Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Meaningful Gift Giving with Cool Effect



We all have that one person on our gift list who is impossible to shop for, right? For me, that person is usually my husband Kim, and with his birthday falling right after Christmas gift shopping for him is often doubly impossible!

It can be so easy to fall back on the good old socks, chocolates and gift cards (all perfectly fine gifts and most likely under our tree this year), but I prefer to give gifts that are a little more meaningful and out of the ordinary. Something that they wouldn't normally buy for themselves. Maybe even something that keeps on giving.

This year I've found the perfect gift for that impossible to shop for person on your list, and not only is it meaningful but it will make a difference in the lives of so many. Imagine giving your loved ones the gift of fighting climate change. With a Cool Effect gift bundle, you can!


Cool Effect is a not for profit platform that allows individuals to support carbon emissions reductions through funding carbon reducing projects world wide. Projects include building renewable energy wind turbines in Costa Rica, providing energy efficient cooking stoves in Honduras, educating farmers about rainforest sustainability in Madagascar, and building biogas digesters that turn cow poop into energy in India. The projects are varied but they all share the same outcome: a reduction in carbon pollution.


Just in time for the holidays Cool Effect have released aptly named gift bundles that are perfect for that hard to shop for friend or family member. Each bundle supports a particular cause with funds raised going to various projects. For example, the Big Fan bundle raises funds for renewable energy wind turbines, while the Brew-tiful Gift bundle supports farmers in coffee growing regions by providing energy efficient cooking stoves and working to protect 450,000 acres from deforestation.


My top choice for my gift giving this year? The Poo Package! You just know that one was a hit with my kids, right? The Poo Package helps families in India build their own biogas digesters to turn cow poop into energy. Just one biogas digester can capture enough methane to power several homes at a time. This saves families money and it cuts down on harmful methane emissions. It's a win for everyone!


Bundles are available for $25, $100 or your own chosen amount. Each Cool Effect bundle comes with a personalized certificate with the recipient's name, a personal message from you, and instructions and paper to build an origami creation that fits in with the theme ie. an origami poo with the Poo Package or an origami snowman with the Snowman Gift Pack. Seriously, how cute is that origami poo? My kids would go crazy for that! There is also the option to have the gift delivered via email with print at home PDFs - perfect for last minute gifting!
Head on over to cooleffect.org to purchase gift bundles for your loved ones and to learn more about the work that is being done world wide to help combat climate change.


This holiday season, let's gift a gift that truly does keep on giving!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Elf on the Shelf: Week 1

Elfie Pokie Nokie, our Elf on the Shelf, has been back in our home for a whole week now and as usual, he has been getting up to all sorts of fun - and even a little mischief.

Here's a look at what Elfie has been up to this past week...

Day 1
On his first day back in our home Elfie announced his arrival with our letter board sign. Simple and to the point. Welcome back Elfie!


Day 2
Ava and Lola competed in a karate tournament on the second day, and Elfie must have overheard us talking about it as he was ready to cheer the girls on when they woke up. Lola was a little annoyed that Elfie didn't change positions, but as you can see he did put quite the effort into getting dressed for the occasion! Who knew he was a black belt? I certainly didn't, but I know not to mess with him now! By the way, Lola won first place in the sparring competition and Ava came second. They both did such a great job and had a lot of fun competing.


Day 3
Another fun event this past weekend was the Snow in Berkeley festival. Elfie knew we'd be playing in the snow so he had a little snow fun himself. He sure did make a mess with all that flour! Last year Elfie made snow angels out of mini marshmallows the day of the Snow in Berkeley festival. The flour definitely was a little messier than the marshmallows and he was certainly in need of a bath by the end of the day!


Day 4
My girls love taking photos of themselves with Snapchat filters, and it seems that elves quite enjoy it too. We woke up to find Elfie holding my iPhone, which was full of fun sElfies! Doesn't he make a cute puppy dog? There was some pretty hilarious face swap pictures with the girls too.


Day 5
Every year Elfie Pokie Nokie manages to get one of the girls' pumpkin buckets down from the top of the fridge and go through their Halloween candy. Usually it's Lola's bucket and oh boy, does she get annoyed with that elf! This year was no different in that he pulled down a bucket of candy, but luckily for Lola he chose Ava's bucket instead.


Day 6
Looks like Elfie got himself into a little trouble on day 6. We woke to find him attached to the fridge, upside down, by magnets clips. Could the Jelly Belly and Charlie Brown magnets above him be responsible? They do look kind of happy about what's happening. Maybe it's pay back for Elfie getting into a pack of jelly beans the day before. I guess we'll never know.



Day 7
A historical day! While it was night time here in America, history was made back home in Australia when same sex marriage was finally legalized! Elfie must've heard the news and decided to celebrate. Mathilde was so excited when she saw him in the morning. She came running to wake up her sisters to tell them that we must be going to the "rainbows and nudies" parade (Pride) again!


