Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Did you know that a new pair of jeans can take up to 13 years’ worth of drinking water to make?

After reading that, I went to the laundry and rescued the boys’ torn jeans from the rag pile and mended the ones that were still wearable. They’ve still got plenty of life in them…

Then I made an apron out of one leg…

And another one out of three legs…

I was hooked! The vinyl on Small Man’s desk chair was flaking away, so we covered it with a patchwork of jeans’ legs. It’s now more comfortable than ever…

After cutting the legs off the jeans, I was left with the waistband and pockets, and it occurred to me that the belt-loops were the perfect size for little denim rings. So I carefully unpicked them, cut them to size, and handstitched the butted ends together. Voila!

If you want to try making these, cut the loops to lengths of 6cm – 7cm, depending on your ring size. I have sausage fingers, so I rarely wear rings, but the denim has enough give to be comfortable and non-constricting. The added advantage of course is that you don’t need to be precious about them in any way. Just remember to take them off before you wash your hand…

It’s quite addictive, as they only take minutes to make…

I made a matching bracelet and ring set from old Levi’s…

My boys won’t wear them, but my other young friends can’t get enough of them…

Having used up my stash of old jeans by this point, I decided to hit the op shops.

I’ve discovered that if you shop carefully and search for fabric rather than fit, you can pick up secondhand denim for a song. The cheapest place to find it is at Salvos stores – their clothing is colour tagged, and each week, a different colour goes on sale for $2 a piece. These are the pieces that have sat on the rack the longest and they’re usually the least fashionable, but they’re perfect for upcycling.

As you can see from the receipt below, I picked up eight pairs last week for $20 (orange was $2, blue was half price)…

A couple of them were brand new! Sadly they didn’t fit anyone, but I’ll find something clever to do with the fabric…

Next on the drawing board are zippered bags, more aprons, and possibly a denim patchwork blanket. I’m threatening to make a Siberian parka out of them as well, but Pete has declared that he won’t be seen with me in it.

Do you have any denim upcycling ideas? I’d love to know them! ♥

We’re now entering the sixth month of our waste reduction plan, so it’s a good time to stop and take stock. Some of the changes we’ve made have stuck and become part of our everyday lives, but a few things haven’t worked as well as we’d hoped.

. . . . .

Perhaps the biggest success to date has been in replacing single use dining and kitchen items with reusable ones. We haven’t used a paper serviette all year, and we’re still on the same roll of paper towels that we started a couple of months ago.

After five months of constant use, our cloth napkins are still going strong (albeit a bit stained), as are our knitted/crocheted dishcloths and waffle weave towels. Everyone enjoys using the napkins so much that I doubt we’d be allowed to go back to paper ones even if I wanted to! I was concerned about the extra washing involved, but our most recent electricity bill wasn’t any higher – in fact, it was a tiny bit lower, probably because we’ve been making an effort to use the ECO setting on the front loader.  It also helps that the Japanese tenegui are so open weave that they line dry very quickly.

Surprisingly, all our utility bills are down this quarter – gas is down 16%, electricity just 3.2%, and water, somewhat unbelievably given the extra washing we’ve doing, is a whopping 17.6% less than the same period last year.  We’ve put it down to being more conscientious about using the half-flush button on the toilet and the ECO setting on the dishwasher and washing machine – apparently the latter can save up to 30% on electricity and water compared to regular washes. We’ve also made an effort to use appliances less, preheat the oven for a shorter time, take shorter showers – all small things, but obviously they’ve added up over a three month period.

. . . . .

The reusable teflon BBQ sheets have worked so well that I’m now using parchment paper less than once a fortnight. The thinner ones are brilliant under sourdough loaves and cookies, and the thicker ones are great for roasts and other savoury bakes. They’re easy to wash and store – the trick is to either lay them flat or roll them up, as folding them causes them to crack. I’m forever grateful to Helen and Tanzles for suggesting them…

I bought my thin sheets from Magic Cooking Sheet online but the thicker ones I found on ebay for just a few dollars each. I also saw some for sale at our local Bunnings in the barbecue section.

