Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Five of my favourite completed crafty projects

I love looking around my house and seeing the things that I've made. Although I love crafting I'm not very good at crafting for the sake of it, I like to make things that are useful and have a purpose (even if that purpose is just decorative!). I thought I'd share some of my favourite crafty makes from the last few years that are still on display and in use.

These felt and fabric applique pig and sheep canvases were one of my first 'grown up' crafty projects. I bought them as a kit and made them when I was pregnant with Harry, and they set the theme for his first nursery which was farmyard themed. They stayed in his room until we decorated it with a space theme, at which point they were moved to Mia's room where they still sit on her shelves. To be honest both children have outgrown them now, but I can't bear to get rid of them, I'm hoping they can stay in Mia's room for a while yet!

Felt applique sewing pictures for nursery

Another crafty project that I was working on when my children were babies is my cross stitch sampler. It's from a design by Moira Blackburn called Three Things and it is still available to purchase as a kit. I remember that it was an expensive gift at the time, but as it took me around seven years to complete it I certainly got my money's worth! It now hangs in the wall in our study.

Moira Blackburn cross stitch sampler

My drawstring backpack was my first proper sewing machine project following a pattern and I was very pleased with how well it turned out. The bag hangs on the back of my office chair and it's really useful for days when my usual handbag isn't large enough but I don't want to carry around a proper rucksack.

Patchwork drawstring bag

My recent finished large project was my crochet granny square blanket which I'm very proud of. Most of our blankets get chucked behind the sofa in the living room but I don't want it to get damaged so I keep it folded up on the sofa in the study (even though it doesn't match the colour of the room at all!) and use it when I'm taking some time out with a book (or for a quick nap!)

Crochet granny square blanket

Finally, also proudly on display in the study are my decorated wooden drawers from Ikea. These little drawers are so handy, I use them to store odd little crafty bits and pieces and they are surprisingly roomy. I'm thinking that I might need to pick up another set next time we are there, they would be great for storing all Mia's little hair bits and pieces and other junk that she's collecting at an alarming rate, and she'd love to help me decorate them.

Decorated Ikea wooden drawers

What are you favourite crafty makes, do you keep them on display around the house? It really makes me happy to have things that I've made around me, and so I'm linking this post up to Happy and Home, hosted by Penny at A Residence.

  Happy and Home at A Residence blog

Monday, 23 May 2016

Working out my own interpretation of Marie Kondo's method

When I first encountered Marie Kondo and read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (affiliate link) I was instantly inspired, and I've blogged a couple of times about how I've used her method - my first post about the book and my post about the second book and sparking joy. If you've not read the book, you can find a good introduction to Kondo's methods here - Decluttering expert Marie Kondo - My Six Rules of Tidying.

In a nutshell, you need to complete your 'tidying' in one go (by which Kondo means over a period of about six months) and you tidy by category in a strict order - clothes, books, paperwork, komono (all miscellaneous items), finishing with sentimental. By working in this order you will hone your skills for deciding what sparks joy - the things that you are going to keep - so that when you finally reach the sentimental items you will be able to deal with them easily. Tidying by category means that when working on clothes, for example, you will make a pile of every single item of clothing that you own, so that you can make decisions about everything within that category at once.

What I took from the Marie Kondo method

I've always been interested in decluttering and aspire to a minimalistic lifestyle, but conversely I'm also someone that hoards sentimental items and memorabilia, keeping memories alive through old diaries, ticket stubs, postcards and old toys. This has meant that I didn't find it necessary to follow the book strictly as I was already pretty well on top of clothes, books and paperwork. So it was really the komono categories that I needed to think about.

Kondo is very clear that you must complete your tidying in one go. You will be able to maintain your decluttered space, having become more aware of your possessions, and having learned to pass them on when they are replaced or have served their purpose.

However with small children around I've found that going through things regularly is essential, and I still need to use the 'pull it all out at once and go through it all together' method. In particular I have found this with their clothes - even though the children are growing more slowly now I am still astonished by how quickly the outgrown items pile up in their wardrobes. I find that packing for a holiday is a good time for a sort out and I will pull out all their clothes, pick out the ones that I need to pack, and think carefully about the clothes that I'm putting back in their wardrobes. It's not so much about which clothes spark joy as the ones that still fit them.

Toys are another area which I need to constantly keep on top of. The children are constantly acquiring new small toys and other bits and pieces from party bags, freebies from magazines and so on, and I'm also lucky enough to receive occasional deliveries of toys and craft materials thanks to my blog. And of course the types of toys that they want to play with changes as they grow up.

When it comes to toys I'm afraid that I do deviate from Marie Kondo's rules. She suggests that children from the age of three or so should be involved in making decisions about their possessions. However I've found from experience that while mine get very upset at the thought of passing things on if they can physically see them go, they very rarely miss anything that has gone and are very  comfortable with me talking about the idea of passing things on to other children once they have finished with them.

