zero-ish waste holidays 2016- gift wrapping

Merry Christmas! I didn’t want to post anything with spoilers ahead of time, but still wanted to share some of my ZW Christmas gift wrapping. There just aren’t a lot of posts out there about this and I wanted to add to the conversation in case it’s helpful to someone later.


I’ve always loved and admired beautifully wrapped gifts, but had never bothered to master the skill. This year, however, my gifts are wrapped up in such unique ways. Some of my wrapping this year includes: a roll of brown kraft paper I already had, tea towels a hand-dyed, a secondhand scarf (and one from my closet I’ll take back), advertisements from our local alternative press publication, Hannah’s doodles saved throughout the year, the cloth bags from a pair of curtain panels I’d purchased early in the year, a piece of tissue paper and a bow from gifts I’d received from friends earlier in the season, yarn as string, and upcycled cardboard gift tags. Several gifts remain unwrapped entirely because they are beautiful without wrapping.

My little Christmas elf was happy to paint some gift tags for me. I used a couple Christmas cookie cutters to trace onto an upcycled cardboard shipping box, and cut them out. She painted her little heart out, and once they dried I punched a hole and used some yarn to tie them to our gifts. They turned out so beautiful! Hannah also strung beads for bracelets for all her girl cousins and aunts, over the course of the last month or so. It’s a great activity to keep her busy at the kitchen counter while I work on dinner, and the results are so beautiful! I tied them to some of the gifts as well. I LOVE them.

I’ve NEVER had this much fun wrapping gifts (or shopping for them, really). Removing most of that over-consumption guilt was such a freeing experience. I didn’t step foot in a mall. That was like a Christmas gift for myself. To be honest, despite buying fewer gifts, our budget didn’t change much from last year, because we bought things of higher quality and not made in sweatshops. Those items will (and should) cost more. Besides buying less, we offset it with not buying wrapping papers, bows, tags, etc, or buying/sending Christmas cards this year (another carbon-footprint motivated decision).

Next year I hope to hit 100% with a sustainable Christmas, which means better planning for my husband (I did okish, but he’s quite difficult to buy for so I compromised my goals here a bit) and my mother-in-law and father-in-law (my husband took care of their gifts this year and they weren’t ZW). It will also mean no online shopping unless I know for certain their packing materials are plastic-free (I was disappointed with a couple of items that should have been otherwise ZW). I only bought a handful of things online though, so I could have easily avoided this. Next year I will!

I hope everyone has a lovely holiday!


zero waste eye makeup removal

I am gradually replacing disposable items in my life with reusable ones to minimize waste and cost. I used to use those little pre-soaked eye makeup remover pads, the cost of which is pretty outrageous! When I ran out, I would use coconut oil until I made it to the store to get more disposable makeup remover pads. ..How dumb is that?? Coconut oil is so dirt cheap and not full of chemical ingredients, you’d think given my DIY and thrifty ways I would have had that DUH moment long ago. Alas, even I am a product of marketing sometimes, thinking I had to buy a specific-use product at a stupid-high price, and that the eco alternative was only to use in a pinch. ANYWAY.

When I made the conscious effort to think through every product and purchase, I ditched the disposable eye makeup remover pads for coconut oil permanently. And because I didn’t want to have to use cotton balls, I made my own little cotton pads from scrap fabric I already had. (What did you do with your New Years Eve? Go out and party? Ha!)


I grabbed a small piece of cotton fabric I had leftover from another project. I hoped to use up the rest since I think it’s so colorful and pretty! For the back I used an old piece of a flannel burp cloth (which had a previous life as a receiving blanket a friend handed down to me… quite the purposeful piece of fabric, eh?)

I cut little squares (about 2×2) of each (one of the cotton and 2 of the flannel for each finished square to make them a little thicker). I made 9 because that’s exactly how many I could get from the cotton scrap. Then I sewed around the edge with a zigzag stitch. No time-consuming turning right-side out and stitching closed – just enough to keep them from fraying too badly. This little project cost nothing and took maybe 20-25 minutes at the most.


They aren’t perfectly square because I didn’t measure or use a ruler, but they are still cuter than a cotton ball!

