Anya and Allegra's Joint Birthday Party- November 2014!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

  Hello! I'm super excited to share the photos from Anya and Allegra's joint party held over the weekend. For a while there, I wasn't sure if we would be throwing a party this year but I knew that if we did, I had already found my source of inspiration! Whether it be putting together an outfit, styling a room or creating a party theme, my inspiration usually stems from a pattern or print that catches my eye. And in this case it was the gorgeous 'Trendy Trim' invitations from Tiny Prints! You probably already know by now that I love a bit of pattern clashing, so when I stumbled on the gorgeous floral and black and white striped invites months ago on Instagram, I was itching at the chance to use them! Whilst they are not your typical themed children's invites, they still sum up my girls perfectly... feminine, striking, fun, bold and beautiful. Throw in some gold glitter and you have one beautiful party palette! And given it is also fall here in the US, I thought they suited the season well too.

So, using the invitation as my source of inspiration, the rest of the details came pretty easily. My trusty hot glue gun got a work out again this year (still the best $7 I have ever spent) putting together some of the finer details such as the party favours, handmade bunting, decorated mini milk bottles and gold glitter cutlery. And the wonderful Michelle from Custom Icing was amazing again this year helping my vision for the cake come to life! I wanted to incorporate the same patterns from the invite on the cake and Michelle was very patient whilst I threw her a handful of questions so I could be certain all of my measurements etc. were correct. I was still so in love with the mini sugar cookies I made for the girls' party last year I decided to make them again and I knew the floral print would look just darling on them! I was so happy with how both the cake and cookies turned out and both were such a striking feature yet easy to achieve!

It was a relatively small gathering this year so we kept everything else pretty simple and I outsourced most of the savoury food. We ordered fresh, party sized Jimmy Johns (which is Allegra's favourite) along with Pizza from our local Pizzeria. Of course the weather was crumby again and it was a super dark, wet and gloomy day which made taking photos almost impossible (at least we were inside!). Not to mention despite charging and testing my SLR earlier in the week, it was bringing up a lens error on the day (Arrghh) so I reverted to my good ol' iphone for photos! The party was a success (I think?!) and the girls had an absolute ball which is the main thing. Enough rambling from me, I'll let the photos tell the story :)



Party details!

'Trendy Trim' Invitations from Tiny Prints
'So Much love- Cute Crafty Hearts' gift stickers also from Tiny Prints
Edible icing (used cake and cookies) from Custom Icing
Giant paper flower for cake handmade by me
Coral Noodle Boxes from Paper Mart
Black and white striped tags for favour boxes I created myself (and then placed gift stickers on top).
Paper straws and plain wooden cutlery from Creative Juice Cafe (I adhered gold glitter paper to the spoons myself).
Coral cupcake wrapper from Sew Pretty in Vermont
Charcoal cupcake wrappers from Simply Wrappers
Glitter gold cupcake wrappers from We Like Parties
Gold spotted cupcake cases (used for popcorn) from Petite Party Studio
Custom made tutus with matching top from Strawberrie Rose
Mini glass milk bottles from Sweet Style
Paper Bunting made by me using left over invitations and paper from Paper source
Glass drink dispenser from Targethttp://www.target.com
Cake, cupcakes, cookies and Rocky Road made by me.

I still can't quite believe that I now have a two year old and a four year old! This Mumma is party pooped... until next year ;)

Baking with Mrs Bouw: Mrs Bouw's Chicken Laksa!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

After posting the odd photo of this dish on Instagram over the months, I have received several requests to share the recipe so here it is... finally! This recipe is one of my own that just kind of 'happened' one night when I wasn't really sure if I was making a curry or a broth... and boy am I glad it did because it is SO delicious! It's also a dish that you can tailor to your liking and it's relatively easy to substitute ingredients if you are missing a few. So don't panic if you don't have Kecap manis in your pantry because I guarantee it will still be super tasty! AND my biggest tip when making this recipe is to make slightly ahead of time as it only tastes better the longer the ingredients have time to fuse. I like to have my greens prepared in the fridge so that when it come to serving time all I have to do is prep the noodles (which takes all of a few minutes) ladle the broth over the top and then garnish with the greens. Too easy and beyond tasty! So go on, get your laksa on! :)
 