What a week of fun with Elfie Pokie Nokie. We're looking forward to seeing what else he gets up to. Stay tuned for another update in a week's time.

Does the Elf on the Shelf visit your home? I'd love to hear what sort of things he or she has been getting up to. If your elf needs inspiration make sure to check out these posts here and here for lots of great ideas.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A Christmas Activity Advent Calendar

It's almost time for the advent calendar to go up! Can you believe it's almost December already?

Every year we use the same advent calendar and rather than filling it with chocolate, candies or toys I fill it with vouchers for Christmas themed activities. Ok, I do add chocolates every now and then for an extra treat too.


Activity filled advent calendars are becoming a popular choice for a lot of families, but I often hear from people asking just what kind of activities to include.


Sunday, 26 November 2017

36 Fun & Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas

It's that time of year!

Elfie Pokie Nokie, our Elf on the Shelf, is due to arrive back in our home in less than a week. It seriously feels like he was just here yesterday, but here we are again approaching December and his much anticipated arrival. 

I know that for a lot of families the Elf on the Shelf arrives right after Thanksgiving (or maybe even before) and I also know that for a lot of parents coming up with fun ideas for the elf can be a little daunting. So today I'm sharing some more of my favorite situations that we've found Elfie Pokie Nokie in over the past few years. I shared thirty of my favorite ideas a few years back, which you can see here, but it's time for an update with some new ideas. 

Let's take a look at what Elfie Pokie Nokie has been up to in the past...

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Muffins




With the cooler days coming, or already here depending on where you live, fun indoor activities for the kids are on my mind. As Mathilde is getting older and becoming more independent, one fun activity she really has taken a liking to is baking. She loves pouring the ingredients, stirring it all together, cracking the eggs (always her favorite), and at the end of all that fun there's a delicious treat. What could be better?

So while the big kids are at school Mathilde and I have been doing quite a bit of baking together. It really is such a great activity to do together and I love seeing how much joy it brings. Now, I know that this is the season for baking everything pumpkin spice or gingerbread flavored, but I like to mix things up a little so our baking lately hasn't been particularly seasonal. In fact, it's been almost Summery. Blame it on me being Australian and my seasonal body clock (if that's a thing) being all mixed up!   


Our latest baking fun resulted in delicious blueberry and cream cheese muffins. They're so good that I just had to share the recipe with you all. The cream cheese centers of these muffins are my favorite and they taste especially good warmed up. It's kind of like they've been buttered for you to give that extra special treat.


Today I've teamed up with Real California Milk, not only to bring you this tasty recipe, but to share the Seals for Good campaign. You may remember that I shared the Seals For Good campaign and how it is helping communities affected by the hurricanes in Texas and Florida a little while back. The campaign has been extended to send some love and support to those affected by the devastating wildfires right here in California.

To take part in the Seals For Good campaign, simply snap a photo of the Real California Milk logo (which you can see below) on any dairy product and share it on your social media using #SealsForGood. For each share, Real California Milk will donate $5 to the Great American Milk Drive, up to $10k in California and $20k in Texas and Florida. Post your pictures any time between now and December 31st 2017 and don't forget to use that hashtag. No purchase is necessary.


Now here's a look at how we made those tasty muffins...

What you'll need

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on the top
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 3/4 cups frozen blueberries
8 oz block of cream cheese (cut into cubes)


Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).

Pour the sugar and butter into a large bowl. Cream together either using a mixer or with a wooden spoon. I used a mixer for this part which was one of the only steps that Mathilde didn't help with, although she did give it a good mix with her wooden spoon afterwards - while pulling a super cheesy grin in an attempt to look like the cartoon cow on the butter pack! 


Once the butter and sugar mix is fluffy add in the egg, egg yolks and vanilla.


Give it a good mix until it's well combined.


In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mix to the butter mix a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Stir well in between.


Once all of the flour and milk is mixed in, slowly fold in the blueberries. We used wild blueberries which are much bluer than regular blueberries and made for a purple/blue muffin mix. They also made for purple/blue toddler hands!


After cleaning those little blue hands, line a 12 hole muffin tray (or two 6 hole muffin trays) with cupcake liners. Fill each one about 2/3 full with muffin mix. The mixture made 18 muffins for me, but the original recipe I based this on suggested that it would make 12. If you would like the muffins larger, fill the liners closer to the top.


Place a cube of cream cheese into the center of each muffin and push it down.


Sprinkle generously with sugar - although maybe not quite as generously as Mathilde did!


Bake the muffins at 375F (190C) for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool on a rack then enjoy while warm for a soft cream cheese center.


While these muffins taste best warm, they're pretty tasty at room temperature too making them perfect for lunchboxes or picnics.


Don't these muffins look so good? I must admit I've eaten way too many of them in the past few days. But all those blueberries make them healthy, right? Right?!

When you go buy your dairy products to make these tasty muffins (and for all your other baking needs) make sure to look for the Real California Milk seal on the pack. And don't forget to share a pic on your social media to help support the Great American Milk Drive.


