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How to charity shop – six tips!

There was a while when I used to work in a charity shop as a volunteer on Saturdays. I would be out the back, in the sorting room. My “sorting” usually went “One for me, one for the shop. One for me, one for the shop.” I used to leave every night with two bin bags of stuff- it was a bit of a drain on my pocket as I didn’t even used to get mates rates!

I have always loved charity shops- identifying them as a young teen as a way of getting better and more bang for my paper delivery buck. (I was the WORST paper girl in the world, I would do my whole route half asleep on my bike, and then have to go back after school to retrieve and swap them all around until everyone got the right one.) But it gave me about £2.70 each week and even as a 14 year old I would delight in people’s expressions as I gloated “Oh, these Lee jeans? £1!”

I like to think of myself as a charity shop connoisseur. I have honed my art over the last 2 decades, I know the London shops like the back of my hand, and am gathering a charity shop map of the UK in my subconscious as we dabble in charity shop tourism!

Here are my top 6 pointers!Six Tips for Charity Shopping

Have a list

What are you looking for? It can be intimidating wandering into a massive room crammed with stuff. Have a list of 5 items that you always scan for, and then you can be in and out super quick. Mine include: good shoes that fit, vintage tea cups, wooden toys, cheap lace and embroidery,  dominoes, scrabble and Lexicon! With that list I can be in and out in 4 minutes flat, making charity shopping something I can do while I wait for the next bus.

Keep it regular

It does take a certain amount of commitment this charity shopping lifestlye malarkey. You can’t just waltz in twice a year and hope to strike gold. Little and often is the best way, dash around your locals on your lunch break at least once a week. Sometimes you can even get to know the volunteers and bust out the old cheeky “Anything out the back?” question!

Play the long game

Forget instant gratification -you have to be in it for the long haul. Have a list and be prepared for it to take weeks to find things on there. And have a little storage spot for things you need in the future. I have a giant suitcase of gifts that I have found and can pull out when the person’s birthday rocks up. January is THE BEST time for charity shopping new stuff, as everyone gives their unwanted pressies away. Buy them up, store them, and give them away!

Fabric tests 

I try to have a No Polyester rule. It tends to hold people’s sweat and catches on my dry fingers, so I avoid it. And if I find some 100% wool going for a song I nearly always buy it. 100% wool is always a winner both for warmth and also crafting (once felted in a hot wash) and hard to buy economically from anywhere. However, I hate to be grim but do SCOUR for signs of moths. It is possible to bring them into your home with a vintage wool purchase- but you can usually spot them. Figure out the quality fabrics  and classic items you want to fill your wardrobe with, and always scan for them.

Hokey kokey rule

If you are going to get buying from charity shops, also get giving. I kind of have a loose “one in, one out rule” when it comes to clothes. Otherwise I would be buried under a mound of 100% wool. Freely give and freely receive! (Totally mashing up  drunk wedding songs and scripture references here, this is how I roll.)

The lay of the land

The fact is, if you charity shop in posh parts of town you will have to accept higher prices- but you WILL find better labels and better quality stuff. If you like a good rummage and would rather take your chances on finding a dusty gem on a groaning shelf then head out of town and hit up those £1 rails. There is some kind of rule about charity shops paying less on certain streets, so very often if you are wondering where to start just search some of the big name charity shops and you will almost certainly find a run of loads of them. Charity shops don’t like to be lonely.

Be philosophical about your dosh

Your first few forays into charity shops COULD surprise you. You will inevitably find clothes that could be cheaper in Primarni. Sometimes it can be baffling. Don’t dwell on it. Think about the huge amount of goodness these charity shops are doing, by selling on these clothes. I kind of think they almost have a responsibility to get what they can from the things we donate. I pretty much count every penny I spend as a donation, rather then a bout of consumption. (Although, I have been known to have a proper grumble about it sometimes, so I understand, I do. I do.)

Rock Up in Red British Heart Foundation

Wearing my latest secondhand finds including my only red top in honour of Rock Up In Red. It is a bit dull, but jollied up with this awesome vintage scarf. And also a little chance to show off my 5 month bump which popped out a bit more this week- so much more actually that Tim had the audacity to Poke.My.Bellybutton. *throws up* (I’m phobic of bellybutton touching and he has known that for 7 years. Outrageous.)

One of the big hitters on the high street is the British Heart Foundation. I especially love their Hammersmith shop- nestled towards the end of a huge string of charity shops on the high street. In the last few years three precious family members have experienced serious, in one case fatal, heart conditions. Every time I buy something from their charity shops I think about the British Heart Foundation’s huge and ambitious fight against heart disease.