I just apply a bit of coconut oil to the pad and wipe off my eye makeup, then rinse them out a bit and toss in the towel hamper. Could not be simpler!

decorating with scarves and pashminas

headwrapOne of the perks, or hazards, of my job, is I am gifted with an excess of souvenirs. I work with – and do lots of paperwork for – people who travel overseas. Many of them bring me back pretty scarves and pashminas, which is so thoughtful! I also am frequently gifted with scarves for holidays and I pick up pretty ones at thrift stores. And as a result I have a LOT of scarves. Somehow I’ve amassed a pretty ridiculous (-ly awesome) collection.

I wear scarves pretty often, and I use them as head wraps. But I have so many pretty scarves and so few places to go these days that I hate seeing them tucked away. The fabrics and colors are so pretty! So I’ve rounded up a few ideas (some that require cutting and sewing for the thrifted ones, but most that leave them in tact) for using and displaying a scarf collection more frequently.

how to tie a scarfMy friend Cassie actually got me a cute book, How to Tie a Scarf, for Christmas. It’s full of fun ideas. There are also tons of tutorials on Pinterest, including how to tie and knot scarves stealthily to turn them into kimonos and vests. Really awesome! There are plenty of head wrap ideas or tutorials on braiding scarves into your hair, too, though I don’t have enough hair or swagger to pull off many of them. I just go for the super simple wrap-styles.

But the ideas I’ve been collecting are more for decor purposes. I love the casual vibe that different patterns and fabrics give off when layered around the house. I suppose you could use any textile for most of these, which makes them even more awesome. I like scouting textiles. They are so versatile. So.. here we go:

I LOVE these huge pillows made from big scarves {plus the link has tons of other ideas I love for scarf-upcycling}.

big pillows - dishfunctional designsSmaller pillows wouldn’t require sewing; you can wrap the scarf and twist/knot the back. The link for this one didn’t work (found on Pinterest), but it directed me to All You.

all youI like the idea of using scarves to cover poufs and ottomans, like these ones: (left from from Urban Outfitters, now sold out; right from Plumo). The Urban Outfitters version is something I’ve wanted to make for a while now. A less pretty “collection” I’ve got going on is 5 gallon buckets (I know, random), and I think with a little creativity I could make a similar ottoman with some patchwork scarves/other fabric.

UO Pouf   Plumo pouf

I use one pashmina as a runner on our dresser top to keep the surface from getting scratched. They are nice for table runners over a table cloth to keep them from sliding.

table runnerThere are lots of images out there for patchwork curtains made from scarves and handkerchiefs, but just hanging one in a window is really pretty and will allow it to be worn later.

windowI loved framed scarves like these, because you can see the entire design. It would be simple enough to switch out, too. (I wish I owned both of the ones below):

framed scarvesYou can hang a scarf on a wall without framing or doing anything special, like below. No cutting into the fabric for the special scarves I’ve got. I love this for the huge silk pashminas I’ve got from the Middle East.

wall hangingStoring scarves in plain view lets them be part of the decor and still keeps them usable. I’ve done this before in the bedroom, but it’s a great idea for an entryway.

hanging scarvesAny other ideas I’ve missed?

jewelry vanity desk

For what feels like the 20th time this fall/winter season, I am sick. It’s just a cold, but it’s a bummer. Luckily it’s a three-day weekend for me and I can just stay home and sneeze, clorox stuff, repeat away from the office and get a few little things done in the meantime.

My cute yellow roll top desk has a new home in our bedroom. Love it!


I decided it was far too cute to be stuck in the basement after I moved it out of the dining area this summer so I decided to come up with a new purpose for it. Jewelry organization! It certainly isn’t space-saving {everything in here once fit in a small trunk on my bathroom counter}, but it’s pretty, and it’s reversible, and it was free. Plus it’s pretty awesome.

Let’s peak in the drawers, shall we? {Pay no mind to the imperfect paint job inside the drawers!}


This drawer contains bracelets, and a couple flower pins. The front row of bracelets is sorted, from left to right, by beaded, charm, metal, and shell.


