Thursday, July 30, 2015

Choc chip cookie dough protein balls

This is a S3 post - I received a Cuisine Companion for review purposes
For full details please see my disclosure policy



I've been playing with some recipes for protein balls lately. Bliss Balls. Amaze Balls. Whatever you want to call them, it's just fun to be able to say balls a lot, right? Balls.

Most of my recipe creations invovle me throwing random seeds and nuts in, whizzing it up and hoping for the best. This has resulted in me having some very sad balls. Over processed balls. Powdery balls. Even cardboard tasting balls. When you're including these in your diet to replace delicious Mars bars then cardboard balls just ain't gonna cut it.

I've been working on this one for a while now. I could have googled someone else's recipe but I really wanted to see if I could translate what was in my head (and what my taste buds were calling out for) in to a recipe. I think I've done it. Because these Amaze Balls really are amazeballs.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/3 cup cashews (I use roasted unsalted)
  • 16 dried dates
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon protein powder (vanilla flavour preferably)
  • 1/3 cup choc chips
Method:
  •  Soak your dates in the boiling water for a few minutes
  • While they're soaking, place almonds, cashews, vanilla and protein in the Cuisine Companion and blitz on speed 12 for 10 seconds. If you're using a different food processor, you want it to be small chunks after this stage
  • When your dates are a bit soft, add them to the bowl and blitz again on speed 12 for 10 seconds. Don't discard the water just yet
  • If the mix is not coming together, add a few teaspoons of the date water to help it combine
  • When it's at your desired consistency (don't over process, it will be like nut butter and won't form) take a teaspoon of the mixture out, add two or three choc chips to it and roll it in to a small ball. It's easier if your hands are slightly damp but not wet
  • Repeat until you've done it all, I usually get about 25 from this recipe
  • Refrigerate until set, try not to eat them all at once!
These are a great little hit of sweetness to help with cravings and they're not terrible for you. You can use cacao nibs or sugar free choc chips if you'd like to make them healthier, and if you're using fresh dates, start with half the amount and add more if necessary.

Enjoy your balls!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

100 thoughts everyone has at the Day Spa



I had a relaxing spa treatment when we were on holidays. Well, it would have been relaxing if my freakin' brain had shut up. The only child free hours of the whole holiday, where I could have just blissed out, but no. Stupid brain.

My head sounded more like this:

