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Kangaroo Spotting

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Friday, October 23, 2015

One Plus Four Equals Life: Gratitude

Positive things are flowing into my life right now and I’m going back and forth between being grateful, humbled and just a teensy-bit proud.

1. I am grateful for opening up and for the tribe it brought me.
I started taking my blog seriously, and sharing it, almost two years ago. The purpose was to help myself heal from post-natal depression. Revealing that vulnerability terrified me, shook up some relationships in my life and strengthened others. I fell in love with writing again and gave myself permission to do it simply for the joy it brought me.

But it did more than bring me joy- it brought peace of mind. I received countless messages of love and support from friends old and new. They shared their personal struggles with me and we all felt less alone. Then I landed in a wonderful blogging community, they are beyond supportive and contribute an endless supply of inspiration.

2. I am grateful for working in the art field and for being able to call myself an artist.

I landed a cute, little job- my first (paid) in over two years. I’m teaching and assisting beginner painting classes. The goal was to get out, do some networking, and be in a field I love. The pocket change doesn't hurt either!

3. I am grateful for being able to build something.

Then there is my personal artwork. When I was home in Buffalo I got a big 'commission' project and worked for hours and hours in the cold bliss of my Mom's basement. She would stay on Grandma duty while I lost myself down there. I ended up doing more than planned when a few of my pieces ended up on my Mother's walls. Fair enough. It made me think that- maybe I could start my own art business. 

I'm proud to announce that Kangaroo Spotting is now an official Australian Business. I'm not quite sure the exact shape it will take but right now it's all about lining up the ducks.

And oh yeah, my Etsy Store, it's finally launched! There are actual items for sale in there. It's a bit time consuming, the whole Etsy set-up, I've been tinkering for a while and I'm still learning. Won’t you take a little look and let me know what you think?

4. I am grateful for living a creative life.

It feels like all of my work, tears and hope over the last few years are starting to become this tangible thing. I'm beyond grateful for being able to follow my dream.

What would you do if you were free to be anything?

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Monday, October 19, 2015

How One Melbourne Company is Revolutionizing Gift Giving

Personal, high-quality gift giving just got a whole lot easier here in Australia. This is not a sponsored post.

I’m guilty of bitching about the shopping in Australia when compared to the USA; "More expensive! "Less variety!" I don't bring anything with me anymore when I visit my family in The States, surely they are sick of kangaroo keychains and mini jars of Vegemite. 

Bindle is probably my perfect solution (for home and abroad) and if you are a busy person you will love this company too.
Bindle is a boutique gift service and is currently the only exclusively Australian-made hamper business. All the products are sourced locally, including the boxes and wrapping. It's awesome to shop local but these carefully selected products feel incredibly personal and thoughtful too. Let's face it- sometimes we all get too busy to be thoughtful.

I'm fascinated by people who risk stable careers to follow their passion and I was curious to learn more about owner Catherine Blackford aka Tat aka Blackers (you can tell she's fun just by her nicknames) and how she came up with this game-changing gift business.
Catherine and her sidekick, Walter.
I learned Bindle was born from Tat's passion for giving. In her friendship group Tat would always put her hand up to organise gifts (it would never be a voucher.) She would gather bits and pieces from various nooks and crannies around Melbourne because it meant every item had a story behind it. Creating a sense of place, story and timeline is ingrained in Blackford's thought process because she has a degree in landscape architecture- it's something she considers while selecting products for her packages.

“Giving something thoughtful and something special, it’s all about the reaction from the person that you give it too,” said Blackford.

Four years ago faced with a (boring) career in IT Tat started making gift packages on the side as a hobby. It’s called Bindle- and though it sounds like ‘bundle’ a bindle is the name of the stick and handkerchief combo that we’ve seen on cartoon hobos and the occasional Looney Tunes character.

“It’s the concept of having everything you need in a box for running away from home,” said Tat.

This folks, is a bindle on a stick.
As interest in her products grew she has happily found herself working on Bindle full-time for the last year and a half. The team has expanded from just herself to a total of five. The product range initially offered packages for a few different occasions and now they have a range of 40, everything from welcoming baby to “Man’s Best Friend” -for dogs of course.
Walter, CFO.
Tat has noticed a trend of people who are given Bindle gifts often turn around and order one for someone else. You can’t ask for a larger vote of confidence in the products than that.
Reasons Bindle is awesome.
The packages speak for themselves but the icing on the cake, or rather the bow on the bindle, is Catherine. I find it so incredibly inspiring to find a business woman who is so passionate and upbeat all while chasing the dream.

"Life is too short. Think about what you are passionate about and make your passion your paycheck," said Blackford.

