Charity Shop

I try to keep out of arguments on social media. Life’s simply too short to go wading in every time you see something you disagree with. Last week though I saw an exchange which just left me speechless.

Some blogger friends of mine are taking part in a campaign with the Salvation Army to raise the profile of doing your Christmas shopping in charity shops as a way of supporting charities at this time of year. One particular blogger tweeted about the things that she’d found this year for her family’s Christmas presents and someone else (who I refuse to give a link to here – don’t feed the trolls and all that) started to go on (and on and on) about how no child should be given a used toy for Christmas. Yes, there did end up with some crossed wires about whether people were talking about secondhand toys for your own children, or to give to a charity who is giving out toys to needy children at Christmas, but to be honest I don’t see a problem with either of those situations.

Now I love buying things in charity shops and I’ve been seeking out suitable presents for my children and other family members all year. Heck, last year I even managed to find some of Little Miss C’s birthday presents six months in advance in a charity shop. There have been some fantastic bargains to be had at different points in the year, so not only have I saved money, but in doing so I have been giving money to the charities whose shops I have bought from. A win, win situation. My children certainly don’t see toys from a charity shop, or secondhand via any other route, as any different to toys bought brand new.

It’s not only gifts for my children that I buy in charity shops. Other family members will be finding charity shop purchases under the Christmas tree this year, and I know in the past that I’ve been given things from charity shops as gifts. Gifts that I’ve really been grateful to receive.

Another of the reasons that I’m such a fan of secondhand though is that it helps to keep things out of landfill. So much gets thrown away in this day and age that it really is criminal. I see people throwing away things that still have plenty of life left in them, or that could be fixed very easily. Buying a brand new replacement is just a waste – both in terms of raw materials and the energy used to make the product in the first place. In my mind anything like this should be passed to a charity shop instead of being thrown away, as I know there are people out there who would appreciate it, even if you don’t.

When it comes to giving secondhand gifts to the needy I also don’t see where the problem lies. As long as the gift is not so broken that it’s useless or dirty that it’s horrible then surely that is better than not giving anything at all? Some people on twitter were called “greedy” and “cheapskates” for giving secondhand things to charities, but some people simply can’t afford to buy new things to give away. There seem to be two schools of thought on this though – some people saying that children deserve to have new toys, and another which says that needy children will just be grateful to receive a gift at all. In my mind, all children deserve to have a present, and deserve to have toys, and they should be in good condition, but I don’t think this necessitates new.

Anyway, enough of me going on – I’ve got more charity shops to scour to finish off my Christmas shopping. What are your thoughts on this? Will your children be receiving secondhand gifts this Christmas?

The Diggers

One of Master C’s favourite books over the last few months has been Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Or Night Night Moon as he prefers to call it. I therefore sat down with him to read a copy of The Diggers by her with great interest especially since he instantly became very excited by the picture of a digger on the front cover.

Margaret Wise Brown wrote hundreds of stories and poems for children and this particular one has been brought alive in this modern version by French illustrator Antoine Corbineau.

Dig, dig, dig go various animals and machines as they dig underground to create a whole new world beneath our feet. There are worms, rabbits and mice. Pirates, workmen and mechanical diggers. Between them they create underground homes and railways. They discover bones, gnomes and plenty of stones.

This is a lovely books showing children all the things that go on underground, and helps children understand a bit more about the different animals that live there, as well as when humans need to dig down for their modern day infrastructure. Master C got particularly excited to see the trains feature in it.

Little Miss C was also sat with us whilst we read The Diggers and she was quite excited to understand how they make trains go underground, especially as she’s travelled a fair bit on the London Underground and always loved the concept of trains under the ground.

Whilst Master C was excited about the digger on the cover of the book you don’t actually see a mechanical digger inside the book until about half way through so it left him a bit impatient and frustrated until we got to them. If you’ve got a digger mad little boy (or girl) please do be warned that they don’t feature all the way through The Diggers – or else you might have a disappointed little one!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Diggers to review as part of our role as Parragon book buddies.

