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Our European Bombaround: We need you!

28 May, 2013

In about 7 weeks time we are upping sticks and going for a 3 month bombaround Europe in our camper, Betty. We could well emerge as Gandhi like pillars of peace and wisdom; all that forestry and earthy shizzle molding us into mega living-in-the-present sages.  Alternatively,  we will all go cuckoo- living in a 2m x 3 m box with only each other for company and WITHOUT THE INTERNET. *weeps*

Betty and Ramona Ramona making a cuppa in Betty

What with selling the house (it has finally sold, HOORAY!) and getting Betty fixed up (she is all better, WHOOP!) and having a new baby (Juno arrived, WAHEY!) we haven’t had much time to focus on the #bombaround. But this morning I woke up all Action Stations.

This is a pretty epic adventure… for which we are ill prepared. We know when we are leaving – the start of August- and we will aim to be back at the end of October (ish, depending on the weather.) We are thinking of meandering through France, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany (all making sense so far)- um, and also Spain.  We are thinking Spain might still be warm at the end of the trip, you see, it’s just quite a drive away from Germany. (GAH, FRANCE! Why you have to be so big, darn you?)

We aren’t primarily going for city sightseeing (hot, sticky crowds make us shudder) but for the wild swimming and walks amongst trees (we are down with the leeches) so will be skipping a few of the obvious stops.
ramona in woods
Ramona on a secret swing in a little slice of the wilderness in South London

We hope to visit some exciting happenings… things like Nature Play project in the Black Forest, a commune on an organic farm outside of Annecy, a revolutionary childcare centre in Budapest.

Perhaps you can help us?!

Have you visited or heard of any lovely happenings or sites or projects or beautiful places in any of these countries?

Do you know any people or families in these countries who are living life a bit differently and wouldn’t mind making new friends? (They wouldn’t have to put us up as we’d be sorted in Betty.)

Also… we have other questions… (novices? us?)

Do you have any tips for travelling around as a family?

How will Ramona cope without a little gang of buddies?

What are some things we MUST TAKE? (So far on my list are; my collection of retro tins, a 3 month supply of pear drops and a few vintage crochet blankets.)

Where do we find the charity shops in Europe? (Er, addict? ME? OUTRAGEOUS)

Any advice for coping, generally?

Also…

WHAT ABOUT THE INTERNET?

Any tips, tricks and advice MOST GRATEFULLY received, we’ll send you a postcard….

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Alternative Advent Calendar – Recycled Christmas Link -Up

26 November, 2012

My sister’s chocolate advent calendar wasn’t long on our mantelpiece before I worked out you could undo the bottom flap and slip the whole tray out. She’d open the odd window and be like “THEY FORGOT TO PUT DAY 16’s MORSEL IN!!!”

It was a few year’s before my beautiful Nana caught on to the fact that her grandchildren would rather have meaningless, Christmassy Bartman themed but delicious edible advent calendars, rather than little windows depicting the arrival of Baby Jesus.  I suspect  in her wisdom she knew exactly what kind of festive angst it could cause between greedy siblings!

For a 14 year old, I was pretty self controlled, and only ate a few of my sisters, but my whole tray was gone by Day 6. “WELL! CHECK MINE OUT! THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN EVERY SINGLE DAY! OUTRAGEOUS!!!”

I am not opposed to traditional or chocolatey advent calendars one bit but as part of my drive to instill some precious rituals in our family’s life, I have opted to make our advent a bit of a bigger deal. There are some gorgeous, crafty ideas out there, and I gathered a few, mixed it up with the thing I always do involving scrabble letters, and came up with this:


Instead of numbers, I have 25 pockets, with Joy, Love, Hope, Peace (for me these sum up the Christmas message) and Christmas spelled out on them. The pockets are held onto string with decorated pegs, and are meant to be in a bit of a Christmas Tree-ish shape. I found the pegs in a charity shop, the scrabble letters at a jumble sale, and the fabric is part of a vintage bundle that I have held onto for a while, waiting for the perfect moment to use it.

There were some lovely suggestions on the Lulastic Facebook Page, of how other people do advent, and I am totally pinching the ideas, like leaving little notes in the pockets for family members.

This week I am going to fill the pockets with things that will hopefully delight each of us – some sweets, a poem, a prayer, a task like “Make Ginger bread house” or “dance to The Boy Least Likely To‘s Christmas album”  – a brand new album I am loving by the way, like a festive, twee Pulp.

