Category Archives: Re-use Recycle

How to make an attractive display case out of an old cutlery tray

Cutlery trays

Old wooden cutlery trays can make useful display cases or storage trays for little things.  My boys love little things and have masses of tiny plastic abominations which are carefully abandoned about the house in case I should feel the need of a nasty accident.

I had a cutlery tray left over when I bought a larger one to accommodate a new cutlery set, but you can pick them up at junk stalls from between 10p and £1.  I bought acrylic paints because they dry very quickly and wash off hands and clothes easily with soapy water; these cost about £1.25 a bottle and last quite a long time.  I found the felt squares in the local stationery shop costing 45p each.  For sticking the felt, you can use PVA glue, although I used a hot glue gun in the interests of speed and less mess.

First coat of paint

HOW TO MAKE A DISPLAY CASE:

Utensils:
1 x wooden cutlery tray
Acrylic paints
Felt
PVA or hot glue
Paint brushes – 1cm wide
Scissors
You might also like some transfers or sparkly things or varnish
2 x Small mirror plates if you wish to hang it on the wall

Line with felt

Method:
Firstly, choose your colours
Then paint the insides of the tray, overlapping a bit on the bottom where the felt will go
Leave it to dry then apply a second coat
Then paint the outside edges, leave to dry then apply another coat
Lastly paint the back, leave to dry then apply another coat
If you are varnishing, apply a thin coat and leave to dry, applying another coat if necessary
Cut out the felt to the size of the compartments
Glue the felt into place, making sure the glue goes right to the edges

Add extra decoration

Apply any other decorations
If you wish to hang it on the wall, apply two small mirror plates to the back

Boy the Younger's Blue & Green tray

Boy the Elder's Gothic tray

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Filed under Collecting, Decorative, fashion, Household Hints, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Re-use Recycle, Tips, Skips and Scavenging

Out of an old sewing machine came forth a kindling box

Our homes should be places where we can be expressive of who we are.  Even if we can’t afford the furniture or paintings we would like, we can always make comfortable compromises by putting an attractive throw and bright cushions over a tatty sofa or, as I do, photocopy pictures of paintings (in high resolution) that I love and frame them.

As I have said before, I am deeply uncomfortable and perplexed when I go into a house where everything is white and there are no books or pictures, precious few ornaments or fol-de-rols and no clues as to the identity of the inhabitant. 

The ability to make things oneself comes in so useful, particularly when money is shortUsing up old materials to make new things is not only deeply satisfying; it makes your house more individual and exciting but also means fewer  items going to the tip.  For good examples of this, you need only visit Sue at the Quince Tree or The Vintage Knitter to see the lovely things they do.

As usual for a Sunday, I was wandering around the Market Harborough Antique Market and spotted an interesting looking box, half under the table of a stall that I frequent.  It was a slightly unusual shape and it drew my eye, something about the shape nagging at the back of my mind.  The vendor had put a few small logs in it and I thought “What a super, neat little box for kindling”.  I’m currently using an old straw bag for kindling which does the trick but it looks untidy and just ‘not right’. 

The cover off an old sewing machine

I asked what price she had on it and immediately beat her down a few quid.  It turned out to be the lid off an old Singer sewing machine.  How completely perfect.

which became a kindling box

I am the owner of four sewing machines; an 1890s treadle, a 1910 flower-enamelled Singer, a miniature 1950s Sew-ette and a fancy new modern jobby that goes shopping for its own bobbins and advises you on your colour schemes.

Everything in your home should tell a story – your story.  So make it an adventure.

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Filed under Collecting, Decorative, fashion, General DIY, Re-use Recycle

Free Gift Tags

When the festive season is over, don’t immediately throw away your Christmas cards or take them for recycling.  Sift through them and select ones that can be cut  up for gift tags for next year.  Cut them straight or use pinking shears (serrated edge scissors?) to make a crinkly edge.

Either put a hole in the top with a hole punch and thread a bit of glittery string or wool through them, or just put a bit of sellotape across the top side and it can be flipped up like a hinge.  Any that are not suitable can be recycled in the special card bins and the remaining cut up bits just go in with the cardboard recycling

I haven’t bought a gift tag in years.

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Filed under Christmas, Decorative, fashion, Household Hints, Re-use Recycle

Startled by a skip

End of term and, having successfully avoided the Leavers’ Service, Boy the Younger and I wandered down the road towards the car, clutching armfuls of books, drawings, sewing, and all the other detritus collected over a school year.

