Tuesday, 25 November 2014

How To Make Bath Bombs

Well, it's that time of year again. Gift giving season!

Close to Christmas, I love spending my time making homemade gifts. One of the things I make regularly is batch bombs. They are so cheap and easy to make and are great for the kids to help with.

There are many recipes on available on the net, but here is the one I have been making with great success for years. This time I made 2 batches,  I used a Christmas tree mould with peppermint fragrance and green food colouring and a gingerbread men mould with cinnamon fragrance and brown food colouring.

I use the Woolworths Homebrand bi carb soda as it is $1.60 for a 500g bag. I buy my citric acid for $6 a kilo from Kakulas Bros in  Northbridge if you live in Perth. Alternatively you can try a home brew supply shop or buy the small tubs which are sold at the supermarkets. Honestly, these are so cheap to make.

You will need:

Sillicone muffin style moulds
1 and a half cups of bicarbonate of soda
Half a cup of citric acid
4 TBS almond oil
Fragrance or essential oil of your choice
Food colouring

First sieve the bi carb into a mixing bowl and add the citric acid.

Add the almond oil and 10 drops of the fragrance oil of choice. Mix well with a spoon. Add a few drops of food colouring until you get the desired colour. The oil and food colouring will clump together in the mixture so take some time to distribute it evenly by pressing down with the back of a spoon.

Once the oil and colouring are combined, grab a handful of mixture and squeeze it tightly. If the mixture stay firmly in shape when you open your hand it is ready. If not add another tablespoon of almond oil, mix through well and try again. It should appear firm and not crumbly.

Press the mixture into moulds greased with cooking spray. Making sure it is well packed down. Set aside in the moulds for at least 24 hours, then carefully pop them out onto a tray to dry for a further few days until fully dried through. Then package in cellophane gift bags and tie with ribbon. I used red and white twine from a dollar store.

If you have any questions, feel free to add it to the comments box.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How To Make Homemade Deodorant and a Healing Balm

I really enjoy getting back to basics and making cleaning and body care items for my family to use. For me it is a relaxing hobby and makes me feel one step closer to our goal of self sufficiency. I like knowing exactly what goes into the products we use and as an added bonus by making these myself, it saves us quite a lot of money.

Hubby and I have been using this homemade deodorant for a while and find it works really well. The teens are not so convinced (they've never tried it) and prefer me to buy them commercial deodorant. Although in my opinion this homemade product works better than brand name deodorant and I recently put this to the test. 

I'm only human, and occasionally the clever advertising campaigns get to me. Yes, I know they are all bull shit and the companies will say anything to get our money, but I had an important meeting to go to, it was a warm day and I started to freak out that my regular homemade deo wasn't going to cut it. So I decided to borrow my daughter's *insert brand name here* underarm spray. When I got home my shirt was damp from sweat and I was stinky! I seemed to sweat much more than when I use my regular coconut oil recipe. So much for thinking the anti-antiperspirant would work better...

I like to add a bit of patterned adhesive to my empty glue stick container to make it look a bit fancy, you could also use washi tape

There are many recipes for homemade deodorant, but I like this one which uses coconut oil for a base because it is a natural anti-fungal. It has the added benefit of not containing any carcinogens or toxic chemicals like many store bought antiperspirants.

I must point out, that this homemade deodorant will not stop you from sweating, but the coconut oil will inhibit any bad odors. For ease of use, I like to put my deodorant in a an old well washed glue stick tube.

The healing balm was made by accident, as one day I discovered I had melted too much coconut oil  and had already filled my glue stick tubes for the deodorant. So I just added several more drops of both the tea tree and lavender oils, and voila a homemade healing balm. As we have since found out this stuff is especially good for Mr 13's eczema and any cuts or sores. Store it in the fridge, so it is solid and apply just like you would an antiseptic cream. 

To make the deodorant and healing balm you will need:

Coconut Oil
Pure essential oils like tea tree and lavender which are anti bacterial

First scoop out about 4 heaped tablespoons of the coconut oil and place in a small container, then put this container in a larger bowl filled with hot water. This is purely to melt the coconut oil, if the weather is warm where you live and the oil is a runny consistency you can omit this step. 

To the coconut oil add 5 drops of lavender and 2-3 drops of tea tree oil. You can also add a teaspoon of bi- carb soda if you like. I've only recently started adding this and think it does help with absorbing any excess moisture. 

