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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Dominoes Fridge Magnets – the quickest, most fun craft ever

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Van Morrison sings a song, Domino, that is BURSTING with memories for me. It is the opening track of “His band and the Street Choir” and was played on almost every family gadabout in my childhood, all of us bundled up in our VW camper, rumbling along from South London to Eastern Europe.

It has been soaring through my mind for the last week- since scoring two sets of Dominoes from that epic car boot fair. One for 10p and one for 50p. I thought one of the sets would be ideal for crafting so got to thinking what they might be good for. I had a few ideas, but settled on some nice traditional Fridge Magnets.

I have sheets of magnets I bought online for £2.50 a sheet. They aren’t the strongest BUT they are so slimline and it is fab to be able to cut them perfectly to shape. I use about 1/4 of the sheet so 50p plus the 10p for the dominoes brings this revitalised game up to a grand 60p expenditure.

I did it primarily for the asthetics and was pretty happy with the result, but not completely over the moon or anything. Then our 5 year old nephew came over that day and played over ten joyous games  of Dominoes with Tim. He had never played before but he just loved the simplicity of it, and there is something cool about playing a game with on a fridge. And now I am sold on the idea and think a fridge basically looks bereft without a whole set of Dominoes on it.

Like VHS’s and Barbies, Dominoes is one of those things that are part of the furniture of charity shops and car boots, so don’t pass them by another time. What a thrifty fun gift this would make, eh?

What d’ya reckon? Have you crafted anything with Dominoes? Want to get a song stuck in your head that respectfully honours this sunny summer we are experiencing? Here is Van with Domino live, with all the glories of the Seventies right there…

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My Workbench: repairs of any kind undertaken

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One thing I discovered pretty early on about crafting is that if you don’t have a little nook where you can keep your tools and materials accessible, it simply doesn’t happen. That one extra step of getting out your things can completely dissolve your crafting resolve, don’t you find?

We have lived in some tiny dives in the past (yup, especially thinking of the first place we had as a married couple with a CRAZY Hungarian landlord. Our place was basically a box at the bottom of his garden and he would tell us off for having friends over, and for keeping it not quite as tidy as he liked. In fact, once we had handed in our notice he took potential future tenants inside while we were out at work without telling us, and then had the audacity to yell at me about the clothes on the floor, calling it a “f%!*ing brothel!”)

So, we are so stoked to have a big enough place where I can actually have a workbench (okay, I too called it “Craft Corner” but right here and now I am switching to “workbench”. Craft Corner sounds a bit toddlery and I can’t have that. Couldn’t possibly explain to the hospital how Ramona has a perfectly spherical chunk out of her tongue from chewing on my leather punch! )

Anyway, with no further ado, here ’tis…

As you can see, it is pretty much in our main living room, so all the bits and pieces are stuffed in to jars in the draws, in a faint nod towards organisation. Tim found this humongous wooden beast in a skip-  who would dump this?!

I put this little shelf up myself *smug* with like, a level, and drill, and all that.  (I am getting to grips with power tools these days so that Ramona doesn’t grow up thinking some household jobs are daddy ones. Cor, being a feminist is tiring, innit.)

These scissors were a SNIP at £4 from Oxfam in Herne Hill – pinking shears are over £20 in John Lewis. However, er, they are blunt. Any tricks on how to sharpen these? The Google jury is out on the matter.

There are a few papers stuck up there – one is a small yellowed advert for a corset company just round the corner from our house. We found it in the floor boards, have a read, it is quite the funny one…

Home made corsets for Housewives! Repairs of any kind undertaken! A Lady will call with Samples!

I love old tennis rackets, I really, REALLY do and always have. In the house I lived in before I married Tim, I had a whole wall covered in them, and each net had homemade rosettes pinned on. Whenever I see one for under £2 I always snap it up.

And, we have a perfect little gap on the right hand side, normally invisible to the human eye, where all my extra fabrics and things I don’t know what to do with can be stuffed innocuously.

Do you have a workbench or a craft corner? Or just a wild eyed Hungarian pressing his face against your windows?

Linking up with the magnificent Magpies over at Liz and Me and My Shadow.

These are some of the spare shots not used in the Pretty Nostalgic feature. They were shot by Jenny Harding, you should scope out her photography site, it is BEAUT!

