Second-hand Halloween

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We are currently enjoying the half term holidays here: ten days off school filled with playing, making and exploring. I always enjoy the October half term as the weather can  be good, local attractions and museums are still open for us to explore with our visitor pass, and there’s Halloween at the end. Over the past 24 hours we have been getting ready for Friday evening and adding a few second-hand touches:

Picking up Trick or Treat buckets from Oxfam shop:

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We picked these up for 49p each. I know they’re made of plastic but at least we will be re-using them.

In turn I also sorted through our existing Halloween costumes and donated a couple through our local ‘Free, For Sale or Swap’ facebook page.

Decorating the house with Spooky Scrapstore

Last year we paid a trip to our local scrapstore and picked up some Halloween craft sets and other props. The black netting has proved to be a great buy from the scrapstore. I’m not sure what it’s original purpose was but it has served as a Pirate’s fishing net and, now, enormous spider’s web.

Making Halloween Treats

So I confess I have bought wrapped sweets to give out to Trick or Treaters but my six year old has also made a few cupcakes decorated with ‘blood’ icing:

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Making home-made costumes

We do have our share of cheap supermarket costumes, kindly given by grandparents, but I always prefer home-made outfits. However as the girls get older they want more choice in their Halloween clothing. This year two of them are adapting their own old clothes for a ‘Zombie’ look. I had intended to re-use part of our old tent to make a ghost outfit but I have no takers (unless I wear it that is!).

Second-hand pumpkins?

We’ve been busy carving our pumpkins and this year I do intend to save the flesh – and maybe seeds – to make some Autumnal soup. It’s so much easier to throw the scraps away, and I do wonder how good the the taste of mass produced pumpkins are.

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Green Halloween

I don’t want to go on about how Halloween has become more commercialised since I was a kid. I have to say I really enjoy this time of year. Trick or Treating is great fun where we live: it’s gentle, family friendly and over by 8 o’clock. BUT there is also a lot of waste and every year I wonder how I can make it greener for my family. There is a great movement in the US called Green Halloween.They organise national costume swap days and come up with ideas for healthier, less wasteful treats [at present it looks like their website is under reconstruction but they’re still worth a look]. Maybe this is something I should look into for next year and try to encourage a more second-hand spin to the festivities.

 

 

 

 

 

Do you give second-hand presents?

As an advocate of all things second-hand is it fair that I should give my friends pre-loved gifts too? I recently purchased this  book through the charity book buying site: Green Metropolis.

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It was on the recommendation of blogger Silver Bells and I was delighted to find a copy to give to my friend for her birthday. We usually buy each other books and I know she’ll love the story. I had been about to buy a copy on Amazon but when Green Metropolis was recommended I decided to purchase from the site. As it mentions in the accompanying gift slip:

“Your gift was purchased from GreenMetropolis.com, a company dedicated to turning read books green by encouraging its members to recycle their books…”

My purchase also included a small donation to the Dogs Trust. There are a number of charities that sellers on the site can choose to donate some of their sales to.

I still feel slightly tight as the book cost less than a full price, brand new one. But my friend is  environmentally conscious and I know she will appreciate the charitable donation, and re-usability of the gift (I hope).

In the past my second-hand present buying has been limited to my daughters (a few charity shop books at Christmas) and my husband (see here for the vinyl spin on this year’s birthday present)

However I’m still unsure what the majority of my friends and family would think if I started shopping for their birthdays exclusively at second-hand shops.

Over the past few years I have bought the Oxfam Unwrapped gift cards (especially for all the 40th and 50th birthday parties I seem to be going to at the moment).  I find these are the easiest things to get when I don’t want to give the birthday boy/girl yet another unwanted ornament.

I also keep a shelf of unopened and unused presents which my daughters have received. They do get a lot of presents from family and friends and there’s only so many craft sets a child can use. Again, I feel rather mean re-gifting these but they can also solve the last minute party present crisis.

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So I’m still undecided about second-hand presents. I will see what my friend’s reaction is when she opens her gift this weekend.

What about you? Do you give second-hand, or ‘re-gift’ unwanted presents?

(Second-hand) Record Store Day in Bristol

Saturday saw the seventh Record Store Day take place in the UK, a celebration of independent record shops with events, special releases and more. As you may know we acquired a new record player at Christmas and have been hunting for vinyl ever since. So, on a rare Saturday off we took a trip to Bristol for a little second-hand window shopping and a visit to the fabled Rise Records in Clifton.

