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Glade Wax Melts: Cashmere Woods

As a Social Soup tester, I had the opportunity to try out a new Glade product: Glade Wax Melts. These small blocks of fragrant wax work in the same way as Scentsy wax melts do and can be used in your Scentsy wax warmer too.

I received Cashmere Woods wax and I was very pleasantly surprised by the fragrance. I used my Scentsy warmer to melt the wax block. Describing a fragrance is tricky but I’ll try list of few adjectives: soft, sweet, mildly earthy, faintly spicey, not offensive, very nice, and loved by the whole family. To be honest, I was kind of expecting a toilet spray type fragrance but this was not the case at all!

Whilst the Glade range of warmers and melts is much smaller than the Scentsy range, it is nevertheless good to know that there is now a supermarket version of this product.

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The Mermaid Circus is coming to town … online art course!

Byron Bay based Australian artist, Jane Davenport runs fabulous art courses, both online and in real life. I have attended both varieties. The live one was at a craft fair in Perth. I can attest to the fact that you start producing some terrific art under Jane’s expert guidance!

Whilst live courses are great, online courses are superb as you are not limited by time and space as you can attend so long as you have an Internet connection. Jane’s courses are typically jam packed full of inspiration and instruction plus endless tips and tricks to get you producing wonderful art all of your own. There are numerous different courses too to suit different skill levels and interests.

I was so pleased to learn that Jane and her partner-in-art, Teesha Moore, for this particular topic, will be running a third season of their much acclaimed Mermaid Circus online art course. It starts on 8 September 2014 and I want to attend! I feel the need for some art therapy and own voice development!🙂

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Here’s a quote straight off the website: “Mermaid Circus is the wildly inspiring online workshop I created with creativity Icon,Teesha Moore. After many, many requests Teesha and I decided that Mermaid Circus should roll back into town one last time! Over 8 weeks, Teesha and I will present you with a plethora of incredible art projects and tutorials that celebrate our love of Mermaids and the Circus, I mean, what a theme right?! We started filming in Mexico when we were on holiday, and then continued in Teesha’s studio near Seattle and finished in my studio overlooking Byron Bay. The workshop created a huge buzz in the online world because the artwork this workshop inspired was UH-MAY-ZING. Teesha and I made sure it was rich in techniques and creativity. You also have a Private Group to share your work and 1 year to re-watch and wring out every last drop of joy from all of the Lessons!”

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Check out this link for further information and registration details: Mermaid Circus

 

Egg-free grocery items

I’m trying to avoid buying eggs and products that contain egg as much as possible these days for compassionate reasons. The odd, determined egg now and then slips through the filters when I am less than diligent but so be it in an imperfect world.

First up, Jamie Oliver pasta …

Pasta does not need to be made with eggs as is plain to see from these three packs of egg-free pasta. In fact, there are numerous brands of dried pasta in the supermarket that do not contain eggs. You just need to take the trouble to read the labels. I’ve picked this brand as it is the newest, most visible and most colourful of the lot.

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Here’s a close of Jamie’s statement about the ingredients on the one packs:

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I have no idea why Jamie has chosen to use and so endorse egg-free pasta as he is certainly not a vegan but I am pleased nevertheless as he is a popular foodie personality, he is influential and it is truly hard to miss his flood of products into Woolworths in Australia. Whilst he has undoubtedly done some great work by promoting fresh, wholefoods for home cooking, I look forward to the day when he will use his influence to promote a more compassionate way of eating. For now, we have egg-free pasta.

So far, we have tried the fusilli in the yellow pack. It was very good. No complaints at all.

According to information gleaned off the packages, this dried pasta is made:

  • of durum wheat semolina (and water);
  • in Italy using a traditional recipe; and
  • with extra texture so that it can hold more sauce.

