This week’s challenge from Nancy Merrill Photography is to share a photo or two of footwear. This photo is the sandals I have been wearing for the past 18 months.
Basically, my feet grew during pregnancy but they got so wide that none of my shoes fitted, so I bought these when we were still living in China, back in late 2018. They’ve been to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Xi’An in China, Osaka in Japan, Oslo in Finland and they’ve been to London, England and Wexford, Ireland before finally leading me to Belfast, where my Jellyfish arrived. Their journey is another point of view that tells the story of my pregnancy and motherhood so far.
They’ve been with me for two Christmases, despite getting some strange looks from the in-laws this Christmas (not sure why… I live indoors so sandals were fine over winter), and I’m still wearing them. I was beginning to think my feet would stay huge permanently.
A couple of weeks ago, I tried my old trainers (sneakers) back on, and found they finally fit me again, but of course, it’s summer now, so I’m still wearing these sandals, except when I go running. My feet have got used to feeling the wind against my toes, and I’m not sure I could go back to wearing closed shoes most of the time.
They’ve become like a good friend whose company I don’t want to part from. Some shoes are like that.
So I really wanted one of those gorgeous Ikea spice racks that Americans are transforming into book holders for children, but sadly, UK Ikea don’t sell the same spice racks. The ones in the US go for $6.99 and the nearest UK equivalent is £18.
That’s a pretty huge difference, when you consider that a British £1 is worth more than $1 USD. Like, they get the same thing for about £5 that we would have to pay £18 for.
So I bought this wooden wine carrier from Hobbycraft. It was unfinished and I measured it. It’s the perfect size for the Gruffalo but about half a centimetre too small to fit any of the Charlie and Lola books in (boo). If Hobbycraft ever make these half a centimetre bigger, I’ll get another one and paint that instead.
I painted the ends green and the middle red, using cheap acrylic paint from The Works (£2.99 for 6 different tubes of coloured paint) and cheap brushes, also from The Works.
I copied the frog picture from Jellyfish’s favourite bath sponge, a frog we have dubbed Mr. Ribbit. If you’re wondering, the frog sponge is here in a 2 pack.
It took two days to do the whole thing and I feel really proud because I am not very good at painting.
I can see the frog could have been painted better (by someone other than me, with a steadier hand and better drawing ability) but overall I’m happy with how this turned out. The first thing Jellyfish did when he saw it was try to put it in his mouth so he definitely thinks it looks like his frog sponge.
I can’t wait to put books in it!
Have you made anything this week? Let me know in the comments.
For the third year running, I decided to go to all my local supermarkets and find out which Easter eggs are dairy free and vegan, so you don’t have to waste as much time tearing your hair out over ingredients. I did discuss the US options last year, and they don’t seem to have changed so you can find that post here.
The prize for Most Improved Vegan Easter Egg Collection 2017 has to go to Morrisons; they have really worked hard to develop a vegan Easter Egg range and you can find them amongst the normal eggs in the seasonal aisle (not in the Free From section) which I always prefer because then I don’t feel like a leper. If I had any money, I’d send Morrisons a trophy. They have 4 vegan eggs this year, including three from Moo Free; the “milk” chocolate one, the “bunnycomb” (honeycomb) one which has chunks of honeycomb in it, and the “orange” one which has chunks of orange-flavored confection in it, as well as the standard Kinnerton one. Full points for interesting and unique eggs this year:
ASDA have a nice set this year, there’s their Easter Egg with Choc Buttons for the kids, a nice looking one with orange discs for millennials, and a serious dark chocolate fancy egg for people who like a bit of luxury. Take a look:
Sainsbury’s had their usual lovely collection (and I’m pleased to tell you they also now do the most DELICIOUS dairy free Wensleydale cheese AND a vegan microwave lasagne). The highlights were the white chocolate egg and the Choices egg (I love the caramel chocolates that come with that one), both of which I bought. There were others, too, but I can’t seem to find the photos to show you (really sorry; if I find them I will add them to this article):
Tesco’s dairy free range has been a bit disappointing this year, and I noticed their Christmas range was lacklustre for milk-free as well; they seem to prefer to fill their free from range with gluten free stuff (and there’s a lot of stuff that they’re selling as “gluten free” when there’s a normal, cheaper version that doesn’t actually contain gluten). So their range was relegated to the mainstream eggs that didn’t have dairy in. Here’s the set I found (with ingredients as they’re not explicitly marked as vegan or dairy free):
The Hall of Shame:
And now, for the third year running, it makes me sad and a little angry to discuss those eggs that look vegan and dairy free, but aren’t, in Invoke Delight and Inspire’s traditional Easter Egg Hall of Shame:
And the prize for the least vegan friendly Easter chocolate, 2017, goes to Nestle, for THREE eggs that contain gratuitous milk. Again. Why do I suspect that someone in Nestle has a grudge against dairy-free chocolate? Now, Cadbury’s seem like they’ve been pretty vegan-unfriendly, but I will remind y’all that they own Green and Black’s, which has at least 1 dairy free egg, even if some of their others are not, so each year they make at least some effort in this department, whereas Nestle are stuck in 1982:
Nestle, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Again. And don’t bother to contact me if you’re just going to spout some spiel about needing butteroil in your After Eights or that “consumers tell you they like milk in their chocolate” because I’m a consumer and I don’t want milk in my chocolate, and given how popular this “Which Easter Eggs Are Vegan” series of articles has been, year on year, I know I’m not alone. BTW, readers, unbranded After Eights are dairy free and they taste great; most supermarkets sell them as “after dinner mints.”
