The Good Life: Field of Dreams

Summer’s finally over!  It’s time for the Autumn harvest!

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Behold!  My glorious field of two radishes!

As you can clearly see, the harvest has not exactly been bountiful this Autumn. The field you’re looking at was planted with onions, carrots, beetroots, leeks, daikons, radishes and an entire row of parsnips.

Unfortunately, the harvest failed.

There were several reasons for the failure, of course. Early in the season, the Boobook thought to help me out with the weeding and managed to weed out the baby leeks before I managed to stop him. We’ve also been having issues with the neighbour’s cat digging up some of the seeds when it comes to hang out in our garden.

But the biggest reason for major crop failure was the weather.

It has been hot in Australia, and I mean severely, extremely hot. The hottest it’s been since 1896, even. It was so hot that the remainder of seeds and sprouts basically fried in the earth before they got big enough to thrive. The only plants remaining are the two radishes you see in the picture.

The reason for the survival of the radishes is simple. They were the only plants in the garden be in the shade for the majority of the day.

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Happy little radishes.  Diagram courtesy of The Boobook

So there you have it. It’s slim pickings this Autumn, I’m afraid, but there’s no reason to fret. The backyard vegetable gardener has to be prepared for disappointment.

After all, perseverance and trial and error is how one gets a good garden.

Check out the rest of The Good Life Challenge series here.

Upcycling For Kids (using Teeshirts) Part 1: No-Sew Hobo Bag

In the last 6 months, whilst I’ve been ruthlessly downsizing my wardrobe, I’ve become ever more aware of the amount of waste there is just from the amount of clothes I’ve had to remove from my house (more on this in another post).

I was appalled to find out that in Singapore, we generate over 156,700 tonnes of textile and leather waste in a single year. This means that in Singapore, we generate THREE tonnes of textile waste every 5 minutes! And less than 8% of that is recycled. Yikes!!!

Upcycling is a great way to breathe new life into old clothes, and if you are anything like me and cause all sewing machines within a 100m to malfunction, here is a great No-Sew tutorial that is so simple, even a kid could do it!

How to Upcycle Old Teeshirts into a Cute No-Sew Hobo Bag

Materials:

  1. Old Tee-shirt
  2. Scissors

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Instructions:

  1. Using the scissors, cut off the sleeves of the teeshirt.
  2. Then, holding the shirt together, cut off the collar of the teeshirt to make the opening of the bag. A nice oval shape will do.
  3. Decide how deep you want the bag to be. I used a large square book as a guide.
  4. Cut the bottom of the teeshirt into strips about 1 inch wide to make a row of tassels. (Pro-tip: I left the book on the teeshirt and just cut the teeshirt up to the bottom of the book.)
  5. Make sure you also cut the side seam of the teeshirt. tee-shirt-hobo-bag-upcycle-recycle
  6. Turn the shirt inside out.
  7. Stretch the tassels as far as they will go. This will make them long and thin and easier to work with.
  8. Knot each pair of tassels (one tassel from the front and one from the back of the tee-shirt) tightly together. The shirt will begin to bunch up at the bottom, and you’ll have a row of knots with two strands hanging out of each knot.
  9. (Optional Step) Take any strand from the first knot and tie it tightly to any strand from the second knot in the row. Then from the second knot, take the remaining strand and tie it to any strand from the third knot in the row. Continue down the row, tying all the knots together. This will close up the gaps between the knots and make the base of your bag more secure.hobo-bag-tee-shirt-tshirt-recycle-kid
  10. Now turn the bag inside out so that the shirt logo and patterns are showing and all the knots and tassels are on the inside. You should have two straps at the top of your bag.
  11. Cut the two straps in half where the shoulder seam is, knotting them at the top to create the shoulder strap for the hobo bag.
  12. Enjoy!

Optional ideas:

  1. If you like the look of the tassels, leave them outside the bag for a cute boho look.
  2. You can leave the two straps at the top alone if you prefer a simple tote bag.
  3. You can cut each strap at the top into three strips and braid them together to make a braided shoulder strap.

Queen of Clean Konmari Challenge: The Book Reviews

Okay, so following the success of the Happy Family Plan, one of my cousins bought me Konmari’s books, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising“and “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up“, as gifts for Christmas.

Now, I actually put these books on my Christmas wish list because I had come across Marie Kondo‘s home organisation technique whilst completing the Happy Family Plan. I mean, if you google ‘decluttering’ or ‘tidying’, you will eventually come across her books sooner or later.

My idea of tidying was to put all the mess out of sight as quickly as possible, which is only a short term measure of keeping things neat and organised.  Soon, the cupboards and drawers were beginning to spill over all over the house again. In fact, when I was completing my Happy Family Plan, I realised halfway through that I was becoming fatigued and overwhelmed. This was because I was trying to do everything all at once and it wasn’t working for me.

