We Three Trees of Christmas Are

On Christmas Day, three little trees arrived in the post courtesy of The Diggers Club.

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All decked in stars, ready for Christmas

Well, technically two of them are bushes, but don’t they look lovely?  The tinsel was provided by corporate gift.

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Ready for planting!

We planted them in the hedge in front of the house…

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Rosemary bush looking proud

In a pot in the garden…

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Curry tree standing tall

And  out in the back garden…

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Blueberry bush in a pile of compost (they like the acidity)

 

And thus, Christmas was saved!

~THE END~

PS.  We spent Christmas with the Auslaws, so here’s a bonus Kookaburra on a balcony.

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Preparing for Baby: Washing Up Matters (With Ecover Zero)

I have written before about how I like to choose eco-friendly household cleaning products and that I am always on the look out for products that are kind to sensitive skin. When Thumper came along, I had to switch my laundry products to something that is not only powerful and effective enough to cleanse dirty cloth nappies but also gentle enough on baby skin.

This is why, when Ecover Singapore contacted me and asked if I would like to try out their new Ecover Zero range, I was very excited! This range of washing products are derived from plants and minerals, and are free of phosphates, fragrances, colouring and optical brighteners, so it is great for sensitive skin, whilst being completely biodegradable (septic-tank safe). Additionally, Ecover tests all their washing products for aquatic toxicity to ensure that whatever goes down the drain will have the least impact on the ecological balance of our waterways. I like knowing that I’m not poisoning our fish in the name of fresh laundry and sparkling tableware!

Great for delicate baby skin and our delicate ecosystem

Great for delicate baby skin and our delicate ecosystem

I have been using Ecover Zero Non-Bio Laundry Liquid and Fabric Conditioner for the last couple of months and I have to say that I love the way that my clothes feel when they have dried! I have not used fabric conditioner on my laundry for the last 7 years because of my family’s sensitive skin, but we have had no problems at all with the Ecover Zero Fabric Conditioner. It is so fantastic for all the baby clothes and it leaves our line-dried clothes feeling wonderfully soft and fluffy. Despite Ecover Zero being a non-fragranced product, our laundry does not give off a musty, damp smell when it comes out of the wash, which is great!

I have also been using the Ecover Zero Non-Bio Laundry Liquid on my cloth nappy stash and it is FANTASTIC. I have had no problems at all with residue build-up on the microfibre inserts or the fleece and suede cloth lining of my cloth diapers. As this is a Non-Bio liquid, there are no enzymes present at all, so it is safe to use on cloth nappies! This is a step-up from Ecover’s regular laundry liquid range which has not been recommended for use on cloth nappies because they contain plant-derived enzymes which eat the waterproof PUL-lining of synthetic nappy covers.

Owls Well Recommends: I use a front-loading washing machine at home and I recommend reducing the dose of laundry liquid for front-loading washing machines and other high-efficiency machines that do not require a lot of soap suds for a thorough clean. I found that using half the recommended dose on my regular laundry load is enough to leave my laundry thoroughly clean – even J’s grubby P.E. uniform (covered in grime and the occasional bloodstain) will come out looking bright and fresh. For my cloth nappies, I use a quarter of the recommended dose and add a extra rinse cycle, which seems to do the trick of keeping them beautifully clean and stain-free!

As for the Ecover Zero Washing-Up Liquid, it does a really good job of cleaning greasy dishpans and I find that a very little bit will go a long way. I have been using the washing-up liquid for two months now and there is still more than half a bottle left to go. The Outlaws, including my new brother-in-law on the Barn Owl’s side, are big fans of Ecover washing-up liquid as it cleans well and lasts a very long time, making it a better value than a similar-sized bottle of the ubiquitous Fairy liquid (although the Father Outlaw says that he misses the smell of Fairy liquid).

(You can find Ecover Zero washing products online at the Ecover Singapore website which offers free shipping within Singapore for orders over SGD$30!)

