Sunday, 31 August 2014

August Round Up - No Spend/Low Spend September

We got back from our break in Norfolk on Saturday and as August draws to a close, the summer holidays are now almost at an end.  They've gone by pretty quickly this year and we've managed to keep ourselves amused.  It's been great to have visitors this August and to make the odd visit ourselves, but as September approaches my thoughts are rapidly turning to the idea of getting back to a normal routine.  Taking a break has really made me appreciate our everyday routines, the ones that keep our lives moving forward.

Little Bird is now positively itching to start secondary school and whilst I will enjoy the freedoms that this will inevitably bring to my everyday life, I will also miss having her around during the day.  I'm so looking forward to seeing her on her first day, dressed up in her new school uniform and looking all grown up.  I'm also looking forward to hearing all her daily news as she makes new friends and discovers new subjects and interests.  It's such an exciting time for her.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little anxious for her too, although I won't be letting her know that.

I, myself,  will no doubt resume my normal day to day routine or something similar.  I've been toying with the idea of starting a course of some kind this September, but my search for one that appeals, hasn't thus far been fruitful enough for me to actually enrol myself on one.   Not to worry,  I have plenty of projects in mind, to both start and complete, so I may just focus on those for the next few months in the lead up to Christmas and consider starting a short course in the New Year.

On the financial front, my finances have taken a real bashing this August for various reasons, so I am definitely looking forward to getting them back under control again in September.  I haven't managed to stick to my plan to pay £100 off my overdraft this month, so have fallen slightly behind with this aim.  In addition, my daily recording of expenditure has fallen by the wayside over the last couple of months, for the first time in 10 years.  In a way, it has made a nice change not to pay too much attention to it, but on the other hand it has meant that I seem to have spent way too much.  The break has been good in some ways though, as I feel a fresh enthusiasm for returning to it starting in September.

Talking of September, I've decided to join with Sue from Our New Life in the Country blog, in having a No Spend/Low Spend September.  I'm hoping this challenge will help me get back on track and also encourage me to use up foods we have lurking in the cupboards, before buying more.  It should especially help me with rectifying another consequence of my lapse in keeping a daily record of expenditure, namely chalking up more no spend days.  I got stuck on 51 back in July when I stopped keeping expenditure records, and as I'm aiming for 100 this year,  I really need to make a superhuman effort in the next four months or I'm not going to achieve this.  We'll see, stranger things have happened I'm sure, 

Friday, 29 August 2014

Beauty and the Beach

The final day of our holiday in North Norfolk and we returned to Holkham, but this time we went for a walk along the beautiful beach there.  I was told by a lady I met at one of the Zumba classes I took locally, that the beach here was very beautiful, had been used as a location for various films and was definitely worth a visit. 

We parked up and walked onto the beach via a wooden walkway.  The tide here didn't seem quite so far out as it was nearer Hunstanton and the sand was a beautiful white colour around the sand dunes.  The backdrop to the sand dunes and beach was a beautiful pine forest.  It was certainly very idyllic and probably one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been on in the UK thus far.  I'm so pleased that we made the effort to visit it.  Stupidly, I didn't take any photographs, but Google images has some wonderful pictures of this beach if anyone is interested.

Following a lovely walk on the beach, we retired to a pub called The Duck in Stanhope for lunch.  The food was fabulous.  It was our one big treat on our holiday and definitely worth it.  The afternoon was then spent tidying the beach hut and retrieving our belongings therefrom, before we leave tomorrow morning and head back to London.  

Later, we walked the dog once again on the beach below the cliffs at Hunstanton, searching for fossils with the wind blowing in our hair.  It was a lovely end to our holiday.  We've really enjoyed our stay here in North Norfolk and I know we'll be back.  It was especially dog friendly on the beaches and in many of the pubs and shops we visited, which is very important to us, our dog being a very special member of the family.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone as a great place to stay.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

A Visit to Holkham Hall.

