Baby Butt Butter (hahaha, BUTTS)

Sorry, I got another baby post for you. I promise that magic pie is next.

Latergram: Mr. Jaunty. #alidoesit

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LongJohn is going to daycare (NEXT WEEK OMG OMG OMG) and I gotta make sure I send everything with him that he needs over the course of the day. One of those things is diaper cream (or butt butter, which is a much better term). I’ve been making my own for a while and I’ve tweaked it to a point where I’m pretty happy with it. My recipe also allows for substitutions when you run out of things, which is handy. Because I run out of things OFTEN. The secret to a good oil-based lotion consistency is to use the correct ratio of solid oils to liquid oils, and everything after that is golden.

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As long as you use a 3:1 ratio of solids:liquids, you can do pretty much whatever you want, in any quantity. So let’s get started, shall we?

Gather yourself 1 tablespoon beeswax1/4 cup cocoa butter,

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1/4 cup mango butter (or shea butter),

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1/4 cup coconut oil,

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and 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or sweet almond oil, or extra virgin olive oil).

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Tip all those things into a double boiler and let them melt.

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When the mixture is uniform, remove it from the heat and add in 2 tablespoons vitamin E oil – you can get this in the pharmacy, either in a bottle or in capsule form.

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You’ll also want to tip in some essential oils, about 15-20 drops (in total, not each). I used a combination here of calendula, chamomile, lavender, and a bit of tea tree oil.

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Next, stir in 1-2 tablespoons zinc oxide powder (I ordered this from Amazon). I find this is the magic amount to avoid leaving too much white crap everywhere, and I’ve also never had any issues using this amount with cloth diapers. If you’re not a fan you can leave it out altogether. As I said, this is a flexible recipe.

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Now leave this oily goo to cool. You don’t want it to cool so much that it solidifies, because you want the finished product to be scoopable with a finger.

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I find that putting it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes is a good start. Then you get this solid bit around the edge but it’s still thick and liquid-y in the centre.

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Next, grab your hand mixer or immersion blender and a strong spatula (because the butter tends to solidify hard on the sides of a cold bowl) and give it a good beating, scraping down the sides as much as you can. Whip it until it looks like cream cheese icing. Now you’re done! Alternatively, you can pour the totally liquid butter into a mould for a stick-shaped solid, and use it kind of like deodorant on your baby’s butt, but(t) you will find that it melts on your hands quite a bit when you’re doing that.

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You can see how a few seconds on my arm and the butter just melts, which makes it easy to spread around and it sinks in nicely – I’m not a fan of gooey baby butt crap.

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But(t) even though it sinks in nicely it still forms a very nice moisture barrier, as you can see from my hands after I started to clean up my post-butter-making mess.

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I tried to pipe the butter into this tiny container in the hopes that I would make less of a mess doing so than I normally do, but I failed. So I ended up making just as much of a mess and now the butter looks super weird.

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Weird looking or not, it still does the job!

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A Panacea for Winter Skin

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Mmm … paste …

Thanks, climate change. When I first moved to Ottawa over twenty years ago, winters were long and dark and dry and COLD. Like, -30°C cold. Now they’re still that cold, but interspersed with warmer, sunnier days where everything melts, potholes form, and we start to believe that the worst is behind us. For like, two days. And then it gets really cold again. And our skin really pays the price for all this temperature variation. So here’s an easy, quick and relatively cheap solution to our winter skin woes, one that everyone in the house, including the baby, can make use of. If you have eczema you might find this a lovely soothing lotion.

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In a double boiler, or a heat-safe bowl over a pot of simmering water, plop 1/2 cup coconut oil and 1/4 cup shea butter. Let that melt.

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While that’s on the go, take a heaping 1/4 cup oats (rolled or quick, not steel cut), and use a food processor or spice grinder to reduce them to a fine powder.

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Once the oil and butter have melted, remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool for a while, until the sides start to harden. If you live in a cold place, pop some plastic wrap over the top of the bowl and chuck it outside in the snow for a bit. Or shove it in your freezer if you’re impatient. Full disclosure: I left mine outside too long and it froze solid. What you’re looking for is something mostly solid but still mixable. If it’s too liquidy then the oatmeal will sink before it’s properly mixed in.

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Sometimes having winter right outside your door is actually a convenient thing. Sometimes. But not very often.

Tip in a few teaspoons vitamin E oil and 5 drops each lavender and chamomile essential oil. The essential oils are optional if you’d prefer to go scent-free.

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Then plop in your ground oatmeal.

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Give that a serious whaz with a hand mixer until everything is uniform.

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Spoon it into a container and leave it for a few days to allow the oatmeal stuff to work its way into the oils. This lotion is a little grainy when you first rub it in, so I prefer to put it on at night, but it soaks in nicely.∗

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∗If you’re not a fan of the grains of oats, you could try a few options (I haven’t tried these but they seem logical): you could infuse the oats in the oils as you heat them and strain them out, or leave the powder in there and it might be a bit softer. Or you can take the oats out altogether and use oat straw extract – Avena sativa – instead, but this stuff is pretty pricey.

