Eager Reader

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
― Jane Austen

I’m rather snobbish about books and reading, oh not about what sort of books people read. Ok, I think 50 Shades of Grey was misogynistic crap, but mainly I don’t judge people for what they read. I have even been known to enjoy a bath time devouring an old Sweet Valley High book, just for nostalgia’s sake!

But people who claim they never read books astound me, and I’m afraid I do judge them. Books can teach us so much. Yes, living real life can also teach us, but books can take us outside our own small spheres, opening worlds we might never otherwise know.

Good writing can conjure up a scene even more effectively than a photo or a painting.

I am very fussy about books I read actually. I like escapist books, I like books to lift me, not tug at my heart strings. However I am still drawn to the bittersweet novels of Edith Wharton. Though all that I have read so far seem to end sadly, Wharton’s prose is so descriptive and evocative that the journey really is better than destination.

Anyway, my reason for this post is really to celebrate the fact that Betty seems to have developed my insatiable appetite for reading. Like me she is often to be found with her nose in a book on the stairs or under the bedcovers with a torch.

At a little over five her reading is outpacing her emotional development so I am struggling with what books to get for her. But I couldn’t resist these classics that I found in Emmaus, Gloucester, for 25p each:

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Enid Blyton was my favourite author as a child, though sadly they don’t always stand up to the test of rereading as an adult. We have recently read the Faraway Tree trilogy to her and there is rather a lot of slapping and smacking for my liking. And Blyton demonstrates a clear dislike for outsiders of any kind. However the whimsical stories have captivated Betty and she has read each boom herself as soon as we finished reading it to her. Hopefully she will see them as historical pieces, describing a bygone era. Either way, she couldn’t wait to get stuck in:

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And talking of historical fiction I have just ordered this for Iris for Christmas:

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It’s never too early to get them started on Jane Austen!

Sweet charity

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I’ve been on a bit of a charity shop binge this week. I went away over night for a bit of father-daughter bonding, which was mostly spent eating, drinking and mooching around charity shops. I love shopping in charity shops, but I am not brilliant at it. I don’t have that keen eye for potential, nor an ability to get away with tat in my house! And when it comes to clothes, I wish I was one of those sorts of people who can just whip up an outfit from other people’s cast offs, but I am really just too conventional. Invariably I pick things up and think ooh, I quite like that, then look at the label and find it’s Marks and Spencer’s ::shudder:: I know I listen to the Archers (religiously) and crochet and stuff, but I’m not there yet!

Today, with another day of summer holidays looming, with no holiday and no discernible plans I decided to stop moping (we’ve all been ill this week) and take the kids to the local city farm and to the Emmaus “superstore” nearby. The kids were predictably unimpressed by the animals, which was a shame, as Gloucester City Farm is a little haven in the middle of urban detritus.

Spectacularly underwhelmed by the cute ducks and chickens

They were much more impressed by the warehouse sized Emmaus charity shop and ransacked the toy corner then amused themselves on the many sofas (naicely of course!). Meanwhile I roved around the place casting a beady out for charity shop gold.

Now here’s the thing about charity shops, and thrift shopping in general: it’s a long game. I’ve posted about it before. I was enjoying reading Bazaar Style from the library yesterday, and it was full of flea market finds, and “…this Chesterfield sofa that the owner found in a skip and reupholstered…”. Now I don’t know where the people featured in these books live but it certainly isn’t here. Oh, there was furniture outside people’s houses as we walked to the City Farm, but ain’t none of it Chesterfield.

The other thing about these books is all the re-purposed and handmade items look great in Swedish apartments, New York studios and British period properties. But they don’t look quite at chic in a bijou, boxy new build, so new the postcode won’t even work in sat navs. No-one is writing Barratt Home Chic. Maybe because new builds will never be chic, but, well, beggars can’t be choosers and I bet my heating bills are peanuts compared to those drafty, run-down God I want one period properties.

20120811-195546.jpgI uhmed and ahhed over this sugar bowl, I mean, I don’t even use sugar unless I’m baking (and I have at least four different kinds for that). Does anyone still take sure in their tea or has it gone the way of smoking. Certainly no-one I regularly have over does. But, those ladies at Bazaar chic weren’t ones to question the functionality of something so pretty and neither was I. I liked the mug too. You can never have too many mugs.20120811-195556.jpg

20120811-195604.jpgThis top and shoes were from my trip away with my dad. My dad set me a challenge to just buy at least one thing after spending 2 days traipsing around all the charity shops Derby has to offer and coming out empty handed, save for a few Enid Blyton books, which Betty will no doubt eschew in favour of Horrid Henry or the next installment of Captain Flynn and the Pirate Dinosaurs. The top is from Uttam, and it even had the tags still on, so reduced from about £35 to a bargainous £2.50. In the next charity shop I saw these shoes which were a perfectly complementary shade of teal. “Let them be my size” I begged to the Goddess of shopping, and lo, they were my size. At £9 they were pricier than I would expect to pay but they are Monsoon and real leather. Now I had myself an outfit!

