Showing posts with label Handmade - Gifts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Handmade - Gifts. Show all posts

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Upcycling Pillow Slips

by Amanda of Live Life Simply

I made a couple of grocery totes from vintage pillow slips during the week. They were quick to sew up, use an entire pillow slip (no waste), are durable being double layered and roomy enough to fit plenty of farmers market goodies inside!

The pdf pattern for this tote can be found at Spiderwomanknits .It is a free tutorial and is very easy to follow. I did however make a small change to mine and I top stitched the edges of the handles.

I like that these bags are super simple, thrifty and green. I'm making more of these this week!

There are many more ways to upcycle pillow slips. I designed a pre-fold nappy last year from a flannel pillow slip and it is still going strong. I have also cut embroidered pillow slips down into a square shape and made them into simple cushion covers

Here are some more ideas for pillow slip upcycling that I am adding to my list!

Pillow slip into a:

Pretty top
Little Dress

There are plenty more ideas out there and I would love to hear if you have made something out of a vintage pillow slip too. I have a collection of slips waiting to be transformed into useful things!

Amanda x

Saturday, 30 June 2012

In Praise of Craftsmanship

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

Every year in my community, as part of our winter solstice celebrations, we have a gift giving ritual.  We draw names out of a hat six weeks earlier, and hand make a gift. This year, Garry drew me and made me these bellows for my slow combustion stove.  I can't seem to stand still for photos, but you can see my expression when I was given it. 

It is the most beautiful thing.  The wood is smooth and oiled and smells delicious. The brass nozzle is shiny and perfectly proportioned. The leather is soft and attached with a strip of reinforcing leather and rows of painstakingly positioned studs. The handles are rounded and smooth and shaped to fit perfectly in a grasp, and have little wedges holding them at the right angle.  It has my name etched in the front and a sun etched in the back and "Yule 2012" inside the handles.  Every part is beautiful, but then the whole is something more.  Perfectly proportioned, shaped, textured, designed.

And it works. Magnificently Last night it was wet and cold and we had been out late and busy and had no dry kindling. I managed to light a fire with paper and hardwood and my bellows. No kindling.

Stuff. There is Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff, and there is this, and they are at opposite ends of a continuum. My bellows are made from recycled parts, but that's not the point. They are a thing made with craftsmanship, and I think if all our "stuff" was made with craftsmanship, that's all the revolution we need.

Craftsmanship is where design and execution both peak together. It's where a uniquely human big brain creates a concept for a thing that is both beautiful and functional, or maybe beautiful because it is so perfectly functional. And then where our uniquely human opposable thumbs and long life allow the development of enough precision and dexterity and skill to manifest the design. Craftsmanship is where quality comes together with beauty, where thought and skill and attention meet and the result is something that will last and will be treasured for a generation or more.

So this post is in praise of craftsmanship.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas Giving

Written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

As the year comes to an end, Christmas is one again rapidly approaching us.  Whilst marketing and advertising campaigns at this time of year are encouraging us to spend our hard earned cash or go into debt to buy our loved ones that latest gimmick or fad what will probably break or get discarded only days after the big day, it pays to think of giving that lasts a lifetime, that are sustainable, and where the profits of its sale benefits those who really need it.  Gifts that are mass produced by mindless corporations are off my Christmas list forever!

So what sort of gifts fit my criteria?  Well, firstly, we choose only fair trade products for each other.  As in previous years we have bought some of our gifts at the Oxfam online shop ( which is also sells fair trade goods that also profit the small business that hand-made it. We bought minimal gifts with all proceeds going to people who most need our money.  The quality of the products is outstanding and you know that these handcrafted items have been made with care and attention to detail.  

If you are not into fair trade, then make your own gifts.  We make a big patch of home-made cold pressed soap and give gift wrapped bars away to family and friends or I make a batch of home-brew beer for friends.  These gifts are always well received and are from the heart.

Secondly, instead of racking your brain trying to buy that special gift for someone who has everything, you can give the gift to someone who really needs it.  World Vision Gifts have a fantastic campaign, whereby you visit their website and buy a gift for someone else in need! What a fantastic concept. You can buy something as small as water purifications tablets for $5, or clean water for an entire community for $1,425!  You can choose from mozzie nets to chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, donkeys or cows.  The gift choices are very comprehensive.

So how does it work? Do World Vision pack a goat in a box and ship it overseas? NO, that would be cruel.  So, if you buy a duck or a market garden starter pack, for example, your contribution will go towards their agriculture and environment work to help communities grow food for families and restore and improve their environments. Or if you buy a mosquito net or a toilet, you’ll be contributing to their work to help communities gain access to basic healthcare, water and sanitation.  You also receive a card which you give to the recipients, to let them know about the gift you have chosen.  There are other charities that so a similar type of thing.

The choice is yours alone. You can give socks and jocks to someone who has everything and/or doesn’t appreciate it, or a present that really means the world to someone.  Make a difference this year, and feel proud of your self.

Green 2011 season’s greetings to one and all, 


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Handmade gift tags

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

I started making handmade gift tags for our Christmas gifts today and I savored the break from the housework to do something creative and fun for Christmas. First up were labels for the Worcestershire sauce that I have made for gifting- recipe here.

I punched out shapes and stamped my labels, using bakers twine to attach each label to the bottle. If you don't have punches or stamps simply cut out your own unique shapes and hand make the labels or you can print labels off the internet. I love these FREE vintage/handmade style ones here at the Black Apple.

