Heating your home: 5 things you need to know

In came the rain this week as well as some low temps around the country.  I’ve got a sore throat and am in full hibernation mode so keeping our house toasty and warm is #1 on my list of priorities throughout the day.

I had no idea what temp we should be maintaining our house at – but it’s a pretty important figure in winter, so I thought some of you might be interested in what I found out about heating our homes;

  1. The minimum temperature for occupied areas of homes as recommended by the World Health Organisation is 18°or higher for households with children, the elderly or family members who are ill.  The layout of our house allows us to use one heat pump to keep our playroom and the 3 bedrooms at 20°.  I find maintaining a steady temperature is a more efficient use of energy than trying to heat cold rooms quickly, so I keep the heat pump on throughout the day – both Dave and I work from home, otherwise it would be on a timer!
  2. Become an insulation expert!  Get savvy about what is or isn’t keeping your home warm and if possible address any potential issues first.  Pay attention to floor, ceiling and window insulation.
    Many Kiwi’s won’t have experienced the wonder of double glazing as it’s only become a more mainstream install on new builds in the past 10 years.  It’s incredible what a difference it makes in reducing heat loss through glass, particularly in older homes.  If you can’t afford to retrofit your whole house (me!) or are renting, I honestly can’t recommend DIY double glazing enough.  Dave and I used in all of our old dodgy rentals; it’s cheap and easy to install once you get the hang of it and is available in hardware stores nationwide.  Check out this video to see how it works > DIY Double Glazing.
    Soft furnishings aren’t just for decoration!  A thick rug or thermal curtains will do double duty during winter and help retain heat as well as looking great.
  3. New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family CrockPot Dyson HeaterChoose your heating appliances wisely.  Trying to warm a large space with an under-gunned heater can often cost more than you’d expect.  We utilise different types of heaters in different spaces around the house.  In Nixie’s room, we have a teeny oil column heater on a thermostat.  His room is small so we have this set on low and it stays toasty all night long.  Our lounge and kitchen, on the other hand, is quite a big, open space.  This winter we haven’t used our expensive, barely-heats gas fire at all and are using my new favourite appliance exclusively; our Dyson AM09 Hot + Cool. This fan’s ability to circulate heat evenly around the room, whilst maintaining the set temperature and doing so quietly, without blades (Nixon-proof!) makes it the perfect option.
  4. Plug the draughts.  Get old school if you have to and pick up one of those draught-stopper snakes.  So far this winter I’ve seen them at Kmart, The Warehouse and Mitre 10.  They are cheap and work wonders along the bottoms of our wooden doors and window sills.  I don’t want to be paying for heating if it’s escaping out into the cold!
  5. Like I mentioned last month, rest assured knowing that when you flick that switch, you are getting the most bang for your buck.  Use websites such as www.powerswitch.org  to get informed and take ownership of how much you’re paying.  Our new power company Electric Kiwi is not only awesomely priced but has been awarded the 2017 Most Satisfied Customers Award – Electricity Providers. Whoop whoop!  I can certainly agree with that.

Thanks so much to Electric Kiwi for partnering with us this winter, love your work guys!New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Electric Kiwi

Header image originally from Your Best Digs

Home Care Tips for the Cleaning-Impaired Mum

When I was born back in the late ‘70’s, the outlook looked good;  healthy baby, good size, lungs worked and I looked enough like my mum to assume there would be some legacy genetics that had been passed down from mother to daughter.

At around age 18, it became increasingly apparent that all was not well.  There were obvious deficiencies in my character that were becoming more and more prominent the older I got.  My shortcomings were not only detrimental to myself, but also to my future self, my future husband, children and home as well as the immediate and pressing concern of driving my mother up the wall.

I am Cleaning-Impaired.

