Monthly Archives: November 2011

Slow Your Christmas: Hand-Printed Wrapping Paper

Every year I wrap our Christmas presents in the same old wrapping: plain brown paper with red and white baker’s twine and maybe a paper pompom to pretty it up. I don’t mind so much because it’s cheap, easy to find and easy to recycle. (One year I actually wrapped all our presents in newspaper, but I felt a mixture of clever, frugal and stingy so I’m not sure about repeating that…)

But this year I’m on the lookout for fun Christmassy projects to do with Isla, so I thought we’d give potato stamping a go.

Disclaimer: I did the one in the photo when Isla was asleep. She and I are going to make our own next week. (I didn’t want to pretend that I had the neatest 2-year-old in the world!)

It’s really easy, relatively quick, messy and satisfying because you get an immediate payoff. Great for me, and most likely great for kids too!

You’ll need:

some potatoes (soft/green/sprouty – great reuse project!)
plastic plates
roll of brown paper
acrylic paints

1. Cut your potato in half and, using a sharp knife, carve out a simple shape. Just a tip: keep the face of the stamp nice and flat, so it will print evenly.

Simple shapes are the easiest. You could try:

– Christmas tree
– star
– circle
– stocking
– heart

2. Squirt some paint into a plastic plate and lightly dip the stamp into it. You don’t need too much paint, as it will ooze and make your shapes look blobby.

3. Stamp away!

You can double up patterns with different colours, stagger them all over the page, or just go wild. A nice, fun touch could be to stamp the back of some paper tags (you can pick them up at newsagents for really cheap) and use them as gift tags. Then tie the whole lot up with baker’s twine, wool or embroidery thread. Whatever you have on hand!
In other, random news, I’ve nearly finished Christmas shopping/making, we visited a kinesiologist last week and she officially blew my mind, and I’m spending all my spare time getting ready for a huge garage sale we’re holding next weekend. The monster declutter project is paying off and it’s so exciting! There’s still a loooong way to go, but already I feel lighter, better, freer. Can’t wait to share some more of it with you!

 

Play-Time! Salt Dough Ornaments

Playdough is great. It’s one of my favourite things to do with the littles. Hours and hours of fun, and, better yet, once you’re finished you can roll it back up, pop it in a plastic bag and keep it in the fridge for another day. Cost Per Use = $0.01! Approximately. (I’m thrifty, not tight. OK?)

But I recently tried out salt dough, and it comes a pretty close second. It’s not reuseable, and it dries out after half an hour or so, but this dough is great for moulding, rolling, cutting and then baking. It forms up hard and fairly tough, which makes it great for making Christmas tree decorations or other knick-knacks.

You’ll need:

1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup plain flour
toothpick

glitter, or other fun additions
cookie cutters
paints

string

1. Combine the top three ingredients in a bowl and knead until really well combined.

2. Turn out and roll flat with a rolling pin.

3. Cut to shape using the cookie cutters or mold into letters. (“Merry Christmas” would look really sweet strung up over a doorway). Be sure to work fairly quickly as this dough tends to go crunchy after about half an hour.

4. Sprinkle with glitter or other bits and pieces. Poke a hole in the top using the toothpick.

5. Bake in a moderate oven for a couple of hours, flipping occasionally, or leave outside to air dry for a couple of days.

6. Once dry, you can paint them, string them together to make a garland, tie a length of string at the top to hang from the Christmas tree etc.

Simple and fun. And depending on the age of your kiddos, you may get half an hour’s worth of housework done while they play. Or not!!

 

Organise Your Home: Get a Calendar

{via design*sponge}

Getting organised is a key part of creating a slow home.

You know that feeling when you have everything sorted, you know what’s happening tomorrow, you’re packed and prepared, your budget’s up to date, you’re just generally rocking life? Yeah, that. That’s what I’m aiming to have going on in our home.

In light of that I have been searching for the right type of wall calendar for weeks. I need one that is attractive, preferably handmade and most importantly, has enough room to write events or reminders next to each date. I don’t want anything overly complicated, but to be able to glance at the calender and immediately know what’s coming up this week, or this month, will help with budgeting, scheduling, meal planning etc.

I was beginning to think that all the calendar designers on Etsy had lost their minds, because there are so many beautiful calendars out there that are so not functional. Do you think I could find one that suited my needs? Not until I spied this pretty one on design*sponge a few weeks ago.

{via design*sponge}
{via design*sponge}

It’s from Amy Marcella and you can buy it from her Etsy store. Which is exactly what I’ve just done!

Now here’s hoping we get our shelf desk up this weekend, so I can get organised and get this beauty on the wall. ASAP.

Happy weekending, friends!! xx

Comparison is a Losing Game

We all compare lives. Whether we like to admit it or not.

We read the blogs, share a coffee and a chat, see each other at parties – and we compare.

“She has it all together and she works/has 4 kids/runs her own business/exercises every day/always looks immaculate/has lots of money/has well-behaved kids/is happy.” Choose your own ending.