I also made some gift tags for wrapped gifts for nephews, using images from a damaged children's 'Golden Book' and a scallop punched circle. You can use luggage tags or your own handcrafted labels to make these. I machine sewed the circle to the scallop, but you can use glue or double sided tape.

These aren't the simplest or even most earth friendly ideas, but I just used what I had on hand and we have a good supply of scrap booking and stamping supplies, so it makes sense for me to use these rather than buying store bought tags.

Some other items you can use to make tags is to up-cycle Christmas cards, use natural foliage like dry berries and leaves, kids drawings, photo's and artwork. Attach using kitchen string, scrap yarn, twine, glue or tape. I'll get the kids involved over the weekend and see what other ideas we come up with!

Are you making gift tags this year? What materials are you using to make yours?

Amanda x

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Handmade 'Manly' Gifts

By Amanda of Amanda Brooke

Christmas is on my mind, being not so far away and our plans with family have commenced with decisions on who is hosting Christmas and what each of us will contribute in the way of food for the day. We also have our youngest son's 1st birthday to plan and arrange around Christmas will be busy this year!

I started making gifts some weeks ago for nephews and our children. It will be a mostly handmade Christmas this year and although my partner and I do not normally exchange gifts I wanted to make him something too. But what to make the man in your life that's practical and unique? Finding ideas for handmade gifts for men is challenging. Much harder than locating ideas for women and children, so I did some research and this is what I have come up with...

...handmade handkerchiefs made from quilting fabric and backed with an upcycled flannel nappy. I must admit that I would never have thought to 'make' hankies, but with a tissue ban in our house recently taking place, they will definitely be used.

The idea came from Amanda Blake Soule's, The Rhythm of Family, book. You can make a hanky bag to store your hankies in too, making them accessible to the entire family. I will make one of these later.

Team the hankies with a handmade wallet and I think this is a great 'manly' gift that is practical and sure to be appreciated. I am making these for our nephews.

Some other ideas that I like:

Map coasters and Felt Slippers on Martha Stewart. What I like most about the coasters are that you can use maps of favourite holiday or trip destinations to make them even more personal.

A bin bag for the car at A Spoonful of Sugar.

Here is one for children to get involved with, a personalised daddy cam from Alphamom.

A laptop cover from Sew Mama Sew. This cover is probably one of the sturdiest looking handmade covers that I have ever seen.

Do you have any handcrafted ideas for the men in your life to add to this list? Have you started making gifts for Christmas too?

Amanda x

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

UFO's and Christmas

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

The cats have absolutely nothing to do with UnFinished Objects in my sewing room, except to remind me that I don't have much time to rest if I think I am going to sew gifts for Christmas!

Harvest time is still winding down in the gardens, but night is getting here much sooner these days, leaving me more time for needlework projects.

I have also been thinking of the economy and not really feeling like being much of a consumer this holiday season. Rather I would like to make good on projects I have already started. I have several unfinished projects that would actually make great gifts. A denim work shirt for my husband, a pair of flannel pajamas for my daughter and maybe a new quilt for my bed, fashioned from a quilt top that is crying out for batting and binding. I have spent the money, I need the space, and a lot of the work is already done! What could be more fitting in a bad economy?

Are you thinking along the same lines this holiday season? What projects are in the works in your Christmas basket?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

No sew doily scarf

by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

Well, its proven to be a cold winter here in Australia's capital. While the temps have been around the 10 degree celsius mark (about 50 degrees farenheit), freezing winds with a chill factor of about -1 C (or 30 F)have been sweeping through much of the southern east coast.

Anyway, I thought I'd share this easy, frugal (and green) idea for a scarf. Basically, grab a few doilies together.

Tie the doilies end to end with a ribbon.

And voila! A scarf.

I wish you all a fun weekend ahead. :)

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Confetti Bean Jar

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
My favorite market has a bulk foods section. Buying my dry beans and grains there saves me money, especially when compared to buying beans by the can, couscous by the little cardboard box, or oatmeal in individual packets (less packaging waste too!). Once home, I store most things in a variety of glass jars. It's easy to find and use things, plus I can see when I'm getting low on something. Besides, having everything in sight, as opposed to stuffed into a dark cupboard, makes it that much more likely I'll use it.

I like the way it looks too - so homey - decorative, and colorful too. Dry beans, especially, come in such a variety of colors - lined up in glass jars they can almost look like art. Around here, we usually have a "legume of the week." Each weekend, I cook up a big pot of a different bean soup, and then refrigerate the leftovers. Last week, it was black-eyed peas (for New Year's); this week, black beans; next week, maybe split pea, or navy bean, or orange lentil, or ??? Legumes come in such variety, we can go for weeks without repeating. My husband heats up a bowlful each morning for breakfast on work days. Quick, warm and filling, the fiber in beans keeps his blood sugars level until lunchtime. I'll add a half sandwich for an easy lunch, or it's nice to have something readily available for dinner on days when I don't feel like cooking.

Over time, I've developed a pretty good eye when it comes to buying in bulk. I'm pretty good at eye-balling how much will fit in the jar when I get it home. When I have a bit too many beans though, or a last little bit left in a jar before buying more, they go into the confetti bean jar. When I have at least four cups in there, I make confetti soup.

My Confetti Soup recipe originally came as a gift in a jar. I've since adapted it to put together my own gift baskets. I layer scant cups of black, red kidney, green split peas, white great northern, and brown pinto beans in a quart jar (or just fill with all of them mixed together), and then add a seasoning packet, pint jar of home-canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, and a recipe card.

