Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tropical Traditions Organic Oats - Review and Giveaway!

Is anyone else starting to think about holiday baking yet? I am starting to get in the mood for loads of yummy baked goods. I have a great product to review today that will be so perfect for holiday baking - mine and yours!

Tropical Traditions sent me a bag of their Organic Thick Rolled Whole Grain Oats to play with. I'm a big oatmeal fan, so the first thing I did was make oatmeal. I have a fantastic recipe for oatmeal done in the rice cooker (yeah, really!) - it's so creamy and yummy. I made it with dried cranberries, cinnamon and brown sugar... a very comforting and healthy (well, maybe with a little less brown sugar) breakfast! I bet adding a bit of orange zest or a spoonful of orange juice concentrate instead of the brown sugar would be delish, too... hmm! Next time!

This is a BIG bag. You know the 'standard' bags of oats you can buy at the grocery store (the brand starts with a Q, you know what I mean) - those are 1 kg. This bag is 2.27 kg or a whopping 5 lbs! I've already used 4 cups of the oats and there are loads left for more yummy goodness. And these are certified organic AND whole grain - both things I appreciate. Whole grains are good sources of soluble fiber (good for everyone, especially when you're pregnant... I'll say no more...) and contain more nutrients than those that have had the germ and bran removed. Whole grains are also linked with reductions in risk factors for diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and coronary disease. So... it's really a no-brainer to choose whole grains over refined grains.

Besides oatmeal, I've made yummy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies with these oats (which may just override all the healthy goodness of the whole grains, but man, they are good). I used the recipe from Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share, and I will say that I'd add another 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of whole wheat flour next time, as they did tend to spread a little more than I expected. I also only used half the called-for nuts and chocolate chips, and substituted cashews for some of the peanuts. I know, I just can't follow a recipe. I like to make my own way in the kitchen! They are definitely delicious, though!

There are also lots of recipes over here - I'm thinking these Oat Cakes look pretty awesome (and easy!).

I know a giant bag of oats is not only a regular staple in my cupboard, but will definitely come in handy for the upcoming holidays. Breakfast for stay-over guests (think oatmeal, muffins, scones, granola), snacks (granola bars) and desserts (crumbles and cookies! Yum!). And here's the best part:

Tropical Traditions has generously offered one of my readers the chance to try the Organic Thick Rolled Whole Grain Oats for free!

The giveaway:
A 5 lb bag of Tropical Traditions Organic Thick Rolled Whole Grain Oats!

How to enter: Head over to Tropical Traditions and let me know one other thing you'd like to try, OR one thing that you learned there. Make sure I've got a way to contact you if you're the winner!

Extra entries (please leave an extra comment for each. If you already do any of these things, leave the comment - you do get the entry for it!):
  • Subscribe via email to the Tropical Traditions newsletter
  • Follow @troptraditions on Twitter (leave your Twitter name!)
  • Follow me on Twitter (leave your Twitter name!)
  • Tweet about this giveaway for ONE entry, this is not a daily! You can use this if you like:
    Win Organic Whole Grain Oats from @TropTraditions at Emily's Latest @emilyisland US/CAN 12/6 -great 4 holiday baking!
  • Follow my blog (publicly) – 2 entries, leave 2 comments
  • Add my blog button to your blog– 2 entries, leave 2 comments (please leave a link to your blog)
  • Blog about this giveaway, linking back to this post and to Tropical Traditions – 2 entries, leave 2 comments and please include a link to your post
  • Let me know what you'll be making first with these if you win!
I will be verifying comments so please actually do the things you say you do ☺ If you already do any of these things, it still counts for entries!

Please be sure to include your email address if it’s not public in your blogger profile! Anonymous comments without a way to contact you will be rejected. Canadian or US mailing addresses only, please. Giveaway ends December 6th at 11:59 EST. A winner will be drawn the next day, announced here, in a separate post and emailed!

Prize will be shipped by sponsor. Note for Canadian entrants: Tropical Traditions is not responsible for customs or duties that Canada may charge if you decide to participate in this Tropical Traditions sponsored blog giveaway. (FYI - it's unlikely to have a charge, being well under the $60 that incurs duty charges. There was no extra charge on my shipment, which came to Canada quickly and packaged well.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Before and after!

I'm giving myself two gold stars. I've never done a slipcover before, and here I am making beautiful things happen for the nursery glider. Remember I was wondering which fabric to choose? We ended up picking the fourth one and I am thrilled with it.

My mum (an expert sewer and pattern-maker) gave me some great advice: make a cover first out of an old sheet and use that for the pattern. SO helpful. I wasn't worried about screwing up with the rather spendy fabric, and could sew, unstitch, draw with marker on, and re-sew to my heart's content. There were five cushions to recover, so four unique patterns (the arm cushions are, thank goodness, the same). That took a day.

The REAL cover took about 5 hours - that's me taking it slow. It is not perfect (and don't say "Why not?" like my husband did!). I think I did a pretty good job for my first slipcover ever, working with no pattern! I tried to line up the pattern and also make the most of the fabric.

The arm cushions were the hardest part - the top side is gathered to allow for the curve, and the original cushions have snaps that I was trying to make work by creating holes (with facing) on the slipcovers. That's 16 faced holes, lots of tedious sewing. The snaps are super hard to do up to begin with, and once the cover was on, I couldn't get them done up at all. Then I realized that I'd done the post holes a fraction too small, and because there's a bit of extra fabric there, the snaps won't do up. So rather than fight with it any more, I simply stitched ribbons to the original cushions which come out the holes in the slipcover I made and tie together to hold the arm cushions on. Not ideal but hey, it works!

