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Category Archives: Our recycled home

Seasonal rituals – welcoming autumn

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Since becoming a mother I have had a much greater desire to ritualise life. Not in an oppressive, unflexible, establishment kind of a way but as an opportunity to celebrate and add significance to moments that might just pass us by. To give our little family moments to reflect on the subtle shifting of the weather, to welcome change and participate in often ancient customs.

Ramona is an urban baby, the sirens of emergency vehicles have been her lullabies since birth, and her sleep is in rhythm with the hum of the night bus outside our window, but I still see how nature captures her heart. We kick around in the leaves together, chase the squirrels and taste the blackberries. She is fascinated by feathers and conkers and will make a collection of knobbly odds and thistly ends to bring home (and I’ll spend some time convincing her the soggy cigerette buts and manky bottle caps needn’t come home with us too…)

A for autumn, obvs

I remember the first time Ramona came out in the rain with me, it hadn’t really rained for ages so she was about 2 months old. She was in the sling, under an umberalla and I was trying to hush her off to sleep. But she wasn’t having any of it; her eyes wide, her arms flailing out, making these mews that surely meant: WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?!! Transfixed.

There is something good about being in tune with the seasons. To eat with them,  craft of them,  dress for them, and bring a little bit of them inside your home. We pin up strings of the most magnificently coloured leaves and fill vases with spiky chestnuts. A shelf of nature, rusty trinkets with a seasonal theme.

So (a tiny little bit reluctantly maybe!) welcome, Autumn, you blustery, finger chilling, bonfire  instigating spell! Get us ready for Christmas…

PS Have a peep at Juno Magazine’s beeyoootiful Pinterest board, Celebrating Autumn, for loads of autumnal inspiration, decorations and craft.

PPS Are you very good at living seasonally? Do your family have any cool ritual things you do?

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Our recycled kitchen – a makeover from new to old

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Around this time last year I posted that my dearly beloved had ripped out the kitchen due to us finding a retro cooker that we wanted to install. It just felt rude to bung such a nice nostalgic beast in our existing Nineties kitchen so we decided to let our love of all things old reign supreme.

Another year later and it is about time I did the final update, our makeover from new to old.

The before pictures aren’t terribly good. They never are, eh?  I think this is because there is often nowt to shine, but also because of some deep reluctance to spend too much time peering at it all. Let’s just say there was ALOT of pine cladding.

Left hand side BEFORE

A low hanging ceiling with weird fake beams. Laminate flooring covering up stunning Victorian boards.

A huge pantry – it was an original, ancient cooling sytem but it just took up so much space. A boring tin sink with an ill fitting cabinet.

It was all so very dark and dreary.

*extreme makeover  voice* It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears but here is our new bright and cheery family kitchen….

We ripped out the cupboards. We were lucky to find some exactly matching vintage tiles in the basement of a derelict house round the corner, we popped those up to cover the spaces we’d exposed.

Tim runs a youth club in the place I used to go to Seacadets as a kid- they were chucking out the old benches so we made shelves out of them. The very benches I would have been resting my sorry, freckly young ten year old self.

The enamel tins are our new pantry- we found them in France when we drove 12 hours to a car boot.

And we pulled the excellent bench tops out of someone’s skip (with permission, of course!)

These are old lights from a butchers- we found them on Ebay, £17 for the pair. To find them we didn’t type “vintage” or even “traditional” but “trditional.” Is it terribly wrong to benefit from other people’s mistakes?

Tim found this whole sink for £25 on Gumtree, and got to grips with plumbing to install it. Using some old table tops and doors from an old cabinet he carpentered a unit for it. (Cor, Kiwis are bloody ace. Do marry one, if you can.) The tiles, we  swapped with a local cafe, in exchange for building them some veg beds.

The retro blind is really a sneaky table cloth, and some of our Midwinter crockery sits upon a shelf we found in a bin and painted blue, and you can also spy the hooks I made from vintage spoons.

And here is the star of the show, our beguiling old oven. He was casted off, into the streets, along with these cupboards either side. A good clean, and a lick of paint on the cupboard doors, and they add a cheer from yesteryear to our kitchen.

