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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!)

Ooh yes, a bit of formica…

I would love to be able to reveal our transformed kitchen but sadly it is still in flux, the last few bits seem to be just taking forevs. But here’s a couple of swatches of what we are trying to do…

This book case was a nifty £7 from a pretty massive charity shop, although most of you will never see it as it is in a sad, tiny, faraway place called Harwich where we visited one disastrous day to pick up our vintage-esqu fridge. Really, that charity shop saved the day.

This collection of copper tins is from the good old Sallies, the enamel dishes and teapot from that time we drove 12 hours in France to go to a carboot sale and the cute little cream maker was £4 from the Red Cross shop in Forest Hill. Although we have tried several times we can’t make cream with it, anyone have any tips?

And this lovely little hand coffee grinder was one of those gobsmackingly silly moments where we had been traipsing round charity shops having a wildly successful day when Tim said “All I need now is a lovely little wooden hand coffee grinder”. Next shop? A lovely little hand coffee grinder for £2. Beaut.

Here is a brand new old table, something we have been searching for for a while. We really wanted a formica table with drop leaf sides, with a lovely colour. Formica tables can be a bit on the small side so despite our searching we hadn’t found anything quite right.

Then Mum and Dad went to Whitstable.

Whitstable is a flipping brilliant place. It is just a short dash away from London on the train and is full of charity shops and antique shops, has a beach to wander along/ swim in (which I did that legendary hot October weekend) and fish and chips to munch.

So, my parents visited last week. They are great, my parents. My mum is a charity shop fiend, more committed than even me I think, and my dad use to have a hard time as once he had looked at the books he was a bit stuck. So in the name of romantical married excursions my dad invested in a record player. Now he can wile away HOURS scoping out old EP’s and classics and the four of us have taken those “Oh but the Fara in Shepherds Bush is a 9/10 for trinkets” conversations to a whole new level.

So here it is our formica table, withsome of our beautiful Jessie Tate Spanish Garden Midwinter crockery placed lovingly upon it. It was £55 which we were happy to pay for a 1950’s table in perfick nick.

Right, must get my skates on. Guess where we are going today? I hope to report next Monday with a whole lot more Whitstable goodness.

Today I am once again linking up with Miss Lizzie B’s spectacular Magpie Monday – if you like all things vintage and charityage you must scope it out.

My new (ancient) Zig-Zag-o-matic sewing machine. Guess what it does?

ZIG ZAG!

For my birthday this year my husband bought me a beautiful retro Singer sewing machine, but we quickly discovered it didn’t do zig zag stitching. I use zig zag alot as it requires less precision  with pesky single stitch you have to follow a line and can easily come away from the fabric, especially if you are talking/ holding the baby/ eating breakfast at the same time. Zig zag is like playing snooker with the cue the wrong way round.

So we have been keeping our eyes peeled for another old machine (it has to be aesthetically pleasing as I don’t want to have to hide it away when not using it) but within zig zag era.

We were in a charity shop in Sevenoaks last week (worth a visit for charity shopping-  5  mostly  overpriced shops but with a good selection of quality wool jumpers, boots and DVD’s) and like some kind of cosmic joke there sat an old sewing machine called the ZIG -ZAG-O-MATIC! It was £50 but when the guy heard our discussion (not intentionally loud, I’d never try and rip off a charity shop. When I say “never” I mostly mean “not that much”, and often rather than trying to bargain down I just don’t buy and then complain about how charity shops are soooo expensive. I know, I know, what a cheapskate) about how we only had a £30 budget he piped up with “How about £30 then?!”  Despite dropping it on the way to the train station it survived the journey home, and here it is, in all it’s glory. Our De Luxe, Grand, Zig-Zag-0-Matic, with it’s little box of extra goodies and quaint manual.

I love that they couldn’t really decide on the name so just called it all three things. You can see that diplomatic outcome taking it’s course in their boardroom, eh.

I really like all these little badges. So styley. More badges please, you people of the current design world!

All the little details, the dials, etc. They don’t make stuff this classy these days, eh.

And, I don’t know if I mentioned this but, this machine, yeah, it does ZIG ZAG.

The manual explains “This machine, by virtur (sic) of it’s design, permits you to do zig zag sewing…” Ummm. As if you could have got to page 35 of the manual without realising this feature.

These were the great days when you could just add “omatic” to everything and create an instant “does what it says on the tin” brand. Now you have to read the back of things to figure out what they do because product names are so cryptic. Ipods: Musicomatic. Easy. Although, it could get a little unweildy. Iphones: everything-you-can-ever-conceive-of -finding-out- or-buying-or-playing-or planning- plus – talking-on-the-phone- omatic.

Hmmm, also imagine what the 50’s would have called tampons.

And here is the little accompanying box, which I probably would have paid £30 for by itself because it is so cute.

Today I am linking up with Miss Lizzie B’s spectacular Magpie Monday where basically people get together to show of their recent bargainous swag. I have since been introduced to the most tenacious charity shopping extraordinaires- I mean, I thought I was obsessed, but some of these vintage-hooked peeps make my efforts look totally feeble. I am in awe.

Thrifty Thursday: The endless giving of childrens annuals

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Childrens annuals are a bottomless treasure trove of vintage craftiness. In the last couple of months I have made a cowboy tin, some bunting, several cards and upcycled a coat hook.  You can pick these up for pennies at car boots or pounds in charity shops that know their stuff; either way it is worth it. You simply can’t exhaust their goodness- you will save wads of cash whipping up gorgeous cards out of their beautiful retro graphics or if you have a bit more time you can craft up a gift for someone- the tin below took about 15 minutes and was lovingly given to my sister (okay, actually she just took it saying “Shall I have this?”)

