the farmers’ market: textiles

Zippers and thread!

Fabric by the meter.

Fleece blankets.

Material for curtains.

Another fabric seller.

Bed linens.


Children’s linens.

Some Turkish ladies (you can tell by their traditional dress) shopping for fabric.

Welcome mats, bath mats, and runners.

Hand-knit baby booties and mittens.

See more of our farmers’ market here:
Clothes & Shoes


tulle rose bouquet

I love handrolled roses, ever since the Valentine’s Day of my engagement to my now-husband.  He was living on the tiny Greek island where we later were married and lived together for a year.  I came down from Athens for the Valentine’s weekend, bringing with me a bouquet of my favorite roses:  ivory tinged with red.  (Why should guys have all the fun of giving roses?)  But a Greek island with a population of 200 souls in the depths of winter doesn’t have roses for sale, or any kind of flower for that matter.  With absolutely no craft supplies or know-how, my then-fiance made me a huge bouquet of paper roses out of … paper towels.  I still have this bouquet, and I expect I always will.

To continue in the tradition of handrolled roses that cost absolutely nothing, I decided to make a little centerpiece for our Valentine’s dinner.  I was inspired by this beautiful kissing ball made by the very talented Kristin of My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia.  It wasn’t just the finished product that drew me to this project – it was the fact that she used a wiffle ball for the base.

As much as I love reading about creative diy projects on blogs, most of the time I end up sighing and saying, “well, if we had Michael’s in Greece, maybe I could do that.”  Or, “well, if I had extra money to buy ____, maybe I could do that.”  When Kristin wrote:

I really wasn’t in the mood to leave the house for a styrofoam ball, this wiffle ball worked just fine.

it hit me:  I never have the stuff you’re supposed to have.  And yet, I actually have a styrofoam ball.  (I definitely don’t have a wiffle ball – although ping pong balls are another story!)

So I decided to give it a try.  However, the project calls for fabric.  Unlike every other female blogger on the planet, I don’t have a fabric stash.  Things are far too tight financially for me to go running off to the fabric store.  However I never throw anything away if I think it will come in handy.  We had attended a wedding in August, and I still had the little circles of tulle that wrapped the Jordan almonds handed out at the wedding.  Two circles of pink tulle and two circles of white.

I followed Kristin’s tutorial on making handrolled roses, but had to make a few changes because of my materials.

First, I cut around and around the circle from the outside in, ending up with a very long strip.

I rolled the strip until the flower was big enough,

then secured it with a pin and kept going until I ran out of fabric.

Kristin uses a glue gun, but the tulle was so fragile that I decided to sew it instead.  I sewed across the bottom of each flower, one third of the way up, and wrapped the stitches around the side to flare the top (blossom end).

Then I put a pin through the center of each blossom,

and pulled it as far down as I could inside the blossom,

and stuck it into the styrofoam ball.

At this point it became obvious that I didn’t have anywhere near enough tulle to make a kissing ball like Kristin’s.  Instead, I decided to turn it into a bouquet of roses.  I used the white tulle to wrap the bouquet, pinning the white fabric to the bottom of the styrofoam ball.

I liked Kristin’s idea of setting it on a candlestick.  I tied a pink bow on a candlestick and set the bouquet on top.  I may not ultimately keep it in the candlestick as I work out the rest of the centerpiece.

A nice thing about this project is that in addition to being free, I can easily take it apart and reuse the white tulle, the pins, and the styrofoam ball in other projects.  The pink tulle flowers, even without the ball and pins, will not lose their shape, since they’ve been stitched, and the whole thing can be easily reassembled next year if I want to.  I think free and reuseable in other projects is even more frugal than free!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This post is linking up to:

Chic on a Shoestring Decorating  

DIY ziploc bag organizer

If you’re an American living abroad, you probably miss Ziploc bags, zipped Hefty bags, and the like.  Here in Greece, they do sell zipped plastic bags, but they are godawful quality, the zip doesn’t really work, and they aren’t real freezer bags.  So if you’re like me, you beg your American friends and family to throw ziploc bags into anything they send you in the mail (“they make great packing material!”).  And then you end up with a pile of bags, but no real secure feeling of being able to replace them.  So you reuse them.  Enter the ziploc bag mess.