I’m pretty sure that there’s not a child out there that doesn’t dream of waking up on a winter morning and finding the whole world under a thick blanket of white snow. That’s exactly what the children of London found when they woke up on Thursday 5th December though. During the previous night it had snowed and snowed and snowed so hard that in the morning mobile phones buzzed and emails pinged with the news that there was no school today. But in Snow Day it seems that not everyone got the message as two people did turn up for school. Danny and Mr Trapper.

Putting aside any practicalities about Danny going back home or safeguarding or working alone issues surrounding the scenario and you instead have the makings of a snowy adventure, and the start of a new pupil teacher relationship.

Now, the problem at the start of Snow Day is that Mr Trapper and Danny are sworn enemies. Mr Trapper was the strictest teacher in the school and Danny was probably the worst pupil in the country. But, on Snow Day they have no option but to be together.

The school day starts as usual with history, English and science lessons, but then it was break time, and whilst Mr Trapper stood there smoking his pipe (is that even allowed in schools? Probably not!) Danny set about trying to dow hat most of his school friends were probably already doing – build a snowman. But when Mr Trapper sees him struggling, something amazing happens. Mr Trapper actually talks to him. And before long they’re building snowmen together.

The timetable goes out of the window for the rest of the school day and the two of them just have fun together in the snow until it was home time. You see Danny is actually quite lonely as his Dad is an incredibly busy man who never has time to play with him. Mr Trapper’s father was very similar, and he’d never had children of his own to play with.

On the night of the 5th December it didn’t snow again, and so on Friday all the children had to go back to school and life went on much as before. Apart from one thing. Mr Trapper and Danny were now the Snow Day Boys and this made them special. Come December the 5th the following year they had their plans all drawn up and ready. They most certainly weren’t going to waste the morning on history, English and science again!

I have to admit that when I opened the Snow Day book I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Written by Richard Curtis (as in the same Richard Curtis that is behind some of the country’s best comedy writing) I didn’t know how well his style would adapt to a children’s book, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. I loved the idea of showing that grown ups like to have fun in the snow too, and that they can get lonely as well. In fact, that was something Little Miss C expressed surprise at in the story. The illustrations by award winning Rebecca Cobb accompany the story beautifully.

In fact there’s only one downside as far as I’m concerned. What on earth do I do if we don’t have snow on December 5th, as LMC now seems to think that we’re guaranteed a Snow Day off school on that date!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Snow Day for the purposes of this review. This post contains affiliate links.

I LOVE Christmas! There we go I’ve said it. There’s probably people despairing as they read that, but this year as soon as we’d waved away the trick or treaters on 31st October I’ve been in full on Christmas mood.

Henry Weston Mulled Cider

For me the moment that sealed it was sitting down with a mug of Henry Westons Mulled Cider that I’d been sent to review and my subscription copy of the Christmas issue of Country Living. Nice magazines are one of my guilty pleasures and whenever I open Country Living I’m always transported to the old village rectory that features in many of my dreams and a whole different dream lifestyle.

This issue has the most gorgeous article in it about a Christmas service at St Beuno’s church on Exmoor, England’s smallest church. There’s just something about that article and the accompanying photographs that transported me straight to Exmoor and I could feel the chill in the air as they walked to the church (the only way as the nearest road is a mile away) followed by the welcoming warmth as they pushed open the door upon arrival. Sipping a warming festive drink whilst reading was just completely the right thing to be doing.

I’m very familiar with mulled wine having drunk plenty of it over the years, but mulled cider was a new concept to me – although having now seen how many recipes there are online for it I’m struggling to see how I missed it until now!

The beauty of Henry Westons Mulled Cider is that you haven’t got to faff around making it yourself. It comes in a 2.25l bag in a box and you can simply pour yourself a mug full and then heat it in the microwave whenever you fancy a warming tipple. If you’re going in for a “mulled wine and mince pie party” then you could turn it into a mulled cider party instead by emptying the whole bag into a pan and putting it on a low heat on the hob to warm it through. I’m also guessing you could bung it in the slow cooker too – slightly more energy efficient.

