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Archive for November, 2009

Do you have a family member or friend that is not in need of anything but is partial to sentimental gifts?  I’ve got the perfect idea for you while allowing you to reuse or “upcycle” items that would normally go in the trash – pasta jar and drink lids!  Most of you probably think that these tops are recyclable, but in most cases they are not, so what to do with them? 

I’ve had a small collection of lids that I’ve kept from pasta jars and the Pom teas when they used to come in glass jars which I saved.  However, I realized I didn’t really need all these lids and in my quest last night of trying to find a way to reuse small bottle caps, I came up with this idea for my larger lids.  Most of these lids are about 2 inches in diameter and can easily be found from pasta jars, salsa jars, etc.

I rummaged through a box of photos I had, most of them pics of my adorable nieces when they were young and oh-so-sweet *wink*.  Using my X-acto knife (or you can easily use a pen) I traced the outer rim over the pic I intended to use, cut it out and fit into the inside of the lid using double-sided tape.  My circles weren’t perfect but good enough and in some cases I applied a quick coat of black paint to the inside of the bottom rim to hide any lighter colors that wouldn’t get covered by a picture.  You can leave the lids as they are, paint them or use ribbon and a glue gun to decorate the lid.

 Then using a nail (I don’t have an awl) I punched a whole through the picture and the lid (in the angels example below) or just the lid below (in the baby example below):

Or instead of gifting as x-mas ornaments, you can affix a magnet to the back of the lids for use as fridge magnets.  Utilize those extra magnets you often get but don’t need (how many pizza delivery magnets to you need?), apply glue from glue gun or double-sided foam tape to the magnet and affix to your lid (I needed the foam tape for my drink lids as they needed a bit more height so as to be higher than the lip of the lid, otherwise they wouldn’t adhere to the fridge).

And it’s that simple folks!  Giving a sentimental gift that’s utilizing resources that would otherwise be tossed out is a great way to share the holidays.

Have fun!  Oh, and if this isn’t your thing or you don’t have the time, then send me your extra lids and/or magnets! :)

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snowy morn

After being disappointed over the past 2 months about promises of big snow, I didn't get my hopes about the latest storm coming our way so I was pleasantly surprised this a.m. to find this!

It’s been a phenomenal week.  I’ve just completed my 2nd week of voluntary unemployment and it’s been tough to unwind.  I feel like I’m on a brief hiatus and need to complete every last project I’ve earmarked over the past several years.  It could also be that I’ve just learned to be the ultimate multi-tasker for the past 10+ years and it’s just going to take time learning how to bring it down a level or two.  I want to slow down, it’s the byline to my blog afterall, yet I keep feeling like I have to go back to work…tomorrow.  However, no complaining here because the things I’m filling up my day with are things I enjoy – cooking, cleaning, organizing, planning, and most of all crafting.  I’ve also spent a lot of time researching and through trial and error learning how to make my own everything in a feeble attempt at self-sufficiency (hey, that DIY laundry detergent was quite a feat and when I fold my clothes and inhale that clean, fresh scent and know that it only cost pennies, is easy on the environment and has allowed me to be that much less of a consumer, I’m giddy with excitement!).  Yeah, it’s the little things that bring me joy! :)

However, with all this washing of clothes and dishes and everything else that needed attention, we ran out of water this past week.  Yep, that’s country living with a well for you.  We have to be mindful with our water usage all the time and I did get a little carried away – June Cleaver style.  So for the rest of that day and the next, I didn’t do any cleaning, fell back on my surplus of glass bottles of water we set aside for times like this and yes, even resorted back to the old “if it’s yellow, let it mellow…” adage of water resourcefulness.  Sorry if that was TMI.

hmmm soupNow, however, I’m sitting at the table to a simple sandwich with the whole wheat sandwich bread recipe I tried out this past week (not bad…) and a bowl of roasted vegetable soup that I also tried out this week (here’s the recipe to this healthy and oh-so-satisfying soup: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Roasted-Winter-Vegetable-Soup/Detail.aspx  I must ashamedly admit that I didn’t use the rutabagas called for in the recipe because I picked what I thought were rutabagas at the grocery store but was crushed when I got ready to prepare the soup to find out that I had actually picked up 3 beets instead – how the heck do I know what a rutabaga looks like and I clearly don’t eat beets enough to be able to identify them separate from rutabagas!  Haha, some cook I am!   