  1. Oh, man, I am SO looking forward to this.
  2. A bit of "me time" is just what the doctor ordered
  3. A full body scrub, massage and a facial?
  4. Yeah, why not. I've earned this.
  5. Hrm, lets try the rub samples: chocolate, green tea, or citrus?
  6. Stupid question. It's always chocolate.
  7. Salt, cacao and even hazelnuts in it.
  8. It smells divine! Good choice, me!
  9. Would you look at this room.
  10. I wish my bedroom looked like this.
  11. Mood lighting and candles, warm towels, oooohhhh.
  12. Where do I put my clothes?
  13. Should I hide my knickers within my clothes?
  14. Surely they know I wear knickers, why would I hide them?
  15. Yeah, Ima hide them.
  16. Disposable knickers, not terribly attractive.
  17. Not uncomfortable though.
  18. I could get used to these.
  19. Then I'd never have to wash knickers again.
  20. Do I lay on my front or back first?
  21. Go with front so you can lay on your boobs.
  22. I'm ready, let's do this.
  23. Still ready. Hello?
  24. Aha, here she comes.
  25. Ohhhh wow that scrub smells even better than the sample
  26. OMG I SMELL LIKE NUTELLA
  27. I want to lick my shoulder.
  28. I wonder if this stuff is edible?
  29. That feels awesome.
  30. Um, that's my butt. 
  31. She just exfoliated my butt.
  32. Huh, wasn't that bad. 
  33. Ohh yeah, on to the legs.
  34. Roll over. How do I do this without falling off the bed?
  35. OK got it.
  36. Ew, laying on the crunchy salt feels weird.
  37. More legs. Yes.
  38. Are they hairy? Should I have shaved?
  39. Legs done, now what?
  40. OK I no longer have a towel over my top half.
  41. Um, eep.
  42. She's exfoliating my breasts!
  43. SHE'S EXFOLIATING MY BREASTS!
  44. This is bizarre.
  45. I wonder if she think they're nice boobs?
  46. She probably doesn't care, seen one set, seen 'em all.
  47. Shower time.
  48. What cute little soaps.
  49. Which way is hot?
  50. THAT WAY. OUCH.
  51. Much better.
  52. It just looks like dirt coming off me.
  53. Heh, it's all a big scam, she just rubbed me with sand from outside.
  54. Fluffiest. Towel. Ever.
  55. Massage time, let's do this.
  56. Oh yeah.
  57. OH YEAH.
  58. OH DEAR GOD YEAH RIGHT THERE
  59. Holy shit, did I just moan out loud?
  60. The people in the other rooms will think I'm having a happy ending massage!
  61. Keep quiet. No groaning and/or moaning.
  62. Ooooh but it's soooo goooood.
  63. I have never been more relaxed in my life.
  64. Please don't let me be so relaxed I fart.
  65. How can one tiny person create so much pressure?
  66. I want to marry this masseuse. 
  67. Wow.
  68. So good.
  69. So sleepy.
  70. Shit, I'm drooling a bit.
  71. What?
  72. Wait, did I fall asleep?
  73. I hope I didn't snore.
  74. Rollin' over again.
  75. She won't massage my breasts, will she?
  76. Aaand yes. Yes, she will.
  77. This is in no way erotic, it's just weird.
  78. It's not erotic for her is it?
  79. Only if floppy, lactating breasts are her thing, I suppose. 
  80. OK enough with the boobies, lady, let's move on.
  81. Yay, facial time!
  82. Why do the cucumber slices have to be that cold.
  83. I'm paying someone to wash my face.
  84. This stuff smells nice, I wonder what it is?
  85. It's probably expensive.
  86. I hope she doesn't try to sell me some, I ain't buyin'.
  87. That bit between my nose and lips tickles!
  88. Right up in to the hairline, guess I'll have to wash my hair later.
  89. A décolletage massage! More boobs!
  90. Obsessed with breasts.
  91. Ooooh hot towel.
  92. Yesssssssssss.
  93. I feel so hydrated.
  94. My face is so plump it's practically FAT!
  95. Sad panda, it's almost over.
  96. Now, which piece of clothing did I fold my knickers in to?
  97. Super relaxed, I wish I could go have a nap now.
  98. BRIGHT LIGHTS of reception. Eek!
  99. Woah, all that pampering comes at a price.
  100. Can't wait to do it again!
What does your brain do when you go to the Day Spa?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Contraception Conundrum

Image via CC Hey Paul Studios
It seems like all my friends are pregnant right now.

Every time I turn around there is an announcement, baby showers, the purchasing of miniature clothing that costs more than it's full size counterpart, and scrummy newborn pictures. 

And I feel... absolutely nothing.

I can get caught up in the excitement of their pregnancies and I genuinely coo over their beautiful babes, but there is no "ooomph, my ovaries" or "maybe just one more?" questions. 

It's pretty bloody nice, I have to admit.

I feel done. I gave away all our baby stuff, but so many people tell me that it's transient, that the next squished up, hollering, poo machine I see will instantly turn me to mush and I'll be asking for all that plastic crap back.

But here I am. Still feeling nothing. Still enjoying feeling nothing.

I felt done with two even as I was still pregnant with Bobbin. I soaked up the (relatively few) enjoyable parts of the pregnancy as "my last" from the moment I knew there was a little blob of cells there. I'm not sure what it is, I just don't see myself with more than two. Perhaps years of watching 'Outnumbered' on the ABC? 

I've been seriously considering getting sterilised despite feeling like I'm talking about a pet and wondering if I have to wear the cone of shame after surgery whenever I say it. So a tubal ligation is on the cards. Hell, I'd totally consider the whole hysterectomy while I'm there, thankyouverymuch.