A scary pile of used ziploc bags gathering on the counter, begging to be washed.  No good way to dry them.  No good way to store them.  A drawer becomes home to a messy mixture of sizes.  When you want one, you have to pull out five before you find the right size.  Sometimes the ones you pull out of the drawer are still wet on the inside.  It’s enough to break your American heart.

After struggling with this mess for over two years, I found the solution:  my own personal  Ziploc Bag System!

First, let’s take a look at how I stored my bags before I finally tackled the problem.  I have a lot of kitchen cabinets (yay!) but am severely lacking in kitchen drawers – so much so that I don’t even put my forks and spoons in a drawer!  The bottom drawer is where I store my plastic wrap, aluminum foil, wax paper, wooden skewers, and plastic ice-cube bags.  And my bags.

Yeah.  That’s not really a long-term solution, is it?  I had been trying to come up with a solution for a long time.  I tried a number of things.  First, I organized them by size and put all the tiny ones into a small one, all the small ones into a medium one, all the medium ones into a large one, and so on.  That meant that to get a tiny one, I had to open about 5 bags and scrounge around trying to find the one I wanted.  It meant that the method was only effective for up to three days.

Then I tried rolling them by size and putting a rubber band around them, and storing each size separately.  Something about pulling the rubber band off, unrolling, taking out a bag, rerolling, rebanding, just didn’t appeal to my innate laziness.

Then I tried rolling them by size and putting them into toilet paper tubes.  1 point for reusing an otherwise recycle-bin item, but -10 points for being only marginally better than the rubber band method.   I briefly entertained the idea of using empty tissue boxes, but they were too bulky and we don’t go through tissues fast enough to generate enough boxes for all my sizes of bags.

The result of all these attempts was the same:

Yup.  Doesn’t look any better the second time.

Unrelated to my ziploc struggle, I also have another kitchen struggle:  that of breaking water glasses.  When we moved here, we didn’t own any glasses (or pretty much anything else, for that matter), so we bought 6.  Then about a month later, we bought another 6.  And so on.  The other day,  when I realized we were down to our last two glasses again, I found our supermarket’s storebrand glasses on sale for only €1 each – a steal, since up til then I’d been paying €2.30 each for the cheapest glasses they sold.  I grabbed a whole box of six – and after bringing home the box, I couldn’t just put it in the recycling bin.  It was too special.  It must have a greater purpose in life.

Well, now you see where I’m going with this.  After sitting on the kitchen counter for about 48 hours, I knew what its greater purpose was.  (Clarification:  the box sat on the kitchen counter for 2 days.  Not I.)


  • 1 repurposed water glass box, 6 sections
  • 1 piece of white contact paper
  • a razor blade
  • a crazy pile of ziploc bags

Total price:  free, baby!

Step 1:  cut your contact paper to the appropriate size.

Step 2:  attach contact paper to the box.  My super high-quality contact paper is very easy to work with, and peels right back up if there are bubbles or wrinkles, so this was a breeze.

Step 3:  admire your finished bag organizer!

I wasn’t quite done yet.  I still had that drawer to tackle.

Step 4: dump all ziploc bags into a pile for sorting.

Step 5: sort your bags by size.  Since I had seven sizes but only six sections in my box, I combined the half-gallon (top right) and the tall skinny (bottom left), since I only had a few of each.

Step 6:  roll each group of bags and put in the dividers, with the largest in the back.

The entire project took about ten minutes, start to finish, and was free, because I had the contact paper on hand.

With such a lovely new home, my bags don’t need to hide in the drawer.  So I found them a more convenient home, which will save me aggravation in the kitchen.

