Annual Christmas Crap Competition, Starting…Now!

It’s that time of year again!  We’ve finished feasting and opening presents, and most of us will have a few days before bin collections–plenty of time to contemplate the massive amount of packaging waste the holiday season creates.  So, what are you going to do about yours?  If you need a little inspiration or incentive to cut it down a bit, we’ve got ideas for you here.

If your kids are anything like mine, you may find the boxes are more fun than the stuff that came in them.  So we celebrate Boxing day by making something fun out of some of the leftover cardboard boxes.  Last year it was a cardboard robot.  This year… well, I’m going to have to see when the kids tear themselves away from watching School of Rock on the sofa.  If you’d like to try out some cardboard construction of your own, check out Red Ted Art’s Blog for 40 different ideas to create with your own cardboard boxes.

When you’ve finished playing with your cardboard, you can cut this year’s Christmas Cards into next year’s gift tags and maybe cut some of your prettier packaging into garlands for parties later in the year:

january 007

If you still have any energy after all that, don’t forget you can send some of your extra packaging our way!  Check out our donations page for items we can upcycle into cool jewellery and accessories.  As an added bonus (and because we really need the materials) we’re running a “Christmas Crap Competition” from now until 30th January!

The competition is in two parts:

Christmas Crap Conversion:
All readers are encouraged to try their hand at upcycling by converting some of their own packaging and Christmas Crap into something useful, beautiful, or just generally kick-ass.  Email your amazing creations or post links in the comments.  The best creation (chosen by most likes on our facebook page) wins:

etsy 020

A ring-pull bracelet in the colour of your choice.

Christmas Crap Donations:

Once again, we’re in need of materials to work with. (We can’t eat all the Quality Street ourselves, you know!) So check out our Donate Materials page, rifle through your recycling bins, and get that stuff in the post!  (Or better yet, if you live in Cambridge, pop in!)  It doesn’t matter if it’s ring pulls, Quality Street Wrappers, or even bike chains…  Send us what you can, and we’ll keep it out of landfill and turn it to something cool.  The reader who sends us the most materials by 30th January will win:

sweet wrapper bracelets

A Quality Street Wrapper Bracelet in your colour choice.

You’ve got your mission–now see if you can’t cut down that mess of packaging before the bin men get here!

Advertisements

Why social media vacations stink.

OK, so the blog posts have been nonexistent thin on the ground for a couple of months while I focused on some real-life issues.  The assumption was that by devoting less time to social media, I could be more physically present and get stuff done.  I could see it all: my house would be cleaner, I’d make lots of stuff, generate more income, and become a model of efficiency.  The reality?  Yeah, not so much.

A cleaner house?  See, when I envisioned all the free time I would have available for housework, I failed to account for one thing:  Procrastination.  85% of my domestic chores are completed when I’m actually trying to come up with a blog post, compose an email or some other online task.  Take away that “thinking time” when I’m physically cleaning the house, organizing uniforms and packing lunches and the housework disappears with it.  Instead I’ll fill the time by “doing stuff” which generally creates more mess.

Making more stuff? A really awful thing happened as soon as I started my blog vacation.  Crafter’s Block.  It seems that if I’m not blogging, reading blogs, commenting and linking to other crafting blogs, the ideas just dry up.  I turn into Chandler when he had to make a Valentine’s present.  

Generate more income? Well, yes and no.  I have picked up more shift work, which is helpful.  But shop wise, less blogging and less crafting means less traffic and fewer sales.  Not cool.

So overall, the blog hiatus has not had the desired outcome.  But perhaps the worst effect has been psychological.  When something happens in my life, good or bad, it passes through a sort of positive mental filter as I post about it.

For example, say my eldest oversleeps and mopes about, is late for school and at pick-up time I get a meaningful look and a note home in her bookbag– This is the kind of thing that  leaves me stressed, frazzled, and generally sure that I’m the worst parent in Reception year.  Then I tweet: “Doh! Last in the school gate again #caseofthemondays”.  Then I can post to the reception year parent’s facebook page: “We were even later than XXXX (tag) today–Do you think Mrs D will give me lines or the cane?”  (comment, comment, etc).  And by the time I blog about it, I can reveal the full contents of the note:

“When the class changed for PE, we discovered that in her haste to get to school, A forgot to take off her pyjama bottoms before putting on her uniform.  Please find enclosed.  PS: she’s not the first and won’t be the last! 🙂 “

So by thinking and writing about it, I actually manage to lift my own perceptions of the event by finding the funny side.  I may make someone laugh and in return I get to connect with other stressed out mums who have been there.  My siblings get (another) excuse to poke fun at me, and as long as I’m posting my mom knows I’m ok.