I don't like this implant in my arm, ain't no chance I'm having an IUD (so many of those fuckers migrate or cause MAJOR dramas - calm down those who love them, I'm glad they work for you), I barely remember to brush my teeth so taking a tablet every day isn't reliable, and whilst I don't mind condoms I'm petrified they'll break. 

MG and I are in a very enviable position for a lot of people. We've tried for a baby three times and conceived first time, every time. Our first was ectopic and I lost my tube (I should totes get a discount on a tubal ligation, yes? Half price?), then Tricks, then Bobbin. In my mind, a broken condom = instant baby. No really, I have nightmares where we have sex (OK that bit isn't the nightmare part, that sounded bad), then in the dream I wake up the next day ready to give birth.

With so many struggling with fertility, IVF, miscarriages and the like, I feel almost guilty for our "problem", I know people who would swap places with me in a heartbeat, and I've struggled with that. Fertile guilt, if you will. Pathetic, I know, but my Catholic upbringing has enshrined in me a deep seated guilt over everything and anything.

However it doesn't take away the fact that I'm done having kids and in the almost two years since Bobbin was born (wait, what?), that feeling of completeness in our family size hasn't wavered. I'm done. I'm happy. I have two great kids. 

But tubal ligation is just so permanent. I change my mind about what I want for dinner, how can I know I won't change my mind about this? When I umm and ahh about chicken or steak I'm not vowing to never eat the other one ever again. EVER AGAIN. Ah man, I don't know what to do. Help?

Monday, July 6, 2015

A his and hers review of the XC60 R-Design

This is a S3 post. I drove the Volvo for a week.
For full details please see my disclosure policy



Driving a car for the specific purpose of reviewing it made it glaringly obvious that MG and I look for very different features in a vehicle. I'm all about the dashboard and ease of use, while he is all about handling, and whatever it is that is under the hood. Engine thingies?

We took this role very seriously so we could present a his and hers review. And oh look, I am such a blatant stereotype it makes me sick. Also, MG writes like he's about to start working for an auto mag, and I'm all conversation and swearing. Dude makes me look bad.

HIS REVIEW - Map Guy takes the XC60 for a country drive

Volvo is a European marque with a history of making premium cars for over 80 years. The XC60 is the company’s second foray into the SUV market and a 2014 update means this car is dripping with the latest in automotive technologies.

Volvo conjures visions of comfort, safety and practicality and more recently - speed. The model I tested was the XC60 D5 R-Design; which means Volvo finished a perfectly good D5 Luxury model and handed it over to the mad racing scientists at Polestar.

What they do with this car is find an extra 11kW of power and 30Nm of torque over the standard D5 and knock the 0-100km/h time down to 8.1 seconds. The twin turbo 2.4L 5 cylinder diesel isn’t silky smooth like others in the luxury SUV class and it’s raspy note is something Polestar have done a great job of enhancing with an excellent dual exhaust set up. While not winning ¼ mile drags, the roll-on acceleration is certainly addictive and many times I found myself having to rein in a speedy right boot.

Don’t get thinking the extra tuning made this diesel thirsty either, its 70L tank is more than capable of returning over 800km and we averaged 7.8L/100km on a hilly highway drive.

I’ve never heard a Volvo owner complain after a long drive and I can attest that the R-Design seats are the most comfortable I’ve tested in a car. The leather is of a high quality and the dash and interior fit and finish are up with the best. The back seats offer a unique Volvo feature with two-stage temporary booster cushions and a centre armrest that contains cup holders and a fold out storage area. This proved invaluable on a country drive with Tricky arranging his lunch box and colouring materials in the middle for easy access.

When you need to get work done the XC60’s rear bench folds completely flat making it ideal for hauling large items. Made even easier with a high opening button activated tailgate. It’s no slouch with a trailer either; 2000kg tow rating making it an ideal family solution. The full height taillights are a handy feature in the car park with a light button on the key fob illuminating these and the day-time running lights to help me find my way back with a full trolley.

