Stress-free Holidays?

I can’t sleep. I’m mentally exhausted, but my brain keeps going and I can’t sleep. I haven’t posted in a while. Partly because I’ve been busy making Christmas presents, partly because I’ve been busy learning to be a drone in society. That’s all school really is, you know? This post started out as a horribly pessimistic post, but then just writing was already making me feel better, so I’m going to talk about something else.

My mother, God bless her, is doing a loose no-spend December plan. It started out that she wasn’t going to buy anything at all. She was going to have all her Christmas shopping done, all her food stocked, everything she needed to enjoy the holiday without being bogged down by commercialism. She wanted these holidays to be fun, not stressful. Sounds good, right? Then she realized stressing out about not being able to buy anything wasn’t fun, so she decided to buy from locally-owned stores or as locally as possible. This means supporting our local restaurants, local hair and nail salons (which we seem to have a ton of and luckily our trusty hair dresser just so happens to be apart of a local place) local stores, which we don’t have a ton of, but that’s why she got her shopping done early. Her gift ideas are also noteworthy, but I can’t say until after Christmas.

We’re not a huge town, so we don’t have too many options. Most people go to a bigger city that is about an hour from here, which hurts the local economy even more. Companies decide to locate in cities based on how companies like them are being supported in that particular city. Because people always go to another city to buy stuff, our mall, (yeah, we actually had a real mall. It didn’t have very much stuff, but still, it’s something) is about to close. It’s kind of official according to my inside source. And that sucks. But anyway. Limited gas and perishable items are all she’s buying. And I gotta say, I’m proud of her. When I first started all this recycle more, waste less, consume less nonsense, she just jumped on board. No questions asked. And the way she raised me got me to the place where I could have the…I guess I would say the mental ability to comprehend such a life that doesn’t revolve around stuff. I’m a pretty lucky gal.

I am following in my mother’s footsteps with her no spend December plan. I did the last of my Christmas shopping on Monday (from a used book store, which should count even though it’s not my home economy), but it was for my angel tree people, which are a couple of senior citizens who are spending their Christmas in nursing home. I thought I could make the exception. Usually, I go way overboard because the thought of these people, who just ask for something so small and simple like socks or a book of crosswords or something, not getting anything breaks my heart. This year I curbed back and I guess I’m happy with that. So far, everyone else’s gifts are made, which I’m extremely happy about. I can’t give you the DIYs just yet because then they would know what it is and that would ruin the surprise. We’re having a small Christmas, not a lot of gifts, not a lot of waste, but we’ll be with family and that’s what matters.

I hope you all are having a stress-free holiday. Feel free to give your ideas for a waste-free holiday!

Mod Podge Bicycle DIY

I said a while back that you can mod podge anything. I am now coming with confirmation that it is true.

I started going to school in a college town that isn’t too much bigger than my hometown(when school isn’t in session), but it has to accomodate a much bigger variety of people and interests, so it has a much wider diversity of things to do. Bike riding is one of those things. With all the opportunities here like sidewalks, hints of bike lanes, other people who rode bikes, etc. I could not pass up the idea of riding a bike. So I set out to find the medium with which I was going to fulfill this dream. There are a couple of bike stores here, but they sell road bikes and bikes for cycling. I just wanted a standard bike like I had when I was a kid, easy to ride, nothing fancy. There are different internet options, but it didn’t make sense to waste all that gas to have it ship something that was supposed to conserve it. Craiglist was my next best option. I started searching a couple of weeks before school started because I knew I wouldn’t have that many options. I found one that would do, only $50, and it was the kind that I wanted. I went to take a look at it. I liked it well enough and I didn’t think I would find anything super amazing and it was a pretty good price, so I bought it. It wasn’t extremely unsightly, but just a bit boring.

It’s kind of hard to tell, but the whole bike is covered in a dark black color with these lighter blue splotches.

I rode it for a couple of days before it hit me. Not a car, but an idea. You can mod podge anything.

So I set out on a quest to find out how to make this idea a reality and I stumbled onto this. She had done all the work, I just had to put my own twist on it.

