The importance of a sleeping bag

Hey folks

It’s no secret that I love to travel. And I love to travel cheap! I wouldn’t dream of seeing all the places I saw if it wasn’t for a bit of creative thinking and a little compromise here and there.

My best travelling companions are my sleeping bag and my inflatable travel cushion. I discovered that sleeping bags are not just for camping.

Here are my top uses for sleeping bag when travelling on a budget:

1. Makeshift bed (duh!)
Not just the camping variety.
Did you know that you can save up to 50% off the cost of the flight if you split your journey into several legs. What does it usually mean? Forking out for hotel or sleeping in the airport while waiting for connection. Airport seats are not designed for restful sleep (found that out the hard way while stranded in Tenerife for 5 hours which happened to be just outside of airline policy for hotel compensations). Sleeping bag can be a real life saver. Find a nice corner, roll out your bag, inflate your cushion, slap a night mask on and zzz
I wouldn’t recommend trying the same approach on a train station for reasons of lack of security and cleanliness. Although I did come across a family sleeping on a spread pashmina on a busy platform completely undisturbed by spilled coffees, spit and cigarette buds. But I am not that brave!

2. It keeps you warm.
And not just while sleeping.
Cold budget hotels, waits in the airport, train or bus stations, sleeping bag is invaluable to keep you warm. Even if you are in the air or on a train, snuggling up under your sleeping bag allows for much more pleasant journey.

3. Protects you from the rain.
Good quality sleeping bag with waterproof coating could act as a raincoat. Obviously, you may not be able to move very much, unless you secure it around the waste with some rope or belt.

4. Provides some privacy.
Ever slept in a bunk bed in a hostel with a bunch of other travellers? When everyone is going in and out at 3am and people are inconsiderate enough to switch the lights on while unpacking?
Tip: always pick the bottom bunk, no matter how many childhood years you spent dying of envy for you older sibling. Unzip your sleeping bag to make a single sheet then stuff the long end under the mattress of the top bunk and hang over the edge. You should end up with a “curtain” that will protect you from beaming lights and curious glances.

5. It may not be clean but it is yours!
I have been lucky in most places I stayed. But on one memorable occasion I was ever so grateful that I had my own sleeping bag.
In hotel in India I asked the receptionist if the sheets were fresh. “Yes, very very fresh” he assured me. Well, I guess if they were, they must’ve been changed by a very hairy person. Anyway for 100 rupees a night I didn’t want to start an argument and just spread my sleeping bag on top of “freshly made” bed. Problem solved!

6. It helps with heating bills too.
When not travelling I like to spend time cuddling up with my cat on a sofa with a good movie and a glass of wine. In winter it presents a problem as no amount of wine can ever compensate for a lack of movement in unheated house. Sleeping bag comes to rescue. You can either use it as a throw or actually pack yourself into it. We have hardly spent anything on heating in the last four years, even when temperature indoors was as low as 10’C.

7. Last but not least, it can be used as a stretcher to quickly come down snowy hill or help transport someone into ambulance.
Don’t ask…

Guide to charity shopping (first edition)

Ever since I learned how to write, I’ve been obsessed with an idea of writing a book some day. One day (after substantial amount of grammar and creative writing lessons) it will happen. For now, let me just stick with this blog.
I get a lot of compliments regarding my dress style. I guess it’s just something that comes effortlessly (thanks to my ever so elegant mother). But people are usually surprised to hear that most of my wardrobe for the last year has come from charity shops. In fact I made a promise to spend no money on new clothes this year at all.
Charity shops are filled with amazing clothes, shoes and bags and yet for many people it’s a forbidden territory. If they do happen to wander in one day, they often find themselves lost and unable to find anything that is worth their time, effort and money.
If you always wanted to renew your wardrobe on a budget but didn’t know where to start, this guide is for you:

1. Know your style

The most important thing when entering the world of charity shopping is to know what you are actually shopping for. You may be blessed with super organised local shop where everything is arranged by size and colour, in which case your shopping experience will be very different from sorting through bins upon bins of essentially rubbish in order to find a gem. In a latter situation, it does help if you know exactly what you are looking for. Say, you are looking for a floral dress that goes with your rocabilly style – just look for that and discard anything that is neither floral nor dress. Then, once you compiled the items that fit into both categories, you can determine if there is anything that you fancy for your swing party.

