Saturday, 31 October 2009

Free chocolate!!

Toblerone are giving away 20,000 free samples of Tobelle here.
Tobelle is "a tantalisingly slender triangle of Toblerone".
I personally would prefer a tantalisingly big, fat chunk of Toblerone - but what the hell, it's free!

If you are lucky enough to be selected, the sample goes to your significant other so you need to get to the post first ;)

Enter before 1st January 2010. Good luck!

Friday, 30 October 2009

The horny man

Jellyfish in aquarium
Today we visited the Horniman museum. This is a fantastic free museum in South East London that has an unfortunate name (named after a tea trader who collected artifacts from around the world).
We did a quick whizz round the natural history section but the best part for us was the aquarium. I thought K would be too young to be interested but she watched the fishes and jellyfish intently which made me happy.

On the way home we stopped off at Sainsbury's to see what carnage was going down in their half price toy sale. There were a lot of empty shelves and some pushy parents but I managed to grab a few bits and pieces. I realised that I am buying for K what I didn't convince my mum to buy me as a child i.e. Sylvanian families (and she can't even have it until she is 3).

I have a weekend of DIY ahead. We have to get the nursery to a state where the plumber can fit the central heating. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Mrs Messy

 Mrs Messy

I'm not a lover of cleaning. I do the very least I can to keep the house in a reasonably sanitary state; I hope that any overlooked dirt will help to boost K's immune system.

This is probably why I like How Clean Is Your Home - it proves there are people more lax than me on the cleaning front. I also like that they use household items and essential oils instead of cillit bang and the like.

So, here are 3 household items that clean easier than their chemical counterparts...

Baby wipes to clean laptop and computer screens
So long as you use the type with no added nasties, these work a treat. I used Huggies Pure and it got rid of a variety of toast crumbs, sticky finger marks and, what were probably, baby sick splatters.

Lemon to clean microwaves
This one is thanks to Miss Thrifty. Take a used lemon rind, pop it in a bowl with a small amount of water and nuke it for 2 minutes. Smells great and the baked on crud just wipes off.

Oil to get gloss paint off skin
This is straight from the builder's mouth. I was 7 months pregnant, painting skirting boards with gloss paint and using stinky white spirit to get any splashes off my hands (I did wear a face mask to protect K). But if you work a small amount of cooking oil (or baby oil) into your hands and then wash with soap and water, the paint magically comes off and leaves your hands soft.

I would love to hear your cleaning tips too :)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

2 steps forward, 1 step back

I seem to be having lots of minor setbacks lately. The sort of things that would easily be rectified by my pre-baby self but get put on the back burner now I'm looking after K.

The main problem is K's feeding and sleeping routine. Depending on how many times she wants feeding in the night can mean I wake up feeling grotty and knackered or, if I'm lucky, not quite so grotty and knackered! The bottle of formula seemed to help but now I think it's making her constipated so I'm not sure what to do.

Other things to sort out...

Jessops cropped a big chunk off my pop art print and it was too late to get a reprint in time for the birthday party so I need to get a refund or reprint

Scraped side of car, oops :( I'm hoping it might come out with T-cut

Hair cut.  Needed desperately. I haven't had my hair cut for about 7 months (I wanted to grow my hair long again) and I have split ends on my split ends.

I need to check our finances. I've got no idea what we've been spending on the house plus we've been buying extra bits on the joint account. Maybe some of this will be offset by us not eating out or going to the pub?!

I think there may be other things but my baby-brain has got the better of me.

Image credit: If you own this image and would like it credited/removed please get in touch

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Bags, boxes, baskets

What I want to get K for Christmas!
Is it me or do the Christmas offerings in the shops seem to be crappy this year? It's all the same generic gift packs of miniature bottles of wine and chocs or body washes that cost twice as much as they would if you bought the items separately. There were some nice gifts in Sainsbury's but they were totally overpriced - I suppose that's to get you to go for their 3 for 2 offer.

