What She Wore Today (The Toddler Wardrobe)

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Controversially, I am a strict avoider of the supermarket clothing aisles. Once in a while I will let my trolly venture that way, perhaps when in need of some well priced denim or when I spot the 25% off TU posters, but generally I restrict buying children’s clothing to one seasonal shop and my indulgent treat is to fill a big online Zara basket and top up with a few bits from John Lewis and H&M. This is actually not because I’m snobby.  There are some lovely items to be found in our ‘smarkets’. Rather, it is because I now realise that buying ‘cheap’ supermarket clothes for my first child added up to a massive overspend simply because I was faced with shopping options 2/3 times a week. With my track record in impulsive purchasing she had far more clothes than hot meals and that’s just not necessary, or manageable. So now I adopt the ‘less is more’ approach and try to keep my Sainsburys trips to sensible things such as bread and broccoli… and maybe an occasional random cactus…  because its a bit green like a vegetable.

The less is more approach also beautifully means those favourite items… the ones you cry when they grow out of it… get much more rotational wear and don’t tend to get lost under all the laundry.

My latest life hack has been to spend 20 mins on a Sunday afternoon choosing what Niema should wear for the week ahead. The mornings are generally a fairly calm affair in our house. The eldest 2 have school uniforms and are generally capable of sorting themselves for school.  Joel and I are low maintenance. The potential hold up is always the wild-card-toddler who, when its time to get dressed, could be anywhere (normally shouting “I’m busy clambering Mummy!” from somewhere downstairs) and is 100% wriggly and fiercely opinionated. Getting her dressed requires focus, skill, speed and she must not smell fear. If she senses you are deliberating between outfits she will intervene and then you have lost. She will be leaving the house in a bumble bee tutu with odd shoes and her brothers pants on her head. Speed is key.

She doesn’t have a ‘proper’ wardrobe. We bought this chest of drawers as her clothing storage and change station when we decorated her nursery and they still hold enough. Her hanging rail (a stick I found on the school run… bleached and painted. The bleach was mainly because I’m pretty sure it was a dogs stick and he was probably coming back for it later – sorry doggy) is still one of my favourite things in her room and teamed with these baskets are my Monday-Sunday lifesavers. No more “What do you want her to we-eeeaaaaaaaaa-r?” being yelled at me if I’ve managed to pass the job onto anyone else and would like 3 minutes work out which contact lens goes in which eye in peace.

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Into the baskets go her Monday-Sunday pants, Monday-Sunday hair slides (we REALLY know what day of the week it is at all times) and then I pick out some outfits from her drawers. Monday and Tuesday she goes to Nanny and Pappy’s and without fail gets tomato pips down her front. Those things are dangerous staining criminals so the first 2 hangers are strictly navy only. The rest of the week I am always nearby with Vanish so anything goes, even yellow or white (living on the edge my friends). Then if later on in the week I throw in her swim suit amongst the outfits it reminds me to plan a trip to the gym. Stress free mornings ahoy.

This approach also means there is no room for a classic Dad tights error. Anyone else think pattered tights should be sold with a basic instruction leaflet attached?

I am well in to anything that saves a few vital seconds in the daily routine. Another new fave is to hand the ironing over to my 12 year old. She’s ‘learning a vital skill’ and actually enjoys it (!?) Any other life hacks would be greatly appreciated – please comment and let me in on your best secrets to success. xx

 

Copper and marble bedside tables. An Ikea hack.

The last couple of months have been somewhat of a blur of building dust and disorientation. These things are all going on… 1. The upstairs of the house has been knocked down in the middle 2. We’ve has builders starting work at 8am in our bedroom Monday-Friday while we are still using it to sleep in. The baby is turning 2, learning to use a big bed and learning to get up, find me in the night and make sure I am awake and giving her attention. Kicking has proven most effective and the method so she seems happy sticking with that. There have been so many changes and wonderful things to buy and make for what feels like an entirely new house… where to start?

Well an Ikea hack,  of course. A good cheap one.

I feel like I have looked at every. bedside. table. in the whole world. Its not been an item that’s justified being on the spendy items list. It’s hardly an investment piece. Nevertheless, the bedside table is there, faithfully standing by you night and day and looking after all the little nick nacks most precious. It deserves to be at least a bit lovely.

I decided that I wanted marble. And copper is, of course, a fave.  I have a painted bed so a standard Annie Sloan job to a normal wooden bedside table wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted something a little more statement. I actually didn’t really have a spare £400 to get one I really liked… make that  £800 for a pair of them. £11 seemed like a better idea.

