How To… prepare a “downer” kit.

Everyone gets a little down from time to time. Maybe you had a bad day, maybe you’re hormonal, maybe something serious happened or maybe you’re just born that way. And when you feel like that, there are things you want and need to help you feel better. As someone who lives with these feelings every few weeks and depressive bouts every month or so, I have more of less perfected the art of the “downer” kit. So here is how I make it.

This is part II of my ongoing “housekeeper’s kits” series. For part I, the household first aid kit, click here.

1: The container.

This is more important than it seems. You will need a moderately sized container, about as big as a large makeup bag or tiny backpack.

But it also has to have at least five compartments, if not more, be soft to touch, easy to open and in a soft, engaging colour like a pastel pink, yellow or green, bright white or something metallic. The reason for the compartments is so that it doesn’t need sorting, because the last thing you need is to dig through piles of things you don’t want looking for the one single thing you do want. The reason for the softness and easy-open is because when you are depressed your hormones are everywhere, which can cause crying (blurred vision and headaches) and wobbly hands (not best combined with fiddly clasps or sharp edges). And the reason for the colour is because you want something you can look at without hurting your eyes if you have a headache and that inspires energy and joy when you look at it.

2: Diet.

Far more important than you would guess. When you’re down you obviously crave certain comfort foods, but you also need to boost your micronutrients. Try keeping a balance of healthy snacks (dark chocolate, mixed nuts, Nakd bars, etc), healthy comfort food recipe alternatives (mac and cheese, pizza, meatloaf, spagbol, etc) and supplements known to help with depression (omega 3, vitamin B complex, St John’s Wort, evening primrose oil) in your bag at all times.

3: Exercise.

Keeping active helps you elevate your mood and distract yourself from depression. But fighting the lethargy can be hard. Make sure to keep some light weights and hand grips for armchair exercise and a yoga video to watch, to help encourage you to do five or ten minutes here and there.

4: Soothing.

Sometimes you’re feeling very shaky and just need to calm down. No appetite, no energy, no drive at all. You’re not exactly miserable at this point. You just look it and feel very tired or anxious. For these times, you need a soothing set. Keep at least two CD mixes or mp3 playlists with the most calming and happy songs you can find or tolerate when depressed. Have some sunglasses in case you need to go outside and even a sleep mask for when you’re home. Keep a bath salt mix in case the urge to soak in the tub strikes you, but the idea of mixing one is overwhelming. An inflatable neck pillow and a small hot water bottle may also help relax you.

5: Mood elevation.

For when you’re on your way up and need something to help you along or when you’ve just got out of rock bottom and need some distraction, keep some entertaining, exciting things around. A short book of jokes, a comedy or action film or some more invigorating music will help.

6: Human contact.

When you’re depressed, depending on why you’re down and how you deal with it, at some point you may not want to be alone. Try and keep a phonebook with names, house, work and mobile numbers and good contact hours for everyone who could help you in your time of need. This is very useful if you ever feel alone, panicked or paranoid and aren’t sure who to call.

Also, if these bouts are regular, try and have someone as your designated “depression monitor”, to call when you’re scared of hitting rock bottom or finding it hard to get out of bed. This should be someone who can just be there for you, encourage you and perhaps drive you to a new and interesting place to help kick you out of the smaller slumps.

7: Pamper.

Finally, you want to have things to treat yourself with. Massage oils, makeup, a hair styling set, a manicure set and some of your favourite childhood sweets would all be good for this area. Anything small and hard to get your hands on when you don’t even want to leave the house.

And that is what to put into a kit to fight depression, whether you’re just feeling a little down because of the weather or so bad you can’t face the thought of leaving bed.

What would you put into your “downer” kit?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

WWW. Blueberry Banana Pudding.

We’ve had other things, but for some reason I haven’t noted any of the stir-fries down, so they’re lost.

