Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Faded Roses

Fading homegrown roses from our high tea in the weekend run through an antique filter to enhance the mood...

Joining in again with Project Alicia and Wordless Wednesday. Pop over to see some awesome images! - K xx

Sunday, 24 March 2013

How to fix a cheap plastic washing basket!

I'm sure we all have these cheap plastic washing baskets lying around the place...

And I wonder how many of them are broken....

I find the handles break first and if you can still manage a load of washing with it even with broken handles, the sides go next. I hate throwing them away, and after I managed to fix the dirty clothes basket that lives in the bathroom, I figured I would give fixing this basket a go, too!

Here's what I did...

Both handles are broken. One had an attempt to fix it with string (string rots fairly quickly) and also with a bit of packing tape - also a no go-er!

See how the sides are starting to break already?

So for this side, I used a thicker piece of plastic coated wire and attached the handle back on by going over the top of the handle. When you use it, all the pressure is on the strong pieces of the basket.

Its not the best looking handle in the world, but so far none of my friends or relatives have disowned me due to an in-elegant washing basket handle... (So far, so good!)

To strengthen the sides where the crack was I put in some reinforcing with some thinner wire

And added another bit for good measure!
The wire needs to extend into the areas that are not broken and able to stand the pressure they are put under when the basket is full of wet washing.

For the missing handle - I just reconstructed a new one.

Those nasty sticky out bits got chopped off with a Stanley knife so I didn't do any damage to my hand picking the basket up when its heavy.

Might not win me any awards for construction, decor or interior decorating, but it sure does the trick when I need to hang the washing on the line!

Score card: 
Green-ness: 5/5 for repairing something and extending its life
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for doing it for free!
Time cost: Maybe 15 minutes all up
Skill level: Basket weaving (almost like being in therapy!)
Fun-ness: Great fun to have a few extra dollar to spend on me rather than the washing!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Very easy to make, shabby chic afternoon tea invitations!

Last year two friends and I hosted an afternoon tea party which was a lot of fun. This year, despite the constant rain, we decided to host another one. Which meant that I got to play and make some wonderful invitations. I saw some on the net that inspired these, but mine turned out totally different - great but nothing like the ones I had seen!

Anyway, these ones are very easy, very cheap and very nice into the bargain!

Here's what I did...

First I bought a pack of 24 rectangle paper doilies (aprox A5 size) for $2 at my local cheap shop.

Then I made up some fairly strong tea and let it go cold - next time I think I would be more subtle and use less tea. As it drys and ages it gets darker. So what you see when it first drys, is not as dark as it will end up. You can always darken it up later but you cant lighten it easily...

Using the tea bag as a stamp pad  I just blotted the doilies two at a time.

And then dried them with a hair dryer - if there was enough sun, I would have popped them in the sun to dry.

Once I had tinted all my doilies, I printed out the invitation wording, (left in the above picture) two invites to an A4 sheet of paper and cut the A4 in half - this gives you A5. I also used a colour that was brownish red to go with the tea tint. 

I had planned to have the invitation as an A6 size (1/4 of an A4 page) so that the invitation unfolded to reveal its contents and still it fit into a standard envelope. So I cut my printed A4 sheet in half and then folded up the bottom of the doiley and inserted the printed invite. DON'T glue it yet. 

Then I cut the top of the invite off so that it all fits neatly inside. (compare this photo with the above to see what I cut off) When you are designing the printed part, have a doily handy and print off a few drafts so that when you go to use up all the coloured ink - you know its going to fit. By folding up the bottom, I needed to cut off part of the top. I wasnt clever enough to figure out how to print the invite in the right spot not to have to cut anything off the top!...

Once you have the insert cut to size, glue it in with a glue stick. Some liquid glues will pucker up the delicate doily, which may enhance your shabby chic look, or it may not...

Glue the folded piece of the doily to the top of the printed invite as well.
Then using a ruler to get a straight fold line exactly where I wanted it - I folded the invite.
By using a 1/2 sheet of photocopy paper for the inside of the invite, I have made the invitation a bit stronger as doiley paper is quite delicate. The thicker the paper you use, the more robust your invitation will be.

The idea was to have the two edges meet. This will make your invitation an A6 which is a standard envelope size as well.

I made the invitation label for the front - probably a bit too big - see the difference between the plain paper and the tinted doily...

