Simple Tips to Help you Produce an Amazing Sandwich Platter …

Simple Tips to Help you Produce an Amazing Sandwich Platter 001


This week we celebrated Christmas at work with a staff lunch in the office.  We had already attended the “official” work Christmas Party but the lunch is a more casual tradition with everyone in the office asked to bring a plate of food to share and celebrate.  We ended up with a fantastic variety of food and enjoyed a delicious lunch with great company.



One of my “go to” offerings when I’m asked to “bring a plate” is a sandwich platter.  Rarely does anyone ever double up with the same thing and I always find it’s enjoyed and appreciated.  So, here are some simple tips to help you produce an amazing sandwich platter:



  • Buy the freshest bread possible. I usually buy my bread fresh from the bakery on the morning I’m going to make my platter … it really is my secret for an awesome sandwich platter.  Choose a loaf (or loaves) that are as “square” as possible because it will help you cut the sandwiches as uniformly as possible which will help with your presentation.


  • Create a “rainbow” of colour by choosing ingredients that will look bright and appealing … if it looks good, people will eat!


  • Make sure there’s a lot of variety in the fillings on the sandwiches. Everyone has different tastes and should be able to find something they like if there is a range of flavours to choose from.


  • Don’t be too heavy handed with flavours, sauces and spices. Keep it simple and let the beautiful ingredients speak for themselves.


  • Pay attention to the “construction” of your sandwiches. Spread all the fillings to the edge of the crust so your sandwich remains stable and holds together when on the platter and add “wet” ingredients like beetroot and tomato in the centre of the sandwich (away from the bread) to prevent soggy sandwiches.  It’s really personal preference, but I tend to leave the crust on my sandwiches when cutting them in triangles as it gives a more solid base so the sandwich remains upright.



Simple Tips to Help you Produce an Amazing Sandwich Platter 002-2



  • To remove excess moisture from wet ingredients like beetroot, tomato and cucumber, lay them between two pieces of paper towel to soak up the excess before placing them onto sandwiches. Roma tomatoes also tend to have less liquid than regular tomatoes and are, therefore, ideal for fresh sandwiches.


  • Don’t butter the sandwiches … not everyone likes it and if there is enough flavour in the fillings, it won’t be missed. It will also be cheaper to construct your platter.


  • Prevent your sandwiches from drying out as they’re being made. As each sandwich is finished, place it on a plate, cover it with plastic wrap like Gladwrap and refrigerate.  Alternatively, place the sandwiches on a plate and cover with a tea towel until they need to be cut.


  • Avoid ingredients people may be allergic to and, at the very least, tell everyone what’s on the sandwiches so they can make and educated choice.


  • Work with dry hands. This may sound obvious but because you’ll be working with lots of different ingredients, you’ll most likely be wiping down cutting boards and knives frequently as well as washing your hands often.  Wet hands and fresh bread definitely don’t mix.


  • Try to make your platter on the day it will be eaten, if time permits. A lot of preparation can be done the night before, like mashing eggs, grating carrot, etc. but the secret to an awesome platter is definitely the fresh bread purchased on the day.


  • When it’s time to cut your sandwiches, be sure to use a large, sharp, serrated knife to cut cleanly and I would also recommend cutting one sandwich at a time. It is more time consuming but it will prevent crusts from tearing away from the bread when it’s so fresh.


  • In terms of presentation, I prefer a simple plain white platter because it lets the vibrant colours of the sandwiches stand out and be a feature rather than getting lost in a “busy” colourful pattern on a plate. The way you display or layout your sandwich triangles will also depend on the size and shape of the platter you select.  I usually just lay out the sandwich triangles in straight lines … quick and easy is the name of the game for me … but you can be as creative as you like.



Simple Tips to Help you Produce an Amazing Sandwich Platter 003-2



Here are my favourite sandwich fillings when making a platter, although the possible combinations are endless:



  • Turkey (finely sliced) and Cranberry Sauce


  • Chicken (finely diced) and mixed with fresh corn, celery and mayonnaise


  • Curried egg with alfalfa sprouts


  • Tomato and cheese with corn relish


  • Ham and Avocado (mashed and blended with some squeezed lemon juice to prevent the avocado browning)


  • Hommus, beetroot, carrot and cucumber


  • Tuna with shallots and mayonnaise


  • Smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers


  • Salami with semi-dried tomatoes and lettuce


  • Roast beef (shaved) with chutney and spinach leaves


  • Corned beef with pickles



So tell me, what do you make when you’re asked to “bring a plate” and do you tend to go for sweet or savoury?



Date and Cointreau Mini Christmas Cakes … a Beautiful Handmade Gift Idea for Family and Friends …

Date and Cointreau Mini Christmas Cakes 001


If you’re wanting to escape the “commercialism” of Christmas, embracing handmade gifts could be the perfect solution.  I love nothing more than receiving things like shortbread and cakes because I can really appreciate the love and effort that goes into each handmade gift.


