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Friday DIY: 25 things to do with your old denim

We’re thrilled to present this smartWise Bread story here on Savvy!

Recycling fabric is a powerful green living and cost saving strategy. Denim is one of the coolest fabrics to do it with. It’s sturdy, gains character with age and can be acquired very inexpensively at yard sales or in your own “old clothes” closet. Some of the coolest ideas I’ve found?

RELATED: 16 Ways to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

  • Pot holders. In my opinion, these look far better out of used denim than the new stuff. And you can incorporate your own style via choice of trim or a patch stitched to the outside. Here’s a link to some tips for making your own.
  • Cool quilts. You can do this in many forms. Different shades of denim patchwork options abound and are certainly sturdy and fun. Unfortunately, one of the coolest ideas I’ve ever seen I’ve been unable to find pictures of. It was done with pieced denim, but they had left on all the details like pockets, buttons, belt loops, etc. It made for a really fabulous unique quilt with a lot of attitude. If anyone has a link to a picture of one of these, please post below in the comments section.

For more ideas, read on.

  • Hanging sleeves for storing plastic bags and cleaning rags. This is an idea I came up when trying to find a workable solution for giving up paper towels. I needed something convenient to store my cleaning rags in and made several out of the legs of old blue jeans.
  • Pocket books and backpacks. These are tons of fun as beach bags and particularly popular with the younger crowd. Easily jazzed up with pins various bits of clip on “flair”. Here are one and two separate links for various sets of project directions.
  • Patches. If you happen to have a bunch from different events, great. Otherwise, I’ve seen some really unique custom patches you can make yourself that add tons of style. I personally like the make your own option, because it opens up many more possibilities for self expression and designer style.
  • Embellishments. Sometimes bead stores offer classes on “jazzing up jeans” where they will teach you how to add studs, crystals and various beads as well as other items. Lots of room for individuality with this option as well.
  • Pimp the heck out of them. Options abound here. Pimp My Jeans is a great site to look for inspiration when jazzing up old jeans. They also have a great idea pictured there for a way hip fabric grocery bag of pieced together old denim. You’ll be strolling to your favorite New York grocery in style with that one. Here is an additional link for airbrushing designs on your denim. My favorite though, is this way cool how to video from Threadbanger that shows you how to get a vintage tint as well as providing some easy fabric distressing techniques. Really, really cool.
  • Embrace the frayed edges and go hip with some slamming shoes and a great bag. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen fashion experts give this same advice on TV. What’s funny though is I seem to notice more people with money trying it out than people who are supposedly on a budget. It’s a very cool look to have a faded set of jeans with a few rips and tears paired with a newer sweater and some dressy shoes or boots.
  • Help dress a scarecrow. Fairly timely, considering the season.
  • Make a 3-pocket electric gadget protector. I found this set of directions on Instructables. Love that site! Looks like a cool addition for a daypack or purse.
  • Journal, photo album and school book covers. Say what? I found this neat online project for a jean-covered journal held closed with a funky belt. Really fun. Tried to snag a pic and give them credit, but they preferred to keep everything in house. You can see pictures of the completed project on this site, though.
  • Hot or cold rice pack. I’ve always just dumped my rice in an old pillow case and tied a knot in the top. But these rice packs look cute, if you have the extra time. The one pictured got me thinking about all those old floral jeans from the eighties getting a new life, but really, any kind of old denim will do.
  • Turn pieces of them into a jacket. Here’s a project I found for a crazy quilt-style jacket. This is very similar to the type of quilt I mentioned above. Lots of room here to do your own thing.
  • A little too out there? Try out a waist coat made from recycled denim. I can really see it with a crisp white shirt. Actually, it looks like a big vest to me, but what do I know about waist coats? Either way, it’s pretty cool.
  • Sassy, rough edged skirt with urban style. I like this jean skirt because it’s really a bit out of the ordinary and has tons of attitude. A bit of trouble snagging a pic of this one, but you can see it on the link.
  • A wheelchair tote. This is too cool. Know someone who could use one to stay organized? Here are instructions on how to make a wheelchair tote.
  • Coffee cozies. Love these! As with some of the other projects, you can really put your own spin on them. I found several blog posts on doing your own. This first one is quite similar to the one pictured below. The second? Slightly different with a button closure. Still cute though. If I had my sewing machine out of storage, I’d seriously be looking into making a few of these for Christmas package tuck-ins.
  • Custom camera bag. Here’s a set of directions for a denim camera bag. Personal verdict? Pretty neat idea.
  • Unusual covered gift box. I thought this one was particularly out of the norm. Should make a fun package for a teen present, don’t you think? Here’s a link.
  • Reusable lunch sackThis one was decorated with primary colored embellishments because it was designed for children. But I think you could be as individual here as with some of the jazz-up-your-jeans ideas listed above (patches, airbrushing, crystals). It’s made from a pant leg. How cool!
  • Picture frame. Not the most formal project idea ever, but a fun idea that would be great for a teen room bulletin board. It’s a photo frame made from a jeans pocket.
  • Blue jean table. Pretty darned unusual, I must say. This is another item that is shown with more of a children’s room look. But I think you could pull this off with leather accents in a wild west art gallery or with silver studs and tears for a more urban feel. A bit quirky, but if you like that sort of thing . . .
  • Christmas stockings. Here’s a set of directions for making stockings out of old blue jeans(PDF). Use whatever trim and lining ideas you want. Definitely not for those Victorian style holiday planners.
  • Knee pads for gardening. Here’s a set of directions for knee pads. You might need to use an old denim skirt or jumper for this one, but I still think it has merit, if you happen to have the time.
  • Beer cozies. Check out this homemade deep pocket cold beverage cozy. There aren’t detailed directions, but there are pictures from several angles. So if you sew, you can probably get the idea.

