Homemade baby wipes – trying to be Eco- friendly

If you haven’t seen it already there is a brilliant video that has gone viral, showing how a brilliant mumma makes her own baby wipes. And you can watch it here

Like many these days, I try my best to only buy toiletries with natural ingredients both for myself and for baby girl OC. However, also like many, I am driven by cost sometimes and I found a very cheap brand of wipes that did the job and didn’t give bubby nappy rash. 

But to be honest, when I was pregnant I had great ideas about how I was going to be as ecologically friendly as possible when it came to nappies. I bought a sample pack of MCN (modern cloth nappies) that I love from Hippybottomus and I was decided that I would do my best to use them when at home. And I have to certain extent but I by no means exclusively use them. I don’t really have a decent excuse for that other than my bub hates the heat and we had a ridiculously hot summer and we don’t have air con – the cloth nappies are thick and fleecy and she just seems too hot in them. And then we got out the habit of wearing them. 

I also tried Eco nappies from HelloCharlie.com.au as my friend uses nappies from there, but then money got very, very tight a few months back and I just couldn’t afford to buy nappies at 2 or 3 times the cost of the ones I could get at the supermarket.

A couple of weeks back Baby Girl had diarrhoea and we were away and used different wipes to usual too. The result was a bad nappy rash that was soooo sore for her. We resorted to an old method of bum wiping – large cotton wool balls and water – which is what we used on her from birth until she was probably about 3 months old. We even supplied her day care with cotton wool balls so that they wouldn’t use the wipes on her for a few days. The chemicals in them just exacerbate the rash. 

So, when I saw the video it was perfectly timed. But I thought to myself that I could probably use cheap baby flannels/facecloths instead of wasting more paper. Kmart sell 12 packs of these flannels in the baby section which we already use for…well, face cloths!! Ha! So I bought an extra pack or two and made up the recipe in a 1 litre Pyrex jug as follows:

  • 2 table spoons of coconut oil 
  • 2 squirts of Eco store shower gel (my own shower gel!)
  • Top up with freshly boiled water And whisk til mixed in. 
  • Pour the mixture over the flannels which I folded over once lengthways in a medium size rectangular tub (with clip on lid). 
  • Leave to soak up
  • If there is excess liquid then drain

Easy! 

I found that using these as wipes is great. Coconut oil is a great cleaning agent anyway (I use it to remove my make up) and it leaves her bum so soft and clean and usually even with a poo I only use one flannel, two at most. 

A couple of other tips:

  • I have a nappy bucket where I then chuck the pooey cloths and then pop them in a hot wash every couple of days. 
  • I wouldn’t recommend washing with MCNs because the oil will probably ruin the absorbency of the nappies. 
  • I also found I need a Terry towel on the side (we keep an abundance of them stacked under her changing table) to pat down the bum a little after wiping as it can sometimes be a little damp. 

It doesn’t take long at all to make these and I feel so much better knowing I’m not using nasty chemicals on Baby Girl OC and I can feel slightly less guilty about the environment too. 

Here is a quick video I did on snap chat. You’ll see I have sorbolene lotion there too but I decided not to add any and I don’t think I needed it. 

Have you made your own wipes? What works for you? 

Heigh ho, heigh ho…

… it’s off to work I go. 

I’m in the midst of writing the follow up months after the first month to the sixth month but I wanted to pen a quick blog. I feel like today is such a momentous day. I’m full of emotion.

I’m sat on my usual bus to work. I was walking to the bus stop at the end of my road having driven Baby OC to daycare. Everything went to plan. It’s been so hot that we have all had very little sleep for the last few nights but apart from that all was as hoped. 

It’s not her first day, she’s been a few times and she really does love it. She sleeps better there, she eats well (they tell me every time I pick her up how much she ate and what a good eater she is) and she sometimes seems downright excited to be there. So I don’t have to worry about that, right? Try telling yourself that as you drop your child off. I find myself looking so hard at her – is she sad, is she thinking “oh no not this place again”?

And it doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilt. I feel guilty that someone is looking after my baby. I feel guilty that I had to get ready this morning instead of stopping to play with her. I feel guilty that when I am on my own it’s actually quite nice and I enjoy it. 

As I sat at the bus stop in the ridiculous morning heat, I realised the last time I sat here she was in my tummy. That when she was in my tummy she went everywhere with me. And now I feel a chunk of me is missing. 

I feel nostalgic about being pregnant. I feel how strange it must have been to have neither pregnancy nor my daughter in the world – what did I do? What were my days for? And yet, that’s partly why I’m heading back to work – other than financial aspects, I need something other than being a mum in my life. 

