The Christmas Challenge

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Hello to all of my dear friends on the other side of the screen!

Here on Happy DIY, we are all about making things ourselves and lowering our impact on the environment. And so, as part of a desire to spend a more meaningful Christmas season, Happy DIY is challenging you to DIY as much as possible for Christmas!

Meaning:

  • Homemade decorations
  • Handmade gifts
  • Handmade Christmas cards
  • Homemade meals

Now, no need to panick! There will be PLENTY of tutorials and great Christmas vibes here on Happy DIY to get you started ūüôā

It is my opinion that you better put all of your¬†love and energy into homemade gifts, rather than spending your money in the consumer chaos¬†that is called Christmas. And so, I’ve made a plan for homemade¬†goodies to gift for Christmas.

Are you up for the challenge?! I know I am (it’s my favourite season of the year!)

Yes, this is in fact, one of our Christmas ornaments. RAAWRR

Yes, this is in fact, one of our Christmas ornaments. RAAWRR

Now, why am I already launching my Christmas Challenge in October? Well, I’ll be posting plenty of tutorials and DIY-goods in preparation for Christmas, so you’ll have the time to make it yourself and won’t be rushed into anything.

How can you participate?

  1. Be inspired by the tutorials and make your own gifts, decoration and Christmas cards. Challenge yourself to make beautiful things and try not to give in to the seasonal madness!
  2. Post pictures of your projects, leave a comment, communicate about your ideas.Let’s all help each other out and let’s have some fun DIY-ing ūüôā

Here are some blog post I’ve already posted this year in preparation of Christmas: a¬†delicious batch of¬†peach-and-fudge jam; handmade vintage candles, a batch of plum jam; and let’s not forget about some tasty, homemade granola!

Happiness. Do it yourself!

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Homemade jam: yellow plum!

Look at these cuties!

Look at these cuties!

Fall is definitely my preferred season. I just love it when the trees turn yellow, orange and red and it looks like nature is on fire. This time of year, everything feels more alive and more vibrant. Another reason why I love the fall so much, is because of jam! The end of the summer, and fall are definitely the right time to make jam, because fruit is at its best in comparison to the rest of the year.

This is my second batch of jam this year… I’ve already made some delicious jam with peach and fudge!

My jam-making¬†sessions are in preparation for¬†Christmas: this year, I will be gifting¬†baskets filled with homemade goods such as jam, cookies, granola, soap and lot’s more. If you are feeling frugal and if you are in a mood to DIY, I invite you to join in on my quest to make your¬†own gifts for Christmas!

Making jam is not an easy process. I’ve done it many many times, from easy recipes to extremely complicated (helloooo marmalade!), but I still have to pay attention not to burn myself in the process. If you would like to follow this recipe, be careful and make sure there are no children around when you are actually making the jam.

The normal process for making jam is mixing 1kg of chopped fruit with 1kg of white sugar and let that cook for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the fruit. But I’m letting you in on a little secret: there is a special kind of sugar that only needs 4 minutes of boiling and your jam will be ready! Saving electricity For The Win!

Ingredients needed:

  • 1,2 kg of¬†yellow plums¬†(the stones inside the plum represent a small fraction of the weight. You will need a total of 1 kg of fruit without the stones)
  • 1 kg¬†of special jam sugar with natural pectin
  • 5 glass jars with a metal lid
  • A large¬†cooking pot for cooking the jam
  • A cooking pot for sterilizing the glass jars
  • I found some really, really cute fabric covers for the glass jars at¬†Flying Tiger. They were 2‚ā¨ per package, and I had some left over from the last time I made jam.
1.2 kg of washed fruit

1.2 kg of washed fruit

1 kg of special jam sugar

1 kg of special jam sugar

As you can see, this is a special kind of sugar with natural pectin in it. It speeds up the cooking process and you will only need 4 minutes of boiling.

Step 1: let’s cut all of the fruit into tiny pieces!

