The Good Life: Field of Dreams

Summer’s finally over!  It’s time for the Autumn harvest!

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Behold!  My glorious field of two radishes!

As you can clearly see, the harvest has not exactly been bountiful this Autumn. The field you’re looking at was planted with onions, carrots, beetroots, leeks, daikons, radishes and an entire row of parsnips.

Unfortunately, the harvest failed.

There were several reasons for the failure, of course. Early in the season, the Boobook thought to help me out with the weeding and managed to weed out the baby leeks before I managed to stop him. We’ve also been having issues with the neighbour’s cat digging up some of the seeds when it comes to hang out in our garden.

But the biggest reason for major crop failure was the weather.

It has been hot in Australia, and I mean severely, extremely hot. The hottest it’s been since 1896, even. It was so hot that the remainder of seeds and sprouts basically fried in the earth before they got big enough to thrive. The only plants remaining are the two radishes you see in the picture.

The reason for the survival of the radishes is simple. They were the only plants in the garden be in the shade for the majority of the day.

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Happy little radishes.  Diagram courtesy of The Boobook

So there you have it. It’s slim pickings this Autumn, I’m afraid, but there’s no reason to fret. The backyard vegetable gardener has to be prepared for disappointment.

After all, perseverance and trial and error is how one gets a good garden.

Check out the rest of The Good Life Challenge series here.

Upcycling For Kids (Using Teeshirts) Part 2: No-Sew Tasselled Tunic

As I said in my previous Upcycling For Kids post, Singapore generates an embarrassing amount of textile waste, which is why I am trying to think of ways to give old clothes a new lease of life instead of discarding them.

Whilst clearing out my wardrobe, I found a few teeshirts that have pretty cute designs on them but really do not suit me anymore. These shirts, although beloved, weren’t really fancy enough to be worth putting aside for Little E for the future. So I decided to repurpose them into cute outfits for Little E to wear right now!

Due to the fact I have the Midas Touch when it comes to sewing machines (i.e. I turn them into blocks of inert metal), this will be a no-sew tutorial.

How to Upcycle Old Teeshirts into a No-Sew Tasselled Tunic (2 versions)

Materials:

  1. Old Teeshirt
  2. Tunic Top That Already Fits
  3. Scissors
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Cutting around the teeshirt to make it the correct size

Instructions:

  1. Lay Old Teeshirt flat
  2. Place Tunic Top That Already Fits on top of teeshirt to act as a guide
  3. Cut the teeshirt into 1 inch strips all around the sides, bottom and sleeves), leaving a 1 – 2 inch border around the Tunic Top That Already Fits (depending on how tight you want the final result to be)
  4. Trim off the tassels on the sleeves, leaving just one pair of tassels in the centre, which you can tie off with a knot. This makes cute, new fluttery sleeves for your new garment!

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    Knotting the sleeves, sides and bottom of the teeshirt

  5. Cut the side seams of the teeshirt, then stretch the tassels as long as they will go, until the fabric rolls in on itself. If you don’t use a seamless teeshirt, cut off the seams entirely for a nicer look
  6. On the sides of the teeshirt, tie each pair of tassels (one front and one back) tightly together with a knot, to make a row of knots and tassels down each side of the tunic top.
  7. For the bottom of the teeshirt, stretch the tassels until the fabric rolls in on itself, then knot each pair of tassels (side by side) tightly together. When you are done, you should have created a hem of knots around the bottom of your tunic.
  8. Then, create a second row of knots by tying pairs of knots together. Don’t worry about the tassels looking uneven – you can trim them to equal lengths once you are done. I left our uneven because I thought it looked nicer that way.
  9. Your new and improved tunic is ready to wear!

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    Little E wearing the No-Sew Tasseled Tunic (With Sleeves)

  10. If you think that the neckline and sleeves of the Tasseled Tunic are too big (especially if you’re trying to make it fit a tiny tot), you can turn the whole thing into a sassy sleeveless number. Cut the sleeves off at the seams and at the tops of the shoulders, then tie them off with a knot.
  11. Wear your new Tasseled Tunic with pride!
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Little E wearing the No-Sew Tasseled Tunic (Without Sleeves)

P.S. Check out my No-Sew Hobo Bag Tutorial here.

Upcycling For Kids (using Teeshirts) Part 1: No-Sew Hobo Bag

In the last 6 months, whilst I’ve been ruthlessly downsizing my wardrobe, I’ve become ever more aware of the amount of waste there is just from the amount of clothes I’ve had to remove from my house (more on this in another post).

I was appalled to find out that in Singapore, we generate over 156,700 tonnes of textile and leather waste in a single year. This means that in Singapore, we generate THREE tonnes of textile waste every 5 minutes! And less than 8% of that is recycled. Yikes!!!

