How To… prepare for a puppy.

We got a puppy just under a month ago. Her name is Lamu, after this girl. And she is adorable. But there are some things you need to do in preparation for having a puppy. Both Jon and myself have owned dogs in the past and had some idea what she would need, but for a first time dog owner, here are some preparations you will have to make.

How to prepare for a puppy.

1: Secure everything.

Puppies are like toddlers. They will knock things down, get onto furniture you didn’t think was accessible, chew and break things and dunk things in their food and water. Make sure everything valuable is well out of reach and dangerous places and breakables are secured.

2: Breed specifics.

Many people know to learn about their breed’s common ailments, but all breeds have specific behaviours too. Learn about the things your dog was bred to do, its temperament and its needs. For example, boxers are sociable, high-energy dogs that grumble and “talk” a lot. They will be boistrous and it is not necessarily out of defiance all the time.

3: Crates and beds.

For the purposes of house breaking and obedience training, it is worthwhile to raise your puppy in a nursing crate or dog cage for the first few months, until it knows not to soil the house or break into rooms where it hasn’t been invited.

4: Shopping.

Sometimes the person you are buying or adopting the dog from will give you some toys, blankets and food for them. But you will still want to buy a dry puppy food mix well in advance, as well as a couple of durable toys. Please bear in mind that whilst adult dogs can eat a wholefoods diet including raw meats, due to breeding methods and domestication puppies’ immune systems aren’t always quite as strong, so you will want to transition them from puppy food onto cooked foods and then onto raw foods if you wish to feed them that way.

5: Pee Pads.

These are a lifesaver. They smell of a dog toilet, which will encourage your pup to urinate on them. Keep them near the door so that the pup begins to associate walks with urination.

6: The house.

Depending on your dog’s temperament it will either own the place or be very shy and nervous. To keep it calm, introduce it to the house one room at a time, starting with the room where it will live. For the first few days, keep the puppy mainly to that room and only let it through occasionally. This way it will adjust better.

7: Other pets.

Introduce other pets very early and when the other pet is at their most confident and comfortable. You don’t want the puppy to think your other pets are inferior pack members or it may get snappy with them.

8: Walks and meal times.

Decide on a walk time and meal times long before you get the puppy. You want a time you can commit to, when you won’t be bothered about being woken up with barks (dogs don’t understand weekends) and when you won’t be rushing or trying to fit in other arrangements. Immediately before and after work can work very well for a walk followed by a meal.

And that is how we prepared for our new puppy.

How about you? How did you prepare for your new puppy? Feel free to offer anecdotes and advice in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

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How To… set up a great picnic.

I’m not sure what it’s like where you are, but around here the weather is just about right for picnics. The Summer heat is fading a little, but the wind and rain hasn’t picked up yet. This means filling a hamper with food and going somewhere nice and warm to eat it.

This is how I make a traditional picnic, without relying on crisps and fruit, to have a great time anywhere.

1: Pies, pasties and puddings.

I try and make sure that all the soft foods like jam, meat stew and the likes are firmly encased in pastry, to make them easy to handle and carry.

Meat breads are also a great idea. You make dough and then as you are forming the rolls, you tuck meat and vegetables into the centre of the bread. When it bakes the dough absorbs some of the juices and makes for a delicious treat that is more robust than a sandwich.

2: Solid things.

Bring only hard fruits, like apples, or things in tupperware boxes. Anything soft or crunchy will crumble apart.

3: The basket.

You want a basket that closes well and keeps everything inside even if it is swung around. You want to pack it neatly.

4: Dishes and cutlery.

Choose less breakable items and try and bring a tray to keep them together.

5: A blanket.

A requirement. If the weather has been a little damp, bring a ground mat from a tent!

6: Keeping clean.

Baby wipes, two tea towels and a bottle of lightly soapy water for rinsing everything.

7: Drinks.

Bring plastic bottles, not glass or cans. If necessary, decant drinks from cans and glass bottles into empty water bottles before leaving. Just don’t bring glass or cans, as they can break, injure people, waste drinks and make a mess.

8: Against the elements.

Pick a spot where your blanket stays put on its own. Just put it down and watch it a moment if you’re not sure. When the wind doesn’t move it, the spot is right.

Don’t set up immediately under a tree, at the shell line on the beach or near sand dunes.

9: Against ants.

