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Category Archives: Make Do and Mend

Counting blessings

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This week seemed to be full of little austerity pleasures, and I just wanted to share a few…

We were out of jam, so I rummaged around in the freezer and found some rhubarb leftover from a visit to an aunt last year.  I made enough jam to last us through the next month, and even though I’d never made rhubarb jam before, Husband and Daughter are quite pleased…  (I’m not really an accomplished jam maker anyway, but winging it worked out well in this case.)

Daughter has a birthday party this weekend, and somehow I managed to knit a lacy scarf as a gift with bamboo yarn I had in my stash.  Daughter made a card, and now we’re set for a gift, without ever having left the house…

Daughter also decided, of her own accord, to make lavender water for the birthday gift.  I added a slug of vodka to keep the solution from going off (you can’t smell it after a few hours), and then we labeled it and added it to the gift…


A gift from the heart - a handmade card, homemade lavender water, and a knitted scarf

A gift from the heart – a handmade card, homemade lavender water, and a knitted scarf

I threw together this honey lavender cake with lemon-basil frosting with what I had laying about the house, with just a few hours warning.  The cake is divine, and I’m even more impressed that I didn’t even have to go to the store…

Daughter starts a reading club soon, and the book isn’t available on Kindle or at any of the libraries here.  I was gnashing my teeth about spending a ton of money for a book in English, but then I checked my list of books that Daughter has already read.  It turns out that I bought the book for her at a charity shop on a trip to London, and she read it so quickly that we left it there for my nephews.  She remembers the book well enough, so the problem was solved, without even leaving the house…

I’ve been trying to buy new cookie sheets, but had been having a really hard time getting the size that would fit in our oven.  On the third trip to the store, I managed to return the second set of cookie sheets and get ones that were the correct size (I was clever enough this time to bring one of my old ones with me).  It turns out that the store was having a big sale, and I ended up saving quite a lot, though it took me three trips to the store…

Over the summer, I found two new (to us) libraries with loads of English books for Daughter to read.  They know us well enough now that they let us take out twice the number of books if we need to, which we did for our trip to Croatia last week.  As I returned twenty books to various libraries, I was reminded of how little we pay for the privilege of reading all of those books.

Lastly, I managed to salvage a pair of Husband’s beige trousers by dying them black.  They came out more of a very dark grey, but Husband is happy,


Homemade Christmas Craft Along – Week 9

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I’m a bit late on this one, but I’ll post anyway.  My thoughts this week turn to wrapping, and I am reminded of my previous post on the topic here.  I wrap gifts in plain paper off of a big roll that we buy at IKEA for Daughter, and then I let her draw all over the packages.  All the previous years, she has drawn princesses and fairies, but this year she has moved on to Christmas images.  I knew this time would come, but I still wasn’t ready for it.  So it seems we will be celebrating Christmas this year with nary a princess nor fairy.

Daughter has also taken responsibility for writing out gift tags.  She alternates between cutting and designing her own or using some pre-made ones.  If push came to shove, I might also give her some address labels to color, cut and decorate.

We don’t really do ribbons on gifts for ourselves, as it seems to be very wasteful and superfluous.  If we do use ribbon, it is usually something that can be used again, perhaps out of the sewing box, or raffia that  has come off of some other package.  We do have a stash of that plastic stuff that we use for packages that need to be very socially presentable.

We also have a small stash of gift bags and proper wrapping paper, but I really dislike braving the shops at this time of year, fighting off everyone else trying to buy wrapping materials.  I have gotten quite good at preserving what comes our way throughout the year, and Martha Stewart has some nice ideas for using up wrapping papers, and there are also some general nice ideas of wrapping with odd things here.

Finally, before you throw out all the wrapping paper at the end of Christmas, be sure to check out these ideas of re-using wrapping paper.  I love the tray and the matting ideas.  I am actually kind of excited to see if I can re-use some bits, especially for Daughter to brighten up her room.

Update on Christmas Craft Along – Week 3

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In this post I share the retro towel pattern, but didn’t have any pictures to share.  I had reached a yarn impasse, and my photographer was away anyway, so I just didn’t know what to do besides post about the pattern.

Well, I have worked out my yarn problem, and Husband has come back, so here we are.


I couldn’t get the cotton yarn in the thickness I needed, so I ended up doubling up, which lends the towel a very nice dimensionality that isn’t there in single yarn knitting.  I was so pleased with it, that I cast on for doing a red-edged one, but haven’t finished it yet.

Christmas Craft Along – Week 3

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I fell in love with a pattern well over a year ago, but have been sitting on it because I couldn’t find the right yarn and I didn’t know who would like it.  Needless to say, I’ve finally decided who to knit these retro dishtowels  for, and it is one of those people who feels left out not getting something knitted but wouldn’t do anything with the usual suspects.

I ended up with a cotton/acrylic mix from Schoeller and Stahl, but I didn’t check the length and ran out before I even finished one towel (sigh).  I went back to the store, and naturally they were out of the color I wanted, so now I am sitting around wondering what to do with myself.  I will say this about the pattern though – it is super quick to knit up.

I’ll post pictures once I finish them (hopefully before Christmas)…

Stocking stuffer ideas

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First, I think bookmarks are always a good idea.  I’ve had to time recently to toodle around on the internet, and I found several pages about making bookmarks from old greeting cards. It is so simple, basically cutting out the shape you want, then punching a hole through it and running a piece of ribbon or yarn through the hole to make the tassel.  You can make them more durable by laminating them, if you feel so inclined.  I think this is a great way to use up my stash of saved greeting cards, especially ones with unique designs.

Second, I think I will give Daughter a deck of playing cards with this set of instructions in it.  We have a car now, so she spends a lot of time in the back seat alone, and we will be doing a lot of travel as well.  I consider the purchase of a pack of cards an investment in peace. = )

Thirdly, I will raid my button stash, since Daughter has started taking an interest in sewing.  She likes using buttons for eyes and decorations, so I think I can throw in any of the odd buttons that I have floating around in my sewing basket.

Finally, I will also make bags of candies and bundles of tea to pop into stockings, but I think it will fill things out nicely.

Baby leg warmers

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Really, baby leg warmers, I love them.  What other fantastic way can you cover those wonderful baby legs?  I made a striped pair for my nephew out of stuff in my stash.  I used an acrylic blend sock wool in black and grey to make them masculine, and they are cute.  The pattern is here, but it works up like any leg warmer.  You just cast on enough stitches to make them wide enough, rib the first few rows, then knit your heart out until they are long enough, rib a few more lines, and cast off (repeat).

I unfortunately did not get a picture of them because I couldn’t resist putting them on him, and then how can you take them off when they are so cute?  So he went out the door with them, unphotographed.  I did want to make them as a Christmas present, but I’ll have to find something else to make for him…

Handmade Christmas Craft Along

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I am joining Tricia over at Crunchy Catholic Momma for her handmade Christmas Craft Along (details here).

So here it is –

I, Kara, pledge

To take a political stance against mass consumerism of Christmas
To give gifts that are unique, meaningful and full of love

This is also kind of a no-brainer, because we live in Prague, and gift-giving is a bit of fiasco anyway.  Coupled with the fact that we celebrate with gifts on Christmas Eve and stockings on Christmas Day, plus Daughter’s birthday on St. Stephen’s, it turns out to be much easier if I actually make most of my gifts or buy them in charity shops when we’re visiting the UK.

So, a-crafting away I will go…