Tag Archive | reuse

Saturday Project: Smittens


While I have learned that cold is a very relative term, depending on where you live, the fact is that in January, most of us are experiencing a regional version of cold. Time to curl up with a hot cocoa and a good book. But for the days when I must go out, I want my hands to be warm. I will often wear a sweater or fleece, scarf, and a pair of gloves that I got at Old Navy 10 years ago but love because they are soft, thin and warm.

Recently I have been wanting something cozier. I got a lovely infinity scarf for Christmas, so now it is time for new hand protection. Enter Smittens. Thanks Pinterest. I simply must make these! Grab an old sweater or thrift store find and follow these easy instructions to make your own cozy, warm smittens.

TIP: These plus a pocket scarf make a great set or gift!

Saturday Project: Sweater Bag

5048144070_24f4abf785We have many sweaters around that we either don’t need (we live in a warmer climate) or that have seen better days (frayed arms & elbows). While anything in decent condition gets donated, what about the sweaters that still have an intact body but the arms have seen better days? This project will use those (or any sweater you buy at the thrift shop).

A Lemon Squeezy Home featured a guest blog post from Create & Delegate with instructions to make a great tote bag from a sweater. I can’t wait to make a few of these. Bonus Tip: Use Oilcloth or another waterproof fabric as the liner to create a great swim/beach bag or picnic/car drink bag.



Saturday Project: Denim Placemats

6a0120a8a2f331970b015432de7346970c-800wiWe have a bin full of old “scrap” jeans. These are pants that knees have ripped out on or hems have frayed or have some other condition that make them non-wearable. But most of their fabric is still good and I am always looking for projects to do with them. Today’s project will use up a bunch of the jeans…by making placemats. Today’s Nest has great instructions for making denim placemats from jeans.

If you don’t have enough scrap jeans, consider hitting a thrift store or yard sale, where you can often pick them up for $2 a pair.

ALTERNATE IDEA: If you don’t want to do all the sewing or have full denim placemats consider adding just the pocket to existing placemats. Either pick up some inexpensive ones or use what you already have. Simply remove the back pockets from jeans and sew them on to existing placemats.

No-Poo: Alternative to Traditional Shampoo

White-VinegarI don’t shampoo my hair. I know. You are thinking I must be crazy. But it is true. I haven’t shampooed my hair in over 2 years. While we were living in Taiwan a friend introduced me to the idea of using an alternative method to clean and condition my hair. Skeptical at first, I decided to give it a try. After all, I was living in a place where, just by the fact that I have curl hair and light skin, people stared at me on the street. If it was a total disaster I just wouldn’t take pictures of myself during my experiment. That was over 2 years ago and I am so glad I made the switch. Not only does this save me money, but my hair is actually healthier and growing faster than ever before. So the big secret… baking soda and vinegar. Yep, I wash my hair with baking soda and vinegar. It saves me a lot of money in shampoo and conditioner costs, as well baking_soda4x3___484x363as in styling product costs. I have very curly hair (my stylist described it as “ethnic” but actually I am just got all the Irish genes in the family). Using baking soda and vinegar to cleanse and condition my hair has actually reduced the frizz and lets me us much less mousse or spray gel to get the style I want, which saves money.

So, how do you do this? The “recipe” is simple. Keep a plastic measuring cup in the shower. Add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to 1 cup of water. (For those science nerds like myself, this will produce an alkaline solution that also results in cooler water than what you put in). Pour that over your head and massage into your scalp just like you do for shampoo. I usually comb through tangles at this stage too. Rinse with water. Then add 1 tablespoon of vinegar (you can use any type but I tend to prefer cider vinegar) to 1 cup of water. Pour this over your head and comb through. (Again for you science geeks, the vinegar neutralizes the pH of your head because it is acidic and you turned your hair basic with the baking soda). Rise. Dry and style as usual.

A few tips: I keep baking soda in an air & water tight canister in the shower and vinegar in a reused creamer bottle. I don’t actually measure 1 tablespoon, but just estimate.

To really save money you can buy vinegar and baking soda in bulk at warehouse clubs. I have a 15lb. bag of baking soda!

WARNING: Be prepared for a week to 10 days of crazy hair. Shampoos strip away your scalps oil, causing it to produce more. While your head adjusts to your new cleansing routine, there will be a few days of crazy, frizzy, and/or oily hair. So don’t start this right before a wedding or family picture! Once your head realizes that it doesn’t need so much oil, things will level out and your hair will start having shine and strength you never had before. Try to avoid styling products the first week or two (invest in a good ball cap!).

Our kids use this too. First Born has always had dry scalp. When she started using baking soda and vinegar her dry, itchy scalp cleared up and no more flakes were seen. She briefly went back to shampoos when we moved back to the US because there were so many available but decided to turn back to this routine because her hair was healthier and it eliminated her dry scalp problem.

Getting Rid of Ants Without Chemical Bug Spray

White-VinegarWe were warned about all the ants in the spring when we moved to the south, but our first spring didn’t bring many ants. This year is warm and wet and things are different. We found ants walking around outside in February and sure enough, this weekend ants found their way into our kitchen. The only other place we have ever had ants in the house was in Taiwan. While I want the ants gone, I am not wild about using a chemical bug spray around our kitchen. So I began researching some alternatives. What I found was that one of my favorite products is great for repelling ants – vinegar!

