Welcome to Upcycling My Year

The year of upcycling sounds like a great idea! I think I might hop onboard with that… Especially as I don’t shop at high street stores anyway: going into them always makes me feel a little sick and ill inside: I’m really not a fan of mass “stamped out” consumerism without a heart or soul.

BrawHem : Upcycling My Year

After setting up BrawHem earlier this year, it felt appropriate that my New Year’s Resolution would involve sewing, and more specifically, upcycling. So this is my challenge – a whole year of making my own clothes, using only upcycled materials. And you can come along for the (likely rather bumpy) ride. I’ll be sharing my makes, tips for recycling and donating, some easy no-sew upcycling projects you can do at home, and information about reducing the 350,000 tonnes of clothing waste we produce each year.

You can get full details of the challenge and my reasons behind it here, but in brief the rules are:

  • No buying clothes from high-street stores.
  • I’m allowing myself to buy clothes from a charity shop, only if they’ll be drastically, structurally altered, or turned into something new entirely.
  • Anything I can’t sew (I’m thinking knitted things – I can’t knit, at all) I will…

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Seashell Tealights

Recently fetured on our Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/growingevergreen/ were these upcycled seashell tealights:DSC_0154.JPG

I originally saw the idea on Pinterest and thought it was fantastic: the natural curve of the seashell contains the wax and acts as its own candleholder. Moreover, being a tealight, it didn’t require much wax, which meant that I could simply melt down leftover wax from shop-bought tealights, and so reduce waste a little. The other wonderful thing about working with tealights is that it gave me a great chance to experiment with scents and fragrances, trying out different mixtures in each one.

The shells themselves were saved up from the couple of times our family had shellfish for dinner: it seemed wrong somehow to bin the shells so I squirreled them away, until I would find a project to use them for. I still have a couple left, so I think I might use them as soap moulds…

Interested in the tealights? Check out  https://www.etsy.com/shop/GrowingEvergreen

Vintage Teacup Candles

Here’s a quick update on the GrowingEvergreen Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/GrowingEvergreen

One of our latest additions is a pair of teacups (saucers included), which have been upcycled into adorable candles:DSC_0139.JPG

The gold leaf edge on the inside of the teacup would catch and reflect the light of the candle, adding a touch of glamour to the overall picture. Moreover, the two teacups have slightly different shades of wax, so you can choose which you prefer – or get both and have the colour difference bring out the pair in an interior.

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The teacups had been taking up space without use in our cupboard for a while, so I decided it was time to give them a new life! To provide the wax for the candles, I used leftover wax from tealights and a couple of red candles (to provide the colour), so the entire thing is very eco-friendly. Why not check them out on Etsy?

Goodbye to the Czech Republic

Having spent a week up in the mountains in Czech Republic, it’s a shame to go… Especially as we finally got snow! In the next valley along, there was enough of the stuff to even ski, which we did for the full day today. Now back to the chalet for a brief rest, and then on home to the warm and mild UK. All in all, it’s been a wonderful visit: plenty of museums and an outing to Prague, as well as walking around the local area. So to say goodbye, here are a few photos from the last brief walk I took yesterday:

The landscape was a rather sombre one, with lots of dead browns and damp greys and some fog over the mountains, but personally I like these miserable views. I find them calming and powerful, and full of a mysterious and underappreciated beauty. During my walk, however, the cloud cover briefly tore, and I got the chance to experiment with camera settings while photographing the gentle sunset.

I feel that these photos are a nice note to finish on. It’s a shame about the lack of photos from today, but I fell over a little too often to risk taking a camera onto the slope!

Resolving the New Year

I still remember the first time I found out about New Year’s resolutions from my school teacher: growing up in a Russian family, we simply didn’t have that sort of tradition, as the New Year was our equivalent Christmas (the latter not being celebrated at all). But over the years, our family culture shifted to adopt some British traditions, and I think now it’s time for me to make New Year resolutions for the first time.

