Non-toxic Lunchbox Accessories

When I was growing up I can’t remember anyone talking about non-toxic containers for lunches and food storage. However, we now know how dangerous plastics can be for our hormones, especially when microwaved. BPA often comes to mind, but other toxins may still be present in plastic, which are just as dangerous to our health. Luckily there are many safer options available now. You can find containers made of stainless steel, glass and safer plastic that doesn’t contain BPA, Lead, Phthalates, and PVC. Although they often cost more they do last longer and can often be recycled. I think this is a better investment in our health and the planet.

One dilemma I did come across when researching containers and also lunchboxes is that most weren’t microwave safe. I don’t use a microwave at all. I actually have a small oven instead of a microwave at home. However, my partner does use the microwave at work, as much as I tell him not to. I try to prepare meals that don’t need to be microwaved or but sometimes he just doesn’t want to eat his meal cold. We use round Pyrex glass containers or Decor glass containers with BPA-free air vent lid. When possible he doesn’t use the lid. However it is a difficult situation when using a shared microwave, so I always make sure the food isn’t touching the top.

A product that was recommended to me by a store assistant at Biome is the Charles Viacin Lilypad lids. Unfortunately, I haven’t convinced him to take one of these to work. They are made of silicone and are microwave safe and BPA Free. From what I have read on this subject BPA free, food grade Silicone (often used in bakeware) has no definitive studies proving that it is unsafe. Plastics, on the otherhand has counterless studies proving that they are very dangerous to our health and the planet. I would love to know what you think?

I guess my conclusion to this research is to continue to use and purchase these safer non-toxic lunch box alternatives, use glass for reheating, thermal for warm foods (that will be eaten within the hour) or cool food and where possible prepare foods that don’t need reheating.

If your interested in some lunchbox meals that don’t need to be reheated here are some great ideas from 101 Cookbooks Oh She Glows and Buona Pappa (for the little ones).

In this article I have included non-toxic lunchbox accessories, that can purchased in Australia, such as:

For more lunch products  you can buy in Australia, check out my article Non-toxic Lunch Bags and Lunch Boxes.

If you have any thoughts or recommendations feel free to leave a comment!

 

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Favourite Eggplant Recipes

Eggplant has to be one of my favorite vegetables. Whether it’s fried, grilled, or baked, it always makes a meal hearty and comforting. I mostly use the larger common variety as they are nice and fleshy and great to stuff, layer, and fry.

These are some of my favourite go-to eggplant recipes, which are all vegan and gluten free. The Rolled Eggplant with Cannellini bean Pine nut Filling is nice to serve as an entree for a small dinner party and is sure to wow. My Eggplant Parmigiana is a one-pot casserole, which is great to feed a crowd. The Eggplant Katsu with Japanese Curry is a twist on a Japanese classic and a great midweek meal.

Another one of my favourite eggplant recipe which isn’t my own, but I love to serve at all our events is Roasted aubergine with sumac and tahini dressing. It’s one of those dishes that everyone wants the recipe for and easy to prepare in advance.

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Kuwi’s Creative Colouring Book 

Last year on my trip to New Zealand I bought a colouring book as a memento of my trip. I’ve only recently started colouring in Kuwi’s Creative Colouring Book: For Big and Small People. This was not the only New Zealand themed colouring book I saw, but definitely the only one I had to buy.

This colouring book is by award-winning author and illustrated Kat Merewether. She is best known for her Kuwi the Kiwi series. The books are centered around a mother kiwi bird, which was inspired by the fragile populated of the endangered brown Kiwi. The illustrations are so cute and the use of colour is quite bright and vibrant.

Kuwi’s Creative Colouring Book is design to teach its audience about native kiwis and features many of New Zealand’s native fauna and flora. They are many fun kiwi facts throughout, as well as many little cute Kuwi’s to colour. In the back there is an index of all the native fauna and flora labeled in both English Te Reo Māori. New Zealand has such an amazing and unique array of bird life and this book showcases them beautifully.

This book can be coloured alone or together with a little person. There are 60 pages, most of which have drawings that have been printed twice, with one containing less detail. This can either be added to or left as a more simplified version for kids. The pages are also perforated, so that they can be easily removed to display work. The paper is white and thick and is perfect for blending coloured pens, pastels backgrounds and adding gel pens details. I’m not sure about using water colour, which I assume would warp the paper at the very least.