Yellow plum

Yellow plum

Step 2: mix with 1 kg of special jam sugar and let it sit for a few hours.

Sugar and fruit... Hmm!

Sugar and fruit… Hmm!

Once your mixture is ready, put it on the stove and bring it to a boiling point. Let it boil for 4 minutes (or according to the instruction on the package). Remove the pot from the stove and turn the heat of after the indicated time.

Homemade peach jam with fudge (15)

Recycled glass jars for jam!

I recycle my empty glass jars and use them again when I make my own jam. I took this picture while the glass jars were ‚Äúbathing‚ÄĚ in hot water, so the glue of the labels could come of. Once the labels are removed, give them a wash and let them dry. (I actually stole this picture from the last time I made jam… ūüôā )

The reason why you need to sterilise the glass jars, is to conserve the jam well. If you did a good job, you can keep the jam for about three years in a dark and cool cupboard.

There are different ways of sterilizing your glass containers¬†(for example putting them in the oven), but I sterilise them with boiling water. I put a pot filled with water on the stove and I let it reach the boiling point. Then I add the glass jars, two at a time, together with their lids (but open ‚Äď otherwise they burst). I let them sit in the boiling water for about one minute and then I’ll get them out with some giant kitchen tweezers. This is the most difficult part about¬†making jam. There are no picture since I couldn‚Äôt do both things at the same time!¬†I think your best option is to just try different methods until you’ve found one you are comfortable with.

When the jars are sterilised, fill them with jam (all the way up to the edge) and secure with a lid. Now turn the jars upside down for the vacuum-effect and just let them cool down completely.

Ok… Time to admit something. I actually had a little bit of an accident with two glass containers (no, they did not explode, and no, I did not burn myself), but apparently, I didn’t secure the lids well enough and when I turned the containers upside down…. Hot jam came pouring out. Luckily, I had time to save what I could and I didn’t make too much of a mess. Right now I’m glad the previous home owner chose a countertop that could actually resist about anything, even though it’s not my taste!

Isn't it too cute?!!

Isn’t it too cute?!!

The final product.

The final product.

I’ve already tasted the jam, it’s delicious.

Happiness: do it yourself!!

Ode to our kitties

Today, I would like to write an ode to our two lovely companions: our kitties Basil and Lou.

Because our life became so much more fun with the adoption of our cats, and because I love spending time with my two furry clowns,¬†I’d like to present:

Basil

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Basil as a curious little kitten in apartment n¬į1.

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Basil as a fully grown cat in apartment n¬į2.

Age: a little bit more than three years old (male). Was adopted in October of 2013, has lived with us in apartment n¬į1 and in our current apartment n¬į2. Basil came to us through an animal shelter, he had about 2 or 3 brothers and sisters.

Favourite things to do: virtual bird hunting (sitting in front of our bedroom window and watching birds fly by whilst making strange hunting noises); sleeping; and that’s about it. Oh, and sleeping.

Special skill: Master Chief of Awkwardness. Is able to remain at a safe distance from all human beings but still look very awkward and uncomfortable. Other special skill: meowing without actually making any sounds.

Most embarrassing thing about me? When I was a little kitten, I would emit farts that were referred to as ‘Atomic Bombs’ by my owners. Needless to say, they smelled a little bit.

Now, my tall man being an architect, and preferring matching cats in black and white (I’m dead serious), we adopted a matching little pal in black and white:

Lou

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I might accidentally have put him there.

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Boy life is hard.

Age: not exactly sure. He was born somewhere in March of 2016, and¬†was found in a field weighing only 600g and quite undernourished. He’s about 6 months old now. Lou came to us in July 2016 through¬†a rescue organisation for street cats. He’s a tough little guy!

Favourite things to do: play. With pens, feathers, socks, Basil’s tail, his own tail. Likes to sit on the edge of the bath tub when either one of us is taking a bath.

