Autumn apples

Welcome to my second-hand tales blog where I attempt to chronicle my adventures in second-hand shopping, and other greenish ventures.

Like many personal blogs my ideas have changed and expanded over the years. While my love of thrift store rummaging has not changed (see here and here) I have also dabbled in zero waste (here), plastic free (here) and simple, slow living (reading list here). It is here on my blog that I write about the things I have discovered and ideas I have tried to follow to minimise my impact on the environment.

I hope you enjoy reading my random(ish) posts: please leave a comment on any post that interests you – or you could  follow me on facebook , twitter or instagram


making blackberry cordial

Homemade Blackberry Cordial

homemade blackberry cordial via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Last week I picked quite a few blackberries. Having already frozen a batch and made a couple of crumbles, I thought I would try my hand at making blackberry cordial. Like elderberry cordial, this is meant to be high in Vitamin C and good for colds and sore throats.

I took the recipe from the wonderful ‘Festivals, Family and Food’. Published by Hawthorn Press this has been a staple in our house for many years. It is divided into seasons and features stories, recipes and crafts to celebrate the different festivals and rhythms of year. I particularly love the pages on Autumn and Harvest.


Festivals, Family and Food: Guide to Seasonal Celebration

I followed this recipe for the cordial. The book is quite dated so it still gives imperial measurements. As I didn’t have 2lbs of blackberries I had to do some rough calculations (remembering that there are 16oz in 1lb which, for a metric-bred person like myself, I find confusing!)

blackberry cordial recipe from 'Festivals, Family and Food'

Anyway the recipe is really easy to follow. Basically, you just soak the berries in a quantity of white wine vinegar and leave for seven days, stirring occasionally.

making blackberry cordial

After seven days, strain the berries. Boil the juice with lots of sugar and honey. Leave to cool and then pour into a bottle. The cordial can then be stored in a dark cupboard.

The cordial tasted fine. Next year I’m going to pick a lot more berries to make a few bottles that will see us through the winter. I think I would also replace the white wine vinegar with apple cider vinger which is meant to have more healing properties.

Have you ever tried making your own cordial, or using blackberry or elderberry cordial to soothe colds?

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This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

This week’s Thrifty Finds

So, welcome to the second installment of This Week’s Thrifty Finds.

This past week my Thrifty Finds have been:

  1. We’ve started to introduce the kids to ‘Friends’ and have been able to pick up Series 1,2, 7, 9 & 10 at charity shops for a bargain £2.50 per series.I’ve really enjoyed watching them again and forgot how funny each episode is. We’ve just finished Season One which, looking back, is pretty dated (no one has mobile phones and the clothes are definitely nineties!), but we’ve still found ourselves cracking up.

thrifted Friends series via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

2. I donated a bag of children’s clothes to the Air Ambulance donation bin at school:

clothes donation bin via secondhandtales.wordpress.com


3. It’s been a good week for getting food for free. I picked some apples and pears from our small trees in the garden. I enjoyed blackberrying around the village and also helping myself to some apples that were left for free outside a couple of houses.

Food for free


4. We used up all our leftovers in one of our meals this week.

On a not so great note I found myself spending £15 on something I didn’t want and definitely didn’t need! I went to a candle selling party at a friends and, despite going with a set budget, found there was nothing I could buy. So I ended up getting a candle for £15. It wasn’t even a soy candle which at least would be slightly better for the environment. Does anyone have any tactics for going to parties like this? I really wanted to support my friend and did have a good evening. I just didn’t want to appear ‘tight’ by not buying anything at all.

What were your Thrifty Finds for the past week?

You can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

making blackberry cordial

The Joy of Blackberrying



These past few weeks I have been spending some time outdoors picking blackberries. Blackberry season is one of my favourite times of the year and is so evocative of my childhood. Whenever I start to pick the berries from the hedgerows, I am reminded of my Nan who, even when she was in her late eighties, loved to go blackberrying.

My children sometimes come out blackberry picking too and we seem to have collected quite a haul already this year. Earlier this week I was on my own, blackberrying, when an old man told me you shouldn’t pick them after 1st October because they will have ‘devil’s spit’ on them.

I’d always thought you couldn’t pick the berries after the first frost but I went home to look up this piece of folklore. Apparently on Old Michaelmas Day (which was 10th October*) Lucifer was expelled from Heaven. He fell from the skies and landed on a blackberry bush. He cursed the fruit and spat on it (hence the ‘devil’s spit’) and made it unfit for eating. So, according to tradition, blackberries shouldn’t be picked after this date. However other advice I have looked at says they are fine to pick until November – it’s really common sense anyway as to how they look and taste. I do like this piece of folklore though.

Following our successful hauls we have made crumbles, frozen a batch of berries and I am now trying to make blackberry cordial, which is meant to be good for winter colds and sore throats.