They provide some great flashbacks (the Blue Peter one with it’s Grange Hill comic strip and epic eighties typeface) and an unhealthy dollop of sexism (sometimes I argue we haven’t got very far with gender equality and then I read Twinkle for Little Girls which stealthily teaches young females to bake and clean through cartoon.) The only problem with them is that they are so cool and old that taking your scissors to them seems quite callous. Get over this hurdle by snipping up the sexist and racist bits- soon you’ll be scissor happy and ready to craft!

The Tin:

Take a Birds Custard Powder tin and cut a comic strip that will fit around the outside of it.

Glue.

Once dry give it a slick or two of varnish.

The Bunting:

Stay with me here, it’s complicated.

Cut into triangles.

Glue onto string.

The Coat Hook:

We had literally been looking in charity shops and skips for a for a bit of wood and hooks to make a peg rail/ coat hook (what do you call these things?!) for AGES.  After a few months we saw a bit of wood by someones bin and thought “PERFECT!” when we turned it over we saw that it already had pegs and was an actual, existing thing! Suffice to say we were exhilarated (just look at our sad, scavangey lives.) It was missing the surface bit of the panels so I cut out two bits of Annual and glued and varnished them on. They are about Dick and his snowballs. Bahahaha.

Hope you find some cheesey, sexist and racist children’s annuals soon!

Out with the new, in with the old…

We bought a phone from the Oxfam Shop in Streatham (the charity shops in Streatham are plenty and bountiful and well worth a visit- especially the Oxfam, our massive beauty sofa was THIRTY MEASLY QUID! ) and as we excitedly unplugged the digital, roving phone someone had given us and plugged in the peach, spirally corded retro one, our housemate said “This house is basically going backward in time….” Never a truer word said. In fact, it could be our school motto.  Replacing new with old, one possession at a time. 

This tin was 50p from a charity shop in Bournemouth, not like “oh that was 50p” meaning a general bargain, £7 or so, but actually 50p and I got a pair. Serious score.

Below, sitting on an old school bench we got from junk man Terry in Peckham, is the sewing machine Tim found a couple of weeks ago by a bin- someone had biffed it out because the key was missing. One screw driver later and Voila! And these are the beautiful old tennis rackets we have been collecting so we can have a game of doubles. Anyone? (Although our tennis fanatic acquaintance at the park tells us this will be bad for our “game” (bahaha). We are probably a leetle bit far away from him on the skills scale- he  is so obsessed with tennis hero Federa that he actually named his little boy Roger – no, really- while I have played tennis maybe twice, ever?)

Once on a trip to deepest Wales we got on this tiny vintage local bus, smaller than a van, filled with ancient people. We sat there in awe thinking “Gosh, this is all so old. We LOVE it!” and then at the next stop two middle aged Londoners got on- the only other tourists we had seen in days. After taking her ticket, one of them turned to face the passengers. As she took it all in, she opened her mouth and in the thickest of cockney accents she bellowed “COR, look at this bladdy bus!!! It’s like a MUSEUM!!!!”

We live in hope that one day this will happen to us in our very own dear home. Yeah. Then we could like, sell tickets and gifts.

That time we drove 12 hours to go to a car boot sale

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We went to France ten days ago and, I swear, we didn’t have a clue where we were going or what to do there except that I had seen a snippet online; “the Vendee’s biggest flea market“, and being so beloved of the humble car boot,we thought that was as good a starting place as any.  And French old stuff is definitely cooler looking than English old stuff. Our lovely friends (Jenny is newly identifiable in blogville over at Talking up the good) lent us their wheels and we zipped off. We left on Friday and needed to be there for the Sunday- and after 2 days in the car we were wondering why France is so gosh darn big and whether we should have looked to see if there were any flea markets closer to Calais…

But we made it. And we had a mission, to try and find storage for all our previous cupboard incumbents, that now will sit on an open shelf in the kitchen.  We have been looking for something for ages but second hand storage is hard to find, and we try mightily to steer away from Ikea and buying anything new. There really isn’t a need as there is already way too many plastic containers on this earth. But sometimes this calling leads you to inevitably rainy and muddy corners  of Europe.

We got this load of enamel and glass, all ranging between 2 and 5 Euros, they will look perfect in our kitchen, though we may have to get rid of a little rust. And that wee kettle was idealio for our camping stove. (Also in the pic our newly revealed brick and boards as part our our kitchen overhaul woo!)On our way home, after swimming and chateaux visiting in the Loire valley we stopped in on the Paris flea markets at Porte de Montreuil and picked up another enamel thing (!), some clothes for Ramona (France do the best kids clothes no pink in sight but lots of cord and bloomers!) and an ancient cute hair clip.  All between 1 and 2 Euros.I read a thing in the Guardian yesterday about Hauling– teens doing youtube vids of the bargains they bought and I realise this isn’t much better. I am shamefaced, but I turn to you with imploring eyes and ask  “Is it not more of an achievement if I had to sift through rancid, boggle eyed stuffed otters and vintage Girly mags (old porn is still porn French people!!!!) to uncover this stuff?”

Besides, I am only doing this to INSPIRE and ENCOURAGE the world to spurn it’s new, plastic, matching set ways and discover the treasures to be found in the furriest, greasiest crevices of Jumble World. In France it is called Brocante, which sounds very much like the noise a chicken makes if you squawk it. This got us through some of our darker moments stuck in traffic on a peage (a PEAGE! I KNOW!! Ripped. Off.) Actually in hindsight every word sounds like a chicken noise if you squawk it…

We spent our last wonderful day lolling in the gardens at Versailles. Then the car, um, broke down. But  that’s a story for another day…