One thing that is going to be really beneficial about not working is tending to relationships much more.  I’ll be more fully present with my husband (instead of the superficial uh-huh listening), I’ll be able to reach out to old friends more as well as spend more time with the current friendships I want to nurture.  I used to consider myself the type of person that had lots of acquaintances but few deep friendships.  I used to think that worked for me and that I was too busy to cultivate anything more than that.  But in the last few years as I’ve developed a close network with some girlfriends, I’ve come to really be humbled by those relationships and the depth of them has been wonderfully soothing to my soul.  This past week I also reconnected with one of my best friends from high school whom I’ve unfortunately lost touch with until the last couple of months thanks to facebook.  When we reconnected it was like the past 10 years of absence had dissolved and our connection re-established as if no time had passed.  I sent up a prayer of thanks and gratitude afterwards for that connection.  And although friendships come and go, wax and wan, there is nothing like a really deep, soul-engaging conversation that will far surpass a thousand superficial soundbites with acquaintances.  I’ve learned to let go of those relationships that don’t sustain me and to really focus on those that do.  It’s all about give and take and when the giving and taking feel equally good, you know it’s right.

Okay, off my philisophical soapbox and time to bring you a good laugh.  Let me insert pic here and then give you the hilarious story afterwards:

the cocoa incident

Yes, this is the cocoa incident I speak of in my header.  You see, I had grandiose ideas of making my own cocoa mix.  Yep, just another moment in my yet-to-be-diagnosed do-it-yourself-itis.  So I gathered up all my ingredients, including the cocoa powder I recently purchased.  Now, for those of you at sea level, let me explain a little quirky thing about high altitudes - it causes everything to look bloated, from chip bags to pill bottles (and this explains why your bottle of hairspray or saline solution always looks like its going to explode after a flight).  Well, when I went to pull back the very tight seal on my can of Ghiradelli cocoa powder, a very loud “POP!” ensued with a plume of cocoa powder fallout that rained down upon everything.  Yes folks, it was in my hair, on my glasses, on the floor, even covered items almost 10 feet away and yes, even my laptop where I was reading my recipe off of was a poor casualty of the incident. 

poor laptop

After we paused for a few seconds from being unbelievably startled and stunned, we succumbed to belly laughs that nearly brought us to our knees.  David was sure to capture this on film (forgive me for my rolled-out-of-bed look but I decided to forsake my vanity for your comic relief…do enjoy!).

Tonight I’m going to enjoy the snow with a down-home meal of chicken and dumpling soup, which I had the great pleasure of enjoying on Friday night with my girlfriend Peg (thanks for the recipe!!).  I’m also going to try to find a way to reuse bottle caps (it’s amazing how many we go through now that I’m really trying to watch everything that goes in the trash).  Oh yeah, that and toilet-paper tubes…there’s gotta be something out there!  HA!  Wish me luck…I’ll happily report on my findings next week! :)

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DIY laundryOkay, so I’ve been searching for a DIY recipe for laundry detergent for a while now.  I wanted an option that was environmentally friendly first, cheap second.  I’ve found both and have tested it out this week among all my housework catch-up.  There are a plethora of recipes online, but this one was the simplest and easiest.  It will require a 5 gallon bucket (I used a clean home depot bucket which did the trick just fine) and a few inexpensive and relatively easy-to-find ingredients:

What you need:

  • 1/4 c. borax (a natural mineral)
  • 1/2 c. washing soda (a close cousin of baking soda)
  • 1/2 bar of unscented castile soap
  • natural essential oils (or if you prefer, you can use a scented bar of castile soap in lieu of essential oils)
  • hot water

 The borax and washing soda can easily be found in the laundry aisle of a conventional grocery store; the castile can be found in health food stores or some “natural” sections of a conventional grocery store.  You can also use Fels Naptha soap or Ivory soap if need be, though this is not so much of a “natural” option.

How-to:

  1. Shred/grate down 1/2 of the bar of soap and melt in a pan with 4 c. of water over medium-low heat until completely dissolved
  2. Fill 1/2 of the 5 gallon bucket with hot tap water and add the washing soda and borax and mix well
  3. Add the melted soap mixture to the bucket, mix again, cover and let sit overnight
  4. The next day the mixture will be somewhat gellatinous; mix again and add room temperature water to fill to the top of the bucket, add any essential oils (about 20-40 drops, to desired scent); mix well again (the mixture will be more watery now, but that’s okay – and it will also cause less build-up in your washer too!)
  5. You can either use straight from the bucket or pour into old, clean laundry containers
  6. Use 1/2 c. liquid for each load in a top-loading machines; 1/8 c. for front-loading machines

Voila!  You won’t get that crazy, perfumed scent of laundry, but isn’t that part of the goal?  Also, a great fabric softener is vinegar – really does soften clothes, whitens whites and doesn’t leave any residual odor, scout’s honor!

Super green and super cheap (the above recipe cost less than $5 to make and lasts about 160 loads using 1/2 c. for top-loaders and a whopping 640 loads for the  mere 1/8 c. needed for front-loaders!)

