Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bag Bender

I recently discovered the Green Bag Lady through another blog. I entered one of her give-aways, and won a handmade shopping bag for Christmas. I used it at the grocery store today, but didn't take a picture.
I happened upon her site when she was blogging about making bags and getting rid of wrapping paper. Unfortunately the thought never entered my mind and I have already wrapped half of my presents, but the other half.......hmmmm...... I could whip something up. So I measured out the size of a DVD, a hardback book, and then made a larger size for clothing, and whipped out a couple bags. I simply put the right sides together, and sewed the three sides together. Then flip the top over a little bit and top stitched around to make it looke hemmed. I cut a 24 inch piece of ribbon, and sewed the middle to a side seam about 4 inches down, and viola...... wrapping bags. I've now made oodles of them.
I also took some muslin I had on hand, attached a thin ribbon to it, sewed it to the back side of a scrap piece of fabric and wrote on it. This is my reuseable tag (you can see the backside of it in the top picture). It slips through the ribbon tie on the bag, and I can reuse those next year too (because I'll be giving gifts to a lot of the same people, right?). Both the bag and tag take a small amount of time to make, and I plan on making a bunch today to use. If you get one for Christmas, and can't imagine using it, just hand it back to me and I'll give it to you again next year.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

flag banner

I've been seeing these things around the internet and finally got around to making one. Apparently my craving for sewing is back. I chose a bunch of fall fabrics, cut a front and back together using the diagonals on my ruler and cutting mat, sewed the sides, bound them into bias tape, and hung them up. Looks nice, we'll have to see if I do it for Christmas too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jumpstarting creativity

Apparently finishing the denim "quilt" got me sewing again. With four kids I don't really have a lot of extra time, but I'm finding certain pockets of time on the weekends for myself.....unfortunately the state of my house reflects this time. I am trying to handmake some things for Christmas this year, as I did last year. The hardest thing I'm discovering is that we have so much STUFF that I don't need anything, but still I feel the urge to create. Thankfully I discovered today so I'm sure I"ll find TONS of things over there.

I loosely used this tutorial to make fruit and veggie bags, about 6, for my shopping. I also made a set for a morale pal exchange at work. She likes being a little more eco-friendly too, and although my secret identity may now be compromised, I don't think she reads my blogs. The only issue I had as a "mostly quilter sewer" is that the netting I used slid everywhich way. Yes I could have pinned it, but I just decided to keep moving.

I think I got a little better at managing the four layers (I doubled the thickness for strength for my large family purchases), but I also think I eventually quit worrying about how straight everything was. I am a math teacher and LOVE straight lines, but I had to let it go for this..... its just for veggies right?

I've also been working on more felt food for the little girls Christmas this year. They also have a bunch of American Girl stuff on their list, so I made some cinnamon rolls for their dolls as well. I followed a tutorial for the muffins here , but just looked at pictures for the cinnamon rolls. I made teeny tiny ones for their doll tea parties too, but Brian didn't take pics of those. The grocery bags I made for them was just 2 rectangles of felt with a 3rd one cut for the same length as the sides of the bag, but a determined width (I think 3 or 4 inches) by me. I'm planning on making some "price tags" because I've noticed they aren't just playing with these in their kitchen, but setting up "stores" in different parts of the house. I keep waiting for them to outgrow this, but it hasn't happened yet... thankfully there are other little folks in my family so I can continue to make these.

Next up for the little girls is at least one knitted doll sweater each, but I"ll try for a couple of them. I do have other things to make that I can't post yet so they'll have to wait until after Christmas.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I posted this on my family blog too, but it fits here too for upcycling. I haven't thought I've been doing anything new, just trying to maintain what I've already taken on.... and trying to get hubby to use our bags instead of the plastic store bags.

