Recycle your reed diffuser and a bonus recipe for getting rid of dog and small boy smells

I’m not extravagant, but I like some nice things. Nothing wrong with that. I like things that look pretty and smell nice. That’s OK. Except I also have two little boys which means I’m eaten out of house and home (disposable cash an issue), I can’t have nice things (everything is a light sabre or a shield and anything else is just collateral damage) and everything always smells like wet dog.

So I keep a reed diffuser in each toilet. Mine has a lovely citrus smell that makes you feel like you’re gambolling through country fields in the sunshine. The one in their toilet is just to try and override the smell of whatever that is.

The reed diffusers have long since bitten the dust and like all normal people, they have been sitting on the bathroom shelf gathering dust. Can’t afford to replace them because, you know, food. But hey, I think, surely you can make your own?

Like all things when you look into them, it’s way easier than you think. I gathered all the bits (see exhibit A below) and My Mate Jessie came round with Tim-Tams (not pictured…..) and we had a go at putting it together.

I’d also been trying to find an essential oil recipe for small boy bathrooms and nothing seemed to quite fit the bill until I found a lady who had a recipe for covering damp and well, unpleasant dog smells. Bingo, I think.

So first, for a diffuser, the bad dog/small child odour neutralising recipe is:

  • 1 drop melaleuca/tea tree
  • 1 drop cilantro
  • 1 drop lime
  • 2 drops lemon

In the reed diffuser, here’s the process and costs so you can see how much less recycling and making your own liquid is:

  • Bottle $0 because I used the old one. Although there are cheap candle making shops in Australia that sell bottles for this for a few dollars
  • 5 Bamboo reeds $1 – I bought a pack of about 15 from one of the candle making shops in Australia.
  • 1/4 cup carrier oil. I used fractured (liquid) coconut oil because it’s easily available at the local shops. It’s $13 for 500ml which is just over 8 portions so $1.62 for 1 reed diffuser.
  • 25-30 drops essential oil. I upscaled the odour recipe from above to 5 drops of tea tree, cilantro and lime and 10 drops of lemon. Based on a per drop cost, this came to under $2 for the essential oil for one reed diffuser.
  • 1-2 tablespoons perfumers alcohol, rubbing alcohol or vodka. I used rubbing alcohol which was $10 at the local chemist. As long as it’s 90-95% alcohol. The rubbing alcohol I got has 23 tablespoons in it so 43c for 1 reed diffuser

Considering it cost me $20 to buy the reed diffuser in the first place and likely easily that again for a new (half way decent) one, that brought the cost of recycled and homemade to under $4.75. Winning!!!

Here’s the steps:

  1. Add the carrier oil to the bottle and then add the essential oil
  2. Add the alcohol and keep stirring or swilling until incorporated.
  3. Add the sticks and after a few hours, flip them over
  4. Flip the sticks every week or so and when the scent is diminished, you add the essential oils mix again – not the whole thing, just the essential oils.

So this is a great one to do with a group of friends so you can share the oil and rubbing alcohol (and maybe a glass of actual alcohol…..?).

It’s also just good to get together and discover how to do things that we’ve become super used to outsourcing to the shops!

Cafe style granola you can make at home

I’m a drama queen. I don’t have gallbladder issues, I have a gallbladder that practically exploded. Drastic measures required for dramatic times. When I google-ated what I should eat while in possession of a dodgy gallbladder, the main things were low fat and sugar and higher fibre content.

This helped to kick start my eat like a hippy regime (you see? I don’t change my diet, I eat like a medieval Tibetan monk). Fresh fruit and veg, brown rice, nuts and seeds and lentils n’stuff.

About the same time, My Mate Kathryn had given me a jar of her homemade granola as a gift. When I tried it my whole world changed. It was like my hippy-diet-heroin. Is that drama queen-y? No. I didn’t think so either.

Anyway, I stalked her until she gave me the recipe. I’ve eaten it with fruit and homemade yoghurt almost every day since. That’s not me being dramatic – that’s the actual truth.

I don’t know where she got the recipe, but here it is:

  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole meal flour
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 cups mixed nuts
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup linseeds
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 pinches salt

Mix all these dry ingredients together and then mix:

  • 2/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup good quality maple syrup (the cheap stuff is too sugary and sickly)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • Splash almond essence (optional)

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and put it into an oven pan (the picture above is my mixture just before putting it in the oven). Put it in a pre-heated oven at 160oC for 60 minutes. Take it out and stir it through every 15 minutes.

Take it out and let it cool completely. Then add about a cup of dried fruit. It can be whatever you like, raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dried dates – whatever takes your fancy.