For example, I really wanted to reorganise my cupboards, so I started out reorganising the Craft Cupboard, and soon this expanded to ‘reorganisation of the Games Cupboard’ which led to the ‘reorganisation of the Mementos Cupboard and Household Tools Cupboard’.  I ended up with a bunch of half-organised, half-full cupboards, and a bunch of half-organised, overflowing cupboards. At one point, I found myself spending a whole hour just emptying and repacking the same things into different cupboards like a crazy person.

Eventually, I decided to call a stop to the reorganisation of the cupboards and just move on with the rest of the Happy Family Plan.

I wanted to read Marie Kondo’s books because she claims to have a ‘ONCE AND FOR ALL TIME’ plan. You complete her method ONCE AND FOR ALL TIME and never return to your previous state of disorganisation and mess. And because I am an inherently lazy person, I like the idea of doing things only once.

So, I have read both of her books, and I have come to the conclusion that:

  1. Yes, they are very useful because they set down a very clear and logical framework that you can follow.
  2. Yes, if you really want to follow her plan, buy both books.
  3. The Konmari method works especially well if you are the sort of person who tends to procrastinate, if you are constantly looking for good storage solutions and if you feel guilt about your messy house but you are not a tidy person by nature.

And now, my thoughts on each book:

Thoughts on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Okay, the biggest criticism that this book has is that it uses some flower child hippie descriptive language. I mean, there is literally a whole paragraph in the book dedicated to examining the inner feelings of socks and the horror and abuse that is balling your socks up in the drawer.

Well, the first thing to remember is that this book is written primarily for a Japanese audience, and that culturally, all objects in Japan are described as having a spiritual nature. So in order to reach the heart of her audience, Konmari very cleverly appeals to the Japanese innate appreciation of objects as well as for all things cute and cuddly, in order to achieve to change in psychological mindset.

If you strip away all of that, what you are left with is a very concise and logical method of managing the task of curating and organising personal possessions as well as household items. Marie Kondo explains the development process behind her method, and understanding the theory does help you focus on tackling the problem of household mess in a positive and manageable way. Additionally, I think that following her advice on how to store or display items (or fold clothes) will actually help you to prolong the lifespan of your treasured possessions. She also has some very useful advice on what to do with items that have outlived their usefulness, things that you are holding onto out of guilt or some other emotional reason, or that you are keeping in store for a rainy day.

Conclusion: This book is very useful if you do not like tidying, and you need some help getting started.

Thoughts on Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

I think that this book is only helpful if you have already started to tidy your house via the Konmari method, or if you have read the first book and you have more questions.

This book is written as a companion to the first one. It already assumes that you have read Marie Kondo’s book, and so it proceeds to explain everything in much more detail. It covers her entire method in a very thorough and detailed manner – with pictures, descriptions and very practical, helpful tips to help you along if you start feeling discouraged.

However, if you don’t understand the theory behind the Konmari method or if you have an obsessive personality, this book will hinder more than it helps as the amount of information it contains will be too overwhelming.

Conclusion: This book is immensely helpful as a quick reference guide for people who are already committed to the Konmari method.

So, Meimei, now I have completed reviewing the Konmari books as per the Queen of Clean challenge. Haha!

Last Minute Chinese New Year Crafts: Are you chicken?

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Chick chick chicken!

In J’s school, the kids in his class are planning to bring their own Chinese New Year decorations and make their classroom look really cheerful and festive for the celebrations! J is really into paper-folding crafts and origami at the moment, so I had a look around and here is our favourite tutorial by Yilin Pan!

We used slightly shorter rectangular ang pows for our chickens, so they are more angular looking and can be placed in both a sitting and standing position! J also decorated his chickens using different coloured Sharpie pens.

I think these would look really cute as a table display or strung up or a mobile – and you can use pastel or white envelopes instead of red to make a sweet Easter display!

Happy New Year!

P.S. For more last minute Chinese New Year crafts, click here and here.

 

Last Minute Christmas Dessert: The Outlaw’s Doggie Biscuits (aka Chocolate No Bake Fridge Cake)

So, the Outlaws are in town this year end, which gives me the opportunity to poach one of their favourite dessert recipes, lovingly named ‘Doggie Biscuits’ by the Barn Owl.

This chocolate-based dessert would probably make the worst dog biscuits ever (unless you’re secretly plotting a poisoning of that yapping midnight horror from downstairs), but they sure do make a deliciously satisfying snack! Additionally, this is a fun no-bake dessert to get the kidlets involved in some messy and rewarding fun.

This easy to make dessert is a big favourite in the Owls Well household, and the kids ALWAYS ask their grandma to make some for them (at the behest of the Barn Owl, of course). By the way, I have also included additional Thermomix instructions at the end of the recipe for those of you who own magic stirring pots.