When you become a mum your previous you becomes buried beneath the nurturer, the carer, the provider of food, the entertainer. But she’s still in there somewhere and for me she was quietly asking if there was space for her in my life again. And I consented, yes there was. 

I admire any mum who can stay at home and be everything to their child. I admire any mother who can let a little bit of their soul get left behind every day when they drop off their kid and head off to work. Neither are easy. 

It’s going to be tiring and hard adjusting to sleepless nights and long days. Adjusting to the fact that when I get back from my commute I’m going to only have an hour of time at the maximum with my baby girl before she is off to bed. And in that time I’m going to be running around getting dinner and sorting laundry. Adjusting to the fact that instead of doing my day job in five working days a week I will have to be way more productive and do it all in four days instead. Adjusting to letting go of the reins and letting the carers at daycare and her daddy take some of the load. 

It’s going to be an interesting time. Wish me luck. 

6 months. 6 things that happened!

Well, I haven’t been around much these past 12 months have I? And even less so in the last six where I have managed one blog… and that’ll be six months ago in a couple of weeks!

So, here’s what I’ve been up to and why I’ve been a bit preoccupied. I’m summarising in six  – one for each month!

1. I’m a Tough Mudder!! 
OK so technically this was more than six months ago but it was one of the major things that has happened in my life since my blog-posting has been slack. I’ve been trying to do Mudder for a couple of years and in 2014 I made it there, made it round the 19km course (in a tutu, I might add) and back home in one (albeit dishevelled) piece.

mudder mudder2

For those who are thinking of doing it my words of advice are – this event is totally about teammateship and camaraderie. Your focus shouldn’t really be about individual achievement although you will achieve a great deal just by making it around the course.
Secondly, work on your abs and your arms. I am not naturally strong in my upper body – my legs can go for days but ask me to jump over water and grab a rope net is a near impossibility for me. And climbing high walls and fences? HARD. Many I couldn’t have done without my teammates pushing and pulling  my body (and probably cursing me) until I damn well made it over that fence/wall/log/slippery mud hill.
Also, keep moving. Especially, if like me, you get cold quickly. You are in and out of water a lot and if you don’t keep moving you cool down FAST! This is most true when you jump into a skip of iced water. Your body literally starts to freeze. Move your butt before it can.
And finally, enjoy it – have fun, get muddy, wear clothes you’re going to throw away and just immerse yourself in the pure craziness the best you can. It’s an amazing experience. I was really bruised and battered by the end as I chose to wear shorts because I hate getting too hot (ha! and ended up cold!), plus I pulled my abs REALLY badly trying to get over a huge fence, but I healed and I was fine.

2. Planning, plotting, crafting and creating. 
There is so much to tell you all about the invitations, order of services, readings, table names, itineraries, accommodation guide, flowers, decorations and so much more. Without sounding like I’m blowing my own trumpet I worked my butt off for this wedding and had some amazing help from some very good friends and my family to pull it off. When people say it could be a full time job planning your wedding they’re not kidding. And it was my desire to create a wedding unique to us and with lots of personal touches that hinted towards who we are as a couple. I hope to blog about some of the DIY wedding planning I did as hopefully they’ll be useful to other people too- or maybe even inspirational. I have many hints and tips and even some templates that could be put to use!

medley medley-decor

3. New home bliss!
Just before Christmas we finalised on our new home and moved in. To follow we had our first “just us” Christmas – cooked a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and didn’t have to go anywhere except just lazing around looking around at this new apartment that was all ours. It was great. We were going to head down to the beach in the afternoon but being that it was the first Christmas dinner we’ve cooked together we overshot the timing a little and by the time we had cleared up a storm had blown in! Typical. But it was my favourite Christmas in many years – minimal expectations  and just good old-fashioned quality time at home.

house christmas

4. My first ever broken bone!
OK, so if we’re being picky it was actually just fractured, but still… It was just nine weeks out from the wedding when I decided to smash my little pinky toe… and the one next to it. I was training a lot (obviously – for OWD – Operation Wedding Dress) and all of a sudden I couldn’t run, barely walk (for week or two), couldn’t lunge or jump, couldn’t do sand sprints, couldn’t do burpees… argh! But I kept going to training and did a lot of push-ups, squats, wall sits and boxing! At the end of the day at least I knew I was increasing my upper-body strength finally.

