Stationary...and ranting....

As Zebra-girl occasionally asks to look at the pictures on my blog at the weekend I thought I'd leave showing some of her birthday presents until now, but as I've worked on little else all month - curtains, quilt, sewing box....photographed here is just the tip of a very large fabric iceberg - I'm quite desperate to start sharing some of them and actually getting back to writing on my blog occasionally! On a day out with Helen et al, we both bought some blank artists postcards in a discounted art supplies shop and she very cleverly came up with the idea of making them into little postal-themed packages to give as birthday presents...I knew Zebra-girl would love this idea and so created my own version for her.

It includes a book of stamps, the aforementioned blank cards, some Cath Kidston postcards and a Cath Kidston Address book and a space for her pen. I loved stationary as a child and remember the pleasure of filling a fresh book with the names and addresses of everyone I knew - I am hoping that with all these items put together in one place it might give my little Zebra the freedom to write private letters whenever she wants and I know that her grandparents would love to be the recipients of her own unprompted missives. I am also imagining crisp autumnal walks to the postbox with you can see my imagination has quite run away with me.

Aside from the items that fill the stationary holder, when I looked at the gifts we've chosen for Zebra-girl this year (for I always review the present pile to make sure it is not found wanting a couple of days before the giving) I realised that with no initial conscious decision on our part, they are all mostly hand-made (for Ian has been busy creating his own presents for her too) or there to encourage the hand-made. After recently hearing about the scandal of the Chinese baby formula milk, on the tail of last year's revelations about the safety of toys made in China, I think our idea about what we want to surround our children with is changing. I've always favoured German-made wooden toys, largely from an aesthetic point of view, but also because they just felt 'right' I realise this instinct was a good one, but still our house is filled with a depressing amount of brightly-coloured plastic. As we discussed the lack of scruples of the factory bosses who'd been involved in bulking out the milk with melamine, Ian looked around the playroom and said his feeling was that he wanted to get rid of it all, but not only that, that he felt that everything was a little skewed at the moment, that we should be aiming for something simpler than what we were currently surrounding ourselves with. So in some ways these birthday presents reflect that (a fortunate coincidence). Looking through the children's toys we have found that so many of them are Chinese in origin that there are simply too many to abandon...I hope that we are not making a mistake in keeping them, I worry about what a childhood of constant contact with toxic chemicals will do to this generation of children (it is now near-impossible to find even school clothes not coated in Teflon to make them crease-resistant, storm and stain proof). When we've talked about these issues with our children in the past, Zebra-girl has taken to frantically checking the underneath of her toys and on finding ones that bear the Made in China stamp has been keen to give them away or we have found that her fondness for them has quickly we have tried to stop entering into discussion with her about it. Some days the long-term risks we all live with seem manageable and easy to put to the back of my mind, but on hearing about the poor babies in China, for this week at least, it suddenly all seems like a very real threat.

And now after that rather down-beat outpouring I'm wondering whether the once-a-month posts weren't such a bad thing...I must go and listen to some Mr Ritter wonderfulness and then everything will seem loud and right again (I say Mr Ritter wonderfulness...but actually I prefer listening to Mr Teacakes version of this I might go off and find him instead).


  1. The most anyone can do is try to alter their corner of the world a little bit and so far you seem to be doing a sterling job of that. I keep thinking that things have improved immeasurably since the 70s when I was small and cars ran on lead, so they can only continue to get better.

    I love the stationery set. I'd still like one now, to be honest. I was once 'punished' for some act of stubbornness by not being allowed to play with my toys, but was allowed pencils and paper - pure bliss, and no punishment at all!

  2. Hi Florence, first of all, the little stationery set is gorgeous - I too used to love having new paper and envelopes for letters and thank you notes. I know what you mean about the great plastic mountain from China and it's for that precise reason that I decided when J was small and surrounded by one such mountain of his own (!) to only give gifts to other children that were useful and not great hunks of plastic with limited useful life! Things like craft kits and baking sets etc., That way their pleasure at receiving gifts lasts much longer as first they have the excitement of receiving in the first place, then they then get to make something they can keep or eat and thirdly they hopefully like/enjoy/use the thing they have made for longer. xx As for baby formula milk .. well that's a whole other soapbox for me!!

  3. That stationery set is really lovely.

    April xx

  4. Your handmade stationery set is beautiful. Every little thing we can do to improve our lives is worth the effort.

  5. What a beautiful stationery set. I know my daughters would absolutely love it!! All the kids here love Smiggle which is a stationery shop - probably all made in China mind you! But it's all sorts of lovely pens, pencils, note books etc. Actually the adults love it too!

  6. Oooh, I have that fabric! The red stripey one, but haven't made anything with it yet. How's that for a cross-Atlantic coincidence. Primary plastic colors. I've pretty much given up. The darling child is now moving more and more toward electronic toys, so maybe I can phase the toxic toys out without too much of a tantrum.

  7. I agree with all handmade. I felt a couple of years ago that it just seemed rediculous to keep putting money in the hands of people who just turm out mindless trash whne I could give it to people who love making things and make things to love. Glad all is well for your little one at school.

  8. Hello Florence. Really thought-inspiring post today. We try to follow the same ethos here. I made all the presents we gave to others last year for Christmas and Dave also made some beautiful gifts. Many of the things the children had were also made by me, though with my business also being in handmade goods I can honestly say every spare (ha! What is spare???) moment was spent chained to the machine - actually, I loved it xx

  9. the stationery set is brilliant. I still love new stationery! Your daughter is bound to love it.

    It is so hard getting the balance right with kids and health and ethical issues. I try and generally keep level headed about it and not swing wildly either way... it could absorb all of your energy to check everything, but to try and be as mindful as you can about the things you bring into their lives is the best you can do.

    It sounds like you are getting it right to me.

  10. I identify very strongly with these thoughts! I have an aversion in particular to everything having to have batteries in in these days. So many brightly coloured flashy noisy plastic toys which are one-minute wonders!
    Your letter writing set for zebra girl looks beautiful! Funnily enough I was shopping for things to fill my own version for my girl's birthday in October last week. I hope mine turns out even half as lovely as yours! Handmade gifts are the way to go!


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