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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Second hand glad rags

Do you remember all those many, many months ago, voting for me in the MAD blog awards? And me getting through in the categories of Thrift and Craft? I know. I can barely believe it, even now. How awesome are you all, for doing that?

So awesome.

The awards ceremony is this Friday night, a swanky do at a posh hotel. So fancy is it all that brands have dolled up nominees and are sending them to the awards in gorgeous frocks. I haven’t bought a single new item of clothing in 7 years (I don’t mean to sound smug, I just love the pre-loved life), so tempted as I was, it didn’t feel right to take up the offer of being given new stuff to wear. Even if freeeee.

When the opportunity came up (er, I asked them) to get styled up by the Oxfam Fashion team, I JUMPED at it. Oxfam is my absolute favourite charity shop by a million miles. I have the BEST shop just next to my work and I would say a good 75% of my wardrobe is Oxfam-sourced.  Today was a massive treat, visiting their Notting Hill boutique store and having their beautiful stylist chose some stunning items for me. I was not too fussy myself – I loved just about every single thing on the shelves. It would be really hard to search for a a party gown in there and walk away empty handed.

I came away with 3 options for the awards ceremony.

Colonel Mustard

Check. Out. These. Troooosers. They are the softiest, silky, smart trousers I have ever worn. And they match perfectly my previously Oxfam- bought mustard heels. They are paired up with a versatile black lace top. I love this look but my only hesitation is that it is slightly on the casual side and I kind of like glamming it up a little bit when the twice yearly chance arises. But still. Delish and a total possibility, no?

Princess Royal

Funnily enough this was a dark horse number, completely overlooked until I noticed that it’s shape could be a winner. Once I had it on I fell in love with it. It is short enough to be a bit fun, whilst also being super classic. When I looked in the mirror I honestly, and bizarely, thought “HELLOOO! Princess Kaaaate”  –  sure enough it is by one of Kate Middleton’s go-to designers, Rebecca Taylor.  So now, despite it being sooo comfortable and nice, now I think it is a bit, kind, of, er, comfortable and, er, nice. In a “my-mum-in-law-is-the-Queen kind of way. (But maybe some crazy bling might sort that out?)

The Loveboat

How blinking outrageous is this dress? Seriously? I look like a saucy singer from an 80’s cruise ship.

I love it.

I love the green, the shape, the complete flamboyoncy of it. My slight worry is that everyone will be frightened to speak to me because it is just so startingly BOLD. Also. I would be very, very worried about my boobies flouncing out all night.

So. For real. What should I wear???!!! What are YOU wearing? And would you ever go for secondhand glamour?

PS Don’t look at how my drawers are open and have all my garments just thrust inside in a jumble, okay? My drawers, drawers. In the picture.

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Thrifty foraging: fruit leathers

You know I love to save a penny (an actual genuine coin not avoiding going for a wee, yeah?) and will often go to great lengths to do so. In extreme cases I have rummaged through bins at the market and come away with a harvest festival style haul, and I make a lot of Stuff in an attempt to not buy Things. This is the Way of Paying the Mortgage and Also Spending Your Saved Pennies on Old Bits and Bobs At Car Boot Fairs.

I have dappled in foraging for food before. Whenever we pass a blackberry bush all plans are on hold while we stuff our faces, turning up at destination with purple mouths and fingers. And I will often get nettles from the local park to bung in our soups, but I’m not going to lie, whilst they ARE packed with iron, it IS primarily for the irrepressible joy of answering our guest’s question of “Yummmy, what IS this?” with “NETTLES!!! HARRHARRHAAAHA” *witchy laugh*

However, today it has been ALL GO on the foraging front. I was given “The Thrifty Forager” by Alys Fowler for my birthday last week and I spend every spare minute reading it. Honestly, that Alys is tighter than ME. She will spend the afternoon digging around for roots of things, spend an hour cleaning it and then a night infusing it and then a day making chutney out of it, with cardamom, all to save about 70p.

What an inspiration.

It was chucking it down today, but I had made up my mind to get out there and so stubbornly I went.