So, if you’re looking for some ideas, these mini Date and Cointreau Christmas Cakes are ideal.  The mixture is quite generous and will produce 6 beautiful mini Christmas cakes that are full of flavour and deliciously most.  Mind you, once you taste these little beauties you may want to keep them for yourself and not give them away … just saying!  Enjoy!


Date and Cointreau Mini Christmas Cakes … a Beautiful Handmade Gift Idea for Family and Friends …
Ingredients ...
  • 3 cups sultanas
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ¾ cup currants
  • 1 cup red chopped glace cherries (plus extra to decorate)
  • 1 cup fresh dates, chopped (approximately 10 large dates)
  • ¾ cup Cointreau
  • 1 ¼ cups butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons orange/breakfast marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla essence
  • 2 ½ cups plain flour
  • blanched almonds, for decoration
  • icing sugar, to dust cake tops
Method ...
  1. Combine sultanas, raisins, currants, cherries, dates and Cointreau in a large glass bowl and stir to combine. Cover bowl with plastic food wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or preferably overnight to allow the flavours to absorb and develop.
  2. Preheat oven to 100C (fan-forced). Line the base and sides of 6 round (or square) mini cake tins with a double layer of baking paper, allowing it to stick up 2 – 3 cms above the rims.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy and light.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one is added. Add the vanilla essence and blend to combine.
  5. Fold in ½ the fruit mixture and half the flour until just combined. Fold in remaining fruit and remaining flour until just combined.
  6. Spoon cake mixture into the prepared cake tins and smooth the surface. Decorate with the blanched almonds (and cherry halves, if desired) and bake for approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes. To test the cakes are cooked, insert a skewer into the centre which should come out cleanly. Once removed from the oven, allow the cakes to stand in the tins for 5 minutes until turning out onto wire racks to cool completely. Dust lightly with icing sugar.
  7. Cakes will freeze well. Alternatively, they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.



Clever Hints, Tricks and Tips …


  • Be on the lookout after Christmas (in the Boxing Day Sales) to pick up some festive ribbon super cheap that you can put away and use to decorate next years cakes.


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Snickerdoodles …

Snickerdoodles 001


Donuts are my weakness and I think that’s why I love these Snickerdoodles so much.  That smell of sugary cinnamon when these come out of the oven sends me weak at the knees.  These biscuits are like little pillows of fluffiness, mildly chewy and absolutely delicious.  Enjoy!


Snickerdoodles 002


Snickerdoodles …
Recipe type: Biscuits/Cookies
Ingredients ...
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup white sugar extra
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Method ...
  1. Set oven to 190C and line 3 trays with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cream of tartar, baking powder and salt together.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and white sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy and light for approximately 3 minutes.
  4. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract.
  5. Remove bowl from the mixer and add the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir until just combined.
  6. In a small shallow bowl, add the extra white sugar and cinnamon and stir until well blended
  7. Form the biscuit dough into small balls, equivalent to roughly 1 tablespoon of mixture (about the same size as a rum ball).
  8. Roll the balls in the sugar/cinnamon mixture and place on the prepared baking trays. Leave approximately 4 – 5 cm between each ball in both directions to allow room for spreading. I usually do 9 balls (or biscuits)/tray.
  9. Bake for approximately 11 – 12 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.
  10. Remove tray from oven and allow the biscuits to sit for approximately 3 minutes. Transfer biscuits to a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. This recipe makes approximately 50 – 55 biscuits depending on the size you roll the balls and the biscuits can be frozen.



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How I Get the Best and Cheapest Accommodation when I Travel …

How I get the Best and Cheapest Price for Accommodation when I Travel


I’m excited!  In 7 weeks and 4 days, I’m jumping on a plane and flying to London … but who’s counting!  My youngest daughter went to the UK for a Gap Year in late December so I’m heading over for three weeks to see my gorgeous girl and take in some sights at the same time.  You can read a little more about her adventure here:  Bon Voyage … My Sweet Girl …


We will be staying in London for 6 days, travelling to Paris for 6 days, heading up to Edinburgh for 4 days, flying to Ireland for a week and then it will be time to say farewell!  I booked my flights about a month ago … thank you QANTAS Frequent Flyer points … and I’m now booking our accommodation.  After your airfare, accommodation is the thing that will probably drain the bulk of your holiday budget, therefore, getting the best hotel for the cheapest price is important.  So, today I thought I would share with you some tricks I’ve learned over the years to ensure I get the best value for money and stay in the best location for my needs.




Before I even book flights, I consider the “timing” of when I will travel.  If you can avoid school holidays (not just here but also the country you’re travelling to), peak seasons or times when there are significant sporting, cultural or other events ocurring, you can save a small fortune on the cost of your accommodation.  As much as possible, I tend to travel “off-season” and, if you can be flexible, try to rearrange your itinerary to avoid weekends where possible in expensive destinations, as these nightly rates tend to be expensive as well.