It wasn’t even like I had a good story of how I came to break it. I just stubbed my toe on the dining table. FML. Still it healed, and I felt special having my first broken bone… and it still twinges when it’s cold just to remind me my toe is there, and that it definitely happened. Check out the bruising…

broken toe

5. Lots of family time
Two major things have happened in Mr OC’s family in this time period. One very happy and one extremely sad. The sad event was that just six weeks before the wedding Mr OC’s dad passed away very suddenly. Mr OC is still reeling from this as one might imagine, and so are his mum, siblings, and the rest of the whanau. It’s been a very emotional time and nothing can alter the fact that he wasn’t able to be with us on his son’s wedding day. But on the day we certainly felt his spirit. Mr OC Senior was a family man above all – every thing he did was for family. He worked crazy hours and put his family first at all times. He loved his multitude of grandchildren and he lived for his children. In many things (my) Mr OC does in his life he tries to be like his dad and while we remembered Mr OC Senior thoughout the whole special day, it was a joyous day, and it was all about that thing that he loved so much…. family. All we wanted for our day was to feel the love bouncing around the room, and between us and our wedding guests there was a buzz that is indescribable. Such love, such unity, such happiness. He was indeed with us that day… in our hearts.

Then, the happy event occurred after the wedding, when Mr OC’s daughter (who was one of my beautiful bridesmaids) decided to stay on with us and not return to NZ after the wedding. So we now have a little family! And whilst I think there might be some blogs coming on the challenges of teens and trying to understand the mindset of a 15 year old, we are so overjoyed that she is with us… of course. And what a brave thing to do – all credit to her for leaving a place and friends she has known all her life, let alone parting from her mum and other siblings. Not easy. Very brave. I hope we all do our best and make it 100% worth it.

In the weeks surrounding the wedding we had all our immediate family as well as very best friends with us. My maid of honour is my virtual sister, my soul mate, my twin, my polar opposite, my friend of 20+ years  and she flew from the UK to be with us. It can only be described as amazing, Truly amazing. For the first time since I moved to Australia, everyone I hold dear was by my side, just round the corner, coming over for a cuppa, meeting up for picnics and breakfast…  or just in the same time zone to have a chat with. It was incredible and so, so brilliant. And to top it off, my beloved 19-year-old nephew was so taken with Oz that he has already booked his flights back out here for later this year! I couldn’t be more excited to have family here. We’ve gone from just us, to us three, and now we’ll have more additional family around too.

Steve gathering
NZ whanau together celebrating Mr OC’s dad’s life.
Rehearsal dinner

Rehearsal dinner - other
Rehearsal dinner – all those we hold dear
 

6.  Gettin’ hitched!
And yes, of course, if you hadn’t gathered by now, two plus years in the planning and Mr OC and I finally tied the knot in what can only be described as the most wondrous, most amazing, most love-filled and happy day of my existence. And I hope his. So, yes, I am no officially MRS OC – how funny!

Kiss at altar Walking the aisle

So I’ll be back very soon with some wedding diy hints and tips and insights, and also with some other interesting delving into the depths of my mind! Catch you back here then.

Dedicating this post to the wonderful memory of Steve O'Callaghan. 10 4. xxx
Dedicating this post to the wonderful memory of Steve O’Callaghan. 10 4. xxx

We Don’t Like To Do Things by Halves

So, due to a couple of circumstances (that I won’t go into right now) we are moving…

We are moving… nine days before we fly to New Zealand for Christmas. And exactly two weeks before Christmas.

Why?! Why would we do that to ourselves?! And what’s maybe even more silly is the fact we’re planning to move again next year – currently we are not home owners here in Australia and we’re now able to change that. But we need to sell my place in the UK first. So the next 18 months looks something like this:

Prepare to move

move-1

…Whilst preparing for Christmas… and dealing with our real estate having open-for-inspections every five minutes (this requires a clean flat and animals out of the way which means I am being more Monica than usual and also cart the cat around like he’s an accessory)

move-2

Move home

move-3

Do Christmas

move-4

Do New Year

move-5

Wedding planning kicks in – save the dates (which I said I’d do 4 months ago), dress shopping (found a place in Sydney that stocks the dress I tried in the UK!), and trying to find the money for paying for things.

move-6

Put UK flat on the market

Try to sell flat in currently not awesome UK property market

Hopefully sell up

Find somewhere to buy here

Do all the logistics that come with buying a home… oh joy

Move home… and hope for gifts like this:

move-7

Do Christmas

move-8

Do New Year

move-9

3 months until the Wedding

move-10

Family arrive in swarms

 move-11

Walk down the aisle.

move-12

Yeah… and that is not even mentioning Mr OC’s studies he’s taking on in the new year!

OH GOD! All I can see is $$$$ and zzzzzzzzzzz – the latter being us just being knackered. My brain is going to turn to mush.

On another note I am SUPER excited about our new flat. And I cannot wait to be in it. But right now, my excitement has been overwhelmed with finding carpet cleaners who can remove a huge candle wax issue I may or may not have created last Christmas and have tried in vain to remove myself, plus I’m trying to reduce relocation costs and packing. ALL while trying to write Christmas cards, find presents, keep in budget, wrap presents (easier said than done with a 9 month old kitten in the house!), go to the post office and post overseas without having a heart attack over the price of postage AND living my normal life/doing my job.

