Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Christmas Tree (including contest)

Really one of the last things I expected to find some two weeks ago was a Christmas tree. I spotted it just around the corner on Sunday afternoon while going on an errand. So on the way back I checked it out, it looked good and complete, so up on my bike it went. Which was a bit of a hassle because it had been raining and the box fell apart, but I managed to get it home.

A while ago I wrote about finding yucky stuff (The Cat Carrier) and how people throw perfectly alright stuff out just because of a bit of dirt. And I don't mean things rotting or bugs, just dirt you can wash off, no matter how disgusting. This turned out to be a case like that. When I started to set up the tree I noticed a big blob (but really big like two inches or so) on one of the branches and some minor dirt on a few more. It looked like mud so I just took that part to the bathroom to wash it off. Then I started smelling what it really was: bird poop. So what had happened? I think the previous owners stored the tree on their balcony and let the city pigeons do their droppings on it! Stupid a. to not cover it, but b. it's only natural! Ok, it doesn't smell nice but I had it sobered up in less than five minutes and I I'm used to the smell of my neighbour's chickens anyway, so I can take that.

A few years ago a friend of mine moved back to the US and left me all her Xmas decorations including a small tree. To make it look like something I had to put all the decorations in, but those were mainly in blue, pink, lilac and purple (including the lights), her favourite colours. I love those colours too (except the blue), but somehow not for a Christmas tree. Last year I didn't even set it up. Now this is just an average tree (same model they have countless ones of in my office building), but it's in great condition and I found it could do with less trimming. So I limited it to the few wite and silver balls and garlands Tracy left me and added some home made stars from foil covered isolation foam I found a while ago. You can see one top left, just a matter of cutting and glueing. The lights do the rest. And that's the only thing I bought since I decided to leave my friend's coloured lights packed up as well and bought a new set of normal ones. My total costs: 2,50 euro's.

Sorry Tracy if you read this, I love you anyway and I'm still grateful for all the stuff you left me. And the little bears are cute!!

Last week we found even some more cool kitschy stuff to put under the tree, so I'm more than complete. Including a triptych nativity scene, some tea light holders (all not pictured) and last not but least this super kitschy 'reindeer' head. It looks like it's been made just as a decoration, but it's not. It took me half of the evening after we found it to figure out what the missing parts were and what it's original function must have been. Can you guess just from the picture?

Now that's my contest to finish this year with and thank all my readers for visiting, and their comments and support. Please send your answers to: before 12/31 24.00 CET. That's not a lot of time left, but I think it should be enough, and honestly I can't wait to decide who are going to get the prizes!

The first prize will be any item of your choice from my Etsy shop up to 7,50 dollars. Take a look and you'll find a lot to choose from. The runner up will get this cute curb found (document) pouch. It's brand new and has two compartments that close with zippers. Don't worry I washed it, even though it looked perfectly clean. Both winners, if they have a (hopefully craft or eco related) blog or website will be featured on my blog of course. I will ship anywhere, so anybody around the world can enter.

If there are too many correct answers I will make a draw, but I might just fall for the coolest, funniest or cleverest motivations. I'm looking forward to your emails!!

Good luck and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Staircase

Just returning from a trash excursion out in the cold and in times when everybody talks about X-mas decorations I'd like to go back to last summer and sunny afternoons in my garden for a moment. If you read the post about my house you'll remember that I have to pass outside on the street to visit my BF upstairs. It's not really a problem, but when we saw a complete staircase in the trash across the street, taken from the renovation site there, we got ideas. But it turned out to be too short to reach the balcony and I didn't want to have it indoors, as that would take up precious space and the whole operation would be too costly and drastic, so it ended up lying in the garden for a couple of weeks.

Then the BF put it up against the shed, right in the middle of my newly created 'lawn' of 3 square meters, claiming he needed it to clean the roof. Yeah, how many times a year does he do that? But I said nothing thinking I'd throw it out as soon as I had enough of it and put some of my found plants on it to give it at least a sort of a function.

But then it was discovered by our two furry fellow residents. Of course they have other ways to reach that shed roof, like a tree or fences or even an iron bar in between our and the neighbour's shed. Did you think cats would prefer these much more fun and adventurous ways? You're totally wrong. These creatures appreciate convenience and above all style. Isn't it much more elegant coming down for your meal after an afternoon in the sun on a broad staircase than climbing down a tree? They seem to accept the fact that I too now can easily reach the roof and take them in if I decide it's time to come home.

But there's more. I soon noticed that the roof became immensely popular. In fact they would have spent all day and night on it if they could. The top steps being slightly higher than the roof also turned out to be a great vantage point. Or just sitting anywhere on it is simply cool. But it's logic. Of course such a fun place has to be guarded and defended at all cost: don't forget we are not alone in the garden. The new neighbour's cats from two houses down got curious seeing those two up there. Even though they had to use the tree or the fence, of course they had to check it out. Yeah, right! Who do they think they are? Newcomers at that! Uh!