I was not born with the desire to clean my home.  My impairment creates many debilitating situations; dusting causes massive allergy attacks where my eyes will swell closed and I’ll sneeze for 3 days non-stop (this is actually true!).  Reluctantly (HA!), I’ve learnt to make peace with the dust, if it lies still in an even coating on my surfaces we live together in copacetic harmony.  I occasionally feel brave and pop a soft brush on my Dyson and simply vacuum the dust off the tops of our dressers, TV cabinets etc.  It’s a sacrifice I must make to the Perfect-Mummy gods of the world, but one that over the years has brought me great peace, as I fill the cleaning void with ‘Better things to Do’ and ‘Watching Netflix’.

There are ways to live with my debilitating (according to my Mum) condition; beginning with lowering your domestic-diva standards and expectations…..and then lowering them again.  Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying either, I love a clean, tidy house, and I regularly do housework, but it IS ‘work’, and I believe in working smarter not harder.

So, dear readers, I’m sharing with you some tips and tricks I’ve learnt over the years that allow me to keep our home at what I lovingly call, “Whip-Around Status”, ie surprise visitor will be at your door in 15 minutes?  A quick whip-around will have the house looking a million bucks with minimal stress and effort.

Tips for Maintaining Whip-Around Status in Your Home

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family I am Cleaning Impaired

  1. Make the beds first thing every morning.  This is time-consuming and hard to squeeze into a whip around.  Do it early as you can’t hide an unmade bed!
  2. De-centralize cleaning supplies.  Keeping ALL of your cloths and sprays in one place (ie under the laundry sink!) makes what can be a wee spit ‘n shine take a g e s.  Keep a 3-in-1 Chux scourer and Silver Scourer in each bathroom and grout, tiles, shower glass and sinks can look fresh-as with a couple of wipes.
  3. Invest in a cordless vacuum, Whip-Around status is by definition ‘whipping around QUICKLY’, if you have to pull out the Big Vac every day chances are it just won’t happen.
  4. Big surfaces are eye catching – keep these clean and clear of clutter.  I keep an empty storage basket in our hall cupboard ready to sweep off whatever is hiding our dining room table, so I can wipe it down quickly and move on.
    – I like Chux Original Robuste for surfaces such as tables and benchtops.
  5. If you must dust, consider actually removing settled dust rather than just displacing it with a feather-duster – this is much more sensible for those of us with allergies.  Thick, strong cloths work best for this task; I use a damp All-Purpose Absorbent cloth on suitable surfaces – just rinse and move on!
  6. Hide what you don’t have time to clean.  What visitors can’t see won’t hurt them.  Use that dishwasher, washing machine and cupboards for the purpose they were intended – putting stuff in!
  7. Keep entranceways clean and clear, first impressions can set the tone for the rest of a visit.
  8. Glass matters – dirty windows make everything feel dirty.  Try using Chux Robuste with your glass cleaner, simply wash and reuse!
  9. When you’re in a hurry, spot-clean where it matters ie around the toilets.  I keep some Chux Superwipes and disinfectant in the toilet for an every day, there-when-you-need-them clean-up  ::::::::ew boys!::::::
  10. In a worst case, bomb-site-scenario, throw all the laundry, clutter, mess and toys in one room and shut the door.  It takes a very ballsy visitor to question a shut door in someone else’s home!

The best advice I’ve ever been given around overcoming my horrendous shortfalls in the cleaning department is; if a job will take less than 2 minutes, attend to it right away.

Arm yourself with this can-do mentality and the right Chux product for the job and even those of us that are Cleaning-Impaired can make steps towards that magical wonderland free of dust and window streaks of all the mothers that went before us.

Check out my video below and let me know in the comments below which spot in your home needs some Chux love and I’ll hook one of you up with a $50 supermarket voucher to grab some supplies!

Comp closes 6/7/17, NZ residents only.

Winter

Image credit Gábor Sidó

It’s here.  

It’s foggy, it’s damp, it’s not particularly cold this week – but that’s on the cards for next week YAY lol.  Muddy sports are in full swing, the washing is piling up and our daylight hours are dwindling (making any kind of photography super difficult for this social-media mama!).  We just can’t deny Winter any longer.

It’s HERE.