I asked Tat, the gift-giving guru, for advice when it comes to choosing the perfect present for someone. Her reply speaks to her success; “Think about what is going to bring a smile to the recipients face.”

Get online and put a smile on someone's face!

You can shop Bindle by occasion, recipient, or event:

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Save Money- Rent Dresses! Glam Corner Review

*This is not sponsored content- just my own thoughts*

I love Spring racing and all the fashion it has to offer but it can get expensive to put a fresh look together season after season.

Won't ever be able to fit into this pre-baby dress again..but thats AOK!
Money is tight in our family because we are doing a massive extension on our home (totally worth it). Pulling the purse strings has pushed my creativity to a new limit. First it started with meal planning and trotted right over into smarter fashion.

I’m by no means a label hound (no disrespect if you are, actually I'm just jealous) and I think hunting for bargains is what makes shopping fun. While at University I started shopping at thrift stores and still integrate vintage and pre-loved pieces into my wardrobe. Makes me feel like a treasure-hunting pirate (Plus it's kind of a necessity with Australia's high cost of living) Arrrr!
The Melbourne Cup Carnival starts soon and fashion is the main reason I get involved..well, that and the champagne.

New dresses are out of the question this year so I planned on recycling what I already have but #justincase I turned to Google for a cheeky look at dress rentals. I remember looking a few years ago and was unimpressed with the selection available. But like all online shopping in Australia- it’s boomed in the last five years. Yus!

After scoping out a few sites I settled on Glam Corner for their prices, dress selection and because the website is user-friendly. I also like the fact that you can try on dresses in advance.

For 30.00 they will ship you three dresses of your choice to try on and keep for 24 hours. GC make it really simple to return by providing a pre-paid envelope that you just chuck in the mail. You do need to book these try-on dresses a few weeks earlier than your event so be organized! Or maybe just wing it- up to you. On the site each dress has a description of how it fits.

I had to drag my daughter to the post office to pick up the package because I missed the delivery guy. You can tell she was really excited because she refused to let me carry the box (I have no idea where her stubbornness comes from #guilty).
Once we got home it was like Christmas morning for Mommy. To increase the probability of success I threw on a pair of heels and some spanx .
One of the dresses was actually too big- which didn’t hurt my self-esteem.
No winners in this group
I think with the first three I chose wrong- I went a little too ‘cocktail’ and not enough ‘race-day.’ No worries, I quickly jumped online, ordered another try-on and had three more dresses in just a couple days.
Photo finish- the winners are #2 and #3
Round II. This time I think I chose better. I reserved two of the dresses in this lot, the middle one for Stakes Day (but in Navy) and the one on the right for Derby. GC even sent me a thank you email with a discount code to use with dress rentals. Score.

With the discount, both rentals costed a total of 136.00 (not including the 60.00 spent on try-ons). Here in Australia you’re lucky to buy a decent dress for under 200 so methinks this is a reasonable investment. And did I mention all the dresses are designer! So fancy.
GC recommend that you book your dress a day or two earlier than you need it so you can put your look together. Mine will be arriving on a Thursday for a Saturday event- then I need to place them in a post box (without cleaning) by Sunday. Easy-peasy.

In the meantime, fingers crossed for warm weather because both these frocks are fashioned for heat. Let's hope my luck holds out.

Check out the DIY fascinator I made to match.

Update: In case you were wondering how I went here is a photo of both dresses! They arrived in perfect condition and on time and returning them was not a hassle. Logistics aside- you can't pay for the confidence I had because of these fantastic frocks.

What are your best trips for dressing-up on a budget?


Friday, October 9, 2015

Doing The Races on a Budget? Try this DIY Fascinator

Melbourne’s Spring Carnival is galloping toward us with Derby Day on October 31st!

I adore The Races for fashionable reasons (American readers picture a week-long Kentucky Derby with Champagne instead of Mint Juleps) and look forward to getting dressed up for the racecourse (we don't call it 'the track' here, makes us feel more civilized).

This year I'm doing my fashion on a budget. I’ve already rented a dress online and I decided to make my own fascinator as well. The Milliners in this country are insanely talented (and expensive) someday when I’m a famous author/artist I will be able to afford to buy some of their incredible pieces.

Today I spent 50.00 at Spotlight (a craft store which does not hold a candle to JoAnn Fabric’s or Michaels but does the job) on fascinator supplies with some to spare after the finish.

They had a little millinery section which scared me a little bit- like, one feather costed around four dollars. They didn’t really have what I was looking for and it was all pretty basic (and overpriced) - until I finally found a neutral base attached to a headband- I didn’t want to mess with making one of those my first time around. My skill level right now= glue gun.