I shouldn’t be surprised by Nestle, they have always been a bit regressive. After all, they did run that Yorkie “it’s not for girls”, and later, the “this one is for girls” (get in your freaking corner, girls, OMG, like what are you doing trying to eat chocolate?) advertising campaigns.
Has anyone spotted any other vegan Easter eggs in shops? Let me know in the comments!
I saw this bizarre title on someone else’s blog, and I was a little bemused about how the day of a blogger would be any different to the day of a non-blogger. So I thought I’d be a bit imaginative.
6:00am: I leap out of bed, like a LEAPING LION and stretch and yawn and hop into the shower to clean all my sleep away.
6:20am: Wrapped in a soft fluffy dressing gown, I skip down the stairs like SKIPPY THE FREAKIN KANGAROO and investigate how to turn on the mysterious drinks making gadget that the drinks company sent me in exchange for a good review. This week, it’s coffee, but last week it was smoothies, and the week before it was a juicer. Imma dedicated follower of fashion.
6:30am: Once I’ve figured out how to make the drinks making gadget work, and set it going, I go out into the garden – well, my fifty acre smallholding – and fetch some eggs from the henhouse, then I bring them indoors and make up a BRAND NEW RECIPE that I just KNOW the whole world needs to hear, I make a mental note to write about it on my blog after I’ve finished breakfast.
6:40am: I start making my BRAND NEW RECIPE and am pleased to see that the drinks making gadget is pouring coffee into a cup for me. How exciting. I take a couple of photos of it with my camera. I am Martha Stewart.
6:50am: My food is on a plate and I sit at my dining table with my breakfast, trying to think of a name for this recipe. Something that comes up high in the Search Engine results but is still super-unique and catchy. No, brain, Eggs Bunnydict is a terrible name for anything ever. Something more like “fluffy cloud eggs.” That’ll be good because it sounds light, like healthy, and fun, like it’s going to be delicious. Like me. Haha.
7:10am: Armed with my second cup of coffee I relocate to my study, which is really a corner of my bedroom or living room, and I turn on my laptop. My laptop is top of the range and never needs restarting because I got it free in exchange for a good review. I check all my social media accounts, I reply to everyone’s messages (or at least a representative sample), and I check out what is trending, so I can be relevant.
7:30am: I write up my eggs recipe and add the photos. They looked a bit crap so before I hit “publish” I head on over to Photoshop and do some photowizardry on them. In a few minutes, they look like Rainbow Eggs that were laid by freaking UNICORNS who live in the crescent moon. Of course. Because they were made by ME.
8:30am: Now I need to go to the store and get some groceries before it’s delivery time. I get into my Porsche 911 and ZOOM to the store like a TURBO WILDCAT and maybe annoy a few people with my slightly reckless and inconsiderate driving (unless I’m vlogging, in which case I will drive to the letter of the law). I park in the special “reserved for bloggers” bay at the car park and I get a trolley. My personal grocery shopper is there to greet me, and she shows me around the store, picking out foods I will like, and when we get to the checkout, the store manager has a word with the cashier before I reach her. The cashier tells me this food is all free because I’m such a special and amazing and wonderful famous blogger and they are only too thrilled that I could visit their store today. Then they serenade me out with a choir of disadvantaged children who I throw some dollar bills at as I leave.
9:00am: DELIVERY TIME!!! WHAT FREE PRESENTS WILL I GET TODAY??? For the next three hours, I mess around on the internet and watching cats on Youtube while my doorbell rings constantly from the crowd of delivery guys bringing me presents. Companies just send me stuff for free because they love me so much. I write reviews for them, on my blog and on sites like Amazon and Makeup Alley so that customers think well of the brand. I turn down many things, such as reviewing horse meat jerky or laxatives, because I want to protect my image. That way, I can legitimately say on my about me page, “believe me, I turn down more things than I review, because I am committed to my readers.” I open the boxes in an excited frenzy. Every day is like Christmas when you are a blogger.
12:00pm: I get in my Porsche 911 and drive to an expensive restaurant. I hand the keys to the valet and go inside. I didn’t book, but I’m so famous, I don’t need to. The Maitre d’ sees me coming, and runs to bring out the secret extra table that all quality restaurants have stashed in case Julia Roberts, Taylor Swift, or ME turn up unannounced. He sets the table in seconds with mad skills, and I sit down and browse a menu. I get a text from this boy who is a fairly well known Vlogger; we chat occasionally. He’s just got out of bed. Boys are so uncomplicated. I order a cruelty-free salmon salad with magic fountain of youth lemon vinaigrette dressing and extra-healthy weird fruit from South America. Everything from South America is extra-healthy.