Next up, egg substitutes for baking …

All manner of ingredients can apparently be used to replace eggs in baking, eg, banana, chia seeds, peanut butter, etc. Orgran’s “no egg” provides a more neutral kind of tasting substitute and I have successfully used it to make cupcakes.

I need to do more “no egg” cupcake experimentation using my own recipe from scratch but so far I have successfully made tasty, well received and seemingly conventional, egg-free cupcakes using Green’s Golden Butter Cake mix and Basco’s gluten-free Golden Butter Cake mix. As I am also trying to dodge dairy, I used a plant-based shortening instead of butter and Pureharvest Oat Milk instead of cow’s milk. I slipped up with my dairy dodging with the Greens as it contains milk solids which I discovered after the fact thanks to my less than diligent label reading! Grocery shopping has indeed become a minefield for the mindful shopper.

“No egg” is soy-free, gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, yeast-free and is vegan. It is also very economical as the pack contains the equivalent of 66 eggs which makes it about 9c per “no egg”! I bought mine from Weigh ‘n Pay in Woodvale, Perth.

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“No egg” is made in Australia. See the ingredients in the photo below. I have only used it for baking but, according to the box, it can be used to make fillings, batter, custard and meringue. I’d really like to be able to make a good vegan custard!

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Last up in this post is vegan mayonnaise … 

I was very happy when my local health shop, Stay Healthy, managed to source this Melrose vegan mayonnaise for me. As added bonuses, it is made in Australia and is organic.  I’m very pleased to have found a readily available vegan substitute.

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Mayonnaise is, however, one of those products that some people have very strong feelings about when it comes to brand loyalty and specific tastes and textures. This one is more like a salad cream to me than a mayonnaise but I am happy to have found it. The ingredients are visible in the photo below:

 

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The next step is to try make my own vegan mayonnaise and I already have the recipe for “No Eggy Mayo” in the amazing cookbook called The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook by Skye Michael Conroy (aka The Gentle Chef) to help me achieve this goal. See his website at gentlechef.com. His book is available in digital form for instant download and in print.

 

Swan Valley Café, Perth

I’m on a mission at present to try out as many Perth vegan/vegetarian restaurants as I can. The process is slow! My main challenge seems to be my location as there is not much in the way of those kind of specialised restaurants in the north of Perth. There are several mainstream restaurants in the area that have a vegetarian option or two and if you are really lucky, a vegan option.

Some plant-based people simply stop eating out due to the challenges. Some will try order a bowl of parsley or a selection of sides. The latter strategy often proves to be a highly satisfactory experience as I recently discovered at the Indiana Tea Room in Cottesloe. I love eating out and believe that all home cooks deserve a regular break from the endless monotony of providing meals for the rest of the family, so I will continue with my vegan/vegetarian dining out adventures.

After endless trawling on the VeganPerth.org.au Facebook page the other day, I ended up “liking” a whole heap of suitable local restaurants and I discovered to my delight that the Swan Valley Café exists and is the north of Perth. There is one catch though: it is WAY inland, a 26 minute drive one way according to Google Maps. So whilst not impossibly far, for me it falls into the leisurely weekend lunch category as it is out of my way. I envy the Swan Valley locals!

Armed with Google Maps and Bluetooth, we set forth on a gorgeous Perth winter’s day, with drizzle and rainbows, on Sunday adventure inland to the Swan Valley winelands. I was on the receiving end of endless “are we there yet?” enquiries. As the café is located on the Great Northern Highway, which can be busy at times, my only travelling recommendation is to keep left as you near the destination and slow down despite all the cars behind you as you can miss the driveway that you need to turn into in a flash and turning around on the highway is a real pain even though it is a very rustic kind of highway.

I just love the vibe I get at these alternative restaurants and that relief that I can order just about anything there. My best ever experience was going to Loving Hut Perth (south of the river) where I could have thrown a dart at the menu blindfolded and been safe to eat whatever menu item the dart landed on. Definitely a happy experience!

