Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Recipe: Healthy Gingerbread



I love gingerbread - the moist, spicy, dense cake - it just says Christmas to me. I saw an interesting recipe the other day in Prevention magazine that has reduced the fat, and incorporated pumpkin into the mix as well, making it an easy way to sneak in some veg. While this is a healthier version of gingerbread, it still is a treat - so save it for the holidays.


1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c chopped crystallised ginger
2 eggs
1 egg white
1/2 c canola oil
1/2 c molasses (I used golden syrup instead)
1/3 c packed brown sugar
1 c canned puree pumpkin (I used fresh cooked pumpkin)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Coat 9" x 9" baking pan with cooking spray.

  2. Combine flour, spices, baking powder, nutmeg, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in crystallised ginger.

  3. Whisk eggs, egg white, oil, molasses and sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in pumpkin. Fold into dry ingredients until just combined. Pour into pan.

  4. Bake 35-40 minutes until gingerbread starts to pull away from pan and skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on rack.

serves 8 - 353 calories / 16g fat per serve



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Monday, December 15, 2008

School Holiday Reading

The long summer holidays are coming for those of us here in Australia and many parents are often at a loss for ideas to keep the kids occupied. Also, for those of you with children who are in the early stages of learning to read at school or preschool may be worried about the effect the long break may have on your child's reading. One solution is to check out your local library.

Many libraries run programs in the summer holidays for preschool and junior primary students that are based around making reading fun, and often include craft activities. The libraries in my local council, City of Stirling, are running two different programs in December and January at each of their libraries. So take your kids down for some good old fashioned educational fun, and enjoy an hour or so to read a book (or a magazine) for yourself in some undisturbed peace and quiet!!


Christmas Crackers:

Special Christmas time storytelling with Storyteller Don Smith - suitable for preschool and junior primary aged children

Tuesday 16th December:
10.30 - 11.15am at Dianella Library

Wednesday 17th December:
10.00 - 10.45am at Mirrabooka Library
1.30 - 2.15pm at Osborne Library

Thursday 18th December:
10.45 - 11.30am at Scarborough Library
1.30 - 2.15pm at Karrinyup Library

Friday 19th December:
10.30 - 11.15am at Inglewood Library


Kite Making

A talk and a short workshop on kite making techniques with Mike Alvarez - includes creating your own kite. Children must be over 6 years old, and bookings are required.

Monday 5th January:
1.30 - 2.30pm at Dianella Library

Wednesday 7th January:
10.30 - 11.30am at Karrinyup Library

Friday 9th January:
10.00am - 11.00am at Mirrabooka Library

Monday 12th January:
10.30 - 11.30am at Osborne Library

Tuesday 13th January:
1.30 - 2.30pm at Scarborough Library

Thursday 15th January:
1.30 - 2.30pm at Inglewood Library

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Monthly Breast Exams

This is your reminder to perform your monthly breast self-exam. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women today. Please take five minutes to do this important check. Early detection could mean the difference bewteen life and death.

There are two important ways to check your breasts. The first is by looking. A mirror should be used to check the breasts for pulls, dents, odd colouring, or lumps. The best positions for inspecting are leaning forward, arms on hips tightly, or standing upright with both arms over your head. When checking the breasts, keep in mind that both breasts should look the same, especially around the nipple.

The second way to check the breasts is by feeling. There are two ways to do this part of the exam and it is best to use a different one each month. One method uses water or oil on the skin to help fingers glide over the skin more easily. The shower can be a good place for this kind of exam. The second way is to use a thin T-shirt or sheet over the breasts. In both of these ways, the little skin lumps and bumps are less noticeable. Feel the breast tissue for any areas that feel different from the rest of the breast. Sometimes a difference will be a ball or lump. Yet other times it will be a thickened band or a deep, hard area that does not move like the rest of the breast.