So I’ve learned my lesson.  Instead of abstaining from social media, I’ll be gradually ramping up the tweets & posts until next week and <drumroll> the Buttoneering Launch

That’s right peeps.  In addition to blogging for Re-Creations Project, I’ll be bringing our awesome upcycling action to the team at Buttoneering, creating more awesome events like Wedstival 2012. So stay tuned and keep your eyes open for Tutorial Tuesdays, where I’ll be showing you how to re-create some of our awesome stuff at home!

Pitfalls of upcycling at home

If you check out my right sidebar this week, you might notice a new “piece of flair”.  Yep.  A Mumsnet badge.  They finally let me join their blogging network.  It was the least they could do, given that their forums are the number one barrier to my productivity!  So just for the other Mumsnetters out there, here’s a post all about trying to work from home and some of the challenges  to getting the job done.

AIBU being my main challenge to getting the job done…

Even though Re-Creations main activity is helping people with disabilities through upcycling groups, sometimes (often) there is just more work than we can finish at group.  Which means Mummy gets to work from home.  And while I had visions of blissfully crafting away with the children, with a full pot of coffee on the go and maybe Pride and Prejudice on the DVD player, the reality falls somewhat short of expectations.

Children:  My last post illustrated exactly how my kids participate in the crafting process:

Taking mummy’s craft things and tipping them out on the floor is their main contribution.  This is especially helpful when everything has been pre-sorted by colour and size.  It does give me a warm glow when I hear them say things like,  “When I grow up, I’m having a hammer like mummy’s”.  (Take that, traditional gender roles!) But the glow tends to fade just a bit when you catch them “fixing” the TV with their toy mallets.  And Colin Firth on the telly?  Yeah, right.  With tots tumbling underfoot, the best you can look forward to is an endless loop of SpongeBob and Willy Wonka, which, lets face it, is one of Johnny Depp’s less fanciable roles.

Fuzzies:  In addition to the kiddiwinks, I’ve found that pets are also keen to join in the upcycling fun.  And not just mine.  Cats have been known to travel from 3 gardens over when there’s some scrap bunting afoot.

 

Cute, right?  Yeah, they’re not even my cats.  Mine is much worse.  He thinks he’s in charge of the proceedings, and has very strong opinions on how this bunting should be arranged.

Boomer, the frustrated bunting designer.

Storage: Every work-at-home mum has to deal with the issue of separating work-space from living-space.  With upcycling, this can become a challenge because almost any piece of trash has the potential to become your raw materials. If you train your brain to look at rubbish in terms of what you can make from it, it can get a little difficult to throw things out.  Sometimes, you might even seek out certain types of rubbish.

Like today, I bought some eggs at the supermarket.  No big deal, right?  Except I already had eggs.  I didn’t buy more just because of their super-low price or because I wanted to make hubby his favourite omlettes for tea.  (Shh, he doesn’t need to know that!)  I bought these eggs because they came in a green carton, which I wanted to make into flowers to add to my egg carton fairy lights.

upcycled flower lights

Totally worth it.  But it also means that storage becomes a major issue if you want to avoid being featured on Hoarders: Buried Alive.  There’s a whole other post coming on how to organize your crafting space, but a big part of the solution is to make use of all of your available storage space.  Last week that meant…

The Loft Hatch of Evil.  Some super-bulky and seldom-used items just have to be tucked up out of the way, where we keep the Christmas things and the spare spiders.  Entrance into the Loft Hatch of Evil is not to be taken lightly, as it requires climbing all the way up the stepladder onto the step that is not a step.    The spider-death ladder combination is a helpful deterrent to hoarding.  It forces me to ask myself the question:  “You want to keep that…enough to die for it?”

The Fridge:  Major occupational hazard when working from home.  Especially if you had something super tasty for dinner last night.  It’s crazy.  If I’m delivering workshops I’ll often skip lunch just to keep my rhythm going.  At home, I’ll find myself wandering over to the fridge just to see if any new food has grown there in the last half hour.  Luckily several of the guys in the group are skilled at taking very unflattering photos of my butt.  (No, I’m not posting them here)  But it’s helpful to stick them on the fridge as a reminder that I don’t really need any more junk in my trunk.

Housework:  I’m sure my other half would be happy to testify that housework isn’t one of my preferred occupations.  But give me some invoices or a funding application to work on, and I’ll be damned if my skirting boards don’t suddenly need a good polish.  And that kettle could really do with de-scaling and I’m sure it’s been ages since anybody thought to pair up the odd socks…  If the house is clean, it’s a pretty good indication that I’m putting off something super boring.

