Repurposing repurposing: the joy of the toy-box

Repurposing repurposing: the joy of the toy box

Last week, I looked after Little Niece for the afternoon and she decided that she wanted the toy box and book basket out from their spot by the sofa.

Soon we were outside, having a teddy bears’ picnic in the shade before playing schools.  Little Niece was the teacher, I was her helper and the cuddly toys each had a book of their own.  Helpfully they also doubled up as clipboards when we had to take them on a nature walk.  She is very imaginative!

It was so much fun for both us, with the nostalgia element adding another level of emotion for me.

I’m not sure there is any greater joy than watching a small child enjoy playing with toys that you loved when you were young.  

The experience reminded me of why I put the toy box together in the first place.  I wrote about this two years ago and decided to reprise the post here…

This morning, my mum sent me a photo message showing my poorly eight year old nephew clutching a well-worn soft toy in the shape of a panda.  Pandan, my nephew used to call him, and for years he was never far from his side.  I was always extremely thrilled by how much Joe loved Pandan as I had bought the toy for him (although it is perhaps more accurate to say that I collected tokens from the packets of a well-known brand of toilet paper and sent them off with £1.99 for postage and packaging).

Now Joe is almost nine [NOTE: he turned eleven last week!], I hadn’t seen Pandan around for a while.  It was so heart-warming to discover that he continued treasured him and still drew comfort from his frankly manky and slightly discoloured fur.  It’s funny which toys find a place deep in our heart and which remain simply playthings.

I replied to my mum’s message saying that maybe Joe will put Pandan in a future toy-box too, a joking reference to the toy-box that I have recently created.  Over the last few weeks, I have been boring friends and family talking about my new toy-box (okay, so talking and making them look at it).

The toy-box is one of my latest mini-obsessions.  I love it almost as much as I love some of its contents.  I had thought about putting something like it together shortly after moving into my new home in mid-April, having realised that we live in possibly the most un-child friendly space ever (think lots of potentially dangerous items at low levels and little to distract curious small people with).

Whilst we don’t have kids of our own, I want visiting children to be at home here and want their parents to feel relaxed rather than nervous or worried.

One Sunday afternoon, I read an Apartment Therapy post that mentioned the same toy-box idea and that was that: I seized the moment and tore round the place gathering
up any suitable items.  Some pencils, plastic cups, a few children’s books that happened to be in unpacked boxes.  I had a large basket just right for the job.  I even remembered the two hand-knitted rabbits, one of whom featured in my first day at school photograph, suffocating in a plastic box under the bed.

In the weeks since, more bits have been added.  I picked up a colouring book from a coffee morning.  My boyfriend put in his childhood chess set.  I’m keeping my eye out for suitable bits (please someone somewhere get rid of some Lego!) but most of all I’m encouraging my mum to get up the loft and find more of my actual toys out.  I’ve already begun bringing things from my parents’ when I visit, including the first book I ever remember, yet I know there is more still in the attic.

Suddenly all these possessions that I’ve never been sure what to do with have had a new
lease of life.  This sense of repurposing has bought me genuine joy and contentment. Lots of the standard advice on sentimental items or such like instructs you to have a clearout, perhaps taking a photograph as a reminder of a once-prized object.  But is that really
what we always want?  Whilst drowning in reminders of the past can stop us from getting on with life in the present, surely we can find ways to forge a new path where we give space to honour our earlier treasures and let the happiness that they bought us then infuse our worlds now.

That is what I feel my new toy-box does.  It is my own way through.  It isn’t getting rid
of everything, although there will be much from my childhood that I won’t keep.  Nor is it shoving it all in some place out of sight (under the bed, the loft, a spare bedroom – preferably in someone else’s house), hoping to never have to deal with it but also never
getting any pleasure from it.

Seeing another child being entertained by toys that you also happily played with is a beautiful sight.

Of course it doesn’t have to be a toy-box.  This sense of repurposing can be applied to other possessions too.  What item in your home (or left elsewhere!) is languishing?  What stuff aren’t you sure what to do with?  Is it something that you can breathe new life into in some form or another?

If you like the idea of upcycling then Pinterest is full of amazing ideas to give you
inspiration; I’ve made a board with some of my favourite ideas.  Not that you have to be artistic or crafty; if you love reading, can you simply spare some shelf space to your favourite childhood books?

