All posts by Kathryn Counsell-Hub

My passions are for fashion, style, books, music, and family.
Chilling with the homies

Being a mummy on a budget

This post seems like it should be unnecessary. Afterall, don’t nearly all mums have a budget of some description? Having children is next oldest thing in the world next to the existence of humans so it’s not like it’s a new concept.

Ahh, but yes it is, because – KLAXON! – there wasn’t social media back then (try not to roll your eyes, I do appreciate it is the most overused phrase in modern times). Yes, you might see the local squire’s wife tooling around in glad rags, and in recent times you would have read about the fineries enjoyed by royal babies. But there wasn’t that reach-out-and-touch, ‘if you’d just saved better/married better/worked harder’, element to some of the things that some new mums, prospective mums, and mums-in-waiting think go with parenthood. Big name-brand pram, designer baby clothes, endless supply of cash for coffees with mummy friends…. The list could be endless because this is a competitive market, not least because being a parent is bloody hard work, so if you have the material goods to fit in then at least that’s one base covered. And who doesn’t want every beautiful, gorgeous, magical thing going for their kid?

All images from Pinterest
All images from Pinterest

For a distinctly working class but touching the edges of middle classdom mummy with friends of varying fiscal means and a wedding, two big holidays abroad and buying our first property within the past five years, this is how I did it to my satisfaction on a budget. [Note: I did toy with titling this post ‘How to be a carer on a budget’ because there are people with the same responsibilities who aren’t caring for a child. However, having no experience of caring for a non-dependent child or adult, I didn’t feel that that would be appropriate. Hopefully though, if you are a carer (inevitably) on a budget, hopefully some bits will be useful for you.]

Buy second hand

Goodness me, this is so obvious but lots of people don’t because they a) think that their child deserves better, b) they think second hand items won’t be good quality or safe, c) they want the experience of buying new shiny things, d) they just don’t want to, or e) all or some of the above.

My first comment here is that there is such a flood of second hand children’s goods available it borders on the ridiculous. Big ticket items such as cots, prams and gizmos like the Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo (if you have a baby and you haven’t heard of this, you soon will!) are usually expensive and people are keen to make their money back. For these items, what’s for sale will either be used to an expected extent so will be older, potentially slightly more raggedy, but usually more bargainous, or will be barely used so in really good condition but therefore more a reduced price rather than being truly bargainous.

Set your budget here: research what you want, how much you’re willing to pay for it and how much you want it before looking at market availability. If you’re dead-set on an UPPAbaby pram, you’re going to pay something more akin to the original price than if you want a decent second hand pram of any description, from any manufacturer. My absolute best bargain was my pram which is a Mothercare Xpedior travel system (now discontinued but still available second hand), purchased for the princely sum of £31. This is an exceptional bargain by anyone’s standards but it was used, and Mothercare isn’t necessarily a brand everyone wants. I decided early on that if I won the lottery, I’d be marching into John Lewis and getting the pram of dreams. Until then, it is more important that I buy food and keep my child entertained, so Mothercare was more than good enough for me.*

The pram in action

FYI, there are more places to look for second hand goods than eBay. Gumtree has lots of listings and is far easier to refine by location. Facebook also seems to have lots of sales pages specific to location, and I have bought some unopened baby formula and a baby support for very low prices. Worth having a look. Plus, NCT sales, local nearly-new sales and even car boot sales are excellent places to get good quality used baby wear, which, considering how quickly they grow out of stuff, is one of the easiest ways to save cash.

Learn to balance

With most of my disposable income (ha!) now going on my son, obviously my own wants have taken a back seat. So I have learned the art of balance. With more time away from work, I now shop around for basics and regular groceries, using a mix of supermarkets, discount stores and my local market to then afford the nicer bits such as decent veg for me and my boys and the occasional fakeaway (I might splash out on spices to make a curry but at least I’ll have leftovers and it’s still cheaper than ordering one in).

Not a curry but was yummy-yummy nonetheless

I now also scrutinise my wardrobe on a near daily basis because the days of only being able to wear that top with those trousers or having to have that particular bra under that frock are well and truly behind me. I am dressing against the clock every day so each item in my wardrobe has to work. That means that every time I refine, I sell the bits I don’t need (the mobile eBay app is a real timesaver here) and can then reinvest in one thing I really want. Most recently I got the Selfish Mother ‘Mother’ sweatshirt and I love it.


Scout out the free activities

This is going to be quite baby-centric because my son is only 1, but this applies across all ages. Essentially, you need to find out what’s available in your area for free. Why? Because it will give you a reason to leave the house, you might learn something, your baby/child will socialise, and it’s a great way to meet other mums if that’s what you want to do.

