Thoughts on being a mom

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This is me with my daughter, when she was about two months old. I love this picture. My mom took it when she came to visit us in Antwerp. It is completely uncensored, we are both wearing our pyama’s, I haven’t taken a shower, my hair is a mess.

For me, this is a true depiction of motherhood. I had wanted a baby for such a long time, and I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was when I heard I was expecting a baby girl!

But the reality is that motherhood is hard. It is exhausting to not get enough sleep for months on end, to hush your baby ten times a day, to not get enough time to yourself.

But the most exhausting thing about motherhood, and parenting in general, is the social pressure and the outside judgement that is connected to a baby being born.

By this I mean that everyone has an opinion on how you should handle your baby. I used to be the same: I was the best parent until I actually had a kid. It feels like I have to explain to everyone why I choose to cope with my baby’s crying in a certain way, or why I do this instead of doing that. And it is because I know her: I have been with her since she was born. I made her with my body and then, as we say in Dutch: “I put her on the world”.

I can differentiate a hunger-cry from a tired-cry from a I’m-bored-cry. I can even differentiate it from the “I’m-fake-crying-because-I-want-your-hugs-cry” 😏

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I guess what I’m trying to say is that I did not expect that I would be so crushed by feelings of guilt all the time. Guilt of not being good enough, not doing enough, not being able to raise a baby and have an impeccable household at the same time. Guilt for staying at home one day a week. Guilt for not always enjoying that day off. Guilt towards my partner who does not get to stay at home one day a week. And the list goes on!

I read a beautiful blog post about motherhood, written by one of my favorite bloggers, Mrs. Frugalwoods. She is currently juggling between being a fulltime mom to a toddler and a baby, being a writer and running a homestead. Here’s the link.

I will, from now on, try to be more kind to myself, and more kind to other parents. No judgement! It’s not easy being a parent (not just a mom, it also applies to the daddies out there).

Hugs for everyone!

 

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All the love in the world

Well hello there!

This is my very first post-delivery article 🙂

I’m currently knee-deep into motherhood as my daughter Noor was born on the 16th of March. She came as an early birthday gift because my own birthday…. is the very next day. Her due-date was the 17th of March, the day I would turn 28; but she arrived on the very last day of my 27th year in life.

Anyway, having a baby is quite challenging, especially the first two weeks are rough. But in time it gets better and easier (and maybe some more experienced moms can reassure me by telling me that mastering the art of being a mom can take some time?).

Here are some things I’ve learnt in the process:

1. You will never love another human being more than your newborn baby. It is true what they say: having a baby gives an entire new meaning to the concept of love. And I’m pretty sure you feel this overwhelming love just to be able to cope with those exhausting, exhausting first few months.

2. Your friends and family will be super excited!

3. Staying at home and taking care of your newborn does not mean you’re on vacation. If anything, it is more difficult than working full-time, which requires working between 38 and 50 hours a week. Because being a mom doesn’t stop at 5 p.m., it’s a 24/7 deal.

4. Your baby will be the cutest, the smartest, the funniest, the best of all babies.

5. No matter how many books you’ve read about parenting, you’ll never be as prepared as you wish you were, because a live baby is not an article in a book: my baby certainly has a will of her own 😀

And finally: a whole new world of DIY-projects has opened itself to me. I’ll get started as soon as the exhaustion fades away.

See you in 24 years!

 

Update: what I’ve been up to

This is the first blog post I’ve written in a very, very long time. And by very I mean: almost six months. Even though I have been absent from my blog for quite some time, I’ve received many sweet messages from readers encouraging me to keep on posting. Thank you all for that.

There are a couple of reasons why I haven’t been blogging for this long, and the first one is: I’m expecting a BABY!! Yes yes, baby number 1 is on its way and due on my very own birthday: march 17th 2018, when I’ll turn 28!! I’m almost 6 months pregnant now. Our baby is doing very well and is kicking inside my belly like a little ninja every day. And so I’ve (we’ve) been too buzy with getting the baby’s room ready and sorting things out. Truth must be said, being pregnant and working 40 hours a week can be quite the challenge, so I’ve decided that I would put blogging on hold for a little while and instead, focus on growing this little human being inside of me.