I start by preparing a basic itinerary and put together a list of any attractions or places I want to see.  I grab a map and plot those so I get an idea of how far I will need to commute either by walking, bus, subway or rail to see them.  I work out what’s close, what isn’t and try to get an idea if any of these places are grouped together or spread out in all directions.  One word of advice, be realistic about what you want to see and do because if you try to squeeze in too much in too little time you’ll only end up stressed and disappointed.  One of my favourite tools is Google Maps because I can zoom out to get a general overview of any city or zoom in for more detail.  It will also give clear and specific directions on how to get from A to B, how far it is and the various ways to get there.




I start my search for hotels as early as possible and certainly as soon as I book my airfares.  You can pick up some great “Advance Purchase” specials.  Alternatively, if you don’t have much notice, sites like Wotif or Last Minute can feature some really great deals from hotels looking to fill unsold rooms.




Once I’ve learned a little about where I’m going and I’ve orientated myself a little, now I start thinking about areas/neighbourhoods/suburbs that will be convenient.  This is when the research begins and it truly is about location, location, location because the right hotel can make or break your holiday.  I usually start checking out at least three potential areas, taking into account my budget.  Be careful here to also research areas that you should avoid, most especially in regards to your safety.  My first port of call is usually always Trip Advisor.  It’s free to use and allows you to see how hotels and other styles of accommodation have been rated by travellers who can leave a review sharing their experiences and opinions on all aspects of the hotel, which are then ranked in order accordingly.  You can spend many hours if you choose to read lots of reviews but it can be time well spent when you stumble onto a hidden gem.  That’s what I’m always on the lookout for … a little boutique hotel in a great location that’s a fantastic price, has beautiful comfortable rooms, amazing customer service, great facilities and is close to transport and the things I want to see.  These reviews can also be a valuable source of tips including restaurant recommendations, ways to save money and even specific directions of how to get around.




I always grab some brochures and travel guides for my destination from a travel agent and the library.  Not only can I see the range of hotels available from budget through to luxury, but brochures will sometimes feature hotels that have “Bonus Offers”, things like “stay 6 pay for 4”.  Once you average the nightly cost it can be cheaper than booking online or through the hotel.




Consider also the standard of accommodation you need.  If you’re travelling to a beach area and plan on spending a lot of time around the hotel, you might want to spend more money on “resort style” 4 – 5 star accommodation.  If, however, your hotel will be little more than a place to sleep and shower, a more budget friendly, basic, clean hotel room could be all you need and certainly a lot cheaper. A luxury hotel will always be appealing but it usually always come with a hefty price tag.




Ask friends, family and work colleagues for recommendations.  They can often suggest fantastic places to stay that you may not have found, even after hours of searching, or somewhere that may not be on your travel agents usual list.




Once you’ve found your hotel, now it’s time to get the best price.  When searching on Trip Advisor you will be prompted to enter your check in and check out dates as well as the number of people needing accommodation.  Once the list appears, you will see pricing information and you can click on those tabs.  I have booked and paid in the past through:,,, and and never encountered any problems.  Most online booking engines offer price comparisons between several hundred sites meaning you’ll generally get the lowest price available.  There will also be pricing available from other booking sites/engines but I personally avoid any that I’ve not heard of and stick to the ones I know and have used previously.  Some prices quoted on some of these lesser known sites are super cheap but I always work on the theory that “if it’s too good to be true, it usually is” … and a little bit of digging has usually proved that I was right to trust my instincts.




I also check pricing directly on the hotel’s website and their social media pages, as these can be places where discounts and special promotions are advertised.  Don’t be afraid also to email any hotel directly and request a quote for their best rates.




Memberships to Hotel programs like Accor, Starwood Preferred Guests, Club Carlson or Hilton HHonours, to name a few, can either offer discounts on accommodation rates, free extras like breakfast or wi-fi and even allow you to use points towards free nights.  I’m a member of all the reward programs listed above and will always visit these sites to compare prices.  As long as I can get the best price, accumulating some points is an added bonus.




Airline Frequent Flyer programs are also worth checking out.  I’m a Qantas Frequent Flyer Member and, once I choose a hotel, I always visit to compare prices.  If I can match the best price that I’ve found elsewhere, I will book and earn points for the booking.  I have also used my Qantas Frequent Flyer points to book accommodation.




Be open also to different styles of accommodation.  My eldest daughter recently travelled through Europe and most of the accommodation was booked through Airbnb.  Hostels and backpackers are great for younger people whereas there’s also great savings to be had staying in Bed and Breakfast style accommodation or even pubs.  Where you stay can also be a culturally significant part of your holiday experience.  We’ve travelled to Japan a couple of times and almost always stay in the traditional Japanese ryokans … a great experience, much cheaper than the larger hotels and the perfect way to experience and enjoy some local culture.




