Monday, 31 August 2015

The new season of The Book of Once Upon a Time by Disney Junior

This post in brought to you by Nuffnang and Disney.
Story time is one of our favourite times of the day … it’s a win : win for everyone really.  Our girls are transported into imaginary worlds whilst increasing their vocabulary and enjoying 100% adult attention, whilst Mummy (or Daddy for that matter) lap up the cuddles as we snuggle close together so everyone can see the pictures.  We love books and reading.

Well, I’m excited to be able to share today about the launch of the second season of Disney Junior’s The Book of Once Upon a Time.  Now, whilst I wholly advocate reading with our kids, this is fantastic for something a little different, and is also a great idea as a wind-down-to-bedtime activity.  These stories can even be used as a little pre story-time before your usual bedtime reading ritual, and is complete with a sweet little lullaby at the end.  What a great tool to signal bedtime to little ones.
The Book of Once Upon A Time is a series of Disney stories, which are shared in the most fun and magical way by Aussie Actor and Playwright Kate Mulvany.  The stories air on the Disney Junior Channel (Foxtel Channel 709, and SKY Channel 105) weeknights at 7:10pm, and are also available online here.   You can even download the stories as eBooks from iTunes here.  We don’t have Foxtel at home, so we’ve had a look at the stories online, and both my girls were mesmerized.   We’ve watched the Snow White and Rapunzel stories so far, but can’t wait to check out the Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty and of course the Frozen stories, among others.  Kate Mulvany has a great story telling style, which just captures the kids’ attention and has them enthralled in these traditional Disney stories.  And who doesn’t love a Disney story, right!?!  To think the same stories I grew up with are now being enjoyed by my kiddos.  In a world where things change so quickly, sometimes the good old stuff lasts the distance, huh!

Another thing I like about these stories is the attention to detail.  Even though the stories are presented on the TV / computer / handheld screen, Disney have paid attention to traditional story time themes with page-turning and illustrations, but have added some little touches of animation for some extra fun.  It’s really well done.  We as parents are always looking to stimulate the girls’ imaginations, and this kind of story telling is just the ticket. They love it, and I love watching them engage … especially for Hannah, who is 3 … this little one has an amazing imagination.  The stories are great for developing her language skills too.  

Don’t worry, you can still totally read your own books with your kids and enjoy snuggles with the kids afterwards, or, who am I kidding … snuggle up and watch The Book of Once Upon A Time stories with them … who can say no to an extra cuddle with a freshly-bathed, pyjama-clad little munchkin anyway?

So, here’s the premiere episode “Snow White and the Great Jewel Hunt” for you to enjoy.  Just grab your nearest munchkin and check it out.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Pattern Test: The Ileana Dress

Now I can finally share the other recent pattern test I've done, and that I've been teasing you with on Instagram and Facebook ... I had so much fun with this one, I actually ended up making 2 dresses ... I couldn't resist.  Introducing the Ileana Dress from Compagnie M.  Oh, and if you use the code ILEANA10 you'll get a discount on both the printed and digital patterns...just sayin'!
So for Bethany's size 8 dress I chose the following options ... Bow collar, half-circle skirt, classic bodice, cap-sleeve and drop-shaped pockets.
This pattern has soooooo many options.  I love it for that.  In one pattern you can make so many different dresses.  There is such variety that you wouldn't even know they were from the same pattern.  That's what I call value!  I absolutely think this will become one of my all time favourite staple patterns.  Let me list some of the options:  Firstly you can choose whether to do a full or half circle skirt, then you can choose the collar - a floral collar, a bow collar, a rounded peter-pan collar or a pointed peter pan.  You can also choose whether to do half collars or full collars.  And we haven't even spoken about the 3 faux placket options yet, not to mention the sleeve options, or sleeveless of course, and the option to do a raglan bodice, and the pockets, oh the pockets...  So as you can see, you can get just as creative as you like.
To be honest the number of options gave me a slight panic-attack at first, but I soon found that once I had picked my options, the dress came together so easily.  Once again Marte's instructions and pictures are fantastic, and I can claim that my zip-phobia is now well under control.  Marte taught me with this pattern to install my very first (and second) invisible zips.  I've never seen instructions quite so easy to follow for zips.  It completely dissipated my zip anxiety, and made me wonder why I've been so stressed out by zips to date.  I might be a little addicted to them now.  I've also used her instructions when making a couple of dresses with exposed zips too ... I'm on a zip roll.
Oh, and do you like this fabric?  I picked it up for $2 a metre at my local fabric store.  Couldn't leave it there for that.  It's totally not my usual colour pallet, but something drew me to it and I thought it was perfect for one of Marte's designs.  Bethany likes it too.  She says it makes her look like an adult ... I guess when you're 7, that's pretty much the best thing ever.  How things change, huh!  