My advice: Stay far, far away from the ‘millinery’ area where the odds are worse (wink wink) and get creative with the other craft supplies you can find.

Onto the fake flowers section where I bought some white roses and two big lavender colored flowers. This hat is going to go with my Derby Day outfit where traditional dress code is black and white. I wanted to pull the white from my dress, the purple from my hair (yes, I have purple hair because I’m a rock’n’roll Mom) with some neutrals and black accents.

In the craft section I bought a bag of black and white feathers for eight bucks and I have plenty extra. Bargain.

When I got home, true to form, I didn’t really have a plan so I just went for it. The end result was really cute and I think it will look perfect with my outfit. This was so much fun I can definitely see myself making more…anyone want one? Lemme know.

What you need

  • A base and headband or clip combo
  • Fake Flowers
  • Feathers
  • Glue Gun
  • Scissors 

1. Try on your headband/ hat/ base and decide in which position you will wear it. Make sure to take note of which will become the front, back and side view.

2. Start to play. Put a few flowers together, decide which area will be the highest and which will be the lowest or just glue a flower on as a jumping-off point.

Tip: The fake flowers should pull right off the stems easily. Trim any excess plastic or leaves with scissors.
Cut the crap- it will give you a flatter base to work with.
3. Before you add another element make sure to see how it’s looking as a whole and how it looks on your head.

Tip: Grab a little mirror to put in front of your workstation so you can occasionally check out your hat as you add to it. I think it should look nice from all angles- not just from the front or side.

Why hello, Craft Nerd.
4. Once all the flowers are in place and you are happy with them, start thinking about where you want your feathers to go. Stick them in- without gluing them to get a better idea of the configuration you like. Don’t be afraid to cut the feathers.

Tip: Less is more, or more is more it’s totally up to you. If you remember one thing about the races it’s that you can’t be too over the top!

5. Glue the feathers in one at a time, either to the base or to the petals of your flowers.
Thought I was finished at this point, but it was begging for some black feathers.
6. Cross the finish line!

Lesson Learned For Next time: I would probably try and position the little base differently and buy a sturdier headband- so maybe I’ll try to make one myself. Also I might play around a little with different configurations of flowers- I made it work with this one but I could have done things a little differently.

The final result
The total cost of materials used was easily less than 40.00 and considering the long odds with my novice skill set I'm more than pleased with the standings (just a few more racing puns then I'll stop, promise).

I’d bet money $ that you’ll look and feel amazing in your unique piece of wearable art! 

Good luck, punters. x

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Lazy, Amaze-y Quiche

Woke up like dis- still looks pretty after a night in the fridge
This recipe was born of a pathetically stocked refrigerator, a dash of boredom and some serious TGIF. Inspired by my friend's article on simplification, I loved the idea of doing some Friday cooking in order to save precious weekend time.

Quiche is a good go-to to have in the fridge because it’s high in protein, easy to make and to store. Daytime sustenance for breakfast or lunch. Good stuff.

I had puff pastry in the freezer but was out of milk- odd. I thought I’d give Greek yogurt a try to replace the milk in my egg mixture and it was this random ingredient which made all the difference! I will never use milk in a quiche again (unless I'm out of yogurt).

Usually I get fancy with my quiches and sauté onions, garlic and other veggies but on this time I took laziness to another level- it was Friday and I was OVER IT after having the flu all week. 

So first things first- I took my pastry out of the freezer to thaw. I had just enough for my square pan so after poking a few holes in it, I baked it in the oven at 200C (400F) for about 15- 20 minutes. Make sure it looks slightly golden because it will cook a bit more with the egg mixture.

Next- a dozen eggs, and two big spoonfulls of full-fat, Greek yogurt (probably about 3/4 of a cup or so). Whisk together until creamy and until the lumps disappear. A dash of white pepper and salt and done egg mixture.

To add a little nutrition I simply chopped up some raw spinach (I used organic stuff from my veggie box) into the pastry once it’s cooled a bit. If you wanna go the extra mile, add some fresh herbs. I have an herb garden literally outside my kitchen door so this time I grabbed a bit of basil to chuck in (last time I made no such effort). 

Now we cannot neglect the cheese, this is a quiche after-all. Use big chunks of feta (or any cheese) and place on top of the spinach. I made sure to stick some in each corner. Don’t worry if little feta ice-bergs poke out of the egg batter once you pour it- that’s the good stuff.

Next- evenly pour egg mixture into the pan, filling in all the nooks and crannies.