On 1st February 2013 they are hosting a “Rock Up in Red” day – a chance for individuals, workplaces, youth groups, schools etc to raise cash for a future filled with healthy hearts. It is a simple idea- get everyone wearing this most racy and bold of colours for one day and get small donation from each person – but is could make a massive difference in people’s lives. Hey, why not make your first delve into charity shopping a search for some lush red garments for Rock Up in Red?  You can download a fundraising pack and get loads of help with planning all their website. And blog your fancy red outfit!

Thanks, now come on, reveal all- what are your charity shopping tips?

PS If you love charity shops you will probably enjoy this round up of the UK’s BEST charity shops from some thrifty bloggers!

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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 😀

A butterdish, a bin, books and a brooch

Home from the holidays, and what a cracking time. Ramona and I spent the first week with a friend and her tiddlywinks camping on a farm in Weymouth. The combination of roaming animals, mountains of haybales to climb, eco credentials, a cheap and perfect organic shop and a whole coastline to itself made this a place we will be heading back to every year for the rest our lives I think!

And this last week, all three of us went away with my folks to hike around the Cotswolds. Every single day involved a charity shop trawl/ car boot, a mammoth amount of reading and a ramble through the countryside. Perfect.  My parents are equally as devoted to charity shopping as Tim and I (my Dad actually recently took up collecting vinyl again just so he could keep my Mum company- love, right there, innit?) so needless to say we came back with a car twice as full as going.

Here are a few of the things that made me yelp Hooray…

We have been looking for a new-old butter dish for a while as our current one smashed and 3 kinds of glue have failed to keep it together. They turn up a lot in charity shops and I am always surprised at just how ugly a butter dish can be! But a few months of hunting and I think this one, with it’s delicate flowers, is really delightful.

 

I think probably one of my weirdest small collections are retro bins. (Mwhaha that totally makes me a bin collector.)  We have one in every room but when I saw this one, with it’s Eric Carle style design I knew I’d find a corner for it. Weird, but handy, no?

 

I am so pleased with the stack of ancient hardback books I got from a car boot. They were 70p each and I got them primarily for *whispers* crafting but since getting them I have opened them up, and read their words and felt their pages and now I really truly couldn’t possibly NOT just leave them be.

The cover of the Book of Common Prayer is falling apart but the colours inside are still resplendent.

 

And it has an inscription to a kind old soul for donating coal to the poor from Churchill’s granddad!

 

I am especially in love with my Hans Christian Andersen Fairytales find- the illustrations are so whimsical.

 

 

And one last illustration, because it is after all Monday- and Magpie Monday at that!

 

Today’s final find is this 20p brooch. Awhite bird flying into a blue cloud, or a seagull into the sea, depending which way you pin it. TWENTY PEE! Hoorrayyyyyy!

Of course, we bought about a million other things too but they didn’t begin with B so they didn’t meet the grade today, I’m afraid. But I am sure they’ll turn up one other Monday in some other bizarre grouping.

Did you find any little Holiday Hoorays this summer?

You are joining in with the Charity Shop Blog Hop, yeah? Linking up on Thursday 13th September? Cool. Just checking.

 

 

Charity Shops in Streatham and the Charity Shop Blog Hop

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When I was younger Streatham was known for only one thing; its gargantuan and spectacular ice rink.  We would put on our cool bomber jackets, exchange our best crepes (yoof speak for shoes, mum)  for some skanky boots and skate the day away to the winsome harmonies of BoyzIIMen.

Now though, memories of skating in Streatham are being squeezed out by the minutes spent gallivanting around the charity shops.

I am a charity shop ADDICT. I start going through withdrawal if I don’t go for a week (symptoms include pottering around my friend’s homes, picking things up from their shelves with an inquiring gaze.)  I like that it is a kind of shopping that requires imagination and vision (my husband didn’t have that vision when I showed him a little packet of retro Christmas candles this evening) and that it builds patience as you dedicatedly wait until you come across the item you hope for.

So Streatham REALLY floats my boat. It must have the most number of charity shops per sq mile then any other area in London. In the one mile walk from Streatham Hill along Streatham High Road to Streatham Station there are TWELVE  of ’em and two junk/antique shops. Never has a road so aptly been nicknamed (er, by me and Tim) The Golden Mile.

Here is the run down but also check out the google map where I’ve  handily plotted them for you!