On the Thursday of our week in Norfolk, we decided to spend the afternoon at Holkham Hall, a short drive from Hunstanton.

When we arrived it was quite busy and were were directed to an overflow car park.  Whilst OH walked the dog in the extensive grounds of the Hall, Little Bird and I decided to explore the Bygone Museum and the House itself.

We started our exploration in the museum.  There were lots of interesting exhibits including this Victorian kitchen.

I liked this hot cross bun stamp.  I'd never seen one before and it fascinated me.

Little Bird had fun typing with this old fashioned typewriter.  I had a go too.  It reminded me of learning to type a good few years ago now.  (It wasn't my strongest skill as a teenager.  Put it this way, I used a lot of Tippex in those days!)

Outside in the courtyard there were lots of old vehicles.  I particularly liked this old Bentley,

this motorbike with sidecar,

and more especially this beautiful Airstream caravan, which is apparently still used today by the family in residence.

Having explored the museum we took a look inside the house.  There was a very beautiful ornate plaster ceiling in the entrance hall which caught my eye,

some very beautiful four poster beds in some of the bedrooms,

and I also admired this beautiful chandelier.

Working in the old kitchen must have involved a lot of polishing of this copperware.  I'm not sure I would have liked a job here.

After meeting back up with OH, we later explored the enormous walled garden.  I have never seen one so large before.

I liked these onion drying frames.  I'd like to make one myself at home.  Not that I really grow enough onions to merit it.

Some of the walled garden is still being restored.  I quite liked some of the signs of decay that had set in, particularly with regard to some of the glass houses.  They were very atmospheric.

Some were currently in use.

We had a lovely afternoon.  What started out as a cloudy/rainy day ended in bright sunshine, much to our delight.  Perfect weather for enjoying the grounds.  A stop off at the pub for a shandy and a bag of crisps on the way home made for a perfect afternoon out.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Great Escape to Norfolk

For our break in Norfolk we headed off on Saturday lunch time, amidst a large amount of traffic, as is common on the August Bank Holiday weekend.  It took a little longer to get there than we had hoped, but eventually we were settled into our new home for the week and it was cups of tea all round and lots of catching up with other family members.

We were staying in Hunstanton, North Norfolk and were very pleasantly surprised by the surroundings as we drove into town.  Later, we headed out for a takeaway fish and chip supper.  It has to be done at some point during our seaside soujourn and being our first evening, saved any of us from actually having to cook.

On Sunday, our first full day in Norfolk, OH had decided to join in a British Cycling event at Fakenham, some 20 miles away.  It was a 50km ride.  I volunteered to drive him there to drop him off, and then on the way back I stopped off at a local car boot sale nearby.  It was very busy with lots of stalls to mooch around.  My favourite way of spending a Sunday morning, when I'm not at the gym that is.

I didn't go too mad.  I bought a couple of small lavender plants at 80p each, a wooden kitchen towel roll holder and a display box which I am going to paint and use for storing some of my washi tapes and other items (reveal to follow),

a roll of pretty vintage wallpaper,

some vintage flannelette pillow cases

and some lovely silver earrings. 

Less than £10 spent in total, a couple of storage solutions found, and I was a very happy bunny.

It was a lovely sunny day and when I returned to Hunstanton, I met the rest of our party at the lovely beach hut in Old Hunstanton, that we had use of for the week.  Here's the view from the front, looking towards the dunes, behind which is the lovely sandy beach.

It was idyllic and I was so happy to learn that the dog was allowed on the beach here, which made it even more so.  Naturally, we spent the rest of the day happily ensconsed in our beach chairs, relaxing in the sun, walking the dog on the beach, etc. etc.  It was a lovely start to our holiday.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Allotment Tales

I didn't post on my last visit to the allotment, firstly because I forgot to take my camera, and secondly, because there wasn't a whole lot going on.  I harvested some runner beans, a couple of cucumbers and a courgette and that was about it.  Nothing wildly exciting, but all free food that I'm grateful for.

I headed back there today, just over a week later, before we head off to Norfolk for a week.  My aim was to do another round of harvesting and watering.  I did intend to photograph the plot and anything interesting that was happening, but as soon as I tried to take a photo, I realised my batteries had worn out, so my plans were foiled once again.


I proceeded to harvest what was there, namely some more potatoes.  On account of having visitors, we'd used almost all of the potatoes I harvested a couple of months ago.  I don't think I've harvested them all, as there are still some are hidden beneath some nastursiums.   I'll get to them when they die off or I pull them up. The ones I did harvest included some whoppers though, that will come in very handy for baked potatoes this autumn.  A few others got forked again in the process. (I really should take another spade to the allotment).   I'll cut these up for wedges, mash or a lamb hot pot at some point.  The rest will go into the cloth potato bag in the cupboard, and we'll work our way through them in the coming months.

Just above the potatoes on the draining board you'll notice there are some small purple plums.  These were very kindly given to me by another allotment holder as I left and are lovely and ripe and very sweet to eat.  Next to those are a few spring onions that I also harvested and which will be coming to Norfolk with me for my salads.

There was lots more rhubarb which I did harvest in spite of still having lots in the fridge.  I'll keep this until we get back and I used the rest to make some mixed fruit crumbles tonight today, two of which I froze for when we get back and one I'm taking with us.  I'm mixed them with left over plums and some lovely frozen strawberries I got from the fruit farm a month ago.

There were a few runner beans which I blanched and froze and a couple of small cucumbers.  Not a huge haul, but there should be some sweetcorn ready when we get back and possibly some more strawberries as the plants were starting to fruit again.  There were even some very tiny sweet peppers, so I'm hoping a bit more sunshine will bring them along a bit and I'll be able to harvest some before the end of the season.

I did a bit of weeding and hoeing to tidy around a little, sowed a few late lettuce seeds and then watered before coming home.  Hopefully, on my next visit you might finally get some photos of the plot.

Friday, 22 August 2014

One Pattern One Week

Whilst reading Tilly and The Button's blog this morning, I came across an interesting post about a challenge that I've decided to join in with this September.  It's a challenge called One Week One Pattern 2014 and the aim of the challenge is to wear items that you've made from one pattern for 7 consecutive days.

If you've made multiple different versions of a pattern, you can wear a different version every day of the challenge or if you've only made a couple of versions, you can style them in different ways over the seven days.

The pattern I'm using for this challenge is this one by Butterick, number B4461.

A simple flattering A-line skirt which I have made in many different fabrics in the last few years, most of which I've documented on this blog.  It's a perfect pattern for a beginner and takes just a few hours to complete from start to finish.   I'm going to style a different version each day of the challenge and show you how I would normally wear them in my everyday life.

The challenge starts on 6th September and you can find details of it here on Handmade Jane's blog and leave a comment if you want to join in.  I'm really looking forward to joining in and I may even create a new version of the skirt for the final day of the challenge, if I can find the time, as I'm always happy to make another version.  I hope you enjoy reading about it.

Thursday, 21 August 2014


It's been and incredibly busy few days, and after a 3 hour round trip to Heathrow airport to take my brother in law and nephew to catch their flight back to Australia, all of our visitors have now left and continued on their travels and a lovely calmness has descended on the household.  No more cleaning, shopping, cooking or dashing here and there showing visitors the local sights. We can just stand/sit still for a little while and take a deep breath, before the next round of activity begins, i.e. getting packed for our week in Norfolk with some relatives.  The dog has been stripped this week, so she might get a bit chilly now and her woolly coat may need to come with us).  She looks so different.   I must admit that I prefer her with more hair and a scruffy countenance.

Now the weather has turned a bit colder, I'm having to pack a wider range of clothing than I did for our holiday in Italy.  A few jumpers and more trousers than shorts, but we may get lucky and get a few days on the beach.  If not, I've picked up a stack of leaflets from the motorway services on our recent travels, so I've got a few days out to historic houses and other places lined up, in case we get any cold or rainy weather.  I've also checked out some local zumba classes on line so I could even keep exercising whilst we're away, which would be good as I've hardly done any this week.

I've got a few little errands to pop out and do in the next couple of days, but I'm in no desperate hurry.  I will enjoy pottering around packing, washing, ironing and finding the odd item to add to another charity shop box.  I'm itching to get painting with the chalk paint and have found a few other small items to use it on, but these jobs will have to wait until we get back and Little Bird has started back at school.

Also on account of the weather change, my thoughts are starting to turn to the autumn.  I'm actually looking forward to covering up and wearing lots of layers.  There's something so cosy about getting wrapped up against the cold.  I need to get a move on with our double quilt though,  I haven't touched it for months and still have just under half of it to hand quilt.  I can see a burst of activity on the quilt front happening once the school term re-starts.

Before I wish our lives away and what is left of the summer, I'm going to banish these thoughts to the back of my mind for a week or so and just enjoy what is left of the summer holidays.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Humorous Signs

I saw a few great signs whilst I was out and about at a Maker's Market on Sunday.  I didn't have my camera, so I couldn't take a photo.

The first one, that really amused me, said:

'It's not dirt on my windows, it's doggy nose art '.

If you have a dog, you will probably appreciate the humour of this one.

The second sign that I liked said:

'Sometimes I wake up grumpy, other times I let him sleep'.

Finally, I liked the sign that said:

'Never be too busy making a living, that you forget to make a life'.

Sadly, I didn't really have any spare money to buy any of these, but it may be something that I may write on our new kitchen blackboard to make me smile(more about this in another post).  I think the doggy nose one would definitely have won out, as our doggy often tries to lick the kitchen patio door windows.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

London Bound

Today, and after quick jaunt to the seaside town of Bridlington this morning with the younger children, we were once again London Bound, our relaxing weekend visit with family over.  We said our goodbyes and headed off, stopping on the way to briefly visit more family members, before heading back to London, me with the knowledge that I had the remainder of the cleaning ahead of me when I got home, in time for the arrival of the first of our visitors this week, on Monday lunchtime.   I had made a start on the house cleaning in the couple of days before we left to go to Yorkshire.  The recent rounds decluttering that I've been doing had definitely helped make it a little easier.  By the time I'd come away, I'd cleaned the living room and 2nd reception room.  I'd washed and left all the sofa and other cushion covers drying, to replace when I get back home.  The guest bedroom was ready, and the stairs and landings have been hoovered.

When I got back home at 8.30pm tonight, after unloading the car, I set to putting all the cushion covers back on.  In the morning it's bathroom, toilet and kitchen cleaning and Little Bird's room needs a hoover, the bed needs changing and another one making up for one of our guests, plus the food shopping, of course.  It's going to be a bit of a marathon to get everything done, so I knew that I'd have to hit the ground running on getting home on Sunday night.  Hopefully, I'll manage to do everything that needs doing and if not, I've done my best to make my home a welcoming place.

Later this week, we're hoping to have a visit from my brother-in-law and nephew, who are over here from Australia and are flying back out there on Thursday.  It will be good to see them for the first time in 4 years, since we visited them in Brisbane.  Unfortunately, my sister couldn't come over on this visit, as her youngest son is at school and couldn't get away.  It's been nice to be in regular contact with her over the last couple of weeks in relation to their visit and she's be keeping me informed by email of all their movements and news whilst they've been here.  They seem to have had a good time travelling to visit friends and relatives and watching their favourite football team, in various parts of the country.

I may find it difficult to find time to blog this week on account of our visitors, so please excuse my absence.  I'll be back blogging regularly towards the end of the week.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A Yorkshire Visit

This weekend we've been visiting relatives near Malton, North Yorkshire for a long weekend.  It was good for all of us to get out of  London and breathe in some country air.  We have a busy week next week with two lots of visitors passing through and then a break with family members in Norfolk to pack for the following week.  When we get back, I've got to finish cleaning the house in readiness, get the dog stripped at the groomers, pick up and pay for Little Bird's new school uniform. as well as continue to fit in as much exercise as time and visits allow.

For now I'm enjoying the time away.  Our hosts are incredibly hospitable as always and are taking great care of us, we're catching up with news and the kids are having fun and playing together, so we're having a very relaxing time.  The dog seems to be loving it too, playing ball games and walking in the fields. 

Today, whilst OH took himself off on a cycle ride to Bridlington, I left Little Bird playing with her cousins and I took myself off to the nearby East Yorkshire Market town of Driffield to get a few bits and pieces that we needed (i.e. dog food - I forgot to pack it).  It's a lovely traditional small Yorkshire town with lots of lovely independent shops and a farmer's market.  Today, there was also a Makers Market, with lots of craft stalls selling all manner of things, so I was able to mooch around looking at all the stalls and the goods on sale.  I didn't actually buy anything from the market itself, but I did come across a stall selling painted furniture and chalk paints.

I've been looking for some reasonably priced chalk paint for a while and the gentleman on the stall, who also owned a shop in Driffield, had recently begun selling pots of the chalk paint he uses on the furniture he sells.  I popped along to his shop and purchased a 750ml pot of a greyish chalk paint for £12, which is quite a bit less than it would cost me to buy some from Annie Sloan and pay for postage on top, so I was very happy.

My intention is to paint an old 1930's wardrobe I have on my upstairs landing, which I use as a linen cupboard.  I started to sand it a few years ago, but gave up as it was such hard work and so messy, but the beauty of the chalk paint is that you don't need to bother with all that prep, so I'm looking forward to transforming it when I get home and find some spare time.

Whilst in Driffield I couldn't resist visiting the great Yorkshire institution of the Boyes store, which sells hardware/fabrics/haberdashery/clothes/toiletries/cookware, etc.  I managed to buy a few small Christmas presents for Little Bird, at very reasonable prices, plus a few other things that I'd been looking for for a while.

I stumbled across an auction whilst I was in Driffield, of Victorian and General items.  It was well under way when I stumbled in, but I couldn't resist popping my head in and taking a look.  They hold them every other week there, so I bagged myself a list of future auctions and next time I'm in the area, I'm going to try to pop along and see if there is anything interesting in the sale.  I love attending household auctions.  I used to go along with my mum many years ago, but haven't found a good local auction house since moving to London, so haven't really bothered at all.

My last treat before heading back to our hosts' house was to treat myself to a good old Yorkshire delicacy, the Yorkshire Curd Tart.  As I didn't have any power in my battery or phone to take a picture, here's a picture I found on the BBC good food website. 

Yorkshire curd tart

On the way back to our hosts house I came across the Tribfest, which was taking place a few miles away in Sledmere.  It's apparently the world's largest Tribute Band music festival.  It looked to be very busy with hundreds of cars parked up in the surrounding fields and more people arriving constantly.  I checked out the festival on their website when I got back.  I think I'm probably a bit out of touch with how much it costs to go to a music festival, but it seemed a little pricey.  Here's the link though if anyone is interested. uk

Anyway, I had a great morning out and thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this lovely town.

Friday, 15 August 2014

An Easy Armchair Makeover

Just before Christmas last year, we purchased a winged armchair for our living room.  It was a bit of a last minute rush to buy one, which isn't the best of circumstances, before OH's  mum and dad came for Christmas, as it was bought with the intention that his dad could use it during his stay.  As I'd left it ridiculously late to find one, and despite having scoured local 2nd hand furniture stores, I ended up having to buy one 'buy it now' on eBay.  Even here, there were a limited number that could be delivered in time for Christmas with just a week to go, well just the one in fact, so this was the chair we bought.

 (NB Please excuse the massive pile of ironing in the background - it has now been done, but I'm keeping it real and showing things as they really are).

