Category Archives: Shopping

Community Spirit

I’m straying from my usual crafty ramblings  to share a little bit of the real life and community outside Planet Penny for once.  If you’ve been following this blog for a while you will know that I live in quite a rural part of Norfolk in the UK.  A corner of a muddy field as I frequently say!

Our ‘patch’ is a virtual island, with the river and Broads to one side of us, and the main Norwich to Great Yarmouth road creating a boundary on the other side, and in the middle three parishes which, while each having fiercely protected individual characters of their own, operate together very effectively.

Over the years things have changed, as is true in rural areas all over the UK, and gradually the local industry which kept the communities thriving has died away.  It takes a real effort of will to keep the community spirit thriving, and I’m so proud of where I live and what has been achieved.

In 2009 our wonderful eco built Village Hall was opened after many years of fundraising and diligent application for grants and this is now a thriving hub for the community.  We have a vibrant amateur dramatics company who keep us entertained two or three times a year, a Farmers Market, a Community Gym, WI, a choir, a band, Gardening club, well, I could go and on!

But last year we were all despair when we lost our last remaining village shop.  It had been in decline for sometime after the enterprising couple who had been running it very successfully moved on to pastures new, and things started to fall apart after that.   Less than a year ago the building was in the hands of the receivers, an undiscovered water leak had led to mould and rot throughout and it seemed all hope of having a shop was lost.

White House Stores Community Shop

But that was before a small group of enterprising and determined people got together.   Within a matter of weeks they had formed the The Three Villages Community Association Limited, come up with a business plan, got the local housing association on board, the Plunkett Foundation and the Lottery Fund and got the village together to put forward the proposal that we, as a community, would buy the premises and run it as a shop.

In order to qualify for the grants on offer the village had to come up with a certain proportion of the money, a not inconsiderable sum. Thanks to the hard work of the committee in working out a system whereby everyone could buy shares in affordable amounts we raised the amount just in time to qualify for the grants.

White House Store Community Shop

Unbelievable that was in July last year and with work starting in the depths of winter, and a huge amount of commitment being put in by volunteers, and donations from local businesses the shop opened today!

We had the most appalling weather for the Grand Opening.  The rain came down in buckets, the main street in the village had a virtual river running down it, but still dozens of people donned wellies, put up their colourful brollies and turned up to celebrate.

White House Store Community Shop Opening

Our MP, Norman Lamb came hotfoot from making waves in Westminster to make a speech and cut the ribbon. Everyone cheered and the visiting dog barked in all the right places!  It was all terribly British, especially the rain!

Tr Hon Norman Lamb MP opening shop

It’s run by volunteers, so the community spirit doesn’t stop here, but carries on.  I’m still trying to pluck up courage to man the till, I have a bad track record with tills, and am convinced I’ll either bankrupt the place in a week, or blow it up… I’m the window dresser though, and running the Facebook page and Twitter, and doing my shopping there, which is the most important thing!! Eat your heart out Mr Tesco…

White House Stores Community Shop Window

I wanted to share this with you because it just shows what can be achieved with the right community spirit.  Who knows, it might even make someone else think, yes, we can do this too and put the heart back into another village.  And last, but not least, anyone on holiday on the Norfolk Broads and finds themselves on Barton Broad can make a short trip down the dyke, walk a few hundred yards down the road, and find out for themselves just what a community shop is all about.

I might even see you there!

And now? Well the pub is up for sale….. any takers?

P.S.  If you would like to find out more, and see photos of the work and progress over the weeks visit the White House Stores Facebook Page and or follow us on Twitter @whitehousestore




Advent Calendar – Day Seven

Hello, I’m back, having found a tiny little gap where the unrelenting gloom lifted enough to take the photos for today’s Advent Calendar.  I’m not flying completely by the seat of my pants each day, I do have things up my sleeve, but there’s always something I need to do at the last minute.  T’was ever thus!

I’m going to digress a little first however, because I went into Norwich yesterday and apart from the much needed haircut, I did a little shopping.  I really, really hate going shopping at this time of year.  It’s not just the crowds, and the too hot shops etc.  It’s the unrelenting forced fake Christmassiness  (is that a word?)in the big stores which devalues the whole event and is calculated to panic us all into buying things we don’t need.  If it’s not sprinkled with glitter, it’s covered with sugar, or possibly chocolate and we’d be letting the family down if we don’t stock up with lots of it, whatever it is…

I’m trying  as much as possible to buy from independant shops and small craft businesses, and because of living out of the city this tends to be online.  So I made a point of going to a little shop I’ve been meaning to visit for ages and had intended to write a blog post about.  Imaging my dismay when I arrived there and found it’s to close before Christmas!   It’s a gorgeous shop, and I’m sure  if I was still in the city on a daily basis I would have practically kept it viable singlehandedly(well I’d have had a jolly good try!) But I’m going to tell you about it anyway, because if you near enough to visit I urge you to go there for your present shopping before the doors close for ever.

