Category Archives: Household

My favorite stuff: Household items that simplify my life

There is not that much stuff that is really “essential for survival”, however there are certain things that make life easier. This type of stuff is what I like. So, here we go – a list of my favorite things (in the order of remembering, not in the order of significance):

  1. Robotic lawn mower – if your terrain is relatively big this is simply a life-saver! I cannot even imagine how many weekends were saved by this machine. It just does what it has to do and you get a perfect lawn, so you can get yourself a glass of wine and admire your picture-worthy backyard (or front-yard, or both). Ours is Robomow RS630. Of course, this thing is not cheap, but it is worth every penny.
  2. Nespresso Aeroccino – I like to have a strong espresso in the morning, but my second cup is usually a latte. How I used to make it was just putting in the respective capsule in my Dolce Gusto machine. The problem was – this way I got only 8 cups of coffee per box of capsules (instead of 16 which I get with a box of espresso capsules), making it pricey. Also, it limited the choice of milk – if I felt more like skimmed or wanted to use for instance almond milk – bad luck! Obviously if you have an espresso-maker with a milk frothing function, you don’t need any additional devices. However, if you brew your coffee in a french press, or use any other device (Aeropress, siphon, percolator, Dolce Gusto machine…), for a perfect latte Aeroccino is a very good choice.
  3. Silicone mat and rolling pin – mine are from Lekue – I am their devoted fan. If you have ever tried to roll dough with a traditional rolling pin you know what I mean. Yes, it also works, but be honest how many times you were scraping the dough from the rolling pin (or from the table) and swearing like hell? Even if you weren’t, trust me with a silicone mat and rolling pin it is just easier. Full-stop.
  4. Stand-mixer – if you bake on a regular basis this is a must, otherwise you can do without. My stand-mixer serves also as “a classic kitchen design element” because it is a KitchenAid Artisan. I do bake, so I use it intensively. Also, its flat-beater  makes perfect mashed potato!
  5. Steam-mop – at first I was skeptical if it will clean the floor thoroughly. However, after I cleaned it with our steam-mop, I wiped the previously dirty floor with a clean paper tissue and was positively surprised to find it absolutely clean. The only problem I have with my model is that the cable is not long enough… Otherwise, my Black+Decker is a perfect cleaning companion.
  6. Oven and cooking surface with integrated timer and automatic switch off – this is simply genius! If I hadn’t had it, I would have surely burnt a lot of pots… And would have bought a couple of stand-alone timers in the end. 🙂 I still remember that once I put water to boil in a kettle and forgot about it, to come to my kitchen and find the kettle glaring red in the darkness. Scary! It was by pure luck that a fire didn’t start! So I am now sooo happy with my Neff oven and induction hob with integrated timer and switch off function – you just set for how long it needs to cook and then it just switches off and informs you about it with a loud beep. Amazingly convenient!
  7. SodaStream – I simply love this device. It allows you to make sparkling water with a taste of your liking from just usual tap water. Normally I have about 6 to 8 different syrups to choose from: from unusual limited edition stuff like “raspberry, lychee, rose” to traditional cola or orange (~Fanta) or lime (~Sprite).
  8. Gym Ball (big one – 90 cm / 35.4 in) – I used it when at one point in time my son was being difficult at falling asleep and required some gentle shaking (it is much easier to do it while sitting on a gym ball). I use it for doing exercises at home. And finally, I just use it instead of a chair at the dining table already for two years. I personally find it very convenient for my back to sit on it and then again – if while sitting I move my fine ass a bit, my conscience becomes clear that I already did at least some exercises today (giggle).
  9. Tempur bed with Tempur mattress – We spend at least a quarter of our life in bed, so the investment in making this time better makes a lot of sense. For many years I was waking up in the morning and feeling discomfort in every part of my body, before I discovered this bed and mattress. The material used in the mattress was developed by NASA scientists and is temperature-sensitive and able to evenly distribute body weight. Tempur offers better sleep than inner springs, air, and “memory foam” – tried them all. This beauty sadly comes with a price tag, but my back says “thank you” for it every single morning!
  10. Kindle Paperwhite – for long I was refusing to read from electronic devices, because I wanted to have the real feel of a book. However, with moving to another country I gave it a try and never regretted! Kindle Paperwhite gives you the feel that you are reading from a paper. Even in the bright sunlight there is no glare and no reflection whatsoever. Additionally, eBooks are much cheaper than paper books (which also require to be delivered, hence add delivery costs) and don’t require space on your shelf.

Other items I have around the house are nice-to-have ones or just nice ones, but not even close to being essential. Frankly, also the above items are not essential, but for me they are still pretty close to being such.

What are your favorite items around household that simplify your life? I would love to know, as maybe I am missing something spectacular!