Special skill: extreme player. Knows¬†how to win any ladies (or gentlemen’s) heart. (Lisa, I’m looking at you! )

Most embarrassing thing about me? Alright… I actually fell into the bath tub with my little kitty¬†butt when my owner was taking a bath, and I was so frightened by all of it that¬†I ran across the entire appartement covered in bath foam.

Now that I’ve introduced our little guys, here are five¬†reasons why they are so wonderful:

1. No expensive toys

Seriously. Cats don’t need any fancy toys from the store because they SIMPLY. WON’T. PLAY. WITH .IT. Many of us have bought expensive stuff designed for cats, but they just aren’t interested. All of the other things are the bomb though, especially if they are off-limits: wallpaper, buttons on expensive shirts, important documents, boxes. Which leads me to my next point:

2. If I fits, I sits

(and preferably with a stolen stress ball)

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Anytime we bring home a box (such as a shoebox, a cardboard box from one of our online purchases), our kitties can be found playing with them. Super easy to keep them entertained, and we’re recycling at the same time! It’s a WIN WIN!

3. You will never be alone

Confession time: in my home, I have what I’ll fondly call my own squad. Wherever I am, the cats are there too. Often my boyfriend tags along. Which means that I’ve already encountered situations where I am the only one taking a bath, but there are four of us in the bathroom. And so, when I’m watching TV, this is what happens:

 

One cat on my leg, one cat above my head.

4. Much fun, great laugh

Outr two little buddies aren’t the brightest cats on earth (especially Basil, he ranks in a different kind of ‘intelligent’). So we’ve seen it all: running into windows, sliding across the floor, weird sleeping positions, jumping from a piece of furniture but not estimating very well and falling kind of painfully¬†on the ground, (have I mentioned falling into the bath tub?), being frightened by the printer. Oh, one of the best moments was when one of the cats was trying to catch a football player from the game that was playing on TV.

So it is always fun around here, you’re NEVER bored!

5. Unconditional love

The more you stink, the better. Disgusting socks on the floor? Loving it. Gross sweatshirt on the couch? Better rub your head in the armpit area. DELICIOUS.

Your cat won’t care if you’re wearing make-up or not. As long as you give them love, they will give it back a million times.

I love my little guys.

I would like to dedicate this blog post to our little kitten in kitty-heaven. We had a little cutie pie named Cas, who was adopted in 2015, but died when he was only 9 months old due to neurological problems. He’s forever in our hearts. We realise¬†that our youngest cat, Lou, looks freakishly¬†like him.

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Do you have any pets you’re crazy about? Please feel free to share! Pictures are greatly appreciated here one Happy DIY!

Happiness. Do it yourself!

How I saved 75% of my shopping budget

money-saving-tips-for-clothes-1A little while ago, I was working at a temporary job whilst also looking for a new job. Money was tight and that led to quite a bit of stress. I think I even blew a few interviews due to that stress, because I felt the pressure to get a new job quickly, and it probably affected the way I came across to my interviewers.

I didn’t want to have to feel this pressure anymore, so I made the decision¬†that¬†enough was enough. I was going to start living more frugally. I took a look at my closet, because my purpose was to stop buying clothes for a while ( = a year!) and save money. My closet was, and still is full, there was nothing that I needed, except for a new pair of shoes, because my three pairs of shoes weren‚Äôt going to do the trick.

I normally buy new shoes at around ‚ā¨120. But instead, I searched on online second-hand shops for a nice pair of shoes. I used¬†the following online shops, because they cover the area of Belgium and the Netherlands:

My first discovery was: the Dutch site Marktplaats.nl offers a lot more bargains than its Belgian counterpart. Why? It is my belief that my lovely nabures, the Dutch folks, are used to negotiating and getting the best value for the best price. I believe this comes from the fact that the Netherlands used to have colonies all over the world. The Dutch people used to trade coffee, tobacco, silk and so on in the 17th and 18th century. I therefore feel like you can get a lot more for your money on the Dutch site than on the Belgian sites.

