A Simple Christmas – hope you have one too!

A Simple Christmas

Today is my last post in A Simple Christmas series that I’ve been running on my Facebook page here. I finished with a blog post from Ginny Sheller, a homeschooling mother of a large brood of children. She writes about her Catholic faith, but in a non intrusive way. I loved the post she wrote about not getting everything done in the run up for Christmas but that it doesn’t really matter. In her faith, Christmas is not the end of the festive season: it runs until Epiphany on 6 January. So there’s plenty more time to celebrate, spend time with the family and relax…. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year xxx

For a snapshot of the articles I have linked to in this series visit my Pinterest board here.

pinterest-board: A Simple Christmas

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Saving for Christmas…Part Three

Saving for Christmas Part Three via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Hello and welcome to Part Three of my series on how we are saving and spending at Christmas. In my previous post here I wrote about what we were planning to spend our money on. As well as buying presents, food and drink I also planned to put some money aside for family experiences: the ubiquitous ‘Christmas Bucket List’

Christmas traditions via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

We have written a few ideas together as a family and also hope to incorporate a few traditional activities as well. As money is slightly tighter there are some things we won’t be doing:

Christmas Theatre/Cinema Trip

Although we did go and see ‘Fantastic Beasts’ last month there are no plans for any cinema trips this Christmas. In the past we have also been to see a local theatre show or the village panto, but have decided not to go this year. However we still have our (accidental) Amazon Prime subscription which seems to have a few seasonal movies in its collection. We will also be swapping some unwanted dvds and old DS games at the local Games Exchange for a few (new to us) films to watch over the break.

Ice Skating

While not a strict family tradition we have taken the kids to go ice skating in previous years. We have already received two invitations to visit the local ice rink but, because of costs, we have declined. My eldest has been ice skating with friends,but she paid for this herself.

Christmas Meal using Tesco Clubcard vouchers

When we have accrued enough Tesco vouchers we usually exchange them for an (almost free) lunch out as part of our Christmas activities. However this year we barely shopped at the supermarket so have no vouchers to use.

There are some Christmas events that we will take (or have taken) part in as they involve meeting up with friends and family.Some of these I have saved for already:

Meeting with old friends for a Christmas Curry

This is a tradition for the adults! We meet up once a year with old friends over a curry in Bath. We actually got together last Friday and had a lovely evening. However this is an event I always fail to budget for and had to come out of our rather tight bank account. Next year I must add this to the Christmas budget.

Meeting with in laws for a pub lunch

Last Saturday we met with family for a lovely pub lunch in Oxfordshire (half way for both of us). Having failed to budget for this last year I saved for the lunch this time. We also pre-ordered so we knew what we were having,knew how much it would cost, and the kids didn’t have to wait too long for their food.

Trip to more in-laws and a day in London

This coming weekend we will be travelling to my father-in-law’s which is a Christmas highlight! The girls will enjoy a day of being spoilt,eating loads and making lots of crafts. My husband and I will be packed off to London where we plan to visit a couple of galleries and do some vintage shop browsing. I’m hoping we will only have to budget for a cheap lunch for the two of us and our Oyster cards are already topped up for travel.

Works’ dos

Something I never plan for but just hope to ‘wing it’ and spend for it out of our weekly budget. It would be good to have a bit more money put aside to cover these. We will also have a few invites to friends’ houses (we live in a very sociable village with its own traditions) but I have already bought bottles of wine for this (taken from my Sainsburys ‘double up’ vouchers last month)

 

Champagne_flute

Then there are the best Christmas activities: the simple and traditional ones that don’t cost a thing but bring a lot of joy!

Christmas Sleepover

This is a tradition the girls created a few years ago. One evening over the Christmas break they bring their duvets into the lounge,watch a festive film and have a sleepover in the lounge, amid the lights and presents!

Baking

We’ve already made some mince pies and biscuits for friends and neighbours. We will, no doubt, be making plenty more once school has broken up. There’s nothing more Christmasey than putting on some cheesy music and doing loads of festive baking.

Putting decorations up

This goes without saying! We will be digging out a lot of our second-hand decorations,which includes an old tree,baubles, signs and our traditional Christmas mugs (picked up from a charity shop of course!)

charity shop Christmas mugs

Viewing the Christmas Lights

At the end of our road is one of the village’s biggest Christmas lights displays. No doubt we will wrap up warm and wander up the road to view this tradition. We will also be taking the girls to central London this weekend to look at the lights on Oxford Street, Regent Street and the upmarket Bond Street. For both my husband and I this is reminiscent of our own childhoods. If we arrive early enough we should be able to gawp at the windows of Selfridges, Fortnum & Masons and visit the John Lewis roof garden – and all for free.
(hmm didn’t quite happen – our youngest one was sick on Sunday morning so we came straight home. However it did give us time at home to put up the tree and get the decorations out)

FamilyTraditions: Christmas decorations via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Family Games

We have a few board games (new and pre-loved) that we dig out this time of year to play. This year my husband and I have agreed we must learn to play ‘Risk’ which we picked up from a charity shop a couple of years ago!