Finally, as part of my research, I also have a chat to a travel agent … firstly, for any recommendations and secondly, to see if they can beat the best price that I’ve found.  Every now and again they can come up with a price/deal through a travel wholesaler that I can’t find despite my best efforts.  They can also recommend some great hotels based on feedback from their clients.


If you don’t have a lot of spare time, a travel agent take care of all your holiday bookings.  However, if your happy to put in some time and effort, you might find some great savings.  I personally enjoy being in control of my own travel arrangements and quite enjoy the challenge.  I don’t need to trust that someone else has fully understood my needs and I don’t want to limit my options by putting my arrangements into the hands of one person who has a smaller selection on offer, as opposed to unlimited access via the internet.  Booking and paying over the internet is now relatively easy and most times, any questions I have about a hotel can be answered by simply emailing the Reservations Department.  As long as you stick to using reliable, well-known sites, you shouldn’t find the process too stressful and you will definitely become more confident as your experience grows.


So, tell me, are you comfortable making all your own holiday arrangements or do you always use a travel agent?  If you do your own bookings, has it always been “smooth sailing” and can you suggest any other tips?



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Mango and Coconut Muffins …

Mango and Coconut Muffins


Muffins are perfect for lunchboxes, morning teas or an after school snack and these Mango and Coconut Muffins are sure to be a hit.  Mango and coconut are a delightful combination and these muffins are suitable to freeze.  Enjoy!


Mango and Coconut Muffins ...
Recipe type: Muffin
Ingredients ...
  • 2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
  • ¾ cups castor sugar
  • ½ cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 ¼ cups lite sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ¾ cups fresh mango, chopped
Method ...
  1. Preheat oven to 180C (fan-forced) and line a 12-hole muffin tray with wrappers.
  2. Place self-raising flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl and stir to combine.
  3. In a large jug, add sour cream, eggs. vanilla extract and vegetable oil and mix well.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Add the mango to the muffin dough and gently fold through.
  6. Spoon the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin holes prepared earlier and bake for approximately 23 – 25 minutes. Test muffins are cooked through by inserting a clean skewer into the middle of the muffin which should come out cleanly.
  7. Once cooked, remove from oven. Allow to stand in the muffin tray for a couple of minutes before placing muffins on wire racks to cool completely.



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My Dental Experience in Thailand …

My Dental Experience in Thailand 001



Please note, this is my personal story and an account of our experience when hubby and myself recently travelled to Thailand for dental work.  It is in no way a judgement of Australian dentists who, in my opinion, are qualified, well-trained, empathetic and ethical professionals.  It is also in no way a recommendation that everyone should book the next flight to Thailand, or any other country, to have dental work carried out.  The decision to have dental work, or any other medical procedure, performed in another country is a difficult, important and personal decision and should be thoroughly researched, with consideration of all options and consequences, while taking into account your own personal circumstances.  This blog post was NOT SPONSORED and no financial remuneration was received by either myself or my husband.  All dental treatment performed was paid for in full by ourselves.



Hubby recently found out he needed a lot of dental work … 1 root canal, 4 crowns, 1 bridge and extensive periodontic treatment and if you’re sitting there imagining this would cost a motza … you’re right.  Around about the same time, I also discovered I needed a root canal and a crown.  Adding my dental work into the equation was going to take the total to just over $18,000 … ouch!  So, when work colleagues began sharing their experiences of having dental work done overseas, it got our attention.  These same people were talking about dental work costing hundreds rather than thousands of dollars … we decided to investigate a little further.


Understandably, we were nervous … it’s a natural feeling for anyone contemplating something new and different, of which they have limited knowledge and absolutely no experience.  What compounded that apprehension was some people’s reactions when we mentioned that we were considering dental work in Thailand.  Most told us we were mad, concerned that the risk of disease and infection was just too high!!!  Undoubtedly, they had our best interests at heart, however, hubby and I are very conservative and not big risk-takers, most especially when our health is involved.  We always do our research and try to make sound decisions based in fact and truth … and this decision would be no different.


On the flip side though, we also encountered others who’d either had dental work done themselves (not only in Thailand but Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia) or others who had friends or relatives who’d had work done.  Each was more than willing to share their opinions and experiences and, I can honestly say, there wasn’t a single negative story amongst them.


Some in the dental profession, reeled in shock when we suggested Thailand was looking like any option each time the costs grew.  They each had at least one “horror story” of failed international dental treatment but I also reminded myself that things can go wrong here as well.  I’ve got not a single doubt that the dentists, endodontists and periodontists we consulted are all caring professionals who didn’t want us to make what they considered to be a risky choice but the reality is that the cost of dentistry in Australia has become very expensive and out of reach for many.  We were prepared to consider the alternatives.  So, what did we do?


Firstly, we found out exactly what work we both needed and obtained a detailed treatment plan which itemised each tooth and advised what was recommended.