When our fridge broke we took the opportunity to get one that fitted in with our theme. We had to hire a van to bring it home from the furtherest corner of Essex but we are so glad we did. It isn’t that old so is still efficient (although its huuummmm would tell you otherwise) but hails from the States which is why it looks so different. It has an ice maker much to my husband’s utter joy.

And this little corner adds a little pop of colour – we found it in someone’s garden and snazzied it up with some paint.

We had help with plastering the ceiling, and Tim picked up enough to some other walls, but other places we just exposed the brick. I love the texture of all the rubbly walls, recycled wood and shiny, colourful kitchen paraphernalia.


We spend such a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking, drinking coffee and eating so we are pleased we did this, despite saying we initially wouldn’t bother. I know it isn’t your usual makeover, and loads of you are possibly looking at the BEFORE pictures thinking it looks miles better HAARHA. But we love it’s quirky little self, it gets my heart all a flutter.

What do you reckon on this cornicopia of found objects?

PS The small and superior photos were taken by Jenny Harding during the Pretty Nostalgic shoot. She does a lot of gorgeous vintage style shoots.

PPS I’d love you to enter my giveaway – retro and Cath Kidston fabric, a 1982 Twinkle, a Midwinter tea cup and a glue gun! (An obvious mix!) Come over and say hi!

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.

Sew old skool

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I have been sewing since I got my first second hand machine for my eleventh birthday. I got into it immediately, once my aunty passed on her know-how. I felt such achievement whipping up easy pencil cases and cushion covers. I never excelled at sewing in school though – I found the projects inane (why get teens to sew a picture of a house?? Rather than a boob tube?) So I spent most of the class hand stitching my fingers together.

Still, on the quiet, I kept at it through my teenage years, mixing up typical clubbing (er, I’m gonna be honest with you here: slightly chavvy) attire with the odd home made number. I have ZERO skill – I simply can’t get my head around patterns, but get by with my fair share of stitching a line/ trying it on/ unpicking/ stitching another line…

I left that original sewing machine at my In Law’s home in NZ, they are kindly looking after it for me. So for our last 5 years here we have been on the hunt for the perfect one – ending  up with a bit of a collection. (Even though since motherhood my sewing has mostly been ornamental – cards out of vintage  kids books and the like- or 5 minute jobs – like whimsical lace flapper bands.)

I began with this beautiful old singer on the top shelf- my mum gave it to me for my birthday, it was a bargain £15 from the Oxfam in West Wickham. I can’t seem to find out how old it is. There is no pedal, only a hand wheel, so quite old- possibly early 1900s? It came with a beauty bundle of little bits and peices and a stunning wooden box.

Just days after being given this my husband saw a similar wooden coffer by a wheelie bin on the street. He bought it home and we had some fun trying to gently break into this locked box. Once we did we discovered an almost identical but just much less loved machine. There he is on the bottom shelf.

Whilst they look incredible, they are a bit slow to work with! For my next birthday Tim found me this beautiful retro Singer on Gumtree:

Like most electric Singers it is an absolute DREAM to work with. We have much fun, this old machine and I. However, it doesn’t do Zig Zag. I use Zig Zag stitch quite a bit so I do miss it. When we came across a machine in a charity shop called the ZIG ZAG O MATIC, we did have a bit of a laugh and pounced on it immediately. (Read all about that adventure here – it was my first Magpie Monday link up. Ah, fond memories!)

It ran well for a while but then started playing up, getting all clunky and it quickly got relegated to the bench.

And our fifth and final machine is also tucked under there, keeping Zig Zag company. He was another discarded box on the street, hauled home and broken into. We borrowed the motor from Zig Zag to get him whirring again and now he is a happy little mite.

Ramona loves fishing out the reels of cotton from their jars, popping them on every sticking out thing she can. She turns their wheels, fiddles their dials. Learns a lesson about not playing with sharp things every time the needle pokes her. (BAHA, jokes, we have removed those, promise.)