Stir the mixture well and pour into the glue stick tube. If you don't have any tubes, you can just store it in a regular container with a lid and apply with your fingers. My last tubes broke as I placed them in the freezer to set (don't ever do this the fridge works fine) and the inside winder broke, I was gutted as these are perfect for applying the deo. Instead I poured my mixture into an icy pole container which also works fine, just remind everyone in the house that it is not edible! In warm weather you will need to store both the healing balm and deodorant in the fridge to avoid it becoming a liquid mess. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Sultana Tea Cake Recipe

 Here is a really simple recipe to make which is delicious for morning or afternoon tea. We make it often. It is a great cake for when you have little butter in the house as it only uses a small amount. Also it doesn't use milk or eggs, making it lovely and cheap!

1 c sultanas
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
25 g butter
1 cup hot black tea
1 cup of brown sugar, or as a substitute I use 1 cup white sugar and a tsp of golden syrup
2 c SR flour

Place the sultanas, spices and butter into a mixing bowl.

Pour over the hot black tea and leave to stand until cold.

Then add the sugar and flour and mix lightly, or loaf will become tough.

Grease and flour a loaf tin, then bake at 180 degrees for 35-45 mins.

This is delicious hot, or eat the next day cold spread with butter.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Geeking Out At Supernova

Recently the children and I went to Supernova which is a pop culture expo. It's been on my to-do list for years but each time something came up. Well, not this year folks, this year nothing would get in the way of seeing what it was all about. Hubby decided he wouldn't come as he has trouble walking and standing for long periods of time and is not a fan of large crowds.

The boys with Princess Bubblegum who was giving out free lollipos!

I bought the tickets online as it was a few dollars cheaper, luckily kids under 12 get in for free so I only had to pay for Miss 15 and myself, woo hoo!
We decided to catch public transport in to the city, as here in Perth a family day pass costs around $13 and I knew that by the time I bought petrol and paid for parking at the Convention Centre I'd need to take out a second mortgage! Jokes aside, when traveling into the city on a budget, public transport is the way to go. I also packed us some lunch, snacks and water as I know the food at these type of events is exorbitant.

Mr 8 was excited to meet Batman and Catwoman

And some elves from TLOTR

My kids are big fans of Adventure Time and the boys had decided to cosplay as Finn and BMO. We made Mr 8 a BMO costume from a cardboard box, the instructions are in a previous post, and Mr 12's costume was mostly items we had on hand with the exception of a backpack he bought and the hat which we made from a tutorial on the Instructables website. I thought it would be cool if Miss 15 also dressed up as an Adventure Time character but she had already decided to go as Nepeta from Homestuck. Oh, well.
Just for future reference if you ever decide to cosplay and catch public transport be prepared for some peculiar stares, questions and comments.

Miss 15 as Nepeta Lejion

I'm not sure what I expected of Supanova, but we were amazed at the amount of cosplayers. It was fabulous! Within the first few minutes we had seen people dressed up as Katniss Everdeen, Cruella DeVil, various Doctors from Dr Who, several Maleficents, Pyramid Head from Silent Hill (I still regret not getting a photo with him) and the crew from Mystery Inc. I was definitely in the minority of the small percentage of people who weren't in costume.

Orun High School Host Club

Rose McGowan
The venue was set up with stalls selling assorted pop culture collectables. There was also an area set up where you could sit and listen to a Q&A with some of the celebrities who were appearing, this was included in the entry price. We went to the Q & A with Jon Heder from Napoleon Dynamite who was funny, delightful and down to earth.  He told a few anecdotes on what it was like working with Will Ferrel on the set of Blades of Glory which was particularly amusing. Miss 15 and I were also excited to see Rose McGowan best known for her roles in Charmed and Nip/Tuck. We had front row seats to this event and were fan girling hard. I had an urge to ask her what it was like dating Marilyn Manson but was too nervous. More regret!

Jon Heder

At Supernova there is an option to get photos and autographs with the stars for an additional cost, but being on a budget we decided not to do this. There was so many stalls and cosplayers to see, so we spent a lot of time just walking around. The other thing that really struck me was that everyone was so polite and more than happy to pose for a photo. Lots of people came up and got pictures with 'Finn and BMO" and we even bumped into some other Adventure Time characters. Mr 8 later informed me that he now knows what it is like to be famous!

