Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Swap til you drop!

Happy New Year! I know many of us are extremely excited to be able to say we made it to 2012. This year things are going to be different, or so most say. One way to switch things up is to have a clothing swap, especially if you're dying to get rid of that holiday sweater that really just isn't your style.

Last year I attended a swap at a friends house, in which some lovely ladies and a couple stylish guys brought clothing and accessories they were ready to say "Sayonara!" to. My good friend Chelsea was a wonderful hostess, offering up a tasty spread of veggies, chips, dips and sweets. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed wading through racks and piles of apparel. I snagged myself a sweet summer dress and an oversized plaid button down from one of the gents. After all was said and done anything left was donated to those in need.

Today I attended another swap, but due to the last minute nature it was just my friend Annemarie and myself. As I'm trying to be very conscious of the clothing I add to my wardrobe this year, I decided to pass on the holiday gifts that were made in China. I also got rid of some brand new panties I'd gotten with Victoria's Secret gift card, after I read that the organic cotton used to make them was picked by child laborers in Africa. Annemarie picked a handful of items from my box and I picked two items from her pile. We decided to schedule another swap so more girls can participate next time around.

I'm totally in love with the concept of swapping. Why spend hard earned money when you can get what you need for free? This is also a fabulous way to do your part in helping our environment. Clothing production is a long, typically dirty and wasteful process. Swapping helps you get what you need without having to add to the problem of pollution. Keeping all that in mind, I feel that in order to have a highly successful swap one should focus on a few key componants:

A mix of body types - Most people know what it's like to feel left out of something fun - it sucks. Make sure you invite enough friends so as to have a variety of sizes and styles available.

Nutrition - A good host/hostess should provide at least some sort of snack for participants. The more people you invite the longer the swap is likely to take, so you friends will appreciate something to tide them over. To make things more interesting serve some cocktails, or turn it into a pizza party!

Plans for the clothes nobody wants - Once everyone has picked through the options there's probably going to be a few leftovers that didn't tickle anyone's fancy. This is the perfect time to discuss with friends where would be an appropriate place to take these items. Consider donating the remainder to a shelter, church, Salvation Army, thrift store, etc. If you're strapped for cash you could also look into a consignment store.

If you find yourself in the Rockville, MD area one store to check out is My Best Friend's Closet. Aimed towards preteen to adult women, they offer customers the chance to bring in any gently used, stylish items that are in season to receive cash. They also don't have a problem with you buying an item to wear for a specific event and then selling it back to them.

So the next time you feel your wardrobe needs something different, try organizing a swap with friends. Remember, you can swap anything - toys, books, movies, etc. Anything goes!

By: Sara Moline

Monday, December 12, 2011

DIY Dog Toy

Just last week I discovered this adorable cat-shaped oven mitt lurking in the kitchen cupboard. As it seems a bit old and rather small, I thought it might be fun to reuse it by turning it into a dog toy. It sure beats buying an overpriced one from a store!

I (Sara) live with my boyfriend, his young son and the boy's grandmother. There are four cats and a dog who live with us, so we try to keep them occupied. Lady, the Cocker Spaniel, is in desperate need of a new toy, so I collected a few items from around the house to make her one; a sewing needle, unflavored dental floss (it's more durable than plain thread), batting for stuffed animals, and a replacement toy squeaker.

I realize many of you may not have all of these items lying around, I just happen to live in a cluttered, crafty home. If you need to purchase batting I would suggest looking for some organic cotton, simply because most batting is made of non-recyclable synthetic polyester. I've also heard of filling an old prescription bottle with beans to make noise. The safety lid will secure the beans from falling out, and you'll be reusing something else!

I firmly believe that our companion animals deserve to lead happy healthy lives, so we should take special care when we purchase or make items they will be chewing on or consuming. Understanding what a toy or treat is comprised of can help us avoid hazardous situations like choking or allergic reactions. No matter what, we should always keep an eye on our pets when they play with their toys to ensure their safety and our sanity.

As you can imagine this project is very easy. Simply take some stuffing and shove it towards the end of the oven mitt, filling it about halfway. Then place the squeaker inside, followed by more batting. Now knot the dental floss and thread it through the needle. Stitch up the opening by piercing through both layers, weaving back and forth. I find it easy to just follow the seam. When you're finished the bottom should look like a sealed zip-loc bag. I decided stitching overtop would leave the floss exposed and it could catch on the dog's teeth, tearing open the bottom. We want this toy to last a while though.

Voila! I've now turned an old oven mitt into a new dog toy for next to nothing. See how Lady likes it?

Have you ever tried to make a toy or treat for your pet? Share your ideas or let us know what you think of this one!

By: Sara Moline

Monday, December 5, 2011

Low Stress Holiday Brownies

Hi all, Angie here! With Thanksgiving and Christmas many of us have been baking to impress our family and friends. At this time of year when I want a fresh baked treat without the stress I always turn to a classic fudgey brownie recipe I tracked down, the All Recipes Mmm Mmm Brownies (just use butter, not oil!) . This simple recipe is easy to make and can be easily adapted to change things up a bit. I've done cheesecake swirl, Andes Mints, and today I will be sharing my Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownie recipe.

You'll need:
Ingredients from the above All Recipes Brownie Link, Plus:
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3-1/2 cup sugar
1 egg (optional)
2/3 to 1 cup chocolate chips

serves 12-16

Grease your brownie pan and preheat your oven to 350. Follow the all recipe instructions, but add chocolate chips when you're done mixing. Set the chocolate batter aside. In a small bowl mix peanut butter, sugar, 1 egg (beaten) and the vanilla together. Mix until smooth and creamy. Now add about half of your chocolate batter into the greased brownie pan. Spread it out evenly, then spoon the peanut butter mixture over the top, leaving about 1/3 the mixture in the bowl. Smooth this layer out and add your remaining chocolate in an evenish layer. Then spoon the last of the PB mix on top. Use a toothpick or knife to create a marbled pattern, and you're done! Bake for 20-25 minutes until edges look done. The peanut butter may remain runny but the brownies will be done, test doneness by the chocolate batter or looking at the edges. Bon Apetit!