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Thursday, 25 July 2013

$0 no sew comfort bag

I am about to make a confession that seems to baffle many, gentle readers.  Here goes : I am not a huge fan of the summer. Yup I said it. In fact, I would rate summer as my least favorite of all four seasons.
But since the weather does not care about my whims of fancy summer is something that happens every single year. And since it is here I am simply going to make the best of it - or at least make it as bearable as possible.

We have central air conditioning in this house and I am very grateful for it on the days the humidity makes it feel like almost 50*C outside. (And you thought Canadians lived in igloos? Shame on you ;)   At the old house we did not have central air, so every year we would install window unit air conditioners. They sounded like a jet engine starting up and only cooled the room in which they were installed a few degrees.  
 On top of that, two years ago this time I was heavily pregnant with our daughter.   They don't call it "having a bun in the oven" for nothing! Pregnancy makes you HOT!

So to help me beat the heat I made up a few "comfort bags" and stashed them in the freezer.  These, folks are super duper easy to make, even if you're not a pro sewer. Simply sew a tube, and one edge closed.  Fill 1/3 of the way with rice (NOT minute rice!) and stitch the opening closed.  Volia!  This baby can go in the freezer or the microwave.

If you store your comfort bag in the freezer its great for resting your feet on, or laying over your shoulders during the summers heat.  The rice maintains the cool temp for about an hour at a time.  
If you have sore muscles or are feeling cold, take your comfort bag from the freezer and pop it into the microwave for three minutes.  Instant heating bag!

But wait! I promised you a $0 NO SEW comfort bag.  Whats the deal, right?  If you are unable to sew or just do not want to, or if a big comfort bag just wont suit your needs (say you got your wisdom teeth out and just need something cool to hold against your jaw) then THIS is the option for you.

Simply take a sock.  It doesn't have to be a sock you are willing to part with forever because you can wear this sock again once you're done using it for comfort purposes- but it really should be a clean sock.   Make sure its a 100% cotton sock - no nylon dress socks here.

This is how it can be done in 30 seconds flat.

Take your clean sock. Yes, mine is pilling a bit.  Such is the curse of cheap socks.
cheap, pilly socks.  Totally fine for this purpose
 Take your bag of rice.  You will want to add rice to right about "this" point on the sock.
add rice to here
rice filled sock
 Then tie it up.  You will be tempted to tie the sock closed right near where the rice ends but do not do that,  Its best if the rice has space to move around in there.
tie 'er up!
 Success! You now have a comfort bag ready for the freezer! (I reccomend keeping it stored in the freezer that way it is always cold when you need it to be.  If you need it to be warm a few mins in the microwave will warm it up no problem.  Since it takes longer to cool something in the freezer than heat something in the microwave keep it in the freezer)

Monday, 22 July 2013

$8 Gift for boy - DIY pillow shield with foam sword

We have yet another birthday party approaching which my kids have been invited to. As kids get a bit older I find it harder and harder to both DIY a gift they will enjoy and be able to stay on budget.

This particular gift is for a four year old boy, and I am quite excited about it.
When I found this idea for a pillow shield I was pretty excited. The little boy I am making this for is quite close to our family, and one of his favourite things to play with here is the foam sword found in our dress up bin.

Let's get started, gentle readers!

You will need:
- four pieces of fabric: 3/4 m for the back, 1/2 m for the bottom section and 1/4 m each for the two top sections. (I had the fleece I used for the back on hand, and the two patterned fabrics I used for the front were a steal of a deal.  I found both the patterned pieces in the clearance section of the fabric store for $2/meter. The red I bought at regular price - minus my discount card- but since I only needed 1/4 m it will still quite reasonable.  With the purchase of black biased tape my fabric store total came to $5. 67)
- two lengths of 6 inch nylon webbing and matches to heat seal the ends so they don't fray - on hand
- bias tape (as previously mentioned)
- craft felt (on hand)
- fiber fill pillow stuffing (on hand)

as well as
- pins
- scissors
-pencil and paper to draw template
- sewing machine

Here is how I did it.