I ordered this veggie burger with salads on the side and it was great! I would definitely order it again and would recommend it highly. I also ordered a slice of non-dairy “cheesecake” for dessert – definitely enough for two to share!

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One of the things that excites me most about the Swan Valley Café is that they offer children a special platter of food instead of the usual, awful kids’ menu choices. We know them all: chicken nuggets and chips, fish and chips, steak and chips, cheese pizza, etc. I know how hard it is to feed a child, especially when limited to menu items, but mainstream restaurants seem to be drumming it into their formative little minds that this is the way you eat when you go out. It is very hard to unlearn these food habits that you learn from such a young age.

So back to my sheer delight at seeing a more healthy and sensible food option for kids: I think the menu did state that you could specify dietary preferences but as I felt I was in a “safe zone” I just went with the standard offering with no specifications. This is what arrived:

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My little one was delighted. Half an egg disappeared before I could photograph it. I was surprised to see egg and cheese as I had been lulled into forgetting that this is a vegetarian restaurant and not a purely vegan one, though it has vegan options. At this point I must add that we are a home “in conversion”. I raised my child as an “omni” and I have to accept my choice to have done that at the time and the consequences of that choice. My new goal with my child is to undo the omni in a kind and compassionate way vis-a-vis her by first drastically reducing animal-based foods and in many instances eliminating them entirely with her consent. Consequently she mainly eats vegan food, often eats vegetarian food and only when she eats out does she have the choice to eat meat. She general picks a vegetarian pizza or fish and chips, so that I guess makes her a pescatarian once a month! She has granted pigs, sheep and chicken immunity but for some reason or other cows have not been deemed “too cute to eat” but I am sure we will get there. Rome was not built in a day!

Fortunately I did raise her with a love of fresh, whole food so all manner of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils are eaten with relish. I wish more restaurants offered children a simple platter like this which can so easily be tailored to suit dietary preferences. You just need a list of options and the patron and pick and choose and nothing is easier to prepare than one of these little platters: salad leaves, raw veggie sticks, baby tomatoes, olives, fruit, dip, crackers, nuts, seeds, beans, egg and cheese.

If alternative restaurants do not offer suitable children’s options, they risk losing the patronage of the parents. We went to a great restaurant for adults last weekend but all they could offer my child was roast potatoes and sadly she isn’t a fan. I simply cannot go there again until the menu has been made more accommodating for little people.

Here’s an example of a splendid children’s platter served at a Cape Town restaurant. This was the first time I had ever seen such an option for kids like this on a menu. It was called “Organic Salad”.

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It went down a treat!

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Goi Vietnamese Rolls

Vegan options in the northern suburbs of Perth can be hard to come by. This is both annoying and disappointing but we can only hope that more choices and vegan/vegetarian restaurants start appearing to match the apparent rise in interest in plant-based, cruelty free lifestyles.

Many mainstream restaurants are clueless as is apparent from their menus with no vegan option and vegetarian options which are so rich and cheese-based that they literally make the plant-based diner feel ill. Often a garden salad and a side of fries is your best way to go in these places which is truly sad.

Anyway, with that as my backdrop to dining in northern Perth, imagine my delight when I discovered that Goi Vietnamese Rolls in Whitfords Shopping Centre has a vegan option. (See how easy to please we can be … delight at one mere option!) They make a delicious Buddah’s Delight rice paper roll which consists of various greens, tofu, sautéed mushrooms and noodles in a rice paper wrap served with a vegan sauce. I have ordered these countless times since I discover them earlier this year. The quality is consistently superb and the service is always friendly and excellent.

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I will no doubt keep ordering them. They are fresh and light and you feel great eating them. They have become my absolute favourite takeaway food. A huge thank you to GVR!

A few more tops from Covered Perfectly

There is nothing quite like getting a whole bunch of new tops to breath life into a wardrobe. Suddenly there are so many possibilities and winning combinations to come up with without having to make a huge investment in a whole new wardrobe. All you need is a handful of appropriate bottoms and away you go.

