Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Five Mummy-saving resources #3

1. Tame Your Inner Tiger
Perfect for the new school term, Taming The Tiger Parent, by Tanith Carey, is being published by How To books tomorrow, and is an essential manual for any parent feeling trapped in today's race to ensure their offspring are the brightest and the best. 

Fans of Carey's previous, ground-breaking book on how to handle the challenges of early sexualisation - Where Has My Little Girl Gone? - will not be disappointed by her practical advice on nurturing rather than pressurising our children. Hard-hitting but sensitively written, it brought home to me the levels of stress I was under as a child - there is a section on spotting the symptoms in children - and made me determined to protect The Evacuees from burn-out and worry as much as I can. 

I am delighted to read that hot-housing and tutoring can do more harm than good, and that league tables may be considered as immoral, as I don't subscribe to the rat race and have no intention of prioritising "success" over the welfare and self-esteem of Prima and Secundus.Far more important is that they can grow into the happy, emotionally-balanced people they were meant to be. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

How to shop for 1940’s Style Clothing

Guest post by Debbie Wells of Vintage Dancer

Alison kindly asked me to write another guest post on 1940s fashion. Its one of my favorite topics so naturally I said yes! For this post I thought it would be helpful to show you how to find new or used 1940s style clothing in the shops today. While I love to dress in vintage clothes I actually have more fun hunting for vintage inspired styles while I am out shopping. I look at both thrift stores/charity shops as well as new clothing stores.

1940s Style Dresses
All you ladies in the UK have a forties inspired clothing trend happening now. What is often called a “tea dress” is very close to 1940s style dresses.
For starters classic 40s dresses often had:
- Puffy sleeves, long or short with shoulder pads. Pads are usually left out of new 1940s style dresses today (thank goodness!)
- A notch collar, much like men’s shirt collars
- Modest tops- Square, round, sweetheart, or slit opening tops were all favorites.
- Button down “shirt “ dresses, wrap over dresses and ruched dress ( dresses with gathers on the bodice) were all iconic styles
- A line skirt that flared slightly from the hips down in an A shape to the bottom of the knee. This is often why they are called “Tea Length” dresses although traditional tea length is mid shin, not knee.
- Colors were subtle, not very bright, with small prints being very popular. Navy, Green, Yellow, Red, and Brown were the most common.

Blouses and Pants
If you are not into wearing dresses than a pant and top combination can still be very 40s.

Blouses: Like dresses, blouses had point collars, button down fronts, puffy sleeves and came in plain light colors or small prints. One trendy style top is the peasant blouse which is popular with the Boho trend happening now in the USA. Necklines are gathered, sleeves are puffy, and embroidery along the top and sleeves was a pretty addition.

Pants or Trousers in the 1940s were high waisted, side buttoning, and wide legged. Navy or tan were the best colors. The trouser band fit right over the belly button which is a very flattering fit on most women. Finding side buttons or a zipper will be hard but it is worth the effort. The pants legs are wide, not palazzo pant wide, but certainly wider than today’s skinny or classic fit pants. The best place to find women’s 40s style pants is in the “mature” or “misses” section of department stores.

A few 1940s style accessories will help to complete your look. You can wear these with your regular wardrobe too for just that little hint of the 40s.

Shoes: Wedge heel pumps, Mary Jane Pumps (Single Strap), Ankle Straps, Non-strap pumps, and Peep Toe (very small toe opening) are all classic 40’s style. What makes them more vintage rather than modern is how heavy or chunky the heels and upper portion are. They should look and feel sturdy not light and dainty. 1940s shoes usually had a large decoration on the toe like a bow or flower too.

Jewelry: Heavy bead necklaces is what my grandmother wore. She, and most women in the 1940’s, also wore a brooch/pin on her dress or blouse. The larger, tacky, horrid looking designs the more 40’s they are! My favorite time to shop for 40’s pins is at Christmas when stores seem to stock the ugliest ones. Themes of flowers or patriotic motifs with vivid colors or rhinestones were very popular.  The best thing about wearing a brooch today if that everyone will compliment you since hardly anyone wears them.

