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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Editing my daughter’s life chances (er, or her Fairy Tales at least)

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I joked once about how we have changed the words to “This Little Piggy went to market” – creating a more liberal, less Capitalist version. We did that with vegetarian tongue firmly in hippy cheek but as Ramona grows older I find myself doing it with quite a few things and intentionally too. I’ll sometimes change the gender of the leading boy characters in books, and will improvise the fate of the girl in the fairy tale (“She went on to be the President of the Free World…”)

I am fairly committed to giving Ramona a sense that she can do or be anything, be it a poet, a plumber or a Prime Minister. I feel as if there could be a way of providing a foundation of opportunity for her, even though the stats are stacked against her.

Little minds start whirring young, eh? Interpreting the world, and people, and their roles.  The next door neighbour toddler lads throwing our ball back over in disgust because it dared to have poor pink Peppa Pig on it. The boys in the playground telling Ramona she can’t kick, as she is a girl.

As if those interactions aren’t shaping her enough, I then snuggle in bed and read her yet another book with some naff sacrificial role for the lady, while the men fight for justice, but because I am a bit sleepy I can’t be bothered to ad-lib it. Tonight it was a story about a daughter being sent to marry an evil giant and she didn’t want to go.  “No Go” Ramona kept repeating, jabbing her finger at the girl, as if she could see how unfair it was. Whoah. She is totally getting this storyline. “She went because she was brave!” I began adlibbing again.

And then when she drifted off I got the paper, pens and glue out and fixed the tale right up.

Some pages needed the odd word, and others whole paragraphs. The patriarchy won’t catch me snoozing again!

I know, I know. It’s only minor. But isn’t life mostly just a collection of small stuff, layered on top of each other, gently kneading who we are and what we think and what we do? Ramona’s not going to think women are just the weak bystanders, guileless love interests, not on my watch. Not on your nelly.

How do you make sure your kids grow up with a strong sense of gender equality and justice?

PS Some cool Tweet mates have created an awesome reading list- so if you are out to buy a feminist friendly story check here first!

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Thrifty Gifts: a jar of crayon shapes

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I found a few manky crayons in a gutter the other day, on the way to the park. I picked them up (by no means the nastiest thing I have fished out of a gutter) to try that Melty Thing. It is a genius idea; crayons get so quickly get broken/ pick up a layer of muck that every family house probably has a stash in disfavour. Just give them a new lease of life with a bit of melting into shapes action.

I have a few cool shaped ice trays, I always pick them up in charity shops and car boots and I use them for resin craft,  (Well, I did try, um, baking in the elephant shape one and melted half of it. Really, they look just like the silicon muffin numbers.)

In an act of Completely Obvious Craft Blogging here is how I did it – not the baking melt fiasco, the crayon shapes, yeah?

 

  • I oiled the shapes first, to help them pop out easier.
  • They take about 40 sec to melt, I kept them moving all the time.
  • I worked from light/ similar colours to dark so that I didn’t have to clean the pan much inbetween.
  • They take about 30 minutes to dry solid in a cold place (my kitchen table)
  • The ones that I filled less than 1 centimetre broke as I popped them out – so don’t be stingy with the liquid!
  • You will need White Spirit to clean out your ice trays and pans, so do use ones you don’t use for consumption anymore!

This is going to make a fine gift for a little tot I know- toddlers are actually quite hard to make for, beyond sewing cuddly things. I am hoarding jars for my Christmas gifts-  it must be THE thriftiest way of giving nice gifts. Start doing it and in a couple of weeks they’ll be a thrifty, gifty ideas for jars post… *raises eyebrows up and down in a conspirational- watch-this-space- kind of a way*

A sibling on the scene

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Every morning when my daughter Ramona opens her eyes, she snuggles up to my face and whispers “Hello, mummy”. These days, this tiny tradition is followed up by her scuffling down and pulling apart my pyjama top and murmuring “Hello, baby” into my tummy. With no bump to reveal my 4 month pregnancy just yet my belly button is getting all the attention.

Ramona is two and loves babies. She loves babies, imaginary babies and Things that Will Do.