Changes are most effective when they’re gradual, so I’ll start of small… Or at least, I’ll try to, as sometimes I can be a little overambitious.

  1. Write a blog entry every day – I’ve been doing well at that for the past couple of days, so I’ll try to keep it up
  2. Meditate more often (initially, at least once a week)
  3. Try to improve my time organisation with to do lists/weekly goals/etc

That last one is a pretty big one, as it ranges from finding more time for music practice to spending a little more time on my arts and crafts, from spending more time with my family to doing more sport… so hopefully it should give me an all-round benefit.

While thinking about my resolutions today, I came across the article “10 simple exercises that will strengthen your willpower” at http://www.willpowered.co/learn/strengthen-your-willpower?utm_source=Outbrain&utm_medium=CPC&utm_campaign=Strengthen%20Your%20Willpower which curiously had some similarities with my resolutions. It was quite reassuring for me to see that, as I consider myself as having fairly low willpower, especially when it comes to motivation. So if all goes to plan, I will not only improve in a weak area, but it will also raise my self-esteem, which is also useful!

Now, to set the year going right, here’s my to do list for today:

  1. Violin practice
  2. Meditation
  3. Revise Latin in order to do a timed essay tomorrow
  4. Do some exercise

I wish you all the best of luck in keeping your resolutions!

Last walk of 2015

New Year’s Eve is always a big deal for our family and friends, which means that there’s a LOT of food – almost like a second Christmas in a week! So we decided to pre-emptively burn some calories with a bracing 4 hour walk around the local area.

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The last day of 2015 dawned bright and clear… and bitterly cold

As we headed towards the forest, we could see the snow cannons trying in vain to rescue the local “ski resort” reputation: it’s been a general outdoor holiday rather than a skiing holiday for everyone here.

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Not giving up hope

Even without any snow though, the forest was still extremely beautiful and an absolute wonder to walk through.

About a third of the way along our route, an impromptu stop occurred, as we stopped to examine a stream with the most fantastic ice formations I have ever seen: water spray and droplets froze onto already existing ice, creating globular structures.

But of course, it being almost January, we saw some more traditional icicles too. It was very exciting, actually, as the UK is too warm to permit them from forming, but temperature is certainly not a problem in the Czech Republic (did I mention it was very cold today?).

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At the end of our journey, we had a potful of hot Czech garlic soup Česnečka waiting for us, which was perfect for a warm up, and gave us the much needed morale boost to start preparing food for the celebrations.

I hope you all have a great New Year!

A day out in Prague

Visiting new places is always so exciting! Especially when that new place is as beautiful as Prague. The weather today was perfect for a day out, too: bright and sunny, if a little on the freezing side!

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A cold winter’s day in Prague

However, the Christmas Markets were still going, which meant that at every square we were surrounded with amazing smells of cinnamon, chocolate, hot wine, roasting meats… But ruling over all was the scent of trdelnik – a Czech sweet bread, coated in sugar and cinnamon, twisted round a pole to form a tube and cooked over an open fire. Unfortunately, they were all eaten too quickly for me to get a photo!

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The ‘Christmas’ Market, always popular with frozen tourists!

Indeed, the spirit of Christmas seemed still present there, especially in the dedicated glass Christmas tree ornament shops: the Czech Republic is historically an area renowned for its glasswork and was the main rival of Venice for a long, long time.

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Bubbles of pure Christmas spirit
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A more universal souvenir: a tealight holder to match the baubles

Of course, our route also led us past the medieval clock, the Charles bridge and the breathtaking Gothic cathedral, the last being the most memorable for me: Gothic is hands-down my favourite architectural style. Just look at that ornate stonework!

Another photo of the cathedral captured a steampunk-esque discrepancy in technology:

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Out of context, it looks like a part of a steampunk film set!

Finally, hungry and tired, we headed to a restaurant… where the waiters were trains!

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Bringing the drinks

And as I say goodbye and head off to bed for a well-deserved rest after this excursion, I leave you with another view of Prague as the sun was beginning to set.

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