reduce, reuse, recycle

how to make recycled paper

recycled paper journal 1

I've recently been bitten by the paper recycling bug. My symptoms? Ogling over multi-colored paper scraps and a strong desire to never buy construction paper ever again.
open recycled paper journal

Some of the mothers in my school make beautiful things with recycled paper, such as this journal which is hand-bound with string coated in beeswax. The edges of the cover are delicately burned for a real artisan touch. (You can find beeswax here, which you apply to a single strand of hemp string, working it in with the heat of your fingers. Bind the book by sewing the layers together with a large-eyed needle, then thread some beads on each end.)

let scrap paper soak

The process of making recycled paper varies from one source to the next, which can only mean one thing - the process is the kind that is open to experimentation and variation. I encourage you to do just that. Children will love experimenting with different kinds of paper and procedures.  This little tutorial illustrates what has worked for me thus far.

What you will need:
-Keep a bucket of water handy next to your recycling bins. Shred by hand any used paper (a perfect job for a toddler!) and throw it into the bucket to sit for at least a day.
-An old blender
-Used frames (minus the glass and backing) of various sizes. The size of the frame will determine the size of your finished sheet of paper.
-Very, very fine plastic screening which will be stretched over the frames and used as a sieve
-Thumb tacks for attaching the screening to the frames to make the sieve
-A tupperware bin large enough to so that you can easily submerge the frames in it
-Newspaper cut slightly larger than the dimensions of your frames for blotting
-Absorbent sponge
-Rolling pin

blend well-soaked paper into pulp

1.) With a ratio of about 1 portion of well-soaked paper scraps to 2 cups water, blend into a pulp in your old, trusty blender. Blend in short spurts so as not to burn out the motor. You will need about two half-blender-fulls (shown above) of pulp per tupperware bin batch. *If you would like to make your paper scented, add 6-10 drops of essential oils during the blending of the pulp.

pour pulp into tupperware tub filled with water

2.) Fill the tupperware bin with several inches of water and pour in the pulp. Swish the mixture around so that the pulp is evenly distributed in the water. *You can add dried flowers, leaves, etc. at this point in the process, or you can wait until you have lifted the sieve out of the water and press them neatly onto the paper.

slowly lift framed sieve out of water

3.) Submerge the frame-sieve into the bin and slowly lift out. Place a piece of blotting newspaper on top of the pulp/paper. Using a sponge on top of the newspaper, blot away all of the excess water. Flip over the sieve and carefully remove the paper. It should still be attached to the newspaper on one side. 4.) Place another piece of newspaper on top of the paper. The paper sheet is now sandwiched between two layers of newspaper. Roll out any excess water using a rolling pin. Remove the top piece of newspaper and let the paper dry completely in a sunny spot. Carefully peel the recycled sheet from the newspaper. Here's a video that demonstrates a slightly different way to go about it. Figure out what process works best for you. Before you know it, you'll be planning to write down all of your recipes on recycled paper, too!

the rebirth of the WC

toilet plant

In a cheery little apartment bedecked with warm rays of sunshine, there lives a funny little toilet with a happy little plant.

blender plant

Very nearby, a wrinkled old man of a blender relishes the new green life sprouting from within.

These photos were taken almost a year ago at my friend's Mexico City apartment. I'm not sure why they've been sitting for so long in my picture files, but its high time they were resurrected. I mean, really ... how can these not bring a smile to your face? They speak to me on so many levels.

Aesthetics - Perhaps the most shallow of reasons, yet significant nonetheless. I love the bold innovation coupled with the homeyness of the plant life. I think every morning would start off right if I had my bowl of oatmeal next to a repurposed toilet-planter. Don't you think?

Roots - Antiques and thrifted finds enrich our surroundings and provide fodder for our imaginations. Who were the people that used them? What kind of home(s) did they have? What was life like when they were brand-spankin' new? And the toilet? Reflecting on its past life is just plain funny. But gee - it is one useful invention!

Responsibility - Repurposing. Keeping used objects out of the landfill and keeping us from going out any buying something new.

Did you see that Blue Yonder is having a repurposing contest? The toilet-planter won't be entered because I can't claim it as my own creation, but I'm sure you all have some excellent ideas and/or repurposed works of art. So empty out your trash bin and get crackin'!

and celebration number 27 passes quietly


For posterity's sake, and the little old lady me, I thought I would record the bit of requisite gluttony that occurred yesterday in honor of the vernal equinox and my 27th birthday.

The day passed with a nod and a smile, devoid of all of the hubbub generally associated with birthdays. All of our friends are out of town for the Easter holidays, and Patrick and I enjoyed the quiet day, sipping a rare coke from recycled glass bottles (so much tastier this way - why do we stand for all of this PLASTIC? Plastic toys for children, plastic food containers, etc. Have you watched this video yet? If not, then consider it my birthday wish!)