These two posters give you a really good idea of the feel of the place…

It really is just one lovely thing after another, beautiful handmade things, and vintage bits and pieces.  I can’t show you most of what I bought alas, as it might spoil some surprises but I did treat myself to a little something which seemed appropriate…

PAperweight - Save the Planet

…and I bought these which have come in handy for todays Advent Calendar make…

tiny silver bells

You’ll find Follies in Bridewell Alley in Norwich, and on Facebook too where you can keep up to date with the online plans.  It’s very sad that vibrant and original shops like this can’t get the support they need to survive.

So because I’m not going to support Mr Tesco by buying my wrapping paper and labels from him I’ve been making some tags of my own, and have also sourced some online ones to print which I thought I’d share with you.

I already had some brown parcel tags which I customised in this post, but yesterday I found some dinky little ones in the stationers which I couldn’t resist.

brown parcel tags

If you’ve got time and some hefty sharp scissors and a hole punch it would be more economical still to cut your own.  It’s time I never seem to have! Anyway having spent a happy half an hour with the box of ribbons and cord, buttons and bells, stamps and ink and of course the trusty glue gun I came up with these..

Brown decorated tags for Advent Calendar

The other tags are available to download and print if you have access to a printer…

printable tags for Advent Calendar

(apologies for quality of the photos)

The links are on the Botanical Paperworks Blog  the SassandPeril website and there are a vast variety of tags on

Have fun, I hope this is useful!  I’ll be back tomorrow although the blog post will be a challenge as Tim’s coming home and is making threatening noises about going back to Norwich for my Christmas present!  You never know, we might bump into each other in Follies!


Sew Over It – Book Review

Sew Over It by Lisa Comfort This is the second of the books I was sent to review a few weeks ago, and it’s timely to do so now as Lisa Comfort has recently appeared in Kirstie Allsop’s new Channel 4 Show, Kirstie’s Vintage Home. Sew over it Shop I grew up in the era when home skills were taught in school, Domestic Science, we learnt to sew, dress-make and cook.  I do have to admit to being hopeless whilst at school, but as a young married mum without a lot of cash it soon made sense to have the skills to repair and alter clothes, recycle dresses into baby clothes and run up a pair of curtains.  Most women’s  magazines had knitting patterns, some gave away paper patterns for dress making and amazing part work series were published teaching all sorts of skills from embroidery to macrame!  (Such a useful skill – macrame plant pot holder anyone?)

All that seemed to get swept away in a great feminist rage against being hemmed in by domesticity to the point where you had to hide any desire to occupy yourself with a little light embroidery, and ‘homemade’ was considered an insult.  Schools did away with cookery classes and sewing lessons and a whole generation were left without useful life skills such as sewing on a button or cooking.

That’s why I’m loving this whole re-emergence of making and upcycling, creating and recycling which is movement of the moment and Lisa Comfort’s book fits right in as an ideal starting point for anyone wanting to dip their toe in the creativity pool. Lisa Comfort in Sew Over It Shop Lisa charts her beginnings from stitching with her child-minder through the London College of Fashion to her sewing café and shop in Clapham, South London where she teaches the skills to be found in this book. If you’ve never threaded a needle let alone sewn on a button, never fear. Lisa starts you off at the very beginning introducing you to the needle and thread, the mysteries of the sewing machine, customising and altering your clothes, making accessories and finally measuring yourself and making a skirt from scratch.

Sew Over It Contents PAge

This is not a book for a seasoned dressmaker but I would definitely recommend this to a complete sewing novice needing a virtual hand to hold and guidance starting out on their sewing journey.  Probably it would be helpful to have a hands on lesson if you’ve never used a sewing machine but I believe shops like John Lewis offer this when you buy a machine from them.  Apart from that, all that is needed is a little imagination and Lisa’s know how and tips. The projects are clearly illustrated and explained, and the book as a whole is colourful and appealing, the photography is inspiring, a great Christmas present idea for a aspiring stitcher !

The ‘Sew Over It’ book is published by Ebury Press and available to buy from Lisa’s on-line shop of the same name, (which is a rather dangerous place to visit if you happen to like fabrics, and buttons, and haberdashery….)