So we had some fierce fighting going on up there for a couple of weeks. Of course my cats won. After all they were there first and it's their shed. That's how it's supposed to be. We are the good ones. Even the neighbour's part of the shed belongs to the next door neighbour (who luckily has no cats), not those intruder's owners. They don't have a shed there, it was broken down years ago. Their problem.

So take a look at Oskar and Cézar after the peace had settled in again. Can you see victory on their faces? Although I must admit that Cézar, the fat one below left most of the work to his more courageous brother. This tough one is sitting on my knees right now as I'm writing this. The brother is upstairs with the BF.

Obviously the staircase is a keeper. I wouldn't dare taking it away now. Just too bad for my lawn then.
Anyway the whole idea behind that was to have some grass for the cats. They need it sometimes. It doesn't have to look pretty.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Couch

Have you ever heard of Alberto Nieri? I had not, until we found this great settee. It’s hard making a really good picture of such a large piece with my simple camera, so these photo’s don’t really do it credit, but you can clearly see the woodwork is handwork and the shape is well thought of: it is so comfortable!!

Underneath the cushions I found the label. Believe me, this is Italian top design. Here's the link to their official website. In fact, Ferrari designer Pininfarina designed a special line for the Nieri group. Read about that here.

When the BF moved upstairs two years ago (see previous post) I gave him some old furniture I didn’t have place for, a neighbour donated dining-room chairs and we bought a couch in the thrift-shop. He and his mate chose one that was comfortable and cheap. I found it ugly, but it’s his place, so I said nothing. Early this year we found an easy chair in great condition on the curb that matched with the colour of the couch. There was a small couch of the same model as well on the curb, but since he already had one that was slightly longer, we settled for the chair. We also didn’t have that handy dolly yet and I wasn’t looking forward to carrying the couch, especially as the chair turned out to be heavy as it was.

A few months later he decided to throw out his old two-seater couch anyway, since he was now always using his easy chair. But this summer he started talking about looking for a larger couch. I just knew he was going to want a couch again. We saw many at the curb, but none good enough to be worth the effort of bringing it up the narrow stairs.

Then last September we finally had luck. We went into the 'rich' part of our neighbourhood (large apartment blocks built some ten years ago) and already at a 100 meters distance, seeing the outline of a couch I said I’d better go home for the dolly. A closer look proved what I suspected: it was made of genuine leather, a three-seater and in great condition. This neo-classic design wouldn't be my personal choice, but the great condition and the quality of the woodwork made it easy to decide this one was going home with us. And the more I look at it, the better I like it.

As I turned to go pick up the dolly at home a man just stopped with his bicycle and wished me a good evening. I had never seen him before, but feeling happy about our find I just smiled and greeted back. When I returned I found the man and my BF chatting in French while turning around and admiring the piece. The man turned out to be a Moroccan who lives in that street and most of them love to speak French. He also pointed out the logo (AN) on the couch to us which made me suspect more and more we had found something really expensive.

I know a lot of Moroccans pick trash and recently I found out why: they load it up vans and trailers and ship it to their family at home! (And unfortunately for a good reason-there is still a lot of poverty there) So if we had arrived a minute later, I’m sure this lovely piece would now be in North-Africa. However the guy was kind enough to even help us loading it up the dolly. Now that’s real trash-pickers ways as it should.

PS: note that in between the first and last pictures the tv and rug have changed? I'll come back later to those finds :)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My House

Now that I have some regular readers (at least I hope so) I thought it would be nice to tell something about how and where I live. My apartment block in the Amsterdam Van Bossestraat was built in 1915 and declared a monument in 2004. The building stretches out to the left and right, but with a slightly lower roof. Hence it has been nicknamed 'The Castle' sometimes. I'm not sure about this, but I think it was designed by the architects bureau of Mr. Pierre Cuyper, who desigend the famous Rijksmuseum and Central Station in Amsterdam. In 1915 Mr Cuyper himself was far over 80 years old, so it's likely his son Joseph deserves the credits. I only know for sure several other buildings in my neighbourhood (De Kempenaerstraat) were designed by his student and coworker De Bazel. But therefore the connection is quite obvious.

The monumental status of the building meant it had to be restored to its original state on the outside. During the seventies and eighties, most of the traditional cross log windows and panel doors were replaced by ugly modern ones and of different types at that. At the same time the landlords planned a thorough modernization of the apartments on the inside. At that time, going crazy on 40 square meters, my BF and I had been looking for a bigger place for ages, but without much success or otherwise we couldn't agree on the few offers that we had. It may be hard to understand for US people how hard it is to find a proper apartment (especially for rent), but it is in this densely populated country and from the big cities the problem is spreading to the area around them. And if you read on you'll see it wasn't any better in the past.

The renovation offered new options though. Not long after we heard about it, our upstairs neighbour moved out and I knew they wouldn't rent the flat out again until after the works were done. So I asked the landlords if they could join the two apartments together. Well, the answer was a disappointing 'no'. But in the end they agreed to letting my BF move upstairs on his own. So now we live contently 'together' as neighbours and I have to say we're happier than ever before.

