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Knicker elastic and other eBay treasures

Tweet– Sponsored post – There are lots of cool things you want on eBay. But it’s also a treasure trove for all those things you didn’t even know you wanted. Vintage 1940s knicker elastic. A mint condition Charles and Diana jigsaw. A gently used gerbilarium. Before I started the eBay Challenge with several other bloggers, I knew the site was a place where you could pick up designer labels and electronics but I had no idea of just how many strange needs it could fill for me. In the eBay Challenge, each blogger was given £250 (later augmented with a further £50) to do Christmas shopping. The object was to score as many bargains as we could. We could add to our available funds by selling things too. I spent close to all my money, including £19.50 I got for a Trail-gator bike tow that I’d been meaning to get rid of for close to a year. And here’s what I got for the people on my list. (Also see what Mummytips and A Modern Mother scored.) Vintage 1940s knicker elastic, £5.50 – This very unusual item emitted a siren call that I was unable to resist. I was planning to give this to a friend who loves vintage packaging, but I find myself unable to part with it. Great package. Bizarre product. I didn’t know I needed it. I really really did. Cashmere socks (new), £20.50 (a £5 savings from retail) – For my mother. If other listings are anything to go by, cashmere socks are a hot property – they go for close to retail price and they go fast. Keep Calm and Carry On mug, £5.99, and poster, £6.40 – For my aunt and uncle, and for my sister. I’ve written about how this slogan is the perfect gift for Americans. The poster even came with a sheet describing the origin of the slogan and design. Charles & Diana jigsaw, £6.39 – For my mother, a royal watcher. Still in its original plastic wrap. Try to find THAT in Argos. 28 Day Later, £.99 – For husband’s stocking. Replacing a copy that went missing in the last move. A cover for an iTouch, £1.97 – Stocking stuffer for stepson. It turns out Father Christmas brought him an iTouch. What a coincidence. A vintage brochure from a hotel in Lubbock, Texas, $10 US, £6.60 (£2.86 service fee imposed by seller) – For my parents. I bought this from a U.S.-based seller and easily paid in a foreign...

Take part in the eBay blogger challenge and win £100!

TweetFor me, Christmas shopping really begins the day after Thanksgiving (Nov 24) – the time in America during which every single sentient being with a wallet and a credit card descends on the shops. Yesterday I put together my Christmas list. Today I actually went to the shops with the entire family (emphasis mine) and bought things for under the tree. But while shops decked out for Xmas are quite jolly, what I really love is a bargain. That’s why I’m thrilled to be one of the bloggers taking part in the eBay Mummy Blogger challenge. My fellow challenge-er, Sian at, described the challenge well: Five bloggers, each with £250 to spend on eBay in the run up to Christmas. We need to spend wisely, bag some bargains and pull in all the help we can from fellow eBayers in order to win the challenge. Of course there’s something in it for you too. We each get to pick our most helpful supporter who will then be rewarded with a £100 PayPal credit to spend how they please! The challenge runs until Dec 12th – so I need your suggestions for great bargains on eBay as well as your votes. The other bloggers are off and running – see all our activity on this groovy Facebook app. Until then, I’d love your suggestions on: * Cool stocking fillers for a 12-year-old who mainly seems to want apps and Nintendo games * Stocking fillers and cool little extras for a 7-year-old tomboy who doesn’t like pick anymore, mummy, so don’t buy anything else in that colour! * Cool, perhaps British, gifts for a Texas grandmother who likes art, beautiful clothes, good books and pretty jewellery * Brit gifts for Americans – if it’s cool, quirky and you can’t get it Stateside, I want to know about it! If you see anything on eBay that fits the bill – or if you just see something fun, strange or interesting – suggest it to me by clicking on the “Suggest a Gift” tab on the Facebook page. Because Christmas is all about giving, and it would be great to give you £100 to spend on whatever you’d like! Happy shopping!...

8 British gifts to get Americans (that I would never give to a Brit)

TweetI’ve updated this post with new ideas and links. Go read it here. In an era when every shopping mall and high street plays host to the same set of shops, one of the exciting things about living in a different country from your family is that you can actually give them gifts that surprise, astonish and delight – things that they would never buy themselves because they couldn’t. This year I’ll be spending Christmas in my hometown, which means lugging over two changes of socks, three changes of underwear and 22.95kg of gifts in my suitcase – all of them carefully chosen to delight my American giftees. It’s just as well that I’m exporting these presents from the UK – because these are things that I could never put under the tree here in England. 1. Revels – My brother loves these. I pack-mule in bags when I visit. And as everyone knows, British chocolate is very different from the American kind. Don’t ask me how. Ok, I’ll tell you – it’s better. I could transport some Green&Black’s or other high-end choccies. But he loves the variety of Revels. He totally gets the Deer Hunter commercial.  In America, a gift of Revels say, “Have a Merry Christmas with this treat you only get once a year.” In the UK, it says, “I did my holiday shopping at the petrol station.” 2. Keep Calm and Carry On –The simple design and duo-chrome palette is stylish even if it was never officially used during wartime. This slogan has become so ubiquitous here – posters, tea towels, mugs, cringe-making versions that say Keep Calm and Carry On Shopping – it makes you want to bomb Dresden. But in the US, Keep Calm reacquires its stiff-upper-lip charm. I’ll eventually buy one for myself…when I move back to America. Until then, I’ll be going historical and giving the poster. 3. Cookware by Nigella Lawson – The hues in Nigella’s classic range are all so gorge – but I have a mother-in-law who’s a professional cook and a husband who can whip up dinner using only two sticks and a couple of rusty nails. So Nigella’s designer cookware cuts no ice in the kitchens I visit, which are stocked with professional quality mixers and industrial-size rolls of tinfoil. Americans have heard of Nigella and still clamour for her finger-lickin’ goodness. Plus admirers of Georgia O’Keefe’s work will adore her “little man in a boat” citrus squeezer. 4. Cath Kidston – My god, she’s everywhere, isn’t she? Everything’s coming up roses...