Mrs Bouw's Chicken Laksa

Ingredients

250g Rice Vermicelli noodles
250g Chicken fillets finely diced (breast or thigh depending on your personal preference)
2tbs coconut oil
2 tbs red curry paste
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp paprika
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbs fish sauce
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
2 tbs kecap manis
2 tbs peanut butter
1 400ml tin coconut milk
A handful of snow peas, washed and finely sliced
A few lengths of spring onion, washed and chopped into rounds (I use both the green and white of the onion)
Fresh coriander, washed and removed from the stems

* Please note: how much of the 'greens' you use to garnish is often a personal preference and if there are other vegetables and herbs you prefer you can alway substitute for the ones you are not a fan of. For example, many people are not fond of coriander so this can always be subtitled for something else such as bean sprouts. You can also substitute the chicken for seafood if you wish.

Method

- Heat the coconut oil in a medium to large pot/saucepan, add the red curry paste a stir for a minute or so until fragrant.

- Add your chicken and then cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until chicken is sealed but not browned.

- Throw in your tumeric and paprika and stir continuously for no longer than 30 seconds (you don't want the paprika to burn as it will give your laksa a bitter taste).

- Add the stock, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, kecap manis and peanut butter and stir until well combined.

- Lastly, add in the coconut milk, again, giving it a good stir and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

- Reduce heat to your absolute lowest setting and cook for at least another 30-40 minutes (the longer the better).

-After the 40 minutes I like to turn the heat off completely, place a lid on the pot and just let it sit for a while as it give the flavours more of a chance to come together. And it is even better the next day!

- Just before you a ready to serve, place your vermicelli noodles in a large bowl and cover completely with boiling water.

- Loosen them a little with a fork and then let the noodles sit for 5 or so minutes. Drain once soft.

- Place noodles in bowl, using a ladle cover the noodles with your laksa and then top with coriander, snow peas and spring onion.

- Enjoy! :)

Body Image Issues: Pre and Post Baby

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Body image is a sensitive, serious and complex issue amongst woman today. I am definitely no expert so I will start off by saying that this post is about sharing my personal experiences (no one else's) along with some tips on what I am doing to try and overcome the body image issues that have haunted me for years.

I remember it perfectly, I was just eight years old. It was a sports day at school and I was wearing my white pleated netball skirt when a couple of girls came up to me during lunchtime and began teasing me about how my skirt sat on my hips differently and how I looked 'funny' compared to all the other girls. Physically, I was just an average child, not overweight or underweight by any means but I did (and still do) have very high hips. After that incident, I remember asking my Mum countless times if I could have a 'hip operation' so that I could just be 'normal' like the other girls. Did I mention that I was just eight years old? I was also the only girl to wear pants to my Grade 6 Graduation because I was too self conscious about how I looked in a dress and I became increasingly fearful of wearing a swimsuit in front of anyone. Just ask my Mum. She will tell you she only saw me in a swimsuit without a coverup (for the first time in over fifteen years!) a few years ago. And I am still one of those people who will shyly and discreetly slip off my kaftan and sneak into the pool while no one is watching.

Over the years that followed (high school and puberty, need I say more) I found myself yoyo dieting from about the age of fourteen and whilst I am very thankful I never went down the eating disorder path, I have always been very conscious of what I eat (even though there have definitely been stages throughout my life where my diet suggested otherwise). And my hangups with my body continued throughout my teens and early twenties.

And then came babies. Boy, oh boy, oh boy. My fellow Mummas, I'll stop there shall I? I've always been very sporty and very active so throughout both my pregnancies I kept up my regularl exercise and maintained a healthy, balanced diet. As a result, I was lucky enough to only put on 10.1 kgs with both my girls (yes, I put on the exact amount of weight, to the gram, with both!) so that coupled with breastfeeding, I was able to drop the baby weight quickly. But also due to breastfeeding both my girls (Allegra for twelve months and Anya for eight) let's just say I now refer to my boobs as empty milk sacs. Ugh. I know I'm definitely not alone on this one. And I'd be lying if I said I hadn't contemplated breast augmentation. Maybe one day.

