Aromatherapy for your home

Im an absolute fan of essential oils and making things that smell nice. Having indoor cats and a litter tray often means that any nice smells dont last for long. Recently the basement flooded (thank you landlord who refuses to fix anything), which means there was a musty damp smell hanging around. Then I had a lightbulb moment, I remembered its super easy to make home scents, all you need is a few basic ingredients that you will likely have hanging around and a pot, pretty simple!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lemon sliced or a orange for a slightly more sweet scent
  • 1 cinnamon bark (or go wild and use 2 or 3, everything is better with cinnamon)
  • 3 Rosemary spigs (I went wild and used 5 and it did smell very woodsy)

20170912_1147321.jpg

1. Take all your ingredients and chuck them in a pan, fill the pan with water.  Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for hours. If you think the water is getting low, simply top it up. It honestly isn’t any more complicated than that. It isn’t aromatic immediately but when it goes going, it will scent your entire area and floor of your home.20170912_121151.jpg

I wanted to ensure smell wafted all around, so I got a small(ish) fan out put it close(ish) to the pan without it being on the hob or in a dangerous position and turned it on. This did make a difference with spreading the scent around.  20170912_185145-e1506028838888.jpg

These ingredients last for roughly a day, I think I had my pot on for somewhere between 6 and 8 hours, at which point everything was quite pulpy and gross. I topped up the water up at least twice but simply top the water up as needed, never letter the pan go dry.

You can make it more sweet by taking out the rosemary and adding in a sliced apple, star anise, ginger or cardamon.

Sometimes you like your house to have a scent and this works really well, scents can be seasonal too, more woodsy in the winter and more floral and sweet in the spring.  Have fun with this and try it to see how what suits you and your house.

Ive also been feeling ill, I see rain everyday and then feel blah. I went onto the Ebays and bought a small ‘Aroma Diffuser Humidifier Aromatherapy Air Purifier’ to use with essential oils.  My tank is tiny on this and the instructions say add 3-5 drops of essential oil. So naturally I add 2 drops of whatever Im using. My current favourite blend is lemon, lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint.

I wont lie, my diffuser lets out lot a lot of water, Ive now put it on a plate and even then a small area around the plate is still damp to the touch.

Why using these essential oils work well for coughs, colds, congestion, aches and pains:

Lemon Essential Oil
It has energising, antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, lemon is colds, coughs and congestion relief.

Lavender Essential Oil
It has analgesic properties and antibacterial agents, lavender oil for cold and cough symptoms can help treat the flu and sinus congestion and can be used forfor phlegm relief.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Is used as a treatment to combat stress, depression, and pain.

Peppermint Essential Oil
Because of its high concentration of menthol, and potent antiviral characteristics, it works to fight against colds and coughs.

Notes: if you have pets you need to be very CAREFUL, as essential oils work differently for pets than they do humans and can harm them. Recent research has shown that they can be quite harmful if not outright dangerous to them (cats especially), it doesnt have to be applied directly to your pet, they can inhale them just like you or I do.  There is a lot of information on the internet about essential oils and pets and honestly, it all seems to contradict itself. Some essential oils can cause liver and kidney toxicity in animals. Cats use a different system in their liver to detoxify and are particularly sensitive to essential oils that contain polyphenolic compounds. These are so-called “hot” oils like cinnamon, oregano, clove, wintergreen, thyme and birch, which are oils that should be avoided in cats.

 

Good morning juice

Since having moved, I havent automatically climatised and have had a few colds, it feels like my nose is ALWAYS running, (God only knows where to) and Ive noticed that I feel more sluggish and lurgy-like.  None of this is good, at all.  In a vain attempt at solving all my problems, the worlds problems and in attempting to keep my nose Ive made a morning juice, its quick, easy and seems to work great as a placebo!  This is actually a healthy juice that and I will be as bold as to call it a ‘immune boosting healthy morning drink to get the day going’!

Some interesting facts on the ingredients in this drink, which make this drink AWESOME and GOOD for you.

Grapefruits are full of Vitamin C, high in fiber and low in calories, increase the body’s metabolic rate, lower insulin levels and are known to help digestion.

