Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Extreme Housewifery

So they reckon that an average housewife is worth over £30,000 if they were paid a professional wage for all the tasks they carry out... Childcare; cleaning; laundry; cooking and grocery shopping all add up if you were to pay an outsider to do these roles.  Add to that, the PA role shopping around for car insurance, taking messages; waiting in for deliveries; trips to the dry cleaners and organising holidays...the list is endless.

Well, I say we need danger money too!

Fortunately I haven't been as unlucky as the poor soul who recently died following a freak accident, after tripping over and landing on the knives in the cutlery basket of the open dishwasher.  This made my blood run cold when I read about it, and it has convinced me to make sure all my cutlery is pointing downwards in the dishwasher!

Still, this past month, I have managed to:

  • nearly knock out my front teeth and (I suspect) break my nose after the hose came off the end of the vacuum cleaner and the metal pipe flicked up and whacked me full on in the face.  For days on end I'd wake up and rush to the mirror to check my teeth hadn't started going black.  My nose still hurts now nearly 4 weeks later.
  • suffer agony when I accidentally squirted dishwasher rinse aid in my eye whilst opening the sachet.  Even after pouring water to flush it out of my eye for about half an hour, I was convinced I was going to go blind.
  • no sooner had my eye recovered that I suffered a freak laundry accident.  Pulling one end of a pair of my tights out of the wash bin, it suddenly came loose flicking back directly into my open eye and whacking me on the eyeball!

Seriously, this housework lark is fraught with danger - be careful out there!

What's the weirdest household injury you've suffered?

Sponsored post.

Angel Wings Pillowcase Pyjamas

I've recently become quite addicted to following Domestic Goddesque's pillowcase PJ tutorial, making PJ trousers out of old pillowcase - go check it out, it's fabulously easy and you can knock up a pair of pj trousers for your little one in about half an hour - 1 hour.

I do a lot of charity shop buying, so it's great to finally have another use for all the pretty, but lonely single pillowcases I've accumulated ( there's also Domestic Goddesque's pillowcase skirt tutorial, and a dress tutorial on Red Ted Art).  

After making the pyjama trousers. I've been using some of the leftover fabric to applique onto a plain T Shirt to make a co-ordinating top. But this time, I wanted to do something a little bit different, so I came up with the angel wings PJs.

Perhaps a little pair of horns and a trident would be more appropriate, but I'm hoping some of the angelic vibe will rub off on Ruby - particularly at bedtime!

First, make your trousers as per the tutorial linked above.

You should be left with a piece of fabric which looks something like this:

I'm very tight frugal with my fabric, and try to get as much out of it as possible.  Draw a basic angel wing template on paper (keep it simple as you'll be machine zig-zagging around it!).

Choose a plain T Shirt, that's a good fit for your child, to turn into your PJ top.  Judge the size of your wings by placing your paper template against the shoulder/back area of the T Shirt.

Next, you'll need some Bondaweb.  This can be bought quite reasonably by the 1/4 metre from haberdashery stores.  Transfer your design onto the smooth, paper side of the Bondaweb. Flip the template over so you have a 2nd wing in reverse.

Roughly cut out each shape leaving a cm or two all the way around.  Place your shape with your drawing side uppermost, onto the WRONG side of your fabric.  Hold a hot iron onto the paper for about 20 seconds, until it has fully bonded.

Now cut out accurately around the outline.  Peel off the paper backing and place onto your T Shirt (remember, these are wings, so you're ironing these on the back of the T Shirt!).

When you're happy with the positioning, again press with a hot iron for 20 seconds or so until the fabric is fully adhered to the T Shirt.

Set your sewing machine to a short, close zig-zag setting and stitch all the way around the outline.  Once that is complete, you can go back and add detail.

That leftover piece of fabric was bugging me, and looking at it I thought it would make a perfect pyjama case.

Now Ruby has a pair of angel wing PJs and their own little pouch, perfect for overnight stays! And if you decide to make these as a gift, they'll be ready wrapped!