First, draw a template of the shield.  Because I lack any and all artistic ability I just traced my sons toy shield.  Then I added 1/4 inch all the way around for a seam allowance.  When you cut your paper, cut the larger image.  Its a good idea now to also draw in the lines for where you would want your different fabrics.  The bottom section looks best if it takes up just a little more than half the length of the shield.  The remaining top portion can be split equally in two.
Toy shield traced onto paper
 Then pin your pattern to your back fabric like so.  Cut out your fabric.
pin your pattern to your fabric
 Next you'll take your two pieces of nylon webbing and heat seal them.  I know what you're thinking - I think it all the time too..."Why on earth is this stuff called "webbing" when it looks nothing like a web?!" *sigh* Some things are destined to remain a mystery I suppose.
To heat seal, simply trim up the edges of your webbing, then light a match.  When you hold the flame near the cut ends of the webbing you will see it start to shrink and melt.  This will prevent the ends from fraying.  The same technique can be used on most ribbon to keep it from fraying as well.

Then position your webbing like so on your back fabric.  Stitch in place with your sewing machine.
position the straps on the back fabric
Then you will take your original pattern and cut it up into the three sections you established in the first step. Take your bottom section and pin it to the fabric you want to use for that portion. ***BEFORE YOU CUT the fabric please rememeber that 1/4 inch seam allowance.  You can still see it drawn on the "V" portion of the bottom, and that's great - continue to follow that as normal.  But when you get to the top line there is no seam allowance drawn in but you still need 1/4 inch seam allowance.  If you forget to add in the seam allowance the pieces will not match up correctly. Repeat this idea with both the top sections as well, adding in the seam allowance any place it is not drawn in.
Notice my scissors at the top allowing 1/4 inch seam allowance
 I decided to add the first initial if the boy this shield is for. Since there is no way on Earth I could cut a decent letter "A" from craft felt without a pattern guide of some sort, I simply found a font I liked in the size I needed and printed it from Word,  Then I cut out the A and used it as a cutting guide.  Then I hand stitched the A to my red section of fabric/

 Taking both of my top sections, with right sides together, I stitched using that 1/4 inch seam allowance. Its a good idea to take your iron and press this open.
Top sections sewn together
 Then you can pin your top section to the bottom section, with ride sides together. Stitch and press open again.
with right sides together pin and stitch top section to bottom section
 To add a bit of drama and some cleaner lines, I decided to top stitch some black bias tape over my seams. If you choose to do this as well I do recommend stitching two rows, once close to each edge of the tape rather than one line of stitching down the center.  If you stitch one line down the center of the tape the edges will lift up once you stuff the pillow.  Guess how I know that....
front of pillow complete with bias tape
 Next, with right sides together, stitch the back piece to the front of the pillow, leaving an opening roughly the size of your forearm for turning and stuffing.  Turn the pillow right side out.  Stuff with fiber fill.  To prevent your pillow stuffing from looking lumpy pull your filling into small bits with your fingers before stuffing the pillow.
Stuff your pillow.
 Top stitch your opening closed.  The pair with a foam sword for $2 at the dollar store and be very proud of your knightly gift!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

How to clean your playpen

We have one playpen that is a bit smaller than a typical playpen. Over the years this playpen has been our travel bed for our babies.  Since its slightly smaller it fits all the better into our trunk.  So if we were going to a friends house, and going to be there past bedtime we could pack and use the playpen said friends home and still have the kids in bed at their usual time.

Even though Audrey is now in a "big girl" bed, we still took the playpen camping with us this past long weekend for her to sleep in one last time (a place we knew she couldn't get out of since our cabin was so close to the waters edge).

Needless to say, after our camping trip up north our playpen needed a good cleaning.  Then it occurred to me that many people may struggle with how to best clean a play pen. Since I run a home daycare and have kids sleeping in playpens on  a daily basis this cleaning method is invaluable to me.

Here is how to clean a playpen:

Step One: Notice how icky and grimy your playpen is.