Here is a recipe for a protein-packed, carby pudding that lets me break my limits for carbs and dairy before lunch. :p

Blueberry Banana Pudding Recipe

Ingredients:

-1 cup plain flour

-1 cup skimmed milk powder

-300g extra heavy cream

-4 eggs

-4 bananas

-1/2 cup blueberries

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and fork

-knife

-greased or nonstick baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the dry ingredients.

2: Incorporate the eggs and cream.

3: Slice the bananas.

4: Lightly fold in the fruit.

5: Pour the mix into the tray.

6: Bake at 200C until it rises and is brown at the sides.

7: Serve with cream or ice-cream.

Blueberry Banana Pudding Recipe 2

10 Ways To Get Cheap And Cute Clothes.

Regardless of how we want to dress, we all want to dress nicely. And dressing nicely can easily become expensive. On the other hand, all my clothing, including shoes, suit clothes and a fur coat, cost me around £100, at my closest estimate. I recently overhauled some of my wardrobe thanks to Hearthie’s expert advice and got seven new tops and a pair of shoes for £7. And I feel pretty cute in all of it, to be honest.

And the truth is, cheap cute clothes didn’t stop when your older sister had her last growth spurt and have to give you that perfect, tags-new dress for free. There are still loads of ways of getting adorable clothes at low prices.

The first five are for the unadventurous, those with little time or those wary about germs and bacteria.

1: Charity Shops.

This is where I get most of my clothes. The reasons being that it’s quick and easy to nip in whilst you’re about town, you can browse a wide variety of clothes and usually try them on first, it’s going towards a good cause and they’re cheap.

Some people are concerned about hygiene, but, as someone who volunteers at one and has been round the back of many others: they have this thing called a “steamer”. It’s like a cross between an iron and a hoover which they use to clean and iron all clothes. The steam is so hot that light exposure could easily scar you. Anything obviously soiled or that smells when we steam it is thrown into the rag pile. So yes, they’re clean!

Example.

2: Vouchers.

An easy way to get brand new clothes at discount or even insanely cheap prices is to use vouchers. It’s up to you how far you go. You could go for 10% off, or work out which vouches you can use in conjunction and whether you can use them with any other discounts or during a sale.

There is also a surprising number of vouchers available online, so if you’re short of them, try searching for the store and “voucher” or “coupon” online. You’re bound to turn out some reasonable results.

Example.

3: eBay.

If you want brand new clothes and are short of vouchers or reasonably-priced stores, you can always turn to eBay for your every clothing need. With a simple search function, easy categories and clear pricing, you’re bound to find what you want, brand new, at the lowest price available.

Example.

4: Wholesale and Clearance.

You can do this in stores and warehouse sales, but it’s far more convenient to do it online. If you are happy to sell on any surplus, some stockists do sell-offs of orders that weren’t collected, oversupply or just small wholesale jobs for the odd customer.

The other option is clearance, either from a warehouse or a regular store. The clothes may be out of season, not selling or just the last in the batch, but you can find some amazingly good deals on trendy, seasonal and brand new clothes when you work out where to look for them.

Example.

5: Presents.

This one is fairly simple. Over the year or over the months leading up to your birthday or Christmas, compose a list of items you would rather not spend money on and drop hints or directly give it to your relatives when the celebration is getting near. That way anyone who wasn’t sure what to get you can contribute to your wardrobe. Another way is simply saying that when you get gifts, you love to get shoes, scarves or something trendy for the season and see what they surprise you with!

The next five ways of getting good clothes on the cheap are for the more adventurous and crafty. They may be messy, hard work or a little more questionable.

6: Swap Shops.

These are gaining popularity, but sometimes viewed with caution. Basically, you show up with clothes, get a sticker for every item you donate and then put the stickers on any item you see that you want. There is always the risk that there will be nothing you like, rarely will be dressing rooms and can become a mess. But, if you’re trying to completely change your wardrobe, it may be the best way!

Example.

You can also go for the online experience, which is cleaner and easier.

Example.

7: Volunteer.