I think these would look so pretty made from a crisp, white cotton pillowcase, with a bright contrasting stitch to applique the wings on.  What do you think?

Pop over to Red Ted Art to see more Angel craftiness!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Magpie Monday - Chicken in a Bucket

Not much thrifting for me this week I'm afraid.

We've been working hell for leather to get the house decorated for Christmas - not decorated as in 'hang up a few baubles and holly' more the 'ripping wallpaper down, re-painting and sanding floors' kind of decorating.

Yesterday we grabbed a few hours off, and after the vile chicken I bought for Sunday dinner from the local supermarket the other week, we decided to drive to the next village and go to the posh supermarket in search of a poulet who hadn't been pumped full of water and goodness knows what else.

A quaint, Georgian market village, much like Midsomer without the crime rate, there was clearly a hullabaloo going on there as we arrived.  The supermarket car park was full, and part of it had been sectioned off to accommodate a Christmas fete of some sort.

Every member of the population here seems to be in either the WI or the Lions, so there were plenty of mulled wine and home-baked cakes on offer.  The scouts were roasting their nuts, and the Morris dancers jangling their bells.

Never to miss an opportunity to sniff out a bric-a-brac possibility, we ambled over, and sure enough there was a local charity stand selling all manner of wares.

Under the table I spotted a wooden bucket, which the stall-holder authoritatively told me was for putting my Christmas tree in.  For 50p I couldn't refuse it.

I may beg to differ.  It might well be planted up with spring bulbs and then hold host to some herbs in the summer.  For now I'm deciding whether to paint it or leave it au naturel.  What do you think?

Me and My Shadow
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Me and My Shadow

Friday, 25 November 2011

Win a family ticket to London Dungeons

It doesn't seem five minutes since the last half term and before we know it the kid's will be breaking up for Christmas.

If you're looking for a fun day out, or things to do in London to reward the kids for trailing around the sales, why not treat them to a trip with a spooky insight into 1,000 years of London's darkest history.

One of the top London attractions, this has surely got to be on most kids to-do list.

Find out about the Great Fire of London; the plague; Jack the Ripper and loads more in the most terrifying history lesson you'll ever experience!

Jack the Ripper

You can win a family entrance ticket for 2 adults and 2 children right here.  The ticket is also valid for Blackpool, York or Edinburgh if you cannot get to London.

To enter, simply leave me a comment below to let me know you wish to enter.  Please remember to leave a method of contact.

You can gain an extra entry by tweeting "I'm entering @missielizzieb's blog competition to win a family ticket to the London dungeons here: http://bit.ly/vpTNze  Mwah ha ha."  Leave a separate comment to say you have done so.

The winner will be drawn at random after the closing date of Wednesday 30th November 2011 at 7pm.  UK entrants only.

Sponsored Post: We received a complimentary ticket for hosting this competition and the prize is fulfilled by London Dungeon's PR company.

Sylvanian Families have sucked us in!

A lovely PR lady contacted me to see if we'd like to review some of the best selling ranges of Sylvanian Families sets of the year.

Launched in 1985 these little critters passed my by as a child so I wasn't entirely sure what we were letting ourselves in for.

A very clever piece of PR has taken myself and Ruby by the hand and sucked us into a vortex, where we spend our days happily skipping around Sylvania pretending to be little fuzzy mammals, dressing up and playing house.  I'm not sure there's any escape.

We were sent the motorcycle and sidecar, complete with George and Mildred raccoon who go on lovely raccoon OAP day-trips. George wears his vintage helmet and goggles, while Mildred wraps up under her shawl, giving directions to George, who presumably is too stuck in his ways to invest in a sat-nav.

Sylvanian Families Motorbike and Side Car

The biggest thing to happen in (the real world) 2011 was of course the Royal Wedding, so it's no surprise that  the Wedding Celebration Set did very well.  The whole party is here including bridesmaids and pageboys, all ready for a Sylvanian wedding breakfast.

