31 October 2011

6 Eco-Friendly Halloween Ideas from Etsy

Halloween can be not only fun but eco-friendly as well! Here is an inspirational board of items from environmentally conscious crafters on etsy. Enjoy!

1. Eco-friendly pumpkin scarf by Creations by Eileen.
2. Halloween table decoration - lucky stars by MisoPretty.
3. Spooky Halloween acorns by Fairy Folk.
4. Organic Halloween bag by OrganiLuxe.
5. Eco-friendly organic whale by JoanOrr.
6. Eco-friendly home decor -light white pumpkins by woolcrazy.

So, are you ready for Halloween yet?

29 October 2011

Weekend DIY: Pie in a Jar

Lately I've been smitten with the idea of a pie in a jar. Did you know that pie in a jar is the new cupcake? Although I still haven't made any I am plotting to try this weekend. In the meantime, here is where you can get inspiration, and most importantly - recipes.

1. Awesome pie in a jar recipe by Green Wedding Shoes.

2. I believe here is where the pie in a jar craze started sometime in 2009 - Our Best Bites.

3. For the lovers of pumpkin pie - you can have it in a jar pretty easily - Peacelovebird.

4. Crisp in a jar, or a pie without the crust - Wendolonia.

5. The cheater method to a pie in a jar - Paiges of Style.

Have you already tried making pies in jars? What is your favorite recipe? What problems did you have to overcome?

[All photos are courtesy of the linked blogs.]

28 October 2011

The Week in Links and Photos

I am back again with another edition of The Week in Links and Photos.

This week I blogged at Green Living ideas about the fat tax imposed in Denmark in the beginning of October which is applied to any food product that has a saturated fat content of more than 2.3%. 

I have also been reading extensively about the Ocean pollution that is getting from bad to worse.

The increase of the world's population gives food for thought and requires reconsidering of our old ways. A good way to realize where we are exactly is this. Try it out!

Technology has changed our lives immensely but have you thought about the way YouTube minimized TV? If not, take a look here.

Have a colorful weekend!

27 October 2011

Scandinavian Autumn - October in Norway

October in Norway is the time of the year when you can see all the colors of the seasons in a single day. This October, before the sun had caressed the yellow leaves, the sea fog came to visit and stayed a good 4 days. It made the forest peaceful and mystical - enwrapped in a thick white veil. The mist decorated the spiders webs with pearls of water drops,  the same drops that kept falling from the trees instead of the sky. Yes, the sky remained dry while the trees were crying. Scandinavian autumn!

The mist retired gracefully to allow the sun finish its job in painting the leaves and accompanying our farewells to warmer days. 

Come quietly with me through Pine Forest and along the coast, all the way to Oslo Fjord. Norway in October is stunning!

Taking note of the transformations in Nature as the seasons progress is one of the sides of living an ethical organic life. Getting to know what Nature has in store and peacefully coinciding with her rhythm nourishes respect and soothes our souls. With the seasons changes our mood; our inspiration takes leaps in different directions and we grow. Closer to Nature is closer to our own voice.

See how October looks in Iceland and on the Faroe islands.

Read more about Through the Looking Glass project here.

26 October 2011

Chantal Marie Living Giveaway

This giveaway is now closed and we have a winner.

To all of you, who didn't win - don't despair there is another great eco-friendly giveaway going on here!

Those of you who have been following me for a while must know my attraction to beautiful bags, and this week's giveaway makes no exception. Please meet Chantal of Chantal Marie Living - born on Guadeloupe, moved to Canada and married in the US, one can tell this lady brings with her the versatility of the world she's seen!

But don't think that bags is the only thing Chantal has to offer. She loves working with her hands and creating is her favorite way to relax. In her etsy shop you can see her many passions - from all types of bags to seatbelt covers and picture frames, all executed with perfection.

This week, Chantal is giving away a classy $24 crossbody bag to one of you! 

I love this bag because it is compact but it can carry a lot - perfect to put a wallet, cell phone, and keys when you go out to the market, the park or on a walk. The little inside pocket is large enough for a credit card and a lipgloss. Just throw the strap over your head and go!

In bold are the two mandatory entries you have to complete in order to enter this giveaway. If you only complete one of them you will not be eligible to win. To increase your chances of winning, go ahead and complete all of them!

Good luck!