Spouse : Young couple just married  groom kiss his pretty bride after the wedding ceremony  she is blond and wearing a nice diadem  background red roses and foreground yellow bouquet roses

The Spouse:  For me, the biggest challenge to the work-life barriers when working from home is definitely the DH.  (Dear Husband, if you’re not up to speed on parenting forum lingo)  From his perspective, what I do when I’m working from home sometimes looks an awful lot like what he does when he’s “playing on the computer”.  So it shouldn’t be a big deal to stop what I’m doing and hang out some laundry, right?  Or take his dog to the vet?  “But why can’t you sort out my iTunes?  You’re home all day…”      At the end of a day when I’ve transformed 4 duvet covers into 20 metres of bunting with the help of 3 cats and two toddlers, through endless episodes of Spongebob Squarepants and while resisting the allure of a fresh packet of custard creams, the DH is duty-bound to ask “Why is it so messy in here?  Is there any dinner?”  At moments like those, the only thing that prevents me from introducing my spouse to the business end of my frying pan is the sure knowledge that upcycling at home is probably just a little easier than…

trying to upcycle in prison.  Happy Monday!

 

 

 

An Awesomesauce Project Update

Well kids, if you’ve been keeping up with our recent activities, you’ll know that last week we got an awesome parcel from Sheri of Awesomesauce&Asshattery and Mensch T’s fame.  It was a lovely and thoughtful gift for the members of Re-Creations Wednesday Group in Cambridge.  And I was all

and then so was she, and then the whole love-fest carried on over in the Regretsy forum where warm fuzzies were shared and it was generally agreed that the situation was awesome and that we were all kick-ass individuals of the highest caliber.  And then…

Yesterday I got to deliver the bags to the group.  And boy were they thrilled!  There were no tears (at least not initially), they checked out the bags and loved that they had their names on them.  But what really got them was the notes Sheri included with each bag, commenting on the work in their gallery!  I noticed a couple of people with itchy eyes at that point–the pollen count must have been really high…  And then, since no good deed goes unpunished, we got straight to work on a couple of cool bits of swag to send over to Sheri in Berlin.  Here’s a gratuitously smiley photo:

If you look closely, you can see I’m holding a super-duper specially made Awesomesauce Jar Lantern, that’s going to be wandering over to Sheri as soon as I break open my piggy bank for postage!  (But I’m not telling what else we made for her because we want it to be a surprise!)

And if that wasn’t enough coolness for one day, Luci over at Idle Hands Yarn wrote this feature about us on Love 2 Upcycle–The Etsy Upcycling Team Blog.  As a result, lots of cool people have stopped by to visit our little corner of Etsy, and lots have stayed for a cup of tea and a chat!

While all of this has been going on, the team has been incredibly busy.  We had to finish off our bottle top door mat, which turned out pretty cool. (It also feels amazing when you stand on it in socks!)

And the rest of the time, we’ve been getting ready for: (drumroll, please) a wedding.  Not for any of our team–that ship has long since sailed for Jacqui and I.*  But a near and dear friend of the group has asked us to do upcycled wedding decorations for her very special day, and we are soooooooo excited!  This might just be the most fun we’ve had yet!  So if posts are running a bit thin over the next few weeks, don’t worry.  It won’t be because we’re slacking off and putting our feet up over the summer– we’ll be out there somewhere in Cambridgeshire, working all of our fingers to the bone!

*however, if Robert Downey Jr. should become available, we would take the situation into consideration.**

** You don’t necessarily need to mention this to our respective spouses.

Fighting the Good Fight

Working in social enterprise can be a heady business.  When I spend time networking with other social enterprises or fellow UnLtd. Award winners, I’m surrounded by people who have stepped out of the traditional “9-5 employee” role and devoted themselves to social good.  They’ve spotted a need in some part of the community, and used their passion and ingenuity to set about filling it. And they’ll keep going just like the Energizer Bunny, because their success won’t all be measured by profit–it will be in the names and faces of people whose lives are improved as a result.

Re-Creations also has the the added bonus of associating with the Arts and Crafts communities who exhibit endless amounts of creative genius and inspiration every day.  Like Regan Kerr and her Upcycled Prom Dress, or Garth Britzman with his amazing car park roof.  Or even my sister & sister-in-law, who made an amazing art car with bottle-caps!