It was a fun day and it awesome to see some of our most loved characters bought to life. My favourite was Sarah and Jareth from the 80's movie Labyrinth. I watched this movie hundreds of times as a child and can still pretty much quote the entire movie.

Sarah and Jareth from the ball scene

We can't wait to get started on making costumes for next year and maybe I'll dress up as well!

 Have you ever been to Supernova? What did you think? 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Chorizo and Chickpea Soup Recipe

Here is a simple and easy recipe on this month's menu plan that I'd like to share. With winter upon us and the weather turning cold, I like to cook a lot of casseroles, roasts, pasta and soups. Warm and hearty comfort food. This is a delicious and cheap soup recipe and the added chorizo gives it a spicy and rich flavour. Despite my husband believing that the salty meat tastes like sweaty armpits.

 You will need:

Splash of olive oil
3 chorizo sausages, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic
2 stalks of celery
4 small or 2 large carrots
400g tin of diced tomatoes
2 x 400g tins of chickpeas
1 litre chicken stock (Or 2 stock cubes added to 1 litre of water)
Pinch of turmeric

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium high heat, then add the chopped chorizo. Cook, stirring well until browned. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion, garlic,carrot and celery and cook until the onion is soft. Feel free to chuck in any random vegies that may be in the bottom of your fridge.

2. Add the tomatoes, turmeric and stock to the pot. Bring to the boil, then simmer for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I also added some frozen capsicum at this point, just for shits and giggles. But this is optional. Stir in the chickpeas.

3. Using a stick blender, partially blend the soup so its slightly pureed but chunky veggies still remain.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the chorizo to the pot. I like to add most of the chorizo to the soup but save a bit to sprinkle on the top of my bowl when serving. 


Serve with hot buttered toast or fresh bread rolls. Yummy!

Monday, 30 June 2014

How to Make a BMO Costume- For Cheap!

BMO and Finn from Adventure Time!

The last week here has busy and productive, with the kids making cosplays for Supernova, which is a pop culture convention. My boys decided to go as Finn and BMO from Adventure Time and my daughter dressed up as Nepeta from Homestuck. I'll post more about our fun day there and some info about my other kids costumes later, but BMO was such a hit and lots of people asked to have a photo with Mr 8,  so I thought I'd share a tutorial. The BMO costume is pretty easy to make and suitable for kids to help with. It took about a week to complete but that was mainly to allow time  for the paint to dry between coats, as it's Winter here. This is also a great low cost project and as I had the paint and paper on hand, I only had to purchase the aqua shirt and pants to go underneath, so the costume only cost $10!

To make a BMO costume you will need:

Large rectangle cardboard box (mine was free from Bunnings)
Stanley knife
Masking tape 
White undercoat
Acrylic paints in the colours of; dark aqua  (I used some free sample pots, woo hoo!)
Light aqua
Paint brushes and foam roller (optional)
Black, red, yellow and blue sheets of coloured paper
Glue stick 

1. First tip the box on it's side, so it is a tall rectangle. Then, trace a circle for the head opening on the top of the box. We used a dinner plate plate for reference.

2. Cut the circle out with the Stanley knife. I decided the first circle was too big for my sons head, so I drew a smaller one inside and cut along that one instead.

3. Next draw and cut a square in the opposite end of the box. Make sure it is big enough the body to fit through as this will be how you get the costume off and on.

4. Try the box on to make sure both holes are large enough. If not trim a bit more off the cardboard to make them bigger. As you can see we had to tip the box on it's side to get the desired rectangle shape.

5. Tape the box opening closed with some masking tape. You will need to do this on the inside as well for extra strength.

6. Now trace and cut out a small circle on each side of the box for the arm holes. We used a small plastic bowl for a template. Hubby thought we should use one of the taped up sides as the front as he was worried if we used the part with the tape as the sides, the arm holes would make it not as strong. I have no idea if this is a valid idea or not so it's up to you.

7.  Give the entire box a couple of coats with the white undercoat. Our box originally had black writing on it, so it was important we cover it up first. Then try it on to see if it fits comfortably. At this point you also may want to consider adding some foam to the inside of the box, where it sits on the shoulders. Mr 8 had sore shoulders by the end of the day and I wish I had of done this.

8. Next paint a rectangle with the light aqua colour on the "front" of the box for BMO's face. Give this a couple of coats.