Henry Weston Mulled Cider

I was really impressed with how the mulled cider tasted. It’s got that crisp cider edge whilst also giving off a lovely Christmassy aroma when warmed. I love how it tastes and it’s definitely the perfect accompaniment to a mince pie on a cold winter’s evening. Being able to prepare just a mug full at a time is genius too as it means it’s not just something you drink at a larger gathering. We’ll definitely be drink this at Christmas time – assuming it lasts that long!

Disclaimer: I was sent some Henry Weston Mulled Cider for the purposes of this review. All views and opinions are my own.

As regular readers of Being Mrs C will know, I am delighted to be part of a team of six bloggers that are currently working with Bureau Direct – retails of some of the most gorgeous stationery products I’ve ever seen.

But to me stationery isn’t just about things that look good, whilst that is still important. It’s about functionality. This has to be the case when it comes to pens in particular. There’s no point in having a pen that looks good if it’s horrible to write with.

This month my choice of review items from Bureau Direct was very much on the functional side of things. After my love of the Herbin Rollerball last month I selected a universal fountain pen convertor so that I can put ink in my Herbin, instead of cartridges. Obviously this then necessitated me choosing a Herbin ink bottle too – actually a tricky choice when I discovered my favourite shade of green as out of stock!  There will be a separate review of this just as soon as Mr C and I have been at home at the same time so I can get him to video me filling the pen up with ink – I’ve just not enough hands to do it on my own!

Lamy VIsta Bureau Direct

The thing I was most excited about though this month was the Lamy Vista fountain pen. Now I received my first Lamy fountain pen as a present from my Dad when I was at school and when I first used it I absolutely hated it. I found it incredibly difficult to hold without my fingers hurting and I found the shape of it meant that I didn’t actually know where to put my fingers.

Lamy Vista Bureau Direct

With a child in school currently learning how to write I look back at my own experiences and find it hard to understand how it took until I first tried to write with a Lamy to realise that I didn’t actually know how to hold a pen correctly. My late Gran always used to joke that I was “keggy handed” and it became a bit of a family joke, but it seems that she was actually talking sense. Rather than using the tripod grip that all children are supposedly taught at school, and that most people do without thinking I was somehow screwing my fingers up weirdly and doing something very strange when I tried to hold a pen. Once corrected it took a bit of time to get used to how to write with the Lamy properly, but once I’d done so it became second nature and Lamy pens just feel perfect to write with.

I’ve not used a fountain pen for a few years now but when I saw the huge range of Lamy pens that Bureau Direct sell I just knew that I wanted to try one again and I’m so glad I did. I chose the Lamy Vista which retails for just £13.95 as I felt that this was the sort of price that I would be more than happy to pay for an everyday fountain pen that will most likely live in my handbag. It’s clear design means that you can see exactly what is going on inside and the geek in me rather likes that. Prior Lamy writing experience meant that I chose a medium nib, but fine, broad and left-handed nibs are also available.

Lamy Vista Bureau Direct

The Lamy Vista comes with a blue ink cartridge, but I also chose a box of 5 green ink cartridges to help satisfy my current green ink obsession. Also, when clearing out my late father’s desk my mum had come across several boxes of blue and black cartridges which she had passed on to me. This brings me on to a quick note about the Lamy cartridges themselves. Firstly – the box. A classic in itself with a design that has remained the same since my childhood. Then again, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. It’s a functional little cardboard box and easy to recycle too – so no messing about with plastic packaging – although admittedly it’s not as cute as the Herbin cartridge tins!

Lamy Vista Bureau Direct

The cartridge shape is also a little bit different in that you have an extra “secret chamber” of ink at the end of it, meaning that if you’ve run out of ink you can often just give the cartridge a sharp tap (I find just pinging it with my finger tip works) and hey presto enough ink to keep you going until you get home.