What you need:

A bicycle- check out thrift stores, ebay, Craiglist for a used one. Honestly, if I had bought a new one I never would have had the heart to do this. It just wouldn’t make sense. Find an ugly one, one that no one wants and prove to the world that it’s worth a second glance.

If you have a son or daughter that needs or wants a bike, but can’t afford something new and all you can find is girl’s bike if you have a son or vice versa, give it a new look with this project. They’ll never know the difference and they’ll feel even more special because it’s the most unique bike on the block.

2 Mod Podge Outdoor- I used a whole bottle and then just a tad of the second, but I didn’t start out very generous and that made the project quite a bit harder, so definitely get two bottles.

Mod Podge Hard Coat- Definitely only one bottle. I could only find the outdoor in a store, so you may be better off just getting both of the internet.

Tons of Paper or 1/2 yard of fabric- come up with your idea of what you want the bike to look like before you start cutting up stuff.

1 inch foam brush- ONLY get one inch. I got larger ones and it made the project a lot harder and get more than one because they wear out pretty quickly.

Scissors- A pair that you don’t care about

Drop cloth- for obvious reasons

Time and patience- I used a lot of small pieces of paper, which took me quite a while, over a week to be exact.

Because I used paper that is what I will be explaining about, but here is a link if you want to use fabric.

Step 1- Cut out your paper. I used magazines. I just cut out textures, patterns and colors that I liked. I suggest that you stick with about four main colors with a random color every once in a while to make sure it’s not too busy. Also pick a lot of neutrals. For me this was mostly book pages. I cut out tons and tons of these because I wanted to make sure I had a wide selection of interesting things to choose from. I used a 1 1/16 inch hole punch like the kind people use for scrap booking, but you can do random torn out shapes, squares, hearts, what ever suits your fancy.

Step 2- If you want to take apart your bike this is the time. I don’t recommend it unless you’re absolutely sure that you can put it back together. I was too afraid to do that to mine, but it mind some parts kind of difficult. Just be sure that’s what you want.

Step 3- For the sake of this tutorial we’ll say that you’re using the circles. With the outdoor mod podge, generously paint the back of each circle and place it on the bike in whatever order you want. The trick is when you get to the more difficult places on the bike, like where the pieces are held together, then you want to make sure it’s nice and wet so it will hold it’s shape and be more malable. On the really difficult place on the bike then try cutting your paper into smaller pieces. The mod podge is pretty thick, but don’t be afraid of it.

Step 4- Take it one piece of the bike at a time. I suggest going with the harder parts first. This project will probably take at least a couple of days, so each time you put the project up for the night go over the section you worked on with one last coat of the outdoor mod podge glue. Also try to keep the bike inside if possible because the rain or some other natural element may mess it up if all the sealers aren’t on there yet.

Step 4- When you’re done with all the sections, add one last coat of outdoor over the entire thing. Once you’re finished with the entire bike let it dry for several hours.

Step 5- When you’re sure that it’s exactly how you want it, put your last coat of the hard coat mod podge. This stuff is pretty drippy, but don’t worry; I’m now pretty sure that it’s impossible to mess up mod podge.

And this is my completed art work. Depending on your taste, you may or may not like it, but I really like it. The world is your canvas people, just pick up some paper scraps and get to creating.

Design ideas:

While I was working on mine loads of ideas where coming to mind. I really want to make another bike, but I only have the need for one, so I’m hoping somebody will be inspired and ask me to make one. For now I’ll live my dreams through you. Here are my ideas in case you’re at a loss.

Use a road map: I think this would be adorable to cover the entire thing in several different kinds of maps.

Use black and white photographs: I also think this would be awesome. If that’s too boring you could add a spot of red or pink in different places or use the black and white as you’re neutrals.

Make a design: This was one of my first ideas, but I didn’t know what kind of design I should make or if it would turned out right because I’m pretty horrible drawer. I thought about covering the whole bike in book pages and then using colors from the magazine to make a vine and leaves that grew around the bike. Or a snake. Snakes are awesome.

Use comic books: I really, really wanted to do this, but I didn’t have any comic books and that would mean I wasn’t upcycling.