25 October 2011

The three “R”s in Reducing Household Waste

Reducing your carbon footprint starts with reducing your trash. It is undoubtedly the most effective practical step to sustainability. And it is even better than reusing because it requires fewer resources for production. By deliberately minimizing your household waste you help decrease the waste problem at its core. The thought that the amount of disposable cups, forks, and spoons thrown away in the US in a year will be enough to circle the equator 300 times sends shivers down my spine.

Image by barnetcouncil

But there is something everyone can do to change the situation. You can start minimizing your household waste by applying the three “R”s of the ‘waste minimisation hierarchy’ each day:

Think about what items you can live without. Define your wants and separate them from your needs; then get rid of the wants. Buy only what you need. 
  • Don't get tempted by bulk price offers, think instead of whether you will actually make use of the quantities you buy before their expiration date.
  • Prefer to use long-lasting quality products that will last a lifetime.
  • Avoid disposable items and prolong the life of broken objects by mending them.
  • Reduce the amount of packaging you buy, concentrate on products with recyclable packaging.
  • Buy refills and use the containers you already have.
  • Sabotage the plastic bag - take your own canvas bag from home. If you are crafty you can even crochet one out of repurposed old fabric!
  • Forget about the paper or plastic utensils and cutlery - use ceramic mugs, cloth napkins, china plates and stainless steel/silverware. In some coffee shops you even get a discount if you take your own thermos or mug to pour your morning coffee in.

There are many items found around the home that can be reused for different purposes. If you can reuse an item yourself, instead of sending it to be recycled, you will save energy, fuel and time. So before you throw anything away, think about how it can be put to use again.
  • Instead of buying new gift wraps every time, keep the packaging of the gifts you receive and later reuse it for other gifts.
  • Donate your clothes that are in good condition to charities, or to people in need you might know. The rest you can use for rags.
  • Use old toothbrushes and other brushes to clean hard to reach areas like around the sink, the drains, faucets or the bathroom tiles.
  • Reuse any containers such as glass jars or plastic boxes to store craft supplies, small toys, nails and screws, or any other small items.
  • Take your lunch to work in reusable containers rather than paper or plastic bags.
  • Use the blank sides of used paper for scratch paper, or cut it in rectangular pieces for memos.
  • Reuse your dinner leftovers by feeding your dog with what is appropriate. 
  • Reuse foodscraps by composting them.
  • Reuse stale bread and give it to the birds.

According to the EPA, the US recycling rate is a mere 30%. Increasing the recycling in the US to 60% could save the equivalent of 315 million barrels of oil per year. To encourage yourself and your family for recycling you can keep recycling waste containers in easy to reach places in your house and sort trash straight away - it is easier to organize recyclable items in a separate container than it is to go through the trash later. 
  • Prepare the items you have at home for recycling - rinse tins, plastics and glass when you’ve finished washing the dishes. Sort your recycling straight after rinsing.
  • If you use plastic grocery bags, take them back to the store to be recycled.
  • Recycle at home – use your scrapfood and leftovers to compost. 
  • Make use of the leaves and grass in your yard – they generate more greenhouse gas in a landfill than in compost piles or bins.
  • Buy recycled goods – find recycled content products, such as stationery, scratch pads, business cards, paper towels, toilet paper, facial tissue, clothes, accessories and toys.

As Art Markman, Ph.D. says, "habits are incredibly powerful - they lead people to act mindlessly, even when they shouldn't. We like to think we have control over our own behavior and yet, our habits have a huge influence on the way we act.  In general, we like to do what we did last time." In that context, it is worth making reducing, reusing and recycling a habit. Only then will you be really successful because it will have become part of your natural behavior.

What are the steps you are taking to reduce your household waste?

24 October 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Larson Farm Naturals

I don't even remember when I first visited the Larson Farm Naturals blog but it is more important that I remember the cozy and warm feeling that its writer Debbie  managed to create through mellow words and bright photos. That is why today, in A Portrait of The Artist, I would love to present Debbie - a mother of 4 and a farm wife living in the rolling hills of SW Iowa in a century old farmhouse. In her strive to help make her family more self-sufficient Debbie has learned quite a few things through the years, one of which - making soaps - she has turned into a successful eco-friendly business.

You have some amazing advice for green living on your blog. Going through its pages it quickly becomes obvious that you know a lot about living a sustainable life. How did you learn to make soaps and lip balms?
I get asked that question a lot. I mean, how many people make soap, right? I have always loved to learn how to make things, especially things that are useful and not just a pretty decoration. And if I didn’t have someone to teach me I would figure it out on my own.  