It may be that you decide repurposing actually does involve giving something a new home or to a new owner.  I used to have a gorgeous ragdoll that an older cousin made for me when I was born; when she had a daughter, I passed the doll on to her.

Or do you need to rethink in a broader way?  Is there a different way of looking at the item(s)?  It may be that a mental shift is more useful than a physical transformation.  Old toys were literally just old toys until I recognised that they still held their magic for a three year old today just as much as they had for me thirty years ago.

Thank you for reading! Share your repurposing stories in the comments or via social media (the buttons are below).  And if you enjoyed reading this post then please do share it – this really makes a difference!


Updated: Are you made for Fire and Ice? Top red lipsticks

Are you made for 'Fire & Ice'? Top Red Lipsticks
Revlon’s 1952 Fire & Ice advertisement, taken from Linda M. Scott ‘Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion & Feminism’

Initially published on 12th June 2017, I first revised this post to add reader recommendations at the bottom (thanks to all who told me their top red choices!).  I’ve now updated it further owing to changes in Nars Cosmetics’ ethical status.

‘Are you made for “Fire and Ice”?’ asked a 1952 Revlon advertisement for their legendary Fire and Ice lipstick and nail varnish range.  The beauty brand also provided a quiz to help you decide whether to try the ‘lush-and-passionate scarlet’ shade:

Have you ever danced with your shoes off? Yes/no

Did you ever wish on a new moon? Yes/no

Do you blush when you find yourself flirting? Yes/no

When a recipe call for one dash of bitters, do you think it’s better with two? Yes/no

Do you secretly hope that the next man you meet will be a psychiatrist? Yes/no

Do you sometimes feel that other women resent you? Yes/no

Have you ever wanted to wear an ankle bracelet? Yes/no

Do sables excite you, even on other women? Yes/no

Do you love to look up to a man? Yes/no

Do you face crowded parties with panic – then wind up having a wonderful time? Yes/no

Does gypsy music make you sad? Yes/no

Do you think any many really understands you? Yes/no

Would you streak your hair with platinum without consulting your husband? Yes/no

If tourist flights were running, would you take a trip to Mars? Yes/no

Do you close your eyes when you’re kissed? Yes/no

Answered yes to at least eight of these?  Then apparently you’re made of ‘Fire and Ice’!

Revlon Fire and Ice is still available and often included on ‘best red lipsticks’ lists alongside Chanel Pirate and Mac Ruby Woo.  Yet having spent many years trying to perfect the ‘pure red’ look, there are four other lipsticks that I rank highly, plus a bonus suggestion *and now also eight reader recommendations*.


Are you made for 'Fire & Ice'?  Top Red Lipsticks

Kevyn Aucoin Eternal

A richly pigmented, matte true red that stays in place for hours.  I’ve had more compliments and enquiries about this shade than any other cosmetic I’ve ever worn!

100% cruelty free

£27 at SpaceNK




Lipstick Queen Red

Again a classic blue red shade, but available in two different pigments (the stronger the pigment, the denser the colour and coverage).

Saint Red has ten percent pigment and gives a light, translucent touch of colour; this is a great ‘entry’ red if you’ve never worn the colour before or don’t want anything too bold.

Sinner Red has a ninety percent pigment, giving much fuller, opaque coverage.  Although it’s matte, there’s shea butter in the formula so if you find many lipsticks too drying then perhaps give this a go.

100% cruelty free

Saint and Sinner both £22 at SpaceNK


Are you made for 'Fire & Ice'?  Top Red Lipsticks

Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil Dragon Girl

This jumbo crayon provides a deeply pigmented colour that the brand describes as ‘Vivid Siren Red’.  Again this is really long lasting – you don’t need to touch up after every cuppa – but the need to regularly sharpen can be a bit of a pain.  And a bit messy.  But it’s worth it for the gorgeous pop of colour!


£20 at Nars


Are you made for 'Fire & Ice'? Top Red Lipsticks

Clinique High Impact Lip Colour Red-y To Wear

Housed in a classic Clinique silver tube, this moisturising, satin finish lipstick is an easy to wear shade even for newbie rubies.  Publicity claim that it lasts eight hours, which I dispute, but this isn’t such an issue because the coverage is so sheer.  I got it for a friend who was convinced that red didn’t suit her and she was immediately converted!