My local children’s centres have been absolutely invaluable to me. Run by 4Children, they provide free drop-in play sessions, breastfeeding support groups, and bookable sessions and courses on things such as baby massage, baby sensory, First Aid and weaning. I have learned so much from these courses and have made some wonderful friends. My son is now of an age where he really enjoys visiting the centre and playing with the huge array of toys on offer, which keeps things interesting for him and allows him to play with other children. Plus, the baby massage course I attended was vital in coping with his colic, and I felt a real sense of support from the centre staff.

Also, never underestimate the power of a park. It’s a great place to meet up with other mums (I took lunch and snacks in plastic containers to save cash) and having a roll around on a blanket in the sun is a lovely way to play and bond. Once the kiddies are older, swings are just a godsend. As long as it’s not raining, there’s never a day you can’t squeeze in a park visit.

Chilling with the homies
Chilling with the homies

Decide where to splash your cash

Having a baby is expensive. It just is. They need a lot of sh*t. And while you can buy second hand as much as possible and make use of free local resources, there will be times when you have to pay out. Here are the areas we spent money on:

Baby formula. My son had to be combination fed when he was born because of low blood sugar, and we carried on the practice once home. We used the same brand of formula as they had at hospital which wasn’t the cheapest but at least meant we were less likely to waste it because he knew he would drink it. We then had to invest in a particular kind because of his colic. Pricey but totally worth it.

  • Osteopathy. Again, this was to address the dreaded colic but was absolutely worth it. I don’t know what my son would have been like without this treatment but I believe his colic would have been worse. At the very least we knew that we were doing everything we could to help him, which is worth a lot.
  • Swimming. I invested in two classes, and while our baby sensory class was fun, I found it a very competitive environment parent-to-parent, not to mention quite cliquey. My son enjoyed it, and it did tire him out, but overall swimming was the winner. Being in the water together is such a lovely experience and our school focuses on water safety as well. Plus, this tires him out like nothing else. It doesn’t necessarily make bathtime that relaxing but he does conk out like a good ‘un afterwards. RESULT.
  • Socialising. We didn’t go out every day to meet people, but when I did make plans to meet mummy friends, I went to a nice baby-friendly place which felt like a treat. We will still pop into a nice place when out shopping because it’s a bit of a treat for me and him to sit with a drink, being part of the world, looking all cute (him) and smug (me). Getting out and treating myself in this way is worth every single penny because I feel like a normal human being and so much more like myself. I got to see friends and my son got to see other bubs. I loved it and, as most mums will attest, getting up, dressed, and into your local town centre is time-consuming enough as to take up half the day, so throw in a lunch and a mooch and you’re day is done. Perfick.

I do hope you found some pearls of wisdom in there somewhere. Do let me know if you’d like to know more about my mumma experiences or if you never want to hear anything about them ever again! Have a good week everyone!


*In buying my second hand travel system, I researched buying used baby seats beforehand to ensure my son would be safe. If you’re ever unsure then buy your pram second hand but pair with a new car seat.

Category: Life

My week this week (if you wanna know) + shopping picks!

  1. My poor little pup has faced a double whammy of being without me (some would say this is a blessing… some would need to shove that somewhere rude) as I return to work and of having a really-and-truly nasty cold. His coughing fits shake his whole little body – imagine an actual puppy in a tumble dryer and you have an inkling. Thursday was truly horrible with me having to come back from work, my husband having an uber crappy day, even without a poorly boy at home, and that general feeling of ‘holy f*ck, we’re screwed’-ness. We tried to restore our spirits with a KFC and the Downton Abbey Christmas album on the stereo which worked a treat until pup had a coughing fit and vomited THE LARGEST AMOUNT OF VOMIT I HAVE EVER SEEN onto his father’s shoulder. Seriously. Sometimes it is not better out than in…….
  2. The aforementioned return to work has meant a reprisal of the dreaded commute. Ahh, the shouldering of others out the way and stomp towards the ticket barrier…. Such halcyon days *sarcasm klaxon*. Anyhoo, the commute demands a suitable soundtrack and for me that has been Andy Burrows’ Company, Florence & the Machine’s Ceremonials, and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack on shuffle. What I lack in musical kudos I make up for in complete randomness.
  3. On the subject of music, cult mag NME is now being thrown at commuters along with Stylist and the Evening Standard. This is my new favourite though as the Katherine Ryan column is complete and utter class (sorry for the fangirl-ism). The current issue features a review of the year’s music, film and TV and I would be lying if I said that I don’t feel like a terminally uncool person as a result. Who is Grimes? Or Wolf Alice? Or Swim Deep? I have seen none of the ten films featured (not even Jurassic World which has ‘suitable for a sleep deprived parent’ written all over it) and am only just holding onto my credibility by having consumed the epic Channel 4 sitcom Catastrophe which features in the mag’s TV chart. With this seemingly comprehensive list of what I’ve missed, I might just have catch up by the time next year’s review is out. Mebbe.
  4. I have been living in a very cheap and somewhat cheerful coatigan this week, courtesy of the sales in Primark. I’m not sure there’s anything more depressing than buying from the SALE in PRIMARK but at £7 for a camel coloured oversized cardy-thingy, I’m not complaining too much. The colour and slouchy fit have meant that I’ve worn this in lieu of a coat this week, which has proved foolish for several reasons: first, it is entirely manmade fibre so way too warm in the mild December mornings, and second, it is, essentially, a big ol’ cardigan so in no way warm enough now that proper December temperatures have descended. I wish I could say I am suffering from fashion but I fear Wintour herself would smite me if I dared align myself with the F word.
  5. Want to do some shopping? Me too! I still have loads of Christmas pressies to buy but who cares? Let’s shop! Top picks for a rather girly state of mind and all under thirty quids:


Uniqlo Disney Project Knit, £14.90 (love the grey and yellow)


They All Hate Us ‘girl gang’ bangle, £15 approx. (plus shipping)


Gola floral high top trainers, £28


 Duwop rose eyes palette, £21ring
Diamonique rose gold sterling silver ring, £24.96

Category: Cute, Life, Style
Kathry 1

What is Pity Party?

Cast your mind back to the dim and distant past of 2009….. The word ‘blog’ was just beginning to take hold and people were using them as a way to vent and share. Fast forward to now and to blog essentially means to have your own business: to invent and market brand You and, for many people, strive towards the ultimate job goal of full-time blogger. It’s like we can all be mini Carrie Bradshaws only without the deadlines (and glamour?).

So, in an age where it feels like everyone blogs about everything, how can any one blog be different? Well, I’ll tell you. It can’t be. EVERYTHING has been done somewhere in the world. Perhaps the only slither of difference is honesty. Pity Party was born out of the secondary needs of its’ authors, me and Loz, to be honest. The primary need was to write something, anything, for our own joy and the potential amusement or education of others. But how to do that when one is, essentially, not an expert on anything?

So, without any feet in the worlds of politics, fashion, beauty, film, music, or anything else, but with a strong lust for ALL of them, we decided to write a blog on just that: things that we like but on which we have no insider or professional insight. And because we felt sorry for ourselves and our lack of ‘officialdom’, we decided to name the site Pity Party. But it also kinda captures that light-and-shade mix of serious and silly articles we’re aiming for. Ya geddit???

For my part, I sincerely hope you enjoy our opinionated articles, searingly insightful recipes, somewhat photo-iffy fashion pieces and everything inbetween. Revel in the fact that you might not know too much either and join us for a pity party every week. And you don’t even need to RSVP. Legen————(wait for it, wait for it)——DARY!

Lots of love,

Kathryn xx

Category: Comment
My pretties

Post-maternity fashion awaits!

Oh God, the guilt I feel at admitting this, but I cannot wait to get back into my old clothes once the bubba has come along. Of course I am excited about the baby himself arriving, please don’t believe that he is in any way secondary. But bubba, naturally, comes along with the other feelings that first time mums are likely to have: fear, trepidation, joy, wonder, terror……

The thought of getting something akin to my pre-pregnancy body back is one of unfettered joy. I know my body works and is capable of great things, hence having been able to carry this baby with the unequivocal joys of fatigue, asthma and gestational diabetes. I know I may not care two figs for clothing once I’m knee deep in nappies and crying with tiredness but right now, knowing that I have exciting things to wear is a quantifiable pleasure because I already know how it feels to feel good in an outfit. I can’t remember the life where I was regularly out on a Saturday night or eating carbs in a laissez-faire fashion, despite being just over 36 weeks ago, but the clothing stuff? A beautiful stamp on my otherwise squishy brain.

I wrote some time ago about the Clements Ribiero Portobello cashmere and cotton jumper, and that is still top of the can’t-wait-to-wear list. Next up has to be the equally as blogged ripped utility trousers from Topshop. Both have been waiting patiently for me in my wardrobe (read: squashed in a drawer under the weight of maternity leggings).

Come to mama!

Next up is a rather fabulous pair of faux leather joggers from ASOS (now in the sale!), a Christmas present my ace sis G. Aren’t they marvellous? These plus my Peter Pilotto for Target sweatshirt and my grey felt skater shoes from Next (as blogged about by The Frugality) and I will feel the very yummiest of mummies.

The ASOS faux leather joggers

An oldie but a goodie next: my ASOS ripped jeans. These have been worn to death, being equally as perfect with a slouchy t-shirt and trainers as with heels and a going-out top (God, is that a thing anymore? Do women have going-out tops or am I relic from the days where being able to go to a bar with some flared jeans, a sparkly top, and heels was a luxury because jeans had been previously outlawed? Wow, I am OLD.). These jeans are simultaneously “Whatever, I don’t care”, and “Look at me, I made an effort!”. Ooh the excitement!