 Step Two: Put a stopper in your bathtub and run water as hot as you can stand it. Then add two cap fulls of laundry soap. *Although I make my own laundry soap, I did go with a commercial product for this purpose*

This is the commercial laundry soap I used
 Step Three: Place your playpen in the bathtub like so. Unless you have a giant, 3 foot deep tub you will need to leave the playpen folded up or shes not gonna fit in your tub.   Open up the mat, though, and lay that at the bottom of the tub. Yes, the mat has a heavy duty cardboard as the base.  If you follow my directions, no it wont be ruined by the washing.  I have washed playpens many times.... it will be okay.
position of playpen in my bathtub

 Run lots of water in your tub.  Keep it hot hot hot.
Tub filling up with water
Step Four: Wait half an hour. Just let it sit and soak. When you return you will start to see the icky grime seeping out.

Ick starting to be drawn out. 
Step Five: Although the water is cooler now after a half hour of sitting in the tub its still pretty darn hot! So although your playpen needs "swishing" in the water, please keep your hands out of the water as much as you can.   No scrubbing is required, just lots of movement.  Since your folded playpen was not likely to be totally submerged in the water you will want to flip it and wait another half hour.

Step Six:  Be simultaneously impressed and disgusted with all the nasty ick you got out of that playpen.

*shudder*   ewwwwww
Pull the stopper from the tub and drain that nasty brown water. Again using hot water rinse your playpen and the mat. Rinse them very well until the water runs clear.  You don't want to see soap suds or any more filth . 

Step Seven: Take your playpen outside on a bright sunny day to dry it.  It is important that you lay your mat as pictured below so that the cardboard base of the mat can dry properly and not warp.  If you lay the mat on a flat surface only one side can dry at a time.  That means it will take longer to dry and may warp in the process.  Since your playpen will be very wet from its bath you will need several hours of it sitting in the sun to dry thoroughly.

Step Eight: Once its all dry (be sure its very dry, you don't want it to mold while being folded up for storage) rejoice in how fresh and clean your playpen is and how very easy the whole process was :)

Enjoy, my gentle readers, and Happy Thursday!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Pallet chest/ coffee table

Recently we had noticed that our padded ottoman coffee table was in pretty serious need of replacement.   Although it was starting to show some signs of wear the real issue was that it no longer worked in our space.
This "new" house (we have now been here for seven months) had a different layout and more floor space in the living room so what we needed was really something much larger.
It was really important to us that the coffee table had storage space, but not just shelving underneath.  Our ottoman is home to all the nap mats we use for daycare as well as spare blankets ect.  So, for visual appeal this coffee table had to include closed in storage much like our padded ottoman did.
 I found this one online at Pottery Barn for almost $800!!! I liked the table but $800? Really? I think not.  So I decided to make one with help from That Guy and a friend.

My wood chest came out costing a little under $50.  Here is my cost break down:

Plywood- on hand $0
5 wood pallets - $0
Liquid nails - on hand - $0
Sandpaper - $6
Screws -$4
Stain - $4
Hinges - $8
Sawzall blade - $8
Polyurethane - $16
Less than $50

First we had to source out some free wood pallets.  This was a bit trickier than I had anticipated. I asked a few friends if they had seen any free pallets around the city and one friend "helpfully" told me "They have a ton behind Canadian Tire, just back your car up behind the store and load up".  What I gathered from the employee screaming at me while loading the pallets is that not all wood pallets are free for the taking after all- and the ones behind Canadian Tire are most certainly not.
 So after a bit more asking around a nice gentleman from my church piped up that the place he works gets only "single use" pallets and they would be happy to have me come take some off their hands.

