Blogging, Christmas

ELF ON THE SHELF: six years of elf antics remembered + photos

Amongst Brits, our family was a fairly early adopter of the American Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. I discovered it back in 2014. It was getting close to Christmas, so by the time our scout elf arrived, he didn’t get the chance to perform as many antics as he did in later years.

I’m not going to go into how the ‘system’ works on this post as you can visit the official website or millions of other pages on the Internet.

The one thing I will say, is that as I’ve noticed more and more families taking part, particularly with ‘unofficial’ elves, the ‘official rules’ are beginning to dilute. For example, I have seen photos and videos of children touching and cuddling their elves days before the ‘final goodbye’ of the season, clearly unaware of the ‘no touching’ rule. (Elves can only be touched and cuddled on 24th December, before they fly back to Santa at the North Pole). Now, the consequences of this should be quite severe – an elf should become ill and have to stay in bed for a few days, but I don’t always see this reflected in the next day’s antic. Of course, time-poor parents who are stuck for ideas may wish to use this ploy so that an elf is put out of action and therefore doesn’t need to be relocated, usually late at night when they have forgotten to plan something! (This oversight runs along the same lines as going upstairs to bed and realising you still need to make up the bed because you stripped the bedding that morning!) It is at this point that they feverishly trawl the Internet to find an antic which can be set up in minutes with scant resource! We had a few of those along the way!

My younger son Charlie, named his elf, Sam. He flew away for good on 24th December 2019 (his sixth Christmas with us) because he was being reallocated to a new, younger child in 2020. My son was aged ten at that point and by the next Christmas he would have already started secondary school – it probably isn’t too cool to have an elf when you’re eleven! If older children have younger siblings, they can probably start to come up with elf antic ideas themselves, but proceed with caution, eleven-year-olds can be quite macabre!

Photos and a few videos of the antics were posted contemporaneously on our Instagram feed, but I have added them here too, with their captions. I hope you enjoy them and if you have come here looking for ideas, I hope they help you out.

2014

Sam the scout elf finally arrived yesterday! Charlie was a little worried that he might mess up his toys and Bobby seemed pretty freaked out by the idea that Sam will come to life in the nighttime (so we’ve had to let him in on the secret!! But I still don’t think he’s convinced!) Sam has started his antics gently by just scribbling in a Christmas colouring book. Let’s see what tomorrow brings eh?
Sam thought he’d surprise Charlie as Spiderman today!
Sam was double-checking Charlie’s wish list!
I think Sam needs toilet training!
Charlie caught Sam playing DC Superheroes Top Trumps with his festive friends!
After Charlie’s bout of bad behaviour yesterday, Sam thought he ought to give him a warning!
Help!
Sam visited Marioland today!
Sam is incredibly tired after all his antics so far this December. A little rest should refresh him for a few more!
Sam’s been found hanging out with Ken. Sam’s been given styling tips and a makeover!
Well it certainly looks like yesterday’s makeover has had the desired effect!

2015

Sam helped to hang the candy-cane mouse that Charlie made at Beavers yesterday.
Sam fell asleep watching a movie!
Polo to ko a banana?
Family ‘Elfies’!

What did Mrs. Clause say to Santa when she looked at the sky?

Best Family Ever!

Snowmen are cool! Brrr…
Have a good last day of term!
Sam wanted to have fun in the ball pool!
How did I get in here?
Hot Choc Treat!
Scout elf snuggle time.
Sam took a leaf out of the York family’s book and did his Christmas food shopping yesterday!!

2016

Identity theft!
Charlie the Red-Nosed Reindeer!
Hot lips! Sam found some sweets Charlie bought at Bath Christmas Market and thought he might like to finish them!
Snap, Crackle and Pop! (Sorry Crackle)
CyberElf. 
Fairy and Sam sitting in a tree,
K-I-S-S-I-N-G!
“I can explain…”

Creeper Sam.
How do you scare a snowman?
Elf antics are no fun when you’re ill.
Sam did a spot of Christmas tree decorating!
Elf twister. 
Ornament hunt.
Caught in the act!
Elf marks the spot!
Constant antics makes for a thirsty elf!

Christmas Eve boxes.

2017

Oops, I pea’d myself!
Marsh mellow!
Noughts and crosses.
Snow Angel.
Sam has been caught stealing Charlie’s Advent Calendar chocolate!
Sam is as baffled by how to duel with Charlie’s Yu-Gi-Oh cards as you or me!
Sam caught some Minion Haribos!
An ‘elfy meal’!

Holiday Hoops!
Fear of dogs.
Jurassic elf.
Sam and his friends after their work’s night out!
Sam found the mini copy of ‘the ELF on the SHELF: a Christmas Tradition’ that we made him!
Here’s our mini ELF on the SHELF book!
We’ll see!
Only 6 days to go!
Let’s play North Pole Bingo!
Elf yourself selfie kit.
Elves Rock!
Christmas Eve Boxes.

2018

Sam the Scout Elf is back and has brought his trusty St. Bernard, Chunky, with him this year!
Going canvassing for the Lib Dems in the rain today along with faithful friend Chunky!
Polite reminder!
Q: Why did the gingerbread man go to the doctors?
A: Because he felt crummy!
Chunky elfed himself…
Don’t eat me Chunky!
Our overnight child’s elf, Eric, came to have a snowball fight with Sam. Chunky just ate the snowballs!
Chillin’ with Egg Sheeran!
Sam tested out my Glossybox makeup items to get in touch with his feminine side.
Christmas wrapping!

Frosty blue, just for you!
That’s no candy cane!
Ribbon rock climb.
Rainbow Magic!
Rainbow Magic!
My scout elf adventures.
My scout elf adventures.
Sam and Chunky brought Charlie a snowman from the North Pole… but he melted!
Holiday elf-ercise!
Kissing booth!
We couldn’t wait!