I’ve also picked up a few apples from the many ‘help yourself’ containers that people have left outside their houses.

Food for free - Second Hand Tales

What hasn’t been so nice, though, is finding other items when out in the lanes blackberrying, like this plastic packaging I found by a field (not such a great harvest):

apples, blackberries and discarded plastic packaging for free via secondhandtales.wordpress,com


This autumn’s fruit harvest, though, seems to have been quite a good one and, despite the ‘devil’s spit’ I’m going to keep on picking blackberries for a little while longer…

Have you been blackberrying too?

*Michaelmas Day is now on 29 September


This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

This week’s Thrifty Finds


This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Welcome to a new series I’m introducing on the blog. As you may know, from reading this, I love a (second-hand) bargain: whether it’s from a charity shop, swapped, recycled, or for free. So I thought I would start to collect my ‘thrifty finds’ together and write about them every week. And it would be great if you could share your Thrifty Finds too.

They don’t have to be charity shop purchases and, in fact, you don’t have to have paid a penny for them. I think it would just be great to share those things that have made life easier this week by saving money, and – by being a conscious consumer – reducing our impact on the planet.

Examples could include:

  • saving food waste by being inventive with leftovers
  • fixing something, rather than throwing it away
  • did someone give you an item they no longer wanted, or did you give something away to a good home/cause?
  • or you could write about how you chose not to buy something because you didn’t really need it (that’s being thrifty, right?)

So I’ll start…

  1. Last week I chanced upon the opening day of the new-look Save the Children shop in Bath (post here). I picked up this orange jumper for £4 which I have already worn A LOT:

thrifted jumper via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

2.On the same trip I also got this M&S burgundy top for a reduced price of £2.50 from the Shaw Trust shop:

second-hand burgundy top

3. My workplace was getting rid of some Blue-Ray dvds so I got these ones:


4. Late September/early October is also a great time for foraging. We’ve been out a few times picking blackberries and have made two crumbles and also frozen a load for use later in the winter. We’ve also started to pick apples and pears from the small fruit trees in our garden.



5. I’ve continued to make bread using our second-hand breadmaker and bake a few cakes, which saves on buying these items from the shop.

What about you, what are your Thrifty Finds for the past week?

You can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

50p charity shop 'bullet journal'

Getting organised with a Bullet Journal


getting organised with a bullet journal via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

I am a bit of a stationery geek and am always on the lookout for new ways to get organised (or pretend to be organised). I’ve tried a few online organisers, such as Cozi, but am rather old fashioned and think nothing beats pen and paper.

So how delighted was I to come across the concept of bullet journaling earlier this year. Bullet Journals are a very simple, yet effective, way of organising your diary, ‘to do’ list and other notes. It was created by American designer, Ryder Carroll, who calls it ‘the analog system for the digital age.’ The joy of bullet journaling is that you don’t need fancy notebooks or pens. It is how you use the notebook that is important. This video is a good starting point:

I’ve just started a new bullet journal for the end of the year. I picked up this blank French exercise book from a charity shop for 50p:

50p charity shop 'bullet journal'

I’ve gone to town a little decorating the front page (okay so I’m not a great artist, but I had fun):

October to December bullet journal via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Inside the bullet journal I have an index, listing all the topics (diary, weekly tasks, notes etc) and their page numbers. That way if I’ve written notes on something, or have a ‘to do’ list for a particular week I can find it as I number every page of the journal. I then have a three monthly view, called a ‘Future Log’. I can list any important dates and any particular tasks or aims I have for the next three months. At present it’s looking quite blank but I’m sure there will be some jobs, writing opportunities, Christmas planning etc to add to it:

bullet journal: Future Log via secondhantales.wordpress.com

I also have a monthly view, which acts as my diary. At the beginning of the month I add dates, meetings etc to it. If other things get booked in, I add them to the month (if something is booked in for another month I add it to the ‘Future Log’). I also add any important tasks to this month, and anything left over from the previous month that still needs to be done.

month log bullet journal

Finally, I have a week log. Each day of that week I write down the tasks, meetings, appointments for that day. With bullet journaling, the idea is that you don’t overload yourself with tasks you know you won’t achieve. BUT if they’re written down you can simply carry them forward to the next day. Hence some of my tasks don’t have an X by them as they haven’t been completed yet.

