1 November 2014

2014 Books - October

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey - Wendy Wax

This book isn't about Downton Abbey and you don't have to have watched the series to enjoy reading this novel. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

Fifth Grave Past the Light - Darynda Jones

Fifth book in the Charley Davidson series. I'm enjoying the series and would recommend it.

Sixth Grave on the Edge - Darynda Jones
Sixth book in the Charley Davidson series. I'm enjoying the series and would recommend it.

Stepping Heavenward - Elizabeth Prentiss
I loved this Christian book and would recommend it.

Dad is Fat - Jim Gaffigan
I enjoyed this funny book as an audiobook. I would recommend it.

The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman
I loved this book and would highly recommend it. I think it would make a good book club book.

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming - Joshilyn Jackson
I mostly enjoyed this book but it seemed to lose momentum or something towards the end. Would recommend if you've nothing better to read.

Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World - Dr Phil McGraw
I'm a huge fan of Dr Phil. Enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

Daughter of Empire: My Life as a Mountbatten - Lady Pamela Hicks
I enjoyed this interesting inside view as an audiobook and would recommend it.

In Falling Snow - Mary-Rose McCol
I loved this book and would highly recommend it. The story was well told and interesting and it had a twist at the end that I enjoyed.

The Surgeon - Tess Gerritsen
I enjoyed this thriller (haven't read a thriller in ages!) and will be reading the rest of the series. I would recommend it.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia - Elizabeth Gilbert
I absolutely loved this book and would highly recommend it.

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31 October 2014

Fashion Friday and latest Blurb offers

This is what I wore to the library.

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Black polka dot cardigan: The Warehouse
Bootcut jeans: Tesco
Clogs: thrifted (Pulp brand)

Latest Blurb offers:

Offer: 25% off photo books when you spend $50
Valid: through 31 October
Promo Code: OCTOBER25%
Restrictions: $50 Offer valid through October 26, 2014 (11:59 p.m. local time). Valid for photo books made by you. A 25% discount is applied toward your product total with a minimum purchase of $50, 40€, or £35. Maximum discount is $75, 60€, or £50 off product total. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.

Offer: Save 20% on photobooks

Valid: through 31 October
Promo Code: OCT20%

Special offer for new customers only. Save 25% on photobooks

Valid: through 31 October

Promo Code: OCT25%

BookSmart Boot Camp video to help you get started:

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29 October 2014

DIY natural bug repellent

There's this dirty little secret that New Zealand has. Nobody talks about it and foreigners are blissfully unaware until they fall prey to the suffering induced by it. This menace causes havoc in its wake.

I'm talking about the sandfly.

These little blighters prefer foreign blood, and unfortunately foreigners (like myself) react badly to the bites. That's probably why the locals don't warn immigrants and visitors - they just don't experience the problem the same way. It's not so bad for them.

The sandflies' bite results in the worst itching I've ever experienced in my life. The only other time I've had itching that bad was when I had obstetric cholestasis. It is beyond torturous. It actually wakes you in the night, it is so bad - there is no sleeping through it. There is almost no relief from it - although I have found that neat lavender oil, Stingose spray or gel, and NOT scratching the actual bite itself all help. It's the kind of itching that has you reaching for tools like hairbrushes or forks to scratch with because your nails just aren't enough. And the itching and swelling last for weeks. You'll think it's over and then the hot water from the shower, for example, will set it off again.

So now that you know New Zealand's dirty little secret and my experience with it, you'll know why I'm so motivated to repel the little devils, as well as mosquitoes. I don't want weeks-long repercussions from our beach and camping trips BUT I also don't want to spend the whole summer slathered in chemical deterrents.

So I've started making my own repellent and it's really effective! My dad was astonished at how well it works.

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I use essential oils and coconut oil. I have used the essential oils in a spray bottle with water for this purpose, and it worked a treat, but the coconut oil is better on the skin, and it's easier to see if you've missed a spot when applying. I chose coconut oil because it absorbs well, has its own health benefits, and doesn't leave a horrible greasy feeling afterwards.