The dearest birthday gift I received this year came from my Mom, in the form of a short email, describing our first meeting. I must preface this with a bit of a birth story - I was born by emergency C-section after three days of labor, in an age where medical technology hadn't caught up with the most pressing needs of mother and child to connect right after birth. My mother was under complete anesthesia, and I was born at 7:28 P.M. I'm sure it was even a while before I was put in my father's arms, as they washed, bundled, and did whatever else they deemed "necessary" for a newborn before handing her off to bond with family. Nonetheless, my Mom's description was lovely:

I have a memory of our first eye to eye contact that I cherish.  Bundled tightly in a soft blanket you were placed in my arms at about 4:00 in the morning.  Your eyes were wide open and you seemed to be ready for conversation.  I brought you close to my face and told you how happy I was to finally see you and hoped I would be a good mother to you.  Your little mouth puckered an "o" and your eyes seemed to open even wider. I was dumbstruck by the realization that we had been "talking" for many months and that while you grew and rested under my heart - loved sight unseen - nothing had prepared me for the outpouring of love that funny little face evoked!

I'm touched beyond the scope of words that my Mom offered me such a thoughtful, immaterial gift this year. Patrick and I have a bit of a tradition of "gifting" in non-traditional ways ...  by  turning commercial holidays on their heads and using the occasion, instead, to find little extra ways that we can express our love for each other. For example, yesterday I was the recipient of breakfast in bed and a heavenly shoulder rub. In the past, we have written out "coupons" on index cards, which could be "redeemed" at any time. Here are a few examples from a batch that Patrick gave me on our first anniversary, right before we moved to Mexico. (And yes, Amelie is actually an anniversary gift!)

gifts of love coupons

Do you eschew the commercial, the contaminating, and the mass-produced for thoughtfulness and homemade gifts? I'd love it if you could leave a comment and share your ideas and suggestions for giving more meaningful gifts for parents, partners, and especially children. Who knows - perhaps our small efforts will make an impression on our own children, friends, and families, and we can stamp out at least a small patch of that omnipresent commercial wildfire, fed by corporate marketing to children. If you have a chance, read this article that was published around Christmastime. It's certainly food for thought.

rummage sale for the birds

collecting items for the birds

I can't tell you how much joy this little basket of bits and pieces brings to my heart. It is a harbinger of spring, the first sign that winter is in its last throes. In this diminutive basket near the art supplies, we are collecting items for the birds, who are busy making their nests in preparation for the boom of new life that will be happening in the next few months.

Yarn leftovers, embroidery floss, downy chicken feathers, a left-behind piece of the cloth mop, scraps of fabric, a bit from a torn sponge, a ball of hair after a thorough hair brush cleaning - all of these things would have been thrown away, but our trash is the bird's treasure. After this indoor basket is full, a child takes it outside and deposits the loot in a larger basket, where the birds are free to take what they please at their leisure.

We're hoping that we will see evidence of this gift to the birds in nearby nests. Our eyes are peeled for pieces of bright yarn.

puppets on a stick

butterfly on a stick

The stick puppet is one of the most simple to make. Even the very young can make their own variations of stick puppets by decorating (with paint, markers, or collage) a card stock or cardboard shape that an adult has cut out. A slightly older child can cut out her own shape. As for the stick? My butterfly is sporting a Chinese take-out chopstick. Other options might include taping a drinking straw or pencil to the back of the puppet.

One of the (many) reasons I've become so enamored with puppets is that they are a high-quality educational toy that can be fashioned entirely from found objects, recycled material, and common household items.  Here's how I made this papier mache butterfly puppet:

butterfly puppet cardboard base

Draw a shape onto a piece of cardboard and cut it out. Cover the cardboard entirely in aluminum foil (used foil works fine!) Attach a stick to one side with masking tape.

Prepare your papier mache paste. I use 1 part white flour to 2 parts warm water, which should form a consistency like thick glue. Add more water or flour if needed, and mix to remove the lumps.

Tear newspaper into small strips (the smaller the better for working with figures that have curved edges, such as this one.) Dip each strip into the paste, run it between your index and middle fingers to remove the excess, and place it on the figure. Cover the figure evenly, forming "x"s with the strips, which will give it more tensile strength. Add 4-6 more layers (being sure to let it dry a bit between each layer.)

butterfly on a stick receives a coat of white paint

Let the puppet dry completely for one or two days. Use some sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges, then cover it entirely in a coat of white paint (acrylics or temperas work fine.)

Once the base layer has dried, bring out the rest of the colors and let your imagination take flight! Once dry, cover with a coat of Mod Podge.

Happy puppeteering!