I found a pair of new, never worn boots in my size. They are made by the brand Esprit, a brand I like indeed, and that is known for its good quality. The boots were purchased at ‚ā¨100 in the store, and were listed at ‚ā¨25. Instant 75% savings! A little bit nervously, I immediately contacted the seller, and soon we had a deal!

Ok, so, why is this a better way of buying clothes and shoes? (I got a WHOLE LIST of arguments for you ūüėČ !! )

  • The first obvious reason: I instantly saved 75‚ā¨. You could actually even say I saved 95‚ā¨, because my original budget was ‚ā¨120. (for my non-European readers: ‚ā¨120 equals 132 USD)
  • By purchasing these boots, I made sure the owner didn‚Äôt throw them out = it is more environmentally friendly to acquire something new this way.
  • I savour these shoes A LOT MORE than I would savour a pair of shoes bought in the store. Why? I got a lasting adrenaline kick from this great buy, and I was proud that I had saved so much money on a pair of boots I reaaaally like.
  • I discovered that you can find a lot of great deals on the internet if you are willing to take the time to research your best options.

All-in all, this was a very positive experience for me. In the future, this will be my way of proceeding for all of the other things I need. I hope I was able to convince you that buying second-hand can be a GREAT THING!

This is how the box arrived.

This is how the box arrived.

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Unboxing: whoohoo!

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Mirror selfie.

How to deal with an afternoon of blues

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Sometimes, I have a day of feeling blue and wishing life were different. This happens when I encounter a series of set backs, or if I have an emotional day, and the repetition of bad moments add up.¬†As I told you guys in my blog post about my Memory Boxes, I have been dealing with a burnout for the past year. This burnout came after working like an insane person for more than a year in a very stressful job that I’ve now quit.

Burnout is sneaky. Or at least, it was in my case. I knew I wasn’t happy in my job, and it provoked some tension at home as well since I was always in a bad mood. But I didn’t really see it coming at the full speed it actually hit me. The real low point was when I was at work, sitting in front of my computer, staring at the screen, and literally not being able to do anything. Not even move my arms. I couldn’t think clearly. I had already resigned and I was about to leave the job in a few weeks time, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I took the next day off. The following months were tough, there was the constant realisation that something was wrong, that I was not behaving like myself.

The thing about burnout, is that you will always feel down and tired. It will feel like there is no purpose and that the little joys of life never come around anymore. I know these words are very heavy to pronounce, but that’s what it feels like.

I have been trying to figure out ways to battle this sadness. To get over the bad feelings, to rise and shine every morning, to face the day. Because there were days that I would give myself credit for even getting out of bed. This has been my (luckily very happy) solution so far: I spoil myself. I do whatever I feel like doing: taking a bath, sitting in front of the tv and watch junk for hours on end. Baking cookies, shopping for bath products, going for a walk. Reading library books in bed with a cup of coffee. The clue is to not force yourself into anything. There were times that I would force myself into things like cooking, cleaning, ticking items off my to-do list just to feel in control again. The only problem, is that it made me feel more tired, or bad about myself if I did not complete the task.

And so, on an afternoon of heavy blues, I went to one of my favorite shops ans bought a jar with cookie batter. I also bought heart-shaped baking trays and pushed the cookie dough into it. Giant enormous delicious cookie as a result ūüôā

It was nice to just use my hands and to finish a project that really wasn’t difficult. Just completing this simple task made me feel better about myself.

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So my advice is: take one day at a time. If you feel you need to rest, take a nap, hide under the covers. Do you want to be entertained, watch your favourite tv-show. There is no need to push yourself to extremes, you have worked hard enough, you deserve some time off. Be kind to yourself. On a sidenote: be careful with alcohol, it can really affect you in a negative way if you’re burnt out.

Happy thoughts to all of you! There are some fabulous days ahead of us!