Reading books and the Internet were my main resources for learning soap. It was through them that I found some recipes and then went to work. It took me about a year to get up the courage to try though. The lye thing scared me! I found out quickly that it wasn’t hard and not scary at all. After my first few batches I knew I was hooked on this soap thing! I started searching the house for natural additives like herbs, spices, flowers and vegetables.

After my first batch of sweet honeyed carrot I knew I was on to something. I loved coloring and scenting with all natural ingredients! My research also showed these added some wonderful skin benefits as well. The lip balms were an easy step after that. I already had all the ingredients as they are the same oils and butters that are in the soaps.

When did you decide to turn your passion into a business?
Anyone who knows me has seen me work at my own business for years. I think my first “business” was when I was a child. A neighbor friend and I would take flower petals and glue them onto rocks. We would then pester our other neighbors into buying our creations! It was probably then that I realized that I love to sell things that I made with my own two hands.

My husband and I have 4 children so I began to look for ways to make some extra money and still be at home for our family. I did a little of this and that. I even took an early morning paper route when I was pregnant with our third child. About that same time I started selling some of my handmade clothing and crochet items on ebay. It was with that I learned a lot about online selling. And I am still learning!

So when I started making soap I saw right away that I could try to make a business out of it. So about a year ago “Larson Farm Naturals” was born and I am loving it!

Handmade soap gift set

What is the thing you like most about selling your products on the Internet?
There is just something about people from all over the world seeing my products that I make with my own two hands. And when they decide that it is worth their money, WOW! I get a high every time I sell something. My kids love to hear where my things are going, especially when they go to other countries. I have become cyber friends with people from all over. Each of them brought a new perspective to my business, my life, or both.

When did you first feel the need to be eco-friendly and sustainable? Was it a conscious decision or you were following your family traditions?
I’d say it is a mix. I grew up in a small farming community, my dad was a farmer and my mom stayed at home with me and my sisters. Money was tight back in the 80’s for farm families, so most families lived pretty simple. Although recycling wasn’t even a word yet, we reused things everyday just out of common sense. My grandmother taught me many things as well. Crocheting, gardening, raising chickens, your average farm wife wisdom. In a way we were already being eco-friendly and sustainable.

A few life changing things happened for me in the early 2000’s. Our first child was born, 9/11 happened, and the economy was growing more fragile. My anxiety over taking care of our family was growing. What if I couldn’t get gas to drive the 20-40 miles to get to the nearest stores? What would happen if food and other necessities would sky rocket in price?

So I made it my goal to learn things that would make my family more self-sufficient. I wanted to learn things that would reduce our time and expense of traveling and our dependency on big chain stores for our needs.
I wrote down things like:
  • big garden
  • learn to preserve foods
  • use less disposable items
  • cloth diapers
  • learn to make soap, and so on. 
I am happy to say that I have learned all of those and more.

I have to put in here about one of my favorite books on this subject . It is a book called “The Encylcopedia of Country Living” by Carla Emery. A wonderful, wonderful book for anyone wanting to learn the ultimate eco-friendly lifestyle. So even though I went into the eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle kind of backwards, I still arrived there one step at a time. I am proud to say that I did and I will be handing this lifestyle on to my children.

Chocolate soap

You say in your etsy profile that you have a passion for anything natural, organic and green. Please, take us to a normal day at your home!
OH MY! A day in our home We don’t have the perfect eco-friendly house by any means, but we do try.

We are first and foremost a farm family. With many of the farm chores you might think of. Our day starts pretty early around here, this type of lifestyle isn’t fast paced and convenient. We have many animals to take care of, furry and otherwise.

I try to cook from scratch as much as possible. And with 6 people in our family a lot of our day centers around food. Food is a BIG factor in my passion for this lifestyle. I think clean and fresh foods are the best starting block we can give our children. Almost all of our veggies are from our organic garden. A lot of time in the summer is spent taking care of the garden and canning foods.

Our crazy but happy chickens give us our eggs. I say crazy because they are free range. They free range all over our porch, sheds, diveway… it leads to a lot of extra clean up if you know what I mean! We raise meat chickens in the summer. The whole family helps take care of them straight up to butchering day. I love that most of our food comes from right here within a few miles of our home.

We try to recycle as much as possible, whether it be taking it to the recycle bins in town or reusing things here at home. We have no trash service here out in the country so we have to be very careful what ends up in our trash bags. All food scraps go to the animals, or into the garden for fertilizer.

