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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!

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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.

Ten new uses for old teacups

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What IS it that is so tantalising about a vintage tea cup? Is it its daintiness, a fragility that makes you feel kind of feminine? Is it the beautifully detailed roses, or bright, retro colours?

The love of tea cups has gone pretty mainstream now. I am surprised they are not selling them in Oliver Bonas,  made in a ginormous factory, flown on to shelves, packaged up as “unique!” and “vintage-like!” and “shabby-chic!“, The Apprentice style.

I think this is why we love them so much – it is simply their antiquity. A tea cup evokes an old world, where ladies in beehives spun tales together. When you sip from a perfectly curved patterned rim you know your Nana and her generation dunked their digestives in it. You imagine a tea party, china clinking on china, neighbourly solidarity, rum slipped in, laughter cackling, biscuits crumbling.  Perhaps drinking from a proper old tea cup helps you see this new world through a lens of nostalgia, rose tinted tea-steam.

But still, despite all that history and all those memories, you won’t catch me paying more than a pound for one.

I love the vivid blue rose one most. Do blue roses even exist?

Because everyone loves a nice tea cup they can be tricky to find, but I have rescued these four (the four nearest the camera)  from various charity shop shelves in the last few weeks to add to my collection. Each one cost exactly £1.

They are sitting on a cute little wooden shelf thing we found on the street last week. I think I will paint it up with a bit of white, or maybe grey. The years have ravaged this old thing and keeping it as plain wood only emphasises it.

I always nab a tea cup when I see it so over the years have gathered a list of ideas for them other than tea drinking, some I have yet to do. Please do add to this list!

Ten Uses for Old Teacups

1– Feed the birds, tuppence a tea cup. How cute do they look in the garden? How much do you reckon those birds are enjoying getting their food out of a vintage tea cup? I have lazily stuck one of our ready made shop balls in one, and even more lazily just hung it on a hook on our back wall. But I suspect you are not half as lazy as me, so you could go all out and whip up your own feed to stick in there OR, as the excellent and thrifty Mrs Syder has done, get a giant tea cup and drill it on to a stick.

2– Plant bulbs in them. These look amazing—as you can see here. It is just a case of drilling a hole in  the bottom with a 10cm diamond coated drill bit and planting then nurturing your bulb.  *Looks around at all the dead plants in my wake* *Smile to myself knowing that readers of my blog can not know this*

If you are not hugely green fingered  – yes, it’s true- there ARE some people who kill plants, you might want to read this for more on that nurturing bit.

3– Serve desert in them. Have you ever baked a microwave mug cake? I can testify, we did it in a lunch break a couple of years ago, despite only taking 3 minutes they are delicious! Halving the recipe and doing it in tea cups would be Next Level and look totes marvellous. Mind you don’t use tea cups with gilt though, sparks will fly.

4– They make beautiful fairy lights. I have tried this as you can see below. I felt they didst look stunning. The light shone right through them in the most gorgeous way. String them up, knotting around the handles, securing in place with tape. Make sure they are at the right angle so that the flame reaches past the rim.

I do suggest you do this with caution.  They get really hot. Stringing up teacups of fire around a party is a bit risky.  I may not be the best model. I used to make candles with keys, leaves, flowers, random crap etc, melted  in them. Lovely looking they were. I made one for Tim as a gift while we were long distance fiancés and he lit it at dinner with his folks and all the family and right then and there it self combusted and  caught fire to the table.

5– So, perhaps the SAFER alternative, and this still looks beautiful, is to either melt wax and add a wick to make a permanent (but not swinging from the walls fairy lights styles) candle. If you are less keen for the permanence (personally that is me—this week I chipped out a candle from a beautiful vintage mug that someone had gifted me so I could use it for drinking) then just fill your teacups up with water and use floating candles. (Remember floating candles? So nineties! But, c’mon, they look The Biz.)

6– Use them for sorting. They have revolutionised my dressing table where they are now home to my bobby pins and jewelry. Ideal for tiny little craft extras like buttons. If I’d known organising could be so pretty I’d have done it yonks ago.

7- Keep your body scrub in it. A little while ago I posted the How To for my favourite body scrub with three kitchen ingredients. I now have said body scrub in a little tea cup in our bathroom. Sweetness alright. Hmmm, actually, this would make an EXCELLENT gift…

8- Speaking of gifts… Give as a gift!  Yaawwn! No really, stay with me.  It is what you put in it, and how you present it, that makes these extra special. Fill with sweets, or with little sewing bits and bobs, or make some cookie dough and put it in there. Put the saucer on top and tie a bow.

9-  Use them as vases, particularly for blossoms and berries, or full heads of roses. They look utterly delightful on the dining table and you don’t have to do the normal peer-over-huge-vase- meerkat-neck to talk to someone.

10- Hold a tea party in a surreal place. When I was a youthworker we took a whole bunch of young ‘uns dressed in their glad rags to Macdonalds but set up the tables with candles and fine dining wares.   It added a huge element of fun to a pretty basic burger and fries.  Always take your tea cups on your picnics in the park this summer, they will add the magic!