I bought a couple of the Ikea Nesna bedside tables. I didn’t want anything too chunky and these are delicate, light, yet still have a storage shelf so you don’t have to be overly minimalistic. They’re also £9 – ahhhh, hurray for that.

I painted the whole lot up first with Annie Sloan Old White and wax.  The top shelf is glass but I didn’t insert that when putting it together and wanted to use that as the middle shelf. The slats across are rather charming but I opted to leave them out and rotate the 2 sides by 90 degrees so that the middle shelf doesn’t show the holes for the slats. I then stuck the glass (which should be the table top) onto the frame. I used tile adhesive for this but in hindsight I think using a glue gun would have been less messy and less visible. After I’d put it all together I tightened the screws so they went in as far I they would go and used polyfilla to cover them. (sanding this down and applying paint again) I wanted to place it so that the widest side faced fowards so these silver screws would have been a little obvious otherwise.

The marble effect table tops are made from floor tiles. I decided these were more durable and had a much smarter feel than adhesive plastic coating. They were also cheaper. I ordered 2 different styles of sample marble floor tile and they were delivered to my door for the grand total of £2.50. They were much bigger than that table top but we had a borrowed tile cutter to do the bathroom so chopped them to sit over the top of the table with a couple of cms overhang. I expect I could have found ones closer to the table size (I actually ordered the tiles before I had even chosen the table). The edging didn’t actually look as bad as I expected. I thought it would look very raw and exposed but I could have happily left it as a tile top (there’s a post on my instagram of this mid-way stage with just the tile on the table with the slats still on). I do like a fancy finishing touch though and had ordered this copper tape from amazon and used it  (just as a sellotape but with much sharper edges… be warned) and wrapped it around the tile edge. It just so happened to be exactly the same width. (I am of course going to pretend I measured it and ordered the perfect one intentionally… my dad thinks I am a scatty, disorganised decorator so I love a good fluke) I used tile adhesive again to attach the tile to the top of the table frame.

And there you have it. Super easy, super cheap and super pretty (and manly of course… Joel is v.happy to have his cup of tea sitting here)

I am by no means a tidy diy-er and am fully aware these could have been made a whole lot better by a more patient person who doesnt rush decorating jobs at 1am in the dark. Someone else out there could make a beautiful go of these. If so please tag me so I can see and feel like a useful sort of soul.

How Rich Are You?

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Well… that was an interesting programme. Monday night and I sat ready to be informed and possibly a bit surprised by what was to be reveled in C4 programme looking at the polarisation between the UKs rich and poor. I remember seeing a documentary a couple of years ago – I think it was called ‘Poor Kids’ and I remember being quite struck by the mindset I saw in some of the children they interviewed. I felt so sad for a little girl who lived in a flat with no wallpaper on her walls and a damp bed. She had so very little but she talked about how ‘other people’ didn’t have to buy their clothes from Tesco and had diamonds on their clothes. I wanted to give her a clean and safe bedroom most of all… but I also wanted her to know that most of us do get clothes from Tesco and those shiny bits she might see around are just bits of plastic really. Its a shame, I thought, that she feels she is so very different and is missing out on more than she really is. Would she be more optimistic about life if she knew that?

Well, I expected similar insights from this show. They encouraged people to visit their website and take part in the questionnaire which then would tell you how rich you really are in relation to the rest of the UK. As they went on to show the disadvantages we have if we are born into poor families in education, life expectancy, opportunities I sat and listened about this poor contingent to our country and felt pity and angry for them with the injustice. I also went on filling out my details…net income, basic bills, council tax, number of children etc… and then it asked me how rich I expected we were on the scale. What percantage of people in the UK do you think are richer than you and poorer than you? I know I live in a wealthy area. I have a small but nice enough house. We’ve had an extension. My children dress in Boden…or Zara, I do own a Mulberry bag. We drive 2 cars. We eat mainly organic food. My children go to out of school activities. We are members of a gym. We shop at Sainsburys and occasionally Waitrose. I like nice things. Lots of my best friends live in huge houses and though I am aware I am not as rich as most of them I do understand that they are an exception… but we still live our social lives at a similar pace. We wear the same perfume, shop in the same places and take it in turns to buy the coffees…although I am treated far more as they understand we’ve had our share of money worries… actually my friends are incredibly generous to me. I act totally middle class. I really thought I was.