On the picture you can see each vertical row of flats has two front doors. I have my own front door that leads directly to my ground floor (first for US) and the door on the left side leads to the stairways to the upstairs. I think this was done to save space. Otherwise the hallway to a shared entranced would have been taken from my space. Now that's my private hallway. This means to visit each other we have to pass outside on the street, but luckily the porch is covered and it doesn't bother us at all.

In 1943 an English bomber was shot by the occupiers of our country and crashed on my building after hitting the ornamental tower with its wing. Only one of the New Zealand crew of four survived and seven citizens died. Three of them were inhabitants of my very apartment.

From what I read, the row of flats I live in and the next door's were completely destroyed, but I think it was mainly the add ons on the back side of the building that housed the bedrooms at the time.

This picture is from before the last renovation. The add ons were isolated on the outside and beautifully plastered.

After repairing the damages the replaced ornamental tower was badly taken care of and in the late sixties or early seventies they tore it down. I found this photo from 1966 in the city's archives.

Locals who saw the crash and former inhabitants have been lobbying ever since to have it replaced again. With the monument status and final renovation their request has finally been granted in 2005.

Also a plaque was placed to commemorate the victims of the crash.

While doing research for this entry I stumbled upon a weblog of a nice gentleman, Joop, who is a teacher, and wrote about both the renovation and the crash. It turned out he lived in my apartment as a kid in the fifties and sixties. Being a collector of used items I'm always curious about their history and this equally counts for my house, so I contacted him. Now you have to imagine this: the bare 40 square meters that drove me and my BF crazy, housed complete families at the time, and often with over four kids! The narrow 2 x 7 meters add on at the back of the house, that now are my bathroom, the central heating installation and washer closet and my narrow kitchen, then were two (2!) bedrooms where the kids slept in bunk beds. The parents had a fold out bed in the living room.

In the seventies the first real suburbs were being built around Amsterdam and families like this moved out there, leaving their small apartments for young couples, students and singles. However due to bad maintenance the buildings got in such a bad state it seemed the only solution would be to tear them down and replace them with cheap and ugly modern buildings. Thanks to the squatter movement that was prevented. By occupying the empty apartments in the end they forced the city council to start renovating. This way the authentic character of many old neighbourhoods in Amsterdam has been preserved.

When my BF and I moved in in 1989 the flat had had a first basic renovation and at least a proper bathroom and kitchen were put in, a concrete floor, new ceilings and some double glazing. But we still had that narrow, now one bedroom, 2 x 7 space and we never knew how to put the bed in... Thank god that's all better now. And of course we have twice the space.

I have to thank Joop for the picture of the plaque. It turns out he still often comes back to his old neighbourhood to take photo's. Dutch readers can read his story here.

Now all I have to do is grant his wish to have a look at the inside of his old house, which I will gladly do in the coming weeks or so.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Latest Creation

OK, this is a bit shameless self promotion for my Etsy shop, but I really didn't start my weblog for this purpose. This just happens to be such a great example of how I change curb found knitwear into 'arty' tea cozies and other things. And it just happens to be for sale as well.

The nice story about this is how the discarded, from wearing and washing somewhat sagged H&M sweater (otherwise the yarn was in perfect condition), just exactly matched with the colour of some vintage seventies beads I picked up at my mum's weeks before I found it. And then there was a leftover of purple cotton yarn from a sweater I bought years ago in the thrift shop, that was just perfect for the embroidery.

I like to design fully inspired by these accidental finds and combinations and my own eclectic mind and hope I am free from influence from fashion, tv and other commercial things. Well, there's a full description of the tea cozy in the shop, so read that here.

To end, if your fingers start to itch right now, I don't think I showed that link before, here's a complete instruction for unraveling sweaters.

PS: if you read the earlier post about Queensday with the beige potholders, they were sold and the link will now lead you to the mint green replacements.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Do you like to read? I love books. I think books are so important, educative and enriching my life. And I like to share that with others. Ok, there is a lot of pulp too. But in general, I worship the book. I'm a bit of an omnivore: detectives, mystery, romance, political, historical, fantasy, biographies, all good for me. How can people throw them away?

As said in the last post, we find loads of books on the Queensday market. But also in the normal trash we get good stuff. Usually it's a box or plastic bag full of them. If I see a few interesting titles we just take the whole lot home.

We find so many that I can't even read them all. The fun is that I've learned to appreciate and read books that I may have never chosen in a shop or the library. I've learned to not want the latest bestseller (anyway I get the bestsellers from a few years back). New books are too expensive for me and it takes no effort to avoid book shops. It took a bit more practice to stay away from the book section in the thrift shop, but I manage. From the books that really don't appeal to me or for whatever reason I won't ever read, there's always a few that I think might be nice for friend X or Y and make great gifts. I always say how I got them and nobody minds. If there's any real pulp left over it ends up in the waste paper collector (however I found a seller on Etsy who makes wonderful objects from such book covers, so maybe I should think again next time...)(if you're curious, see in my favourite Etsy items widget below in the side bar for the mini pin cushions, that's her).

