RSS Feed

Being Green (in the tub)

Posted on

A month or so ago, a friend of mine had to move suddenly from Prague, and left me with a nice bottle of bubble bath that she had used once.  We don’t use bubble bath around here, what with our uber-sensitive skin, but my penchant for procrastination meant that the bottle hung around for a week or two.  I couldn’t decide what to do with it, since it was nice stuff, but who can you give a bottle of partially used bubble bath to?  Except me, of course…

Then, I was cruising around a new to me blog, and swiped this idea for Monster Bubble Bath.  Actually, all I did was add neon green food colouring to the bubble bath and pour it into a new jar instead of making it from scratch, but hey, it will be perfect for my nephews.

Don't you love the color?

Don’t you love the color?

I love being able to repurpose stuff, and what little boy won’t enjoy bathing in monster green bubbles?


Not Ration Hobnobs

Posted on

Oh, hobnobs, how I used to love you, and then I was diagnosed, and GF hobnobs are not sold anywhere.  *Sigh*  Actually, it’s probably a good thing I’ve gone more than a decade without hobnobs, because they are so addictive.  That has come to an end though, because I recently tried out this recipe, and my oh my, are they good.  Daughter and I made them one afternoon when she was down with a cold, and they went perfectly with posset and tea.

Posset and home-made Hobnobs, the ideal cold remedy

Posset and home-made Hobnobs, the ideal cold remedy

I must admit that this is not a ration recipe.  225 grams of butter and sugar, each mind you, is a lot of butter and sugar.  To be fair, I did get some 35 hobnobs out of the recipe, so they will last us a while, I think, if we don’t go too crazy.  I do use a similar ration recipe, which I will post soon for comparison, but these hobnobs are noticeably sweeter and butterier than the ration ones (duh).

The only caveat I noticed with making these GF is that it is better to leave them in the oven ever so slightly longer, so that they are crisp all the way through.  Otherwise, they get a bit weak in the middle and fall apart.

Go on then, no need to despair about not finding GF ones, or not finding them at all if you live outside of the UK.  They do have oats in them, so that makes them somewhat healthy, right?

To deal with a cold…

Posted on

Our whole family has come down with the lurgies this week, but thankfully it isn’t too nasty of a cold.  When it comes to medications for symptoms, we have a firm “tough it out” approach, and we generally only use ibuprofen.  I have a stash of pseudoephedrine (the real stuff), which we use in dire situations such as plane trips and maybe at night, and a children’s nighttime concoction with a decongestant and cough suppressant for Daughter to help her sleep.  (U.S. expats take note!  These drugs are not sold in Europe, so we stock up when we can and dispense sparingly.)  Mostly though, we rely on rest and hot liquids, which actually works like a charm.

I have to say, though, our favorite lurgy treatment is a posset.  I came across this a couple of times in books before I found a recipe, and I must say, I was intrigued.  Once we tried it, we were hooked, and now it is a serious comfort drink for us.

Posset and home-made Hobnobs, the ideal cold remedy

Posset and home-made Hobnobs, the ideal cold remedy

It’s not very ration-friendly, given the amount of eggs, sugar, and milk (and the lemon), and I can imagine it was one of those things that people sorely missed during WWII.  My recipes comes from Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer, quite possibly one of my most-used cookbooks (baking book?)

For two to four servings, you will need

600 mls or 2 1/2 cups of milk, full fat is best

the zest of half a lemon

some grated nutmeg to taste

two to three spoons of sugar, to taste

one egg

To make the posset, heat the milk with the zest, nutmeg and sugar until almost boiling.  Then pull the mixture off the heat and let cool for a minute.  Beat the egg in a separate container, then slowly pour the beaten egg into the hot milk while whisking furiously.  The milk cooks the egg, making the posset nice and thick, but if you don’t beat furiously or pour in too much at once, it makes scrambled egg bits.  If this happens, just strain them out and follow the procedure with a new egg.

