Orange-peel stars – plastic-free Christmas decor

Just a quick tutorial for you today, but it’s super cute and uses orange peel – a pretty common waste product at this time of year!

All you need is citrus skin and something to cut it with.  I used cookie cutters, but a knife and a steady hand is fine.  A microwave is beneficial, but not essential.

First, peel your fruit in as big a piece as possible. Lay it flat on a chopping board and cut out your shapes.

Once you’ve done this, you can set the shapes aside to dry for a few days, or you can cheat and microwave them on full power for around a minute and a half.

Once the shapes are dry, they’re ready to use. I plan to thread these on some cotton to hang on our tree, but they would also be great as a gift tag – perhaps with the recipient’s initials on.

Some practical notes: larger citrus fruits produce larger skins, but they’re also thicker and therefore take longer to dry. With thicker skins, it might be prudent to pierce any shapes you wish to thread before allowing the peel to dry – it gets increasingly tricky as the citrus skin hardens.

So, that’s it!  I would love to see your results if you have a go! Send me a picture  here or on Twitter 🙂

 

Crafting Gifts in #NothingNewNovember – The map!

I had been planning to buy my dad some woollen socks for his Christmas gift, or to knit a pair. This being #NothingNewNovember, though, I’m unable to just buy the socks, or even the yarn to make them with. Whilst my stash holds plenty of scraps for a few child-sized pairs, there aren’t any leftovers big enough for adult feet and he’s really not an odd-sock sort of human.

So, back to the drawing board.

One of his great passions in life is ‘maps’. He collects a certain vintage Ordnance Survey collection, and I did consider keeping an eye out for some of those missing from his collection – they’re not new, after all! The issue with this is that I don’t know which he has and which he doesn’t. That being the case, I consulted the all-knowing entity that is Pinterest.

And found some absolutely amazing map embroidery – the crafter had consulted (I presume) the satellite photos available online, and from them,  stitched a beautiful, textured landscape.

I’m not an embroiderer, but as I’d inherited a huge stash of sewing silks I decided to give this a try. It’s also going to help towards my Do Nation ‘All Made Up’ pledge…

First, I turned my laptop brightness up to its highest setting and traced the features of the landscape round my parents’ house onto some paper.

I then took this sheet over to my kids’ light box and used it to trace the image onto a scrap of tablecloth (the rest of which I’d used as quilt backing, last year).

I then slipped the cloth into an ambroidery hoop, inherited from my mother-in-law and proceeded to sew!

I haven’t really done any embroidery since I stitched the trails of the planets on a solar-system sampler in my school years (during which, Pluto was still very much a proud planet!), but I remembered chain stitch so started there…

Finally, I started adding in some colour – French knots for the trees and satin stitch for some of the fields…

Then I stopped.

Don’t get me wront – I’m delighted with how it’s looking so far, but I have some travelling to do next week. And frustratingly, I’m going to have to fly.

Aside from the obvious ‘air travel produces SO much waste’ thing, I’m frustrated by my mode of transport for two reasons:
1. I don’t trust that I’ll be able to take my knitting with me, given that my needles are metallic and very pointy.
2. I am terrified of flying.

So, I’m going to take my embroidery along instead, hoping it will have some sort of magical hypnotic power to take my mind of the impending doom that I fear will befall me whilst locked in a metal box, miles above the earth…

Ahem. I digress.

You’ll have to wait until I get home to see the finished article – I’m really excited to see how it turns out and I hope that it’s given you some ideas for tricky gift recipients. ❤

Are you making any of your gifts this year?

The first gifts…

In the spirit of #NothingNewNovember, I thought I’d share some of the second hand gifts I’m planning to give in December as these are the only things I plan to buy throughout this month.

To start with, I’ve bought some second hand earrings.

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I bought these five pairs for £5.50 from my local charity shop. Here they are, drying after a bath in cold-water sterilising fluid. I chose to clean them in the cold-water solution because I didn’t know whether the beads were glass or not, and if they were, whether they would be able to tolerate boiling water without cracking.

