Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Video linky - My ten favourite colours

I'm trying to do more with my YouTube channel this year (one of my yearly goals is to publish 52 videos over the year!) and so today I'm linking up with Becky at A Beautiful Space to share my top ten favourite colours. This new video linky will run monthly, and it is a way to create a community of vloggers sharing things that make them fell happy.

I'm still not very comfortable talking directly to camera, although that's something that I'm hoping to work on. So after a short intro this little video will show you my favourite ten colours and where they can be found around my home. I hope that you like it, and if you are looking for vlogging inspiration please do come along and link up! You can find the linky and all the other videos here - Top Ten Favourite Colours.

Thank you for watching, and if you like my videos please do hop along to my channel and subscribe, thank you!

My YouTube channel can be found here.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Mini Hama bead hearts for Valentine's Day

I've not used my mini Hama beads for a while, so I thought that I'd pull them out and make some teeny hearts for Valentine's Day. Each heart measures just under 2cm at the widest point, so they are quite tiny. I've not decided what to use them for yet, I quite like the idea of sticking a cocktail stick to the back to make some Valentine's Day cake toppers, similar to my mini Hama bead Easter cake toppers. You could also use them as embellishments for homemade cards or gifts, or just scatter them about for decoration at a Valentine's Day party.

How to make mini Hama bead hearts

My mini Hama beads came from a pack of mini Hama beads in mixed colours (affiliate link) which contained lots of beads, plenty for all the projects that I've completed so far and I still have loads left. You will also need a special pegboard for the mini beads like this mini Hama bead square pegboard (affiliate link) and some ironing paper (or you can just use baking paper). The mini Hama beads are tiny and are very difficult to place with your fingers, so tweezers are also essential.

I used a simple design for my Hama bead hearts which you can see below, and I fitted nine hearts onto the small square pegboard. The mixed bag of beads contains a wide selection of colours so I was able to mix the colours up a little bit and create a variety of different designs.

Mini Hama bead hearts on pegboard

When ironing the mini Hama beads, you need to make sure that you are using your iron at the lowest temperature setting and be very careful not to over iron. You can see a demonstration of the ironing process in the tutorial video at the bottom of this post.

I'm really pleased with my tiny hearts! What would you use them for?

Mini Valentine's Day Hama bead hearts

I have demonstrated how I made these mini Hama bead hearts, from the initial placing of the beads to ironing the design, in a video on my YouTube channel. I hope that you like it!

I've also used my mini Hama beads for lots of other crafty projects around the home. In my plant pots you can find mini Hama bead plant markers, and I also made this little Russian doll tiled picture with mini Hama beads. At Easter I made some tiny Easter egg cake toppers, and I also created a selection of mini Hama bead designs using the beads from my mixed pack.

You can find all my Hama bead blog posts on my Hama beads page.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Fimo heart keyrings for Valentine's Day

After school the other day I decided it was time to get the Fimo out. The children really love crafting with Fimo and they've made some lovely things in the past. I must admit that it can get a bit frustrating, as the children don't have enough strength or patience to work the clay and get it soft enough to use, so I spend quite a lot of time rolling bits of Fimo round and round for them to use! So we made some Fimo hearts, with me making the heart shaped background and the children using smaller pieces of Fimo, which are easier for them to manipulate, to decorate them.

Fimo heart keyring

To make the heart base you need a ball of Fimo about the size of a large grape. Squash it flat and pinch at the bottom. Use a knife to cut out a small triangle at the top, and mould it round to form a heart shape. It should be about 1/2 a centimetre thick.

Then use smaller pieces of Fimo in different colours to decorate. Make sure that you press all the pieces together firmly. If you want to turn your hearts into keyrings then use a skewer to make a hole in the top before you bake them.

When they are finished you can bake them in the oven. Check the instructions on the packet, I use an oven with a temperature of 110 C and leave them in there for about half an hour. Then leave to cool before touching them.

Fimo decorated heart shapes

If you want to turn your heart into a key ring then you can use the hole in the top of the heart to attach a keyring chain (I needed to extend mine a bit with some thick wire to go through the hole). It's probably best not to use it for keys that get a lot of wear and tear as you don't want it to get damaged, but it would be great for a school bag or book bag!

