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DIY, Thrifty

Easy DIY Cloud Shelf (Yurt Life)

2 December, 2014

I haven’t done much DIY for a while – but when I began imagining a shelf that looks like a cloud I couldn’t hold back. (Ah, bladdy Pinterest kinda beat me to it. Remember the pre-Pinterest days, when you believed you’d invented everything?)

Anyway this cloud shelf filled my dreams. It would be like a cloud, floating on my wall. AWESOME.

“Hold me back, man…Where’s the jigsaw? WHERE’S THE JIGSAW HOLD ME BACK.”

You know I love a novelty shelf.

Exhibit A – shelf made out of a vintage suitcase.

Exhibit B – shelf made out of a book.

Shelves are expensive, and so are brackets. Even second hand ones. So why not just DIY something out of stuff you have lying around that is also just a little bit more beauty than a plank of wood, too? Why not, eh?

DIY CLoud Shelf Yurt Life

It was my first time using a jigsaw, and, my word, those things are flipping cool as. I felt like the world was my oyster, with that in my hand. I just pencilled the shape of a cloud onto a bit of MDF and then flipped the switch and buzzed it out. I started nervously and then I could see the bumps and turns forming under the saw. Ten minutes later I was holding a cloud in my hand.

*God complex*

DIY CLoud Shelf Yurt Life

Once I had the cloud shape – drawn so that the open bit fitted perfectly onto an existing box I had (an old wine crate would actually be ideal.) I then glue gunned it on. Because the cloud shape is just a facade it really doesn’t need a sturdier fixing than that. Glue gunning it also meant I avoided having nails on show. A few licks of  white paint made it the perfect canvas for my brightly coloured shelf occupants.

DIY CLoud Shelf Yurt Life

I used wire around the box to hang in on the trellis of the yurt. But you could equally just hang in on a nail.

cloud11

Then I filled it with my favourite little bits and pieces.

There is no coming back from this. Jigsawing out a shelf for every whim and fancy. A shelf representing every one of my favourite things. I could make a rainbow shelf! A shelf like a fox! A GOSH DARN FRIED EGG SHELF!

And I know I will never have a plank of wood for a shelf again.

Thrifty

Everything I know about a Thrifty, Ethical, Handmade Christmas

28 November, 2014

There they all are, popstars with that winsome, pouty, tragic look: “Do they know its Christmas time at all?”

They could be singing it about me. Or every other English expat sitting out here on the other side of the world.

(Sorry Bob. And, um, Africa, I guess. Although that song is a teency bit demeaning, though, no? Anyway, gosh. This is just a frivolous festive post, okay? Not a discussion about the White Saviour Industrial Complex…)

Because: no! It totally does not feel like Christmas while I am getting sunburnt weeding the sweetcorn patch or watching my daughter and her mates decorate a stick of bamboo stuck in the sand on the beach in lieu of a pine tree embedded in snow.

(I’m not really complaining though, really, honest…. although I do love to rock a vintage Christmas jumper… but the sun is nice and all, of course…)

The fact of the matter is though, I haven’t been thinking too much about festivities really. I do mean to step it up a notch next week.

I have, over the last few years, however, thought an awful lot about Christmas. I thought I’d share all the favourite things I’ve bashed out, in a timely way, so you can crack on with them as advent begins.

1- This advent calendar was such a pleasure to make, and such a joy to look at. I can’t wait to pull it out again on Sunday and fill it with poems and jokes and prayers and sweets and dreams and thanks. (Another blogger helping me put more thought into Adent is Sacraparental with this 76 advent ideas post.)Alternative Handmade Advent CalenderBeautiful Handmade Advent Calendar with pockets

2- A post I wrote last Christmas, with a lot of help from the whole of Facebook and Twitter, has gone kind of crazy. It is Sixty Great Gift Alternatives to Toys... and it is truly awesome. (Totally allowed to say that as only a few are my own ideas!!) It is packed full of cool as present ideas for kids, that don’t include filling up their bedrooms with more plastic crap. Share it around your family to inspire them! Find it here.

3- These homemade cinnamon Christmas birds are yummy smelling and fun and beautiful and just the very thing to make to get into the spirit of things. Must make them immediately. Homemade cinnamon Christmas birds

4- However, I have sourced some awesomely cool fair trade gifts for children in my time. Here are my favourite ethical toys, if you’d rather. (Also, any Londoners reading- the Fair Christmas Fayre is on tomorrow on Oxford Street. No jokes, this is the ONE HUNDRED PER CENT BEST PLACE to buy every single gift for everyone. More details here.)