Confetti Soup (12 first course, or 6 entree servings)

4 cups mixed dry beans (best if some of them are split peas)
16 oz. stewed tomatoes

3 teaspoons beef bouillon powder
3 tablespoons dried chopped chives
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried savory
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf

Sort through beans and remove any stones or shriveled beans. Rinse in cold water. Soak overnight in 9 cups water (or quick-soak: heat to boiling over high heat, boil 5 minutes, remove from heat, cover, and let stand one hour). Drain soaked beans, rinse, drain again.

To drained beans, add 8 cups water and seasoning. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 1-2 hours or until beans are tender.

Add tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf, and serve.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

My big, homemade pot rack

This pot rack is roughly 4 feet by 2 feet and made of galvanized piping.
by Amy of My Suburban Homestead

My dear husband made me this big pot rack for Christmas this year. 

Our house was built in the 70′s and has very low ceilings. I’ve attempted to put up a potrack before, but the pots hung way too low and had to take it down. And our house is very small–only 1,100 square feet, and hardly has any storage space, so we’ve had to be pretty creative with our storage.
A decent potrack is so expensive, and a few days ago my husband decided that he could make a big potrack out of galvanized piping from Home Depot. In all, he told me he spent around $100.
For the hooks, we’re using a couple different types of shower curtain rings, also available at Home Depot.Here is a link to his blog, which lists more about his construction and a list of the materials he used.  I think its a keeper, what do you think?
He purchased the pre-threaded pipe, but said you can cut the pipe to any size you want and have it threaded at Home Depot.
If  you have a small  house, what ways have you found to save space? 

Monday, 13 December 2010

Homemade Jerky

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I have a few hard to buy for omnivores on my Christmas list and the other day the idea of homemade jerky popped into my head. Making jerky was a hit-or-miss affair at my house, and I never really liked the end result or the ingredients in the recipes. And then one day I happened upon a fine blog and an even finer jerky recipe (among all his other fine recipes.) It was like a fairy tale, the meat princess finds her true love...a jerky recipe with all natural ingredients and actually ingredients I have on hand all the time.

Getting this recipe has allowed me to look at all those meat cuts I ordered with good intentions, but never got around to just yet. You know the ones, when your next order of beef comes in and you still have the odd things here and there. This recipe has also been a god-send to our beef customers too. Who wants to take carefully raised grassfed beef and dump Liquid Smoke on it? Not me and certainly not my customers.

I have tweaked this a little since the first batch, and Kevin has too, so I will post the recipe as it was when I started making it and will put my changes in bold. It's a great recipe that lends itself to monkeying with and the batches may turn out different but all are good, and be forewarned once you start making it, you better hide it or resign yourself to the fact that you will be making jerky often enough to become proficient.

In Kevin's words: "I’ve made a fair whack of jerky, both in the oven and over wood fire, sweet-glazed versions, plain versions, smoked and unsmoked. I’ve recently come across a recipe that’s worth sharing. Not only is it dang tasty, it avoids the onion/garlic powder route which even ‘Charcuterie’ suggests [a rare shortcoming of the book]:

per pound of meat [in this case, very tough 09 moose]:

1 tbsp kosher salt (Redmond Realsalt or Celtic Sea Salt)

1 tbsp soy sauce (Tamari wheat-free soy sauce)

2 tsp dark brown sugar (Rapidura)

2 cloves garlic, minced (I microplaned my garlic for more flavor)

1 tsp dried chili [optional] (Chili powder)

1 tsp cracked black pepper [optional] (not optional)

Slice meat thin and most importantly – evenly – while still partially frozen. Mix with marinade ingredients above, and refrigerate for a day or three. Dry via your method of choice. Note that jerky pieces never finish all at the same time, so you have to pull them off as they get to a texture you like."

I have had good luck drying my jerky in our wood cookstove oven, with the oven door open and a medium fire, it's a day long process to dry it and it does need going through to check for finished pieces. Smoking and any method you have at hand would work just as well.

I have found that Kevin's instructions for a day or three of marinating is best if you can hold out for the three days, the flavor is so much better, and forgiving on the thicker pieces.

If you use meat that has been languishing awhile in your freezer, trim off all fat and silver skin, or you will have old tasting jerky.

I plan about 5 days out for finished jerky. 1 day to thaw and quickly do a partial refreeze on cookie sheets for uniform slicing, then 3 days to marinate, and 1 day to dry. I tried slicing my meat when it was partially thawed to save time and I ended up with some too soft, and some too frozen, or in the case of a roast, I could not cut it while in its original shape. And the end result looked like Lizzie Borden had been hacking away at it. I decided to do the extra day.

Besides a being a homemade gift item, we have put a small jar in the vehicle emergency kit too. It's a good high protein snack to have on hand, and keeps indefinitely.

For me this has been a good way to use up so-so meat cuts that I have neglected, and the recipe is simple enough to change ingredients to suit what I may or may not have on hand - I can't wait to try Kevin's onion suggestion next!

Do you have any jerky making tips to share?

Friday, 2 July 2010

Planning Ahead: Gifts from Our Own Production

by Kate
Living The Frugal Life

I'm not a terribly organized or foresighted person.  I'm often caught up short on occasions when it's appropriate to give a gift.  Just because I resist the pull of consumer culture doesn't mean I don't enjoy giving things to those I love.  Indeed it's far more satisfying to give gifts that I've had a hand in growing or otherwise producing.  So I'm making an effort this year to prepare and set aside things from my kitchen, garden, and other home production for holiday gift-giving or other occasions.  Jellies, jams and other garden preserves are obvious choices, and for good reason.  I now have a small supply of either raspberry or strawberry jam in jars sized for giving.  But in thinking a bit about other things I want to have on hand come the holiday season, I've come up with a few ideas I thought were worth sharing.