Fast Tip Friday: The Junk Drawer

We all have one. And, despite my best efforts, when we moved into our new house, we created one almost immediately. I’m talking about a junk drawer: that mystery drawer in the kitchen or the front hall filled with everything that doesn’t have a place anywhere else in the house … and lots of other flotsam and jetsam representing peculiar elements of your household existence.

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I’m not saying you can’t have a junk drawer, just that some of them could use a little help. Ours especially. So here are some tips for making your junk drawer into more than a repository for all those extra tiny packets of condiments you pick up when you get takeout.

Take out the trash.

I don’t even own this coffee maker anymore. Why do I need the manual? Recycle your old menus and pitch any weird pieces of garbage that end up the drawer.

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Everything in its place.

If you look at your drawer you’ll immediately see a bunch of stuff that can actually go elsewhere in the house. I now have a reusable coffee filter so those paper ones can go into my craft supplies in the basement. The Command Strip hooks can go with our other hardware, also in the basement.

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Same with these batteries, this Allan key, and these pieces of lamp hardware.

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These plates need to go up on the walls in the kitchen, and they’re not going to do that just sitting in the drawer. If I put them out on the counter they will annoy me enough to put them up. Whenever I’ve been putting off dealing with something, I always place it exactly in the way so I will have to do something about it sooner rather than later.

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Tidy spaces.

When you’re dedicating a space to all sorts of things with different purposes, it helps if you don’t just chuck them all back in the drawer willy-nilly. Then you get confusion, like when your corgi thinks you’re still keeping his pig ears in that drawer.

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Compartmentalize! Everything in its place on a small scale means that you can find everything again very easily.

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And you don’t have to buy specialty drawer dividers, either. This yogurt container is ideal for storing the tiny but essential components of this drawer.

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That’s all there is to it – have a great weekend!

Spidermageddon

Apple Clafoutis

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the entire spider population of the world. I’m happy to live and let live with my “spiderbro” friends. But ever since we moved into the new house, we’ve been completely overrun with spiders. They’re just the common North American house spider, and they mean no harm, but each room contains at least a dozen. There are no other bugs in the house, so we assume that they’re just eating each other to survive.

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Mostly they just build little nests, fight, and mate with each other. Sometimes there’s serious drama that occurs in the corner of the shower or the living room ceiling.

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Recently, I was reading in bed and found one crawling up my arm – I squished it accidentally because I thought it was the dog touching me with his wet nose. And then I thought about whether I wanted these creatures crawling around the new baby and I got all skeeved out …

So Spidermageddon happened. I took my vacuum and sucked up all the cobwebs, tiny nests — spiders too — that I could find. Some spiders hid behind objects but I managed to winkle all of them out eventually.

Then, before they could come back, I whipped up a quick and natural spider repellent. Spiders not only walk with their front feet but they eat with them too, so anything strong-smelling that they’re walking through gets in their mouths and they really don’t like that. So any pungent essential oil will do – I picked some that are particularly strong.

Grab a reusable spray bottle and tip in about 5 drops each of your essential oils: here I used lavender, peppermint, and citronella (I figured the citronella would repel the OTHER bugs should they come out to play this summer). Add in as well a dash of dish detergent – the soap will help to disperse the oils better than if you didn’t use it.

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You can also add a splash of white vinegar. The acetic acid is an irritant to spiders and other bugs, but it may also discolour the surface of what you spray it on so be warned. I was using it on the walls and windowsills so I wasn’t worried.

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Fill the rest of the spray bottle with warm water, give it a little shake, and spray away!

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Make sure to cover all the spaces where you found spiders in the past, like ceiling corners (they like pale or white surfaces to attract mates), and places they might enter the house, like windowsills and sashes.  I went through two bottles of the stuff in order to get all the rooms in the house.

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A week later I find the occasional spider, who gets deported and then the spot re-sprayed, but we no longer feel outnumbered in the house. I consider it a success!

Now We Can Have Nice Things?

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A couple weeks ago, we did a very old-person kind of thing: we picked up Trav and took him to Almonte for brunch at Heirloom (would highly recommend). Then we toodled across the street to the Almonte Antique Market and BOUGHT A CHINA CABINET. Because apparently this is what grown-ups do on weekends. We managed to get a remarkably fantastic deal on this puppy, no thanks in small part to the fact that Trav’s mother is one of the vendors at the market and hooked us up big time. And then we got unreasonably excited about it. Because we’ve been looking for a china cabinet for years (were we always old?).

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Seriously. Years. When we moved in together about ten years ago, at the tender age of 24, each one of us came with our own complete set of china and a silver tea set. HOW WEIRD IS THAT? In our first apartment there was a built-in display cabinet where we had it all laid out, but when we moved to Newfoundland, it all went into storage, where it has stayed for the past eight or so years.

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After giving the cabinet a thorough cleaning, I then unpacked all our boxes, starting with the silver. The definite plus of this was getting to see it all after eight years. The definite downside was that it hadn’t been polished in eight years …

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… several hours later, the tea sets were looking sparkly and badass on the bottom shelf (they’re on the bottom because I figure it’s harder for small children to break silverware – but I’m sure one of them will prove me wrong).

