Dienstag, 10. Dezember 2013

Compostable Christmas decoration

I kind of enjoy decorating our Christmas tree, but I really dislike tidying all the decoration at the end of the season. Stripping the decorations from a tree, which sheds its needles at the lightest touch, wrapping all the baubles carefully in tissue paper to safely store them for next year... And where to store all the stuff?

This year I am trying something new: I am making a fully compostable Christmas tree, which can go onto our compost heap with decorations and all. 

Designwise this is a solution for purists and nature fans, but it certainly is 100% sustainable (if you consider real Christmas trees sustainable, which I do).

And we have collected all the materials on a walk in the forest with the whole family, which was fun and good exercise for everyone involved.

Here is what we used:

·      Natural yarn (undyed cotton or wool)
·      Berries
·      Moss, Litchens
·      Achorns and other nuts
·      Autumn leaves
·      Twigs

Sonntag, 17. November 2013

Relovable bread dumplings

I have promised on Twitter to write this recipe more than a month ago.

At the weekend we had family at our house and I totally misjudged the number of bread rolls we were going to eat for breakfast. So I was left with 10 hard bread rolls today. What a waste!

So no more excuses to make my Relovable Bread Dumplings again and finally share the recipe with you. So, here we go:

You will need:

  • About 10 hard bread rolls or 400 g of mixed white bread (baguette, toasting bread etc., and I sometimes throw a couple of bretzels in as well) 
  • 500 ml of milk
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 20 g butter
  • 3 eggs

This is how you do it:

  1. Shred or rasp the bread (I use my food processor) into large crumbs and add some salt
  2. Heat up milk and pour it over the bread crumbs
  3. Soften the chopped onion in the butter in a frying pan
  4. Mix the bread dumpling dough with the fryed onion and the eggs (you can also add some chopped parsley at this point)
  5. Shape into dumplings and put these into boiling water. Reduce to a simmer and leave dumplings in there for about 20 min.

The original recipe comes from zu Gut für die Tonne, a German site which fights food wastage.

Dumplings alone are a bit bland and therefore I like to make a simple sauce to go with them. My friend Louisa gave me a jar of delicious wild mushrooms, which she had foraged and dried in the summer. I decided to use them for a mushroom and cream sauce (this is how much I trust Louisa...).

You will need:

  • 1 handfull of dried wild mushrooms (from a trusted source!)
  • 250 ml of warm water
  • 1 Tbsp of butter
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp of vegetable soup stock
  • salt and pepper
  • a dash of lemon juice 
  • parsley
  • several Tbsp of cream (I did not have cream in the fridge and therefore substituted sour cream and a bit of milk)

This is how you do it:

  • Let the dried mushrooms soak in warm water for about 1 hour, then strain and catch the water
  • Fry the onions in the butter
  • Add the strained reconstituted mushrooms and the parsley
  • Sprinkle the flour on top and stir in quickly
  • Pour the water, in which the mushrooms had soaked, into the pan and season with 1 tsp of vegetable soup stock, salt, pepper and a dash of lemon juice.
  • Mix in some cream to your taste

Guten Appetit!

If you cannot finish all the dumplings, no reason to give up and hand them over to the bin. I keep the leftover dumplings in the frindge, cut them into slices and fry them up the next day. In fact, I always try to make too many, because the fried-up dumplings are my absolute favourite.

Freitag, 1. November 2013

Another month of the Minimalist Game

Last month I already cleared out 145 items plus 5 trashbags of uncounted objects in an attempt to reduce the immense clutter in our house as part of the Minimalist Game started by The Minimalists.

The rule of the game is that you clear out one item on the 1st of the month, 2 items on the 2nd etc. It adds up to 465 items in total!

When I started I was very dilligent sometimes clearing out late in the night, but when the going got really tough we went on holiday on the 25th for the rest of the month. So instead of clearing out my dads house, where we are staying, I have decided to make a fresh start in November.

So here we go:

Day 16 and 17

33 more books have left my house, this time in the direction of Momox. I only received a meager € 19 in return. But that has an advantage, too: Less chance to buy new stuff to clog up my house again :)

Day 14

I had to travel to the UK for a week, so I have fallen behind on the game. I will make an extra effort though to catch up and fill the gaps...

Today I have sent out 14 books to Amazon Trade-In and received a voucher for € 34 in return. This comes just in time for buying Christmas presents.