Herbal salves for skin - I'm collecting calendula (pot marigold) blooms, comfrey leaf, and lemon balm leaf now, in the height of summer, to infuse in olive oil.  Later I'll strain out the herbs, warm the oil and melt pure beeswax into it.  Some of the beeswax might even be from our bees this year.  This makes a lovely soothing salve with anti-microbial properties which promotes the healing of burns, abrasions, and insect bites.  I gave it away in four ounce jars last year and have gotten several compliments and requests for more.  I'm happy to comply.

Herbal teas - Bee balm (monardia), New Jersey tea, and lemon balm all grow in my garden.  They all make lovely tissanes after simply being cut and hung up to dry.  I'm still looking for pretty jars to put them into to make the gift look special, but the herbs from my own garden are a pleasure to give.

Elderflower cordial - This non-alcoholic drink made from our elder blooms is wonderfully refreshing in ice water during summer, and lends a festive touch when added to champagne.  This is something I feel is quite special, so I've just made my third batch of it.  I'm glad to feel I've got enough of it to give some away.

Felted mittens - I am especially having fun pursuing this project.  I've scoured rummage sales for cheap wools sweaters and my own closets for those I've outgrown or worn holes in but couldn't bear to part with.  Now I have the chance to re-purpose them with very little effort.  After felting the sweaters in a hot wash cycle, and possibly dying some of them, I'll be making dense, warm mittens out of them.  This page explains the details.

Garden seeds - This one is for gardeners and seed savers more accomplished than I am.  I can manage a few of the easier seeds.  But if I were more meticulous, knowledgeable, and skilled, I'd love to assemble a collection of seeds for giving, from my garden to a friend's.  Even better would be the ability to give an aspiring gardener the diverse stock of seeds he or she needs to make a start. 

Hand crafted gift wrap - The Japanese have a lovely custom of wrapping their gifts in cloths, called furoshiki.  Selecting lovely bolts of cloth to make my own double-sided wraps was a pleasure as well as a chance for me to learn some basic sewing skills.  I chose fabrics to pair up with the idea that each wrap would have a side appropriate for Christmas, and another appropriate for birthdays or any other general occasion.  Whether or not you chose to include a hand crafted wrap as part of the gift, or ask for it back, it makes a lovely impression.  Best of all, with every re-use, you'll be saving paper and tape that would otherwise be manufactured as future landfill.

Loofahs - I'm growing loofah (luffa) gourds for the first time this year, and hoping for a bumper crop to give away as scrubs for the bath and shower.  We'll see what the harvest brings, but as the scrubs wear out, this could become a perennial gifting favorite if the plants do well for us.

What other things do you produce or make yourself that you give away as gifts?  Please share in the comments!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Last-Minute Gift Ideas For the Holidays: No- and Low-Cost Gifts

by Melinda Briana Epler, One Green Generation

I posted this a couple of days ago on my own blog, but thought that you all might find this list useful, too. Please share any ideas you have in the comments!

It's nearing Christmas, and I haven't bought a single gift for the holidays. Am I worried? Maybe a little bit, but I'm not stressed about it. I have thought about it a lot, and I already know what I'll be getting most of my friends and family. For most, I don't even need to leave my home!

The other day I asked readers and friends what ideas they had for no-cost gifts. Here's my favorite answer, from Stacey:

So, as a kid, I collected Breyer model horses. I was obsessed with them and all things horsey. Recently, I found them stored in my garage and have decided that they now need to belong to my equally horse-obsessed nieces. There are so many things right with this... I get a whole new opportunity to share my toys [I may not have excelled at this as a ... See Morekid], my nieces get something that they'll love to play with, the garage will be less cluttered and, the best thing is that I get to share something with them that I once loved.

That brings me to....

Gift Idea #1: Gifts From Your Home, Garage, or Storage

Most of us have things around the house, and particularly stored in a box or a corner somewhere that mean something special to us - or more often than not, meant something special to us - and we can't bare to part with it. Books, records, dresses, coats, vases, pictures, dolls, figurines, games, tools, fishing gear, ... the list continues, doesn't it? So why not keep it close to you, and give it to someone who will really appreciate it? An antique means nothing in your basement. The memories will never leave your mind, and new memories will be formed if you give it to someone who will love it.

If the object means something special to you, you might want to attach your story to the gift. Tell the special someone about the gift, or write it down in a note: where it came from and what it meant to you. Think of this as part of the gift you're giving. Because after all, it is probably the most important part!

Here's another great story from Julie:

One of my most treasured gifts was from my grandmother- a collection of old photos from my childhood, my mother's childhood and even earlier ones of my grandmother as a young woman. She was able to scale back her photo closet plus give us grandkids something to treasure. She really enjoyed the process of going through and picking out ones for each of us.

Gift Idea #2: Special Keepsakes From the Heart

My grandmother always used to say that instead of waiting until she's passed away and people attach sadness to a special gift given in a will, she'd rather give it away now and watch people really enjoy it. So true - it makes such a difference to hear the stories and to share the experiences!