Do the layering effect that I did except cut out some feather shapes instead of circles. I didn’t do this for obvious reasons. It would take forever to cut all that out.

Cover the whole thing with book pages and then draw graffiti type art or regular art all over it.- Again, I thought this would be awesome, but I suck at drawing. I would make sure that you could draw on the dry outdoor mod podge before doing your final layers of it.

Paper patchwork effect- Cut out different sizes of squares for that quilt effect.

If you want to use fabric, but still want to upcycle try looking at thrift stores for thinner shirt or dress materials. You may need more than one shirt or dress, so find away to incorporate the different colors and styles like doing a patchwork type look.

So, those are my ideas. Let your brain run wild with all the possibilities. Good Luck!

Want more ideas? Check out my DIY page.

Sun Made Record Bowl DIY

My plan was to have a pretty cool DIY for you today, but instead I have an idea, the do’s and don’t’s and proof that this project does work even if I don’t have the cut and dry exact rules just yet.

A couple of months ago my mom was got some large spools for tables and chairs. These spools had some big holes in the middle and my mom didn’t want spiders or bugs to be able to crawl up through the hole, so she decided to cover the holes up. She got some records, covered up the holes of the record with broken pieces of other records and then glued them down on top of the spools. Needless to say they melted.

Here is what our spools look like.

And that is how I came up with this idea of making record bowls in the sun.

What you need:

Records- I got mine from super scratched up and unusable at the thrift store for 10 cents. I knew this would be a learning process, so I got a bunch.

Dishes- especially if you’re going to use the oven. The taller the items, the deeper your bowls will be. You need some taller for the bottom and something wider than the bottom dish for the top.

Lots of Sun

Lots and Lots of patience

I’ll give instructions for the oven verison first.

Step 1- Turn on the oven to 200, which is the lowest most ovens go. If your won’t go down that far then 250 will work. Stack like so. I used a funnel type colander for the bottom and a wider colander for the top. Put it in the oven. The great thing about this is that the bowl pretty much makes itself. I made these a while ago, but I believe that after 10 or 20 minutes the records get soft enough that you can start to mold them how you want.

If you want to make the plates, then just turn the plate upside down and place the record on top.

Finished Products

I believe the blue one was the one I made with the colander. The orange I made with a a bundt pan. It was more shallow.

Here is how the plates turned out. We ended up making a three tiered appetizer type stand with ours. The deepest bowl which ended up being the narrowest bowl on top and the plates went on the bottom.Turned out pretty cute.

For the sun method, things are a bit different. There is no dish stacked on top and most of the molding you’ll do yourself. You can either let the record melt into the bowl, like shown, or you can let the record melt over the sides of the bowl like it was shown before, but without the bowl on top.

The sun seems to be a bit tempermental. This doesn’t work just because it’s ridiculously hot; It works because the sun is beaming directly down on it. If you put these in your back yard and the sun is still beaming on your roof then it won’t work. As the sun moves, your records have to move.

I tried to make these at my aunt’s house. I had to put them on concrete because she didn’t have any tables that were in the sun and it didn’t work. By the time I got my records out and found a decent place to put them, it was a little later in the afternoon, so maybe that’s why.

At home the best place for me is from 1-4 and I’ve only had luck on these white tables. Why it worked I don’t know, maybe I waited too late at my aunt’s house or any other time I worked on a different surface, but it’s something to consider if this doesn’t work for you.

Some other things you should know: I broke a lot of mine because I was impatient. Some of the records are extremely flimsy, so they seemed to be soft and bendible, but they weren’t ready. I ruined a lot of mine that way. Check them every 20 minutes or so. You want to get those extremely flimsy ones because they melt faster and they’re easy to mold. You’ll know what I mean once you buy them. Once you start your bowl, try to finish because the sharper curves make it hard for the sun to reach that part of the bowl.

This may sound hard, but it really isn’t. You just have to have patience and be willing to try different methods. What worked for me may not work for you because it’s all about the sun. You may be tempted to just throw them in the oven, but making them in the sun is better. It’s free, you won’t create extra heat in your already hot house and it gives you a little extra time outside. It takes about 20 minutes or so for it start to make it workable and it cools pretty quickly, so shape fast.