And finally, did I mention I’m on FACEBOOK?! *sings* Come on over! Come on over baaaabyyy.

On ivy and being a little bit idle

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I did this painting for Camberwell Arts Week last year. It is an old plank of wood I found in the street, I placed ancient scraps of wallpaper and collaged sparrows against its gnarly scraped up paint work. I hammered in rusty nails to be branches, curling some words of Bob Marley alongside them and threw in a Bible verse in scrabble letters (obvs). We hung it half-heartedly it in the garden inbetween our bird feeders and slowly over the last couple of months it has been over run with our ivy. And it looks as if it was always meant to be this way.

Sometimes it is good to let things flow, uninterrupted, unmanipulated.

I have spent much of my life getting stuck in, negotiating, choosing, chasing. Grabbing life by the horns is a fun way to live (but beating up a bull takes a lot of energy.) I would insist and strive and work things out to be the very way I thought they should be.

It was only when I got married to Tim I began taking day time naps (C’mon people. Not afternoon delight styles, just snoozing.) I had never slept in the day before because I always felt I was missing out on life. Marrying Tim gave me a quiet happiness that meant I could rest a bit if I felt like it, thanks very much.

Since being mother to Ramona my contentedness has bloomed even more. I remember when she was about 5 months old waiting for a train that never came and having to change all my plans, and instead of being wall-climbing ragey, exhausting myself trying to hitch/bus/ skate to the destination I had planned on being at, I just settled for something else and felt wonderful. It was a significant moment, realising that I now hold onto my plans and strivings with such a looser grip.

I still have a long way to go in this practice of idleness. To yodle “Que, sera, sera” a bit more. To allow things to take their natural course without interrupting. (Ahem, ah, excuse me? Ivy? Where do you think your growing, eh?) To just see. And to just be.

I have gotten all the way to the end of this post without even the theme of the painting being in my mind, and now I have remembered, and it is ridiculously serendipitous.  If you look closely at my scrawls on the painting they say “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God” or Bob’s take on it, “Don’t worry about a thing. Cos every little thing is gonna be alright.” 


PS  Of course, I want to stay ambitious for a better world, want to grab at hope and fight for fairness. There are some things in life where idle will not do, don’t you reckon?

Car Boot Who’s Who

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We made the most of today’s glimpse of sun by getting ourselves to the Hayes Street Farm car boot fair. We weren’t expecting much seeing as it is just out of  the London ‘burbs but it turned out to be one of the biggest booties we’ve ever been to.

While I was scouting out an old set of hooks, trying to work out how to get the best price out of a wheeler dealer who had CLEARLY seen me coming from a mile away, an old know-it-all piped up over my shoulder “Oh yeah, 1950’s designer hooks them.” The seller’s ears perkied and he choked out a price way beyond my humble jumble means. I slunked/slank/slinkied (??) off thinking just how typical those characters were.

We bustled about the rest of the fair, spending only about £13 but coming away with a proper arm full. (Okay, er, boot full.) As we bustled we met the whole cast of car booters, the beloved and the beholdens you inevitably find at every one. See if you know them too. . .

Senior Seen Ya

He’s got a House Clearance van full of rusty relics, old stuff that he doesn’t know much about but he knows some people appreciate. Senior isn’t fooled by my guise of “looking poor” especially for the car boot,  he knows I can’t resist his languishing junk and hikes up the price accordingly.

Expect to hear: This piece, you know, it’s a collectible, like a vintage-retro-antique, yeah? It’s £25. A good deal too, for this piece.”

The WinWins

These are another kind of regular car boot sellers. Often a couple, retired, they fetch an extra bob on the odd vintage treasure but also have a a whole load of Rummaging Crates with a sign sticking out; “All 20p”. Their stock flows freely, they go home unburdened,  you take home a worn pack of Dominoes; everyone is happy!

Do say: “I’m just popping back to the car to get my trolley bag!”

Don’t say: “Shall we call it 15p, rather than 20p?”

60p I paid for these two sets of dominoes! I’ll keep one set and craft with the other.