My estimate was that I was privilidged enough to be maybe around the 70% mark… 30% richer than us and 70% poorer…? That sounded about right. Turns out it put us at 17%. We are apparently in the poorest 20% of the UK… and all the things they were saying about those poor people…well that was us. Head screw.

I think that I wish I didn’t know that. I started to panic about my childrens life expectancy, their education, their health. When my husband got in all my confusion came out in a blurred rant. He simply said ‘You are just very good at making it work and making sure we live above our means’. I had no idea that was what I was doing. I thought everyone was in the same boat so I’ve just been doing what I thought I had to do. It scares me to think what my mindset would be like if I had been more aware of our finances.

Would my children be growing up feeling the unfairness and thinking that other children have diamonds on their clothes? I had just told them that very bed time that we live in one of the richest places and how so many children get nothing for Christmas and we must not be greedy. I’ve taught them they are incredibly privilidged. I believe that they are.

I think I would rather carry on in my ignorant bliss. I don’t know how lowering my sights will help us in any way. In the brief 5 minutes of shock at reading our social status I felt angry, apathetic and a lack of control. Its not a nice feeling and as much as possible I believe in postive thinking and that people should set their sights as high as can be. I’ve seen too many people stop trying because they expect failure. It’s not been easy by any means… I do have a few sleepless nights each month about our bank balance.

I do spend hours and hours shopping around to knock as many pennies off the shopping bill and never shop outside of sales and offers. I do buy the kids clothes as big as possible to last that bit longer and lots of lovely finds from second hand sales and ebay. I do buy organic but I meal plan to use every last bit and portion it out to last longer and we hardly ever eat out. Because we make healthy our value I would never end up throwing away a couple of quid a day on fizzy drinks and sweets at the coop on the way home from school… most days we spend nothing at all. We have less stuff so that we can have nice stuff… I didn’t realise we shouldn’t be able to afford it! And we do have debts… I acknowledge that we do sometimes live beyond our means.

It has totally thrown my mind set. I’m not really sure what I have learnt… other than that I was probaby quite happy plodding along pre-‘how rich are you revelation’…. and maybe that this placebo effect is actually quite helpful. I know that I’m not prepared for my children to suffer. They will eat well, learn well and do as much as they can. Getting outdoors, eating fresh, practicing spellings and times tables is all free and should not ever be down to how much money we have coming in each month.

One of my friends put on facebook today that he had done the quiz and that they were at 1%! I know they have no money… but they have 4 strong, healthy independent, loved and free spirited children who are richer than most in so many ways. If there was ever more of a living example that money does not buy happiness!

Maybe this is a chance to revisit the original purpose of my blog… It started in 2009 with £14 in the bank… I travelled through some credit cards and did better some days and worse on others. Today as I’ve been advent planning and facing the cost of Christmas I have £19.21 in the bank. Its a little bit more than my first post. I’d been ignoring my money journey because I thought we were 53% richer than we really were.

I’ll save admitting the debts for another time. There may be a few.

Cheerio Cheerios

IDShot_225x225Remaining in the ethos of this blog I have been aware of treading carefully through any changes to the way we eat- bearing in mind the knock-on effect to our finances. When committing to a sugar free food plan I was a little nervous that it may end up to be totally unaffordable. Fresh salads and veg can be really pricey at the moment- but pricey or not, I do believe that our health can’t afford to do without them. The TV licence would go before I had to sacrifice a brocoli.

However, it far easier to shop than I imagined possible. Hardly anything is processed, hardly anything comes in packets and where supermarket shopping can be a little overwhelming this list has made life so much easier. There is an aisle full of breakfast cereals. 30 metres dedicated to grains that have been pushed and pulled through countless machines to be made into different shapes, flavours, sizes and textures. They have been added to, preserved with nasties with all kinds of names we have never heard and the labels are all so coded that we have no idea what chemicals we are eating. If we head for the granola we are picking up a pack of more sugar than we thought possible and even the really posh ones in the very small and elegant boxes (that cost a fortune but look very healthy) are typically more than 10% sugar.

A 600g box of Cheerios costs £3.19. This box would provide 20 lots of (ahem) 30g servings. I say “ahem” because even my children laugh at a 30g serving. My guess is that the amount of salt and sugar contained in these little 0’s mean they can’t reccomend anymore than that. So for my family of 4 a box of this size should last us 5 days (its probably more like 2/3).

