Mittwoch, 16. April 2014

Fold-up cutlery

Thanks to various lifestyle changes in the past I hardly eat fast food nowadays. But on the rare occasions I do, I always wish I had brought my own cutlery. I have been seen using bamboo knitting needles as emergency chopsticks, but I don't always carry knitting needles on me either.

Yesterday I made the ultimate fleamarket find: a set of fold-up cutlery as they were used by coachmen in the past. They all fold up individually and then snap together as a set. They are made from metal and horn, quite simple in design, but very sturdy.

Now all I need is a small cloth bag to carry them in together with a reusable napkin. As soon as the weather improves, I will go for a picknick to try out my new treasure.

Freitag, 28. März 2014

What to do with socks - part 3

The other bit of sock my daughter is now using as a hair band. She is really proud of it and tells everybody that her mum made it out of an old sock. You can imagine the kind of looks I am getting...

What to do with old socks - part 2

Last week I promised to tell you what I did with the top part of the socks, which I had cut up for my "soap socks" (which I am using every day now, and the soap inside is still not used up).

Here we go... Tadaaaah! A strap for skis!

Sonntag, 16. März 2014

Soap socks - taking frugality to the extreme ?

More holidays got into the way of my recycling projects. We spent the winter holidays skiing in Austria and had a great time skiing, cooking, eating, drinking and talking with our friends, who were all there at the same time.

As I mentioned before, I find it very hard to keep up my normal lifestyle when travelling. Recycling systems differ, so I don't know where to get rid of my garbage responsibly. Weekly markets don't normally conincide with our travelling schedule, so I need to shop at supermarkets, where food usually comes in way too much packaging. And most of all, I miss my sewing machine, which I rely on for most of my projects.

So, although I enjoyed our holidays, I am also glad to be back home, and immediately picked up a project, I always wanted to do: I wanted to see, how far I can take frugality with my recycling projects.

About a year ago I have started to use solid shampoo bars, which are much more eco-friendly, since no water gets shipped around the planet unnecessarily as happens with liquid shampoos. At the end of their life, the last sliver of soap tends to break into bits. So over the last few months I have collected about 5 g of broken solid shampoo bits and about 5 g of normal soap. It's not a lot. So is it really worth the effort?

So here is what I did:

1. Cut of the tip of an old stray sock. (Save the rest of the sock for my next blog!!!)
2. Cut or tear two nice fabric ribbons from some old fabric scraps.
3. Fill the soap into the sock and tie shut with the ribbon.
4. Repeat for the solid shampoo with a different ribbon.

This took me about 15 min and I have saved solid shampoo with a value of about € 0,80 (they cost a stunning €8,50 for 55g in the shop!). OK, €3,20 (based on €0,80 saved in 15 min) is a lousy hourly wage even for a designer, but I would still do this again. Now that I have my "soap socks", I just need to add to them, everytime my solid shampoo bar comes to the end of its life.

And wait till you see, how usefull the rest of the sock proofed to be...

Freitag, 31. Januar 2014

Doing my laundry with style

I am a big fan of natural clothes drying.

We do own a tumble dryer from years ago and still keep it for emergency use (like when my son refuses to wear anything but his favourite sweater non-stop for months). But right after Fukushima we decided to do our bit to decrease power consumption and bought a rotary clothes line for our garden and two indoor laundry racks for bad weather and winter use.

Whilst the rotary clothes line is not a beauty, the cost savings outway its uglyness. By turning off the tumble dryer, we were able to save about € 350 on our electricity bill in one year. And I don't need to buy expensive body peeling gels, as we airdry our towels, too, which gives them a nicely abbrasive quality, when you use them for the first time after the wash.

As our garden is quite windy, I need to secure the clothes on the rotary line with cloth pegs, which I like to carry in a bag on my body. I use a wonderfully oldfashioned bag, which was designed for the purpose and probably owned by all of our grandmothers.

Yesterday I have tried to make my own more stylish version of this bag using some vintage fabric, an old pair of jeans and some biais ribbon.

I hope that this stylish "peg bag" will encourage all of you to go for natural clothes drying!

However, if you are still not convinced think about this: More and more people have solar panels on their roof and get wind power from the national grid. Now just think: You are using electricity which has been harvested from the sun and wind at a high cost and with a low efficiency in order to make heat and wind in your tumble dryer, just to recreate the conditions you have when you hang your clothes into the sun and wind in the first place. Does that really make sense to you?