I made a holder for my bread liners using two toilet roll tubes and a scrap of recycled wrapping paper…

. . . . .

You’re probably sick of me rabbiting on about the beeswax wraps (my friends certainly are) but honestly, they’re so good! Do have a go at making your own as they can be hideously expensive – our easy tutorial is here. Best of all, if they’re homemade, you can easily touch them up with a bit more wax if they start to get a bit thin.

My latest discovery? The wraps help prevent oxidisation. I wrapped diced potato and sweet potato for half an hour while I prepped other ingredients, and they stayed pristine…

They also stop ginger from going mouldy and slimy – this piece was in the fridge for over a week and a half and it still looked like new…

. . . . .

We’ve reduced the amount of single-use plastic coming into the house, simply by taking our own mesh bags and furoshiki when shopping, and the difference has been noticeable and significant. But we’ve been unable to go completely plastic-free – how do I buy a box of Weetbix without a plastic bag in it? Or a whole chicken? What about medications, most of which come packaged in foil and plastic?

All we can do is try to handle whatever plastic we end up with as responsibly as possible, by reusing what we can and recycling or REDcycling what we can’t. And the continued effort really does make a difference – I peeked into our red bin last night as it went out and was delighted to see that there was still only one small bag in it.

. . . . .

Speaking of which, the biodegradable bin liners haven’t worked as well as we’d hoped – they’re thin and flimsy and don’t cope well with the kitchen waste we still produce. We’re wrapping what we can in newspaper while we try and think of other options (the newspaper isn’t ideal with anything damp or soggy).

. . . . .

The Bokashi bins have been a partial success – we now have two worm farms running, but neither of them will eat the fermented waste product. That’s partly because Big Boy and Small Man are now saving their green kitchen scraps, so there’s always more than enough vegetable leavings to feed both farms and given a choice, the worms won’t eat anything else.  We’re still diligently filling the Bokashi bins though, and then burying the remains once they’ve broken down. It’s working ok, but it’s not perfect yet.

. . . . .

Big Boy and Small Man both cart their KeepCups with them whenever they go out, and their lunches are always packaged in either a beeswax wrap or a reusable lunch box.

Small Man is a true eco-warrior – he pulled me up the other day when I was being lazy and went to throw a teabag into the bin (our teabags are made of paper, so we can remove the tag and string and Bokashi them). And it occurred to me that perhaps the most important benefit of our waste reduction plan was the example it was setting for our sons.

Thanks for joining us on this journey! I’ll keep you all posted on how we go and as always, I’d love any tips or advice you have to share – I’ve learnt so much from you already! ♥

. . . . .

Here are the posts so far on our Waste Reduction Plan:

27 Jan 2018  A Waste Reduction Plan

2 Feb 2018  A Long, Rambling Catch Up

15 April 2018  Our Waste Reduction Plan – Progress Report

20 April 2018  Our Waste Reduction Plan – Fine Tuning

. . . . .

Tips and tutorials for making your own eco-friendly products:

Mesh Bags

Mesh Bags (pattern at the end of the post)

Furoshiki

Knitted Dishcloth

Crocheted Cotton Dishcloth

Crocheted Acrylic Dish Scrubber

Beeswax Wraps

Cloth Napkins (second half of post)

Sewing a Utensil Holder

Our cashflow this year has been snug.

Irene and Denise, our wonderful financial advisers, read us the riot act about not having enough for retirement if we didn’t start funneling every spare cent into super immediately, so we’ve been trying our hardest to do that. But as a result, we have substantially less disposable income this year.

That’s ok, because even though I don’t like it, we’re really quite good at it. We’ve had lots of practice. And it’s very empowering – there’s a sense of achievement and control that comes with tightening the reins.

The first thing to go, of course, was fine dining. We’ll still have the occasional fancy meal with friends, but for the most part, $60 dinners have been replaced by $13 curries and rotis at Spice Alley. If I’m honest, that’s a win, because I far prefer eating there to anywhere else…

alexlee1

. . . . .