So That Guy went down and loaded up a borrowed truck with wood pallets and surprised me at home one afternoon with them. Some girls get flowers, I love my man all the more when he shows his affection with free building materials for me :)

Next I watched a bunch of tutorials on youtube about the best way to disassemble the pallets. I watched every video method I could find until I was sure I was an expert.  Since I do not have a bunch of fancy tools, I thought I would go with the method wherein you simply knock the wood apart with a hammer.  What could go wrong?
I do NOT know where everyone in those tutorial videos get their wood pallets, but it is not from around here! What happened when I tried to "gently knock the wood apart with a hammer", you ask? Well gentle readers, the answer is so much splintered and broken wood slats. The pallets in the videos must have been put together very flimsily because the pallets I had would not be knocked apart.  The pallets laughed at me for trying (I imagine, haha).

My frustration level now being  rather high I decided the next logical step was simply to borrow a Sawzall (so named because it can saw through anything with the right blade) and simply cut right through all those nails. With the purchase of a metal cutting blade this worked remarkably well!!  Some thoughts on using a Sawzall to cut apart your wood pallets: SAFETY FIRST!!!! Please wear safety glasses- yes you! You need them! Sunglasses are NOT the same, wear safety glasses!  Also, that Sawzall is like a jackhammer in your hands.  So be sure your pallets are properly propped up and supported before you start cutting. Also be sure you have a wide stance and cut away from your body.
The pro here is that this method is about a hundred times faster than hammering or using a crowbar or any other method I saw.  Added bonus is that you get to keep the nail heads in your wood.  This both eliminates many holes that would be otherwise left while adding some real character to your piece.

Once all your pallets are apart comes the sanding step.  **Sigh** This is no ones favourite step, but so necessary.  I do own a palm sander, and I highly, highly recommend you use one too.  Also, buy decent sandpaper.  For this purpose you will find that dollarstore sandpaper is a total waste of time and money. Spend $3 per package and get something that will really do the trick.   I started with a 60 grit paper to get the majority of the imperfections taken care of.  Then I went with a 100 grit, also using decent sandpaper.   After that, your additional grits (I did 120 and 220) can be from the dollarstore since they have less "work" to do and the main function of these grits is to make the wood prettier.
This is where having a dear, loving friend come to your house and help you sand under the noon day sun in your backyard on a day that is 33*C before humidex is invaluable.  Thank you to the moon, Sabrina!!

So much sanding!

Each of the boards on our pallets were 40 inches long, so we decided that was a natural length for our chest coffee table. We did not want to go 40 inches wide because 1. That would make a HUGE table and we did not need that 2. We did not have enough wood pallets on hand to complete a table that big and 3. We wanted to try to make use out of some of the wood that had splintered when I was trying other disassembly  methods.  
We went with  a table that was 40 inches long, 26 inches wide and 15 inches tall including the lid.
So our next step was to cut the boards we needed to be 26 inches into 26 inch boards, haha.

Next we took some of the leftover "scrap" pieces and cut them to be the interior supports.

Finally it was time to get started on the actual assembly! We "dry fit" the chest and That Guy pre drilled the holes he would need.  This is a step that will totally save you time and frustration. Even if you think you don't need to pre-drill your holes, pre- drill them anyways.

We took our internal support and added some liquid nails. I suppose this step is optional but it really does help the piece be stronger, so I recommend it.  Then That Guy put the box frame together using a total of 104 screws (well that was box and lid).

Assembly of  box 

More box assembly
 Next we cut a piece of on hand ply wood  to the size we needed for the bottom of the box, and got that in place.
Bottom going on

Box base done!! :)
Lid done. What a messy yard I had after this project!

 Then I stained it.  I used two sample sized containers of chestnut Varathane stain that I bought from Big Lots! for $2 per container.  Use rubber gloves for this.  Also, when you're done lay your rag flat to dry before you dispose of it, otherwise it can combust.  Really.  We stained the inside and outside of the box as well as the top and bottom of the lid.
After the stain was really dry (we let it sit for 24 hours) we used a "quick dry" Polyurethane to seal it in. I use quotations around "quick dry" because it still had a min six hour dry time. Not so quick. 

Finally we were able to add some hinges and put it in our living room!

I would still love a decorative latch on the side opposite the hinges but I have yet to find just the right one so it will have to wait. 