Fir or Faux Fir? It’s all a bit traumatic…

Christmas Tree Farm

The first year I was here I didn’t really know where to get a real Christmas tree from – the garden centres are not exactly abundant and well, yeah I was new to all this stuff here. So I bought a faux tree (lord above, who would believe it) – although I totally commended myself on being very environmentally friendly it just wasn’t the same. But you know how you do that thing to make yourself feel better – you pretend you’re totally cool with it even though deep down you want to throw it out the window.

I also ordered some lights – bright white. Big mistake.

We have blue walls and blue carpet in our flat (don’t even get me started on that – whoever was in charge of the interior decoration would be thrown out of the first class at a design school before they probably  even opened their mouth). Anyway, I don’t know if you’ve ever bought bright white, instead of warm white lights… well they are kind of blueish. Yahhhh.

So, picture yucky faux tree, blue (not very cosy) lights bouncing of blue walls and blue floor. YUM! It didn’t look terrible but I have to have Christmas ‘just so’ and I wasn’t happy about it. But I pretended I was. For the last two years I’ve decorated that tree like my life depended on it – willing myself to love it.

I didn’t.

Therefore, when talking to one of the girls from boot camp and she announced that she was going to this Christmas tree farm up the road like she does every Christmas – I was like OMFG get me some of that! So I mentioned it to Mr OC. Now, remember Mr OC is an Arborist… yes, that’s tree work. Asking your partner to not only agree to buy a tree you don’t really need but also to spend his weekend driving up and cutting one down (when he does this 5 sometimes 6 days a week anyway) is noooooot a good plan. However, he eventually agreed and so off we went on Sunday afternoon.

Christmas Tree Farm
Christmas Tree Farm

We found the tree we wanted and there were these two old dudes wandering around the plantation with saws – they assist you in cutting it down. Well we ended up with this old guy who liked like something out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre – he was a proper country bumpkin – he had the biggest wonkiest, beaten up nose and he kind of had spittle coming out the corners of his mouth. He also had wonky eyes. Am sure he is an ok guy but…

… at this point Mr OC decides to step back and let me take over the proceedings in a) bargaining the guy down on price and b) chopping the tree down. Not funny.

No word of a lie  – once we’d negotiated a good price ($60) he was all “well karm ova ere then darl” (as you can imagine, not a summons I found inviting). He was kneeling down on the ground behind the tree with his saw, and so I left the safe ground on the other side of the tree and went around the other side… I willingly crouched down facing the guy with the thought that we should just get the tree cut down and get out of here. But the fun was only just getting started.

He promptly told me I needed to turn around – i.e. so my butt was backing into him. He then wrapped his arms around me (like perfecting someone’s golf swing type of thing) and showed me where to put my hands on the saw….erm, uncomfortable much?

But he wasn’t done yet. You know how if you are uncomfortable you kind of laugh to make light of the situation? Well I did – loudly and with gusto. But this seemed to spur him on. He started making like “oh yeah right there” kind of comments and I couldn’t go anywhere because I was sawing down the tree. This whole time Mr OC is just standing back laughing at me. For the entire duration of sawing down this tree… which was probably about two minutes, but felt like twenty.

Argh. I love my tree but for a time on the way home, as I was traumatised by flashbacks and Mr OCs teasing, I was not convinced I wanted a reminder in the shape of a green fir tree in our lounge for the entirety of the next month.

But it’s all OK – the tree is up and even Mr OC admitted it looked great. Although he says he said this after he’d had a couple of beers so it doesn’t count…

Tree in lounge - just lights no decs
Tree in lounge – just lights no decs

Today I’m Thankful For…

Sun rise Dee Why

Lots of people do the ‘Today I’m thankful for’ in November to coincide with the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Whilst I’m not living, nor from the US nor celebrating Thanksgiving day, as such – I love the whole premise of giving thanks. And with this being my birthday month I figure I’ll follow suit. Here are my thanks givings for the first week of November, day by day.