Cleaning is another big part of our day. Lots of clothes, dishes and kids to wash! I love my soaps for all of this. I don’t think I have bought paper towels or napkins for the house in years. I use old rags for cleaning and cloth napkins for the table. The only paper item in our house (besides actual paper) is toilet paper, and I am just not going to go that far. HA!

Many days a week brings some sort of the kids' activities to go to. But one of the rules at our house is something very simple. We try to stay home as much as possible. We try to make the fun times from things here at home. Fishing, camping, horseback riding, or just plain spending time with each other replaces trips away from home for our entertainment. There are still wonderful things to go see and do, we just try not to make it a habit anymore.

The end of a perfect day would be some porch sitting with my husband while watching the kids play in the yard. Simple and real. 

Fire & Ice lip balm
We are loving sustainable families at Kanelstrand Organic Living! Do you remember the beginning of your sustainable journey?
One of my first attempts at sustainable living was learning how to make (and use!) cloth diapers and wipes. Like I said before, I was tired of being so dependent on disposable things and diapers were a MAJOR dependency for us! I found cloth diapers on the internet, but they were terribly expensive. I found some cheaper ones that were handmade, but that was a joke. Come to find out she used shower curtains to line the diapers and none of them were sewn correctly. 

So I found some patterns, learned what fabrics to use and went to work. I LOVED using the diapers I made. Soft and clean fabrics for my babies each time. Diaper rashes were no more! I tried to convert a few of my friends, they thought I was nuts! They still think I am a bit nuts for some of the things I do, but I don’t mind, it’s just who I am. 

Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years?
I have a plan to take it slow. We have 4 kids under age 11 and I feel my most important role is mother right now. School activities, sports, and 4-H take up many after school hours. As well as being my husband’s right hand “woman” with a lot of the farm work during my days. 

I would love for business to be strong and steady over the years. I would like to have my products in more shops in the area as I have a few now and it seems to be an easy selling point. I do plan on adding a few more items like lotions and balms in the next year.

Chocolate soap gift set -gourmet varieties

What is your current favorite item by another etsy seller?

Kootsacs - I just love the idea of using things over and over and over! I have yet to actually purchase her things. But I have a dream of looking into my pantry and seeing color coordinated bags full of oatmeal, flour, rice and so on.

PulpArt -one of the first shops I favorited. I have always thought recycled paper just looks cool. And the fact that there are seeds in the paper make it the ultimate in recycling!

Make sure to follow along with Debbie's awesome green tips and creations:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Larson-Farm-Naturals/192774420735496

You can read more editions of A Portrait of The Artist here.   

22 October 2011

Weekend DIY: How to Make Beeswax Candles

A guest post by Adrienne of Crafty Little Gnome and Adrienne Audrey Jewelry. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.
I love burning candles. There is something so serene about the warm glow of the flame. They warm up the room, smell great and who doesn’t look more attractive in candle light? As we approach the winter months and the holiday season grows closer many of us will be grabbing those old candles from the back of the cabinet and lighting them up to bask in the glow of the warm flame. 

Today I am going to show you how to make cute beeswax candles in little jars. These candles make great gifts (it's never to early to start thinking about Christmas!) and because they are compact and come with a lid they are also great for traveling.

Why Beeswax?

Unlike most candles which are made of paraffin wax beeswax is a renewable resource. Beeswax is an eco friendly material. Here are some of the benefits of burning beeswax candles:
  • Beeswax candles burn cleaner than paraffin candles, producing very little soot. They also burn a lot longer than paraffin candles.
  • Beeswax candles contain none of the harmful chemicals sometimes found in paraffin candles. 
  • Beeswax candles smell great and have a natural honey scent, They are great for people who are sensitive to perfumes and fragrances or have allergies.
  • No toxic wastes are produced, either in production, or in burning.
The list of benefits goes on and on. There are other alternatives to paraffin such as soy or other vegetable wax but for this tutorial we'll be using beeswax.


  • 1 pound beeswax
  • Cotton or hemp wick
  • Wick tabs
  • Half pint canning jars
  • Super glue
  • Pliers
You can find these materials at your local craft store and you can get canning jars at your supermarket. There should be a special section for canning supplies near the baking aisle.

You can buy beeswax online. You want to look for beeswax sold as little granules in a bag rather than a big solid block. There are many online stores that specialize in beeswax candle making supplies.