Happy laundering (clothes, that is)! :)

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marthaSo I thought I’d have more time to blog but surprisingly (or not!) I’m still crazy busy, but in a totally different and much better way.  You know when you’re just busy with everything, you just don’t have time to put things in the right place so you just shove it in a closet, stuff it into a drawer, etc?  Well I’ve been doing that for the past year and so I spent all last week undoing it all (and still at it!) I’m literally going room by room, doing a “spring cleaning” of sorts and reorganizing my clutter so I can take a mental inventory of what I have on hand (who knew I had so many freakin’ bottles of lotion?) and get my donate piles going so I can free up some space and make room for creativity.  So I’m cooking and cleaning like a mad woman by day, crafting by night and still happy as can be.  My heart loves home.

David (what a trooper) and I visited 2 craft fairs this past weekend to do some “market research” and learned a good deal about what we liked and didn’t like and what types of my artwork/crafts would do well (ix-nay on the body care, there were about 8+ vendors sporting tables, but no paper crafts, no cleaning products and only 2 photographers so I may have a shot with a hybrid table next year)!  I’m also excited that some photo supplies came in recently – I was able to source 100% post-consumer recycled cardstock as well as biodegradable/compostable plastic bags to house my photo cards in, so I’m happy to be finding eco-friendly supplies that tie my business needs with my business philosophy. 

photo cards in plastic 2photo cards in plastic

I am, admittedly, a bit unfocused right now, sewing one night, playing with photos another night, papercrafting another…all over the place, but I guess that’s the point…doing whatever I’m drawn too at the moment while building my inventory in all areas, while remembering that simplicity was my goal, first and foremost.  David is the one trying to pace me at the moment.  I can’t help but be excited; it’s great to be loving what you’re doing!  It’s a great place to be…I hope you all get the opportunity to do so as well if you’re not already there!

For the record, while I admire M.S.’s creative aptitude, I think she’s unbelievably arrogant and pretentious and don’t aspire to those traits!  But damn is her work unbelievably inspiring!!

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Well, it’s official!  I’m self-employed!  Well, it may take a while to generate a profit, but I’m fine with that since I’m needing a mental break.  However, crafting is a soothing process for me…I love to do while watching TV (I know, hard for me to break away from multi-tasking, but hey, it’s only my 2nd day of “non-traditional work” - *smirk*)  Luckily we’re going into the holiday season and activity and queries have picked up on my photo site.  Plus I’ve been creating a lot of photo cards and sourcing 100% post-consumer recycled cardstock/envelopes and biodegradable plastic bags to sell them in.  It’s all about the environmental mission – if it’s not reused or recycled then I’m not interested, frankly.

Here are some projects I’ve been working on as of late:

Natural/upcycled (a fancy way of saying ‘reused materials’) bows for gifting and wreaths (which would otherwise end up in the trash):

upcycled bows 1

upcycled bows 2

And upcycled coffee ‘cozies’ that replace the cardboard sleeves the coffee shops give out; I used sweaters from the thrift shop thus giving a second life to the sweaters and also preventing all that cardboard waste from ending up in the trash for frequent coffee shop patrons:

Coffee cozies 1

Coffee cozies 3

Since it’s almost wreath season,  I’ll be getting ready to do a lot of clipping in my yard (thankfully, I have a LOT of pine trees) and will be putting together holiday wreaths that have an environmental/recycled/natural theme to them (don’t worry, they won’t look tacky!)

David and I are planning out the holiday craft season with weekend “research” trips to check things out and get some ideas to help with planning for my venture next year into the holiday craft show run.  Meantime, crafting is done with relaxation as the primary motivation, building inventory as the second motivation.  Afterall, this leap from the corporate world was about slowing down/simplifying first, making money in non-traditional way second.

Now, off to the grocery store with my coupons/shopping list!  :D

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Oooh…Halloween!

You know, for a while I didn’t participate in Halloween…I either had work commitments or nowhere to go and pretty much thought that my Halloween fun days were over.  Thank goodness for my girlfriend Peg and her love of Halloween…now I always have somewhere to go and this year David and I went all out!

Here are our ghoulish costumes…zombie couple 1

I was going as an 80′s Zombie (my awful blue polyester jacket is missing from this pic – even with the snow on the ground it was a warm day!) and David was going as a redneck Zombie.  (Clothes were a combo of items we had on hand and some small purchases from the thrift store!)

zombie couple 2

David's eyes in this picture freak me out!

The theme of our friend’s party was Zombies and damn I forgot my camera….there was a Zombie doctor, a prom Zombie reminiscent of “Carrie” and even a vegan Zombie.  It was great fun and David even won 2nd prize!

We made some fun arts and crafts to help decorate the party including bat pumpkins:

bat pumpkins

And spooky eye votives (sorry pic wasn’t very clear) but they look cool when a tealight candle is lit inside:

 spooky eye lanterns

Both items were cheap to make, just a bit time intensive.  And of course a party wouldn’t be a party without a hefty dose of sugar:

spooky cupcakes

It was a fun day for all…can’t wait until next year…now I have a whole year to plan it out! :D

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