I loved the fact that the press release suggested using William and Catherine Balmoral bunnies as wedding cake toppers.  If I do ever manage to persuade Ruby's Daddy to tie the knot, I suspect she'd like nothing more than a Sylvanian themed wedding.  We'd hold it in the Regency Hotel, and she'd presumably have me and Grandad arriving on the motorcycle and sidecar.  I do fear however, that this would have Daddy running for the hills...

It is very easy to lose yourself in the world of Sylvanian Families.  The attention to detail on all the figures and accessories is incredible and the play sets literally cover every aspect of life in Sylvania you could possibly imagine.

Check out Flair Plc's website for more inspiration. Also available from major toy retailers.

Now, if you'll excuse me, George is taking me for a day trip on the bike so I must away...

Sponsored post: We were sent the two sets to sample free of charge, however all views expressed are my own and I expect to see Flair Plc's profits soar if Ruby's Christmas list is anything to go by.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Handmade Advent Calendar

Match box Advent Jar Calendar

This week I whiled away a happy couple of hours making this advent for Ruby.  I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Made from covered matchboxes it really can be made for pennies.  I bought the matches in bulk and they worked out about 7p each (of course, I still have the matches...and ideas for this little lot? Crafting...large bonfire...)

I've not really done papercraft before, but enjoyed wielding a craft knife.  I used decorative papers that came free with a magazine and some old magazines and maps.  First cut out a cardboard template then cut your papers to size.  Cover the matchbox outer using Pritt stick or similar, then add your numbers.  I used silver stickers for the numbering but you could print and cut numbers.

Finally, I filled each box with a little treat for Ruby - hair bobbles and slides, rubbers and pencil sharpener, mini candy canes...

I saw a similar idea on the interweb and now I'm damned if I can find it again,  so thanks to whoever I borrowed this from.

What I like most about it is you can adapt it to fit any look - use magazines, comics, wallpaper etc. You can also adapt the advent gifts to match the person.

Alternative Advent Calendar Matchboxes

I can't wait for the 1st of December now.

Inspire Me Beautiful

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Stick 'em up! A Giveaway from Scotch

Every now and then, a product comes along that sounds just perfect.

I was offered the chance to try some Scotch Restickable Tabs, and I have to say, these tick a lot of boxes for me:
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  • They are perfect for craft activities
  • They are re-usable - once the stickiness is lost, wash them in soapy water and they can be used again
  • They are transparent so can be used on glass 'invisibly'
  • They remove cleanly (although not recommended for use on wallpaper, delicate surfaces or 'flat' paint)

Each tab is capable of holding up to a quarter of a pound in weight, so I thought I'd give them a go.  I tried them out to hang fairy lights in Ruby's room.  Although I used quite a lot of tabs to evenly distribute the weight, so far so good!

Sadly I didn't find them terribly effective at holding fabrics - they don't hold up my bunting (sob).  However, I'm looking forward to using these to stick up our Christmas cards this year, and may even use them to make some cards myself - they'd be ideal for getting a slight 3D effect on paper crafts.

Scotch Restickable Tabs are available from Rymans, Staples http://www.3mselect.co.uk/ and other outlets, but I have 5 packs to give away...

If you'd like to get your sticky mitts on a pack, simply leave a comment below telling me what you'd stick with them.

For an additional entry (leave a separate comment) please tweet: "I want to get my sticky mitts on Scotch Restickable Tabs with @missielizzieb http://bit.ly/ubH73S"

This competition is open to UK entrants only.  Please ensure you leave contact details eg Twitter ID or email. The five winners will be chosen at random. Entries close at 5pm on Wednesday 30th December 2011.

Sponsored post: I was kindly sent a sample of the tabs and the giveaway prizes are sponsored by Scotch Tape.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Magpie Monday - Yet more crafty finds!