I have only completed a handful of pages out of this book using Prismacolor pencils, Mungyo Pastels and Uniball gel pens. I love the quirky, detailed drawings, which look great with a vibrant splash of colour. I tried to colour most of the creatures in their proper colours, but changed it up for some variety. For more information on this book and where to purchase it, view the links below.

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This colouring book can be purchased through:

Flip through and Reviews:

Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Pictures

If your an animal lover and not crazy about Disney princesses you’re going to love Animal Kingdom. This park is dedicated to natural environment and animal conservation. It showcases animals from Asia, Africa, the conservation efforts by Disney and the animals of the past. It was also probably the least busiest of the parks, although the day was so hot it was easy to see everything.

My favourite entertainment was the Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo – The Musical. The Lion King showcased amazing African singers, beautiful costumes and high energy dance troupe. Finding Nemo was probably the best combination of puppetry and acting I have ever seen. The actors performed for both the puppet and themselves. The storyline followed the movie on point. Both were really enjoyable and I recommend the Fastpass for these shows, for better seats. The evening show, Rivers of Light was probably my least favourite of all the parks. Maybe we were just tired after 5 whole days of Disney, but I could of skip it for a nice dinner.

Our favourite attraction was definitely the Kilimanjaro Safaris. We did a couple of times, so we got to see different animals and as we were taken on different trails. It’s amazing how animals have created their own African habit by treating the land as they would back at home. The reserve that the animals live on is so extensive, so they have plenty of space between each other. I also enjoyed cooling down on the Kali River Rapids. I really didn’t enjoy Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. It was themed really nicely but the ride itself was too rough for me. Marco and Sally really enjoyed it, but the did get a sore neck after going on it again.

I also enjoyed the walk through exhibits. I was able to do the ones in Africa and Asia. The Discovery Island exhibit was closed on the day. Another attraction I would have loved to see was DINOSAUR, but unfortunately it was also closed for refurbishment.

For lunch we dined at Yak and Yeti Restaurant. We ordered the Asian dishes, which were really fresh and delicious. For dinner, we ate at the Flame Tree Barbeque, which was not as good as I expected. I would have preferred to go to a restaurant as the counter food was not that impressive. This park probably has the most snack and drink stops, which is really handy on a hot day. I wish I would have taken more time to relax and have a mocktail.

So here is our day in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in pictures. You can click on the photos for a closer look. If you’re planning a trip to the park check out my Disney’s Animal Kingdom Guide and my Tips for Florida Disney Parks.

 

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Pictures

If you like live shows, old world Hollywood nostalgia and Disney franchises like Star Wars, the Muppets and Indiana Jones, this is the park for you. It is perhaps the least disneyesque park, but there are still a few live shows featuring Disney princesses. I really enjoyed it and was perhaps one of the more relaxing compared to the rushing, running and crowd sizes.

My favourite show was definitely Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage. It had dancing, singing, a large cast and was right on point with the movie. It didn’t feel rushed or leave out any of the important moments from the film. I also loved that it was in an open-air theatre, as the other dark theatres scared my toddler. Octavia thoroughly enjoyed it and was dancing and beaming the whole time. We also really enjoyed The Great Movie Ride for the film nostalgia and the Tower of Terror. The improv of the Citizens of Hollywood was also really entertaining to watch as your walking through.

We went to two restaurants in the park, which were less competitive to book then the other parks. For lunch we went to 50’s Prime Time Cafe. The 50’s kitch decor, family-like atmosphere service and comfort food really make you feel at home. The food was surprisingly really great, comfort food done really well. For dinner we went to Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano. The dark atmosphere was really nice and I had the most amazing pasta dish. For desert I receive a ‘spaghetti and meatball’ cupcake as a gift for my birthday, which was a really nice surprise.

The evening show was Fantasmic!, which we had previously seen in Japan at Toyko Disney Sea. It wasn’t as speculatively but it was still really enjoyable to watch as it was done at a smaller scale. Due to limited seating and timing clash we weren’t able to go to the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular as well which was a shame.

So here is our day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in pictures. You can click on the photos for a closer look. If you’re planning a trip to the park check out my Disney’s Hollywood Studios Guide and my Tips for Florida Disney Parks.