Christmas sometimes weighs on me. That we have this season, rooted in a story about a life of love, but yet it splays out in excessive consumption. It leaves the earth groaning with waste and debt.

This year, rather than getting ranty about it, I would rather celebrate how people are doing Christmas in an exemplary fashion! So here is a link up, a blog hop, for Recycled Christmas. A little spot where people can promote their blog posts on crafts they are making, gifts they have bought, decorations they are pulling out, all with a recycled theme. It will stay open until Christmas so keep adding anything you have! And then we can use it as inspiration for ever. Until the internet ends, anyway.
Link Up your posts here – click box below to see them. Please remember to visit other people’s blogs and leave a comment!


PS- As if this post isn’t jampacked enough, I have just ONE more tiny, little thing to mention. Another way to have an angelic Christmas. For five years now I have run an ethical Christmas Fayre in London – this year we have two! Over the coming weekends, the 1st December, on Oxford Street, and then the 8th & 9th December, at the Horniman Museum. There you will be able to buy fairtrade, eco, vintage, handmade and upcycled gifts for every single person on your list, all under one roof. I would LOVE to see you there! More info here. Please help me spread the word!

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Second hand glad rags

26 September, 2012

Do you remember all those many, many months ago, voting for me in the MAD blog awards? And me getting through in the categories of Thrift and Craft? I know. I can barely believe it, even now. How awesome are you all, for doing that?

So awesome.

The awards ceremony is this Friday night, a swanky do at a posh hotel. So fancy is it all that brands have dolled up nominees and are sending them to the awards in gorgeous frocks. I haven’t bought a single new item of clothing in 7 years (I don’t mean to sound smug, I just love the pre-loved life), so tempted as I was, it didn’t feel right to take up the offer of being given new stuff to wear. Even if freeeee.

When the opportunity came up (er, I asked them) to get styled up by the Oxfam Fashion team, I JUMPED at it. Oxfam is my absolute favourite charity shop by a million miles. I have the BEST shop just next to my work and I would say a good 75% of my wardrobe is Oxfam-sourced.  Today was a massive treat, visiting their Notting Hill boutique store and having their beautiful stylist chose some stunning items for me. I was not too fussy myself – I loved just about every single thing on the shelves. It would be really hard to search for a a party gown in there and walk away empty handed.

I came away with 3 options for the awards ceremony.

Colonel Mustard

Check. Out. These. Troooosers. They are the softiest, silky, smart trousers I have ever worn. And they match perfectly my previously Oxfam- bought mustard heels. They are paired up with a versatile black lace top. I love this look but my only hesitation is that it is slightly on the casual side and I kind of like glamming it up a little bit when the twice yearly chance arises. But still. Delish and a total possibility, no?

Princess Royal

Funnily enough this was a dark horse number, completely overlooked until I noticed that it’s shape could be a winner. Once I had it on I fell in love with it. It is short enough to be a bit fun, whilst also being super classic. When I looked in the mirror I honestly, and bizarely, thought “HELLOOO! Princess Kaaaate”  –  sure enough it is by one of Kate Middleton’s go-to designers, Rebecca Taylor.  So now, despite it being sooo comfortable and nice, now I think it is a bit, kind, of, er, comfortable and, er, nice. In a “my-mum-in-law-is-the-Queen kind of way. (But maybe some crazy bling might sort that out?)

The Loveboat

How blinking outrageous is this dress? Seriously? I look like a saucy singer from an 80’s cruise ship.

I love it.

I love the green, the shape, the complete flamboyoncy of it. My slight worry is that everyone will be frightened to speak to me because it is just so startingly BOLD. Also. I would be very, very worried about my boobies flouncing out all night.

So. For real. What should I wear???!!! What are YOU wearing? And would you ever go for secondhand glamour?

PS Don’t look at how my drawers are open and have all my garments just thrust inside in a jumble, okay? My drawers, drawers. In the picture.

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DIY placemats with HomeMade Chalkboard Paint

30 August, 2012

One of my favourite blogging chums is Lakota over on Faith, Hope and Charity Shopping. I love her hilarious, thrifty, crafty and chazza shop loving ways. Almost in the same week we posted about chalk board paint – me with my revolutionary home made coloured chalkboard paint recipe, and Lakota with a thrifty take on a snazzy placemat. Together we thought they would make a COMPLETE MAXIMUS GENIUS BLOGGING COLLABORATION! 