1:00pm: I collect my Porsche 911 and drive back to my house. Did I tell you about my house? It’s an amazing four bedroom condo with glass walls overlooking my garden and smallholding. I park the car in the double garage then ascend the spiral staircase to the kitchen. It’s time to feed the animals and water the plants. I press a button near the back door and this automatic watering system kicks in, watering every plant exactly the right amount of the right temperature of water. When it’s done, I pop out and scatter some grain for the chickens, then I go and pick some fruit from my orchard and bring it inside. I am going to write an article about all the different uses for fruit, I just need to think of a catchy title that will come up top in all the search results. I’m thinking “17 things to do with Autumn’s fruit harvest” or possibly 11. I can never decide which prime number is best for these articles. I’m glad people are starting to see numbered lists as clickbaity titles, it means the new trend for article naming will be something with less math.
2:30pm: I phone my accountant and find out how much money I made today, then I phone my agent and find out how many brand placements are begging me to mention them on my videos, then I phone that Vlogger boy and it’s super awkward because I don’t know what to say, so I get off the phone fairly quickly. He’s going to guest blog on my blog. Oh God I hope he isn’t illiterate.
3:00pm: I have an afternoon tea party with all my friends and we put make-up on each other in silly ways (like seriously silly, like, matt foundation and finishing powder together kinda silly, we are so cray cray) and then we have dance around the lounge to MTV, in our underwear. We have a pillowfight as well. Throughout the whole thing, a photographer, who just so happened to be passing through the neighbourhood, is shooting pics in the corner so I will have plenty of pictures to write about this on my blog. It’s not staged in the slightest, honest.
6:00pm: I get rid of my girlfriends and they drive off in their expensive sports cars. I go outside and have a swim in my pool. The pool was mailed to me for free from this company which makes pools. It even has a waterslide. I spend the next hour or so splashing around in the pool, working off the calories from lunch because I see my personal trainer tomorrow.
7:00pm: I change out of my bikini, shower off the chlorine, then get ready to go out for dinner to the most expensive restaurant in town. It does get a bit boring only eating at the one restaurant all the time, but my agent says I have to create a buzz and make people think I’m a superstar until I get the Chanel contract. I get a text that says I’ve been nominated for beauty blogger of the year award, which comes with a $50,000,000 prize. That might buy me, like, THREE new Tom Ford lipsticks. Squee.
9:00pm: I go home, text my mum and dad to tell them I’m fine and ask them if they’re fine, they say they’re fine. Everything is good. I snap a quick selfie of myself and upload to Instagram, caption: “getting my beauty sleep like a GODDAMN PRINCESS.” What am I like??? I make myself laugh sometimes. I take off my make-up, being sure to use the latest cleanser that I got sent today. I go to bed alone and fall asleep dreaming of hair and make-up and cookie recipes, because this is the perfect life that everyone gets automatically as soon as they sign up for a WordPress blog or Youtube channel. Life is perfect, and I am certainly not out clubbing until 2am and getting very, very drunk in the company of some people I barely know, because that would damage my image as a squeaky clean upstanding member of the blogging community.
Just in case anyone is even REMOTELY wondering, this was totally made up. I just thought it was an interesting flight of fancy to explore some of the stereotypes and assumptions surrounding bloggers and vloggers. And I don’t accept products, payment or other sponsorship in exchange for writing reviews. And there’s no such thing as “cruelty free salmon.” Or Fluffy Cloud Eggs laid by unicorns. Or “the secret table” at restaurants. OR IS THERE??? DUN DUN DUNNNN….
So I got this email today from someone who wondered if I would mind sharing this article about Doga. I went to look up what doga is. You probably guessed: It’s a portmanteau of “dog” and “yoga” so it’s yoga for dogs. Or more specifically, for dogs and dog owners.
This article tells you all about it, and it really put a smile on my face. I absolutely 100% guarantee it will make you giggle, and hey, if you have a dog, let me know if you’d try this! I don’t have a dog, but I have 5 rabbits, and I could DEFINITELY see my older bunnies benefitting from pet yoga. I’m not sure if rabbits would stay still long enough to get any benefit out of meditation though.
So as I mentioned in this post, I often get asked to write sponsored posts for companies wanting to improve brand presence. After a deep moral dilemma, I made it a policy to always turn them down due to my standpoint as a minimalist (although recently I’ve not had a lot of time to respond), but they keep coming. I do take a look at what they are proposing, particularly when it sounds dreadful, and mostly out of morbid curiosity. For your viewing entertainment (and to fight back against the consumeriarchy), I have included the best of the worst, the factual inaccuracies and old wives tales type information that is all over the internet already, and which people have offered to pay me to perpetuate (which all seem to lead back to consumerism):
1. Quinoa is a good source of protein. This has to be the most blatant lie; it was followed up with an amount per cup that was a) several times the actual amount of protein in a cup of quinoa and b) still not a great amount of protein.