That’s about it. A few of these ideas I think would be easier with old denim jumpers or skirts than blue jeans, but since they all involved the same basic topic, I opted to include them. If you know of a fabulous recycled denim idea, please post so the rest of us can enjoy.


Scorching Phoenix Plans For An Even Hotter Future by PETER O’DOWD

A Metro Light Rail train rolls by the Devine Legacy apartment building along Central Avenue in Phoenix. The energy-efficient complex includes 65 "urban style" apartments.

Courtesy of Mica Thomas MulloyA Metro Light Rail train rolls by the Devine Legacy apartment building along Central Avenue in Phoenix. The energy-efficient complex includes 65 “urban style” apartments.

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August 14, 2012

It’s been a record hot summer in many cities across the nation. Phoenix is no exception. This Sonoran Desert metropolis already records more days over 100 degrees than any other major U.S. city. Now, climate models predict Phoenix will soon get even hotter.

A hotter future may mean a more volatile environment — and along with it, natural disasters, greater pressure on infrastructure, and an increased physical toll on city residents.

While some city planners around the country discuss ways to mitigate climate change, planners in Phoenix assume that change is already under way. Now, they are working to prepare the Phoenix metro area, and its approximately 4 million residents, for a new reality.

‘How Are We Gonna Live Here?’

The view is bleak from John Larsala’s front drive in West Phoenix. The tree in front of the house is dead, and the grass is dead, too. In fact, there’s no grass at all anymore.

On a household income of $18,000 a year, Larsala can’t afford the water charges required to keep his yard green. “All these trees are dying, because I can’t put water on it,” he says.

So Larsala’s children and their friends play basketball in the barren yard. That is, until June comes around and the blazing Phoenix summer finally forces everyone inside.

John Larsala struggles to keep his family cool during the Phoenix summer. The shade trees in his front yard have died because he cannot afford to water them.

EnlargePeter O’Dowd/KJZZJohn Larsala struggles to keep his family cool during the Phoenix summer. The shade trees in his front yard have died because he cannot afford to water them.

For three months, Larsala will shut the doors and windows tight. To save money, he soaks his kids in a cool bath and delays using the air conditioning until just before bedtime.

“Whether you are inside or whether you are outside, the heat costs you money,” Larsala says.

When told that climate scientists predict the state will get even hotter in the future, Larsala is taken aback.

“It’s going to be hotter than what it is right now? Who gonna live here? How are we gonna live here?”

Sustained Heat Waves Ahead

Phoenix actually suffers from two heat problems. One is a product of growth. Desert nights don’t cool down they way they used to, because energy from the sun is trapped in roads and buildings, a phenomenon researchers call the “urban heat island effect.”

As Phoenix grows, so does the problem, says Nancy Selover, the state climatologist.

“We keep thinking we’ll probably see a night when we only get down to 100 as a minimum temperature, which is kind of shocking,” Selover says.

