A quickie for halloween

Living in a rural, agricultural area has some distinct advantages.  Tractors drop kids off to school,  a “traffic jam” often consists of a bunch of ducks in the road, and fresh produce is abundant at harvest time.  In fact, at this time of year, the sheer amount of fruit and veg running around the place is daunting.  Pumpkins, potatoes, onions and sugar beets bounce off overloaded trucks at every sharp corner or bump in the road, and my husband and kids return from walking the dog with a selection of vegetables they’ve had to dodge along the way. (Way more exciting than dodgeball, by the way.  I highly recommend Fenland vegetable dodging.)

In addition to the farm produce, every third neighbor has an allotment or vegetable garden and is perennially astounded at the yield of oversize courgettes and pumpkins.  You can’t visit a neighbor for any reason without them pressing their surplus gourds on you with a slight air of desperation, as their kitchen surfaces are obscured by piles of marrows the length of your arm.  And since waste is very uncool in this area, you’re forced to hit the internet in search of 165 new ways to disguise squash so that your children will consider eating it at every meal for the next two months.  (If you’re struggling with your own overload of pumpkins and marrows, visit my fellow mumsnet bloggers umisushimakes and hertfordshiremummy for some ideas!)

The result?  By Halloween, I am thoroughly pumpkined-out.  The idea of carving up one of the buggers for fun, just so it can glare at me malevolent from the windowsill while the kids crunch on its seeds and I attempt to make soup from its innards… it doesn’t appeal.

Just look at that smug little face…

So this year I’ve opted for less vegetable-based decorations for Halloween. They’re upcycled and re-useable but still sticky enough for the kids to enjoy making them.

What you need:

  • Old Christmas baubles or light bulbs
  • Tissue Paper (black and orange, ideally)
  • Glue (Mod Podge for the win)
  • Some string.

Method: 

  1. Snip your orange tissue paper into small 1-2cm squares and glue them to the bauble, overlapping until you cover the entire surface.
  2. When the bauble is covered in orange, brush a layer of glue over the entire surface to smooth down any bumps or rough edges.  Allow to dry.
  3. Cut small shapes from black tissue paper for the face and glue them to the bauble.  When the face is in place, brush with another coat of glue to seal.

Then once they’re dry, just string them up and enjoy.

Feeling extra creative?  Try using other colours to make monster faces.  Or maybe some blue and white tissue to make:

…some nice googly eyeballs.  Actually, I like these so much that I plan to use them to give my Christmas tree a funny face too.  And after that, I may just hang them somewhere random in the house too.  Like the bathroom cabinet.  That way visitors will look up and discover a pair of eyes peeking out at them while they pee.  That will teach them to ambush me with their vegetables!

Kaleidoscope from a Pringles Can…

DIY kaleidoscope

Here’s a nice, kid-friendly upcycling project for kids on a rainy bank holiday!  When I was a kid, I was fascinated by coloured light (still am, actually) so kaleidoscopes were a favourite toy.  So when I found out you could craft your own at home and get to eat junk food, I doubt I waited to finish my chores before getting stuck in.  (It was urgent upcycling business, after all!)  I actually found two different methods for DIY kaleidoscopes, one being much more complicated than the other.

Before getting started, you will, of course, need an empty Pringles can.  If like me, you prefer to avoid feeding your kids junk food–well, you may just have to take that bullet yourself!  (Yes darling, I eat all the Pringles for you–because I love you.)

For a simple version, Melissa at The Chocolate Muffin Tree posted a fantastic photo tutorial here, that kids will like making as much as they will using it.   Or if you’d like your view enhanced by reflections like in the photos above, you can make a more traditional version with the tutorial here  on Mom’s Network.  We used the mirrored kaleidoscope tutorial to make this:DIY Kaleidoscope, Make Your Own Kaleidoscope

We created the inside decorations with a combination of leftover tinsel and flower shapes from fused plastic bags.  The can itself is covered with some sparkly contact paper we had hanging around in the craft cupboard.  And when you look through it, you get this:

Lovely.  I might even get around to sharing it with my kids.  When I’ve finished playing with it.

Upcycling antics, and more fun with bottle tops!

Green magnet is shocked, yes shocked, by your behaviour.

Well, we still haven’t found a charity that wants any of our bottle tops yet, but we managed some fun upcycling with them yesterday.  Check out these bottle top magnets:

I especially like that the green magnet on the top left can be opened up to express shock if the need arises.  These cracked us up, so we’re looking forward to perfecting our technique next week.  If you fancy a tutorial, let us know–we have some avid photographers in the group, so we’re happy to photo the whole process.  Yesterday we also took advantage of the first non-rainy day this week to do some more work on our plastic bottle flowers.  (Which is great, because life just doesn’t offer enough opportunities to don such sweet-looking safety gear!)  Gratuitous action shot:Upcycled plastic bottle flowersStill a work in progress, but so far I think they look amazing!  Now we need to decide how to display them, i.e. garland, wreath, fascinators, magnets,  or just arranged beautifully in a big, fat vase.  Hmm.  Any suggestions?

Upcycled weekend roundup

As the weekend draws to a close, I can look out my window and see clear skies overhead for the first time in two weeks!  I feel cramped, listless, and generally in need of a brisk march in some fresh air.  But the payout for all this time spent cooped-up indoors is that I’ve managed to test out a few new upcycling techniques this weekend.

First up:  Bottle tops.  If you read my previous post, you’ll know I have several thousand plastic bottle tops filling bin bags in my shed.  (Don’t mention it to my other half–he hasn’t noticed yet!) We haven’t yet found a charity that wants them in exchange for wheelchairs or money, but we are working on a couple of leads.  In the meantime, we’ll be working to upcycle some of the non-milk lids and sharing ideas for ways you can upcycle yours.  The first (and probably easiest) project is a great one for kids on a rainy day.  Inspired by pinterest posts from Mama Jenn and Vanessa’s Values we set out to make bottle top stamps.  

These are easy.  Clean your bottle tops, and attach self-adhesive foam shapes in a variety of patterns.  Then whip out your ink pad and start stamping.  Between making the stamps and using them, the kids were occupied for a couple of hours.  The stamps were cheap to make and we had plenty to go around so that the kids didn’t feel the need to argue over them.  Great activity, and I plan to bring a bag of them along to our next exhibition as favours for the kids who visit our stall.

While the kids were playing with these, I tackled my next project.  I’ve already covered a few upcycling tricks with T-shirts and now I had a couple of wool sweaters in need of an update.  Through many many years of use, they had become worn, misshapen, and yet still  almost unbearably itchy.  After lots of research, I came upon this tutorial from Country Living, as well as this one from The Inadvertent Farmer.  (I love her work!)  Following their amazing instructions, I came up with these:

In hindsight, I think the corners on the brown bag are a little pointy for my liking.  The purple bag needs a good run-over with the bobble shaver.  But overall, I think they’re pretty good for an hour’s work (maybe two) and they’ll be handy for dragging around the mountains of upcycled material I accumulate!  While felting the jumpers, an incredible amount of wool came loose from them, so I also got to try making felted dryer balls.  Because they’re soft, they make great indoor toys but they can also be used in the tumble dryer to bounce around and soften fabric.  I still have a couple of felted sweater sleeves to use up, so I’m thinking of making some slippers towards the end of the week

In the meantime, the Cambridge group is hoping for a break from the rain so we can finish work on the PET bottle flowers we’ve started.  Hope your week is sunny, and if not sunny then at least productive!