2. You need to lose weight to get married: Yep, those “how to lose weight before your wedding posts” you see all over the internet, that are firmly designed to make women hate themselves and feel insecure (so they can sell women more clothes, diet pills, cosmetics, and when all else fails, food) are sponsored. Do yourself a favour: Learn to love the size you are before your wedding. That’s who your future husband/wife fell in love with.
3. People get too much protein in their usual diet, so vegans shouldn’t worry about protein. This is not only untrue but it’s very dangerous advice. See my list of sources of nutrients for vegans post (with the amazing spreadsheet of sources for EVERY nutrient) to find out the truth. It’s especially interesting that this sponsored post wanted to “inform” vegans that they can pay for recipes that don’t contain enough protein, because it makes money from the recipes in the first place, then they’ll get a protein deficiency, and be back supporting the dairy/meat industry in no time. That’s win-win for paid meat/dairy people. That’s the result of the “protein myth”-myth. You need protein to live, and you CAN get it from a vegan diet. It’s like “big pharma” became “big farmer.”
4. SEO is apparently all about keyword density. If that was true, a page of “buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online…” etc would be at the top of each search result. Instead of being excluded for being dumb and pointless.
5. If I only BUY a bunch of items from some hitherto unheard of fashion house, they will apparently pay me to write reviews (but only if those reviews are positive – that’s the rules of reviewing things for paid posts in blogging). Listen up, potential bloggers and those of you who are considering paid reviews, because this is a basic rule of making money: If you have to spend money to do something that someone asked you to do, the chances of it netting you any cash is minimal, unless you have it in writing that they are going to pay you back (at which point, you’re giving them a loan, so charge them interest). They like to make you think that they are going to give you a return on any “investment” you make e.g. by buying a product, but at the end of the day, as far as companies like this are concerned, YOU are the customer, and they are making money from bloggers, not any readers (the readers are just icing on the cake for these scams). This is the consumerist myth, and you do NOT have to spend money to make money unless you have a shop.
6. Am I interested in a free sample of these AMAZING new diet pills which have heretofore been tested on mice, rats, rabbits, giraffes and monkeys, and have helped them all achieve the figure YOU deserve??? This one particularly makes me laugh because I have mentioned time and time again on my blog that I am clinically underweight. The only time someone my size would say yes to diet pills would be if they had anorexia. At which point they need a free sample of a cure for anorexia, not diet pills. The whole concept of diet pills really makes me fume, like we can’t just be the size we are (and yes, I fall into that trap too – sometimes wishing I could put weight on to be the “perfect” weight, because all this crap about weight isn’t just “fat shaming” it’s “non-normal shaming” for a made-up value of “normal” – hey, we’ve felt the results of “non-normal shaming” before in other aspects of life such as mental health). The lunatic fringe of the pharmaceutical industry had to rear its ugly head, and my big question to all these “supplement” pill companies is, if what you’re selling is so good, why don’t doctors ever recommend it to patients? They can never answer that.
That was six of the best examples of bad paid-posting proposals; obviously I have left company names out because of legal mumbo-jumbo, but I thought these would be entertaining examples. A lot of the crap I receive in my inbox is to do with either perpetuating myths (e.g. the “protein myth” myth) or perpetuating the LIE that my readers are inadequate unless they spend money on a specific thing (e.g. a weight loss course, diet pills, beauty products). I respect my readers so could never flog this crap to you all. If you are a very furious company reading this, and your company has approached me with one of these pitches, perhaps you should look at what you’re offering and try making/selling a better product. Content is king.
I chose “cluttered” rather than “clutter” because it feels as if the objects are physically doing the cluttering, not just being inert clutter. Clutter as a noun is inert, still, motionless, passive, benign (until stagnant). Cluttered is an action word. My objects have cluttered me. The room feels cluttered. The person’s life is cluttered with clutter that’s cluttering it up.
Have you ever noticed how the words “clutter” and “clatter” sound almost the same? In some accents, they’re almost indistinguishable from one another. I’m not an etymologist (someone who studies the origins of words; I’m also not an entymologist – they study bugs), so I don’t know whether the words ever began the same way. I tried to find out, and discovered that the verb, “clutter” came from the word “clot” (like blood clot) in the 1400s. And the noun “clutter” came from “litter” (like, trash) in the 1570s. I enclose a screen shot because the definitions sound so perfectly descriptive. We’ve become too desensitized to the word clutter, and accept it as part of our lives, but apparently we’ve been fighting it since the 1400s. It’s particularly interesting that the verb developed before the noun, because I feel like the clutter is active, it is not passive, it is loud and noisy and it clatters along cluttering up the tiny amount of quiet space in my brain. I feel verbally assaulted by clutter which is why I’m still on the journey towards a minimalist life.