Rise had a number of events, including live bands performing throughout the day.  While I felt older than most of the hip twenty somethings in the store it was great to have a browse through the vinyl. I felt rather smug spotting a couple of Beatles albums which we have at home (inherited from my parents). I was also on the hunt for a couple of classic albums: Carole King’s ‘Tapestry’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’. The former was on sale at Rise but £20 is a little more than I can afford.

As the shop was very busy, and the live music a little loud for our young offspring, we didn’t stay long. Husband and I plan to take a trip to Rise another day when the kids are at school.  As we were in Clifton (posh Bristol) and the trendy Park Street it did seem only polite to have a rummage through the charity shops too.

Youngest daughter picked up a picture book in the Oxfam Bookshop in Clifton village:

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We also made a few purchases at the vintage-themed Shelter shop. While there were a few items of clothing I was tempted by I kept my purse in my pocket while husband splurged on a t-shirt and the girls bought a Rubik’s Cube:

We also ventured into the Oxfam Boutique on Park Street but it was at the Sue Ryder shop a few doors down that we made our best purchase. On Record Store Day we picked up two second-hand albums that were new (to the store anyway) that day and cost £1.50 each. The girls have been listening to Simon & Garfunkel and I was gutted that I had got rid of my parents’ copy of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. One of my earliest memories is listening to this album and, as a teenager, I rediscovered it and played it continuously in my bedroom. So imagine my delight in finding it once more in Bristol. I also picked up the Tears for Fears album, ‘Songs from the Big Chair’. I remember this being a huge record at the time and have been recently listening to their earlier stuff.

 

So having made our purchases we headed for home, got the record player out and listened to our vinyl.

Second-Hand Shopping in Bath (Part Two)

As promised – a while ago – here is the (shorter) Part Two of shopping in Bath.

This week, now that the children are back at school, I took myself off to Bath. I shouldn’t have bought anything but I seemed to come home with a couple of new (to me) purchases.

The first item I bought was from the Dorothy House shop on Argyle Street (previously posted about here).  A few months ago I bought a gorgeous burgundy sleeveless dress from this shop and then proceeded to shrink it as I hadn’t read the label! Well I encountered another burgundy coloured pinafore dress (originally from Next) and found myself buying it. This time I’m going to check the label!

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On this tour of Bath I headed towards Milsom Street (Bath’s central shopping street, north of the new Southgate Shopping Centre and home of Jollys department store and a few more upmarket boutiques). At the top of Milsom Street it joins George Street. On the left hand side of this street are two charity shop gems.

The first is the Shaw Trust shop. This charity helps people with disabilities enter the world of work. It has  shops throughout England and Wales and even has its own ebay shop. It also has a small range of garden shops (my nearest one is in Trowbridge where I’ve picked up plants at good prices). The Shaw Trust shop in Bath used to have a vintage rail, long before other local charity shops created their own vintage areas. In the past I have picked up very reasonably priced trousers by Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren from here. Alas, the vintage rail is no longer here and I’m not so sure that the wealthy of Bath are donating to this store as much. In fact the window display highlighted the need for donations: a theme that was echoed in many of the other charity shops I visited, as well as vacancies for volunteer help.

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On this week’s visit to the shop I had one of those Shopping Moments where a) you see something that screams to you ‘buy me’, b) you try it on, it fits perfectly and – despite the price and all sense – you buy it. In this case, even though I wasn’t looking for one, I came home with a brand new orange swing coat (originally from Sainsburys Tu range). Even the thought of wearing it with the new burgundy pinafore makes me smile…

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After I’d given myself a good talking to about not buying stuff I don’t need  (even if it is second-hand) I popped next door to the Oxfam Boutique,  located on the corner of George Street and Gay Street. This Oxfam store transformed into a Boutique a few years ago, showcasing high-end, good quality clothing and, at one time, one-off recycled designs created by local fashion students. There are Oxfam Boutiques in half a dozen locations around the country and it seems to fit in perfectly with Bath. The interior of the shop, with its ample space and Georgian features, make browsing a pleasant experience. I have yet to find something that I really like – or can afford – here but it’s always worth a look.

One more high end second-hand shop in Bath that is worth mentioning is downhill from Gay Street.  Just off Queen Square and down the quaint cobbled street that is Queen Street is Scarlet Vintage. This second-hand clothing shop buys and sells some beautiful clothes. The prices are out of my range but it is a gorgeous shop and in such a lovely setting.