Upcycling is a great way to breathe new life into old clothes, and if you are anything like me and cause all sewing machines within a 100m to malfunction, here is a great No-Sew tutorial that is so simple, even a kid could do it!

How to Upcycle Old Teeshirts into a Cute No-Sew Hobo Bag

Materials:

  1. Old Tee-shirt
  2. Scissors

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Instructions:

  1. Using the scissors, cut off the sleeves of the teeshirt.
  2. Then, holding the shirt together, cut off the collar of the teeshirt to make the opening of the bag. A nice oval shape will do.
  3. Decide how deep you want the bag to be. I used a large square book as a guide.
  4. Cut the bottom of the teeshirt into strips about 1 inch wide to make a row of tassels. (Pro-tip: I left the book on the teeshirt and just cut the teeshirt up to the bottom of the book.)
  5. Make sure you also cut the side seam of the teeshirt. tee-shirt-hobo-bag-upcycle-recycle
  6. Turn the shirt inside out.
  7. Stretch the tassels as far as they will go. This will make them long and thin and easier to work with.
  8. Knot each pair of tassels (one tassel from the front and one from the back of the tee-shirt) tightly together. The shirt will begin to bunch up at the bottom, and you’ll have a row of knots with two strands hanging out of each knot.
  9. (Optional Step) Take any strand from the first knot and tie it tightly to any strand from the second knot in the row. Then from the second knot, take the remaining strand and tie it to any strand from the third knot in the row. Continue down the row, tying all the knots together. This will close up the gaps between the knots and make the base of your bag more secure.hobo-bag-tee-shirt-tshirt-recycle-kid
  10. Now turn the bag inside out so that the shirt logo and patterns are showing and all the knots and tassels are on the inside. You should have two straps at the top of your bag.
  11. Cut the two straps in half where the shoulder seam is, knotting them at the top to create the shoulder strap for the hobo bag.
  12. Enjoy!

Optional ideas:

  1. If you like the look of the tassels, leave them outside the bag for a cute boho look.
  2. You can leave the two straps at the top alone if you prefer a simple tote bag.
  3. You can cut each strap at the top into three strips and braid them together to make a braided shoulder strap.

Queen of Konmari Challenge: Stage 1 – Clothes

I was feeling quite chirpy on the morning that I decided to start the Konmari process. I’d already gone through my clothes once before, only a few months ago as part of the Happy Family Plan, so I figured that this was going to be a cinch.

I was in my PJs about to get started, when I remembered that one of the caveats of Marie Kondo’s process is to treat the whole thing like a big party. That means dressing up and everything. I thought this was an immensely silly idea – I might as well wear my pyjamas, then once I was all messy, I could just pull them off and throw them in the wash – but I figured that if I was going to commit to the Konmari method, I might as well go the whole hog.

So I brushed my hair and changed my clothes, then went around taking stock.

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All my clothes.

My clothes are actually split into two cupboards, one narrow cupboard in my bedroom and one larger wardrobe in the spare bedroom.

In my bedroom cupboard I have my daily wear, tops and trousers. In the spare bedroom wardrobe, I have outerwear and dresses. As you can see from the picture above, I had so many clothes that I didn’t even have enough hangers to put them on and ended piling some of them over the top of the clothes rail.

I got everything out of the cupboards and dumped them in a big pile on the ground in my bedroom. I didn’t include anything that was in my dirty laundry or my clean laundry because I knew that those clothes were ones that I would definitely wear again. Then I wandered around the house gathering up accessories like belts, hats and socks.

Gathering my clothes in one place took me the better part of an hour, and I was sweaty, dusty and very upset by the end of it. Why did I buy more shorts and trousers? How could I forget that I own 8 pairs of denim shorts and 5 pairs of jeans? Did I ever wear that white polyester skirt and will I ever have an occasion to wear it? Why am I still hoarding that vintage silk top in puke green? I felt so greedy, and so wasteful.

This was when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, carrying an armful of moldy leather belts and surrounded by untidy hillocks of clothes.

Instead of continuing to feel upset, I actually felt a little bit better, because even though the room was messy, I was still neat. I think that if I was still wearing my toothpaste-stained top and sleep-creased pyjama pants, I would have felt so much worse about myself that I would not have been able to continue tidying. I would have just stuffed everything back into the cupboards as quickly as possible!

With renewed confidence, I began sorting through the piles of clothes.

First, I pulled out everything that I hadn’t worn over the last few months because I knew that those clothes made me look like a giant walking mushroom. These included new clothes that I had altered to fit, but had still looked terrible on me. Those went into a large bag to be given away.

