DIY Chalkboard Menu

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This was one of the easiest DIY projects I’ve ever done that I feel ridiculous for not doing it sooner. I bought a small tin of chalkboard paint years ago with the intention of making myself a kitchen menu. I’ve always liked writing down a list of all the meals planned for the week (mainly so I don’t forget about them and waste food) I also like lists – they help me think. Now that I have a toddler it’s even more important to meal plan. So for years I’ve been thinking about the perfect ‘something’ to make into a menuboard. I thought about new frames, thought about hunting down secondhand frames, thought about finding some scrap wood and painting that up – which just meant this little project has sat off to the side for too long. So the other day on an absolute whim I went down the road to the local Op Shop, saw the perfect frame (The Op Shop Gods were looking out for me that day!) and bought it for a grand total of $5. The frame had an ugly 80’s ‘painting’ in it (by painting I mean a print of a painting but then clear lacquer is messily brushed over the image to give the appearance of a real painting). I lightly sanded it, cleaned it, put masking tape around the frame edges and then gave it two coats of the blackboard paint. It honestly took about 15 minutes (not including the dry time). I think it’s turned out so well! What do you think?

 

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Upcycled hallway organiser

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As much as I hate to admit it I am a serial dumper – and before you conjure up your own definition of ‘dumper’ I’ll let you know right now I mean that bad habit of dumping odd bits and pieces around your house until the whole thing looks like a mess. It’s a hard habit I am trying to break and also happens to be one of PJ’s pet peeves, well more specifically my coming in the house and dumping my handbag, keys, sunnies and other junk on the kitchen table. Worse than that, losing my keys (or handbag, or sunglasses) which would drive PJ to insanity just watching me look for them.

Our first solution was to get a basket and put it on the kitchen table which would act as the bowl to put keys, wallets, chewing gum etc. inside. My handbag would go beside it. We also started another bowl system (though this was an enormous salad bowl of mine) which held random things people left behind when visiting, or things we would typically leave out because we wanted to remember to give them to someone or whatever the story was. The only problem? Both bowls started overflowing and once again our kitchen table looked like a mess. We kept trying to find a home for all our things but nothing was quite right, until we decided to install something in the hallway that would take care of everything in an attractive and organised way.

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Introducing our upcycled pallet hallway organiser. We also used upcycled food cans as storage devices (mainly for sunglasses at this stage!). I made little interior covers out of scrap fabric so the sharp edges of the cans wouldn’t scratch anything. To make hooks we just grabbed a bunch of leftover nails. It’s so ridiculously easy I feel like I’m not really contributing an innovative idea here – just showing you what we threw together!

I won’t lie, the design was mostly PJ’s idea, but I’d like to think it wouldn’t be upcycled if it wasn’t for me!! We had so many pallets left over from our renovations that we weren’t short of supplies. It doesn’t  really require instructions as it is such a simple design. It is screwed into the wall with plugs, but that’s about the only thing you can’t see.

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It took a week or two to get used to walking into the hallway and hanging everything where it belonged, but now that the habit has formed it’s awesome to know that all that important stuff is exactly where you know you left it!

When it came to the ‘random bowl of other people’s stuff’ we created a ‘lost and found’ bag instead which doesn’t look so out of place on the organiser.

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We feel like it’s a nice homely welcome to our house. Far less offensive than a bunch of random bowls on the kitchen table at least. We keep wondering whether we’ll get sick of it, or whether “shabby chic/upcycled” style will become hideously unfasionable, but then we remind ourselves that it didn’t cost a cent to make so replacing it with something else won’t be heartbreaking. Heck I could even see myself painting it random colours in the future when I get sick of the sight of wood (though anyone who knows us knows we looooooooove the look of wood and our house is evident of that!).

May upcycling and shabby chic stay in fashion forever!!!

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Origami Fortune Teller Gift Idea

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I thought I’d share with you a gift I got my partner PJ for his birthday just prior to Christmas. It’s the perfect present for someone who doesn’t like gifts, as a last minute gift, or even just a nice surprise for someone!