A large flower clipped into your hair in a final accessory I recommend. It is a nice alternative to hats, which I hardly find new. Vintage 40s hats are still easy enough to find but honestly I just prefer a nice happy hair flower. On days I don’t want to do my hair, a head scarf or knit snood, makes me look like a vintage dame.

Photo:  (GP 1940s style clothing UK)
Dress: Oasis , Shoes: Spartoo, Necklace: House of Fraser, Brooch: Debenhams, Blouse: BHS, Trousers: Saks 5th Ave
Find all of these items and more at and clothes in the USA at

Debbie is a full time WAHM who runs, an aggregate shopping site for vintage inspired clothing. She is also author of the 1940's StyleGuide, a book about 1940's fashion history and how you can wear the styles today for women and men! 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Prepare and Survive #3: The Cookbook To Replace All Cookbooks

It's not often I come across a book so excellent that I could quite happily clear my shelf of cookery tomes and replace them all with a single volume. But in Sarah Flower's The Busy Mum's Plan-ahead Cookbook (£9.99, Constable) I have found the Cookbook To Replace All Cookbooks.

A fellow child of the 1970s, Sarah Flower draws upon her experience of juggling a busy working life with children and wanting to provide them with nutritious, budget-friendly meals, and also shares the skills passed on to her by her mum, an accomplished cook in her own right.

So many lessons from the 1970s are pertinent to the household of 2014. Slow cookers and freezers are still crucial in saving time and money, and there are pages of tips about what food/ leftovers can successfully be frozen, plus a whole section of slow cook recipes. Added to this is a comprehensive list of ways to use up leftovers and advice on how to put together a good store-cupboard. 

Making Your Home Sing Monday!Processed foods were held in the 70s to be "expensive and seen as more of a luxury than a necessity", and all the recipes featured are economical, home-cooked fare. The two I have tried so far - Creamy Fish Pie and Chicken, Bacon and Bean Casserole - are perfect - in fact they went down well with three generations; the creamy fish pie tastes better than Jamie Oliver's.

Cooking double what you need and freezing half, having a baking day, and making sure the oven is full if its switched on - these really should be second-nature to me by now, but I often need reminding, and Sarah Flower does so expertly, by referring to these and other money-saving habits - throughout her recipes. 

To top it off, she has put together a four week meal plan which is both comprehensive, adaptable and realistic. For more about meal-planning, have a look at my post: Five Ways to Simple Meal Planning here

Whether you are time-poor or just plain broke, this book won't let you lose heart and open a jar instead. The key to it all is to plan ahead, and with Sarah Flower on your side, satisfying, and healthy meals are absolutely do-able.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Loom Band Project: Pansy Bracelet

SearchPress have quickly and cleverly jumped on the loom band bandwagon and added a Rubber Band Jewellery title to their colourful Twenty to Make series. 

Today, we have a project for your budding loom band fan to try, picked from Pam Leach's twenty great designs, all of which are featured in the book with step-by-step instructions and photos. This Pansy Bracelet (right) is an advanced project but there are plenty for beginners too, some of which only require a crochet hook, and many of which can be embellished with beads, charms and ribbon. The author doesn't just stick to bracelets either: there are anklets, bag charms, rings and necklaces to be made as well. The project is reproduced here on Mumtopia by kind permission of the publishers.

Pansy Bracelet
For the flower: 20 x rubber bands (7 x yellow, 6 x pink, 6 x hot pink, 1 x yellow finishing band
For the bracelet: 21 x rubber bands (7 x yellow, 7 x hot pink, and 7 x pink)
1 x S-clip

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Made in Britain #3: Products to Share in the Shower

The King and I are long-time believers in the maxim: save water, bath with a friend. Although the Evacuees have now grown too big to share a bath, the King and I continue to do our bit for the local reservoirs by sharing baths and showers whenever possible.