I was planning to get some mulberries but on my way to the mulberry tree saw a huge windfall of fruit beneath the cherry tree. We have loads of urban cherries round here, they were planted yonks ago as a budget and pollution hardy bit of foliage. I popped over the fence and only had to endure one shout of “Lost something, love?” (not said with much love) and a handful of suspicious glares.

It was a good job I got so lucky with the cherries as the mulberry tree was a she-devil. There were only about 3 ripe berries on it and every time I reached for one my hair (er, bee’s nest) got tangled in a wizened branch and I had to spend several minutes unknotting myself.

With a fairly plump bag  I scurried round the corner to another park where I had spied some crab-apples earlier. Obviously crab apples are totally rank but Alys assures me they cook up good and are a potent source of pectin- perfect for jams. Again the wind had well hooked me up as I was able to scoop handfuls of clean, freshly blown off apples into my getting- heavier bag. (You said blown off… hehehe.)

I then spent about a million years, with a lot of elbow grease, making a tiny amount of fruit leathers. They are those chewy fruity rolls, quite popular at the moment with the little ones. Ours were delicious, basically free and despite the hard labour, made me feel BRILLIANT. There is something about putting in a bit of effort in order to get a cool live-off-the-land-y result that makes it totally worthwhile.

Of course, I jest about all the work. Foraging like this is an activity in itself, a way of connecting with nature in an extremely urban setting, and a chance to spot the wild beauty amongst the housing estates and fried chicken shops. It is also an opportunity, just for an afternoon, to step out of a global food system which is pretty wrought. Where there are equal numbers of obese and malnourished people, where supermarkets throw out their waste and pour bleach on so no one can salvage it and where staple crops in poor countries are being turned into fuel for rich ones. GAH.

As I untangled my accidental dreadlocks from the vengeful mulberry tree I was able to reflect on all this. And as my fruity leathers got stuck in my cavities I pledged to GET RIGHT ON BOARD WITH THIS FORAGING MALARKEY!

FRUIT LEATHERS

  • Some foraged fruit
  • Sugar/ honey/ lemon/ spices
  • 1 cup of water to every 4 cups of fruit

Cut off the bad bits of fruit and then chuck in the pan with the water. Add any spices you like- I chose a teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook slowly until the fruit softens. Mash it all up. Have a little taste. Mine was made with unripe mulberries, sour cherries and rank crab apples so needed a fair bit of sugar to help it along. If you have found succulent pears, sweet blackberries and juicy plums you might not even need a single grain.

Push it all through the siv. (This was the bit that made my muscles groan but I didn’t want to waste a speck)

Smear it on to baking paper as thin as possible, mine was about 0.3 cm.

Put it in your dehydrater, airing cupboard or oven on loooow heat for between 4-8 hours. I got bored at 3 so ours is less leathery and more gummy-chewy. The drying process preserves it completely so it will last forevs in your fridge but ours will be gone by tomorrow lunchtime so Da Nada.

Have you tried a bit of foraging? Made anything ace?

I am linking up with a Green Blogger Meet and greet hosted here, weeee!

And also the October Festival of Food.
Please take a moment to visit the blogs of our other Festival of Food participants. The links in this list will be live by the end of the day, as participants are all in different time zones.

Stay connected! Be sure to “Like” the 
Festival of Food Carnival Facebook page.


Festival of Food Carnival

Boobs are brilliant, but not news

Honestly, I LOVE breasts.

Did you know, when you are breastfeeding, MILK comes out of them?

OMG. That is like some kind of magic.

And then, as if that is not like Mind= Blown enough for you, this other incredible thing happens whereby, if your little one gets a bit crook they communicate this to your boobs and then the milk adapts to produce the right kind of antibodies to fix your sick babe right up.

Come on. You couldn’t MAKE it up.

It’s funny, I have spent most of my life not liking my boobs, they were too big to wear vests without looking skanky, too bouncy to dance and deflected too much from my brain. I spent most of my teenage years thinking I was a bimbo because of my big ‘uns and only when my sister took me aside one day, after I had successfully navigated a team of older teens around the complicated underground of the Czech Republic and said, “Lucy, you know you are not thick, don’t you?”, did I stop allowing my boobs and blondeness to define me.