Church Crib Service

Even if you enjoy a more secular Christmas there is something really special about attending a church service at this time of year. We always go to the church’s family friendly Crib Service on Christmas Eve. It’s the time of year when the church is at its busiest, we see neighbours (even those with grown up children) and there is something truly touching when you think of the 750 past Christmases that have been celebrated in our village church!

Christmas Day visit to the pub!

A slightly different tradition,although I would argue that the village pub,like the church, is an important community space. For an hour on Christmas Day the two village pubs open their doors (one of the pubs even serves free drink!). It’s a really lovely opportunity to catch up with friends and neighbours, before heading home to cook the Christmas dinner!

(We also have one amazing Christmas trip planned as a surprise for after Christmas, courtesy of grandparents!!)

I may have a little more money left in the Christmas budget but we’ll have to see how that goes as you never know what you may end up spending for. If you are interested in looking at Christmas spending in another way I have started a series on my facebook page here which, this week, has been focusing on alternative present buying and even a ‘Buy Nothing Christmas’. I plan to continue to post daily on ‘A Simple Christmas’ so follow the Facebook page or my Twitter account for info.

What activities do you have planned for Christmas? Or do you prefer to take a step back and not organise too much at what is a really hectic time of year?

 

A Simple Christmas series

A Simple Christmas series on facebook by secondhand tales

I’ve started a new daily series on my Facebook page here and thought I would share it on the blog. Daily blogging can be time consuming- although I cherish the interaction with readers and it feels like a genuine community of like minded souls here. But sometimes other formats (Twitter and Facebook) can also work to share and communicate ideas as well.

But enough rambling… I created a series for the month of December featuring daily posts that will make us rethink the busy-ness of Christmas.I think many of us look on the upcoming festive season as a time of wonder and dread. Wonder at the joyful and exciting time of sharing special experiences with friends and family, and the general feeling of goodwill to all. Yet we also feel dread at the mass consumerism that surrounds us. From Black Friday to Boxing Day sales, and much more in between, Christmas can become a time of frenzy, consumption and debt.

But whatever your feelings at this time of year I wanted to create a little ‘time out’ where, every day, I will post a link to an inspirational website, thoughtful blog post, or my own ramblings, to share another view of the festive season. If you get the chance do pop over to my Facebook page (or follow me on Twitter where I will post a link to the daily thought). Please add any comments or your own links so that we can share our vision of a Simple Christmas together

Second hand tales Facebook page

PS here’s a link to today’s post on Slowing Down at Christmas by the minimalist mom: http://www.theminimalistmom.com/2011/12/one-simple-thing-slow-down/

Tomorrow I will be posting a link to Small Business Saturday.

What I learnt from our Staycation…

What I learnt from our Staycation via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

While we have failed to have a ‘proper’ holiday this year, we have really been enjoying our Staycation,which goes to show that every cloud has a silver lining.

I have learnt that the main advantages to holidaying at home are:

  1. You can really make the most of the weather. Rather than going away and hoping for good weather (especially in the UK) you can wait for the right forecast and enjoy a scorching day out. Last Monday we hit the beach at Weymouth, Dorset. The weather was good, we picnicked on the beach and the kids enjoyed some seaside fairground rides. We also took a saunter around the (secondhand) shops, pausing to watch the boats sail into the marina. All it cost us was car parking, ice creams and a fast food restaurant on the way home.

Weymouth beach

2.You don’t have to go far. Wherever you live I bet there’s an interesting town, well-known (or lesser known) attraction, piece of coast or countryside near to you. I admit we are very lucky to live in the South West. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Bath is only 15 minutes away and, within two hours we can be on some stunning Dorset beaches. Closer to home we have some picturesque Wiltshire and Cotswold towns to explore.  When the weather turned hot a couple of weeks ago we spent the day by the river in Bradford on Avon, just ten miles away.

playing by the river in Bradford on Avon

3. You don’t have to go anywhere. This is something I have been learning for the first time this summer. The children have had as much fun playing with friends in the garden.They have staged plays and shows on the deck; we have eaten in the village cafe; had sleepovers with friends and visited the local parks (including the school playground which is always open)

Playing in the school sandpit

4. If you do go somewhere you can stay with friends. We spent last weekend visiting an old school friend who lives on the outskirts of London. We had such a great time, catching up with her family and also making the most of their convenient location at the end of the Northern Line on the Tube. Using Oyster cards (and a £6  travel card for our 14 year old) meant we were able to visit the capital very cheaply. As well as doing free museums and packing picnics we also visited other (free to us) sights such as Platform 9 & 3/4 at Kings Cross and the giant M&Ms store in Leicester Square (the girls bought one gift here each with money from grandparents). Having taken the kids to see The BFG film we learnt about the BFG/Save the Children Dream Jars that are dotted around London this summer.We downloaded the app and were able to locate a few of these jars which were, surprisingly, crowd free. (plus a bonus for us adults: we got to ride the Tube with a Game of Thrones actor!). We had a great mini break and it didn’t make too much of a dent in our piggy bank!

