Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stress-free school books

Okay. I'll admit it. Never in a million years did I think I'd be writing this post. But that was pre-children. Pre-school. Before the seemingly small things gained the power to take over my life!
For the past two weeks it feels like every Facebook rant and every school-yard conversation has been on the topic of school books. More specifically, about covering school books in that dreaded sticky stuff called Contact.
Most people hate covering books. I'm not sure whether it's the man-hours involved (sorry - mother hours) or whether it's the sheer frustration of dealing with those large sheets of the sticky plastic stuff you buy from the newsagent that seems to have a mind of its own.
Last year I approached my debut as a school mum with gusto, but even with the best of intentions, my book-covering weekend ended in tears and tantrums.
This year, when it came time to consider which kind of book covering to use, my newsagent gave me two options - clear Contact, or a very limited range of very ugly, very (I can't even think of another word)  STUFF.
And so I took matters into my hands.
Searching the internet I came across The Book Cover Co., who are based in Vermont, Victoria. They manufacture a range of book covering supplies that are targeted at libraries and other professionals. Beauty!
And so, I emailed. Tom, the boss-man, was prompt in his reply (by the way, this bloke SEWS. Yep, he can drive a sewing machine!). He recommended the best product for the task at hand. And two days later I had, at my door, a 20m roll of his clear, matt, REPOSITIONABLE adhesive film. It cost me $53.
And this is what I did with it:


  • Clear book covering adhesive (I recommend Plascote from The Book Cover Co.)
  • Brown paper
  • Spray adhesive
  • Decorative paper (I printed mine from Mr Printables)
  • Cutting mat
  • Rotary cutter or art knife
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • School book labels
Step 1
Start by covering your book in brown paper. Spray the outside of your book (one side at a time) with adhesive. This stuff does tend to overspray, so lay down a drop-sheet of some sort that is separate from your book covering work area, otherwise you'll end up in a sticky mess.

Smooth out any bubbles and then trim around the book to get a nice, neat finish. (Thanks to Alice for this photo - it's very hard to photograph this stuff while you're actually doing it!)

Now for the fun part! Using your coloured paper (or wrapping paper, fabric, paper doilies, washi tape or anything really), decorate the front of your book. I used the spray adhesive once again. But take care - too much spray and it will soak through and show on the front of your paper!

Remember to add your book label (I printed ours on some full-page labels and then cut them down to size), and then it's time to get sticky!

Measure out your clear adhesive and cut it to size. You don't need to leave much more than 2-3cm around each edge. Then, carefully peel back the paper backing, make sure the film is laying flat on your work surface, and position your book towards one end. Do this with your book CLOSED. You then need to trim the corners, to give you a neat finish.

I like to fold in the end pieces first. Then I use my scissors to put a slit in the film at the top and bottom spine.

Lift the inside pages up, and then fold in the film at the top and bottom.Once that's done, very carefully lift your covered side up and 'roll' it over to sit down on the other half of the film. Then repeat the steps you've just done above. Depending on how thick your book is, you might need to snip your spine again, and then remove the little 'tag' that's left over.

If you're using Contact brand adhesive, by now you're probably cursing. But I found the Plascote matt 80 micron product to be stress-free. I did not get a single bubble! And don't they look great?

I've been chatting to Tom, from The Book Cover Co., and he's keen to solve all of your school book covering woes! So send him an email at tom@bookcoverco.com.au and tell him Little Toot sent you. He'll fix you up (and I hear there's a discount!). Plus, he also sells tape, cutting mats and loads of other handy bits and pieces.

DISCLAIMER: This process worked for me, using the products mentioned. No responsibility is taken for tantrums thrown as a result of using that 'other' brand of book covering.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reducing food waste

With the kids going back to school this week - Alice in Year 1 and Lucy starting pre-school - I've spent a bit of time recently trying to get more organised.
I spent a good part of last week in the kitchen preparing healthy lunches and snacks that I could freeze - mini muffins, pikelets, Vegemite scrolls, chicken and veg sausage rolls and mini quiches to name a few.
I started a Pinterest board of lunchbox ideas and hope to continue adding and referring to it throughout the year.

But while researching freezer-friendly lunchbox ideas, I was amazed by some of the tips I found for minimising food waste.
I think we all know you can freeze bananas in the skin when they start to go brown - I always have two or three in my freezer. But there are so many other items that can be rescued from the chook bucket, compost or bin!

Shallots/spring onions
These can be chopped up and popped into a container in the freezer for later use in cooking (I tested this last night in our Chinese fried rice and it worked a treat!)

If you have an abundance of herbs in your garden, these can be frozen too. Chop them up and freeze them in icecubes, which you can then transfer to containers.

Can be frozen whole and used for both their zest and juice.

Buy fruit like grapes and strawberries while they are in season and cheap and simply pop them in the freezer. Grapes taste yummy frozen and strawberries can be used in smoothies.

Don't let bread go stale in the pantry. Eat the first part of the loaf fresh for sandwiches and then pop the rest in the freezer for toast.

If you're planning on going away and have milk that won't get used, pop it in the freezer. It will save a run to the shops after the long drive home!

When a recipe calls for egg yolks only you can save the whites by freezing them. If you do it in icecube trays in single portions, it's then easy to defrost and use them next time a recipe calls for whites!

Tomato paste
Most of the time when I use tomato paste the recipe only calls for a couple of tablespoons - I've learnt you can freeze the rest of the tub in containers or icecube trays.

Cherry tomatoes
And although this isn't a freezer recipe, this week also taught me that slow-cooked/dehydrated cherry tomatoes are delicious and can be stored in the fridge, covered in olive oil! We're still getting far more tomatoes than we need, so I roasted some off (at about 120 degrees for a couple of hours) with a few cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, then popped them in a mason jar covered in olive oil. We've used them on pizza, in pasta and as antipasto. Yummo!