It is tough being a teenage girl and have a sense of being so much more than your image. Let alone when you are surrounded by the objectification of women in songs, television and films. Let alone being faced with it EVERYDAY in Britain’s most popular newspaper. I remember being on the bus and seeing men “reading” Page 3. I recall jumping on a train trying to ignore the paper tossed on a seat,  folded open on Page 3,  while men passed it with a quick ogle.

You know, I would constantly fold my arms over my breasts  in a subconscious attempt to disguise myself and disassociate myself from such sexualised bodies. (And you are going to think I am distinctly mad now) for I while I used to even TAPE THEM DOWN when clubbing, such a hateful relationship I had with these carnal buoys.

And now, here I am, age 30 and a mother and I love my boobs. I love that they provide food and comfort for my toddler. Having a never ending supply of nutrition on tap is one of the most liberating aspects of mothering. I will skinny dip in secret rivers and nurse on the bus and shower in the changing rooms of the pool completely in the nick.  They aren’t so buoyant, having been tugged and stretched and knelt on by a boisterous toddler. But they are a miracle.

Great as they are, miraculous even, they are not news. I could talk about them all day, press releases sent forth about their healing properties. But bare boobs with the sole purpose of titillating have no public place, least of all in a newspaper. To be gawked at in busy spaces, securing in the minds of menfolk that boobs are for the pleasure of their eyeballs.

For the sake of our teenage girls AND boys, we need to get them out of The Sun. Of course, it is the tip of an iceberg but as all tips are, it is hugely visible and hard to ignore and SURMOUNTABLE. (Are icebergs surmountable?) We can VIABLY CARVE THIS TIP RIGHT OFF. In the last week the No More Page 3 campaign has gathered momentum and signatories are piling up by the second.

Let’s do it.

I have signed the petition. Tweeted the heck out of it. Even got on the old Facebook and shared it. But I wanted to do something just a little bit more bespoke and felt a Craftivist style action would be perfect.

So during Ramona’s nap yesterday I stitched a little banner. 

Then when she woke up we cycled to News International, HQ of The Sun, 3 St Thomas More Square, and left them a little message. Hastily attached with my guilty hands.

It was a bit scary. Full of suits and security guards and we stood out like a sore thumb, Ramona pulling along her little toy dog, making an insanely conspicuous scraping noise that reverberated off the stark buildings. (Oh, cringing in memory. She just kept insisting on dragging it. I’m like “Oh, does doggy need a carry?” “Nooooo mummy.”)  And there was not a single spot to hang it in the square. So the old gate by the entrance way had to do.

So. Boobs. In the paper. What do you reckon? Have you signed, Tweeted and Facebooked? Would love to hear of any other creative actions going down…

Squeezing the last drops out of summer….

As summer comes to a close I am finding myself clinging to it’s remnants like the slugs that belligerently cling to my bean plants. Every evening we go for a walk before the sun sets and every spare weekend moment we swan off to a park for a picnic. I had a party yesterday and despite the distinct chill in the air we set up the garden fete-style and I served up some of my best summer refreshments in my most retro glasswear.

I just love jugs. *Beavis and Butthead snigger*

I love the patterns and the shapes so distinctive of their era. I have picked up these jugs over the summer, for between £1 and £3 each. They all came with a full set of glasses but my clumsiness coupled with our tough ceramic sink sorted that cup-overload pretty pronto.

So guests mostly drank their fine juice out of Nutella glasses…

Lemon, Lime and Bitters

This is a classic Kiwi drink. It has a tiny dash of alcohol in the Aromatic Bitters but not nearly enough to count, only enough to add a depth of flavour.

A dash of Aromatic Bitters (available from Of Licences)

Lemonade

Lime Cordial

The juice of half a lemon

Slices of Lemon/limes and ice to serve

Mix it all in your jug and serve super chilled

Mint Tea

A sprig of mint per person

A teaspoon of sugar per person (or to taste)

Water

Let the mint sit in boiing water, in a tea pot, until cool.

Pour into jug (leave wilted mint) and add fresh mint, sliced apple and ice to serve!

