Back to school: Project 333 goes primary


I have decided to carry on with my second attempt at Project 333. For the next three months I intend to limit my wardrobe to just 33 items (incl coats and shoes). I blogged here and here about my first experience with the project last Autumn and Winter.

What I like about Project 333 is limiting my choices and being forced to re-assess what I really need. So for this next installemnt I will be getting  rid of all the browns and beiges which were starting to bore me (one of the things I don’t like about the Project is that clothes can be rather samey).

This time I’m going for greys and blacks which I have a lot of. Because most of my clothes shopping is done in charity shops I do tend to pick up a lot of these colours.

Because it’s January and my mood needs lifiting I have decided to add lots of bright primary colours to lift the blacks and greys. I was given a couple of things for Christmas (including the red pussy bow blouse) and also some money which I spent yesterday. The results are below:


Actually only the yellow skirt is new (from H&M). I’ve never bought yellow before but it was really calling to me. I like wearing orange and the citrus colours seem to appeal to me. The yellow tights came from the children’s department (!) of Marks and Spencer and were £2 in the sale. These will go well with blues, blacks or greys and, of course, the yellow beads I picked up second-hand in Windsor.

I did have a good browse around Bath’s charity shops as well but because I was looking for specfic items and colours I found this harder. Because Project 333 is making me focus on buying clothes that match or complement I’ve found that my sporadic shopping technique has to change. This is where charity shops can work – or not:

– Because they are not constrained by colours and styles that are currently ‘in’ these shops have a wider range.

– About half of the charity shops I visited yesterday weren’t even constrained by the seasons and, had I been more organised, I could have picked up some great summer clothes!

– You can’t be too prescriptive when shopping second-hand, which is where it can falter. For the past eighteen months I’ve been searching for a yellow belt but have failed to find one anywhere.

– Charity shops only stock one of a kind items. Yes, this is why I love second-hand clothes as it makes them unique. However it can be really frustrating if something isn’t in your size. Yesterday I hesitated on buying a cobalt blue jumper and when I returned to the shop it had gone!

I did, however, pick up this great jumper which cost £4.99 from the British Heart Foundation shop:


Here it is being worn with my blue jeans:


It’s originally from Oasis and I love the zip detail at the back.  I also bought a new black polo neck for £4.99 from the same shop to replace an old one.

At present I have 33 items (if you count scarves and necklace). I feel there may be a couple of gaps and am rather nervous as I’ve reduced the number of trousers and dresses in my wardrobe. I’m more confident, however, that the clothes I have will make me enjoy this project more as I can still add an individual touch with the primary colours.



Breadmaker Part Two

About eighteen months ago I blogged here about our new second-hand breadmaker that we had bought for £10 from the local Dorothy House electrical shop. The breadmaker was an unusual make (Bellini) and came without instructions but made a decent simple loaf.

However a couple of months ago it stopped working and we were unable to fix it. I had just started to get fed up with eating store-bought bread again when my mum picked up this fantastic second-hand Breville breadmaker for £15.



It came from the British Heart Foundation electrical store in Chippenham and, this time, it has an instruction book. This model seems more sophisticated than the Bellini as we can make different size loaves. So far we’ve baked some simple bread but I hope to be tackling Italian bread and fruit loaves soon.

I love these electrical appliances shops and I think they’re a great tip for finding second-hand kitchen accessories, such as coffee makersand food processors. All the electrical items are PAT tested and my breadmaker came with a six month warranty. Not bad.

Second-hand books: April roundup

This month (April) we seem to have acquired a few new (to us) books. Youngest daughter picked up two books from charity shops over the Easter holidays:

Husband picked up a bargain Stephen King from the library sale:


Plus I got two books to read (when I get the chance as the pile by my bed is growing):

I particularly want to read the Tove Jansson book as I loved the Moomin series as a kid and this is a part-autobiographical novel.

Finally I picked this book on the Tudors for my eldest who has some homework to do in history:


I don’t know if you can read the label on the book but I picked it up from the British Heart Foundation shop and it says: “Read me then bring me back again.” This is a simple reminder that, even if we buy second-hand books, we can re-donate them so that they become third-hand or fourth-hand. I also dropped off some books with the Oxfam Bookshop in Bath and they had a plea asking for more stock so I must remember the ‘one in, one out’ mantra I am trying to apply to all our book purchases.