Left: 40 weeks pregnant with Allegra. Right: 10 days after giving birth.
Left: 40 weeks pregnant with Anya. Right: 48 hours after giving birth. Yes, even I was like 'what the hell... where did my tummy go?!
About four months into my second pregnancy, almost over night, I developed hideous, bulging leg veins in my right leg. There was one enormous protruding one running all the way up my thigh and then a series of large ones running off the main one down behind my knee. To say I was devastated is an understatement. My legs had always been one part of my body that I was 'ok' with so to have this happen was so upsetting. Wasn't there already enough going on with my body, you know, with making a baby and all?! So, what was my solution to the problem? I covered up my legs. Yep, that's right, I then wore pants for almost a year and a half as treatment is not permitted whilst you are still breastfeeding. So with my high hips, saggy boobs and vein infested legs I did what I try to do best... be the best Mum I can be. I fed my beautiful 100th percentile baby for eight long refluxy months, wearing pants (even in the heat of summer) that were mostly covered in vomit. And the week after I finished feeding I booked myself in to have Sclerotherapy. It was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It was still another few months before the bruising of the treatment died down but the veins are now completely gone and all I am left with is the tiniest black mark which looks like a very small bruise. I still remember how liberated I felt the first time I bared my legs in public after such a long time (ok ok, a sneaky spray tan may have helped ease the brightness of my sun-deprived legs hee hee). Hence why I am now not shy to wear the odd mini here and there ;) If any one suffering from legs veins would like to hear more about the treatment before contacting a professional, please don't hesitate to email me, I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have!

Left: Just so you know, this is very confronting for me. Up until now I have only ever shared the photo on the left with two, maybe three, people. It was taken just before my treatment and I still can't bring myself to share a photo of the largest vein that ran down my thigh. I still find it so upsetting BUT am delighted and grateful I achieved the results I did after treatment. Right: Taken during my first session at the gym wearing shorts after almost a year and a half. I copped some slack on my Instagram page when I posted this one but hopefully after seeing the before shot you can appreciate why I was so happy about being in shorts again!
Not so surprisingly, my body and shape has changed a lot since having children. One of the strangest things for me personally about my post baby bod is that the areas I never used to like or appreciate are now becoming strengths rather than weaknesses. I never really had a toned, defined tummy pre-children but I have found this last year or so I now have obliques! Well they were always there but you know what I mean... they are now defined! I'm just as baffled as you believe me. AND surprisingly, I think I am slowly (very slowly) embracing my least favourite part of my body, yep, my hips!


I still feel silly writing this because I know there are probably many people reading this thinking 'what has she got to complain about'... but that is my point exactly. It's often the people you least expect who suffer from being severely self conscious. What you see in the mirror can be very different to how others see you. Your least favourite body parts are often what other people like best about you or even what they wished for themselves.  He'll probably kill me for writing this but when Mr B, how shall I put this, first saw me with my kit off the first thing he commented on was my hips... and I mean that in a very good way ;) But sometimes it doesn't matter how many times you hear it, you can't change to way you think and feel about yourself... or can you?!

I am definitely still a work in progress and I still have my days where I really don't like what I see... but here are a few tips on how you can begin improving your body image issues and make friends with the mirror. It's nothing overly profound but sometimes we all just need a little reminder:

- Be gentle with yourself and focus on the parts of your body you do like. Make a conscious effort not to put yourself down around others and instead turn your focus to something positive you have done that day/week.

- Learn to appreciate what your body is capable of and how it serves you daily. Fellow Mummas, um hello, we grew a human being inside of our bellies. How amazing are we!

- Spend a bit of time learning about dressing to best compliment your assets... feeling comfortable and confident in clothes will also help with feeling comfortable and confident out of clothes (your partners will love this... nudge nudge wink wink).

- Avoid crash dieting and instead slowly start making healthy lifestyle changes that are realistic for you to reach your goals. Everything in moderation. And for what it's worth, I still don't believe in sugar free cupcakes ;)

- Meal planning is a great way to introduce healthier meal options into your household. There are always healthy AND tasty alternatives to some of your favourite not-so-healthy meals.

- Exercise regularly! This in itself will help boost self image, self esteem and energy levelsBut again, be realistic with your approach and don't exercise beyond your ability. Regular exercise has always been a big part of my lifestyle and is something Mr B and I feel very passionate about and couldn't live without.

- Stop making excuses! This is a hard one for many of us. It is easy to fall in to the 'oh I will make a change tomorrow' or 'it's too late for me' or 'I don't have the time' trap. Whether it be a mental change or a physical change, today is the day. There is always time. Make the time. YOU CAN DO IT!

