Slowing down….

This week is already shaping up to be a busy one. I have work this evening, voluntary work on Tuesday and Wednesday, job application to complete, school Easter service on Thursday plus a few things I want to buy or make for the school holidays next week.

Tomorrow we have someone viewing our house (it’s still for sale) so I have spent a stupid amount of time tidying and getting it ready. As we are continually decluttering and I am trying to be more minimalist this does take less time. However I’m sure the energy used up in preparing our house for a viewing compared to the amount of time that the viewing takes is very disproportionate.

But a couple of things have forced me to pause, gather my thoughts and contemplate on what is really important. While tidying the garden in the spring sunshine yesterday I came across this Easter nest that the girls had made with friends:

Slowing down: making time and space for the little things

For one moment I had thought about tidying it away – as if a ‘nest free’ lawn would make all the difference to a house sale! What was I thinking? Instead of believing it made the garden look untidy I should have been celebrating their creation. I should have been overjoyed that they were playing outside, unplugged and with friends.

Another sign that made me slow down and take stock was this book I picked up by chance in a charity shop today:

Slowing down

I hadn’t heard of the book, or author before, but was intrigued by the minimalist sounding title. I do have a pile of books by the side of my bed and I know I swore not to bring more into the house but I did end up buying it nonetheless. Later on I found I had twenty minutes to spare while I waited to pick someone up from the train station. This proved a perfect opportunity to slow down, read a few chapters and savour the contents. I haven’t read enough yet to provide a review but I plan to find pockets of time over the next few days to dedicate to the simple pleasure of reading it.

weird seventies fabric and childhood memories

A few years ago I acquired this rather odd-looking fabric, straight from the 1970s:



Despite its strangeness it does have a sentimental attachment as it once belonged to a travel cot my brother slept in as a baby in the mid 70s. When my parents got rid of the cot I kept onto the fabric and, for the past few years, have been racking my brains as to how I can use it. I really wanted to create something to pass onto his children as a – sort of – family heirloom. This Christmas I finally came up with a solution as my little niece has recently acquired a Build-a-Bear. After some pinterest research and a fair bit of making it up myself I produced a sleeping bag and matching pillow for her bear (unfortunately I forgot to take a pic before wrapping it up). I quite like the fact that the material that was once used when her daddy went camping can now help her toys have a ‘camp out’ too.

Using this fabric also got me thinking about other odd 1970s pieces that I have used, taken from a decade where unsettling and oddly coloured patterns seem to have been de rigour. In fact the orange shades of the above fabric remind me of the slightly trippy hues and effects from the Willy Wonka film (which both delighted and scared me as a small child).

A few years ago I acquired some second-hand fabric featuring animals in the 1970s shade of brown. I turned them into this cushion cover and this peg bag:



Afterwards a friend noticed the cushion and remarked that she had once had a pair of curtains in the very fabric!

I am sure that somewhere in a charity shop is the Magic Roundabout fabric that my aunty made curtains and a gym bag from. Alas all I have now is this Magic Roundabout mug, picked up from a jumble sale about twenty years ago:

Childhood memories: Magic Roundabout mug bought at a jumble sale


Are there any fabric patterns from your childhood that both delighted and unsettled you? How would you feel if you were reunited with it once more?

Second-hand (and home-made) Christmas: Part Two

Having recently talked about the second-hand Christmas ‘trimmings’ in our house I thought I would post about the pre-loved presents I have bought (and made) this year. As you may know, from other posts, I do buy second-hand gifts but only for those people whom I think would appreciate, or not care, that it is re-used. This year my charity shop gift buying has focused on my children – interspersing pre-loved gifts with new ones.

As always I have raided the bookshelves of some of the local charity shops to give a selection to the girls.IMG_9328

My twelve year old will have the Hilary McKay and Cathy Cassidy books. I’m going to introduce the Amelia Jane books to my six year old. All these books were from the same Dorothy House shop and cost just 20p each! My eight year old is really into real life mysteries so I ordered a second-hand book for her online (which hasn’t arrived yet, uh oh!).

My eldest requested a jewellery tree and I picked this one up for £2 from the local PDSA shop:


As well as second-hand presents we have been making our own to give to neighbours, teachers and school friends.

This week I helped my eight year old make these cushions for a couple of her friends:


She also made some holly leaf decorations, sewing very carefully up the spine of each leaf:


And some bath salts, using dried rosemary and lavender from the garden:


Finally we all made these very chocolatey biscuits for neighbours:


I’ve also sneaked in a couple of extra ‘home-made’ presents for my youngest two. I’ve found some great free printable paper dolls online (via pinterest). I’ve printed them on thick card and they look very adorable:

IMG_9341Of course there were other presents that I intended to make but I feel I am running out of time. There are a couple of projects I want to work on in the New Year as we have quite a few family birthdays in January and February. In the meantime the presents are wrapped (using our recycled brown parcel paper), and waiting for Christmas Day…

Too many Advent calendars?


Today sort of marks the beginning of Advent (well, actually it was yesterday as it starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas but I digress). My children awoke eagerly this morning to open their individual Advent Calendars which, of course, are filled with chocolates.