2019

Candy cane hunt.
Funny feet!
Chocolate coins fail.
You gotta give… to get!
Still waiting!
Third time lucky!

Tinsel paper!
Vote for Alex White in North Devon.
Gingerbread 3D Christmas Tree Kit.
Toilet humour!
Christmas Countdown.
Any last minute present ideas?
We got trapped!
Elf bunting!

Elfie Shark Do Do Do Doooo!
Eli the visiting scout elf, decided to challenge Sam and Chunky to a Tug of War!
Eli the visiting scout elf, Sam and Chunky found the ribbon drawer!

Well I’m sad to say “that’s it folks!”. I’ve had a great six years of creating these antics for the children, and I’m glad to have been able to share them with you.

If you managed to make it to this point, please comment “So much elfing fun!” in the comments below! Thanks for reading.

Louisa

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Blogging, Decor, Lifestyle, Organising, storage

Organising my ribbons and ribbon scraps

Most of my craft supplies are stored in a lovely walnut sideboard I inherited from my Mum, which was previously my Nanny Kiki’s. (She bought it after the Second World War.) It is pretty organised, but the one drawer which was beginning to frustrate me was the ribbon drawer.
The ribbons were organised by colour, but they were not visually attractive being stored in plastic food bags. The only advantage was that a lot could be squashed in.

I wanted to still be able to see the colours of the ribbons, but I just wanted a more visually appealing result. I hunted in my cupboards and found a couple of sets of plastic storage containers I had picked up in IKEA. They are the Pruta food containers. They are just £3.50 for a set of 17 in various sizes. They have green lids, but inverted they are transparent. This allows me to still be able to pick ribbons in the colour I need relatively easily. I did find that I couldn’t have as many colour variants as the boxes would not all fit in the drawer. This led me to combine the pinks and purples with the reds and the greens with the blues.

I also fished out all of the ribbon reels and put them together on one side of the drawer. About 99% of the ribbons in the tubs are scraps of less than one metre. I also cut out and retain all the thin ribbons from my tops. (It presses my OCD button when I see ribbons flopping out of people’s tops – I just want to go and tuck them in, or even better, cut them off!)

So as you can see below, this is the final result. I am sure there are better solutions, but I will stick with this for now and see how it goes.

What do you think? Have you created good ribbon storage? I would love to see your pictures.

Louisa

This article is NOT sponsored.

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Blogging, Decor, Lifestyle, Organising, storage

Storage solution for a wall-mounted coat rack

I decided today was the day to sort out a small coat rack which I use for my younger son’s coats and hoodies. It is also used during the week to hang the coats of the children I look after. My son’s baseball caps are hung there and there’s also a small bag which contains his sunglasses. Additionally, it is a space where I hang umbrellas and my walking stick. So it has become a bit of a catch-all.

You can tell by this first photo that the coat rack is a bit overcrowded!

Canadian YouTuber Kristen McGowan, is a consistent source of inspiration for me. I watch pretty much every video she posts. She focuses mainly on room makeovers and storage solutions as well as IKEA hauls and room decor. Please take a moment to check out, and subscribe to, her channel.

In a recent video 10 AFFORDABLE IKEA HOME ORGANIZATION IDEAS | NEW PRODUCTS 2020 , she recommended a one-handled basket from IKEA as a storage solution for use on an entryway coat rack to contain items like hats, gloves and small accessories. It is called Lustigkurre and it is a slim basket made of seagrass with natural tones, an interesting woven design and bohemian vibes.

I checked the IKEA website, but the basket was out of stock at my nearest branch and when I checked further, it was out of stock in pretty much every store in Britain!

Lying in bed last night, I wondered what else I could use instead. My eyes were drawn to a ‘jelly basket’ that I had, stored on top of my wardrobe.

Those of you who were born in the seventies may remember the craze in the mid-eighties for jelly sandals and jelly baskets! Almost every girl at my secondary school had one and they were popular in all colours of the rainbow. I was the proud owner of a black one. Sad to say, I have no idea what happened to it.
Around six years ago, jelly sandals and baskets had a bit of a revival, so I decided to purchase myself a basket as it had brought back that nostalgia! I purchased it from a company called Sun Jellies. I am pleased to see that they are still in business selling retro shoes, bags and accessories and here is a link to the ‘Retro Baskets‘ which are available in small and large. My basket is in the large size. I had instagrammed it when I received it and this is the photo I took. (I subsequently purchased one in yellow as a couple of the local groups I am involved with have yellow branding.)

My Retro Basket purchased in summer 2014

Back to the coat rack. I decluttered the rack by removing of a couple of small bags and three hoodies which my son had outgrown. I placed the hats and accessories into the jelly basket. The basket is slim and flexible and I was relieved to discover that the width of the hooks allowed me to be able to hang the basket over two of them, giving it more stability.

I am really pleased with how this turned out and that I have found a use for my basket which also compliments the black hooks of the coat rack.

Additionally, my son’s sunglasses are now simply hanging from the basket which means he will see them if he is going out and will be able to easily choose which pair to wear without having to dig around in a bag.

The coat rack after

What do you think? Have you created good entryway storage solutions? I would love to see your pictures.

Louisa

This article is NOT sponsored.

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autism, Blogging, Disability Awareness, Food

The serial cereal thief: living with a compulsive eater

Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

What do you do if you live with someone who compulsively steals food and doesn’t give a fig? You love them, of course, and try to come up with clever ways to thwart their modus operandi.

My elder son, now 20 years old, has a severe learning disability and autism. He’s a giant – in stature and in character. He’s loud, repetitive in his habits and behaviours, and determined that he shall not be challenged.