1. Cut your wick in lengths of about 6 inches and feed them through the wick tabs. Use your pliers to close the open end of the tab so the wick will not fall out.  

2. Glue the wick and tab to the bottom center of the jar.

3. Fill the jar with the beeswax. Try to stand the wick straight. Trim the wick to about 2 inches higher than the beeswax.

4. Once you have several candles prepped, place them on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Watch and wait for the wax to melt completely (about 20 minutes).

5. Once they have melted pull the cookie sheet out of the oven very carefully and let the candles cool and the wax re-harden. Trim your wick to about a half inch tall.

6. Once completely cool put the lids back on the jars and embellish with ribbon or twine or grab some matches and light them up right away!

    Because the candles are in jars they are safer than tall pillar candles that may fall over and cause a fire. The screw on lid makes it convenient to take your candles with you if you are traveling and makes it easy to stack them. As always, never leave a burning candle unattended and keep them out of reach of children.

    Adrienne lives in Northern Washington on a farm with her husband and a menagerie of loveable animals. When she's not blogging at Crafty Little Gnome Adrienne can be found out playing in the garden, experimenting in the kitchen or working on a new craft project. Adrienne also sells handmade jewelry and accessories in her Etsy shop Adrienne Audrey Jewelry.

    21 October 2011

    Become a Part of the Kanelstrand Team

    Are you looking to advertise your shop or blog? Do you want to become a part of the Kanelstrand Ad Team? This is the right time to book ad space for November! 

    Advertising on Kanelstrand can increase your popularity notably because the bright and lively community we are all part of here is eager to get to know you - what you do, how you do it and what inspired you to do it! By becoming a sponsor you can also take part in A Portrait of The Artist series, which introduces eco-conscious artists and crafters from around the world, or you can have a giveaway right here and exchange the fruits of your labor for even more reputation!

    Kanelstrand saw a huge growth in readership in October with about 20% more visitors than last month (and more than 100 new followers!!), and I am expecting even more visits in the coming months because of the exciting posts I have scheduled - there are lovely eco giveaways coming up, crafty green tutorials, breath-taking photography of Scandinavia and lots more!

    In the beginning of October I started offering discounted rates for those of you who want to advertise for 3 months in a row, which are pretty affordable and just in time for the coming holiday season. It is a pretty good deal, and to tell you the truth I now have only Large and Small ad spaces, so hurry up before all spots get filled up!

    To read more about my stats and current rates, click here. To fill out the form and become a part of the Kanelstrand Ad Team, click here. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me at info@kanelstrand.com. I am looking forward to having you onboard!

    20 October 2011

    Scandinavian Autumn - October on the Faroe Islands

    October hides in itself the warmest colors of summer, invigorated by the sweet memories of bird songs. It offers the blooms of Autumn - warm orange, yellow and brown. But in October you also get the deep blue of the sky, the one you can only see right before Winter. And that is especially true if you are on a small island somewhere in the North Atlantic.

    Would you care for a boat trip around the Faroe Islands this time? Please, be my guests while we are exploring this unique place. Enjoy the views I've seen around the islands and the capital - Torshavn in the past few years.

    Taking note of the transformations in Nature as the seasons progress is one of the sides of living an ethical organic life. Getting to know what Nature has in store and peacefully coinciding with her rhythm nourishes respect and soothes our souls. With the seasons changes our mood; our inspiration takes leaps in different directions and we grow. Closer to Nature is closer to our own voice.

    To see how October looks like in Iceland, click here.

    19 October 2011

    How Many Slaves Work for You?

    Slavery has existed for as long as there has been civilization. Many nations and empires were built by the bloody sweat of slaves. Few human practices have provoked such deep and widespread outrage as the practice of one human being enslaving another.

    And because at school we are taught about slavery in History lessons we often carry on with the belief that slavery is in the past. The sad truth is that currently there are about 30 million slaves around the world (a bit more than the population of Texas) working for the whim of a few developed nations and the establishment of their wrong idea of well-being.

    Reports from the Environmental Justice Foundation state that Uzbekistan, which is the second biggest cotton exporter in the world (after the US) employs child labor. About 1,4 million children as young as 12 work long days in the field, miles from their homes. According to The Guardian:
    There have also been reports of physical and sexual abuse. Only once the harvest is finished are they allowed home. Eyewitness accounts report that pregnant women have also been working. Around 40% of all cotton from Uzbekistan is made into clothes and products in Bangladesh, and a large percentage of the cheap cotton products in the UK comes via Bangladesh.