Me at (almost) six months pregnant

Another reason for my long absence, is the fact that blogging isn’t very fulfilling for me right now. I’ve been on a quest for the past couple of years, trying to understand what it is that makes me happy, and how I should reshape my current life into one that makes me feel more complete. It hasn’t always been easy, and since I’m naturally prone to self-doubt and self-criticism, I though it would be healthy for me to stop putting myself under pressure trying to get a blog post out every couple of days.

Any who, I’m still not sure if I’ll keep blogging, but in the meantime, I felt like writing an update, so here we are.

Besides becoming pregnant, we took a trip to Slovenia, Germany and Austria during the month of July. It was a lot of fun, but it was also the beginning of my pregnancy so I didn’t feel so hot during our hour-long drives ^^

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I’ve recently taken up handlettering, a form of craft I’m getting more and more into. This time, however, I will try to enjoy myself first, before putting myself under monumentous stress trying to accomplish something out of my handlettering.

So that’s that for now. I hope you are all doing well and I want to thank all of you for sticking around for so long.

I wish you all a lovely holiday season!

 

The ultimate luxurious yet frugal DIY gift: honey infused with edible gold

OMG I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about one of my DIY-projects! I finished this project literally 5 minutes ago and I rushed over to my computer to write about it because honestly it’s the coolest project ever!

Why? It is SUPER EASY, SUPER QUICK, INEXPENSIVE and with a FANTASTIC END RESULT!

I’m really a big fan of honey – I love it in my tea or on my toast. Since I use a lot of honey for my homemade granola, an idea came to mind for a luxurious, less than 10€ DIY gift that would be great for any occasion.

You will need:

  • A jar of liquid honey
  • A flake of edible gold. I ordered this flake of 24 carat edible gold online and it cost me 5.50€ including shipping.
  • An empty glass container
  • A mixing bowl, a knife, a cutting board, a spatula

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Step 1: take out the 24 carat edible flake. You can either cut it into smaller pieces, or you can put it directly into your mixing bowl. I went for option number 2 and it was much quicker. Try not to touch the flake with your fingertips because it is super sticky.

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12 g of edible gold

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Step 2: take your mixing bowl and pour a small amount of honey onto the flake and start stirring. Normally, the flake will break into a zillion tiny pieces.

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Step 3: it’s time to fill the glass container. I alternated between layers of regular honey, and layers of honey infused with the edible gold. Once the glass container is completely filled, give it a good stir with a spoon in order to get a beautiful, homogenous mix.

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This is an incredibly fancy jar of honey!

 

Step 4: make a beautiful gift tag.

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24ct edible gold honey (1)

And you’re done! All in all it took me about 5 minutes to make this gift. What a cool gift for Christmas or Mother’s day!

What do you think? Would you give this a go?

Financial report: preparing for our summer roadtrip

Hello to my frugal and creative readers!

Today, I would like to report about my preparations for our next trip, which will take place in July this year. My financial report about our trip to Venice was my most popular post ever and got viewed many, many times, to my own delight (naturally).

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Cruising the Gran Canal in Venice

So I thought it would be a great idea to share some more frugal travel tips, because travelling really doesn’t have to be expensive.

For our next vacation, we are planning on taking a two-week roadtrip through Europe, visiting castles in Germany, crossing through Austria and travelling all the way down to the Slovenian coast. The part I’m probably most excited about is our stay in Slovenia’s only National Park, Triglavski Narodni Park.

Roadtrip

So, without further ado, here are a few tips:

N°1: Knowing when it’s most financially reasonable to take your vacation.

Okay, so here’s the deal: my partner can take a paid vacation twice a year: in July and in December. I’ve adapted my schedule around his, because I don’t have such restrictions and if we take our vacation in July, we still both get paid.

N°2: Calculating how much gas will cost ya

Yes, I do plan a lot 😉 But planning ahead also means: saving a bunch of money!

I entered our destination on Google maps, and as you can see, a one-way drive amounts to 13 hours or 1.250 km. This would be 2.500 km in total. It is probably going to be more than that, because we are going to stop on the way for sightseeing in different parts of Europe. So let’s say, we will be driving a total of 3.000 km.

Next, I did some research online for the average km/liter of gas and the price of gas and I came to this conclusion: 1 liter of gas = 15 km = 1.40€. Which means: 3000/15 * 1.40 = 280€.

