You don't have to be a homemaker to appreciate Sophie Uliano. In her latest book, "Do It Gorgeously," she teaches women how to be eco-friendly and not go over their budgets.
The book is full of DIY tips that teach women how to use common sense solutions to cutting back. Her projects include everything from sewing to making homemade skin care products.
Drawing on basic measures her grandmother used to take to, Uliano offers a new perspective on the three R's -- reuse, reduce, and recycle.
You can read an excerpt from the book below and then head to the "GMA" library to find more good reads.
You can also CLICK HERE to see some recipes for Uliano's favorite homegrown skin care products.
INTRODUCTION Clueless Is In, and Crafty Is Out
I am absolutely not your average DIY type of girl. I have to make this disclaimer before we begin, because I suspect that you may be the same way. I've always secretly wished that I could be one of those really crafty moms, who can turn a group of obnoxious kids into affable angels, just by pulling out some old egg cartons and non-toxic paints. I wish I had the time to spend hours in my kitchen making jellies, breads, and cute menu charts for my daughter. I've had visions of building plank-by-plank the garden shed that I dream of having in my yard. In short, I fancy myself as a bit of a homestead type -- but substituting the loaf-of-bread shoes for a pair of Manolos.
Having trodden the green path for a few years now, I've realized that a green way of living has less to do with eco-chic iPhone covers, and more to do with plain old common sense. The most important changes that I have made in my life are things that my grandmother also did and she obviously didn't call them "green". My grandmother, Belle, was a regular type of girl, who through necessity, had to recycle and reuse just about everything she could. Socks were darned or transformed into baby toys, stale bread was ground into breadcrumbs, and slivers of soap were balled together to make another bar. Of course, back then the "reducing" part of the dreaded 3 R combo, (reduce, recycle, reuse), didn't come into the picture, because conspicuous consumption wasn't what it is today.
Many of us are getting a bit fed up with our disposable society. It just doesn't feel that good anymore to be an obsessive shopper. As we become aware of barges of hazardous trash making their way to Brazil, maxed-out landfills, and dwindling natural resources, we're starting to think twice before clicking the "add to cart" button. Do we really want to deal with the packaging and transportation, much less the cost? Can we go without? Ugh -- I hear my mother right now: "Do you really need it?" Much as I fight against it -- because honestly, I want what I want and I want it now -- I find myself yearning for something different. I'll always love shopping, but I find an even deeper satisfaction in actually making many of the things, that I used to whip out the credit card for.
Over the past couple of years it's astonished me how much I can actually make from scratch, how easy it is, and how much money I can save. Being thrifty is becoming a rather thrilling exercise. Making a beautiful sugar scrub for pennies, instead of buying the exact item in a department story for the same cost as a meal for five, gives me a bit of a high. Like many, my bank balance has seen better days, and environmental concerns aside, it just makes sense to cut corners wherever possible. Each time I nudge myself to get resourceful -- dare I say,crafty -- I realize that I 'm putting the green back into my wallet as well as my life.
Making things from scratch is pretty much second nature to me. I think it has a lot to do with my mom, who has an amazing work ethic. If I ever needed anything, she'd roll up her sleeves and have a go at making it first. She's taught me how to cook from scratch and how to garden, and those two passions led me to learn how to make skincare products. I spent years in my twenties studying homeopathy, aromatherapy, and botany -- always yearning for a completely natural solution for most any health or beauty problem. Making what I eat and put on my skin from scratch, is tremendously empowering. I don't have to interpret complicated ingredient lists and marketing claims; and I get to keep a bunch of packaging out of the landfill.
When it comes to full-on DIY, I must confess, I've rather enjoyed playing the ditzy blonde when it came to matters that hitherto seemed beyond my skill level. I depended on the hope that someone would eventually come to the rescue and fix that leaking pipe, jammed window, or peeling grout. I relied on the kindness of strangers to make sure that my car tires were pumped to the correct pressure. Hardware stores were fun if they had cute garden furniture or beautiful plants, but the nuts and bolts aisles left me cold. Don't get me wrong, I've made all kinds of half-hearted attempts at making and fixing things -- clothes for my daughter's American Girl doll to avoid the sweatshop thing, and a ballet skirt because I erroneously thought it would take two minutes to whip up. Both had disastrous results, especially the former -- my attempt at a sequined ball gown for the grinning doll had to be swiftly transformed into a fraying bandana (when in doubt, bandanas are the way to go). However, my efforts to live a more earth-friendly life has forced me to be more self-reliant. I've realized that it's no longer cool to be clueless. It's time to step up to the plate and learn the skills that my grandparents had to learn. If I get it wrong the first time, it doesn't mean that I need to ditch the entire project and call myself "useless". Self-deprecation is fun, but it can also be a cop-out. It's far more satisfying to pick myself up, brush myself down, and make a second and a third attempt. I've always believed that success is in the trying.
Deep down we all are infinitely resourceful -- our latent skills are waiting to be honed. You can do anything that you put your mind to. Perhaps it's time to experiment, and to discover what you may be really good at. If you've found yourself commenting over the past few years that you are either "terrible at baking" or that you "can't sew to save your life" -- the time has come to remove that scratched record from the turntable and replace it with a snazzy mental application that will have you believing that anything is possible.