Then, on the outskirts of my, highly trained, peripheral vision, I spied a skip at the side of the road.  Ah-haaa.  “Hang on Chap,” I said, “I just need to look in this ’ere skip”.  Groans all round.  But not nearly as loud as the groans I groaned when I saw what was in there.

12 x school dictionaries – used but useable
1 x large bag of size 12-14, immaculate clothing
1 x large bag of baby toys – good condition
2 x large books of children’s sample wallpapers – excellent for craft use

And all, bar a few of the baby toys, spoiled by the rain.

How much effort would it have taken for someone to drop that stuff in at a charity shop in a black bin liner?  I know one shouldn’t do it, but if necessary, pop it on the step on your way past.  As a last resort, put it in a bin liner and label the bags so the refuse men might just sort it at the tip.  Supermarkets now have weatherproof  re-cycling bins that can be accessed day or night, so there’s not really any excuse.  The contents of that skip will now end up in landfill.


We must stop wasting.   I’m not asking everyone to fashion their stained shirts into useful pinnies, use single socks to make cosy sleeping bags for hamsters or even knit their leftover spaghetti into a warm vest.  And whatever you do, don’t actually use your toenail clippings to make a nutty Bubble and Squeak.   Just think before you treat something which could be a valuable resource to someone else with profligate contempt.  There are schools in the third world that would give their eye teeth for a dozen English dictionaries and if I was a size 12, I would have snaffled the clothing, but any of the charity shops would have been grateful for it.  The Parents and Toddlers groups at any of the churches would have loved the toys.

We are running out of land. Land on which we should be growing food is being sold off for housing developments or more offices that will sit empty and we will never get that land back again.  Landfill sites are getting bigger and bigger and although many domestic tips are really making an effort with recycling, and opening areas where they sell on the decent stuff, we have to make the effort on the home front.

We have been in recession and now we are facing a period of essential austerity in an attempt to correct it.  Put away your storecards, hide your credit cards to be used in emergencies only; take stock of what you have, appreciate it and make the most of it.  Go mad – save up for something.  Learn some basic skills so you can bring out your creative side and make things last a little longer.  I assure you that if someone comes into your house and admires something you’ve made yourself, it’s worth every bit of effort. Smug Factor 50.  Job done.

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Filed under Re-use Recycle, Tips, Skips and Scavenging

Summer fetes and what you can find there

We are now heavily into the Summer Fete* season. Barely a weekend goes by without there being at least one fete or summer show to tickle our fancies.  They are usually tremendous fun, with lots of games, stalls, bric-a-brac, teas and displays and they make a great deal of money for  schools, local charities and projects.  Which is a comfort as your wallet empties, your children’s arms fill with other people’s cast-off toys and your tummy starts to grumble at the third cream scone you’ve stuffed into it.

I’m going to set you a challenge based on Wartime Housewife values and sensibilities.  In the next month, I want you to attend one (or many) fetes.  Rummage feverishly among the stalls and find an object which is either an incredible find or, better still, can be turned into something else that is useful, beautiful or both.  I will do the same and report back.

Last year, I bought a concertina mug rack for 10p on which I hang all my necklaces.  I don’t know how I managed without it.  Go forth and scavenge my dears.

*  If anyone can tell me how to get a circumflex over my ‘e’ in Word I’d be very grateful.

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Filed under Community and shopping, Leisure, Re-use Recycle, Tips, Skips and Scavenging

Foxed by urban attitudes. Don’t feed the foxes.

Along with the rest of the country, I was heartbroken at the plight of the two little girls in East London who were attacked in their cot by a fox.  I sincerely hope that they will recover and that the wonders of modern surgery will be able to minimise the effects of their injuries.  I send my love to the family.

It does, however, bring the problem of foxes, usually considered to be a ‘countryside’ issue into a much broader focus.  I am going to nail my colours to the mast here and now so there is no confusion.  Despite living in a cottage owned by The Fernie Hunt  I am not in favour of fox hunting.  Not because of the elitism of the hunt, or because I have romantic notions about foxes, but because it is a very inefficient way of culling.  In fact, (and don’t tell them this will you) I suspect that the hunt actually strengthens the fox population because the hounds are far more likely to catch the old and the sick ones.  When they do catch one, it’s a horrible business, as horrible as the fate of lambs and poultry that are attacked and killed by foxes.

Foxes have to be controlled around humans and livestock in the same way that other vermin have to be controlled.  They have no natural predators in the UK and just because they’re beautiful, that doesn’t make them any less verminous.  If rats were fluffy with cute little ears, would we hesitate before feeding them poison which kills them over several days with internal bleeding?  If foxes carried rabies, as they do in other countries, would there be as many hunt saboteurs? 