Lemon Tea (Caffeine Free)

I brewed two cups of Rooibos/ Redbush Tea

The Juice of a Lemon

A teaspoon of sugar per person (or to taste)

Ice and sliced lemon to serve

This is just a plain old jug of water but fancied up with extra lemon, lime and apple. In New Zealand you can tell the coolness of a cafe by how much crazy shizzle they have in their free jugs of water. The fairly cool ones will have cucumber and celery along with their lemons – adding a nice hint to the taste- but the hyper hipster cafes have moved right on and have forgone the lemons for jugs of potatoes and parsnips. (Jokes.) Just to firm up my status as a hyper hipster I went Next Level and served up jugs of stubborn slugs. Mwhaha.

Linking up with that master of craft, and bargains, Missie Lizzie B and the luscious Lakota’s Ta-Dah Tuesday!

Charity Shopping in the Cotswolds

Our second holiday this summer was to the beautiful lands of Gloustershire, where we wiled the days away charity shopping and hiking the hills. Really, truly, my ideal week. The only thing that could have topped it would have been a dash of river swimming- alas it was colder than a cold spell in coldville so it wasn’t to be.

As my contribution to the Charity Shop Blog Hop, I am going to cover a few little gems in this excellent thrifting holiday destination.

In general, most of the shops were fairly astute in their prices, if you like mining piles of jumble in order to find a classic for three pee, this probably isn’t the staycation for you. But without exception every single town or village threw up at least one or two Absolute Proper Bargains, and had a million other lovely things going for it as well.

Wotton – Under-  Edge

This is a gorgeous little village, just one high street, with tons of little cafes and deli’s nestled amongst it’s charity shops. If you enter the high street from the bottom you immediately get to the Cotswolds Care Hospice Shop. It is jammed to the rafters with quirky odds and ends. We bought some particuarly lovely and cheap as chips kids toys- including a vintage abacus for half the price I expected to pay.  As you wander up the high street you find  three others and one tucked around the corner on the left. Have a peep at the map.

Dursley

A tiny little village, surrounded by beautiful walks. The five Charity Shops are well worth visiting, if not just to have a grand old giggle with the stereotype defying ladies in the Oxfam shop who were actually HAPPY and pleased to have customers!!
Oxfam is on the left hand side on the main road in, keep walking up through the pedestianised bit to find the others. Check out the map.

Tewkesbury

Tewkesbury is a larger town with a long high street littered with charity shops. The first three we went to were all next door and suffered from Three-Charity-Shops_Right_Next-To-Each-Other Syndrome and had nothing worthwhile in them at all. But a short hop away are where the bargains begain really flowing! There are other reasons to visit too – a breathtaking Abbey and beautiful countryside strolls to be done just minutes from the High Street. Forgive me – I haven’t done a map as they are all on the main drag, can’t miss ’em!

Nailsworth

Yet another delightful village tucked in the middle of the Cotswolds. A primary feature is the huge bakehouse, sitting next to a stream, filled with buns, biscuits, donuts and every baked good you can imagine! It is worth wandering around this village just to come across the Emmaus charity shop- a lovely one with shelves absolutely bustling with both bargains and vintage classics.  See the map here!

Stroud

Stroud is fabulous town. Totally stunning and with loads of amazing Fair Trade shops and cafes and delectable delis. It is also crammed with charity shops – nine of the bad boys!  Some of them offering old odd bits of crockery for pennies. There are also some lovely antique shops – every antique shop is out of my price range but still well worth an ogle! See the map here.

(Massive shout out to my beloved sister Jo who swung by these and double checked my lazy, hazy holiday memories!)

Right, I showed you mine, now you show me yours!

Charity Shop Blog Hop Link Up below


Can’t wait to stop by and read them.  Do visit the others and leave a comment to say hi –  you might just find some blogs you’ll fall in love with 😀

DIY lace bowl … in 10 minutes

Do you have a constant second hand shopping list floating around your mind at all times? It is almost certainly a waste of brain space (space that for me I suspect could have been used up in the area of knowing how to pronounce certain words)  but it does nurture patience and acceptance as you wander around charity shops and car boot fairs, not finding the things you want but knowing you will one day.