When feeling the breasts

  • Check the breast in two or three positions, such as lying down, standing up, and even leaning forward.
  • Use the palm surface of the fingers, not the tips, to move the breast.
  • Divide the exam into parts. Examine one part from the outside of the breast into the nipple, and then from the inside to the outer edge. Realize the breast tail goes into the armpit, so the exam needs to include that area.
  • Remember the nipple is important, too. There is less breast tissue right under the nipple, so any lump there is a concern. The value of checking for discharge from the nipple is a debate since regular, hard squeezing of the nipple alone can cause a discharge. The gentle exam done towards your nipple is usually enough to show if there is a discharge. Any blood from the nipple needs to be evaluated by a doctor.

Breast self-exam is not a substitute for mammography or for regular exams by a doctor. Be sure to keep regular appointments as recommended by your doctor.

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The best breakfast for your kids

Before going onto my post about breakfasts, just a quick apology to my regular readers for being missing in action for the last month. The past month has been absolutely crazy with my brother's wedding and some personal issues leaving me no time to blog. However, everything is back on track now, so onto my post for today!!


The Best Breakfast for Your Kids

Recently, a nutritionist from my home town, Perth, presented a research paper at the Dietitians Association of Australia National Conference that suggested that increasing the number of food groups in your child's breakfast will increase their mental health. Therese O'Sullivan stated that having a high quality breakfast, with at least three different healthy food groups, was linked to better mental health in the 800 teens that she studied.

Most of us are aware of previous research that has shown that eating breakfast has been linked to increased attentiveness in class, better memory retention and more interest in learning. However, this is the first time that a study has shown that variety at breakfast is also important.

The study suggests that most teens ate bread/cereals and dairy as their breakfast. By simply switching to whole grains and low fat dairy, and adding in another food group such as fruit, nuts, eggs or legumes, you will be setting up your child for the day.

Some quick and easy suggestions:


  • wholemeal toast with low fat cheese and tomato slices

  • add a spoonful of sunflower seeds or LSA mix (ground linseed, sunflower and almond) to your whole grain cereal

  • top your multigrain toast with ricotta and sliced banana or strawberries

  • add some canned fruit to your Cheerios

  • toss some berries (fresh or frozen) with some rolled oats and top with low fat Greek yogurt

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Monthly Breast Exams

This is your reminder to perform your monthly breast self-exam. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women today. Please take five minutes to do this important check. Early detection could mean the difference bewteen life and death.

There are two important ways to check your breasts. The first is by looking. A mirror should be used to check the breasts for pulls, dents, odd colouring, or lumps. The best positions for inspecting are leaning forward, arms on hips tightly, or standing upright with both arms over your head. When checking the breasts, keep in mind that both breasts should look the same, especially around the nipple.

The second way to check the breasts is by feeling. There are two ways to do this part of the exam and it is best to use a different one each month. One method uses water or oil on the skin to help fingers glide over the skin more easily. The shower can be a good place for this kind of exam. The second way is to use a thin T-shirt or sheet over the breasts. In both of these ways, the little skin lumps and bumps are less noticeable. Feel the breast tissue for any areas that feel different from the rest of the breast. Sometimes a difference will be a ball or lump. Yet other times it will be a thickened band or a deep, hard area that does not move like the rest of the breast.

When feeling the breasts

  • Check the breast in two or three positions, such as lying down, standing up, and even leaning forward.
  • Use the palm surface of the fingers, not the tips, to move the breast.
  • Divide the exam into parts. Examine one part from the outside of the breast into the nipple, and then from the inside to the outer edge. Realize the breast tail goes into the armpit, so the exam needs to include that area.
  • Remember the nipple is important, too. There is less breast tissue right under the nipple, so any lump there is a concern. The value of checking for discharge from the nipple is a debate since regular, hard squeezing of the nipple alone can cause a discharge. The gentle exam done towards your nipple is usually enough to show if there is a discharge. Any blood from the nipple needs to be evaluated by a doctor.

Breast self-exam is not a substitute for mammography or for regular exams by a doctor. Be sure to keep regular appointments as recommended by your doctor.