So here is her post about that: 
A little while ago the Not on the High Street catalogue dropped through my letterbox, and whilst it is a lovely treasure trove of independent makers of stuff – erm, that isn’t on the high street, what it isn’t is cheap. Look at these chalkboard placemats – great fun, but a set of six is £64.99! Yes, you read that correctly. If you want matching coasters, the total would be £91. Blimey. Clearly ‘Claire’ moves in more exalted circles than I.

This is not just any strawberry cheesecake…
photo credit: Not on the High Street.com

Anyway, last week I found these at the bottom of the kitchen drawer – I used to use them all the time but as you can see they’ve got a bit battered and scratched over the years so they were relegated for visiting toddler use and then forgotten about. However, if you don’t have any mats ripe for a makeover you quite often see hideous ones at your Granny’s house charity shops or car boot sales, you know, nasty ones with scenes of fox-hunting or twee thatched cottages.

I used a tester pot of Annie Sloan chalk paint in ‘graphite’ and gave each mat a few coats. It dries very quickly so didn’t take very long at all. A quick scribble with my pastel pencils – I know, posh – and I had my own version ready to wow my guests. (Ed. Only meeee!  Forget Annie Sloan and make your own with a dash of acrylic and some tile grout WOOPIEE.)

 

Of course, if you’re not a gastronomic wizard like myself, you can just use them for playing hangman between courses, writing instructions for your butler, shopping lists, or perhaps improving slogans for the benefit of your offspring.

What would you doodle?

How wicked is that? We are cut from the same cloth, Lakota and I. Looking at expensive things and going home and doing a version on the cheap! Imagine making these in different colours with the homemade recipe? Next Level.  Every Tuesday Lakota hosts Ta-Dah Tuesday where bloggers can show off thrifty finds, craft magic, anything really. Do get involved :D

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Happy

21 August, 2012

In Ramona’s mind the song Happy Birthday and the Upsy Daisy tune from In the Night Garden occupy the same place. She will yell “AAAAAAppyyyy” and if you respond with either of those two things she will be STOKED. That is a tip for you, for winning her heart.

Do you know what makes me happy?

Seeing Ramona learn to jump. She has been working on this for a month or so, and still hasn’t quite nailed the two-feet-off-the-ground-at-the-same-time angle. I love to watch her do this, she throws EVERY molecule of energy into this movement, crouches low, thrusts her body up, arms in the air. To all effect and purpose she is failing at jumping, but actually she is having a brilliant time and I am laughing my socks off with joy – success is so overrated. It is a lesson for life.

Making makes me happy. I am sure we are all made to make. Not in a capitalist, industrious way but in a weaving beauty kind of a way. Creating stuff gives us purpose and life and connects our souls to mystery and meaning. Sometimes I feel a bit in a fug, emotionally dry and also sometimes slightly drained by the spectatorship of the internet – whipping something up, even just a 5 minute number, injects me with energy again. Like steroids, pretty much. I love beautiful fabric in my hands, the pounding crank of my old sewing machine, cutting out pictures and words, giving old stuff a new lease, seeing something come together.

People, people make me happy. (Apart from the ones that really annoy me BAHAHA. Like the ones that let their dog take a dump in the park and don’t clean it up and then your toddler thinks about eating it. Or even just colleagues who don’t do a “courtesy flush” – you know the flush you do a millisecond after your poo so that the smell doesn’t fill the communal loo? You don’t do that? You need to sort that right out.) So. Nice people. Yesterday our neighbours bought us round a pizza. Who does that? Our neighbours do. They are three ancient sisters from Tobago who have all lived together there for fifty years and they always drop in with random items- strawberries, half a bag of donuts, a beanie for Ramona. Is that the most happy-making thing in the world or what? I honestly just think people are brilliant and I hope my heart (often cynical by default) never hardens to them. Having neighbours like this helps with that.

Read the rest of this post over at the scrumpcious Shiney Pigeon where I am guest blogging today!

What makes you happy, my friends? Would love to hear the things that warm your heart.

PS – Thanks again to Jenny Hardy for these beaut shots.

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When life lives you rather than you living life

10 May, 2012

Life this week has been in HD. Everything has felt extreme. I don’t know if this is because I am in a state of malnourished-guru-in-the-desert-style hallucination (it’s this Live Below the Line business- ha, you probably don’t even know I’m doing it! I’ve hardly mentioned it at all!) or if it is classic “it doesn’t rain, it pours” life.

I feel like life is a ship, forging it’s way through great crashing waves of joy, incompetence,  sorrow, bafflement and I am just clinging to a mangy little bit of canvas sail, wondering where the steering wheel thingy is.