So, the pen itself. I found the Vista worked beautifully just as soon as you put a cartridge in it and the ink started to flow through to the nib. It writes really smoothly, especially when using the good quality paper in the notebooks that I reviewed last month. Despite being made of plastic (with a metal clip on the lid) the pen has a real quality feel to it. I also think it has a good weight too it. Not too light, but substantial in the hand. It’s worth noting that the metal in the lid makes that heavier than the pen itself, so if you’re someone who likes to put the lid on the end of the pen when writing it can make it feel a bit strange in the hand due to the weight distribution away from the nib.

What I’m going to say next may sound very stupid, but please bear with me. If anything the green ink seems a bit wet. Whether this is because it’s a slightly different liquid consistence to black or blue ink I’m not sure, but after couple of days of using the pen I had to go and buy some blotting paper (something I’ve not used since school!) because I needed to go back and blot some of what I had written before closing a notebook or else it would smudge as still wet. I’ve not seen this with the black ink, although I admit that in this trial I have mostly been using green, but it was the only downside that I’ve seen of this pen / ink combination and a slightly strange one at that.

Lamy Vista Bureau Direct

The last few weeks of testing out this pen have actually been quite busy ones in terms of note taking (three school governor training courses in three weeks!) so I definitely feel that I’ve been giving the Lamy Vista a really thorough test. I’ve definitely fallen back in love with writing with a fountain pen and now find myself using this as a pen of choice even for little things like writing a shopping list, or signing my daughter’s school reading record. The wet ink (don’t laugh) is a bit of an issue as I’ve ended up having to keep a bit of blotting paper in my handbag as well, so I’d definitely be interested to hear if anyone else has had similar problems with green ink in particular. I really like the clear look of the pen and at the moment, with a green cartridge nearly finished in it I think it gives the pen quite a funky look.

Lamy Vista Bureau Direct

I’m really impressed with the Lamy Vista – a good quality pen for a very fair price. If you’re looking to buy a teenager or student a pen as a gift for Christmas then I actually think this would make a good one. It’s not too expensive, yet is a quality product. There’s a funky yet classic look to it, and most importantly it writes really well. It seems my Dad was spot on buying me one all those years ago!

Disclaimer: I was sent the Lamy Vista to review for Bureau Direct, along with some other stationery goodies that I will cover soon. All views and opinions are completely my own. 

Ladybird People at Work The Soldier

The Ladybird People at Work series (number 606B) has to be one of my absolute favourite ones, mainly as it just gives such a fascinating insight into what everyday life was like at the time. I find all the illustrations fascinating and they really are packed full of interesting facts – as well as a few sexist comments of the time!

I’ve previously featured The Policeman, The Car Makers and In a Hotel on Ladybird Tuesday and if I had been  planning more ahead I probably should have featured The Soldier in last week’s post – after all it was the 11/11 last week.

Ladybird People at Work The Soldier

The role of a soldier is one which has fascinated young boys (and apologies, but for many years it was just young boys) for a long time. Certainly during the war and the years following it it was a common sight for children (again mainly boys) to play soldiers and be firing toy guns at each other and building models of tanks. With the change of the role of soldiers in modern warfare since then, and parents’ reluctance for their children to play with toy weapons, it’s not as common a sight as it once was, but I still think it fair to say that there are plenty of children who are fascinated by the role of a soldier.

Ladybird People at Work The Soldier

The Ladybird book The Soldier talks about how initially the only regular soldiers in the UK were the king’s bodyguard – the Yeomen of the Guard that we today see at The Tower of London. The role of soldiers had already developed by the time this book was written (first published in 1966) and there is a description of the different roles that men can take in the army – infantrymen, Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, REME, Royal Corps of Signals, Parachute Regiment, Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Royal Corps of Transport, Army Catering Corps, Military School of Music and the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Ladybird People at Work The Soldier

Some of these names have obviously changed, but reading The Soldier today still gives you a good idea of the wide range of roles and occupations that are covered by the Army – and I’m sure there are plenty more roles too as required. Most of this book deals with the different roles that soldiers undertake and it does therefore read a bit like a recruitment brochure for young boys. There is a small mention of how women can also become nurses in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, but other than that it only talks about men as soldiers.

