Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Matters of Monetary Maternity

When we found out that we were going to have a baby I, like most people, needed to mentally prepare for a huge dip in our discretionary income and thought we'd be living on toast and porridge. This was actually something the hubby and I have been through while trying to survive university. And as fun as those times were, we agreed never to go there again. 

One of the benefits of living through times of monetary leanness is that one gets a teensy bit fanatical about budget (spreadsheets, savings graphs, etc), and I've found that the arrival of our Little Man has not really broken the budget. 

We've done this just by being conscious of a few things:

Monday, 13 July 2015

Lemons Lemons LEMONS! and Radishes too


As my husband rightly points out... I have a gardening problem. And that problem is that I never have just enough produce. As evidenced by the great tomato glut of February 2015 I always end up with
way too much of the vegetable I plant.

The reason for this is that I cannot believe that every plant I seed will actually grow (lingering trauma from failed gardening attempts in childhood). As a result I tend to over plant and cannot bear to thin out my crop either (they're my babies!!!). 

Fortunately with some good old fashioned know how (aided by the internet), I have managed to find a way to store, use and make use of every single excess veggie that has sprouted from the garden. And thus I present to you

What to do when you have over 20 lemons to use in a week!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Tuesday tip: New veggies from scraps

Growing veggies from scraps is nothing new. Pinterest and Eco sites overflow with tips on what to do with your veggie scraps. But if, like me you've tried placing that onion or celery end in water, you would know that after a couple of days the bottom of the vegetable goes all yucky. Also you're told to change the water every day. Ain't no mummy got time for dat 😉

The solution is to soak up your solution (the water that is) and there are simple practical ways to do this like placing the scraps on an wet old sponge. However since there is nothing aestically pleasing about a manky old sponge, how about resting your scraps on some water beads. 

If you haven't heard about these pretty little things then here's a bit of background.

Water beads or Crystal Soil is a water absorbent polymer, which is able to absorb and hold 100-200 times its volume of water for a long time. 

Each 10 grams Crystal Soil will absorb at least 1 litre of water and can fill up about 1 litre vase. Each bead will expand to approximately 1.0 cm in size. They are also

  • Odor Free and Insect Free.
  • Biodegradable & Environmental Safe.
  • No poisonous ingredients, No pollution , & No fading.
So you don't really need much of the stuff to get started. 


At the moment I've got a leek and some bok choy growing on my window sil. And I've only used about half a pack for all of them. Best bit is that they are reusable so once these little guys go into the soil you can use the beads again for the next lot of kitchen scraps. Best part is that I haven't touched these guys since putting them on to grow. No water changing no refilling. 

And if there comes a day when you no longer need them just let them dry out back into their original size (about the size of a course grain of sand) or if they break and don't look as attractive anymore just pop them into the garden. They are fantastic for keeping your soil hydrated and plants healthy. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Tuesday tip: Economical activities

Sometimes, it actually works out better to outsource some of your activities. Yes that's right, it sometimes is more economical to pay someone else to do your jobs!

Let me explain. If you can find someone to do your ironing for say, $15 an hour and you need two hours worth of ironing done, isn't it worth it for your time and sanity (not to mention time that you could spend with the family) to outsource this task? Would you get more than $30 worth of happiness, sanity and down time from it? I know I would!!

Things to consider:

  • What is your hourly rate of pay? Could you earn more in two hours doing your own job vs doing the outsourcing task? If you could, it is better economy to outsource it!
  • Will you save time and sanity? Why do something you dislike intensely if you can outsource it and save the effort?
  • Does it free up some time that you could put to better use? Spending time with the kids/other half/pets or having some valuable personal time?
Jobs that you might consider outsourcing:
  • Cleaning
  • Ironing
  • Shopping
  • Gardening
  • Childcare
Head over to With a Fork to read about outsourcing food shopping with a food box delivery service. If it sounds like your kind of thing and you want to try it, there is a discount code for your first box!

Do you outsource tasks? What works for your household?

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Product Review: Closer to nature Breast Pump

Over the last 2 weeks I've had the opportunity to test out the Closer to nature electric breast pump. This neat little package contains:

  • The electric pump 
  • a 150ml bottle with a level 1 flow teat
  • a milk storage lid
  • 6 disposable breast pads
  • a breast pump steriliser box (which is like a big tupperware container which you can use to store or clean your pump parts)





I've actually had my eye on this pump for a while for several reasons:

  1. The only bottle the Little Man would use (if he condescended to use one at all) was the closer to nature bottles. Therefore they are the bottles we decided to have on hand when Missy May came along. 
  2. I was getting very tired of using my manual Philips Avent pump which I used for 2 years while breastfeeding Little Man and returned to using when I started back at work 7 months after having Missy May. Take it from me, you can get some serious carpel tunnel from using a manual pump especially when at work when you've already spent half the day clicking away on a computer. 
  3. Expressing from a Philips Avent and having to empty into a closer to nature bottle for storage just gave me more things to wash and I was looking forward to being able to express and store straight into the Closer To Nature bottles so that Missy May could have them all ready for daycare the next day. 

Assembly

Putting the pump together was very straight forward. The controls for the electric pump can either take batteries or be connected to power from the wall making it very convenient to port around cordless. 

Like most other pumps there are a lot of parts that go into putting it all together however the instructions are quite straight forward and after one or two runs it's pretty easy to remember what goes where. 