A 750g pack of Organic oats form Tesco, on the other hand, costs £1.59. It ‘allows’ 50g servings so a pack should contain 15 servings…but 50g of oats will fill me up a lot longer than 50g of cheerios would. Cooked up with half full fat milk and half water for a cheaper but still rich texture and even if you do need to add a sprinkle of sugar (which I don’t need anymore) I would still be eating less sugar than in a typical bowl of cereal. At half the price, even for organic, it is a saving option. If I don’t need to save I can bulk buy other ingredients to make up granola or just add in a couple of scoops of nuts and seeds to get my good healthy fix. (I’m currently loving making up batches of the granola from the first I Quit Sugar book…adding in the oats and some cocoa nibs which taste amazing in it.) I’m starting to understand that investing in good food choices is actually financially beneficial. We are snacking far less than ever. We’re throwing less away. We’re also looking after our bodies. The B vitamins in porridge oats are great for looking after our nervous system and these magical little oats are even thought to go about cleaning our arteries, helping to fight against them getting blocked.

Of course, breakfast can be so many other things other than grains and milk- I am still working on getting my head round that – but the cereal aisle is a far less overwhelming place. So far the only other cereals that pass the sugar-free test are Wheetabix and Shredded Wheat. That big aray of cartoony boxes now takes me apox 30 seconds. Hurray.

Unfortunately its bad news for cereal box requests for school craft. Sorry about that teacher.

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My bag or my barclaycard?

I’m in a state of sadness. I will get over it but at the moment I am mourning the loss of my dream bag.
Yesterday I received an email from Harrods. Sometimes they say “shhhh – secret sale -just for our best customers!” Maybe they recognise that I like to spend a lot of time on their website (particularly when there’s a match on the TV) because I’m pretty sure my financial investment as a Harrods customer is not whats keeping them open. ‘Best’ is probably not the most accurate. Anyway -my email was an invitation to a 30% off preview… so it was only right to have a look at bags?! On the very last page I saw my dream Lanvin bag. Its the bag I have already costed out- many many times. I would have to miss out on 1000 chicken portions or 500 coffees or eat value potato only for 6 months to justify it. I can’t just spend a lot of money on something – but if I can add up lots of things that I can make myself miss out on then it makes it ok in my head. It would take too long to miss out on 1000 chicken meals or 500 coffees so I resigned to never getting that dream bag. 😦 UNTIL it was reduced by about 300 coffees on the Harrods site!? Really!? Normally with such a reduction I would decide it was fake…but I don’t think Harrods normally do things like fakes so I was quite excited and decided to wait until the sale preview actually started and see if I’d have to miss a few less coffees. (Why?!) There were 2 left. I nearly bought it at 3am, and at 6am and I waited. I took the children to school and when I got home I checked just to see if there were any more dream bags… and I took my dream bag to check out. I paid for my dream bag and I went to verify my payment and IT DIDN’T WORK AND IT HAD SOLD OUT!
I phoned and spoke to a nice customer service man at Harrods (I imagine he is sat at an old desk in a suit looking a bit like a butler, with a monocle) but he told me how he’d just had another phone call about the Lanvin bag but it had sold out as it was ‘such a good reduction’ (which made me even sadder… note to self to trust my bargain bag instincts quickly next time).
I am now torn between rebound impulse bag buying and being sensible. After all, I have missed my dream bag chance now. I need to fall madly in love with a different one and take that one STRAIGHT to check out?! But I have money set aside and its come into my head that I COULD actually make an extra barclaycard payment. What a thoroughly boring thought.
I’ve not blogged about my barclaycard before. I didn’t like to continue a blog which felt like an achievement of paying off my debts by then announcing lots more debt. But blaaa… it exists. I’ve said it. It arrived into my life when we miss calculated VAT on our house extension. Its not even full of fun spends (although the house is great – tax just doesnt seem quite so fun) So maybe the moral of my bag story is that I need to pay off £4000 of a barclaycard? 😦 ok. I will.