Give a Little

Begin at the top with Give a Little at 77 Streatham Hill- just opposite the Mega Bowl. Bursting at the seams with clothes and trinkets, both up and downstairs. Clothes tend to be on the steeper side – £7-8 for skirts  but all good quality. The bric-a-brac is fairly priced, nice mugs for £1.

Trinity Hospice Shop
Stay on the same side of the road for this sprawling jumble sale kind of a shop,  chocka block with quirky things and people. I love the kids clothes section- literally a tiny mountain of garments that you bury your nose into – three for £1.

PAWS
A little shop that involves popping off the main street a few metres, but well worth browsing as the prices for things vary wildly.

Relief Fund for Romania
Carry back down the main road for a while until you come across the little yellow sign pointing you up to the left. This one has £1 rails- hurrah! Sometimes when you need jumpers for craft projects you really don’t want to spend more than £1 but these rails are so rare.

British Red Cross Books and Music
Cross over the road for the next two. A huge selection here, carefully laid out. In specific Books and Music shops I find you don’t get the bargains you might in another shop but you are paying for a higher chance of finding something ace, aren’t you?

Trinity Hospice
This Trinity Hospice Shop  is as sparse as the first is sprawling. But they have selected the choiciest cuts, and there are some creative little crannies. (Doe we say crannies?)

Oxfam
Nip back over the road for this new, massive Oxfam – this one is the Ikea of chazza shops. Clean, spacious, affordable and air conditioned! Primarily for furniture and bric a brac, they have some gorgeous things in there. Our sofa hails from here, this massive, bed like thing and it was only £30.

Oxfam
Amazing shoes and clothes- I snapped up a pair of Reef flip flops from there today for £3.99, they kinda, mostly fit me, even though they say a size 10 and I’m a size 6. Just a few inches sticking out the back. I wonder if I can snip that off…

Cancer Research
They have the longest rail for dresses ever seen (each one around the £5 mark) and the BEST tunes. One of my favourite things about charity shopping is the eclectic music and how it is perfectly acceptable to singalong. (No?)

British Red Cross
Huge selection of clothes and lovely crockery. They always seems to have some nice retro bits in here too.

Working for Charity
Tiny shop with a small selection of things. The things were LOVELY but, dare I say it, a bit overpriced. I saw this tea set and thought “OOf, I’d stretch to £15 for that” as it was so beautiful. Turns out they wanted £58. Yep. £58.

What the?

The ongoing charity shop pricing dillema. See, on one hand I agree that they have a responsibility to their charity to get as much as they can for an item. On the other hand, I feel like they play an important redistribution role too – making beautiful and good things affordable for those less well off.

Shelter
This is quite a new shop and  swanky with it.  It’s a Next Generation charity shop – making charity shopping more clean and appealing to the masses. (However, personally? Give me a rumble in the manky old jumble anyday.)

There it is,  The Golden Mile – for some of the best charity shopping in London. The prices reflect those of other Capital charity shops – no 50p china plates here- but for sheer volume and overall thriftiness Streatham is Where It Is At.

Having a little one, I have to plan my charity shop traipsing carefully- ensuring Ramona gets a chance to run wild either before or after. Being a scorching day we trundled round the corner to Tooting Bec Lido, this fabulous old school pool, where we bumped into a wonderful friend, scoffed ice cream and splashed our merry wee hearts out. Heaven.

And Now, Roll Up, Roll Up-  Time for the Charity Shop Blog Hop!

I am well excited about reading everyone’s write ups- be it local or exotic.

Please link back here (with the image if poss) and visit all the other linker-upperers to share a comment– hopefully you’ll find even more charity shop lovers than you knew of.  Hurraahhh!

Just click below where the links (and photos) will be displayed in all their glory…


 

And finally, if you are on Twitter use the hashtag #charityhop (see what I did there?)

Vintage Toys and a mother’s second hand strategy

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As soon as Ramona and I enter a charity shop or a jumble sale I zoom straight to the kids section and pick out the nicest (by nicest I mean oldest/ most wooden/ cheapest) toy or coolest kids book and place it into her hands with an excited exclamation of “LOOK- this is just the ticket!!”  I then move straight away from the kids section, out of danger territory. It may seem a bit mean, or a bit against my “child-as-unique-independant-person” philosophy but I simply CAN’T take home another giant, ugly, fluffy toy circa 1998- and this IS the thing she will choose if left to her own devices.