 

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Epcot in Pictures

Epcot was perhaps the Disney park I was least excited about visiting, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. After the Magic Kingdom, Epcot comes in second as my favourite park. I love the fusion of human achievement, technology, nature and unique world cultures. The Future World beautifully demonstrated how far we have come, yet instilled an appreciation for nature, plant foods and the sea. World Showcase on the other hand, beautifully depicts a host of cultures completely true to their form. The architecture, the food and the people all come together to give you an authentic experience, that you almost forget you are in an American Disney park.

My favourite attractions in the Future World was the informative boat ride, Living the Land and the spectacular journey on the ride, Soarin’. My favourite experiences in World Showcase was the delicious meals I had in Italy and Mexico and the window shopping I did in each ‘country’. I would go back just to wander around and sample all different cuisines. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a Fastpass for Frozen Ever After and the wait was just too long to do with a toddler. We did get to meet Anna and Elsa however, which was really nice. Elsa was a bit cold but Anna was really lovely, warm and friendly.

For morning tea we bought a few Swedish sweet treats from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe. We tried the Lefse (Potato Flatbread rolled with a Sweet Cinnamon Butter) and Sweet Pretzel with Almonds. They were nice, but if I had more time I would have journeyed all the way to France for some pastries. Unfortunately, I had limited time to run there and back since we spent the morning in Future World.

For lunch, we went to Via Napoli. The food was so delicious and authentic. We just ordered a few simple dishes but they were executed perfectly. Later we had dinner in Mexico at La Hacienda de San Angel. Again the food was amazing and perfectly authentic. Both of these restaurants were highly recommended and I’m so happy we got to try them, rather than having counter food.

So here is our day in Epcot in pictures. You can click on the photos for a closer look. If you’re planning a trip to the park check out my Epcot Guide and my Tips for Florida Disney Parks.

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Non-toxic Lunch Bags and Lunch Boxes

These days cute and stylish lunch boxes and bags for kids and adults have become the norm. No more brown paper bags, when you can eat lunch in style. However many of these insulated lunch bags, plastic containers, and lunch boxes are full of harmful substances, such as BPA, Phthalate, Lead and PVC. Now with so many eco-friendly and non-toxic options, there’s no need to eat your lunch out of toxic vessel.

A study done by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ, La Weekly 2012) found that many vinyl lunchboxes and other back-to-school items had high levels of phthalates. They stated that children are most at risk, since “their developing brains and bodies, their metabolism and behaviors make them uniquely vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals”. These chemicals have been linked to various problems such as ADHD, birth defects, asthma, diabetes. Other studies have also demonstrated that substances such as BPA, PVC, lead are also dangerous for our health, causing disruptions to hormones, behavioural problems and linked to cancer.

There are so many great brands making products that are eco-friendly and non-toxic. So here are some of the best ones I have found available to Australian consumers.

The products I have researched include:

I have previously written up a list of Non-Toxic Diaper Bags, Toddler and Grade School Backpacks that will complement your non-toxic lunch bags and boxes. Stay tuned for another post featuring more lunch box accessories, such as containers, water bottles and ice packs.

 

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Magic Kingdom in Pictures

The Magic Kingdom was my favourite of all the Disney parks in Florida. It was really a dream come true. It pays homage to all the classic Disney characters and films, including my favourite 2D Disney princesses. There was just so much to see and do that we had to do it in two days.

My favourite rides were Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarves Mine Train, which were most difficult to get Fastpasses for. I also really enjoyed Enchanted Tales with Belle and having breakfast at Be Our Guest Restaurant. The 5 year old girl in me really felt like I was in her world. Octavia’s favourite ride was definitely riding the horses on Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel. She did enjoy sitting on our lap on most other rides. We got to go on most rides at least twice, which is a feat considering we had a toddler. 

Our best meals was at Liberty Tree Tavern.  My Pilgrims’ Feast tasted exactly like I imaged a true American thanksgiving meal would taste like. The Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake was also pretty great. The other restaurants we were choose weren’t bad, but not as memorable. We weren’t able to get better booking since we only had two weeks from purchasing the tickets. Next time we would definitely stay at Disney hotel to take advantage of early restaurant booking and Fastpasses.