Dealing with him takes patience and requires subtle persuasion techniques. He does not respond well to ‘firm’ discipline and the resulting anger and meltdowns caused by this approach, renders it counterproductive for any would-be enforcer.

As I type this, I am being continually interrupted by him to be told about a character from a film, or that he has completed a helpful task. In between the interruptions, he is repeating phrases he has heard from his favourite films and TV shows, at top volume. His incessant noise has luckily, over time, afforded me the ability to be able to block out the cacophony and focus on the task in hand!

He does have an endearing side to him. He’s more often than not, good humoured and very loving, albeit that he engages with you on his terms. When he is being negative and is taking an anti-social path, it takes good humour and a ‘cyclical script’ to be able to bring him round to a more positive frame of mind. It can be exhausting to try and convince him to do the thing you want him to do when he has no understanding of how his behaviour affects others. Pointing out such a deficit is, again, deemed as a challenge and is counterproductive, usually.

Now I come to the ‘food’ issue. We are none of us, lightweights in this household and food is a comfort when dealing with the stress and anxiety that each new day can bring. This is further compounded by the fact that my son is on medication which increases his appetite. He is obsessed with helping himself to any food he wants to eat and doesn’t hold back. This is on top of the three usual daily meals!

He regularly dispenses himself a huge bowl of cereal to the point where it’s doming and then proceeds to squeeze in the milk. A four-pack of yoghurts – gone in the blink of an eye. A punnet of tomatoes – devoured, even if you were planning to save them for an evening meal. A 500ml bottle of diet cola – downed in less than ten seconds. The list goes on.

After the crimes have been committed, I can pretty much guarantee that the phrase “Am I the quickest eater/drinker?” will fall from his satiated lips as I, in turn, perform a comical look of disbelief. I find myself replying “You are, aren’t you.” in order to play along; to keep him on an even keel because sanctions don’t work.

So how have I managed to contain much of his impulsive thievery? The measures weren’t easy to implement and they weren’t imposed all at the same time.

First came the fridge. The industrial-strength padlock didn’t go down well, and I had to endure the rage. Although I generally prefer to avoid any battles, this was one which had to be fought, if only for the good of his health. Amazingly, after the fallout, came acceptance. It worked. Now the containment only fails when I forget to lock the fridge or leave the lanyard with the key on it lying around!

My son is very resourceful. He soon discovered that he could move on to proudly steal whole cartons of icecream from the freezer. So next came a matching lock for the freezer. Again, thwarted, I had to endure his ‘meltdown’. But afterwards, success!

His ever-watchful eyes don’t miss a trick. His vigilance is astounding and I jokingly name him ‘Roz’, after a character from the film Monsters Inc. I recite her famous quote as if said by him: “I’m watching you Wazowski. Always watching.” And he takes it well because he loves that film.

I have used a million small hiding places for snacks, all subsequently discovered after his radar detects me rustling the packaging. A box of cereal bars – gone. Three packets of crisps – munched.

The third and final success was buying a metal filing box to keep the snacks locked away in the pantry. The lanyard now boasts three keys and has become the new focus of his attention! Hiding that at night is vital, as he will wake up early and hunt around my bedroom for it!

At this stage he still steals cereal (I now buy variety packs in order to keep the individual portion size down) and he is trustworthy enough to be given the lanyard to help himself to the milk. He will dutifully lock the fridge back up and return the key to me. He understands the boundaries, but is clearly still a serial cereal thief!

It is obvious that these tactics are working. He has lost some weight and looks all the better for it. For someone who has no ‘off switch’, it was a no-brainer that I needed to take action and I’m so glad I did.

If you are in need of such measures to stop somebody from eating compulsively, here are a couple of affilate links to the items I bought from amazon.co.uk.

Fridge Lock White and Cathedral Metal A4 File Box.

If my experiences of living with a compulsive eater resonate with you, I’d love for you to share your story in the comments below.

Louisa

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Blogging, Decor, Lifestyle

I created a Desenio gallery wall!

It’s amazing the overall change to our living room that adding a picture gallery has made. I have watched many a YouTube video of people making over their living spaces and the difference that an eclectic range of pictures makes is staggering. If you have a particular colour palette for your room, a gallery wall makes the whole aesthetic work cohesively.

We last decorated our living room eleven years ago and the walls could really do with a fresh lick of paint. We will likely use the same colour again as it is a tone which seems to compliment any palette. Its a Crown paint in the shade ‘wheatgrass’ and is a light greige neutral. Crown Breatheasy Coloured Emulsion in ‘Wheatgrass’.

I have tried to reduce the colour palette in our living room and it is now pretty much neutral with wood tones and mixed metal tones with pops of teal/turquoise/aqua and green.

The original wall art on the wall behind the sofa was a set of three canvases of woodland trees from NEXT, which when spaced apart, make a larger image. I still like this composition and will keep them in case I can use them in another space. Here are a couple of images of the wall with those canvases.

Many people had recommended using an online prints company called Desenio. When I checked out their website, I was actually pretty impressed with the quantity and range of styles.

As well as prints, they supply frames in various different colours with modern, straight edges. I will say that their frames aren’t cheap, so I decided to shop for my frames at IKEA.

A number of Desenio’s prints are typographical and it’s not beyond the wit of man to knock something up on a home computer which will fit into an A4 frame or smaller. Larger prints and photographs are worth buying of course. I have recreated a couple of their typographical prints and even painted a piece of geometric art for my bedroom wall myself in order to save money!

Here’s a link to the original Weimar Shaoes No2 Poster and here’s my reproduction!