As with all Ladybird books of this era the illustrations are fantastic. Drawn full of details by John Berry they once again give you a great glimpse of life at the time.

Ladybird People at Work The Soldier

There are a couple of pages at the end which talk about soldiers living in barracks, having “leave” and a special summer-weight uniform for if they are stationed overseas in a hot country. The book finishes with the following paragraph:

“Soldiers are well-fed and well-clothed and are always with their friends. They have busy lives and are happy men.”

I wonder just how true that is today in these times of defence cuts? Certainly a modern day version of this book would be a very different read.

Ladybird People at Work The Soldier

If you have a collection of old Ladybird books then please feel free to join in with Ladybird Tuesday. There are no formal rules to follow, just leave a link to any post you write in the comments below and if you’re feeling kind link back to my Ladybird Tuesday index page here on Being Mrs C. Thanks!

washi tape Christmas gift tags

The Christmas crafting is continuing at speed here and if you thought last week’s washi tape Christmas cards were a bit too taxing then this is definitely the craft for you – washi tape Christmas gift tags.

washi tape Christmas gift tags

All you need are plain gift tags (any will do, but I happened to have a box of these lovely vintage style ones from East of India) and some festive washi tape. As an added extra you could also use any Christmas themed rubber stamps that you may have too.

washi tape Christmas gift tags

You can obviously decorate the tags however you want with the washi tape, but I decided to keep it relatively simple with a band of it around the bottom of each tag – that way it left plenty of space to write who the gift was to.

washi tape Christmas gift tags

I picked up some cute little Christmas stamps when I was in Tiger last week and played about with adding a stamp on each tag, but with small tags like the ones I was using it didn’t really seem necessary. If you were using bigger tags though with more space I think it would be a nice addition. Similarly festive stickers could also be used.

Whilst getting the washi tape accurately across the bottom does take a little bit of skill to line it up nicely with the bottom of the tag, the stamping is a great activity for a child to help with – although experience tells me that you might need to keep reminding them to leave some space for you to write!

I’ve spotted so much Christmas tape in shops this year (the latest being a bargain 8 rolls for a pound in Lidl this morning!) and I can never resist buying more – so look out for plenty more Christmas washi tape crafts between now and the big day!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

I had been intending to get a review of Dragon Jelly up before Halloween, but life got in the way somewhat – as it has a habit of doing – and actually looking back at it, although some people associate monsters and general grossness it’s also the sort of thing that appeals to children all year round.

Dragon Jelly follows on wonderfully from Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra’s last book Spider Sandwiches which Little Miss C and I reviewed last year. This time round Max is having a Monster party where he and his friends are playing all sorts of horrible games and eating some pretty hideous food. But then again the idea of a nest of worms in the middle of a pass the parcel game and cockroach crisps will certainly appeal to some children!

The grand reveal at the end of the party is the dragon jelly. It’s scary hot to eat and in fact so hot that once the monsters have all eaten it they all start to shake and hiss before smoke starts coming out of them! This however does not put them off the fiery dragons that they find in their goody bags at the end of the party.

In much the same way as in Spider Sandwiches, Dragon Jelly is written in lovely rhyming text, making it the perfect book to read out loud and share with a little one. Sue Hendra’s brilliant bright illustrations – showing the full yuckiness of what is going on – are really attention grabbing for children and after I’d finished reading it to LMC, Master C grabbed the book and insisted it was his bedtime story too.

