Friday 27 February 2015

Review: MU Australia, Library of Flowers field kit

Recently, the people at MU Australia were lovely enough to send me a Library of Flowers Field Kit to try. MU Australia specialise in niche bath, body and home products of classical design and high quality. I chose The Forest - a bath goods collection containing a triple milled soap, body scrub, shower gel, hand creme and a lip nectar.

The Library of Flowers brand designer Margot Elena has done a wonderful job creating scents inspired by nature - opening the package was a lovely smelling experience. Apparently, although I am not cultured enough to pick it (nor am I a beauty blogger), the top note is oak bark, middle note is arctic moss and bottom note is white sage. Take my word for it, it smells nice!

I love the packaging - the bamboo container is quirky, and the product labelling is bright, cheerful and very contemporary.

I especially loved the hand creme. With a toddler and a newborn, I am constantly washing my hands, and so I need something to stop them drying out. This hand creme ranked highly for me, absorbing easily, smelling gorgeous and not being greasy. The coco and shea butters, along with macadamia and avocado oils made me feel conditioned and soothed with lovely soft hands to boot!

I try to avoid heavily scented shower gels and body scrubs as Jimmy doesn't seem to like them on me, but I couldn't resist trying these ones out. The shower gel wasn't drying at all due to the shea butter, bee balm and jojoba oil used. The body scrub was a great texture - medium sized beads were perfectly sized so that I felt I was getting a good scrub, but gentlly as well. Afterwards, I was smooth and clean and not overly perfumed either.

I'm not a huge soap fan (Mr Fork usually gets given all mine) but I dutifully unwrapped the fine perfumed bar and was just a little smitten. Children and dogs mean I wash my hands constantly so I left this one beside the sink for a little washing luxury. The coco butter base meant I was nicely cleaned without being too dry afterward.

I had to fight Ellie for my lip nectar (she loves her gloss!) as I was such a fan of the honeyed peach. It has a lovely aroma and left my lips soft without being greasy or sticky.

The Library of Flowers kits retail for $64.95 from MU Australia.
Disclaimer: Although I was provided with the Library of Flowers kit for free, I was under no obligation to write a post. All opinions are my own.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Three things Thursday

There's been a bit of blog silence this week. It wasn't particularly intentional, just that life got in the way a bit.

1. Jimmy has been a bit ill over the past few days. I suspect it's something that Ellie brought home from daycare (thank you germ fest!). Nothing serious, but as he is still breastfed, I've been taking extra care of myself to help look after him - plenty of water, probiotics, vitamins and rest. I'm hoping to pack maximum benefits into his milk but it's hard for me to get as much rest as I should and look after myself when there is still a toddler to mind and a house to run.

2. Mr Fork and Ellie came home from weekend swimming lessons bearing a surprise bunch of oriental lilies (my favourites!). They were closed when I got them and they're gradually starting to open now... every time I walk into the kitchen they smell amazing.  Hooray for pretty blooms!

3. I know I'm late to the smoothie bandwagon, but how amazing are they? I had a delicious one recently - a vegan, paleo friendly salted caramel smoothie. I know, right?! Ingredients, which are just sort of added to taste were: dates, cashew butter, maple syrup, sea salt, coconut milk and ice. Blend. YUM! If you were into them, you could add half a banana too (I loathe bananas).

Do you have a favourite smoothie recipe? Care to share?

Thursday 19 February 2015

Three things Thursday

What a week! I feel like this one just flew by.

1. Since last Thursday, two of my friends have had babies. While I'm quite sure that Jimmy is my last baby, there is something to be said for meeting a brand new tiny human for the first time, and that special, unique baby smell!

2. I've done quite a bit of eating of sweets over the past week. To start, Mr Fork and Ellie got me some vegan cupcakes for Valentine's Day. Then we went on a family outing for more churros. Finally it was Shrove Tuesday this week so of course Ellie and I had to celebrate with pancakes, and quite frankly I think pancakes are best with maple syrup all over them! Luckily I'm breastfeeding constantly so I don't really have to be too concerned with calories and can just revel in the consuming of them.

3. Today is Chinese New Year. 2015 is the year of the sheep (some call it the year of the goat but I think it's a sheep). We had a family dinner at Mr Fork's parent's house last night, and that kicked off the festivities, which will go for another two weeks. As always, I love this time of year - there is lots of food, family, socialising and traditions that I love for my children to be a part of. Also, did I mention food? Ha!