5- My Top Tips for a thrifty yet awesome Christmas are here. Hey, look. If there is one thing I know, it is how to enjoy life and not spend any money. I reeeeeeeally believe we need a new kind of Christmas- one that doesn’t drain the earth’s resources or our pockets.everything I know about a thrifty handmade Christmas

6- Possibly my all time funnest craft. Razmataz dinosaurs. And cowboys. They look perfect as placeholders for Crimbo dinner… or even with a little cotton around them to hang on the tree.DIY Christmas Glitter Figures

So much to make and do! Think I’ve just managed to convince myself it IS Christmas by writing this. Hoorah for my fickle, easily persuaded mind!

Would love to hear about any awesome ethical Christmas posts you have read recently, or any way your family celebrates a Christmas that is easy on the earth…

 

Shampoo Free, Thrifty

No Poo: 20 Surprising Results of Giving Up Shampoo

18 November, 2014

I was lying in the bath the other night, immersing my hair in the hot water (not as relaxing as it sounds- I’m a mother, you know? I had an 18 month old sitting on my tummy face planting on to my boobs and a four year old up the other end balancing rubber ducks on my knees) when it occurred to me that my hair is taking a really long time to get soaked through.

Like water off a duck’s back, it was taking almost half a minute to penetrate my hair shafts. I concluded it is because my hair is so strong and healthy now, each strand so perfectly encased with magnificent sebum, that it was protecting itself against the elements…My hair  has become the elite samurai warrior of hair.

It made me wonder about all the extra, often unexpected results of giving up shampoo. I asked on my Facebook page what people have discovered their hair doing since going No Poo, and I loved hearing all the curious side effects…Giving up shampoo - unexpected benefits

One thing people don’t expect is that No Poo will actually make their hair 10 million times better (I actually did the maths, of course) than when they were using an expensive shampoo:

Soft Hair
“Soft as butter” Megan

“My hairdresser commented on how incredibly soft it was.” Katherine

“I have soft, strong non oily hair.” Helen

Voluminous Hair
“My hair is getting thicker and voluminous without the chemical cocktail of shampoo.” Ayse

“I’m finding my hair is thicker” Katherine

“The thickness and volume is great and I find my hair not only is harder to wet but also takes longer to dry.” Kathy

“I went No Poo at the start of Sept and my hair is so much softer and has heaps more body than it had previously. It was always limp and flyaway before so… WooHoo!” Janine

“Just lately my hairdresser told me she had thinned out the sides a bit (I have short hair). NEVER happened before.” Magdelene

Manageable Hair
“Became easier to manage and stopped depositing itself all over furniture/clothes/bedding. ” Ella

Shiny Hair
“I switched from shampoo to baking soda about a month ago and my hair is healthy and shinier than ever.” Laura

“Hair is long, thick and shiny.” Heather

“I switched from shampoo to baking soda about a month ago and my hair is healthy and shinier than ever!” Laura G

Vibrant Hair
 “I also think my natural color is more vibrant.” Bree

Hair is growing like fury
“My hair is growing like fury! ” Heather

“I think I am actually growing more hair?” Molly

People are discovering their hair actually changes, in texture and shape – often times into exactly the hair they want. Personally, I have always had hair as straight an limp as an arrow. A few months after giving up shampoo it got the most lovely wave. HURRAH!

Straight Hair
“My hair is straight! It’s always been unruly and wavy but now I don’t need to use straighteners ever.” Charlotte

Curly Hair
“No need for product to emphasise curls…love it!” Megan

Tangle Free Hair
“I find my hair is incredibly easy to brush all the time, no matter what i’ve done with it!” Rebecca

I found quite quickly that giving up shampoo had enormous benefits for my skin. Spots I have had my whole life, on my face and shoulders disappeared:

Goodbye Acne
“I stopped using shampoo about 3 months ago and I also decided to stop washing my face with anything too. I’ve suffered from acne most of my life and although it’s been a lot less severe as I’ve got older, and since I’ve had children, my skin is truly the best it’s been for a very long time (people have commented on it – even my Mum, so it must be true!!)” Maddie

Goodbye Eczema
“My husband and son both had eczema but since our whole family of 5 has gone poo free they no longer have eczema!!” Bree

Goodbye Warts
“I had a wart on my finger for at least 4 years. Within two weeks of using baking soda instead of shampoo the wart completely disappeared!” Charly