How to make a Fimo heart keyring

You might also like my other Fimo crafts - I made a Fimo owl, some Fimo Christmas decorations, and some Christmas Fimo bits and pieces for the dolls house.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Bitacora Hotel, Tenerife review

Over New Year 2017 we spent a week at the Spring Hotel Bitacora in Playa de Las Americas, Tenerife. We booked a package holiday with Thomas Cook, including flights and transfers, and we stayed for a week all inclusive.

Spring Hotel Bitacora Tenerife review

The Spring Hotel Bitacora is located in the resort of Playa de Las Americas on the Tenerife coast, just a few minutes walk from the main town centre and beaches.

Hotel Bitacora, Tenerife

The hotel has free wi-fi throughout which was fast and with no limit on the number of devices you could connect. There was also a television with British channels like BBC although ours seemed to be stuck on audio descriptive mode, luckily we were able to manage without it! Our room was a standard room, which was spacious with twin beds pushed together to make a double, along with a sofa bed and an additional bed for the children. The bathroom had a large walk in shower (no bath), balcony, and you can rent a safety deposit box for 2 Euros per day.

Bitacora Hotel room review

We had a lovely view from our balcony, across the play area just outside and a good view out to the Teide volcano (although a bit hidden behind the palm tree!).

Bitacora Hotel balcony view

The outdoor play area is large with plenty to do including an aerial runway and climbing wall, all sheltered from the sun. There are also two smaller indoor soft play areas for younger children which are part of the Kids Club and accessed by a gate which was monitored by staff. We didn't use the Kids Club but there seemed to be plenty of themed activities going on. Every evening there was a Mini Disco at 8.30 pm with all the classics that we are familiar with from similar holidays elsewhere, then there was further entertainment later on in the evening, although ours couldn't stay awake that late. Harry and I played bingo one afternoon which was fun although a bit embarrassing because we kept winning - I now have a huge stash of branded T-shirts, caps and bottle openers! There was also daily entertainment by the main pool, along with inflatable water slides on some days.

Bitacora Hotel Tenerife for families

There are two pools in the hotel - a shallow children's pool and a deeper main pool. Unfortunately the children's pool isn't heated and it was far too cold to go in during our stay in January. In the photo below you can see a couple of hardy souls, but it was generally deserted which was a bit of a shame. There's a slide too but again no-one was using it.

Bitacora Hotel Tenerife pool view

The main pool was slightly warmer and we were able to manage a short swim. We found that the outdoor temperatures in January were very pleasant, much warmer than I had been expecting, and definitely warm enough to sit out around the pool and soak up the sunshine. We did have a bit of wind on a few days, but in a sheltered spot it was fine.

Our room reservation included pool towels which could be changed during a daily hour long slot. There seemed to be plenty of sun loungers, although it might be different at a peak time of year. We always managed to find somewhere to sit, albeit it often tucked away at the back as the pool side loungers were generally always occupied or reserved.

Swimming pool on family holiday

We aren't particularly foodies, and being vegetarian means that we didn't sample most of the food on offer, and we also tend to stick to the plainer choices. There was always a vegetarian dish although they could get a bit samey with quite a lot of pasta. There were plenty of salads, fruit, bread and cheese and a separate children's buffet in the evening with chips, tomato pasta, chicken nuggets and that sort of thing. We were there for New Year's Eve when a special dinner was served, and you can see more of that in my video at the bottom of this post. My favourite new food was the red and green pesto cheese which I've never tried before - it made an appearance on subsequent days too which I was very pleased about! The hotel had fireworks for New Year's Eve, and although we weren't able to keep the children up until midnight to see them we were able to enjoy displays from neighbouring hotels from our balcony.

Pesto cheese in restaurant

There was always a nice selection of desserts and cakes, along with an ice cream bar. The photograph below was taken on the evening before Three Kings' Day (January 6th) so it was a bit more special, and I very much enjoyed the biscuit pizza! There was also food available during the day in the bar by the pool, where you could have a burger and chips or make your own toasted sandwich.