If this picture confuses you, remember:  this is Greece.  There are no laundry rooms.  Washing machines go in the bathroom or, if you’re lucky, the kitchen.  I’m extremely lucky, because my washing machine goes next to my dishwasher.  If you’re wondering about the clothes dryer, forget it.  This is frugal living.  We use the sun.

Before I even tackled the bag organization problem, I had to deal with the washing/drying problem.  In the past, when we lived on a tiny, beautiful Greek island, I would hang them on the clothesline on our veranda, where they would dry gracefully in the breeze.  Now we live in a city, and our balcony overlooks a major street.  They can dry there too, but with an invisible layer of city street grime that I’d prefer not to eat, since I have to wear it anyway.

Do you know how to wash a ziploc bag?  Here’s what I do:  first, rinse out any bits of food.  Then, put a few pumps of dishwashing foam in the bag, and fill it about 1/3 with water.  Close the zip, and massage the bag with your hands, getting the soap into all the corners.  Dump out the water, and rinse.

Then, hang it on the handy ziploc drying line that you’ve got over your kitchen sink!

I usually hang them inside out first, and then turn them right side out and hang again to dry the outside.  Since I keep my clothespins on my washing machine (which is about a foot to the right of the photo), it’s all very convenient.

And when there are no bags to dry, it pretty much fades into the background.  (Please disregard the pizza dough I’m rising on the counter….)

It’s also a handy way to hang pretty much anything that needs to dry quickly and you don’t want to put outside on the line.

To make this, I just used a white cord (€0.50 at Jumbo in the gift-wrapping section) and two no-drill stick-on hooks (€4.95 each at Praktiker) – these hooks are expensive, but they are reusable and we are renting, so can’t drill holes in the tile.  They hold a lot of weight and actually hold up our shower organizer with all the shampoo and soap bottles, so they’re a great thing to have.  In the US, I think they’re called “command hooks.”

That’s all there is to it, and the line can be removed easily if needed.

Let’s take a look at that drawer again:

Much better!

Remember:  if you are trying to save money, washing and reusing bags is a great way to save money.  But make sure you’re not taking any risks with your health.  I don’t store raw meat in these.  For that, I use regular non-zip bags, which I then put inside a ziploc.  I also sometimes put a little bit of bleach in the water if I think it’s necessary.  Use your judgement, and if you think a bag may have lived its food-storage life, repurpose it in your craft room or another area of your home.

This post is linked to:


before & after: craft closet


Closet interior, before

When we first saw the apartment, we were impressed.  There were a lot of kitchen cabinets.  There was a pantry.  Yes, in a Greek city apartment, an actual pantry.  And then, in the living room, there was a linen closet.  An unexpected bonus, so nice that I was almost able to get over the state of the linen closet’s drawers.

Inside the drawers, before.

Until I actually opened one of them, that is.  This contact paper clearly was some 1980s Greek housewife’s proud find.  She probably spent several minutes looking at various floral print contact papers before settling on this one, preferring it for its bold use of lavendar, scarlet, and yellow against a white background.  Combined with the fake wood contact paper on the exterior, it’s just like walking into a forest in springtime.

But, it wouldn’t do.  This isn’t the 1980s.  The contact paper had to go.  It fought me every inch of the way.  They really knew what they were doing, those contact paper manufacturers of the 1980s.  The glue was still as sticky as the day Kyria Maria lovingly pressed this paper into her closet drawers.

After a fairly prolonged struggle against stickiness, the result:

Closet drawers, after.

I used the same silver contact paper on the outside of the drawers in the bedroom closet.

And those beautiful spring flowers?

Closet drawer, interior, after.

Cost of this mini-makeover:

€5.95 for the silver contact paper

€2.95 for the white contact paper.  Note:  after this photo was taken, I lined the sides, back, and inside front of the interiors as well.

Total cost: €8.90

Ta da!

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