Tag Archives: frugality

Recycled Denim Pillows with Pockets

After being inspired by sweaters I thought it was time to do something with the old jeans that were piling up.  I knew I wanted to make pillows, and then I came across a picture of a pillow with a remote pocket.  Perfect!  A few hours and 4 pairs of jeans later, they were done.

No more wondering where the remote is…..

Sweater Friends

One of the things I really wanted to do when I first started to get into sewing, and thinking about a sewing business, was to learn how to turn things that had outlived their purpose into something new and useful.   The Laundryontheline sentiment strikes again as I dream of being more like my (mythical?) penny-pinching, earth-saving,  waste-not want-not ancestors.  (Actually, this is not a myth where my grandmother is concerned, I can attest to that having inherited the piles of zippers and buttons that she carefully saved from years and years of worn clothing…)

 And so it is that I have saved every worn sweater and pair of jeans (the ones that for one reason or another aren’t in good enough condition to donate) for that day when I was ready to create something wonderful and new out of them.

That day was Saturday.  And I’m pretty happy with what I came up with, although I’m not sure about the useful part…. 

My inspiration started from here (you will see some similarities) and then I branched out into other animals.  There was one casualty along the way.  One blue elephant that just didn’t work out.  I have learned from that experience that ribbed cotton sweaters are too stretchy for animals that require some structure.   He would have made a very nice octopus if he had had more legs!

I’m pretty happy with this little menagerie and I think I might just have to make a few more (after all, there are still sweaters in the pile!)

Oven-Dried Tomatoes for the Winter

Remember these?

After many cucumber and tomato salads, a batch of salsa, and some bruschetta stuffed zucchini (recipe to come soon) I still had a good harvest to preserve for winter enjoyment. 

Placed on racks, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and oven-dried at 225 for an hour or two, they turn into plump little drops of sunshine to be enjoyed when the snow is thick, the temperatures frigid, and summer seems a long way off. 

Ready for the freezer….

One of you inquired about my gathering basket holding the tomatoes.  It is actually a humble grocery store produce basket that held the peaches I bought in the summertime.  It does make a good gathering basket though, and easy to wash the tomatoes right in the basket.  Practical, recyclable and frugal. 

I love having food tucked away for the winter, don’t you?

A tourist in your own town

I had the pleasure of having one of the best summer jobs in the world.  Two days a week I got to spend the day hanging out with one of my favourite people, and her three awesome kids.  One of the highlights for me was teaching her two girls how to sew (you should see the dolls they made – too cute!) but I also loved all of the impromptu adventures we would take the kids on.  Isn’t it wonderful how friends encourage you to do things that you would never have done on your own?

Like being a tourist in your own city.  On the day that a cruise ship was in and the city was swarming with people with roses (they hand the passengers one when they get off the boat, so they can be identified as tourists I suppose.)  We even bought a rose to carry around so we’d fit in. 

Come, I’ll take you on a tour.

The beautiful gateway into a historic park.   We sat by a fountain modelled after a beaver pond and ate lemon tarts from a nearby bakery – yum!

I am in love with the brick walkways.  We did not have walkways like this in the city where I grew up (not that I remember walking on anyway).  This park is right smack dab in the center of the city with buses and people bustling about – an oasis of green and calm.

See?  This is what you look at once you leave the park gate.  Beautiful architecture in the building up ahead – it is one of my favourite places to go in the city….

The market!  Full of restaurants, fresh produce, seafood, meats, cheeses, and local artisans selling their wares.  I love the hustle and bustle of it and you never know what you are going to find.

Being a ship-building town the roof of the market was built like the hull of a boat – cool, huh?

I also love these signs everywhere showing the market in different eras.  Oh how neat it would be to go back in time and see it grow and change throughout the years!

More historic buildings – and the fog has rolled in!  I was shocked by how quickly this can happen the first time I experienced it (back when I was a tourist for real!)  One minute I was standing outside in the sun and the next I turned around into a wall of white.    One of the many historic churches (and gorgeous inside too!)- the cars look really out of place here.

A blast from the past – some day I would like a ride on this trolley!

The cruise ship – I can’t believe how big these things are.  From the top of the street I seriously thought this was a big white building at the end of the road….