Day 10

These ten books went on ebay. I am not really sure, if books sell well on ebay, but neither Amazon nor MOMOX wanted them... So I have given it a try.

Day 9

9 samples for glass XMAS baubles.

Day 8

8 more pieces of fabric

Day 7

7 remnant pieces of precious fabric (on ebay)

Day 6

6 items of MY clothing (as promised I am not only clearing out the kids' stuff.)

Day 5

More childrens' clothes

Day 4

4 old CD-Roms. They are so old that they only work on Windows 98, which we do not use anymore. So, off to the garbage.

Day 3

3 boys' rugby shirts went up on ebay today. (Feels like I am just clearing out the kids' stuff... But wait until the end of the week, then we will move on to mine!)

Day 2

2 old children's books (puzzle pieces missing)
went to the paper recycling

Day 1

Jacket hardly ever worn, which I had bought second hand for € 3.

Trying to sell it on through ebay...

Mittwoch, 30. Oktober 2013

Liquid recycled soap

Last week I finally got round to a recycling project, I had planned for a while.

A couple of years ago I switched to using solid soaps (even solid shampoo) in an effort to bring down my carbon footprint. The argument was that when buying liquid soap mainly water gets moved around. I never knew exactly just how much water liquid soap actually contains, but I thought that it must be a lot.

Sadly I could not convince my family of this advantage. So we still have lots of liquid soap bottles, which my husband buys at a discounter and the packaging ends up in the recycling bin. I am not happy with this.

On the other hand we still have a good collection of little soaps, which we brought back from hotels in the distant past...

When I stumbled across Sara Tetreault's recipe for liquid soap I decided to recycle those bits of old solid soap into new liquid soap to keep my family happy and my environmental conscience clean.

So I slightly adapted Sara's great recipe to:

  • 70 g of shredded solid soap (use a cheese grater to shred it)
  • 1 Tbsp of glycerine (from our local drug store; can also be used for soap bubble mix)
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 5 drops of an aromatic oil ("Millefiori"), which I once got as a freebie with some cosmetics
  • 2 litres of tap water
According to Sara's recipe, I shredded the soap and dissolved it with a few cups of water in a sauce pan at a medium temperature together with the glycerin and olive oil. It took about 10 minutes until all the soap flakes had dissolved (careful not to let the mix boil). I then stirred in the aromatic oil and the remaining water and let the mix cool slightly.

It had turned into a milky liquid with a very pleasant flowery smell. Before the liquid cooled completely, I poured it into bottles for storage.

Still very sceptical about the outcome of this experiment, I let the soap cool and set overnight. The next day the liquid had turned into a kind of a gel and I thought something had gone terribly wrong. But after shaking the bottles vigorously for a bit, the liquid soap ended up with exactly the right consistency. I was amazed that this little amount of soap, glycerine and oil can give water such a completely differrent consistency!

In the end I filled my new liquid soap  into a soap dispenser which I had recycled earlier and put it straight into our bathroom.

Evaluation of the results (sounds very scientific, doesn't it?):
  • Easy and fun to do
  • Very frugal (cost me a few cents for 2 litres of liquid soap)
  • Taught me that about 95% of liquid soap is actually water, which I now get out of our tap instead of having it shipped all over the place in a disposable soap container
  • None of my family have noticed the difference!
Now the soap still needs to pass the test of time, but I am confident that it will last. If not I will keep you posted. And I am looking forward to making my next batch soon - maybe for Christmas presents...

Donnerstag, 10. Oktober 2013

Dishwashing cloths

Off course the main reason for my recycling efforts is to safe the planet ;)

But there is also the need in me to surround myself with beautiful things. This need is easily fulfilled by going out to buy more beautiful stuff, but I am trying to increasingly turn to making beautiful objects, preferably out of things I already own.

One example are these dishcloths I made today. They are knitted from left-over wool (so not exactly "recycled"). The industrially produced spongy things we normally use get thrown into the wash and last a very long time. So not a lot of planet gets saved by knitting my own.

On the other hand, they look and feel so much better. And isn't this aesthetic advantage an important reward for a lot of our efforts? Isn't it better to be motivated by beauty than by guilt?

Have you made any simple objects recently, which have given you this kind of aesthetic reward?

Montag, 9. September 2013

Comfy corner

After a month of travelling I finally got to spend some time at our cottage to finish off this project. I wanted to create a comfy corner next to the fire place. And this is what it looks like.