It is something we have to face, as parents. Kids toys ain’t often pretty – or perhaps often too pretty; pink, beribboned, cuddly. They can take up a lot of space and ruin the aesthetics of a room. I’m sure many of you don’t care, and I wish I didn’t.

But I do. I just dooooo.

Fortunately, the world of second hand provides a mountain of eyeball pleasing kids options. I am always on the look out for retro looking, vintage play things and have found some gorgeous numbers that Ramona loves too.

We have one area where the ugly (by ugly, I really only mean new. Why are new things so damn ugly?) things live, in an ancient deep drawer hidden to the side of the sofa.  And I have just recently launched an Exhibition of Old Children’s Things, on quite a prominent shelf, that all three of us enjoy looking at.

Apart from the Ukeleles, which were gifts,  all of these are second hand. I picked the abacus and clock up from a charity shop in Blackheath a couple of weeks ago for One Squid and found these little playmobil bike riders on that Legendary Farham visit. Eeek, I just love ’em.

I always keep my eyes peeled for little music instruments so that when Ramona’s chums come over we can all have a bash and a sing. We have an immense Salvation Army heritage- all my 3 generations on both sides, my parents, Aunties and Uncles are all ministers in the Barmy Army and Ramona does them proud as she tinkers with this “timbrel” (tambourine) I got for 50p last week at a Bootie.

She is singing “Wind the bobbin up” -which mostly just involves her saying “Pull, Pull” over and over and over. It is her favourite song, she bursts out in it approximately six times an hour but it also sounds a lot like her sound for “Poo” which results is us spending lots of time each day on unnecessary but tuneful potty visits.

And finally, just a couple of weeks ago at my local car boot in East Dulwich I found this pretty ancient skipping rope with a couple of scary mushroom guys for handles.

PS little while ago I posted about some other vintage toys and included some secondhand toy pillaging tips – have a broose. (That’s Scottish for browse.)

PPS Have you found any thing retro for your kids recently?

PPPS I am linking up with the magical Magpie Monday over on Liz’s blog – if you get a chance do go and have a squizz at all their wonderous second hand goodies.

PPPPS Have you noticed my new header? Can you tell me why it is blurry, the blithering, bladdy, blurry &a*t%r&!

PPPPPS If you enjoy reading this old blogaglog of mine, have you had a moment to put me up for a MAD blog award? There are loads of catergories but you could especially vote for me in the “Most Over-Vintaged Up Photo Editing ever” or “Most amount of Made Up Words In a Post In The World”.  No, seriously, I reckon Home/ Thrift/ Craft catergories are possible themes of mine? Muchos Gracias.

Oh Farnham! Your forests and fashions!

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Oh my days, oh my days. Farnham, that old Hampshire town, has got it going ON! I had a luxurious day off last Monday and we whizzed on out there, an hour from Waterloo, lured by the charity shops and forests. We trained into Bentely where we hopped off the train, straight into woodlands and tramped along up to Alice Holts woods for some more forestry fun.

We love getting out of London, romping in the wilderness but we also (as you maaaay have gathered) love charity shopping. We hopped back on the train for one stop and headed down the road from the station into Farnham town. We were met by two wonderful Oxfam shops on our east, then headed west for the rest. I mean, like, there are a gazillion.

I knew the charity shop lollipop ladies were shining on me, clearing my path towards the treasure, as I found little item after little item that MATCHED THE OUTFIT I WAS WEARING! I was just adding to my outfit as I went along. So pleased am I with the accessories I am jolly well entering the whole shebang in to Style Eye’s Ethical Outfit comp. I love ethical fashion, I think our beautiful world depends on us finding harmless ways to please our aesthetics,  and I love how second hand shopping allows you to get creative with zero impact on the earth. If you love fashion you should keep in touch with Ceri’s fab blogging. 

Scarf: £2 Cancer Research Farnham (It is slightly too silky though- any good tricks to keep the slippery ones stuck on?)

Belt: £1 British Heart Foundation Farnham

Cardigan: Cancer Research Farnham (they have TWO cancer Research shops too- can you adam and eve it)

Shoes: £4 Oxfam Bromley

Blue Top: £3 Fara Pimlico – This was a size 14 but I just sewed the seams in by a couple of cm’s and it worked a treat. I feel now that the whole range of charity shop goodness, big and small,  is open to my sewing frenzy clutches.