I glued the invitation label on to the front

And then aged it using the same technique as I did to tint the doily except that I used a paintbrush as i was working with a much smaller piece of paper. I discovered that the ink was waterproof (which I wasn't expecting) and so was able to drip my tea tint onto the writing as well.

Once everything was dry and glued together I cut a series of ribbon and glued them on the back of the invitation.

Tied the ribbon around the front of the invitation and tinted parts of it with the tea to age it as well.

Popped it into an envelope and posted them off!

There are some beautiful shabby chic invitation on the net for inspiration and mine are nothing like the fantastical ones that I fell in love with but nevertheless, still a lot of fun (and I think easier to make for those of us with very little patience!)

Its a bit fiddly getting the printed part to fit inside. You could always make the invitation with a blank inside and when they are finished, print off 4 invites to a page and cut them out to glue inside once its all made.

If you are a stamper, I can see all sorts of possibilities to add to the doilies to age or to decorate them!

Mine went down well with my guests and I'm already looking forward to the next afternoon tea party with the girls!

Score card:
Green-ness: 3/5 Its probably greener to send an email invite. Also used new products that probably cant be used again for anything else.
Frugal-ness: 5/5 Cost me $2 for the doilies and $4 for the ribbon. I thought $6 for 24 handmade invitations was ok!
Time cost: Maybe 4 hours from whoa to go. I made them in about 3 spurts of just over an hour each.
Skill level: The invitation is easy enough, getting the printed piece in the right place too a fair bit of computor skill. Although once you've got it, you can save it, change the details and use it again.
 Fun-ness: This was a wonderful project - I enjoyed every step of it!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Wash day!

All the linen napkins on the line, after Sunday's afternoon tea with the girls! 

Joining up with Project Alicia's Wordless Wednesday once more - pop over, there are lots of wonderful photos to browse!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Supporting local farmers with CSA/food connect fruit and vegetable boxes!

If you are a regular blog visitor you may have noticed that despite having a rather large block in the subtropics, growing food seems to impossible. Too much sun, too much rain, not enough rain, a week away and poof - all that hard work turns to dust again.

All the reading I have been doing lately has been about globalisition (for my uni assignments) and its got me thinking again about local farmers and how to connect to them. Many of the "food sustainability" books that I read are wonderful but most of them are based in America. They talk a lot about CSA - which is community supported agriculture - and if I understand it correctly, you pay a fee to a farmer (or a group of farmers or a group that buys from farmers direct) and at harvest time, you come and collect your bounty. I hadn't heard of any such thing here in Australia and even though we have a lot of Farmers Markets, I have noticed that quite a few of them are middle men and have been to the big commercial  Fruit and Vege markets here in Brissy and are selling what Coles and Woolworths left behind... or rejected... I know, I have asked.

That's not to say all sellers at a Farmers Market are doing that but after working at a "side of the road fruit and vege stall" for a few months I came to realise that that's what quite a large number of them were doing. Yes, my boss used to be a farmer, and Yes, the house across the paddock is the original family homestead but every single one of these items came from the big commercial markets - Fresh this morning. Its still all a mono-culture, still full of pesticides and still full of added fertilizers... and not may human hands went into the production of these veges.

Not what I was keen on continuing to eat.

One day - just for the sheer hell of it, I googled "CSA Australia" maybe, just maybe, there was such a thing in Australia, or maybe if I was very lucky, Brisbane.

And you know what? There is!

Here's what I did...

First I explored the Food Connect site thoroughly. And that's a fun thing to do!

Food Connect buy produce in from over 80 farms in the Brisbane area each week and then box it into a variety of boxes (small veg, large veg, gourmet, fruit, mixed, etc) and then on specific delivery days they deliver these boxes to their city cousins. City cousins are families like you and me that agree to have the boxes delivered (usually to their back deck) and the people who ordered the boxes, go around after lunch and grab their box of goodies that they ordered and paid for on the net the week before, and sign for them.

I guess there are many schemes like this, some even deliver to your door or work place, but what I really like about this one is that you know where the food is coming from. Its not left overs from the big commercial markets, its been picked and delivered to Food Connect, packed and sent out to me, almost on the same day!