This makes a good big batch and even eating every day, lasts me a while. Extra bonus – because of the cinnamon and maple syrup, when you’re cooking it, it makes the house smell like donuts.

You’re welcome.

I used a by-product and it made my mate want to vomit

I love the idea of using “every bit of the animal”. If your not familiar with that term (and there’s no reason you should be) it came from The Olden Days when animals were killed by proper hunters. As The Olden Days turned into A Bit More Modern Days, people killed animals for trophies, or just for the hides and bits they could sell, and left the rest. It was the epitome of wastage.

I used to waste a lot. I still do, but I’m getting better. I look at my fridge and my cupboards now in terms of using “every bit of the animal” – ie using everything I have and trying not to throw anything away unless I have to.

Anyway SO, yesterday I shared a recipe for making cottage cheese (you can jump to it on this link if you want to read it 🙂 ). When I first made it, I noticed just how much whey drains off the curds. Whey is basically protein-y cheese water and from a recipe of 950ml of milk, you get about 700ml of whey. That felt like an awful lot of by-product that (by my logic) surely must have a use.

It does. And it’s a doozy. One thing I changed as part of this journey was chemical shampoos. I started using a natural hair soap after a tip-off from My Mate Kathryn. (If you’re interested, I got the Beauty & the Bees Shampoo Bar from Biome Stores. My hair journey into chemical and waste free-ness is a whole other story!).

If you’re chemical free in the hair department (or even if you’re not I guess), every so often, you wanna do a bit of a conditioning hair rinse. Apple cider vinegar is popular but it can be expensive.

Guess what???? My cheese water by-product makes an excellent hair conditioning rinse!!!! Apple cider vinegar – $heaps exxy. Cheese water – free!!!

My Mate Nissa thought it was a disgusting idea. I made her smell my hair to prove it doesn’t make it smell cheesey. My Mate Laura who is also chemical free bartered some cheese water for some essential oil and now she bugs me every other week for some more.

There are other uses for the whey, of course. It’s great to add to cooking soups and stews, you can add it to smoothies and shakes (because it’s protein water!), it’s great nourishment for plants (but make sure it’s diluted or it will hurt them), you can feed it to chooks and pigs with their feed and you can make ricotta with it (I am totally trying this next if My Mate Laura leaves with enough).

The massively valuable thing though, is that apart from a totally useful product, it is teaching me to always question what I can do with something that is apparently “waste”. This whole process of discovery is gradually training me to look at the world with better eyes.

I highly recommend making the cottage cheese and then exploring some of your own uses. Don’t ask me for any. My Mate Laura seems to have dibs on m’cheese water for all eternity.

It’s true, you too can make cheese!

“Blessed are the cheese makers”. That’s what we all know and love from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (personal fave). I never realised I could actually do it though.

In simplifying my life, I wrote a list of all the things I use/eat the most of. Cottage cheese was near the top of the list with hummus. I google-ated it because, how hard can it be, right? It turns out, not hard at all.

You need some cheese cloth (I got a half meter at Spotlight for a couple of dollars) and a candy thermometer (sounds fancy – it’s not. Also Spotlight for a few dollars).

Outside of that, the ingredients list is pretty simple:

  • 950ml full fat milk
  • 4 drops of rennet or 2 junket tablets (I used junket because it’s easily available at Woolworths or Coles in the section where they have custard and jelly and stuff, $3 for 12 tablets in the packet).
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 teaspoons of milk or cream or a mix of both and more salt to taste.

Step 1 – put milk in a saucepan and heat to 80oC over a low heat (warning, that’s not very hot so it doesn’t take long). While it’s heating, dissolve 2 junket tabs in half a cup of water. They don’t dissolve immediately so keep stirring the mug til it’s done.

Step 2 – take the milk off the heat, add junket to the milk and stir for a couple of minutes.

Step 3 – put a tea towel over the pan and go and do something else for 4 hours. Read a book (I’m reading a book on how-to-do-parenting-better and then went and saw a friend. You can also do some laundry, but…whatever).

Step 4 – add the half teaspoon of salt and slice through the curds a bit to break them up.

Step 5 – put pan on a low-medium heat and stir to let the curds and whey separate. This is something that gets easier the more you do it – not that it’s hard but you want to let them separate so you can see the clumps of curds and the yellow-ish whey. If you take it off too soon, you won’t have as much curd for the cheese. If you leave it too long, the curds can get quite tough apparently. I am still working this out but you can see here what it looks like when I take it off the heat.