To avoid the problem of precariously-balanced shower gels and shampoos cluttering up the edge of the bath, we have ditched the "his'n'hers" approach when it comes to hair and body wash. Here are some of our shared favourites, all "non-gender-specific" and made in Britain, to boot.

1. Mrs White's All Natural Luxury Hand and Body Wash. With revitalising West Indian Grapefruit and Lime, this is a beautifully bracing pick-me-up, and is suitable for basin, bath and shower. The soap dispenser packaging means you're not in danger of using too much, and it would look at home in a bachelor pad as much as a boudoir (or even at the kitchen sink, as it is excellent at removing cooking odours). People, pet and planet friendly, and fit for a King or Queen (especially if they, like me, are not a "morning person"). 

2. 'Bee' Beautiful! Handmade soap. A long-lasting handmade soap bar from purescents, which contains organic, locally-sourced honey and oatmeal. Prima likes the fragrance of this soap bar best. As you would expect, this is a soothing and gentle soap, mildly scented with vanilla and sweet orange essential oils, but the oatmeal adds exfoliation to the mix. It feels so good to use a chemical-free bar to cleanse skin, and this one is heavenly creamy and moisturising. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Frugal Bugle #8: Meals in a Mug + UK Giveaway!

Wendy Hobson's latest book, Meals in a Mug: 100 delicious recipes ready to eat in minutes
(Right Way, £6.99) would have been a godsend for me when I was a student. Instead of deciding to go vegetarian and then living off cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for the first term of University, I could have rustled up hot cranberry and almond muesli for breakfast, French onion soup for lunch and pasta in a creamy herb sauce for tea, with nothing more than straightforward ingredients, a mug and a microwave. Not even a set of scales is required.

Ideal for time-poor office workers and anyone who's cash-strapped or wants hassle-free cooking for one, Meals in a Mug is a real eye-opener to the potential of a microwave, a handful of ingredients, and a mug. It would work perfectly in tandem with a frugal challenge like Penny Golightly's Tenner Week, or 31 Days of Nothing.

As the following extract shows, Wendy Hobson is a realist when it comes to food, not a "foodier than thou" type and I get the feeling she too has experienced Empty Fridge Syndrome. She is certainly an expert at thinking outside the lunchbox.This extract, which contains five simple recipes from her imaginative collection, and the cover photograph, are reproduced by kind permission of the publishers.

"On those days when you are down to what you can identify at the bottom of the fridge – a forlorn can of something you can’t remember buying and your last coin for the supermarket trolley – there’s nothing for it but to improvise. Here are a few ideas that should convince you that all is not lost. Just add a little imagination.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Made in Britain #2: Make Your Own with ElsieAndFleur

Visiting ElsieAndFleur is like pottering round a craft fair without having to leave your house. There's homemade jam, just like on a WI stall, decorative wood-turned pieces, children's clothes and sock animals. Here is the chance to buy unusual, handmade, yet affordable, items from the people that actually made them.
And like at a craft fair, many of the crafters at ElsieAndFleur have day jobs. One is a Science teacher, one a nurse and another runs a holiday cottage business. All are based in the West Country and their unique products are hand-made with love. Buying from this online boutique supports micro businesses, run by kitchen-table entrepreneurs and mumpreneurs. We have always been a nation of shopkeepers and these small enterprises are the economic lifeblood of Great Britain.

Indulge your family's creativity this summer by treating them to a Make Your Own kit available at ElsieAndFleur. Mumtopia readers are entitled to 15% off their orders until Tuesday 30th September with this exclusive discount code: KECOZ12F45PW

Perfect for Back to School (yes, I am thinking about that already), this kit makes a bag that’s H22cm x W25.5cm x D9cm (handle drop 27cm). It includes cut out Camper Van fabric pieces, easy to follow instructions and a button. All you need to provide is a needle and thread. 

The lunch bag can be sewn by hand or machine and the kit is suitable for anyone aged 11 upwards.

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