Goodbye Styling Products
“I love the ‘stiffness’ and volume of my hair with no poo, it’s what I used to have to use 2 or 3 diff products for.. (Wax, mattifying powder, and hairspray..) Now it’s just my natural state.. SO stoked to discover my desire for that texture wasn’t stupid- it was exactly how my hairs meant to be.” Maryanne

Goodbye Cluttered Shelves
“My unexpected side effect has been a new obsession with the labels of beauty products, I’m running everything down and switching to coconut oil and bicarb combos. So the bathroom clutter is disappearing too!” Heather

Goodbye Itchy Scalp
“I was getting an itchy scalp with normal shampoo since going poo free my scalp is itch free and my hair feels lighter and just more healthy” Bree

Goodbye Flaky Scalp
“No more dry patches on my scalp!” Molly

“I have significantly less dandruff and my hair looks less dull.” Caitrin

(Hello, Flaky Scalp)
“Why am I getting dandruff for the first time in my life?” Sarah (A few people also mentioned getting dandruff so I did ought to mention it! It is quite common in transition, as the scalp gets used to not being assaulted by toxins! I cover this in my No Poo ebook Happy Hair – I suggest using a rosemary herb tea amongst other things.

And then there is the sense that being shampoo-free is one way we can step more lightly on the earth. I am sure the No Poo movement is part of a wider, ecological movement:

Hello Eco Warrior Credentials
“I am thrilled at minimising all the plastic packaging that store bought hair products are contained in.” Ella

Hello Festival Happiness
“I’ve been shampoo free for about 4 years now, and just love that my hair always looks great! Go to a 8 day festival – no worries, hair looks same as ever!”  Jessica

Do you have any other unexpected side effects from giving up shampoo? Would love to hear from you. 

PS If you are thinking about giving up shampoo do check out my super thrifty ebook – it has everything you might possibly need to know about beginning this journey and every week I get an email from someone who has discovered beautiful hair as a result of reading it and going No Poo.

Thrifty

20 Amazing Second Hand Gift Ideas

11 November, 2014

When I was a teenager the BIGGEST insult you could hurl at someone was to say they got their clothes from Oxfam. Seriously, I lived in fear that someone would discover it was my favourite shop. HAHAHA. I used to sneak in so furtively, glancing around to make sure no one saw me enter, coat pulled up around my face. And then I’d say I found my vintage Lee flares at Miss Selfridge.

And now, here I am… the proudest Oxfam lover on the planet. It is genuinely one of the things I miss the most about living in NZ! (Also, like, my family…) Oxfam Online especially is one of the best places to buy vintage these days. The money goes to support incredible projects in the developing world AND you get a bargainous bit of antiquity.

Sheesh, if they had Oxfam Online when I was younger there would have been absolutely no need for me to don that big nose and moustache disguise just to go shopping.

Imagine how much less strain on the earth Christmas would be if we could whole heartedly embrace second hand gifts, eh? WELL…. to help things along I have sacrificially spent the entire morning on the Oxfam shop looking at every beautiful vintage item on there…. and here are my top picks. Beautiful Secondhand Gifts from Oxfam

HOME
1- Mix and Match Crockery – like this beautiful Minton Bone China Plate… So many lovely tea cups and saucers when you hit up the excellent search function.
2- Hand Crocheted Blankets – such an array of colours.. this one is my fave
IMG_1259.JPG
3A perfect small vintage tin… I have a collection of these sitting idly on my shelf. I fondle them.
4- Antique Kitchen Ware – HEllO, these scales….
5- Retro Picnic Ware – odds and ends of yellow melamine? Yes, please! *dies of love* (It has taken me forever to build up our little collection of melamine…)

BOOKS
6- Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches – the perfect book for the crafter in your life
7- The complete book of Kites and Kite flying. They have a huge selection of hobby books for kids too.
8- They have every kind of vintage penguin edition, in good nick too, for a total bargain. Absolute classic pressie…

WEAR
9- They have a tremendous collection of vintage dresses for the more flush of you. This one is a 1950’s, hand embroidered frock. I am a bit in love with it.
10- Not all their retro gear is dear though. I spotted this INSANELY AWESOME retro jacket and it is a snip! Oxfam Vintage Jacket
11- The yellow jacket pictured is a vintage jacket from their Pop Art Pallete section. Search “Pop Art Palette” for some of the most glorious, fairly reasonably priced, colourful wears you’ve ever clapped your eyes on.
12- They also have lots of modestly price retro- style very glam evening wear…. *dreams of having an occasion to wear this*
13- And an absurd array of fun festive jumpers if you are deciding to jump on that marvellous wagon this Christmas.