Week log bullet journal

At the end of the week I can carry some of these tasks on to the next week; or I can leave them. At the end of the month I go through all the uncompleted tasks and ask myself these questions:

  1. does it still need to be done? ->If not, strike it out
  2. does it need to be completed next month? ->If yes, then ‘migrate’ it to the next month’s ‘Month Log’
  3. does it need to be completed at some point in the future (but not next month)? -> If yes, then ‘schedule’ it to the three month ‘Future Log’

(‘migrate’ and ‘schedule’ are two terms Ryder Carroll uses to signify that tasks will be dealt with at a later date)

What I like about bullet journaling is that you can adapt the system to meet your needs. I know I don’t follow the established format to the T. I have added a few things that help me out, ie writing a brief ‘Week Log’: a list of main tasks to be done that week. I also don’t go overboard by recording the exercise I do, amount of water I drink etc. But everyone adapts the bullet journal to their own purposes.

Having bullet journaled this year I really believe I have got more things done, and also let go of those tasks that aren’t so important (if a job keeps on getting carried on to every month it probably isn’t going to get done). Because I record dates, appointments, tasks etc I can also go back to previous weeks and months if I need to refer to them. This has already proved invaluable on a number of occasions. I also have only one book that I keep all my dates, tasks, notes etc in – rather than carrying lots of scraps of paper, notebook, diary etc.

If you do get into bullet journaling you will find there is a whole world of beautifully designed, illustrated and formulated journals. Try this pinterest board for starters. Heaven help you if you’re on Instagram (like me: @secondhandtales) because you will become addicted to the beautiful pics of bullet journals!

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Autumnal Colours and a new-look Charity Shop in Bath

Autumnal colours, the second-hand way via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Yesterday I took myself into Bath: my nearest city and favourite haunt for second-hand goodies. [Note to self: I must update my second-hand shopping in Bath post here, which is now two years old]

I was delighted to see that the Save the Children shop on Walcot Street had received a very impressive update.

Save the Children charity shop, Bath (before the revamp)

Save the Children charity shop, Bath (before the revamp)

The interior was awash with stripped floorboards, wooden crates and clean white spaces. I had the distinct feeling I had walked inside a Fat Face or White Stuff store. Some of their (donated) clothing was even hanging from the beautifully curated rails. Every item was on a wooden hanger and the colour coordination was a feast for the eyes. I felt instantly drawn to the blacks and silvers, with thoughts of dressing for Christmas parties on the cheap.

The shop floor was spacious and the clothing on display was cleverly selected to show a range of high-end stores and good quality high street designs, with just enough on the rails to allow you to browse comfortably.

I spotted a couple of White Stuff skirts but was disappointed that they didn’t fit. At £7 each I didn’t think they were overpriced too. In fact my one final purchase at the store, a Top Shop jumper, only cost me £4.

(second-hand) burnt orange Top Shop jumper, bought from Save the Children charity shop in Bath via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

I happened to stumble upon the Save the Children shop’s opening day and the store seemed constantly busy. When I popped along later in the afternoon to see if I could persuade the White Stuff skirt to fit me, it had gone. The lady in front of me spend £120, although I’m not sure how as the clothing was reasonably priced.

The burnt orange jumper has become an instant favourite and autumnal colours must have been on my mind. I picked up this burgundy M&S top from The Shaw Trust shop on George St for a bargain £2.50.

second-hand burgundy top

I did also pick up two pairs of new tights, in matching orange and plum, but I’m very pleased my second-hand purchases only came to £6.50 (The Flower Fairy book was picked up at the bookstall at our village May Fair here)

charity shop labels via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

I was really impressed with the new-look Save the Children shop, as I know they have struggled in the past to stay open and are still in need of volunteers. I can’t even begin to stress what an important charity this is (working with children in Syria and refugees in the Mediterranean: see here). Their new store now ranks them among the other vintage-style charity shop boutiques that have opened up in Bath (Dorothy House; Julian House’s vintage section), but also marks a divide between those charity shops that can afford the refits and the rest…..

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PS I’ve been thinking of running a regular slot on this blog to share our ‘Thrifty Finds’. Not just second-hand purchases, but also making use of things we already have (food, fabric scraps,old clothes), and when we choose not to buy. Lovely readers, what are your thoughts?

Corsham Repair Cafe celebrates its third year!

Corsham Repair Cafe September 19th 2015

Today our Repair Cafe celebrated its third birthday! What began as an idea inspired by the Dutch movement (repaircafe.org) has now marked three years at The Pound arts centre in Corsham, where I work.

Since 2013 we have made nearly 200 repairs which means these items have not gone to landfill. Our volunteers have helped people to fix broken toasters, clothing, chairs and even a puppet. Today’s items included a backpack, pair of trousers, coffee machine and a lamp.

backpack being mended at Corsham Repair Cafe via secondhandytales.wordpress.com

Sadly this Kenwood record player couldn’t be fixed with the materials that were available, but we’re hopeful the owner will be able to pick up a replacement belt online:

Kenwood record player at Corsham Repair Cafe via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

And we all finished with a well deserved slice of cake! Happy Birthday Corsham Repair Cafe!

Corsham Repair Cafe: third birthday