Next, I pulled out clothes that I loved very much but knew I couldn’t wear anymore because they no longer fit. I divided these into two piles. One pile went into another large bag to be given away. The other, much smaller pile, were a few ‘heirloom’ clothes that I felt were classy and special enough to be handed down to Little E once she was older. These were mostly dresses – and I hung these up in the cupboard in the spare room.

By the time I had finished, all of my clothes could fit into the small cupboard in my bedroom. I folded them in the Konmari style and put them away. I wasn’t going to bother folding and storing everything the Konmari-way, but after reading her method carefully, I realised that if I follow her style of folding and storing clothing, I will actually prolong the lifespan of my clothes and be able to wear them for much longer.

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All of my clothes folded Konmari-style can fit into one cupboard (Ignore the Barn Owl’s messy top shelf. It is beyond my reach anyway.)

Looking at the my cupboard now, I have realised that not only is there a lot of wasted space, but the cupboard itself is very poorly designed. The trick to Konmari’s clothing storage method is that it allows you to see all of your clothes at once and get them out of the cupboard or drawer easily. As you can see from the picture above, I need to replace those deep shelves with drawers.

So, although my clothing storage problem is not yet solved, I think that my decluttering of clothes is pretty much done and I can proceed to the next stage!

The Good Life: Protecting the Babbits

Rabbits have long since been considered a pest in Australia. I mean, the longest unbroken fence in the world was built in the country to keep the rabbits out of precious farming territory.

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The Greater Bilby, endangered in Queensland.  Photo courtesy of DHP

Besides, there’s well documented evidence that the introduction of rabbits can vastly alter the ecosystem. Heck, the adorable little rabbit is believed to be responsible for the decline of several Australian native species such as the Greater Bilby through habitat destruction.

It is no surprise that the Australian government works to control the feral rabbit population through regular releases of biological agents like the Calicivirus[1] (aka Rabbit Haemorrhagic Diseases). In fact, a planned release of the virus is happening across 1,000 sites across Australia as we speak!

For those of you not in the know, the Calicivirus is a very nasty killer. It basically makes your rabbit bleed out internally, until it finally dies from the stress. BUT! A vaccination for this horrible disease does exist and is available at most local vet clinics! Both Bonnie and Clyde are regularly vaccinated against Calicivirus, so they’re covered in the event of a planned release.

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Bonnie and Clyde after being vaccinated.  They’re very upset about the whole situation, but it’s for their own good!

That being said, it doesn’t hurt to take extra precautions to protect the rabbits from the dangers of horrible diseases. Both Calicivirus and Myxamatosis are spread by flies and mosquitoes, so you should take steps to insect-proof any rabbit play areas.

To protect our precious bunnies, The Boobook and I lined Bonnie and Clyde’s outdoor hutch with UV protected mosquito netting. It’s a little bit expensive, but at least it’ll keep them safe.  Plus, we’ve lined the bottom with thick gauge chicken wire so that they can’t dig their way to freedom and get themselves hurt.

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Mosquito-proofed babbit home!

So, now our babbits are free to dance and play in the sun and are safe from the virus come rain or shine!  If you’d like more information on how to protect your rabbits during this viral release, RSPCA Australia has some very useful information and advice available.


[1]Calicivirus is pronounced Khaleesi-virus, but doesn’t have anything to do with dragons, unless you count the fact that it kills kinda messily.

Painting myself a lovely world (with a Dottieshop Watercolour Kit)

Although I am fairly handy at crafty things, I don’t actually have much skill in drawing and painting. Especially painting with watercolours. My own experience of watercolour painting as a child has been less than stellar. I always associated it with muddy faint colours and stiff bristled brushes that splayed out into stars. In short, I’m not very good at it and I’ve always felt that it’s a messy activity.

That is, until I started university and came across this daytime television programme called ‘Watercolour Challenge‘.

In ‘Watercolour Challenge‘, three amateur painters were given four hours to render a particular landscape in watercolours. I was always amazed at how neat and tidy the painters looked during the whole affair. None of them wore smocks to protect their clothes or required sheets of newspaper to catch stray drips. At the end, they rendered vividly coloured paintings, some in very intricate detail.

A few years ago, I tried learning watercolours on my own, with very little success. I simply did not have any clue what tools or paints I needed, nor how to go about applying brush to paper.

This is why I count myself very lucky to be one of the testers of the ‘Hello Spring’ watercolour kit from Dottieshop! Thanks so much for letting me try out the kit, Dot!

The ‘Hello Spring’ watercolour kit comes with instructions for painting some gorgeous spring flowers (cherry blossoms, roses and anemones), a set of good quality watercolour paints prepared in a palette, special watercolour paper and a water brush. This all fits into a neat little pink folder, which makes the whole set very portable!