Last January I committed to attacking my UFO stash of quilt tops as my husband was out of work by saying publicly over at kleio's belly that I would work on them. Nothing like using what you already have, and not buying new things. I started to finish a knitting project, but eventually got bored, and distracted, so I stuck all of my project stuff away. A few weeks ago I bought some mesh because I want to make my own veggie bags for the grocery store and farmer's market instead of the plastic ones, but I couldn't because I had this pile of jeans on top of my sewing machine (a UFO in the middle of my work space). The intention was to take these jeans from various family members and cut them into squares, back them with flannel, and then when we travel buy patches as souvenirs instead of all the kids buying junk. We've been buying the patches, and they were on my sewing table too.

A couple weekends ago I really wanted to make these bags, but I had to keep moving the jeans.... could have thrown them on the bed, but I remembered how excited I was to attack things I had already started. So out came the rotary cutter, a few good movies, and I cut all the jeans up into 6 inch squares, and saved the back pockets off of the jeans. For the 6 inch squares only the kids pockets fit, but I'll save the others (plus a few squares) for another quilt like this --- of course that sounds like another UFO. I backed each square of denim with flannel, and sewed it to the next one, seams out so it will fray. I used every last inch of flannel and bound it with the flannel too. I still have a couple patches to sew on, but I'll be finished by lunch with those.

Now the kids all want to know who "gets it" so I told them I will deal with the jeans they outgrow or run into the ground, as they come in, and I have a bag of a few leftover squares to store in my art closet instead of a ton of jeans lying on top of my sewing machine. Eventually I may end up with one for each of them to add too, but right now this is the family travel quilt. An easy way to upcycle as long as I stay focused.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rhonda asked...

Rhonda is a lady living in Austrailia who has a blog I read at I started reading her blog about two years ago, and found she had some inspiring ideas - her garden is to DIE for! On her blog she asked what led us to attempt the simpler life......well..... not sure mine is so simpler, but I'm trying a few things to create less waste, and bring my family back to certain values.

1.) The garden. We started this several years ag0. The first year I did it because my Dad had been diagnosed with cancer - already stage 4, and one of the contributing factors may have been his diet. My focus at that point was to get off as much processed food as possible. I read Animal,Vegetable, Miracle, and a few others, and was pretty motivated. Last year I also bought a lot of veggies at the farmer's market and learned to can/freeze as much as possible while the prices were so low. I'll definitely be doing this again. I'm still hooked on Cokes, but we tend to make more food from "real f ood" and have a lot less processed foods.

2.) Plastic - I'm still working on this, but I've gotten rid of a lot of containers that are plastic, but still have a few. Most of what I have left is for school lunches, but that is one of my priorities this summer. We also don't use products with aluminum in them.

3.) Recycling - easy, they pick up, and I've found a place nearby for the things not picked up by the bin.

4.) Knitting/Quilting, etc I have started knitting and quilting again. I need to make more time for this.

5.) Buying less- um definitely. Brian was out of work for 8 months, so we are definitely on board with that. We're going to the library, found a lot of free places to hike or put in the canoe. Found out about free sundays at the art museum, etc.

6.) Laundry- I'm still using the washing machine, but not the drier. Hanging clothes to dry either inside, or out on the porch has not been a big deal except I do have to iron more.

My goals - learn to make pasta, three season garden, continue teaching my girls/students about gardening, cut down on trips/gas, more canning/freezing than last year. Someday I need to replace my windows, and add gutters to my house for rain barrels. I'm slowly purging things we don't need, and as we renovate we are going as eco-friendly as possible. Any other ideas would be graciously accepted.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I love science day.

I live in a very suburban town, with easy access to our smallish capital city. As a teacher, I want to always engage my students in meaningful learning and maybe give them some new ideas. Friday was I Love Science Day at my school, and students rotated between 4 of the fifth grade classrooms to do a variety of "cool" science activities. Mine was making lemonade.... yes, you heard me correctly - we made lemonade.

I brought in my lemon tree that is potted and on my deck - it was a gift last mother's day. I explained how it bloomed, and turned into lemons (answered questions about why they were green not yellow), and then showed them the pictures over at and discussed how people were really focusing on ea
ting healthier, and eating whole foods, etc. I then put them into groups and gave them a few lemons to juice, we pooled our juice together, added water and sugar (discussed if this was a mixture or solution), and then drank it. Some of them didn't like pulp, and remember from our chemistry unit this year that you could filtrate mixtures/solutions to remove larger pieces, so we pulled out coffee filters and the tri-pod funnel for them to try out. We discussed the taste differences between their idea of lemondade (crystals in a plastic container) and the one we made.