£19.50 at Clinique

Clinique is not a cruelty free brand.  Its policy, and that of parent company Estée Lauder, is to test on animals where this is required by national law.  This is the case in China, where Clinique is sold.  I’m sorry to say that I only discovered this when researching this post.

I was shocked that this is the case as so many mainstream beauty brands have adopted a 100% cruelty free policy.  I’ve debated with withdrawing this recommendation as I’m not sure I now feel able to endorse the product.  However, I decided to keep it in the list but highlight this issue as it feels more awareness raising than to be silent. 

If you too are shocked by this, contact Estée Lauder to tell them, which is what I have done.  You can also request that they change their policy and withdraw from mainland China until legislation there is changed. 


Are you made for 'Fire & Ice'? Top Red Lipsticks

Bonus: Nars Lipstick Red Lizard

If you want to feel like a 1940s film star, this is the lipstick for you!  Nars describe this as a ‘full powered red’ and it’s certainly that, although it’s a darker, more berry red shade rather than a pure red.  It’s also described as semi-matte but I found it very to be full matte with dense coverage.


£21 at Nars

Thank you for reading!  What shades of lipstick do you recommend?  Any suggestions of reds or others that I should try?  You can comment below or on social media.  If you enjoyed reading this post then please do share it on social media too – it really does make a difference!  Again the links are below.

Reader recommendations

This post prompted a lot of chatter on social media about people’s own red lipstick preferences.  Some old favourites, some new, here’s what came up (all cruelty free & vegan too):


Left to right:

Barry M Matte Lip Paint in 178 Bombshell: hot, fiery red matte (£4.99 Skin&Bones)

Illamasqua Lipstick in Man-eater: classic cherry red (£20 Illamasqua)

Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Adora: metallic golden red (£17 Debenhams)

Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Archangel: matte burnt red (£17 Debenhams)


Left to right:

Mac Lipstick in Lady Danger: vivid bright coral red (£16.50 Mac)

Mac Lipstick in New York Apple: muted red with pink shimmer (£16.50 Mac)

MAC Lipstick in Russian Red: intense bluish-red (£16.50 Mac)

Nars Semi Matte Lipstick in Jungle Red: vivid blue red (£21 Nars)

I *have* to try pleasant events this week. Want to join me?

Sometimes we all need a silly joke || This week I *have* to try pleasant events. Want to join me?
A birthday card that my partner received last week. Sometimes we all need a silly joke.

Life’s pretty tough going at the minute, isn’t it?

The only way I can describe Sunday is as emotionally intense, topped and tailed by news from London Bridge and the One Love Manchester concert.  This was at the end of an already tough week.  Trump, well, being Trump.  If I gave an example it would probably be surpassed by another one between drafting and publishing.  The awful bombing in Kabul; you know things must be really bad when the Afghans say it’s the worst attack they’ve seen.  Plus in the UK we’re enduring the scaremongering, lies and bad mouthing that come with a parliamentary election campaign.  I’d say roll on polling day but that will just mark the beginning of the next phase of anxiety-inducing awfulness.

Hello Brexit.

Most of us find it tough to not let macro events influence the micro ones of our lives.  Mental health issues aside, world news is definitely making me more edgy and irritable.  I only have a certain amount of resilience and right now it’s stretched pretty thinly.

Scheduling a smear test for this afternoon was probably not the greatest idea I’ve ever had given these circumstances. 

Yet there is relief to be found.  As I write I’m burning a gorgeous Pink Grapefruit scented candle from Join and staring at the newly blossomed roses outside the window between sentences.  I’ve also just eaten a lovely mini bar of Green & Black’s Sea Salt milk chocolate (#sorrynotsorry, Mark, for eating your birthday goodies while you’re at work).

Small actions though these may be, they help to encourage positive emotions.  Anecdotally we may feel that tiny gestures can give us a boost but psychological research proves this too.  This week in my Dialetical Behavioural Therapy group, we explored reducing vulnerability to overwhelming emotions by building a life worth living.  A crucial step in this process is to ‘accumulate positive emotions’.*  In the short term, this involves doing pleasant things right now.

I have a handout telling me to ‘BUILD POSITIVE EXPERIENCES NOW.  INCREASE PLEASANT EVENTS that lead to positive emotions.’

This week I *have* to try pleasant events. Want to join me?