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Pretty Green Clean

I admit it, I am a cleaning product junkie. Not a cleaning junkie, mind you, a cleaning product junkie. I am a sucker for slick marketing and pretty packaging. It's almost as if I am thinking "if it looks nice, I will be inspired to use it more often". Unfortunately, this is not always the case, but there are two brands of products that *have* inspired me. Both are eco friendly products with style oozing out of their fab packaging.



Murchison Hume


Murchison Hume is a relatively new Australian brand that is marketing itself as a Premium Organic Housecleaning Product. The range come in these fab trigger bottles inspired by old fashioned brown glass apothecary bottles as well as cheaper refill bottles. What I love about this brand is that along with the good looks comes a truly effective product. Their best value pack is to buy the set of 6 products. I have used everything except the floor cleaner, and they all work fantastically. You don't need very much of any of them and as well as the cleaning, they impart a lovely light scent to the house. My favourite scent is White Grapefruit, and it also comes in a unscented option for those who are extra sensitive. Check out the full range at http://www.murchison-hume.com/

Caldrea

This is another green option that doesn't sacrifice style for substance. Simple but elegant packaging together with some amazing scent combinations make for some really tempting products. My favourite scent is Lavender Pine - it makes your house smell really "clean". Their wood furniture polishing cream is amazing, as is their range of cleaning tools. Make sure you sign up for their newsletter, as they often have special offers. http://www.caldrea.com/


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image 1 source
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Review: The Skinny Cow Icecreams


The Skinny Cow range of 97% fat free and sugar free ice creams have just arrived here in Australia, and I have been diligently trying all of them for you so I can let all of the Chic Mummies out there know all about them.

There has been a lot of ads for these in women's mags, and with my sweet tooth, I was really looking forward to trying them out. There are two types available; ice cream sticks, and sundae cups.

Ice cream Sticks


The ice cream sticks are available in 3 flavours; chocolate chip, vanilla chocolate and English toffee. The packs contain 4 choc chip sticks, and 4 of either the vanilla chocolate or the English toffee.

Choc chip - mmm...delicious. It was smooth and creamy, with a great choc flavour. The choc chips were more like choc slivers, but were still nice.

Vanilla chocolate - also very yummy. It was a smooth and creamy vanilla ice cream, with a small ribbon of chocolate sauce running down the middle.

English Toffee - a bit of a disappointment. I love toffee ice cream, but the flavour was a bit insipid, and the caramel sauce tasted more "sweet" than caramelly.

For only 80 calories, these are a great snack for when you are craving something sweet. What I really liked is that they didn't have that strange aftertaste that many artificially sweetened products have. I have already added these to my freezer.

Sundae Cups

After the success with the ice cream sticks, I was really looking forward to trying these. They are available in a four pack, in three flavours: Chocolate Berry Sundae, Vanilla Chocolate Sundae and English Toffee Sundae.

Chocolate Berry Sundae - this was the one I was most looking forward to, but unfortunately, I was disappointed. The ice cream was soft and felt creamy initially, but had a strange icy, cystalline feeling to it at the same time. There was a small amount of boysenberry sauce swirled over the top and down the sides, but it tasted like cough medicine. I didn't even finish the sundae cup, I disliked it that much.

Vanilla Chocolate Sundae - again, I was disappointed. The ice cream had the same, strange texture, as well as an artificial sweetener aftertaste. The choc sauce was not chocolaty enough, and the vanilla ice cream seemed to be too sweet. It was definitely better than the choc berry, but i won't be buying it again.

English Toffee - the store was out of stock of this flavour, and based on my experience with the other two flavours, I won't be trying it. I would love to hear from anyone else who has tried it.

The sundae cups have 110 calories, and others may have a different opinion to me about the flavour. My freezer, however, will only be stocked with the ice cream sticks.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Growing up too fast


Today really highlighted to me that time goes way too fast, and our children seem to grow up even faster. This afternoon, I ordered my son his first "Big Boy" bed. While he still co-sleeps with us at nightime, we needed somewhere for him to sleep in the daytime now that Irini has taken over his cot for her daytime sleeps. The set that I chose was the one above, called Alaska from Bedshed. I loved it because it looked old fashioned, harking back to a gentler time. I am about to start making the bedspread for it, which will be a patchwork quilt made of stripes and plaids in navy, various shades of lighter blue, some crimson, and some khaki. I think his room is going to look wonderful and masculine, but not too mature.