I was so happy (more happy than is probably within the bounds of 'normal' behaviour if I'm honest) with the results of my upcycled granny blanket, that this week I've been on the hunt for more trash that I can turn into treasure.

The worst thing about moving out to the sticks is the fact that I now only have one local charity shop to peruse on a regular basis.  To be truthful, I don't like it much.  It's run by an army of women-of-a-certain-age who tend to look most affronted if you enter the shop part way through their important gossiping conversations.  They also stock the shop in the most minimal manner possible, I suspect only offering things that they would personally give house-room to.  Suffice to say, my taste is not their taste.

So, I've rediscovered the joy of eBay!  I'd forgotten how much I love having toot delivered to my door.

I purchased these old keys for a song (I won't reveal prices this week as I'm planning on turning everything into something else and they may well end up being given as gifts).  So, the question is, what on earth am I going to do with a bunch of rusty old keys?

On Saturday I was back in my old town attending my first School of Craft Crafternoon.  More on that later, but I spent a blissful 3 hours stitching, drinking coffee and eating cake, so it doesn't get much better than that.

I couldn't be in the vicinity of my favourite house clearance shop without popping in for a mooch - it would be rude not to.  I picked up these pretty old terracotta tom pots, again for a brilliant price.

I've already worked out exactly what I'm going to make with these, so I just hope it turns out as it is in my head.  I love the old markings on the pots - according to Google these are possibly Victorian.  Two of them are marked as being produced in Nottingham, so if my plan turns out there may be a couple of Twitter friends up that way getting a crafty Christmas present in the post!  Any ideas what I'm plotting?

This pretty little pillowcase is also destined for other things, and that will feature on the blog soon.  I love the yellow cabbage roses on it, but a single pillowcase is not much use on it's own.

Finally, I bought a wooden box of dominoes.  I'm sure these have brilliant crafting possibilities, I just can't think of them right now.  I remember Faith Hope and Charity Shopping made a cool domino brooch, so maybe that. Or does anyone have any other bright ideas?

So, what (most likely, more sensible) second-hand purchases have you made lately?

Grab the badge and link up x

Me and My Shadow
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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The No-Crochet Crocheted Poncho!

A little while ago I was mooching around a craft market.  I spotted some beautiful crocheted kid's ponchos.  They really were lovely, but at around £15 each they were a bit pricey for my budget.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not begrudging the price, I'm sure they took hours and hours to make and when you take that into account, £15 was actually very reasonable.

However, I know I can pick up hand crocheted granny blankets for a couple of quid in almost any charity shop I go in, and these were essentially little crocheted granny blankets with a hole in the middle...

(did you hear the penny drop then?)

I present to you, the cheat's crochet poncho...

First you need to find a suitable granny blanket.  We have loads of these, I can't resist buying them, but to be honest apart from letting Ruby use them to make little beds for her dolls all over the house, I was never entirely sure what to do with them!

Search in charity shops, you can usually find them for £3-4 or less depending on size.  The animal rescue shelter shops seem to be a good place to look. They must have an army of crocheters making blankets to chilly canines and cold cats.

So, you'll need a blanket with a central square.  Once found, fold in half diagonally into a triangle to gauge the size - chase your small child around the shop in an attempt to see if it will be the right size - fend off disapproving looks from shop staff.

Once back home, gather your supplies. You'll need your blanket, some matching or contrasting wool and scissors.  A large needle will also help.

Real crocheters should probably look away now. You'll either be horrified at what I'm about to do, or you'll be wetting yourself laughing at my total lack of understanding of the mechanics of crochet.

So, check your central square will fit over the head.  You can just do this by eye, but Ruby thought it was funny for me to measure her head (as well as making little beds everywhere, she's also obsessed with measuring things).  For the record, her head measures 52 cm.

You'll need a length of yarn about twice the length of the circumference of the square (do squares have circumferences? Or is that just circles? Oh, you get what I mean!).