2. Know your labels

This is not so much to determine “to buy, or not to buy”, more to figure out how much to pay for your purchase. generally more expensive high street shops such as Gap or Diesel will proudly display their name on the item (which is a double edge sward as your shop manager may be just as familiar with labels and charge an arm and a leg for these). Budget shops and supermarkets will usually come up with a funky name to disguise themselves. Nobody is going to proudly print Asda or Walmart on a dress, keep your eyes open, so you don’t end up paying more than the item was worth brand new off the hanger.
As a rule of thumb – for supermarked/budget clothes, pay no more than 10% of original price. For “high end” high street or designer, I could pay anything up to 30% of original price.

3. Check the fabric

Rule nr 2 can be bent providing the fabric is of an excellent quality and the item complies with rule nr 1. As an example, I have recently purchased a jacked from Primark (carefully disguised under brand name “atmosphere”). usually I wouldn’t even give it a second glance after checking out the label. Except it was 100% linnen and worked with my style perfectly. The jacked was £3.95 which, realistically may have been as much as 25% of original price, but the item was of an excellent quality and really cute as well.

4. Check for spots, rips and marks.

Sometimes it is really difficult to understand why people give stuff up, until you look closely and discover all sorts of imperfections. Small holes, threads hanging out, bleached out armpits. I prefer the items that look as new, which may limit my selection, but ensures that the item will actually be worn and not returned to the same charity shop after hanging in my closet for 6 months. Some items are really cute and the marks are not immediately obvious, in which case I’d happily get it. But the “cuteness factor” must hugely overweigh any deffects, which doesn’t often happen.

5. Size doesn’t matter

Erm, what? No, seriously, it doesn’t! One of my favourite dresses was picked up by me only because it was on a wrong hanger. The hanger said “size 8”, the dress said “size 14”. I did not know that till I was already in the changing room, and decided to try it anyway. It was perfect. The wrap style of the dress ensured that I can tighten it at the waste and the longer length to accomodate size 14 girl was perfect to give the dress that vintage feel.
Generally speaking if it is a dress or a shirt, anything flowing that can be belted – you can go up by at least two sizes easy. Fitted dresses, trousers and skirts unfortunately have to be spot on. Unless you possess sewing skills. Which brings us nicely to the next rule

6. Is it worth refashioning?

This is a difficult one for me. i don’t refashion just for the sake of it – i don’t enjoy it that much and I live in a countly where charity shopping is still reasonably expencive activity. If you are in States with massive warehouses full of thrifts that you can pick up for a dollar – yes, go for it. I pay anything from £3 to £15 for my items. Do I really want to fuss about with a sewing machine? It’s cheaper for me to make item from scratch. So no, if I am not in love with it when I try it on, I am not going to bother.

Another little tip, look at the area where you shop. What do people wear on the street – this is what is going to be in the charity shops. if you want better quality items, save a little money and go to the more affluent areas.

Hope this gets you lot thinking about your shopping options a little more and save you money in a process. If you have your own tips and tricks of charity shopping, I would love to hear them. Credits will be given in my upcoming book.

Vogue recipe book

I love to cook and have vast collection of recipes cut out of magazines. I know it silly, in this day and age, to still be collecting magazine clippings, but I have just made painful transition from old school paper books to storing everything electronically (although I don’t think I will ever be able to resist buying a pre-loved book from oxfam bookstore) and I am not ready to part with my recipe collection just yet. Besides I don’t want any oil splatters on my iPad.
Storage was an issue that needed creative solution.