Stephen loves planes, so I am going to have a vintage plane theme. I just ordered some wonderful prints of vintage planes, as well as the storage tray and step below. I think these will really make his room look fantastic!




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bed image source
storage bin image source
step stool image source


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Monthly Breast Exams

This is your reminder to perform your monthly breast self-exam. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women today. Please take five minutes to do this important check. Early detection could mean the difference bewteen life and death.

There are two important ways to check your breasts. The first is by looking. A mirror should be used to check the breasts for pulls, dents, odd colouring, or lumps. The best positions for inspecting are leaning forward, arms on hips tightly, or standing upright with both arms over your head. When checking the breasts, keep in mind that both breasts should look the same, especially around the nipple.

The second way to check the breasts is by feeling. There are two ways to do this part of the exam and it is best to use a different one each month. One method uses water or oil on the skin to help fingers glide over the skin more easily. The shower can be a good place for this kind of exam. The second way is to use a thin T-shirt or sheet over the breasts. In both of these ways, the little skin lumps and bumps are less noticeable. Feel the breast tissue for any areas that feel different from the rest of the breast. Sometimes a difference will be a ball or lump. Yet other times it will be a thickened band or a deep, hard area that does not move like the rest of the breast.

When feeling the breasts

  • Check the breast in two or three positions, such as lying down, standing up, and even leaning forward.
  • Use the palm surface of the fingers, not the tips, to move the breast.
  • Divide the exam into parts. Examine one part from the outside of the breast into the nipple, and then from the inside to the outer edge. Realize the breast tail goes into the armpit, so the exam needs to include that area.
  • Remember the nipple is important, too. There is less breast tissue right under the nipple, so any lump there is a concern. The value of checking for discharge from the nipple is a debate since regular, hard squeezing of the nipple alone can cause a discharge. The gentle exam done towards your nipple is usually enough to show if there is a discharge. Any blood from the nipple needs to be evaluated by a doctor.

Breast self-exam is not a substitute for mammography or for regular exams by a doctor. Be sure to keep regular appointments as recommended by your doctor.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Nautical Spring

Spring has sprung here in Perth, Australia - well, almost! Even if the weather is not quite cooperating, sending some chilly, rainy days, I have been inspired by all the new clothes available in stores now. The nautical theme is a recurring one each year, and it's not hard to see why. It's crisp, classic and always stylish. It is also a very easy look for Chic Mummies to achieve, and can really help take a basic jeans and top outfit from something boring and run-of-the-mill to something chic and elegant. In this outfit, you could be running your kids to school, having a coffee with your chic mummy friends, or strolling down the French Riviera (hey, a girl can dream, can't she?!!).

This outfit starts with basic wide leg jeans. Add in a simple navy top, and you have the basic uniform of many SAHMs. Swap out your usual trainers for a red of wedges. The wide leg jean really needs a wedge, a chunky heel or a ballerina flat (if you have long legs) to look balanced. I like a wedge heel because they are more stable and comfortable than a chunky heel; I can run after my toddler in wedges, and they are comfy enough to be on my feet all day. Add on a couple of red bangles, grab a casual tote (I like the Coach one above because the navy colour ties in with the rest of the outfit, and stash a striped cardigan like this J Crew one in your bag in case the weather becomes a bit cooler. This outfit is stylish, but best of all, just as comfy as your usual jeans and tee.