It probably wouldn't have been our first choice, but we were just grateful that it could be delivered in time and within a reasonable budget.  It's nice enough, and although I like the plaid, I wasn't keen on the texture of the fabric and it didn't really fit in with the decor, our living room being blues/greens/greys, and the chair being brown/beige/cream.  In an attempt to make it blend in more, I threw a favourite vintage woolen blanket over it to make it feel nice and cosy, but as you can see this completely hides the nice shape of the chair, which is a pity. 

Unfortunately, in the end it was a bit of a squeeze for OH's dad to use, so he ended up sitting on the sofa during his visit anyway.  We, on the other hand love sitting in it and even now we often argue over who gets to sit in it.  It is very comfortable for sitting and watching TV or sewing, especially once I'd revamped a foot stool I found in the street to use with it.

Just lately, however, I was feeling a bit dissatisfied with the look and got to thinking that I might get a loose cover for it, so that it you could see it's nice shape and so that it would fit in better with the general decor.  I checked out a few places to see if I could find any covers for wing chairs.  There seemed to be quite a variety for sale in the US, but very few here.  Anyway, I found one on eBay and figured that it was worth a try.  It was charcoal in colour which sounded perfect, but it was a bit of a gamble.

It arrived within a couple of days and after initial difficulty knowing which way to put it on, I managed to get it in place.  It wasn't perfect, as you can see from the photograph, and was a little tightly stretched in some places and a little loose in others, but I was pretty happy with the overall outcome and the room feels a bit tidier and more pulled together now. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Feeling Irritated

I've not felt like blogging for the past few days, mainly because I've been feeling a little irritated.  Not by blogging or other bloggers, might I add, just other things going on in my life at the moment.  I have to keep reminding myself not to dwell on the small petty things that other people say or do, that make you feel like you are somehow a failure or some sort of loser.  Most of the time, I manage to navigate life not worrying about other peoples negativity, but occasionally I find myself dwelling on it and I can't quite get past it.

My current preoccupation seems to be a bit of an obsession with decluttering.  Partly, the reason for this, was a recent comment made about my house.  I don't know about anyone else, but I am a touch sensitive with regard to my hearth and home.  I'm not ridiculously houseproud, miminalist (I wish), or even particularly precious about my home, as you probably know from reading some of my posts, but I do take umbrage when another person passes comment, in a not wholly positive way.  Anyway, on the positive side, it's made me take a good long look and yes, there is quite a bit of clutter, and yes some of it can go, which has been my main focus in the last week or two.  Another 4 boxes and bags were taken to the charity shop today and I've already started thinking about what can go in the next lot.

It doesn't help that I'm feeling a little stuck in a rut at the moment and don't quite feel like I'm making much progress in certain areas of my life, so I'm trying to consider where I need to make changes to improve things and bolster my sense of  myself.  I'm not actually getting too far in this regard, but one good thing is the extra pounds I put on whilst on holiday have finally shifted, so I'm happy about that, just a few more stone to go.  Only joking.  One would be good.

I read an interesting post on Frugal Queen's blog today which inspired me, about looking after oneself and putting yourself first, and I think that perhaps I'm not doing a good enough job of this lately and am too worried about pleasing others, who probably couldn't care less anyway.  So, I think from now on, I'm going to do a bit more of the former and be a bit more discerning about the latter and see what happens.

Sorry to harp on to you guys about it, I guess we all have bad days, and that's what makes us human.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A Saturday Shopping Trip

Saturday was a busy day this weekend, but not in the usual sense.  It started off in relatively relaxed manner.   The morning I spent catching up with household jobs and a bit of blog reading and for a changed I treated myself to a Saturday broadsheet, which I took pleasure in reading in it's entirety.
In the afternoon I had arranged to take Little Bird back to school stationery shopping with one of her soon to be classmates and her mum, who also happens to be a friend of ours. Normally, I avoid the mall on a Saturday like the plague, as it is usually rammed with people, but for Little Bird's sake I was happy to make an exception.