They then harvested the seeds from the lemons, and planted them, or some of the bean, or corn seeds I also had. All were interested in the idea of how we define food now, and I feel like maybe eventually I can show students, by example, how to make better choices. I wish I could show the student faces, but I just don't feel that is ethical, but I will tell you they were full of smiles.

For Mother's Day today, I received a gorgeous little orange tree, and I'm looking forward to showing that to my students too. My family definitely knows how to make me happy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Unemployment lessons

Last August, the government closed the bank/mortgage company my husband worked for. There was no notice, no severence package, they simply sent out an email announcing doors were closing at noon. That really sent us into a tailspin. We had some savings, a family of 6, and my teaching job. Now, let's be honest.... I make a decent living, but not enough to maintain our lifestyle. So, the cuts started that day.

Activities - The first thing to go were the kids activities. I allowed them (the older three) to stay in scouts because I run the troops, and the girls raise their own money through the endless cookie sales to participate in activities. Big Al played travel soccer, and her club gave her a scholarship - she was thankful. She also played school soccer which was free. T-Rex gave up archery (tough for her to do), but got to keep chorus (free). Blondie and Cheesie gave up Tennis.

Clothing - We bought no new clothes for the fall - this was really tough because T-Rex was growing, so I would buy her something new periodically, but the rest of the girls used the hand-me-downs we make use of anyway.

Obvious - We cut the obvious gym membership, etc. We never got as far as cutting the TV and internet, but I really thought the TV would just be great to get rid of anyway ( I think we would go through news withdrawl though, and if I had to choose between TV and internet, the TV would be out the door).

Electric-I started hanging my clothes to dry, and we layered through the winter. Bed linens were also layered, and no heat was used at night (in the south we get down to maybe 40 fahrenheit so it wasn't bad).

Shopping - I hate Walmart, but Brian bought groceries there as needed, but supplemented with produce from elsewhere. Christmas was on a serious shoestring, and we used a little savings for it, but it was on a much smaller scale than other years. I tried to do the coupon thing, but wasn't fanatic about it (and found that the bogo price at one supermarket was exactly the same as Walmart everyday - darn it-- I really hate that store). Last summer I had canned, and frozen a lot of fresh veggies, and stocked up on bogo meat sales, so that helped out for a long time.

Entertainment - Art museum is free on Sundays, state parks at $2.00 a car, while some hiking trails are free. We played board games, puzzles, went back to the library instead of buying books or movies, rediscovered our video games (which you can also get from the library).

So now, Brian has been back at work for about 6 weeks, and we are holding onto a lot of the changes. Ceiling fans are on instead of AC (although we are going to need to turn that on soon!), I still hang my clothes (why not? It was easy). I am about to have the long distance cut off (maybe even the whole landline). We still head for the library instead of buying books, I did join Netflix because we spend a bunch on the latest kid movies, and then end up keeping them "just-in-case" but I like the streaming movies, and it works off the Wii. I will be buying/ growing fresh fruit and veggies to can and freeze again, and will again stock up on meat for the longterm. If it had gone on much longer we may have had issues, but just as Brian's first round of Unemployment (a whopping 325 per week) ran out, he got his job. It did come with a noticable pay cut, so we aren't changing much of our habits.

We are still focused on paying off everything as fast as possible so we aren't in debt again. If we hadn't had two car payments, and a few other bills we would have been fine indefinitely. We were fans of Dave Ramsey before, but really are working toward the financial independence now. We continue to live as we did when he was out of work, and according to this article on the "new" frugality, we aren't alone. I think this was a good way for me to begin simplifying. When you have less money, you shop a lot less, and really we haven't missed much. We'll keep this up for awhile, and see how it goes.