Bird Earrings: 50p from Cruisaid Pimlico

Retro Skirt: £1 jumble sale.  This was a lot longer but I savagely hacked off the bottom, knowing I’d get more wear out of a shorter one

This cardi is a lovely vintage St Michaels number. A St Michaels label adds a certain retro calibre compared to M & S, don’t you think? I do love this black cardi, but it is 100% Nylon. What with the polyester skirt I couldn’t touch anyone all day without giving them an electric shock.

I also picked up these beautiful retro jars from Oxfam which just about made my day. I love the typeface and the fact they are Made in England, like St Michaels I tend to see  Made in England stuff as a certain vintage. Tim’ll be like “Lucy, they’re just ugly nineties pots” and I’ll be like “Uhhh, don’t think soooo- Made in England, see.”

(If anyone knows anything about England’s historical and present making industries and would like to clear this up for us, please do. ) (If I’m right, of course.)

As ever on a Monday I’m also linking up to the totes marv Liz and her Magpies! You must go and swoon at all their secondhand swag.

Old Soldiers and things in jars – a few thrifty toys

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THRIFTY! Den, den, deeeh, de den den dehhh!  (To the tune of “FOXY!” as sung by Wayne and Garth)

It is due to a mixture of cheapskateness and environmental consciousness that I have yet to buy Ramona a single new toy. She does have some new things, bought for her by loving friends and family, but only a handful. All the rest have come from charity shops, around the home and the side of the road. When I see the jawdropping cost of toys in real shops I am not surprised that the average spend on a kid in their first year of life is £9000. When you really needn’t spend a penny.

The BEST kind of toy for me is one that she, er, likes (such a loving mother) but also one that is nice to look at. Give me wood and old over plastic any day. (I know, I know it’s not about me.)

We have found some absolutely beaut things over the last few months and fortunately these are also some of Ramona’s favourite toys. I think she loves the pure simplicity of them. Here are a few:

Abacus- 50p from charity shop in Essex

Rainbow thing- £1 from car boot sale

Big Soldier – £5 from OXfam in Streatham

Soldier train – £5 from Kids Fara in Pimlico

This vintage pull along dog was sent to us from our lovely famdamily in NZ. And yes, the soldier doesn’t have all his bits.

This is my fave of Ramona’s toys- he actually plays his xylophone as he is pulled along!Puh, who needs an Ipad?

He was £5 from a charity shop. (Steep I know, but a musical duck!)

TIPS FOR COOL VINTAGE TOYS

They are often in a different part of the charity shop. These soldiers were only £5 but for some reason were behind the glass under the counter.

Car boot sales – you are less likely to find vintage toys in amongst other toy stalls but more in amongst other antiquey/ junky stalls.

They may seem a little pricey, but compare it to buying new, and think about how long it has already lasted so therefore how much longer it is likely to last. Also remember you won’t need to spend any money on batteries.

When you get them home give them the driest wipe you can with either alcohol or Dettol – water will likely cause some damage.

HOMEMADE TOYS

I am surprised at how often Ramona spurns her fanciest toys in order to play with some thing that is, frankly, rubbish. The main reason I think she does this is because that something is fitting perfectly with her stage of development. When we flew home from NZ last month I packed an entire pull along suitcase with the coolest little toys. She spent most of the time just posting pegs and other small items into a drink bottle. She was intent on it – posting them in, tipping them out, posting them in again.

I have tried to do some googling on the stages of development and play but can only seem to find very commercial pages which aren’t very comprehensive. (Although I did find this excellent and immense resource all about learning through play.) I guess the best way is to observe what they most enjoy doing and then build on that. So with Ramona’s obsession with emptying and filling things, stuff that is working well for us at the moment is:

  • A few little (ahem, nice looking) containers around the house with a selection of random things in- some little animals, finger puppets, a music box, some fabric, juggling balls. I put one down on the carpet and she’ll look through it, take it all out, put it all in, add some extras in, chuck a few things in to the bin, try to eat it, y’know.
  • Jars with filled with stuff she can pour all over the floor – chess pieces, scrabble letters, dominoes, ribbons. Basically lovely things I find in charity shops and keep around the place. It fits with the style of our lounge but also a big treat for her.
  • When I am doing the dishes I also get her a bowl of warm water and plastic cups etc. This is quite messy in a watery way but she loves it. (In fact this week she chose to sit inside her little bowl of water which was sweet and comical but Next Level Watery Mess)

I would genuinely LOVE to hear the thrifty/ home made things that you have found your little ones love.

(Part of the wondrous Thrifty Families Blog Carnival- check out loads more ideas over at Baby Budgeting!)