But also the books that the BF and I read and did like, we share with friends. We don't have the problem of having to worry about the unreturned book, which I know has stopped many people from lending books. Shame on them! Books deserve to be read countless times. But it's easier if it didn't cost you anything, right? I often even say: Bring it back if you want, but if you know someone who would like to read it too, feel free to pass it on! Of course, writers have to make a living and they need to sell copies, but I don't think any writer wants to see his book in the trash. I think what a writer wants most is to be read.

We find books in different languages (after all Amsterdam is a very international city), but mainly in Dutch and English. The BF is a Frenchie and though he speaks Dutch and English, until recently he wouldn't read anything but French. It was always trouble to find him cheap books. But his own enthusiasm for our little 'book club' changed that. After finding a couple of Ludlums and Le Carres, which I told him are respected and famous writers, he was so eager to lend them to his best mate Edward (who's a Dutch guy but born from British parents) that I couldn't even lay a hand on them yet. But Edward returned them with the comment: Fantastic! so the BF got curious and now he is hooked. He found having no trouble reading English at all and a world of before unknown literature (it's hard to find French translations of foreign books in Holland) has opened for him. I am so proud!

In the meantime I still haven't had a chance to read the Ludlums, because he already passed them on to his Turkish friend from our local coffee shop. Oh well, I still have about two meters of other books to go through... I just started a Tom Wolfe.
All books on these shelves are found and still to be read. As you can see I don't even have enough place to store them. What I'm done with goes in boxes and hopefully finds new readers some day.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Queen' s Day (including crochet tip!)

One great way of getting great cheap stuff is visiting one of the 'Freemarkets' held in most big cities (Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag, Rotterdam among others) in Holland on the day we celebrate the birthday of our Queen, Beatrix. It's held on April 30, but that's not her actual birthday, but her mother's (Juliana). Beatrix' birthday is January 31, but we Dutch like outdoor parties, so when she ascended the throne in 1980, she decided not to change the date of our national celebration, simply because of the weather conditions.

There are all sorts of happenings all over the country, but the 'freemarkets' are traditionally the biggest attractions.

What happens? The centres of the cities change into one giant flea market, where anybody can sell whatever he wants, as long as it's not foods that could decay. It's our way of having a yard sale, only the whole country does it on the same day. Some people plan the whole year for it. Only commercial sellers have stalls or booths, private sellers who live nearby carry old tables out to the curb, others just display their stuff on a blanket or sheet.

The main park of Amsterdam (Vondelpark) is reserved for children only. See more pictures of Queensday in Amsterdam here. All US thriftshoppers who read this, believe me, you'd have the day of your life. I've come home with great buys and I've sat there myself and sold stuff too.

But I don't do either anymore. I can't stand the crowds nowadays and I don't have the energy anymore to get organized to sell. If it's a nice day, my BF and I go to our local park and sit there with friends and neighbours. But between five and six, when the market starts to close up, we go to the streets that are nearest to our neighbourhood to pick up stuff that sellers who have already closed up left behind. It sounds a bit unfair or just too stingy, doesn't it? But the thing is, a lot of sellers really don't care to take their unsold stuff back home. And at seven the city cleaners come to shove it all in the big trucks. So, here we come to rescue it...

It's usually a quick tour through only one and a half street that results in four big plastic bags full of books and clothing. I'm sitting here right now in a Kappa sweater that I got that way. For my BF we once found a brandnew black jeans jacket. And it's not that I just want free stuff. Two years ago a guy was just packing up, but understanding what we were doing told me I could take anything I wanted if I gave him two Euro's. He had some interesting yarn that was worth that alone, beautiful turquise mohair and thick strong cotton) but we also ended up with loads of books, a lamp, a fruit bowl and more. I haven't done anything with the lamp yet, but it turned out that there was a working energy saving bulb still in it. Those cost between four and ten Euro's!

This is what I made with some of the yarn I got that day. These potholders are for sale in my Etsy Shop if you're interested.

To end I want to reveal to you how I make these perfect flat rounds. It's maybe not a secret but I made some alterations to the patterns I found in books. Please read the whole thing before you start, as there are several options.

You start with a chain of 4 which you close with a ss.
First row 6 sc.
Second row double those to 12.
Third row a double sc in every second stitch. You get 18 stitches.

Then you keep adding 6 stitches every row, but to avoid getting a hexagonal shape, just must alternate the places where you put the doubles.
That means: forth row, a double in every third stitch, but you put the first double in the FIRST stitch.
Fifth row: a double in every fourth stich, as normal.
Sixth row, a double in every fifth stitch, but you start in the SECOND.

Seventh row, a double in every sixth stitch, as normal.
Eighth row, a double in every seventh stitch, but start in the THIRD.
Got it? And so on.
Of course if you do want a hexagonal form, put all the doubles on top of each other.
If you work in a spiral, make sure you have the starting point marked.
If you work in circles (which I do), here's a trick to make the seam less visible:
Closing the row, you normally make a ss sticking the needle under the chain stitch which started the row. Instead, stick your needle through the loop, not under it. This way you get a flat seam, otherwise it will lay on the work as a thick line. Don't forget to start every row with that cs if you want to work in closed circles.
If the work doesn't get flat enough to your liking and gets a slight cone shape, try starting with 9 stitches, which you then double at once to get 18. The rest is the same. Note that working in a spiral or not may make the difference to this, as the seam in fact adds one stitch to the row. My advice: spiral start with 9, circles start with 6.
But it also depends on the material you use and your personal 'handwriting', so it's a matter of trial and error.