You can use these bowls for any number of things. I think I’ll make mine into a planter for a shallow rooted plant. Or maybe even into something like this.

And most importantly  have fun with it.

Want more ideas? Check out my DIY page

Lessons From Africa: Part 3

There is one last thing I want to point out from the things that we could learn from Africa, really any poverty stricken area, and that is how to prioritize.

As Americans we are extremely, extremely blessed. Sometimes I see it as a blessing and sometimes I look at as a curse, especially now as our consumerist society is causing us so many problems environmentally, economically and fundamentally. We’re buying things that we can’t afford, our priorities are so out of whack. I mean even when people are about to get their lights shut off the last thing they want to do is give up their iphone 500 that they just bought a week ago when it first came out. We threw the other one away without a second though of what the damage it would do in the landfill or to what we could to do with it instead, like recycle or upcycle it in some way.

Even when they can’t feed their kids they’re going out and buying a new Hummer instead buying a bicycle. There isn’t really anything really wrong with either of those things, except the Hummer, but they’re both luxuries and it seems like it’s the last thing people are willing to give up. Africa doesn’t have the luxury of being addicted to anything because they can’t even get what they want. Except now I hear about schools in Africa getting laptops and it’s like, “What?! They can’t even afford food and you think they need a laptop?”

We’d rather go out and buy cigarettes and bear instead of buying ourselves or our kids food. Who am I to talk? I’ve never been addicted to either one and that’s simply because I saw what idiots people turned into when they decide it’s cool to be addicted to something.

We even go out of our way to destroy the planet by getting bottled water because the water from the tap just isn’t good enough even though it’s the same exact thing and people in Africa have to walk 6 kilometers or 3.7 miles just to water. Half the time it isn’t even clean water. Eighty percent of diseases in the developing world are caused by contaminated water

While us Americans are taking our 30 minute showers, leaving the water running while we’re brushing out teeth, watering the herd of cattle that we’ll eat so much of that it will make us sick, and we’re using between 100- 175 gallons of water every day. That is just at home. The UK uses 35.66 gallons and the average person in the developing world uses 2.64 gallons of water every day.

It is estimated that 5.3 billion people, two-thirds of the world’s population, will suffer from water shortages by 2025.

Two- They’re creative because they have to be. Unlike most Americans who can pretty much just snap their fingers and have whatever suits their fancy, they have to come up with a way to use whatever they have, in some parts it’s probably trash left by tourists or something, and use to make what they need. Every time I go to the store, which is as rarely as possible because there is nothing I hate more, I see a few of things. One, I see the ads, the stupid crap people are trying to convince me that I need. It sickens me. Two, I see all the crap that people are buying. I really shouldn’t be judging, but I just can’t help it. And really I don’t care. These people are walking around with their blinders on and most people know what they’re buying is junk, but they don’t care. Those who don’t know are just as bad. They’re not talking responsibility for their life. They’re trusting some government to tell them what is good for them instead trying to make an informed decision. Everybody pays for the poor decisions that any individual makes. Someday it will be through healthcare, but for now we’re paying with through a polluted environment. It takes a bigger toll than anybody could probably guess. The third thing I see is how much of the crap in that store I could make myself. Make myself and probably even things others are throwing away. Make a bookshelf out a pallet, make a cat scratcher out of some old unloved boxes. It’s pathetic how lazy we’ve gotten. People in Africa have to make shoes out some pop bottles and cloth.

All of it makes me just to want to throw myself on the shelves and scream at the top of lungs. Why not? All the kids do it in the toy isle? Probably not for the same reason, but still. By the end of my trip I’m just waiting for someone to run into me so I can punch them out or yell at them to freakin open their eyes. Just to let you know, I’ve never done either one, but I’m sure I feel much better if I did.

I’m sorry for being so rantish. This isn’t to say that we should feel guilty or that it’s wrong for us to be so well off, but the problem comes when we start to take it for granted, when we don’t appreciate and when we don’t even think about it. When we blindly make based on greed and money it becomes a problem and it’s an insult to those who have nothing.

