Monday, 24 November 2014

Refashion and save $$ with the Renegade Seamstress

Any book that mentions World War II within the first nine pages is onto a winner with me, and Beth Huntington's The Refashion Handbook is no exception. Pointing out that refashioning has been around for a long time, and informing American readers that when "clothes rationing was introduced in Great Britain, there was a movement called Make Do and Mend", Huntington has got me on side before she's even started on the nineteen projects this volume contains. Firstly, because she refers to our island nation as Great, which is a nice change from dull old United Kingdom and makes me feel a bit proud, and secondly, because make do and mend is in my blood.

The American aspect of this beautifully presented paperback has one drawback, however, and that is the concept of thrift stores. Not that British high streets aren't littered with thrift stores - they are, we just call them charity shops. In some towns they outnumber the regular shops, in fact. However, the big difference is the prices. Huntington reports that "most days all items of clothing are a dollar" at her local thrift store, and on Wednesdays, it's half price. This means, for example, you could buy the pullover sweater to transform into a merino wool cardigan for fifty cents, which works out about 30p for us Brits. On a bad day, you would be paying a dollar, or about 60p, for a dress, to shorten and redesign the bodice, or design new sleeves. or combine with contrasting fabric to make something new and joyful.

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.

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. 

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
Materials:
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
  
Tools:
Loom
Hook

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.

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