If ants are hard to avoid, bring some cinnamon and sprinkle it over your blanket. It burns ants so they will leave you alone.

10: For fun.

Bring two things for every person. There can be overlap, for example if two of the kids want to play football, that’s one thing for each of them, plus a magazine for the older kid and an art block for the younger one. Make sure everyone has something to do.

11: Make memories.

Press a few flowers, take some pictures or collect some still life every time you go on a picnic, it makes it all the more fun.

Finally, like anywhere, don’t overstay your welcome. When the food is gone, everyone has had fun and people are getting bored and tired, it’s time to leave. Trying to linger when everyone is bored is a surefire way to ruin a good picnic, not a way to make the day more fun.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Do you like picnics? How do you manage them? Got any good picnic recipes or ways of wrangling the kids? Feel free to share them with us!

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!

How To… make the time.

Sometimes, when we’re juggling work, family, dating, studying, housekeeping, hobbies, etc, it can be hard to find time for something specific. You may get up, go to work, get home, clean the house, study, spend some family time together and later find that you haven’t done the laundry, the shopping or found time alone with your partner.

It’s so easy to do, you just find yourself looking at the clock and asking “When did it get so late?”

So let’s work on a few ways to carve a little extra time into your day.

1: Clip out nonessentials.

First make sure there is nothing you are doing that takes up time unnecessarily. I’d say something is unnecessary when you don’t want to or have to do it.

So, for example, putting the kids’ toys away after they’ve gone to bed is essential, because you need to keep some order. But putting the kids’ toys away whenever they’re done with them is not essential, because they’re bound to drag them out again and should probably learn to put back what they move.

Or planning outfits a week in advance is unessential, unless you enjoy it, in which case it isn’t really doing much harm.

Have a proper look at jobs you can do that should be done by someone else, that you do repeatedly and could afford to do just once, or that just plain don’t need doing.

2: Tasks of a feather flock together.

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Being crazily organized helps here, but you can do this in chaos too.

When you are doing the dishes, whip round the house and look for any dishes, cups or mugs that may need washing. Follow by drying and putting away.

When you are hoovering a room, make an effort to return things to their places and respective rooms as you do it. Perhaps even make a pile of things to return to the kitchen, to return to the bedroom, to return to the bathroom, etc.

When you are cleaning windows, bring a duster and dust the sills and ornaments at the same time. Maybe clean, wipe, dry, polish and dust.

Basically, make sure you do a task in full, do all the tasks around the sides and clean whole rooms at a time. That way you run around a lot less and get more done in record time.

3: Schedule in anything time-consuming.

Whether it’s a task, an activity, a date or a piece of work, if it takes over half an hour, schedule it in.

This way you don’t have to stress much about it until it’s time to do it, can do everything else beforehand and know when it will be happening.

4: No Free Hands.

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This is an approach described in the book I’m working on “On A Budget: The good housekeeper’s guide to economizing.” The basic principle is this: as long as everyone had done their duty, all free hands at home are working hands.

Now, let’s first remember that the main housekeeper/s should first pull their weight. You don’t just sit around drinking coffee whilst you’re home alone and the second your partner or the kids walk through the door shout “No Free Hands!” and give them your tasks. You should prioritize your own work and schedule it properly, if you stay at home you should make the effort to actually keep house whilst you’re on your own.

But at the end of the day when the kids are back from school, both you and your partner have finished work and there are four jobs left? Fair game.

No Free Hands basically means that if you’re overwhelmed and everyone else is being lazy, you should at least be able to request them to help you a little.

When your children unload the dishwasher and feed the dog and your partner packs the lunches so you can put the laundry away, the extra hour you would have spent on the jobs can be reduced to 10-25 minutes, leaving you extra time together.

5: Pockets of time and tiny tasks to fill them.

And finally we all have pockets of free time in the day. Little gaps where we’re doing nothing, not even relaxing.

To make the most of these times, have a look at what jobs you have that take 0-10 minutes and see when you can do them. For example, when you’re waiting for bacon to fry for breakfast you can wash up any utensils or cups from last night, when you’re at work and waiting to start you can answer your personal emails, when the kids are getting dressed you can lay out their shoes, coats, bags and lunches. Basically look at the things you can do quickly and easily as you wait to do the next task. It frees up far more time than you could imagine.