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check out my page on polyvore to see the details of the clothes featured

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Case of the Sweat Suit Substitute

I have loved Laura Bennett ever since I saw her on Project Runway, and her style is one that SAHMs can easily emulate. Laura combines being a mother to six with designing while always looking impeccable. She writes a charming little series for iVillage, called Case Clothed, and her latest one is called The Case of the Sweat Suit Substitute. It has some great little tips, nothing earth-shattering (but it is great to be reminded), so check it out here.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Orangeade and Lemonade Recipes


Today there were some beautiful blood oranges at our shop, so I brought some home and made some orangeade. I know that traditionally lemonade and orangeade are summer recipes, but I love them all year round. They are a great way of getting your kids to up their vitamin C intake as they are just so yummy!

Fresh Orangeade

To make about three litres of old fashioned fresh orangeade, add the rind of three lemons to half a litre of water, and bring to the boil. Add 200g sugar and stir to dissolve. Leave to cool. Strain, and add the juice of 10 oranges, the lemons and 2 litres of water or soda water. Chill until ready to serve.

Fresh Lemonade

Take the juice of 12 lemons and add 250-300g of caster sugar a cup at a time, stirring continuously until dissolved. Fill a glass or jug 1/4 full, and top with water or soda water.


Add-ins

These add-ins are a great way to jazz up the basic recipes.


  • Ginger: fresh ginger root and ripe pear slices

  • Watermelon: watermelon puree and a watermelon slice

  • Lavender: dried lavender, fresh lavender leaves

  • Peach Tea: equal parts lemonade, peach nectar and iced tea, peach slices

  • Kiwi-Melon: sliced kiwi fruit, honeydew puree, honeydew slices


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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Handmade Baby and Kidswear

I love handmade items for my kids. You can't go past the detail and the uniqueness of handmade items, and I feel it harks back to an earlier era when not everything was mass produced. If I could, I would spend all my time making things for Stephen and Irini. I have made beautiful patchwork quilts for them both, as well as their window treatments various artworks for their room and I've started on summer clothes for Irini.

Unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the day to make eveything I would like myself so I am always on the lookout for sellers of beautiful handmade baby and children's items. I am a huge Etsy fan - there are so many great sellers listing all sorts of handcrafted items. Today, i wanted to share with you some of my favourite places:

Hiccup Decor

Aren't these vintage style blocks just gorgeous? You can either buy them ready-made, or in kit form to make them yourself. Ashley is lovely and friendly, and her items are too cute. She also does adorable photo frames that look like giant jigsaw puzzle pieces.

3redbuttons

This Etsy seller from Tasmania does the most adorable little girls bloomers. How can you not smile when you see a little baby's bum clad in all those polka dot ruffles?

Boys Don't Wear Bows

Just the name of this wondeful site is enough to make mother's of little girls smile. Here you will find hundreds of beautiful bows to finish off your little one's outfit.

Red Plum Linen

Sura makes these amazing bed linens. She has a great range on line, but you can also contact her to custom make items for you. Both Stephen and Irini's rooms have linen sets from here. Stephen's are a mixture of Sage Green Stripe, Sage Green Spot, and Aqua Confetti, and Irini's are in Candy Stripe, Candy Check, Petite Fleur Pink and Earth Rose.

Made By Miffy

These wonderful outfits by Miffy are full of wonderful details just not available in mass produced items. Check out the piping and ruffles on this adorable dress.

Also check out the blog AussieKidsBoutique; Kathryn searches out wonderful Australian craftpeople creating handmade children's clothing.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Top 10 tips to keep stress away

Instead of reaching for the dessert, here are ten tips to keep stress away!


  1. Say no - delegate tasks to others; you can't do it all.

  2. Focus - do one thing at a time and forget the multi tasking.

  3. Turn off - one night a week turn off the phone & the TV and close the newspapers.

  4. Breathe - the old "count to ten" can do wonders to ease your stress.

  5. Create a routine - organize your chores for the week (check out Flylady's system).

  6. Start a to-do list - and use it! Enjoy crossing off each task as you complete it.

  7. Stop worrying - especially about things you cannot change or have no control over.i

  8. Plan ahead - plan out a week's worth of menus and shop ahead. You'll save money and the last minute "what's for dinner?"