Secondly, we obtained another opinion.  After the initial dental consultation, we obtained a second treatment plan from a Periodontist to whom we had been referred to treat my husband’s gum disease.  We also obtained a third opinion from a local University which operates a Public Dental Clinic at about 30% discount on average fees with a free initial consultation.  Both opinions agreed with the original treatment plan, leaving us confident that we at least knew what work needed to be done.


Next we obtained referrals from friends and colleagues who’d had dental work done overseas.  Universally, the name of one clinic kept coming up … Sea Smile International Dental Clinic.  This organisation has many clinics in Thailand and we decided to visit one of the clinics in Patong, Phuket.



My Dental Experience in Thailand 002



Finally, we scoured the internet and did our research.  We read accounts of people’s experiences, we researched the clinic and we did as much homework as we could.  We did at this point, also decide to have the root canals done in Australia.  As these procedures are a little more complex and invasive we thought that was wise.  The other deciding factor was that my hubby’s root canal was on a tooth at the top and rear of his mouth.  These teeth apparently can have a “hidden” fourth canal.  Most dentists, we’ve been told, will refer you to an Endodontist for treatment as they will have more sophisticated equipment to find and fill this “hidden” canal, if it exists.


Once we committed to our decision, the process was fairly simply.  We emailed the clinic to make some initial enquiries, discuss how to make an appointment and to discuss the work we had been advised was required.  We also enquired how long would be needed for the treatment.  We received a response within a day.  The email was professional and easily understood.


After finding out what appointments were available and evaluating how much time we would potentially need, we booked our flights and selected our accommodation.  We had decided this would be a holiday as well and stayed for 12 nights, longer than we would need for actual treatment.  When choosing our dates, we arrived in the evening and made our appointment for our initial consultation at 10.00 am the very next day.  A couple of days prior to departing Australia, we also received email confirmation reminding us of our appointment including directions to the Clinic.


On arrival at the Clinic, we both checked in and then were directed to a computer to complete a profile where a full and thorough medical history was taken.  Once complete, we were then led through to a small consultation room where a nurse took our blood pressure.  We then returned to the foyer to await our consultation.


My husband went into his appointment first and I accompanied him.  I had to leave the room when his X-rays were taken and I didn’t return to his consultation.  Whilst waiting for him, I took the opportunity to talk to other patients waiting for treatment.  Patients were mostly from Australia and over the course of our visits we met people from Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Darwin, Cairns, Adelaide and Melbourne, basically all over the place … young and old.  Some were new patients whereas others had been visiting for years.  I met one lady who was a nurse at a Gold Coast Hospital.  This was now her regular dentist and she had been visiting for 4 years, returning whenever needed, even if for only a couple of days.  She had cancelled the “extras” on her private Health Insurance and those savings combined with the savings on her teeth, for her, were significant.  As it turned out, I had been allocated the same dentist that she saw regularly and she couldn’t speak highly enough of her ability and manner.


When hubby emerged, I then had my first consultation.  We both exited with a detailed treatment plan.  Another appointment was made to commence treatment, however, we were advised to also go away and think about the treatment, in terms of how much we wanted done, and cost and come back with any questions at the next appointment.  This was reassuring and neither of us felt we were being pushed into anything and that we both retained complete control.  Before leaving Australia, I had stressed to my husband that neither one of us was under any obligation once we got to Thailand.  We both agreed that if we didn’t like the look of the Clinic, didn’t get a good “vibe” or feeling from the dentists and staff or didn’t feel comfortable with any aspect of the suggested treatment we would leave and simply have a holiday.  That wasn’t necessary and our experience was fantastic and all we could hope for.


The clinic itself was spotlessly clean with modern equipment, all of which was sterilized.  We both attended four appointments each … an initial consultation for assessment, a second appointment to prepare the teeth to be crowned (including fitting a temporary crown), a third appointment to fit the completed crowns and a fourth and final appointment to check the crowns and make any necessary adjustments.  At each appointment, we were looked after by one dentist with three dental nurses assisting.  Each dentist and dental nurse were completely covered in full surgical gear from head to toe including surgical gown, gloves, masks, eye goggles, foot coverings and surgical hair nets.  The staff were so friendly, courteous and knowledgeable.  Once treatment started, I felt completely confident and relaxed and didn’t doubt my decision for a minute.


We are both now about 4 months down the track from treatment, with no problems and thrilled with the results.  We felt that we received excellent treatment by well qualified, caring dentists.  Given this was our first experience we decided to only proceed with some of the things my husband needed doing.  Hubby ended up with 2 crowns and I had one.  Although we had chosen on this occasion to have our root canals done in Australia, based on our experience, I wouldn’t hesitate to have a root canal performed at the same Clinic, should I ever need another one.