Maybe it's a piece of jewelry, a photograph, a work of art, an heirloom passed through generations... Share it with someone you love this year. Make sure you tell the stories behind the gift, and make the giving of the gift truly special. Spend the time and effort to let the person know how special this keepsake is to you, and how much you want that person to have it and treasure it. And let it bring you closer together.

Gift Idea #3: Thoughtful Non-Material Gifts

Here's a great list from Rachel:

1. Baby sitting someone's kids for the evening so they can have alone time.

2. Washing someone's car or cleaning their house - or doing any other housework errand that they can't find the time/energy to do (like helping them tackle that overflowing mess of a closet, for example).

3. Chopping someone's firewood.

4. Putting up someone's Christmas lights for them.

5. The gift of your time. Actively prioritizing relationships we take for granted: ACTUALLY taking the time to spend a few hours visiting with friends that you don't often see.

And from Risa:

6. Listening. With offer of fresh hot chocolate.

I'd add to this list:

7. Help painting the porch
8. Gardening: pruning, planting, composting, and more
9. Setting up dad’s computer
10. A candlelight dinner for two at home

Gift Idea #4: A Coupon Book of Non-Material Gifts

Here's another one from Julie:

One time my sister and I made a coupon booklet for my parents, with things like: a homecooked meal, mowing the lawn, a neck and back massage, being chauffeur for the day, etc.

You can certainly add kisses and hugs, as well as all the things listed in #5.

Gift Idea #5: Re-Gift

I know, it's not super kosher to re-gift, but what else are you going to do with it? And why not give it to someone who will appreciate it?

From Tree:

For my Father-in-Law: I regift (I know some people think its taky). Each year one of the Servicers I use through the year, sends me a lovely gourmet basket - It perfect for DH’s dad and we don’t eat that sort of stuff.

Gift Idea #6: Make Something

You don't have much time, but sometimes things don't take much time to make. On Tuesday, my Mom and I are getting together to make homemade biscotti for all of our cousins. I see it as a gift my mother and I are giving one another (spending quality time together), and a tasty gift for our family members. Another idea? How about a collage of meaningful photos, or a calendar made from your great trip photos or photos of your garden?

From Rob:
most things I give are homemade, and this year giving one of my turkey fryer burners to a friend who brews his own beer. LOL I don’t need two fryers anyway. And I am “remaking” clocks- one or two of them are old clocks I had sitting around, and 1 was bought at the “AS-IS” department at IKEA
From Erin:

I’ve been canning my garden bounty the last few weeks and have lots of salsa and mustard to give as gifts. I also plan to do a lot of knitted gifts again this year, but am keeping it simple with toys/ornaments for the nieces and nephews.
That brings me to...

Idea #7: Gifts From The Garden

You can't grow anything now, sure - but you can give dried herbs or fruit, canned goods, saved seeds, and propagated plants. Yes! I have a cardamon plant indoors that just keeps making new shoots. It's too big for its pot now, so I'm going to divide a few of the shoots and re-pot them as gifts! Or maybe you're like me, and you have four pothos plants around your home from different cuttings at different times. Why not give one away to someone who doesn't have much greenery in their home? Plus, imagine the joy of receiving a jar of homemade jam... Yum!

Idea #8: Peruse Antique Stores, Thrift Stores, and Used Book Stores

You may have cleaned out your storage units, your closets, and your garage and have little to offer from your home. Well, go into town and have some fun going through the local antique store. A beautiful first-edition copy of your mom’s favorite book, an awesome game you used to play as kids (maybe you can turn it into a new holiday tradition), a vintage handbag, an irresistible shawl, a tricycle, almost anything you can think of giving comes in used versions!

Idea #9: Charity Gift Cards

This is a great gift for people who don't need or want more things, but to whom you really want to give a gift and show your appreciation and love. If you know their favorite charity, you can make a donation in their name. Otherwise, one of my favorites is Heifer International, where you can make a donation of goats for a family to keep for milk, or ducks for eggs, or many other things. And one of our favorite clients is TisBest, which allows you to give a gift card (you can give it in email form), and the recipient can choose which charity to give it to.

Idea #10: A Coupon Book for Local Goods and Services

Here in Seattle, we have the Chinook Book. I love it. It costs $20, you can buy it from any number of local stores or charities, and it has loads of coupons for green, sustainable, and local goods and services. I save hundreds of dollars using these coupons over the year, and it helps me support local businesses. How about giving one to someone who are looking for an extra push to "go local" or "go green", or someone who could use some extra coupons in their life (and who couldn't these days?).

There are several other types of coupon books out there. Check around or Google "coupon book" and the name of your city or state. And the Chinook Book is also available in Portland, Denver, Silicon Valley, East Bay, and Twin Cities.

Did You Already Buy All Your Gifts?

You may have done all your shopping this year. But did you see something on this list that is better than what you've bought? Or cheaper? So give the no- or low-cost, meaningful gift instead and take the other one back. I bet you won't regret it at all!

Did This List Make You Think of Some Great Gift Ideas?

Yes? Great!! Go do it, and please take a moment to share your ideas with the rest of us in the comments below, so we can all have more ideas!

And have wonderful, safe, and happy holidays everyone!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Simple Gift Ideas

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Hopefully by now you have everything sorted for next week, and you're reading this for ideas for Christmas 2010...

Without wanting to give too much away (in case my gift recipients read this before the 25th), here are a few idea of some simple gifts I’m giving this festive season…

Angels by Chrissy Butler

Garden Tools and Seeds
Hand Cream
Vouchers – for stores and for my time
Shopping Totes
Drinking Glasses filled with goodies

The part of me who used to get a thrill from seeking out and buying the perfect gift has lost her enthusiasm! My children are growing past their ‘toy’ years and almost everyone I know doesn’t really need anything… I loathe the idea of buying for the sake of it.

