Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I went to Sydney and all I got was this AWESOME KITCHEN MACHINE

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

Recently I was asked if I'd like to be one of the first in Australia to try out a new whizz bang kitchen machine. Who me? The one obsessed with kitchen appliances? Sure! Oh, the launch event is in Sydney? Hells yeah, I'll be up for that! An event, a mini holiday, a catch up with friends, and a night in bed without children kicking me in the back? How could I possibly refuse?

And so it came to pass that little ol' me got up at an ungodly hour to catch a flight to the other side of the country. But excited tired and exhausted tired are not one and the same, so I was up and at 'em.

Last Thursday, I, along with 15 other bloggers from all niches all around Australia, walked in to the Sydney Seafood School for our first glimpse of the Tefal Cuisine Companion. I'd Googled it because I am terribly impatient, but I was pumped to see what it could do in front of me. It was so new and shiny that I couldn't resist taking a reflection picture.

Champagne on arrival and through to a lecture theatre with a sleek test kitchen in front of us and screens on the top that showed close ups of the cooking - I felt like I was in the audience of a cooking show. After a demonstration, a taste test (thank you!), and a bit of a question and answer session, it was time to get hands on.

We moved through to the school kitchen... It was like being in Masterchef. Stainless steel appliances, freezer drawers, amazing ingredients, super sharp knives and the best bit, a Tefal Cuisine Companion each to play with.

And play we did. In teams of two we created a main and a dessert - I was with Karen from Yellow Dandy - she made a cheesecake while I made a summer risotto. I'm a hands on learner, so for me it was great to be able to press buttons, insert blades and take the lid on and off for real.
The machine was amazing and it surpassed my (very high) expectations and blew me away. An all-in-one kitchen wonder that lets you prepare meals easily - sometimes with just one touch!

Bloggers clockwise from left: Me, Kristyn from Mummy K, Jules from Zippy Zappy Life, Jess from Essentially Jess, Karen from Yellow Dandy.

We "slaved away over a hot stove" or, more accurately, laughed and joked while we pressed buttons, let the machine do the hard work, and generally pretended we were chefs on a cooking show. When our gourmet meals were cooked, I thought we might go back to the first room to eat them. I was wrong...

We moved to the banquet hall. A flippin' BANQUET HALL! Together we sat down to enjoy our meal in comfort with a glass of wine, friendly chatter, and quite a few Instagrams. We are bloggers, after all.

The awesome table and Jess from Essentially Jess having a taste of cheese cake
I'm very impressed with the machine. I own a competitor product, so of course I can't help but compare, but this has won me over, it's brilliant! I'll be doing a full review post very soon, pointing out my favourite features.

The Tefal Cuisine Companion is available at major electrical stores (think Harvey Norman) for $1699 and comes with scales, a recipe book with one million meal combinations, four blades in a storage container, an apron, a cleaning tool, a silicone spatula and a two year warranty.

If you have any specific questions about the Cuisine Companion or a recipe you'd like me to make in it, please let me know in a comment below as I'll be doing a full twelve month review.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Letter to Bobbin - eighteen months

Hey there, Bobbin,

You are now one and a HALF. We all know the HALF is super important. And all of a sudden you just seem so grown up. A little girl; definitely not a baby any more. I look back at pictures from your rainbow birthday party and it seems so long ago.

We have so many nicknames for you: Bam Bam, Pocket Rocket, The Firey One, Miss Feisty, She Who Must Be Obeyed, Queen Bobbin and more.

Your vocabulary has EXPLODED in the last few weeks. You were always a talker, but now you will repeat every word said to you (or at least attempt to). Well over one hundred words and a few small sentences like "There it is", "I did it", "Bye, Dad", "Where Dolly?", "Tricky go" (as in gone to school, not go away - for go away it's "WAAAAAHAHALKDHAHAHAHAAAAAAARGH"). Actually, you don't shut up, so we have fabulous chats.

You have very eclectic tastes in toys and will kiss your dolls and your monster trucks goodnight as you put them to bed. The LEGO LOVER gene has been passed down to you, and you really enjoy building towers with your Dad and brother. You also enjoy knocking them down, much to Tricky's dismay. You have an obsession with crafty stuff; paint, playdough, gluing and more. If you had to choose one, you'd pick colouring in, though it has to be with textas - you cottoned on pretty quick that I was giving you crayons and pencils because they were easier for me to clean up. Quite a few fabulous art works  have decorated our walls recently... directly on the walls, at Bobbin height. Grrr.

