Mother Nature is My Home Girl

Happy Earth Day, y’all!   (And thanks, Google… you always come through with your clever home screens right when I think I might forget medium important holidays and random botanists’ birthdays.)

But seriously, I love the planet, I love DIY, and it’s no secret that I love saving the murnies, so logically I love upcycling like nobody’s business.

Bring on the Earth-Day-themed-upcycling-posts-throwback-round-up-trip-down-memory-lane-smorgasbord-of-April-twenty-second’s love!


(Click on the image or the link above the image to take you to the original post!)

Vinyl Record Bowl

free dog toy toilet paper roll

Nice Knobs!  (Salvaged Crystal Door Knobs)


Vintage Yardsticks and Rulers

{Source: Corner House Blog}

Wine Cork Crafts

{Source: ewehoo!}


It’s Earth Day! (almost)

Holy upcycling linkfest, Batman! It’s almost Earth Day!

It’s actually this Sunday, but since I don’t do the blog thing on weekends, today I thought I would do a little compilation of some of my more earth-friendly posts in lieu of the usual “Things that (P)inspire Me” post.  But brace your green, tree hugging self — it’s a list of 15 links featuring ways to upcycle everything from vinyl records to used egg cartons.  Not for the faint of heart crafting.

Hope these inspire you in the event that you’re feeling upcycle-crafty at any point between now and Sunday.  Or… ever.

Yay Earth!

Beer Cap Magnets (and other handmade goodies)

beer cap magnets

Vinyl Record Bowl

Wine Cork Crafts

Pinned Image

{Source: two twenty one}

Vintage Yardstick and Ruler Furniture

{Source: Corner House Blog}

Antique Singer Sewing Machine Dining Room Table

 Wooden Pallet Furniture

Pinned Image

{Source: My Friend Staci}

Paint Chip Projects

{Source: Joe Montano, Big Ass Book of Home Decor}

Tissue Paper Projects

{Source: Martha Stewart}

Fused Plastic Tutorial

Pinned Image


Beer Can Crafts

Pinned Image

{Source: Atomic Shrimp}

Upcycled Plastic Bottles

Pinned Image

{Source: Sarah Turner}

Ransom Note Art

Egg Carton Crafts 

egg carton flowers

{Source: Intimate Weddings}

Upcycled Suitcase Furniture

recycled suitcase iOZBg 5638

{Source: EcoFriend}

Now go hug a tree.

Happy (almost) Earth Day!

Fused Plastic Tutorial

Recently I brought you a Pinterest love-fest of Fused Plastic Projects.  Here a few highlights:

(Click on images to link back to the original source website)

Pinned Image

Source: Betz White

Pinned Image


Pinned Image

Source: Emily Grace

Yeah, there are some crazy creative people out there.  With sewing skills.  (Which I lack.)

Anyways... inspired by the inventiveness of fused plastic and my own desire to do it myself, I did a little research.  Turns out, it’s super easy to make!  Best of all, it’s super cheap (darn close to free), it’s a quick process, and it’s upcycling a resource that’s often fated to a landfill: plastic bags.

I’m sure a lot of you go the reuseable-bag route  (I try to remember them, but I actually use the grocery bags as trash can liners, so I sometimes end up with a few extra ones, i.e., craft supplies!).  However, even if you opt out of the grocery bags, you probably still encounter other kinds of plastic bags from time to time (think of packaging for a loaf of bread, especially those retro-fabulous Wonder Bread bags).

For this particular project, I used black bodega bags.  These are especially fun because they have gold and silver metallic striping on one side, which I used to cut out a C and J (for Courtney and Josh… not K-Ci and Jo Jo… but good guess).

fused plastic

Then I took about 4 bags and cut off the handles and the bottom:

With the handles and bottom cut off, the bag can have a larger surface area to work with.  Open up bag, unfolding the sides, and lay flat.