Usage

The first time I saw this pump in action was at a blogger's event which wasn't the quietest of locations. The hum of the pump mechanism seemed pretty discrete. So when I received my own pump I confidently assembled it and packed it up to bring to work for that day's expressing. 

However after I had shut all the blinds in my office and started this little baby up I had to shut it down straight away because in the quiet of an office full of male engineers working to the clicky click of the keyboard and mouse, the Closer to Nature pump mechanism was roaring loud. And it wasn't just a continuous hum either which could have been attributed to the air conditioner or a overclocking server. It was obviously a pumping sound. I gingerly tried it out a couple more times, even burying the pump part in my thermal lunch bag to muffle the sound. 

Unfortunately I was too self conscious about the sound to continue to express properly and since I didn't bring my Avent manual pump along, I had to give my boss a quick explanation that I had to dash home for a bit and would be back in an hour, and went home to finish expressing. I gave the Closer To Nature pump another try and in the solitude of home I was able to get it to work for me. 

The pump action is very gentle and comfortable. If I had one critique it would be that the focus is too much on the nipple and there is not enough distributed massage which I found to be much more helpful for expressing a greater quantity of milk. 

The previous day I had conducted a control test with my Philips Avent in order to compare how much milk the Closer To nature pump would be able to do in comparison. Unfortunately, even though the Closer To Nature Pump was expressing, it wasn't going nearly as fast as I needed it to, in order to get back to work within the hour and I had to switch back to the Avent Manual Pump to finish the job quickly.

On the weekend when I had more leisure I gave the Closer To Nature pump another go and although slow, it did manage to fill up a 120ml bottle (I can usually get about 200-250ml with the Avent)

Compliments

  • Great portable little unit. 
  • Attaches straight to a closer to nature bottles for storage and delivery
  • Variable pump power for personal comfort
  • One of the most affordable electric pumps on the market

Critiques

  • Really Loud Pump Mechanism.
Since I only ever express at work or when the baby is asleep. This is a pretty big issue for me because in both situations being discrete and quiet is always preferred. 

  • No lock on the pump 
I was puzzled several times to find my bag humming and vibrating because the pump had activated when I had set down my bag in the car, and again at my desk. With batteries in the pump there is no way to prevent this except being VERY VERY gentle in carrying it around. A light tap would set it off. 
 
  • Lack of distributed suction
As described above, the suction was very much concentrated at the top which I found to be a little uncomfortable after a while. Also I reckon this might have led to reduced supply. 

Conclusion

The Closer To Nature Pump might be a good idea for someone who would be using it only occasionally in the privacy of their own home and wants something other than a manual pump. However, I personally found it very slow to get a good flow going even at the highest setting. 

The volume of the pump and the sensitivity of the controls is almost unforgivable. And I won't be taking this pump back to work. Even in a private office with 4 walls that go all the way from ground to ceiling (office walls aren't exactly thick) I'm sure the pump could clearly be heard by the junior engineers on the other side of the wall. 


Have you tried out the Closer To Nature Pump? Please share your experiences and is there any way to make it quieter? Or do you know a good quiet electric pump to recommend I try next? 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Tuesday Tip: Take time out

Have you ever heard the saying, often in a derogatory manner, "happy wife, happy life"? It's true of anyone though - the happier you are, the happier and easier life seems to be.

So today, the tip is, make sure you look after yourself. Take a few minutes out of each day to practice some self love (not like that, minds out of the gutter please... although, it's totally ok if that's your thing too!). If you are happier, the house will be happier, the kids will sense it and they'll be easier to wrangle manage too.

Here are some ideas of things you could do, they only take a few minutes:

  • Have a cup of tea. Sit down and drink it while it's hot!
  • Go for a walk outside. Get some sunshine while the weather is still nice
  • Primp. Nothing like locking the bathroom door and spending a couple minutes primping - whether that's plucking eyebrows, moisturising your hands or just plain sitting down and relishing having no other people touching you for a moment
  • Do nothing. Leave the clutter and mess for a few minutes and put your feet up
  • Read a magazine article or a few pages of a book

How do you take time out for yourself?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Tuesday Tip: How to differentiated between the folded sheets

We have 3 sizes of beds in our house. A king single (for the little man), a Queen (for the guest room) and a King (because more often than not every single person and dog in the house is sleeping on mum and dad's bed)

We didn't plan it this way it just evolved as our family grew. So we never really planned a good way to tell the sheets apart as well (i.e. All the king single sheets will be blue ish. Queen Green and King will be red). Also I have moods and would never be able to stick to a colour scheme anyway. 

All our sheets also go together in the linen closet stored in their set pillow case (a very handy tip I picked up from lifehacker) But besides the little man's stand out truck sheets, a lot of our other sheets are somewhat similar in colour (including a set of aquamarine sheets we seem to have for every single size bed) Once folded, these are impossible to tell apart. This is especially so when we have to change sheets in the middle of the night while we were nighttime potty training. 

So I came up with a plan. King Single Sheets were folded and slotted into a pillow case which was laid flat. Sheets for the little man were folded again on the diagonal so that they could be immediately identified by the triangle shape. Queen sized sheets were also folded again but on the vertical so that it formed a small square. Now when we go grab a new set of sheets to make the bed we don't have to undo the whole sheet and have to refold it if we didn't get the right size.