The XC60 R-Design tops the XC60 range and as such features many of Volvo’s state of the art active and passive safety technology. City safety technology prevents the car colliding in low-speed traffic, two rear parking cameras made it so easy to reverse park and bi-xenon headlights use GPS and steering inputs to turn up to 15° to help see around the next bend. Combining this with state-of-the-art ABS, Traction Control and optional extras like lane departure warning and blind-spot information systems you will make no mistake, this is a 5 star safety rated car.

Unfortunately not all R-Design extras impressed. Like the flappy paddles – well placed and beautiful they don’t work particularly well with a diesel engine and I found myself instead using ‘S+’ with the gear leaver rather than manually working through the 6 gears. The tachometer is entirely digital which means you can change the display to suit your tastes; I’d have liked to see more than the 3 options and was amused by an “Eco” mode that showed a speedo reaching 260km/h!

Infotainment systems have quickly become a make or break item for new car buyers. The XC60 R-Design comes equipped standard with a 5 inch LCD screen and is controlled by a dial in the central binnacle. Reaching over to adjust settings became an occasional frustration as this was one of 4 dials arranged around no less than 31 buttons! The voice and steering wheel controls however are very handy options (have a car reading you a shorthand text message is hilarious).

All in all the Volvo XC60 R-Design impressed all who came near it. Stunning looks (it really is handsome with the optional 20 inch wheels), a quick and economical diesel engine and some of the most comfortable surroundings a travelling family could ask for. I would have liked the entertainment system to join the Android Auto or Apple CarPlay revolution, probably a victim of timing rather than any other constraints during the latest update.

This is the type of model a small family should shop for when opting for a single car. Sporty, luxurious, practical; plenty here for everyone to enjoy.


(MG has entered his half of the review in a competition, if you'd like to vote for him click on over here - it's not related to this in any way)

HER REVIEW - Glow does the school run and heads to the shops. Over and over again. When I jumped in to the XC60 and inhaled that new car smell deep in to my lungs, I felt a sensation somewhere between exhilaration - were they really going to let me just drive out of here? Didn't they hear me say "the faster the better" during my hot lap? - and sheer terror. An expensive car that I have to give back in one piece? Bring on the granny driving and jokes about being a "bloody Volvo driver".

I headed out of the Cannington Volvo lot and by the time I was on the highway I'd already turned the wipers on three times attempting to indicate, and fallen in love with the leather seats. With the hug like hold of a racing seat (but with support and padding) and seat warmers cranked, my tooshie was loving it.

Tricks thought the in-built booster in the XC60 was the bomb. It was his first experience without a five point harness and the thought of being a "big boy" was very appealing to him. A fabulous concept which worked great for us, though I'd be concerned that on long journeys a child could fall asleep and lean in to the wrong position affording them little protection in the event of a collision. Though this is a concern with any child in a booster without a five point harness and isn't specific to the Volvo.

I used the car mainly for school pick ups and grocery shopping, and I tell ya, I felt a bit posh! Sleek lines and the throaty rumble of a diesel, the XC60 definitely turned heads. Shopping was a breeze with the automated tailgate and I found myself wanting to show it off "Oh, you have a handbag? Let me open the boot for you" *press* "You want to keep it on your lap? No problem, I'll just close it" *press*. Speaking of the boot, it's pretty massive and passed my gigantic-pram-the-size-of-a-boat test with flying colours. I'm disappointed they didn't keep the cool opening and closing function going on all the way around and have keyless entry - that is a godsend when you've got your hands full with kids and groceries in the middle of a busy car park.

Just look at that boot space
But I'm afraid the XC60 didn't make me fall in love with it the way it won over MG. I found the dashboard to be way too busy with OMG SO MANY BUTTONS. The interface didn't seem very intuitive to me and even using the steering wheel mounted control wheel it felt almost like a clunky afterthought. The voice activation alleviated some of the issues at times, but there was still a lot of looking down to figure things out and twiddling of dials to enter information, effectively taking my eyes off the road for longer than I felt was safe.

I felt it could have been much improved by a touchscreen (which would get rid of about two thirds of those bloody buttons to start with) and a better GPS system. As it stands it would beep if there was an upcoming speed camera but had no information on current speed limits or if you're exceeding them - I'm quite used to my current car telling me "You are over the speed limit" if my speed starts to creep up and it even adjusts for school zones and road works, so there was a high benchmark to meet there and it just didn't stack up like I expected it to.