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Back on the main shopping route is Westgate Street, home to the last two charity shops I want to mention. The Cancer Research Shop has a good selection of clothing, some bric a brac and a small book and record section. Having recently acquired a record player I’m on the lookout for second-hand vinyl.

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Across the road is the PDSA shop, a smaller charity shop that is worth stopping by.

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The one shop that I havent featured in the second part of this store is the only charity shop that is located close by the new Southgate shopping Centre in Bath. The Oxfam Book Shop is a treasure trove of second hand books, including rare editions, and vinyl. As I begin my search for second-hand LPs I am sure I will be posting more on this shop and similar ones in Bath in the future.

Apologies if there are any other second-hand city-centre shops that I have missed. If you do get the chance to explore other areas of Bath I would highly recommend Widcombe (just south of the river and a short walk from the Railway Station: there are a couple of second-hand clothing shops here), Larkhall (a thriving area to the east of the city with some great independent stores and the Mercy in Action charity shop) and Moorland Road/Oldfield Park to the south (home to a couple of charity shops).

Well that has exhausted the shoe leather – hope this guide (and the first part) are of interest but do let me know if there are any other gems I have missed.

A Decision…

Recently I have attempted to sell some things on eBay and similar sites. But I have to admit I am RUBBISH at it! I know so many people who make money this way, even getting more for something than they originally paid for it. However I have barely made a profit because I’m just not wired that way and – to be honest – can do without the hassle of taking photos, weighing things, checking messages etc. For along time I felt a bit of a failure. I almost didn’t want to admit I had let something go for free on freecycle, or given it away when I could have made money. Our financial situation isn’t even flush so I could really have done with making money this way. And after the last Car Boot sale I endured I realised that I am NEVER going to be on the Apprentice!

Then this week I had an epiphany and realised that I DON’T have to sell my unwanted things. I can give them away for free and save ALL the hassle. It’s a personal thing but I feel bad that I haven’t donated much to charity this year (like hardly anything) and I had decided that the money I made from the last thing I managed to sell was going to go straight to Oxfam or Save the Children. So I realised that I could cut out the middle man and just donate the items straight to the charity shop anyway. That way they can charge what they want, I get rid of the item and don’t feel so bad about not giving to charity. I mean I write about charity shops enough AND buy from them. I do wonder how charity shops survive anyway with so many people selling the items they may have once donated.

I guess what this all comes down to is not some great altruistic gesture on my part but:

1) a way of getting rid of things straight away (we have a tiny house and there are a few of us so I am constantly de-cluttering). At present our loft is filled with things that I have put by to sell at some point in the future but this leads me to the next point….

2) saving me the hassle of selling because really I am lazy

3) Salving my conscience because I am – sort of – donating to charity

4) showing my children there is an alternative to just selling. It is a lot of their stuff that we are constantly clearing out (due to a combination of little space and generous grandparents) so it’s good to include them in the decision making process knowing that their donations will help others

And, most of all, I am no longer going to feel bad that I am NOT making money  this way.  I’ll never work for Sir Alan will I?

Second-Hand Shopping in Bath (Part One)

Bath is great for shopping (even Jane Austen thought so) but I prefer the second-hand sort, rather than department stores and overpriced boutiques. As it’s my nearest shopping centre I tend to visit quite a lot and so hope this will be the first of a couple of posts on charity shopping in Bath city centre, and beyond.  I recently took a morning off from being a mum and travelled into Bath to explore Walcot Street, Broad Street and Pulteney Bridge/Argyle Street.

Walcot Street is know as the arty bit of Bath and there are lots of independent and artistic shops along the road (as well as some good cafes for a coffee stop, such as Sam’s Kitchen and Made by Ben and not forgetting to stop for a pint at the wonderful Bell Inn).

At the bottom of the road, just beyond Waitrose, is Save the Children which had a very colourful window display:

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Be warned that Walcot Street (like much of Bath) is on a hill but there are plenty of second-hand shops to keep you distracted. Further along is the Julian House shop:

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Julian House is the local homeless charity and it operates two shops in Bath. I really like the Walcot Street one as it has lots of clothes (including a vintage rail) and a large book department.  The other charity shop along Walcot Street is run by the Bath Women’s Refuge. It has been on Walcot Street for quite a few years (certainly the 15 years I’ve lived in and around the city) and is literally piled high with clothes, children’s books and toys and dvds. It is rather a fight to discover things amongst the rails and piles but can offer some great finds:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Although it’s a climb right to the top of the road, Jack & Danny’s is the original Walcot Street vintage shop, well worth the visit. Inside is a treasure trove of men and women’s clothing. You may have to work your way through the racks but there is something for every occasion. Many years ago I picked up an early 1970s halter neck dress for a 60s/70s summer party.