I used a fold-up baby mattress, which we no longer need. I joint the three foam segments with my old friend bodge tape. Then I made a cover from antique heavy-duty linen. Sadly I discovered that upholstery is not my strength... Nevertheless the corner is very comfy now.

Donnerstag, 20. Juni 2013

Sometimes recycling is easier than you think

More than a year ago I discovered these beautiful old handkerchiefs at a flea market. I bought them, although I did not really know what to do with them. I thought that I might turn them into fancy collars on a childrens' shirt, but it never happened.

Now, with the hay fever season in full bloom, I am going through lots of paper tissues every day. In a general effort of decluttering our house and reducing the amount of garbage we produce, I remembered these handkerchiefs.

Now I am not recycling them into childrens' clothes any more, but I use them like they were meant to be used - to blow my nose! Sometimes we think too complicated if the solution is so near!

Donnerstag, 16. Mai 2013

Jeans - Part 4

Just to show that really no part of our old jeans goes to waste, here is what we make out of the top half (thigh) of the trouser legs:

Denim summer hat with a lining from vintage fabric.

Jeans - Part 3

In my last post I mentioned that there is normally one more step in-between our patched jeans and the handbags they finally end up as. Here it is:

This is really easy to do. Just cut off the legs of the trousers and add a piece of fabric to get the skirt to the desired length.

Montag, 6. Mai 2013

Jeans - Part 2

I promised to show you, what I do with the top part of my old jeans... Here we go! This is a collection of handbags which are designed to go with our Bavarian dresses, which we do for RELOVABLE.

So here comes the typical lifeline of my families jeans:

1. Worn as jeans for nice occasions
2. Patched up and worn as jeans for everyday use
3. Legs cut off and turned into short trousers or miniskirts (troucer legs turned into utnesil holders)
4. Turned into handbags

Now, I don't know what to do, when I want to recycle the handbags. Any suggestions?

Freitag, 3. Mai 2013

Jeans - Part 1

Tomorrow I will be at the annual Schafferhof garden market trying to sell some of my RELOVABLE children's clothes.

As every year I was full of plans about what to recycle for sale on the market. But also like every year family life has taken up all of my time and nothing got done.

As a last minute emergency project I made some utensil holders out of the legs of worn-out jeans. Lined with vintage fabrics and some very old lace they look precious and sold well on last year's market.

So keep your fingers crossed for my market! And next time I will show you what to do with the tops of the jeans.

Sonntag, 28. April 2013

Weeding = Harvesting

I hate weeding, but I love harvesting.

Last Christmas break I found a book on wild plant (= weeds) cooking with great photographs and recipes. I looked at it longingly all winter and now the first greens are finally sprouting!

So I started to weed between our berry bushes. Last year they got so overgrown by nettles that some of the bushes died.

It took me about an hour to get enough nettles to make a pancake filling from my new cook book. Tedious, but then again straight forward weeding takes just as long and does not give you a meal at the end.

The most diffulicult part was frying the pancakes. I had totally forgotten that I am hopeless at pancakes. The first one ended up as "Kaiserschmarrn" (= Bavarian scrambled pancake...). Luckily my husband took over and saved the day.

So, am I going to weed and cook my harvest again? Definitely! But next time I will go for a recipe without pancake.

If you have a suitable recipe, please post it here!

(I left out the image of the end product for aesthetic reasons...)

Dienstag, 23. April 2013

Relovable chicken soup

Recently there has been a lot on the news about food wastage. We have made a big effort in our family to reduce the amount of food we throw away, but I was curious to see if I could take it one step further and apply our RELOVABLE approach "recycled with love" to food waste.

The first outcome is my "100% relovable chicken soup". All its ingredients normally go to waste.

First, I put a container in my freezer in which I collect all (organic!) vegetable "waste", which we produce:

• peels from root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and beetroot
• the dark green and slightly tough parts of leaks
• onion skins
• stalks of herbs such as parsley and coriander
• uneaten vegetables (carrots and peppers) from our kids' lunch boxes
• tomatoes which have become slightly too ripe, but have not gone off
• etc.

Once the container is full, I go to the farmers market and ask our chicken farmer for chicken carcasses, which are left over from cutting chicken breasts, wings and thighs and normally end up in the garbage as well. (Equally I use the carcass of every roast chicken or turkey we make.)

I then put everything into a large saucepan and let it simmer for 2 - 3 hours. I end up with several litres of yummy chicken broth, which I then serve with noodles, fresh vegetables and herbs.