So here is two day at the Magic Kingdom in pictures. You can click on the photos for a closer look. If you’re planning a trip to the park check out my Magic Kingdom Guide and my Tips for Florida Disney Parks.

 

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Tips for Florida Disney Parks

My love to Disney was invigorated with my recently trip to the Disney Parks in Florida. It truly is the happiest place on earth, well at least my happiest place. The characters, the rides, shopping, food, it was all amazing and went above and beyond my expectations.

I did a lot of planning before we visited the Disney parks. I’m so happy that I did take this time since I didn’t do this when I visited Disney Sea in Tokyo. Besides the language barrier, we were very confused seeing people go ahead of the line, didn’t get good positions for performances and waited so long for a table in a restaurant. We also lined up for 2.5 hours for a ride that we weren’t really sure was a ride.

So if you’re planning a trip here are some of my tips. Do as much research as you can to maximize your time and less stress on the day. If your budget allows I really recommend the Disney restaurants. Each is really unique and I enjoyed the food at most of the restaurants. Some of which were the best food memories from our entire trip. We also had some bonus Character time we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

For Guides to each Theme Park view links at bottom of this post

Before you get there:

  • Do you ride and restaurant research
    • Demand will be high for the best and you don’t want to be waiting all day
    • Age and Height requirements
    • Make a list for recommended and time permitting
  • Consider staying at a Disney Resort
    • Extra ‘magic time’ means arriving and leaving before crowds
    • Easier commute to hotel
    • May save you money in car hire and tipping hotel bus driver
    • Hotel’s that offer free trip to Park may do many stops before arriving
    • You receive a ‘MagicBand
  • Book-in everything as soon as you buy your tickets ei. FastPasses, Restaurants
  • Fastpass for busiest rides
    • Eg.The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train had no FastPass available closer to visit and was 70 min+ wait times
    • Book in three FastPasses as early and close together as possible
    • You can’t book another until you have used all three passes first
  • Research most recommended rides and Average wait times
  • Restaurants are not a must, but nice to get away from crowds (aircon), experience themes, cuisines and try the best food Disney has to offer
    • Some Restaurants have 6-month wait ei. Cinderella’s Table
    • Booking times should be adequately spaced between meals times
    • Consider a meal plan, might save you money
    • Look at menus and consider your budget
    • Look up Restaurant ratings
    • Beware of cancellation policies for each restaurant
  • Keep checking your Disney account to alter FastPass and bookings as new times become available.
  • Bring a pram with shade cloth
    • Disney hire prams are made of plastic = hot
  • Allow two days for the Magic Kingdom and one day for each of other Parks
  • Get to know the map, long walk between areas
  • Factor in Live Shows, Parades and Night performance in your schedule
  • Download My Disney Experience app on your Smartphone
    • Easily view and alter Fast Passes and Restaurant bookings
    • View wait times

When you arrive:

  • Get up early to get in quicker and get on as many rides
  • Be aware once you arrive to drop off you will still need to take a Disney boat, tram or tourist road train to the Disney parks = Get up early
  • Bring a pen and get your map
  • Go directly to FastPass or best rides if wait times are minimal this early
  • Don’t get too caught up in taking photos when you arrive, you will have plenty of time
  • As you are using your FastPasses, see if you can alter for early times
  • As soon as all FastPasses are used book next pass
  • Visit Characters when wait times are low or you have space before next FastPass
    • May need to prioritise on a busy day
  • Restaurants may still require waiting even with your booking
  • Each shop will have items that aren’t anywhere else
    • Most character items available at World of Disney (Disney Springs)
    • Convenience stores near parks will have old Disney merchandise for much lower price eg. T-shirts, keyrings
  • You can’t see it all, but then you just might if you plan well!

Wow I didn’t realise I had so much to say. I will share some more posts of my photos.

For a more detailed information on each Theme park check out my guides:

Guide to the Magic Kingdom

Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Guide to Epcot

Non-toxic Diaper Bags, Toddler and Grade School Backpacks

Choosing the right baby bag or backpack for your little ones can be so overwhelming. There are so many choices out there. In recent years many great non-toxic alternatives have become available.  These products are being produced without the use of nasty chemicals, such as BPA, PVC, Phthalates and Lead. These chemicals are detrimental to our health and the development of growing children. If you’re interested the information that informed my decision to buy a non-toxic alternative check out the links on the bottom of this post.