The Outlaw’s Doggie Biscuits Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 12-15 Digestive Biscuits (about 250g)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp Golden Syrup (you can also use honey or molasses. We used a date syrup.)
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 bar of chocolate – roughly 200g (we used Cadbury’s Old Gold 70% Chocolate)

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Method:

  1. Place digestive biscuits in a ziplock bag, squeeze out as mush air as possible, then smash the biscuits into smithereens using a rolling pin. The best way to do this is to get a Batgirl to help you using an old wooden train whistle.
  2. Melt butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot water. Add golden syrup and cocoa powder, then mix until smooth.
  3. Add smashed up biscuits to the mixture, mix together, then pour out into a greased 13×9 inch cake tin to cool.
  4. Pack the biscuit mixture down tightly to form the base of the cake. Use your (clean) hands!
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  5. Eat biscuit mixture off hands, then wash hands.
  6. Break the chocolate up into pieces then melt in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.
  7. Once the chocolate is melted, pour over the biscuit base and spread it out as evenly as possible
  8. Lick excess chocolate off spatula
  9. Let the cake cool, then place the cake in the fridge for the chocolate to set
  10. Cut into pieces to serve!
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Delicious No-Bake Chocolate Fridge Cake

Kid-friendly snacks: BeBeMi Organic Baby Snacks – A Product Review (and exclusive discount code!)

Now that Thumper is weaned onto solid foods, I have been encouraging him to self-feed more often. Self-feeding is a great way to encourage independence, and practice those fine motor skills, and it is also great for prolonging mealtimes by keeping little hands occupied so that mummy can finish her noodles using both hands.

However, it is a challenge to find healthy snacks in different textures and flavours that are non-messy. Although he loves his rice puffs from Heinz and Plum Organics, I have been hoping to find something with a little bit more variety. This is why I was really excited to have a chance try out the range of organic snacks from Korean brand, BeBeMi, which comes in a very impressive variety of shapes, textures and flavours.

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BeBeMi Organic Baby Snacks in an assortment of shapes (Left to Right: Petite, Ring, Rice Cake and Stick) and flavours (Left to Right: Curry, Lemon, Lotus Root, Brown Rice). 

These rice-based snacks are made from 100% organic ingredients, have contain no sugar, salt, artificial colouring, synthetic additives or preservatives and they are not only delicious but healthy. After trying them out over the last few weeks, I have to say that they appeal to all three of my kids (and myself), not just little 18 month old Thumper!

What I find particularly interesting about that is that the larger sized biscuits (the BeBeMi Rice Cake Biscuit and BeBeMi Stick), although they are not baked or fried in oil, will still provide a satisfying snap and crunch before melting away in the mouth. This is fantastic because it doesn’t make a big mess on the hands or on the table, and little teething kids who have not yet gotten the hang of chewing can still enjoy a crunchy snack without the risk of choking on large chunks.

The smaller sized cereals (the BeBeMi Petite and BeBeMi Ring) can be eaten on their own or with plain yoghurt as part of breakfast, and they are much much softer in texture but with a stronger flavour. I don’t recommend eating them with milk, though, as they will disintegrate!

 

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Thumper’s favourite – the BeBeMi Sticks

I am most impressed with the range of flavours that are available – sweet fruits and vegetables like pumpkin, strawberry and carrot, savouries like broccoli and spinach, mildly sour and refreshing lemon but by far my favourites are the complex flavours like curry (non-spicy of course), pomegranate, shitake mushroom lotus root.

Such a great way to tempt even the most picky eaters!

Buyer’s Note: Bebemi is exclusively distributed in Singapore by Totsworld (who also sent me the samples to try out) and each packet retails at SGD$8.90. Bebemi products are also available at all OG and BHG departmental stores, 1010 Mother and Child and at Redmart.

A Special for Owls Well Readers: You can purchase 2 packets for $14 or 4 packets + 1 free packet for $28 from Totsworld you key in the code OWLSWELL during checkout.

Adventures in New Zealand: Wonderful Wanaka – Cardrona and Karawau Gorge

We’re blogging over at Owl Fly Away today!

Owl Fly Away

Today, we decided to take another gander over the Crown Range Drive and stop at the town of Cardrona.

Cardrona is one of New Zealand’s gold rush towns that sprang up in the 1860s alongside the Cardrona river. The town itself is now home to a few historical buildings and is mostly known for it’s alpine resort and ski-field.

cardrona-hotel-restaurant-new-zealand Stopping on the Crown Range Road at Cardrona, where we inspect the site of our dream house (wishful thinking!)

It wasn’t wintertime when we were visiting, so we parked our car near the picturesque Cardrona Hotel, and went for a little ramble by the riverside. We picked a trail that is normally used for horse treks, so it was quite well marked out – although we did have to step around a few piles of manure at times!

cardrona-walk-wildlife-bird-bridge A riverside ramble

It was pretty relaxing tramping through the countryside…

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