In practice, this means keeping a Pleasant Events Diary ahead of next Monday’s session.  I even have a Pleasant Events List with 225 suggestions to try should I struggle to come up with ideas.

Some of the suggestions are pretty funny.  I’m not sure I’ll get chance during the next seven days to attend a school reunion (#60), go hunting (#71), go sledding in a snowfall (#186) or ride a dune buggy (#217). However I can eat (#29), go to a party (#43), go to the beauty parlour (#91), think about sex (#100 – just think.  Sexual activity itself doesn’t make the list) and get a haircut (#187).

This week I *have* to try pleasant events. Want to join me?



How about you?

Would you like to join me in keeping a pleasant event diary this week?  Science says it’ll help you manage difficult emotions. 

Simply pick a pleasant activity to do each day, however small, and observe how it makes you feel.  I’ll be recording mine on social media.

I’d love to know how you get on with this.  Does it support you in managing the crazy world we’re living in?  You can comment below or on social media, tag me or respond to my posts.  Plus if you enjoyed reading this, please do tell others about it – it really helps!  Sharing buttons are also below.

Thank you for reading, and have a pleasant week in spite of it all.

* All quotations and images taken from handouts from DBT Skills Training and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan (2015).


My top three tools of the beauty trade – & you can win them!

My top 3 tools of the beauty trade - & you can win them!

Confession time: despite writing in a guest blog post for Midlands Minimalist last week about the ‘one in, one out, one spare’ rule for toiletries and makeup, I have started stockpiling Shu Uemura eyelash curlers.

In my defence, parent company L’Oreal announced at the end of April that they were withdrawing the Japanese beauty brand from the UK and already the products are vanishing.  In a panic about losing access to what are universally regarded as the best lash curlers on the market, I felt compelled to hoard.

My top three tools of the beauty trade - & you can win them!
I keep my spare pads in an old gramophone needles tin

I think I’ll probably now be okay until at least my next birthday ending in a zero.

Each pair lasts for ages.  They come with a replacement pad and regular replacement pads fit too.  I’m only on my second set in what must over a decade of use.  How many mascaras have I got through in the same time?

This longevity is a key factor in why I love eyelash curlers, specifically the Shu Uemura ones, so much.  Plus they really make a difference even if you use them alone, as I do 99 percent of the time as I get a monthly eyelash tint.

My top three tools of the beauty trade - & you can win them!

Using curlers drastically reduces the amount of other eye makeup that I buy and use, which is important to me.  There’s little point in committing to feature eco, ethical and sustainable brands from the world of fashion and beauty in my work if I’m not careful and considered in my own use of resources.

Eyelash curlers are one of several long-lasting tools that I use in lieu of a product with a shorter shelf life.



The other two that top my favourites list are:

Exfoliating gloves

My top three tools of the beauty trade - & you can win them!
Exfoliating gloves, £3

Thanks to Danielle the beautician for this tip, which she passed on as a solution to ingrown hairs (possibly TMI).

Rather than rubbing yourself down with a pot of body scrub or even a currently popular dry body brush, exchange your sponge or puff for a long lasting textured glove (£3.00 from Boots).  You save time and effort by exfoliating while you wash.  The floor of your shower isn’t left covered with slippery grit.

Plus you get to channel your inner Michael Jackson by prancing round with one white glove on!

Bonus tip: make sure you buy exfoliating glove rather than just a body wash one as the latter aren’t rough enough to slough your skin.

 360 foot file

My top three tools of the beauty trade - & you can win them!
360 Foot File, £5.49

A friend bought me one of these last summer, which sounds like a weird gift now I’ve written it down!

Anyhow, I’ve tried a lot of creams and gadgets for hard skin on the feet over the years but none have been as effective as this spongy scrubber (£5.49 also at Boots).  I use it at the end of my shower each day.  It even works better than the classic pumice stone and has a satisfying squishiness.


I love these products so much that I wanted to share them with you too, so I’m offering a special giveaway! 

You can win a set of my three favourite tools (Shu Uemura eyelash curlers, a pair of exfoliating gloves and a 360 foot file).

All you have to do is share your favourite article by me, either from my blog or elsewhere, on social media and tag me so that I see it (you can find a collected list of my other writing over here).

The winner will be chosen on Wednesday 7th June at 18.00 BST.