1st November – The Great Outdoors

I’ve been doing boot camp twice a week now for seven weeks and I’ve completely quit the gym. Partly as I couldn’t afford both but partly because I’ve now shifted all my workouts to outdoors. Summer is on the way and the weather is mostly awesome – we did do one really wet work out and this morning was muggy even at 6.15am but it’s all worth it. Plus the location is awesome – I roll out of bed just before six, get dressed, clean teeth, splash face etc. Grab towel and drink bottle and walk five minutes down the road to the beach. I’ve found that although I hit a wall about 3pm for a half hour or so, I have heaps more energy starting my day like this. I get to see the sun come up, or just after it’s risen and I get to sweat through the burn whilst looking at an awesome view. PLUS I’m getting fitter! Working out outdoors is addictive. I’ve really been enjoying the time of year in Australia – I used to think you couldn’t beat a chilly spring  like in the UK but there have been rainbows of colours on the trees and on the ground in the beautiful spring blossoms and wild flowers. It makes me very happy. The pictures are mine from around where I live.

Dee Why Beach Sunrise
Dee Why Beach Spring Sunrise


2nd November – My hand blender

Yup, it’s a material thing but it’s quite a low key item that makes life so good. I have been sick of being tempted by really heavy lunches and I’m not that big into salad. So I decided to make myself some soup. So yesterday I chose two of my favourite veggies – pumpkin and broccoli and made two separate soups. It’s so easy with a blender  – because you can just saute the veg, then cook it in some stock, then blend like a mad woman! Sometimes, in the winter I prefer more casserole-type soups full of chunky veggies and meat. But for a light lunch soup, homemade soup, full of veggies can provide you with so much nutrition and energy! And all thanks to my little blender. I don’t know where I’d be without it, and my big blender, steamer, slow cooker, rice cooker, and food mixer. Gotta love the kitchen gadgets!

3rd November – Rest

We all know a good night’s sleep does wonders and whilst I’m not a mother with a baby keeping me awake at night and therefore am grateful for the sleep I get, I still find I sleep a lot lighter as I’ve got older. For the whole of this week (last week) Mr OC has been down in Melbourne with work. Well, I’ve missed him, but I tell you what I’ve love having the bed to myself! Friday he drove the truck for twelve hours and arrived home at about 1am Saturday morning. He then woke me up to say hello (that was sweet, genuinely) and it took me maybe fifteen minutes to get back to sleep. Meanwhile he had a shower. Then he came to bed. Then he got out of bed because he was still all wired from staying awake from driving and the can of energy drink he’d had (awful things). So off he went to the lounge, where (thank goodness) we have wireless headphones, so he could watch some TV and wind down. I must have dozed off after another fifteen minutes or so but for the next couple of hours I was intermittently half woken by the sound of beer bottles going into the recycling bin in the kitchen. Argh! Then at about half three Mr OC comes to bed and (several beers later) decides it’s cuddle time. Nah-ah! Winter is gone, it’s too warm for bed cuddles. Nice idea but…
Suffice to say it was the worst night’s sleep I had all week. But on the plus side it was nice to have him home.

4th November –Airplanes

So today (Saturday) we booked Mr OCs daughter’s Christmas trip here (from NZ) which is exciting! And also my lovely school friend landed in Sydney from Melbourne for a long weekend jaunt. It was an impromptu visit and on Sunday I got to spend an afternoon with her, which is great because in a couple of months she’ll be back in the UK again and I’ll miss having her just two states away. Either way though, where would we be without the invention of aeroplanes? I probably wouldn’t even be in Sydney in the first place which means I wouldn’t have met Mr OC. If you imagine the days when the only way to reach other lands was by boat it is mind-boggling in the world we live in. I moan about the 24 hours it takes to get back to most of my loved ones BUT I should be thankful that it ONLY takes that long.

5th November – Happiness for those I love

I see this in many ways recently – 2012 seems to have been a good year and that is a relief. In the past few days I received an email from one of my best friends back home. She has been my friend for nearly twenty years! (Wow that makes me feel old). This time a year ago she was having a rough time of things but her recent email, although not full of things working out exactly as hoped, was FULL of happiness and positivity. She has just blossomed in this last 12 months and it made me endlessly happy to witness that change. And, of course, I love to receive emails and messages from my friends back in England – each one makes me so glad.

6th November – Making new friends

And on the subject of friends, this week my bookclub and I are choosing an additional book on top of our monthly book for our Christmas challenge – the nominated books are all Christmas themed and we’re voting for one. In doing the emails to organise this I felt thankful for the friends I’m making through the book club. AND every time I’m at boot camp I have such fun with the friends I’m making there too. I see these girls more than I see my regular friends so of course, some of them are becoming mates too and it’s really great because we’re all sharing something we enjoy, and going on a journey together.

7th November – Mother nature

Today (yesterday) we were blessed with a short lived but really loud and dark thunderstorm. What could be better? I love a good storm (although not a super storm – i.e. Sandy and of course I am in no way thankful for the devastation that caused, of course) and I really enjoy the anticipation as it looms in and the skies turn black and then BOOM. Awesome. Where I live, if you’re blessed with a view (we’re blocked by trees – no bad thing) then even better, because looking out to storms at sea is spectacular! The power of mother nature fascinates and astounds me pretty much every day. Whilst I don’t enjoy the pain she sometimes brings, I am thankful that there is a thing more powerful than any man or machine. I think it keeps things in balance.