- Surround yourself with supportive and inspiring people! A happy and healthy way of life is contagious :)

Thank-you for reading and for allowing me to get a little of that off my chest. It's not often easy to reveal your weaknesses especially when others may see you in a totally different light. This was a bit of a long one so I think I will save some healthy eating and exercise tips for another day. Until then, be the change you seek! xxx

Get the look: Cartel & Willow- Spring 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

For those who missed my posts on Instagram last week, I thought I would do a little recap and review of the gorgeous Cartel & Willow items that will now be staples in my wardrobe! Not only do I love that Cartel & Willow are an up and coming Australian label, but I also love that they focus on bringing the public fun, bright and bold patterns along with essential basics all at truly affordable prices. Oh and did I mention their pieces are crazy comfortable?! Here's how I chose to style all five items...
  The Grey Lulu Pocket Top is super soft to touch and I love that it can be worn either as a long tunic style top or tucked in for a completely different look. This will definitely be a staple in my wardrobe going forward!

The Chambray London Cardigan (more of a jacket) gives an otherwise plain outfit a great edge! I teamed it with my trusty leggings, Nike Dunks and a plain white tee for a comfy Sunday morning outing with my little family. How amazing are the oversized lapels? Love!

I love a transpersonal pair of pants! Whether you pair them with a plain tee and floppy hat for an easy and casual spring look, or throw on a cosy knit for the cooler months, the Ethel Pant are so fun (and again crazy comfy)! If you're someone who dreams of leaving the house in your PJ's then these pants are a must for you! ;)

I absolutely love the Eva Waterfall Cardigan (which also comes in a few different colours and patterns) and I think it's fair to say this is something I will be wearing for many seasons. It has a great cut and the fabric is super soft which despite it being a casual item, gives off a light elegant look. And you can't go passed the classic stripe!

And lastly, the Tribal Poppy Long Sleeve Dress! This dress uses the same pattern as the Ethel Pant although the fabric is different. Despite it giving off a super snug look, the dress actually has heaps of stretch which is both comfy and great for those perhaps accommodating a baby bump (FYI that does not apply to me before any of you jump the gun hee hee). You know I love me a bold print that packs a punch! And whilst we're on the topic of the Tribal Poppy Dress... for your chance to WIN one of these beauties head on over to my Instagram page for more details! AND all my readers are still entitled to a 10% discount on all items using the code MRSBOUW for a short time only!

If you like what you see above, be sure to check out Cartel & Willow's entire range on their website along with their Instagram page to stay up to date with all of their news! Happy shopping my friends!

Baking With Mrs Bouw: Home Made Blueberry Muffins!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hello! I've been meaning to share my super easy recipe for home made blueberry muffins for a while now, always a fun one to make with the kids! My girl's and I have made them twice in the last couple of weeks and they love both making them and eating them! They are also a great way to use up any berries you may have in the fridge and I love that all of the ingredients are ones that you almost always have in your pantry and fridge. Yum yum yum!
 

Mrs Bouw's Home Made Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for muffin tops
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup fresh blueberries


Method

- Heat oven to 200 degrees C and line 8 standard-size muffin cups with paper liners.

- Combine flour, 3/4 cup of the sugar, baking powder and the salt in a large bowl and stir until well combined.

- Place vegetable oil, egg, milk and vanilla essence in a separate bowl and whisk until combined.
- Add milk mixture to the bowl with flour and sugar then use a fork to combine.
- Using a spatula, gently fold the blueberries into the muffin batter.

- Divide batter between 8 muffin cups (the batter will come to the tops of the paper liners) and then sprinkle a little sugar on top of each muffin.

- Bake muffins 15 to 20 minutes or until tops are no longer wet and skewer comes out clean when tested.
- Transfer muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Enjoy!

Allegra's New Bedroom!

Monday, October 6, 2014

With Allegra's new room now 99% complete, I thought I would share some pics of her new space along with links of where I purchased most of the goodies (please note, some items were purchased for Allegra or Anya's old rooms in our previous homes so may no longer be available). I'm so happy with how it has all come together, it really is so fulfilling seeing your vision come to life! I think it's no secret that I love colour and pattern and include a lot of it in both our home and our wardrobes, so starting a room from scratch can be so hard when it comes to committing to a colour scheme! I don't like to limit myself too much so tend to go with a palette of about three to four main colours to give me room to play. My inspiration often stems from something as small as a cushion, rug or piece of art and in this case, it was the gorgeous, modern and vibrant 'Miss Allegra' cushions I had custom made through Tiny Prints!