I wanted my yarn thicker than a strand of wool, so I took three lengths and plaited them together.  If you can't find matching wool, you could always use ribbon instead.

Fold your blanket in half into a triangle again, and starting at the bottom point of the internal square, thread your yarn through the last loops of the preceding square (see what I mean about lack of crocheting technical ability? I have absolutely no idea of the terminology, so why don't you look at the picture instead).

Continue threading all the way around.  In hindsight, when I realised that it wouldn't actually unravel before my eyes, you could do the cutting first, then threading.  This would give you a bit more room to manoeuvre, but I was too scared!

Now comes the scary part.  Start cutting the middle square away from the rest of the blanket, careful not to cut through the other colour or your yarn you've just threaded.

Keep cutting all the way around, until you have completely removed the interior square.

I'm sure there's probably a thriftier way of doing this so you can re-use the wool from the centre, but hey, I'm just a snippy snappy happy kinda girl.

Your poncho is now basically complete.  I made some pompoms to add to the ends of the ties, but you could thread on beads or tassels - anything really to decorate the ends and stop them from pulling back through.

Hey presto!  I'm not sure if I should admit this, but although I made it for Ruby, I've actually been wearing this around the house myself!  It's lovely and cosy and the old man is pleased because he's muttering something about turning the central heating down.

Hope you liked this little tutorial, and apologies to real crocheters out there!

Linking up here:

and here:

Inspire Me Beautiful

also featured on the Thrifty Families Blog Carnival  

Hands Up for Justin Fletcher

If having Justin Fletcher on your telly-box and your DVD player is just not enough for you and yours, fear not.  You will soon be able to get the uber talented fella on your ipod, in your car, singing in your ears while you get tea ready...

Yes!  Justin Fletcher is set for pop stardom and is aiming for that coveted Christmas No 1 spot.

Frankly, I think he'll do it too.

We've been boogieing to this in the car and around the house for a couple of weeks now since we had a sneaky preview copy - I'll spare you the vlog of me dancing, that's just not pleasant.

Instead, here's the great man himself.

I defy you not to sing along!

Add it to your Christmas list (single out 20th November), and you can now follow Justin on Twitter and Facebook so he'll never be far away.

Sponsored post: We were sent a sample copy of the CD for the purposes of this review, however and views expressed are my own.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

If you see a crocodile... Orchard Toys Review

We were very excited to get this new board game to review from Orchard Toys.

We've worked playing a game together as a family into our nightly routine, so after dinner, Ruby gets chance to sit down with myself and daddy and spend some time together before bath and bed.

In all my reviews I am always honest.  If there's something I don't like about a product I'll say so.  Equally, if I do like a product or a company, then I'm happy to shout it from the rafters.

Never let it be said that this house only runs on freebies and blagged products.

Check out one of our toy cupboards to see what we think of Orchard Toys games...

The Alphabet Lotto was one we reviewed, but all the others are ones we've bought for Ruby or asked for as birthday gifts.  See- we love Orchard Toys!

If you see a crocodile (don't forget to scream) is a great addition to our collection of family games.  Suitable for 2-4 players aged 3 plus, it's a really fun, action-packed (and noisy!) game.  Because of this, it might not be best suited to winding-down bedtime - in fact Ruby got so excited that shortly after this video was taken she knocked the table, tipped over my tea and soaked the whole thing - it's currently drying out on the radiator - oh well!

Please excuse the background detritus and the fact that Ruby is in her dressing gown (rolls eyes).

She absolutely loved it, and played with much enthusiasm (read noise).  I can see this being a great Christmas day game for all the family to join in.

All Orchard Toys games are educational, and whilst some like Greedy Gorilla teach about healthy eating, and What's Rubbish teach about recycling, this one helps youngsters learn and recognise colours.  This is something Ruby has mastered now, but as with any board game, there are plenty of other learning opportunities - like communication skills; taking turns and losing graciously (we're working on that one!).