Our daily routine changes heaps as the seasons do, probably because we, like many New Zealand families, live in an old house.  Our home is quite the silver-fox, most people don’t immediately realise how old she is.  Fully concrete block, sitting on what we assume to be a damaged concrete slab (damp).  Our early 1950’s 1/4 acre dream still has original plate glass windows in breezy wooden joinery, a really inefficient gas fire, a slightly leaky roof and one heat pump when we really need two.  We love the old girl though and are just so grateful we were able to purchase a house in Auckland just before this crazy market went into it’s upward swing.

As we’re not moving, our household habits need to adjust for the cooler, damper weather.  Here’s what we do to survive winter in an old house without having to sell our first-born to pay our power company!

Surviving Winter in an Old House

  1. #Dehumidifiers4life – I’m sure that hashtag is sooooo on-rend right now lol but it’s true.  I can’t live without our 2 dehumidifiers.  I keep the big one running in the playroom 24 hours a day as this area of the house is subject to shower moisture and leads to the bedrooms.  I also rotate our little one around the other rooms in the house.  Dry air is cheaper to heat than moist air, plus, removing excess moisture that creeps in through our slab, roof and dodgy windows is essential in maintaining all-around family health and preventing mould ::::::shudder:::::
  2. Before I even begin to think about heating in the late afternoons, I shut up shop in rooms that have already lost the light by closing windows and blinds and I shut doors in rooms we are no longer using.
  3. We identified that we were losing a lot of heat through two old-school glass panelled doors so replaced them over summer with composite fibreglass doors which are much more efficient at retaining heat.
  4. I’m always checking to make sure that we are spending as little as possible on electricity.  Shopping around regularly can make a BIG difference.  We switched last month to Electric Kiwi.  
    Pro-tip:  We now get one hour of off-peak power FREE every day!  This is when I run the dishwasher, pop things in the dryer to air, put another load of washing on etc.  For many families, hot water can be a huge part of the monthly power bill, if you’ve got older kids or teens that go to bed after 9 pm (off-peak), switch from morning to before-bed showers and get that water heated during your free hour!
  5. We have a clothesline under a porch roof so even in winter I still use this to get our clothes 80% dry saving money on the amount of time clothes need to be in the dryer or on the drying rack – TAKING OVER MY LOUNGE!

This is by no means a comprehensive list or guide, rather, just some easy to implement ideas that we use in our home on a daily basis.  I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got some awesome ways to survive winter in an old house so get in touch by leaving a comment below!

Thanks so much to Electric Kiwi for partnering with us this winter, love your work guys!

Smart Money – Make Insurance a Non-negotiable Expense

I’ve written before about certain milestones that signify the one-way, no-turning-back transition into adulthood; purchasing a brand new bed (this is HUGE!), making a will, solving problems with wine, admitting that Friday nights in with Netflix trumps all etc, etc.

Possibly preceding all other mature financial decisions is the realisation that we need to protect the things we love and those we’ve worked hard to acquire.

We need to insure our stuff.  Fact.

My initial experience with insurance was when I took proud possession of my first car – a 1977 Ford Escort Station wagon purchased for me by my parents.  They insured the car for me with their provider and I kid you not, 20 years later our vehicles are insured with the same provider!

Convenient?  Yes.  Smart?  Maybe not.

I had a firm perception that shopping for insurance was a boring, expensive, confusing and arduous exercise – possibly why I hadn’t bothered to shop around for my vehicle policies in over 20 years lol?!  Forget the ‘need’ for a broker and forget about ‘Insurance Apathy’, it’s easier (and more important) than you think to get your insurance ducks in a row and do it at a great price.

Continue reading Smart Money – Make Insurance a Non-negotiable Expense

That Retail Life – What’s Hot This Week + Win!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Retail New products Smirnoff Pure
I’m seeing a lot of awesome new products each week so thought it was about time I curated these new releases into a weekly ‘Hot List’ that’s short and snappy, giving you guys the lowdown on the latest and greatest from brands we love.