9. Paint the rest of the box with the dark aqua paint. We found this easier to do with a foam roller. This will also need a couple of coats to make the colour nice and even.

10. Outline the face edge with the black paint, this took a couple of attempts and  in hindsight if you have thin black tape, that would probably have been easier. Also pencil in the facial features, then paint them black. Luckily, Miss 15 was home to help! BMO has a kind of a kawaii style face, with the eyes being far apart from each other. It also can have many different mouth expressions so we used Google images for ideas.

11.  Finish outlining the mouth and sketch in some cheeks if you like. I think the rosy cheeks look super cute!

 12. Use the pink paint to finish off the cheeks and tongue. With the white paint to detail the teeth. You can see in this pic the line down the middle of the box, which is where we taped it up. Like I said, you could easily just add the arm holes here and put the face on a flat part of the box instead. This was the part where I cursed myself for listening to my hubby as I don't like the look of the line. Too late now!

13. Paint BMO in black down the sides of each box, using the arms holes as the O. With the actual BMO it is written with the B starting at the top and the O at the bottom but this would be impossible to have your arms fit through comfortable so we reversed it. Also paint a few dots underneath for the speakers.

14. Paint some vents in black, like in this photo.

15. Cut out some shapes from the coloured paper or card, to represent the buttons. Glue them on with the glue stick. Voila! you're done, and ready for an adventure!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

How To Make Butter Blend

It's Winter here, and butter blend time again. What is butter blend? You ask. 

Homemade butter blend ready to use

Its a cheaper, homemade version of butter spread or margarine, but with less preservatives. This is something I've been making for the last couple of years and find it is a great butter substitute. I only buy butter, as I really dislike the chemical taste of margarine but find it solidifies too much in the Winter. Making it near impossible to spread on bread without ripping holes in it!

To make a batch of butter blend you will need:

500g block of butter
300 ml oil of your choice (I prefer the taste of olive oil but vegetable or canola works just as well)

First soften the butter a little. You could do easily this in the microwave. I don't have a microwave (but thats another story,) so place mine in a metal bowl, cover it in cling wrap and place in the sun for a few hours. Whatever you do, don't melt it on the stove top. I tried this and the butter blend turned out gritty and awful. 

Beat the butter

Once the butter is softened, place in a mixing bowl and beat it with an electric mixer until it turns fluffy and pale in colour. Just like making butter cream icing. 

Adding the oil

Next while still mixing, gradually pour in the oil and mix until it comes together. 

Easy as! Then just pour it into containers, and keep in the fridge, ready for use. This butter blend works really well in recipes and can freezes well.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Writing Class

Currently reading Peter Pan

My youngest child, Mr 8, is an absolute bookworm. This kid is an absolute machine. In the last 6 months he has read around 15 books, I'm talking NOVELS not early reader type books. That's not even including the countless comics and graphic novels he has devoured. Anyway despite this love for the written word, he hates writing, with a passion. He complains about it. Every. Single. Day. "I hate writing stories" he says, so we try copy work. "I hate copy work!" But then again I shouldn't be surprised. He is 8 years old, after all, and "hates" doing everything, including schoolwork and chores but loves anything Lord Of The Rings or gaming related. Go figure.

Recently, my Library was holding free kids writing classes to coincide with a local children's writing competition.  I booked my 3  kids in. The classes were all on separate days and times because of the different age groups but, the Library is only a 10 minute drive away so I didn't mind. After all, it was free! 

Miss 15 was quite happy as she is a wonderful writer and was looking forward to going, Mr 12 was very "Meh" about it all, but he also is really improving in his English skills so was ok with it. Mr 8 on the other hand, well, needless to say there was an improvised dramatic performance from him, which I found rather amusing. When this production was over, I let him know that the Library had called to confirm numbers as they were planning on ordering a lunch of pizza for the children to enjoy once the class was over.

I watched my youngest son pause, until he finally replied "Wait...free pizza?! Well, writing class might be fun..."

It was. The class was facilitated by DJ Stutely, who is the author of a series of young adult novels. She explained the process of writing a story and how it always begins with a setting. 

DJ also discussed characters and how to use dialogue, feeling and emotions in a story and provided the kids with some story mapping worksheets. 

Mr 8, was so engaged and involved. Every time I looked over at him he was writing furiously which is a far cry from the struggle of writing at home.  

Writing with no complaints! It's a miracle!

