DIY

My Xmas Gifts Were (Mostly) Made in Chicago

I haven’t been to the mall for any of my Christmas shopping (I did purchase a few things on Amazon though, not going to lie).

Actually, most of it got done at the Chicago Plumbers Hall…

…which is where the Made in Chicago Market is held.

made in chicago market2

Everything there was handmade in Chicago, so it made picking out gifts super easy because I knew where they were coming from. They were not shipped over from China. They were painstakingly made by hand by artisans in my own city.

Made in chicago market1

After an initial lap, I started to formulate gift ideas in my head. Of course, I cannot discuss any of my purchases here because some of my most dedicated readers are the recipients!

This season, not only did I find unique items, but my purchases helped an individual maybe make ends meet, or provided the capital for improvements to their business.

It is a win-win situation.

If you missed the Made in Chicago market, there are still plenty of Chicago holiday markets running from now until Christmas. Which ones will you go to?

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The 5 R’s

Back in the day, it was just the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.

3 r's

I know this because I did a science project about it in 6th grade and decorated it with puffy paint.

But since then, 2 new R’s have been added to the spectrum: refuse and rot.

There are other R’s that people add such as repair and repurpose, but I kinda lump those under reuse, so I am going to leave those out for now.

The best way to visualize the 5’s is in an inverted pyramid, with our biggest, most common actions on top, leading down to what we should be doing the least at the very bottom.

So at the top of this inverted pyramid, we have our number one way to avoid waste and that is Refuse. Saying no is the number one way to keep stuff out of the landfill. I talked about this recently in my 10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste post. Saying no keeps those items from entering our lives in the first place, be they straws, food packaged in plastic, or freebies. Collectively saying no, and therefore decreasing demand, also can spur change.

After we have refused all the bad stuff (excessive packaging, food that’s grown far away, etc.) it is time to focus on what we do have and use, and then Reduce it. Don’t go out to eat for lunch every day or cut back on buying new clothes.

Now we have a curated list of items that we own and use. Sometimes those items will break, need some fixing or their original purpose becomes unnecessary. This is where Reuse (and repair and repurpose) comes it. Turn that old dresser into a jazzed up TV stand. Unleash your inner DIY goddess.

Now we get into the last resort part of the pyramid. If we cannot Refuse, Reduce, or Reduce something, then the next place it should head is into your compost bin to Rot.

Who knew that many years after middle school I actually would be composting!

Pictures

But plastic is not compostable, so any milk jugs and glass bottles (that you have not already refused and reused) should then be Recycled. Notice that recycling is pretty far down the list.

It definitely is not as far as the very last option of the Landfill, the place where your trash goes on to live forever. I love when trash cans are labeled with “landfill.” It helps you think before you toss that your gum wrapper is going to head to a giant hole in the ground and not to this fantasy land of “away.”

 

What is in a landfill?

Not sure this information is accurate anymore…

 

And that’s the 5 R’s (+ Landfill)! Here is an example of one piece, say a magazine, going through each step of the pyramid.

  • Refuse: You are offered a free magazine subscription that you politely decline
  • Reduce: You still love reading physical magazines (and if you do, that is great! You do you!) so you cut back on how many you subscribe to and get the rest online.
  • Reuse: After reading the magazine, you cut out the pages to decoupage a DIY project or use the pages as padding material for your Christmas ornaments.
  • Rot: When your done with your DIY projects, you add it to your compost pile or bucket
  • Recycle: If you don’t have access to composting, you toss the magazine in the recycling bin.
  • Landfill: If you don’t do any of the above things…

 

Thanks A Bunch

Most of the time it is other people that get in the way of and inhibit living a life with less waste.

BUT there are also the people who encourage you, listen when you are rambling about compost or send you articles they think you’d find interesting.

So in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to thank all those encouragers and listeners in my life.

Thank You.png

Thank you to my Mom for being an avid reader, always liking my Facebook posts, and being interested in what I am writing. I will forgive you for brushing it off every time I tell you that I am going to build you a compost bin in your backyard.

Thank you to my Dad who has contributed to a lot of my DIY  projects when I need help or materials.

Thank you to my Aunt MM who replies to my posts with great enthusiasm about how she is making changes or how she has been using cloth napkins for ages! Also for teaching me about haggling and getting a great deal at garage sales. Some of our recent purchases together are below:

Thank you to my friend Julie for calling me the other day to tell me she was going to purchase non-toxic nail polish and for sending me new blog ideas.