Now comes the most difficult part- timing. I've found that lower and longer works best- as in lower temperature for longer time.  This one took about and hour at 150C (300F). Test it by poking a knife into the center- much like a cake if the knife comes out clean it's done AAAAND DONE. Snackalicious.

Lazy, Amaze-y Quiche Ingredients

  • 1 Dozen Eggs
  • 3/4-1 Cup Plain Greek Yoghurt
  • A Big Bunch Chopped Spinach
  • A Handful Fresh Herbs (Optional)
  • As Much As You Like Feta Cheese (or any substitute)
  • Dash Salt & Pepper
  • Frozen Shortcrust Pastry (Optional)

Cooking Directions

  1. Line a square pan with pastry and poke holes in it. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden. Otherwise, simply grease the pan.
  2. Whisk together eggs, yogurt and salt & pepper
  3. Allow pastry to cool then add spinach and herbs.
  4. Chuck in some cheese.
  5. Pour egg mixture evenly over the spinach.
  6. Bake in the oven for about an hour at a low temperature (150C/ 300F).


Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday…Public Holiday Blues #mindbodyweek

I grew up in sports-obsessed Buffalo, New York so I understand what it’s like for a town to go into shut-down-mode for a football. Australia wins because today is a public holiday dedicated entirely to tomorrows Footy (Australian rules football) Grand Finale. #theirsuperbowl

Last night really felt like a Friday but you didn’t find me celebrating with Chardonnay in hand. Nope. I did my best to stick to my healthy guns. I did have a teeny-tiny slip up when I made some microwave nachos at 9:30PM. I was CRAVING salt and still hungry after dinner (Green curry over cauliflower rice) and I caved. Simple as that. A few tortilla chips with cheese- nuked, then topped with fresh tomato, avocado, homemade hummus and Greek Yoghurt (could be worse). They tasted amazing in case you’re wondering.

Then this morning I overslept for pump class. And it put me in an odd mood. I felt kind of emotional but for no apparent reason (surely it can’t be the nachos…can it?)

Lucky for me, my supportive husband suggested I head to the gym anyway. Everything in me resisted but I went. And it did make me feel slightly better. Sometimes I think it’s easier to stick to my goals when I’m in a routine. Geez I sound almost ungrateful for a long weekend- when that’s definitely not the case.

Could be homesickness creeping in- who knows? It’s one thing to have a reason to feel flat but to have no reason- that irritates me. I do feel pretty great physically after a week of working on my fitness. My fave Mommy-sweatpants are feeling loose around my middle (maybe they just need a wash) but I swear, the bloat I had been carrying around is gone.

One thing I recognized is that it’s so easy for me to ignore the small, unhealthy choices I make in a given day. A diet coke here, a few chocolates there, some salty chips….It really does add up. I’ve said it before- I’m not a diet person. I don’t believe in diets and I don’t think they work. However I do believe in making lifestyle changes. I just need to pay more attention to my undercover snacking.

The lesson I’m taking away from this week is this: Be conscientious of the little choices- they add up. And scheduling work outs with my gym buddy or with child care makes it more likely that I’ll show up. It’s not enough to rely on motivation alone sometimes.

Tomorrow I’ll round everything out with a Skype session with my homeopath. Talking to her is always therapeutic and hopefully after she prescribes me a remedy I’ll feel brand new.

I have to be honest when I say that I’m really looking forward to some Chardonnay tomorrow- sports are a great excuse for some day drinks. Happy Grand Finale everyone!

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Thursday…Outside, In #mindbodyweek

This morning I hosted Mums Group so you could say I exercised my social muscles (tee hee).

When the girls were here I almost successfully avoided all naughty treats except for two tiny little oat ball cookie thingies which were mildly healthy as far as cookies go. After they left I was craving diet coke in a big way but drank a glass of water instead #healthy choices.

I felt a little blah when I woke up today which is definitely better than the monster headache I had last night. I think it was a combo of sore muscles and detoxing.
I still couldn’t decide what I wanted to do for my exercise- I needed to try and work something in around Vin’s nap and my bang trim in the afternoon.

Welp, what I decided to do was make myself feel better from the outside. This week has been busy so I felt gross and in need of some maintenance. I took a bubble bath, shaved, plucked, removed old, chipped nail-polish and painted my nails. Then I got my bangs cut and basically felt like a fresher version of myself.

When Lavinia took her nap I did a meditation in the sun which made me feel more relaxed. 
Sometimes a little pampering can be incredibly beneficial to our health because it’s practicing self-care. We need to show ourselves a little love- often! Some things (like showering) as Moms know tend to get neglected in the hustle and bustle. Don’t forget to make time for the small things. Or if you do- do them all at once like I did.

Happy Thursday everyone!

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