So without being so predictable as buying socks, hankies or boxes of chocolates, I now try to buy or make useful but beautiful items. Things which will either be consumed fairly quickly (without much waste) or used daily (or thereabouts) over a long period of time. In fact socks, hankies and chocolates would do nicely, but I do still prefer to use a little imagination!

Some handmade and homegrown items I’ve given in the past…

Stationery sets
Handmade soap
Sweet treats in re-useable cookie jars
Potted herbs
Potted strawberries
Food hampers – bought and handmade
Framed family photos
Photo calendars
Other hampers – art supplies, cooking kits, etc
Jams and sauces

And for a gift which keeps on giving, my most favourite are Oxfam Unwrapped.

Here are a few of my favourite recipes (most are adapted versions of recipes shared on the Simple Savings forum):

Big Batch of Bikkies
750g butter
1.5kg raw sugar
6 eggs
2kg wholemeal flour + baking powder (half a teaspoon per cup of flour)
3 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter and let cool. Mix in all ingredients, starting with 1.5kg of flour and adding more if the dough is too oily or wet. Mix it with your hands unless you have a large food processor.

Form dough into balls the size of a 10c or 20c coin. Put on baking tray. Bake at 225 degrees C for 15 minutes. If you like softer biscuits, cook for a shorter time.

Makes over 150 biscuits. Freeze well.
* Add carob or choc chips, nuts, coconut, sultanas or other (diced) dried fruit, oats, rice bubbles, etc. You can also add cocoa powder to this mix to make a chocolate bikkie.

Carob Fudge Balls
Mix together 1/2 cup nut butter (peanut butter, tahini etc), 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup carob powder, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup dessicated coconut (can substitute some sesame seeds here).
Roll the mixture into balls and coat in more coconut if desired.

* you can substitute all sorts of fruit, nuts, puffed rice, seeds etc into this recipe and roll into balls with the carob/honey/nut butter combination and create a variety of different treats.

Cheese Biscuits
250g butter
250g grated cheese
2 cups wholemeal spelt flour
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp herb salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Few tbspn grated parmesan

Rub butter into flour. Mix cheese through. Add spices. Stir milk in to create a workable dough.

Roll dough into balls. Press into parmesan and bake on oiled tray @ 180 degrees C for 10-15 minutes (until edges are golden). Cool and store in airtight container. Suitable to freeze. Makes a couple of dozen large biscuits, depending on how big you make them.

Coconut Balls
3 eggs, beaten
180g raw sugar
250g dessicated coconut

Mix ingredients together in a bowl. Form into balls about 2cm in diameter and place onto 2 greased trays. Bake at around 180 degrees C until golden brown. Enjoy!

You can use cello bags, recycled jars or buy a nice big cookie or storage jar which will be used again and again to present these items in. Add some ribbon or raffia and a handmade tag and the recipient will be pleased to receive something so obviously made with love.

Tell me, if you celebrate Christmas, what's on your giving list this year? How simple are your celebrations? Am I turning into a Scrooge, or is the holiday season is turning back to what it used to be?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Celebrating Homemade Holidays

by Chiot's Run

With my family we celebrate a "homemade" Christmas. All gifts must be homemade with ingredients/supplies costing less than $20 per family. Used items can be used or purchased as gifts as well. It's so much fun to figure out what to make for each person. Last year I made cloth shopping bags for all of the women in my family. I used scrap fabric and free old curtains for the main family. I bought a spool of ribbon for $5 (100 yds), so each bag cost me only a few pennies.

I make cinnamon rolls for all the families on both sides. I love giving food gifts because it's not something to store or something people grow tired of after the holidays. I got these great tree-shaped pans for less than a dollar a piece.

I also make birdseed pine cone ornaments with my nieces and they love giving their own homemade gifts. It's great to teach them early to love making & giving homemade gifts.

What kinds of homemade gifts are you making this year?

Monday, 26 October 2009

Wanted: Simple, Green and Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Hello everyone!

With only 8 weeks till Christmas, it seems to me that talk everywhere is starting to turn towards gift ideas. There seems to be one major difference with the talk this year (at least in my part of the world). It seems to me that more and more people are starting to think more mindfully of presents and wanting to avoid over-consumption.

Whether its the GFC or its a heightened awareness of environmental issues, it seems to me that more people are wanting to make more of an effort to have a more simple, green and frugal Christmas.

So I thought this community here would like to compile a list of simple, green and frugal gift ideas!

I'll start!

1. Give a Charity Gift - This is my personal favourite and first choice for Christmas. You've probably heard of this type of gift as "gifts of hope". This is when you buy a cow or school books for those in dire poverty and you get a card about your gift and you give that card to someone as their Christmas gift. These type of gifts range start from around $10. My charity of choice for this type of gift is Oxfam Unwrapped. Perhaps all the adults in your family would like to go in together to buy something "big" and have the card as part of a communal Christmas photo album/journal? The idea of the album/journal is that every year, you have the Charity Gift card and everyone who put in for it writes down their hopes for that year and their general thoughts about Christmas. This album/journal then gets passed around every year and everyone can review their hopes and hopes together.

2. Use saltdough to make figurines, game board pieces or air fresheners. Salt dough is something the kids can help make as well.