Ramona Babywearing

Ramona constantly has to be either pushing a buggy or wearing a baby in the sling, and I normally have to accompany her, with a Cabbage Patch Kid tied to my front.

As I cooked dinner yesterday I could hear her singing sweet nothings “Oh, baby. Good? Baby? Oooh. Baby” and looked over my shoulder to see what she was caressing with her soft words and hands.

It was a bulb of garlic.

Obviously.

Minutes later, I had to help her undo the zip on her jumper because the garlic wanted “milkies.”

(Mind you, a few months ago it was me that had to nurse the obscure objects she chose so I’m quite happy she has taken on that responsibility herself. My days of breastfeeding toy cars and lego are over for a while, thanks.)

When my mum first heard our new baby news, she exclaimed “Crumbs, Ramona will have her nose put out, won’t she?!” I guess it was in reference to the intense attachment we have, and the practices that, for us, are a big part in it. When the baby comes along Ramona will have to deal with not lying starfish like along our bed between us, she’ll learn to share Mummy’s milkies (with a human and not a bit of plastic) and she’ll have to adapt to another little mite being limpet-like in the sling.

And of course, while I feel blissfully relaxed in this pregnancy and perhaps naively optimistic about a second baby, I can’t help but feel a leeetle bit intreipidly curious about what tandem nursing will be like, and keeping them both happy during the night times.

I am fairly confident that all those juicy hormones will smother everything in glazey eyed love for a while, making it all okay for me.

And hopefully Ramona’s love for babies (and I hope she loves the new one a little bit more than the ones she frequently sits on/ covers in Marmite) will help her ride out the changes. We just have 5 months to get her used to the idea that the new kid on the block will be a bit noisier than the garlic and a bit more demanding than my belly button!

Ten new uses for old lace

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I love old lace, I gather reams of it whenever I visit car boot sales. I simply can’t say no. Fortunately there are a million and one craft projects you can create with lace, so even when I am buried beneath it, gasping through the intricate florals, I will be squawking  “Lace! More Lace!”

Here are some of the things I have whipped up, and some of the things I have plans for. Click the links to be taken through to the How-To’s and Tutorials.

1- Perfect rosettes. The picture above are some lace rosettles on a flapper-style head band I made for a favourite little rascal I know. Lace is quite forgiving and looks beautiful even if your rose is a bit haphazard!

2- Classy lightbulbs. Simply spraypainting through lace onto normal old lightbulbs just makes the most beautiful thing – and  imagine the shadow they cast! I spied this on Pinterest and it went straight on my “15 minute craft” board.

3- Encase it in resin. A little bit of resin goes along way in my books! I love encasing bits and pieces in resin – it is so easy but looks pretty pro. I love the look of this little snippet of lace, I  turned it into a delightful keyringby simply rilling a tiny hole in the corner- but it could easily be turned into some jewelry.

4- Gorgeous plant pots. Amazing what a small strip of lace can do to a boring old planter. Suddenly a gift of bulbs in a pot is taken to a lush new level, with just lick or two of homemade mod podge.

5- New t-shirts. I love making small adjustments to things in my wardrobe. Once I get some time I am going to add new life to my old tees with a touch of lace. I did it to my first DIY baby-sling too- turning it from a plain black number to something a bit, er, kinda saucy.

6- A no-sew skirt Kids love dressing up, and parents love it if the dressing up box is packed with bargainous, easy to make items, no?  Enter the no-sew lace skirt by the thrifty Missie Lizzie.

7- Handy bowl This bowl is just 15 sloppy minutes of making and you have a vessel that is tough and pretty.

8- Elegant pegs With just two minutes and a slick of home made mod podge you can upcycle some pegs. We use pegs for hanging all sorts; cards, photos, leaves we have collected.  (I also just got sent decorated pegs with strips of magnet on the back for the fridge- how genius is that?!)

9- Upcycled Scarf. I tend to keep my scarves for years (when I have managed to not leave them on the bus) so this idea of adding lace to the ends massively appeals to me, giving a bit of pizazz to a scarf you’ve had for yonks. And it looks stunning, hey?

10- And, finally… Snazzy slippers I made these slippers out of the armpit of a jumper I felted, they were so, so simple but the trim of vintage lace makes them look just a little bit fancier.