My plan is to pierce holes in some pretty card to display these on, and then package them in some origami envelopes made from pretty, festice paper.

Peppy envelope | origami book | Pinterest | Origami ...

My eldest child actually taught me how to make the envelopes, but the image above is a really clear tutorial that came up in a quick search.

Last year, I spent around £40 on new earrings for family members, so at a quarter of the price I’m delighted with them, even without the eco-friendly aspect.

This is one of the many occassions that sustainability and affordability go hand-in-hand. What are your favourite money-saving, earth-friendly gift ideas – I’d love to hear about them! 

#NothingNewNovember

In a recent exploration of Twitter, I stumbled upon the hashtag #NothingNewNovember. And yes, it’s an old one, but one I’m going to attempt it this year regardless.

The reason this appeals so much to me is the timing – it comes at a point in the year when I would normally be getting ready for Christmas. And yes, I already buy a large number of my gifts used – particularly for my own children – but this is a great way to focus my mind in the run up to what is arguably the most wasteful time of year.

I’ll be doing another Do Nation pledge to help me along with this too – All Made Up, in which those participating promise to make a certain number of gifts themselves. As a crafter – I knit well, crochet adequately, and mash things through a sewing machine – I’ve got loads of resources with which to create amazing gifts so I probably need to purchase very little to make this Christmas happen (though many people will be getting knitted socks…).

In addition to only buying used items to gift, or making gifts myself, I intend to buy nothing at all for  my household during this time – beyond the obvious consumables (i.e. food, soaps, petrol etc.)

This will be especially difficult given the fact that I’m going to visit friends midway through the month.

What are your top tips for reducing the amount you buy over the holiday season? Come and let me know!

Microwave drying

I’ve spoken briefly before about drying herbs in the microwave, in order to make stock/boullion. Now, as the weather starts to turn, I’m drying what’s left of my annual herbs, and the perenials which die back over winter.

Lovage is amongst the first to yellow, but with its big, fleshy leaves and a celery-like, peppery taste, this forms the basis of most of our winter stews. In order to keep us in lovage over winter, the kids and I gathered as many good leafs as we could and took them inside.

Once washed and dried, we spread them on a microwavable plate and cooked on high for two minutes, stopping half-way through to let the steam out of the microwave in order to speed up the process.

After the two minutes of cooking time, the leafs had retainned their vibrant green colour and wonderful smell, but could be easily crumbled and compacted into a jar.

(The jar in the picture above is actually the mint we dried… I had a brain fart and photographed the wrong container, and it’s too dark to redo it now).

There are many wonderful things about drying herbs this way.

  • You can enjoy herbs which aren’t readily available at the supermarket, all year round.
  • There is no packaging to dispose of – plastic or otherwise!
  • The process is quick and relatively energy efficient – definitely faster than drying in an oven!
  • It’s free, aside from the power usage.
  • It’s a great way to use up any excess fresh herbs you buy, rather than letting them turn to slime in the fridge.
  • Most leafs can be dried in this way. In addition to mint, I’ve also tried camomile greens, nettles and borage. I’m going to try raspberry leaf next summer, too.
  • This is a great activity for even very young children to help with – there’s no cutting involved, no hot pans and it’s easy to see results in minutes.

Do you dry your own herbs and teas? I’d love to hear your experiences – why not join me on Twitter?

Mending Son’s Trousers – a Do Nation pledge

Some of you might remember my earlier posts about repairing Daughter’s water bottle and my old sunglasses.

At the beginning of the pledge,  I promised to mend four items – which,  if you think about the amount of things in the average house,  really isn’t a lot.

As with the water bottle,  I nearly didn’t report this one.  I fix clothes fairly constantly, but then I thought the method might be of use to someone.