12 Ideas for Last Minute Crafty Christmas Joy

It’s Christmas Eve and there are Christmas parties, Christmas presents and Christmas cheer that needs to go round, and if you are anything like me, you haven’t done a thing about it yet.

Don’t Panic!!!

Owls Well is here with a round up of a dozen last minute Christmas crafts and general activity for Funtimes And Merriment from around the web!

Christmas Cards

1.Try these quick and simple ideas for gorgeous Christmas cards using washi tape by A Pancake Princess

Picture Credit: A Pancake Princess

Picture Credit: A Pancake Princess

2. I really like these three kid-friendly christmas card ideas over at PeiPeiHaoHao

Picture Credit: PeiPeiHaoHao

Picture Credit: PeiPeiHaoHao

3. If you’ve got a ton of Christmas scrapbooking paper to destash, here’s a pretty, sparkly Christmas tree card by Xavvy-licious

Picture Credit: Xavvy-licious

Picture Credit: Xavvy-licious

Christmas Decorations

4. Welcome guests to your home with a beautiful Christmas window display made from sticks and string like this one from MalMal Our Inspiration

Picture Credit: MalMal Our Inspiration

Picture Credit: MalMal Our Inspiration

5. Spruce up your party with a lovely table centrepiece by A Million Little Echoes

Picture Credit: A Million Little Echoes

Picture Credit: A Million Little Echoes

6. Destash your collection of felt scraps (or get some more from Daiso) with these cute felt ornaments from Hello, Mrs Tan

Picture Credit: Hello, Mrs Tan

Picture Credit: Hello, Mrs Tan

7. Entertain the kids all day and get them to make a paper plate and pinwheel tree from Simply Me

Picture Credit: Simply Me

Picture Credit: Simply Me

Stocking Stuffers

8. If you have some airline tube socks from your last trip abroad, why not upcycle them into a super cute Tube Sock Totoro 

Cute!

Cute!

9. These Upcycled Snow Globes are a brilliant idea by Life is in the Small Things

Picture Credit: Life is in the Small Things

Picture Credit: Life is in the Small Things

10. I love these wooden hand lettered ornaments over at Daprayer

Picture Credit: Daprayer

Picture Credit: Daprayer

Christmas Treats

11. Make a few glasses of this delicious and refreshing Christmas Drink and impress your friends

So Sophisticated!

So Sophisticated!

12. Check out this collection of delicious food art ideas put together by The Hooting Post

P.S. For more great ideas, check out these 35 Simple and Foolproof Christmas Crafts and Free Printables

P.P.S. Also, here’s the Owls Well Christmas Party Playlist!

Errata and a Christmas Drink Recipe

I post a lot of recipes on this blog, but as I cook and experiment in the kitchen, the recipes often evolve from the original.  So, I’m posting up my recipe errata, or some of the many changes that I’ve made to my recipes over time.

In Orthodox Christmas Feasting, I have provided my recipe for turkey stuffing.  There are two addendums to this recipe.  Firstly, you don’t need quite so much parsnips.  You can easily get away with just 125 g parsnip.  Secondly, the amount of stuffing this makes is phenomenal.  If you run out of turkey cavity (which you’re sure to do), stuff the rice underneath the skin of the turkey breast.  This will ensure that the skin crisps beautifully and the oils soak into the rice.

I’ve also changed my preferred drink for the Root Beer Float.  Bundaberg Sasparilla is delicious, but also crazy acidic owing to the fact that they use actual sasparilla root.  The ice cream melts far too quickly as a result.  Use A&W Root Beer if you can get it instead.  It’s made of unhealthy things, but produces a longer-lasting ice cream result.

Pasta Sauce is a finicky thing.  I’ll be providing a better recipe for this in the future.  However, just so you know, the Carroty Harvest Pasta Sauce should be simmered with the lid OFF.  Carrots and other root vegetables contain a lot of liquid, so simmer with the lid off to reduce wetness.