Desenio have functionality on their website which allows you to select and design your own gallery wall. This function works pretty well, but the layouts are presets and I couldn’t find an option to customise my own layout. However, their arrangements are pretty good, so I selected the layout I wanted. The print sizes ranged from 21 x 30cm to 100 x 70cm.

I wanted the frames to be a mix of black, white and gold. As I said above, I went to IKEA for my frames and settled on the very cheap FISKBO range as they are light, sit flat to the wall and span the full size range. But this of course had one drawback, IKEA don’t make frames in 100 x 70cm! I decided to buy this one metal frame, in black, from Desenio. For an expensive frame, I wasn’t impressed when it turned up. The frame was dented and the clear acrylic was cracked in two of the corners, so I promptly sent it back!

I subsequently decided that the largest print was too large, and since it had a large white border, I went ahead and cut it down to 61 x 91cm (another standard size). I then scoured the Internet for a frame which would be similar to the others and I came across an Athena frame which works well alongside. The FISKBO frames are only available in black and white, so I spray-painted a couple of them gold.

Here’s the design I created on the Desenio Gallery Wall Creator tool.

My design using the Desenio Gallery Wall Creator tool

These are links to the prints I selected from Desenio from left to right and top to bottom:

Aquarelle Shape
Palm Springs Pool
Birds Fly Away
Blue Beach Wave
Meadow in Dawn
Dotted Pattern
Wonderful World
Origins of Everything

And here is our finished gallery wall!

What do you think? Have you created a gallery wall? I’d love to see your pictures.

Louisa

This article is NOT sponsored.

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Blogging, Recipes

My go-to lockdown breakfast

Photo by Rhubarb and Burble

During lockdown, I decided to try out the current dalgona coffee craze for myself.
It became my go-to almost every morning since and I can’t imagine why! (It contains coffee and sugar!)
I don’t remember which recipe I used from my Google search but this is how I make it:

[This article contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you are after something similar, please consider using our links as this will help us out – thank you.]

  1. Add a few ice cubes to a glass.
  2. Pour sweetened almond milk over the ice.
  3. Meanwhile add a tablespoon of instant coffee, a tablespoon of caster sugar and a tablespoon of cold water into a jug.
  4. Whisk the mixture with a drinks stirrer. This is the one I use: Zulay Kitchen Original Milk Frother.
  5. Once it’s light in colour, pour on top of the almond milk. Alternatively, pour the almond milk on top of the coffee mixture, stir well and pour back into the glass.
  6. Add a resuable straw.
Dalgona coffee and homemade gluten-free bread with black cherry conserve

At the beginning of lockdown, there was a shortage of some food items. One of those was bread flour. The odd friend was asking on Facebook where they could buy flour and were helped out by people who had spotted some in a local shop somewhere. However, I decided to venture online and bulk buy so we didn’t keep running out. I ended up on the Doves Farm website and I ordered a 16kg bag of Freee gluten-free, white bread flour! The website also includes some GF bread recipes for bread machines.

Doves Farm Freee Gluten Free White Bread Flour
Photo by Rhubarb and Burble

I dug my bread machine out of the kitchen cupboard.

The recipe I use is the Doves Farm Gluten Free White Bread Machine Loaf, but I have made some slight changes to it. I add a couple of tablespoons of psyllium husk for added fibre and I warm the milk to improve the rise. After toasting a slice, I add real butter and lashings of Bon Maman black cherry conserve!

Lockdown became very indulgent for me and now I am paying the price. I’ve just started a keto diet, so my sweetened dalgona coffee and toast breakfasts are off the menu for now, but I can’t wait to revisit them again in the future.

UPDATE: Since I’ve been following a keto diet, I tried replacing the sweetened almond milk with unsweetened almond milk and the sugar with stevia and I can hardly tell the difference! Yay!

Louisa

This article is NOT sponsored, but does contain affilate links.

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Blogging, Creative Writing, New

The deluge: flooding in Barnstaple, UK in 2020

Photo by Chris F on Pexels.com

Meteorologists had spoken of the chance the rain, so when I glanced out of my front room window early on Morning afternoon, the glowering sky didn’t come completely as a surprise.
The weather had been close and sultry for several days perhaps a storm was to be expected but the cloud cover overhead looked dense and threatening.
The early afternoon became twilight. We turned on the lights and expected rain.
What we didn’t expect was the torrent we received.
“Look at that rain!” I exclaimed, as I gazed out of my front room window. This was heavy.
Nevertheless, it was a surprise when a slight figure in a green waterproof darted her way past our window and towards our front door. The doorbell rang and I answered it to see the sodden figure of my next-door neighbour.
“Please can you come, Keith. My back garden is flooding and I’m worried about the house.”
Wearing just shorts, socks, and a thin t-shirt, I grabbed the nearest available footwear – a pair of elasticated, leather ankle boots and followed her out into the downpour.
The distance from my front door to hers was a matter of a few yards but still I was dripping wet by the time I got there.
She took me through the house to the back. The garden was inundated. Already the water was ankle deep and I wished I had made a better choice of footwear. I had no alternative but to step into the pond now forming just inches from her back door.
The rain hammered down.
Things weren’t helped by a loose gutter which the torrenting water had wrenched from its fixings.
My neighbour waded into the flood to fetch anything that might help me fashion some kind of temporary repair to the guttering, now cascading rainwater onto me.
Whilst she struggled to keep the rising waters from entering her kitchen, I fumbled as best I could with makeshift tools to prop up the now sagging gutter.
Still the blackened sky continued to empty vast volumes of precipitation onto us. The torrent made it almost impossible to see. I took off my glasses and struggled to wipe the cascading water into my face, but I was by then soaked to the skin several times over.
The rainfall showed precious little sign of abating. Children’s toys were bobbing about like tiny boats on a storm-tossed ocean on the lake that had hitherto been a back garden.
I thanked providence that our house was built just a few crucial inches higher, out of the reach of the encroaching waters. At least, I hoped that was the case.
I managed finally to prop the guttering back into place with a length of wood which I had to snap to an appropriate length. That provided a temporary solution to that problem, but it was the least of anyone’s worries. The sheer volume of water pouring down from the skies was too much for any drainage system to manage.
My neighbour told me her husband and sons would soon be home. I thought it was time I checked in back at my house.
The waters were now ebbing into her house as my neighbour tried to stem them. Nevertheless, good manners dictated that I should remove my soaking wet boots before walking back through. I prised them from my feet with a suck and a squelch and emptied the water back into the garden before picking my through her house with them in my hand and squeezing them back on at her front door.
The rain was finally starting to ease up but the bow waves from cars ploughing through the river which had previously been our street sent the waters slopping up to and under the front door, soaking the mat.
I waded back home to find that all was relatively well. Again, I prised off my ruined boots and peeled off my sodden clothes, which clung to my body like a second skin.
Our house had come through the deluge more or less unscathed. One of the power circuits had tripped but otherwise we had escaped the effects of the downpour.
I got into dry clothes and this time had the foresight to slide on a pair of Wellington boots.
I ventured outside again.