What’s New  – November #1

Marcel’s Happy Pancakes – Gluten Free RRP $4.99

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Retail New productsMarcel’s have rebranded and launched Happy Pancakes – Gluten Free this month, perfect timing for our family as Nixon and I are gluten free right now as we try a diet modification to get our asthma under control.  The entire freezer range, Happy Pancakes, Ooh La La Crepes and Fancy Blinis, are sporting the cute new packaging so make sure you keep an eye out for the fun imagery in good supermarkets and specialty food stores nationwide.

Mac’s Brewhouse Non-Alcoholic Soda 4 Pack RRP $6.99

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Retail New products

I attended the launch for these new, low sugar, zero alcohol adult sodas this week and they are sooooo good!  This is brewed soda with a malt base combined with juices, spices and natural flavours and the result is freaking delicious!  My faves are the Citrus & Vanilla and the Lime and Coconut and these two are joined by Ginger Root and Lemon & Barley, perfect summer flavours for the season ahead.  I’m already dreaming up cocktail recipes using these as mixers, yum!

Available in a four-pack in supermarkets and single bottles at Z and BP stations.

Donovan’s Seasonal Collection RRP $8.99

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Retail New products

I lOVE Donovan’s Seasonal Collection for Christmas gifts!  These beautiful, limited edition treats are perfect presents for teachers, tutors, neighbours or are lovely to add to the dessert table on Christmas Day.  The kiwi flavours are what makes this range totally special; Fruit and Nut Chocolate Bark, Chocolate Gingerbread Clusters, Coconut Ice Squares, Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels, Double Chocolate Fudge and Almond and Cranberry Clusters will leave you wanting to try every variety in the range.

Available in leading supermarkets and specialty stores nationwide.

How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan RRP 19.99

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Retail New products

A new Christmas story each year has always been a tradition in our house and this Christmas Eve How-To guide is soooo cute!  How to Catch Santa is a super fun story but it’s also choc full of great ideas for ramping up the magic for your littles this Christmas!  This is a story your family will love and pretty much use as a roadmap to a festive Christmas Eve, this year and well into the future.

Manuka Doctor Cashmere Touch Cream RRP $49.95New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Retail New products

The third product to complete the Drops of Crystal range from Manuka Doctor has just launched and Cashmere Touch Cream is just as luxe and gorgeous as you would expect.  Tested over 10 minute and 28 day periods, the combination of Purified Bee Venom and Manuka Honey with crystal tears – oil extracted from the Pistacia Lentiscus tree is delivering 97% of respondents wrinkle reduction and increased firmness with 90% reporting increased skin elasticity after 28 days.

The sensation of applying this cream will have you converted after a single use, it’s absolutely gorgeous!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Retail New products Smirnoff PureSmirnoff Pure Pre-Mixed Vodkas RRP $12.99 for a four-pack

YAY.  I’m a BIG fan of vodka cocktails but can’t stomach the sugary sweet overload of many pre-mixed offerings.  Smirnoff have nailed these four flavours, I found it very hard trying to decide my fave but they’re are all delish.  Choose between my pick, Ginger, Lime & Soda and Classic Lime & Soda, Cranberry Apple & Soda and Passionfruit, Lime & Soda,

Available from all good stockists this month.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Retail New products

Ernest Adams Slices, loaves, Cakes and Cookies RRP $4.99

One of NZ’s fave brands has been baking up sweet treats for over 80 years and now the good bakers at Ernest Adams have revamped their slices, loaves and cookies adding better quality ingredients, new recipes and bigger slices and cookies.  New additions like Rocky Road Slice and Salted Caramel and Pecan Slice are sure to make a big impression this kiwi summer.

I have two amazing Ernest Adams prize packs to giveaway, to enter just leave a comment below!

Competition closes Sunday 20th 10pm.  NZ residents only.
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Retail New products Smirnoff Pure

 

Fashion and Kids – How to have both

I emerged from the 12 month yoga-pant haze that followed Nixon’s birth with a desire to once again wear more structured, non-stretchy clothes.  Clothes of varying fabrics, maybe a skirt or EVEN A DRESS (post-breastfeeding!)  Clothes that didn’t have to do double duty as a burp cloth and a handkerchief.