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At first I tried arranging them in one of the books that were destined for sale after electronic revolution, but the recipes just didn’t stand out against the book pages. What could be a better backdrop than alluring adverts that fashion magazines are so full off? (In fact during two hour sorting session I managed to find precisely ONE article). So with a help of little glue, colour swatches and old vogue magazine, my new recipe book was born!

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Herbal bath for emotional healing

They say that everything happens for a reason and every life event is a lesson. What I have learned recently is that I do not handle stress very well. In my twenties I denied the fact that I have a stressful life and a stressful job. I was convincing myself that I cope just fine. When in my thirties life threw me a curve ball in face of financial trouble and a breakup, I crumbled. After three weeks spent crying on my best friend’s floor, I realised that something had to be done. And I promised to look after myself better.

One of the things I learned to love is my herbal bath. Finding the right combination of herbs was an intuitive process, like so many other homemade remedies I do. But the result is truly lush, if a bit unusual, combination that soothes the skin and comforts the nerves. It takes minutes to prepare and beats expensive bath soaks filled with hundreds of man made chemicals.

First begin by making decoction: in a pan mix 1/8 of a cup of each nettle and lavender, half a teaspoon of echinacea and a few woody stalks of rosemary (I use rosemary leaves for cooking and save stalks for bath preparation). Cover with about 3 glasses of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

While your decoction is simmering away, run a boiling hot bath with half a cup of Epsom salt and a tablespoon of good quality coconut oil.

Strain your decoction and add to the bath. Enjoy for at least 30 minutes.

Here are some of the amazing benefits provided by the ingredients:
Epsom salt restores the levels of magnesium. Magnesium deficiency can lead to anxiety, irritability, insomnia and depression.

Lavender, when inhaled, produces calming, soothing, mildly sedative effect, slows the activity of nervous system and promotes restful sleep. When used topically in a bath or massage oil, lavender helps muscle relaxation and alleviates joint pain.

Nettle improves circulation and relieves headache. High in vitamin C which supports production of collagen in skin.

Echinacea calms and nourishes the skin.

Coconut oil softens and protects the skin. Prevents the skin from over drying in a hot bath.

Relaxing in a herbal bath won’t make your troubles go away, but it definitely gives you strength and stamina you need to get through the rough patch.

Italian herbal garden

It’s been quite a break from writing the blog, but there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation – spontaneous holiday to beautiful Italia where the sun and the flavours of little medieval towns are incredibly inspirational ( not to mention copious amounts of Chianti Classico).
Somehow during my trip I ended up going to a garden show, weird thing to do on a holiday, but totally worth it. The things I saw made me suddenly want to buy little farm in the olive grove and just plant plant plant.
Unfortunately upon my return home I discovered that my flat mate doesn’t quite share my gardening enthusiasm and managed to kill off my radishes. So I urgently needed some new plants to nourish my soul and give me something to do on a sunny afternoon.
I always wanted my very own herbal garden. The thought of cooking with fresh herbs and harvesting some for all important herbal tinctures, teas and baths sounds a lot better than forking out hundreds of pounds for supermarket variety basil and herbal preparations from chemist. Besides, coming from a family that uses herbs extensively for every ailment, it seems such a waste of precious knowledge to be using paracetamol and lemsip.
Except that I don’t have a lot of space, so my garden needed some thought. After much consideration it was decided to plant some key herbs that are easy to grow and are in constant use in our household.
Lavender
Comfrey
Rosemary
Echinacea
Mint
Camomile
Calendula
Lemon balm
Valerian

I love growing from seed. The only problem I am always faced with is not knowing what I planted. I have no idea how to tell chilli pepper from salad pepper until the fruits actually appear, which led me more than once to generously share my plants with colleagues just to discover that I am left with 10 very fruitful chilli plants in autumn.

Better system was needed and so I started going through my recycling bin. Sometime ago I picked out colour swatches from diy store not quite knowing what to do with them. The colours were pretty and the swatches were free, so off they went home with me.

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Now looking at them I realised that there lies my solution to labelling. So I chopped I scribbled and now I have my perfect labels.

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Ta da! My Italy inspired garden in progress.