These jeans make me very happy!

And to stay on a jeans theme, my much worn patchwork jeans from H&M are another love of my (trouser) life that I can’t wait to slip into. These with a loose sweater and boots are just calling to me……

H&M patchwork jeans as seen on Wearing It Today’s Laura Fantacci (

I clearly shopped at H&M a lot before pregnancy as their rather famous full skirt is next. This won’t be worn immediately as the waist was a slight challenge pre-bubba bump but the notion of a t-shirt being tucked in with a statement necklace and this gorgeous skirt is such an idea of sartorial excess in comparison to my present state that I can’t quite believe I ever had the opportunity to dress like that previously.

H&M full skirt with nipped-in waist
The inspiration: this silhouette shall be mine again!

Finally, the last item on my list is a bit of a cheat, for it comprises my beloved sweatshirt collection that I have had to relegate for fear of stretching into incomprehension. My little green utility number from ASOS, the aforementioned Peter Pilotto for Target, the little grey marl from the Vogue Festival 2013…. Ahh my pretties, I shall be with you soon.

My pretties

And the best part in all of this? Once I’ve gotten to dress me, I get to dress bubba in his magnificent array of beautiful grows and rompers gifted from his already adoring fans. What a stylish pair we’ll be!

Come on, baby!

P.S. Aren’t these the best baby shoes EVER? A little Christmas pressie from Loz and M, these will be bubba’s first ever slippers. I love them so much I almost can’t look at them. Thanks Loz and M!

2015-01-02 17.56.51

Category: Style
White Dee

What’s your benefits beef?

The Guardian website recently published an interesting piece on benefit fraud, with shocking statistics to match. Not shocking in the way you might imagine. Startlingly, these stats highlighted how few people are defrauding the system, rather than trying to fly the banner for the train of thought that says everyone who claims benefits is “bad” or “lazy”. Apparently, only 70p out of every £100 spent on benefits is paid out to a fraudulent claimant, and society’s perception of fraud is 34 times higher than evidence suggests.

For me, vilification of benefits claimants has been a constant occurence for many years. Having worked for organisations providing two different supplementary benefits [these are the ones you get to assist you, rather than support you, which is what Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance are designed to do] I have seen the people with the huge TVs, nice looking houses, and seemingly designer accessories being supported by the State, all the while not being able to evidence that they have a bean in their bank accounts. Yes, it is frustrating to visit a claimants’ house and see that it is bigger than yours and they don’t have to pay for it.

However, I have also seen the fifty year olds who have worked their entire lives and still can’t support their families; the people with disabilities who would desperately love to work but face barrier after barrier to gaining employment; the women who have to be supported by the State because they thought they were having children in loving relationships only to be bullied, beaten, and tortured by their despicable partners.

If worthiness and whether you are nice person or not counted for anything in the world then it isn’t just the numbers of people receiving benefits that would change. Charities would win the lottery and no one would be homeless or abused. But life isn’t like that, and just because someone is a bit of an arse doesn’t mean that they don’t have the right to be supported when they need it. Is there fraud? Well, yes. There is plenty of it. But there isn’t as much as some publications and political parties would have the wider public believe. Do I get angry thinking about the fact that I will have to carry on working and therefore miss time with my child when other mothers get to stay at home and be supported? Yes, sometimes I do. But this is my upside: I have always been able to work and therefore have a society-sanctioned sense of worth. I own my property and have enough money to buy food, not just once every two weeks, but all the time. I have travelled the world. I have things in my life and experiences to cherish because I was lucky enough to be able to work. If you think I’m a mug then so be it. I think that’s more of a reflection on you then it is on me.

Being on benefits was as much fun as a dodgy curry wurst for me
Being on benefits was as much fun as a dodgy curry wurst for me

So why do we feel free to fling our scorn and hatred at benefits claimants? One reason could be that working is really hard. By the time you’ve slogged your way through traffic, commuters and whatever else impedes your journey, all just to get somewhere you don’t want to be, it’s difficult not to think that you’re missing a trick somewhere. If you’re struggling then why isn’t everyone else?

Another reason could be the fact that being on benefits isn’t an intrinsic part of ourselves. Hate someone for being gay, black, or a woman and you are hating their very being. Aiming your poison at a claimant doesn’t make you an “ist” and is a pretty safe way to vent your anger. After all, who out of the working population doesn’t think that benefit cheating scum should get a bit of rough treatment?

Well, actually, I don’t.

What the Guardian piece really told me is that it fits the prejudice-driven agenda of a few people very well to vilify one section of society. That minority opinion can start to become the public consciousness however, perhaps we should all act like human beings and remember that everyone is too. Time to buck the trend.

Category: Comment