Step 6 – put a sieve over a jug and the cheese cloth on top. Pour the curds and whey into the cheese cloth as shown below (extra points for those who can spot the wine glass for…well….wine. That is an optional extra just for fun-sies for Mummy).

Step 7 – put the whole thing in the fridge with a cover over it (I fold the edges of the cheese cloth over it. It you can cover it with a beeswax sheet or a plate. Then go and do something else for an hour or so. This lets the rest of the whey drain away. It also lets you catch up on any important TV shows you’ve missed.

Step 8 – transfer the curds to a bowl. Add about 6 teaspoons of milk or cream to loosen it up. I am still experimenting with this. All cream is too much. All milk is too bland. I am currently at 2 teaspoons of cream and 4 of milk and a small pinch of salt.

Transfer to air tight container and eat within a week.

Store bought cottage cheese at least $3 for 250g. This makes about 350g for about $1.50 ($1 for the milk and 50c for 2 junket tabs). So cheaper, healthier (no mass processing and preservatives) AND you get to say that awesome line from Life of Brian. Happy days!

If you’re gonna change your lifestyle, you need the right stuff

I used to love buying a Donna Hay magazines and imagine that my life and house would look like that. Not by baking anything, not by re-decorating the house, just by buying the magazine. You know, because real life, right?

Changed circumstances meant I needed to do life cheaper, and then my exploding gallbladder meant I had to do life healthier. The more I changed, the more I realised how much simpler life can be with less waste and less chemicals and less stuff. And how much more like a Donna Hay magazine your house looks!

OK, so it still looks like a real house. I have two little boys which means I can’t have nice things, and there’s always a random cup of juice somewhere (everywhere) and pants on the floor. What I mean is, I now have an actual pantry. This to me, is super exciting.

I feel grown up. I feel like an adult. Only took me 45 years.

But I also feel prepared. In terms of living a healthy life, I basically have everything I need to just whip something up. I know that sounds crazy but it’s true. It is actually quicker to make my own garlic bread or muffins than it would be to go on a Macca’s run.

So here’s my basic list of Pantry-Items-To-Avoid-Eating-Junk:

  • Flours – plain, self-raising, wholemeal, almond flour, lentil flour and rice flour
  • Sugars – caster, brown, dark brown, coconut, raw
  • Nuts and seeds – almonds (whole, blanched, slivered etc), walnuts, I also have pecans and macadamias, sunflower seeds, pepitas, sesame seeds, pine nuts and linseed
  • Dried fruit – dates, sultanas, dried cranberries
  • Whole grains – steel cut oats, flaked oats, quinoa, quinoa flakes, chia seeds
  • Lentils and legumes – red lentils, yellow split peas, green lentils (a buy kidney beans, white beans and chickpeas canned)
  • Carbs – pearl barley, soba noodles, burghal wheat, whole wheat couscous
  • Add ins – baking powder, bicarb of soda, packets of yeast, canola oil, choc chips, vanilla extract, almond essence, cinnamon, nutmeg, desiccated coconut, shredded coconut
  • Herbs and Spices – cumin, coriander, chilli flakes, turmeric, ground ginger, thyme, fennel seeds, oregano
  • Oils and sweeteners – maple syrup, honey, coconut oil, molasses
  • In the fridge – sour cream, butter, eggs, milk

There are lots more things that I have around, but this is what I’ve gathered over the last year of changing lifestyle and so I’ve gradually developed the kind of pantry where, if I see a recipe, I can pretty much make it on the spot.

I used to use these items once in a blue moon. So they’d go bad, or most of the time required for a recipe was me digging around in the back of the cupboard. Now, I have it gathered and organised. It makes me feel healthy just looking at it. OK that’s the equivalent of having an awesome house just because I bought the magazine, but the point is I’m using it every day.

Having a better, healthier, more sustainable lifestyle is so much easier when you have the right stuff. But it is also habit forming. The more you do, the more you have the “right stuff” – as in the ability to make better choices (I think I’ll make some cheese crackers instead of going to KFC), and the ability to have discipline around food.

Yes, that elusive value. Discipline. Having and using a pantry full of stuff doesn’t stop me grabbing a Macca’s breaky from time to time. But that’s the point – it’s from time to time. And never tastes as good as I think it will.

Most of the time, junk food never tastes as good as healthy does. Sometimes, let’s face it, it tastes awesome. But the body and mind have gradually become re-trained so the same compulsions aren’t there.

So yeah, the odd Big Mac is fun. But having the power and the confidence to walk into the kitchen and create something healthy, cheap and amazingly tasty is the bomb.