It is no secret that I love to use vinegar as a natural way to clean. From bathrooms to conditioner, to mopping floors, vinegar is a great alternative to chemical cleaning products. But it can also help get rid of ants. You can wipe down counters and cabinets with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water to keep ants away. (TIP: Be careful if you have granite because vinegar can scratch it.). This works because ants don’t like the smell. Plus ants use smell to track their trails. The vinegar will hide the smell of their trails and drive them away. You can also put this mixture in a spray bottle and use it inside and out to keep ants away.

Another tip is to draw a chalk line where you see ants entering your home. This is a natural ant repellant and ants won’t cross the chalk into your house.

20 Different Ways to Use Dawn

dawn_drillsergeant_163x117If you regularly read this blog, it is no secret that I love Dawn dishwashing soap. Just a couple small drops clean everything and remove grease yet it is safe enough to use around kids and pets. We buy Dawn in bulk from the warehouse club and that lasts us over a year. You can’t beat the cost of a couple drops of Dawn diluted to clean everything!

Family Balance Sheet recently posted 20 Different Ways to Use Original Blue Dawn. This list is just the tip of the iceberg for Dawn uses, but a great start. I use Dawn in homemade floor cleaner,  bathroom cleaner, granite cleaner, cleaning make up brushes, as ice packs, jewelry cleaner, to remove laundry stains, and for a variety of other cleaning applications around the house.

Reuse Idea: Cereal Boxes

We don’t eat a lot of cold cereal, but we still manage to go through 1-2 boxes a week as snacks or ingredient in other recipes. I hate to throw away all that great cardboard (even to recycling) so I began looking for ways to reuse cereal boxes. Here are thee of my favorite ideas:

Decorative Stars: I have made several of these country stars out of cereal boxes. A good coat of metallic paint, and no one knows cereal file boxthey are cardboard.

Paper Stacker: We have a ton of decorative and school papers to organize.  Glue together 3-6 cereal boxes with top flaps removed for a great paper storage tower. Cover with decorative paper or fabric to match room decor.

Folder or Magazine Storage: Cut off a cereal box at an angle (see picture in link) and use this for students to store folders, to keep magazines handy, or to keep papers together. Just cover with decorative fabric or paper if it will be left out (unless Cheerios goes with your decor!). TIP: You can also use this same shape to store packages of zipper bags or foils and wraps in a cabinet.

Saturday Project: Dress Shirt Throw Pillow

IMG_1002I love throw pillows. I never end up buying them because they are so expensive, but I love them. With an unlimited budget I would have mounds of pillows on my couch and bed. But that is not possible. So I am learning to make my own. I came across this set of instructions for making pillows from men’s dress shirts on relevedesign.com and I love it. Some thrift-store dress shirts and you can get a lot of inexpensive pillows with unique looks and a masculine flair that is often missing from pillow accessories.

Recycling Broken Crayons

Around our house we have tons of broken, tiny crayon pieces. Between kids, school, and small groups, our DSCN2610crayon needs seem to be never-ending. As we were cleaning up the playroom one afternoon I decided to go through all the crayons (we literally have buckets-full!) and throw away all the broken bits. Then my frugal brain kicked in and we decided it was a waste to throw what amounted to a huge pile of crayons away. I put the kids to work sorting crayons by color and then we decided to melt down and reform the crayon bits into something that was once again useable.

You can sort crayons by color or just make a mix of colors in one shape but here are the basics to once again get useable crayons from broken bits.

  • Pre-heat your oven to 275°F.
  • Line muffin tin (or any small shaped pan) with liners. This step isn’t necessary but will keep any of the crayon dyes from staining your pans.
  • Fill muffin cups with crayons up to about 3/4 full. The actual size of the new crayon will be less. Try to make the tins equally filled to allow for the same cooking times.
  • Bake for 10-20 minutes until all crayons are liquified. Time will vary depending on the size and content of your crayons.
  • Let the crayons cool in the pan 1-2 hours until they are solidified.
  • The crayons should drop right out of an inverted pan thanks to the wax in them.


Repurposing: DIY Ice Packs

Anyone with kids, especially little boys, knows that needing to ice an injury is inevitable. Here are a few alternatives to ice (which melts quickly) and peas (which shape to the injury but can mess up dinner plans!):

  1. Ketchup packets: Take all those ketchup packets you get at fast food restaurants and put them in the  DSC_0282freezer. The ketchup doesn’t completely solidify and the packet makes a great icepack for small injuries, especially for fingers, toes, or near eyes.                                            (Image from stucihouse.blogspot.ca) 
  2. Dishwashing liquid: Fill a zipper bag 2/3 full with Dawn or another very viscous dishwashing liquid and store in the freezer. This gets very cold, but doesn’t freeze completely, making it able to shape to cover injuries.
  3. Alcohol: Combine rubbing alcohol with water in a 1:3 ratio (one part alcohol to 3 parts water) in a zipper bag. Store in the freezer. Again, this gets very cold, but doesn’t completely solidify, so it shapes to injured areas.

TIP: Double bag things to keep leaks from happening.