I’d recommend volunteering at charity shops, clothes banks or rag merchants. Often anything that doesn’t sell is available to staff at discount rates. You can also buy assorted items sent for the rag heap at rag prices, which are usually a few pence a kilo, making a shirt only 20 or 50p. If anything is damaged you will have to bear that in mind, but often the only thing wrong is that nobody bought it on time, or someone put it into a rag bag rather than donate it to charity.

Example.

8: Updo.

Regardless of where you got them, you can also improve, mend or freshen old clothes to make them look better, turning something free or very cheap into something you would have paid good money for.

You can take plain t-shirts and add some sparkle to them, turn trousers into shorts or skirts, mend holes and tears and basically turning something drab or broken into something wearable.

Example:

Stripy fabric cut into a skull-shaped patch, tartan fabric, beads, silver thread and cross stitch. Shorts from cutoff jeans and tartan fabric.

Plain top decorated with stripy fabric cut into a skull-shaped patch, tartan fabric, beads, silver thread and cross stitch.
Shorts from cutoff jeans and tartan fabric.

9: Freebies.

This one is where most people will draw the line. Basically because, unlike charity shop items, new clothes or hand-me-downs, you don’t really know if something free is clean, hygienic or in good condition.

Generally, if you can check it first you will see any serious problems and if you wash it when home it’s fine. Try finding things on freebie websites and learn when, where and from whom to buy. Just as you’d be happy with a pillow from a neighbour, but not one left outside a university dorm, there are places and people to accept freebies from.

Example.

10: D.I.Y.

And the final option is to just make whatever you want. There are thousands of awesome patterns and tutorials out there, teaching you how to do everything from crochet to making a ballgown. So hone your crafty skills, because you’ll soon get bitten by the crafty bug and not know when to stop!

Examples:

So those are the top ten ways of getting the clothes you want at the price you want. Beauty was never so affordable!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What is your top thrifty shop? Where do you go when you want something cheap and cute? All hints, tips and ideas welcome. :)

Who Here Is Simple?

A while back insanitybytes raised an interesting point. Many men and some women choose to define themselves as “simple”. Many women and some men are baffled by this and offended when the same thing is said about them.

Our cultural definitions of simplicity vary, but at the core, the idea is “this is not complicated”. A simple task is one that takes little time, effort or expertise to do when compared to similar tasks. A simple book is one that is short, plain and easy to read compared to similar alternatives. So simplicity is not only cultural, but relative in general. What is a simple book to a ten year old is complicated to a four year old.

When we get to people it becomes even more confusing. Because people are so multifaceted, simplicity isn’t quite so… simple. People have minds, hobbies, bodies, interests, needs and hearts. And each of these things can be simple or complicated, in the good sense and the bad sense.

Someone’s mind can be simple in that they are not very bright, or simple in that their thoughts are clear. Or be complicated in that they are highly intelligent, or complicated in that their thoughts are random and cluttering.

Someone’s hobbies can be simple in that they are easy, fun or cheap, or simple in that they are infantile. Or be complicated in that they are expensive and troublesome, or complicated in that they require high skill.

Everyone has their own idea of what it means to have a simple mind, body, heart or need. Some will paint it in a good light, others not so much. There seems to be a split, similar to the introvert/extrovert split, between simple and complicated people. There are people at one extreme who are dull, easily pleased, boring, cheap, clear, concise and readable. There are people at the other who are bright, dissatisfied, exciting, expensive, unclear, waffling and unpredictable. And there is an entire spectrum in between. And, much like introverts and extroverts can view “party girl/guy” or “the quiet type” as mildly insulting or somewhat complimentary, simple people and complicated people view “simple” or “complicated” as either a good thing or a bad thing.

Therefore, a complicated person is likely to view “I am simple” as self-depreciation and “you are simple” as insulting. Likewise, a simple person is likely to view “I am complicated” as an excuse for poor behaviour and “you are complicated” as insulting.

But neither is always the case.