When I was still pregnant I began doing my own research for the safest non-toxic baby bag. I ended up going with the SoYoung Charlie Diaper Bag. The unisex style is great for both myself and my partner to use and it has many compartments for all those baby essentials you need to travel with.

Now as my little one is about to start daycare I have begun looking at the best non-toxic backpacks for her. So here is the result of my own research of products that are available to the Australian market. I hope it helps you find a safer alternative for you little family too. I have also begun researching lunch bags and boxes so stay tuned for a future post for more non-toxic alternatives.

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Mini Chocolate Raspberry Surprise Cupcakes with Chocolate Avocado Frosting

One of my favourite desserts to make for parties and family get-togethers are these mini cupcakes. They are great to serve on the dessert table or when you have an event where you need to bring-a-plate. They look quite impressive and plentiful and everyone will be happy they got to try one.

This recipe is a hybrid between Chloe Coscarelli’s Yoga Cupcakes (Chloe’s Vegan Desserts) and Angela Lidden (The Oh She Glows Cookbook) Chocolate Avocado Frosting. I cook a lot from both of these books. So I often take inspiration from these recipes and make them mine own. I have used the Chocolate Avocado Frosting to make Angela’s Double Layer Chocolate Fudge cake. It was so lovely, moist and decadent. I found that it goes perfectly with these cupcakes. Everyone who has tried them can not tell that it’s not a traditional frosting and that it has avocado and no icing sugar. I usually have heaps leftover, so I enjoy it as a chocolate mousse dessert when everyone goes home.

The photos of these cupcakes are from Octavia’s first birthday.  They were one of a few different vegan dessert options. I made the Cupcakes, Vanilla Star Cookies, Cherry Hand Pies, Buckeyes. The Baklava was made by a friend and the Strawberry Shortcake Cake with Buttercream with made by Cloverly Cupcakes. The cake was tasted amazing and was huge. What I love about their vegan cupcakes and cakes is that they are made from wholemeal flour, organic raw sugar and natural, non-processed ingredients where possible. This was a little while ago so it won’t be long until I have to do this all again for her second birthday.

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Eating through New Orleans

New Orleans is famous for many things and the food is definitely one of them. The New Orleans cuisine is largely influenced by Creole cuisine, Cajun cuisine, and soul food. There are so many famous New Orleans dishes that I wanted to try. Some of these include Crawfish Étouffée, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Oysters Rockefeller, Po’ boy, Red beans and rice and Shrimp Creole. So many dishes and only a couple of days to try what I could. Health and good food choice went out the window completely in New Orleans. I didn’t find anything organic, vegan, local or sustainable in this city. I’m sure it was out there, but I was more focused on finding the restaurants with the best examples of New Orleans cuisine. With a bit more time I probably would have liked to sample the best of both worlds. Well, I think I would have too because this food is so heavy and hearty but not something I could eat every day. 

What’s your favourite New Orleans classic?

Drago’s Seafood Restaurant

When we arrived our Uber driver recommended the best places he loves to eat New Orleans cuisine. He recommended Drago’s Seafood Restaurant and Mothers Restaurant (below). So our first stop was Dragos. The location we visited was situated in the Hilton Hotel. The menu is so extensive. They specialize in seafood, so they everything you could want to try in New Orleans.We loved it so much we went back again.

My favourite dish was the Charbroiled Oysters. I’d never had oysters prepared this way and the others were oyster virgins. We are all converts now. They are so delicious and the buttery sauce was so amazing and you just want to dip every last morsel of bread into it. The Po’boy was huge. I’d never had catfish and it was nice, as were the lobster lollipops. On my second visit tried Mama Ruth’s Seafood Gumbo was really good despite the appearance. You expect for it to taste really like seafood but it was very smokey and rich. The brownie was not mine and I just cringe at the sight of the mountain of whipped cream. Marco said it was good though.

dsc06459Lobster Lollipops

dsc06460Charbroiled Oysters

dsc06465Catfish Poboy

dsc06467Fried Shrimp Tacos

dsc06716Mama Ruth’s Seafood Gumbo

dsc06715Crabmeat Salad

dsc06717Hot Brownie à la Mode

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