My earrings are sorted by color in little plastic trays from the Target dollar bin section {there’s always something awesome there}.


Studs are on cards in a bowl, and some of the largest earrings are corralled in a little teacup in one of the small top drawers.


My rings are all in the other small drawer. I made the little ring box with a paper mache box from JoAnn and a cloth napkin. I found the genius idea via Pinterest, here. {My ring collection is much smaller so this little box was perfect.} A couple big rings wouldn’t fit, so they are in the green votive holder.


Under the roll top, I put my small bags/clutches, and a few amber glass pieces I have collected to hold the things I wear the most often. I might move those to my bathroom counter to be more convenient and find a way to store other accessories like scarves, in this area. I haven’t decided yet.


I’m mulling over a few other ideas. I would like to fit some paper to line the top drawers {I ran out of contact paper scraps}. I would like a little mirror on a stand for the inside. My necklaces are still hanging from the mirror on the other side of the room, but some hooks or pegs on the wall near the desk might be a better location.

For now, this is a really fun way to display my sparkly stuff and use this desk. Gotta love free projects!

DIY sugar body scrub

File this under.. why didn’t I try this forever ago?!

This weekend I whipped up the sugar scrub recipe from The Bust DIY Guide to Life.

I just finally picked up a copy of this book, and I LOVE it. Mostly I love it because it reminds me of being in college. I LOVED BUST Magazine. This book has lots of easy DIY tips and projects that aren’t fit for Pinterest fame or Martha Stewart Living, admittedly. It’s just good-old-fashioned fun. I needed to be reminded that not everything you make has to be a Pottery Barn copycat to be cool.

Anyway. Back to the scrub. I made a Whole Foods run this weekend (it’s a 30 mile journey ;)) and picked up all the supplies. Which are:

  • Raw sugar (1 cup)
  • Pure almond oil (1 ounce)
  • Vitamin E oil (1/2 tsp)
  • Cocoa butter (a “dab”- not required)
  • Essential oil (up to 6 drops – I used vanilla)

The instructions are ridiculously simple. Mix the sugar and almond oil in a bowl. Add the vitamin E oil and cocoa butter (which you will need to microwave in a small bowl – it’s a solid). Add a few drops of essential oil and mix again. Store in a jar.

I used some jars I had on-hand that once had things like pickled jalapenos and kalamata olives. I spray-painted the lids lavender and used scrap-booking stickers to label the jars. I covered the stickers with clear packing tape. (The collage-y look of this is SO 18-year-old me.)

The scrub smells sooo good, and would compete with any you could buy. Now that I have all the supplies (I would have to buy more sugar is all) I could make up tons more of this for Christmas gifts, which I just might…!

practically free friday #19 – butterfly specimen art


This was a spendy week at Casa Buelo. It wasn’t a quickly thought-out decision, but we did finally pull the trigger on a pretty big purchase – a new bedroom set! We just got it set up last night and wow.. does it ever make me feel like a grown up to have legit furniture. I felt like we were sleeping in a hotel on that bed last night! I will blog about it shortly, but there’s lots of prettifying to do before I feel like sharing it with the Internet. However, I do have a little bedroom project to share for this week’s Practically Free Friday post.


To make these little prints, I used some painted canvases I picked up at the stuff swap I hosted earlier in the summer. They weren’t the ugliest thing in the world, but I certainly didn’t snag them for the existing design. These are the perfect things to pick up at thrift stores, too: you can do tons of different things with canvases.

Then I found some photos of butterfly specimens online and printed them. I rounded up two scrapbook papers with pretty, subdued designs.


I simply used a mod podge medium to adhere the scrapbook paper to the canvas. While it was drying, I carefully cut out the butterflies. Then I mod podged them to the scrapbook paper. Simple.


I won’t debut the rest of the bedroom redo, but for now, here’s where the butterflies landed.. above my night stand. I really like how they turned out!


This easy project was actually 100% free since I used what I had on hand. Not bad, and much needed budget friendly wall art after our shopping spree! 🙂 Happy weekend!

practically free friday #18 – organize with berry containers

This is a pretty silly project – basically a fast organization upgrade achieved while the pasta was boiling for dinner last night. I saw this photo on Pinterest a while back.