The problem was, at this point I completely lost what little of my own style I once had, and my ‘new’ post-baby wardrobe became a predictable array of Bassike-inspired stripes and monochrome separates.  Pair anything and everything with a pair of Nike Roshe and I was out the door!

It’s only in the past month (with Nix now 3!) that I realised how bored I had become with the way I was dressing and vowed to get my groove back.  With two international retailers H&M and Zara opening here in Auckland this month I shopped brights, statement pieces, sparkles and funky separates.  I purchased clothes that I will love to wear, not necessarily clothes that I loved seeing everyone else on IG wearing.

Because I don’t shop for new clothes each week I do take good care of what I have.  There is nothing more upsetting (for me or the boys) than a new shirt being on the receiving end of a greasy-paw, toddler snug fest – as lovely as those are of course! There have been many kid-wardrobe mishaps over the years, but as my laundry experience has broadened (i.e. I’ve gotten older and older lol) I’ve settled on 5 sure-fire ways to reduce stain-angst.

5 Ways I Keep my Mum-Wardrobe looking Great

  1. Take your clothes off.  Literally, if you’re wearing something you love make sure the first thing you do upon re-entry to the kid-zone – i.e. your house – is to take it off, hang it up or put it safely in the laundry.
  2. Never be unprepared, kid-tastrophes can happen at any time.  Make sure your laundry is stocked with Sard Power Stain Remover – super-heroes in either powder or spray form.  These two products are totally your new laundry allies.
  3. Re-discover your iron.  Ironing may be de rigueur to some of you but I’ve just emerged from 6 years of zero ironing.  A quick 1-2 with the iron can make even a wash-faded tee look fashion forward with the right styling.
  4. Move fast.  Your best defence against a stubborn stain is time, plus it reduces the amount of actual work you will need to put into the stain removal process.  Get it treated and/or soaking before too much time has passed and if soaking give it at least 2 hours (preferably overnight) for Sard Power Stain Remover soaker to work its magic.
  5. Be aware of your fabric choices.  Clothes can be washed relatively easily but they can be much more difficult to repair.  Delicate fabrics and I just don’t mix so I steer clear of floaty tulles, fine silk, voile, lace and ALL pantyhose as a rule.  

Because I actually know nothing about fashion compared to some, I’ve called in the Most Stylish Mum I know to offer some legit advice on how to be fashionable and have kids!  Megan Robinson is both the beauty and brains behind NZ Fashion Institution www.threadnz.com and is a mother of two. (click to enlarge)
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Stain Removal FashionIs the proof in the pudding? YES, I did actually give the Sard Power Stain Remover duo a test run and…………..Dave and I are totally speechless as to the results.  It’s become one of those totally boring parental conversations like “did Nixon poo this morning?” but now we have “I can’t believe Sard got that beetroot stain out!”.

Stains are the badges of honour your family accumulates as you move through your domestic days, months and years and I just smashed strawberry, chocolate, an almighty beetroot stain, tomato sauce and grass stains in one wash cycle.New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Stain Removal FashionNix and I ‘carefully’ applied our stains then sprayed each with Sard Power Stain Remover spray and let it sit for an hour.  I washed on a normal cycle with other laundry using 1 cap of Sard Power Stain Remover soaker – NOT holding my breath that this white shirt would live to ride another day.

Narrowly avoided heart-attack when shirt appeared 50 minutes later looking as pure as the driven snow.

Pick up your own Sard superheroes in the laundry aisle and don’t be afraid to try this at home!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Stain Removal Fashion New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Stain Removal Fashion

Win with Sard!

Two winners are going to be ready to take on stains this summer, each receiving a Sard Prize Pack including 3 units of Sard Power Stain Remover soaker and 3 units of Sard Power Stain Remover spray!

To enter just comment below telling me what your toughest laundry battle is.

Competition closes 18th November 2016, NZ residents only.  Thanks to Sard for teaming up with me for this post.