My shower caught fire on Friday, it was the perfect end to a crap week, really. I was just lathering up my violet toner to keep my hair shiny white, and I started smelling burning hair; I checked the box with all the wires, and it had started smoking. It wasn’t a huge surprise since the shower unit melted in February, then when we gaffer taped it, it seemed to stabilize. Apparently not. To make matters worse, the DIY disaster idiots who put the thing in (before we bought the house) stupidly put the isolator switch directly behind the shower, on a wall in the bathroom, and since it wasn’t a pull switch, I was trying to get it to turn off with soapy wet hands for what seemed like ages before it finally went. I can now say in all seriousness, with no sense of hyperbole, that having white hair has saved my life. If I hadn’t had white hair, I would have just used normal shampoo, and I would have just splortched it onto my hair, back to the shower, and lathered it in, then stood under the water for several minutes while it came back out again.
An electrician friend of a friend came and made the unit safe. When he opened it up, I was horrified by how close I’d come to serious harm. The exposed electrical wires which had been on fire were less than a millimetre away from burning away the insulation that was touching the water outlet pipe that takes water out through the shower head. If you know your basic electronics, you’ll know that water always takes the shortest path back to the Earth, so it would have come straight out of the shower head and down through me. What’s more, the fuse was so high (45A, standard shower fuse) that it hadn’t shorted out throughout this ordeal. The whole thing (as I’d been saying since February) was an accident waiting to happen, but it was only last week that we actually got together a few hundred quid to get the bathroom sorted out, because we can’t be without a shower, because my OH doesn’t fit in the tub.
We were already in the process of trying to get someone to come and plumb our bathroom, since the shower had started melting in February, but the first quote we had was £1800 (for labour only, and it wasn’t itemized so I couldn’t see how they’d arrived at that figure, I think they didn’t want to do the job so thought if they put it high enough they’d either make a lot of money from something they didn’t want to do, or get out of doing it. That plumber seemed to lose interest when I said I was keeping our current bathroom suite) so, after I had finished laughing at the absurdity that anyone would pay £1800 to NOT get a new bathroom put in, I had phoned someone else to come and quote me, literally minutes before I went into the shower. He will be round on Thursday. So I had to clear the bathroom of all the functional bottles, sponges etc that we use.
That was how I found out how quiet our bathroom is when there’s no clattering clutter cluttering it up. When there is not one single bottle of shampoo on the side of the bath or in the floor of the shower cubicle, it is so serene that I was disappointed at the idea of changing the room. You see, we don’t want to waste money (to buy or to run) on a new electric shower when we have literally no water pressure issues in our bathroom and no hot water issues with our boiler, so the whole cubicle may as well come out, and have an over the bath shower. When we were first thinking about this back in February, we wanted a new bath, and to move the bath, toilet and sink around to make better use of the space.
We actually bought the house because I loved the bathroom so much. The idea of having to change it is heartbreaking. But my husband doesn’t actually fit in the bath because it’s designed for men who are my height and women who are shorter, and children. It’s not intended for six footers. I wrestled with the wastefulness of discarding the bath compared to keeping it. I watched him struggle in the bath last night and I finally understood that we weren’t being wasteful in getting rid of the bath, it sadly wasn’t fit for purpose.
We will have to get a new bath. But it won’t be the same serenity when the bathroom has been changed, because the suite we have now is one of those coloured ones from the 1970s (not avocado, ours is sunshine yellow), and the happy warm friendly yellow will have to be replaced by a stark, clinical white bathtub, in full size rather than extra small, which will be all the more obvious since we’re keeping the yellow sink (basin) and toilet. But at least my husband will finally fit into the tub.
For now, it is the one room that is completely without clutter. Just having that one room in the house that has been silenced feels like a big minimalist victory over the advancing agents of clutter. It has spurred me on to get rid of more things today, things that have been waiting for a week or two to be removed from the house, and I felt so much better when I came back from the tip and the charity shop (thrift store) with a lighter car. It’s the one room where I can hear my own thoughts.
This post contains affiliate links. This does not affect your browsing experience, cost, etc of things at the other end of said links in any way. I’ve been getting really annoyed lately at the amount of people who don’t disclose this, so now if I see a link in someone’s blog to a shopping site, I have to assume it’s an affiliate link unless they’re upfront about it in their linked posts and about page.
The dress was one of the first and last things I found. It was the first, I bought it for £12.99 and it arrived 18 months before our wedding – before we even had a date. It was beautiful, and everything about it seemed perfect except… it was too short in the body. It was a jumpsuit comprising of 2 parts, an opaque figure hugging inside in white sequin and a see-through outer part in floaty white. It was beautiful. But the opaque inner was too short on the body meaning either my booty could fit in or my boobs could, but not both at the same time. This was super unfortunate and I thought I could fix it with some straps and some extra trim around the bottom but I made about 10 modifications to it and it still didn’t fit my height, so I gave up with three months to go before the wedding. I will do something with it at some point I’m just still deciding.