I think I was looking for things to do with berry containers because I always throw so many in the recycle bin! This is a really obvious way to use them, but I really like the look of clear bins so I guess that’s why the idea was in the back of my head.

I decided to organize a couple drawers in my yellow desk, finally. Here’s the before:

Nothing too horrifying, but could use some sprucing. I used some of the shelf liner from another desk project and corralled items into berry containers with the lids cut off. They make the perfect shallow trays, and allow me to see the pretty shelf paper.

Both lower drawers look nice and tidy now.

Hope everyone has a happy weekend!

practically free friday #17 – make an inexpensive gallery wall

See? Told you I’d post two projects this week to make up for missing one last week. 😉 One of my July project goals was to spruce up our master bathroom a bit and I decided it would be a good place to start a gallery wall. I love me some gallery walls, and this isn’t the first one in my house. The best part is they can be a really rotating/evolving space. So while I like the impact our new gallery wall makes to the space above our tub, I also know I’ll be tweaking it from now til eternity as I find things to swap out and add. But for now, this project cost me nearly nothing and it’s a big improvement from the previously blank wall.

Here’s the breakdown of materials:

  • Frames/mats: The teal frame was purchased for $.50 during my thrift haul a couple weeks ago. I painted it with leftover paint (from our bedroom walls). The rest of the frames, I scored during the stuff swap I hosted at my house in June of this year. They held lots of random prints I cut away from the existing mats and I spray-painted them with leftover ORB spray paint from this project. That means all six frames cost a total of $.50.

Here’s the collection of frames pre-decontruction (I didn’t use the canvases or the three on the far right.. I will be doing something with them soon!).

  • Prints: The botanical prints in the frames were all cut from a book I picked up at a flea market last summer. I liked that the prints were a little mod and had planned to do some decoupage with them, but found it again when I was deciding what to fill frames with for this gallery wall. There are still plenty of prints left for another project. I couldn’t have spent more than $5 on the book – I’m guessing less.

Total of $5.50? Yeah, that’s practically free, right?

In real life the gallery wall looks bolder- I just can’t seem to capture that! But this is only a start.

I do plan to add more framed art in larger frames, maybe a mirror, and some other non-framed objects to this wall, all of which I will move around the corner to span the entire space above the tub. But since the hardest part is getting started I’m happy to make some progress on this little project.

Happy Friday, everyone!

practically free friday #14 – make a doily dreamcatcher

This week’s project was ripped off inspired by this post.  I love dream catchers – they remind me of friends I had growing up – I lived across the street from a Native American reservation and lived in a town that celebrated Native culture. I remember having dream catchers when I was younger.

To make this, I purchased a small embroidery hoop and small doily.

Then gathered up some random doodads in a kind-of earthy color scheme. I used beads, some pieces of copper pipe I cut into small rings (leftover from another project), hemp twine, and strips and ribbon and lace.

I strung the beads and copper pieces and attached them to the outter piece of the embroidery hoop. I tied on the string, ribbon, and lace.

Then secured the doily in between the hoop pieces and tightened the screw.

I trimmed around the edges of the doily, and made a loop from the twine as a hanger.

There you have it! Project cost was roughly $4.

Happy weekend, everyone!

practically free friday #12 – cookbook organizer

I realize most of my Practically Free Friday posts are pretty much instant gratification projects, but that’s how I roll sometimes. I’m juggling a lot right now, and this little Friday commitment I made, silly as it is, helps me remember to take time to do something creative, using what I’ve already got on hand, and re-center myself.

To make this cookbook holder, I simply applied various craft paper scraps to a magazine file I already owned. It was from a 5-pack of magazine files from IKEA, and the outside design was wearing off. Covering it with scraps made the project free. I applied a few layers of Mod Podge to seal it up.

Now my cooking magazines look cute all tucked in by my cookbooks. 🙂 Here’s the other side.

I’m going to make one for my office at work with lots of random instagram snaps, magazine cutouts and such, for a little personality in my cubicle.

Happy weekend, everyone!