Lots of old beautiful houses here.  Many have historic plaques stating the builder and year of building, but this is my favourite:

Thanks for being a tourist with me!  The next time you are looking for something to do, why not become a tourist in your own town?  Even if you’ve lived there for years, it’s always refreshing to look at the sites with fresh eyes, to stop and enjoy all that your city or town has to offer.  It’s even better if you bring a friend or two along, and a few kids to pose for pictures at all the historic sites!

What’s your favourite place to explore where you live?

Deer-Proofing your Veggie Garden

Deer are beautiful and majestic animals. In the days before our wedding, when we were thinking of buying this house, Hubby and I came out to see the place at dusk.  As we drove by we saw a deer under the trees.  We were mesmerized and took it as a sign that this would be a beautiful place to start our life together.

It has been a beautiful place to begin our life together.  That first year we saw many deer, grazing in the tall “field” we had in our back yard in the mornings or resting behind the tall grasses in the evenings.  It was truly magical.

And then we planted gardens.

The deer aren’t so beautiful when they eat an entire bed of plants, that you slaved over for hours, in one evening.

And it is no magic that eats all of your tomato plants down to nothing by morning.

The beautiful beasts aren’t tricked by plants and bushes that are reportedly “deer-proof” either,  my elderberry bush didn’t last a month before it was munched completely to the ground. 

Hubby declared war and kept a slingshot handy – which scared them away for a minute and then they would return to munch on the bushes when we had left for work. 

We tried a slew of deer deterrents, some high-tech, some not, but it seems the deer were here to stay and that they would not easily be swayed from eating at our backyard “buffet.”

Many gung-ho gardeners around here fence their properties to keep the deer out.  This is an expensive option, and for us, just not possible.  It took some experimenting, and some ingenuity on Hubby’s part (I am so thankful for my man!) but out veggie garden is now deer-free, without breaking the bank. 

Here is how we do it:

First of all, all of our gardens are raised beds, in boxes.  However, I think this concept would work in any type of garden, so don’t worry if your gardens don’t look like ours.

For large gardens you will need metal or wooden stakes and a roll or two of “deer fencing” from the hardware store.  (In our store it is sold next to the bird netting and is a similar plastic-type  material.)  It is economically priced and can be stored and used year after year.  You will also need some kind of tie – we use plastic twist ties.

Simply place the stakes around the perimeter of the garden and stretch the deer fencing across it, tying it into place.    The two stakes close together on the left make the “door.”  There is a piece of dowel on the bottom of this section of fencing for weight, and it stays closed by placing one of the holes of the netting over the twist-tie on the top of the pole.  It’s nothing fancy, but it works. 

All of our tall plants are put into these beds.

The shorter plants (vines, lettuces, carrots, onions, etc.) are placed in the smaller boxes.  For these, we use bird netting (even cheaper than deer fencing) and wood dowels.  Use the dowels to create bars on either side of the box and then drape the bird netting over top,  tying in place (we use zip-ties on the tops, and twist ties on the corners so we can get in for weeding.)

It’s an easy and somewhat aesthetically pleasing solution, and as long as the plants stay within the netting, the deer won’t touch them.  If your plants are tall and start to poke their heads above or out of your netted box you might need to raise your dowels (or say goodbye to your exposed plants!)

This system has kept our veggie garden deer free for three years.  It is probably not perfect.  We see many deer here, but I know there are other areas around here that see a lot more.  But it works for us and I hope it might help out others who are afraid to garden because of the animals they share their backyards with.   

There is one more thing that we have added to our gardens that have allowed us to grow flowers and shrubs in the backyard.   They do not fall in the “frugal” category, but they do protect our investment in plants and shrubs and as a bonus they also keep cats, groundhogs, and other creatures away from the gardens.   We have two of these and since installing them my bushes and flowers have reappeared and this year I am going to attempt to plant some herbs in these otherwise unprotected garden beds. 

And there is peace between the humans and the deer. 

Happy gardening!

Mens Shirt Transformation

After my sewing experiment yesterday turned out so well, I was really excited about trying to transform another of Hubby’s old shirts.   He can’t wear them anymore because the collars have started to fray, but some of them are just such nice fabric that I can’t bear to throw them away.  And the pile of shirts in my sewing room just keeps on growing…..

For this project I picked out this little Pierre Cardin number (I should mention here that ever since we started buying all  of our clothes second-hand our closet has seen a wealth of designer labels it never knew before…)

Then I cut off the offending collar and the sleeves.

I wanted a prettier neckline so I cut one side in a nice v-neck kind of shape.

Then I folded the shirt in half and cut the other side to match.