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These lovely shoes bought for a mere pound more than made up for my £9 frivolity earlier in the week. You can never have too many pairs of black shoes, right?

20120811-195644.jpgI have no idea what I am going to do with this pillow case, but with Bazaar Chic that doesn’t matter, you should buy something because you like it. And because it costs 50p.

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This print is by John Strevens. No, I’ve never heard of him either, I just liked it.

So, today’s haul (nearly all) pictured above (except for the teal top and shoes), also included a Tom Wolfe top for DH, a Guess Who knock off game for Betty, a pretty tiger print for Iris’s room (it’s about time we made it into “her” room, rather than the “spare” room, which isn’t actually going to be spare until she sleeps better and can go in with Betty), a joke book for Betty (so she can stop telling jokes like “Why did the cow cross the road? Because he had a sock on his head”), some dominoes (more on those soon…) and a couple of compulsory teddies for the girls who actually behaved beautifully. The grand total: TEN WHOLE POUNDS! Actually, it was £8.75, but I needed to spend £10 to put it on my card. “If it doesn’t come to ten pounds just make it ten anyway” I said benevolently to the girl totting it all up. I could have found some more tat to fill my bag, but the girls were coming to the end of their patience and I was losing perspective over whether a carved soap stone owl was Bazaar Chic or just plain rubbish, so I quit while I was ahead. In fairness we also took a bag of our own stuff to the charity shop, so we about broke even on the decluttering front.

So remember, charity shops, play the long game. Kiss a few frogs to find that Prince. Well, you know what I mean, if frogs were commemorative plates from Lanzarote, and the Prince a Diane Von Fustenburg wrap dress. That you display artfully on your wall with your other designer togs. It’s Bazaar Chic doncha know?

50 shades of crochet

Well, just one for now. After 2 years of looking up at generic Ikea paper lamp shades I decided it was time for a bit of creativity. I’d seen a few examples of crochet lampshades online and decided to give it a go. I managed to find two bargainous lampshades for £3.50 at a charity shop.

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I started by just crocheting a row of doubles around the bottom of the frame, which was pretty tricky.

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Crocheting with the frame between my legs was pretty cumbersome.

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It has taken quite a long time given that it’s not exactly a portable project.

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The stitch is shell stitch. I didn’t follow any sort of pattern, I just crocheted until it felt a bit loose then decreased a few stitches. I found a couple of good videos to show how to increase and decrease the shell stitch.

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I finished with a shell scallop around the bottom, which I fear makes it a bit twee (as if a crocheted lamp shade isn’t twee enough!). Twee isn’t really my style but it needed something to finish it off.

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Finished!
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In situ

I’m really pleased with it. I still have another frame so I need to decide what I want to do with that one. Of course, I will keep you posted!

Ad-vintage-ous

Anyone else read books, magazines, blogs, about people finding darling item at thrift stores and flee markets and transforming them into wonderful object d’art and wonder how they manage it, when all you can find in your local charity shop are Primark clothes priced at more than they originally cost, and paintings of West Highland Terriers?

I think there are a few key aspects to successful charity shop shopping.

Vision

The first is you have to have a vision for potential. You have to be able to look at something that, when surrounded by willow patterned tea sets, cut glass knick knacks and football memorabilia, looks pretty naffola, and imagine it fitting perfectly in your country farm house kitchen. Try to think about how your find when you’ve given it a clean, lick of paint, or distressed finished.

Location, location, location

Certain items, when placed in the shelved alcoves of a spacious Victorian house, will look vintage/retro/shabby chic/homespun (delete as appropriate). But when placed on an Ikea shelf in a boxy new build will look like you’ve been raiding your parent’s attic; or in a 70’s house, will look like you just haven’t thrown anything away for 30 years. That’s not to say that you can’t do the thrifted look in a modern property but you have to be sympathetic to your surroundings and the rest of your possessions.