Knock off Norrie

Norrie here, he’s got the Idops and the Idaps, a select handful on his muddy blue tarpaulin. But people are crowding round, and some are even buying. We saw one guy today pay £20 for a tablet off our Norrie – he never listened to his mum’s wise words-  if it seems to good to be true, it probably is!

Slogan: Less Car Boot and more Boot Leg

Colleen the Collector

Her table is a mecca for tiny porcelain creatures, a swarm of dainty ballerinas, hedgehogs and cats.  Either it is a life time of purposeful collecting, OR she made the mistake once of mentioning to someone how much she liked a miniature china hedgehog and every friend and family member has bought her a small ornament for every occasion since. She is finally liberating herself of her fragile army of porcelain.

Trademark:A slight discomfort at having her goods on display.

I got this rusty tin for 10p. Like I need another rusty tin.

Top Makes Dave

One of the rare sellers which will yell, market like, at the crowds “Top makes, everything a pound” as he tries too off load the giant pyramids of loo roll and new household products stacked up behind him. Dave comes from a long line of market traders and is single handedly taking on Poundland.

Try not to:Autocorrect “Makes” with “Brands”

I can’t refuse a Twinkle, especially for 50p. I got the the frame for 10p and a roll of the gorgeous old navy wallpaper behind for another 10p. (“Hey Big Spender, ba, ba, ba, baaa!”)

The Outdoor Boys

You’ll spot these tanned blokes wearing their polo shirts and cargo trousers – often with sons in tow-  standing behind their rows of swanky fishing rods and associated gear. I normally whizz straight by but not before wondering if they manage to shift any of their pricey equipment in this jumble rumble.

Expect to hear: Bruce Springsteen blaring out of their stereo.

Lara Landrover

Meticulous mum with meticulous piles of well priced toys and quality kids clothes. These mums help me leave with not just frivolous rusty tins but some things I actually NEED for Ramona. And I help pay for the kids Scout Camp I ‘spect.

Do say:I won’t take the princess costume but I’ll have these dungarees, please!”

Don’t say: “I don’t really buy plastic toys for my little one, even if it is Fisher Price.”

The Melancholy-Looms

It is apparent a dear elderly parent has recently passed on, or a dear elderly parent is not quite passed on but is clearing out. The table is bending under the weight of not-quite-heirlooms spanning the spectrum of a lifetime. A beautiful antique dinner set next to a modern toaster, a tray full of VHS’s under a pile of retro curtains; a film of dust and sadness clings to everything.

Try not to: Shamelessly yelp with too much glee when you find the vintage crockery you are in love with.

Tool Time Terry

Nothing. But. Tools. Hundreds of them.

Expect to see: Tools.

*curtain raise*

Would you add any other characters to this cast? Would love to hear them!

Linking up with Liz and those cracking Magpies – I bet there are car boot hauls galore over there.

5 reasons I love toddler wearing

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I was queuing for a bag of chips last Friday when the gruff, bald, beer bellied Polish man behind the counter looked up at me and exclaimed “I love your style!”

Er.

He went on to explain “The way you are carrying your child, I really like it – we do it like that back home.” I had my toddler sprawled on my back, nestled in my wrap. I used to get comments like this quite commonly when she was tiny, but now more often than not all I get are those Raised Eyebrows of Consternation!

For the first 5 months of Ramona’s life I wore her in a sling every day, for most of the day. I just wanted to keep her close, I felt a small part of me to be missing if I were to let her snooze on the sofa! She would snuggle into me as  I cooked and protested and sewed and hiked.

I had a gorgeous ring sling a friend had made, but wanting to be completely hands free I made her a stretchy wrap. By the time she was 5 months old she was a corking 13 kilos and I needed to upgrade to a woven wrap that would made my load a little lighter! We invested in a Didymos wrap, a second hand one from Ebay, and has been serving us beautifully recently, with our little 21 month old Ramona.

Once Ramona got crawling, the cord that tied us began pulling a little bit and it seemed completely natural for her to want to crawl about, away from me and explore the dusty, crevices of our house.  I still wore her when we went out and about and for naps and for breastfeeding on the go. When she was 10 months old we found a buggy by a bin, a spectacular huge old Silver Cross and we  took it home and took Ramona for the odd spin in that. Ramona enjoyed it- she’d wave at everyone in a very Queen like way, enjoying a wonderfully novel experience, thinking she was the first baby  ever to get pushed about on a mini wagon; “Check out my WHEELS!”. It came in pretty handy for loading it up with our big supermarket shop and gradually we got used to using the buggy 75% of the time.