To be honest, although I recommend them all, I’m pretty sure I’m quite bad at scheduling anything and at NFH. I’m naturally skittish and hop from task to task and I prefer to take on everything and revel in the pressure and responsibility even when the stress is killing me. I should work on that!

How do you free up time in your day? Do you already do any of these things? Which do you find most helpful? Which do you find most difficult? What else do you do to free up some time? I’d love to hear from it in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How to… Craft Yourself Tidy!

We’ve all hit that problem. We have a book of sewing patterns, 40 shoeboxes and a Pinterest board lined up, full of crafts we want to make. And we also have a house to tidy and keep, work to do or things to mend. So we put everything away, sort the laundry, finish writing that essay or report, darn those socks and finally have no time to craft. Or we put actual work to one side, start making stuff and end up with more scarves than we need and a few hours lost.

Curse you, scarves!

Curse you, scarves!

What if we could seize that creative urge, take some time to relax, improve our house’s organization and feel like no time was wasted at the end?

Well, here to the rescue, I’ve compiled a list of various ways you can make your home neater and prettier, by crafting the organization into your home.

1: Hanging organizers.

The craft.

Take a length of fabric. Sew the edges flat underneath it. Add pockets by stitching the bottom and side of a square to the fabric. Perhaps attach a ribbon or two to hang it with.

The result.

A convenient hanging set of pockets you can put on the back of doors, inside wardrobes or even attach to the wall to keep your small, frequently used items.

Made with an old sheet, a swimming costume and a strip of stripy fabric.

Made with an old sheet, a swimming costume and a strip of stripy fabric.

Made with an old hoodie and some yellow fabric.

Made with an old hoodie and some yellow fabric.

The quick option: buy some shoe organizers and decorate them.

2: Repurpose boxes.

The craft.

Take a small, sturdy box. Cut it to the desired size. Use the offcuts to make some slot-together separators for it. Paint or wrap in pretty paper or fabric.

The result.

A fitted box to keep a set of things in one place and organized. I made Jon one for his contact lenses as I kept moving them when I was tidying and mixing the sets up.

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The quick option: make some separators and use the box as-is.

3: Under-table hammock.

The craft.

Take a piece of fabric and cut it to 3-4″ smaller than the table is from corner to corner. In each corner, attach elastics that are just too small to wrap around the table legs without stretching. Put on table. For tables where you can’t slide something up the legs, swap the elastics for velcro or buttoned straps.

The result.

A convenient place to hide your magazines, recently watched or to-watch DVDs, games controls and remote controls.

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The quick option: attach some elastic to an appropriately sized sheet.

4: Baskets and pots.

The craft.

Not much of a craft, but fun to decorate and organize with. Find a suitable basket or large flower pot. Clean and decorate a little. Use it to store rolled-up towels, or your gloves and hats, for easy access whenever needed. Also use one for assorted car repair materials, for example, or anything else you may need to grab in a rush.

The result.

A prettier way of storing my towels where they are all visible and accessible without being in the way.

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The quick option: take a basket or pot and roll your towels or bedding to fit it. It can’t get much easier. 🙂

5: Grease and sauce pots.

The craft.

Take some glass jars and use permanent marker or sharpie to decorate them and assign their purpose.

The result.

Cute little jars to keep my reusable cooking fats in, sorted by type so the tastes don’t get mixed.

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Lard, olive oil, lamb fat, chicken drippings, tallow.

 

The quick option: rather than draw, use a jar or cup that is already pretty and make sure your handwriting looks nice.

6: Curtain ties.

The craft.

Cut some appropriately toned fabric 2″ longer than you need and twice as wide. Fold and stitch all sides but one end. Turn inside out and invisible stitch the end. Tie curtains back.

The result.

I actually just did the quick option here! The room is more open and brighter with these heavy curtains tied back.

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The quick option: cut a strip of fabric or a length of ribbon for each curtain. Tie back in a bow.

7: Bags.

The craft.

Make a deep base bag and line it. Make many smaller pockets and purses and go attaching them as you see fit. Add a draw string, zips, or buttons. Back straps are harder to make than purse handles are.

The result.

A cute and handy bag to carry around.

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The quick option: make a bucket handbag or a tote.

And some I haven’t made, but want to make when I have the time or a purpose for them.

Make fishy laundry and bathing bags like these.

Make some amazing shelves.

Make some handy baskets and holders for better bathroom organization.

Make a pallet shed organizer.