I then had a series of dresses that didn’t turn up, didn’t look remotely like the picture, weren’t designed to fit actual people; one even got cancelled on Ebay after bidding had ended because it hadn’t sold for enough (they hadn’t put a reserve on, they just cancelled the bid and refunded my payment that I sent straight after the listing ended. They even emailed and told me they’d sold it elsewhere. Disgraceful)… In the end, the dress was the last thing I bought; with two weeks to go, I bought a £10 white satin dress on Ebay that was completely perfect, and it arrived a week before the big day. It was an ex-Debenhams either overstock or factory second, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with it and it fitted perfectly. It was satiny fabric but it was actually 100% polyester, and the satiny layer was overlaid with that fine meshed plain lace that the veil is also made of, all made of polyester which is made from three chemicals which are petroleum byproducts (as is plastic, because as I’ve discussed somewhere before, chemicals aren’t made from nothing they’re all made from the natural resources on our planet):
My veil cost £2.50 and came from China. I advise you to read listings carefully to check exactly what you’re getting – some veils don’t come with a comb, for example, so are just a big square of filmy fabric. Mine came with a comb and it said freshwater pearls but I knew they would be at the very best made of glass, and were actually made of plastic, which was perfect because pearls are an animal slaughter byproduct.
My shoes were a story in and of themselves that I’ll come to on the actual day. These were the ones I bought for the wedding:
I made my own jewellery using crackle Glass Beads and plastic glow in the darkpony beads and semi-precious beads and elastic and nylon wire from Amazon. I started making the jewellery about 4 months before the wedding and found that it was a good de-stress project during the planning stages.
I accessorized with a unicorn bag that I’ve had for ever and a broccoli bouquet because I don’t like the idea of wasteful flower bouquets and broccoli could be eaten by the rabbits later in the day. Broccoli was 49p at Morrissons, we took our time to choose a really nice symmetrical one the day before the wedding. It made for some damn good photos, and we spent absolutely nothing on flowers which was amazeballs because I felt like the cost of floristry was going to be mandatory wedding robbery when I don’t like large quantities of flowers that aren’t growing somewhere.
One thing I hated about dress shopping was that there’s this expectation that you are an inadequate human being if you don’t spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on a dress. In all the wedding planning sites I looked at, I was shocked that there was an assumption that the dress would be up to 1/3 of the budget (excluding honeymoon). Unless your wedding only contains three items – your dress, his suit and a priest (no rings, no indoor space to get married in, no food, no invites etc) – it’s a little disproportionate.
You don’t even need to spend £50 to get a decent dress that will look really nice on the day and in the pictures afterwards. It doesn’t need special stitching or whatever because probably you won’t wear it again (even if you think you will), it doesn’t need preserving because it’s only special to you, and it doesn’t need saving for children because they want to choose their own dress. Just like you did. Think about those articles that say things like “you can use your mother’s wedding dress by cutting it into pieces and wrapping the bouquet with it” then think whether that’s worth £250 or £2500 to you, for your child to take a pair of scissors to it at some point in the future and use it as a tablecloth or bouquet wrap for their own wedding. Bear in mind they’re probably only doing it so you don’t feel bad that they don’t want to wear your dress. Was that worth the effort? I decided in my case that it was all insane levels of excessive money and object gluttony, and I wanted to start the marriage as I meant to go on.
In the words of Francine Smith’s Chinese Parents: Wastefulllll.
As I kept reading this crap I felt myself straining against it as it tried to suck me in.
Keep yourself safe from being brainwashed by the Wedding Industry, friends. A minimalist wedding is possible and the bride’s (or brides’ – YAY GAY MARRIAGE) outfit is one of the hardest stages to keep your resolve, particularly if you get hypomanic spending like I do.
Total cost of bride’s outfit including “bouquet”: About £30. £43 if we’re counting the first one.
This week I want to tell you about the entertainment. This post contains affiliate links for those people who don’t know about certain games I’m referring to.
Minimalists are often portrayed as serious, quiet, dull (dare I say brooding), innovative if a little bland, so it’s no wonder that keeping guests entertained is often cited as the biggest worry for brides who want a minimalist wedding. The Swedish Design Collective Sven from How I Met Your Mother are minimalists. If you don’t know who they are, here’s a clip (sorry it’s the only one I could find on YouTube): Sven.
Of course, anyone who really understands what minimalism is all about would laugh at the idea that a minimalist wedding has to be boring. Our wedding was a far cry from the dull, short, grown-up affair that everyone was expecting when they heard our budget was £500. Here’s what we did:
1. We had bubbles for people to blow instead of confetti. A multipack of small tubs of bubbles costs surprisingly little, and keeps adults entertained through all those boring photo times after the actual legal bit. Anyone who’s ever got married in the UK in a registry office (I guess US courthouse weddings are the same), you know what I’m talking about. I was unbelievably bored with all the photography and it was my wedding!
2. We had our picnic at a public park. While we weren’t near the apparatus, it was only a short walk away should anyone have wished to play on the swings. Nobody did, which was a little disappointing but hey, apparently grown ups can be entertained without impersonating a pendulum.