Then I tried it on and realized the shoulders were way too wide, the armholes way too deep and the whole thing way too big.  So I kind of eye-balled it (take 3 finger widths off here, 4 finger widths off there…)  I turned it inside out and cut one side into the shape I wanted, then folded it over and cut the other side to match.  This was a much more flattering shape.

From there I sewed the side seams, using flat-felled seams to keep it neat.  Then I grabbed some seam binding from my grandmother’s stash and covered the armholes and neckline.  Then, ta-da!  A new nightshirt!

I love it!  It is a teensy bit shorter than I would like so I am going to make a pair of shorts to wear with it.   I wonder what Pierre would think of his shirt now?

Mending – turning a top into a dress

I am happy to say that I survived the stomach flu and am halfway trough my students’ reports.  I needed to take a break from staring at the computer and typing so I decided to take advantage of Mending Week at Making More with Less and tackle the mending pile that seems to keep growing in my sewing room. 

Now most mending isn’t really fun to showcase but I am very excited about what I did with one of my pyjama tops. 

Here is the top – one of the straps got caught in the washer and ripped right off when I tried to get it out. 

So I began by sewing that back on.  It was super easy to just tuck it back under the seam binding and sew it back up.  And then I remembered that I always found this top a little too roomy so I figured while I had the machine threaded I would take it in on the sides too.

Much better.  But now that I had spent some time on it I really wanted to wear it and unfortunately I rarely wear this one because it belongs with a pair of really warm winter pj pants and this top was never warm enough so I ended up finding something else to go with the pants which left this piece all on its own.  (poor lonely thing.)

But I do need some summer PJs.  I started rooting around my grandmother’s fabric looking for something that might match and then I spied one of Hubby’s retired shirts.  Perfect!  I cut off the shirt just below the pocket.

(Pardon the fuzzy pictures it is cloudy and rainy here today and my camera does not do well in the dark….)

Then I zigzagged over the raw edge of the shirt and then put in long gathering stitches and gathered it until it fit the bottom of the top.  I sewed the two together and…..it became a nightdress!I kind of like the shiny top and cotton bottom and I love the buttons down the front.  I have another of his shirts in that pile – I wonder if I could somehow turn that into a nightdress too?  Hmm…..

Happy Mending Week!  I promise I will be back to more regular posting once progress reports are done!

Homemade “Green” Cleaning for Earth Day and Every Day!

Happy Earth day!  I have had it in my mind for a while that I would like to do a post on making your own cleaners, and what better day to do it than on a day when we celebrate all the ways we can take better care of our Earth?

Some of the things I love about making my own cleaners is that my house doesn’t smell like chemicals, I don’t have to deal with bottles of stuff with warnings like “use in a well-ventilated area” or “may cause irritation if it comes in contact with skin,”  and they’re cheap and easy to make!   It’s a great way to save money, save the earth, and preserve your health, all at the same time!   What more could you ask from a household cleaner??

There are really only two main ingredients in my cleaning cupboard and they are vinegar and baking soda.  With those two items I can clean almost everything in the house (and I always have the ingredients on hand to create “erupting volcanoes”  a fun science trick that never ceases to please the little ones in my life). 

 Plain vinegar is great for removing water stains from toilets (pour some in and soak overnight) and as a fabric softener in the laundry.  It is also the main ingredient in two of my favourite cleaners.   And don’t forget to save the empty bottles for making your own laundry soap!

Window and Glass Cleaner  Combine 1 part water to 1 part vinegar in a spray bottle.  Spray the surface and wipe with newsprint.  The trick to getting a streak-free shine is to continue to use dry pieces of paper (once the newsprint is saturated it will streak).  I just keep folding the paper over on itself as I go to keep it from getting too wet. 

All-Purpose Cleaner  Combine 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water in a spray bottle.  Add 20 or 30 drops of eucalyptus oil.  You could probably also use tea tree oil.  I use this for general cleaning and disinfecting (counter tops, sink handles, light switches, door handles, toilets, the telephone, etc).  I also use it with my Mr. Clean wet mop – when the cleaner that came with it ran out I just filled the bottle up with this instead and it works great!

Plain baking soda is great for scrubbing and scouring!  I use it to clean sinks, tubs, toilets, the oven top and the fridge (it’s great for getting finger marks off the handles.)  Simply sprinkle on, add a few drops of water, and scrub away with a cleaning cloth.   Use steel wool instead of a cloth and you’ve got a fantastic oven cleaner (without the noxious fumes).