  9. Don't bottle it up - share your feelings with your partner, other family or friends.

  10. Exercise - find some time for some exercise. Even a quick, brisk walk will give you more energy and help to take away some stress.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bone Health

Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease which is caused by the body not absorbing enough calcium. This lack of calcium causes the bones to become brittle, making them more prone to breaks and fractures. According to Osteoporosis Australia, 1 in 2 women over 60 in Australia will have an osteoporotic fracture. However, putting steps in place now can hopefully prevent you from becoming another statistic.

Three simple steps can help you achieve good bone health, and therefore help you to enjoy a healthy and active later life. Just remember CES: Calcium, Exercise, Sunshine.

Calcium

  • Making sure you eat enough calcium is probably the most important step. Low fat dairy products such as skim milk, yogurt and cheese are obvious choices, but don't forget the other sources such as leafy green vegetable, soy products, fish with edible bones (such as tinned salmon), nuts & seeds and calcium fortified foods such as OJ.
  • After the age of 25 your bones start to demineralise, losing calcium and other minerals. To slow down this loss, consume at least 1000mg of calcium a day which is approximately 2-3 serves of dairy.
  • After menopause, you can lose up to 20% of your bone mass from a combination of the decreased estrogen, and decreased intestinal absorption. Increase your calcium to 1300mg; you need to add another serving of calcium-rich food

Exercise

  • Your bones need constant weight bearing or resistance exercise to maintain their strength, or they will start to break down
  • Walking is a great weight bearing activity for the whole family
  • Swimming, cycling and aqua-aerobics are great for their cardiovascular effects, but they are not as effective at maintaining or building bone density. Make sure to add in weight bearing exercise as well.

Sunshine

  • UV rays are vital for our body to produce Vitamin D, which assists with calcium absorption.
  • You need to expose your face, hands and arms to sunlight for about 6-8 minutes a day to produce enough vitamin D.
  • Make sure to stay out of the sun between 10am and 2pm in summer, as the cancerous effects of the sun at this time will outweigh the vitamin D production benefits.


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Monday, September 1, 2008

Monthly Breast Exams

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women today. While many of us probably used to associate breast cancer with older women, over the last few years a number of high profile young women such as Kylie Minogue, Anastasia and most recently Christina Applegate have fought off this devasting disease. For women of all ages, the breast self-exam is a useful tool that is easily learned. It is used to look for unusual lumps, skin changes, or discharge and should be done once a month. The best time to check is a week after your periods. Starting today, I will post a reminder on the first of every month to jog your memory. Like today, it will include a guide to check your breasts, from http://www.healthfirst.net.au./ Please take five minutes a month to do this important check. Early detection could mean the difference bewteen life and death.

There are two important ways to check your breasts. The first is by looking. A mirror should be used to check the breasts for pulls, dents, odd colouring, or lumps. The best positions for inspecting are leaning forward, arms on hips tightly, or standing upright with both arms over your head. When checking the breasts, keep in mind that both breasts should look the same, especially around the nipple.

The second way to check the breasts is by feeling. There are two ways to do this part of the exam and it is best to use a different one each month. One method uses water or oil on the skin to help fingers glide over the skin more easily. The shower can be a good place for this kind of exam. The second way is to use a thin T-shirt or sheet over the breasts. In both of these ways, the little skin lumps and bumps are less noticeable. Feel the breast tissue for any areas that feel different from the rest of the breast. Sometimes a difference will be a ball or lump. Yet other times it will be a thickened band or a deep, hard area that does not move like the rest of the breast.

When feeling the breasts:

  • Check the breast in two or three positions, such as lying down, standing up, and even leaning forward.
  • Use the palm surface of the fingers, not the tips, to move the breast.
  • Divide the exam into parts. Examine one part from the outside of the breast into the nipple, and then from the inside to the outer edge. Realize the breast tail goes into the armpit, so the exam needs to include that area.
  • Remember the nipple is important, too. There is less breast tissue right under the nipple, so any lump there is a concern. The value of checking for discharge from the nipple is a debate since regular, hard squeezing of the nipple alone can cause a discharge. The gentle exam done towards your nipple is usually enough to show if there is a discharge. Any blood from the nipple needs to be evaluated by a doctor.