Pour into mugs or cups and serve to the suffering soul who needs it.  (Posset is apparently also a hangover remedy.)  For those with a cold, it goes quite well with freshly baked cookies and a movie…

Frugal Silver Polish

Posted on

I’ve had some family heirloom baby cutlery languishing in my flatware drawer for longer that Daughter has been around, and I unfortunately never used it for her because it was so tarnished.  I’ve been decluttering a lot in the last year or so, and I finally decided to either keep that family heirloom stuff for use with visiting little ones and get rid of the natty plastic stuff or keep the natty plastic stuff and get rid of the silver.  This resolution coincided with me coming across this blog post, where Jen of My Make Do and Mend Year talks about polishing silver with a banana peel and some baking soda.  Needless to say, I felt compelled to try this before going out and buying silver polish (which, frankly, stinks and brings back some unpleasant childhood memories).


Before I polished the baby spoons, with decades of tarnish on them

Jen’s directions involve blending a banana peel with baking soda and water to make a paste, but I’m lazy efficient by nature and cheated by just dumping baking soda on the mushy inside of the peel and massaging the peel together until I got a paste.  Then I used the banana peel to rub the paste onto the spoons, mostly so that I would not have to clean a rag, and added more baking soda.  I’ll be darned if it didn’t work like a charm!  Afterwards, I just dumped the banana peels into the compost bucket and washed the cutlery normally.

After I polished them with banana peel and baking soda

After I polished them with banana peel and baking soda

Voila!  I’m still a little stunned, because not everything works out that comes off the internet, but it certainly worked well enough that I’ll never buy silver polish again.  Bananas, people, who knew?

Counting blessings

Posted on

This week seemed to be full of little austerity pleasures, and I just wanted to share a few…

We were out of jam, so I rummaged around in the freezer and found some rhubarb leftover from a visit to an aunt last year.  I made enough jam to last us through the next month, and even though I’d never made rhubarb jam before, Husband and Daughter are quite pleased…  (I’m not really an accomplished jam maker anyway, but winging it worked out well in this case.)

Daughter has a birthday party this weekend, and somehow I managed to knit a lacy scarf as a gift with bamboo yarn I had in my stash.  Daughter made a card, and now we’re set for a gift, without ever having left the house…

Daughter also decided, of her own accord, to make lavender water for the birthday gift.  I added a slug of vodka to keep the solution from going off (you can’t smell it after a few hours), and then we labeled it and added it to the gift…


A gift from the heart - a handmade card, homemade lavender water, and a knitted scarf

A gift from the heart – a handmade card, homemade lavender water, and a knitted scarf

I threw together this honey lavender cake with lemon-basil frosting with what I had laying about the house, with just a few hours warning.  The cake is divine, and I’m even more impressed that I didn’t even have to go to the store…

Daughter starts a reading club soon, and the book isn’t available on Kindle or at any of the libraries here.  I was gnashing my teeth about spending a ton of money for a book in English, but then I checked my list of books that Daughter has already read.  It turns out that I bought the book for her at a charity shop on a trip to London, and she read it so quickly that we left it there for my nephews.  She remembers the book well enough, so the problem was solved, without even leaving the house…

I’ve been trying to buy new cookie sheets, but had been having a really hard time getting the size that would fit in our oven.  On the third trip to the store, I managed to return the second set of cookie sheets and get ones that were the correct size (I was clever enough this time to bring one of my old ones with me).  It turns out that the store was having a big sale, and I ended up saving quite a lot, though it took me three trips to the store…

Over the summer, I found two new (to us) libraries with loads of English books for Daughter to read.  They know us well enough now that they let us take out twice the number of books if we need to, which we did for our trip to Croatia last week.  As I returned twenty books to various libraries, I was reminded of how little we pay for the privilege of reading all of those books.

Lastly, I managed to salvage a pair of Husband’s beige trousers by dying them black.  They came out more of a very dark grey, but Husband is happy,

More on infestations

Posted on

I can’t promise that this will be the last post about infestations, but I will do my best to put pictures in next time.

