Over the last year or so I’ve discovered a secret: if you want to make a cake look amazing, semi-professional, and like you put a ton of effort in you basically need to just lather it with icing and other stuff. It doesn’t matter if the cake is a bit wonky, out of a packet, or not totally as you intended. If you have maltesers, sweets, or chocolate fingers (or all of the above) it can look OH-SO-GOOD! As well as those shown below there was a last minute Superhero cake covered in chocolate stars and smarties, as well as a banana, peanut butter, and chocolate cake with chocolate and salted caramel fingers and minstrels to decorate.
Recently I have created a number of things that I was actually really proud of (including my gorgeous second daughter!) and it has made me realise something important. Like the cakes, sometimes the best thing you can do is use what you already have to hand in creative ways.
I am super passionate about recycling, reducing our climate effect, and find eco-alternatives (you can find some of my suggestions here), but we are never going to get a handle on this issue if we continue to simply throw out the stuff that seems useless. It’s all well and good finding an alternative for a plastic bottle of shampoo, but if you don’t at least finish it, and work out a way to reuse that bottle, you are still putting it into landfill, wasting supplies and money.
We need to be better at using what we have to make new useful things (as well as fixing the stuff we already have, which could be a whole other post in itself!). I wanted to encourage you by showing you some of the things I’ve done recently with very little effort, time, or money.
- Guin’s New Bed
Our poor doglet is a bit of a silly soul. Despite having bad joints she continues to jump on and off the sofa, sleeping stretched out across it like the Queen of Sheba. Although I’m not fussed about the sofa, we have plenty of blankets to cover it that are washable and protect it, I am concerned that without a decent alternative she would continue to do herself harm.
My solution was to make one. My materials? An old, ripped, and unused tempur mattress, some beautiful and hard-wearing fabric, and a sewing machine with thread that was still in it from my last textile experiment.
I cut the mattress piece in half, doubled it up, trimmed a piece off it (which would be perfect as a luxury dog pillow), and went to work. I didn’t measure perfectly, I just wrapped, drew, and pinned around the foam I had. Once I had a basic shape, similar to box-making tasks from GCSE Graphic Design, I did a strong (here meaning small tight zigzag) stitches along the sides, and leaving one side open but hemmed meant I could pull it around the mattress like a type of duvet cover. I still need to fix buttons or a zip on the opening but all in all it worked well.
The pillow was again easily made and I even went a little further by adding one of those overlapping pieces you get in pillowcases.
The result? See for yourself! I still need to convince her to stop using the sofa, but at least now I can point to a super comfortable alternative made especially for her!
- Garden Vegetable Patches
Yes, I’m aware I could’ve just planted straight into the ground but the more I could do to make dog and Cub second-guess their route over the plants the better. My plan was to create a selection of raised garden beds, with wood chips on the walkways, in which to plant herbs, fruit, and vegetables.
We have in the past got local (and wonderfully talented) handymen/builders to complete garden and building work. This is something they could probably have done for me in a couple of days, and it would have been beautiful, symmetrical, and new. I have no doubt they would’ve done an amazing job and so this is not a post which claims I can do everything better than professionals, or that you shouldn’t go to decent craftspeople when needed. However, I was well aware they were super busy, that the logistics were not technically difficult but would require some elbow grease, and, most importantly, I already had access to secondhand wood in a variety of sizes and shapes that I could use.
With a bit of tetris-like experimentation, Mum & I set out a basic structure for the garden with the odds and ends we had, and I went about trimming the wood, and hammering in stakes to hold it all together. It is not symmetrical, nor is it perfectly square, or even an even height, but it will be (once finished) a functional space. I think it will even look quite beautiful once I’ve painted it, with all it’s random heights, widths, and angles.
Being able to repurpose wood rather than buying new feels wonderful. It would have cost me a lot of money and the piece come from a variety of places: old furniture, beds, skirting board, and even transporting the house we currently live in! The little tiny off-cuts and been placed in our bug hotel (another recycled creation of waste/broken pallets, bricks, broken roof slates, plant pots and folliage) for more hidden areas little creatures can crawl about and make their home, slightly bigger pieces will be used as kindling in our woodburner, bigger still may go into making bee and bird houses, and other stuff is awaiting the next project.
I even put up three totem-pole-like fence poles to paint and hang our house sign from!
A pet peeve of mine is having pillows slip down the back of our bed as I sleep, waking up to find nothing, or leaning against the wall in bed only to be really uncomfortable after awhile because the pillows have, again, disappeared. I even went so far as purchasing my perfect bed with padded headboard, which I found out too late was a cm too big for the space I had. I won’t rant about the company involved but needless to say I was not pleased. One cheap Ikea bed frame later and I was, heartbreakingly, sans headboard.
My solution was simple: make one. All I needed was a piece of MDF or similar cut to the right size, some padding, some fabric, and a staple gun. It was so easy I could cry! Laying out the makeshift padding on the board (another leftover piece of wood my Dad trimmed for me in advance), a combination of old reusable nappy pieces (clean ones!) and a long piece of actual padding I had going spare, I stapled it all down. With a little help I flipped the board, and stapled the edges onto the back before flipping it again. By placing the fabric neatly on the board, flipping a third time, and carefully pulling and fastening it down, I got a smooth, customised, size-perfect, cheap headboard.
My only issue was how to fasten the board itself either to the wall or bed but miraculously it fits perfectly between the bed frame and mattress, holding snuggly exactly where I need it. I have never had such a satisfied night’s sleep and no pillows were lost in the making!
So what is the point of all this? I want to encourage everyone to look at what they already have, what they would otherwise be wasting in their cupboards, lofts, or in landfill, and come up with things that would otherwise cost a lot of money. I could’ve spent upwards of £300 but instead I think my grand total came closer to £50 and that was pretty much just fabric, which I still have excess of and can go into making cushions, Morsbags, or other fun little creations (like this)!
Creativity is how we come up with innovative ways of saving waste, saving money, and saving the planet. There are so many great examples of how you can use stuff you would otherwise be throwing away. If you are trying to be greener, well done, but please have some fun, play with your kids, come up with new ways to use old stuff. I can heartily recommend it!