    Every day tens of thousands of American women buy makeup. Every day tens of thousands of Indian children mine mica, which is the little sparklies in the makeup.

    While I admit it is unrealistic to try to stop slavery in Asia or Africa, what we can do to help is to rethink our needs and define our wants; we can change our own lifestyles in order to decrease the demand of products that we can live without.

    Take the Slavery Footprint survey. Based on where you live, what you own, what you wear, what and how much you eat you will be presented with the number of slaves around the world that work to get you these. It is a wakeup call even for those of us who try to reduce and live a sustainable life.

    Yes, this is my result - there are 22 slaves working for me. 22! One less than what everybody else has but still - a shockingly great number. Despite my efforts to live a simple life, to have as little as possible to do with mainstream makeup/food/clothes... I even don't use a shampoo but wash my hair with baking soda!

    Now imagine a house with 22 slaves working for just one person. It is obvious that conscious green living takes much more consideration than we can even imagine.

    I want to set my slaves free! How about you?

    18 October 2011

    Build a House With Whole Trees and Save the Forest

    Last year, when the authorities started cutting not just branches but whole trees in our forest we got really frustrated - we couldn't figure out why they were killing trees that looked healthy and young.  But what looked like mindless and random tree cutting turned out to be a well thought out action to save the life of the forest by thinning it and removing invasive species.

    So, when I encountered Wisconsin-based green design company Whole Trees Architecture I instantly transfered a year back. There surely cannot be a more sustainable house design than the one that includes whole trees! 

    Instead of using conventional milled lumber, the company makes use of what the winds in the forest have naturally pre-stressed. According to WTA, 
    Structural testing of small diameter round timbers by the USDA Forest Products Laboratory has found that it is 50% stronger than milled lumber. What is more, whole trees have a comparable weight to strength ratio in compression as steel and twice that of steel in tension.
    Not only do they walk the forest with design in mind but they choose trees for the effect their removal will have on their surroundings and the quality of their structure. When a tree has been chosen, the bark is peeled from it while it stands in the forest, allowing the waste products to go back to the forest floor. Then the tree is left to cure for several months in the forest, while it looses up to 50% of its weight in water, making it easier and safer to be taken to the building site. 

    It is a sustainable way to use natural resources more wisely and to build houses that are people and eco friendly. Whole trees chosen one by one, so as not to spoil the еcological balance of the forest lend an organic and warm feel that no other material could achieve. This sustainable design approach comes as a reminder that we are able to use wisely our connection to nature and by doing so we can live in harmonious surroundings while taking responsible ecological choice. 

    To see more stunning Whole Trees Architecture projects, visit their website.

    All photos courtesy of Whole Trees Architecure.

    17 October 2011

    A Portrait of The Artist: Dustbin Cards

    Today, in A Portrait of The Artist I am pleased to introduce Kathryn O'Hara, the crafter and creator of Dustbincards - a label selling reusable cards made by upcycling! For her unique cards, Kathryn uses stuff that otherwise might end up in a dustbin - bits from candy wrappers, tags from jeans, labels from a favorite beer, buttons, bows, raffia and yarn. All of her ephemera and decorations are found; from yard sales, thrift stores, estate sales or given to her by friends and family. 

    Kathryn has found an inspiring way to make use of the lovely and the lost, and her handmade cards are crafted with quality papers, featuring collages embellished with unique, one of a kind treasures. And because kind as she is, Kathryn sent me a pack of her most amazing cards, I can tell you firsthand - they feel and look magical! The way she combines pieces from different spheres of life into a new object with a totally different meaning is what made me a fan forever! You can be assured that nobody else will give or receive a handmade card just like yours. 

    Tell us a bit about your background. How did you come up with the idea of making cards out of unwanted objects that will otherwise go straight to the dustbin?
    I began scrap booking photo albums about 15 years ago. Scrapbooking paper and ephemera, in addition to being expensive, was so beautiful! I found I could not consign a 2” x 2” scrap of lace embossed paper to the trash. As my collection of ‘too precious to throw away’ pieces grew, I realized I wanted to use them. Somehow.

