Thrifty Finds

This Week’s Thrifty Finds

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

welcome! week four’s Thrifty Finds were quite conservative in comparison to the previous weeks’.

Autumn leaves from secondhandtales.wordpress.com

1. We had a low key half term holiday which included getting crafty with some ‘free’ natural resources, such as conkers and leaves.

Thrifty Finds: decorating conkers via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

 

2. I was given a winter coat which is perfect for my middle child to wear.

3. In return I donated some jewellery that had been given to me by a friend.

4. We didn’t do much charity shop shopping. We are still searching for Seasons 3-7 of Friends and, despite trawling the shops, could only find Series 10 (in nearly every charity shop we stepped into!). However one of my daughters picked up a bargain Harry Potter cloak for just £3 (and she is a big Harry Potter fan!). Halloween costume sorted!

Second hand Harry Potter robe

 

5. We made use of our three year season pass for the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum in Bath, and toured the new exhibition ‘History of Fashion in 100 objects’

what were your Thrifty Finds this past week? Did you do any crafty activities with little ones?

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Homemade Blackberry Cordial

homemade blackberry cordial via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Last week I picked quite a few blackberries. Having already frozen a batch and made a couple of crumbles, I thought I would try my hand at making blackberry cordial. Like elderberry cordial, this is meant to be high in Vitamin C and good for colds and sore throats.

I took the recipe from the wonderful ‘Festivals, Family and Food’. Published by Hawthorn Press this has been a staple in our house for many years. It is divided into seasons and features stories, recipes and crafts to celebrate the different festivals and rhythms of year. I particularly love the pages on Autumn and Harvest.

 

Festivals, Family and Food: Guide to Seasonal Celebration

I followed this recipe for the cordial. The book is quite dated so it still gives imperial measurements. As I didn’t have 2lbs of blackberries I had to do some rough calculations (remembering that there are 16oz in 1lb which, for a metric-bred person like myself, I find confusing!)

blackberry cordial recipe from 'Festivals, Family and Food'

Anyway the recipe is really easy to follow. Basically, you just soak the berries in a quantity of white wine vinegar and leave for seven days, stirring occasionally.

making blackberry cordial

After seven days, strain the berries. Boil the juice with lots of sugar and honey. Leave to cool and then pour into a bottle. The cordial can then be stored in a dark cupboard.

The cordial tasted fine. Next year I’m going to pick a lot more berries to make a few bottles that will see us through the winter. I think I would also replace the white wine vinegar with apple cider vinger which is meant to have more healing properties.

Have you ever tried making your own cordial, or using blackberry or elderberry cordial to soothe colds?

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Autumnal Colours and a new-look Charity Shop in Bath

Autumnal colours, the second-hand way via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Yesterday I took myself into Bath: my nearest city and favourite haunt for second-hand goodies. [Note to self: I must update my second-hand shopping in Bath post here, which is now two years old]

I was delighted to see that the Save the Children shop on Walcot Street had received a very impressive update.

Save the Children charity shop, Bath (before the revamp)

Save the Children charity shop, Bath (before the revamp)

The interior was awash with stripped floorboards, wooden crates and clean white spaces. I had the distinct feeling I had walked inside a Fat Face or White Stuff store. Some of their (donated) clothing was even hanging from the beautifully curated rails. Every item was on a wooden hanger and the colour coordination was a feast for the eyes. I felt instantly drawn to the blacks and silvers, with thoughts of dressing for Christmas parties on the cheap.

The shop floor was spacious and the clothing on display was cleverly selected to show a range of high-end stores and good quality high street designs, with just enough on the rails to allow you to browse comfortably.

I spotted a couple of White Stuff skirts but was disappointed that they didn’t fit. At £7 each I didn’t think they were overpriced too. In fact my one final purchase at the store, a Top Shop jumper, only cost me £4.

(second-hand) burnt orange Top Shop jumper, bought from Save the Children charity shop in Bath via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

I happened to stumble upon the Save the Children shop’s opening day and the store seemed constantly busy. When I popped along later in the afternoon to see if I could persuade the White Stuff skirt to fit me, it had gone. The lady in front of me spend £120, although I’m not sure how as the clothing was reasonably priced.

The burnt orange jumper has become an instant favourite and autumnal colours must have been on my mind. I picked up this burgundy M&S top from The Shaw Trust shop on George St for a bargain £2.50.

second-hand burgundy top

I did also pick up two pairs of new tights, in matching orange and plum, but I’m very pleased my second-hand purchases only came to £6.50 (The Flower Fairy book was picked up at the bookstall at our village May Fair here)

charity shop labels via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

I was really impressed with the new-look Save the Children shop, as I know they have struggled in the past to stay open and are still in need of volunteers. I can’t even begin to stress what an important charity this is (working with children in Syria and refugees in the Mediterranean: see here). Their new store now ranks them among the other vintage-style charity shop boutiques that have opened up in Bath (Dorothy House; Julian House’s vintage section), but also marks a divide between those charity shops that can afford the refits and the rest…..