(Partly because I want to know who’s captaining this puppy but also because, flipping heck, wouldn’t one of those vintage, rusting, wooden ship wheel thingys look BRILLIANT on the wall of the lounge????)

Here is what is happening:

We had the supremely STUNNING new vintage lifestyle mag Pretty Nostalgic come to our weird little recycled home for a photoshoot and interview. Jo and Jenny came, such lovely characters, and we just chatted and hung out and laughed and they left the first issue and it inspired my soul.

Due to that we have been putting in body achingly long hours tidying and DIYing those leftover jobs. Evenings spent dusting (first time since we moved in I think?), spare moments spent sanding and sewing and screwing (screws into walls, yeah? Filthy, you are. ) We are SO HAPPY having this tidy, clean, house just the way we like it! HURRAH!

Ramona is a sick little sausage, an ear infection and a hacking old flem cough. She nurses all night, and all day at the moment. But she is still a comedic, gorgous, little madam, just one that keeps me up all night snuggling in for more “BAPS!”

My 9-5 work is off the scale busy and at this moment I feel a little breathless with exactly how many balls I am juggling with that. I feel a bit exasperated that I can’t do justice to everything required of me. But I love the work, I love my colleagues, I just wish it didn’t eat into my brain as I try to sleep.

I got through to the finals of the MAD blog awards in TWO categories, Craft and Thrift- thank you SO, SO, SO much for voting for me. I am gobsmackedly chuffed but also, well, a little embarrassed to see Lulastic up against so many incredible, behemothic blogs. Even though I know, I just know, I would be a bit upset not to have gotten through. When you love to blog and pour your heart in, I guess that kind of comes with some high hopes for it.  How weird is that: how weird am I.

As I type my Nana, Betty Tribble, is living her last few days, losing consciousness. She has been slowly wilting over years, this most wonderful, WONDERFUL specimen of womankind. Love bursting, laughter sparkling, snack pushing Nana – “Stick these biscuits in your pocket as you go love, you’re WASTING AWAY I tell you!”- full of wit and all the patience and grace in the world.

*heaving sob*

*pulls self together*

And then this back drop of Below the Line fuelled stomach- angst. We are getting through okay. We are not starving. We are just missing food. We have realised just how much we use food to celebrate and to commiserate. When anything even slightly brilliant happens we say “COR, that’s gotta be worth some cake, eh?!” or if we are tired and feeling sorry for ourselves we bury our faces into a splendid Thai takeaway. This week food has just been about filling a gaping hole in our tummies and nothing more. How we miss it.

Hopefully next week will be back to normal and I can spend my days crafting away and wandering whimsically amongst charity shop shelves packed high with jumble.

See you on the other side…

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The Sickness and Sympathy Pains

13 March, 2012

Beware all who travel these parts, behold the red cross upon our door. Do not enter here. We have The Sickness. The red spotty, itchy very contagious one currently doing the rounds and otherwise known as Poxy Chickens. Well, officially only one of us has it and unfortunately it’s little Ramona, with one limb in a plaster cast. Ramona is coping brilliantly, a constant sunbeam. (Well, apart from yesterday morning when I took Dr Google’s advice and decided an oatmeal bath was in order. But instead of a bath (due to non waterproof cast) more an oatmeal wipe down. Which basically involved Tim and I covering the little darling head to toe in porridge. Ramona was not a fan.)

While Ramona is being stoic, Tim and I are not. We have a Sympathy Sickness. I have come out in itchy spots, dizziness, pins and needles, aches and shakes, fever and Tim has come down with a severe form of that unmentionable condition effecting ones bowels.

Ever since Ramona was born I have seen her as a little part of me, it has always come as a shock when she flashes such independence as she does, but this, THIS, is ridiculous. As if my body refuses to believe we are different entitities or if out of some deep sense of responsibility my body wants to share her pain. IT’S OKAY BODY, SERIOUSLY, IT’S BETTER FOR ALL INVOLVED IF WE KEEP IT TOGETHER.

So, here we are, all three of us, moping around the house, opening the fridge, shutting the fridge empty handed, trying to nap, going to the loo, moping, watching Sesame Street.

If only we were as tough as Ramona.

Not impressed, mum. NOT IMPRESSED.