Mine goes something like:

Summer shoes

Vintage Toys

Midwinter Crockery

Retro Glass Jugs

Lexicon word game

Scrabble

Lace

(It goes from the specific to, er, kinda general…)

Any bargainous retro or vintage item

I pick up this stuff time and time again, whenever I see it. Often because I don’t believe a house can ever be too full of the delightful swirls of old crockery but also because I know this stuff will come in handy for craft purposes.  Lexicon and Scrabble are INVALUABLE. (Hmmm. Although I won’t dig out more than £1.50 for them. Invaluable might be a bit too strong a word. Hehe.)

And I have quite few reams of lace. I like to stack it in piles and have crafted a few lovely things out of it- my favourite being this flapper style head band for a friend’s little lass.

A little while ago I found a few tutorials for lace lampshades on Pinterest and, although we are not in need of lampshades as I am whipping these up all the time out of totally obvious things like zips, I wondered if the same principle could be use to craft up some bowls.

Turns out it can. HOORAY!

You need:

Step 1- Blow up a balloon to about the size you want the bowl to be.

Step 2 – Take a strip of lace  – the length needs to go around the balloon and will be the circumference of your bowl. The width will be the side of the bowl. Mine was around 27 inches long and I chose 5 inches in width.

Step 3 – Do a series of cuts, at one inch intervals all along the length, from the bottom up to about 2 inches  from the top. It will be like a flappy thing. (*wishes she had photo of this bit that wasn’t blurry!*)

Step 4 – Dunk this into mod podge.

Step 5- Wrap this around the bottom half of your balloon, overlapping each one inch segment by just a few millimetres. Doing this allows the lace to curve around, without having to have pleats. The bottom rim should be curving under the balloon, leaving an empty bit at base of balloon.

Step 6- Make sure the seam and each overlap is well pushed together.  Be warned, it does all get a bit slippy and slithery and your balloon my try and escape your grasp a bit!

Step 7- Leave it to dry (it should be done in an hour or two if left in a breezy, warm place)

Step 8- Add another layer of Mod Podge and leave to dry again

Step 9- Pop balloon! You should have a fairly sturdy bowl with no bottom!

Step 10-  Tweak it a little, bending it gently in to the right shape, if needed.

Step 11- Cut out a piece of lace to be the bottom. It needs to be whatever shape the balloon happens to have made it! Mine was a kind of small oval.

Step 12- Dunk it into the Mod Podge and place this into the inside of the bowl, covering the hole, pushing it gently onto the existing lace structure. Leave to dry flat on its bottom. (Otherwise you’ll have a wobbly bowl)

Step 13- Give a light coat of varnish around the outside. My varnish dries in an hour, if in warm, breezy place.

Step 14- Give a light coat of varnish throughout the inside. Especially seal off the edges of the bottom piece.

Step 14- If you like the original colour of the lace then VOILA! You are done.

Step 15- If, like me, you used an ancient tin of varnish because you are too stingy to throw it away and it was really yellow, you will need to find a spray can colour you are happy with. I went for neon orange and I LOVE IT!

DONE!

It isn’t perfect, if you were to inspect you would see it was slightly wonky and the seams would be quite obvious but I think the “lacey bowl” effect is nailed.  The overall paint coverage hides a whole load of the little discrepancies.

I am pretty sure, taking out drying time, that the whole thing is done in a matter of moments – possibly one of the quickest crafting up of a bowl ever? Of course, it isn’t water tight, so you cannae eat your cornflakes out of it, but as a vestibule for bits and bobs (of which our household needs many) it is purdy purfick.

I am definately making these again – perhaps as a way of displaying some small crafts I hope to see one day at a fair. (Vague plans, too lazy and flighty to make enough of one thing to purvey!)

It is sitting in my little kitchen pop of orange, underneath some heart palpitatingly beautiful pottery I found at a car booty last week. The pottery, it is called Lord Nelson Gaytime. Honestly. You couldn’t make it up.

Linking up with the magical Liz and the Magpies- celebrators of all things second hand.

And the final shout out for the Charity Shop Blog Hop! Being hosted here this Thursday – come along and link up your charity shop loving posts and get all kinds of blog loving 😀

Validate bad times, c’mon!

(sung to the tune of Kool and the Gang’s Celebration, obviously. You totally got that, eh.)