There is a small blurb about each of the farmers on the Food Connect website and even contact details - you can actually ring and talk to the farmer. Food Connect organise Farm Tours where you can go as a group to a farm and actually see how its all grown! I think that's wonderful.

There is seasonal variation  That means if its not apple picking season, there are no apples. There are weather variations; not much sun and 3 weeks of rain makes for smaller but just as tasty lettuces. Most of the farmers practice organic or bio-dynamic techniques even if they are not certified. And.. The fruit and veges are so crunchy! - that's the bit that really impressed me after so many years of limp supermarket produce. The quality is very high. The taste is fantastic and I can get much more storage time without the drop in quality out of these veges than I can with what I have been buying at the supermarket.

They rotate some items like garlic, ginger and herbs as you don't use them as regularly as lettuce and tomatoes for example.

There are a few things that you have to get your head around though, if you are going to use Food Connect...

First. It will seem expensive compared to buying at the supermarket. My first reaction was; "Is that all I get??" when I first opened my box. I decided to see just how far it went and tracked our vege consumption for the week. As it turned out, we just used up all the veges as the next box was picked up. It seems to me after a few weeks of using Food Connect, that I must have been buying lots of veges at the supermarket and storing them until they were unfit to eat and them giving them to the chooks or throwing them into the compost because I know I bought more veges, now I wonder if I used more veges...
It looked more expensive initially  but after actually tracking what we eat and wheat we threw out, I reckon I'm spending about the same but actually eating it all. (Man, I must have some expensive compost at the bottom of the garden!)

Second: You don't get to "choose" what goes into it. If there are no lettuces because the road was closed because of the rain, you might get extra tomatoes or lemons or something. So you have to put on your big girl undies (as my neighbour is fond of saying ) and just deal with it. If you were growing your own and it got eaten by bugs, torn up by a storm or stolen by the local kids - you'd just deal with it. It makes meal planning a bit harder, as until you get your box, you don't know what you are definitely going to get.
Food Connect does have a list of what they are expecting to have in the boxes on their website based on what the farmers tell them they will be harvesting. You can check that if you are planning meals in advance and you can order individual veges as extras when you order if you want extra peaches, mushrooms or a kohl rabi for any reason.

Third: There is a set day for your area for picking up your box. That means that you cant have yours delivered on Monday for the week or Saturday morning for the weekend as you can with some vege box companies that deliver to the door because it suits you. So far it hasn't been a problem for me as my city cousin is only a suburb away. I thought I'd prefer a Monday but Wednesday seems to work just as well for me. I'm guessing if I changed the pick up location I could get my Monday... but how far do I want to travel? Part of the fun of collecting orders is the potential to chat to the city cousin and other subscribers and learn new things and if I make a new friend just down the road - so much the better.

So if you are super organised and need certain things on certain days, then this might not work for you. If you like to store your fruit and vege until they are ready for the compost so your fridge looks full - again, this may not work for you.

But if you want to eat seasonally, be able to contact the farmer (or even visit the farmer) and care about where your food comes from and how it is grown - then definitely - this is for you!

Food Connect also sells some other food items (honey, bread, milk, nuts for example) and you can just order what you need when you need it and it will come with your regular order.

If you are keen on eating a bit better, I would like to encourage you to look into Food Connect or whatever your local version is and make that change. I'm still trying to align the practice and the principles but suspect that I'm probably a convert already!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for buying locally and ethically grown food
Frugal-ness: 5/5 if you eat it and don't throw it in the compost...
Time cost: Maybe an extra 15 minutes to go and get it out of a normal routine.
Skill level: Actually making that leap - much harder than I imagined it to be!
Fun-ness: Great fun to know who grew your veges! Extra fun to eat!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Cute, easy pin cushion that took 1/2 an hour to make!

Since I have started to make a few quilts I have been using more and more pins. I got these wonderful long ones that also have a flat head and can be ironed (and sewed as it turns out!) I found it a bit fiddly to get them in and out of the container and when I got to class for the third time and found the container had popped and splits half a million pins into the bottom of my bag again, I decided I needed to do something about it.

So I googled easy to make pins cushion and using this one for inspiration,

 Here's what I did...

First I cut a 4x4 inch of cloth from an old shirt. Its not going to be seen so it doesn't matter what colour it is.

Then I selected a few scraps from my latest quilt (including scraps that were sewn together already)

Then with the first patch the right way up, I roughly sewed it to the base.