At home, we had each been quoted $1750 per tooth … a total of $5250 for the three teeth.  We would have been out of pocket for the full amount as we had already exhausted any benefits available through our private Health Fund.  The treatment in Thailand was $412 per tooth … a total of $1236 and representing a saving of $4014.00.  Obviously, we had to pay for airfares and accommodation but this was covered by the savings on our teeth, meaning we had an overseas holiday virtually for free.


As I stated at the beginning of this blog post, this is my account of my own personal experience of dental work in Thailand.  I will admit to being a little nervous prior treatment but felt totally at ease after consulting with my dentist and feeling absolutely confident that I was being treated in a clean, hygenic and sterile environment.  It was a wonderful experience and hubby, myself and my children will be returning for other dental treatment in the future.


So tell me, would you consider dental treatment overseas?  If you have had dental work overseas, what was your experience like?




25 Delicious Fillings for Sandwiches, Wraps, Pitas and Bread Rolls …

25 Delicious Fillings for Sandwiches, Wraps, Pitas and Bread Rolls


Very soon kids will be returning to school and parents everywhere will jump back into the routine of preparing lunchboxes.  Some kids crave the familiarity of having the same sandwich every day whereas there’ll be others who get bored and want variety.


Remember to check your school’s lunchbox policy to see if there are any foods like peanut butter that are banned and then you could spice things up with some of the gorgeous sandwich fillings below.  All of the suggestions use common items from the fridge and pantry and I’ve included some ideas for using up leftover meats.  To save time things like carrot and cheese can be grated the night before.


It’s a good idea to write a lunchbox plan on the weekend so that you know ahead of time the ingredients needed and to allow you to plan for some variety.  Click on the link below for my Lunchbox Planner available for you to download absolutely FREE.





Interesting lunches are more likely to be eaten than thrown out in the playground bin, so here are some simple ideas:


  1. Chicken, cheese, lettuce and mayonnaise


  1. Chicken, bacon, avocado and lettuce


  1. Chicken Schnitzel with tomato paste and cheese


  1. Ham, cheese and sprouts


  1. Ham, cream cheese, carrot and lettuce


  1. Ham and avocado


  1. Egg (plain or curried) and lettuce


  1. Egg with bacon and sprouts


  1. Turkey, cranberry sauce and lettuce


  1. Tuna, shallot, celery and mayonnaise


  1. Tuna, avocado and lettuce


  1. Bacon, cheese and lettuce


  1. Banana, honey and sultanas


  1. Rissoles with salad and tomato sauce


  1. Roast beef with chutney and lettuce (or sprouts)


  1. Roast beef with crunchy coleslaw


  1. Roast beef with cheese and corn relish


  1. Beef with hommus, semi-dried tomatoes and shallots


  1. Lamb, tzatziki, cucumber, cheese and sprouts


  1. Lamb with hommus, grated cheese and spinach leaves


  1. Salami and salad


  1. Pulled pork with barbecue sauce and cheese


  1. Cheese and vegemite


  1. Ricotta, carrot and sultana


  1. Cream cheese, cucumber and sprouts


You’ll notice that I haven’t included any “wet” ingredients in the flavour combinations above like tomato, beetroot or pineapple as these can cause a sandwich, wrap pita or bread roll to become very soggy.  You can either drain these items really well on paper towel before adding them or, alternatively, send them separately in a small zip lock bag or container to be added just before the sandwich is eaten.  This might be a difficult option for small children but perfectly okay for older kids or adults.  If you do choose to add them to the sandwich, place them in the middle between things like cheese and lettuce where they won’t touch the bread.

Don’t be afraid to also use leftovers from the previous night’s dinner to make lunches interesting.  Using up sliced lamb, beef, pork, chicken, etc. is ideal and even adding things like mashed roast pumpkin can really add some great flavours to a sandwich, wrap, pita or bread roll.  Using up those leftovers will prevent waste which will ultimately save money.


Another great idea is to toast the sandwich, wrap, pita or bread roll … yes, it will be cold but it can add a texture which is nice for a change.


So tell me, are your kids “creatures of habit” or do they crave different fillings every day?  Can you suggest other meat or salad items to include for lunch and what are some of your kids favourite flavour combinations?



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Four Ingredient “Honey Joys” …

Four Ingredient Honey Joys


Honey Joys are a sweet little snack that can be whipped up in next to no time.  It’s one of those “retro” recipes that’s been around forever but shows up every now and then.  They only need four common ingredients that will be found in most pantries and fridges and are perfect for a morning tea treat for school or ideal for a small child’s birthday party.  Enjoy!


Four Ingredient “Honey Joys” …
Ingredients ...
  • 3 ¾ cups Corn Flakes
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons honey
Method ...
  1. Preheat oven to 150C (fan-forced) and line a 12-hole muffin tray with cupcake wrappers.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter, sugar and honey over a gentle heat until combined and frothy to create a light toffee.
  3. Add the Corn Flakes and stir gently until well coated with the toffee mixture. You will need to work fairly quickly.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake wrappers dividing the mixture equally.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. When cool to touch, transfer honey joys to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 12.