When someone considers themselves “a simple man/woman”, often they mean it in the good sense. As in, their speech is direct and to the point, their needs are few and easily met, their hobbies are uncomplicated, they discriminate their entertainment carefully, etc. Just because you are simple in some ways or overall doesn’t mean you are simple in every way. A simple person can be highly intelligent. They are just direct.

When someone considers themselves “a complicated woman/man”, often they mean it in the good sense. As in, they are outgoing and fun, they have a busy schedule, they enjoy a wide variety of hobbies, they are intellectual and gregarious, etc. Just because you are complicated in some ways or overall doesn’t mean you are complicated in every way. A complicated person can be highly agreeable. They are just busy.

When you think about it, you’ll find that you lean one way or the other and most people you know could be called simple or complicated, whilst some are only slightly one way and some are dead-centre. What are you, simple or complicated? What is your opinion on simplicity or complexity in people? How do you get along with your polar opposites?

People come in all forms. Some simple people are dumb and some complicated people are annoying. But just because those words can carry that meaning doesn’t mean that is the only meaning they convey.

After all, when someone asks “What do you want for dinner?” and someone else answers “Steak and chips are fine. I’m a simple guy.” he probably doesn’t mean “I’m an idiot.”

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

FitFriday XXVI, FatFriday XIII. Lift everything…

…do all the yoga, eat all the food, sleep all day.

Or I wish I could, but I’m settling for more activity and a bit more food.

Part of the reason I’m more active is because I made myself a BORED? chart. For those who don’t know, BORED? charts are an educational tool designed to encourage children to take control of their own entertainment and responsibilities, through suggested activities starting with the letters B, O, R, E, D. And if it works for toddlers, I figured it would help me too!

Here’s my chart:

BORED

The picture being a webcam picture and thus a little blurry, this is my list:

B1: Book writing.    30-60min.

B2: Bake or cook something.

B3: Blog or reblog.   30min.

O1: Organize the room/house.

O2: Open another cafepress.

O3: Outdoor activity.   45-120min.

R1: Revise Maths/German.   60min.

R2: Repair something.

R3: Read a book.   30-60min.

E1: Exercise.   30min.

E2: Emails checked, sorted, answered.

E3: Everything clean in room/house.

D1: Draw something.

D2: Deviantart.   30min.

D3: Dance, burn energy.   30min.

They are also categorized. A star means blogging and networking. A heart means home. A lightening bolt means for when I am restless. A moon means for when I am lethargic.

In other words, if I have nothing to do or am having a hard time focusing on work, then I can consult my list for an activity that fills the time productively, matches my mood and evens me out, ready for work.

Which means that lately I’m spending a lot of time developing forearm-strike moves, doing planks and dancing.

My body is as lean as it gets without the stretchy skin being obvious, so I’m focusing on protein and fresh Spring vegetables, but also having the odd bit of fruit here and there. Broke the no dairy rule a couple of times, but I’m so careful the rest of the time that it hasn’t hit me.

The crushed knuckle is finally healed, but is now slightly shorter than its opposite (it used to be slightly longer) and widened, so there may be structural damage there. Whoops.

In terms of laziness I have been abusing the odd lie-in, meaning I’m pushing the morning tasks into the smallest time possible and having to rush them. I’ll work on getting up earlier from now.

In terms of naughty foods, I have recently made a pudding with bananas, eggs, cream and blueberries that probably hits my dairy and carb targets in a single sitting, but is delicious.

How has your week of food and exercise gone? What would your BORED chart have? If anyone wants, I can write you one of your own and submit a high quality photo or scan so you can print it out and use it. Just ask for the style and mention the most productive things you could be doing and I can put it into easy-to-follow chart form. :)

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

WWW. BBQ “Fried” Chicken and Pumpkin Banana Cake.

Another skipped week for WWW and FitFriday. Oh well, if I’m going to be lazy with something it may as well be writing and not something with “work” in it, like work, housework or my actual workouts.

Anyway, back on track this week with the best recipes of the week: baked “fried” chicken and a pumpkin and banana cake.

Banana Pumpkin Cake 2

Recipe 1: Pumpkin Banana Cake.