Standing outside in a low-income neighborhood near Phoenix, Selover points out that many households here are using “swamp coolers,” or evaporative coolers. These cooling units are cheaper than air-conditioning — but they’re also less effective.

If Phoenix’s temperatures rise, “it’s going to be pretty unbearable,” Selover says — and without adequate cooling, potentially deadly.

Phoenix’s second problem comes from global climate change. Researchers predict it will make droughts longer and temperatures higher in the region.

Data from the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program predict sustained heat waves above 114 degrees will be a yearly crisis in Phoenix by 2040. And each one, researchers project, will last a sweltering three weeks.

A Laboratory For What Works

Selover says these coming changes present Phoenix with an opportunity.

“As a desert city, Phoenix is kind of a laboratory for us to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, to try to mitigate those things.”

In the future, Selover says, “we may well have to live differently.”

Now, city officials are starting to think about what that new lifestyle might entail. One idea is to cover 25 percent of Phoenix with shade trees.

But some, like architect John Meunier, argue for much greater lifestyle adaptations.

Meunier studies pre-industrial desert cities around the world, looking for lessons to apply in modern desert cities like Phoenix.

Sitting at a light-rail stop downtown, he says creating sustainable futures in cities like this one has”everything to do with managing without having to use a lot of extra energy and power.”

To do that, Meunier says planners could encourage 10 times as many people to live around Phoenix’s light-rail stations. Getting more use out of the system would take cars — and heat — off the street.

These people would also live in taller buildings. Meunier says desert cities in Yemen, for example, take advantage of tall buildings to shade narrow streets.

“It’s crucially important. I mean, not being exposed to the direct sun’s rays makes a great big difference,” he says.

Instead of exposed front yards and backyards, older desert cities employ well-ventilated courtyards, Meunier says. Mediterranean cities paint roads and rooftops white to reflect sunlight.

It’s the way Phoenix has been built, Meunier says, that will make its residents vulnerable to rising temperatures.

“I’m not arguing that we should all live at a higher density,” Meunier says. “What I am arguing is that there’s a lot to be gained by having more of us live at higher density.”

Learning To Build Better

For Meunier’s ideas to become reality, developers will have to make the choice to build differently.

Some of them already have. Take the city’s light rail north about three miles, and you can get a close-up view of how buildings like Meunier envisions might actually work.

Felicia McMullen has lived in the energy-efficient Devine Legacy apartment building in central Phoenix since December.

EnlargeCourtesy of Mica Thomas MulloyFelicia McMullen has lived in the energy-efficient Devine Legacy apartment building in central Phoenix since December.

The Devine Legacy is a housing complex designed for people with lower incomes. Right next to the rail line, every window is dual-paned, and the building is also superinsulated. Together, those features make a typical Devine Legacy unit 40 percent more energy efficient.

Walking through the front gate leads you to a courtyard. Four-story buildings rise up on either side of you. There’s shade everywhere, and a breeze moves through the space. Even on a 113-degree day in Phoenix, it feels much cooler.

“Having a cool place to live is more important to me than food,” says resident Felicia McMullen.

Before she moved here, McMullen says she was sick and stressed. She sometimes spent $300 a month to cool her suburban home.

Now, McMullen says, “I don’t have that problem.” Her last electric bill was $60 — and the stress is gone.

Ernesto Fonseca, a planner who specializes in sustainable communities, helped test Devine Legacy’s energy use before it opened late last year.

He considers the complex a small victory in what may someday be a more complicated effort to stay cool.

“People in extreme climates learn to live with it,” Fonseca says. “And that’s part of a resilient society.”

Fonseca thinks a lot about this idea of resilience. He says it means that people who live in Phoenix must do more than try to solve the causes of escalating temperatures — they must also learn to withstand the changes as they happen.

Because, as Fonseca says, “We don’t have a choice.”

Peter O’Dowd works with the public radio collaborative FronterasRead more from their series “Heat Wave.”

Cambridge Properties is one of the Top Paradise Valley agencies

Looking to sell your home in Paradise Valley? Or are you interested in moving to Paradise valley? Cambridge Properties has been working in the exclusive 85253 zip code for years. Weather you are looking to move into a beautiful all inclusive community like Montelucia, or build your own dream home on Camelback mountain Cambridge Properties knows Paradise Valley.