So you might remember making origami fortune tellers in school? You could write fortunes or even dares. Well it’s the same idea, only this time instead of choosing a fortune, it plans your date night! You can come up with various ideas that can easily mix and match – for example I chose restaurants all in the same area and activities that were nearby so that no matter what was ‘chosen’ they would all work together easily. There’s the opportunity to have either four or eight choices. Do what works best for you!

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I hope you find a way of making your own origami fortune teller. It’s even a great idea for the kid’s school holidays – let them think destiny is deciding for them! origami fortune teller date night

DIY Paper Christmas Wreath (version two!)

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I’m a bit late putting up this year’s wreath. I didn’t think I’d get the time, but I challenged myself to finish it in 20 minutes and achieved just that! I used the same design as last year’s wreath (which I had put in the recycling bin so I didn’t have to store it), but this year used old books for the paper and added a scrap fabric bow and some leftover ribbon. You can view the original tutorial here. https://ecoempire.org/2011/12/02/diy-recyclable-paper-christmas-wreath/

It really doesn’t take much money or time to get into the festive spirit!

 

A scrap timber Christmas tree

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This is the perfect kind of tree if you’re short of space, short on cash, hate fake or simply don’t like the generic Christmas tree. It’s extremely versatile and if you make recyclable decorations you could change the look each year!

We used to have a ‘looks like a tree but it’s made of plastic’ Christmas tree but we gave it to my mother so she didn’t have to buy one. My partner PJ “The Grinch” was elated – he thought we were finally giving up on Christmas decorating. Little did he know I had a project in mind!

As we’ve been renovating for years we aren’t short of scrap timber, but you could quite easily go to the salvage yard (or ask family and friends) to find what you need. We used three planks of wood to form the triangle (we used two old floorboards and an old roof timber beam), a hinge to hold the two longest planks together, and an old timber log to form the “trunk” of the tree (with some felt glued to the bottom to avoid scratching the floorboards!). All pieces were bolted in so they could be easily unbolted for easy storage. At this point I should probably mention I didn’t do any of the initial woodwork – with a baby on my hip as we discussed the plan it seemed only fitting that PJ put it together! Plus I think it made him appreciate Christmas when he actually BUILT his own tree.


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I then hammered in some nails 2 inches apart as hanging tools. We also gave the wood a quick sand down to make sure it was a bit more kid friendly!

To keep it attached to the wall I used a place on the wall where a picture usually hangs and used the screw as an anchoring device, looping and tying the tree to the wall using fishing wire (so it couldn’t be seen).

I used a natural twine to string across the tree for hanging decorations off. My decorations were quite simple this year – the clay decorations I mentioned in this post and some handmade decorations made from old books (instructions coming soon). I also made a paper mache star (instructions also coming soon!).

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We also strung lights around the edge to capture the shape, however you could also string them across in a zig zag fashion (example below) which is also a nice effect and could possibly replace decorations if you want to go for a really simple look.

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I’m really looking forward to decorating it with homemade recyclable decorations as a pre-Christmas tradition with Baby E each year, you could really do anything you like. I figured I’d start simple this year because I’m sure as the years progress the tree will become more colourful and crazy!

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DIY handprint keepsake decoration

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As this is Baby E’s first Christmas I decided this was an excellent excuse to start fresh with our Christmas traditions and decorations. It was only fitting that the first decoration I would make was a keepsake of Baby E’s little 6 month old handprint. Not only would it make a great addition to our new tree, I could also make a bunch to give away as gifts for the family.

The most eco friendly option was salt dough, but it wouldn’t last, so I went for natural air dry clay. It’s non-toxic and is fairly long lasting. You can buy it from your local art supply store. The only problem is it can be fairly tough so not easy to get a handprint. I really had to press poor Baby E’s hand into the clay, it didn’t hurt or bother him, but I wouldn’t want him to be any younger (or delicate!).

Working with clay is pretty straightforward. Roll it out, cut your shape, let it dry. Drying usually takes 24 hours or longer depending on the weather and the thickness of your piece. Ideally you should also use an all purpose sealer (also available from the art supply store) that you paint over once the clay is dry. The clay can get sticky so be careful what surface you roll it onto (I used a plastic mat) and peel it off carefully before decorating as the shape may shift if you have to peel it. You also have the option to paint the piece, which you should only do if you seal the clay first.