A trip down memory lane: Second-hand shopping in Birmingham

Last week my husband and I went on a ‘mini break’ to Birmingham. Well he had to work but I used it as an excuse to take a trip down memory lane and try to reacquaint myself with the city I knew twenty years ago. A lot has changed since I studied in Birmingham in the early nineties and there were quite a few times on my trip when I completely lost my bearings. I guess Brum isn’t any different to any city centre that has undergone a massive transformation over the past 15 years. From having lived in the area for a long time I know both Bath and Bristol have altered dramatically. It’s just that having not been to Birmingham for so long I felt like a time traveller stepping out of my nineties cocoon. For example the new library is an amazing space. Opening in September it has been built by Bath-based Buro Happold and, for anyone stepping out of their Wellsian time machine, it is an awesome sight:

The new library of Birmingham

The new library of Birmingham

But aside from the 21st century architectural wonders and shiny new high street stores I actually wanted to explore the more outdated side of Brum. With this in mind I headed towards the Oasis store on Corporation Street. This is definitely not the chain store but a more underground (literally) and alternative fashion  store. Having frequented this shop on many an occasion as a student I felt rather awkward as a 40-something woman browsing the independent clothing boutiques selling both first-hand and second-hand clothing, as well as music, posters and a smattering of New Age clothing and incense (that bit hasn’t changed).


Next door used to be the huge Virgin Records store where I would often hang out. How times have changed as it’s now a British Heart Foundation  furniture and electrical shop:


I was pleased to see, though, that other places hadn’t changed. Beyond the stunning exterior of Selfridges and the new-look Bull Ring there is the Birmingham Rag Market. Oh happy days! I really don’t think this indoor market has changed since 1990 except that I remember there were more second-hand stalls then. I still have the beautiful white lace blouse I bought in my first year at Uni, which I then went onto wear for my graduation. It is very delicate but still wearable (although not for me as my body has changed from the 18 year old it once was. Just another outfit to save for my girls…)

Oh beautiful lace blouse, I'd forgotten how beautiful you are

Oh lace blouse, I’d forgotten how beautiful you are

There are some great haberdashery stalls both inside and and outside the market and I did pick up some festive ribbon for Christmas presents for a very cheap rate.

Beyond the Bull Ring is an area of central Birmingham that has not changed or, it appears, been given the beauty treatment. Digbeth, however, is home to some great vintage stores which I wish had been around in my student days. First off is Cow. Inside the warehouse-style building are rails of second-hand clothing and accessories. The Birmingham branch is just one of four stores and I enjoyed browsing the rails. At the moment I am searching for some denim dungarees to wear to our annual 80’s themed party at New Year. While I couldn’t find any there was enough denim and plaid in the store to remind me of my Grunge days (!)

Just beyond Cow is the Custard Factory, an arts and shopping complex located in the old Bird’s factory. There are a couple of vintage stores here (one was closed) plus a vintage hairdressers which (frustratingly) I couldn’t find an entrance to. I did, however, stumble across Urban Village, a shop specialising in 60s and 70s clothing. From what I could see on the rails some items were original and others were copies. There was a definited Mod vibe to this shop and I wish I had had the guts to ask to take the photo of two young women dressed in 40s/50s clothing who looked so at home in the setting.

While this is only a smattering of second-hand shopping in Birmingham it was enough to satisfy my feeling of nostalgia. It also made me realise that what I look for in second-hand shops nowadays is rather different to what I sought out twenty years ago. Although I think as many of my clothes are from charity shops now as they were in the 90s (some I’m still wearing), the hemlines are definitely longer.

Our new (to us) Breadmaker!

I always thought that you couldn’t donate electrical goods to Charity Shops. However I have recently discovered the Dorothy House Furniture and Electrical shop in Chippenham, and the British Heart Foundation shop across the road. Both shops stock donated furniture (sofas, beds, desks, wardrobes etc) and electrical items. All electrical goods have been PAT tested and are in good condition.

For a while we have been thinking of buying a breadmaker because as a family of five we seem to get through the stuff SO quickly. After a quick trip to Chippenham and browse through both shops (kettles for £8, a Dyson hoover for £40!) we picked up a Bellini Breadmaker from Dorothy House for £10. Although it was without instructions I have been following a very easy recipe from the web and, after a couple of weeks’ use, it has proved indispensable to our family.

our new (to us) breadmaker

our new (to us) breadmaker


I really like the idea of extending the life of electrical appliances by finding new homes for them. There were a lot of gadgets, such as coffee machines and food processors, on the shelves at both shops. I wonder if some of them had been barely-used presents or bought on a whim and then never used. According to a recent survey (okay it’s by Direct Line insurance company who probably had a publicity motive) the least used kitchen appliances are toasted sandwich maker, food processor and slow cooker. (Although we get a lot of use from our toastie maker and slow cooker). Apparently 10 % of kitchen gadgets are never used. Although this is a sad reflection of our consumer society if the appliances are donated to charity shops, or freecycled, then a second – or third- life means that someone’s loss is another person’s gain.

Tomorrow we have a visit from both a washing machine engineer AND a repairman to look at our gas cooker. Both appliances are on the blink but I am very reluctant to replace or buy new. We may be taking another trip to the Dorothy House Homeware shop very soon….