    Letter writing was a skill I learned from both of my grandmas, and I exchanged many letters and cards with them. Making cards was a natural outgrowth of my love of letter writing and sheer desperation with the mounting clutter of scrap booking ephemera. Making a card that could be reused, or passed on and enjoyed by many people was an idea that intrigued me. So, with those three thoughts in mind, I began to craft all occasion greeting cards and found my Bliss! Reusing all of my scrap booking leftovers led to finding scrap trims, buttons and other ephemera for cards. I then discovered really cool items like wine bottle labels, candy wrappers, tags from new clothes… Labels and ribbons and brads, oh my!

    We very often look for the recycling "bug" in upbringing and reading your etsy profile, we realized that your grandmothers served as role models for you as far as repurposing and upcycling are concerned. In that line of thoughts, what is the best advice you have received from them?
    My grandmothers both grew up during the American Great Depression and became good friends after my parents married. They were amazingly thrifty, but never cheap. Their advice was in the form of action.

    I learned how to can and freeze foods, make jams, jellies and make a Thanksgiving dinner from Grandma Davis. She taught me how to save and iron gift wrap and tissue paper and to make a heart felt gift look beautiful.

    Grandma Bunch shared her exuberant love of thrift shopping and her enthusiasm for finding a bargain infected not only me, but many of my cousins as well.

    Neither woman prattled on much about the environment, but both lived and practiced frugality, thrift and good stewardship of all that they possessed. Actions speaking louder than words, their lives showed me that reducing,reusing and recycling are not a passing fancy or a current cultural fad, but a way of life.
    That is the best advice I received from them: Living green (although neither would have used that term) is an everyday way of life and it is a lifelong commitment. And it is a lot of fun!

    Handmade reusable card Faith

    When did you realize that by reusing and recycling you are becoming eco-friendly as well? 
    I don’t recall an epiphany about recycling in my own life. It has always just been part of my life. There is a country song, by Barbara Mandrell, that claims “I was country, when country wasn’t cool…” My family was reusing and recycling long before it was cool. Part of rural life and thrift is repurposing and repairing and I was so eco-friendly, that I didn’t even realize I was eco-friendly! Additionally, my Catholic faith taught me to be a good steward of all that I have, because it isn’t mine forever. It is mine to care for and pass on to future generations.

    How do you reuse and upcycle in your everyday life?
    The sweetest fragrance in the world is line dried, sun warmed laundry. There is something special about the crispness of a fresh, wind whipped sheet on your bed, isn’t there? I line dry all of our laundry during the summer and use clothes drying racks during the winter months. Since we heat with a wood stove, the clothes dry very quicky in our warm little home.

    And speaking of the wood stove, we recently upgraded to a new, very efficient model. We found a local source for stone and had pieces of soapstone cut to fit the top, which gives off radiant warmth even after the stove goes out. My husband cuts the wood from dead, standing timber in the national forest. Cutting out the dead trees allows the limbs and such to remain as habitat for little creatures. In addition to opening areas to sunlight and moisture for the growth of the living trees, removing the trees lowers the risk for lightning ignited forest fires.

    My garden provides produce and veggies during the summer months and I can and freeze for the winter months. My husband is a hunter and keeps our freezer full of venison (not my favorite) and elk (yummy!) as well as fish. The health benefits of hormone and antibiotic free meats and fish are well documented. In America, sportsmans fees in the form of hunting and fishing licenses and tags are used to reclaim habitat for the species hunted.

    Since we live in an area where water is available, but not abundant, mulching is essential to protect water loss in the garden and yard. My neighbor cleans her barn and gives me the goat manure/straw to use in the garden. Another friend saves all of his lawn grass clippings for my garden so he doesn’t have to throw them in the landfill. I benefit, because not only is my garden well mulched, but the soil is amended every year. I also barter plants for, well, just about anything.
    This week, a neighbor traded her homemade soap and homemade wine for some perennials of mine that she lusted after. Another friend gave me a 6 pack of homemade beer for some plants. Sure, I will trade for booze. Anytime.

    Unplug appliances when not in use. Bake the banana bread at the same time as the lasagna to maximize the use of the oven. Use newspapers to dry window panes after washing. Save the newspapers to start the fire in the woodstove. And then there is my husbands’ battle cry… ’Turn off the damned lights!’ 

    Set of two handmade cards Tazo Tea

    Have you always been creative?
    Part of my avante garde (Back in the early 1970s, only the hippies and my mother home schooled their kids) home schooled education included art lessons. What I retain today however, is the color wheel, color combinations and complement colors. (I also retain the 1974 Thorndike Barnhart dictionary that I used in my home schooled years and now my 10 year old daughter uses it for her home school lessons. But it doesn’t include words like Earth Day or erectile dysfunction). It is my personal opinion that home schooling fosters a thinking dynamic that is outside the proverbial box, and self-taught creativity proceeds from that.