Oranges are high in Vitamin C and rich in potassium and boost heart health. It won’t cure your illness but it will help to reduce how long it lasts as it also boots your immune system.

Fresh Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It fights illness, helps to clear sinuses, as well as improving the absorption of nutrients and it is also a super food!

Good Morning Juice

Makes: 4 large glasses of juice   Prep time: 15 mins

Required Ingredients:

  • 4 large Grapefruits
  • 8 small-meduim oranges
  • 2 lemons or limes (optional)
  • a large stick of fresh ginger

Now how to make this juice:

Im not going to lie, I buy TONS of fruit when I go shopping, so that Im not having to buy/juice it daily or every other day.  So I buy 2 bags of grapefruit and oranges and a bag of lemons and limes. I love fresh lemon/lime in my Diet Coke, it makes such a difference!20170912_115021.jpg

What you’ll need? A juicer, jug, fine grater, knife, fruit and ginger.20170912_115032

1. Cut all your fruit in half and start juicing! It can be quite therapeutic if you let it.

2. Pour your juice in the jug as you fill up your juicer. My juicer lets through a little bit of pith but not too much, you can add more from the top of the juicer if you like, I throw it out, chunky juice is just not my thing.20170912_115221

3. Using a fine grater, grate your ginger (and fresh turmeric if you’re using it, or add in your dry turmeric) directly into the juice.  (be sure not to grate your fingers)20170912_120513.jpg

4. Stir! Your juice is now complete and ready to go! You can drink it immediately or leave it overnight to to be ready in the morning to start your day right.  It lasts up to 5 days but Im sure it wont last that long.20170912_121041.jpg

You will need to stir the juice every time you use it, as the ginger and pulp does settle at the bottom of the jug and cup.  Its a delicious healthy glass of juice to start your day!20170921_093756.jpg

The ginger gives this drink a nice kick and takes away from the acidity of the grapefruit. I wont lie I was really apprehensive to use ginger, let alone fresh ginger, as I normally HATE the stuff, however, it really makes this juice. It did take me a few days to ‘get use to it’ but now I cant imagine making it without it.

Notes: Get a vegetable peeler and peel your citrus fruits before you juice them and you can dry the peel and use it for a variety of things, such as potpourri or hand made soap!

EDIT: I got brave and tried this with a teaspoon of turmeric powder and no, literally just NO! Ginger was a brave new direction but turmeric was a step too far. It made the juice more orange, ironic given that its already orange juice and it ruined the taste, even though it was just a teaspoon. I have no doubt that turmeric has all kinds of great health benefits but sadly it makes my taste buds want to cry, a lot.

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

 

My Dutch Italian Pear Cake

The garden has a pear tree in it, which I seem to curse more than anything else. Imagine walking along and having a rotting pear fall on your head or every time you open the door to go out, you having to shove many fallen pears out of the way, first world problems I know but still VERY annoying. As you can see, it is a large tree offering LOTS of fruit.20170907_082918

I started my search for recipes using pears, pears, pears and more pears and came across this Italian cake recipe, which sounded fantastic and I thought Id give it a go. Whilst it’s a Italian cake (because of the mascarpone), I’m calling it a Dutch Italian cake, as Im using Dutch pears.20170907_083117.jpg

Dutch Italian Cake

Makes: 1 large cake – serves 8-12   Prep time: 30 mins  Cook time: 45-60 mins  Total time: 1 hour 15-30 mins

Required Ingredients:

  •  (192g) cups flour
  • 1/4 cup + 11/2 tablespoons (40g) cornstarch/cornflour
  • ½ cup (60g) ground almonds
  • 1/4  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (250g) mascarpone cheese
  • 2½ tablespoons sunflower/vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pears
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • extra cinnamon a sugar to top your cake with

Now how to make this amazing cake:

Pre-heat oven to 340° (170° celsius). Lightly grease and flour a 9″ (23 centimeter) cake pan ( I used a spring-form pan), or use a liner like I did.