So,  two holes in a pair of hand-me-down 100% cotton joggers – one on each knee. For the first,  I sewed up the hole and stitched a patch over the top.  Interestingly,  the patch came from a pair of Daughter’s shoes – there is a loop on the back for the laces. We took them off to make them more suitable for school but put them aside for just this sort of thing.

For the next hole, I didn’t want to use a patch as the tear was tiny.

To start with, I secured the hole…

This is technically a fix in itself and if your child/you is happy with the hole like this,  you should definitely leave it – less work! Unfortunately,  my child wasn’t happy with this so to create a patch, I began weaving over the top with some cotton yarn I had left over from a project.  I chose cotton so that the added fibres could be washed at the same temperature without the risk of uneven shrinkage – something I can’t sew my way out of.

I’m really pleased with the finished trousers – the structural integrity is restored and Son is happy with how they look. I would call that a win.

 

 

Making Yogurt

On Thursday,  I mentioned that I’d managed to get my hands on some glass-bottle milk.

At £1.20 per litre, this rivals the speciality jersey milk that you get in the supermarkets on price, though on taste, it’s FAR better.

That said, it’s not something I indulge in often. Not because I don’t think it’s worth the money – it absolutely is. The cows are happy, the milking process is literally transparent (with a giant window where customers can watch), and the money goes directly to the farmer rather than a huge corporation. That the bottles are refillable from a vending machine on site and that I can also purchase ice-cream there are the icing on the proverbial cake.

I don’t buy it often because I’m not often passing so close to Aberdeen, and because I’m really mean with my petrol. A round-trip to the dairy takes around an hour and when I’m already spending more on taking the kids to school/nursery than I am on feeding us every month, this is a fuel expense I really can’t justify.

So when I do get it, it’s exactly as precious as all milk should be.

Which is why my heart was honestly in my mouth the whole time I went about making yogurt the other day. I figured, if I could use the refillable milk to make natural yogurt from, then I could do away with another single-use plastic from our lives (and potentially have an excuse to go to the dairy more often…)

The thrift shop my mum volunteers at was selling an old-style Easiyo set, which I bought for £3. Normally, you use sachets of powder with this (which I guess is still a reduction in single-use plastic too as the sachets will be smaller than a yogurt pot and less bulky to transport), but I didn’t want to add another grocery to my shopping list.

I’d read yogurt making tutorials online before which basically involve tossing a couple of tablespoons of natural yogurt into 500mls or so of milk, heating to body temperature and then leaving overnight so I thought I would combine the two methods – I added some yogurt and milk to the Easiyo pot, then followed the instructions on the website

Except I did it wrong. I misunderstood where I was supposed to put the pot and for the first 30 seconds it ended up submerged in boiling water.

It worked, regardless, though the end result is rather thin. I did take a video of it slopping off the spoon, but unfortunately, I can’t get it to load so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The taste is right, the texture – all wrong.

After some internetting, I discovered that keeping the yogurt at a steady temperature for longer is one way to go, so I might try that in future – using my trusty Thermos flasks instead of the Easiyo. This time though, I tried straining it through a coffee filter….

Which is fine, but it does create the waste product ‘whey’.  On this occassion, I’ve used half of the whey as a water substitute in these super cheap tomato scones but this isn’t a sustainable process financially, given that realistically speaking, I’d be throwing this whey out if I were to regularly strain yogurt.

Each 1l bottle of milk costs £1.20 (not counting the fuel to get to the dairy), which means that 100mls costs 12p. I made 600mls of yogurt, so 6×12=72p. But then I strained the yogurt, which meant that I actually got 300mls of yogurt for 72p, and when you can buy natural yogurt at 45p per 500ml*, the whole endeavour becomes something of a moot point.

I checked how much it would be to buy the Easiyo sachets online. A sachet, after all, is less packaging than a bucket-like tub so if I could make yogurt in this way, it would still be a plastic saving. Unfortunately, the sachets cost between £2.50 – £3 and make 1kg of yogurt, which is significantly more expensive than the massive Lidl bucket containing the same amount.