Ingredients:

[Serves 8.]

-6 bananas

-400g pumpkin

-300g flour and raising agents

-1/2 cup chopped brazils

-8 whole brazils

-50g butter

-1 egg

-5tsp cinnamon

-1tsp nutmeg

-1tsp ginger

-1/4 tsp cloves

Utensils:

-mixing bowl

-blender

-greased or nonstick cake pan

Recipe:

1: Blend the bananas, pumpkin and butter in a bowl. You may need to cook or freeze and defrost the pumpkin first to soften it, depending on the variety. Ours was frozen from Autumn and needed using up badly.

2: Stir in the egg and spices until the consistency is smooth again.

3: Add the chopped brazils and stir through. Pour into the tray.

4: Carefully press the eight brazils into the cake mass at an even distance from each other. They need to be quite deep but not buried!

5: Bake at 200C until a knife comes out clear. How long will depend on your tray and oven, but probably no more than 45 minutes.

6: Serve with spiced cream, icing, butter or peanut butter.

Banana Pumpkin Cake.

Recipe 2: Baked BBQ “Fried” Chicken.

Ingredients:

[Serves 4.]

-8 chicken pieces

-1/2 cup eggs

-1/2 cup BBQ sauce

-200g flour

-3tbsp paprika

-1tbsp onion granules

-2tbsp salt

Utensils:

-two wide-edged mixing bowls

-fork

-greased or nonstick flat tray or grill

Recipe:

1: Mix the BBQ and eggs in one bowl.

2: Mix the flour and spices in another.

3: Dry each piece of chicken carefully.

4: Dip each piece of chicken in the egg mix first before rolling it in the flour. Set aside.

5: Once they’re all dipped, go through them again to give them a second coating. Place on the baking tray.

6: Bake at 200C for 35min, or until the skin is crispy. The chicken fat should fry the skin on its own for you.

Our first batch turned out a little floury, but it was so good we forgot to take a picture of the second batch!

BBQ Fried Chicken

And those were our two favourite recipes for the week!

What have you been cooking and/or eating lately?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… prepare a first aid kit.

This is going to be the first in six installments where I will explore six kits we could use in various situations as housekeepers. It falls on our heads to be ready for most eventualities, especially when they happen on our threshold and a small, easy to locate, well-organized, well-stocked box will really come in handy when you need to think fast and save the day!

The first kit is a first aid kit. This is an essential in any household, but few people go beyond the basic sets you can buy in the pharmacy, a box of plasters and a few painkillers. But even if you find it hard to think ahead when it comes to illness and injury, there are some simple measures you can take to make an awesome first aid kit.

1: The container.

The first step is to prepare a suitably sized container for your kit. None of that tiny, easy, cutesy nonsense. That was fine for your first scout camp, but when you have a real problem on your hands, you need to be well stocked. We actually have an entire shelf in a cupboard dedicated to our first aid gear. That’s how big we’re talking. You will want to stockpile the basics and be storing heavy-duty things, like heatable and coolable packs, compresses and emergency surgery kits. You need the space.

If you can’t take over a cupboard, consider a child’s suitcase, a storage box or even assorted tupperware boxes, all properly marked and organized, of course.

2: The grab-bag.

But what about those times when you need something soon or often? For that we will create a mini-kit, a grab-bag of assorted items you may need in a pinch. This should be the size of your standard household first aid tin or small lunch bag.

It will contain antiseptic wipes and/or spray, a small selection of plasters and sticky bandages, a nail kit and anything else you may need suddenly or urgently, such as an adrenaline shot if your daughter is seriously allergic to beestings.

3: Basics.

The basics are what we first think of when we talk about first aid. You will want two stashes of these: a stockpile in the main cupboard/container and a small selection in your grab bag.

Antiseptics. For any small cuts or animal bites.

A nail repair kit. Tweezers, nail file, small scissors and clippers. All very useful in the event of torn or damaged skin or nails.