Instead of buying large quantities of meat in bulk as we used to, I now haunt the “Save Me” section at our local Harris Farm Fruit Market.

There are spectacular savings to be had  on high quality grass fed and free range meat nearing its expiry date. I won’t buy chicken or mince that’s getting too old, but I’ll happily come home with pork, lamb or beef cuts with a day or two left on them. They’re usually reduced by 30% – 50%.

I picked up a 2.2kg free range pork loin recently for $12.84 and turned it into two containers of stir fry strips, three boxes of pulled pork, a jar of lard, and two boxes of stock. That’s five family dinners’ worth. The rind was cut into small pieces and frozen to enrich future stews…

. . . . .

For retail therapy, I’ll pop into Reverse Garbage once a fortnight with $20 in my pocket. That’s always enough for me to come home with craft treasures, like rainbow ribbon at $5 a bag…

Or a mountain of handbag vinyl in bright colours for just $14…

I made dancing ribbons and a windsock…

. . . . .

. . . . .

…and the vinyl was paired with zips and pulls (also from Reverse Garbage) in these funky little pouches…

. . . . .

We are blessed to have access to wonderful free art in Sydney, especially with the Biennale currently showing, and I’ve been trying to visit all the spaces before it ends on 11th June. My favourite so far has been Carriageworks and I highly recommend a visit if you have time. Marco Fusinato’s enormous installation is great fun, but be warned, the video below is loud!

. . . . .

. . . . .

On Saturday, I popped into the Art Gallery of NSW to view their Biennale pieces, but it was hard to go past the huge John Olsen painting on the ground floor. I sat and stared at it for a while…

Reclaiming the Inner Space by Indian artist N. S. Harsha was very impressive – I liked it as much for her use of recycled packaging materials as I did for the design. The hand carved wooden elephants were particularly lovely…

The Art Gallery is a fascinating old building, with creaky parquetry flooring and hidden wings just waiting to be discovered. While looking for the Adrienne Doig tapestries, I stumbled across the Gallery library in the basement (complete with stern librarian). This piece appealed to me very much…

Indigenous artworks form a large part of this year’s Biennale, including these adorable creations by the Yarrenyty Arltere Artists of Alice Springs. They’re on display at the MCA

…as are these elegant and touching burial baskets, woven by Ngarrindjeri artist Yvonne Koolmatrie…

. . . . .

I’ve picked up the latest batch of stripey socks from lovely Richard (if you’re new, you can read about the socks here and here). As always, I’ve Napisanned, hot water washed and tumble dried them…

socks1

We delivered 120 sanitised socks to the Exodus Foundation for distribution to the homeless, and kept the rest to play with. Here are a few new craft projects to add to the list.

I cut rings from the socks and zigzagged them closed. They make brilliant elastic bands for holding beeswax wrap in place…

…and, as my friend Anita discovered, fabulous hair ties…

I created padded coat hangers using scraps of fleece and a pairs of socks…

An old idea worth mentioning again simply because it’s worked so well…after months of catching every oil drip and keeping my shelf completely clean, I’ve replaced the sock around my olive oil bottle…

. . . . .

Lastly, Priscilla’s sourdough loaves continue to keep us all fed – at about 50c loaf, it’s something that we never need to scrimp on! And the beeswax wraps do such a good job of keeping them fresh, that we’re now wasting very little…

. . . . .

It takes a bit of thought and creativity to live more frugally, but it’s so empowering. Do you have any tips to share with us?

I was tidying up our medicine cabinet recently and found these. And even though they’re nearly 20 years old and very out of date, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out.

As many of you know, when Small Man was three months old, he was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma 4S cancer. He had a golf ball size primary tumour on his adrenal gland which had metastasized into hundreds of smaller tumours in his liver, causing it to swell to over three times its normal size.  Emergency surgery removed the primary, after which the doctors adopted a wait and see approach, as this particularly rare form of cancer was known to “self-resolve”. We were told that the “4S” stood for “Stage 4, Special”.