I love this chest coffee table and spending $800 on the Pottery Barn version certainly wouldn't have made me love it any more!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

DIY wedding gift under $10

I have a large extended family which includes a bucket load of cousins. Save a precious few I do not happen to know many of them well at all, mostly due to vast geographical distances.

So when I received a wedding invitation from just such a cousin I was both thrilled and a bit stressed.  I knew we would not be able to attend the wedding (it being on the other side of the country) but I did want to send a gift to celebrate a wonderful milestone. But what can you gift someone for a wedding whom you really do not know, and on my tight budget?

My dear auntie, who does happen to live very close by me, is going to the wedding. So I get a win that I could send my gift with her and get around postage costs.  But I had to be considerate- the gift could not be heavy or bulky or take up much room in her suitcase.

So I thought on the gift for a long time.  Finally I remembered a set of pillowcases that  my parents have in their home. One of my mom's sisters had made the pillowcases for my mom and dad as a wedding gift almost 36 years ago.  Those pillowcases are still used, loved and cherished today. That felt like a good fit for this wedding too.

Down I went to the fabric store and bought two meters of white cotton broadcloth. After my membership discount the total fabric cost was only $6.  Then, using this tutorial I made up a set of pillowcases.  Yes, I needed a tutorial - I had never made pillowcases myself.  But let me just say, gentle readers, after making them I will never buy pillowcases again.  These are super simple to make, come out looking beautiful and professional and decent cotton ready made pillowcases (with a pretty trim) can cost upwards of $50!
My finished pillowcases using the linked tutorial.
Pretty, right?
 Next I took some of my freezer paper and drew two images on the paper side in pencil. Even lacking ALL artistic ability I was able to draw these simple pictures.  On one I did a cloud type thought bubble, and the other I made to be the little circles leading to the thought bubble. **Great news, gentle readers! You can now buy freezer paper in Ontario! Check your local Fresh Co. for it.  Remember, this is not wax paper and it is not parchment paper. One side is paper and one side is wax!**

I totally did take photos of the faux screen printing method I used for the pillowcases with the freezer paper and fabric paint. However, my camera is playing a trick on me and making the photos I took impossible to find.  So please go this link from when I did a  new-baby-gift for my nephew to see the method.

When it was all done, this was my result and I was pretty darn pleased with it.
"Screen printed" pillowcases
However, I was still a little worried someone might not "get" it, might miss the awesome factor of this gift. So I took this photo (which I doubled as a gift tag):
Love these kids!

Taa daa!! Adorable, whimsical wedding gift for under $10! Happy Thursday, gentle readers and have a beautiful, joyful wedding cousin of mine!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Coming clean- silly things I spend money on

I believe in a frugal lifestyle.  And not just getting getting things for the lowest possible costs, but more often I advocate doing things for yourself.  I make the kids clothes, grow many of our summer time foods, collect rainwater to water plants, as well as making laundry soap and many household cleaners.  I am always on the lookout for new ideas on ways to provide for myself as well as save a few dollars along the way.

But let me be clear, my dear and gentle readers, I am not perfect. I have a few indulgences that cost money. Indulgences that may seem bizarre to some of you, given my commitment to our lifestyle.  Yet, I thought it was time to open myself up and be honest with you about some of the things I waste spend money on.

Bagged Ice
I know, right?!! Who in their right mind goes out of their way to collect free wood pallets for use when building but at the same time insists on buying pre made bags of ice when they are perfectly capable of making ice at home, for almost no cost?
Me, gentle readers. I do that.  And not sometimes - all the time. I often eat ice as a snack (seriously a glass of ice with a slice of lemon dropped in there yummm!) and I go through roughly one bag of ice a week.  Sure  That Guy might have a few pieces of ice throughout a month, but I eat at least 98% of it. Even knowing what a ridiculous waste of hard earned money this is I cannot seem to give it up.  Okay, honestly, I love it and have no desire to ever give it up.  Ever.