My favourite decorative border is a sc worked from left to right. Literally translated from Dutch it would be the 'lobsterstitch'. If anyone knows the proper name for it in English, please let me know! To finish the potholders off I make a loop from 10 cs, with 16-18 sc worked around it.

sc: single crochet, ss: slip stitch, cs: chain stitch

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Cat Carrier

There is a downside to everything and the reason why a lot of people are horrified with the idea of trash picking is the possibility of coming across yucky or creepy things. Experienced pickers can't be put off by that of course, they just share their story on HGTV, have a laugh afterwards and get on with business as usual. But I warn you, if you have a weak stomach don't read this thread.

The truth is, I believe these accounts are the exceptions, and I had only one smelly experience a few months ago myself in all these years. And to be honest I still smile when I think of it.

Neighbours and friends of ours are stray cat feeders. They live 5th floor a few blocks away from us, but one of their furry groups live right on the footpath behind my yard. Earlier this summer the lady, Ganny, called me and told me they had to break down the wooden shelter her man, Freek (pronounce Frake, not Freak) had built in the backyard of my next door neighbour, Harry. The police had decided it was too visible and Harry had already a bad name for holding chickens and not keeping his yard too clean. There was fear of other neighbours thinking the cat shelter might attract critters and such. It was total nonsense of course, because I know my friends take extremely good care of their stray cats, bring them to the vet if necessary and certainly kept that shelter clean. Besides, Harry got rid of his chickens last year (and I miss them, I liked having chickens running around my yard).

This is Miene. She was born stray and she's over seven years old already. Can you see these cats are well taken care of?

Anyway, Ganny got permission from the cops to place smaller shelters hidden in the bushes between the yards and the path (behind that hedge you see on the picture) and they thought about using cast away litter boxes and pet carriers for it, so she asked me to look out for those on our trash round. My BF happened to have one old litter box on his balcony, recently replaced by a better find. So we were glad to get rid of that for such a good cause.

Once there I immediately ran to the bathroom, put on my rubber gloves, scooped out the pooh, flushed it in the toilet and thoroughly scrubbed the whole thing (and my scoop) with bleach. Then I took a closer look: I had a brand new, bar code sticker of the shop still on it, unscratched, complete, hardly ever used (except once for a human toilet) cat carrier in a highly fashionable lime green colour!

The next morning I presented a grateful Freek with the two pieces when he passed by. I told him I had to get rid of some 'dirt' from the carrier but that I disinfected it thoroughly and they didn't have to worry about it. I also said that I wouldn't be surprised if they kept it for their own cats, giving their own old carrier to the strays instead and in fact I believe they did!

Apart from a little bit of the bad smell I have no bad memories of this experience. The only thing that puzzles me is how the pooh ended up there. I can imagine one thing: maybe a small child used the carrier as a potty, putting it on its back and using the door as a hole. But what kind of parents are too disgusted to clean up their own kid's pooh and instead throw away a brand new cat carrier? The curb is full of stories and I never grow tired of them.

But on top the same evening towards the end of our twice a week stroll I found a plastic cat carrier, close to the model up here. It looked pretty good and clean, only the door was missing. Well, we didn't need that for our purpose, but still I looked inside to see if it was there after all. It was, but there was something else too: an enormous turd! It was about ten times to big to be of a cat, but it also didn't have the sharp penetrating smell of dog shit. I could have sworn it was human! Before asking myself how on earth that ended up where it was, I faced a difficult decision. My eagerness to help my friends and the cats was struggling with my disgust. Well you can guess, my love for the cats won. I know that little group and Miene is such a darling. After all the outside and the handle of the carrier were clean and it's easy to disinfect plastic. I quickly walked home, hoping passers by wouldn't smell anything. Lucky it was dark!

Sunday, September 09, 2007


It's been ages since Jenn T shared her Rockin' Girls Award with me. And I've been procrastinating for so long to share it in my turn, that I received another before I got to it: The Nice Matters Award by Sher. So it was about time to start thinking.

All blogs I've chosen are somehow 'green', but they all share an aspect of uniqueness. This can be overall quality, a point of view, a theme, an experience or just one idea that I haven't seen in other blogs so far and that's why I keep reading them.

My Rockin' Girls nominations (in random order) are for:
Debbie for 2Times Upon A Time
. She lived out the ultimate t-2-t dream: completely furnishing and decorating her new home from scratch with second hands and gifts. And what a 'Cozy Cottage' she created indeed!
Krista shows (among other things) reconstructed clothing at Random Blogger
. It's something I've done since my teens and a great way to renew your wardrobe for next to nothing. Though I found a webshop that sells redesigned jeanswear, Krista's the first I've found so far who shares her ideas for free on a blog.
Dora Renee' Wilkerson came up with an age old, but great idea on Y-2K Hippie
. Making your own casein plastic, as she calls it, instead of using polymer clay. Although it doesn't fit the category recycling, I feel this eco-friendly idea deserves attention.
Barbara Mathieson at The Earth Is Not A Trash Can
is so offended by careless people littering the environment that she takes photo's of it and shows them on her blog. Of course it's a well known problem, but it's good to have someone rubbing it in once more.
Malin from Sweden records her experiment in growing vegetables indoors in a flat on Indoor Gardener
. Apart from that, I like to read her accounts of other green things going on in Sweden because my brother lives there (Göteborg).