And then you’ve got the “Change the World Gang” at The You Can Hub, who are celebrating their first birthday today.(A very happy birthday, guys!)  Together, they bring the best in creativity, empowerment,, “buzz”  and square-framed specs to bear on the challenges they encounter.  I can’t confirm it, but it is rumored that these ladies wear their pants on the outside, in true superhero style.

Surrounded by such passionate, inspirational people, it’s easy to see the world through rose-tinted glasses.  It’s tempting to assume that everybody’s honest, that people who work hard will succeed, and that the good guys will always win.  And it sure is nice to forget that accidents happen, that bureaucracy can be impenetrable, and  that sometimes people screw you over.

But then sometimes reality can bring you back to earth with a bump.  For me, that’s what happened last week.  A combination of red tape, sad news and some utter human badness left me feeling like this:

As i drove my battered ego home on Friday, I found myself listening to Janet Devlin’s cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You”.  That first line, “when you try your best but you don’t succeed,” echoed in my ears for ages afterward.    Because despite what Hollywood might like us to believe, doing the right thing doesn’t mean we’ll come out on top.  Outside of primary school, nobody takes home a ribbon just because they took part.  Inevitably, shit will happen, and working hard or being a kind person is no guarantee against being kicked in the teeth.  In fact,  some people view “kindhearted”  as code for “easy target” and will be happy to lie, cheat, and steal from you if it gets them what they want.  (Like I said, it was a rough week.)

So why carry on?  Why invest your blood, sweat, and tears (and innumerable cups of coffee) in improving other people’s lives–especially if it may not pay off in your life?  How can you make yourself keep going with no clear path ahead, or get back up when life has knocked your feet from under you?  And what happens to the nice guy who finishes last?

These were the questions I mulled over this weekend, between playing Peppa Pig Dominos and never-ending episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants.  For a little while, I thought about chucking in the towel, and what life would be like if I went back to the regular 9-5 job and focused on earning money like most people do. But then two things happened.

The first was an unexpected parcel in the post:

Unlike most of Re-Creations post, this one didn’t contain rubbish for upcycling.  Remember Sheri from AwesomeSauce&Asshattery, and owner of the attractive Mensch T’s logo on our sidebar?   She used her super-secret-ninja-powers of awesomeness to make a surprise gift for each of the Re-Creations group members.  One that I know is going to make their day.  (I’m not going to tell what it is until after the guys have all seen them!)  She’s never met the guys.  Actually, she lives approximately 561 miles away, in Berlin.  But she woke up one morning and thought “Dude* What shall I do today?  I know, I’ll do something Awesome for these guys in England.  After all, I am the Awesomesauce”  (*may not have been her exact words)

The result:    

And the other thing that happened?  My husband disappeared for ages, late in the evening.  Eventually he walked through the door, cradling a dripping wet, flea-ridden and rather smelly old cat.  It wasn’t our cat, and the husband has never really been much of a cat person.  But when he heard that a neighbor had suddenly passed away, leaving a pair of elderly cats stranded outside in torrential rain, he couldn’t rest until he knew they were warm and fed.  In all, he spent over an hour outside  in the storm, coaxing the cats into trusting him and coming indoors.  He had nothing to gain from it, apart from the expense of feeding and flea-treating a couple of cats who would moult on his furniture and quite possibly leave hairballs on his pillow by way of thanks.

So in the midst of my crisis of faith, these two events showed me a couple of things:

  1. Good stuff can happen, even in the middle of a big, fat, stormy suckfest.
  2. Awesome people just can’t help being awesome. Across different species and great distances, and with nothing to gain, awesome people are just compelled to do awesome stuff.

So when everything hits the fan, instead of asking “why do I bother?”, the real question I need to ask myself is: “Are you awesome?”  Because if you’re awesome, you keep chipping away at the problem, even if there’s no end in sight.  You can’t help it, because the awesomeness is just part of who you are.  Think about your heroes for a minute.  Do you admire them because of their easy success?  Or is it because they busted their butts in dismal circumstances, and fought for what they believed in against all odds?  There’s a reason we’ll remember Martin Luther King Jr forever, while we’ve already forgotten last week’s lottery winner.  Without the struggle, there can be no heroes.

And meanwhile (whether you know them or not) all around the world there are other inspired people chipping away at  problems and committing random acts of awesomeness.  When you add all those people and all their efforts together, the result is that

If sad things or wicked people catch us unaware, we may lose a battle.  But that doesn’t make our good deeds any less good.  And awesome people will still be working, fighting the good fight because that’s who we are.  So next time I feel like giving up, I’m going to be thinking about Sheri & her Awesomesauce.  And then I’m going to start channeling Barney Stinson:

Now where the hell is my cape?