Thankfully, blessedly, Small Man didn’t need chemotherapy, but he had to undergo a brutal but essential testing protocol over the following four years to ensure the cancer didn’t spread any further. Initially, we spent a fortnight in hospital every six weeks (by the end, we only had to go in once a quarter), and it took its toll on all of us. By the time he was one, Small Man would start crying when we turned onto the motorway entrance towards Westmead Children’s Hospital. In later years, at the end of each round of tests, he would stop talking completely for a week.

The only effective way to track what was happening inside his tiny body was through nuclear imaging scans, so our son was injected with radioactive isotopes and strapped down to a scanning bed. Apparently neuroblastoma kids are notoriously difficult to sedate, and Small Man used to put up an admirable fight. It wasn’t until he was old enough to be hypnotised by the Wiggles that the process finally got easier. Prior to that, the only thing that would settle him even slightly was an elephantine dose of chloryl hydrate – the doctors used to tell us that the dose could knock him out for up to 12 hours, but we were lucky to get 45 minutes. He also needed iodine to protect his thyroid during the scanning process, but he was allergic to the formulation that the hospital used. In the end we had to crush up iodine tablets usually dispensed for nuclear emergencies and feed them to him in a sugar syrup through a syringe.

It was all so long ago but I treasure these old bottles, because I don’t want to forget. They remind me to always be grateful for everything. They remind me how lucky we are to still have our strong, strapping 21 year old son.  And they remind me that as individuals, Pete and I are powerful, but as a team, we’re unstoppable.

Sometimes, life can feel very tough. In those moments, it’s good to remember that we’ve been tested before, and we survived. Yep, I think I’ll keep those bottles. 

My young friend Sophie, ever her mother’s daughter, decided that even though she’s studying for her HSC this year, she’d make 51 bracelets to give to her fellow cast members in the school play. As it was a production of Beauty and the Beast, she was keen to use a red rose as the focal bead.

I convinced her to make phone dangles instead or bracelets, and offered to lend her a hand. We spent a happy few hours shopping, then beading and turning loops. Each little ornament had a single rose, a glass pearl, and a gold filament bead…

Monkey Girl made Soph’s day by telling her that they were very Dulce & Gabbana…

One of the best parts of the day was discovering the amazing I Love You Beads warehouse in Leichhardt. It’s huge, has the cheapest prices I’ve ever seen, and the staff are very friendly and helpful….

They are the only authorised Swarovski wholesaler in Australia and New Zealand, and have an enormous range of crystals and findings on offer…

There are beads in glass, plastic, crystal, semi-precious minerals, wood, coral, shell and more. They have strands of freshwater pearls in a variety of sizes and colours, every imaginable finding, tools, stringing and wiring materials (although no precious metal wire), as well as display items and gift bags.

It’s a members-only club, so you need to pay the $10 joining fee before you can purchase anything…

I came home with a few beads to play with, including strands of 10mm amethyst rounds, unusual non-shiny black agate and large faceted tiger’s eyes. To give you an idea of cost, the tiger’s eye (no photo, sorry, it turned out quite blurry) was $16.90 a strand and the amethyst $10.50. Both had enough beads for two bracelets. The 1mm elastic I used to string them set me back just 85c a roll…

I made matching agate earrings and bracelet, as well as a funky art deco green plastic ensemble. The blue Chinese crystals were high quality and cost just $3.50 for two strands (they were on a buy one, get one free promotion), which was enough for  a necklace, bracelet and earring set using findings that were already in my stash…

Tibetan skull  bracelets are traditionally carved from bone and used as a memento mori – a reminder of mortality and the transient nature of existence. I made mine from a $2 strand of plastic beads and elastic string. As a reminder of impermanence though, it works…

We had such a fun afternoon! If you’re a Sydneysider who enjoys jewellery making, or craft in general, I’d highly recommend a visit. No affiliation, just a happy customer!

PS. I take a mesh bag with me to bring my purchases home – jewellery findings almost always come in little plastic bags, but you can avoid a couple of larger ones if you bring your own.

I Love You Beads
311 Parramatta Road
Leichhardt NSW 2040 
Phone: (02) 9572 8288
Fax: (02) 9572 8878

%d bloggers like this: