Sunday, 30 September 2012

clothes for the day

The last clothes related post was a whopping six months or more ago (how has it been that long?!), when I was in the last weeks of pregnancy, looking like I'd swallowed a beach ball and feeling pretty much the same. Since then I've either a) not managed to get out of my pyjamas b) worn only a hoody and sweatpants c) worn clothes covered in baby sick or d) been skinnier than a skinny thing while I battle anaemia. I've been feeling pretty poorly, and am eating iron tablets like they're going out of fashion - at my worst, I had no appetite, would start to pass out on standing and looked, as a friend described me, 'gaunt'. I'm feeling a little better now, and in honour of the chillier weather and new season, had a rummage through my wardrobe (many, many things to be sold off) and dug out my beloved coats.

T-shirt: Paul Smith Jeans / Coat: eBay / Jeans: H&M via eBay / Clogs: Lotta from Stockholm
Really must find a better place to take pictures than in front of our dilapidated fence.
I'm in love with this coat - it looks really vintage-esque, but isn't at all, I got it from eBay and it originally came from one high street shop or another. I have an endless problem with buying clothes - I want to limit my effect on the planet as much as possible, but without looking like I've dressed in an old hemp sack. I also don't want to spend a fortune doing it. My main answer is to buy second hand high-street clothing, meaning that you get the style of clothing you're after, but without making such an impact on the planet - hurrah!

I also rediscovered my boxes of accessories, and had a hard time not wearing everything at once, a la Mr. T (I pity the fool who wears ten necklaces), but in the end went for the hand painted vintage pendant from a charity shop, and beads that I upcycled some time last year. On my feet are my beloved Lotta tan clogs - I'm trying to decide on a new pair for Autumn, and so far I'm torn between the forest green or red Mary Janes and the blue peep toes.

I don't usually feature the kiddos in outfit posts, because Benjamin wears the usual uniform of jeans-tshirt-sneakers-hoody, and Daisy usually wears something-and-leggings. This particular day, though, Daisy looked so adorable all squished in her knitwear that I had to grab her. The dungarees are from eBay, the shoes are from Mothercare, and the cardigan was knitted by the Husbands mum. Can't beat a bit of handmade goodness!


Friday, 28 September 2012

an ode to summer

Let's go fly a kite, up to the highest heights...

I wish I could put into words how hot I was in this photo. Denim on a beach. Just, no.

Dug me a hole!

The superb Belle Isle in Southsea. Nom.

The food was so good, I actually want to lick the screen.

This summer, although short and pretty sporadic, was a goodun. We spent hours on beach trips (mostly impromptu, hence the jeans and ridiculous last-minute hat), wandered about discovering odd little shops, saw yarn bombing a-plenty, ate heaps, did a spot of seasonal baking and visited the Natural History Museum in Portsmouth, which consists mainly of models of cavemen and the butterfly room *shudder*. I stayed outside for that one, hence the picture taken through the viewing window. Butterflies, moths, birds - anything that flaps gives me the right heebie-jeebies.

But all good things have to come to an end, the rain has arrived for good, the heating is on (don't judge me - our house is pretty drafty) and I'm stocking up books, yarn, recipes and knitwear for the Autumn and Winter. Things have been a bit difficult over the last few weeks, our eldest is being tested for Aspergers, and I don't mind saying that his behaviour has reached epic awfulness. I realise as a blogger, I'm meant to bang on about how wonderful parenting is, but truth be told, it really hasn't been that great lately. Two children is, frankly, hard work, and even more so when one of them is displaying challenging behaviour. I've read parenting books, from Sears to Supernanny, I've done the naughty step, distractions, punishments, staying calm, getting angry, and even crying - but nothing seems to work. He's being assessed at his pre-school next month, and I'm looking forward to getting some answers - whether he's on the Autism spectrum, or just being a little so-and-so. What doesn't help is that my lovely Dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimers - I know now what people mean when they say it never rains, but it pours. The absolute only way to get through everything is to thank our lucky stars that he doesn't have vascular dementia (much worse), and to realise that in actual fact, we all have each other, enough to eat and a roof over our heads. And in this day and age, that makes us pretty lucky.

Monday, 24 September 2012

ride 'em, cowboy

I've had this post saved in my drafts folder for aaaaages, but just haven't found the time to edit the pictures to go with it. An evening with a surprisingly smooth double bedtime, and only X-Factor on the TV (not telly that requires the greatest amount of concentration) meant that tonight I finally managed it. *Air punch*

A while back, I wrote a book review as a guest poster on the lovely Kat's blog, where I raved over a DIY vintage cowboy chest of drawers. Ever since, I've been bordering on obsessed with finding old cowboy annuals, and this post by Lucy over at Lulastic really didn't help matters (nor did this one. Or this...) One day, I managed to strike it lucky on eBay, and won not one, not two, but three vintage cowboy annuals. Hurrah!

The pictures inside were just what I was after - good old Roy Rogers yeee-hawing around on his horse, pop-up cowboys going about their day and even the odd illustrated map or two just begging to be popped up on the wall.

John, I hope you enjoyed your Christmas in 1954

I thought about doing some tins covered in pictures, and then realised that actually, I didn't have anything to put in them. Then I thought about doing some sort of collage, and decided that honestly, all that glueing and mod-podging was a bit too much effort for a project that I wanted to get finished pretty quickly. In the end I hit upon the idea of doing some sort of garland, by cutting out the pictures and then attaching them to a crochet band. Yarn saves the day again!

Several chains, double crochet stitches and a yarn colour change later, and the crochet cowboy garland was born. Drum roll please..... drrrrrr......

To be completely honest, Benjamin was pretty underwhelmed. "Oh," he said, "and what is it?" Humph. Still, I'm pretty pleased with it, and I think it looks just right above his postcard display thingy (the Diginet system from IKEA - a great way of having a picture display without having to knock a load of holes in the wall. Essential when you rent like we do..). Plus, hurrah for upcycled-recycled-thrifty-DIY-goodness.

Linking up with all the other magpies as usual over on Magpie Monday. High five for thriftiness!

Friday, 21 September 2012

ecover zero

Regular readers will know that I have an on-off relationship with everything eco-friendly, and while I'm incredibly enthusiastic and willing to try most things, I usually just end up in a massive muddle. (A good example is the mental tussle I have over supermarkets and shopping - I've considered box schemes (too expensive for us), and have driven miles to buy our fruit and veg from a farmers market with two kiddos in the back (incredibly stressful. Do not try it), but still we find ourselves buying stuff from Waitrose or *insert generic supermarket here.*) However, I'll attempt anything once, so when I was offered the chance to road test the new range of Ecover cleaning supplies, I said a very enthusiastic 'yes'.

 Ecover are marvelous, and I really, really like them. We already use their washing up liquid and laundry stuff (when we can afford to - like most ethical things, it's a bit more pricey than supermarket own brand, and as much as I love the environment and our beautiful planet, I'm not prepared to starve for it!), and they're all superb - a particular favourite is the Grapefruit and Green Tea washing up liquid. The new Zero range contains all the usual ethical wonderful-ness, but has been designed specifically for people with allergies, and is completely fragrance free. As a sufferer of extremely sensitive skin, and the mother to a child prone to eczema, I thought it sounded right up our street.

The pack I received contained non-bio laundry liquid and fabric conditioner, washing up liquid, a dishcloth, tea towel and a handy little tote bag, perfect for taking to the market on fruit and veg day. Lovely!

The cleaning was superb. I gave the laundry liquid and conditioner a rigorous testing on a white load which contained, amongst other things, my dressing gown (robe? What do people even call these things these days?) which was covered in baby sick (erk), toddler breakfast and make up. Mornings are a messy business in our house. Also in there was a tea towel, and a baby-gro. Both suitably mucky. They came out gleaming.