I didn’t use any fancy tools to decorate the pieces, just a mug to create the circle and a skewer to carve. I also made some other decorations using a star shaped cookie cutter. The only thing to remember is to put a hole in the top for tying string or a ribbon to!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

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I’m seeing it everywhere, Christmas is on its way. The sad part though is that this ‘look’ of Christmas is not about decorations or food or spirit, it’s about consumerism and overconsumption and…. well, greed. This is Baby E’s first Christmas and I’m very conscious of the fact that it’s easy to go overboard as a parent, especially when toy stores make you think you’ve got to buy your kid a big bunch of stuff. But you don’t! My family is very aware of how my partner and I feel about Christmas and consumerism so they’re being very careful with buying presents for Baby E (I couldn’t stop them altogether, as apparently its a grandparent’s right to spoil a baby!). At one point I considered asking them to give him a wrapped empty box, as he’s more interested in wrapping paper and boxes than he is presents right now!

But, that aside, right now I’m focusing on our Christmas tree. My Mum really needed a Christmas tree so I’ve given her ours along with all the decorations to save her buying a new one. This means I now have a nice clean slate to work with – and now I need a tree!

I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I think I’ve come up with the perfect solution. It’s still in the design stages at the moment, but I aim to have it complete by December 1st.

If you’re interested in being sustainable this Christmas you should check out my Christmas inspiration board on Pinterest. If you don’t know what Pinterest is, prepare to be amazed. It’s an amazing way to store ideas and images. You can follow me here.

I’ll also be reminding you of past Christmas blog posts as we get closer to Christmas. Tis the season to be eco! Fa la la la laaaa la la la laaaa!

DIY Baby Sensory Fabric Book

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Baby E is just starting to find his hands and become more aware of his surroundings. Suddenly I realised I don’t have many toys to entertain him during this new developmental phase. The books say to let him feel different materials with his hands as a somewhat sensory discovery. So I decided to make him his own sensory book.

What you need:

– Eight pieces of 15cm x 18cm scrap fabric
– scrap ribbons, felt, buttons etc
– plastic shopping bags
– sewing pins
– sewing machine

Before starting: If in doubt, pin first and make sure you’ve done it correctly. Turning things inside out is often confusing!

First make a template “page” using baking paper and use this to cut the the fabric “pages”. The shorter edge will become the “spine” of the book. Iron each piece.

Make something fun and interesting on each page. It should be interesting to touch (lace, velvet, fur etc) or visually interesting (think contrasting patterns and colours). Use pins to secure before sewing.

Carefully sew each item to the page ensuring they are secure and not a choking hazard. Don’t sew buttons on the outside, cover them in fabric so they can still be felt, but not chewed on or removed.

Now plan each page and figure out what pieces need to be sewn to each other. Make each two sided “page” face each other so the wrong side is on the outside and pin together. If you choose to, now is the time to pin ribbon between pages so it hangs out the edges (see below). They need to go inside the pages so when you turn it inside out they’re on the outside (I said it was confusing, didn’t I?).

Sew the top, bottom and one side leaving the remaining side open so you can turn the “page” inside out and have the correct sides of the fabric showing. Stuff the inside with cut up pieces of plastic bags (I used half a plastic bag per page, cut into squares roughly the same size as the page).

Sew up the spine to lock the pages in place. Now place each page carefully in a pile and pin the book together.

Sew up the spine (with all pages in between) so it all stays together. You may need to assist your sewing machine by feeding the material through.

Cover the spine in felt (or another fabric or material that doesn’t fray) and sew it together.

There you have it. The choices are endless. Best of all baby E loves his personalised book!

A Keepsake Brooch

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Yesterday I helped my grandparents celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. They were married in 1942 where my Pop wore his airforce uniform and my Nanna wore a wedding dress made by her Aunt, using material purchased from saved up coupons that were issued at the time.

My Nanna was saddened when her mother-in-law cut up my Nanna’s wedding dress to make a christening blanket for my father, a baby at the time. They had to be pretty thrifty in those days.

A while ago my Nanna and I were going through some things she was giving away when we stumbled across what was left of her wedding dress. I asked if I could have it and said I would make something out of it (I had no idea what!) and she agreed. It wasn’t until we get the invite to their 70th wedding anniversary lunch that I finally knew what to do with it.