Bring back candy cigarettes!

Tweet These moddlycoddled cream puff kids today. Back when I was young, kids were kids and we smoked real kids’ cigarettes. By “smoked” I mean upwrapped and chewed and by “cigarettes” I mean bubblegum or candy sticks of variously unpalatable substances, of course. Back then you could ape that greaseball your older sister dated by rolling up the pack in the bicep of your t-shirt, or by tucking a single behind your ear like Kenickie. These days, it’s all carrot sticks and cuddle-wuddles. I say, it’s time to stop talking about the good ol’ days and revive them by popping these babies into the little tykes’ mouths and lighting up! Figuratively speaking. Of course that’s harder and harder, what with this whole “smoking kills” rap and not wanting to encourage cancer-sticks among primary-schoolers. The few stores where I’ve found candy cigarettes have been in my home state of Texas (woohoo! it ROCKS to be Texan). Contrary to what you might think, we don’t have candy guns there, because obviously the handgrip would already be melting by the time you put the barrel in your mouth. Now candy cigarettes have been officially banned in the US by the Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act, as of June. (Apparently it’s candy cigarettes that predispose kids to use the real ones. All I can say is, thank goodness it’s not that whole “rebel against authority” or “it looks cool” schtick, because that would be a whole lot harder to root out.) You can still buy Big League Chew, the bubble gum that resembles chewing tobacco, but where’s the appeal in that?  Humphrey Bogart leaning over to Lauren Bacall and placing a wad of tobacco inside her bottom lip? It’s hardly a sexy scene cribbed from To Have and Have Not. What’s surprising about confectionery cigarettes isn’t that you can still occasionally pick them up in a few out of the way places (I got my latest stash in a general store in Gruene, Texas, a fantastic little town outside of Austin that you’d be crazy to miss next time you’re there. It’s slogan: “Gently resisting change since 1872”). What’s surprising is, with Mad Men reviving smoking’s status, that candy cigs aren’t sold in duty-free cartons with a picture of Don Draper on the box. Next thing you know, they’ll outlaw kiddie high balls and then where will we be? Very important candy cigarette resources: * The most awesome and hilarious gallery of candy cigarettes ever * A Sally Mann photograph entitled “Candy Cigarette” * You can order: Candy Sticks by...

Should you buy an iPad for your kids?

TweetThe burning question we had on holiday this year had nothing to do with sunscreen. It was whether we should invest in an iPad. Or rather, should we invest in an iPad now or wait until there’s 3G here in the UK or wait until they improve the battery life or perhaps even wait until they come in different colours. All these questions necessitated lingering in the Apple store whenever we visited Barton Creek Square mall or the Domain in Austin, mainly to play Plants vs Zombies. The problem of course is that everyone in the family really wants an iPad. I want to use Flipboard and cart it around London. My husband wants to be able to comfortably surf on the sofa. The children have plans to download games onto it (thanks, Uncle Ian, for showing them your library of mindless time-wasters!). My fellow CyberMummy partners Susanna and Sian both have them and love them, so I know it would be a huge hit. That’s really the problem. My husband would want to use it, I would want to use and the children would develop withdrawal symptoms when separated from it. Whenever one of them picked it up, I would be seized by an urgent iPad task I had to perform. I would grow resentful about having to be “grown up” about it and let them have a go. Sure I could read books on it, assuming I’d ever get that much screen time. If only we lived in Australia. We could book a domestic flight on Jetstar Airlines and rent iPads for the entire family for $40. Which begs the question, just how much would you pay for an iPad. A trip down under is way too much, the price in American still feels a bit dear, but £10 and the cost of a domestic UK flight? I’m sold. UPDATE: Susanna has written about her iPad and its use as a kiddie networking tool. Image: Francesco Marino /

Would you give your baby this bottle?

TweetWhat – you might ask – qualifies the drummer from one of the greatest hair bands of all time to design baby clothes and accessories? Could it be his ex-wife who also happens to be Eva Herzigova? Could it be all that creative juice and sometimes creative powder sloshing around on back of the bus while touring? Whatever, dude. Tico Torres, drummer for Bon Jovi, has a line of children’s products called Rock Star, for parents who still remember when they were Livin’ on a Prayer rather than payin’ the school fees. Forget those candyass pastels for that baby Mozart crowd. There’s nothing that goes better with the classic values of rock ‘n’ roll than a dummy and black socks (yeah! black socks, man!….we’d say ‘Hell, yeah!’ but there are children present). So you can buy a Rock Star baby bottle with a picture of a skull and crossbones on it to send a message that not only are you still “edgy” but also that you have no awareness of the symbol traditionally being used to label something poisonous? Rock on. 250ml Rock Star Baby Tattoo Pirate Bottle, £8.99. Available at

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