Food, Travel, Design and the occassional wordiness

Paper balls: Self-love + the Buy Nothing community December 15, 2015

Filed under: art,home and garden,Mouth full of potatoes,Upcycle & Repurpose — Kolika C @ 9:59 pm

No one had offered and I sure as hell was not going to ask, expect or¬†depend on someone’s mood and flicker of sympathy. I could wallow (and I did) or I could act. I always act. Yes, I was a little lonely but no one was going to stop me from having the time of my life nor deter me from celebrating Josh.
So I made a list, designed the invitation and bammed out a huge baby shower to myself. I also cooked for over 30 people, laid out the table, handmade the decorations, planned and arranged the favors, entertained guests (including my husband’s work friends and boss) and baked, glazed and decorated my first ever pregnant belly cake, complete with a fondant foot mark.

In between, I gave in a little bit to my hormones and spazzed out. Sorry if any of you had to witness that. (If any body feels the need to shame me for that, just please measure up to the level of productivity and stress first)

I did that all at 36 weeks of my first pregnancy. Josh might have been born to a then-staying-at-home mom. But he was also born to an itching-to-get-things-done mom, go-getter (and if I can’t get it, I will make it) Mom.
But this story is not about the accomplishment or pride that swells my chest to match my once-pregnant belly, this post is about those handmade decorations and the blessings it carried through the community.
After the shower in November 2013, the decorations continued to grace our spare room, although the hall ones had come down. By the time we brought Josh home from the hospital, I had made more and hung them all over the nursery and the spare room which was now going to be his play zone.
He grew up watching those fragile balls of color. We played peekaboo with these “sunflowers”, ruffled the petals for the colicky 5 week old, swayed and danced right in that corner to get him to sleep… Apologies if most of our pics seem to be of the same ones.

Meanwhile, Buy Nothing happened.
In a few more months, was Josh’s Annoprashon. By June 2014 , I made more decorations- this time beyond the red, orange and yellow….in white and gold and silver to match the traditional Bengali and Indian attire and menu.

The earth spun faster than we could handle and soon it was Josh’s first birthday and we were having his little party in the same pompom room with the repurposed decorations. By now, Josh was calling them “papams”.




The next summer, after weeks of stress, we were selling our home and the decorations were lucky to be picked up by our neighbor, for her wedding in August of 2015. Here’s what she had to say:
“Our wedding was a second marriage for both of us and while we wanted to celebrate with friends and family, we wanted to keep it simple and inexpensive. We had a tiny budget for decorations so when I saw that one of my neighbors was offering out her hanging flower decorations I knew they’d be perfect. And unlike party decorations that people buy, use, and then toss, these decorations got to party! After they festively decorated the VFW hall we rented for our party, I passed them along to another neighbor who was hosting a birthday party for her one year old child. Where they went from there I do not know but I can imagine that they are now waiting to add some festivity to another party somewhere nearby!”
Quite the social butterlies, the paper balls were next picked up by another neighbor for her son’s first birthday.
After that wonderful party (complete with a candy bar!), they traveled out of state to Maine with a girl who did (what seemed to me like) a Buy-nothing themed wedding! Of that I have no picture, nor story.

These simple paper decorations signify a very personal time of grit for me, they symbolize self-love, the need to do things well no matter how small, to pull projects to completion even when no one is checking- the same things that motivate me to success in work, family and volunteering. Add to that optimizing resource utilization, staying rooted/ connected and building/ growing/ living with the community.
Don’t you see now how symbolic these traveling paper balls have been and how instrumental they have been in sharing cheer through the community?

Reduce, Reuse, Buy Nothing and most importantly Love yourself. It works.


Design: repurposing wine corks July 27, 2014

Filed under: art,home and garden,Upcycle & Repurpose — Kolika C @ 11:02 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Repurposing into fabulous trivets, as you can see below. Perfect way to provide a heat resistant, spill-proof catch-all trivet or coaster. Oh and you wine aficionados what better way to show off what you’ve gulped down since last night. Need a tutorial? Easy peasy, use watersafe wood glue to stick them any which way you like.
Herringbone is my new favorite pattern of course. And very good for a standalone structure!


Design/ Gardening: Repurposing plastic bottles for multiple gardening projects September 22, 2013

Urban gardening with repurposed plastic bottles

Urban gardening with re-purposed plastic bottles



Got bottles? Already tried regrowing green onion bulbs? Too early for daffodils?

Cut them up for multiple uses in your garden.


Design/ Gardening: “Would you like to come up for some coffee?” – A Carafe, Repurposed May 24, 2013

Oh the age-old, always-working allure of coffee! That is why when I repurposed a old coffee carafe into a planter for decorative grass, I purposely placed it on top of the stairs that bring you to our living room.
I love the transparent carafe where you can see the soil. The tall grass blades add a really sharp and interesting feature. The little succulents at it’s base are thousand-babies (?)
I chose plants that can do without a lot of water. Since there’s no way to make holes in this carafe, I don’t want to overwater the soil. I just moisten them near the roots in 2-3 days and that seems to be enough for these little ones.