The things I do not need

I’ve realised I spend a lot of time shopping. Working in town makes it easy to pop to the shops in a lunch time and all these cold winter nights have been mainly filled with trawling the internet for nice things I want to buy while Joel normally watches some show about extreme challenges or football. I’m good at bargain hunting and stalking the sales but when I go to the shops and come back with a few nice things I have begun to decide almost strait away that I don’t like them THAT much and then I take them all back. Its generally ok as a time wasting hobby. Some people play on Clash of the Clans but I visit shops, give them my money, feel a bit happy, then take it back and get my money back a few days later when it re-credits my account and I feel like they’ve paid me.
We’re perhaps on the brink of one of the biggest financial challenges we’ve ever faced right now though and I’m having to rigidly plan and organise where every penny goes and I do think it may be helpful if I spend less time on the Selfridges website and maybe a little more time stockpiling lasagnes or something more useful. I’ve explained already to Joel that I am much safer stalking a £900 dress that I could never actually justify than having 20 mins wandering round Primark and coming out with an actual deficit of £100 and a bag full of jumpers with holes in or leggings with cartoons on (because for a moment I forgot I was over 30 and ought to at least think about dressing like a grown up).
What I’ve decided to do is to write a list. Lists are ALWAYS the thing to do – they solve EVERYTHING and always help. My list is going to be Things I do NOT need. I figured I might need one of these since the things I come home with in bags that I have to take back are quite often black dresses of a similar variety. My bedside draw is full of moisturisers. Every flower that God ever created for this earth in every continent will be represented on one of my summer tops or dresses… so maybe I keep buying all the same things by accident – that I do NOT need – and this is always instead of a practical short cardigan with long sleeves that I always forget to buy but need to put on most days and do NOT have!
So… I do NOT need..
A coat – at all.
A maxi dress (because days you can wear a maxi dress in this country are about an eighth of the number of maxi dresses I already have and could wear on those days)
A denim jacket
Black dresses
Actually any dresses (I’m going to regret saying that one and I can not promise to keep to it)
Ugg boots – even if its a really good deal and they are genuine)
Moisturisers – when my L’occitaine one runs out I will ignore the temptation for more because my organic Neals Yard one is also super amazing and then I have at least 10 Clinique bonus time ones and full size to get through!
Shorts
Accessorize window displays (Lets face it, a house can become a bit to full of themed cardboard. Less is more)
Then lets be brutally honest I do not need any jumpers, Christmas jumpers (because 4 is already more than enough),  leggings, jeans, pyjamas, skirts or shirts.

I do, however, quite need some matching socks, the sensible cardigan ooh and some cotton wool. Maybe when I’ve made a few lasagnes I can treat myself to a bit of quality time on boots.com stalking the best cotton wool deals?

Tonights tea… £5.39

Be prepared… this may be the dullest thing you have ever read… I am about to work out how much my dinner cost. Yep. Smiley face 🙂

For tea tonight we had baked potato. 8 in a pack for 2.60 =  32 and a half p. each and we had 3. So 97.5p for those.
1 tin of beans between us for 40p – nope, not Heinz
3 mini corn on the cobs at 20p each = 60p total
and about 100g of value cheese – probably about 60p’s worth.
That’s £2.575 for the whole of our dinner for 4 people. So 64p each. Its also surprisingly filling as this was our tea strait after swimming lessons so it is a particularly hungry night.

Then I made a mango and apple strudel for pudding – which is everso exotic and posh as it has mango in it. I had some pastry in the freezer (I did not make it because I have a job and children and pastry is fattening and unhealthy anyway so justifies the cheating) but that was about £1.20. Then I chopped up a £1 mango and a 61.5p cooking apple and cooked with a spoon of brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon and made into strudel shape and baked.
So that pudding cost £2.815! That seems quite a lot. Is it? I hope that I wouldn’t have been better off buying a strudel instead – although I can appreciate that we would have got 2/5 a day of fresh (but cooked) fruit packed into this one and I’m quite pleased that there’s enough left over to put into tomorrows packed lunches for the children- which should score me good mummy points with the lunchtime supervisors at school. Home baked Strudel VS pack of Jaffa Cakes? Well Strudel is the clear winner. We are NOT allowed any processed items in packed lunches. No chocolate bars, no mini cheddar’s, no crisps. This is good because I don’t buy any of these things and instead of looking like the alternative, non-conformist, hippie family we actually instead look like the good ones who read their parent letters and follow the rules.

:O Strudel news!! It turns out my strudel costs double the amount I could have paid. Sainsburys has an offer to get TWO for £2.50. BUT get this list of ingredients of just the filling!!… “Filling contains: Apples (81%), Sugar, Sultana (7%), Thickeners: Potato Starch, Sodium Alginate, Calcium Alginate; Wheat Flour, Acidity Regulator: Citric Acid; Water, Cinnamon Powder, Flavouring, Salt, Yeast.Glaze contains: Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Palm Fat.” WHAT are all those things?!! Mine had non of that thick stuff or palm fat or any of those scary sounding things from the Periodic Table… but it did have mango. So mine wins 🙂