We let the girls go off shopping on their own on this occasion, as it was something they had really looked forward to and we agreed a meet time a bit later.  As both of us adults had things we needed to go off and do, we both went our separate ways too and met up later.

For my part I had a voucher to replace my iron, which was beyond repair whilst still under warranty, so I headed off with that purpose in mind.  I had to use the voucher at a specific shop which meant leaving the mall completely.  I took a while to choose the replacement, but got a really good deal and a higher specification iron for less than I paid for the original, as it was on a special offer.  This was a great bonus.  With some of the leftover money, I indulged in a storage solution for the kitchen to help minimise visual clutter, plus a new clothes airer which I use constantly in the winter months, to dry the washing.  There was still £30 left on the voucher inspite of this, so when I decide what to spend it on, I will be taking myself back to said store and spending it.  A good result for me.

After struggling back across town with the boxes and putting them in the car, I picked up my watch which I left at the watch repairers as the strap had virtually disintegrated after four years of constant wear.  For £10 I managed to get a new leather strap fitted and they replaced the cheap plastic buckle on the new strap with my own Swatch watch metal buckle, which was far stronger.  It now feels like I have a brand new watch which is great. 

We all met up again and then headed home for coffee and a chat.  The girls had really enjoyed their solo shopping trip and were pleased with their purchases.  I'm sure it won't be long before they'll be making their way own way to the mall too. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Charity Shop Drop and a New Round of Decluttering

The other day whilst out and about doing errands, I popped into one of the local charity shops to drop off a couple of bags of items that I have needed to take for a while now.  I resisted the urge to have a look around and acquire anything else, as Little Bird was waiting for me in the car and I didn't have any spare money to spend. (Not to mention any room in the house).

More or less as soon as I got home, I felt compelled to begin another round of decluttering and proceeded to start filling more bags to take.  I started the process by sorting through the shoe basket.  It had been spilling over for a couple of months and I knew there were shoes in there that were no longer worn, were worn out or had been grown out of.  I put a few pairs of canvas pumps in the washing machine, to clean them up a bit and cleaned and polished another pair of leather shoes ready to donate.  I'm sure I'm not alone in not liking to donate something that is dirty, damaged or stained.  If necessary,  I will cut clothes for rags rather than send them to the charity shop in an unwearable condition.

I came across an old favourite pair of knee length black leather boots and decided to give them a polish too, ready to wear in the autumn or when the weather takes a turn.  I think I'm going to restrain myself from buying any new ones again this year and get these rehealed, as there is something nice and familiar about a comfortable pair of boots whose leather has become supple with age.  In addition I do find it hard to get a boot to fit on the calf and these are perfect in that respect.  Who cares if they're not the latest style.  Having said that, when I was looking at boots in sales in July, many of them were almost identical to the ones I already own.

I also found a favoured pair of ankle boots whilst I was in the shoe basket, that I am going to give a makeover.  I thought about doing it last year, but couldn't quite bring myself to do it.  This year, however, I'm certain it's the right thing to do.  I just need some black leather shoe dye and it's as good as done.    Another outgrown pair of shoes I'm going to sell on eBay, as they are in very good condition and are a very popular brand.  I'm calling this sudden burst of activity my pre-autumn clear out.  It felt good to get stuck in and clear some more unwanted 'stuff'.

Next on the list of places to declutter was Little Bird's wardrobe and chest of drawers, which seemed to be full of clothes she no longer wears.  Having her at home in the holidays, she was able to help me and tell me which items she no longer wished to keep.  I was completely shocked at the volume of clothes we put on the donate pile.  I think I've been hanging onto a lot of her things for emotional reasons and because I liked them, when she no longer wore them or liked them herself.  It was time to say goodbye and let go.