Thank you to my friend Britni and her husband Eric for appeasing me on a ski trip by picking up trash and always holding myself accountable.

Thank you to my friend Nina for starting her own compost bin in her backyard.

Thank you to K’s friends who read the blog specifically to make fun of K for composting. You’re still talking about composting and I call that a win!

A huge thank you to all my other friends, family, and readers who have sent me articles, comments on my posts, shared a story with me or told me how much you like reading my blog.

 

Thank You!!!

 

It is finally starting to feel like fall.

Finally.

It has been a bit too warm for a bit too long (climate change cough cough).

Now that there is a chill in the air, I can finally fully embrace it.

When the stores become inundated with “Happy Fall Ya’ll” pillows and pumpkin spice candles in August, it can be hard not to go overboard.

I have been trying to keep decorations to a minimum and keep them secondhand, handmade, or natural.

pumpkins7

Both of these pumpkins came from garage sales.

pumpkins6

Last year I knit this fall themed banner with leftover yarn.

fall banner

Halloween can also be celebrated without having to purchase a brand new costume each year. In college, I went as a Jedi solely from stuff I found at Goodwill.

halloween1

So go enjoy the season, but do it wisely!

 

Who Needs Cotton Balls?

I have not bought cotton balls in AGES.

 

cotton rounds2

My cotton ball replacements.

 

From Friday’s post, you know that I have not been buying Ziploc bags because I have a solid replacement for them, but a replacement for cotton balls was not something I had found yet.

For a while, I just stole cotton balls from my parents, the bags just seemed to last forever. But now I do not even bother.

I never used cotton balls to take off makeup. Instead, I just used a washcloth. The only thing I really used them for was to remove nail polish, which I now just use some toilet paper for. It definitely was not efficient, but it got the job done when necessary.

Now that I am wiser, I know there are replacements for cotton balls and those are just reusable cotton rounds! They are basically two pieces of cotton fabric sewn together. cotton rounds

Currently, I do not own a sewing machine, so making my own was a bit more of an arduous option. So instead, I purchased them from a local business, WholeLoveOrganics. I currently use their deodorant too.

After using the cotton rounds, I toss them in a laundry bag for delicates (so I don’t lose them in the washing machine) and then wash and dry as normal.

Reusable and washable anything is pretty awesome, and I love that I have added these to my routine. They require basically zero effort and I will basically never buy cotton balls again, not that I have been recently!

 

 

 

We Broke Our Microwave and Never Fixed It

Usually, I am always in the pro-fix-whatever-is-broken camp, but in this particular case, I am not so sure.

A month or so ago, we had an incident with the microwave…

kitchen3

Since we have a tiny kitchen, we have an abnormally tiny microwave. Basically, a heating pad was in there and couldn’t fully spin around, leaving it stuck against the microwave’s wall. That caused a bit of a sparking and singeing episode and the microwave has not been used since.

To avoid any accidental and habitual use, I just unplugged it. At first, it was quite annoying since I was so used to checking the time on it, even though there is a clock right on the wall.

microwave

My morning oatmeal used to be ready in 2 minutes and re-heated dinner was just a few minutes away. Ok, I don’t need to explain to you how a microwave works…

Anyway, now everything gets heated up in the oven or on the stove. I used to grumble about it, but really it doesn’t take that much longer. If I know I need to heat up leftovers in the oven, I just need to remember to turn it on a bit beforehand.

Overall, the re-heating process of any food does not take any more than 15 minutes, but it does create some extra dishes…

Should we even try to fix it? Or just go with the flow of no microwave?

 

 

 

Jean Repair Attempt Failed

I have known for a while that my attempt at patching my jeans was failing, and yesterday they finally bite the dust.

jean rip

There is no saving these babies at this point, but since it is about to be short season, this is something I will probably put off until fall.

Have you made an attempt to repair something, but were met with utter failure?

At least I tried. I got another good 4 months out of my favorite jeans.

Can A Used Table Be An Upgrade? Yes!

Besides our couch, the kitchen table is probably used the most piece of furniture we own.

Except it is not actually used for dining.

It is where:

  • I work
  • I blog
  • We dump everything when we come in the door
  • The mail gets tossed
  • We put stuff from the kitchen to give us room to cook in there
  • And on and on

table1

The current kitchen table has been around for a number of years now. I picked it up at a garage sale and it made its first appearance in my apartment during graduate school. I ended up spray painting the legs black and re-staining the top since it was most definitely used as a kid’s table and had been covered in marker.

K used it in his previous apartment and it is now in our apartment.

table2

It has definitely made the rounds.