Dressing up is one of your favourite things to do. Clothes, jewelry, hats, and especially shoes. Your favourite shoes are George Pig sneakers. OK, so maybe they're my faves, but you look adorable in them.

Actually, your favourite anything is whatever someone else has. Toys, food, drink bottles, you name it. Typical toddler. Oh, and drink fountains. You're obsessed with the ones at Tricky's school but you're not quite strong enough to press them yourself yet, but you can stretch up on tippy toes to take a drink if I do it for you. What is it about little kids and tip toes? So cute.

You have almost toilet trained yourself. I'd heard girls were easy, but I had no idea! We aren't pushing it, you are still in nappies for now, but you let us know with words and signs most of the time when you need to go. My washing load has dramatically decreased - thank you!

You like to play in your kitchen and create all sorts of fabulous wooden dishes. The only interest in real cooking you have is when I'm finished and there is something for you to eat.

Strawberries are your weakness and I must admit I sometimes bribe you with them. For a while there we thought you might be allergic to them but after doing all sorts of eliminations and what not, we figured out it was cow's milk. No problem though, because you're still on Mama's milk.

You are feisty, confident, outgoing, in your face, enthusiastic and adventurous. This means you're a bit of a handful, but, bloody hell, you're awesome.

Today I'm jumping on a plane for a whirlwind trip to Sydney for work and it will be our first night apart. Last night as we rocked together in your chair and you fed, I stroked your hair and told you I was going to be away. I don't think you minded because your only response was to stick your finger up my nose and giggle before nuzzling in and winding down for sleep.

Have fun terrorizing playing with your Dad and The Trickster while I'm away, I'll be back before you know it.

All my love,

Mama xxx

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rainbow First Birthday Party

As an indication of my terrible memory, my poor time management skills, and the time suck that is parenting, I forgot that I hadn't blogged Bobbin's birthday party. Worst. Blogger. Ever.

It only dawned on me as I was drafting her 18 month letter and went to link to it... but there was nothing there. So here we are, just shy of six months later and I'm finally doing it!

I had chosen the theme of the birthday before she was even born. Yes, I'm that pathetic. I have been obsessed with rainbow colour the last few years and it seemed only right that I force that upon my spawn. Also, rainbow things are easy to come by on a budget. Winning!

I grabbed some plastic rainbow bunting to hang around our patio area and a whole stack of pinwheels that I got for 25c each on clearance from Kmart to rainbow-ify the yard, but other than that, I made the food tables our "decoration focus" as much as I could.

I created seven vertical rainbow garlands using coloured cardboard, a two inch punch, fishing line and a sewing needle. I started with a different colour at the top for each strand to give it a bit of variety, and hung them up on a bamboo stick above our Queen Anne dresser (which we found on the side of the road and painted up). In front of the mirrors it made it look like there many more and that I hadn't stopped at seven, screaming I'M NOT MAKING ANY MORE OF THESE BASTARDS.

I snapped up some crepe paper from a Cost Plus store for $1 per colour and made a rainbow tassel garland to hang on the food tables either side of the dresser. They were so easy to make - scissors, sticky tape and fishing line - and they now hang in our playroom because they were too beautiful to throw away.

I reused the plastic milk bottles from Tricky's LEGO party and using the same two inch punch and coloured cardboard as the vertical rainbows, created name tags for all our guests. I punched a hole in the top, tied them on with string and voila. A packet of large straws, some spotty plates and some washi tape in rainbow colours to theme the water bottles and the drinks table was looking mighty fine.

I made the little food labels using Pic Monkey and GIMP, and styled them on (OK, pretty much copied) a design I saw on Pinterest. I themed some of the food too, because if you're going to theme, THEME EVERYTHING.

My rainbow layered jellies worked out fabulously (PHEW!), but sadly the rainbow cupcakes did not. I whipped the cream in to butter for starters, so then I had to make do with cream in a can and it just wasn't thick enough for the rainbow sour straps to stand up in. They all got eaten though, so they must have tasted OK.

On the main table I also had our guest gift bags (containing assorted crap obtained super cheap hehe), and I continued the theme on to them too. I bought plain white bags and used big paint dotters to cover them in "rainbow confetti". They were labelled using the same two inch punch on coloured cardboard and the circles attached with teeny pegs I had in the cupboard for craft from two Christmases ago. I had a few spare coloured circled so I randomly scattered them across the food tables.