What shocked me the most were the number things I'd bought her that she'd hardly ever or never even worn.  Some of these I am going to sell and some I'm going to give to a relative who has a younger daughter who will grow into them.  Most of the rest filled a bag to go to the charity shop, save a few old and damaged items that I will be cutting up for rags or to modify.  It made me realise that often over the last few years, I've bought her things that I liked, that were not what she liked or would want to wear.  It just really isn't worth doing that anymore.  She has her own style and tastes now and I think I'm better off letting her get on with it, with a bit of guidance here and there.  It will have to be joint shopping trips from now on and no more ordering things on line without consulting her, no matter how much of a bargain they are in the sales.  It really is just false a economy.

I'm still looking around the house for other things to donate. My wardrobe and drawers might get a good sort through again I think and maybe even the linen cupboard too.  I like to have a charity shop bag on the go at all times, as it makes it easy to just pop things in, as and when I decide to part with them.

I've been feeling particularly in the mood to declutter lately, as possessions seem to be weighing heavily on me at the moment.  Not sure why, but there it is.  I'm trying not to be too hasty or rash in my decision making, just in case I change my mind about some things.  It is likely that it will take me at least a month or so to fill another couple of bags and then donate them, but the purging of the clutter is nevertheless proving very therapeutic.  I think I must be in a better place to be able to part with things, that previously I would have found it hard to let go of.  Perhaps Little Bird's fast approaching transition to secondary school has a lot to do with it.   I'll keep you posted on progress.

Friday, 8 August 2014

John Lewis 150th Year Celebrations at the Oxford Street Store

Yesterday, Little Bird and I made a trip into town to visit the Roof Garden at the Oxford Street John Lewis store, which was built to celebrate their 150th year of trading on the site.  I'd wanted to visit ever since I'd heard about it earlier in the year.

We took a bus which dropped us off just across the road, so made it super easy.  I needed to check out a couple of items instore whilst we were there too, as I need both a new iron and vacuum cleaner, so I combined the visit with a bit of consumer research.

When we entered the store we noticed a sign advertising their 150th Year Celebration Exhibition, so that was our first port of call on the 3rd Floor.  The exhibition was built in the style of the original store and to the same footprint too, so you got a feel for the size of the origninal store.

It was interesting to learn that the store took less than one pound in old money, on it's first day trading.  It was probably quite a lot in those days.

I took a few photographs of some of the exhibits which included a wonderful haberdashery counter,

plus lots of very authentic looking replica costumes of the dress styles of the day when it was opened.

We wandered through the exhibition.  It was very interesting to read about the founding and development of the brand, the partnership with it's staff and it's stores countrywide.   I learnt various facts that I didn't know, such as the fact that the Oxford Street store was completely destroyed in World War Two, when and oil bomb was dropped on it and it was 20 years before it reopened in it's current form.

There were videos of old TV adverts which made us smile, exhibits of clothes and other items sold in the stores from both the past and the present, including hats worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Mary and dresses by modern day Japanese designers. 

There was information and exhibits relating to collaborations the store was involved in, with some of the prominent designers from the 1950's and 1960's and later, such as Lucienne and Robin Day and scuptor Barbara Hepworth, who designed the beautiful sculpture hung on the side of the building. (Sadly I forgot to take a photo of this).

It is certainly well worth a visit if you're in the area this summer and both the exhibition and roof garden are free to enter. 

From the exhibition, we made our way up to the roof garden.  It was a scorching hot day and it was midday or thereabouts at the time of our visit, so there were lots of people up there, partaking of refreshments on sale at the small cafe, and soaking up the sun or keeping out of it in more shady parts of the garden.

Much of the planting was done like a wall, which was very clever and there were lots of little nooks and crannies to explore.

It was a lovely little oasis with views both across the rooftops of central London and right down onto Oxford Street itself.

We finished our visit by having lunch in one of the cafes inside the store.  I used another of my vouchers to get a free cup of tea and cake and treated us both to savoury crepes which were very nice indeed.

We finished our lovely day out with a tiny bit of pre-school shopping on Oxford Street, where the streets were rammed full of people out shopping and sightseeing.  By the time we left we were very glad to be on our way home, leaving central London to the shoppers and visitors alike.