See the difference in workable surface area?

fused plastic

After four bags are cut, opened, and layered, you should have a stack that is 8-ply (4 X 2 = 8).  I wouldn’t recommend anything thinner, otherwise you’ll end up with holes and the final material will not have as much structural integrity (yeah, that’s right: structural integrity).

And I tried a mere 6-ply, by the way:  lots of holes…

Yeah, that’s no fun.

Then I placed the layered bags (with the cut out C and J on top) in between two layers of parchment paper, then placed this parchment-plastic “sandwich” on an ironing board.

Sold in most grocery stores...

In a well-ventilated area, e.g., the fire escape, I ironed on high until plastic was fused.  Don’t let the brevity of that statement mislead you into thinking that this is a fast, fool-proof process.  It does take a little time, a little patience, and a lot of ironing.  You iron directly onto the parchment, making sure to never let the hot iron touch the actual plastic (or you’ll have gelatinous plastic goo… which is nearly impossible to clean up).

Iron all over the paper, never keeping the iron in one place for too long (this is how you get holes).  Occasionally peel back paper to see the plastic’s progress.  Remember, bubbly is bad:

Fused plastic with a lot of air bubbles will not be as durable, so if this is how your plastic is looking, replace the parchment and continue ironing.  The ideal texture should be something like raw silk or crepe.

After you’ve achieved the necessary texture, remove from parchment and allow to cool.  Then, you can cut it, sew it, glue it, love it, whatever your crafty heart desires!  As showcased in my Pinterest finds, this material can absolutely go through a sewing machine, and can be treated just like any kind of vinyl or thick crepe.

All “that’s what she said” jokes aside, see how thick and hard it is?  (I know, I know…)

And here are both of the finished products:

See?  This method doesn’t alter text or melt the ink, so bags with fun logos or messages can definitely be used for this project.

As you can see, I haven’t quite figured out what to do with this material yet (nor have I come up with a plan for the other 5 zillion plastic bags I’ve saved over the past few months, including ones with Target bullseyes, Wonder Bread logos, smiley faces, trees, kitschy phrases and… the list goes on).

Maybe I should take a sewing class…

…or two.

So, in summary:

How about you fine folks?  Have you recently tried your hand at an upcycling project?  Or a sewing project?  Or both?!  Share below in comment form, or e-mail me:

Other upcycling ideas…

Wooden Pallets

Wine Corks

Tin Cans

Beer Cans

Vinyl Records

Yardsticks and Rulers

Paint Chips

And I got it for FREE!

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday, and in case you missed it, I talked about her crazy-craftiness, specifically in regards to stuff she’s made for my home.  In addition to being all-around awesome, she is also salvage-savvy.  Before it was all abuzz in the blog-o-sphere, she was re-purposing old doors into headboards, picking up “damaged” dressers off the side of the road and repainting them, and she even once got an 8′ artificial Christmas tree from a neighbors’ “trash.”  Yeah, she’s that lady.  (Hm… I think I’ve made her sound crazy… but she’s not.  Only crafty-crazy.  See? That’s so much better than just straight up crazy.)

And however seemingly, um… weird… I found this behavior to be as a child, she still somehow managed to instill in me the same values.

And I passed these “values” on to Josh.  (I’ve made her very proud.)

It has often been mentioned in many design shows and magazines that if you live in a big city, you could probably furnish your whole apartment on things you found on the side of the road — things deemed “trash.”  More often that not, there is nothing wrong with these items and the previous owner was either too lazy to donate or sell them or didn’t see the hidden potential for further use.  When this happens, passers-by with two free hands score, and such has been the case for Josh and I since we have lived in NYC.

Among our many finds (and thus, additions to our apartment), the BEST has been our new butcher block table top:

butcher block dining room table

Ta da!

(“Thank you, Courtney, for that extremely blurry picture!  It really shows you care.”  “You’re welcome!”)

As you may remember, the original tabletop was found at Ikea for $19.99.  The Singer sewing machine base was from an actual circa 1920’s, antique Singer sewing machine.

antique singer sewing machine dining room table


I liked the previous table top, but we knew that because it’s cheap, Ikea wood (like a step up from particle board) that we’d eventually want to replace it.  Being that the Singer base is made of iron, we knew we could replace it with just about anything and it would be fully supported.