As the sun broke, it glinted off the newly- formed lakes in the nearby park, the tops of benches and litter bins poking through like tiny islands.


As quickly as it had come, the rainstorm had passed. The torrent had persisted for perhaps twenty minutes and the skies were now clearing.
In the street, small groups of neighbours were starting to deal with the aftermath.
Although the rainfall had stopped, the sheer quantity of water was more than the drains and runoffs could accommodate and the it was still about a foot deep. Impromptu work teams were endeavouring to shift the standing water.
I headed back next door and assisted by bailing the water onto the flowerbeds – the only convenient drainage.
Out on the street, it seemed that other houses had been worse hit. I did what little I could. I picked up a bucket and started bailing.
The mood was not one of anger, distress or bewilderment but rather a very British one of resignation and sang-froid.
When I had done all I could to help, I headed further afield to survey the damage.
Nearby streets had been even more badly affected than ours.
Locals used buckets and brooms to clear away the remaining water as best they could. Homes were ruined. Cars were marooned but thankfully there seemed no loss to life or limb.
There were a few mutterings about a lack of protection, sandbags and the like but most realised that the flood had crashed onto the town without warning. No one could have foreseen what would happen.
Police and fire brigade were going about their business. The police directing cars around deep pools of water that still partially blocked the streets.
A nearby culvert, usually little more than a lazy brook had turned into a roiling torrent of white water and the level was close to breaching its banks. Three weeks-worth of rainfall were gushing into the nearby river.
As the sun broke, it glinted off the newly- formed lakes in the nearby park, the tops of benches and litter bins poking through like tiny islands.
Dogs porpoising gleefully through the water seemed to be making the most of their new aquatic playground.


The next evening, I returned to the street where I had seen semi-submerged cars. All the water had gone but the evidence remained.
Carpets, furniture, books, all dumped in ruined, soaking piles on front lawns.
Stacks of sandbags and makeshift barriers were stacked against front doors. Too late to help but ready should the inundation return.
Running into a friend, he told me how the water had rushed through air vents into his home. How a neighbour had watched aghast as the waters percolated up through his floorboards and how another had already been told she could have to wait six months until her house would be habitable again.
Other stories began to emerge.
One friend spoke of how her house, being at the top of a hill, should have been safe but the rainwater rushed off the land behind her and spewed straight through her home as her family frantically scrambled upstairs with arms full of their possessions.
Further afield and even more dramatic stories emerged; businesses, just limping back to normality after lockdown, thrown back into chaos by the sudden, unexpected inundation, a door wrenched from its hinges by the sheer mass of on-rushing water, and most dramatic of all, a woman in her eighties, pulled to safety by firemen through the window of her submerged basement flat.


As the days pass, there is little outward sign that anything out of the ordinary happened on an otherwise unremarkable Monday in August.
The last of the standing water has gone. People are getting on with their lives. Only the detritus piled outside of damaged houses gives any clue that anything extraordinary happened.
We obsess over the weather here in Britain but despite its unpredictability, it is usually pretty benign but I’ve found myself watching the skies now with a new sense of foreboding. Dark clouds appear more threatening than before. Every spot of rain feels like a portent of worse to come.
Perhaps it was a freak occurrence but with climate change hanging over us like the sword of Damocles, a freak occurrence might not continue to be quite so freak after all.
Watch the skies!

Keith

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Blogging, Food, Makeup, skincare, Stationery, Subscription Boxes

I think I may have a problem…

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Judging by the content of this article, it could be that I have an addiction! In these modern times with the practice of mindfulness, gratitude acknowledgment and self-congratulation, it’s easy to conclude that “you’re worth it”.
I work hard; I’m definitely not unique in this. I’m a mum looking after two sons with additional needs. I run a childcare business. I’m a busy local councillor and devote a lot of my available time to my ward residents, the councils to which I’ve been elected, and my political party.
I am a person who is interested in lots of different things and I support various local charities and health and social care initiatives to try and help improve people’s lives. So, yeah, I think I deserve a treat, or two or three, right?

In this materialistic world in which we live, where we can have things almost as soon as we want them, the fun has almost gone out of receiving gifts. Presents can fall into the categories of “that’s not my current style” or “I’ve already got three of those”. So we utilise online gift lists or ask for cash or vouchers so we can fill the small gaps in our collections. ‘Surprise’ is no longer what it once was.