Biscuit pizza in buffet

Unfortunately everyone apart from me did get ill on our holiday at some point with a tummy bug, which took out several days of our holiday. I don't like to blame the hotel, but I did feel that the hygiene wasn't as strict as I've seen on holiday before, perhaps because I'm comparing it to cruise ships where the hygiene is top notch. We washed our hands regularly and there was a hand sanitiser at the entrance to the restaurant but no-one was using it, and there was no signage to remind people about hand washing and so on. There weren't any staff watching out to make sure that people weren't serving themselves food with their hands for example.

The all inclusive included a good variety of drinks, including soft drinks, and a fair few alcoholic drinks and cocktails. We aren't big drinkers and we found that the selection was more than enough for us. We were given a bottle of champagne at dinner between us on New Year's Eve, and there was also champagne available every day at breakfast if you fancied it!

The town centre of Playa de Las Americas a very short walk away is bustling, with plenty of shops and restaurants. You can reach the coast via many different routes and there are several beaches within easy walking distance. The very closest are stony beaches, with interesting rocks to climb and rock pools to explore.

Child playing on rocky beach

Not much further away are the sandy beaches, the large Playa de las Vistas and the smaller Playa del Camison. Both are fairly sheltered from the waves and have swimming areas, although the water was a bit too cold in January for me to do much more than paddle. The sand is good for building sandcastles..

Sandy beach in Tenerife

We didn't eat outside the hotel but there seemed to be a good variety of different cuisines on offer in the town restaurants, and when we went into Playa de Las Americas in the evening it was buzzing with nightlife. The fountain has a sound and light show three times during the evening which was quite fun to watch, and all the Christmas decorations were still up everywhere. On the evening before Three King's Day there was a parade through the town, unfortunately as some of us were ill we didn't make it down there, but the Kids Club put on a little parade in the hotel before the Mini Disco which I took Harry along to, it was quite fun with plenty of sweets being handed out to all the children.

I've put together a short video which you can see below, with a more detailed look at our room and balcony, the local beaches, the town centre, and some of the food that was on offer.

If you have any questions about the Spring Bitacora Hotel I'd love to help, please do leave a comment below!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Decorated wooden heart magnets

Now that Christmas is well and truly over my thoughts are turning to Valentine's Day crafting, and I'm surrounded by pink and red sparkly things and embellishments! I have lots of crafty ideas to share, and I'm starting off with these simple decorated wooden hearts. They have a magnet on the back so they can be used to decorate the fridge or radiator, and they also make a lovely little gift for a child to send to his or her Valentine.

Decorated wooden hearts craft

To make these hearts I used these blank Wooden Heart Magnets (currently £2.99 for 10) from Baker Ross which I received as a Baker Ross blogger a few years ago. You can also find similar blank wooden hearts to decorate in many places online, which you could easily stick a magnet to.

Blank wooden hearts to decorate

First I painted the hearts red. You can use acrylic paint for a nice finish, or else just a couple of coats of children's poster paints works well. Then we spread the hearts liberally with PVA glue and stuck on a variety of embellishments - jewels, sequins, pom poms, buttons and so on.

Both Mia and Harry decided that they wanted to make a face, and I went with a pattern. Mia wanted to keep hers but Harry has decided to give his decorated heart to his sweetheart. He also used some Posca pens to write a little message to her on the back, I hope that she likes it!

Decorated wooden heart magnets

Monday, 9 January 2017

My Sky Blanket in December #SkyBlanket2016

My Sky Blanket in December

The year is over, and along with it my Sky Blanket project has come to an end! Well, technically, the blanket is not complete yet, as I still have to crochet the border. But the daily rows are all done, and I'm hoping to call the blanket finished within the next few weeks.

Here is how my blanket has progressed so far - JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugust, September, October and November - and here is how the blanket looked with the daily rows finished at the end of December.