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At the other end of the street (and on the level) is another vintage clothing store. The Yellow Shop also sells a range of new labels. A bit farther along from the Yellow Shop is the small Saturday Market which sells some second-hand clothing (not pictured).

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Running parallel to Walcot Street is the shorter Broad Street which is really worth a visit. As well as being home to Rossiters Department Store,  Cath Kidston and a few high end boutiques it has a couple of second-hand shops. At the moment my favourite shop in Bath is this Dorothy House shop. It has a real vintage feel to it and appears to be aimed at people who are looking specifically for vintage, or designer, clothing. Back in the summer I bought a wonderful playsuit here which became my favourite holiday outfit. While the clothes can be pricier than regular charity shops they are still real bargains compared to the rest of the High Street.

Further along Broad Street is the Black and White Shop. This operates as a dress agency and is packed with some beautiful clothing, accessories and shoes. I recently picked up a slinky evening dress for a friend’s cocktail party for £24.

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Almost opposite the Black and White shop is Broad Street car park and if you cut through this you find yourself in a small alleyway that houses Bath’s original vintage store: Vintage to Vogue.  Before vintage was a buzzword this shop was selling clothes from bygone eras. About ten years ago I picked up a beautiful matching dress and coat in a delicate duck egg colour. This has been my staple outfit for nearly every wedding and christening since.

The other area I tend to browse in is located in an area just off the bottom of Walcot Street, past Waitrose. While Pulteney Bridge is one of only two bridges in the world that has shops located on it (the other being the Ponte Vecchio in Florence), it is also home to two great charity shops. Well the actual address is Argyle Street and they are just off the other end of Pulteney Bridge. This Dorothy House branch sells more traditional charity shop clothing than the one on Broad Street. I picked up a great red dress from Warehouse earlier this year then proceeded to shrink it (see here).

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A couple of shops further along is Oxfam which, again, is of the more traditional style Oxfam shop. (There is also an Oxfam Boutique in Bath city centre which I will blog about in Part Two). I have picked up some bargains in this Oxfam shop and here I think is the reason why Bath is so good for charity shopping: it is an affluent city (although not in every part) and people donate good quality, high-end clothing. While some charity shops have caught onto this and now charge quite expensive prices these are still cheaper than the High Street price. Plus the clothing tends to last for a long time (unless you shrink/iron holes in it!)

While I feel uncomfortable taking ‘selfies’ I did end up buying the blue dress and have had quite a few complements when I’ve worn it out. The Laura Ashley dress was tried on just because I could but, in no way, shape of form, did it suit me!

I hope to have another child-free day soon and explore some more of Bath’s second-hand hotspots so watch this space….

Second-Hand Birthday Party??

During the holidays my youngest daughter had her 5th birthday party. She chose a Beach Theme and with some ‘pinspiration’ and  some good old charity shop shopping we were able to make it happen.

I picked up four Hawaiin garlands (or Lei as I learnt) from the Oxfam shop. The party girl and sisters wore these to greet guests who then worked at our kitchen table to make their own garlands, or fish themed clothes pegs. We were very lucky that the day before the Year 6 Leavers’ Play had used a handmade Palm Tree as part of their scenery. I was able to borrow this huge tree (not pictured) and place it outside our house so that there would be no mistake as to where the party was at. Guests were also encouraged to come wearing beach clothes and sunglasses to add to theme. Party games included Pin the Tail on the Mermaid and Musical Beach Towels, as well as a bunch of five year olds trying to do the limbo!!

I  had  also had another flash of charity shop inspiration in the PDSA shop. Their summer window display consisted of about eight plastic spades (all donated) on a bed of sand. So I asked the puzzled shop assistant if I could buy all the spades and used them as the main component of the party gift. I added some sweets and cellophane wrapper ( not so green I know), added a luggage label as a thank you and we handed them out at the end of the party. Thankfully the spades didn’t look too tatty and I hope they got lots of use during the summer holidays that followed.