I organized a few activities for the kids as most of them were Tricky's age and I thought they might get bored if eating and jumping on the trampoline were the only activities. Plus I didn't want to be cleaning up rainbow vomit, so I wanted to actively discourage the trampoline after the feast!

First up we had our DIY Fairy Bread Station. I had a loaf of white, buttered bread, a few varieties of sprinkles and a few sandwich/cookie cutters. The kids (and a few adults) loved being able to make their own - fairy bread hearts taste better, ya know? It's safe to say that there were sprinkles EVERYWHERE, but I figured the kids were just trying to theme the ground, yes? It was the first time a friend had tried Fairy Bread - she's Chinese and apparently it's an Australian thing? She was trying to figure out why we'd give our kids coloured sugar on white bread. Because it's AWESOME, Viv, that's why. To that she laughed and said "I eat chicken feet and fish heads, and I think THIS is weird". Ahhh, love her.

Next up we had DIY rainbow suncatchers. I stuck some rainbow templates to the table and had containers full of pre-cut crepe paper that could be laid on flat or scrunched up and stuck on to sheets of clear contact. I printed up some instructions and stuck those to the table too, just in case any of the adults were craft phobic. I forgot to bring out the cotton wool for clouds. Oops.

Finally we had some DIY rainbow necklaces because anything that looks pretty and is edible is fantastic in my books. In one container I had lengths of wool and in another, a pack of no brand "fruit flavoured loops" because I'm cheap. These two cuties didn't seem to mind that they were Faux Loops, and got busy creating necklaces and bracelets.

For the grown ups, well, they just had each other to talk to and food to eat. Because that's entertaining enough. Unless you count the tray of photobooth props I put out; that was pretty fun, too!

The birthday girl had so much fun running around, hugging people, and generally just being adorable with the two teeniest little pigtails there ever was. She also randomly carried around an empty peanut butter jar for half the day and I have no idea why, or even where she got it from.

It was time to cut our centrepiece. I mean the cake that I'm damn proud of. A 3D rainbow pinata cake FTW!

What's a pinata cake? THAT'S a pinata cake:

It's one of those awesome cakes that looks harder than it actually is, which pretty much how I do most things in life. Enough effort to get an "ooooh" from those assembled, but not enough to warrant me being taken away to the funny farm.

As our guests left, the children were handed their gift bag and everyone received a pinwheel (or two or three) from the garden - some are still spinning to this day, in a lame attempt to keep the birds out of our veggie patch.

Thank you so much to everyone who came along to make it such a wonderful afternoon; to gorgeous Viv for taking so many pictures for us; the stunning Sonya for accidentally arriving two hours early, staying to set up and not once mentioning my pre-party leggings and stained top; my SIL Jen who helped set up and brought the balloons from her business Party In A Box; my sister Aunty Penny for stopping me having a meltdown; and to those who gave gifts or donated to Princess Margaret Hospital in lieu of gifts - you helped us raise nearly $300!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The reunion

Estrangement is a strange thing. It's right there, in the middle of the word so you don't miss it, and can't possibly forget.


I am not privvy to all the circumstances that led to the fracturing of my family, though, over the years, I have heard a few stories. Stories that have been, no doubt, warped by the passage of time in a Chinese Whisper that led to us all missing out on precious time together.

He said. She said. This happened. That happened.

None of it involved me. I didn't even know it was happening; kept in the dark, I was the last to find out anything. All I knew is that my Uncle Buck, as we called him, was no longer at any family events and was only spoken of in hushed tones.

When you have a tiny little family like I do, one person missing is really obvious. Especially someone as funny and larger than life as him.

A year ago I wrote how I would send him a birthday message every year, and the lengths that I had gone to to make contact with him. Creating new email addresses to bypass filters, using contact forms for his office, and even straight out emotional blackmail by including beautiful pictures of us from my wedding day. Anything to trigger a response. Some recognition. Proof of life, if you will. I had decided that last year I wouldn't send him another one because it was too heartbreaking to be met with silence yet again.

Then, this year, his birthday fell just a few short weeks after my Aunty Steffi (his sister) had run in to him (chased him down is more appropriate) and was working hard to reconnect, so I wondered if maybe the lines of communication were starting to open? Perhaps I could try again even though I was opening myself up to pain and disappointment. I decided to send him a birthday message.