Breast self-exam is not a substitute for mammography or for regular exams by a doctor. Be sure to keep regular appointments as recommended by your doctor.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Product Review: Bissell Steam Mop


About two months ago I bought a Bissell Steam Mop, and it is one of the best household appliances I have ever purchased. I hate mopping the floor; it would have to be one of my least favourite chores. I would really want to mop the floor in the kitchen on a daily basis, but I just can't be bothered with filling the bucket, lugging the bucket, wringing the mop etc. On the other hand, I love vacuuming. I think it's because it really is plug 'n' play!

So about a month ago, I saw an infomercial for a steam mop, and I thought to myself, "What a great idea!" This would solve all my mopping problems. There is no more bucket, no more wringing, and it works kinda like a vacuum. On the other hand, I NEVER believe anything I see on infomercials (except for the pedegg - I succumbed, and as soon as I receive it, I will review it) so I did some research online to find the best steam mop out there. All the ratings seemed to pan the infomercial model (no big surprise there!) but a consistent rater with consumer reports was the Bissell steam mop. It retails for $199 AUD, ($89.99 in the US) and has a 30 day satisfaction guarantee, so I thought I would give it a try. I will never look back!

What I love about it:

  • it's convenient - it only takes 30 seconds to warm up and one tank of water does my whole house (and i have a lot of tiles)
  • it's chemical free - this is really important to me given I have a baby who is soon to be crawling, and a toddler who constantly eats things that he has dropped on the floor
  • it comes with two machine washable microfibre pads - these seem to really lift the dirt off
  • it's very light weight
  • it does a great job on my floors - they look very clean
  • because it is so easy, I manage to mop my kitchen floor every couple of days, something I could only dream of previously

What I don't love about it:

  • the floors take a bit longer to dry than with a regular mop, despite the heat
  • you need to wash the microfibre pad after every clean, or i found my floors sometimes ended up a little bit streaky
  • the power cord is not long enough - this was easily remedied with an extension cord
  • the colour - the green is just terrible

A few other bits and pieces:

  • it claims to disinfect, but you need to hold the mop head over the area for 15 seconds - not practical for all of your floors. However, it is useful if you want to disinfect a small area, eg when someone has had an accident on the floor. Also, liquid disinfectants like bleach, pine-o-cleen etc also need to be left on the surface (for 10 minutes), so there is no real disadvantage to this.
  • for dried on food stains, shoot the stain with steam, mop some of the other floor, and then come back to the stain. It will then lift right off.

The Bissell Steam Mop is available at Harvey Norman here in Oz, or check out www.bissell.com for international stockists.

photo source


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Monday, August 25, 2008

Quick Recipes - Apricot Chicken


Being so short of time this last week (who knew exclusively pumping could be so time consuming?), my stock of quickly prepared meals have been a lifesaver. Tonight, I made a family fave, Apricot Chicken. Yes, I know it is totally retro, and it is definitely not chic, but it is so yummy! I make it in two ways - in the slowcooker if I want ultra quick prep, or on the stove top if I have a little bit more time for active cooking, and need dinner on the table in half an hour. This is great served with cous cous, or rice.

The ingredients are the same for both.

1.5 kg chicken tenderloins (you can use skinless chicken pieces, just increase the cooking time)
flour
825ml tin of apricot nectar
2 pkts french onion soup mix
1 tin apricot halves, drained

Slow cooker method:

Dredge chicken in flour and place in slowcooker. Mix apricot nectar, soup mix and apricots, and pour over chicken. Cook on low for about 4-5 hours.

Stovetop method:

Dredge chicken in flour and panfry on medium high in small amount of olive oil until lightly brown. Remove from pan and keep warm. Pour in apricot nectar and scrape up the brown bits. Sprinkle over soup mix, and stir well. Simmer until thickened. Add back in chicken pieces together with apricots. Cover, and simmer until cooked, about 15 minutes.