PS: Britmums have some blogging awards happening at the mo and if you enjoy reading this mix of parenting/ crafting/ thrifting, or if I have inspired you to get thriftier or greener, I would LOVE you to nominate Lulastic and the Hippyshake! It closes in TWO DAYS though (EEK) but it is quite easy to nominate, and you can chose from a few categories. *awkward smile*

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Trotsky pigs

2 March, 2012

Have you seen the Guardian ad where they retell the story of Three Little Pigs yet? I started watching it with Ramona this morning and a few seconds – and a few shocked jumps -in realised it was perhaps not too child friendly. (Not that the original is either, to be fair. What is with fairytales being truly traumatic?)

I loved this ad (watch it here.) I love that the Guardian are poking fun at themselves, and I love the main point of it – that context is everything. I need to hear it as a parent, and want others to hear it – hold fire on your judgements, there is always a background story to hear. To the sideways glances of mammas in the playground checking out Ramona’s FREEZING bare feet. She can’t wear shoes because she has broken her leg and she has pulled her socks off for the 46th time! And she broke her leg because….!!

Anyway, the Three Little Pigs story reminded me of how we do “This little piggy”. We do the Guardian reading version, mocking ourselves. But if anyone ever heard it they would certainly think we were a bit doolally…

This little piggy went to the Co-op
This little piggy stayed at the Commune
This little piggy ate falafel
and this little piggy had her equal share
And THIS little piggy went wee wee wee wee weeee all the way back to the yurt.

Do you free style any nursery rhymes?

(This is Ramona and her big cuzzy Hudson who is moving out of London tomorrow with his family. PEOPLE. I have 12 hours to work out a way to get them to stay. I feel like Mcaulay Culkin in Home Alone. I’ve got gaffa tape, some No More Nails, a rubber ring and some massive pots. Any ideas, call me)

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You can stand under my parasol…

13 February, 2012

(it only smells a tiny little bit like old smoke.)

I have had a long term fondness for parasols – their whimsical print and fragility make me come over all Victorian escapist. I had a lovely ancient blue one when we first got married, but it was one of the first things to be crushed under the almighty clumsical power found in the union of two of the world’s most blundering people. When I found a similar one in a caramel colour and much larger for a mere £3 I snapped it up (and have already put a leeetle hole through it’s papery shell.)

And at a car boot sale in Kent I came across another, this time created with a hardy fabric, a jolly yellow hue and a burlesquey fringe. It was £5 and with that I got whole room full of old lady cigar smell thrown in for free.

My knowledgeable expertise (by knowledgeable expertise I mean google) tells me they are probably mid centuryish.
But you do tend to spot them quite commonly, and they go for a song on Ebay. I think it is because no one knows what to DO with them, least of all me. What do I DO with them?

They are like peacocks – fantastical and dazzling when they are open, but too bloody big to fit anywhere. When they are shut they are neat and tidy but look about as thrilling as a wooden spoon.

Although because they are so cheap I could start collecting them and then move into a house with a very tall ceiling and then hang them all upside down to create a kind of canopy of papery, fringey, oriental print dreaminess……..

I am sure you know of a way to display these beauts in the meantime? Anyone pinned any parasolled up rooms lately?

Linking up with a whole load of snazzy old treasure through Liz’s Magpie Monday and Apron Thrift Girl’s ThriftShare Monday (go check out her magnificant lamps.)

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Home

12 January, 2012

Five amazing weeks in New Zealand introducing our delicious Ramona to our beautiful family and friends but still it is nice to be home. (Adjective central!)

Nice to eat a Welcome Home cake baked by our housemate.

Nice to not have to worry about the odd stealthy wee slipping out in a corner. (Ramona’s, for the most part.)

Nice to just “wake up and see what happens”;  to not have to make decisions about what to do, when, where, how, with whom. (Even though those whats, whos, hows and wheres were brilliant!)

Nice to see Ramona remembering her favourite spots; cupboards filled with precious crockery, wobbly stools to climb, corners to sit and do stealthy wees in.

Nice to ride on my bike to my favourite local haunts (of the charity shop variety) – and in a stroke of serendipity to find the EXACT toy that Ramona fell in love with at her Grandma’s house in NZ. Lush, eh. It is a sign of true love that I bought it for her, it not being vintage or wooden but being loud, massive and plastic. (Middle class? Me?!)

But mostly nice to come home and feel like this is home. That despite the lure of laidback, warm and stunning New Zealand, we are exactly where we are meant to be. For now, at least.

(This is a wicked embroidary number, eh? Found it at Melissa’s. *Adds to list of things to make one day.*)