Luckily, I’ve discovered the perfect solution, the perfect self-help cure to make us feel excited again. In the last few years, there has been an explosion of subscription boxes with which one can ‘treat’ oneself. Think of an interest; there’s probably at least one subscription box for it. And yes, it helps if you’re a marketer’s dream customer too!

I would say some of my main passions are makeup, stationery and food. Well, what do you know? These are realms with a great choice of subscription boxes! So, I work hard and these are things I’m interested in. Therefore, I feel I can justify the indulgence.

Before I go on to talk about the boxes I subscribe to, I would like to point out, that wherever possible I recycle any packaging. The companies encourage feedback on the items they provide and excessive or non-recyclable packaging is something I give my opinion on, where needed.

Of course, there is a danger that in receiving so many items month after month, that the bathroom will become an apothecary and the office, a stationery shop! Any items I don’t want or like, I donate to friends or family and make best efforts to use up the rest. I am aware of overkill and have cancelled or paused boxes along the way.
Brands are using the subscription box model as an opportunity to persuade us to buy more of their product. However, in the following month’s box, a similar product from another brand could be received. I personally find with beauty products, that I just don’t run out of some products and have no great need to purchase any more. This, in effect, is their marketing strategy backfiring!

I have various thoughts and opinions on my subscriptions and I will now attempt to elaborate.

Current subscriptions

Spotlight Stationery

Photo of the Spotlight Stationery website
Spotlight Stationery website


This is my favourite box! I’ve subscribed for just over a year (minus a couple of months during the lockdown when I paused it). You can choose to buy a monthly or bi-monthly box and they are lovingly curated based on broad themes like ‘dots’, ‘duotone’, ‘gold’, ‘going green’, ‘tyger’ and ‘edges’.
This box has a personal touch and contains artisan stationery items such as notebooks, journals, pens, pencils, greetings cards and shaped paperclips from top quality, well-known brands like Rhodia, Dingbats, Leuchtturm1917, Castelli, Pentel, Zebra, Staedtler and Stabilo. There are a number of good-quality items from smaller, independent brands too. Each month, four postcards are included which feature the work of talented young illustrators. I have a large, open picture frame in my kitchen which has small bulldog clips for displaying items and these cards are ideal for this.
The one negative I would give this box, is that I don’t feel it is particularly good value for money. I once checked the cost of the box against the cost of the same items, which I found available online, and it was almost identical.
However, Spotlight Stationery do include a donation to charity from the sale of each box. I feel this box is more about the love of stationery, rather than them pushing a marketing strategy. Knowing I am supporting this small business gives me a cosy feeling. Additionally, subscription boxes like this are an avenue we may wish to explore, here at Rhubarb and Burble, in the future!


Spotlight Stationery

:Degusta Box

Photo of the :Degusta Box website
:Degusta Box website


I have received five of these boxes so far, with five boxes skipped during the lockdown. Subscribers receive 10-15 products per box, many of which are new to the market. Prices are generally 50% of the RRP. The range is quite diverse but the box mainly contains drinks, snacks and storecupboard meals or ingredients. Sometimes items are available in a number of different flavours and you generally receive one of these options. Boxes are slightly cheaper if you sign up for longer periods of time. There is an information card included which gives a description of each item and its price. Some beverages are alcoholic, but when you sign up you can opt out of receiving alcoholic items if you wish! Additionally, money saving coupons are included for some of the items.
So far, I have enjoyed this box and have not been disappointed with any of the items. Furthermore, the storecupboard ingredients are great for expanding my culinary repertoire. I have no plans to discontinue this subscription box for now!


:Degusta Box

If you are interested in subscribing to :Degusta Box, I have a discount code which will give you 25% off your first box:

LOUISAY-E8A4

Glossybox

Photo of the Glossybox website
Glossybox website

Ok. I have some positive and negative thoughts on Glossybox’s monthly subscription box service. Having been a subscriber for over two years, I have a good understanding of what their business model looks like. I’ll start with the positives:

  • Value for money. These boxes are definitely good value for money. I don’t recall ever receiving any duplicate items either. They sometimes contain items from desirable brands such as Huda Beauty, Nails Inc., Rituals Cosmetics, Mitchell and Peach, Moroccanoil, Crabtree & Evelyn, Gatineau, Maria Nila, Bare Minerals and Yankee Candle. (Typically, there will only be one luxury product per box.) Boxes are cheaper if several months are paid for upfront.
  • The selections. When you sign up for Glossybox, you are also invited to complete a questionnaire which enables you to tailor your profile based on things like your skin tone, skin type, hair colour, etc.
    The items arrive in a beautifully packaged gift box and are well curated. Some boxes are specially themed, e.g. French Riviera, All that glitters, Valentines, Summer soirée, Winter warmers, etc.
    Occasionally they provide ‘either/or’ boxes and it is random which one you’ll receive, e.g. Trick or treat, Fruity or floral or Explore your wild side (zebra or leopard print). These contain like-for-like products, which vary in their colour or fragrance for example.
    They also promote additional special limited-edition boxes which subscribers can obtain separately at a reduced price before they go on sale to the general public at a greater price. Past themes have included: Mother’s Day, Vegan, Male grooming kit, and various single company branded boxes.
    A card is supplied with item descriptions and RRPs. A lot of the items are full-size and those that aren’t, tend to be deluxe minis rather than samples.
    This is a particularly popular subscription box and there will, therefore, be some variation in the actual products included between the batches of boxes, probably due to supply issues. (I receive box variant three.) So don’t be surpised if the items you receive are slightly different to other people’s. I have found that the PR boxes they send out to YouTube beauty influencers for review, tend to include all the same items and often at least one product is different to mine. The monthly, featured item, which is usually a high-end product, is included in all boxes.
  • Advent calendar. Glossybox’s pièce de résistance, is their Advent calendar. Subscribers receive priority ordering and ‘glossy credits’ can be used towards payment. (Glossy credits can be earned by reviewing items received in boxes throughout the year.) The impressively packaged calendar contains 25 individual boxes and products are generally more high-end than those in the monthly boxes. The calendar is shipped in October and the wait before opening it is excruciating!