He came up with a really great story about a magical snowman (he's been obsessed with snowmen for the last few years) and has entered this short story into a local kids writing competition. By the end of the class the children had come up with some amazing and interesting stories and then enjoyed some pizza and soft drink.

Free pizza!

Meeting Morris Gleitzman

I mentioned in my previous post that we go to a lot of free events, held at our local Library. Well, last week my eldest children and I attended a meet and greet with acclaimed children's author Morris Gleitzman. My kids were pretty excited to meet him having read his collaborations with Paul Jennings. 

Q and A time with Morris Gleitzman
Gleitzman was here to promote his new book Loyal Creatures, which is based on a 20 minute play also written by the author.  He bought with him an actor who performed the monologue. It is an amazingly, heart wrenching tale of a 16 yr youth, turned, Light Horseman who was sent off to war. The performance was outstanding and there was was hardly a dry eye in the room as the exceptional actor (whose name evades me) bought the character of Frank to life. Morris said the play and book was inspired by the War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, except his story tells the other side of what happened to other horses after the war. Here is the script for Morris' play Loyal Creatures
If you are interested. Try and read that without getting emotional!

Afterwards there was a Q & A with Gleitzman in which he was asked many questions, mostly by young children relating to one of his previous books which was titled Bumface. It was really great to hear him talk about his other books and I'm looking forward to reading some of his work. Afterwards Moriss signed copies of his books and we all enjoyed  a free supper of cheese, crackers, cold meat and dips.  It was a definitely a great frugal night out!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Frugal Ways To Have Fun

Hubby helping R make a wooden sword at an free festival

When we first began to stick to a strict budget, I immediately wondered what would we do for fun, knowing that our income would be slashed and that there would be very little money left over for entertainment. Previously when I was working and not counting every dollar, I justified my spending habits, as most of us do, because I missed out on quality time with my kids. The time I did spend with them I wanted to be fun, making up for the times I wasn't around. On the weekend, when I was home we would often go out for a meal, ice skating, to the movies or on other equally expensive outings. Easily spending more than a hundred dollars each time! Sometimes we would browse game stores, never once leaving empty handed. My kids loved doing all of these things, of course, what kid is not going to love Mum offering to buy them random material objects? 

It then became my mission (okay, I may have been slightly obsessed) to find free outings to keep my family amused. After all, there's only a certain amount of time that can be spent playing boardgames at home! I vaguely remembered bookmarking a page called Weekend Notes which looked interesting, so I checked it out. It is a great website where you can find out what's on in your state. We have been to heaps of free family events that have been listed on here, and I continue to check it regularly. Here are some of the other free events or outings I found out about.

Learning to make soy wax candles out the Library
The humble Library is also a wonderful wealth of entertainment options, most of which I was previously unaware of. Yes, you can borrow books- but also magazines, DVD's, graphic novels, audio and E-books as well as you can get free access to the internet. My library also run regular free craft workshops, historical talks, kids programs and classes. 

 I also discovered that local councils often run free activities so I looked into these. This year my boys have been attending a free Hip Hop dance class once a week, at a local community centre run by my council. These classes would normally cost around $150 each child, per term. I have also attended the gym at the rec centre the last 2 months, thanks to some free passes. My council also held regular free festivals and Summer outdoor open air movies that we have attended. Back in February a neighbouring council held a carnival, with free rides and a concert performance from Australian band Sneaky Sound System. My teenagers acted like complete fan girls at this event, it was hilarious!

We were spitting distance from the amazing Sneaky Sound System!

 Of course, there are also plenty of free events advertised in the local paper like Fete's and Open Days and as much as I detest shopping centres, they will quite often have free activities during school holidays. Last year we went to LEGO exhibition which the kids loved! The Art gallery and Museum are the source of a free day out, as are a picnic in a park, visit to the beach or bush walk.

Meeting a giant LEGO man was a hit!
Bunnings Warehouse stores also run free kids workshops on the weekends and family nights on occasions like Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day. We regularly attend these and in particular the family nights are amazing! Masters Home Improvement held a fabulous Christmas party last year, but of course these would vary from store to store. I'd recommend giving them a call to find out.

Having access to so many free events is great, and quite often we are spoilt for choice. It's a rare occasion these days that we do something that actually costs money! And now as a reformed spender, knowing that there are so many things we can do for free, having to pay for an event is done almost begrudgingly!

Do you go to any free classes or events run by your local council?