5. You don’t have to spend much. This is one of the big advantages of staying at home. However having a Staycation doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. I price compared local cinemas and saved a lot of money by taking the kids to see a new release at the local two screen theatre, rather than the newly opened multiplex. We have also taken advantage of council run schemes such as the Big Read and free swimming for children in the holidays.

While we didn’t intend to spend all the summer at home we have really enjoyed ourselves over the past month. By taking it easy, but also booking in days out/a weekend away we really have had the best of both worlds, without breaking the bank. What have you been doing this summer?

Did you go away or have you been ‘staycationing’ too?

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Plastic Free July article in Green Parent magazine

Green Parent magazine June/July 2016

A couple of years ago I took part in Plastic Free July; a worldwide initiative to encourage participants to cut down on – or eliminate – single use plastic.

I found it to be a really enlightening, yet frustrating,challenge. I learnt a lot about alternatives to plastic wrapping, straws, disposable cups etc but also discovered that plastic is everywhere. By linking up with like minded bloggers I picked up tips on how to go plastic free but also found out just how prevalent the material is (did you know there is plastic in tea bags and chewing gum?).

Suffice to say that I haven’t repeated the challenge but have tried to incorporate some of the things I learned into everyday life.

 

Anyway, to cut to the chase, I wrote an article on my experience of Plastic Free July for the Green Parent magazine and it is featured in their current June/July edition. I have written for them before (as I dabble in some freelance writing) and love their ethos and attitude. I also blogged about the magazine here as one of my go-to inspirational reads on slow living.

The Green Parent magazine is on sale in major newsagents and supermarkets or you can find it here. Even if you don’t have children – or your kids have grown up – I still think it’s a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to live a greener life.

(Plastic Free July 2016 begins next week on Friday  1st July. My blog post here summarises my thoughts at the end of the 2014 challenge)

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Springtime Walk

May walk

I’ve been laid low with a rotten cold all week (and even spent a day in bed). I’m starting to feel better but struggling to catch up with everything that needs doing, and preparing for two busy weeks ahead.

With that in mind, I took myself off for an uplifting walk. Last September I walked along this lane and photographed it (see here) and it’s lovely to see the seasonal changes.

On the left is how the lane looked in September; on the right is today’s photo.

 

May walkcountry lane, Wiltshire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directly below is the misty Autumn view across the valley; today’s view is underneath:

Wiltshire view in AutumnWiltshire view in May

On my September walk I had taken an image of apples growing on a tree. I’m pretty sure this is the same tree, covered in blossom:

May apple blossom

May really is a lovely time of the year. If my head wasn’t still full of cold I’m sure I could think of some appropriate adjectives….!

Hung out to dry….

socks drying on washing line

Today is the perfect Spring day to hang out the washing . While I do own a tumble dryer (which I try to resist using) when it’s cold and wet the washing ends up hanging off radiators in every room in the house. It’s always such a relief to get a day when the sun is shining and I can hang clothes out to dry.

clothes drying outside

It may seem like a little thing but hanging out a single load of washing (5kg) can save 2.4kg CO2e asrunning a clothes dryer for a single load is equivalent to switching on 225 low energy bulbs for 30 mins (see here)

In the US 85% of the population owns a tumble dryer and this is by far the preferred option to drying clothes. I read many thrifty/environment type blogs from the US and there are very few bloggers who advocate line drying*.In the UK 57% of the population own a dryer but the majority of us (14 to one) prefer to line dry.

One theory why Americans are reluctant to hang washing out to dry is the restrictions imposed by landlords and local communities. There’s a really interesting BBC article here about the US movement, Project Laundry List, that is fighting community association and landlord restrictions.

Alexander Lee, the founder of Project Laundry List, was inspired to hang his clothes out to dry following this quote from anti-nuclear lecturer, Helen Caldicott, who said: “If we all did things like hang out our clothes, we could shut down the nuclear industry.”

He believes that if one in three Americans started line drying for five months of the year, 2.2m tonnes of CO2 would have been prevented from entering the atmosphere by 2020. Considering we all agreed in Paris last year to halt global warming at 1.5 deg C rise this is a contribution.

It’s certainly true that it takes longer to hang out washing on a line than stuff it inside a tumble dryer. There are times when I’ve been late leaving for work or the school run because I mistimed the washing machine and have had to rush around pegging clothes on the line. On a bitterly cold day it’s not much fun to hang up wet washing and then know that it won’t even dry properly and will have to be put on the radiators lately. Or the days when I’m constantly running in and out of the house to bring loads in when the weather turns wet.

But I do love the smell of outdoor dried clothes (if you put them on the radiator it’s better than any Yankee Candle scent!). I love that I have done the slow, meditative act of pegging out my family’s clothing and (while trying not to get too Little House on the Prairie about it) have done what generations did before me  – and done my small bit to reduce energy consumption. With a faulty tumble dryers story currently in the press as well I guess it’s probably a safer option too…
pegs

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*Shannon Hayes from the excellent radical homemaker blog (and book) advocates hanging out the washing to dry as one of her ten easy steps to becoming a radical homemaker (read more here from her article for Yes! magazine).