Renovating for a warm & healthy winter

Now that winter is on its way (in the Southern Hemisphere), I am determined to keep my little one as warm and healthy as possible through the inevitable cold and illnesses that will come around.

This was something that hubby and I were thinking about even before LO arrived. Like a lot of New Zealanders, we live in an older house, and these homes often just weren’t built with comfort and convenience in mind. People seemed to just accept being cold as a part of life, and many of today’s homes have problems with condensation on windows, dampness and drafts. The attitude was just to put on some extra clothes – and still is to some degree!

So we have spent the last few years renovating to improve the warmth and weather-tightness (and value) of our home. Renovations in NZ are expensive compared to other countries, but the investment is definitely worth it if you can afford it. Not only do these changes make our home warmer, but they also make it more environmentally friendly as better weather-tightness means reduced power consumption for heating!

Some things that have made a big difference to the warmth of our home and our quality of living are:

  • Upgrading our insulation in the ceiling and adding underfloor insulation as soon as we moved in (we took advantage of a government subsidy to do this)
  • Replacing an old, draughty aluminium ranch-slider door with a new, large, double-glazed UPVC door (pricey, but it made a significant and immediate difference to the warmth of our lounge)
  • Replacing a few of the older large windows with double-glazed ones (we are doing this in stages due to expense)
  • Investing in thermal-backed curtains
  • Adding insulation to exterior walls (also doing this in stages as it means tearing down the old plaster), and
  • Adding to our home heating.

We prioritised the old, outdated, draughty bathroom and the baby’s room before he arrived, so now these are two of the warmest rooms in the house!

There are more upgrades planned, but these initial changes to our home will definitely help keep the winter chill at bay, and as a result should mean fewer colds for all family members this winter (fingers crossed!)

Do you have any suggestions on improving your home energy efficiency and warmth? I’d love to hear them!





How to make a DIY water shaker baby toy

Things can get pretty repetitive with a baby (ugh) so I’m always looking for new ways to entertain my little boy. Today I came up with my own version of a water shaker toy. The great thing about this ‘toy’ is that it was just put together with a few things I had around the house – an excellent way to repurpose some items without the need to spend a cent!

Here’s what you’ll need:20160413_094831

  • an empty plastic water bottle, preferably with a tight lid rather than the pop-top kind (this one was made from cornstarch so is BPA free too)
  • water and some food colouring
  • a few plastic laundry pegs
  • some bits of ribbon
  • any other bits and bobs that will fit in the bottle – I used some beads, bits of shell and some plastic curtain hooks 🙂

It’s as simple as throw everything in the bottle, fill halfway with water, add a drop or two of coloured food dye, screw the lid on tightly and hey presto – a new toy! By filling the bottle only halfway, my boy will get to experience the way the moving water affects the bottle’s weight. And another great thing is that the different items have different densities – some float and some sink. The ribbon swirls and curves nicely around too, adding extra visual interest!

I can’t wait to see what the little guy will make of it later this morning…

Do you have some good DIY baby toy ideas? I’d love to hear them!!





Caring for little teeth naturally

A couple weeks  ago my baby boy grabbed my finger and started gnawing on the knuckle (nothing new there). Only this time I felt a sharp little scratch, the beginnings of a tooth! While obviously excited at having reached another milestone, I was also a little apprehensive. Teething can cause grumpiness and restlessness. And now we also had to think about dental hygiene for babies! A kind of bizarre thought.

In NZ, when you take your baby for their 5 month community nurse checkup, you are gifted a baby toothbrush and toothpaste from one of their ‘sponsors’, one of the large toothpaste/brush companies (that shall remain nameless). I get it, Plunket need to get money from somewhere. They operate on a small budget and do great work for the community. However, being a bit skeptical, I tend to question the motives behind these types of commercially driven donations. I also wasn’t too keen on using the bright blue, sparkly toothpaste on my baby (which incidentally said from 6 years up on it), as well as a bulky plastic toothbrush in his mouth. It just seemed wrong. babyfinger-toothbrush

Luckily, on a recent trip to Aus I had spotted a natural brand of baby dental products, called Jack n Jill,  and had (seeing a bird in hand) snapped up some paste and a set of little silicone finger brushes. So I busted these out the other day, and turns out they are really easy to use! Easier than I imagine trying to use a normal toothbrush on a baby would be. They have soft sort of bristles on one side and bumps on the other to massage baby’s gums little. The only challenge was trying to prevent him chewing on it too much, ha! The organic banana flavoured toothpaste was also a hit (after some initial confused looks from the boy-o), and ended in a lot of lip-smacking.

I have looked to see whether they are available in NZ, and luckily you can get them at a number of online retailers as well as at Commonsense Organics.  Yay! Here’s to establishing healthy little teeth without unnecessary chemicals! Incidentally, since I’ve been breastfeeding, I’ve also switched to a natural toothpaste brand. Did you know some big brand toothpastes have an antibacterial agent in them called triclosan, which has been shown to have hormone altering effects in animals (according to the USFDA)? Although not known to be unsafe in humans, it’s still enough to put me off, and traces of this compound do make their way into breastmilk. Erring on the side of caution, I’m choosing to try to avoid products containing this ingredient.