I even have a little fabric left over, perfect for new throw pillows downstairs and a trim for the laundry basket liner in the nursery!

Here it is.... the grand reveal....


Hey, check me out - this was featured over at Pink and Polka Dot!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ellia C. Naturals - Review & Holiday Gift Ideas!

I took advantage of that great BOGO deal I was telling you about a couple of weeks ago and picked up some of Ellia C. Naturals' Autumn Harvest soap, and got the bonus of a bar of Festive soap as well. Both of these are limited edition seasonal soaps, so if you want to try them out, now's the time!

Jen was kind enough to send along with my order a few extras for me to try out and review for you! I am just going to come right out and say I love these products. Everything I have tried from her shop has been really great. I confess that when the box arrived in our mailbox, a tiny hole had been poked in it during shipping (not to worry, everything inside was well protected with bubble wrap and peanuts!) and my husband and I took turns sniffing at the hole on the walk home because it smelled so good. Yes, I'm sure we looked crazy.

I also love that it is indicated right on each product page if it contains ingredients that aren't safe for use during pregnancy. This is thoughtful (and timely, for me) and something that I really haven't seen on other product sites. I'm not talking about chemicals here, because all the ingredients are natural and often organic, but some essential oils are not recommended for use during pregnancy and if the soaps contain them, there's a warning. Love that.

Here are some of the goodies I got to try:

The Autumn Harvest soap. It's so pretty, and perfect for this time of year. A spice-coloured soap bar (generously sized!) with shavings of white soap on top - it looks good enough to eat! I pulled it out of the packaging so you could see how pretty it looks (and I love the simple packaging, wrapped with a ribbon). It is just about the same colour as our countertop in the bathroom so I put it on a towel so you can see it properly. It smells like fall. It's made with freshly ground spices, shea butter, coconut milk and pumpkin... doesn't that sound decadent? I'm busting this one out as soon as I'm finished my current soap... if I can wait that long.

The Festive Soap - again a very pretty double-layer bar with an adorable coordinating ribbon on the paper wrap. What's in it? "Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom pair nicely with sweet orange, tangerine, and lemon... with a splash of cranberry juice" Um, yum. This one I've been sniffing every time I pass anywhere near it. It smells like all the best things about Christmas and the holidays, without being overpowering. It has a very natural, spicy and fresh scent - hard to describe but it's SO good. I'm saving it for December (yes, I coordinate my soap smell with the season)!

This is an adorable soap pop - cute or what? I think this would be a great gift for kids (or the sweet-toothed adult)! This one is a Whipped Pumpkin Soap Pop, again perfect for the season. They also come in Peppermint Stick, Rainbow Splash (citrus) and Sassy Pants (bergamot and grapefruit). Yum. Cutest packaging ever! The Ellia C. Naturals line also has lollipop soaps (Lather Lollies) in the same fragrances, AND coming soon are cupcake soaps! These products are great for littles, because they contain only natural ingredients, get the cleaning job done, and also provide natural moisture for sensitive skin. Stocking stuffers, maybe? (Speaking of, you've also got to check out the Gingerbread Man soaps...)

Now it's clear that these are brand spankin' new products in the photos - so you may wonder, how can I review them if they're not used yet? Well, I have used Ellia C. Naturals soaps in the past (I've had the pleasure of trying many different bars) and have been 100% happy with them. They smell amazing through and through, last a long time (especially with the Natural Pine Soap Deck which I also have), have a lovely texture, and leave my skin feeling soft and lightly moisturized (but never greasy!). My husband even uses them. So I am full out confident that these will be the same quality (and I can definitely vouch for how awesome they smell!).

One product that I am saving for the (eeks!) near future is the Back in the Saddle Postpartum Sitz Tea. This sample is like a giant tea bag of organic, fair trade herbs and botanicals that are soothing to give a new mama a little relief. The full-size product comes loose in a jar with a reuseable muslin bag and holds enough for 4-5 baths. Awesome, thoughtful gift for an expecting mama, folks!

Here's another that would be a great mama gift - the Mama Meringue body whip. It comes in four different varieties (three scents and unscented), and I got to try out the Lemon Lavender version. Again, it smells amazing - fresh, clean and natural, but not chemically or overwhelming. The scent IS strong but it is not the heavy kind of smell that will give you a headache or anything (I've got it on now and I can smell it where I applied it on my arm if I sniff it, but it's not a constant smell surrounding me, if you know what I mean. This can be used as a belly balm (you know I love me some belly balm) or as a general moisturizer. It's a shea butter lotion made from natural oils and contains Vitamin E as well, great for the skin! The consistency is kind of stiff in the jar, but softens up easily with the warmth of your hands to scoop out a little and glides on. Love.

I'm going to put it out there that you should seriously consider these products for holiday gifts for your favourite person. The individual cold processed soaps are really pretty and luxurious for anyone; check out the holiday gift sets as well. If you don't find exactly what you want there, they also do custom gift sets and even party favours.

While you are looking at the Ellia C. Naturals line, you might notice that there's a lot more to the site than just natural bath and body care. Jennifer is the owner and founder of not just Ellia C. Naturals but also the Bullfrogs & Butterflies Boutique, which has loads of beautiful gifts for little ones and mamas, too.

And here's a tip for you: if you sign up for their newsletter, you will find that there is a great big Black Friday deal just for newsletter subscribers about to be announced! You can also like Ellia C. Naturals on Facebook and follow on Twitter for product updates and specials!

A big thank you to Jenn from Ellia C. Naturals for providing me with some of her gorgeous products to try out. I did receive samples for review, but was not paid for this post.