8th November – Obama

Well yesterday we watched as the Democratic leadership of Barack Obama gained Presidency for a second term. And what a relief. I’m thankful, along with a fair portion of the rest of the world. Well done Democrat voters.

To be continued…

And here’s a little pic of some of the many wildlife I see on local walks

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Started this last Monday…

I’m knackered and zombie like this morning because… in the middle of the night at like 2am I was woken up by massively loud incessant banging on the door of the apartment below ours. I was all wide awake and panicky straight away – Mr OC was his usual “just go back to sleep”. Which in itself was a bit difficult as whoever was doing the banging (so to speak) really wanted the person to answer the door. I heard womens’ voices and more banging and then because I was sort of coming to my senses by this point I began to notice a really bad smell – I was all (to Mr OC) “OK, get up, I can smell burning”.

And so I got up and opened our bedroom door and the smell was real strong out in the hallway, like burnt food and pots etc. so I turned back in the bedroom and Mr OC was beginning to get out of bed now too (which in itself says something because normally in these kind of scenarios we’ve established by now that I’m being paranoid and nothing is happening!!). I was rambling on along the lines of “get warm clothes on… we should maybe be ready to leave”. And then there is a hammering at our door  – it was the girl who lives opposite us. She said she had noticed the smoke smells herself, and they were coming from the apartment below ours and that she had been banging on the door with her housemate, and had eventually rung the firies (read fire department if you don’t like full on Strine). Well gawd bless her for being a light sleeper or whether she or her housemate went to the bathroom in the middle of the night… who knows. Either way she saved all eleven of our apartments because the flat immediately below ours was full of smoke and it was billowing out the windows and doors. Bizarrely she probably lives furthest away from the perpetrator of the trouble!

Anyway, a couple of minutes later after obligatory toilet stops and donning of a couple of layers over our jimjams (Sydney’s winter has been pretty cold to 6 degrees overnight this year) we were all congregated downstairs and the fire brigade were all doing their job.

We’re guessing our smoke infested neighbours (tenants in the below apartment who only moved into the apartment the day before) had maybe had a few drinkies and then come home and started cooking up some food… before promptly falling asleep passing out. If the hammering on the door could wake us (and everyone else), but not them, then goodness knows what that was about. Solid sleeper?

Thankfully there were no big flames or anything like that. Just a heck of a lot of smoke. Fortunately we didn’t inhale and the ambo (hehehe – ambulance) was there if needed but we all declined bar the dude who lives in the flat. They put the fire out and fanned the smoke out of the flat in question, and asked us if we wanted ours done. Although there wasn’t much visible smoke our apartment stank for a few days and it did make me cough a bit. We opened up the windows (brrrr), rugged up and tried to get back to sleep – however, my mind was racing and all I could smell was the smokey pong. You know how smells are extremely evocative – and so it just kept me thinking there was still danger. Was pleased to leave to go to work in the morning -which is a novelty on a Monday morning!

Ten days later and things are all good – we’ve checked our smoke detector (as clearly we cannot rely on everyone else being responsible over theirs!) and some of our cupboards (where the gas pipes run through from unit to unit) still smell so we’ve been trying to fumigate. On Saturday I baked muffins and took them round to our neighbours opposite and thanked them for waking up/waking us all up. Scary to think of the what-ifs if they hadn’t woken…

Our block is a pretty friendly one – there are just two apartments we don’t speak to regularly/in passing  – and one of them just sold up and moved out… so no loss there. However we found out something pretty crazy off the back of the fire. The guy who previously lived in the apartment below ours (the one with the fire) was a lovely guy in his 60s, living on his own and always really friendly – we saw that the apartment was cleared out a few weeks back when Mr OC’s family were visiting, and that he’d obviously moved on. Well, it turns out that there was a reason behind the apartment getting such a huge clean-out between tenants this time – the poor guy hung himself in there. How awful is that? We felt terrible when we heard and had the usual regrets – you know, we wished we’d spent more time chatting to him, invited him for a coffee/beer… whatever. It probably wouldn’t have made any difference but it might have done, and at least we would have known we did SOMETHING.

Suicide really is perhaps the saddest truth that exists in this world. Whether someone commits it over a period of time – harming themselves directly or through addiction – or in an immediate and everlasting act. Consequently, what stuck with me for the last few days is how this saying is so true:  Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. So true, and so very poignant. It got me thinking about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Toofrom there the amazing observation from a young boy, experiencing the cycle of intense grief:

I looked at everyone and wondered where they came from, and who they missed, and what they were sorry for.

