Tuesday Tutorials – Party Favor Bags From Envelopes

I found this really nifty project on one of my favorite blogs, How About Orange.  Using some plain white envelopes and pretty washi tape, you can create little bags perfect for party favors or tiny gifts.  Go ahead a create a few today just for fun!

Envelope Bags

You’ll need an envelope, decorative tape, and scissors. I used 4 3/8″ x 5 3/4″ envelopes, but any size will work.

Seal the envelope and trim off one of the short sides to make an opening.

Wrap tape around both sides of the envelope. No need to cover the last inch, since it will form the bottom of the bag.

Fold about one inch of each side of the bag toward the middle; then fold the bottom upwards, creasing your folds well. You can vary the width of these flaps depending on the proportion of the bag you want. Flip the bag over and reverse the folds along the same lines for easier shaping in the next step.

Put one hand inside the bag, and with the other, push the bottom fold down. This will leave the bottom corners of the bag standing up. Press each corner into a triangle.

Fold both triangles down and secure them with more tape, covering the bottom of the bag.


Fill with whatever goodies your heart desires, fold over the top and seal with a small piece of tape.  Enjoy your new thrifty creation!

The No Shampoo Challenge

Have you heard of the no shampoo movement?  If you Google search “no ‘poo challenge” you’ll find all sorts of articles on ways to go without shampoo.  I’ll admit, at first I thought it very strange, even downright gross and dirty.  I know if I go more than 2 days without washing my hair it’s an oily mess and I can’t stand how icky I feel.

But I was curious so I read more about it.  And you know what?  It kinda makes sense to let your natural oils keep your hair healthy.  I believe that your body is capable of handling everything it needs to on its own, provided that you take care of it and feed it healthfully, and that includes taking care of your hair with minimal maintenance. 

So I’ve decided to try the No Shampoo Challenge.  From what I understand, there are a lot of different ways to approach this regarding what kind of ‘conditioner’ rinse you use, how often you wash your hair, if you should just rinse with water, etc.  One thing I know for certain though is that you use a baking soda ‘shampoo’ and some kind of acidic ‘conditioner’ rinse to wash your hair every 3-7-days (depending on your hair and where you are in the transition process).

The transition process is actually what worries me most.  Since commercial shampoos strip the natural oils from your hair, your body creates even more oils to compensate, which is why after 2 days of not washing my hair I’m an oily mess.  I’m told your oil production will balance out after a few weeks, but who knows what I will look like in the mean time.

My plan is to complete the transition as quickly as possible, so I’ll be washing my hair only ONCE PER WEEK with a mixture of 4 Tablespoons baking soda to 5 cups of water.  How did I get to these proportions?  I read this great article on no-shampooing, and after some experimentation, these are the measurements she arrived at.  My hair may be different, thus requiring an adjustment to the proportions, but I figured it was a good place to start.

Since baking soda throws the ph balance on your head out of whack, you need to rinse with something acidic to bring it back to normal.  Many people (most people, actually) use a white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar rinse diluted in water.  However, I hate the smell of vinegar and don’t think my boyfriend will appreciate it either in our tiny apartment.  I’ve opted to rinse with straight lemon juice, undiluted since it’s not as acidic as vinegar.  I’ve also read you can use other fruit juices or strong tea, but I’ll try those later on.

Hopefully I’ll end up with healthier hair that requires less maintenance and fewer bottles of shampoo and conditioner to buy and then throw away (not to mention any health benefits from not putting synthetic chemicals on my head).

I currently use Suave shampoo and conditioner.

Big Obsession with a Tiny Life

Lately I’ve been quite fascinated with tiny living.  It started with an article on Yahoo! about tiny houses, which lead to me be super interested in what tiny houses are, and then I wanted to get one.  This interest lead me to thinking about downsizing, a simpler lifestyle, and sustainable living.  All of these really lead to deeper thinking about what we really need in life, what is important to us, and what is wrong with the ‘mass consumerism’ mindset in America.

Tiny House – The Fencl Design – 130 sq. ft. plus a sleeping loft

That’s a lot of different topics to be sure, so I’ll start at the beginning.

First: The Tiny House Movement.  If you aren’t aware (and I sure wasn’t), there is such a thing as The Tiny House Movement.  In the broadest sense, it is simply a social movement where people are downsizing the space in which they live.  Some people are downsizing as part of a ‘living greener’ philosophy, others may be affected by the housing crisis and can no longer afford large mortgages for large homes, but whatever the reason, tiny living seems appealing to a lot of people.