There are a few more benefits about being at the mercy of carpet beetles, not that I would recommend welcoming them into your home or anything.  As I’ve said, we have purged a lot of things in the last two years, most of them still usable and in good order.  We’ve been lucky in that we’ve been able to give most of our things to a local parish that has a number of families in need.  They will take pretty much anything, and put it to use, including pens, plastic containers, stickers, mismatched socks, and so much else.  This is nice, because it means something destined for the landfill gets more use than it otherwise would, plus someone else benefits from having it.  Honestly though, you wouldn’t believe how many disposable pens, pencils, and markers we’d accumulated and never used.  It was disgraceful, ahem.

Further to my point, though, we actually got to hear some of the stories about the families who got our stuff.  There is a family with a daughter who has the same taste as ours, but is a size or two smaller.  There was the man who needed a suit for a job interview just when we donated some of Husband’s.  It goes on, obviously, but the stories stick in your head, and when you pull something out to decide whether or not you need it, the question becomes whether someone else can get more use out of it.  This helps quite a bit with cleaning out Daughter’s things, but the concrete image of someone else in need becomes ingrained in you, it haunts you, and it drives your purchasing and purging decisions.

This past June, Prague and its surrounding areas were severely flooded, though thankfully not as bad as in 2002.  Things were a right mess here, and emergency services were stretched to their limit.  When the Red Cross put out a call for towel donations, I didn’t have to hem and ha about whether we could live without a few extra towels.  I just opened our linen closet, did a quick mental calculation of how many we realistically needed, and dumped everything else into the donation bag.  I wouldn’t have done that before the carpet beetle infestation, because I would have been worried about our not having something.  Those stupid beetles have freed me from the worry of having to have something, and for that, I am grateful.

Glorious Infestations

Posted on

Ok, so part of the reason that I’ve been away from blogging is because we have infestations in this flat, as in multiple ones.  Currently, it’s spider season, though the weather has been kooky enough this year that there aren’t many of them.  You may think that I might be happy about having fewer spiders, but I’m not, because the spiders eat the other little nasties.  We’ve also gone a couple of rounds with mites (not book mites, thankfully, at least that I’ve found) and a few moths.

By far the biggest infestation we have is carpet beetles, which look like little brown or black lady bugs/birds.  The irony of the entire situation is that we don’t have carpets, save the one polyester rug in Daughter’s room.  These little bugs are in our parquets, and their larvae eat everything – cotton, wool, leather, dust, food particles, and so on.  The larvae migrate too, so they get in between the mattress and the bed frame, behind the toilet, in the corners of kitchen cabinets, and anywhere else that is dark, dirty, and undisturbed (like under century-old parquets).  The only way to deal with these little things is to clean, everywhere, regularly.  Every drawer and cabinet has to be turned out and wiped down every six weeks, every bit of clothing and linen has to be shaken out and refolded, and even every book taken down and dusted behind.  Yes, it is a mighty load of work, and it keeps me busy.

However, this on-going war against migrating nasties has had some positive effects, beyond the clean flat.  After about six months, I started to get tired of turning out suits that Husband never wore, refolding the extra set of sheets and towels that never get used, and emptying out over-stuffed kitchen cabinets containing duplicate cooking wares.  So, I started to purge, and purge we did.  We didn’t have an exceptionally large amount of stuff to begin with, but it had begun to accumulate.  Those extra sheets are gone, as are the suits, my sweaters, shoes we wore less than once a year, table clothes that were never used, and quite a lot of the stuff from our kitchen.  We’re still purging, and I am going to start pulling everything out again and re-evaluating in the long winter months, but we seem to be getting a handle on things.

The only reason I’m sharing this is because it is nice.  It’s a nice feeling to be surrounded by things that are meaningful, useful, and few.  Husband has fewer clothes, but complains significantly less about having nothing to wear.  Daughter has fewer art supplies, but uses what she has.  I can cook much more efficiently, and I honestly haven’t missed a thing we’ve gotten rid of.  We aren’t done yet, but we’re getting there; and we’re learning about living with enough, which is the real blessing in all of this…