As we are limited in freezer space, I have learned how to preserve the chicken stock in glass jars, which generally involves heating them to an elevated temperature for a certain time. Since I am neither a professional cook nor an expert on food hygiene, please look up your own recipe for preserving soup on the internet. You can find plenty of advice from more knowledgable sources.

Guten Appettit!

Dienstag, 9. April 2013

First cushions

I really wanted to finish all six cushion covers last week, but these two is all I achieved.

The reason for this delay is that I had real difficulties doing the button holes (I don't like zips) on my vintage sewing machine. Already feeling quite cross with the machine, myself and the world in general, I decided to stop and think about alternatives.

When I made the first dress out of really precious antique fabric for my daughter 4 years ago, I taught myself how to sew button holes by hand. This looked very authentic with the old material, but it took forever.

Whilst normally, when I sew dresses for sale, time is an issue, last week I was on holiday and just sewing for pleasure. So I decided to stop spoiling this pleasure by using the machine. I sat in the spring sunshine (indoors however because of the freezing weather), put an audio book on and my feet up. Then I hand-sewed 4 button-holes and wished I had some more to do.

Maybe we should stop always using the fastest technique as a default?

Mittwoch, 3. April 2013

Memory Cushion

Today I am starting to make new covers for the sofa cushions, which are now all "quaint 80ies designs".

As I looked through the cushions, I found this one, which I made for my mum a few years ago. I used fabric remnants and ironed black and white pictures of special friends and family onto little squares of white fabric. All these pictures were taken at my mum's birthday weekend in our cottage in the Bavarian forest.

The cushion works like a picture album of a very special weekend. I hope that it will be cherished at least as long as the smallest girls in the picture will be alive, or as long as the material will last.

Montag, 1. April 2013

Three old ladies

In one if my last posts I told you about the 80ies IKEA lamps in my cottage, which I wanted to replace.

I searched all over: second hand shops, ebay, design furniture shops, IKEA, etc., but everything looked exactly like my old lamps, new but just as dull or out-of-place modern.

I then thought about taking off the old fabric and glueing on new fabric, but I hate messing around with glue. It somehow feels too permanent a solution.

So I developed three "dresses" for my old ladies (younger than me however...). These dresses I gathered with rubber band at the top and the bottom and slid them tightly over the old lampshades.

The fabric I had bought some weeks ago from a vintage fabric dealer. I still have enough left to now tackle the cushions on the armchairs under the lamps.

No matter what style you prefer for your home these lamp shade dresses should work with any kind of fabric.

Mittwoch, 30. Januar 2013

Refillable = Relovable

In a Christmas cracker out of all places I found a rather cheap but perfectly functioning perfume dispenser several years ago. I have carried it in my handbag ever since, occasionally topping it up from a larger perfume bottle in my bathroom.

Now that bottle is empty and I am somewhat reluctant to buy a new one as there is hardly any product with a worse ratio of disposable packing to usable content than perfume (any suggestions of even worse offenders always welcome).

But then I remembered a large bowl full of perfume samples, which I had collected as a teenager. I searched the internet for expiry dates of perfumes and nearly threw away the lot. But then - just out of curiosity - I opened a tiny bottle of Chanel and to my surprise it smelled exactly like 20 years (or more?) ago. Isn't it amazing?

I haven't smelled any of the other samples yet, but I am hopeful now that I won't have to buy another perfume for years to come.

Dienstag, 29. Januar 2013

Old hat - new lamp

I have just inherited our family cottage, which is a beautiful wooden building full of antique farmhouse furniture and qirky objects. Most of these objects have a long and cherished history for me and I would never dream of replacing them, no matter how weird they might seem to everybody else.

Still, there are lots of changes to be made. First comes lighting. Most of the lamps are early IKEA, which the most loving eyes cannot really look at with any pleasure. And they were made for "bad-old" 100 Watt incandescent light bulbs and don't really look good with LEDs.

On the other hand I don't have any money to spare for lamps, as most of my cash goes into new LED light bulbs. So I need (and love) to turn to creative recycling.

The first project I have completed this weekend. In our bedroom we had a naked light bulb on an overpowering old-fashioned mounting. Some time ago I had bought an old straw hat at a charity shop, which I liked although it is way too small for my head. Now I have put it to good use by cutting a hole into it and using it as a lampshade.

I still have about 15 lamps to deal with. So any ideas are more than welcome.