So now I’ve figured out how much gas will cost us during our trip. I like to be on the safe side so I’ll round that up to 300€. That’s a pretty big stack of money, but figuring out the cost of transportation beforehand means you can substitute and look for cheaper options for the other components of your trip (for example, accommodation and food).

N°3: Comparing prices – Hotel, motel, hostel or camping?

Let’s say, we are going to stay in Koper, Slovenia, which is the final destination of our trip. I used a really useful website, called Trivago, which compares prices of different hotels in the area you’ve selected. Basically, it’s a search engine that shows you all of the different options. I kinda feel like it’s unnecessary to talk about this website, because a frugal reader will already have figured out how to find the cheapest hotels, but I like to be thorough!

I selected the destination, the date of arrival and departure, and a price maximum and launched Trivago into a search.

Hotel

My conclusion is that a hotel stay would cost us between 40€ and 50€ per night, for two people. If you’re not familiar with euros: an average hotel in Antwerp (which is the city I live in) can cost between 70€ and 120€ per night. So it’s safe to say this is on the cheap side for us. I could launch another search to find campings and compare prices, but I realised campings aren’t necessarily the cheaper option..

N°4 : Stuff the car with snacks, drinks and cutlery.

My final advice is to bring enough snacks and drinks on your trip, so you don’t have to resort to expensive grocery stores during your trip. A good way to avoid expensive restaurant meals, is to bring your own cutlery and maybe even camping gear so you can cook your own food. This is, of course, a huge plus when you travel by car.

If you are into travelling, check out my post about that time we took a roadtrip through the US. Or my february report about our citytrip to Venice.

However, if you can’t afford to travel, just as I couldn’t last year, here’s a fun blog post about the things you could do at home instead of travelling.

How about you? How do you plan your trips?

Lifegoals

 

DIY Weaving project

 

Weaving project, wall hanging

Weaving pink tutorial (2)

Hi to all my creative readers!

Today I’d like to report about the weaving project I’ve created. I’m not going to lie, this project was a pain in the butt and I’m not going to pretend that you can complete your weaving project in under a week – for me it was more a matter of months.

However, I’m extremely happy that I pushed through and finished my project, and I’m actually really happy about the result. So now that I’ve warned you, don’t be put off; just know you’ll need lot’s of patience 🙂

I created this weaving for our bedroom, in an attempt to make it more interesting and textured. The good news is, this project isn’t actually expensive and it is a really fun feature for any room you’re thinking about decorating.

Total cost: around 30€.

Supplies:

  • A weaving frame. I bought mine at Veritas for 5€
  • Lot’s of wool. You’ll need thick threads of wool, that you can weave through the frame and create some fluffiness. I bought wool that was priced down. I believe the wool (5 balls of wool) cost me about 15€ in total.
  • Tassels. I’ll link to a fabulous tassel tutorial down below. The wool I used for my tassels cost a total of 4€
  • A wooden stick. This one was purchased for 4.95€ at the hardware store

Procedure:

  • Step 1: make a giant stack of tassels. When you think you’ve made enough tassels, make a bunch more. Seriously 🙂 Here’s a link to a blog I really like that features a great tassel tutorial.
  • Step 2: cut your weaving frame into the desired length and height. The actual weaving really isn’t difficult, it is just time-consuming. What I did was, I used the back end of a lightning match to push the wool into a hole of the frame. I skipped two holes and then pushed the wool through a third hole.

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I alternated between rows of pink wool, and rows of white wool.

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  • Step 3: Attach the tassels at the bottom of the weaving frame. I simply attached them with a strand of wool. I actually attached the tassels first, and then continued weaving down until I reached the tassels. I flipped them back and forth to pass underneath the tassels.

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  • Step 4: attach your weaving to the wooden stick. Make sure it will be able to support the weight of your weaving. Once again, I used wool to attach the weaving to the stick.

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  • Step 5: enjoy your reclaimed freedom!

Weaving pink tutorial (1)

Weaving pink tutorial (3)

 

Personal report: why I live a frugal life

Today, I want to expand on the reasons why leading a frugal life is essential to a good and healthy lifestyle, and how embracing frugality has been beneficial to me.