One of the more well-known names associated with the movement is Jay Shafer, founder of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.  The company offers Houses-To-Go (teeny tiny homes on wheels, all under 200 sq. ft) either pre-built or as plans to build it yourself.  They also offer blueprints for slightly larger cottages (still all under 900 sq ft) to be built on a foundation.  A lot of people think The Tiny House Movement is all about squeezing people into as small a space as possible, but really it’s all about right-sizing your life and living only with what you need and find important.

That may mean a family of 4 living in a 1200 sq ft house instead of a 3000 sq ft house, or someone single downsizing from a 500 sq ft apartment to a 200 sq ft one.  It’s all about perspective and what works well for your life, but the bottom line is to clear out the junk in your life that weighs you down and clutters your space (and your mind) so that you can live a simpler life with more time for what really matters.


Dee Williams (another tiny living advocate) built her own tiny house, which has only 84 sq. ft.

Second: As soon as I started looking as tiny houses, I wanted one.  They are quite affordable (especially compared to getting a mortgage for a house) and with a little knowledge you can save a ton by doing a lot of non-technical labor yourself (certainly I can learn to cut wood and pound nails and such).  The trick would be getting Nate on board with it.  Would he be up to living in a tiny space?  In today’s society I think people are used to having a lot of space to themselves, which means they don’t interact with each other as much, even in their our house.  Living in close quarters really forces you to evaluate your relationship and come to compromises.

To my surprise, he was pretty excited when I told him about the idea.  It would save a lot of money on utility bills, and if we can save up enough we won’t need a loan to build the place.  His dad is handy with construction and his uncle owns a large plot of land that he agreed we could live on.  We’ve tentatively decided on this Bodega style house with the one-bedroom option that will function as an office for Nate to work from home.


Even with the addition, the whole place only clocks in at 356 sq ft.  This means LOTS of downsizing for me since 90% of the stuff in the house right now is mine.  Nate was in the Marine Corps for almost 4 years and then moved to a small New York City apartment with 2 other people, so he’s never lived with a whole lot.  I guess maybe that’s why he didn’t think it was crazy to live in a small house.

I’m pretty excited to say the least.  It’ll be a place to call home without paying rent or huge utility bills.  We’ll own it outright, and we can design and decorate it ourselves.  But that’s still quite a few years away.  For now we are playing with the idea of moving from our current 556 sq ft apartment to a 288 sq ft studio when our lease is up.  It’ll help us save on rent and get us used to living in a small space.

We shall see how the adventure unfolds 🙂  More to come as I continue reading and researching!

If you’re interested in a bit more about the Tiny House Movement, The Tiny Life blog has been one of my favorite resources lately.  Here’s an article I found informative, though it is focused on tiny tiny living, the basic principles are good to absorb.

Tuesday Tutorials – Reusable Gift Wrap Ideas

For the past few weeks we’ve looked at great creative ways to reuse and recycle common materials in our gift giving for the holiday season.  We found ways to reuse old greeting cards (including making gift tags from them), crafted our own gift bows, and assembled unique gift bags–now it’s time to bring it all together and tackle gift wrap!

Most wrapping paper is simply thrown away after being shredded to bits by kids and adults alike, and worse, most of today’s wrapping paper isn’t even recyclable!  Instead of buying new flashy gift wrap this year, consider these options that are either already recycled or can be reused by the receipt for years to come.

1. Soft home goods. Wrap your gift in a sweater, scarf, towel, pillowcase, place mat, cloth napkin, or even a show curtain.  No wrapping paper involved and the recipient really gets two gifts in one!  I once received a gift wrapped in a luxurious chenille bath towel.  That towel is still one of the favorites in my closet.

2. Newspaper, paper bags, and other recyclables. You may think it’s boring at first, but consider newspaper or plain kraft paper that you can decorate with stamps or spruce up with a pretty bow (this really makes your handmade bows stand out for sure) or string or yarn.  You can even use large paper bags like when you needed to cover your school books.  This option may not be reusable, but at least you can recycle the paper!

3. Reusable grocery bags.  This gives the recipient the option to reuse it as a gift bag again in the future or keep it out for everyday use at the grocery store, farmer’s market, or just hauling stuff around!  One Christmas I got the prettiest red and silver reusable grocery bag, but it took me a minute to realize that it wasn’t just a plain gift bag, that’s how nice it was!  Search around, you can find some inexpensive but fashionable options.

4. A functional container.  Similar to #1, this wrapping idea is part of the gift itself!  Give a small gardening set inside a ceramic pot and you can even use the drainage plate as a type of lid to hide the goodies inside. Bowls or all shapes and sizes work well for cooking baskets, or try a movie night basket with a popcorn bowl (like the one below).  I’ve given Italian food-themed baskets in large silver colanders instead of useless packaging and wrapped it up in a lovely kitchen towel–no waste at all!