1. Peel and core the pears, chop one pear into medium-sized cubes and slice the other pear in thin slices length wise, set aside.20170907_083849.jpg

2. Beat the eggs and sugar together until light and creamy.  You can use a mixer at medium speed or your arm (I opted for this version to work on my bingo wings). I also whisked my eggs first before adding in the eggs, this doesn’t make a difference but give me peace of mind, not sure why…20170907_084150

3. Add mascarpone to the egg and sugar mixture and continue beating until smooth.20170907_084316.jpg

4. To the egg, sugar, cheese mixture, add in your dry ingredients. Stir in with a wooden spoon the flour, salt, corn starch, ground almonds, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda into the creamed mixture, stir gently to just combine. Do not over mix.20170907_085116.jpg

5. Add the oil to the batter and stir to just combine. 20170907_085308.jpg

6. At this point, I scape down all the sides, for the final mix through.  Fold in the medium-sized cubed pear pieces until just combined.20170907_085340

7. Spoon the cake batter into prepared cake pan.20170907_085855.jpg

8. Top your batter with the sliced pears (I had 3 left over), this can be done in any design but I decided to make mine ‘pretty’. 20170907_090039

I then sprinkled with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon before putting in the oven.20170907_090111.jpg

9. Bake approximately 45 – 60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy!20170907_095430

20170907_131458.jpg

I had a friend coming over on the day and I was nervous about this recipe because I’d never made it before and she had never had my baking, but this was hit! I even sent her off to work with all the spare cake to feed to her colleagues at the Theatre she works at, they also really enjoyed it and are looking forward to my next baking adventure!

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

Notes: I did actually add in almond extract, as I thought it would enhance the cake, please do NOT do this. It just make the cake taste of almond, which completely took away from the pears. Luckily Im in the Netherlands where almond is a beloved taste, so it wasn’t an issue as such but honestly, it did let down the cake.

The ultimate girly fairy light wall

I’m a slight Pinterest addict, it’s truly amazing the hours that I waste looking at stuff that I have no lots of interest in! A few months ago before the move I was looking for interior inspiration, as I was hoping that I was going to be allowed to make a few feature walls with paint, turns out that was a mega no-no but I did come across this instead.DIY-sparkle-mirror-garland1

I saw this and thought to myself, ‘I MUST HAVE THIS’. Then I naturally came to the conclusion that this would be EASY (note, whenever I ever think anything is easy it is almost certainly the furthest thing from easy) and I wont lie, it turns out kind of expensive too but the majority of the cost went on the lights so if you could get them out of season cheap at a yard sale for a dollar or on clearance at the Wal-Marts for $5, then do it! So I bought a curtain pole and then went to eBay and found everything else I needed under (mostly considered as wedding supplies).

2017-09-04 18.04.09Heres what you’ll need to make your own fairy lights wall light or Christmas lights wall light or super girly never going to scare off every man wall light.

Required supplies:

  • Curtain pole – I choose silver but any color to match your scheme will do (£15)
  • Christmas lights/fairy lights – BUY more than you think you’ll need.  Ultimately I went for outdoor lights (no specific reason and I figured if the project went to crap I could wrap a tree instead in lights), I choose a line of 120 lights over 6 meters and a line of 100 Icicle lights  over 2 meters, both with white cord, as I didn’t want it to be overly obvious when you look at the wall, ie being distracted by black cord.  (€21.95 + €26.95 + 7.98 postage = €56.88!!!)
  • Fishing line (clear) – this is to attach everything to your curtain pole, make sure its a thicker line to hold the weight (£5)
  • 3000 Silver Self-Adhesive Mirror Tiles which were 150 x 100mm per sheet or 5 X 5mm each tile(£5.49)
  • 150 Silver Self-Adhesive Mirror Mosaic Tiles which were 150 x 100mm per sheet or 10 X 10mm each tile(£2.68)
  • 99FT CLEAR Diamond Strand Acrylic Garland (£7.99)
  • 60m WHITE Hanging String Acrylic Pearl Beads (£9.40)
  • Overall total cost for this project: around £97 give or take with the exchange rate, which means it is quite pricey but in reality I probably would have spent a similar amount on paint or wall paper and accessories etc to creat it.
  • The overall time for the project is about a day, I did it over several days, as it turned out I didn’t have all the required supplies etc but I think it did really take me around 10 hours to do it all.