Have you made or spotted a new use for old lace? This is merely ten out of a whole UNIVERSE of ideas, so do share…

(Also, come and say hello on the Facebook page, or Twitter, or get thrifty/crafty/mother-y emails pinged into your inbox by hitting follow over on the right there.)

Campervan thrifting and the inauguration of Betty

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We always owned a VW camper when I was a kid, we’d scamp off from school a bit early and spend the whole summer trekking around Europe, hitting up spots as distant and exotic as Hungry, the Czech Republic and Berlin just after the Wall came down.

Those were the days of seatbelt ambivalence so my sister and I would often stay in bed while my parents drove, or we’d sit around the table in the back threading friendship bracelets or brushing the bright neon locks of our Trolls.

It was also the early days of video cameras and one holiday we borrowed a friend’s and my parents spent every journey  filming straight out of the window in front of them, no speaking, or even people really, just endless scenery.  One memorable clip involves the cap being pushed onto the camera lens and one family member (let’s call him, for the sake of the story, “Dad”) calling out “You have turned that off, yeah?” and the one who put the lens cap on (again, just for the story’s sake, let’s go with “Mum”) saying “Of COURSE, darling!” in a tone that really meant I’m not a complete idiot. The rest of the film is total darkness, the muffled sounds of life happening around it.

Me in my snazzy early 90’s gear. We have either broken down or having a cheap night’s sleep in a European layby

Since arriving in London Tim and I have taken all our holidays by train, with our camping gear and bikes in tow. This got a little bit harder with Ramona but we still enjoyed it. The prospect of doing it with two kids though kind of freaked us out a bit, and we began dreaming of getting back on the camper bandwagon.

Fortunately my folks were up for it too and after several weeks of arduous hunting we found ourselves co-owners of a brilliant 1991 VW Vanagon Westfalia. Although we love the look of a classic bay or splitty, we know the blood, sweat and tears  you have to pour into them so went for a newer and undoubtedly more reliable option. We call her Betty.

Betty at Bognor Regis

We took Betty out for a spin the first weekend we owned her but only got as far as Eltham where we slept in my friend’s driveway on the A21 – it wasn’t exactly fulfilling her potential. This weekend we managed to get to West Sussex where we frolicked in the autumnal vibe. WHAT A DELIGHT! We roamed around Chichester cathedral, slept over on the South Downs, and our Betty even bought the best out of Bognor as we parked up for a spot of lunch. What an incongruous place, a breathtaking, windswept, almost wild beach, and then these humongous eye-sore bouncy castles plopped left right and centre.

Ramona checking out the beautiful view (or wishing she was bouncing on an eye-sore) with her mucky chops and mucky top *wishes I’d photoshopped*

I’m not gonna lie to you, the primary reason we hiked all the way down there for one night  was because of the notoriously amazing car boot sales. So you can only imagine our disappointment when, one after the other, the car boots failed to exist! I had even googled in advance! But we turned up to THREE only to find soggy, empty fields. *sob*

Fortunately we found an afternoon one that redeemed the trip. We managed to spend a tenner and pretty much fill Betty up.

We picked up this set of mustard teacups for £2.50 – I thought they’ be perfect to keep in Betty. We also got a pair of these dining chairs. (Despite already actually being an Official Dining Chair Hospice.) We have about a billion, more than any amount of visitors could ever sit on. And they have a way of finally carking it in crashingly big public moments, providing the unfortunate party-goer with a bit of shame and a sore bum. BUT they were only a POUND and helped us really feel that owning a van was a Good Thing, collaborating with us to get items like this back home.

We got lots of other little things, handy items we needed and bits of gorgeousness we really didn’t but the batch I had to show you was this, from the “Three for £1 table”. I kid you not. . .

Gorgeous china teacups, a vintage set of dominoes and a cut glass vase, 33.3p EACH!

The weekend totally heralded good thrifty times for us and the Betty bomb. Did you have a good one? Thrifted anything amazing lately?

Linking up with Missie Lizzie and those marvelous Magpie Mondays.

Tiny Resin Collage Craft (using just an old ice tray)

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You know that old ditty “when in doubt, get the resin out”? I adhere to that in a big way.