(Oh rats, now I have basically just begun browsing the whole shop for things I love… Ahem. Let me get back to the gift guide for YOU.)

CHILDREN
14- The children won’t care if a toy is vintage of not- but you get the satisfaction of giving a styley, eco gift!! See this cool, colourful retro pack of Dominoes (you could take it to the next level and turn them into fridge magnets with this guide….)
15- Hi there, fun, vintage jigsaw!
16- Sweet and dreamy (and only one or two that look a bit terrifying) vintage dolls…
17- They have a crazily adorable stash of children’s vintage wear too

HARD TO BUY FOR
18 – Browse their Ephemera category for such joyous finds as a vintage train whistle, vintage binoculars and ancient postcards
19- Vintage gloves are always a winner, you know it.
20- This last one is not vintage but deserves a mention as a brilliant pressie for the person that needs nothing more – particularly for people you need to buy a gift for but don’t know very well. Oxfam Unwrapped takes your money and gives an often life saving gift for someone who needs it very much.

PHEW! What an arduous morning, browsing their website and falling in love over and over.

If you are trying to do Christmas in a more ethical way this year please check out these links:
The London Fair Christmas Fayre – happening on Saturday November 29th on Oxford Street. Millions of eco and fair trade gifts under one roof.
Sacraparental’s awesomely awesome guide to world-changing gifts. So many ideas. (Also, a kind of Christian intro…)
My guide for non-toy alternatives, crowdsourced by readers, these are the most creative ideas for not buying more stuff!

Proudly partnering with Oxfam through Affiliate Links.

Thrifty

BEFORE! AFTER! Natural Beauty Experiments and the Beauty Myth

24 October, 2014

I’m not going to lie to you. It IS a bit weird doing beauty experiments for Cosmo. Everytime I come to write them up I have to check within myself- is this true to what I think and feel about beauty?

Here are some things I think about beauty:

1- I had the fortune to be bought up by a mother immensely sensible about beauty. I grew up knowing beauty was a jitterry, rickety thing, to not ever put much store by it.

2- I went through the usual fashion obsessed teenage years. (By “fashion” I mean “awful neon flares”) But even when I was 16 I was uncomfortable with people needing me to be pretty. I once turned to a handsome boyfriend, my top teeth repulsively smothered in melted chocolate, and said “‘Ello Darling” in a grunty voice- he looked at me disdainfully and said “Don’t do that.” He got the heave ho that very day, I tell you.

3- I can go weeks and weeks without a dash of make up, without even looking in the mirror. Sometimes the best I can do is wipe a kid’s snot out of my fringe. I can be *that* unbothered.

4- Yet, when I have just hennaed my hair, or slapped on some blusher and mascara, I look in the mirror and go WAHEY! And it gives me a sort of grace and confidence for the day ahead that I am grateful for.  I need it sometimes.

5- I try really hard to celebrate difference. My daughter’s play with my tummy, tracing the large tear shaped stretch mark I have around my belly button, courtesy of growing two babies in my womb. Ramona says “Your tummy is baggy, mummy!” And I say “It is baggy! And beautiful! I carried you in there, and this shape is to remind me of how mysterious and magnificent my body is.”

6- I feel genuinely upset that our world has such a strict measure of beauty. When I turned on my computer to see some stuff about Renee Zellweger I was pretty much exactly like this:Renee Zellweger Tweet And, it is so weird, because on one level I want to be like “As long as she is happy” and “We should have nothing to say about her face” but on another level I feel creaky hearted about it. I thought she was absolutely stunning before, with her gorgeous ethereal eyes. She is still stunning, but she is Hollywood stunning and I am sad.

7- I definitely do not want to contribute to this kind of intolerant, cage like beauty myth, that requires people to do things to themselves.

8- But I *do* want to investigate options that can help people look in the mirror and say WAHEY in a way that takes in their whole health (i.e – minus the heavy metals) and in a way that respects our precious and beautiful earth.

Bearing all this in mind…. I have done a couple of experiments in the last month with two items.