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PS I’ve been thinking of running a regular slot on this blog to share our ‘Thrifty Finds’. Not just second-hand purchases, but also making use of things we already have (food, fabric scraps,old clothes), and when we choose not to buy. Lovely readers, what are your thoughts?

Autumn walks and ‘Forest Bathing’

On Sunday we went for a family walk. It was a very foggy day (living on a hill 545 feet/166 metres above sea level this isn’t unusual). 1st November was also All Saints’ Day in the Christian Calendar, Samhain in the Pagan year and the Mexican Day of the Dead. In short, it was the day when many cultures believe the boundary between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, and the spirits can pass over into our world.

There was certainly an eery feeling as we crossed the village churchyard, shrouded in fog:

All Saints' Day walk

We made our way past the field where the village bonfire is being built, ready to be lit on Thursday. At the top of the pile you can just make out the ghostly model spitfire:

All Saints' Day walk: village bonfire being built

Our Millennium wood was – unsuprisingly – created in 2000. When we moved to our village in 2002 I remember it just being a collection of saplings. Now, 13 years later it has come into its own as a small woodland, perfect for exploring, playing in and building dens.

Millennium Wood: walk on All Saints' Day

After the walk I felt really invigorated. I also enjoyed playing with the girls, photographing the woodland and just spending time being still and listening. Later that day I happened, by chance, to come across the Japanese concept of Shinrin-Yoku, or ‘Forest Bathing’.

This is the theory that by spending time amid the trees your body and mind benefits. Studies have shown that being in the natural environment can:

  • reduce stress levels
  • reduce blood pressure
  • boost your immune system
  • increase energy levels
  • aid your body in recovering from illness or surgery
  • improve your mood

It is now common practice in Japan for people to spend time in the woods, participating in Shinrin-Yoku. Being under forest canopy, spending time just listening, breathing and noticing (rather than strenuous exercise) for about 4 hours is the recommended practice.

A few weeks ago we travelled to Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, home to 15,000 specimens of trees, plants and bushes. We like to visit at least once a year but the Autumn is the most spectacular time to visit. Having learned about Shinrin-Yoku made me think about our walk there and how much better we all felt as a family after the visit.

While our village woodland is on a small scale, compared to arboretums like Westonbirt, I would like to explore Shinrin-Yoku further on a local scale. As I recently wrote here I do not have regular access to a car, but being in the countryside there are trees all around. I think I will try ‘Forest Bathing’ at home.

Scrapstore Halloween

Last year I wrote this post about our second-hand Halloween. Since then the decorations got damaged and had to be thrown away. Thankfully we had picked up a big bag of ‘scrap’ from Wiltshire Scrapstore in the summer and had lots of material left to make some new spooky decorations.

As you can see from the picture below, we re-used some Scrapstore netting and turned it into a giant cobweb. We made some spiders from circles of black foam and some very simple ghosts from some old white fabric.

Scrapstore Halloween Decorations

 

Last year we had to get rid of our old tent, after 12 years, but I kept the white fabric from the sleeping compartments and for this Halloween we turned it into a very simple ghost.

Halloween ghost using old fabric

I have to confess I ‘stole’ this idea from Pinterest but I think it looks quite effective. We used three garden poles and attached a stuffed carrier bag to the middle one. We draped the fabric over the three poles and used some wire to create a head shape.

'Tent' ghost

 

The giant pumpkin came from the allotment of a friend who was raising funds for Diabetes UK. I’ve tried to save as much flesh when carving it and hope to turn it into something tasty.

Hope you had a fun Halloween!

Morning Walk

I love this time of year. I think Autumn has to be my favourite season, especially the part where it turns from periods of late summer sunshine to chillier September mornings. Every so often I have to stop and appreciate the beautiful countryside where I live and so yesterday morning I dropped the kids at school, grabbed my camera and went for a walk. I had a big list of things I should have been doing but instead I did this.

Early Autumn morning, Wiltshire

View across the valley. Usually the view is far clearer than this but at 8.30 it was still misty. On a very clear day you can see across to the Westbury White Horse (about  20 miles away).

I love this time of year for all the fruit you can gather. I tried to work out how to access the apples on the tree but they’re far too high. I guess we may have to wait for windfalls, which are starting to drop.

 

This lane is one we often walk along and I love how much it changes throughout the seasons. At the moment it still looks very green and lush, although there are patches of blackberries and apples appearing. I love how it looks a little like a holloway, but not as sunken as these rural paths can be.

country lane, Wiltshire