Then I sewed the next patch to the already sewn patch, right sides together.

And cut it to size when I hd finished sewing (saves guessing!)

Then I pressed the green patch open and repeated the process with the light purple.

and just keep repeating the sewing and opening up and pressing until you have covered the base piece entirely

Just for fun, I used some fancy stitches on my machine and outlined a few patches.

The using a left over peice of patchwork (you could use a plain piece or even crazy patch another piece) I cut the back for my pin cushion.

I placed the back on top of the front and cut around the two pieces to get both the same size (and shape!)

Then i sewed the two pieces together (right sides together) and left a gap to turn it in the right way and to stuff it.

I stuffed it with just scraps and bits material that was lying around.

And hand stitched it shut.

I sewd a button on it - just because I could and took the threads around the outside and tightened them to puff the pillow up a bit more.

I popped the pins in it...

Took a few photos...

and got back to work on my quilt!

I'm getting there - slowly! the camera wont capture the colours properly though...

Pin cushion are a nice easy project and are so easy to personalise! These might be a nice gift if you have a sewer in your life. It might be a good project for school holidays or just cause you are sick of picking your pins out of the bottom of your bag!

I found this great list of pin cushion ideas that you might want to browse if your are in the mood to make a pin cushion this weekend!

Score card: 
Green-ness: 5/5 for making one out of scraps destined for the bin
 Frugal-ness:  5/5 for making my own without having to buy anything
 Time cost: About 1/2 an hour all up - probably less for experienced sewers!
 Skill level: If you can sew in a straight-ish line - its an easy one for you!
 Fun -ness: Great fun - and practical at the same time!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Dropping off stuff to your second hand shop!

I'm a big fan of the Second Hand or Op shop!

A huge amount of what I wear, have in my kitchen, use in my house is from a second hand shop. I think they are great on so many levels.I like the fact that I am saving money. I like that my money is going to a charity and not adding to the profits of some already very rich people. I thinks its great that I can save a few things from landfill and meet some wonderful people all at the same time.

As well as being a regular shopper at our five local second hand shops, I drop off all the de-cluttering that I do. Having a clean out of the cupboards in the kitchen - off to the op shop. Wardrobe a bit full? Off to the op shop. A book cull? Off to the Op shop!

I had a chat to the drop off guy the other day and he gave a me few tip to make everyone's life easier...

Here's what he said to do...

First, he said - ask your self... Is this sellable or is it rubbish?
If its clothing with a stain, tear or mark on it then rip it up and pop it in your rag bag at home. They get enough rags with out getting excited about one or two extras.

Secondly - choose your time to drop off. I was going in on Mondays after I had had a clean out in the weekend and was being turned away. I tried popping in on Saturday morning as soon as I had had my wee clean out and again was being sent away as they were "full". It took a conversation to find out that they get soooooo much garage sale leftovers that they start turning stuff away on a Friday and Saturday to make room for the weekend influx. Their donation bins will be overflowing on Monday and they aren't able to sort and process any more.

The best day to deliver? Wednesday! Most of the weekends stuff is sorted and they are ready for more!

My man at the back door also asks that we sort the bits and pieces before we get there. Books in one bag. Kitchen stuff in another. Clothes sorted into Men's, Woman's and Children also help them to sort. If you use the supermarket bags and DON'T tie them in a knot then its the right size and weight for most people at the shop to handle and they can reuse the bags.

A bag of bags always goes down well as well!

And what to do with the bits that are a bit dodgy? Try the tip shop. Our council runs a shop from the dump that take the potentially re-sellable bits and pieces from your load before you dump it and sells it at incredibly cheap prices to the public Wed-Sun. If your council does this then let the charities pick through your load and then wander up to the dump later with the rest. Our isn't fussy and takes it all.

So to make your op shop donations easier for every one. Lots of small bags of sorted, sellable gear delivered on a Wednesday is the way to go!

Happy donating!

Score card: 
Green-ness: 5/5 for doing the right thing in so many ways!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for supporting enterprises that keep perfectly good stuff from going to landfill.
Time cost: No extra time - just organisation
Skill level: Arrive with a load rather than leave with a load...
Fun -ness: Great fun to declutter, donate and save the planet - all in one hit!
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