Sky Blanket December progress

It's a bit easier to see the blanket from the front, and as you can see it is enormous! It measures over 3 metres in length, and I concur that it is a rather ridiculous size for a blanket. But once I set myself to a challenge I like to see it through, and I just couldn't bear to stop, or change anything to make it smaller. I have written a blog post about things that I would do differently next time, chief amongst them being to find a way to make it smaller, but I do love it and I can't wait until the border is finished and I can snuggle underneath it properly.

Sky Blanket in December

For the border I'm going to use this yarn from Red Heart. I received it from Make it Coats along with the other yarn that I used for the blanket, but I didn't use it for any of the daily rows as it was quite similar to the colour that I used for medium blue. So it doesn't duplicate the colours and I think that it is complementary to the coloured stripes. I'm not sure how wide the border will be yet, I'm thinking about making it wider down the sides to even it out a bit, but there is going to be a lot of crochet involved so I might just decide that I want to get it finished!

Sky Blanket with border yarn

I filmed my Sky Blanket at the beginning of December as part of Vlogmas 2016, and you can see the video here, although not quite complete it gives a good impression of the size of the blanket!

Here's a collage of the progress throughout the year. It seemed to take ages to get going but it built up very quickly, and by about the end of June it was definitely a decent blanket size. Perhaps a six month sky blanket project would be an idea for next time!

Sky Blanket progress collage

There has been a group of us taking part in the Sky Blanket project throughout 2016, and you can find us across social media, in particular Instagram, using the hashtag #skyblanket2016. The project was started by Bug, Bird & Bee, The Boy and Me and You Little Sew and Sew.

Sky Blanket 2016 logo

With many thanks to Make it Coats for supplying me with the yarn for this project.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Tips for completing a crochet Sky Blanket

As a new year starts, my Sky Blanket 2016 project draws to a close. This crochet blanket has kept me busy for the entire year, and even though it's up to date in terms of rows there is still plenty to get done, with a large border to complete. If you are starting a similar project this year, I thought I'd share a few tips to help with the planning and to keep you on track.

Top Tips for completing a Sky Blanket

* When making a start on the blanket, you need to remember that it could end up being very large when it is completed. If you are planning to knit or crochet a row a day it will be huge. Working smaller squares and sewing them together will make a more manageable blanket.

* The blanket will also use a lot of yarn. I estimated that a 100g ball of yarn would crochet approximately 17 rows of half trebles on my 200 chain blanket. So for 366 (leap year) rows that's more than 21 big 100g balls, and of course it's unlikely to be an even spread across the colours so you'll need to allow more for some colours (here in the UK that's realistically going to be extra grey). Try to choose a yarn that will still be available if you need to purchase more as you go along.

* It's a long project and you can always make changes as you go along - I intended to just keep to the same stitch throughout the blanket but a couple of months in I decided to mix it up a bit with a few different stitches to keep it interesting and I'm so glad that I did.

* Don't be too ambitious and give yourself too much to do each day, it's better to have a completed smaller blanket than an unfinished one lying around. This is especially important if you are going to be away for a while or there will be periods of time when you won't be able to work on it and you'll have to catch up.

* If you are planning on travelling or being away from home a lot, think about keeping the project portable my making squares etc. - by around April I found that the blanket was becoming far too big to be packing to take away with me and so I had to catch up when I got back.

* Sew in all the ends as you go along, otherwise it will be a daunting task!

* Keep a record of the sky colour each day, whether written or photographic. Even if you are completing a row each day, it's amazing how quickly you forget! Also, don't get too hung up about it. Especially here in the UK, most days most colours will appear in the sky at some point during an average day!

* Don't get hung up on finishing the blanket on December 31st. Especially if you are planning to add a border, with the size that the blanket will be that's quite a time consuming process!

* Try and find others that are doing the same challenge, there are bound to be plenty sharing their progress across social media. Join in with hashtags so that you are inspired to keep going (and inspired by how others are working on their blankets). We used the hashtag #skyblanket2016 and you can find lots of inspiration on Instagram.

Sky Blanket crochet rolled up

* As the year draws to a close, it's time to start planning the next project! Why not have a look at my list of ideas for a year long craft project! I'm not going to be working on anything like this for a little while I don't think, I'm looking forward to trying something new, but in a couple of years time I may well be back!
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