On Halloween of this year, Josh was walking down our street on the way home from work, when he spotted a butcher block table top sitting on top of someone’s trash.  It was near what looked like its previous base, but the base was broken (and cheap looking anyway).  We assume that once the base broke, the previous owner just decided to trash the whole thing.  Josh — probably hearing the sound of my voice in his head — inspected it for stains or damage, found none, and carried it home.

That sounds so easy, right?!  However, the carrying-it-home part was faaarrrr more difficult as it weighs a BAJILLION pounds.  It is solid, maple butcher block after all.

(In fact, I remember calling him and asking where he was, to which he replied, out of breath, “I… am… bringing… a surprise…. home…. t’you. [gasp] Be… there… soon!”  I later Googled how much a typical butcher block of this size actually weighs, and it’s about NINETY POUNDS.)

After a lot of stop-and-go walking as Josh carried the butcher block 1/4 mile down the street and up FOUR flights of stairs, he brought it into the apartment.  I remember seeing it from a distance and saying “That isn’t laminate, right?”  He got a bit sassy with me as said “Um, NO — Definitely not!”

Later, we removed the Ikea top, attached the butcher block one, and stood back and smiled.

Let’s look one more time :)

butcher block dining room table

Ta da!

Isn’t she lovely?

It’s just the tiniest bit wider and maybe 2 inches longer, but this little bit really makes ALL the difference.  And since I have virtually no counter space, this really helps out in that department (I felt weird using the veneer/laminate/particle board stuff before as a prep surface, not that I ever used it as a cutting board or anything).

And because we like to pat ourselves on the back, we decided to Google how much a similar butcher block table top would cost, brand new.  We saw one here that has about the same measurements as ours for $289.


So yeah, we were pretty happy.  The next step is to go over it a couple of times with a fine-grained sand paper, and rub it down with mineral oil (this isn’t because it’s damaged, this is just what you do with butcher block tops).

And don’t worry, the original Ikea top will not be going to the trash.  We’ll think of something else for that… or we’ll Craigslist it!

The moral of the story:  The next time you walk or drive by something that looks like it might have some hidden potential (or that is already awesome in its own right), stop.  It may be complete junk… or it may be something that, once it’s been given a little TLC, you cherish and pass down in your family for years to come!


You might also fancy…

Books and Nooks: The Living Room Edition

The Odyssey of the Curtain-Bookshelf Thing

Recycled Market

This ridiculous picture of Josh singing 80’s music:

Recycled Market (Get excited!)

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!!!

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning!  I have discovered a new toy — read: “website” — that is a marketplace for buying and selling recycled, upcycled and repurposed goods!  Yes!!!  So many GPP dreams coming true all in one place!

This is me literally jumping for joy. (Don't take this as an example of my dancing skills.)

Ok… calming down time…

(but no, really, when I found this website, I literally said to Josh “Oh boy oh boy oh boy!!!”) is a new website recently founded by two individuals, Erica and Lester, who are based in Australia.  They were seeking an online marketplace where 100% of the products were reclaimed or recycled.  Unable to find such an outlet, they sought to fill this need themselves.

Here’s their fabulous mission statement:

(directly from

Recycled Market is a unique online venue that encourages buyers and sellers to reduce, reuse, redesign, refashion, rework and recycle as much as possible. We are a are global marketplace focused on showcasing stylish handmade and ethically manufactured pieces made from recycled materials. Our aim is to offer a wide range of recycled products, ranging from readjusted clothing, upcycled jewellery, accessories, through to artwork, toys, homewares and gifts, created from recycled or reclaimed material, supplies needed to produce recycled goods, patterns, tutorials, and so much more. Recycled Market showcases independent artisan’s creative, exclusive eco-design.