It’s a fine table. There is nothing really wrong with it, but it does not serve us anymore.

We can only fit two chairs underneath the table. That means only two people can ever sit there. We can never have people over for dinner (we only have 2 chairs anyway), or just sit at the table with more than one other person.

It is time to finally get a bigger kitchen table that can fit 4 adults where at least 2 are not standing up. And one where I did not do such a terrible job staining it. (This was even before last year’s debacle with stripping and staining our kitchen chairs).

Anyway, we want a quality piece of furniture that is going to last us many years, not just a quick fix that looks cute for the moment.

We like the style and look of a lot of West Elm tables, but we are not too keen on the price.

On the other hand, we are also willing to pay more for a quality piece.

For now, I will be been scouring Craigslist for a good deal. Maybe I will even find one at a vintage market this summer. Let me know if you find any!

 

 

 

DIY: Saving My Favorite Jeans

My jeans always rip in the exact same place. Right in the crotch area.

In the past, I have had my grandmother patch them up for me. Sometimes the same pair would get repaired several times like the one below.

While folding my laundry last week, I noticed my newest pair of jeans (over a year and a half old) have finally achieved the dreaded crotch rip. I was not shocked or surprised. This was bound to happen eventually.

jean-patch2

Besides this tiny hole in a not so noticeable spot, the jeans are just fine. There was no need to fret, I was going to patch them myself!

jean-patch1

My sewing skills are even more sub-par than my knitting skills. I can sew buttons and seams together, but nothing this extensive (is this considered extensive?).

Now was my chance to learn a new skill that I could continue to use for years to come!

First, I needed some supplies I did not currently have in my possession.

  1. pinking shears
  2. fusible

I looked up what pinking shears cost and they aren’t too expensive, but so far I have gone my entire life not needing them, so there is no point in making that purchase now. Instead, I chose to borrow a pair from my grandmother. #vintage

After a quick trip to Jo-Anne’s for fusible, I gathered all my supplies and was ready to go.

jean-patch7

First things first, I cut out a patch of denim from my now scrap pair of jeans. My plan was basically just to reinforce the crotch/thigh rub area so it would not rip any further.

 

I figured sewing the patch straight into the seam would help keep the fabric strong. To help, I used fusible, which basically turns your patch into an iron-on. I have never used fusible before and figured it could not hurt my pants any further.

 

Once the patches were ironed on, it was time to start sewing and this took a much longer time than I had thought! If I had a sewing machine this definitely would have been done sooner, but alas I do not. A used sewing machine is on my wish list (hint hint).

jean-patch15

Sewing the patches too frustratingly long. I started this Friday afternoon and did not finish until Sunday evening, but hey, at least I can wear my jeans on Monday!

They aren’t perfect, but I think I did a pretty decent job for my first try and I know I have more to learn.

Have you ever tried to patch your favorite pair of jeans before? Do you have any better suggestions for the next time this happens to me?

 

Introducing “Waste Not Want Not Wedding”

Over the weekend, I got engaged.

Holy Moly!

It has been a crazy whirlwind so far and I am finally feeling the weight of planning such an important life event.

I have been a bridesmaid 5 times already (it will be 6 in July), so I am no stranger to weddings.

bridesmaids

For my own wedding, I am excited to incorporate my eco-friendly lifestyle and chronicle all of it here for you.

However, I do feel that the wedding industry has gotten a little bit out of control (apologies to anyone who has opposite views of me on this topic).

For instance, the perceived need for all of these things:

  • engagement photos
  • engagement parties
  • wedding planners
  • save the dates
  • photo booths
  • over the top centerpieces  and flowers that get thrown out the next day
  • favors no one takes home
  • wedding hashtags #NO
  • matching bridal party shirts you will never wear again
  • “future Mrs. ____” apparel or items you will never wear after getting married

These are not necessities to getting married. Social media (specifically Pinterest) has lead us to believe we need all of these things for a successful and Pinterest-worthy wedding.

Last time I checked, the most important part is the act of getting married.

Going forward with wedding planning, this is what I want:

  • this to be easy
  • this to be simple
  • to avoid unnecessary costs
  • create the least amount of waste as possible
  • do what I can do myself
  • to use local services and goods
  • to use friend’s and family as much as possible

I want my wedding to be an event put together by people who are important to me.

Obviously, I understand as I go through this process, I may change my mind about everything. For now, though, this is my initial stance.

How do you feel about weddings these days? Do you think they can be quite wasteful?