Tag Archives: Crafts

Planning ahead

“We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
— Mother Teresa

During this pandemic, I’ve thought a lot about the best way to leverage the resources I have to bring the greatest possible benefit to the greatest possible number of people.

Three resources I have at the moment are surplus craft supplies, creativity, and time. I am using those resources to stock a sort of free gift shop that will launch in October to make Christmas a little easier for people in my area who may be struggling financially.

My goal is to create classy-looking gift items in a range of sizes/types/apparent price points and distribute them at no charge to anybody who needs them. If people want to pay for the items, I will encourage them to donate whatever amount they deem appropriate to a local nonprofit, but it won’t be required. The fundraising component is mostly just there to provide cover for folks who can’t afford to buy gifts but don’t want anyone to know, and to give them a way to pay it forward if they wish. I use a similar approach with my obedience classes, and it seems to work very well.

Today, I took some small terra cotta flowerpots and dressed them up with leftover paint from other projects. I’m making little macrame hangers to go with them, and this fall, I’ll fill them with potting soil and tuck baby spider plants or burro’s tail cuttings into them.

I watered down some paint to get the weathered effect.

I really like this Southwestern color scheme.

Propagating plants. These will be pretty big by Christmas, but I’ll have more little ones by then.

I hope to offer at least a dozen different products, including houseplants in cute containers, spice mixes, mug-brownie kits, lotion bars, sock monkeys, bead jewelry, paintings, garden kits, hot-process soap, bath bombs with small toys hidden inside, and a few other items.

I’ll be posting recipes and tutorials as I go.

This won’t cure coronavirus, fix the economy, or end racism, but it might make life a little easier for somebody, and that’s all I really need it to do.

Emily

Make-It Monday: Free cord concealer

As part of my redecorating project this summer, I got rid of the rickety, cheap-looking vertical shelf that had been supporting my turntable and DVD player and replaced it with an open-front credenza fashioned from a storage-cube unit and a set of mid-century-style legs. I love the credenza — which looks sleek, provides a lot of storage, and goes well with the rest of the furniture — but because it’s much shorter than the shelf it replaced, the cords for the television and peripherals were visible, and they looked anything but sleek.

See that f'ugly mess?
See that f’ugly mess?

You can get fabric cases for cords, but they don’t always match the walls. I wanted something I could paint the exact same color as the wall. I looked at some of the rigid PVC cord hiders at the hardware store, but they seemed unduly expensive, and they were all designed to mount flat against the wall, which wouldn’t work well with our swivel-mounted TV. I needed something lighter and more flexible but still paintable.

Enter the humble wrapping-paper tube.

Cardboard tubes are big enough to hold several fairly thick cords, and they’re lightweight enough that you can cut them with scissors and fold or twist them as the situation warrants. Perhaps best of all, they’re free. Here’s how to turn one into a cord concealer in about 10 minutes.

Slit the tube.
Slit the tube.

1. Use scissors or a sharp knife to slit it all the way up one side and trim it to the length you need.

It's OK if it tears a little bit. That's why God made Scotch tape.
It’s OK if it tears a little bit. That’s why God made Scotch tape.

2. Use leftover wall paint to cover the entire outside of the tube, the ends, the edges of the slit, and a few inches up the inside. (Note: You do NOT need to be very neat about that inside part.)

That's a tomato-stake tie. Handiest stuff this side of duct tape.
That’s a tomato-stake tie. Handiest stuff this side of duct tape.

4. Bundle the cords together and use twist ties, Velcro strips, tape, or string to secure them in a couple of places.

Much neater.
Much neater.

5. Once the paint dries, slip the tube over the cords with the slit pointed toward the back. If necessary, secure it with a little transparent tape.

Free, easy, and it took me less than 15 minutes of actual work to create and install mine.

Emily

Eco-Saturday: Christmas shopping

I’ve never quite understood why Madison Avenue expects us to celebrate the birth of Jesus with an orgy of gluttony and avarice. It runs completely counter to Christ’s mission, and buying boatloads of excess junk — most of it packed in plastic and cardboard — and then wrapping it in paper we’re just going to throw away is spectacularly awful for the environment.

I’m not going to pretend I don’t participate in holiday gift-giving. It’s tradition, and my friends and family would be hurt if I didn’t. But I try to be responsible about it.

Here are a few ways to minimize the ecological impact of your holiday shopping:

1. Keep it local. Locally produced goods save fuel, and they’re better for your local economy, because more of the money you spend stays in town.

2. Keep it practical. I live in a 730-square-foot bungalow. Anything that comes in this house has to be small, useful or both, because we don’t have room to store a lot of random shiny objects. We’re particularly fond of consumables. I’m always glad to get cookie or cocoa mix in a jar, handmade soap, hand lotion, candles and the like. Gifts for the garden — such as this grow-your-own morels kit — also go over well. (Yeah, that was a shameless hint.) And some gifts truly “keep on giving”; for instance, LED lightbulbs, power strips to help eliminate phantom loads, shrinkwrap window insulation kits, draft stoppers and so forth may not be traditional presents, but they all save the recipient boatloads of money over time. Know a runner who drinks a lot of bottled water? Give him a faucet-mounted water filter and several reusable bottles. Does someone on your Christmas list love microbreweries? Buy her a home-brewing kit. Is a friend spending half his paycheck on K-cups that go straight into the landfill? Get him a reusable filter and a pound of locally roasted fair-trade coffee.

3. Recycle. Antiques, vintage clothing, vinyl records and used books all make great gifts for people whose tastes you know well. As for wrapping: Packages look cute wrapped in newspaper and tied with colorful bows, and sturdy gift bags can be reused year after year.

4. Give your time. The coupon books I made last year for the children in my life were a big hit, and I’m betting the memories of the time we’ve spent together this year will last far longer than any toy. For adults, consider offering to do chores such as mowing the yard, babysitting, steaming the carpets, weeding the garden, etc.

5. Make your own gifts. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Homemade seasoning mixes.
Herbal tea in a jar. (Instructions for drying your own herbs are here; when giving loose tea, be sure to include an infuser. I use this $3 model, but I’m considering an upgrade.)
The aforementioned coupon books.
Sock monkeys. (Pattern here.)
Draft stoppers.
Home-canned treats such as salsa, pickles or hot sauce.
Homemade soap.
Collections of heirloom seeds saved from your own garden.
Beekeepers, you know what to do.

6. Make a donation. We’re big fans of Heifer International, which allows you to donate sustainable gifts — such as farm animals, irrigation pumps or biogas stoves — to people in developing countries. (I bet you can guess our favorite item in that catalog.)

Emily