For more information about the Seals For Good campaign click here.


Friday, 24 November 2017

Photosynthesis at Conservatory of Flowers

The season of sparkling Christmas displays is almost upon us, but before we get into festive twinkling lights, there's an amazing illumination display that everyone in San Francisco needs to see. And it's only around for a few more days!

Photosynthesis is a nightly illumination display that lights up the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. The display is part of Illuminate SF which brings lighted and glowing art to the city. If you thought that the Conservatory of Flowers was beautiful during, and it is, just wait until you see it at night lit up with colorful botanical illuminations.


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Give the Gift of Music with Fender Play


Earlier this week I shared my favorite gift ideas for families that love adventure. Today I'm continuing the holiday gift theme and sharing another out of the ordinary gift idea.

If you have a music lover on your gift list this year, how about giving them the gift of learning to play guitar? Whether they're a complete novice or have a little experience, Fender Play is a fantastic learning resource that will have them playing in no time. 


Fender Play is an online and mobile app that teaches budding musicians how to play guitar at home and at their own pace. The app offers not only hundreds of simple, instructor led song and technique lessons, but also the flexibility to learn where ever, and when ever, works best for you. Fender Play works on your home computer, lap top, tablet or phone. It truly is a flexible learning environment that can go anywhere with you and your guitar. 


Fender Play's "bite size" lessons are structured to keep players inspired and motivated as they learn using the "Hear It, Learn It, Play It" approach. The app really is perfect for adults and children alike. The whole family could even learn together! Fender Play also allows parents to keep track of their child's progress, which is such an important part of learning any new skill. 


Ava has been really keen to learn guitar for such a long time, but with her already busy after-school schedule of karate, swim team and student council we just haven't been able to find the time to fit in lessons. I love the idea of my kids learning a musical instrument as it's so beneficial to their overall learning and emotional intelligence (plus it's fun), but time constraints don't always make this easy. Being able to simply open an app on her tablet and start learning at home would definitely make things much easier. A new guitar and a subscription to Fender Play just might be found under our tree on Christmas morning. Shh... don't tell Ava! 


Fender Play subscriptions are just $19.99 per month for all access. Just in time for the holidays, Fender have released pre-paid gift cards for 6 and 12 month subscriptions. Wouldn't a subscription to Fender Play make such a great gift? 


Interested in trying out Fender Play for yourself? Click here to sign up for your free 30 day trial. 


Do you play guitar? Or maybe another musical instrument? I always wanted to play piano or guitar when I was a kid so I'm thinking I might have to give the guitar a go with Fender Play too!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Gift Guide for Adventure Loving Families

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Micro Kickboard. All photos and opinions are my own.

The holidays are just around the corner which means it's time to start thinking about gift ideas. 

I'm a big fan of giving gifts that encourage the kids to get outside and play, even more so if it's a gift that encourages the whole family to play together. So today, I'm sharing some of my favorite gift ideas for families that love exploring, spending time outdoors and doing adventurous things together. 

Stay tuned for a fun give away at the end!

Micro Kickboard Scooters
For our city living family, scooters are a handy way to get around town. They're faster than walking, more convenient than bike riding and they're a ton of fun! My big kids have been getting around by scooter for years, and thanks to Micro Kickboard, Mathilde and I have now joined them! 


Ava and Lola ride the Sprite scooter which is designed for older children through to adults. It's a classic style two wheeled scooter that comes in a large range of colors. It's light enough for the kids to easily ride, but strong enough that either Kim or I could jump on and take it for a spin. The girls love that it has a handy kickstand so they don't always have to find something to lean it against when they get off.  Because the Sprite is lightweight, it's easy for the kids to carry around when folded too.


Mathilde rides the three wheeled Mini Deluxe which is suitable for children aged 2 - 5. The Mini Deluxe steers by pushing on the handle rather than turning it. It took Mathilde no time at all to pick it up. Just like a big scooter it has a rear brake, which is something missing from other toddler scooters on the market. And trust me, she zooms pretty fast keeping up with her big sisters so that brake comes in handy! 


My scooter is the Micro Black which is the best selling scooter for adults. It's really comfortable to ride and adjusts to suit a large range of sizes which means that Kim is able to ride it too. One of my favorite things about my scooter is that my kids love that I'm joining in the fun with them instead of just watching from the side lines. 


One thing I love about our scooters is they make for the perfect day out of fun. They're so easy to throw in the trunk of the car and take on adventures with us. Because the larger scooters fold up they take up very little room which means we can even take them on longer road trips and camping trips too. They're so much more convenient than taking bikes on our adventures, and just as much fun.


Wouldn't scooters for the whole family would make such a fantastic gift? Head on over to microkickboard.com for some great Black Friday deals with up to 40% off scooters for the whole family starting November 22. Don't forget the helmets for the kids. 

Oh, and stay tuned for a fun giveaway at the end of this post!
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