Anyway, after watching the tester-group design and show their dresses during the testing period, I just HAD TO try the floral collar.  This time I chose a daisy print from my stash and made up a size 4 for Hannah.
This dress just screams spring, and being in the middle of a cold-snap in Sydney, spring is totally what I'm longing for.
So again, I chose the classic bodice with the cap sleeve, and the half-circle skirt.  And this time I added a full floral collar.  So cute!
So, for my next Ileana, I think I'll try a raglan option, with a half-raglan sleeve and a faux placket.  

And a big thanks to Marte for having me to test again on this one.  I had a blast!!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Homemade Yoghurt, and some Yoghurt recipe ideas

Brought to you by Nuffnang and EasiYo.   All opinions are absolutely my own!
I love when I receive an email asking if I'd be interested in product testing something.  It's fun, but most of all it lets me try something out that I may otherwise have not known about, and give my opinion.  And today's product review is no different.

There's a new EasiYo in town.  Do you remember the old one?  Well, wait for it .... I have one, and here's how it compares to the new shiny red one....
The original was first developed about 20 years ago apparently ... boy that makes me feel old!  I'll admit that I bought the original EasiYo many years ago, and I've used it on and off over that time, but it has been a while I'll confess.   Why ... well, I don't really know.  I mean homemade yoghurt ... who can go wrong with that, huh!  And I'd forgotten how quick it really is to do.

You just grab your 1 kg jar that comes with the yoghurt maker, (the one on the left is the old version ... how much prettier is the new one!!), fill it half full with room temperature water, add your yoghurt sachet, then put the lid on and shake.  Then you fill the jar the rest of the way to the top, another little shake and pop it in the yoghurt maker that's been filled to the level marked inside with boiling water.  You put the lid on, and in 8 hours ... fresh yoghurt, ready to go.  And apparently the longer you leave the yoghurt in the maker, the thicker it becomes and it's safe to leave it in there for up to 24 hours.  I have done mine overnight each time, and the yoghurt is a beautiful consistency... oh, and I've been told that the probiotics in yoghurt are at their most potent when it's freshly made, so there's another reason to make it at home.
So, the flavours ... I was lucky enough to be able to sample a bunch of the flavours.  So far we've tried the Passionfruit (definitely the favourite all-round so far), the coconut (which I absolutely loved) and the plain, which I've used in cooking and if I get my act together soon, I might even had a go with using the rest of it to make some Labna.  We'll see ... I'll keep you posted!!
And one other thing that I like about this new EasiYo and the red-shiny-ness of it is that it absolutely matches my kitchen colour-scheme.  That's definitely an incentive to keep it out on the bench for regular yoghurt making ... it's just so darn pretty!
So, with all this yoghurt in the house, I thought I'd find a couple of recipes.  The first was this amazing Lemon Yoghurt cake ... I posted this teaser on Instagram ... It's one of those drizzle-the-hot-lemon-syrup-over-the-hot-cake-and-watch-it-soak-in kind of cakes ... Yum.  This one uses plain yoghurt!
And it was a great excuse to get out my Gran's vintage cup and saucer for a slice of cake and a cuppa on a cold winter's afternoon.
I just love a cup of tea in a real teacup ... don't you!
Next, Hannah and I decided to make some frozen yoghurt treats.  She recently watched an episode of PlaySchool where they mixed yoghurt with berries, froze it and ate it.  She's been trying to convince me since then that we needed to give this a try, but Hannah hates berries, so I wasn't really sure what to do.  But when everyone loved this EasiYo Passionfruit yoghurt so much, I figured this was my chance.  Here's how Hannah and I made these Passionfruit Banana Frozen Yoghurt treats:
- 500g passionfruit (or whatever flavour you want) yoghurt
- 1 banana