What has been the high point of your week?

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Recipe: Sourdough pancakes

I'm a bit loathe to really call this one a recipe, since it's just a frugal and economical way of making sure that the bits I discard from my sourdough starter Lorenzo are put to good use.  Because frankly, I'm cheap like that.

Sourdough starter is a wonderful little thing, with a personality all of its own. Sometimes Lorenzo is bubbly and active and other times he sits there like a smelly blob. I'm yet to figure him out completely (in fact I'm yet to make a loaf I'm completely happy with too). What I do know is that he requires regular feeding, and along with that regular feeding comes frequent discarding too. Waste isn't really something I'm ok with, so Ellie and I did some investigation and decided sourdough pancakes sounded amazing.

We've made several batches now and I think adding the starter makes them really delicious - they seem to rise beautifully and make equally good sweet or savoury versions. With today being Shrove Tuesday, I thought it a great opportunity to share. Also, I'll take any excuse to eat pancakes!

Sourdough Pancakes

  • 1 portion sourdough starter (I'll use 'portion' and take all other measurements in reference to that)
  • 1.5 portions milk of your choice (I used almond)
  • 1 portion plain flour, or a little more if you prefer your pancakes thicker (this will also depend on the hydration level of your starter)
  • pinch of salt
  • tablespoon of coconut oil
  1. Stir all the ingredients together in a bowl (ensure the coconut oil is melted first).
  2. Heat a frypan and add a small amount of coconut oil. Pour the batter in and cook on both sides until lovely and golden.

  • I don't add sugar to my pancake batter as Ellie changes her mind constantly about what she wants atop them. Sometimes it's maple syrup and fruit, sometimes vegemite (yes really). So I leave the mixture plain and let the toppings be the star. You could easily make a sweeter batter if that's your preference.
  • I make small pikelet sized pancakes as that means I can do more of them at once, to feed the Fork hoards faster. Larger ones are also delicious.
How do you eat your pancakes?

Friday 13 February 2015

I want choice, not obligation

So it's February, already, and there seems to be a common theme out there in the real world right now. Everyone is talking about their existence in relation to whether they have someone, don't have someone, want someone and so on. It's coming up to that time of year again isn't it? You know what I'm talking about... THAT day.

Valentine's Day. Oh yes, that day is well on the way. Pink and red abounds... in all the stores. In heart form, in bear form, in cards and streamers and balloon form. Pink is cute. Red is cute. Pink and red together is just a little sickening and makes me feel a bit like I've eaten a whole coconut loaf on my own.

Mr Fork and I don't really celebrate Valentine's Day. I get cross at him for spending exorbitant sums on flowers that have been marked up for the occasion. Don't get me wrong... Girls like flowers.  I like flowers. Oriental lilies are my favourite. The pink ones especially. They are not that expensive. Except on Valentine's Day, when you have to practically sell off a kidney to buy them. So I'd rather get flowers on a day where he doesn't feel obliged to buy them for me but instead gets me flowers because he wants to.  Besides, there is something about the weirdly perfect flowers sold on special occasions that is odd. Give me the perfectly imperfect version anytime!

With that in mind, Valentine's Day is still a day to celebrate love, whether that's with a partner, children, fur children, best friends, or even yourself. So I've put together a list of suggestions for celebrations that don't have to cost a fortune:

  • Go on a picnic. Pack a nice spread, load everything in the car and eat outdoors for a change. It might be just me, but I think food tastes nicer outside!
  • Bake cookies or other sweet treats. You don't have to eat them all yourself, you could share them around with coworkers and friends... but who doesn't love a little sugary indulgence every now and then?
  • Take a bath (or a shower if that's your thing). Pamper yourself - wash your hair, exfoliate, cleanse and use all those nice bath products you've been saving for a special occasion.
  • Sit down. That's right. Put your feet up. Do absolutely nothing. Sometimes, it's nice to do nothing alone, but you can be companionable and do nothing with other people too.
  • Have a conversation. A real in depth conversation about an interesting topic. Remove all electronic stimulation. No TV, no phones, no computer or iPads. 
  • Go for a walk. Go outdoors, enjoy the scenery. Take the family, take the hounds and go walking. If you're really lucky you might meander back via a local cafe and grab a coffee and a sweet treat along the way!
How do you celebrate love? Got any Valentine's Day plans?