What about the cool factor? In your community -- is it considered cool or creepy to make a lot of your own stuff? Where I live, the tide is slowly changing. Up until a few years ago, whenever I thought of sewing, I couldn't shake this image of a family that sat in the front pew of the church I went to when I was my growing-up. The mom was obviously glued to her sewing machine 24/7 and spent every moment of her existence, whipping up the most dreadful matching creations for herself and her two daughters. The three of them would arrive looking like pink, fluffy cupcakes -- the hen pecked husband trailing behind. Recently, however, hip and trendy sewing classes are cropping up all over town. A second hand Singer from eBay is a badge of honor -- especially when you can rewind the bobbin while carrying on with a juicy conversation with a girlfriend.
Women are hardwired to multi-task, and sadly much of this god-given talent goes into juggling emails, IM's, texts, phone calls, and my Blackberry. Do you ever feel burned out at the end of the day just from sitting at your computer? Do you find yourself comparing prices at the grocery store, while listening to your girlfriend whine about about her husband on your earpiece? Do you sometimes crave silence, and yet you're too afraid to turn the whole blinking, beeping, ringing mess off? If your answers are affirmative, it might be time to wean yourself off the tech addiction. The problem is that one addiction needs to be replaced with another. I can't turn everything off and then expect to slide into a dreamy serene state. My mind is still working overtime and I need to be "doing". To my joy I have found that sitting down to sew a few buttons on my daughter's shirt or putting aside an afternoon to bake, has undreamt of rewards. I not only get to focus on something--which is basically meditation--but my breathing becomes deeper, my shoulders ease away from my ears, and I get the intense satisfaction of having got something done, when the afternoon might well have been spent dithering around on Facebook or deleting acres of spam mail.
My mission is to take DIY out of the pages of glossy magazines and the hardware store and make it a reality in my own life. I want to do it myself and do it Gorgeously. I am ready to roll up my sleeves, get my hands dirty (feet still planted firmly in the Manolos,) and be that force of nature that I saw in my grandmother. Being responsible and autonomous helps me to tap into that wellspring of strength within. Through the pages of this book, I hope that I can help you to become a "doer". I invite you to throw yourself in and try your hand at everything -- if you're already a master baker, yippee -- hand that skill onto your girlfriends, same thing if you're a whizz with a needle and thread. If, however, you are like the rest of us mere mortals, sharpen your tools--it's going to be a fun ride!
Since this book is all about putting the Green back into your life and your wallet, I'm all about reusing, recycling, and reducing whenever I can. I invite you to start trawling thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets for bits of old fabric, cushions, pillowcases, tablecloths, moth-eaten cashmere sweaters, and anything else that catches your eye. Keep a look out for pretty prints and interestingly textured fabrics. One visit to my local thrift store had my trunk loaded with a bounty of wonderful base materials for me to transform into purses, aprons, dog beds, and even lingerie, and the whole lot only cost me fifteen bucks.
You don't need to be able to sew for most of the projects, however, a few Rudimentary basic sewing skills will come in handy. If you're a complete novice and if you know anyone who can show you a few basic stitches (perhaps a teacher at your child's school, a grandparent, aunt, or neighbor), tell them you'll trade a jar of homemade jelly for a quickie lesson. What few sewing skills I have, I learned from my mother, which was like the blind-leading-the blind. But sewing is actually much easier than you think. I've put together all of the projects in this book in a matter of minutes, not hours. I'm impatient and impulsive. Once I have a vision of what I want to make--a sassy summer skirt, for example--I haven't got the patience or skill to mess around with patterns and specialized stitches. What I'm trying to say is that if I can do it -- so can you!
If you are up to a little investment, I cannot recommend a sewing machine more highly. If you are new to sewing, make sure it's simple so you don't set yourself up to fail. Perhaps someone has one that they'll lend you for a while. If not, I highly recommend the Brother CS6000i machine. It's simple enough for a regular girl like me, and yet has enough fancy stitches and attachments to satisfy an accomplished seamstress. You can whip it out of the box and start making the projects in this book right away. It might even wet your appetite to move onto more elaborate designs. Project Runway, here I come! The good news is that a machine like this costs less than a couple pairs of designer jeans. I'm short, so every pair of pants I buy has to be hemmed. Even if I only ever use it for hemming, the machine will have paid for itself in less than two years.
You will also need basic sewing supplies like needles, thread, scissors, etc. Things you probably have on hand anyway.
You will need supplies for making your beauty products, and I provide all the resources so that you can easily order them. Keep in mind that ordering online is actually more eco-friendly than running around to dozens of health and craft stores. Better still to share an order/shipment with a friend.
Most of the other projects in this book, food recipes aside, will require that you reuse or recycle things you already have. A huge part of living a Gorgeous life is to get rid of the clutter and put it to good use, so start looking around you to see what you should keep, rather than throw away -- you never know when it might come in handy.