5. Maps.  If you can keep the map intact and just use some creative folding, this wrapping can bring a cool vibe to your gift and be saved to hang as interesting art later (not to mention its fun to see what’s on the map and can be educational!)

6. Learn Furoshiki I recently stumbled on this Japanese wrapping technique that uses a bit of fabric to create unique and interesting twists and knots.  All you need is some fabric!

7. Cloth gift bags.  This is assuming you are handy with sewing, but even if you aren’t, there are some inexpensive options for reusable cloth gift bags out there (there’s plenty to choose from here).  I’m not a sewer, but I do knit and crochet gift bags for small items that work out well.

I hope this has inspired some of you to be creative with your gift wrapping this year while being kind to the earth (and your wallet).  Happy wrapping!


Friday Feature – Dorota of Jewellry Bijou

Friday Features are all about meeting the talented artists and creators of hand crafted goods to share their stories and bring to light the value and beauty found in handmade.

Today’s feature is all about Dorota from Jewellry Bijou on Etsy!

Tell me about yourself and your shop.
My name is Dorota. I am Polish but as I am a real Francophile I decided to move to France. I love French style and French food. I just couldn’t stop dreaming about Paris…

My favourite style icons are Audrey Hepburn,Dita von Teese and Grace Kelly. I love to read fashion magazines; they are a great inspiration for me. My must-have clothes in my wardrobe are: the trench coat, nude pumps, black leather bag, and colourful scarves.

In my shop I sell lots of romantic and chic accessories,You can find a selection of crochet leg warmers, Bridesmaids Jewelry,Pearl jewelry and also recently I started to make Nespresso jewelry.

Brigitte inspired crochet fashion leg warmers in Navy with Satin ribbon in Ivory Autumn fashion

Brigitte inspired crochet fashion leg warmers in Navy with Satin ribbon

How did you start, and why did you choose your craft? How much experience do you have so far?
Because Fashion has always been my passion I decided to open my small Etsy shop and create my own line of accessories, it all started few years ago, but I still love what I do.

What influences your work from your life or city? (or anything else that influences you)
My inspiration comes from my fascinating travels to other countries, from nature and from music and all those elements together gives me a positive flow.
I love eco-friendly designers and I have a genuine interest in environmental issues, this is the reason I started my Nespresso line.

Multicolor Ecofriendly Nespresso necklace, ecofashion

Multicolor Ecofriendly Nespresso necklace, ecofashion

What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade not only means getting more in terms of quality and integrity but also means that you are putting humanity back into art.

Do you also offer custom made items? Is it something you like to do?

I love to create custom items, everything in my shop can be made in different colours or sizes,I love to hear from my customers and change their ideas into reality.

What plans do you have for the future of you business?

In the next few months I am planning to create a line of luxurious jewelry, just one of a kind pieces made of precious metals with pearls and natural gemstones.

Ballerina Pink Pearl Bracelet

Ballerina Pink Pearl Bracelet

Any advice for others looking to sell their handmade items?
I think the most important thing is to never give up.

AND Dorota has been kind enough to offer you a 15% discount just for reading my blog!  Just use the coupon code  BlogDiscount15 on any of the wonderful items in her shop.

Many thanks to Dorota and be sure to check out the rest of her shop for more beautiful finds!

Stay tuned for more Friday Features, crafty tutorials, and other joyous posts!  If you’d like to stay up-to-date on happenings here at Homegrownjoy, follow this blog, like us on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.  Thank you!

Friday Features – Matt and Grace of Conversation Glass

Friday Features are all about meeting the talented artists and creators of hand crafted goods to share their stories and bring to light the value and beauty found in handmade.

Today’s feature is all about Matt and Grace from Conversation Glass on Etsy!

Tell me about yourself and your shop.

We’re a family business – my wife, my daughter and myself. We found a way to teach our daughter that business can have a conscience through our bottle crafting! We take bottles destined for landfills and make awesome glassware and housewares from them. The process from start to finish is quite fun. From finding just the right bottles, to cutting them into something reusable and fun.
Random fact about us: On our bottle runs, we play the punchbuggy game and are ruthless with making up new rules to outwit one another. Grace and my daughter will hate me for saying so, but I always win 😉

How did you start, and why did you choose your craft? How much experience do you have so far?

Our shop and craft started at about the same time – we saw another bottle-crafter making glassware from wine bottles and were intrigued. With the courage from a nice bottle of wine, we found resources teaching us how to cut bottles and decided to try. After many, many, many bottles, we finally have a success rate we can count on.