The Nice Matters I want to share with three more blogs that also 'rock' for me, but unfortunately aren't written by only girls. But I find these 'nicely' different:
Wind-It-Up, recycling tips from a young Australian computer geek.
Green Is The New Black, very short no-nonsense posts, great simple green tips. Readability 10+.
Arnold The Methodical, a Brit living 'green' in France, or in his own words: A light hearted look at downshifting and self sufficiency and perhaps lifestyle changes. I love his light entertaining style.

About the numbers: Browsing around I've found people sharing their awards with different numbers of people (from only two up to seven). So I didn't feel necessarily obliged to stick to the respective five and seven of Jenn and Sher, although by chance I did find five 'Rockin' Girls'. Of course there are so many more to choose from, but after eight I was tired of the decision-making. To make it easier for them to make their own decision about this or to whom to pass them on, I've added the links of the initiators of the awards (first paragraph).

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Indoor Plants II, Garden Plants III

Hope I’m not getting boring, but here’s yet another one about free and found plants. I promise it will be the last, at least for this summer.

First the found. It turns out to be a good idea to check your local flower shop’s trash, especially when they’re about to close up for vacation. Ours is about two minutes walking from home. One night we had already ‘done’ a complete block in the other direction without seeing anything interesting, when the BF suddenly ‘remembered’ he had seen something that afternoon. So I followed him to the corner where the shop is. Next to the underground ‘dumpsters’ were five or six trays with small pots of two kinds of plants. Other people had apparently already made their choice, because not all were full. I wanted to do the same and take 2-3 of each, but the BF went: You want those? And picked up a complete tray and walked off before I could answer. So I thought why not and took the fullest tray of the other plant.

At home I counted 24 plants. What to do with all of them? The red flower is obviously an indoor plant. My windowsills were still empty, so I put them in rows of six, all in (found) white pots, which looks quite chic. Unfortunately the flowers are turning brown now, so it’s too late to take pics. Hopefully they’ll grow back next year.

The other one looked more like an outdoor plant to me, so I put them in pots all over the garden. Then after a couple of weeks they surprised me with the cutest violet flowers!

Two more free plants I didn’t show yet, because they had no flowers yet:

Geraniums are really too easy to grow from cuts. Just cut off a 10-15 cm branch from your mum’s, aunt’s, neighbour’s or friend’s plant and stick it into the ground. Keep it fairly wet for the first few weeks and voila: They grow quickly.

An enthusiastic for the plant spread Alcea Rosea (Hollyhock) through the neighbourhood years ago and they’re even all over town now. They grow in window gardens and even around trees. I just had to take some seeds to have my own. This colour was a surprise. I hope to get more colours and other varieties next year.

Look at this webpage:
All these varieties can be found in the streets around my house. It’s a pretty sight in summer here.
These were taken by an amateur photographer in the streets of the centre of Amsterdam:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Freeganism vs T-2-T

If you want to push trash picking to the limit, you should know about Freeganism. The term is a combination of 'free' and 'vegan'. Freegans don’t only take durable goods from the curb, they search for food as well. They know their places; dumpsters at restaurants, supermarkets and shopping malls. Also they don’t only look for treasures to recuperate, but anything they need in everyday life; clothing, tools, washing liquids, kitchen stuff etc. etc. See the links below this post to find out more about their lifestye and motivation for it.

Personally, I don’t ‘shop’ for food, but mainly because I never find any. Large shops in Holland don’t throw their unsold food in dumpsters and I never saw any on the curb next to smaller shops. I think the latter, often owned by Turkish or Moroccan people, simply hand it out to their own extended families. Foodbanks have a fairly active policy and don’t wait for shops to bring in food, they go to pick it up at the larger restaurant chains and supermarkets.

I am somewhere in the middle of being a Freegan at heart (because I will take home anything I can use and my anti-consumerism is almost as extreme as theirs) and a ‘trash-to-treasurer’, someone who mainly scours the trash in search of vintage objects to recuperate or recraft into something original and beautiful.

I think it's a pity the two groups are seperated, because I think in reality most people are more or less a little bit in both ‘camps’. I suspect there’s craftiness in most Freegans and I know a lot of t-2-t’ers who are quite open minded about picking up clothes and other textiles for example and who admit they are concerned about the world and want to reduce the landfill. Although some seem to agree with the Freegans without realizing it themselves; on HGTV, where I started a discussion on the subject, there was understanding for Freegans, but a big NO to even thinking about picking up food themselves. On the other hand on the Freegans’ official website I miss the FUN and creativeness of the less extreme curb shoppers.