Soooo. Set fire to anything lately? Got a favourite tea cup use? All this talk of vintage tea cups making you feel nostalgic or just ill with twee-ity?

Linking up with Liz and the Magpie Mondays! (Have you seen her new badge on my side bar over there? Swanky innit.)

It’s a shelf, yeah, made out of a book.

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Anyone following me on Pinterest would think I have a mild obsession with shelving. I have been trying to get inspired about out bedroom walls which have been bare since we painted them a year ago. I have pinned shelves out of boxes, baskets and books. We don’t need shelves for a reason, we’ve nothing special to go on them, it’s just walls kind of look a bit rudey nudey without them, don’t you think? We also have loads of dark old furniture in our room so the last thing we need is walls packed with wood shelving and jammed with books. For this reason a novelty shelf appeals to my aesthetics. So last night, with the help of my trusted familiar, Husband Tim, we put up a book shelf- a shelfy thing, but with a book rather than a plank.

I LOVE IT!

On another level, we have created our whole home out of stuff we have found by rumbling in the jumble or dredging the streets so this alternative shelving shebang really floats our boats. Who needs Ikea shelves and brackets when you can find a rubbish (really, what IS there to fill a whole 300 pages about rugby?), but nice looking book, and saw off a hunk of wood from a discarded old dressing table?

 

It is the perfect size for a lovely tin or photo frame, it I was going to do a number of them scattered around the walls but instead have a few other things that would make equally novel shelves. We will hopefully get busy tonight to finish that up I was just too excited about the Pinaddicts Challenge to wait until it was all finished. You actually MUST go and visit the craftgalore over at Melksham Mum- such a delight. 

Secondhand- how low can you go?

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We have found some totally schwing things around the streets in the last week or so. Stuff we have uncannily been in need of.

I kid you not, the day Tim found this haul below, including massive enamel bowls, we had just bitten the bullet about having to buy a new washing up bowl from Pounduniverse. Then we got three cool looking ones for the price of one! (Which was free.)

It also included a couple of giant heavy based pots (perfect for our old gass cooker) . Someone was just clearing out their house and had stuck it all in the skip.

The morning we found this long runner for our corridor  Tim had just commented to young Ramona “We really need to get a better mat for this entrance.” Then, tada! Outside the estate around the corner. Pristine too. Weird, eh.

(Sorry that I am so Instagram happy, the thing is, without this retro filter these are just crap photos of a rug and a pot. But now, cos of the wonders of Instagram, they look like old crap photos of a rug and a pot.)

But anyway, with this secondhand cookingware, it could have been used for all sorts of business. As sick bowls for the frail and infirm. Chamberpots. Boiling up neighbourhood cats.  Yet now they have pride of place in our kitchen; we use them for our pasta and noodles and potatoes.  It has made me wonder about the oddest second hand thing you have ever bought/found/used?

Personally, second hand saucepans barely scratch the surface.

My worst?

Earplugs.

(But hey, I got a GREAT sleep in an airport as a result and what’s a bit of earwax between, um,  strangers? It was posh earwax too, very clean I ‘spect, as I pinched them out of First Class on my way out the plane.)

Tell me. Anyone wearing any charity shop pants?

My humble hoody

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Let me introduce some little guys to you. They belong to my favourite hoody, the jumper I have worn every winter for 7 years:

I bought this hoody when Tim and I first started going out, from a tiny little charity shop when I was visiting his neighbourhood one time. It used to be a size 22 but I took it home and sewed parallel to the existing seams, just several inches in, and got myself a new hoody that I wore EVERY DAY and am still wearing today (actually am sitting here wearing it.)  I can remember perfectly sitting at the table with the sewing machine humming, feeling so excited about my new purchase. I loved it loads back then because long jumpers were very much in but hadn’t made it to the shelves of second hand stores yet so adapting a giant jumper into a long and slim fitting one bought me right up to speed with the fashion of 2005.

It is a sure sign of old age when a hoody becomes an item of clothing you use for practicalities sake, rather than a fashion accessory. Somehow in the last year this has been the fate of my favourite hooded jumper.  I still wear it a few times a week but more for warmth or if I want a hug from a Tory rather than because I feel awesome in it. These days I prefer knitted cardis and thick wooly numbers. That is ‘cos I’m turning 30 this year eh?

Here I am a couple of months ago in the freezing but inspiring camp of Occupy LSX.

Mel thew down a thrifty gauntlet today asking us reveal our oldest bit of clothing. I have a few items of clothing older than this, another hoody that is ten years old and a zip up cardi that is 8 years old, but most of my clothes were sent to the NZ charity shops when we left there 5 years ago.  This hoody was one of the fortunate items that came with us  throughout a little backpacking adventure throught the Americas. The zip has broken a few times but I keep resewing random bits of metal on the bottom to keep it going.It has gone the distance because sweater material is durable, it is a pretty classic colour and shape and zips can be fixed/ resewn. Happily I think it still has a few more years in it. Legendary.

(Also, check out my hair, 3.5 weeks unwashed! Why would I do this??!!)

Got any oldtimers lounging in your wardrobe you want to tell me about it? I am sure you can beat seven measley years!

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!)