Finally, the Cool Drinks for Hot Days.  This has two changes.  After much experimenting, I can safely say that Auntie G’s Southern tastes produce a much sweeter result than I like.  I would recommend that only a 1/4 cup of sugar be used for every 2 litres of iced tea.  As for the Little House in the Prairie recipe, much experimenting has led me to conclude that the drink is best made up as a syrup (containing the apple cider vinegar, the ginger powder and the sugar) and kept in a jar.  For best results, dilute it with soda water and serve cold on ice.  Shake before use.

Now that I’ve finished explaining all my mistakes, enjoy this beautiful (more adult) refresher drink for a hot Christmas Day courtesy of The Boobook!

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So Sophisticated!

The Boobook’s Wonderfully Refreshing Concoction for Overheating Adults

Ingredients:

  • Wine Glass
  • 1/2 to 1 shot of Pimms
  • Cucumbers
  • Ginger Ale

Cut the cucumbers into slices and place them at the bottom of the wine glass.  Pour the shot of Pimms onto the cucumbers.  Top up with ginger ale.

If you’re a lightweight like A Becky Lee, use only 1/2 a shot of Pimms – just enough to change the flavour and maintain freshness.

For best results, drink the concoction first, then eat the cucumbers after they’ve sat in it for a while.

Becky’s Essence of Fruit: Bottling

A while ago, I wrote about making fruit essence for baking cakes with.

Well, 6-8 weeks is now over, so here’s a quick tutorial on preparing the fruit essences once they’re done.

You’ll need:

  • A bowl or jug of some sort
  • A sieve
  • 50 ml bottles for the essence
  • A funnel

As usual, you should boil the bottles to sterilise them so that your essences don’t go “off” before they can be used.

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Boil it up good

I used amber bottles designed for aromatherapy oils as the dark glass on the bottles helps to block out light from reaching the essence, keeping it fresher for longer.  They’re also pretty good when pouring into a teaspoon!  However, if you are feeling very fancy, or are very fancy, you can always buy pretty bottles from Etsy, save up tiny sample alcohol bottles or even use old perfume jars (after thorough cleaning, of course), the sky’s the limit!

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Blueberries have lost their colour – this means that they’re ready

Sieve the berries out of the essence liquid.  You can use a regular sieve for this, but if you’re really fancy, you can get more juice and flavour out of the berries by squeezing the fruit through a piece of cooking muslin.  I’m too lazy for this, though!

Essence

All ready for Christmas!

Use a funnel to fill the little bottles with the essence and voila, you have some lovely essence for Christmas!  If you have a label printer, you can spruce the bottles up with fancy labels.

A Becky Lee’s Note: Always prepare slightly more empty bottles than you expect to fill, as the recipe always creates slightly more than 250 ml per lot.

So, there you have it, my gift for my baker friends this Christmas!  I hope you like it!

Christmas is Coming #3: Love your skin and hair (with the Olive Oil Skin Care Company)

Over the last three months, my family and I have been using this awesome range of hair and skin products from the Olive Oil Skin Care Company – and I gotta say that they are fantastic for keeping dry and sensitive skin beautifully moisturised and smelling great.

This is what I would call a ‘100% Real Brand’ – 100% made in Australia with 100% food-grade cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil from the manufacturer’s own family-run olive plantation that is 100% free of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. It comprises of 100% all natural ingredients and is 100% free from all the nasty stuff (artificial fragrances and colours, parabens, preservatives and additives, sulfates and silicones as well as palm oil). In short, 100% good for sensitive or eczematous skin, even for the most delicate of baby skin!

Thumper loves baby-friendly skin products!

These products are exclusively distributed in Singapore by Kerygo, which is founded by a local mumpreneur, YY, who came across the Olive Oil Skin Care Company on a trip to Australia. Her husband, who happens to be a friend of mine from university, spotted the Olive Oil Shampoo and commented on how good olive oil is for the hair and scalp. After trying the shampoo on herself and the skincare products on her own eczema-prone daughter, and visiting the manufacturer (even tasting the olive oil used in production), she decided to bring the range to Singapore.

