Monday, 27 January 2014

My crafting - Pencil cases for the children

I had bought and filled two cheap, see-through, pencil cases from Tesco for the children so that they each had some pencil crayons, a couple of pens, a couple of pencils, a ruler, sharpener, rubber (eraser), scissors and glue.

These have been fine and working a treat.  They are both very proud of their pencil cases, keep track of them (mostly) and put their things back in them when they've finished (mostly).

HOWEVER... Santa brought them a large packet of new pencil crayons each for Christmas, and these just didn't fit in the pencil cases.  It only took a couple of weeks for the cardboard packet to start falling to pieces.  A shopping trip to Edinburgh was disappointing, either the pencil cases were covered in improbable characters, or they were really expensive, or they were as small as the ones we had.  I trawled Etsy... some gorgeous pencil cases, but difficult to see what size they were on-line.  And seeing the lovely hand-made pencil cases on-line got me to wondering whether I could make some myself.
I tried once, but unfortunately didn't measure the pencils first, and ended up making really beautiful pencil cases that were too short (lovely bags for small toys though).  This did give me the confidence that I could make a really nice quality item though, so I had another go.
I won't go into the instructions here.  I used this excellent tutorial from the Dining Room Drawers for lined pencil cases, with the addition of a first attempt at applique using bonded interfacing, and also a tuck to give the pencil cases some depth.

The photograph below shows the finished articles, though it doesn't really do them justice as they are, though I say it myself, excellent.  I am soooooo proud of them, and the children are very happy too.  I'm so happy with the results that I'm going to make a couple more this week to put as the first items in my "stock box" to sell!

Friday, 24 January 2014


I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring the books “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent” written by Tom Hodgkinson.  I enjoyed a lot of the ideas expressed in these books, and think that exploring them further will help me to explore the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

Chapter 28 – Reject Waste; Embrace thrift – SHOVEL SHIT
It seems that in our consumer, advertising, capitalist society, where having is everything, a backlash is developing, and that backlash is thrift.  An increasing segment of society, either through necessity or sense, is beginning to count those pennies, to aim for less waste.  It’s about being creative with your money and your household, not spending unnecessarily.  By being thrifty with your cash, you might just end up needing to work less.
So what should we do?  Buy less stuff with wasteful packaging – have you seen the packaging some toys come ensconced in?  Re-use glass jars and bottles (for your home-made jams, chutneys, wines and beers); make compost;  This is one of the permaculture principles, trying to create or work within a system where little is wasted.

How does this match up to the ink-spots-and-grass-stains life?
I look at how much waste we produce from our small household and it really is frightening.  The recycling bin is collected fortnightly and is always full of plastic bottles, paper and card.  The general waste bin is collected fortnightly and is usually full.  The glass recycling box is collected weekly, and is rarely even half full, which means that thankfully we aren’t drinking too much!  The council recently introduced a food waste caddy.  It took me a while to work out what to do with it.  “I don’t have food waste!” I exclaimed to a friend. “If it doesn’t get eaten by us, then it either goes in the dog, for the birds or on the compost.  The only thing we throw in the dustbin is the occasional chicken carcass.”  Eventually I decided to show willing, and share our vegetable peelings between the compost caddy and the council food waste caddy.  I think a lot of it is down to buying too much stuff.  This month I am sorting through old magazines, clipping out articles to keep and file, and ditching the rest – an incredible number!  I have two children who use paper at a rate of knots, but I’m not much better, I’m forever writing things and printing things, getting mail-order deliveries with the cardboard boxes that entails.  I could definitely do more to reduce the amount of waste I produce personally… and another resolution is made!

In the garden I’m pretty good at re-using.  We have three compost bins, two leaf mulch bins and a wormery, and an awful lot goes in them and then gets spread around the garden when it’s ready, but I still seem to fill the garden waste bin that gets collected every three weeks by the council, so I’ve still some work to do to make use of all the grass and hedge clippings we produce.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Free Our Kids

I was directed to this blog by my little sis.  

She saw an article about it in The Telegraph, and sent me the link.  Once I started reading I realised I was smiling.

Basically this wonderful woman (Harriet), having been made redundant, and realising just how much unnecessary money people spend on their children, decided on a year-long "no spend" experiment to see if it was possible to raise children without spending so much.  No child-specific foods, no money to be spent on toys or clothes, or activities for children.  She and her husband and their two year old son were going "old school".

I'm disappointed not to have discovered this blog before.  Her year long experiment is now finished, and I find myself trawling back through her posts to find out how to get on (it appears she had another baby during the year too!).

So... how much money do we spend on our children?


FOOD - I am delighted and proud to say that I have NEVER bought anything from the baby/toddler food aisle in the supermarket.  My children have never had puree and have always eaten exactly the same as we eat.  I do find that I buy more food, but I figure that's okay, they've got to eat after all!

NAPPIES - we MOSTLY used reusable nappies.  We bought disposable when we were travelling on holidays, and for the first few weeks when nappies are at their most disgusting, and then we switched to expensive "pull-ups" once the children were potty training, so that they could get themselves to the toilet.  Bug is still in pull-ups at night, and I can't wait until that finishes.

TOYS - when they were babies I don't think I bought them any toys.  I made toys from bright sparkly things and pictures hanging from a clothes airer, and pasta in tubs and bottles and things like that.  No, I tell a lie, I was proud of myself for being so frugal and splashed out on a wooden baby gym.  As they've got older though, there have been more toy buys.  I still try hard to make toys (the wooden cooker), knitted toys, some new pouches that I've just sewn (they were supposed to be pencil cases but ended up too short for the pencils - doh! more on that in a future post), but they are now into playmobil and lego, and have discovered money.  C has just emptied his piggy banks to buy some playmobil on ebay, which at least is second hand and a lot less expensive than new.  I don't think we spend nearly as much as some on toys, but we do spend.

CLOTHES - a lot of our clothes are hand-me-down.  With older cousins of both genders, we do get plenty of clothes from my sisters, and there are also a couple of girls in the village who have passed on plenty of clothes to Bug, so actually I have little need to buy clothes very often.  I'm just thinking about what new clothes we have bought over the last few months: vests, pants and socks, pyjamas, trousers and jumpers for C (he seemed to have very few for a while), shoes, waterproof coats.  I think I could have got some of these second-hand, but I find trawling around the charity shops with small children in tow very trying, so tend to avoid shopping at all costs, and then just pop to the shop with something very specific in mind when I need something.

ACTIVITIES - aside from £2 per week at the local toddler group, I have no regular spends on children's activities.  They are still free to get into the swimming pool, so I just pay for myself.  We do have occasional trips to soft play, castles, museums, steam trains, safari parks etc. but they are usually either free or rare enough to be a special treat, so I don't think I overspend here.  We do lots of playing at home, in the garden, walks and bike rides, parks and free museums, or make use of our Historic Scotland membership to visit castles.

How much do you spend on your children?
I'll be continuing to follow Harriet's blog, and hope that she continues to post as she ventures into trying not to spend to much with a baby in tow as well.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Games to play with small children

Regular readers will have gleaned that I'm very big on simple games that you can do in minutes without any equipment, but there is always a place for what are often termed "Board Games" though in many cases they don't have a board at all.  As well as being great fun, they can help children to develop and practise skills from reading and number through to memory, turn-taking, following instructions and rules and all sorts of useful things like that.  Here are some of the ones that we have so far (children aged 2 and 4).

I'm also keen to get hold of a children's Scrabble (maybe Santa will provide next Christmas).  We play one of these games probably about once a week at least, and it's a really great way to get sitting down together having fun.

What "board games" do you have, and what would you recommend?