Ozone Gel 
I have begun using ozone for everything. On my teeth, wounds, sore spots. I feel like I could almost become an ambassador for it.Here I used it for wrinkles. I like to think I am going to grow old with pleasure. I am not ashamed of my laughter lines, and I like to think I will love them more as I grow with them. But there may come a time when I DO care and I’d like to be equipped to smooth them out a little in an uninvasive, easy way.  Read all about it (and the pre-wedding cyst I got on my face) here.Ozone Gel Before After wrinkles

 

Oil pulling with coconut oil (I buy my organic virgin coconut oil in bulk- which you can here too, through my affiliate link, if you like!) I use coconut oil for EVERYTHING. Deodorant, detangler, moisturiser, eye make up remover, now- a natural teeth whitener. (In fact, take a squizz at my post 12 beauty uses for 2 ingredients…) I have now incorporated it into my weekly rhythm as a way of avoiding expensive dental work. I’ve been looking into how I can heal my teeth, and my daughter’s weak teeth, naturally and I am adamant this is going to play an important role in this. Read all about it, and that time a mate had a bit of confetti in his teeth for a month, here.
Oil Pulling for teeth whitening

I hope theses experiments don’t make you feel you *should* do something about wrinkles or yellowing teeth. Just that you *can.*

Mostly, I’d like this post to make you take a moment to think about beauty. Can you find yourself to be beautiful? I think we must learn to love ourselves. To do health, fitness and beauty things for ourselves and not others.  To take a leaf from the United States of Schmaltz and learn self-love. (No offense, my American Readers. I love how you challenge our stiff, self hating, upper lip.)

“A consequence of female self-love is that the woman grows convinced of social worth. Her love for her body will be unqualified, which is the basis of female identification. If a woman loves her own body, she doesn’t grudge what other women do with theirs; if she loves femaleness, she champions its rights.”

(This whole post is me trying to weld together my excitement about spreading the word of natural beauty through Cosmo and my belief in Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth…) Beauty Myth

Discover your beauty…

Craftiness, Featured, Thrifty

DIY Paint Dipped Utensils (reclaiming Wooden Spoons)

10 October, 2014

I have experimented with painting the handles of cutlery in the past, it was fun, if a little time consuming. When I saw paint-dipped wooden spoons in a fancy shop last week selling for £10 EACH I felt it was time for another batch. This time I thought harder about the pallette I wanted, used large wooden implements instead of cutlery, and, crucially, dipped, instead of brushed.

This idea is ever so slightly old now. But, whatevs, I LOVE IT! Such a cool way of reclaiming those millions of wooden utensils in charity shops and they make a brilliant gift. (Eh, Jo? *stares at sister* Oh, yeah, I didn’t mention that they were second hand spoons eh. I REALLY cleaned them- read on…)Paint Dipped Wooden Spoons

Picking up wooden spoons from a charity shop in order to use them in your own kitchen isn’t just for the brave of heart. There is no need to be cowed by someone else’s bolognaise sauce stains. Let me hold your hand while we deal to someone elses food remnants.

For this you will need:
Old wooden spoons/ spatulas
Fine Sandpaper
Paints
Test tube or something a similar size you can dip into.
Pegs and rope for hanging
Oil

Steps:
Start by giving all the spoons a soak and a wash. If only for your state of mind.
When they are dry again giving them a good sanding. You should be able to get down to a fresh layer of wooden. You can also rub out any digs and splinters. After a rub down they will look almost new!

Smear some olive oil over them – this oil will just stain them enough to bring out their natural colours. Don’t they look beauty?!

Now mix up your colours and fill a test tube with your paint. (I used one of those thin plastic tubes that an orchid stem came in.) Dip your handle in then peg it on a line to dry. Once it is mostly dry dip again. I did three dips and was really happy with it.

The dipping makes a massive difference compared to just brushing the paint on as I did last time. I didn’t want to dip as I felt it was a waste of paint and as you know, I’m a cheapskate. But by the time I had poured the paint back into their pots after dipping, I’d only used a small bit.  *high fives all the penny pinchers out there*

Extra Tip: I got tiny pots of paint from the hardware shop that had been marked down to £1 each, just odds and ends. Rummaging through them, although it looked like a weird selection of colours altogether, actually revealed some wicked combinations. This paint was so cheap and so vibrant. And I am just all about the grey, bright yellow and mustard combo. (Remember the DIY floor of our bus? Same palette! What a bore… )

Taping the cut off point: You can also add tape around where you want your paint to stop. I did this on some, but be really careful about taking your tape off. The paint will be so thick that it might peel off a little bit with your paint. I kind of like the diagonal edge of not using tape.

Yeah, so anyway, family and friends. You’ll be getting some spoons for Christmas. Oh yeah!

Secondhand wooden utensils craft