The XC60 was a joy to drive (S+ mode is brilliant!), and it really is absolutely beautiful to look at, but it fell short for me. As someone who is in and out of the car a lot throughout the day, keyless entry and a more sophisticated console would be needed before I could consider shelling out for it to be my main ride, no matter how pretty it is.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Gratefulness Vs Discharge guilt

I've been having a rough time of late.

There. I said it.

Um, there was supposed to be a massive weight lifted off my shoulders when I admitted it, wasn't there? Yet here I am, struggling to stand upright under the pressure. The pressure of what, I'm not entirely sure. Motherhood? Life? My white, middle class privilege?

I can pinpoint exactly where it all started. It was in Princess Margaret Hospital with Bobbin and Tricky.

Hospital is never a nice place to be, particularly a childrens' hospital. While it makes the kids better, it seems to simultaneously suck the life out of the parents and school them in how to count your blessings.

We were there for two weeks, which in the scheme of things is such a short time. For an otherwise healthy kid, though, two weeks is forever to be requiring oxygen. Every day they'd come and check her and say "maybe tomorrow", and every day we moved further past our 'estimated date of discharge' written on Bobbin's name board.

It was only on the eleventh day that they decided to refer us to the respiratory team after I'd begged for days to let us go home with an oxygen tank, just so we could get out there. The respiratory doctor came in and took charge, she made a plan of action to start antibiotics for atypical pneumonia, a blood test to confirm, and had a back up plan of a chest CT and bronchioscope if the meds didn't start working (there was a thought that Bobbin had perhaps aspirated some food in to her lungs).

 

The improvement was noticeable that afternoon and within 24 hours she was able to come off oxygen for the first time in twelve days and we could go home after two weeks. The original medical team came in and APOLOGIZED for not referring us sooner. I couldn't believe it. But it's my child, so of course she was atypical. She even had an atypical presentation of atypical (mycoplasma) pneumonia. No wonder the med team missed it.

So off we went home, and that should have been that. Apart from a residual cough, everything was fine for Bobbin.

But it didn't stop there for me. I can't stop thinking of the other families; the other kids.


Like the gorgeous boy who made Bobbin light up every time he whizzed in to the room on his bright red wheelchair (which was a lot!), who had been in for six months. He was so fun. They played monster trucks together and when Tricky visited, the boys would go off to the play room together for a while. It was a bit confusing for him when Tricky was admitted, but he just saw it as an opportunity to spend more time with fellow car aficionados. Ejected from a car that was crashed by his drunken dad, he has years of rehab in front of him.

Or the sweet girl who was having hundreds of seizures a day thanks to a degenerative disorder. She had lovely get well soon cards from her class at school, flowers, balloons, you name it, to brighten her corner of the ward and make relearning to walk, talk and eat more bearable.

Or the eleven week old boy who was in the cot next to Bobbin with blunt force trauma to the head; two skull fractures; a massive bleed to the brain. The Child Protection Unit coming and going; the wee babe going for all sorts of tests; the parents contacting their lawyer; turning over furniture looking for listening devices.

You can hear absolutely everything going on in the next cot a metre away, those curtains aren't known for their sound deadening properties, after all. The parents talked loudly on the phone to make sure we all heard them, but at one point they whispered to each other. I could still hear them. He was telling her what to say when questioned, that the bleed was caused by his most recent vaccination, that the (new) skull fractures occurred during his birth.

We stayed in a room with them for three days before we were moved for our safety. Part of me wanted to stay in there, writing down everything they said so someone could stand up for this little guy, and another part of me wanted to run as far away as I could, hands over ears, la la la I'm not listening, this doesn't really happen to innocent babes.

But it does. It did. And though this whole experience has made me hold my munchkins tighter, love on them even more, and be eternally grateful for them and their health, it has also crushed a little part of my soul, too. And I'm having a lot of trouble moving past it. I'm hoping that by writing it down; getting it out of my head, that I'll be able to.

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