You'll also need some ice-block moulds ... we used these funky-shaped ones.  Hannah told me immediately that she would be having the "love heart icecream".
To make them, just dice your banana up into 1cm-ish sized pieces, then mix together with the yoghurt.  Can't be much simpler, really!
Spoon the mixture into the ice-block moulds and freeze!
 Oh, and don't forget to lick the spoon!
These are really tasty (I ate the pink one!).  The frozen banana almost disappears and the passionfruit yoghurt has such an amazing passion-fruity flavour ... makes me long for summer!
So, we've had a ball product testing the new EasiYo maker.  I really would recommend it.  It's quick and easy.  The yoghurt is thick, creamy, and tasty, not to mention it is free from artificial ingredients, gluten-free, and suitable for vegetarians.  The new EasioYo is available in Australia from Big W, Woolworths, IGA and online for $24.99 (RRP) and the yoghurt sachets for 1kg fresh yoghurt are available from $4.50.  So, it's not expensive either.  I also think these would make a great gift!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Pattern Test: The Cecily Rose Dress

I've been enjoying a bit of pattern-testing lately.  I love the idea of a new pattern, and being part of the  the process and watching any glitches being ironed out during the test, getting inspiration from other testers, and making some new crafty friends along the way.  I also think it's a great way to pick up new sewing techniques and to learn about the pattern design process.

Anyway, when the call-out for testers for this one popped up on Facebook one day, it caught my attention.  This is the new pattern called the Cecily Rose dress by Heidi of Pollywoggles Patterns.  

This dress is reversible .... yep, so effectively you get 2 outfits in 1 sew ...
Same, same ... but different!  For this dress, I raided the discount fabric table at my local spotlight (any excuse for a trip to the fabric store really!).  I picked up the pink floral for $3 per metre, and the metallic silver and blue for $4 per metre.  I liked that both fabrics are very different, but that I could match the blue in both fabrics to give a contrasting waist-band for each side of the dress.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, Heidi has also included instructions and a photo tutorial for making this dress non-reversible, so this pattern is great even if you want to save a bit on fabric.
Anyway, which side do you like best?  I was sure I'd like the floral side best, but the blue turned out so well, and is very striking.  I think it's my favourite now.

Bethany?  Well, she loves either side for twirling, and with the full circle-skirt, twirling is really the best thing to be doing!
The other interesting feature in this new pattern is the tie up bodice.  I wasn't sure if I would like that feature at first, but it works really nicely, and is a fun way to give a sneak peek at your contrasting fabric.  I think it will also mean that this dress will survive a growth-spurt or two, and it's great to think a handmade goodie will go the distance, huh!
The final version of this pattern has eradicated the little bit of bunching-up you can see at the back of the bodice in the pic above.  The fit was pretty close to start with, but Heidi has tweaked along the way, and now it's perfect.   I have even made a new bodice to check, and I can vouch for it!
Now Heidi has arranged this pattern beautifully, with a very clear guided tutorial complete with photos and line-drawing references along the way.  

And as an added bonus, the pattern and tutorial for this cute headband has also been included.  I really love this, and have made 3 already.  I can see more to come.  Bethany has recently had her hair cut (*sobs uncontrollably*) and this headband looks great, and holds those short little bits of hair back from falling in her face.  It's also elasticated at the back, and Bethany thinks its the most comfortable headband she's ever worn.  Winner, I'd say!   
So, do you want to pick this pattern up, brand spanking new on the market, and with a discount?  Well, as a special celebration of the Cecily Rose pattern release, there is a discount for a short time if you're quick, so head over and check it out.

And a big thanks to Heidi for having me to test this one.  What a lovely group of ladies there were in the test group, and what a fun ride it was!
Had to put this pic in too ... just 'cause I love her pose!!  Funny girl!