Do it with confidence

You may not have a beautifully restored Victorian property, and you may not wear vintage clothing (it’s hard to pull off delicate tea dresses when you’re built like a tea pot), but sometimes you just need to just wear or display your charity shop finds with confidence. Mix it up a little, adding vintage or vintage inspired accessories to simple outfits works well, but don’t go overboard, you don’t want to look like an extra from the House of Elliott. Plus, dedicating your whole life and wardrobe to a different era, is in my opinion, a little bit sad, and sometimes oppressive. Vintage/retro/homespun is very fashionable right now, and no longer unconventional. Retro blogs are ten a penny and technicolor Instagram photos have become clichéd. Always just buy things you really like and they will work for you. Jump on a bandwagon it will look contrived. Be confident in what you like. For example, I’m very jealous of MeMeRose’s tapestry Irises below

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Dedication

Good charity shop finds require dedication to the cause. You have to keep going, and really root around. This is where I fall down a lot, as I rarely have the time to go charity shop shopping, and am rarely without one of the children, both of whom lose patience fairly quickly (although the good thing about charity shops is that children are easily pacified with an on GI Joe or hideous cuddly toy for 20p!).

I have to admit that for all my good advice, I’m not that great at charity shop shopping myself. Firstly, I live in a boxy new build, where my previously shabby chic furniture (i.e. begged, borrowed and stolen) now just looks a bit, erm, shabby shit! Also, I just don’t always have the Vision that is needed. I just don’t have great taste! However I do often have the confidence to just try things. My husband states his most vivid memory of me before we went out was me in my fake fur coat which I wore at university! I am much more conventional now, especially since I turned 30 *sigh*. I’ve given away my zebra print knee-high boots, the fake fur coat was left in a nightclub (accidentally – but I never got it back). The Laura Ashley velvet trousers which I recently found in a charity shop are much more sensible. But I have recently found a few good finds which I will share (but hopefully in a non-smuggy “oh look, I happened to find vintage Chanel sofa which I quickly reupholstered” kinda way!).

The heart plate at the bottom actually has Flora printed on it underneath (as in the margarine) so it was obviously some give away. Not exactly vintage chic then, but I really liked it, which was the important thing. Inspired by the heart plate, I thought I should also keep it company with the heart-shaped dish. I just really like the way it has been shaped. We’ll probably keep Betty’s hair clips in it.

These vintage kilner jars weren’t actually from a charity shop, but from a woman at my knitting group who’s mother has recently had to go into a care home. She bought a big box of them and said to help ourselves. A lot of the women in the group are vintage fans (and pull it off so much better than I do!). I thought I would take a couple though, and maybe fill one up with origami hearts or something (no, I’m not heart obsessed really! They just look nice).

These vintage circular needles were also free from someone at my knitting group. I can’t knit very well, and that puts me off trying again, but these fab needles may just inspire me.

There is nothing like the satisfaction of finding a gem of a book in a second hand shop

Oh, I just LOVE second hand book shopping! These books were all from a charity book shop. For the measly sum of £5.20 I got Cath Kidston’s ‘Make’; The New Hite Report, a report on femal sexuality by Shere Hite; a random Womanguides Reading Toward a Feminist Theology by Rosemary Radford Ruether; Drina Dances in Exile by Jean Estoril (I was so pleased to find a Drina book in a charity shop, and one I don’t have – they were childhood favourites), and Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which I can’t wait to share with my girls. Oh and last week’s copy of the Economist (20p!)!

This teeny tiny picture frame is going to look so cute when I stick a little cross stitch or something in it.

Finally, the piece de resistance, my new coat. My last coat also came from a charity shop, a 100% wool black tailored coat, but since having Iris it’s a little snug…so I was excited when I spotted this electric blue number. Drawn to it like a magpie, I was overjoyed to find it fit perfectly. This is one of those things that can look pretty old-lady-ish if you wear it timidly (you can wear it like me exclaiming to all who will listen “Look, I got it in a charity shop! Isn’t it fab?!”). I thought the label said Jacque Vert, proper old lady shop, but I didn’t care, I’d just wear it it with confidence as I loved it. But that was actually the label for the the shirt underneath. The coat was made by Dereta, which a bit of googling suggests is a department store from the 50s-60s, so it turns out it is real life proper vintage! Funny, since I couldn’t purposely spot a vintage item if it came up and smacked me in the face with a pair of Jackie O sunglasses! Another reason that I should limit my attraction to ‘vintage’ is that I bought this beautiful Merino coat which has been immaculately kept for possibly 50 years, and within two days the baby had smeared food on the collar which I desperately tried to scrub off with a baby wipe…

Remember, just pick stuff that you really like. Vintage just means old, retro just means old-fashioned. It doesn’t always mean good:

See the 25 Vintage Ads That Would Be Banned Today