Dragon Jelly has made a great addition to our bookshelf and it’s a perfect read for those days when the kids want something a bit yucky!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Dragon Jelly for the purposes of this review. This post contains affiliate links.

washi tape Christmas Cards

It may not be the trendy thing to say, but I love Christmas and I particularly love all the build up excitement. I see nothing wrong with starting off all the Christmas crafts and activities as soon as Halloween is out of the way and that’s certainly what we’re doing here this year.

I’m trying to come up with activities that the children can get involved in which are not only fun, but also have an educational value. If they also produce something that can be used as a Christmas decoration or gift then even better.

To kick off all my festive crafting I came up with a washi tape Christmas card design, based on some similar ones that I’d seen on etsy and Pinterest.

washi tape Christmas Cards

All you need to make Washi Tape Christmas Cards is:

In terms of what to do – it couldn’t really be any simpler.  Cut the tape into pieces the desired length to make a tree shape. Stick it onto the card. Add a star to the top. If you’re going advanced – possibly find some tape coloured such that you can make a trunk for the tree. If you’re feeling really flash and have some present shaped stickers that I’ve seen online you could even add gifts under the tree.

I made one of these and then gave it to Little Miss C along with the materials to make one herself, and it was fascinating to see how she got on. Not only was it good practice at using scissors to cut the tape, but she also had to think about how, if she started at the bottom of the tree, she needed to cut each piece a bit shorter than the one before.

washi tape Christmas Cards

What she actually did, without any prompting from me at all, was put a piece of tape on top of the piece on my card that she was trying to copy, cut it when it was the desired length, then peel it off my card and put it on hers. I thought that was rather genius myself. She then also decorated them further with felt-tip pen to add baubles.

It certainly was a great little post-school craft activity that got her in the Christmas spirit, taught her a bit about lengths and sizes of things, and also provided us with some handmade Christmas cards to send to people next month. If she hadn’t decided to put her name across the front of each card in huge red letters I’d have shared pictures of her finished cards!

washi tape Christmas Cards

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

My mum is about to move house, and as she’s downsizing she’s spent the last few months having a huge clear out of all the stuff that the family has accumulated over the years. It’s fair to say that I think none of us had any idea just how much stuff there was in her house, garages and outbuildings. As part of this my sister and I have been helping where we can by taking a few things off her hands, especially things that we have fond childhood memories of.

Vintage maps

I’ve always been a huge fan of maps, vintage ones in particular (and that passion was reawakened by the relevant vintage Ladybird book of course!), and so when I was given the job of sorting through the shelves and shelves of maps that her and my father had collected over the years it was actually a joy. I’m yet to understand why they ever felt the need to have four copies of one particular OS map of the Yorkshire Dales (all the same issue) but I did eventually manage to streamline the maps that she should keep and also the ones that I was interested in keeping.

I brought home with me a small selection of old maps that I wanted to keep either for their vintage look, or because I thought they’d be useful in a craft project – if I can ever bring myself to cut them up!

Vintage maps

My Dad used to store all his maps in this small red mini magazine holder things that I think once held technical journals of some sort. They’re incredibly practical, but not the nicest of things to look at.

Vintage maps washi tape

After spotting some vintage map washi tape in one of the Bureau Direct Stationery Wednesday newsletters I just knew that I had to have some and that it would be perfect for this particular task. A few years ago I also picked up some vintage map stickers in a charity shop (you can actually buy them here) and these have since sat on a shelf just waiting for the right project. And here it is.

Vintage maps washi tape Vintage maps washi tape

The washi tape was perfect to go round all the edges and then I used the stickers to decorate the sides. Just a quick little project whilst watching TV one evening, but it’s cheered me up no end to have all these lovely vintage maps now on my shelf in this.

Vintage maps washi tape


That’s the beauty of washi tape – you can use to it transform something so quickly. And when you combine my loves of washi tape and vintage maps together then it has to be a winner!

Disclaimer: Although I’m currently working with Bureau Direct I actually bought this washi tape from them (check out their new range from MT here) and I wasn’t asked to write this post. This post does contain an affiliate link – although not with Bureau Direct.