When YY contacted me to ask if I would like to try out their range of bath and body products, I was excited in part because I love discovering new family-friendly skin and haircare products, but really because YY is a gorgeously gorgeous girl with the most radiant skin and luscious hair. (She would be so bashful if she knew I was writing this, but YY, it’s true! You and Handsome R make such a lovely couple.)

Anyway, I am glad to report that what YY sent me is of fabulous quality. My favourite is the Rose Geranium Olive Oil Shampoo and Conditioner. It is sulphate and silicone-free, and is so nourishing for my little girl’s curly locks, leaving them soft, manageable, and smelling delicious. The Rose Geranium Olive Oil shampoo is an especially good value as a tiny pea-sized amount  can be mixed with water in my palm to produce a massive quantity of lather. Seriously, we have been using this daily in our household on the whole family for the last three months, and have used less than half the bottle.

A selection of our favourites from The Olive Oil Skin Care Company

A selection of our favourites from The Olive Oil Skin Care Company

I also really like the Blue Mallee Eucalyptus Soothing Balm, which came in very handy when the family suffered from congestion during the recent haze in Singapore. I have also found it wonderful for applying onto soothing itchy mosquito bites and dry patches of skin.

I passed the handmade Goat’s Milk olive oil soap and the Gidyea with Lemon Scented Tea Tree Olive Oil Soap to the Aged Ps, who suffer from dry and cracked skin from all their jet-setting here and there. They reported a marked improvement in skin texture after only a few days of use! The soaps are cured for at least 10-14 weeks, so that they don’t get mushy and fall to pieces in the shower, whilst still making a nice silky lather. The Handmade Pure Castile Bodywash, like all castile soaps, does not create a whole lot of suds unless you use a bath sponge but it’s gentle formulation is great for little Thumper’s delicate baby skin.

A Special Something for Owls Well Readers: YY, the founder of Kerygo, has kindly agreed to sponsor ONE surprise gift set of products (worth up to SGD$60) that she has specially handpicked for THREE lucky Owls Well Readers! WOOHOO! What a great Christmas gift!

To take part in this giveaway, complete all the steps below:

  1. Be a fan of the Olive Oil Skin Care Co Singapore on Facebook
  2. Be a fan of the Owls Well Facebook Page
  3. Share this post on Facebook (set to public), tagging @OwlsWell and at least four friends
  4. Leave a comment below telling me about a Christmas gift that you have received which you particularly treasure. Don’t forget to tell me the name of your Facebook account that you used to share this giveaway and include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)

(This giveaway is open to anyone with a Singapore mailing address and closes on 24th December 2015. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete all 4 easy steps!)

Good Luck!

Christmas is coming #2: Tyrrell Katz Lunchbag Giveaway from JEDpacks

An Insulated Lunchbag from Tyrrell Katz

An Insulated Lunchbag from Tyrrell Katz

In my last post, I wrote about how a lunchbag came in useful as part of J’s school routine. Well, I talked to the mumpreneur behind JEDpacks and she has very generously agreed to sponsor a very special Christmas treat for our loyal Owls Well readers!

One lucky Owls Well Reader will make away with this awesome Tyrrell Katz Insulated Lunchbag in the ever-popular Bugs print (worth SGD $35) from JEDpacks

Woohoo!

Thank you JEDpacks!

To take part in this giveaway, just complete the following:

  1. Be a fan of the Owls Well Facebook Page
  2. Be a fan of the JEDpacks Facebook Page
  3. Share this giveaway on your Facebook Page (set to public), tagging @Owls Well as well as at least three friends
  4. Visit my this post and leave a comment there telling me about what you or your child would pack in their lunchbag. Don’t forget to tell me the name of your Facebook account that you used to share this giveaway and include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)

(This giveaway is open to anyone with a Singapore mailing address and closes on 24th December 2015. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete all 4 easy steps!)

Good Luck!

P.S. Don’t forget that you can get 20% off any purchase from JEDpacks by using the discount code ‘XMAS20’ at checkout! Visit JEDpacks here. (The code is valid until 24th December 2015 for a minimum spend of $30)

Update: Jennifer is our winner – thanks for playing!