How it all started

As some of you might already know, my frugal quest started after experiencing a burn-out last year. I quit the job that had pushed me into this burn-out without even having applied for anything else. However, I did not have enough financial resources to stay at home and recover, and so I took on a part-time, temporary job as a customer service emloyee. It definitely served as a lesson and I’ve been on a strict frugal regime since October of 2016.

Besides that, I majored as an Art Historian at the University of Ghent, which was a fabulously interesting course. Sadly, it has been very difficult to find a job in the field I majored in. It’s been quite a disappointment for myself that I haven’t been able to find a job in a museum, or art-related.

Being frugal has altered my life vision

Experiencing a burn-out and not being able to stay at home to recover, created the profound need for saving money. And by saving money I mean: creating a cash fund that can cover 6 months of living expenses for both my partner and me in case anything difficult happens to us.

I’m happy to report that I’m currently at 75% of that target. I hope that by the end of June, I will have reached my financial goal.

My next goal is to put enough money aside during the years to come, to enable myself to take some time off in a foreseeable future and to just try to find a life purpose that’s more suited to the person that I am. And by this I mean: living a more artistic and creative life.

Hello you!

I realised that living a frugal life would allow me to pursue my life goals. And that’s the first time since I graduated that I can see a way out of the life dictated by the nine-to-five-rat-race. Of course, it’s going to take af few years to reach this goal, but that’s fine.

Frugality versus jobs

I’m also happy to report that I’ve found a job that is fulfilling and suited to my personality, even though it has no connections to the world of art at all. I’ve been at my current firm since October, and I feel proud in what I do every day and that is really important to me.

However, I do experience every single day that time flies by when you live and work in this nine-to-five regime. Seven days out of ten I will be completely exhausted when I get home, and it takes me a good few hours to recuperate. I’m sure once I get settled into my job a little bit more, things will evolve for the better.

Knowing that I’m saving up for this life goal of creativeness helps me get through everything.

We love our plants

The peace of mind that comes when you have a financial plan

My first goal was to create a cash fund that would cover 6 months of living expenses. As I started putting more and more money into my savings account, I felt less stressed out and most of all, more in control of my life. I now know that if something were to happen (job loss, accident, running out of chocolate…), I’m covered. It’s empowering, really.

Moreover, the end of the year 2016 brought quite a few Christmas presents in the shape of bills for taxes and medical insurance. Having been really frugal, I was thrilled that I could pay those bills without any trouble (I’m taking about a total of almost 2.000€).

In short, this is what frugality does for me:

  • I was able to create a life goal and map out my life accordingly
  • More money in the bank = less stress!
  • Peace of mind
  • More appreciation for all the things I already have, material or immaterial

If you want to know how to reach your life goals, click on this link for an article. Also, here are some tips for saving money on your shopping budget, how to get furniture for free, or 7 free things I enjoy in life.

And you? Do you think frugality can help you achieve your goals?

7 free things I enjoy in life

 

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View from our balcony

Living in the city of Antwerp has many advantages, but also disadvantages when it comes to living the frugal life. First of all, there are many free activities offered by the city, a large freecycle community and my family and friends close by. Additionally, there is a lot of creative capital present in this bubbly city (from museum exhibitions to jewelry, fashion and interior designers, to musicians and fabulous trendy chefs). Be that as it may, this has also given shape to quite a consumerist culture disguised as a ‘hipster way of life‘.

How to save money on your coffee

Delicious coffee break on the weekend

I used to be massively influenced by this lifestyle. I would have breakfast on the weekends in a fancy-pants-brunch-bistro, followed by a stroll through town with yet another take-away coffee in my right hand, floating in and out of shops just to buy butterflies in a frame, beautiful porcelain candle holders, bath bombs, or something for my crafting projects.

At first glance, this sounds like a wonderful lifestyle. However, when I started saving money to pursue my life goals, I realised that a lot of money was going towards those seemingly small and insignificant purchases. And while there is nothing wrong with buying the occasional coffee, or beautiful gift, it is more problematic when you spend too much money to sustain this lifestyle.

After realising that I wanted a life with more financial comfort, I started analysing all of my spending habits. I discovered that this “hipster way of life” was compensatory for the long workdays spent in the office, answering calls and replying to urgent e-mails. It was a way to decompress.