Thursday 12 February 2015

Three things Thursday

1. I know I said in last week's post that Jimmy was having his 100 day celebration this week. I had grand intentions of taking plenty of pictures of the event but he was passed around like a little parcel between all the people there, so I just lapped it up and spent the time eating uninterrupted instead. I didn't get a single picture, he was so happy and I was so busy. The only times he came back to me were for feeding or nappy changes (typical!).

So here's a picture from tummy time play this week. My chunky little boy has cracked the 7kg mark and looks very cheerful about it (my neck and shoulders, not so much)!

2. There are lots of Jimmy pictures on my blog lately, but poor Ellie has been a bit neglected. Here's a picture to make up for it. She is growing into a little person in her own right... full of two year old personality, tantrums and plenty of attitude. I snapped this at breakfast one morning while she was staring out the cafe window at a passing dog walker. She does love animals.

3. Lately I have been craving fruit. Peaches, nectarines, berries, apples... I can't get enough. As far as cravings go, there are worse ones to have I suppose, and fruit is particularly delicious at the moment... have you been craving anything in particular lately?

Friday 6 February 2015

What's in my kitchen, February 2015

Here we are in February already. It feels like January went by in a flash. That's 1/12 of the year gone already, just like that. Although I imagine all those mothers who are sending children off to school think the month just crawled by. It's all about perspective I suppose!

In my kitchen is...

A simple spinach pie. I finally decided what I was going to do with all the spinach I preserved and it worked out beautifully. No layers of fiddly filo pastry to deal with, and an end result that was delicious, tasty and toddler approved. Also much healthier than the traditional spinach pie version as the cheese and oil is reduced and it's bulked out a little more with some rice. Definitely something I'll be making again!

In my kitchen is...

Hand cut, twice baked potato chips. These were amazing. I made them on a whim one night, and Mr Fork and Ellie have requested them again at least twice since. They take a bit more time than store bought chips to make but the effort is really quite minimal and the result so much tastier.

Simply bake whole potatoes which have been washed and pricked with a fork on a bed of rock salt. Bake 20 minutes then turn over and bake another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool slightly then cut into chips. Season with salt and olive oil and then bake on baking paper for another 20 minutes until golden and crispy. Devour.

In my kitchen is...

Mushroom and pumpkin risotto. Another quick and easy meal, this one was invented because I didn't have any decent stock to hand. I did however have a burning desire to clear space in the freezer, and some frozen pumpkin soup which I had made with decent stock. I simply substituted the pumpkin soup for stock in the recipe, and watered it down to ensure that I had enough, and the flavour wasn't too concentrated and soupy. I threw in some mushrooms and ended up with a delicious and flavoursome risotto that had Ellie asking for seconds!

In my kitchen is...

A collection of Pukka teas, which I am working my way through. Although it says detox on the box, it's a delicious mix of cardamom, aniseed and fennel which I'm not using as a detox but more of a tasty alternative to the copious amounts of water I drink in order to keep up with my nursling's requirements. I find having a cup of tea is a lovely excuse to make some time to sit down, put my feet up and take time out of my day to relax for a few minutes.

In my kitchen is...

Two chill factor squeeze and flip jelly makers. These were given to Ellie as she just loves jelly, however, I find them annoying. You have to store a large part of the device in the freezer and then make the jelly, put it in the device and sit there squeezing the thing for 3-4 minutes. Then you flip it and leave it to sit for another minute or so before it's ready. So, that's still a good 5 minutes of preparation time before it can be consumed... which it practically a lifetime in toddler minutes. Frankly it would be easier to make the jelly as per normal and refrigerate overnight in small portions. I predict these will not actually last long in my kitchen as I don't have space to leave for fad gadgets at all. I just need to sneak them out when Ellie's watchful eye is distracted elsewhere!

PS: Not actually in my kitchen, but kitchen relatedI had one of those moments recently, where I wondered if I've been doing it wrong and no one has told me. Like when I'd only seen the word canapĂ© written before and never heard it spoken so I pronounced it as "ca-nape" instead of "can-a-pay" (that was embarrassing). So... tell me... is it lasagnA or lasagnE?