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You'll need a dark glass bottle, coconut oil (or other carrier oil, such as sweet almond), and essential oils. Any combination of the following will work to deter mosquitoes and sandflies:
- eucalyptus
- lemon
- citronella
- lavender
- manuka pine
- tea tree
- lemongrass

Simply melt the coconut oil and pour into your jar (I used a brown glass jar that vitamins came in). Add 5-10 drops of each oil, depending on how big your jar is. As you can see from the picture above, I used citronella, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, and lemon. Screw the top on tightly and shake well to disperse the essential oils through the coconut oil.

That's it! Just rub the oil onto the skin that you want to protect, being sure to reapply when you think the scent has faded. I added some rubon letters to the lid so I'd know what was in the bottle.

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And, just for the LOLs, here is a picture of me on a camping trip before I made this DIY bug repellent. It was evening time and the mosquitoes were out in full force. They only seemed to be targeting me, not Noah, who I was reading to. I didn't want to spray Off all over myself before going to bed, so I covered up by tucking my tracksuit pants into my socks, pulling my sleeves down over my hands, and wearing Noah's hooded towel. Grant was laughing at me but it worked!

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Don't be like me back then. Be like me now and make yourself some natural bug repellent!

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27 October 2014

Canvases for Daniel's room

I've made some changes to Noah's room that I'll be blogging soon. I wanted to pep up Daniel's room too, but he just wants to keep it simple and didn't want anything done except some artwork on the wall. He chose the designs (Superman, Nova, Xmen and Team Fortress) and I painted them onto 25cm (almost 10 inch) square dollar-store canvases with acrylic paint. Luckily he is very happy with them (and I really enjoyed making them!) Total cost: $10 for the canvases as I already had the paint.

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25 October 2014

Breakfast bake

This breakfast bake is so easy to make - and then you don't need to think about breakfast for the next few days, just grab a slice and go. I make it in a casserole dish that yields six generous slices, so Grant and I get three days of breakfast from it. We simply reheat our portion in the microwave, which takes less than a minute.

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Here are the ingredients you will need:

Eggs: as many or as few as you prefer, it will depend on the size of your dish. As I mentioned, I'm aiming for six servings so I used twelve eggs.

Sour cream: about half a cup - this gives the eggs a better texture than if it was just eggs on their own. Feel free to use low-fat sour cream, creme fraiche, regular cream, or milk if you prefer.

Cheese: again, as much or as little as you prefer. Use any type - feta, cheddar, parmesan, swiss, blue cheese, goat's cheese, etc. Or a combination.

Vegetables: in this instance I used a leftover half of a leek, broccoli, and sweet potato. Use any combination; try onion, spring onion, spinach, zucchini, asparagus, cauliflower, carrot, capsicum / peppers, tomato - whatever takes your fancy.

Carbs or no carbs: the decision is yours. I prefer to include some complex carbs so I've put some sweet potato in. If you like, add some cooked and diced potato. Or omit carbs for a low-carb high-protein breakfast.

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You're basically making a cross between baked eggs and quiche. Bulk it out with as many veges as you like. Feel free to add extra protein in the form of bacon, ham, sausage, leftover chicken, etc - for this one I kept it simple and went with just the eggs and cheese for protein.

First, cook your veges. I sauteed the leeks until tender and steamed the sweet potato and broccoli. Layer up the cooked veges in your casserole dish.

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Sprinkle the cheese over. Be as stingy or as generous as you like. I used mild cheddar.

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Then whisk the eggs and sour cream (add any herbs and seasonings you like) and pour over the veg and cheese.

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Bake until the centre is no longer liquid.

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It's that easy! Allow to cool and pop into the fridge for quick and easy breakfasts - or lunches or snacks or even dinner :) Try various combinations of ingredients to keep things interesting - for example, spinach and feta, or chicken and asparagus, or roasted vegetables and goat's cheese. Enjoy!

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