They have been very fortunate in receiving chocolate Advent Calendars every year from two grandparents. They also have this lovely wooden calendar that can be used every year. Each door has a small decoration behind it that can be hung on the tree:


But how many advent calendars do they need? In previous years I have spirited away the chocolate ones and used the contents for baking cakes and other treats. As the girls have grown older, though, they have wanted to keep onto the calendars and I began to think I was just being a misery in denying them a gift that had been given with love.

As time has gone by the wooden calendar has been used less and less and, instead, has taken up precious space in our house. As I am still on a de-cluttering/house selling mission I decided that the time had come to get rid of it. Over the course of last month I have, sort of, been following the Minimalism Game and have put some items up for sale on our local facebook ‘free, sell, swap site’. So I’m afraid the advent calendar has now gone on to a good home and I have also sold/donated other Christmas decorations that we don’t have room for (including three miniature Christmas trees). All the money that I have made from selling these items is going towards a family Christmas treat so that we can enjoy an ‘experience’, rather than just keep onto stuff.

And the girls also agreed to donate one chocolate advent calendar each to the local foodbank. It seems madness in a time when so many children are without that mine should have more advent calendars than they know what to do with.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for an alternative to advent calendars and chocolates have a look at this great post about advent activities from the brilliant blog: my make do and mend year.

Second-hand games for the summer

In my recent trips to charity shops I’ve been able to pick up a few second-hand games to keep the family occupied during the summer (and our holiday to Scotland). I bought a couple of packs of Top Trumps. I hope these will be of interest as we’ll be camping on the West Coast and islands where there should be plenty of marine life (although hopefully not sharks!):


I also picked up a times table card game and was delighted to come across this box of Jack Straws which I had played as a kid:


I so remember playing with the tools and even using them for my dolls. The girls had started playing the game as well although, like me, are finding they are very useful for their Barbies to play with! Funnily enough having bought this game I then found an identical box in a completely different charity shop!

Finally I found this magnetic version of Ludo which may be handy for our long car journey:


We’re now away for a couple of weeks so no blogging but will be back later in the month (hopefully with some more second-hand gems).

School’s Out: a quick post about cheap uniform


I had sort of thought about doing a post about second-hand school uniform at the end of the summer holidays (although my kids have yet to break up).

But last night necessitated an emergency trip to our second-hand clothing depot (otherwise known as our loft where hand-me-downs are stored) for a summer school dress. The dress was also too long so I finally learnt to sew an invisble hem stitch using the youtube tutorial below:

I was also interested to read about Aldi‘s new uniform pack for £4 which goes on sale from this Thursday. The bundle features 2 polo shirts, trousers/skirt and jumper for primary school aged children. There’s an interesting article about this offer and a breakdown of costs in the Guardian here. Suffice to say the article draws two conclusions: either Aldi is taking a loss here in order to entice people into its stores (there has already been lots of media coverage) or the workers in Bangladesh are being paid 7p per sweatshirt (which retails at £1.25).

Having three children at school I do find it hard to meet the cost of buying school uniform and can see why the £4 offer would be appealing. In the past when we have bought shoes from Clarks I have paid nearly £100 in one trip! My eldest is now at Secondary School where we seem to be more tied to a specialist unform shop which is pricier. Since starting last September the PE kit has changed and the school is now proposing a brand new uniform for 2015 which means I can make little use of the second-hand supply which will soon be obsolete.

With my younger two girls I have relied on hand-me-downs from friends (hence the endless supply in our loft) which has worked well. With regards to manufacturers both the second-hand – and occasional first-hand – unform comes from a wide range of shops. I’m still doing well out of Adams and Ladybird clothing (remember those labels?), but have found that M&S clothing is not well-made. When I occasionally buy first hand I’ve found John Lewis lasts well. For me, spending slightly more on an item of clothing that will last for three children is more economical. Plus I’m assuming (rightly or wrongly) that a higher price means a better wage for a worker.

If this is a topic of interest to you don’t forget to watch BBC 2’s documentary, ‘Clothes to Die For’ tonight (Mon) at 9pm



Clothing clear out


Without any nagging my girls have decided to clear out their wardrobe and drawers and donate a lot of their clothes to charity. They have recently received two separate bags of clothing from different friends. We are very limited on space (one wardrobe for the five of us, a drawer for each of the younger girls’ clothes plus separate smaller drawer for underwear and pjs) so it really does have to be a ‘one in, one out’ rule.

Usually I get hold of the clothes before the children get home so that I can cull the donation before it enters the house (sorting out those outfits that are too big, or we have too many of already). But these bags arrived during the holidays and were welcomed with squeals of delight as they spent a couple of hours trying on new outfits. But in return they decided to make space for these new garments by getting rid of those clothes they no longer need. We now have two large bags to donate to the cothing bank at the girls’ school. (The clothing bank is very useful when I have to get ride of clothes now and don’t have the time or transport to take to a charity shop, or the patience and success with selling on ebay or facebook sites).