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The Ultimate Laundry Guide for Anyone who Hates Ironing or Wants to Cut their Ironing Time Dramatically …



Keeping up with the ironing is a major challenge in most households.  No sooner do you finish one pile than another seems to magically appear … it’s a never-ending cycle … wash, dry, iron, repeat!  It’s repetitive, tedious and certainly not my idea of a good time.  I’ve spent years trying to simplify my life, creating new habits and implementing practical routines to save my time and finding ways to reduce the amount of time I spend ironing has always been a priority.


So, if you feel like you spend half of your life chained to the ironing board, here are some simple tips that will help you cut that time dramatically:



Any clothes I buy, I scrunch the fabric firmly when trying them on.  I don’t buy anything that doesn’t pass my “scrunch test” and crushes significantly.  I especially avoid anything that is linen, silk or 100% cotton and try to buy clothes with a blend of synthetic fibres.  I also avoid buying anything that will be “fussy” to iron with things like pleats, multiple layers, gathering or fabrics that are overly delicate.



Pants, jeans, coats and skirts, to name a few can often be worn several times before needing to be washed.  Wash clothes less and you’ll need to do less ironing.



Not only won’t your clothes wash properly but if your clothes are tightly packed, they will have less space to spin and will probably be squashed, tangled and creased when you finally take them out of the machine.  Same principle applies to the dryer as well … if it’s overloaded there won’t be enough room for your cloths to fluff up and move around.



Heavy bulky items are likely to squash and crease anything that’s light-weight or dainty.  For example, avoid washing heavy denim items or towels with light-weight shirts or other delicate items.  The goal is to wash lighter items separately from heavier items.



It will also work as a fabric softener, help to deodorize clothes and get rid of any soap build up.  I have a front loader and I add a cup of vinegar at the start of the cycle in the fabric softener compartment.  By adding the vinegar at the start of the cycle, there will be no strong vinegar smell once your load has finished.



It’s tempting to set the spin cycle high to remove as much moisture as possible and cut drying time.  This, however, tends to overly crease clothes so it’s worth considering a slower spin cycle … one that will remove the bulk of the water but not over-dry the clothes.  A higher spin cycle is preferable if you’re putting the clothes straight into the dryer.  In that instance, you’ll want to remove as much water as possible to reduce the length of time you need to run the dryer.





After 5 minutes of playing or rolling around on the floor, their clothes are likely to be crumpled and stained anyway … save yourself some work and frustration!  Save ironing their clothes for special occasions only.



Shaking out and unravelling anything in this way will reduce wrinkling as the clothes dry.  Items like shirts or dresses can be hung straight away on plastic hangers to dry and this will help creases drop out.





If you peg your clothes in a spot that isn’t obvious, it could be the difference between ironing or not. For example, peg t-shirts under the arms where the peg mark won’t be seen, button up shirts hang upside down and peg on the bottom of the side seams and peg pants and skirts on the waist band.  Peg clothes in an area that won’t be seen when it’s worn … then you won’t need to iron out the peg marks.



Items like pyjamas, jeans, exercise gear or clothes that are just worn around the house will survive without being ironed.  The same goes for pillow cases, tea towels and the like.



It’s an important life skill that they should learn.  It might also encourage them to be less casual about what needs to be washed if they know they’ll have to iron it themselves.  Same goes for husbands or partners.  If you both work, it won’t hurt them to learn to iron and look after their own clothes.



If you hang freshly-ironed clothes in a jam-packed wardrobe, there’s a good chance your clothes will be badly creased and need to be re-ironed before you can wear them.



And, the good news is, you can easily make your own.  Mix one teaspoon of lavender oil and one litre of water in a spray bottle.  Shake to combine and then lightly mist or spray your clothes before hanging or wearing them.  Lavender oil is a fibre relaxant, so it will help creases simply drop out.  If you don’t have any lavender oil you could make a spray using 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup fabric softener and 1/3 cup white vinegar.  Use a spray bottle with a fine mist spray and lightly spray your clothes.  Pull them into shape, smooth them out and hang to dry.



Hang your clothes in the bathroom and the steam will loosen the fibres and help the creases drop out.  This works well for a couple of items but probably not the best idea for a whole load of washing.



If you’re in a hurry, getting ready to go out and you notice your clothes are creased, use your hair dryer to remove some creasing.  Be careful not to use this method on anything too delicate.  Another sneaky trick is to use a hair straightener.  Just be careful that there are no hair products or gels on the straightener or this could stain your clothes.





Not only can a lot of these things then go straight into drawers, cupboards or wardrobes it also means they don’t get extra creases or wrinkles by sitting scrunched up in a clothes basket.





Then either fold your clothes or get them straight on to hangers and they will be virtually crease free thanks to the heat from the dryer.  Unfortunately, if clothes are left in the dryer in a jumbled bundle to completely cool down they will most likely crease and need ironing.