But (and I can’t stress this enough): by spending all of my income, I was making sure that I remained stuck in my job.

Spending less means appreciating more.

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Appreciating our summer at home

Since my goal is to have more financial and mental freedom, I’ve been trying to save as much as I possibly can by analysing my spending habits. I was able to recognise bad habits right away (such as: spending money when I felt bad about my life). I’ve already discussed the solution I’ve implemented for those expensive take-away coffees that I’m so fond of.

From finding myself in a situation where I was spending more than I earned, I can now save 40% of my income (after 5 months of trying).

And when all of the spending stopped, guess what? I was able to appreciate the things I already own a lot more.

I started looking for free ways to decompress and to have fun in life. Instead of going out to shop, I try to entertain myself with free things. Here’s a detailed list of the alternatives I’ve found, which bring me heaps of joy.

  1. Free books

I love to read books. And my library pass costs about 10€ per year. Although this is not expensive (less than 1€/month!), the library didn’t really work for me, which is why I didn’t renew my pass this year.  I didn’t work for me for the simple reason that I have to return my books within three weeks, and that I never can manage to return them on time. I’ve paid quite a few fines for this already (not frugal). I realised lending library books caused some amount of stress, because there is a deadline to respect, and the opening hours of the library don’t correspond with my working hours.

But I’ve found a great solution! I borrow books from my parents-in-law, who happen to possess a great library themselves. I ‘shop’ for books on their bookshelves and return them when I’m done. It’s fab!

2. Free movies

Since Netflix has appeared, lot’s of people have disconnected from their regular cable. I believe this is why television stations are currently broadcasting really high quality movies, as a competitive game plan. When watching television, I try to go through the television programme and record good movies. It is a quite ironic that the movies that are broadcasted on tv, are movies I actually paid for to see in the movie theater. Lesson learned! I’ll just be patient until they broadcast the movie on tv.

Movies I’ve been able to record: Gone Girl (oscar winning movie), Friends with Benefits, No strings attached, Magic Mike, Valentine’s Day, Django Unchained, The longest Ride, Last Night and lot’s more.

3. Free baking sessions

Okay, *almost free*, since you have to buy the ingredients. But check out the cookies I made for  a mere 1.09€! Baking isn’t really expensive in itself. For me, baking is a way to decompress: I find it really relaxing to make something from scratch. And of course, it’s great to have homemade treats with homemade your coffee!

Below: a picture of some delicious homemade Rocky road, recipe here.

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4. Free Yoga

I do realise that not everybody is into yoga. However, I’d like to point out that I started practising yoga regularly when I was feeling really stressed out, and it made a tremendous difference. I’m naturally a stressful person, and it can be exhausting to deal with all of the stressy thoughts that exist in my mind. Practising yoga allows me to calm down and to sleep at night.

I read about a yoga website that offers free tutorials for all levels (beginners, advanced, experts) and so I checked it out. I found some great tutorials, and I’ve been recommending this website to all of my friends ever since, because it offers great step-by-step quality tutorials with lots of explanation about the postures.

The other bonus (besides FREE yoga): I don’t have to rush to a yoga class after work; I can do it in the comfort of my own home whenever I feel like it.

5. Free cuddle time with our cats

We live with two dorky cats who are absolutely adorable and kind (and a little bit dumb). It’s great fun to play with them, to read a book with a cat on your lap or to tease them.

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6. Free walks through town

As I discussed in my post about spending your vacation time at home, there are a lot of free activities offered by the city. Check out your city website to see if any activity can spark your interest. For example, there is a policy in Belgium that Museums are free on the first Wednesday of the month. Additionally, you could take a walk through town and discover new things. There might be a free concert, or fireworks, or you could discover the beautiful architecture of your town.

Free: Tall Ship Race Antwerp

7. Family time

And last but not least, I like to spend time with my partner, my friends and my family. Here’s a list of free (or almost free) activities for you and your family:

  • Board games
  • Crafting
  • Pick-nicks
  • House renovations
  • Breakfast in bed
  • Inviting each other for dinner or brunch
  • Visiting a museum

So here you go! The best things in life come free to us. It is not at all impossible to live a good life on a budget, there are so many things available to us!

How about you? How do you entertain yourself on a budget?