Then, a few months ago Ramona gave up the buggy –  couldn’t get her in it for love nor money. I buckled her in against her will once and the discombobulation of that haunts me to this day. The wrap is once again making an appearance daily and it feel so right!

Here are my reasons for loving it:

  • It saved a buggy strike from becoming an immobilising crisis! Understandably, once your toddler GETS toddling, they don’t fancy being clipped in and pushed about.  For Ramona it seems being up high helps her to feel okay with being carted around, she feels involved with her excellent vantage point.

    We zipped off to Berlin for the day with Ramona on my back

  • I like how unfettered I feel. I walk out the door with my handbag and Ramona on my back and that’s that. Because it is hands free, I can text/ eye up Twitter/ pick my nose whilst walking along, without having to negotiate 4 wheels. (Mind you that could be simply my lack of coordination!) Our buggy used to get layers and layers of stuff packed into it, and bags hanging off all sides. Pushing that around made me feel like that fella off The Road.

    Checking out the horses – Ramona LOVED this place

  • Ramona falls asleep SO easily in a back carry, I love to feel her cheek press into my shoulder as she drops off. If I sense Ramona is a bit excited, or if we have a tribe of souls at our place having fun, bed times can involve much convincing! Sometimes I’ll pre-empt it and will take her for an evening stroll and let her gently off. Transferring her into her bed from a back carry is really simple too – a much lower Wake Up Rate than the buggy to bed transfer!

    Schnoozing

  • It is especially good for navigating the city crowds and public transport. Going into the centre of the Big Smoke with the buggy used to fill me with dread; having to ask strangers for help up and down the stairs, getting stuck behind a platoon of slow walkers. Now we just whip up and down and right past those meandering snail like tourists and strolling romantics.

    Just hanging out back there, eating a corn on the cob

  • I feel close to her when I carry her. Like we are on the same bandwith. I guess it it just the equivalent of lots of cuddles but Ramona- like most toddlers I suspect- is such a busy bee that I only really really get the snuggles when I nurse and carry her! I just feel a lot more in sync with her – as if body was designed to drape over back, as if tribes of mamas from generations past are nodding knowingly at us.

I can only really carry for an hour without a break, I’m not denying she is pretty heavy. But not nearly as wearying as pushing a heavy laden pram, or as hard as people think it – I guess your body becomes accustomed and grows in a way to accommodate toddlerwearing. I use a Reinforced Ruck Carry (I think, there are about a gazillion different carries) but have heard on the street that a Double Hammock is the FUTURE so I am going to be studying this video for a bit:

Are you a babywearer? What kind of comments have you received? I’d love to hear all about ’em.

Carters Steam Fair and my Brownie

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We went to Carters Steam Fair the other day – it is a spectacular family run affair and a feast for the eyeballs. Mr and Mrs Carter began their fairground adventure quite unintentionally, by just getting hold of a few bits of a carousel and building it in their lawn much to the delight of the neighbourhood tikes and the consternation of the council! Their devotion grew until they had enough rides to tour, and they continue to do so throughout the South East every summer. I love this story, partly as I can see myself and Tim with half a fairground ride in our garden.

We have been each year for the last three, and every time we feel a bit more inspired by the vintage signage and nostalgic vibe.

The first time we went was long before the days of Instagram, and the best way to get an old effect was to actually use an old camera. I would rig up my digital camera to my ancient Brownie with a loo roll and some selotape, and would spend hours trying to get some good shots. Many a strange look was shot my way, as I trundled around with this ridiculous contraption. But other weirdos do it too, yeah,  in fact it even has a name;  “TTVF” – Through The View Finder. Once things have a name it is pretty much An Official Non-Weird Past Time.

My old Kodak Brownie bought for £2 from The Sallies. What a friendly fellow he is!

Here are some of the shots taken with him at the Fair.

Back then these photos were INCREDIBLE – a nowaday scene with a vintage lens. But now they just look like they have been badly filtered with one of the many Vintage-ise your photos app.