Overall, I'd say this game is hugely fun and lively and would make an excellent Christmas gift.  This game retails at £11.50. check out the website for loads more great titles - you can NEVER have enough Orchard Toys board games!

What's more, I'm giving you a chance to 'blag' your very own If you see a crocodile game.

To enter, simply pop over to the Orchard Toys website and leave a comment here saying which game you like the look of best.

For an additional entry please tweet: " I'm entering @missielizzieb 's competition to win an @OrchardToys game. you can too here: http://bit.ly/vvLxsH"  Leave a seperate comment saying you have done so.

Competition closes at 5pm on Friday 25th November. Don't forget to leave a twitter ID or email so I can contact you.

Sponsored post: We received this game free of charge for the purposes of this review.  However, as stated above, all the views expressed are my own and are accurate and honest.  Orchard Toys are kindly also providing another game as a giveaway prize.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Magpie Monday - Some Crafty Buys

The happiness of buying from second-hand shops doesn't just come when you find something worthy of the Antiques Roadshow.

For me, I'm just as pleased when I find something useful, practical or something that's on my shopping list, and I can manage to save it from ending up in landfill.

Last weekend I went on another brilliant School of Craft workshop.  This time we were learning to make bunting.  Although we were taught how to make our own bias binding, well frankly if I can save the hassle and buy it, then I will!

I was stupid happy to find a stash of vintage binding in the first charity shop I went in.  They cost me 10p and 20p each - my haberdashery shop sells binding for 45p per metre so I didn't save a fortune, but at least these old school Wollies purchases will finally get used.

At the class, Jo showed us how to make super-cute tiny-tiny bunting from men's shirts.  I loved how something so masculine could be turned into something so pretty.

So far, I've resisted the urge to take a pair of scissors to the old man's work shirts and cut tiny triangles from them, but I have retrieved a couple of his old ones out of the charity bag!

I was on the look out for more to add to my stash, and managed to find 3 lovely ones on the sale rail in the Salvation Army shop - oh yes my friends, I'm not to proud to go through the reduced rails in charity shops!

Do I feel bad about hacking up Savile Row shirts? I do not.  They have already had a life with their first owner.  Then, they've been sitting on the rail in the charity shop for a fortnight waiting for someone with the neck size of a heavy-weight boxer to come along and buy them.  Finally, they were left languishing, forlornly on the pound rail, until I rescued them!

I picked up a woolly pully for £2 which I've already boiled the hell out of in the washing machine ready to turn into some Christmas Stockings using Red Ted's tutorial. It's only Florence & Fred, but its such a pretty colour and has a pleasingly Christmassy sparkle to it.  It didn't shrink hugely (perhaps because it was only 80% pure wool), but it does have that nice, thick felted feel to it now.  Hopefully I'll be showing you my stockings in a future blog post (wink wink).

I also managed to grab a bundle of crocheted granny blankets for £3 each.  I have crafty plans for these too...

A rummage through the odds n' sods box looking for more bias binding, brought up these beauties which will go in my Christmas craft stash.  Some silver metallic thread - maybe I can get it to take on my machine and run up a Kirstie Allsop-esque stitched paper Christmas card?

There was also a huge roll of this red and white, sold by the metre for 50p.  First of all I thought it would be great for Christmas wrapping - like baker's twine, but on closer inspection I realised it was actually elastic!  I'm not entirely sure what I'll use it for, but I'm sure something will come up. I resisted the urge to ask 'how much for the whole lot?' - least til I figure out what I can use it for!

And finally, something for myself and Ruby to do together.  Two packs of air drying clay for £2 each and a dinky little vintage wooden rolling pin for a quid.  Once I find my Angel Gabriel cookie cutter, the Christmas tree will be decorated in no time!

So, what have you been unearthing?  I'd love for you to grab the badge and link up.  I shan't be around much today, so if you could tweet #MagpieMonday a bit for me that would be fab.  Promise to catch up on all the posts this evening - I know you won't disappoint. x

Me and My Shadow
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