Don't judge me on my creased tea towel....
The washing up liquid also proved its worth and performed excellently - clean dishes all the way. The only issue I had with it was a personal one - I'm a big fan of smells. I like the smell of clean laundry, and fruity dishwashing liquid, which is why I wouldn't personally swap to the Zero range. I think if we had more severe allergies, I would do it in a heartbeat, but Benjamin's eczema is under control, and I can avoid skin irritation simply by wearing rubber gloves. On the whole, though, it's a superb idea, and I highly recommend Ecover as a brand, and the Zero range as well.

Head over to the Ecover website for more information, products and much more.

(Note: Although I received the cleaning products for free, I wasn't paid for this post and all opinions are my own. If I'd thought it was pants, I would have said so!)


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

ain't no better den than a homemade den

One of the things my boy loves more than anything is making a little hidey hole for himself - crawling under blankets, making forts and nests out of cushions.... give the kid a secret spot of his own and he is one happy camper. When he was younger he had a Thomas the Tank Engine pop-up house thingy, which he a) hardly ever played with and b) has since grown out of - Thomas used to get shunned on a daily basis in favour of a blanket and two chairs. What can I say? He's inherited my make-do attitude and love of homemade. Lucky really, since for about 29 days of the month we are skint-o.

 I've got a board on Pinterest which I started when I wanted to collect ideas for being outdoors in the Summer (stupidly, I thought we might have more than a couple of weeks of sun, and imagined us spending endless lazy days lying on beaches and in fields. Epic weather fail) called Outdoor Adventures, where I pinned heaps of pictures of tents, dens and tepees. I found loads of A-Frame tutorials, like this one here, and really though about actually doing it - but when it came down to it, an old quilt cover and seven bamboo canes did the job just fine. While it might not have been as sturdy (I'm going to sew some tapes on the bottom to make it more secure for next time), it served us well for the afternoon, and didn't take long to put up (it would have taken far less time if I'd had someone to hold the bamboo canes and hadn't got in a complete tent-related rage with them every time they fell over...). So without further ado, here is my short tutorial for a DIY tent (I'd just like to point out that I am in no way claiming this idea as my own - I'm sure others out there in blogland have been making garden accessory dens for yonks. This is just how I did it):

You will need:

Single quilt cover that you don't mind cutting up
7 extra long garden canes (the ones that are about 6 or 7ft are ideal
String (I actually used DK crochet cotton which worked really well)

1. Take quilt cover. Cut down the stitched short side, and one of the long sides. You could always unpick it if you want the finish to be a bit neater, which is what I did.
2. Turn under to make a hem, and stitch in place.
3. Take two garden canes and lie them flat on the floor (I made the mistake of trying to lean them against the fence to do this. Don't try it. Just trust me. You'll end up incandescent with rage), in a 'V' shape. Overlap them at the top. Tie together with string.
4. Repeat again for the other end.
5. This is really where you need a second person - I managed to get Benjamin to stand still long enough to hold one of the 'V' shapes while I held the other one, and fixed the roof support cane on top.
6. Push the ends of the canes into the lawn so it stands up, then tie the last cane to one end to make a sort of tripod. I didn't think I'd need to do this, but it just makes the whole structure a bit more secure.
7. Drape quilt cover over and peg in place.
8. Get cross and swear at pegs every time one pings off.
9. Manage to secure all four sides of the quilt cover and feel smug.
10. Add a flag and some bunting.
11. Find your most comfy cushions and blankets, and furnish your new abode.
12. Carry every single toy in the house outside and try to squash them all inside (err, that might just apply to us...).

That's pretty much it. I'm sure there are more technical ways of doing this, but if you like a good shortcut, it worked fine for us. Happy camping!

PS: I played around with the fab Picmonkey for the photos on this post - waaaaaay better than Picnic used to be!

Proving that vintage scarves have multiple uses

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