What I particularly liked about the kit were the precise and clear instructions on how to use the brush and the watercolours, as well as the step-by-step guides on painting different flower blossoms. I found the thoughtfully written painting guides especially helpful, and within my first attempt I was able to produce a rather decent looking cherry blossom!

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My first attempt at watercolours using the ‘Hello Spring’ kit

I was very pleased with how the flowers turned out, after following the Dottieshop instructions! The Barn Owl was pretty impressed too, and that means a lot coming from him – he took Art as an ‘A’ level subject.

Best of all, there was hardly any clean up or mess involved. In fact, I have since realised that the kit is so complete that I don’t need to use anything else other than a clean, dry rag for wiping off my paint brush in between changing colours.

I do have to be rather careful in keeping and transporting the paint palette, however, as the watercolour paints grow brittle as they dry and sometimes little flakes may chip off if the palette gets jostled about, so I try to keep the paint set lying flat when it is not in use.

It wasn’t too difficult to use the brush techniques from the Dottieshop kit and extend that to paint other types of flowers and foliage.

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My watercolour studies of flowers and leaves

Since trying out the kit, I have found myself stealing a few minutes here and there during the day to do a little watercolour sketch. It really does refresh a tired mind!

Apart from the Hello Spring Watercolour Kit (which I think is a true bargain at SGD46), Dottieshop also has a Floral Illustration Kit (SGD36) as well as a Brush Calligraphy Beginners Kit (SGD33). These are great starter kits for beginners and would also make lovely gifts! Dot also runs workshops at Artify Studio – which I really hope to be able to attend some day.

P.S. To order one of the Dottieshop kits, just email dottieshop@gmail.com or leave her a message on Facebook or Instagram

The Queen of Konmari: 5 Tips to Getting Started

Okay, I’ve been starting to tidy up and organise the house according to the Konmari method for a few weeks now, and I am happy to report that things are progressing.

It is not easy, but I am sticking to it.  I think the reason that I am sticking to it is because I managed to figure out a way to do it without getting too overwhelmed. Additionally, I found that there was a great deal of inertia when it came to actually getting started to Konmari and I needed some help with that.

So here’s what I did after I finished reading the books:

Five Tips to Getting Started with the Konmari Method

  1. Get moral support: Konmari’s books were initially written to get her potential clients inspired and start tidying before she can actually fit in a personal appointment with them. I think it helps to have somebody going alongside you, cheering you on (especially if you, like myself, are not naturally a tidy person). I formed a small Facebook group with a few of my friends who were planning to start or who were unsuccessfully trying to Konmari on their own. Being a part of this group is really helping me because we celebrate our small successes together and encourage each other if things appear to be insurmountable.
  2. Set aside a time where you have the most energy and can work undisturbed: Whilst reading the the books, I noticed that Konmari’s clients would put aside 5 hours for every session with her – sending the rest of the family out of the house. I don’t have a whole 5 hour block in a day to devote to tidying, so I took a leaf from my Happy Family Plan and set aside one hour in the morning during weekdays when Thumper is sleeping and the older two kids are in school.
  3. Keep to your schedule: It’s tempting to want to skip around Konmari’s method and try to do a little bit here and there whenever you have snatches of time. However, my friends who did that ended up feeling like they were spending every waking moment tidying and decluttering with no end in sight, and they burn out. I think the tortoise approach, where you just plug steadily away through the various stages of decluttering, works best for Konmari. I set aside time for myself to declutter each day and I would stop after that time had passed (even if I wasn’t finished) or after my task of that day is accomplished, whichever came first.  Then, I would reward myself with a break with a good book.
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    Lister vs Dent (okay, they are both kinda sloppy looking.)

    Dress nicely: Okay, this is one taken straight out of the book, and when I first read it, I thought it was utter rubbish too, but there’s a reason behind this.
    At some point in your tidying, your house is going to look real messy and you may start to question your life choices…then you take a glimpse of yourself in the mirror…and if you are still in your unwashed pyjamas, you are going to feel like a total slob. And not in a cool ironic way, like Arthur Dent saving the earth in his bathrobe with his trusty towel by his side, but more like Dave Lister, slobbing his slobby way around the universe.

  5. Designate a Konmari corner that will remain undisturbed during the rest of the day: This is key, especially if you have kids around because you don’t want them coming in and picking through the mounds of stuff or moving anything around that you haven’t finished sorting through. Pick an area of the house that gets low traffic or can be shut off from the house. I am fortunate to have a spare room in my house, so I did all of my sorting and reorganising in that room, so that at the end of the hour, I could shut the door on all of it and not have to see it until the next day.

P.S. If you haven’t read the books already, you can get them here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up