I would suggest that, in the countryside, other than taking all reasonable precautions to protect livestock, the livestock farmers and particularly the gamekeepers, nearly all of whom own guns, should have training as marksmen.  This is a far more humane and efficient method of control.

Regarding the towns and cities, the first thing we should do is to ask ourselves what the foxes are doing there in the first place.  They are unlikely to have come in for the culture, but they are absolutely there for the fine dining.  The increasing amount of waste food lying about in the streets and piled up in bins is the fox equivalent of a safari supper.  I swear I saw one in Leicester wearing chinos and loafers, whilst snuffling daintily at a discarded vindaloo.

Another massive incentive for them is the utter idiots who deliberately leave food out for them.  The Aged Parent’s next door neighbour used to leave chicken carcasses, often with half the meat still attached, out on her lawn “for the lovely little foxes”.  Apart from the wickedness of wasting half a chicken, the local rat population must have thought the God of Takeaways had come to Earth in human form.

Wednesday’s Telegraph reported that a local wildlife expert had suggested that the fox who attacked the baby girls was probably a cub that was attracted by the smell of nappies and that, as soon as it realised that the nappies were attached to a human, it panicked and injured them. 

There is nothing that can be said or done to make this incident less frightening and tragic for the Koupparis family, but let us use this incident as a wake up call.  Foxes belong in the countryside in manageable numbers.  If we treat our urban environment with such contempt by leaving our filth and detritus scattered about the streets, then we are inviting trouble.  Rats are already increasing in frightening numbers, foxes will inevitably become emboldened by their familiarity with the towns. 

This country is in financial meltdown and very soon the new coalition government is going to start making economies and rightly so.  Let’s all start to take some personal responsibility and, at the very least, help to keep our towns and cities clean by disposing of our rubbish responsibly.  Better still, consume less in the first place or we’ll be playing ‘Where’s Wall-e?’ whether we like it or not.

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Filed under Ethics, Food, Politics, Re-use Recycle

Brimful of Asha I am 45. The oddness of getting older

At seven minutes past midnight, on this day in 1965, the Wartime Housewife arrived in the world.  Within the hour, I had congratulated my mother on her insistence on a home birth, applauded her use of terry nappies and delighted my sisters with my passable impression of Bela Lugosi.

Today I am forty-five.  People often say that, despite their advancing years, they still feel the same as they did at eighteen.  I can say without hesitation that I do not feel the same as I did at eighteen and very glad I am too.  At that age I was a total mess and although I’m sure I was a very entertaining companion, I was also a dangerous combination of naive and fearless, nihilistic yet convinced of my immortality. My unspoken mantra was undoubtedly ‘Try everything once except incest and country dancing’.  I wouldn’t go back there for anything, although I have since tried country dancing and it’s not nearly as dangerous as one might suppose.

However, as I was discussing with Mrs Cromarty only yesterday, I repeatedly forget that I am not the same shape as I was when I was eighteen.  There are these awful moments when I catch a passing glimpse of myself in a shop window and wonder how that slightly portly woman with a pointy nose got hold of my clothes.  And then realisation dawns… 

But the pay-off for being older is that I no longer take any nonsense from anyone and (most of the time) I am afraid of no-one.  I’ve had an ‘interesting’ life (in a Chinese curse kind of way) and I’ve done many things; I’m now at a point where that’s starting to come in very useful indeed.

What I do find utterly extraordinary is that, by the autumn, both my sisters will be in their 50’s, which seems inconceivable, not least because they are both gorgeous and you’d never think it for a moment.

Ah now then.  Talking of being 50, my writer and photographer friend Jo Blackwell has launched an interesting blog site called ‘Project 50’.  She is very keen to hear stories from people who are already, or are going to be, 50 this year.  I won’t tell you any more as it would be better if you have a look on her site yourself and see what you think.  http://project5o.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/hello-world/

Incidentally, some of the terry nappies referred to in the opening paragraph were pressed into service again for my own children and now make excellent floor clothes, bedding protectors for vomiting children and basket liners for sodden cats.

PS.  Amongst the many gorgeous presents I received from family and friends, was a framed copy of the collage ‘Shunt with Care’ by Peter Ashley. And I didn’t even have to sleep with anyone to get it.  Hurrah!

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Filed under Family and Friends, Household Hints, Re-use Recycle