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Then I started unpacking the china. And then I remembered that not only did *I* have a set and *the Pie* had a set, but that we had also inherited YET ANOTHER set from my grandmother. So we actually have three sets of china. Let that be a lesson to you folks: if you leave china alone for eight years it multiplies.

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His …
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… hers …
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… ours?

I’m still moving things around in there as the mood strikes. And once we find a sideboard I’ll probably move some of the less showy pieces into that instead. But for now we’re really happy with it!

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My Outdoor To-Do List

We were almost out from under all our snow, and then this happened.

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And we expect more in the next day or so. So very not cool, April.

But I can now actually traverse my own yard for the first time since we bought the house, which is exciting. And in doing so, I’ve realized there are so many things that need doing. You know I love my to-do lists (where I rarely complete everything on them), so here it is for the outdoors:

That ugly hedge outside my office window (yay basement office) I’m pretty sure is the reason that my office windowsill was lined with the corpses of ants when we moved in. Plus if you’re trying to get into the garage while there’s a car in that part of the driveway, it will rip your face off. And I’m not a fan of anemic evergreen hedges threatening to grow into my foundations. That sucker is coming out.

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The driveway is rather narrow, and it looks like we’re not the only residents or visitors to have to drive over parts of the lawn on occasion in order to fit a variety of cars around the curve. When we eventually re-do the driveway we’ll widen it, but for now I think I’ll put down some pavers in these bare patches so they don’t look so terrible.

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This swing hangs in the front yard, a depressing, raggedy reminder of spring and childhood safety issues. I’ve had to stare at it swinging in the blizzards all winter and I want to murder it a little. As soon as the ground is un-soggy enough to support a ladder the Pie is cutting it down and burning it.

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Also once the ground is unsoggy we will have to do some serious raking. The previous owners weren’t so fond of landscaping or lawn maintenance and so after the last open house they clearly just left the lawn to serve as a collection spot for EVERY SINGLE BRANCH IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD.

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Our back fence. One thing of especial note: they planted a tree (and a rather expensive one at that) directly in front of the gate. Why? I have no idea.

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The fence is also rotten and wobbly and is also made up of like three different types of fencing. And an absolutely overgrown cedar hedge.

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This tree is dead. Why nobody cut it down years ago I have no idea. But I own a chainsaw. So you know what I’m planning.

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Through the blocked gate and into the backyard. Look at my air conditioner. Trust me, the cover actually improves its rusted-out appearance. It looks like it was installed before the turn of the century. We don’t even know if it works. I guess we’re going to find out soon enough.

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Oh look, it’s that hedge again. It’s like five feet wide.

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And then gets another four feet taller towards the back of the yard. It has successfully blocked all the wind from the other side into the backyard such that the parging and brickwork on this side of our house has never really dried out and is crumbling. When the hedge comes down we’ll have much better airflow and a yard that is about five feet wider than it was before.

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We’ll also replace the fence all around with something solid and standard. This other gate doesn’t even latch because the whole thing is falling down.

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There was a pergola in the backyard that we did not purchase, so it left. But it left behind these exciting steel spikes that are embedded in the ground at the perfect height to trip you up and then poke your eye out when you fall on another one.

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Especially this one that is at the bottom of the steps. I look forward to severely injuring myself on this one.

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Remnants of pergola town. I’m going to pry this random square up and re-seed the whole lawn.

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The tiny deck off the backdoor has no railings down the steps and also hovers over a retaining wall with a two-foot drop, so it’s only a matter of time before someone falls off it. Probably me. Also the wood is rotten and needs replacing.

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Oh and look, another horrid hedge. This one is being held up by that odd assortment of concrete and wood. And it’s definitely making forays into my foundation. Also coming out ASAP.

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I don’t even want to try to talk about my garage. Waiting for a day when it’s warm enough I can work in there with the door open. Which, at the rate this Canadian spring is going, might not be for some time …

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Mind Blown: Cups and Saucers

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Ever so slowly the Pie and I are beginning to tackle parts of the house where when we moved in we found a temporary solution and left it at that for the nonce. One of these areas is the kitchen. Every week I try to tackle one cupboard or drawer to make it make a bit more sense. This week I was browsing through one of the million or so emails that Martha Stewart sends me (because, y’know, we’re like, besties), and I saw something that totally blew my mind. This was the current configuration of my mug cupboard, with my Denby teacups stacked haphazardly on top of each other, tipping every which way, and my saucers stored in a totally different cupboard, with my dessert plates.

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Turns out, that’s crazy pants. If you store your cups and saucers together, in fact, if you store them alternating cup and saucer, stacked on top of each other, you get a more stable stack, and a much more streamlined tea-making process, as you can just grab however many sets of cup and saucer that you need at any given time.

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Plus the stack is much more stable and damage to your more delicate cups is less likely to happen. My Denby ones will sustain a nuclear blast but if I HAD tiny delicate ones I’d do it the same way.

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