We are a loving rehab for old sewing machines. I think they are beautiful, filling little corners of my home with their history. I love imagining the stories they’d tell – the hands working their wheels, the hundreds of  fabric, fashions of the day, they would have had fed through them, who they first belonged to and who eventually forgot them.

Meanwhile, my quest continues. My dream machine is retro enough to look beautiful on our side board but new enough to work smoothly and have zig zag. Can you keep your eyes peeled for me?! Or if you’d like to do a swap, let me know…!

Linking up with the magical Liz and Magpie Monday – celebrating all things secondhand.

The Anti-Swank (and check out my orange pop)

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I’ve had a few conversations recently that have made me realise, that when it comes to clothes, furniture and general belongings, Tim and I are like the Anti-Swank.

We take an absurd kind of pride in going as low as you can go. We revel in it and I bet it really annoys people.

Ah, this? Well, this particular suitcase was found in skip, covered in turd. And this chair? From a car boot sale, absolutely ALIVE with FLEAS. And this? Ha, WELL, this old cupboard was dug up from a graveyard and came with decayed flesh in the hinges!

We like to clean things up and say “TADA!” and people often say we’re a bit jammy. (An equal number of people look at the stuff we are TADA-ing over and think “Ugh, looks like it belongs in a turdfilled, cat infested graveyard hole.)

People are mistaking jaminess for total dedication. You see, we can’t walk down a street without peeping up each driveway hoping for something sitting by a bin; we squizz into every skip, take huge diversions to pass by certain bounteous  charity shops.

We absolutely RUIN our days out. When we went to Brighton for a day out on the beach but ended up lugging round a pair of antique scales that, no joke, weighed more than me because we couldn’t resist them in the first charity shop we saw.

We look RIDICULOUS on public transport. The time Tim got three buses home carrying a 6 foot headboard for our bed. Or that surreal time we spent a whole morning unloading a stranger’s giant BeanBag bed into plastic bin bags and then had to get the tube across London, with 4 bags each, thousands of tiny, escaped polystyrene balls whizzing around the carriages on the Underground breeze.

Sometimes our scavengey tactics are foolishness – we think this 100% of the time when we are stranded half way home with a baby, a two bikes and a sofa.

But mostly, when the things end up in our house dolled up and chintzed out, we are pleased.

This corner shelf ruined a perfectly wonderful day out in Putney. It involved scaling a huge fence into a backyard wasteland where we picked through discarded trolleys and tellys. It hung out with us all day and then we had to cycle home with it. We left it plain and enjoyed it immensely until I saw on Pinterest the most WICKED bright shelf and knew I had to recreate it. (Have a look- isn’t it a beaut?)

BEFORE. Do you think I paint funny? Tim mocked my “hold”

So serious was I about making this happen in my kitchen that I WENT TO A SHOP! AND BOUGHT SOMETHING NEW! My sister would be SO proud.  Some lovely bright paint. (Being such a cheapskate however, I only bought the tester pot and it, um, wasn’t enough. I had to blend up my own concoction with some acrylic I had in the draw. Barely perceptible though!)

When we moved into this house two years ago the kitchen was the dreariest, most pinecladded place you didst ever see. Now it is awash with colour and this little corner just totes makes my heart sing. Hopefully in a few weeks time we’ll have some better photos that Pretty Nostalgic took and I’ll do an Extreme Makeover post.

Total Linky WIPEOUT

So many lovely things on Tinternet right now that I have to link up with:

Linking up with the Pinaddicts Crew over at ButWhyMummyWhy – your life will be enhanced by checking out their skills this month..

and the one and only Lakota and her Ta-Dah! Tuesday. She is one of the Charity Shop Oligarchy and you will love her.

Also, it frankly goes without saying, the illustrious Liz and the Magpie Mondays and …

PHEW BLINKING PHEW!

And finally, I, erm, kinda, ah…. GOT THROUGH TO THE FINALS OF THE MADS!!! ARGHHHHH!! I am competely and utterly thrilled. Thank you so much if you voted. Would you mind doing it one more time? You can vote for me in the Thrift and Craft catergories here. Please check out all the other blogs there- they are boombastic.