Aldi Adventures: Episode 1 – The Quest for the Cookie Spread Begins

Last week, one of my colleagues brought this delicious spekulatius cookie spread to work.

Spekulatius cookies are a variant of the Dutch/German spiced shortcrust biscuit that are made out of sugar, spices and almonds and joy.

This spekulatius cookie spread tasted like sugar, spices and almonds and joy.

So, of course, the Boobook and I just HAD to get some.

My colleague told me that she got it at Aldi.

This was going to be a challenge. Shopping at Aldi is like, in Forrest Gump’s own words, “a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Aldi’s goods are seasonally influenced and rotate about twice a week. So, each time you walk into a store, the items are completely different.

And thus, began the Aldi Adventures.  Here’s what we found this time (hover over pictures for helpful captions!):

The Muesli Clusters were actually pretty tasty, though I’m unsure as to their nutritional value. We used the stud finder to mount the TV on the wall.

The Boobook was satisfied by the Mountain Bar.

Well, we couldn’t find the cookie spread, but… maybe next time on Aaaaaaaldiiiii Adveeeeentureeeees!

Upcycling for Kids (Using Teeshirts) Part 4: No-Sew Braided Rug

Perhaps you have got a few Teeshirts that are very worn out and not even worth giving away. You could rip them up and use them as cleaning rags, or you can try extending their usefulness by braiding them into a nifty rug, old-school style!

I actually tried making a similar rug earlier this year using old towels, but sewing the towel braid together hurt my fingers – and the rug didn’t hold together as well as I liked.

Using old teeshirts for this braided rug worked better for me, because the braid was easier to work with, and I could weave the rug together – no fussing about with needles and other pointy hurty things. This craft turned out to be straightforward enough for Little E to do it on her own! We ended up with a lovely, soft rug which made a great bathmat – and it’s washable too.

In this tutorial, I use a four strand braided technique (like a ‘fishtail’ braid), because I feel this gives a wider and flatter weave, but you can use a three stranded braid if you feel that a puffier rug works for you.

How to make an Old-School Braided Rug from Old Teeshirts

Materials:

  1. Old Teeshirts (I used about 3 large men’s tees to make a round floormatbut you can use more if you want a bigger rug)
  2. Scissors

Instructions:

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  1. Cut the tees into 1.5-2 inch strips widthwise so that you end up with a bunch of loops
  2. Stretch the loops as far as they will go until the fabric rolls in on itself
  3. Cut the loops open on one end so that you are left with long strings
  4. Choose 4 strings and knot them together. I decided to go with 2 strings of contrasting colours to get a nice chevron pattern.fishtail-braid-four-strand-rug-tee-shirt
  5. Cross the outer (green in the picture above) strings over each other, right string over the left to form an X.
  6. Take the next set of outer strings (dark blue in the picture above). Cross them over the centre of the braid, right over left, to form a second X.
  7. Take the following set of outer strings (green) and cross them in the centre again, right string over left, to form a third X. You are now back to your original position, having done three layers of braiding!
  8. After you have done about 4-5 inches of braid, roll the braid into a spiral, with the original knot in the spiral centre. Now you can weave the free braid together to form the rug.
  9. Take the string that is closest to the centre of the spiral and pass it through one of the loops of braid that it is nearest to it (see the picture below).
  10. Pull the string tight to secure the free section to the rest of the rug.
  11. Continue to braid, securing each section every 1.5-2 inches.braided-teeshirt-rug-upcycle-recycle
  12. When the lengths of string become too short to braid, you can add another string to it by knotting the ends together. To make a less bulky knot, snip a small hole about 0.5 inches from the end of both strings that you wish to join together.
  13. Pass the end of the old string through the hole in the new string.
  14. Then, push the other end of the new string through the hole in the old string
  15. Pull tight and it should form a small, tight knot!
  16. Continue braiding your rug until it reaches a size that you are happy with
  17. To finish off the rug, knot the ends of the free braid to one of the loops from the braid next to it, securing the end of the braid to the rest of the rug. You can then trim off any excess string or tuck the strings into the rest of the rug to make them neat.
  18. Enjoy your soft new floormat!

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    Left: Eleanor braiding using two sets of contrasting colours to form chevrons, Right: Another rug that we made using four different colours

Upcycling for Kids (Using Teeshirts) Part 3: No-Sew Multilayered Necklace

Here’s a super quick and very simple no-sew tutorial to turn an old teeshirt into a pretty cute multilayered necklace or infinity scarf – and it’s an easy one to do with the kids too!

Materials:

  1. Old Teeshirt (a seamless tee is best)
  2. Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Lay Teeshirt flat
  2. Cut off the bottom hem of the teeshirt and put it aside.
  3. Cut your teeshirt into 1-2 inch strips across the width of the tee. I used 2 inch strips because it was easier for Little E to manage, but I think the necklace will probably look nicer with thinner 1 inch strips. You should end up with a bunch of loops.
  4. Stretch out each loop as far as they will go until the fabric rolls inward.teeshirt-necklace-kids-craft-upcycle-recycle
  5. Join all the the loops together, doubling them up if necessary to create that multilayered effect. Make sure that you can still pull the loops over your head easily. I used three loops doubled up to make a necklace for Little E but you can use more to make more complex-looking necklace.
  6. Cut the bottom hem of shirt that you saved in half to make a long flat ribbon at least 10 inches long.
  7. Using this ribbon, tie a knot around the necklace loops to hold them in place.
  8. Wrap the rest of the ribbon tightly around the loops a few times. I made the wrapped portion a few inches wide.
  9. Tie off the ends of the ribbon with a knot.
  10. Trim the ends to look like a little bow or tuck them under the rest of the ribbon to hide it.
  11. Enjoy your new necklace!

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If you are particularly handy, you can experiment with braiding or knotting the teeshirt strands together, or mixing loops of different colours and textures!

P.S. Check out our other Teeshirt Upcycling posts here.

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!

    tee-shirt-upcycle-kids-clothes-recycle

    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!

    upcycle-top-shirt-tunic-kids

    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!