The material was faded and stained and hacked up a bit, but I figured I could cut it up into smaller pieces and make a brooch so my Nanna could “wear her wedding dress” again.

I cut several flower petal shapes and then placed them a on top of each other, deliberately messy. I then cut long strips and made the pinwheel flowers and then used some vintage buttons I already had to secure the flowers down. I glued it all to a white felt backing sewed to a brooch pin (which also gave the brooch some stability) and then secured it again with some thread.

My Nanna was delighted to see the fabric remnants made into something pretty that she could wear all the time as a keepsake of that special day so long ago.

Here is a picture of my grandparents yesterday and the brooch. It was so cute to hear about how they first met, how they got married, how my Pop still carries a picture of my Nanna (in 1940) in his wallet, and how he still brings her a cup of coffee and jam on toast for breakfast every morning. Now that’s love.

A thrifty little sleeper

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Worrying about where my baby is going to sleep has been top of my mind lately. I thought buying the secondhand cot from a friend was the hard part done, but I was wrong.

It started with the cot mattress – I wanted an organic mattress (free from toxic materials) but couldn’t justify the cost at this point in time. Eventually I went to the local baby store and bought a standard mattress. It’s hard to read what these mattresses are made of and know what your putting your baby on for up to 14 hours a day. I felt guilty. I was on my way home, checking my emails while at a set of lights, when I discovered a wonderful surprise – after purchasing some items from The Natural Newborn, the owner had noticed my email address, checked out my blog, noticed my recent blog post about the nursery and told me how she was selling her Nido Organics mattress secondhand and would I like it? YES!! It was such amazing luck that it was the right size and everything! I returned the ‘toxic’ mattress and bought the secondhand organic mattress. I felt good again.

Until last week.

I mentioned in a previous post that we weren’t going to purchase a bassinet for the baby. This was because we have a very small bedroom and because I was worried about my partner’s sleeping (breadwinners need a good night’s sleep!). But after finally purchasing a baby/child care book and reading (not for the first time) that the baby should sleep in the same room as you for at least the first three months, I was suddenly overwhelmed with guilt (again). This concept was further backed up by a SIDS pamphlet from Kidsafe (who actually recommend that the baby sleep in your room for the first 12 months!). I then researched my pram only to discover it would be a fairly unsafe place for the baby to sleep in on a nightly basis (this was my original backup plan). Uh oh.

So, after rearranging the bedroom we discovered we could JUST fit something small – so I started my research on bassinets. Moses baskets, cradles, bassinets, hammocks – there is a world of different options out there. I wasn’t too happy with the extra cost of a bassinet or the fact that it was something we’d only be using for a few months (at least), so I wanted something of good quality, easy to dismantle/fold away, and affordable. I ended up choosing a wooden bassinet as it was the most easy to dismantle for easy storage and comes on wheels for easy mobility (I don’t like how moses baskets come on a stand that you can’t easily move!). We tried to find something secondhand, but couldn’t find anything suitable so in the end we forked out the $150 for a good quality new one. But now I felt guilty about the money!

So to feel better, I decided I’d make my own mattress covers! I’d already spent money on buying brand new sheet covers and whatnot for the cot so it really bugged me to have to go back and buy more for the bassinet. It was my Gran who suggested I make a flannel fitted sheet so it was nice and cosy for winter.

At first I tried to salvage some old flannel sheets we had but the material was too old, overwashed and overstretched to make anything decent out of it. So I went and bought some flannel fabric, making sure to measure it so there was very little fabric waste. I used this tutorial from luvinthemommyhood blog as a base. I must admit, I did not use her measuring techniques (I just made up my own rough guide) but it all worked out great. I was able to make three covers for $20.

Our baby will probably never understand all the effort I’ve gone to to be so money conscious, eco conscious and safety conscious for his bedding!!

The bassinet has been in our room for a week now. It literally JUST fits. I think we’ve walked into it about 20 times when exiting the door (especially in dark, middle of the night toilet trips). Hopefully we’ll get used to it before baby comes as I can’t imagine bumping the bassinet of a sleeping baby will be good!