I’m here to tell you that comparison is a losing game. As Joshua Becker puts it (and I paraphrase):

 

“You inevitably compare the best of them to the worst of yourself – because it is the best of them you see and the worst of yourself you know.”

 

It’s also easy to compare. It gives you permission to say, “Well, I would be able to exercise every day if my husband didn’t work such long hours/if my kids slept/if I didn’t have to clean the house/if…if…if.”

I’m not saying these are anything but valid reasons. But I am saying that comparisons are a dangerous way to view yourself in the world, because inevitably, you will come out on the bottom.

We can’t compare our lives to the lives of others because:

  • we are not them
  • they are not us
  • our kids aren’t their kids
  • our partners aren’t their partners
  • our upbringing wasn’t their upbringing (even if you’re siblings – we each tread a different path)
  • our current circumstances aren’t their current circumstances
  • our strengths are not their strengths
  • our weaknesses are not their weaknesses

If you do compare lives, you’re comparing apples to underpants; oranges to hand saws; bananas to hammocks. It’s a losing game.

And you will always wind up doing one of two things:

  1. feeling less-than because you compare your worst to their best
  2. feeling self-righteous because you’ve compared your best with someone else’s worst – which feeds more into this negative cycle, eventually bringing you back to #1 anyway.

So, by all means, learn from other people, be inspired by other people, be instructed by them, ask them questions, seek their advice – but please, please, please, let’s stop the comparison game. I promise you will feel more at peace, more focused on what matters in your life and a better friend, parent and partner to boot.

Do you find yourself often playing the comparison game? I know I do. But I’m finding that the more aware I am of it, and of how it makes me feel, the less I indulge my inner-torturer. Give it a whirl and let me know how you go!

If you’re looking for some fabulous articles on this same topic, I’d suggest you take a peek at this wonderful post on Becoming Minimalist and this post from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits.

 

 

Slow Home 101: Our Entryway


Yesterday we started to look at the specifics of a Slow Home. In particular, the entryway or landing strip.

I thought I could use our entryway as an example – partly to motivate myself to improve our situation, and partly to illustrate to you why a slow home is so awesome and why you would benefit from living in one.

Our Entryway

As you walk in our front door, you enter a small hallway. This dark timber dressing table is on the left and an opening into our family room/TV room is on the right.

We use the vintage dresser as a hall stand. It has a mirror and three drawers. We picked it up at a garage sale for $40 thinking we might paint it, but the drama of the dark stain has grown on us and I think it will be staying this way for the time being.

On top of the unit there is a vase of wool-wrapped sticks, a catch-all bowl and a couple of meaningful keepsakes. The bowl is where we keep our keys, Isla’s hair bands and clips, loose change and other odds and ends that we can’t be bothered putting away. It adds up really quickly.

Drawer #1 is where we keep the kids’ health books, as well as an embarassing assortment of crap.

Drawer #2 is empty.

Drawer #3 is my wrapping drawer. It holds wrapping paper, ribbons, sticky tape, gift bags (I keep any decent ones we are gifted and re-use them – ’cause I’m tight like that) and birthday cards. It is incredibly handy and I won’t be changing it any time soon.

Behind the front door we have a wall-mounted coat rack from ebay. It’s an Eames Hang-it-All but (ahem) it’s not authentic. Regardless, it is somewhere to hang:

  • the nappy bag
  • Sparky’s work bag
  • Isla’s raincoat
  • a scarf or two
  • the one umbrella we own

This set-up works OK, but I still find I end up with unopened mail cluttering up the kitchen bench (and occasionally unpaid bills), shoes floating around the front door, three iPhones stacked up and an assortment of toys, dummies, junk mail, hairbrushes and spare change on the dresser by the time Friday rolls around.

 

What Will I Change?

Soon we’ll be putting up a shelf desk in the back room, which will house the laptop, home phone, mobile phone charger and mail sorting, so that will undoubtedly help in clearing the paper clutter and organising essentials like bill paying, letter answering etc.

Aside from completely refurnishing the front hallway with a lowline timber bench and storage unit (which isn’t in the budget any time soon) these are the changes I’ll make to the front hallway:

  • decluttering drawer #1 and tossing the crap that collects there
  • clearing off the surface of the dresser and making sure everything that remains has a place
  • using drawer #1 to hold:
    • keys
    • wallets
    • spare change
    • mobiles phones
  • using drawer #2 as an exit drawer (anything that needs to leave the house with me will be put in there)
  • tidying drawer #3
    • replenishing anything that has run out
    • repurposing, recycling or tossing any wrapping paper or bags that I’ll never use

It sounds like a lot of work, but considering the kids are both sick and sleeping (hooray! they’re actually sleeping! at the same time!) I think I’ll go and tackle this particular beast right now, and let you know how I go.

In the meantime, here are some inspirational entryways to get your creative juices going:

{via Apartment Therapy}
{via I’m an Organising Junkie}
{via Apartment Therapy}