Now we come to the negatives (apologies if I get a bit ranty or preachy in this section, but let’s face it, there is no beauty community without a scandal or two!):

  • Value for money. I said earlier that the boxes are definitely good value for money. Whilst this is true, I feel that there is potentially an issue with an overinflation of the RRP on certain items. The following may come across as a conspiracy theory, but I have conducted my own research on some of the lesser-known brands which are regularly included in the boxes. My suspicions were initially aroused from having received a few makeup products from a brand called ‘Steve Laurant’. I’d never heard of them prior to subscribing to Glossybox. (If this name sounds somewhat familiar to you – it’s because it’s similar to a hairdressers in nearby Bideford, called ‘Steven & Laurent’!)
    In the ‘Explore your wild side’ boxes, the outer carton of the ‘Wild Things’ eyeshadow palette, unusually, matched the graphics on the Glossybox giftbox. What I learned is that makeup production has a slightly ‘shady’ side. Some brands release products which have been generically produced in the PRC but have simply been packaged up for that brand. The phenomenon of different products with identical formulations is well documented. (For the record, I am not saying here that the products are unsafe nor that are they being produced on the Chinese black market.) It seems that there is a market for ‘fillers’ in subscription boxes. A few of these filler brands fall under the umbrella of a company, ironically-named, ‘Dirty Little Secrets Cosmetics’ or ‘DLS Cosmetics’. The filler brands which were specifically mentioned included: Steve Laurant, Luna By Luna and Bang Beauty. Products from these filler brands make regular appearances in Glossyboxes. I have received at least one item from all of these, but it feels like they are being promoted as if they are indie brands. The filler brand websites do not contain any business information and look almost identical with a very basic design.
    Now let’s analyse the small Steve Laurant ‘Wild Thing’ eyeshadow palette that I received. It has six pans in neutral tones with basic matte and shimmer shades. [See my photo below.] Here is a link to the product on the Steve Laurant website. (Note that there are incomplete sections on the webpage below the product – not something I’d expect to see from a high-end brand’s website!)
    So here is my question: How can a tiny, generically formulated, repackaged palette produced in the PRC, possibly have an RRP of £31.00? I just don’t believe it. I compared the price per gram of product (£4.31), with palettes from two of the most expensive, high-quality makeup brands I know of. Pat Mcgrath Labs‘ recently released Mothership VIII: Divine Rose II artistry palette (RRP £115.00) came in at a whopping £8.71 per gram! However, the other, Natasha Denona‘s renowned and revered Gold palette (RRP £111.00), came in at just £2.96 per gram. I now feel somewhat convinced that the marketing of fillers is playing subscribers for fools. What is more, after I’ve opened my boxes, I generally watch Glossybox ‘unboxing’ videos on YouTube for comparison. The beauty influencers never seem to question the seemingly inflated RRPs. I wonder if there’s something in the PR contract about not questioning the validity of the RRPs. Or perhaps it just doesn’t occur to them to question it. Who knows?
    Anyway, with all that said, I can for now, overlook these misgivings because when I take all the items I’ve received in the boxes into consideration, I do feel they are worth more than the price paid.
‘Wild Thing’ palette by Steve Laurant
  • The boxes. Whilst these are a beautiful touch, I question if they are really necessary. Yes, they can be recycled, but it’s better for the environment not to make them in the first place. Perhaps there’s an argument for the special editions warranting a special box as they may be bought as a gift for somebody. I have found myself becoming overwhelmed by the empty boxes, most of which I have no purpose for. I have used some for storage, given some away and recycled others. In terms of shipping, I would suggest that they could package the items in the outer postal carton. Costs to the consumer would be reduced too.
  • Limited Editions. The following debacle has only happened once to my knowledge. In addition to the Advent calendar last Christmas, Glossybox promoted a companion, limited edition box. Subscribers were informed that they could log in to order it on a particular day from 7am and then it would be available to the general public from 12pm. As a subscriber, I logged in a couple of hours after the launch time, but well before sales were going to open up to the public. I was very disappointed to discover that the boxes had already sold out! Somewhat alarmed, of course I went to straight to Twitter to see if I could find out what was going on. What I discovered was simply unfair. Many subscribers who logged in at 7am had been unable to purchase due to the Glossybox website crashing. That’s not unusual though, especially when hundreds of people try to log in at the same time. Many people reported that they were frustrated as the system did not recognise them as subscribers and they were having to pay the higher price. Those who eventually managed to check out were lucky. Glossybox announced that the boxes sold out in 3 minutes! A few people stated they would be unsubscribing as a result. (I have a feeling that Glossybox have a waiting list, so I don’t believe they’d be too worried about these threats.) Conversely, there were tweets from subscribers who proudly announced that they had managed to purchase multiple boxes. And this is where I have a problem. If these are limited edition boxes, then I believe Glossybox should have limited them to one per subscriber. (Some people were saying it should have been one per household, but this doesn’t take into account the fact that there may be more than one subscriber in a household.) To add insult to injury, many of these multiple purchases ended up on online auction sites at vastly inflated prices. The general public never even got a look-in, let alone the majority of subscribers. If Glossybox offer a Christmas companion box again this year, I shall be contacting them to find out if they have changed their purchasing policy and if not, I will let them know why I think they should! If they continue to treat the majority of their loyal subscribers like this, I may well consider unsubscribing and spend my hard-earned money elsewhere!