3. Hamper of homemade recipes. This can range from the edible biscuits/cookies or jams to non-edible. I especially loved Heather's idea of giving an all natural cleaning supplies basket as a gift!

4. Make paper. You can give this as stationery or use the paper for cards. Its easy and a great use for all those spare bits of paper lying around in the house!

Homemade Stationery Pack I gave as a gift to a friend.

I'll turn this post now over to you.

I've added a widget below so you can post directly on to this blog post. Where it says "Link Title", just type in your simple, green and frugal Christmas gift idea. You can add your blog or a link to more information about that item as your url.

So, what is your simple, green and frugal Christmas gift idea?

Friday, 24 July 2009

Meaningful birthdays for my children

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

In my personal blog, I recently talked about homekeeping chores as family rituals. After I posted that story, it was interesting to see the related post widget thingy digging up an even older post of mine: What We Do For Birthdays.

To save you from going through all the above links to work out what I'm talking about, here's a summary:

I have always felt that shared rituals are an important part of family life. Its the rituals that help us consciously celebrate caring within our family. So its important to celebrate day-to-day life AND milestones in a way that is meaningful.

However, back when I first started my journey (and right about the time I wrote my post on birthdays), I had forgotten how to celebrate milestones in a meaningful way. Birthdays consisted of *presents* - and presents fell into two categories - more or bigger.

As a child I would rip open birthday presents only to discard it 5 mins later because it had become just another toy. And the next few days afterwards was spent nagging for the next bigger present or more of the same (eg. must collect all dolls in the series).

I think such a cycle was damaging to family unity (as well as the environment) and I wanted to avoid it. the time, I stopped giving birthday presents all together.

Don't get me wrong, I still gave presents - but I no longer tied presents to birthdays. Instead when I saw something meaningful that I know the children would appreciate, I bought it or made it and gave it to them then and there - I didn't wait till their birthdays.

And for their birthdays, I concentrated on the experience - not the product. I wanted to give my children experiences that they will remember all their lives.

Now at 6 years old, my daughter still remembers her 3rd birthday - when we went to Questacon and I organised a special tour with staff members just for us. She also still remembers her 4th birthday - when I took her to see Hi-5 (a children's music band) and I organised for the Hi-5 group to wave specifically to her her. (I couldn't quite swing a personal meet-up with them). I also did make her a pressie - it was a little book of her being 4 years old and I placed pictures of her as a baby and then as a "kid" (her term). She still loves reading that book. She remembers the special sleepover she had with 2 select friends and me for her 5th birthday (we "camped" in the spare bedroom). She remembers the tractor ride my ex-husband gave her as treat for her 6th birthday.

However, as I said, that post was written some time ago. And looking back at the last birthday celebrations for both my children, I realise that I *have* given my children birthday presents. It happened without me really noticing it. Perhaps its because presents *are* a deeply ingrained part of birthday celebrations? I have to say though, the presents I have given them are not *just another toy*.

My son still remembers his 4th birthday (he will be turning 5 years old soon) present. My son LOVES the Wiggles. So for his 4th birthday, he and I worked all day to turn him into a Wiggle. He helped me make his yellow Wiggle top and he watched me as I drew a caricature of him on a large piece of canvas, solemly handing me the next crayon. Then we had his birthday party where many of the adults referred to him as "S---, the yellow Wiggle". He can not remember the presents he got given except he does remember "helping Mum make me into a Wiggle".

So have I strayed from my original ideals? I guess technically I have. And that's normal and just part of growing and changing with life. However, I think in many ways, I have actually truly broken the cycle of giving *more* and *bigger* presents to make up for the lack of family ritual.

The biggest lesson I've learned from this little experiment?

That the best thing I could give my children is my 100% attention and truly sharing with them their experience of turning yet another year older. Presents can only matter when it is made or given in a way that enhances that shared experience.

I wish all of you a wonderful weekend.

(Another blog post of interest - not written by me -: Christmas Presents - Breaking the Cycle)

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Homemade Granola

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I list boxed cereals from the store right up there with candy bars when I think of my vices. I know they are bad for me, and I shudder to think about what probably goes into the making of industrial fake food. I haven't kicked my candy bar habit, but I vowed my child would not be reading cereal boxes at breakfast time. But, to combat breakfast doldrums I make granola. A neighbor shared her recipe from the Scattergood Friends School some time ago. The original recipe called for wheat germ and wheat bran in addition to the other dry ingredients, but since reading Nourishing Traditions and learning more about the health benefits of soaking grains and nuts, I have dropped those ingredients since the bran and germ should not be removed from the wheat kernel and then added back in a recipe.

I have tried soaking and drying the oats and nuts first, and then making the granola. But found it so time consuming that I was making the granola less and less. I have found it easier to just soak the granola overnight and then serve it. And once in awhile we eat it without soaking. It is still a better substitute than boxed cereal.

Soaking grains and seeds before cooking and eating helps remove phytic acids that inhibit the absorption of minerals. The most common soaking methods call for yogurt, whey or lemon juice and warm water. All things in most kitchens.

Method: Combine 1 cup oats or cereal with 1 cup warm water (heated not tap water) and 2 tablespoons of yogurt, whey or lemon juice. Soak overnight, drain off any excess liquid and cook over medium heat for 4 - 5 minutes.


4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped nuts

1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 cups dried fruit

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Measure and mix dry ingredients. Add oil and mix well. Combine molasses and honey in measuring cup used for the oil, they will pour out easily. Mix well to make sure all dry ingredients are coated lightly with molasses and honey.