Recycled Market:

  • Promotes and sells handmade, and ethically manufactured recycled products
  • Encourages artisans to utilise recycled materials
  • Offers consumers the chance to purchase unique products which are friendly to our planet
(If that mission statement was a person, I’d give it a big hug.  Or buy it a drink.  Hm…)

Did I mention how much I love their logo? Yeah, I'm smitten...

If you browse over to their website, you will see that most of the items are rather pricey, i.e., non-GPP friendly.  I attribute most of this to the fact that this is a brand spankin’ new website, so they have not acquired that many sellers… yet.  However, with their smashingly good mission statement and the nudge of a few folks via social media and word-of-mouth (wink), I’ve no doubt that the website will grow, as will the price range (hopefully, for the benefit of penny pinchers like myself).

In addition to the higher-than-I’d-liked-them-to-be price tags, the website also comes with a few other quirks: prices are listed in Australian dollars as well as U.S. dollars.  However, from what I can tell, you simply select your form of currency to make a purchase; there are no other hoops to jump through.

Despite the fact that this website is a little more expensive than desirable, it meets another one of my requirements in that all of the items are recycled, reclaimed, repurposed, re-whatever (they kind of all mean the same thing, and I talk about them a lot here, here, here, and here).

Recycled Market also meets another requirement that I seek to fill as often as possible: it is an opportunity to give my business to some place other than a  big box store or corporation (and you have to admit, regardless of your ideology, you’re probably getting a little disenchanted with a lot of their business practices).  But… breaking away from the discounted prices of a bigger store can be difficult, especially if you’re strapped for cash.  However, I feel that any impact is a big one, so if you can only do this every once in a while, that’s better than if you had never tried in the first place.

(Occupy Small Street, anyone???)

Ok, so check out the website:, and let me know what you think.  If you like what you see, bookmark it, keep checking back, spread the word, all that good stuff.

And if you like what you see here, do the same things!


***P.S.—  I have set a lofty goal of posting every week day … from now on.  Do you think I can do it???  Or will you miss me on weekends?  Or is this more GPP than you can handle?  Stick around.  I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve.


“Welcome frugal friends and bargain hunting brethren!”

I am Courtney Foster-Donahue, the “Ginger Penny Pincher” and as the self-appointed title indicates, I am a thrift thrill seeker and redhead extraordinaire (the red hair having little to nothing to do with frugality, unless you think redheads are magically adept at finding good deals– in the way that leprechauns are magically adept at finding pots of gold — in which case I might agree with you . . .  more on that in a future blog, I’m sure).

I’m a Gulf Coast native, hailing from Atlanta, and having recently relocated to the beautiful borough of Brooklyn, New York City, NY.  When I’m not blogging, I work as an actress, singer, dancer, and choreographer on the stage and screen.

See? I have a headshot -- that proves it!

<——–Check me out!  Website:

Fueled by a frugal fashion-finding fervor, a deftly driven desire for deals, and an all-around excellent handle of alliteration — I mean did you read that sentence? — I started this blog as a way of providing info and tips for those hoping to save money, but not dramatically alter their lifestyle – champagne taste on a beer budget, realized!

In addition to saving money, I will also explore ways to save non-monetary resources through various outlets, including up-cycling, antiquing, re-purposing, and energy saving — Caring: Mandatory; Tree-Hugging: Optional.

Armed only with a starving artist’s wallet and an acumen for savings and style, I look forward to blogging about my penny-pinching adventures while living in one of the most expensive cities in the nation in the midst of a recession!

PLEASE check back as I get this thing off the ground – Bookmark me now!

Upcoming categories:

  • Frugal Fashion
  • A Cheap Date
  • Tightwad Travel
  • Thrifty Thoughts
  • The Re-Purpose Driven Life
  • Courtney’s Kitchen: The Recession Edition
  • Doggie Deals
  • Champagne Taste, Beer Budget – featuring articles on wedding planning, home décor, and more—on the cheap!

. . . And more!

(You read that whole thing?  I like you already!)

Follow me on Twitter!