore a crawling insect spray, and Mortein do some great ones. The one I have kills cockroaches, spiders, ants, fleas, silverfish and more. It even has a built in attractant made from oranges that lures cockroaches, and keeps killing crawling insects for up to six months!
Tip: Cockroaches feed on rotting garbage and food scraps, so mop up spills, empty rubbish bins regularly and keep an eye on your compost bin!
I like to use it as a preventative measure as well, and spray it around inaccessible places to offer a bit of barrier protection when a pest decides to show up.

Coming into the rainy season, many pests will be trying to find shelter indoors. Be prepared and make sure that you won't be sharing your house with anything you haven't invited in!

For more information about pest control at home, visit http://www.mortein.com.au/

Disclaimer: I received samples of Mortein products to use. All opinions are my own.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Recipe: Healthy vegan Anzac biscuits

It's a rainy afternoon and I have both the toddler and the baby home with me. It's too wet to go out and play, so what better way to distract them than by baking? With Anzac day approaching, I thought I'd have a go at making the traditional Anzac biscuit a bit healthier and these turned out nicely. Just the thing for a yummy afternoon snack!
Historically, Anzac biscuits were sent to soldiers during the first world war by wives concerned about the nutritional value of rations. The biscuits were designed to be as nutritionally dense as possible, and able to survive a journey of two months or so with no refrigeration. The traditional recipe uses no eggs (as poultry farmers were off fighting so eggs were scarce), but it does contain butter. My version uses neither, and I've done away with the faffing about melting ingredients - just one bowl and some mixing here!

The coconut oil makes the biscuits crispy on the outside but they're still soft in the middle - just the way I like them! I know that some people like a flat crispy biscuit, but I'm firmly in the high and soft camp, so that's how I've made them. While desiccated coconut is more traditional, I prefer the texture that the shredded coconut lends to the biscuit.
Healthy vegan Anzac biscuits
printable link

Ingredients:


  • 1 cup wholemeal flour 
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla essense
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp water


Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 150C and line two baking trays with paper
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined
  3. Form into small balls. I got 24 cookies out of this mix. Divide onto the two trays and flatten slightly, leaving room to spread
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown
  5. Transfer to a rack to cool - biscuits will harden slightly as they cool

Do you have favourite Anzac biscuit recipe?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This week looks like

Well Thursday, we meet again. The weeks are rolling on by far too quickly for my liking. The year is more than a quarter over already! I feel like I just gave birth a few days ago (although frankly I remember those newborn days far too well and wouldn't wish to have them back!).
Here's the week in three points:

1. Triumphant! My passionfruit vines, which admittedly were rather neglected for a patch, are now starting to repay the attention I've been paying them. I have a large number of lovely flowers and am also starting to notice some of these are bearing fruit. Woohoo! I'm picturing lush homemade cordial, fantastic baked goods and just plain eating them fresh from the garden!
2. Tired. Literally and mentally. Literally, because Jimmy is having massive sleep regression at the moment. If he's not waking up every two hours at night (he is), he's screaming, wanting to be fed constantly, or in a chatty mood (which isn't a bad thing but whhhhyyyyyyy does he want to do it at 1am?!). He isn't much better during the day, but at least then I have coffee and a wrap so I can wear him (rather exhausting now he's over 8kg) and walk around. Here's a picture of a rather nice muesli I ordered while out rambling because Jimmy was close to sleep and I couldn't pack him up to go home as he'd wake. Various seeds and nuts, with fruit in a coconut yoghurt. Yum

Tired mentally because well, it just seems like everyone wants something from me at the moment, whether it's time, work, decisions, comfort, dinner... and I'm feeling stretched a little thin. Very thin actually, and quite a bit fragile.

3. Content. I realise this doesn't really jive in with my previous point, but there have also been a few moments lately where I just felt like I got it. That I was winning at life. On Monday for example, I bundled up Ellie and Jimmy and we went to our local shopping centre to see Shaun the Sheep. Ellie got to meet the sheep (she was all enthusiastic until he was up close and then she was terrified), and also got to paint a little plaster sheep. Because we were on a roll then I took both kids to a cafe and sat down and had cake. There were no meltdowns. Then I packed everyone into the car and they came home and napped at the same time. I was able to sit down and have a solitary lunch and read a few chapters of a novel. Right then, I felt like I was doing it right. Let me reiterate: two kids, free range at a shopping centre, painting, cake in public, napping simultaneously, solo lunch! So it's not all bad.

How has your week been?

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