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Project “Balcony”, Part 1 – The double life of a tin can

I don’t have a garden, but I do have a little balcony on a sunny side of a building which is tiny, but perfect for reading, tea drinking and vegetable growing.

This year I decided to put some pretty flowers there, but as usual, before heading to the store I wanted to check out if I had anything in my recycling bin that I could turn into a flower pot.

I have million of tin cans -they are perfect for all sorts of projects, but for a while now I was trying to figure out the best way to decorate them on a budget, and I think this time I nailed it!

My problem was the paint. Of course you can buy specialised metal paint, but it usually comes in a litre bucket and, honestly, I don’t think anyone needs life supply of “duck egg blue” tins. I like little tester pots, but they usually only do them for wall paints which is a chalk emulsion and doesn’t behave well on a tin surface. After endless experiments, the answer was found:

Tin Can Flower Pot Tutorial

Step 1: Prep your cans. Cans need to be washed and dried. Make sure you remove all the glue for even colour application.

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Apply two coats of metal surface primer following manufacturer’s instructions. This particular primer is applied in two coats with at least 4 hours dry time in between.

If you are like me, short on patience, then I have a tip for you. Every time you empty a can, wash it, dry it with a towel and prime it immediately so that you have supply of pre-primed jars ready for whenever inspiration strikes you.

Another tip is to dry it off with a blowdryer (my best friend if all craft projects), but be careful as rapid dry with extreme temperatures may cause both your primer and your paint to crack.

Step 2: Apply your chosen paint. I use both artistic acrylic paint brush and little decorating brush depending on the effect I desire. The softer the brush – the less visible the paint marks are. Let the paint dry naturally – it should only take 20 minutes, before applying second coat. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are painted and dried – now looking nothing like tuna cans, but still not quite flower pots. I decided to paint on some primitive looking flowers and patterns. I wasn’t going for a Turner Prize with them.

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Step 3: Last but not least – you would like your pots to take on whatever weather condition is common in your part of the world, so waterproof coating is in order. For these pots I used spray-on acrylic coating.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI immediately regretted doing it inside, the entire household – including the cat – was a little too happy for the rest of the afternoon.

Step 4: Punch some drainage holes with a nail or hand drill. Or not, if planning to use as a decorative pot.

There are hundreds of other methods to decorate (and use) a tin can and I do have couple of more projects for my balcony pending. So watch this space

What is this all about?

I thought I’d tell you a little more about this project as this blog may just seem to be having a little identity crisis.

This is not strictly speaking a sewing blog, neither it is a reduce, reuse, recycle ad campaign.

I have always been interested in arts and crafts and how you turn ordinary project into extraordinary one. Over the years I tried myself in embroidery, watercolour painting, furniture restoration, knitting and more. I found out that I experience great pleasure from creating things even if they don’t always come out the way I want them to. Every new project is a learning curve and a source of inspiration.

At the start of the year I hit a major financial crisis. The tenant in my apartment decided to stop any payments and communication and basically turned into a squatter. Without having any means of getting her out, I had to pay the mortgage, her bills as well as my current rent out of my not really so big salary. As well as that my flat mate has lost his job right before Christmas and we were faced with a serious chance of ending up on a street. It was not a great time to keep spending money on a cute hobby.

As well as love for crafts I also have passion for recycling. It pains me to see things being thrown out without second thought. I may have some serious hoarding tendencies inherited from my grandmother, but hey ho.

Circumstances forced me to figure out the way to continue crafting without spending any ( or very little) money and the obvious choice was right there – turn your , or someone else’s, rubbish into something cute and useful!

I started my research and found out that possibilities are endless. I also found out that there are a lot of people out there with a passion for recycling not knowing where to start. So the blog was born.

This blog is my invitation to share my journey, to discover things that make difference, to improve your lives, to make beautiful things and to care for the earth at the same time. This blog is about every thing homemade, from dresses to jams. It’s about seeing treasure in someone else’s rubbish, about bringing unique things of the past back to their former glory . So let’s create!