ReCraft – The Buttonbag Book

It’s been a busy few days…  I don’t often manage to delegate my responsibilities and get away from home, but last week I packed my overnight bag and headed off to the big city for a book launch.  The fabulous new book from the lovely ladies behind Buttonbag, called ReCraft.   The launch was held at the Oxfam D.I.Y. Shop in Camden High Street, which is a giant leap away from the Charity shops I have come across in the past, and almost demands a blog post of it’s own as you will see from the photographs…

Camden High Street Oxfam D I Y store

Arriving in London feeling a real country bumpkin, (not quite with a straw in my mouth) I was slightly nervous when I first turned up at the shop.  However, after a warm and friendly welcome and a glass of  a delicious and (highly potent) cocktail I had pinned on my name badge and was circulating happily…

…camera in one hand…

…and a sandwich in the other!

Buttonbag has been around for a while with it’s kits and haberdashery…

but ReCraft came about after it’s founders Sarah Marks and Sara Duchars undertook a project to design a range of craft kits for the charity Oxfam.  Having created all manner of lovely things from the armfuls of charity shop finds, cardigans and men’s stripey shirts, tweed skirts and curtains, plastic jewellery and old records the next step was to share the ideas in a book.

Recraft Book Cover

It was very nice to meet Sarah….

Sarah Marks, co-author of ReCraft

…wearing a dress made from three pairs of jeans, and Sara…

Sara Duchars, co-author of Recraft

…here modelling an amazing creation giving an old tweed coat a new and flattering lease of life.

The evening was like the best children’s party for grown-ups, yummy food and drink, nice new chums and then the opportunity to sit down and make pretty things!   I opted for the Fabric Flower Corsage …

making a flower corsage from ReCraft Book

flower corsage from ReCraft Book

…and liked it so much I made another one!

At other tables old silk ties were being turned into purses, and woolly jumpers into penguins…

Penguins seemed to be making a bit of a takeover bid, both in the book…

and in the shop…

And it was great to be able to see the pieces featured on the pages in real life…

(You’ll notice there’s always a dachshund!)

And the fab deckchair from the front cover…

There is also a project to make my dear OH very afraid, he has a ‘thing’ about shirts, he’s always buying them on Ebay, because they are a bargain.  He has DOZENS!!!! We have no where to store them all.  But they would look great if I did this…

…or even this…

So you can tell…I LOVE this book, it’s inspired me to go back to my sewing roots and be a bit inventive again, and re-enthused me to go back to some unfinished projects. (Like the child’s chair I was going to decoupage when my first grandson was on the way – he’s now 8!)   A definite 5 star recommendation and you can buy it here!

So the sewing machine is calling, and I’d better get back to being creative again….See you soon….x

Higgins and the Bootscraper

Ever since the East Anglian drought situation has been in the news, it has barely stopped raining in this little corner of Norfolk! Poor  Higgins couldn’t leave the house on Monday because the floods in both directions were deeper than his little legs could cope with, even if he was prepared to venture out in the rain.

We got out yesterday, but the all pervading gloom really put a damper on things…roll on Spring!

a damp Norfolk walk

a damp Norfolk walk with a dachshund

We also fell foul of the dreaded hedge cutter.  I know it make things quicker and more efficient to have large machines to cope with things that might have been a full time job for one man, but I hate the way the hedge cutter just rips and slashes the  twigs and branches from the hedges and small trees, leaving jagged stumps and debris scattered all over the lanes.  Higgins stopped dead in his tracks and held up a paw half way through the walk and had to be upended so I could remove a thorn from his pad. (He was very brave…)

You can see that having this to contend with on a regular basis would make a bootscraper by the back door a useful thing to have.  I was very excited when a friend sent me this link a few weeks before Christmas with the perfect Christmas pressie for Tim, who is always a nightmare to buy for.


I duly sent off the order feeling quite smug that for once I was ahead of my usual Christmas panic.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make any allowances for the Higgins factor, and when it arrived, conveniently while Tim was offshore so I didn’t have to worry about secrecy, I unwrapped it and put it on the floor to admire it….

Oh dear…

Competition?  Or maybe a little friend to play with?

It’s probably just as well I don’t have a little film, complete with wuffing and gruffing and growling and yodelling which goes with these photos…

We’ve tried to sneak it out by the back door while Higgins isn’t looking, but as soon as he spots it he starts all over again, so for now it’s on a high shelf in Tim’s workshop…

As I said, Oh dear….

I’ve got lots more to ‘show and tell’ but reliving this means I need a cup of tea, if not a lie down!  Do please have a game with Higgins in the side bar, he loves chasing the ball.  And it is possible to make him roll over, has anyone managed to do that yet?

I’ll be back with Planet Penny Cotton Club news, see you soon x



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