What are your favourite quick and easy meals?


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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hubris, and asking help from my readers

Hu*bris- noun: excessive pride or self confidence


As our mothers have always said, pride becomes before a fall, and boy, did I fall hard. After my post about breastfeeding, and talking about how successful I have been this time around, life decided to knock me back down a few pegs. That night (I mean really, that night) feeding started to be a bit painful on one side. By the next morning, the nipple had started to chafe, and by the following evening, it had cracked. It was so painful, I was sobbing as I was feeding Irini. After a quick call to the breastfeeding counsellor at the Australian Breastfeeding Association, I stopped feeding from that side, and expressed milk instead which is still painful, but nowhere near as bad as Irini feeding. However, I have never been able to express as much milk as she needs, so Irini was feeding much more often on the other side. Now, that side has got a nasty graze on it, is even more painful than the cracked nipple, and I can't feed from either side, so I will have to resort to formula as a supplement tonight.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with a lactation consultant, but I am asking all of my readers: if you have been through this, how did you get through it, and do you have any tips for me?

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Perth Baby Expo

I just came back from the Perth Pregnancy, Babies & Children's Expo, and all I can say is, WOW! I don't think that I have ever seen so many pregnant women or prams in one place in all my life. For my readers living in Perth, I highly recommend going. There are some great bargains to be had, and some lovely freebies (usually requiring leaving an email address - I have a hotmail account set up just for these kind of things!).

Print off this voucher http://www.bubhub.com.au/pbcexpovoucherperth.htm for free entry all weekend.

The Nutricia stand had a nice little freebie showbag that contained a jar of baby food (6 months+) which will come in handy for days out once I start Irini on solids in a few months, as well as a little juice box of their Hint of Juice, which Stephen likes.

Bambini Pronto was giving away free Steady Cups if you signed up for their emails. I already have some Steady Cups (a pack of 4 is $10); Stephen loves them because they look like his Daddy's mugs, and I like them because they are hard to tip over.

There were also various formula companies giving away toddler milk samples, which I like to keep in the car in case i am ever caught short somewhere without enough milk.The bargains kept on rolling (are they really bargains if you spend too much money overall!) but I kept myself to buying only everyday items, things I would need over the next couple of months or things that had been on my wishlist and were on sale for a great price.

The Woolworths section had a Heinz and a Johnson's stand, both of which got a great workout. Johnson's had wipes selling at 2 for $5; they are usually $3.99 each so I bought a dozen. Heinz had three different packs for $5 - two Heinz baby organic packs, each containing three jars ($1.50ea) and either a vanilla custard or rice cereal ($3.50ea) as well as a bonus baby spoon - and a Little Kids pack that had a packet each of Little Kids Bikkies, Rice Crispy bars and Muesli Fingers. These were all great value, and are things that I will definitely use, so it was worth it to stock up.

Stephen has a lot of trouble drinking juice boxes, as he is always squeezing them too hard, squirting out his juice. I have been meaning to buy one of these "Dwink" boxes that stop that, but haven't gotten around to it. Bambini Pronto had the on sale for $8, usually $9.95.

Even though Irini is still fully breastfed, it won't be long before she'll start drinking water, and I would prefer if she went straight to a cup instead of a bottle for regular drinks (she has an occasional bottle of expressed milk now). The Dr Brown's Training Cup was the only sippy cup that Stephen was able to drink out of. I also like the more natural sucking action required which makes up for the fact that it is not a true spill proof cup. These were also on sale, so I bought a couple of pink ones for her.

I also got a Bebe Pod plus, reduced from $99 down to $70. Stephen had the original bebe pod and it was great, but I have no idea where it has gone. Irini is already getting frustrated that she can't sit up by herself, and this is a great way to help her with that. I used to sit Stephen in it to read to him if he didn't want to sit on my lap, as well as using it to feed him solids in the early days. The new version even comes with an attachable tray.



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