Diet Coke
Its bad for you, folks. Do not drink this stuff, no good will come of it. Also, I love it and I don't really know why since I cannot stand the regular non-diet version of the stuff. I have been drinking it for so long I honestly cannot remember a time when I did not drink it. That Guy used to buy me a case of 12 cans on Mondays when he bought groceries. But he was always shocked when said case was gone by Wednesday. In an effort to be slightly healthier I have switched to club soda (I love carbonation).  But given an opportunity I will happily pay $1 at the local 7-11 for a bucket sized cup of diet coke with ice.

Scrap book paper
I will only buy this when its on sale. When Micheals Craft store has paper on 4/$1 I will buy a dozen sheets at a time.  The regular price is around $1 a sheet so I always feel I am getting a steal of a deal.
Sometimes I have something specific in mind for the paper I buy (like invitations for Audrey's upcoming birthday celebration), but more often I am simply wooed by the deal, and pretty colours of the paper.
I have a sizeable stack of uncut/ still unused 12x12 scrapbook paper on my crafting table.  Yet that does not stop me from buying more when its on sale....

Colouring Books
If I am being honest with myself I think its my mom heart that says "If only the kids had something quiet and tidy to occupy themselves with, they would certainly utilize such a thing and BE quiet and tidy...."  My brain screams "They have 47 million colouring and activity books at home!! They are great, sure, but do you really need two more?!"  Two, because its not possible to buy one at a time.  My kids and my daycare have every imaginable colouring/activity book. Everything from outer space to My Little Pony, but whenever I see a colouring book for sale for $2 or less I don't even notice its in my hand until I've paid for it.

I shop for fabric like I imagine most women shop for shoes.
My blood pressure drops, the stress leaves my body, my eyes get dreamy.  I have to touch everything. And I immediately start to self justify.  "Well maybe I don't need this adorable orange polka dot fabric right now for anything....but at "Buy one meter, get two free" how can I afford NOT to buy it? Certainly someone will want pillowcases made from it...or a skirt...or a table runner...." And while everything I buy from the fabric store is on sale, or discounted with my membership card I could perhaps cut back on "un- required" spending there.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Cutting back at the fabric store is nothing short of impossible :)

So there is it. Out there for all to read.  Although I try to be frugal I totally have my guilty buying pleasures. Hope you can still stick with me, gentle readers. :)

Thursday, 4 July 2013

No cuss duvet cover method

During a few of my teen years I worked at Linens 'N Things. They trained me in all sorts of things like operating the cash register, using the intercom system, how to polish display cutlery and how to fold a towel to fit just so on their shelves. They also taught us how to dress a bed display. Since I was being exposed to so much else I never considered the bed dressing to be a particular life skill.

Turns out, it is.  I spoke to many people during my time working at that store who opted for a comforter over a duvet because they found putting the duvet cover back onto the duvet to be a daunting task. I have watched very intelligent room mates and family members struggle with the same thing in years since.

So I thought I might take a moment, gentle readers, to show you how I was taught. This method is very simple and works for duvets of all sizes. Say goodbye to the days of frustration induced duvet cussing :)

Step one:  Take your duvet cover, turn it inside out and lay in on the bed or clean floor
Duvet cover inside out

Step two: Lay your duvet on top of your duvet cover
Duvet on top of inside out duvet cover

Step three: Reach under the duvet inside the duvet cover at one of the two corners closest to the duvet cover opening.  Reach your hand way down and grasp the corner of the duvet through the duvet cover.  You should have your arm all the way inside your duvet cover, and have the opposite corners duvet cover and duvet corner in your hand.
Reaching under the duvet inside the duvet cover

My hand inside the duvet cover. Grabbing both the duvet and duvet cover from the inside

Step four: Do the same on the other side of the duvet.  You are now arm deep inside your duvet cover with two fistfuls of duvet/duvet cover.

Step four: Maintaining your hold on your fistfuls pull your arms out of the duvet cover.

Step five: Shake

Step six: Smile because you're almost done and this was way easier than you thought it would be
Step seven: Close the duvet covers opening