For years Cambridge Properties has been selling luxury high rises and custom homes to the valley’s most discreet real estate buyers. Clients who want only the best agents that really know Paradise Valley should look no further than the team at Cambridge Properties.

Give us a call today! 602-787-6346 or feel free to search all Paradise Valley MLS listings on our website to get a paywall, will it work?

It’s been a few years since the first PayWall’s were erected across the web, famously the New York Times  the Wall Street Journal have seen some better than expected success. Other media outlets like the Washington Post however refuse to go the pay model but it looks like that infamous “Paywall” is coming  to a local news site near you! has gained a reputation as the online goto source for Arizonan’s looking for state news. But is their monopoly on AZ culture strong enough for the Republics’ PayWall to generate serious revenue? Arizonans by our very nature are not intensely loyal, we come from all over the country and some people still like to get their news from “back home.”

The Arizona Republic fought hard in the early days of the web bringing many independent bloggers under on roof to create a powerhouse of local content, these days if it’s not on AZcentral it might as well not be happening. But can that last? Is AZcentral truly a factory of sought after original content? Or is it merely a great aggregator that will soon be replaced by young scrappy independent sites?

Time will tell if this was a smart move, but until next week get your fill of all the local stories you can handle!

Bloomberg Business Week: Consumer Bureau Proposes New Rules on Mortgage Servicing

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today proposed new regulations that would revamp how American homeowners interact with mortgage servicers.

One set of rules aims to provide homeowners with clearer, timelier information about changes to interest rates and options for avoiding foreclosure. A second set of rules requires servicers to credit payments promptly, correct errors, stay accessible and limit foreclosures if homeowners are working on loan modifications.

“Millions of homeowners are struggling to pay their mortgages, often through no fault of their own,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in an e-mailed statement. “These proposed rules would offer consumers basic protections and put the ‘service’ back into mortgage servicing.”

Cordray summed up the policy underpinning the rules as “no surprises and no runarounds.” The bureau is seeking public comment on the proposals by Oct. 9, and will finalize them by January 2013.

The proposal would cover major bank servicers, such asBank of America Corp. (BAC), as well as smaller non-bank players like Ocwen Financial Corp. (OCN)

Isaac Boltansky, an analyst with Compass Point Research & Trading LLC in Washington, said in a research note that the new rules would support a “secular shift in the mortgage servicing industry” away from big banks toward specialty servicers like Ocwen.

“We expect the big bank servicers to offload a sizable portion of their servicing assets,” Boltansky wrote.

Secondary Market

Tom Deutsch, executive director of the American Securitization Forum, said the new rules aimed at consumers should also take the secondary market into consideration.

“Servicing standards must strike the appropriate balance between providing meaningful protections for borrowers and ensuring the contractual certainty necessary for the capital markets to fund sufficient mortgage credit for American consumers,” Deutsch said in an e-mailed statement.

Bob Davis, an executive vice president at the American Bankers Association, lauded the bureau’s goals while warning that some rules could create hurdles.

“We want to make sure servicing doesn’t get tangled in so much red tape that high quality, responsive servicing is no longer viable,” Davis said in an e-mail.

The new regulations go beyond the standards for mortgage servicing that state attorneys general wrote into a court settlement reached with major banks on March 12, according to a senior CFPB official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. For example, the CFPB proposal requires servicers to acknowledge receipt of complaints or information requests within five days, and respond to the borrower about the inquiry within 30 to 45 days.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carter Dougherty in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Maura Reynolds at

Thinking short sale? Think FAST the Mortgage Debt Relief act is set to expire!

Chances are the you or someone you know is underwater in their home. Most people who are underwater are waiting to sell in the hopes of recouping as much of their lost investment as possible. Why? With the Mortgage debt relief act of 2007 when your short sell your home your not responsible for the remainder of your loan AND you won’t be taxed on it as income.

Many people are embarrassed to short sell or simply don’t know that they are eligible for this type of forgiveness. All of this takes on a new sense of urgency when you realize that the Mortgage Debt Relief act is set to expire December 31st 2012.

A short sale can be scary but the right brokerage with the knowledge to help you navigate the process might just  the support you need to get through it relatively unscathed. That’s why Cambridge Properties is the expert in luxury short sales in Paradise Valley, Scottsdale and Phoenix.

Want the full story on Curiosity? Here is a definitive guide for the…curious.

The Guardian UK had a great live blog going while the rover touched down. Read along and relive the historic moment here.