If you want to read more here are the links:

The Freegan Website

Not Buying It, NYT article

My topic on HGTV

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Dresser

Here's another fine addition to my BF's flat. The previous owners of this dresser had put it on its side on the curb with all the drawers pulled out next to it, but that couldn't fool us, since we recognize a good piece. It's made of solid wood, only the back and the drawer bottoms are hardboard. One leg had to be reattached and one (at the back, so invisible) replaced.
It stores a lot of stuff and matches perfectly with his sturdy table (see May, 24). He didn't stop to talk about it for days. I didn't know a guy could be so excited about a piece of furniture.

It's a very heavy piece and we couldn't have moved it home without this very handy and helpful find of a couple of months ago: a genuine mover's dolly (company name and all stamped on it). You may think it's just a plank on four wheels, but these things are expensive. I suspect the guys forgot it after moving someone in somewhere. Rather than one simple phone call to the company, they just threw it on the street. It's one of those times when you think: What are people thinking?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Simple Rack

Knowing about our 'evening strolls', friends often ask us to look out for certain items for them. Usually it doesn't take long before we find exactly what they'd asked for. My good friend Ed, who can't walk well enough to shop for heavier or larger items himself, recently asked me if I would think of him if I saw anything he could use as a display for his collection of music instruments. I suspect he was inspired by seeing my rack-like cupboard on my blog, because I had given him the site address only shortly before. The coincidence had it that the day before I ran into Ed, my BF and I picked up a simple wooden rack that seemed to be perfectly fit for this purpose. Only he liked it for himself and had taken it to his flat already. Nevertheless I promised Ed I would ask, but otherwise I expected we'd soon find something like it again.

As he wasn't using his rack yet and willing to help out my BF decided to part with it. So I e-mailed Ed a couple of days later to tell the good news, but what do you know? Before we had even had a chance to set a date to bring the rack over to his place, we did find another one. Exactly one week after the first one and almost the same model, same size, a bit less fancy but therefore even more stable.

Last Sunday we went round to Ed's place to deliver the latest addition to his home, but unfortunately he wasn't home yet. Thinking he might have missed a bus or tram we found the downstairs neighbour ready to open the door to the staircase, so at least we could place it inside by his flat door. It's just too bad we missed his face as he found a surprise when he came home, as it turned out, just ten minutes later.
I hope to get a pic of the rack in Ed's flat soon.
Just to show the difference (sorry for the crappy photo) here's our rack.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Garden Plants II, Phloxes

As promised earlier, here are the pics of my phloxes that my BF picked up for me in the trash of the DIY and Garden Shop. I found them in the backyard when I came home from work, what a lovely surprise indeed. He told me there were even more, but he took all he could carry on his bicycle. It was late August so the flowers were starting to fall out and some leaves were turning brown. I didn't care, knowing they would grow back I left the three plants in their pots and the following spring grouped them together in a large pot. This is their second year and although I have the feeling that I have less shoots then last year, the flowers are even fuller and bigger, esp. the darker pink and taller kind. Or should I maybe put them in the full ground after all? Does anyone have experience with this?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

My Footstool

What is this weird hairy fluffy pink thing? A cat sofa? They tried, but decided it wasn't a keeper. A prayer bench? The color seems a bit too wild for that.

My beloved BF had promised to make me a footstool from scrap wood, but he was procrastinating as so often when he has to make something for ME. Then on one Sunday evening excursion he disappeared behind a building container where I saw only dirty and broken stuff, and returned with this hilarious piece. It's bordeaux red laquered legs make me think of a Chinese origin, but whatever, I'm happy to use it as a footstool and maybe that's just what it is.

I'd never buy a thing like this, but that's what makes curbside shopping so exciting and it matches perfectly with the reds, purples and pinks in my office/bedroom (yep, the misery of a tiny 2-room flat).

Saturday, June 30, 2007

My Frying Pan (including recipe)

After fifteen years of intensive use, the handle of the solid stainless steel frying pan my mom once bought me, broke off. And if she had to buy it to me, it means I couldn't afford it so these things must be expensive. Then not much later I found this very nice piece.

At the time, I wasn't even as much an active curb shopper as I am now. I just went on an errand in the morning and saw it. As I didn't want to go in the shop with a slightly dirty pan in my bag, I left it and went quickly on my way, hoping it would be still there when I returned. It was and after a thorough but quick cleaning job it looked as shiny as on this picture. I've had it for years now and it seems it's going to last a lifetime. I love the smooth surface of it (my old one had a grid-pattern on the bottom), and for me it cooks as great as a teflon-pan - shitty things you have to replace every two years. By the way the kettle is also a curb find. The cooker is a second-hand which I bought over fifteen years ago, when it must have been at least twenty years old already. The fun is I replaced many broken or missing parts of it with street finds (easy because it's a standard model that was mass-produced in the sixties and seventies).
Now to make this post a bit more crafty, here's one of my favourite recipes I cook in that pan. Completely in the spirit of my blog, it's a tasteful way to finish up old bread. More or less my personal variation on French toast (but with an Italian touch), but I call it a bread-omelette.

