Little Home, Big World

…what would Ma do?

Upcycle Your Holiday Wrapping December 7, 2008

Filed under: D.I.Why,Penny Saved,Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 7:45 pm
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I’m snuggling inside today, watching as a fine-grained snow blows and billows and drifts around our home. With the wind-chill factored it, it’s about -20 degrees celsius. (For my American friends, this translates to “Brr!”)

While I sit and work on holiday gifts, my mind is drifting too — how am I going to wrap them? My goal is to avoid purchasing disposable products of any kind. In fact, I’d like to take it one step further and use mostly recycled materials. If I can do so in a way that will create something with a long-term use — all the better! I love the term “upcycle” — it’s like recycle, only better. 🙂

To that end, I’ve been searching the vast net for interesting ideas and links. Hope you find them as inspiring as I do! I’d love to hear your suggestions, or see pictures of your eco-friendly wrapping.

Little Origami Boxes ( recycle cardboard — cereal and cracker boxes, for example.)

Greeting Card Gift Boxes (use greeting cards from last year, or check the thrift store for random vintage cards)

Sew A Bottle Gift Bag (check your thrift store for funky fabric scraps, or for holiday table cloths or placemats)

Sew A Simple Drawstring Bag (again, look for fabrics that you already own or can thrift — those ugly curtains might make an adorable little bag!)

Knit or Crochet a “Market Bag” (I’m hoping to make a few of these, and line them with tea towels, cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, etc. The bag can be reused for shopping, and the fabric lining for another purpose. No waste!)

Repurpose the unexpected. Large gift? Maybe you have a lonely pillowcase in a fun print that could be tied with some leftover ribbon.

Make the Wrapping the Gift — how about a stockpot filled with jars of homemade soup mix? Or a mixing bowl with jars of cookie mix? Use a towel to wrap jars of homemade bath salts, and fasten with a ribbon. Gift handmade soaps wrapped in washcloths…see where I’m going with this? 😉

Happy wrapping!


Smelling Pretty, Breathing Easy December 4, 2008

Filed under: Simplicity,Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 3:56 pm
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I love the simple pleasure of opening the front door, and inhaling deeply of the warm, happy scents of home. However, I have also learned from experience that using chemical air fresheners and scents irritates my allergies, triggers eczema, and guarantees a migraine. Here’s some basic info about indoor air quality.

So, how to have a yummy-smelling home without the health risks?

My favorite tricks are the simplest — I keep a bowl of water on top of my radiator-style heater, and scent it with a few essential oils. (Right now, I’m enjoying a blend of sweet orange, clove bud, and eucalyptus. It smells like Christmas, and has the added benefit of being an anti-viral blend — buh-bye winter colds!) In addition to smelling good and cleaning the air, the extra humidity is great for easing dry-skin-blues.

Another favorite trick is to create a spray freshener. This can be as simple as blending some essential oils and water in a spray bottle and spritzing around the room, or you can blend a 1/4 cup of vodka with 3/4 cup water and add the essential oils to that blend — the alcohol helps disperse the scent.

Here’s a link with more ideas… and here’s another one for Winter Holiday Mulled Cider Air Freshener. Yum!

If you have any favorite recipes for a sweet-smelling home, share them! I’d love to hear.


Tutorial: Knitterly Ivy December 2, 2008

Filed under: Frayed Shoestring,Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 2:45 pm
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I kept singing that old nursery rhyme while I made this…remember? Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy. A kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?” Seems to me that “Knitterly Ivy” flows off the tongue nearly as smoothly. 😉

Here’s what you’ll need to make this ivy trellis:

  • an ivy plant in need of something to grow up
  • some assorted knitting needles (I used some that the kids tried fencing with and subsequently bent — but I think this would look adorable in some funky vintage colors. Most thrift stores carry old knitting needles for about $0.25 a pair.)
  • A bit of yarn or string
  • Scissors

To Assemble:

Play with the design and choose how you want the finished trellis to look. Then use your yarn or string to securely tie it together, wrapping and tyeing in an “X”. Trim the ends short. Insert carefully into the ivy pot, gently wrap the ivy ends up around the trellis, and enjoy! 🙂


Not quite Ma’s shawl… December 1, 2008

Filed under: Simplicity,Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 4:55 pm
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…but I really love how it knit up. The pattern is Forest Canopy Shawl and is available on the designer’s website or through Ravelry. I knit it using Manos Del Uruguay Silk Blend, and I’m completely smitten with it. Manos is a cooperative that provides a fair working wage to village women in Uruguay…so if the softness and sheen of merino and silk aren’t reason enough to swoon, you can feel good about where your purchase money went.

I have a feeling this is one of those finished items that will see a lot of use…so versatile! It’s a scarf, hood, wrap…and I’m only starting to play with it and see what works. 🙂


More pictures on my Ravelry page…you know, I think I need to knit a nice, big, warm version of this for snuggling on the couch reading.

Otherwise new on the home scene — I’m on a sock-monkey-sewing binge. I hope to have my own “barrel of monkeys” (well, four anyway!) for the littles…I think they will be great Christmas gifts. Pictures to come soon. 🙂


Rooibos Beauty Oil November 28, 2008

Filed under: Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 3:03 pm
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Commercial lotion is full of known carcinogens — visit Skindeep and look up your brand if you don’t believe me. Here’s a simple alternative that smells amazing and works wonderfully.

You’ll Need:

  • 4 Vanilla Rooibos teabags
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp liquid Vitamin E (or a couple capsules)
  • Double boiler, wooden spoon, and a clean bottle or jar with an airtight lid.

Heat double boiler over low-medium heat; you want the water hot but NOT boiling. Place teabags in top pot, cover with the olive oil. Now let time and head work it’s magic! Gently heat it for a few hours, periodically poke and squeeze the teabags with the spoon. When the infusion seems strong enough, remove from heat. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then carefully remove teabags from oil — be sure and squeeze out as much of the oil from them as you can. Stir in vitamin E, and transfer to your clean bottle or jar. Allow to cool with lid loosely close, then tighten lid securely.

Shelf life – up to 2 months. Always discard product if it develops a strange smell or color.

To use

  • pour desired amount into hand and massage into skin — this is most effective after a warm shower or bath. For added benefit, massage towards your heart — it stimulates your circulation.
  • add approximately 3 tablespoons to your bath after you’ve been soaking for a few minutes; the oil will lock the moisture into your skin.
  • facial cleanser – massage oil into face; cover with a washcloth that has been soaked with hot water and wrung out. When cloth cools, use it to gently remove excess oil.
  • use as a facial moisturizer too — warm a small amount between your hands, gently massage into face.

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