Hubby thought of the idea of putting it in a jar with holes on top.  I used to use the “reach into the bag and pull out a handful” method but this is much neater!

Salt is also a great cleaner and can really shine up a kitchen sink!  I will also sometimes use a half a lemon to freshen things up too!

While we are talking about cleaners I should mention that I do not have paper towels in my house.  (Correction, hubby has some which he hides away somewhere for his use only but I think in the whole 5 years we have been married he has only had to purchase them once or twice).   Growing up with paper towels I didn’t really know what to do without them at first, but now I can’t remember what it is that I used to use them for!   Instead of paper we bought a large pile of dishcloths that are used for cleaning only (they are a completely different kind and colour than the ones we use for dishes) and they are used for all sorts of household messes and tidy-up jobs. 

These are my dusting cloths.  The red pieces on top were cut from an old sweater and I have to say they are the best dust cloths I have ever owned (Swiffer would be jealous).   I’m not sure what the sweater is made of (it’s definitely not wool) but if I ever see another one like it in a thrift store it’s mine!  The cloth underneath is flannel (actually a piece of one of my baby blankets if you can believe it – that cloth is 31 years old and still in use!) which also works well for dusting and cleaning.

I will leave you with this photo which I took for hubby as a joke one day: 

What I wish would happen when I leave the house each day...

If you have any “green” cleaning tips or other recipes for simple homemade cleaners, I’d love to hear them!

It’s Spring!

Today is the first day of spring, and unlike other years here on the East Coast of Canada, it actually feels like spring today!  The kind of day when you can head out onto the deck in your slippers and without a coat.  I celebrated thisday of unseasonably warm weather by hanging my laundry out on the line for the first time this year – yippee!  Simple pleasures, I know, but I take great satisfaction in this weekly chore.

Today hubby asked, “wouldn’t it just be faster to throw it all in the dryer?”

True, it would be.  But then the dryer would be on all day, using electricity and filling the house with its loud hum (not to mention the annoyingly loud buzzer that goes off when the clothes are dry.)  And, because I refuse to use dryer sheets, his shirts would be full of static, and I’d be crackling and popping and giving off shocks all day as a result – delightful.

And what is it about us that makes us want to do everything faster anyway?

While I hung the laundry out today I got to bask in the sunshine, enjoy the sounds of birds chirping and our resident feline’s rumbling purr.  And I had time to just let my mind wander.  I thought about the garden and where we would plant each of the veggies this year, I mulled over a problem I am having in my classroom and came up with several possible solutions, I said a few prayers for loved ones who are sick and grieving, and I planned out the rest of my day.  I emerged from the deck with my laundry basket a calmer and less frazzled person. 

Oh…and the laundry got dried too.  Amazing!

Sometimes I wonder if our modern “conveniences,” these things that are supposed to give us more time to do “other things,” sometimes keep us from finding joy in the small moments and activities of life. 

But I didn’t say any of this to Hubby of course.  What I said to him was “Yes, but I’m saving us money.”   Which made him smile and continue on with his own activities.  (I know the way to the heart of my man – frugalness is very important to him.)

Can’t wait to sleep in those sun-dried sheets tonight!

Happy Spring!

Cooking Tips from 1913

I discovered one of my great-grandmother’s school books.  It was in among her recipes, possibly because the content refers to kitchen economy, how to make meals and keep the household running smoothly.  The book is dated 1913, which means that she would have been 14 years old when taking this class.  Here are a few snapshots of what you would have been learning as a girl of 14 in a school just outside London, England.

I wish I had inherited the ability to write so neatly!

Imagine what our garbage piles would look like if we never threw out anything of any use.

Imagine what our houses would look like if we never threw out anything of any use.

Times have changed….

I would like to add croutons to the stale bread list – yum!

There were several pages of these dinners for 6, all written out including the cost and time to cook.   I wonder what the cost equivalents would be in today’s currency?  Are the economical meals of our ancestors still the economical meals of today?  And I don’t know about you , but whenever I read about Fig pudding I can’t help but get the Christmas song stuck in my head “Now bring us a figgy pudding…” 

Do you suppose this made a white loaf or whole wheat?

Now where would a woman be without knowing how to make the perfect pie crust?  (other than in my own kitchen, that is…)

I laughed out loud when I read that second-to-last tip – “Do not swing.”  But oh how tempting it is….

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