Going green: How did a city girl take on gardening

I have already proudly mentioned couple of time that I started gardening. Probably way too many times, no? Well, actually it is really a big deal for me, you know! That’s why even my tiny successes in this connection are a source of my great pride (LOL!)! I was born and raised as a total city girl. Of course I knew that tomatoes and potatoes don’t grow in supermarkets, but that for quite a while was pretty much all I knew about tomatoes and potatoes (giggle). We never had a summer house with a garden, I didn’t visit farms simply because where I was growing up there were no farms available for a visit. The closest I ever got to seeing what does the country life look like was couple of visits to the cousin of my granny who did live in one of the villages and had a garden. What I remember was that it was hot, dirty, I stepped in the cow shit while walking through the field and totally ruined my sneakers, I was bitten by mosquitoes a lot and I accidentally saw how a rooster was beheaded with an ax… So I returned to the city and swore never ever to get myself off an asphalt again.

Now for the last two years we live in the village with a garden (lovely twist of fate, ain’t it?). Our house is adjacent to the field where in spring they bring cows to graze and in the end of a summer they switch cows for horses. So literally when I look outside, at a distance of something like 4 meters (~13 feet) there are grazing cows or horses or from time to time jumping hares or running pheasants. Actually seeing a cat or a dog is nowadays much more rare and spectacular. But I am deviating. Back to the garden.

It felt right to give it a try. We have plenty of space, it is nice for kids to see how vegetables grow, and although I never bothered myself much with “let’s eat organic” and so on – I thought why not. The funny thing is that I started gardening last year still with pretty much of a city girl mentality. I made a Power Point presentation (no kidding!) on different types of vegetables that I am planning to plant… And while doing so I discovered a whole new world that I never knew existing. Like with almost everything I do, I dived right into the very depth – I followed a permaculture design course, read tons of materials about square-foot gardening and companion planting, I was theoretically equipped. No, I still think that it was needed, and especially in my case, but the problem was that although theoretically ready I was far from being ready to actually start. And recalling this brings a smile to my face.

I had my planting plan, I had my boxes (because in the end I opted for the square foot garden and my husband made them for me), I had my gloves, I had my seeds, I had my new rubber boots (fancy green with dots and a bow at the side). And then came the planting season… So I actually had to get myself away from my nice and neat Power Point (ouch!), put on these rubber boots and go digging (double ouch!). It was then that I had an actual argument with my husband who was telling me – “Start, it’s already time, look at the weather!” But I was replying – “I cannot plant now, my Power Point says I have to do it next month only!” A city girl…

In the end I did listen to my husband and went on to plant before the time indicated in the Power Point. And miraculously it worked. My first ever planting season brought me very tasty zucchinis, broccoli, mint, spinach and potatoes, beautiful nasturtium and chamomile for my tea infusions. It was actually an amazing feeling to see how that tiny seed you put in the ground first turns into small green sprouts and then step-by-step transforms into something beautiful and eventually tasty!

This year I am going for more variety but my planting plan is just a scribbling on a piece of paper and no longer a polished presentation. An evolution of consultancy to reality, huh? But most importantly I understood that it makes more sense to look outside and adjust yourself to the nature, rather than try to precisely follow the planting calendar. Besides, I am no longer scared to get my hands dirty if that is needed. And my tomatoes and paprika are already planted in a seed germination box and are ready to be re-planted very soon. So the city girl is definitely evolving!…

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Family yearly book: Keeping memories without cluttering home

Even though my taste and preferences have evolved quite a lot throughout the years, one thing stayed permanent since something like puberty – I am an adept of minimalism. That implies amongst others that even though I have a lot memories I don’t have that much memorabilia. I don’t have fridge magnets (but I do bring them for my mother who collects them). I don’t have art works of my kids hanging in all possible places. Every (numerous) piece of art my kids produce is admired for a little while, then I take a photo of it and it soon continues its journey towards recycling. I don’t collect tickets from museums or maps, or mugs, or any other travel-related junk. However, if it has a sentimental value it will also end up in the camera roll of my iPhone. I didn’t keep the hospital wristband from when I was delivering my kids (but, yes, I do have a photo of it!). Same with echo’s. Same with some hand-written notes. Same with a lot of other stuff.

So… As you might have guessed I have a lot of photos. However, that is also a problem. In the digital era we tend to have tens of thousands of them that we seldom ever look at. Even if you structure them, it is still too much. I must admit that I don’t follow the “eliminate” route and don’t delete photos, maybe because the capacity of my external hard drive allows to keep everything. But what I do with our photos – I sort them, pick out the most important/beautiful/memorable and I make our non-traditional family yearly book. 

I am not into scrap-booking, yet this in a sense is a digital scrapbook that includes all the memories of us as a family that we would like to keep. This is not a classic photo album, it is more of a memory register, capturing what that particular year meant for us.

In just one book of about 50-60 A4 pages.