It made me think about how we can be so wrapped up in our own little dramas that it is so easy to forget or overlook what is going on with other people. It’s partly why I made muffins to say thanks to our neighbour! Just a token to say, ‘Hey, we noticed what you did – and we’re REALLY grateful.” And sometimes, we don’t even get the insight – what is behind the eyes, behind the closed doors of our neighbours? Maybe if we were kinder today we might help someone feel just a tiny bit better. Isn’t that worth something?

Lunchboxes with Love!

Ours is an equal household. I definitely spend more time in the kitchen than Mr OC but I work less hours than him, and it’s my preference over having to fix, maintain and clean the car – which he does 99.5% of the time. It’s not like he doesn’t help with the cooking and dishes even though it is primarily in my hands – he definitely does his bit and if a steak needs cooking it is always his job.

Most days I will make Mr OC sandwiches to take to work – it all started because I noticed his vice – if he’s catering for himself in any way, despite the fact he can cook perfectly well, he will choose the quick option. Either junk food, or at least takeaway meals of some description. He also loves his fizzy drinks. Tsk.

I want him to eat a balanced diet – he needs tons of energy in his job (arborist)so he’ll take a couple of rounds of sandwiches etc. and I make an excuse to bake every week now so he gets a sugar kick too.

Each week I bake something different but then loop back round again. His work buddies have taken a liking to these sweet treats – in particular the good British tradition of the flapjack. So I thought I’d share the recipes of my most successful lunchbox treats. Most are taken from recipes I found online and adapted to ingredients I had in the cupboard, and/or how well they cook in my oven, and lastly… just how we like them best.

Banana, Oat ‘n’ Choc’ Chip Muffins

Oats and bananas for lots of long-lasting energy!

  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 150 degrees.

Spray 12 regular muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix together 1 cup of flour, the sugar, baking powder, oatmeal and spices.

Add the bicarbonate of soda to the buttermilk and stir. Then, in a separate bowl from the dry ingredients, whisk together the buttermilk, mashed banana (I blend mine), egg and vanilla essence.

Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Add choc chips and mix in.

Now test the mixture – can a spoon stand up in it? If not gradually add some of the additional flour until it does

Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Allow to cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, M&Ms Brownies

Definitely a treat – kids love these too!

  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup M&Ms

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan or similar (I use a rectangular one!)

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter and butter. Add the brown sugar, vanilla and eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the butter mixture and mix until well blended. Stir in the M&Ms.

Spread batter evenly into pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack and cut into squares (or thereabouts… I normally make about 9, but you can cut them smaller especially if cooking for the kiddies).

Decorate with icing sugar sprinkled through a sieve or tea strainer.

Traditional Flapjacks

A cheap and reasonably healthy treat – a great British tradition!

  • 200g unsalted butter(3/4 cup)
  • 75g brown sugar (about ½ cup)
  • 6 tbsp golden syrup (about 1/3 cup) – see here for a list of alternatives
  • 450g rolled oats (5 cups)
  • Optional – sultanas/raisins – ¼ cup

Preheat the oven to 150C (if you prefer crispy flapjacks then go for about 180)

Don’t line the tin with parchment, there is enough butter that they shouldn’t stick, and I find whenever I use baking paper it sticks and we end up eating paper as well as flapjacks – yuck. But lightly grease your tin too. If later you find your flapjacks aren’t welding together it’s because of the high butter content – we’ll troubleshoot that later on.

Melt the butter in a small pan with the sugar, syrup and a pinch of salt (or stick in the microwave but don’t overcook – usually a minute). Stir well to combine, then take off the heat.

Stir in the oats and raisins/sultanas if using.

Press the mixture evenly into the tin.

Bake for 25 minutes for chewy, 30 minutes for crunchy, or until set and golden. Then pop onto a cooling rack still in the tin.

Allow to cool completely in the tin – don’t be tempted to touch them too much  – just mark out the squares a few minutes after they come out of the oven, before they harden – also take the knife around the edge of the tin to loosen and stop them sticking.

Troubleshooting! If like me you have had trouble with the consistency of the flapjacks when you’ve removed them from the oven (i.e. if they do not stick) together take a large (larger than your current tin) flat baking tray/any tray and hold flat against the flapjack tin and flip upside down gently.

Still being very careful, remove the flapjack tin – you should see a lot of grease flowing out onto the larger tray and a lot of grease on the bottom side of the flapjacks. Let this flow out a bit, then put the flapjack tin BACK onto the flapjacks and reserve the flip so the flapjacks are now back in their tin.

Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes and dry them out a bit more. I also sometimes add a TINY bit of extra golden syrup to make them glue – but go easy, too much liquid won’t help!

If you have any comments or suggestions – please don’t hesitate! Idea sharing is great for recipes.

Did you know?

So, the other week my mum sent me an email that was super interesting and appealed to the massive geek in me… cheese on toast in a toaster, getting rid of static… and fruit flies, making your own washing powder, choosing the best peppers/capsicums… and so much more! I’ve added some pics (some of my own) and present it to you for your leisurely enjoyment. I love these kind of handy domestic hints – and some of the blogs behind them are excellent. Check it out…

You can flip a toaster on its side and grill cheese in it – Source.

Courtesy of http://www.grilledcheesesocial.com

Most Cling Wrap/Film has lock in taps to hold the roll in place – Source.

It’s the simple things…

The color on the bread tab indicates how fresh the bread is – SourceAnd those colors are in alphabetical order: b, g, r, w, y. (I think this one applies to USA only – we have these same tabs in Oz but not sure they’re colour coded).

You can divide and store ground meat in a zip loc bag. Just break off how much you need and keep the rest in the freezer for later. So much easier than dividing and individually wrapping each pound or half pound – Source (well durrrr).

Courtesy of lunchinabox.net

If you place a wooden spoon over a pot of boiling water, it won’t boil over – Source (brilliant! Apparently there’s a certain knack to it).

Courtesy of asmallsnippet.blogspot.com.au

Marshmallows can cure a sore throat. Perfect for kids who don’t like medicine – Source (sort of…).

Stuffing a dryer sheet in your back pocket will repel mosquitoes – Source (let me know if this works – I am a mozzie magnet!)

You can freeze cupcake batter for later use  – Source.

You can paint upholstery – Source.

Courtesy of http://www.hypheninteriors.com

You can make your own laundry soap – Source.

You can dye plastic buttons – Source.

Courtesy of http://www.ritdye.com

You can run a paper bag through your printer – Source.

You can print directly onto fabric – Source (again, using your home printer!).

A dry erase marker can be used on most desk tops – Source (yeah, I discovered while doing my art assignments in senior school!).

Cereal canisters make the perfect trashcan for your car – Source (tidy!).

Courtesy of http://www.bhg.com

Medicine cabinets are NOT the safest place for medicine – Source.

Courtesy of iheartorganizing.blogspot.com.au

And some more… I don’t have a source for any of these – so you’re just gonna have to take my word for it…

  • Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster (as a massive banana eater, I’m so going to be doing this).
Normally my fruit bowl is a little more full than this!
  • Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold! (But you can scrape off any mold and still eat the cheese without changes in flavor!
  • Peppers (capsicums) with three bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with four bumps on the bottom are firmer and stronger flavored.
  • Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.
  • To make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up (yummo!).
  • Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and at the end of the recipe if you want a stronger taste of garlic.
  • Reheat leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, on med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza.
  • Easy Deviled Eggs: Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag, seal, mash, add remainder of ingredients, keep mashing, mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw the bag away!
  • Reheating refrigerated bread: To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.
  • Newspaper weeds away: Plant your plants in the ground; work the nutrients in your soil. Then wet newspapers, put layers around the plants overlapping as you go, cover with mulch, and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not get through wet newspapers.
  • To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn’t hurt the plant: squirrels won’t come near it.
  • Flexible vacuum: To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.
  • Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip or slacks to eliminate static cling. It works; you will not have a clingy skirt or dress, or slacks when wearing panty hose; … Ta DA! … Static is gone.
Who knew my random safety pins could be so arty…?
  • Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don’t dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.
  • De-fog your windshield: Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car When the windows fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!
  • Re-opening envelopes: If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Voila! It unseals easily. Only for old- fashioned “lick-type “mucilage envelopes!
  • Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It’s cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth (already put this to the test – brilliant – but watch out for slippery slidey shower floors!)
  • Goodbye Fruit Flies: To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2″ with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever! (Got to see if this works – I hate those bloody flies!)
  • Get Rid of Ants: Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it ‘home,’ can’t digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works and you don’t have the worry about pets or small children being harmed! (We have had an ant problem of late and the baits from the shop sure aren’t working so I’ll be trying this – let you know if it works).
  • Drop a small object on the carpet and can’t find it. Place panty hose/tights/stockings over the end of the vacuum hose and start vacuuming. The panty hose will keep it from getting sucked into the vacuum. (Fabulous for earring backs!).
  • Need to cut some corn off the cob. Use your Bundt pan. Place the ear on the opening in the center of the pan, and as you slide the knife down the ear, all the kernels will collect in the main part of the pan.

So… tried any of these? How’d you go? Any other handy hints you want to share? Would love the feedback…