If you don’t manage to retrieve your clothes from the dryer straight away and they do crease, throw a damp washer into the dryer and turn it on for another 10 or so minutes.  Alternatively, lightly spray your clothes with water from a spray bottle.  The heat from the dryer and the dampness from the washer or water spray will combine to get rid of the creases.



Even if you don’t use your dryer to completely dry your clothes, placing your almost dry clothes in the dryer for the final 10 minutes will get rid of any creases using the heat.  Just remember to hang or fold them as soon as the dryer is finished.



These are now fairly cheap and you can even buy them from Kmart.  Once you get the hang of using one, they are generally quicker than ironing, you can “iron” clothes as they hang and you also eliminate the risk of burning your clothes if the iron was too hot.



For working Mum’s, getting someone to help with either cleaning or ironing is not a luxury.  There’s no point trying to do everything and work full time as well.  Most ironing services will collect the ironing from your home and return it fully ironed on hangers.  If the help is there and you can afford it … go for it!



Don’t leave your clothes in your suitcase and instead hang them in the wardrobe as soon as you arrive at your destination.  This will hopefully allow time for any wrinkles to drop or hang out before you need to wear your clothes, therefore, eliminating the need to iron.  Rolling your clothes, rather than folding them in the suitcase can also reduce creases.




And for everything else that you do decide needs ironing here are a couple of tips that will make the task more bearable and still save you some time:


  • Iron while you’re watching TV … either put on a movie or a couple of episodes of your favourite TV series. Gather your supplies like a hanging rack and coat hangers before you start and the ironing pile will vanish in no time at all, with very little noticeable effort.


  • Only iron one side of the garment … I’ve been doing this forever. If you have a good quality iron and use the steam feature, by only ironing the front or top of a garment you can effectively iron both sides at the same time.  The backs of t-shirts or shirts will naturally crease when you sit down and lean against a chair.  Pants, dresses and skirts are the same and will crease the second you sit down either in a car, at work or a restaurant.  Only iron the front of the garment and you will effectively cut your ironing time in half.  Another trick here is to lay a sheet of aluminium foil underneath your ironing board cover with the shiny side facing up.  As the heat from your iron penetrates the garment and the ironing board cover, the aluminium foil will reflect the heat back effectively ironing the reverse side of your garment.


  • Before you commence ironing, sort your clothes according to the temperature settings needed. For example, any clothes that need to be ironed on a low temperature setting, iron them all together.  All clothes that need a hot, high temperature, iron those together.  This will save time from constantly adjusting the heat setting on your iron and waiting for it to continually heat up and cool down.


  • Ironing clothes when they are slightly damp will make the job quicker and easier.


  • Try to set your ironing board and iron up in a space where they can be left up permanently, although this may be difficult with small children and pets. If it’s accessible, it will feel like less of a chore if you don’t have to drag everything out of a cupboard and set it up each and every time you need to use it.  It will be especially frustrating if you need to do this in a hurry to iron a single item.


  • Make sure your iron is up to the job. If you’re struggling with a heavy, inefficient iron that isn’t functioning properly, it could be worth investing in a newer, lighter, steam iron.


  • And finally, although this has nothing to do with saving time, always be safe when ironing and keep small children and pets away. Try to ensure your ironing board is sturdy and not prone to tipping over.


Initially, I felt guilty when I started ironing less and stopped ironing certain things altogether but I learned to get over it.  The trade-off was worth it with more time to spend with the kids, family and friends doing things I enjoyed … and who wouldn’t want that!  No-one will judge you if your clothes are a little less than perfect … I promise!


So tell me, do you enjoy ironing?  Do you have any other tips or strategies for getting on top of your ironing pile?



Almond Tahini Bliss Balls …



These Almond Tahini Bliss Balls are a quick, easy, healthy snack for anyone on the go or perfect for Mum or Dad’s lunchboxes for work.  They do contain almonds so are probably best not sent to school due to potential allergies but are a great after school snack.  Tahini is a deliciously nutty and creamy spread made from sesame seeds and, if you’ve not used it before, you’ll find it in most supermarkets in the Health Food section.  Enjoy!

Almond Tahini Bliss Balls …
Ingredients ...
  • ½ cup raisons
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ½ cup fresh dates, (5 – 6 dates) chopped
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ⅓ cup shredded coconut
  • shredded coconut, extra for rolling
Method ...
  1. Combine raisons and juice in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until raisons are plump. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Drain raisons and reserve 2 tablespoons of the remaining orange juice.
  2. Place oats and almond meal in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add raisons, reserved orange juice, brown sugar, dates, tahini, honey, cinnamon, butter and shredded coconut and process until mixture is well combined.
  3. Using damp hands, roll tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls then roll in the extra shredded coconut. Chill for approximately 30 minutes or until firm. This recipe will make approximately 25 balls balls (depending on their size) and this recipe is suitable to freeze.



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