What is in there? First of all, it’s not really chronological, but rather thematic: I made one theme per spread. To illustrate, let’s take “art” again, as I am somehow in a bit artistic mode today – we have a spread dedicated to “art”:

  • there are photos of my kids in the process of drawing or sculpting, or cutting, you name it;
  • photos of art created by them;
  • photos related to us visiting art exhibitions, also those of my father-in-law (Riwart);
  • as well as some general notable events in the context of art that we would like to remember. For instance, last year the painting by Paul Gauguin “When Will You Marry?” was sold for a record $300 million and that triggered a lively and extensive discussion in between my husband and myself about appreciating art. It was fun and we wanted to remember it! That is how Gauguin ended up somewhere in between a drawing of a rainbow by my daughter and first attempts at using crayons by my son.

Another spread in our book of the last year is dedicated to the year’s favorite cartoons of our kids and the year’s favorite movies and TV-shows of my husband and myself. We could not have skipped a sad picture “R.I.P. Top Gear”, now could we?! Likewise some other notable events of the year like a discovery of water on Mars or a discovery of “super-hendge” were included, just to name a few. There are also themes “fashionistas”, “travel”, “parties”, “cars”, “studying”, and so on.

As to the practical side of the matter there are numerous websites where you can easily make and order a photo-book. I personally do it via Albelli because I find their software very user friendly and simple as ABC, but as I said – there is a big choice on the market. Time-wise compiling a yearly book of course requires some time and probably if you were not making mental of physical notes (I personally write down things in a Note on my iPhone) about certain events, it will be time-consuming at first to remember everything that happened. But, trust me, once you do it regularly you will have a neat, nice, clutter-free way of keeping memories worth keeping.

Exceptional every-day: why I don’t keep much items for special occasions only

This short post is about let’s call it – my life philosophy with respect to everyday items. Throughout my life, I have seen a lot of people having two sets of items: the ones for everyday use and the ones that they take out on special occasions only. That always left me puzzled as to why would anyone do this.

Personally, I like to surround myself with beautiful items. I like comfort. I like luxury. And I don’t understand why people drink from a broken cup if they have a good cup standing in a cupboard for those special occasions. Which special occasions? When somebody comes for a visit? When you have a party? When you win the lottery? What is so special about those special occasions? Why doesn’t your every day deserve to be exceptional? What if today is your last day? No, ok even without being fatalistic, I still believe in the beauty of today and I truly want to enjoy it to its fullest. I like when my dining table is nicely set. I like when a dinner I serve looks maybe not totally haute-cuisine yet at least has some presentation effort in it. I like to dress up. I like having nice decor items at home… I can go on further, but the bottom line is – I like to be surrounded by beauty. It energizes me! 

Old broken items clutter your home and drain energy and that is precisely why I never keep them. Yes, you might have that favorite high school coffee cup that you were drinking from when you were writing your thesis. It has a sentimental value to it. But look it at: it has a crack, the paint is off, and your taste changed from drinking brewed coffee with tons of milk and sugar to having a properly made Americano. It doesn’t fit who you are anymore, it doesn’t fit your taste anymore. Isn’t it time to let go?

Obviously, with clothes you will have items for special occasions, for instance, you are not going to wear an evening dress in your everyday life, or a strict suit or alike. However, as for me, I don’t have that much of those items. And also with clothes: for example, I never keep a new dress for that very special moment that maybe will come one day. I make that special moment today because my today is always exceptional.

Eliminating ironing

That’s controversial of course and a lot of people will disagree that it’s a good decision, but it saves me a lot of time and spares me back pain. I always hated ironing! However, when you are either tight on budget or just don’t want to spend extra money on laundry and ironing service for your husband’s shirts that’s what you have to do – you iron them! My speed was about 10 to 12 shirts an hour. An hour of standing and doing a repetitive, annoying and tiresome action with my arm which frequently resulted in the pain in between my shoulder blades. Not fun.

I have researched the matter, tried different speedy ironing techniques, but finally found a solution which avoids the iron all together. There are non-iron shirts! Whomever invented this thing is a genius. There are several manufacturers who offer good quality non-iron shirts yet for ourselves we found one in England – Charles Tyrwhitt. I should probably already ask them to pay me for advertising because I have referred all my friends to them. They are really worth every penny. One caveat – when you wash the shirts (and if your washing machine allows that) switch on the “easy ironing” button or just pick lower centrifuge speed and (!) this is very important – immediately take the shirts out and hang them on hangers, closing all buttons. Yes, it takes a bit of your time, but it totally eliminates the need to use an iron afterwards. Shirts look as if they have actually been ironed!

Ironing is still required for pants and t-shirts, unless you also opted for a non-iron version, and that’s it. I know that some people, like my mom, like to have their linens ironed. I don’t. Moreover, if you fold your linens neatly and stack them on top of each other most of the times they look good as such. Maybe this is due to my choice of fabrics, I don’t know. My linens are 100% cotton satin and they don’t get crooked.

The bottom-line is that you don’t have to iron everything unless you really want to, there are options out there that allow you to have the same result, while sparing you time and not costing more (and if you take into account that an iron consumes hell of a lot electricity –  even saving you money).