In conclusion, the continuation of my Glossybox subscription is potentially hanging in the balance. I will be keeping an eye out for what I consider to be, further complacency towards their subscribers. There are alternatives out there and I would be prepared to take the opportunity to make comparisons.

Glossybox

If I haven’t put you off purchasing a Glossybox subscription, you can use this referral code so we can both earn Glossy Credits!

New subscriptions, not yet received

Papergang

Photo of the Papergang website
Papergang website

At the time of writing this, 13th August 2020, I am still waiting for my first Papergang box to arrive. This subscription is quite different to Spotlight Stationery’s offering detailed above. At around half the price, these boxes have a monthly theme designed by a guest creator and most items are specifically manufactured for the box. The items have cohesive styling and typically include notebooks, stickers, pens, washi tape and paperclips. Here too, a small donation is made to a charity and every box purchased provides a quarter of a tree for planting in the drylands of Africa to protect the environment and help villagers grow nutritious food all year round.
Again, there is a range of subscription options and the more you commit to, the cheaper they work out. I have selected the monthly price for now until I’ve assessed the quality and value of the items. I will come back and update this page once I’ve formed an opinion.

Sharing is caring! Please use this Papergang referral code. For every two people who subscribe, I will receive a free box!

Cancelled subscriptions

Deck of Scarlet

Photo of the Deck of Scarlet website
Deck of Scarlet website

I really liked this beauty subscription. I only cancelled it because it was quite expensive for what it was. There were extra charges for shipping from the US. This subscription started out as a bi-monthly service. It soon increased to monthly and although the order could be paused, I sometimes forgot and it became too costly for me. In essence, the box includes a palette with three eyeshadows, a blusher, a highlighter and two lip creams, plus another item such as an eyeliner or mascara. Each month’s range has a different ‘Artist-in-chief’, usually a YouTube beauty influencer. I watched, in some disbelief, the launch video from one month’s artist-in-chief. I was disappointed to hear that they had had very little input into the colour story of the product and basically just lent their name to the collaboration. I wonder if this is the case for all of their collabs? However, I did overlook that at the time, since the products are really good quality. And I am still enjoying using them.

Deck of Scarlet

toucanBox

Photo of the toucanBox website
toucanBox website

Strictly, this one actually wasn’t meant for me! It was a children’s arts & crafts subscription I bought for my son when he was younger. I did enjoy the box-opening process though! We received this for a fair amount of time and we opted for the monthly subscription which included a themed book. It looks like they have now changed their subscription options, but, essentially, they are still the same types of projects.
By the time I unsubscribed, we had ended up with a lot of left-over toucanBox-branded products like felt tips, crayons and PVA glue as they were included in each box that required them. I donated most of them along with a massive amount of random children’s art materials to a local domestic abuse charity, for use by parents with their children whilst staying in the refuge.

toucanBox

If you treat yourself to a subscription box, please let me know in the comments below which one it is and what you think of it.

I aim to film regular unboxing videos of my subscription boxes. Let me know if there are any boxes, I don’t currently subscribe to, which you are curious about. If appropriate, I might be willing to try one and record/film my first impressions.

This brings me nicely to the end. There are pros and cons with subscription boxes. My apparent ‘addiction’ is being fed, but I do feel that I am relatively in control of it! Anyway, what could be more exciting than what feels like having Christmas presents all year round?!

Best wishes,

Louisa

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Blogging, Blogs

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Anybody who enjoys reading blog articles can find lots to inspire them at Bloglovin’.

You can also use the Bloglovin’ app to follow your favourites. We have published this post so that we can be discovered on Bloglovin’.

If you are already using Bloglovin’ please click the link at the top of this post and add Rhubarb and Burble to your list!

Louisa

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Blogging, New

We suppose we must start somewhere…

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The time has come for us to strike out with a new venture. Blogging has been something Louisa has had a stab at in the past, but with minimal effort and not much in the way of reach beyond friends and family.

Why now?

  • The Covid-19 crisis has given us a new perspective on our life. We run a childcare business which had to temporarily close, and income, well, you can probably guess the rest!
  • Louisa is a local councillor and happily helps the residents in her ward for a small allowance. However, she finds herself putting her hand up for jobs, e.g. within her political party, which takes up hours of her time for, yes you guessed it, no financial recompense!
  • Louisa watches a lot of YouTube videos on channels about makeup, skincare, house decor, DIY… the list goes on. She reads a lot of online articles about the same and realises that all of these content creators started somewhere.
  • Keith is an experienced journalist and video editor with many years of experience working for a major television broadcaster. His skills can be utilised to create professionally edited and well-lit productions for our YouTube channel.
  • Neither of us are getting any younger! In fact, we are around 50 years old (shhh!). We don’t want to regret not trying!

So here we are, ready to cultivate something which we can grow into a worthwhile career.

What do you want to see?
Here are some vague ideas we’ve had…

  • Beauty products that flatter mature women
  • Weight loss journey
  • Personal history, e,g, how Louisa developed Bell’s Palsy and how she lives with a facial disfigurement
  • Arts and crafts makes for children and adults
  • Organising and decluttering
  • Cooking and baking
  • Environmentally friendly living
  • Disability awareness
  • How to create digital content
  • Stationery, journaling and designing
  • Styling and interior decor
  • Self care and living your best life
  • Random content, e.g. funny stories, creative writing

We want to improve our creative skills, not just in writing but also by creating great visual content. We want to finally face our fear of filming our first YouTube video. Between us, we can do this!

So forgive our ramblings and let’s get this show on the road. Will you comment if you are here for us? Please let us know if there is any content which you would be interested in. We would very much appreciate it if you supported us on our journey to creative success!

Louisa and Keith

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