3. We had an outdoor game called Kubb, which is a Viking game where you throw bits of wood at other bits of wood (as far as I could make out). This kept guests entertained. In addition, there was a re-enactment of the wedding ceremony for those people who could not come to our actual legal bit due to distance. This was originally going to be for us to get all slushy and say our real vows etc but when we tried to write some we ended up with something resembling the wedding at the end of Spaceballs. So we did that instead.
4. After the outdoor bit was done, we invited everyone back to our house, and loaded up Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U. After a couple of hours of this, after my husband’s family had left, we moved onto Wii Spin The Bottle (ambiguously titled “Bumpy’s Party” for some reason, and doesn’t resemble the teenage house party game and no kissing or other ickyness is involved; I don’t know if this is available in the US), which is also highly entertaining for participants and observers.
And that is how we sorted out entertainment using things that we already had. Total expenditure: £0.00.
You obviously won’t have the same games and console as us, but if you’re looking for ideas, here’s some other games and things that could provide entertainment, you may even have these already:
Twister Who doesn’t love Twister? This game is fun for children and adults, your gran might just amaze you (she also might refuse to participate, I don’t know, I’ve never met her).
Ticket To Ride Okay, so Ticket To Ride is a board game, but it’s really easy to understand.
Playing cards There are loads of possibilities with playing cards. There are loads of card games you can play with guests, the best idea is to get a few packs of cards because one pack won’t go very far even with the smallest wedding (unless it’s just you two and the witnesses). Games you can play include any that you know the rules for, or are able to explain to someone else. Beware: Don’t try to play a game that needs more explaining than it takes to play, because as soon as someone is bored of hearing the rules, they’re going to tune out and be bored of the actual game.
Lawn bowls, Aka Bocce in the US. An outdoor game that you can often find at a reduced price at Aldi or Lidl type supermarkets, you roll a ball at some other balls a bit like a giant sized game of marbles.
Volleyball, all you really need for this is a big Inflatable Beach Ball (or an actual volleyball) and possibly a net such as a volleyball net or a badminton net, if you have one, but plenty of people play without a net if you’re not playing super-competitively.
Hide and seek (especially if you’ve got a big outdoor space to play with),
Sardines (variation on hide and seek – where the seeker who finds the one person who hides shares their hiding place),
Guitar/musical singing times (we considered an open mic but decided against it as we couldn’t find a park with a pavilion).
Treasure hunt (if you have exclusive use of the outdoor space, you could hide some items around the grounds, give people a list of them and even a map of the area, and get them to find the items. A prize for the winner??)
Scavenger hunt (if you don’t have exclusive use of the outdoor space, you could make a random list of things for people to find, then they need to go around the area and find items to satisfy the list, a list for this would include things such as “a leaf” “an empty coke can” “take a photo of a person with blue hair” and if everyone gets the items, you could give out points based on how closely the items resemble the things on the list, so for example, for the empty coke can, if someone got a red and white empty Coca Cola can, they would get more points than someone who got a Diet Coke can, and the person with the Diet Coke can would get more points than someone who brought a Fanta can.
One thing worth remembering is that your guests don’t need to be entertained at all times. They’re not at a holiday camp, they’re (for the most part) independent adults who like to have time to talk and wander off and check their phones. There is a danger in over-entertaining your wedding guests because entertainment can get in the way of social interaction. That said, nobody likes to be bored. And there is often a limit on the number of players of indoor games, meaning people could feel left out or people could take the opportunity to talk to each other. It’s entirely up to you where you strike the balance between the two, as you know your guests better than someone who has never met them, who writes wedding articles (I hope). You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on entertainment or hire an expensive local band or get someone to release 1000 doves to have a great time on your wedding day.
Travel Tuesday: How I Converted A Citroen Xsara Picasso into A People Carrier Campervan Conversion
Today I want to talk about ROADHOUSE (my car camper)
Have you ever dreamed of owning a car that fits comfortably into a parking bay and STILL lets you sleep in it, stretched out, comfy and flat? That was the plan when I sold my £7500 Golf to buy a £600 Citroen Xsara Picasso (it was a category C write off, and had just been repaired when I bought it).
I reviewed the Citroen Xsara Picasso in a previous article, to tell you all of its good and bad points. In a future article, I’ll talk about WHY I swapped my VW Golf for a Picasso. Here I wanted to talk about how I converted the Picasso, and what we actually do when we’re on the road and we want to use our car as a camper.
There were some big problems I needed to overcome in order to “convert” my car. Here are the things I did, in order (click to go straight to that section or scroll to read the lot):
Took back seats out – NOTE this gets you an MoT advisory because it stops them checking rear seat belts, so put seats back in for your MoT.
– NOTE this gets you an MoT advisory because it stops them checking rear seat belts, so put seats back in for your MoT.