Spread in lightly greased jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides.
Bake 10 minutes, stir; 5 minutes, stir; 5 minutes, stir.
Take out of oven and stir several times while cooling, add fruit. Store in airtight container.

You can mix and match dry ingredients, just keep the ratio of dry to wet the same: 6 cups dry to 3/4 cup wet. If you like granola clusters increase the molasses and honey.

To double this recipe, it is easiest to make two batches. It is easier to mix and you can easily bake two batches at the same time.

This also makes a great housewarming or holiday gift in decorative jar or container with the recipe attached.

Chop nuts of choice, I used filberts, err, hazelnuts.

Measure dry ingredients.

Add oil (I used olive) swishing the oil around the entire cup. Doing this makes the molasses and honey pour easily, and makes clean-up a snap.

Mix oil and dry ingredients thoroughly.

Measure molasses and honey, using the same cup. Add to the dry ingredients. See how easily they pour!

Mix thoroughly, and spread in cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees.

Stir several times during the baking according to the recipe.

Stir several times after baking. When completely cool, add dried fruit.
Pour into airtight container for storage!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Making Paper

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

I read Bad Human's post on making butter last month and I was struck by how the process seemed so simple!

I told a friend of mine of Bad Human's post and she tells me, "that's how I felt when you showed me how to make paper!". And it struck me that I *have* always thought that certain staples would be hard to make - and would require years of intensive study and lots of equipment to produce it. I think I tend to fall into this thinking for those products that I classify as "made by the shops". Sometimes it takes a post like Bad Human's to remind me that everything is made by people and that pretty much anything can be made by a person if they put their mind to it. For many tings, the fancy equipment only becomes a "need" if you are starting to mass produce or think that you need to do it faster (due to lack of time).

Anyway, I am digressing. I thought I'd show readers here how *I* make paper.

So here's what we did:

1. Grab all bits of scrap paper - you can use anything (newspaper, magazines etc etc) as long as its not metallic paper. Tear or cut into smaller bits and place into a mixture bowl. (This in itself is a fun activity for the kids).

2. Add enough water so all bits of paper is covered. Now shred using a bamix. (You can also use a food processor if you want to for this, but since we don't have one, we used a bamix instead). Keep shredding until paper has dissolved into pulp. Add more water if the mixture starts thickening - you want to keep it a watery mixture.

3. Pour pulp into a larger container (we used a medium-sized esky) and repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have at least 15cm (about 1/2 a foot) of water and pulp in the esky.

4. Using a frame with a screen, scoop the pulp.

5. Dry in the sun.

6. Once dry, gently prise new paper off with a knife.


Now it was our luck that I found the screenprinting frame in a 2nd hand shop but of course I only found one and I have 2 children. To save fights over who gets to use the frame, I also made one. Using tulle (found some in a 2nd hand shop) and an old picture frame. I stapled the tulle onto the picture frame.

Worked like a dream!

Some other ideas for your paper - before it dries, you can decorate it using fabric pieces, leaves/flowers, little metal bits, glitter - skies the limit. You can also pour food dye into the mixture for colouring.

Now, I know there are lots of techniques for making paper out there, and if you do have a different technique, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Re-Usable Present Wrappings

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I'm not talking about re-using wrapping paper, although it can be done. Young mothers-to-be used to carefully undo the wrapping on their baby shower gifts so as to reuse the pretty paper as drawer liners in the nursery. Creases could be removed from ribbons by running them around a hot lightbulb, but that won't work with the cool swirled tubes that are now in my lamp fixtures (although a quick pass with a warm iron would still work). I'm also not talking about the advice you'll see in just about every home magazine to "make the wrapping part of the gift." However, that is a good idea, especially if you're sending presents off to somewhere else.

What I'm talking about is starting some kind of tradition within your own home. My in-laws had a couple of brightly-printed Disney garment boxes that would end up under the tree every year. I have them now. They fold down flat for storage along with the rest of the Christmas stuff, and are the perfect size to hold a book or new shirt - no wrapping required. Gift bags, too, get used year after year.

You probably have your own traditional gift wrappers already - the kids' stockings you hang up every year as part of your decor. So now, just expand that idea a little farther. I know Julie, one of my co-writers here, wrote about sewing re-usable fabric gift bags not too long ago. Of course, she might have to tie some good knots into the ribbons closing them up to keep the kids from peeking, but it's a really good idea. If you're not a sewer, you might be able to do the same thing next year with Christmas pillowcases found on the January clearance sale tables. Canning jars are also great re-usable packaging - whether giving home-canned preserves or gifts in a jar. Maybe your recipient will reuse them, or let them know they can always return the empties to you. We often come home to find empty jars, ale bottles, and egg cartons left by our front door.

We have one more option here at our house. Over the years, I've amassed quite a collection of Christmas tins. Some are used year round - the red one holds buttons, a tall popcorn tin holds toys for when friends with young children stop by to visit. During the rest of the year, some of them make crush- and dust-proof storage containers for my lights and Christmas linens; others all nest, one inside the other like Russian dolls, for storage. But at Christmas time, they all end up under the tree - so many that I purposely leave the bottom tier of branches in the box to have enough room (that's Aries' first bicycle, down out of the garage rafters, completing the display). Some will periodically end up on my kitchen counter through the season, holding home-baked goodies until I put together little gifts for the neighbors. But others we use to hold our gifts to each other. Of course, we're adults here, operating (I hope) on the honor system. If you pick up a tin to use, and there's something already in it, it goes back under the tree until Christmas. No peeking!