Marie Kondo and photographs

For me personally, the biggest takeaway from the books is learning to love and appreciate your possessions rather than stuffing them away in cupboards and drawers. I wrote more about this in a recent blog post - My Marie Kondo approach and sparking joy - and I'm really learning to love my home surrounded by the things that make me happy.

Are you a Konvert? What have been the most and least important messages from the book for you? I love reading about what other people have taken from the books!

Header photo credit - Irene van der Poel via Unsplash.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Making natural mandalas in the garden

Today I'm sharing a really simple activity that kept both my children busy for ages after school the other day - making garden mandalas using natural materials found in the garden.

Making mandalas in the garden

It's so easy to do, and you don't need to have a big garden with lots in it - generally the only flowers that I cultivate are daisies and dandelions! Of course it's also a great activity for when you are out and about - at the beach, in the forest or anywhere really. If you want to give your children some inspiration to get started just do an image search for garden or natural mandalas, and you'll find lots of examples to give you some ideas.

I gave the children an old plate and some chalk to draw around it to give them a basic template to work with, as well as a few shells, but they didn't need much help to get started.

Simple natural mandala with kids

It was such a fun, relaxing activity that I couldn't help but take part myself. And although Mia didn't have the same patience for it as Harry, she still made a pretty good attempt, and it sparked an interest in making mud pies as she went on to mix up the flowers and stones that she had collected into various potions.

Row of garden mandalas

It's a bit of a shame that it's such a transient art form and they don't last long, but at least it's easy to take a quick photo of the finished work before it blows away!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Book review - Explore 360: The Tomb of Tutankhamun

This week Harry has been spending a lot of time reading Explore 360: The Tomb of Tutankhamun, a fantastic new book from Carlton Kids.

Explore 360 The Tomb of Tutankhamun

Although the book is focused around the tomb of Tutankhamen and its discovery, the book begins with plenty of information about all aspects of ancient Egyptian life to help put it all into context - for example the geography of the area, the pyramids, the Valley of the Kings as a whole as well as other famous temples, along with details about everyday life at that time. 

Tutankhamum picture book review

There are a couple of brilliant double page spreads, one about how mummies were prepared, the different ceremonies and rituals, and what the ancient Egyptians believed happened after death, as well as one showing some of the objects and wall paintings from the tomb. Harry loves these pages!

Child reading book about ancient Egypt

When the book moves on to dealing specifically with Tutankhamun's tomb there is a huge amount of detail, but as there are plenty of photos and illustrations along with easy to access blocks of text, Harry lapped it all up. The story begins with the search for the tomb, some information about Tutankhamun's life, all leading up to the exciting moment when a hidden staircase was discovered. The book takes us through what was found in each room, how it was all excavated, and where the treasures can be found today. 

A great feature of this book is that it has an accompanying free app. Once downloaded you can explore Tutankhamun's tomb by moving your tablet around and zooming in for a closer look at some of the objects inside. It's really good and helps bring the tomb to life as well as helping to get a feel for the size and scale inside the tomb. The book also links to the app, with notes to tell you whereabouts you are located in the tomb as you read each page so that you can explore through the app at the same time.

Child using app to explore Tutankhamun's tomb

Ancient Egypt and the tomb of Tutankhamum is an absolutely fascinating subject to explore and this book has really sparked Harry's interest - we've been watching lots of videos about the tomb and he's been looking through the photographs from when Ram and I visited the area a few years ago - the book is definitely going to be a bookshelf staple!

I received a copy of this book to review, Amazon link is affiliate.

Monday, 16 May 2016

What do you bring home from your travels?

Recently I read this great blog post from Fizzy Peaches - How to buy souvenirs on your travels that aren't tacky - and as a frequent traveller it made me think about the souvenirs and mementos that I bring back home to remind me of our holidays.

We aren't really big ones for buying things on holiday. A good thing when it comes to not having a house filled with tat, but I do sometimes see other people's houses with reminders of the places that they've visited on display and wish we had a little more.

As a child I didn't hold back though, and over the years travelling with my family plenty of tat came back with me. Not much of it remains now, but I do have a few things that I like to keep around. The little decorative plate in particular I vividly remember buying after visiting some caves in France, I've no idea why as I've never had any others like it before or since, but something about it must have appealed to me at the time. I think that the little cat must also have come from France due to the beret and I can't remember the origin of the shell mouse but he's very sweet!

Childhood holiday souvenir tat

I also bought these pottery candlesticks years ago on a family holiday somewhere hot and sunny. They don't match the decor anywhere in our house so I don't keep them out on display, but I bring them out when we have special meals and put them on the table. I love them!