I am linking this post in with 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 5 February 2015

Three things Thursday

Welcome to the first week of February! Is it just me or is this year just flying by?

1. Is anyone else obsessed with mason jars lately? Lots of places that I frequent seem to serve drinks in them, and I've even seen people using them as lunch containers, using them to store salads and quaffing smoothies from. Me, I can take them or leave them - while they're cute, they aren't the biggest container and they're pretty heavy (although the handle is handy and I do like the occasional novelty of them).

Peach tea in a mason jar
2. Yesterday I took Jimmy and braved my first 'bring your baby' movie with him. Even though he was wrapped nice and snuggly, and they'd catered to babies with the lights left dim and the sound lowered, he fussed throughout most of the show. I guess he is just not a musical appreciating baby. I on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed watching Into the Woods.

3. This Saturday is Jimmy's 100 day celebration. Traditionally in Chinese culture it marks the end  of the first three months of life... in other words, the end of the fourth trimester. In days past, there was a belief that these 100 days were when new mothers and babies were must susceptible to illness so they should stay indoors during this time... in the days of high infant mortality, if baby survived 100 days it was a cause for celebration. (Obviously I have not observed the staying inside tradition!)

It is important to Mr Fork's family to have this celebration, and who am I to turn down a party? I do however refuse to have Jimmy's head shaved for the occasion as tradition dictates! I don't care how thick and luscious it is supposed to make his locks! Stay tuned for delicious food pictures though!

How is your week going?

Monday 2 February 2015

Taking time out

I took part in the Sustainababy "Take Time Out" eco challenge during January to be mindful about taking time out for myself. Before children, I used to think that I was much too selfish to be a mother. Give up travel? Work? Buying expensive things - shoes, clothes, gadgets - on a whim? Please! However, even before I felt those first Ellie kicks in my tummy I was dropped right down my priority list. When Jimmy was born, I dropped down again. There is nothing that I wouldn't do for my babies.

I gladly switched to part time work (no work right now as I'm still on maternity leave, ha!) to care for my children and family. I use cloth nappies with all the washing, folding and sorting that involves. I meal plan, cook, clean, and also manage to blog, all the while making sure my children are stimulated and adored. To make up for my reduced work hours and therefore income, I'm frugal and eco friendly where possible too.

Unfortunately, all that doing of things for them leaves precious little time for me. So this challenge was one that I gladly got on board with, eager to carve out some small pockets of time just to prioritise and focus on me and my 'needs'. I say needs in inverted commas because the older I get, the less I find I need, and really, I just have a lot of wants.

Carving out time alone though, I found especially hard to do, as Jimmy still feeds erratically after his tie revisions, and flat out refuses to take a bottle of my milk, so I had to plan quite precisely.

Here are some of the small things I did this month to take some time out and recharge my batteries.
  • When the children went to bed and the house was clean enough for me not to go crazy in the morning, I went to bed too and got some extra sleep in before the overnight feeds. Sure, I felt like a nana going to bed at 7pm, but I woke up a new woman and coped much better with the night time wake ups.
  • I consciously made an effort to make some tea during the day and actually take the time to sit down and drink it while it was hot! For extra points, I made it in a dainty little cup to make it extra special. Sometimes I even ate it with a lactation cookie on the side. I'm a wild one!
  • A few times, after a long night up feeding the nursing, I just couldn't face the day and all I was 'supposed' to get done. So I popped him into a wrap and promptly took us out for a piece of pecan pie (or something). Suddenly, all was right in the world again. Example of deliciousness consumed below.
  • I went to brunch with my mothers group. This was an exercise in military precision to line up with Jimmy's feeds and I actually had him on the boob right up until I left the house so he would be cheerful while I was out. It was worth it, a ladies brunch was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries. 
  • Baked bread. Sure, this benefits everyone, but there is nothing like taking a bit of time to feed the starter and take a bit of frustration out when working the dough... with the added benefit of delicious fresh bread smell wafting around the house!
  • I gave myself permission to take a 'day off'. So I didn't hustle to do laundry or clean or cook. I just stayed in bed with Jimmy and indulged in chatting to him and admiring those lovely chunky limbs of his!
How do you take time out for yourself to recharge your batteries?


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