My two favourite colours are yellow and pink so I was more than happy to incorporate lots of these two colours into her room and the touches of gold all around just seemed to tie it all in nicely. And you really can't go wrong with a gold polka dot wall now can you... fun fun fun! Another show stopper in this room is the pink velvet quilt! For years and years velvet (even just the thought of it) made my skin crawl... but my heart skipped a beat when I saw this beauty and I didn't hesitate bringing it home with me... and I am so glad I did because it really is just perfect! Allegra's room is such a gorgeous space with an abundance of light, plenty of storage, floor space, her own ensuite and the desk area I created gives her a sense of privacy when she wants to work on a special drawing or craft project. What more could a girl want right?! ;) And she was so gorgeous when she came home from school on Friday when she saw her desk chair had arrived... she busily got straight to 'work'! Anyway, links to most products are included at the bottom of this post, I hope you enjoy the mini tour! :)


Product list:

Pink velvet quilt here
Gold lamps here
Gold polka dot decals here
Cardboard storage suitcases here 
Scalloped nailhead headboard here
'Miss Allegra' cushions here
Desk here
Vienna Peacock chair here
Geometric rug here
Alfred the deer here
Pink elephant print here
LOVE print here
Bushel and a peck ptint here
Flamingo print here
Pink zebra cushion here
Cockatoo bookends here
Vintage hot air balloon here
Golden books here

Baking with Mrs Bouw: Homemade Chicken 'Bouw' Soup!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

With the sudden onset of the much cooler weather here in Chicago (seriously, it was 30 degrees one day and an icy 13 degrees the next... um, hello Melbourne! hee hee), I was craving some good old homemade chicken noodle soup! Growing up, my Mum would make variations of this soup including one recipe where she would make her own egg noodles and another recipe where she would replace the noodles with home made semolina dumplings... yum! As a child, I particularly loved the dumplings and they were always the first thing I would ask for if I was feeling a little under the weather. It's also one dish that makes me feel a little closer if I am missing home :) I decided to replace to traditional noodles with mini farfalle because they are simply just easier for the girls to spoon out themselves (and because us 'Bouws' love our bows) ;) Keeping in mind that I had the girls to consider, I kept this recipe pretty simple but you can add other veggies if you please (i.e. parsnip or onions etc.) along with any other herbs and spices that take your fancy! Oh and I also cheated today and bought a roasted chook from Wholefoods instead of cooking my own (I usually use around three chicken marylands). I just love having a big pot of soup in the fridge as it means I usually get a couple of dinners out of eat (or maybe a lunch or two) and don't have the stress of cooking and cleaning up at the end of a busy day! Plus, homemade soup really is food for the soul isn't it :)
 

Home Made Chicken 'Bouw' Soup

Ingredients

1 tbs olive oil
1 litre of chicken stock
3 cubes of chicken bouillon (stock cubes) I always throw in a couple of these because they add a little more depth to the stock
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped (I added a few carrot hearts just for the girls)
1 small bunch of celery (roughly six long pieces), washed and chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
4 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of mini farfalle or pasta of your choice
1 store bought rotisserie chicken
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

- Place olive oil and a splash of chicken stock in a large pot on low heat.

- Add the carrot and celery and sautee for roughly one minute.

- Add the remaining stock, bouillon cubes, parsley and water and simmer on low heat for 30-40 mins.

Note: this soup can be whipped up in no time but if you want that authentic homemade taste, the longer you simmer, the better. I usually make mine during the day and by dinner time the flavour are amazing.

- Once the both and vegetables have softened and have been simmering for a generous amount of time, turn up the heat a little and add you pasta.

- Remove skin from your chicken and then using your hands pull off all the meat you would like to add. I used the breast and thigh meat and left the wings and drumsticks for Mr B to gnaw on when he gets home ;)

- Again, for a more authentic feel, instead of using a knife I use my hands to break the chicken up in small bite sized/shred like pieces.

- Throw the chicken into the pot and reduce heat back down to a simmer and add salt and pepper to taste. I'm not usually a big fab of black pepper but I think it is a must in this recipe.

- Once the pasta has cooked through I like to turn it off and let it sit in the pot for a while and then slightly reheat again before serving. The true flavours will well and truly be there by this point.

- Served with a piece of fresh bread and butter.

- Enjoy! :)


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