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!

What do I do with all these herbs?

I like to think of myself as a budding urban farmer. In actual fact, My Mate Sheri and My Mate Sue are actual urban farmers. They grow stuff you can eat n’that. I just tinker about at the edges and like to imagine myself livin’ on the land…… yeah, OK.

I did start growing my own herbs. They die. A lot. I’m onto my third go at coriander and it just died. Again.

But my basil and mint have gone gang busters. At the moment they’re on the window sill in the kitchen (they died on the front porch. Maybe they were feeling left out). And this weekend it was time to do something with the mint, because I just couldn’t eat it all, or drink it all. Time to hit the interwebs to work out what to do with it.

Mint jelly. Hmmm. Intriguing. I don’t eat a lot of lamb, but I figure I could serve it as a thin spread with cottage cheese on a bagel or in a turkey wrap, or even stir a touch through some fruit salad. Obviously it goes brilliantly with roast lamb too.

As a jelly, it could be used for sweet or savoury. It’s heavy in the sugar department, but you don’t use much as a condiment. It mixes well with other condiments too like onion jam or mustard. Side note, I just like saying the word “condiment“.

I got this from Goodfood and the ingredients are just:

  • 1kg Granny Smith apples
  • 2 bunches of mint plus 20 leaves finely chopped to add at the end
  • 1 litre of water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • Roughly 3 cups sugar

Chop the apples – you don’t have to peel or core them. Add them to a pan with the water, lemon juice and bunches of mint. Bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Strain through muslin or cheesecloth and leave overnight.

Next day, put the juice to a pan and add 1 cup of sugar to every cup of juice. Mine yielded 3 cups of juice, so 3 cups of sugar. Heat and stir til the sugar has dissolved and then boil it to death for 15 minutes.

Switch off the heat, add the 20 finely chopped leaves and leave it to stand for 10 minutes before adding it to a jar.

Done. Tomorrow will be cottage cheese on a bagel with some mint jelly for breaky for me! And for the next 10 years probs considering how high a yield I got! But my crazy mint harvest is all used up so I’m a happy chappy.

Are your reusable shopping bags as good as you thought?

One of the easiest ways to reduce our footprint on the world is to reduce our reliance on single use plastic. Single use plastic is everywhere. There are 10 million shopping bags used every day and 85% of them end up in landfill.

The big shops were pretty smart. The green bag was born – you know the ones we always call “calico bags” that they sell for $1 at the checkout? Well they’re not calico, they are non-woven polypropylene. That’s plastic. They’re also made from virgin (ie non-recycled) material. For the amount of energy and water and so on that it takes to make them, you have to use them 104 times to make a difference to the environment (or every week for 2 years). If you you use them 52 or less times (ie use them for 1 year or less), their environmental impact is greater than a single use plastic bag.

But at least it’s keeping single use plastic bags from landfill right?

True. And these bags can be recycled (and note that if yours have come to the end of their life, they can be REDcycled at any Coles store) but they do have to be shipped overseas to do it. You know why? Because in Australia we pay half decent wages (comparative to the rest of the world. The green bag seams need to be unpicked before they can go through the recycling process and that is labour intensive – so they get shipped to countries where people get paid rubbish wages. Ethical dilemma? You bet.

Based on that, green bags are totally out for me.

I’m ashamed to say I learned all this after I bought polyester washable bags. They aren’t bad per se, but they aren’t nearly the best I could have chosen. Not by a long shot. What I can’t do though is throw all my polyester bags away and go and buy new and environmentally better bags. As with any bags you have, the point is to re-use them for as long as possible. Then, when you have to replace them, you can buy rPet bags (that’s bags made from recycled plastic bottles) or any organic natural fibres like jute or cotton.

All bag materials have an environmental footprint, there’s still lots of water etc needed to make cotton bags. The main thing is to buy as best you can, with their end point in mind. If they end up in the ground, how long will they be there and how much damage could they do? At least any reusable bag keeps single use from landfill (or our waterways!). But when they do end up in the ground, at least natural fibre bags will degrade.

The best thing we can do is stay informed – and then we can make better choices. Our world is amazing, and we can all do something to keep it that way. Hey, how amazing would it be if we left the world better than we found it???

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.

Less waste, max taste and stretch the pennies

I never used to think about throwing away leftovers. But saving money means using every single thing in the fridge. One of the things I like to cook with is feta. It adds a salty taste (which means avoiding adding extra salt) and it gives a creamy kick when your craving fats.

Buying feta is problematic. First world problems I know but bear with me. If I buy it in a proper deli, it’s really expensive. If I buy it in the supermarket deli (to get only what I need), it never seems to last that long. And frankly I’m a bit suss as to how long it’s been sitting in that bowl of water under the lights. If I buy it in the pre-packaged section, it lasts better but after I’ve used what I need, it sits in the fridge til it grows fur.

Can you pickle feta? Well, turns out you can. Turns out you can pickle pretty much anything. I did it with cabbage (that was in my first blog which you can read here), and this week I did it with a different recipe with m’feta.

Pickled feta

  • 1.5 cups white vinegar
  • 0.25 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 sprigs coriander
  • 500-750g feta (or whatever you have)
  • Half a red onion

Put the vinegar, sugar, all the seeds, garlic and fresh coriander in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and then take off the heat, set aside and allow to cool completely.

Cut the feta into cubes and slice the onion, placing it in a clean jar with the sliced red onion. When the pickling liquid is cooled completely, pour it over the feta and onion and place in the fridge.

Voila! Pickled feta. Great on salads or spread on some home made bread (for an easy and healthy recipe check my recipe here). It has a kick (because of the vinegar) so sometimes it’s nice to soften it with whatever is in your salad like fresh dates or pumpkin or craisins or something.

What I love the most about this, is that when I look at my fridge, less and less is being unused, and less and less of the contents is processed stuff. The fridge is an indication of what’s going into my body. And it’s gradually getting better.