I am looking forward to reading your comments on this.

Mending for spring

Maybe it's the increasing amount of daylight, which puts me into a spring spirit despite the recent snowfalls. I have not only started another attempt at decluttering and spring cleaning the house (a job which will take me all the way through to next Christmas...), but I have also started to look at our torn winter clothes, which could be mended into summer clothes.

This is what I came up with sofar:

The writing on my daughter's favourite night dress had faded to a point that it is no longer legible and the sleeves have become at least 2 inches too short. But I really liked the ruffled hem and neck line. So I added a T-shirt with a nasty stain right at the front and combined the materials into a new summer outfit:

And then I did some more conventional mending: Turning boys' trousers into shorts and cutting off the ripped parts of a long-sleeved T-shirt to turn it into a summer shirt:

I am not very good at working with jersey fabrics and I don't own an overlock sewing machine, so my capabilities are somewhat limited. So I tried out something new. I set my machine to a zig-zag stitch and stretched the fabric, while zig-zagging along the edge. When released, the fabric shrinks into a curly ruffled edge, which makes the T-shirt more girly and the sewing a whole lot easier for me.

Do you have any tips for how to mend for spring?

Donnerstag, 30. Januar 2014

Ironing board cover turned oven glove

I hate ironing and do as little of it as possible (My friends might have noticed...). But I do use my ironing board a lot for applying patchwork letters to baby blankets for my shop. And as I don't always concentrate (I like to listen to audiobooks while I am working away), sometimes the gluey stuff from the ironing fleece ends up on the ironing board cover. So every now and again it gets so yucky that I have to replace it.

Last week my old ironing board cover got to that point again and already ended up in my dustbin, when I realised that half of the cover was still looking like new. And as it is normally quite good at withstanding a lot of heat, I thought I might turn it into an oven glove.

Since the ironing board cover already came with insulation, I just needed some matching cotton fabric for the inner lining and for covering the edge and making a loop.

If you would like to make an oven glove, I would be very happy to send you the pattern and instructions. Just send me an email. (Eventually I will put these things on my blog for downloading, but I don't know how to do that yet.)

Relovable Bread Dumplings

Last weekend we had 18 friends (8 adults, 10 kids) staying with us at our cottage in the Bavarian Forest. It was great fun, although a bit of a tight squeeze. We take the kids skiing in daytime and do all the cooking at home. So all in all, quite a frugal way to spend a weekend.

Normally we always end up with too much food, which goes to waste at an event like this. Everybody brings too much, just to avoid any potential embarassement, if there wasn't enough. Well, this year we were not too bad. Maybe it is because the kids are growing and eating a lot more, or maybe we are all getting more sensible.

So the only thing I had left over was half a loaf of sourdough bread, which was getting very hard and a bit stale, and 4 white bread rolls.

Last year I found a great app released by the German Ministry for Food and Agriculture, called "zu gut für die Tonne". It was created in order to promote recipes which use up leftovers. Initially there was a collection of about 50 recipes, most of them really useful and delicious. Now there are lots more and some of them need so many ingredients that I have the suspicion that in the end more food waste is created rather than reduced.

Never mind. I got a really yummy recipe for bread dumplings from that app for Parmesan Bread Dumplings (Follow link for the original recipe). Here is my adaptation:


1 medium-sized onion
75 g butter
350 ml milk
350 g bread (mainly sourdough, but you can mix in baguette, white bread rolls, bretzels etc.)
2 eggs
3 tbsp of any fresh or frozen herbs you have to hand: parsley, coriander or anything eadible you find in the garden
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 170° C.
  2. Cut the bread into cubes of about 1 cm. 
  3. Cut the onion into fine bits and fry them with the butter over a medium heat until translucent.
  4. Add milk, bring to the boil and add salt and pepper. 
  5. Pour this liquid over the bread-cubes and mix. Let soak and mix occassionally.
  6. When the mix has cooled down to lukewarm, add eggs and finely chopped herbs.
  7. Form into balls of about 4 cm diameter and place on a baking tray with baking paper.
  8. Bake for about 20 -30 min or until golden brown on the outside.
  9. I serve mine with a green salad and vinaigrette.
  10. If there are leftovers again at the end, you can cut the dumplings into slices the next day and refry them.
Guten Appetit!