Now the ‘how to’ on creating this light feature:

1. Attach your curtain pole to the wall. I wanted mine to be directly above my bed, which was between my two bedside cabinets. (tip: make sure its level)1

2. I ran first (single) line of lights along the pole.  I thought I could do it more like \ / \ / along the pole with the lights but rather quickly realised that I didn’t have enough lights to make this work and look right, so realised that I needed icicle lights or something similar to give it the drapey light effect. 2

3. The next step was taking the 99FT CLEAR Diamond Strand Acrylic Garland cutting it in half and then half again – 4 pieces (this makes it much easier to loop around the pole, as strand wouldn’t go around the pole as it was) and then looping it around the pole.  Wont lie, looks rather unimpressive now. I did also take a tiny piece of double-sided tape and attach the two ends in the middle of the pole together. This was with 2 of the pieces on the pole.3

4. Now to make it all SPARKLY, take the 60m WHITE Hanging String Acrylic Pearl Beads , cut it into 3 foot/1 meter lengths (which gave me 60 lengths) and start attaching the self adhesive mosaic tiles to the line, take 2 and push the sticky backs together, I used a combination of large tiles (2-4 tiles per strand length) and about 12 small tiles per strand, randomly putting them on as I went, I didn’t want to have the mirrors at the same point on every strand. They weren’t as sticky as I was hoping for and did have them not sticking together as well as I wanted but I carried on, you’ll need to do the same. This did take me a good few hours (maybe 4?). DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP, it gives it the reflection and shine that you need! Oh and I didnt use all the small tiles at all, I have probably more than half left, so I could have gone a bit more wild than I did.4.jpg

As you can see,  I was making my lengths and laid them on the floor and then moved them around, when I did a LOAD of the mosaic tiles fell off… be prepared for this, unless you want to hot glue them on or use something stronger than the adhesive tape that is on them.5.jpg

5. Now to attach your lengths that you’ve created. Take the fishing line and attach it to the top of your strand, below one of your little pearls, so that it has something to anchor it on the line. Now tie it onto the pole, make sure that you tie the fishing line under the lights and acrylic strand, so that it is purely tied onto pole and nothing else.  My overall rod length was 66 inches long, so I started in at 3 inches on one side and put them every inch, finishing 3 inches in on the other side.  This was how it looks at the half way point.6

This is after I attached all 60 strands, FINALLY! I thought I was done… thought being the key word. When the sun hits the mirrors, the reflection is fantastic (which you can see on some of the tiles)! I won’t lie, I’ve upgraded in bed and now have a super king which is mega (six and a half feet wide), so I’m sure you could make this on a much smaller scale!7

I turned on the lights and thought ‘<insert several expletives> I need more lights’ and realised that I wasn’t done at all. 8

Finally my icicle lights arrived and I attached them on with more fishing wire, making sure they were attached to the pole and not everything else on the pole. The icicle lines were tied up to make sure they didn’t tangle, so I had to hold the top of the icicle and then pull on the bottle to make them more straight, be careful if you have to also do this.9

This is when I turned on all the lights, I was much more pleased with what I saw. It gives more of a fairy light feel, as you can see the cats helped me and vaguely gave a sign of approval. As you can see on the bottom right, I have a LOT of cords as a result of the lights, bedside lights, etc, so several extension leads are required for this.11

This is how it glows at night in the dark, which I’m really pleased with, whilst it’s not totally comparable with the original Pinterest post that I found, I have to say that Im really pleased with the way it came out and consider it a Pinterest WIN!12

 

 

First two weeks in my dutch life

Day of moving

7am flights are so cruel, as it means you really need to be at the airport by 5am, as there is always some new security alert which means security really clamp down on how many travel sized items and contact lenses you take in your carry on. Thus you end up leaving your house at 4am just to make sure you get through it all in time for your flight. I had a terrible breakfast with even worse coffee, so decided like everyone else at 6am, I was absolutely desperate for a Starbucks, so I got in the exceptionally long line and then showed up very late at a almost closed gate.

Arrival was smooth in to Schiphol and Amstelveen is a 12 minute bus ride away from the airport, which is awesome. I could have walked it to the house but I had an exact 20 KG suitcase that I didnt fancy it, so thought Id take the 2 minute bus. Really I should have walked it, I got on the right bus, just in the wrong direction. I realised 2 stops in and was able to get off but yes. That was the first of two buses on the day that I got on that was wrong. I did think to myself, if this is the worst thing that happens to me on my day or week, then Im doing ok.