I might have a little tiny trinket, a word from an old book, an image from a retro children’s book, or even a scrap of fabric, that I just love and want to show the world –  for me the solution is nearly always encasing it in resin.

It takes almost no skill and can be done on one of those days when you are completely lacking in creativity and nearly always turns out with a pro-looking sheen.

At the moment I am using up my Gedeo Crystal Resin, but soon will be moving on to try out a more eco version.

The key thing is to follow your instructions carefully and MIX IT TOGETHER REALLY WELL – UNTIL IT IS CLEAR AGAIN. (This is in caps because it is so critical, the only thing that will ruin it really, as it won’t set,  and then you’ll probably cry.)

I use the flexible ice tray, and fill them up to the level that I want my thing to be. I used a star mold last time, and made a scrabble letter pencil end and a tiny deer necklace.

This time I kept it plain, and filled every compartment in the tray with little papery experiments. I had someone in mind for every single one.

I popped them out after 24 hours – it is easier to get them out the quicker you do it. A couple I left in for a week and they were tough cookies, determined to stay in the tray.

Once out I drilled little holes into them, using the tiniest drill bit I have. I still need to sand the edges of them- I was kind of hoping these snaps would be a little more forgiving, mwhaha!

Some of them I made into key rings.

Some into a necklace.

I used a variety of papers- an old cowboy comic and a little piece from an old book.

I used some scraps of sewing fabric and cut up a few segments of a photo I’d taken of a million flying seagulls.

Easy Resin Craft

I couldn’t resist putting a bit of lace in, and I love how it came out, and then this little kids book image. These are my faves.

Others I have not quite made up my mind what to make them into, even though I know exactly who they are for.

What do you think? Any ideas for these tiny little collages?

Homemade Rosehip Oil – a bit of thrifty foraging

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*sings* Tis the season to pick rosehips, tralalalalaaaalalalala!

When I was pregnant the last time I was sent a tiny, expensive vial of rosehip oil. Oof, it was LUSH.  It is apparently amazing for stretch marks and scars and also adds a pre-emptive resilience to your skin. However, not one to waste such an ingredient on my vast, mostly unseen belly I used it on my face and it ended up softer and smoother than my newborn’s bum.

The oil is all gone now, and I’ve been kind of pining for it lately, knowing I’d never get my mitts on such a fine Frankincense-like substance again. And THEN I googled “rosehips” (oh man, I am such an urbanite) and turns out I like, er, pass them everyday of my life! My front garden is bursting with them, because, of course, they are just the seed pods of old roses! Heavy laden branches of them hang over my head as we walk to the park, their red skin squishes beneath my feet as we trundle to the bus stop. Glory be.

I wanted to make the most of them before all the gardeners cut their roses back, as October is the season for that. And homemade rosehip oil, with it’s skin restoring, vitamin A packed goodness, is about as easy as it gets.  Whilst this method isn’t pure seed oil, this does achieve a huge amount of the goodness and is commonly used extraction method in The Industry.

You Need:

Rosehips

Oil (any oil will do- almond oil is lovely and light for your skin but I went with normal nut oil as it is cheaper and is incredible for your skin all by itself)

Something to warm it in – I used my yoghurt maker, but a slow cooker on lowest setting will do, or keeping the jars in a warm airing cupboard/ on a radiator

A siv with a piece of cloth in/ muslin to strain it through

How to:

I filled one third of my jars with clean, dry rosehips. I topped up with nut oil. I placed in my yoghurt maker for 12 hours then strained into another squeaky clean jar.

The jars need to either be dark (snazzied up Marmite jars?) or kept in a dark place as Rosehip Oil is a little sensitive to light.

A whole jar of thrifty beauty, just like that. I reckon a jar of this – particularly if you made the jar look nice– would be a gorgeous Christmas gift, no?

(Argh, not only have I gawn and got a Christmas tune in your head, I’ve actually gawn and said the word! That’s it folks, you know what that means. It’s festive frivolity from here on in. WOO!)

(Meanwhile, my foraging neighbour Lakota has also posted about rosehips- with some delicious syrup. HELLO! Linking up with her rosehip sweetness and Ta Da Tuesday.)