Yes, er, there does seem to be a pube stuck in the Brownie.

I was well excited about taking Ramona on the carousel, and when she saw it too she went nuts –  almost climbing up mid-round, the little keen bean. When it was our turn we hopped on it but the second it started going round Ramona became kinda anti-carousel and actually threw a full blown, back arching,wobbly in an attempt to get off. I tried holding her close for a few rounds, but it became impossible and we had to perform a dodgy hand over trick to pass her down to Tim. I then had to ride the whole 5 minutes solo and the looks were more incriminating than when I was wandering around with two cameras and a loo roll.

Er… SHAMEFACE!

Riding the carousel, trying to be all casual like.

Ramona is becoming fiercely strong willed and theatrically expressive. It is wonderful to see her personality unfurling more and more, but with it comes a new learning curve. Trying to not let my own embarrassment, or shame, or sense of properness interfere with my response to her. It is too easy to think (and say)  “Oh don’t be silly” rather than try and see things from her perspective, and to validate any feelings of angst she might have.  Especially when you had to style out riding the carousel solo.

Ramona being totally appalled by a cloud of candy floss almost bigger than her

Anyway, back to the snaps. See, I got some of these PRINTED! Y’ know, that thing you used to do? Back in the day?  I, like, sent the files to a photo place, and they came back on GLOSSY PAPER.  Then I stuck my favourites behind an old window pane we found in a skip.

It’s propped up next to our cool lamp, it had no base so was only a cheeky £1 from a carboot and we created an impromptu  foundation out of some old wood.

So. There it is, Carters Steam Fair, through the eyes of my Brownie.

Linking up with other scavengers and secondhand lovers over at Missie Lizzie – traipse on round and ‘ave ye a peep.

Bumblebees and Boats- stitching on books

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What CAN’T you do with a needle and thread?*

It can be therapy- like these prisoners who learnt to stitch their stories.

It can raise political consciousness and beautifully challenge social norms. 

It has helped people find the meaning of life – like this jolly chap who went on a journey to find out about where his clothes came from and ended up trying to sew them all himself.

And then, at its most simple,  it can just make ordinary things look pretty. . .

From that crafty wizz Martha Stewart

I love how needle and thread have replaced pencil.

From Paper Stitch (loads of beautiful art on there)

And I wanted to give it a go.



We have a few funny old books, this one above is from a 1950’s one called “Getting the most of of life” – really, it is just such a load of nonsense. But has a lot of words that evoke images.

If you look carefully you will notice there is poo in this vessel.



These two pages are from “A Treasury of Thought” a delightful book with excerpts from  Shakespeare, indexed by subject. The one above is from the Ships entry and the one below from Bees. I know for some it is pretty much an Awful Thing to be treating books in this way, but I kind of feel you are giving them an extra kudos- letting pages see the light of day that might not otherwise.


They do only take a couple of minutes to do, but I know if I had a tiny dot more patience and took them a bit slower they could look LOADS better. Darn my laziness.

I did wing this one by Ramona to see if she could tell what they were though. “BUMBLE BEE” she yelled. *fist pump*

(Yeah, okay.  Bumblebee is Ramona’s current fave word and is what she defaults to most of the time but still, a leetle bit recognisable, no?)

Joining in with this months Pinaddicts Challenge  over at the luscious  Love Bump – check out the other things I hope to make one day soon on my Pinterest Board. 

PS- So remember that beautiful vintage magazine, Pretty Nostalgic, came to our house to take some pics? Well, the issue is out and you can catch a glance here. The whole thing is STUNNING!

Just a little confession though, our house is not normally that tidy. Not even close. My mum even came round the night before to help us clean up the piles of washing, the  raisins scattered all over the floor, the crumbs and pop corn and garlic skins on the kitchen side, the toys in every corner. Just so you know. Also, just so you know, we don’t normally look quite that wild eyed and deranged, promise.

PPS- I just started a Facebook page, are you on there? I would actually really love it if you wanted to come and say hi, or even just like it, if you are a shy one.

*You can’t:

Eat with it, unless it is really fine spaghetti.

Use it to catch a ball, or put an energetic baby to sleep, or win an Olympic medal with it, or fly with it. Etc, etc.