Renovation report : before and after

Hello Frugal Folks!

Today I’ll be reporting about our living room renovation.

Supplies: one big living room covered in wallpaper from the nineties, one couple with a serious “Let’s Do-It-Ourselves” game plan, two water spray bottles, lot’s of paint, painter’s tape, protection for the floor and voilà! (oh I forgot: insert ONE weekend).

So essentially, we took off the old wall paper, filled holes in the wall with putty, rewired a few electrical outlets and painted the walls in a bright and fresh white “colour” by applying three coats of paints.

Total cost: around 200€ for the paint and that was it. 

Please enjoy this before-and-after picture session! I’ll be explaining below the pictures just how we proceeded.

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Fireplace before

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Fireplace after

Renovation repainting the walls

Dining room area before

Renovating living room

Dining room area after

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Wall adjoining the fireplace before

Renovation living room

After

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Dining room area

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We love our plants

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Cactus!

So here are all my tips and tricks for a succesful renovation:

  • Water spray bottles: wooow did those make a difference! Basically, we sprayed water onto the wall and allowed the water to impregnate the paper. After that, we were able to strip off the wallpaper super quickly!
  • Be patient: calculate half a day or an entire day per task so you don’t get frustrated. For example: we both took our Friday off, and on that day, we stripped all of the wallpaper. On Saturday, we had planned to fill the holes in the wall with putty, and we started painting late in the evening. On Sunday, we added the other two coats in the morning and in the evening. And we were succesful!
  • Protect your floor. I love our wooden floor and so we made sure to cover it with a special plastic foil. Even so, we still had a few paint spatters which I removed with a cotton stick and white spirit.
  • Always follow these steps: 1. Prepare your room; 2. Remove the wall paper; 3. Fill any holes with putty, let it dry and then sand your wall; 4. Vacuum the room to avoid dust; 5. Start painting!

How about you? Do you plan on renovating a room anytime soon?

Happydiysite (4)

DIY Planter: my upcycle project!

DIY Planter upcycle

Honey, I broke our ovendish…

Sad, but true… Our ovendish split right down the middle while handling meatloaf in the oven. Being a frugal person, I hated the idea of throwing out this ovendish that we received for Christmas and I tried to come up with an upcycle idea.

So I DIY-ed myself a planter! (By the way, I once upcycled one of our bowls with beautiful pieces of vintage porcelain).

DIY Planter with cactus pattern (3)

Kaputt!

These are the tools I used to upcycle my old and broken oven dish into a new planter:

  • Broken ceramic ovendish
  • A porcelain marker (green)
  • The Japanese gold repair kit, also know as the Kintsugi repair Kit
  • Small pieces of wood to act as ‘furniture legs’. Actually, these came from a craft store and are supposed to be used as namecard holders

Step 1: I drew on a pattern of cacti with the porcelain marker. Tip: draw a pattern of your liking on a piece of paper beforehand. This way, you can think about your pattern on paper and not screw up the piece you are decorating. However, if you’ve already started on the porcelain and you don’t like the way the pattern looks, you can wash it away with a sponge, but you have to be quick 🙂

DIY Planter upcycle

Another tip: while drawing the pattern, I pushed the two pieces against each other to make sure the pattern is continuous once glued together.

Step 2: I baked the ovendish in the oven for 30 minutes at 160°C.

Step 3: Once the oven dish had cooled off, I glued the two pieces back together with my Kintsugi repair kit.

Kintsugi repair Kit

What’s inside the repair kit?

Kintsugi repair Kit Content

  • Epoxy fastglue
  • Epoxy putty
  • Gold powder
  • Soft small paint brush
  • Gloves
  • Sticks

You’ll start by squeezing an equal amount of glue out of each tube and adding a hint of gold powder. The glue and powder are mixed well and applied on one side of the crack. After two minutes of resting, the two parts are pressed together for a few minutes. And finally, when the glue is almost dry but still sticky, apply a generous layer of gold dust with the brush.

Kintsugi repair Kit (2)

Step 4: At last, I glued on the wooden legs with the same tube of glue. And voilà! A DIY planter.

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DIY Planter with cactus pattern (6)

Curious about the cactus candle? Here’s another tutorial for you! 🙂

How about you? Any broken household items you’re bummed about?