You need:
Olive oil (margerine, butter or another oil is ok, but for me the Italian taste the olive oil gives in combination with the tomato and garlic, is what makes this recipe really work for me), two eggs (three if they are very small), 1 tomato, 1 fairly large clove of garlic (or more if you like), herbs (chives, persil, pizza-mix, or whatever you think would be nice), salt and pepper and of course, two slices of stale bread (the heels are also fine).

Cut the bread in cubes of about half an inch, cut up or press the garlic, cut the tomato in very small parts (important because it has to 'integrate' in the mix - I slice the tomato in two directions as if it were an onion), and mix everything up with the eggs in a bowl. Stir firmly. The bread has to suck up all the egg and it's ok if it starts to crumb. In fact, the more the better, because then it will stick together better. (You can add milk here, as all French toast and omelette recipes prescribe, but I don't like milk and I think that's exactly what makes such egg recipes so heavy. Just try it my way one time and then decide for yourself.) Add the seasoning. Heat up the oil in your casserole or frying pan, then turn down the heat. Add your mixture and spread it out as if it were a pancake. Not really neccessary but it helps: cover the pan with a lid if you have one that fits. Now leave it for 10-15 minutes (still on the lowest heat). Then turn the omelette (for that I cut it in halves) and bake for another five minutes.

Served on one of my late grandma's large plates (1920's or 1930's). It's a complete lunch for one, but makes up to four portions if served with other food. Bon appetit!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I'm Not Alone (Am I?) - Looking For Links

Curb side shopping is no invention of mine. I started doing it because I heard other people found great stuff. When I'm out there I see people with vans just loading up anything that could be interesting, to probably sell the next day in the flee market or a second hand shop (think about it when you're in the thrift shop: they might have just picked it up from the trash). I often 'shop' for a friend who due to pysical limitation is less mobile than me and have been able to deliver him many of the exact things he'd asked for. Most people I know pick up things occasionally when they happen to pass by and no-one's ashamed of it.

I don't know a lot of people who make a cult of it like myself, but I didn't know anybody at all who writes about it! But recently I found somebody through the internet who dedicated a blog entry to her chair-finds. I was so thrilled! Read
Jenns blog here. It's funny and instructive. Also find the direct link to her beautiful website, The Thrift Shop Romantic, in my linksection.

She also wrote me that trash-to-treasure is actually (becoming) a trend in the US. I really couldn't tell after the nice and polite, but very few reactions I got after I posted my blog on an American crafters community. So I'm curious to know if there are more people, anywhere around the world, dedicating web space to it. If you do or know anybody who does I will certainly publish the link here.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Garden Plants

Strictly speaking, I have only two plants in my garden that I could actually classify as finds, but everything else that grows came to my garden for free anyway. And I'm pretty proud of that because I don't have green fingers.

I literally saved this pretty yellow rose from death, when I found it pulled roughly from the ground, but with roots still on it, in the bushes behind my apartment building. It was during the renovation period of the block, when I was living in a temporary place one street away, but I would come back to my garden daily to feed the stray cats. It was no more than a long stick with some leaves at the top, but two years on it looks like this!

Digging out plants in the wild is a great way to bring variety and color to your garden without cost. They disappear in winter, but most of them grow back the next year, spreading out and getting bigger year after year. They attract all sorts of insects and often nice ones like butterflies or bumblebees. But I never take a lonely plant. I only dig out plants that I see in abundancy so I can single out a small specimen without doing any damage to nature.

Though I took this one from the 'wild zone' in our local park, I've seen it in many people's yards and front-window gardens. Don't know if shops sell it, nor what it's called. Anybody?

PS: What's a front-window garden? If your house fronts directly to the street (about everywhere in the old city) you're allowed to take away a line of tiles from the pavement under your front window and turn it into a mini-garden.

I don't know if this really is a 'wild rose' (or if such a thing actually exists), but we found it growing spontaneously in the nomansland between the city edge and the industrial zone. It was enormous and growing against a tree. It was easy to separate a few shoots and cut off a ca 10 cm piece of the root stick without damaging the mother plant. To me it looks like a tea rose, at least it has the exact same color and form als Jenns tea rose, but the leaves are smaller. By the way, later on I found out you can just cut off a branch, put it in water and it will grow roots. If you live in Amsterdam and want to try it, contact me.

You can find ferns in any forest or area with lots of trees and are a great way to fill up the darker corners of your garden.

I hated the temporary apartment, but the garden was quite nice. I was literally filled with this yellow flowered bush, that I also cannot name, and when we left I just dug out one little shoot and replanted it at home. This is two years old now and in full flower for the first time (this part of the garden was totally ruined by the renovation, so I had to start from scratch).

This one too came from the temporary place, by accident really. I made a bouquet once of the yellow flowers, and decided to fill it up with some branches of this bush. But lazy as I am, I left the dried out bouquet in the vase for weeks, but then the green branches started to grow roots. Also this one is just two years old. So you know now, if you know someone with a bush like this or find them even in a bouquet, it's easy to grow a new plant from it.

That's it for now. I still have the other 'find' to show, phloxes my boyfriend picked up in the trash of the garden shop, but they're not flowering yet. Later!