    Can you let us in on your creative process? Do you first find the items that will adorn a beautiful card or you get the idea and start looking for items?
    It is euphemistic to label my creative process a process. Strictly speaking, the word process implies a system, right? My methods are more along the line of opening a bottle of wine, having a glass while making the evening meal and listening to a Chris Isaak cd. Remembering, oh no! I have to send a condolence/baby congrats/wedding/birthday card to someone and quickly repairing to my scrap booking area to craft a card and lose myself in creating.

    An empty wine glass reminds me that there is more in the bottle, but as I enter the kitchen I also remember that dinner is bubbling in the oven and I have a family to feed. So I have another glass of wine to settle my nerves and find the package of rice has a very groovy picture on the front of it. Should I use the kitchen shears or tear it off? Can’t tear it, darn it because somehow there is some cellophane on the reverse side, so scissors it is. Oh, and that can of pears has a groovy label as well, but I nick my finger on the metal edge and draw blood. I administer first aid to myself and then quickly serve the grumpy and hungry family members, one of whom (out of charity I will not identify him) asks if I “unplugged that damned glue gun???” Race back to the creation station and am distracted by a lovely soap box label and, well, you get the picture.

    Marketing cards began when I created a bunch of cards and took them to my cousins’ St. Patricks Day party. “It could have been the whiskey, might have been the gin, could have been the 3 or 4 sixpacks, but look at the state I’m in…” (an Irish chanty by the Rovers) but I left there with over a hundred dollars and was amazed at the favorable reception.

    In the interest of honesty, my somewhat creative collecting spirit was originally generated by the boredom that can occur when you are sitting on a barstool somewhere, surrounded by dolts and dullards and start to peel the label from your bottle of beer. Teeeeny tiiiiny little tugs with deep concentration and complete focus to remove the label in its’ entirety, such a pretty little label… What? you’ve never done that? But it was the St. Pats party that made me realize that I could actually make money doing something I love.

    In actuality, I collect rubbish. Junk makes me happy. I take what I have and find an attractive way to make it work. For the month of September, I have challenged myself to create cards and purchase no new supplies except cardstock. Standing at my creation station, I lay out some of the pieces I have collected and start to see color combinations, themes or collages emerge. 

    Handmade envelopes with recycled dictionary page
    What is the most challenging aspect of creating unique cards?
    The biggest challenge I find in my personal creative process (there’s that word again!) is learning the technology necessary to market online. I am very comfortable with crafting my cards and marketing them face to face, locally or taking commissions.

    Technology is not my first language and I have a lot to learn. Nonsense like html, widgets, gadgets, there are gadgets, aren’t there? Blogging, photo editing, SEO and key words. Tracking analytics. I challenge myself to do a little research or learning every day. Then I have a glass of wine to settle my nerves.

    I live in small home, so my creation station is readily at hand, and I am, despite my verbal diarrhea, very well organized. I experience very little frustration with the actual crafting itself. The muse of a bottle of wine is, I believe, another secret to passionate creativity.

    What is your current favorite item by another etsy seller?
    I have become friends with Emily of ARosaryForYou on Etsy and I love her beadwork. She made a custom piece for me that is fabulously beautiful!

    My favorite item of hers is this St. Patricks’ chaplet. Well, I have a soft spot for St. Patrick after that party of his where I sold my first cards!

    But I really love the Celtic claddagh. It is an ancient symbol that characterizes friendship. The heart is for love, the hands for friendship and the crown for loyalty.

    Make sure you follow Kathryn: 
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dustbin-Cards/255461882411
    Etsy shop: http://www.dustbincards.etsy.com

    You can read more editions of A Portrait of The Artist here

    15 October 2011

    Weekend DIY: 6 Projects with Pumpkins

    Getting closer to Halloween it is finally time to do something with our pumpkins. Why not try a slightly untraditional approach this year? Here are 6 projects that will keep you and your children entertained!

    1. Jeweled Pumpkins by Glorious Treats
    2. Creepy Eyeball Pumpkin by Nobiggie
    3. Easy Owl Pumpkins by Better Homes
    4. Paper Pumpkins by Whipper Berry
    5. Giant Pumpkin Bowl by Nobiggie
    6. Fantasy Pumpkin Carriage by Kinser