Lessons From Africa: Part 1

When I first started my upcycling venture, my great aunt, who I’ll just call my aunt because it’s easier, said ‘You’d really like Africa. They come up with a use for everything.’

Of the 21 least developed countries in the world, according to the United Nations Human Development Index, 11 are in West Africa. Fifty-five percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. The region’s even poor by African standards – the average annual income is $309, compared to the Sub-Saharan average of $470.

The Sub-Saharan region of Africa is the poorest region in the world.

To be honest, I don’t know that much about Africa. I’ve heard that one-half of the country is pretty normal as far as poverty is concerned and then the other half is the part that has the problem.

I was inspired by my aunt telling me that they are so creative when it comes to their reuse of everyday items and I tried to find some different facts to reinforce that, but I didn’t come up with all that much. I see pictures from time to time of their region. They’re rare and I couldn’t find the ones that had always stayed with me, but here are the ones I did find.

african boat

The fishermen from the West coast of Africa decorate their boats with brightly coloured geometric designs. A group finds these boats and turns them into furniture. This is just one of their designs. Click the link below for more.

furniture from old boats

AfriGadget Soccer Ball

Old clothes, a plastic bag, condoms, and some rope made into a football.

Blockbuster Oven in Liberia

Repurposed Blockbuster Drop Box turned into an oven.

harold and water 2.jpg

This is Harold. A few months before this picture was taken, an organization had come to talk to his community about the effects of poor sanitation.

I nearly got rid of this bottle,” Harold explains, tracing the origin of an empty plastic bottle, now turned into a container fixed to a hand washing facility placed outside his family toilet.

“We use the bottle to fill water which we use to wash hands each time we visit the toilet. “From the time we started washing our hand, we no longer get sick,” the young boy explains. According to Harold, he always treasures the bottle and feels proud to have contributed to the eradication of diseases that kept affecting his family and entire community.

This site had a whole bunch of cool pictures, but I wasn’t sure if all of them were made in Africa. This was made from car tires.

I’m not finished talking about Africa. We have a lot to learn about their way of life, but this all I have to say about this particular subtopic. I hope your as inspired by this as I am.

Hummingbird Feeder DIY

Hummingbirds, actually all birds, are quite delightful. I’ve never had an interest in birds. I didn’t not like them, I just thought, ‘oh, there’s a bird.’ Now I think ‘THERE’S A BIRD! AWWW…’  Caring about the environment has given me a whole new perspective. It’s quite nice. Most of the time. Anyway, back to the point. Because hummingbirds are so delightful, here is a feeder DIY, so that you can appreciate them and take care of their habitat. NOTE: It may take a couple of weeks for the hummingbird to the nectar and start showing up. Change the nectar once a week.

You will need:

A pop bottle, preferably red but I don’t know if there is such a thing. If you know of one let me know.

14- 20 spoons- again preferably red.  We used spoons from various other places like Cherry Berry, which  has red and pink, and other ice cream or frozen yogurt places. The point of upcycling is to use trash. I’m going to ask that you don’t go out and buy red spoons. Use ones that have already been used. Yeah, it sounds gross, but that is what soap is for.

A red lid- if you don’t have red spoons then get a flimsy red lid like one that are on gas stations to-go cups or even one of those metal peanut jar lids. Not something hard like peanut butter lids.

A candle, not a tea light

Hot glue gun


A feeding tube– these you are allowed to buy.

A chain- my aunt had hanging plant pots that she was going to make into a chair pot and she didn’t need the chains any more so we used those. You could probably use any kind of chain.
Hummingbird Nectar

Want more ideas? Check out my DIY page


Here is my class assignment. It’s a little rough, but I’m pretty happy with it. I got the biggest compliment from my teacher. It was supposed to be a maximum of 2 1/2 minutes and she talked about whether I thought I justify the additional length. I went with my gut and it paid off and so did all of my work. She said that it made her ill and that I was right about the length. I learned a lesson. I should trust myself more. I also have my parent’s to thank for this. I couldn’t have done it without them. Anyway, enjoy!