Recycled Wine Bottle & Liquor Bottle Glasses Multi Color Set of 4

Recycled Wine Bottle & Liquor Bottle Glasses Multi Color Set of 4

What influences your work from your life or city? (or anything else that influences you)

My influence comes primarily from having a family that likes to eat regularly…All kidding aside, we are passionate about living responsibly. We know that there are many things on this planet that are renewable. As a family that’s felt the effects of industrial outsourcing and labor expendability, we sought a way to find our own way. And this way had to harm none – a business with a conscience.

What do you do when you need a little bit if inspiration?

Inspiration comes from our travel, friends and spending time together. Like our name says, we are all about the exchange of ideas and good conversations.

What is your best achievement?

Our greatest achievement so far has been getting and keeping our daughter involved and excited about the process. With typical teenage reluctance, she dragged a bit at first, but now she gets excited, too when we complete glassware sets and make sales. Recently, she designed (by hand) a Dr Who Tardis from a Bombay Sapphire bottle. Impressive work that brought her mucho satisfaction!

Tea Light Candle Holders Hurricane Lamps Lanterns made from Upcycled Wine Bottles Large Quantities Available

Tea Light Candle Holders Hurricane Lamps Lanterns made from Upcycled Wine Bottles

What does handmade mean to you?

“Handmade” to us equates to something that you craft yourself. This is pretty broad, but I think even something brought together by other somethings can be an original item! This is why upcycling – the taking of something discarded to make something useful and green – is so fun and creative! You’re only limited by your imagination.

Do you also offer custom made items? Is it something you like to do?

We offer custom quantities of our items. We’ve made glassware and tea light lanterns for bistros and bars, and even special occasion events. We love these projects because they’re a fun way to see our former bottles in all their glory!
We also hand-etch glasses for personalization – letters and images that we draw. We’ve made glasses for sorority sisters and neighborhood drinking buddies alike.

Etched Paw Prints on Recycled Wine Bottles Glasses in Pale Blue Set of 2

Etched Paw Prints on Recycled Wine Bottles Glasses

What plans do you have for the future of you business?

At some point in the future, we’d like to set up a real workshop away from our home. It would also be nice to be a part of some of our local craft fairs in the Dallas area and beyond…maybe in one of our other favorite cities like New Orleans or Portland, ME? We love to travel!

Any advice for others looking to sell their handmade items?

Our advice to anyone looking to start selling their handmade goodies is this: Prepare to work hard, listen to feedback from people you trust, and don’t let yourself be discouraged. There is a niche out there for your stuff – you just have to find it! Did I mention the working hard part?

Many thanks to Matt and Grace and be sure to check out the rest of their shop for more unique finds!

Stay tuned for more Friday Features, crafty tutorials, and other joyous posts!  If you’d like to stay up-to-date on happenings here at Homegrownjoy, follow this blog, like us on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.  Thank you!

Tuesday Tutorials – Useful Uses for Old Greeting Cards

Every year I get beautiful greeting cards for the holidays, or a birthday, or some other celebration.  Some cards are just too pretty to throw away (I still have tons of graduation cards from years ago), so I wanted to share some easy ways to reuse all those cards!
1. Bookmarks – Make one for yourself or stick it in a book for your favorite bookworm.  A one-of-a-kind bookmark will surely making reading a little more fun.  Depending on how much time/energy you have, you can leave the bookmark a solid rectangle, or use a hole punch on the top and thread a ribbon or tassel though.  Took me all of 7 minutes to make this one.

greeting card bookmark

A leftover piece of ribbon adds a little something special

2. Postcard – Simply cut off the front of the card and use a postcard stamp!  Couldn’t be easier.  This neat watercolor print I rounded the corners on for fun (I have a strange addiction to rounding the corners on stuff I make).

greeting card postcard

There’s plenty of space on the back for a personal message

3. Gift tags – This one is especially useful during the holidays when you can use up all the cards you received the year before.  Cut to size and either tape to the gift or use your handy hole punch and tie right on the package.

greeting card gift tag

A majestic eagle really makes this gift stand out

4. Framed art – Some cards are a work of art.  If you get one, frame it!  I’ve framed several cards that decorate my bookshelves at home.

greeting card art

A reproduction of Picasso just begs to be framed!

Have any other creative uses for old greeting cards?  Share them in the comments!
And on the theme of recycling, stay tuned for next week’s Tuesday Tutorial.  We’re going to start awesome recycling projects just in time for the gift-giving season 🙂 It’s going to be fun!