So… what’s the bottom line with yogurt? In short, it’s got to be a rare treat, rather than a staple. Whether I make it myself or buy it in plastic, it needs to be a very rare thing indeed.

Sad times. 😦

If you still eat meat and dairy, do you still consume yogurt? If so, how do you do so sustainably? ❤

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*Prices via MySupermarket – correct at time of publishing.

Stock Alternatives

Throw a

When I first began looking into ways to reduce my waste when shopping, I had more money available to me than I do now. So I didn’t think twice when choosing OXO stock cubes over the own brand ones – even though an OXO is just under 10p, a mid-range Tesco brand stock-cube is 5p and an ASDA brand stock-cube is 4p*.

I chose OXO because the chicken and beef flavours don’t contain any palm oil, and the packaging is 100% plastic free. The vegetable cubes are also plastic free, but they do contain palm oil.

Everything else I looked at either had a metallic paper wrapper (unrecyclable) or came in a tiny plastic pot.

So… problems all round, really, when it comes to stock.

You can’t be a palm-oil free vegetarian, for example. And to be a plastic, palm-oil free meat-eater you need to spend twice as much. I looked into using Boullion powder too, but that also contained palm oil, and comes in a tub you can’t recycle, and my local supermarkets don’t sell it so I would have to order it specially online which creates yet more packaging.

After the OXO cubes ran out, I took to using lovage leafs from the garden, along with extra salt and for most things, these work amazingly well. My mother-in-law always called them ‘Maggi Herb’ after the German stock company which is what gave me the idea, and sure enough, it really does taste very similar. If you pop a few leafs in with your pasta, for example, you can forgo a sauce when making a pasta salad – just add a little bit of oil after you’ve cooked it to stop the pieces congealing. But again, it’s not a perfect solution (not that such a thing exists) because the plant only grows during the spring and summer – dying off during the colder months – and because not everyone has the space to grow it. Our plant has, in the past, reached over 2m tall – hardly ideal for a window ledge.

So I decided to have a go at making my own…

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Before I get to that part though – and I know I’ve rambled on about stock for long enough and I should just get on with telling you what I did – I wanted to acknowledge that not everyone is going to have vegetable peel that they’re happy to use. We peel vegetables – in part – because of the pesticides used in farming, so depending on the rules where you live, your access to organic food (or food you’ve grown yourself) and your level of personal comfort, you might like to set aside your peel to compost, then peel a thin layer of flesh from your chosen veg. You can then use these just-below-the-skin peelings instead. For ease of writing, though, I’m just going to refer to ‘peel’ going forward.

Anyways. To make my stock, I used:

Beetroot peel (but any sweet, root veg will do i.e. carrot, parsnip, sweet potato)
Potato peel
Lovage leafs (if you can’t get lovage, celery leafs are a good alternative)
Finely ground table salt (I buy mine from Lidl – it comes in cardboard, then i decant it into a old plastic bottle to store it)
A microwave or conventional oven
A pestle and mortar/something else to grind the dried peel in

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First of all, you need to dry the peel. There are a few ways of doing this. You can either dry the peel on a baking sheet in your oven – it should be on its lowest setting for a long time, rather than on high for a short period. If you’ve got good weather and a vehicle at your disposal, you can place the peel on a baking sheet on your car’s dashboard in the sun and leave it there all day, removing it in the evening as the air begins to cool. Or you can do what I did and microwave the peel for around 3.5minutes on full power, wiping the microwave down after every 60 seconds to do away with the steam.

DSC_0086

You then need to dry the lovage or celery leafs in the same way.

Once you’ve done this, grind the lot into a powder with the pestle and mortar. Add about a teaspoon of salt per two tablespoons of vegetable powder and mix well. You’re good to go!

Plastic free, gluten free, cheap, vegan and (depending on your peel) a great way to reduce food waste. Winning.

Use about 1tsp in place of a regular stock cube in your recipes.

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*Prices correct at the time of publishing – via MySupermarket and rounded up to the nearest 1p