I sent it after I knew he would have turned his phone off for the night, crossing my fingers he kept the same habit as he did five years prior. I wanted to send it and just forget, rather than sit by my phone all day, jumping every time it bleeped at me and getting disappointed if it wasn't him.

I woke up the next morning and my plan had worked because I had genuinely forgotten that I had sent it.

Then my phone bleeped.

It was him.

The first contact in over five years.

I was shaking and crying as I read his response over and over and over again. I must have read it fifty times. "Darling Glow, you can see me anytime you wish. So make it soon. I'm not getting any younger. Love, Uncle Buck x"

He called me darling! He said love! He put a kiss! 

A few weeks passed and we arranged to meet. I was sick with anticipation. I had googled him countless times and seen his most recent picture, but what would he look like in the flesh? Would he still sound the same? Would he still make me laugh the way only he could?

I was so afraid that I would be unable to speak and just spend the whole time crying. I played out scenarios in my head, acted them out in front of the mirror, and rehearsed in the bath. Nothing sounded right so I gave up and decided to wing it.

We pulled up in our respective cars at the same time, and greeted with a kiss on the cheek like nothing had happened, right there on the side of the road.

I had so many questions for him.

Where have you been? Why didn't you reply to my emails? My texts? Did you read any of them or just delete them straight away? Do you know I'm a mother now? I've had two children since you last saw me. Did you not like me? Did you not want to see me? Were you wanting to but didn't know how? Do you know it's been FIVE FUCKING YEARS?

But I didn't ask any of them.

Not a single one.

Because the answers, in all honesty, just don't matter. 

The only thing that is important is that we are together now, as a family, moving forward.

We chatted, Uncle Buck, Aunty Steffi, Aunty Penny (lotta aunties there - Penny's my sister), and I, for a couple of hours. Sometimes Bobbin joined in, too. She was a fabulous buffer, as all babies are.

I didn't cry while he was there, much to everyone's amazement including my own, probably because I'd rehearsed this scene for the last four and a half years. But I did cry after he'd gone. A mixture of relief, happiness to see him and a lingering sadness from missing out on five years.

Where it goes to next, I don't know. But I hope one day it can be like it was. For now, I just keep going back to this photo we took the other day and smiling.

So good to have you back, Uncle Buck x

Slightly fuzzy photo because we were moving. It's OK, I look photoshopped :)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gro-egg Review and Giveaway

It's been bloody hot in WA, lately. I'm talking record breaking hot. The temperature soared to a brain frying 44.4 degrees a couple of weeks ago. That's Celsius for my USA readers... because y'all are the only ones who would be thinking that was chilly.

The temperature has dipped slightly now, but it is still sweltering and the nights don't bring much relief at all.

I worry about the kids overheating on these hot nights so we leave windows open if there is a breeze, keep fans on and strip them down to thin PJs.

Which then makes me wonder if they will be too cold.

So I'll sneeeeak in and put a thin blanket on each of them before I go to bed.

Then I'll get in bed, put my blanket on, immediately overheat and walk down to the kids rooms to remove their blankets only to find they've kicked them off already, as both my children are averse to bed linen.

When The Gro Company contacted me I was really interested in putting their Gro-eggs in the kids rooms to see how they'd go. They are designed to give "peace of mind at a glance" by glowing blue when it's cold, yellow when it's perfect and red when it's too hot. Hot = Red glow. I can remember that because hot = red Glow, too.

They also tell you the temperature, but I can't actually read in the middle of the night when I'm bleary eyed and forgot to put my glasses on. But hey, it promised "at a glance" and even blind as a bat me can see the colour in the dark.

What colour did they glow here?


Bobbin's room after 10pm
All the damn time.

It even had a little frowny face.

So a Perth summer is perhaps not the best testing environment, but at least now I know I wasn't going overboard and turning their rooms in to ice boxes just because I feel the heat a lot.

Tricky's room after 10:15pm - I covered him for the pic because MODESTY
They are a great little night light, whether you're temperature checking or not, though. Combine a hot room with a GroClock and your kid will think they're in a police car. Bonus!

I have FOUR of these eggcellent (see what I did there?) Gro-eggs to give away, valued at $49.95 each. You can enter as many times as you like by answering this question in the area provided below: What should you never go to bed without?

This is a game of skill; the most creative/funny/weird/memorable/silly/eyerolly answer wins. Entries close 2nd March. For full terms and conditions see here.

Related: don't try to sneak around in your childrens' rooms taking photos, you'll wake them up. Ask me how I know.


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