-Simple painkiller. Paracetamol is wiser, as too much aspirin is a blood-thinner. But do make sure to have a selection.

Plasters. Everything from those tiny dots to a huge roll of plaster tissue.

-Sticky bandages. For more serious cuts than plasters can help with.

And those are your bare essentials.

4: Cold and Flu.

Colds and flus are inevitable. Sure, if you look after yourself you may get to a point where you get one a year and all it feels like is a stuffy nose, or even where you don’t get ill. But not everyone will or can get their immune system that strong and these people wander in and out of your life and home fairly regularly. Therefore, we need to be stocked in case of cold and flu.

-Congestion relief. Inhalers are very good, but nasal sprays can also help.

-Throat relief. Soothers and cough syrup.

Vapor rub. Good for handkerchief rubbing and for little ones with blocked sinuses.

Spare packs of tissues. Nobody ever has enough.

Vitamin chewies. To help prevent them from catching anything else whilst they recover.

5: Sports.

Again, you may be one of the least physically active people in the world and still get tennis elbow. And others around you will almost certainly get sprains, tears and twists even when you don’t. So you will need to be prepared for them.

Freezable pack. This could be as simple as that sponge-in-a-Ziploc trick or even a camping freeze bag.

Warmable pack. Rice bags are really easy to make and helpful.

Cool and heat sprays. For instant relief.

-Compress bandages. Usually just two long ones are enough, but you may want a specialized knee, ankle and wrist one too.

Ibuprofen gel. For swelling and pain.

Rehydration salts. Great for recovery, also usable in cases of extreme enteritis.

6: Bandaging.

Anyone can get cut or injured. Anyone can fall over, have a piece of furniture land on their foot or be bitten by a large animal. So bandaging gear is an essential.

Simple sterile gauze. These bandages come in little sterile packets and are very useful.

Bandaging. These come in rolls and are used for compressing wounds or broken parts into place.

Butterfly stitches. Little sticky stitches, good for holding things together as a temporary fix.

-Sewing kit. Sterile needle, proper thread, sterile tweezers and scissors.

Dissection kit. Sterile scalpel, tweezers, scissors, etc. Good for cleaning up messy wounds before bandaging or stitching and removing glass or deep splinters.

7: Epipens.

If you or a member of your household has a serious allergy, you will probably have an epipen anyway. These are measured adrenaline shots to keep people alive through an allergic reaction.

But as long as you know someone who has a serious allergy, it may be best to keep an appropriate epipen at hand at all times, just in case. Be warned, they expire. So keep an eye on them.

8: Gadgets.

Anything technological that may need batteries recharged, to be kept dry and safe or replaced after a few years.

-Assorted thermometers. Oral, ear, rectal, baby.

-Massager. A godsend when you need one. Just get something simple, like those insect-like ones.

Blood pressure monitor.

Blood glucose checker and strips.

9: Specials.

These are assorted items you will use rarely and that aren’t part of a treatment program, but that it’s best to keep in the back of your kit, just in case.

-Heavy duty painkillers. Codeine, for example.

-Headlice killers.

-Worming pills.

-Something to induce vomiting. When you need someone to vomit, this is vital.

-Fire blanket and burn cream.

10: Personals.

Anything you need that other people may not. Have a look at whatever illnesses or disorders run in the family. Some homes may need a defibrillator, some may need omega oils, some may need a couple of epipens handy. Make sure you have everything you need and put it into the right area.

11: Information.

All the literature you might need. I’d recommend a clipboard with a sheet of expiry dates for easy access, a first aid book for all emergencies and any books on the local wildlife and what may be poisonous where you live.

Once you have collected all of this, be sure to keep it organized. Tupperware boxes or makeup bags make great mini-kits, so that all your bandaging, painkillers or flu treatments are together. When you use it, make sure to put everything back where it came from and make note when something needs replacing or restocking.

And that is your first kit! Be sure to check in next week to find out how to design a kit for when you are depressed or otherwise “down”.

Until then, feel free to share your suggestions for the kit in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!