On one of our trips away this summer we were rushing to get our train back. I jumped on before Ramona and Tim, determined to get us a table seat. We had so much luggage – all our camping gear- and there were three of us so I was feeling pretty deserving. As I entered the carriage I saw an empty one and honed in on it – unfortunately a businessman had spotted it too- entering from the other door. He pipped me to the post by about 0.7 seconds and with a triumphant flourish sat his un-heavy-laden solo self down. Fortunately there was another! It wasn’t over! I shuttled forward to the next table- and exactly the same thing happened again, this time with a women, arms full of shopping bags.  There was no eye contact, just that same  flourish.

OOF! I WAS MAD!

I carried on up the train in, yeah, what was  bit of a rage, and came upon Tim and Ramona who had found a perfectly fine seating arrangement with bags of room. “You will not BELIEVE what just happened!” And I relayed the story, indignantly… “and the way they sat down… with such a triumphant flourish!!!” I was genuinely feeling a bit bruised by it.

Tim, kindly and very rationally,  responded to my woeful tale with “Never mind. These seats are really perfect.”

I was tired. And feeling a bit harassed. And grumpy and bruised. I, er, didn’t appreciate his comment.

I huffed and puffed and sunk into myself. I might have even whispered something a bit mean.

You see, what I wanted was someone to understand my -albeit irrationally upset- feelings. I wanted Tim to agree “What?! That is WELL out of order! No wonder you feel cross!”

And as our train jolted forward it hit me – we deal with toddlers in this way all the time.

Carboot puppy -The best 20p Ramona ever spent

At least once a day I’ll hear a variation of the following -and yep, sometimes out of my own mouth;

“Oh, don’t be silly, we’ve been at the park for hours, it’s time to go home”

“You just can’t scatter cereal all over the floor, that’s the way it is.”

“C’mon, that’s not for you to play with – look! Have a ball instead.”

“Don’t cry about it-  we can do it again later”

We discount our children’s feelings, sometimes outright by saying it is ridiculous, and sometimes more subtly and in a kinder way,  by trying to explain why they don’t need to worry about it.

I have been trying to validate Ramona’s feelings since she was really small – but only in this moment of immaturity on the train did I feel like I was trapped in a toddler’s body – having my feelings kindly, but subtly, invalidated. (By the way. I honestly think I was being unreasonable on the train. I am an adult, with all the right wiring – I hope– and a –fairly– developed brain and my husband has a really good balance in understanding my feelings but also calling me out when I am being a bit out of order myself!)

Another one of our trips was to a farm with a friend and her two toddlers. She parented so gently and playfully, always validating her children’s huge feelings, even when they seemed unreasonable. It was such a delight to see her sitting on the floor next to her wailing child and, in a undramatic and calm way, letting her know that she understands how hard it is.

“I can see that has made you really upset. ”

“It  is really frustrating when you can’t play with the things you want to, isn’t it?”

“You feel as if you should have longer in the haybales, don’t you?”

“It makes you upset when you can’t help me make dinner. Perhaps you could help me make the pudding?”

It isn’t rocket science, but it doesn’t come naturally either. I think it takes a lot of practice to make empathy and validation the first response, particularly when it is over something so blatantly trivial. I am constantly trying to understand that for Ramona the sense of the feeling is often huge, even if the cause of the feeling seems tiny and minor to me.

I think validating our toddler’s feelings often does avert full blown tantrums, and can often save time in the long run. But mostly I think I want to nurture a relationship based on understanding, to take every opportunity to connect with my toddler.  I want Ramona to get that there is a place for her big feelings, and it is right to sometimes feel sad and cross and frustrated. She doesn’t have to bury these feelings, to distract herself by the next thing.

So, isn’t it great when we can learn something from a particularly low ebb in our adult emotional maturity?  Really great. I just probably shouldn’t have slipped a special little revenge parcel in their bags to discover later. (JOKES)

*Sings*

Let’s all validate and have a good time!

PS- If you are interested in this I do recommend reading some of Naomi Aldort’s stuff. I am currently battling through her book, Raising our children, Raising ourselves-  but her articles are a million times easier to read!