I’m finding that the following bottoms all in black are serving me well to mix and match with my new tops: leggings, loose long pants, three quarters loose pants, skirt and jeans (though my jeans are now more grey than black).

For winter, add some vests, cardigans and a couple of coats, and you are just about done with the bulk of what you need. I’ve found that my Intimo collection blends perfectly with my new tops. Then you just need a few basic things like shoes and accessories (bag, scarves, jewellery and gloves) and you are done.

Here are the official photos of my latest batch of tops which have been used here with permission by Covered Perfectly. Covered Perfectly tops are made in the USA, are machine washable (I’ve been using the delicate cycle) and require no ironing. (Please see my earlier blog post on these tops for reviews in other styles.) The customer service is fantastic and my parcels arrive in Australia in just over a week from the USA.

First up, Simple Comfort in black. Simple Comfort is one of Covered Perfectly’s top selling styles and it isn’t hard to figure out why. It is not only a wardrobe basic but a wardrobe essential. Like all tops in the collection, it has been designed to cover you perfectly with a longer than standard length and three quarter sleeves. They are also made out of Micro-Modal so they feel fantastic and allow your skin to breathe. Large is the perfect size for me.

Confession time: I have several other similar style tops by other manufacturers in my wardrobe which are now destined for the donation pile. They are still in good condition but they are all way too short. They cut you in the most unflattering spot around the middle, rendering them only good as a garment that desperately needs concealment by another layer of clothes. This is not the case at all with the Simple Comfort as it is designed so that it will look good on you all on its own, yet it is perfect for layering and adding elements as you will soon see. Thanks to Pauline Durban’s vision to create the Covered Perfectly line, I do not have to embark on a hunt for basic tops like these that are the right length and ending up settling for unsatisfactory short tops any more.

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Next up, Simple Comfort in red. It is just as fabulous as the black one and you seriously need more than one Simple Comfort top in your wardrobe. I could happily have one in every colour available (black, red, blue, coral, grey, kelly-green, malt, royal-blue, teal and violet) plus an extra black one. Simple Comfort is also available in a variety of patterned fabrics including a leopard print – please see the website (coveredperfectly.com) for details.

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And now for some layering … introducing the Cascading Vest! I was a bit hesitant about ordering a Cascading Vest as I have never owned anything like it before but it seemed to offer something appealing so I tried it out. I love them! As you can see, they combine perfectly with a Simple Comfort top. They are made out of polyester chiffon. They flow, drape perfectly, conceal and make you feel great. They can be worn in numerous ways (even as a scarf if you really want to!) by tying them low in the front, tying them around the waist, pinning the fronts together with a brooch and similar. Personally, I prefer to leave them just as is shown in the photo as I find this the most flattering way to wear them. If you Google them, you can find several images and a video or two illustrating how you can wear these vests in different ways. Due to their freestyling nature, they are available in two sizes only.

I have the Cascading Vest in the black and white circles. It looks great with both the red and black Simple Comfort tops.

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I also have it in Zebra! I’ve never worn animal prints before but I am finding them to be a whole lot of fun.

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Finally, here’s the Tracey in animal print. It is so cute and flattering. This particular top is near the end of its run with several sizes already sold out so grab it while you can. The plain Tracey tops are made out of Micro-Modal but this print is 95% rayon and 5% spandex. I also have the Tracey in teal. The cut seems a bit bigger with teal one so I think in future I would buy a medium plain Tracey but this one is perfect for me in large.

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My new cross body black Guess Presley bag (see separate review) goes just perfectly with everything.

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It would seem you can never have quite enough Covered Perfectly tops so I am eagerly awaiting the launch of the new season’s styles. Look for Covered Perfectly on Facebook and sign up for the newsletter. Look out for coupons and specials too! Thanks for the fantastic wardrobe refresh, Pauline!