I then had a bank appointment, there are less than 10 banks to choose from but ABNA Amro offer English banking (cash points, online banking, etc), the alternative is to learn dutch VERY quickly to do business banking and given how many issues I already have with online banking (in English), I thought it would be better to be safe and go with the bank who offers English. No more free banking, in the UK, the majority of banking is free, hooray for free.  Sadly, free banking does not exist in the Netherlands, the prices seem to range from €1.60 to €5 per month.

Kitties, no move is complete without my pampered pedigree pussies! It was decided that a pet courier would be used as opposed to flying them, as this isnt considered the safest or kindest form of transport. I picked Tranzpet to transport the cats and it was a success, they were collected at 8am and arrived in Amstelveen at 8pm the same day.  I asked that the Maine Coons were together and that Elka got her own side, she seemed impressed with her own side. A great service!  Kitties are now adapating to their new dutch life.  Elkas dutch diet has most certainly started and Im waiting for Callies to kick in.Cats.jpeg

The garden is like a silk route through China and we have at least 6 cats that regularly make their way through the garden. This upsets and amuses the kittens, who insist on sitting in the windows for hours at a time every day on the look out for other cats.  Whilst the garden is completely fenced off, it does have more holes that swiss cheese (hence all the cats using it as a walk through), so it needs to have serious work done to it before any cats will be allowed out.
20170819_113316

In the days since moving

Amazon does not exist in the Netherlands, boo hiss! You can order things from .de or co.uk but Prime no longer exists AT ALL and the shipping times are all over the place, ranging from 2 weeks to 6 weeks.

Free shipping for online shopping is a luxury that few sites offer. (Ive been ruined by Amazon!)

Ikea is much more fun with power tools! There has been close to a week of allen keys, Im over it, that stuff is much heavier than it looks, dragging it up 26 steep stairs makes me wonder if I can do a good Hulk impression. Ikea also charge 10% of your order as a delivery cost, Ive paid a lot in shipping.

Ive relied on Google Translate a LOT, its not quite as magic as I thought it would be but its helped a great deal in a number of different situations.  My dutch is slowly coming back and I think the longer Im here, the better it will get (it will have to, right?).

Important lessons that Ive learnt in my first weeks:

Being on 2 wheels is completely different from being on 4 (no duh), so Ive had to learn how to ensure that my bag doesnt fall off whilst riding. Im also all about pimping my bike and making it as personalised as possible.  If Im not healthy by Christmas from all the riding, then there is something medically wrong with me! 20170818_121341

Elka follows me around the house and helped me figure out how to use the washing machine and dryer.  Not going to lie, Google Translate really didnt help in this situation but pressing a lot of different buttons at different times did make it work.20170818_144143

Not having a car limits the size of items you can purchase, in theory. Ive now learnt how to put big oversized items on the bike and my new accessory is bungee cords, lots of them.
20170818_161957

Free condiments are a thing of the past, its a very European concept to have to pay for all condiments, starting at 50-60 cent a packet. Its a very dutch thing to have ‘fritessaus’ with your fries, this is either a mayonnaise (standard) or something that is a bit like tartar sauce with them. I now carry a small tube of sauce in my bag to avoid having to pay for it every time, now thats being dutch! 20170821_122032-e1504619268654.jpg

Albert Heijn is the most popular grocery store and is the most expensive, there are other stores, however AH is the most recognised. Managed to sign up to their online shopping and get a delivery, you have leave a deposit on the crates and they collect them with the next delivery. Albert Heijn home delivery

The guest bedroom has been finished, 1 room down, it gives me hope for the other rooms and areas I need to unpack!20170827_163455.jpg

When it rains and you realise that the basement is not watertight, at all and that it actually floods. This gives me something to look forward to every time it rains, fingers crossed the management company will make serious attempts at fixing the problem.20170830_103329

Im not going to lie, it has been a manic stressful filled few weeks but Ive survived, everyday is a new adventure and seems to offer up a new dutch problem, which makes it all the more fun.