They were pretty easy to take out. They have a lever at the back, then you tilt the seat forward, and jiggle it with brute force and ignorance until it comes out. Swearing at it is optional. Why did I say easy? They were VERY easy when compared to a lot of other cars I’ve looked at, and they are designed to be removable so it wasn’t anything like trying to get the seat pad of the VW Golf out. My husband custom-built a storage unit in one of our spare bedrooms to keep the seats when we don’t want them in the car. This also makes the car more fuel efficient because they’re slightly heavy at around 15kg (which is the same weight as a cardboard fry box full of frozen McDonald’s fries).
Made window blocking panels.
I bought some silver coated insulating bubble wrap, at £7.99 a roll from Homebase. One window at a time, I held the insulation up against the car window and drew the shape of each window on separate areas of the bubble wrap, cutting each out before moving on to the next window. I was going to attach it with sticky back velcro, but when we set off for Europe I realised I’d left it behind, so I ended up using gaffer tape (duct tape, duck tape, same diff) and that was an okay fix although the condensation in the car caused the tape on the back window to unstick a lot and the stickiness of the tape damaged the panels so we couldn’t use the same ones again.
Bought a memory foam mattress and stuffed it in.
I bought mine off Ebay, I literally went for a 3 inch thick “memory foam” mattress. I had investigated a lot of options including cot mattresses, inflatables and roll mats, and decided this £17.99 memory foam mattress would be the cheapest. They had a two inch option at £14.99 as well but we thought that was sacrificing comfort. We just folded the lower end so that it would fit in the car, and after we got back from Europe we took it out of the car and put it on our bed to make it warm and cosy over winter. Update: We had to chuck it out after 15 months because it started to stink. It was still pretty cheap but I’m looking into other ways to do the same thing. To be honest you don’t really need it in summer even in the Highlands, but in the Alps, or in winter, something like this is essential.
Added a ceiling luggage storage.
I got some of that fabric that net curtains are made out of, and sewed it over some elastic at either end, then tied the elastic together and attached this to the handles above the rear doors. If there had been somewhere to attach it front centre this would have been a great storage idea, but as it happens it was mostly in the way and didn’t fit an awful lot in because it didn’t stay on the ceiling at all.
Removed it again after Europe.
I scrapped that idea for now, so storage is still an issue.
Scrapped window panels after Europe.
I decided that storing them in the car when you’re on a long journey is far too much hassle (you can’t legally have them in the windows when you’re driving which means you need to put them somewhere), so I looked at other options.
Put curtains in.
Basically I was SO squeamish about permanently damaging the car, because there were NO tutorials for how to put curtains into your car, so I used the thinnest drill bit available and drilled very thin holes into the plastic either side of the back windows, then screwed some eye hooks into the holes. I tied string to the eye hooks and sewed some curtains out of cheapass satin material that I had hanging around after I made a dress. I also used some nice ribbons as curtain ties to keep them out of the way as they tend to blow around the car if either of the front windows are open and you’re driving. I keep the bottoms of the curtains attached to the windows during sleep times by using the sticky back velcro that we forgot to take to Europe. It doesn’t stand up to a lot of force but if you open and close the velcro pieces carefully they’re a great solution to this problem.
Added a shoe holder for storing smaller items:
I dangled it down the back of the driver seat. It’s basically a fabric thing with loads of pockets, so we keep gloves, deodorant, binoculars etc in the little pockets, helping us to stay organised in a small space.
(the Citroen Xsara Picasso car campervan tragically died due to a gearbox failure on a busy set of traffic lights – I was very ill at the time and had to force the car through the traffic lights so the damn engine seized up. We are currently driving the hilariously inappropriate Rover 75, where I have installed the behind-the-seat storage just as it was in the Picasso, and the picture above is a photo of the back of the driver seat in the Rover 75).
Fitted the memory foam mattress
For Scotland, I had to change the shape of the mattress because we had to fit a kayak in there as well as our usual luggage. So I cut some of the length and width off the mattress so it also didn’t need to be folded at the foot end, giving us more foot room and making it more manoeuvrable if we needed it out of the way for any reason.
Draped a blanket over the two front headrests.
When we went to Europe we used one of those silver reflective panels in the front windscreen but it kept falling down and then people could see into the back of the car where I often needed to get dressed (I’m a chick. Sleeping in underwire gets uncomfortable after a couple of days. I also physically cannot sleep in socks). On our Scotland trip I realised that a fleece blanket or a microfibre towel does the job just fine. They can be easily removed when we want to pass through to the front of the vehicle or for when I’m driving so I still have full visibility.
Future plans for our camper:
1. Proper ceiling storage. I’m still not sure what to go for here, having exhausted every search term to try and find some inspiration, but once I work it out I’ll do an article on it.
2. Ventilation. I want to drill wall vents into the side of the car (on the non-petrol side) but since I drove the car through a wall on the petrol side a couple of months ago, I’m not sure if it still has the structural integrity to withstand more damage to the body.
3. Other storage. I need more storage solutions, although we fitted all our luggage and a kayak in with us when we went to Scotland a few weeks ago, it could still be better organized.
4. Rear window curtain – I was most recently using that silver sunshield gaffer taped to the back window because I haven’t made curtains for the rear yet.