So, I've decided that making up individual gift boxes (or hampers if you want to be posh) is the way to go for xmas presents. That way I can tailor each one to the recipient. I'll keep an eye out for small items over the next few weeks and it won't seem so daunting. Some coloured paper whizzed through the shredder will do for packing material but I need to find some nice gift boxes or baskets.
Last year I'm ashamed to say that some people ended up with a Lynx gift set, so this has got to be better!
I'm also going to keep my eye out for some tiny frames so I can stick a little picture of K in with the boxes for aunties & grandparents.

It's a nice day out so we are off for a trip to the library. K was really good yesterday but is playing up today so I hope some fresh air will sort her out. She also can't stop staring at her feet! :)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Xmas makes vs buys

Card by Tracy Chong

I'm sitting on the sofa typing this and watching K out of the corner of my eye. She is watching me back and tickling my feet. She is clearly as confused by the clocks going back as I am and I'm not sure if it's her bedtime or not.

Despite it only being October I've starting worrying about Christmas. I blame the shops for already stocking xmas stuff and sending me into a panic. My list of people to buy for is looooong and I usually cop out and buy chocolate, toiletries, booze or books. I've thought about making things but I don't know what. I'd like to give people something different and unique but being on a budget makes it a real challenge. I think Etsy is a great place to get unusual pressies but once you start adding on postage it can get pricey. I fancy a trip up to Spitalfields market and the fantastic Up market on Brick Lane but just thinking about taking a pram up there on the tube gives me palpitations!

Maybe I should just do what Mr C does and do a mad dash round the shops on xmas eve.

Right, time to put K to bed and peruse the internet for gift ideas. I will report back! :)

Friday, 23 October 2009

Mac user? Why you should boycott Lexmark

I'm the proud new owner of a Canon printer (half price from Tesco).  I also have a fully operational Lexmark printer but I haven't used it since getting my Macbook a year ago. Why? Because Lexmark decided not to bother updating their drivers for the new Mac operating system. I phoned to find out if they'd be updating them in the future, but got a resounding 'no'. Planned obsolescence is clearly alive and well. For the past months if I wanted to print anything I had put it on a memory stick, fire up Mr C's PC, swear at it for not having the right programmes installed, and print from there grrrrrr! The Lexmark will be offered on freecycle in the hope that the good karma generated will find me a Bumbo in return!

Baby update: I bit the bullet and gave K a 'dream feed' bottle of formula last night. I've been reading tales of not being able to breastfeed properly if you do this but I am at the end of my tether. She took the bottle with no problems but was still up at 4am for a feed. I'll try this for a couple more nights and see how it goes. It also means that Mr C can give her a feed which he enjoys and gives me a break ;)

Image credit: If you own this image and would like to have it credited/removed please contact me

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


East Coast Rolling Beads Rattle
East Coast Rolling Beads Rattle

I've been covertly using the baby group at the local nursery to test out toys on baby K. A tube full of beads and a spaceship shaped rattle = good. Soft toys = bad. So I was very happy when I found the strange rattle type thing in the picture above in the charity shop for 50p and she loves it.
I also tried out the Bumbo on her which I think will be great in a few weeks time when her head is a bit more steady. They cost £30+ so I'll try asking on Freecycle or Gumtree.

Yesterday I drove up to North London to see my mum, aunty and grandad. K was very good for her great-grandad and stroked his beard! Mum had picked up some bits from her local charity shop: some books, little finger puppets and some new sheets for the cot when we eventually get it!
It took me over 2 hours to drive the 20 miles home though, with K screaming for some of it :(  Driving in London is crap but public transport with a pram has to be organised with military precision!

I've also been sent a link from Baby Expert with a whole load of discounts on maternity clothes here. I'm not sure why they think that I might still be pregnant - I told them my estimated due date when I signed up, which would make me 2 months overdue with ankles like an elephant!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Maternity clothes

Portrait on an egg
Portrait of pregnant me by Mr C!

Maternity clothes have certainly got better than in my mum's day when you had the choice between huge dresses with bows on or dungarees.
The draw back is the price, especially when you factor in that you might only be wearing the item for 6 months.
The trick is to buy clothing when you actually need it, as it's difficult to guess what size you are going to be. Try to use what you already have; I was pleased to find that many smock tops could easily accommodate my growing tum!