Gardening: Egg shell planters- Watching greenery hatch May 23, 2013

For this weekend’s brunch, make a smaller hole and once you have all the edible yummy out, wash the shell and save it. Pour some soil, plant a seed and water to moisten (not drown). Make sure the soil is always wet.
And then, allow yourself to be surprised at the beginning of life ūüôā


Design/ Gardening: Got Tape? Repurposed container gardening May 9, 2013

Repurposed container gardening

Glass Paper Scissors
green ideas, fresh designs, recycled crafts


Design: Repurposing and Reusing plastic bags March 27, 2013

Saving plastics to save Mama Earth: How to reduce, reuse and repurpose

Saving plastics to save Mama Earth: How to reduce, reuse and repurpose

Fusing plastics into household items: Coasters“Paper or Plastic”? When I think of hauling my groceries up to my fourth floor walk-up, I skittishly¬†mutter “plastic” and shamefully carry back 6-10 plastic bags of groceries every 2 weeks. I was reusing them (categorized on their tensile strength) for wrapping lunch boxes, parcel fragile glassware, provide¬†water-proofing in projects and picking up after my dog. Several months back, I came across a cute trick on Pinterest¬†and landed on Bao’s craft page http://www.relevedesign.com/. So can plastic really be used to make crafty dinner table items? Let’s try.

Things you need:
  • Scissors
  • Plastic bags
  • Printer paper or parchment paper
  • Household iron (hold the steam, make sure it is on “dry” )
  • Clean work surface
  • Towels
Here’s how
Pic 1 Step 1 Cutting plastic bags

Pic 1 Step 1 Cutting plastic bags

1. Cut of the handles and bottom of the plastic bags  and make it into a rectangular shape.

Pic 2 Step 2 layering plastic

Pic 2 Step 2 layering plastic

2. Lay a towel straight on your work table, for heat insulation (Picture 2 shows whole layout)
3. Lay a sheet of paper (I used printed paper and the results were not as good see Picture 3 below) on the towel, with printed face down

4. Lay 3-4 sheets of plastic rectangles on the paper, preferably with the print (color or text) facing each other and not the paper directly.

Pic 3 printed plastic on paper

Pic 3 printed plastic on paper

5. Cover with another sheet of paper, again the print should face up (not facing the plastic). Please make sure the plastic does not touch the towel underneath or your iron. It will melt and ruin the iron.
6. Next press down in the middle for about 6 seconds and gently but firmly smooth out in a radial way (this will make sure you don’t trap air bubbles.
7. Once you have ironed it completely on one side, let it sit until cool to touch then flip the whole thing to the other side. The towel stays in place, whole thing refers to the plastic sandwiched in the 2 sheets of paper.
8. Iron again like step 6, but this time you can go a little faster, but keep your hands steady because the paper can be slippery
9. Let cool, then slowly peel off the paper from both sides

 10. Cut the new reinforced plastic to shape and enjoy your new washable coasters and table liners

Pic 4 Overheated plastic with holes

Pic 4 Overheated plastic with holes

Want more challenge?
  • Feel free to add more plastic and make it even thicker, you will see going beyond 11-12 is difficult, but give it a shot, because every plastic is different!
  • Try inclusions like maps, or quotes in between the sheets– kind of like laminating them; just make sure they are placed¬†centrally, because as you probably have figured out, plastic doesn’t stick to paper and for the item to be useful, plastic has to have plastic to melt into
  • Try with printed colorful bags or statement bags from your favorite brands
  • Cut the fused sheets into 1″ circles and make earrings or bracelet charms
  • Stitch multiple sheets of fused, reinforced plastic and make bags with them (yes, crazy but delicious!)
Faux pas and things I learned:
  • Parchment paper is really the way to go. Works so much better than printer paper, remains intact much longer
    Pic 5 Edge distortion

    Pic 5 Edge distortion

    and hence you don’t have to throw them away

  • Clear plastic melts faster (like waaay faster)
  • Overheat will distort your plastic and create holes (sometimes amusing and rather desirable shapes) (Pic 4: overheated plastic with holes)
  • If printed plastic faces the paper, it can get sticky and distort the surface of the plastic when peeling¬† (Pic 5: edge distortion); you can always cut it off but it wastes material!
  • If printed paper faces the plastic, the paper will tear, but you can wash off the paper from the plastic using a scrubber and dish soap (Pic 6: scraped Limited table mat)
  • Metal inclusions (like sequins or chocolate wrappers) get insanely hot and will destroy your plastic and can burn you. They get heated much faster than plastic and stays hot because the heat can’t escape through the plastic very fast.
  • For the brief few seconds when plastic stays molten, it is hot and can give you painful burns, so patience pays off.

    Pic 6: Scratched mat (had paper stuck to it once)

    Pic 6: Scratched mat (had paper stuck to it once)

  • Your final product¬†is NOT microwavable (not sure why you would want to microwave it)
  • It is not dishwashable (but an one-off cold cycle in the dishwasher will not kill it–the keyword here is “cold”)
  • How to use it? Coasters for coffee mugs and/or dinner/snack plates are ideal. Please dont put a very hot vessel on it, you don’t need a gooey, sticky mess underneath on your saucepan, trust me!
I owe it to my Food Microbiology background to tell you this: Soiled plastic that has come in direct contact with raw animal product (meat, broken eggs, or juices seeping from meat packages) should end up in the trash, NOT your recycle bin, definitely not your craft table. Protect your hygiene, then go save the earth.
Always be careful with your iron, switch it off when not in use and let cool before stowing away.
Here are some of my favorite fused plastics:
Get your NYC on! :Coasters from Repurposed plastic

Get your NYC on! :Coasters from Repurposed plastic

Comical bags, anyone? :from repurposed plastic

Comical bags, anyone? :from repurposed plastic

Fishy: from repurposed plastic

Fishy: from repurposed plastic

Before I end, let me thank Bao (of Releve Design) once again for sharing great ideas on reusing plastics into fabulous craft items. So much to learn, so little time!


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