When your bump is small to mid size you can get away with your normal clothes but you may need a hair-band to keep trousers up (loop it through the button hole and hook it over the button) and a belly band to hide any gap between top & bottoms. Leggings are great too and layering is the way to go.

I got away with buying just the following. I call it my "maternity capsule wardrobe" - it sounds better than tight-arse wardrobe:

Belly bands x2 from Mothercare
Maternity jeans from Gap on 30% discount day (that one pair got washed a lot!)
Maternity denim skirt H&M on Ebay
Maternity gypsy skirt H&M charity shop
Maternity dress from Gap on sale
Maternity vest tops: I just bought cheap vest tops from Primark a couple of sizes bigger then normal
Leggings (not maternity): Topshop & Primark

I don't have to dress smart for work though :)

I found the best shops for maternity ranges were H&M, Gap and Topshop although not all stores stock the range which is a pain. You can also pick up some bargains on Ebay and Gumtree, and the NCT has second-hand sales.

In my last month my feet ballooned so that even wearing flip flops hurt. I was lucky, it was summer and I could go barefoot a lot of the time. For winter mummies-to-be, a pair of cheap shoes a size bigger might be needed!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Neverending story: DIY

DIY in nursery
Welcome to your nursery baby K!

DIY: I love it and hate it. I love stripping wallpaper and finding psychedelic layers beneath, I love opening up old fireplaces, I love checking out the newspaper from the 70s under the carpets. I hate that everything takes at least three times as long as we think it will, and I hate wearing my slobby, filthy DIY clothes.

Two years ago, at the peak of the property market, we bought our first place: a 1920s terraced house in an area in South London which could be twinned with the Bronx. It needed lots of work doing to it but we felt we were up to challenge. So far we have only one room completely finished :(

We both wanted kids and at 34 I could hear that biological clock ticking louder and louder. If we waited for the house to be finished we might never have them. This is how it came about that we have a newborn baby in a house that largely looks like the photo above. Hopefully by posting the photo I  will be shamed into getting that room done!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Project No.1: DIY Roman blind

Ikea birdcage fabric
Right, I'm starting with what should be a simple one: making a DIY roman blind for the nursery.
The nursery will be painted pale yellow, so to brighten the place up I'd like a colourful blind and pictures.

Although Baby K is already 11 weeks old, the nursery is still in the process of being decorated. It needs a bit more plastering by Mr C. Then it'll need wallpapering, painting, plumber to add central heating and carpet laying. Of course we have set ourselves the unreasonable deadline of having this finished in 2 weeks - ain't gonna happen!

The blind is something I can get done though. I found a good tutorial for making a blind from scratch here. I am cheating though! I've bought a plain roman blind from Ikea (£5.99) and some lovely, colourful canvas fabric, also from Ikea called Annamoa (£4.99 p/m, I needed 2 metres). In theory, by sewing the fabric onto the blind and making sure I sew along the dowels, I should get a fully lined, roman blind. Oh, and I'm also cheating by getting Mr C's mum to do the sewing! I do own a sewing machine but the last couple of times I've used it it's gone haywire and I've sworn at it a lot. I will post a photo of the finished creation once it is completed :)

I also got thinking about other things you could do with a cheap blind. If you have a projector you could project an image onto it and then paint directly onto the fabric (or paint freehand if you are confident). You could use cut-out scraps of material sewn on to create a collage or to make pockets for the kids bits & bobs. Or just paint vertical multicolour stripes and make a Paul Smith inspired blind.

Baby is napping so time to grab a coffee before starting a day of DIY. Might be working alone as Mr C is in bed with a hangover!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Allow myself to introduce... myself

I recently became a mum for the first time. My plan to work right up to pretty much giving birth was scuppered by the big, bad recession and I was left with no spare cash for the mountains of crap you need for a tiny baby! So, this is the diary of a skint, unmarried (gasp!) couple bringing up a lovely baby girl.

This blog is for the mums that use Freecycle and like a good nose around charity shops rather than discussing the latest designer highchair - unless it's reduced!

Hopefully I'll have some money saving ideas to share too :)


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