Blue pottery candlesticks

When Ram and I first started holidaying together I decided that I would start to collect magnets, trying to find the most hideous and brightly coloured ones that I could. In our old house they were stuck to the front of the fridge, although unfortunate close proximity to the recycling box and a toddler meant that a few went missing over time. Our new house has an integral fridge with non magnetic door which is probably a good thing, so instead my remaining magnets are stuck to the magnetic backing on my desk holding up some favourite postcards.

Hideous tacky fridge magnets

More recently, when we go on holidays that involve a beach, I've been looking for sea glass (I hit the jackpot in Barcelona!) and interesting shells and pebbles. I have a big box full and no idea which individual beaches they all came from, but I like seeing them all jumbled together.

Sea glass and shells

Finally the thing that I collect the most from holidays is paper - leaflets, guidebooks, pamphlets, postcards, tickets, maps...I have two boxes in the top of my wardrobe stuffed with paper souvenirs from all our trips. It's handy to have maps in case we intend to visit somewhere again (although in the days of Google maps they are pretty well redundant) and I love going back through the boxes and reminiscing.

What do you bring back from your travels?

Friday, 13 May 2016

Father's Day craft gift ideas from Baker Ross

This year in the UK Father's Day will be celebrated on June 19th. It's lovely to give Dad something homemade for Father's Day, especially if it's something that he can use or put proudly on display. We received a selection of crafts from Baker Ross which would be lovely gifts for children to make for their Dads.

Firstly I love these Elephant Ceramic Coin Banks (£2.95 for two). They are really easy for young children to paint, and older children can come up with more intricate decorations. To paint them we used HobbyLine Brights Porcelain Paint Pots (£9.99 for a pack of six) which are fantastic paints that we've used for quite a few projects. They cover nicely and come in some lovely bright colours. This coin bank is a practical gift that would look great on display.

Baker Ross ceramic elephant

Next we used the same paints to decorate some Wooden Beach Hut Key Holder Kits (£3.45 for three)
Fathers Day. Again the paints covered well and dried to a lovely shiny finish. Mia painted these beach huts herself and I think that she did a brilliant job!

Baker Ross painted key holder

Then we decorated some Wooden Keyrings (£2.95 for eight). They keyrings come in lots of different styles, and I think that they are a great price. Mia chose her favourites to paint and then finished off with some felt pens, Ram is always mislaying his car keys so hopefully these lovely keyrings will help him to keep track of them!

Baker Ross wooden painted keyrings

Finally Baker Ross sell some Self Portrait Blanks (£2.99 for twelve) which I'm planning to work on with the children nearer the time. They are cut out shapes that the children can use to make their own portraits and I think they'd be fab for a group of children to work on together - you could ask them to make a portrait of their Dad for a great display!

Once again we had a lot of fun with these Baker Ross crafting kits!

Baker Ross gifts for Father's Day

I received a box of craft materials as a member of the Baker Ross Bloggers Network. Prices correct at time of writing.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Weather Bunting with #bostikbloggers

This month the theme for our Bostik Bloggers craft was weather. Mia is obsessed with the weather and still loves the weather dial that we made last year, so I was looking for other ways that we could represent different weather types. With the weather having turned so nice lately we've been spending a lot of time in the garden and our summerhouse, and so we decided to make some more bunting to decorate the summerhouse with a weather theme.

How to make weather bunting

You need:

Coloured cardboard
Weather themed and other decorations - weather stickers, buttons, artificial leaves, stick on gems, pom poms and so on
Long piece of ribbon
Hole punch
Glue - we used Bostik Fine & Wide Glu Pen

Materials for making weather bunting

To make:

First decide what types of weather you want to include - we went for snowy, sunny, cloudy, rainy, thundery and windy. Choose which coloured cardboard you want to use to represent each type of weather and cut out your bunting triangle shapes - we used a bunting template from Activity Village and cut it down slightly.

Sort out your decorations so you know what you will be using for each triangle. Then type out and print your different weather types so that they can be glued to the top of each bunting piece. Mia is getting on really well with her reading and writing so I helped her to type the words out herself.

Bostik fine and wide glue pen

When decorating the triangles make sure to use plenty of glue for the heavier items such as buttons. We used the Bostik Fine & Wide Glu Pen which is brilliant, the sides are easily squeezed so Mia can use it herself easily, it dries clear, and it sticks everything down firmly. I've also found Blu Tac Glu Dots to be excellent for sticking down pom poms.

Gluing with Bostik glue

Leave the decorated triangles to dry thoroughly, then punch a hole in the corner of each one for hanging. Thread the length of ribbon through the holes, making sure to leave plenty at each end to make it easier to hang. Decide on the distance that you want to leave between each flag, make sure that the ribbon is lying flat and neat, then use a piece of tape to attach the ribbon to the back of the flag firmly so that it won't slide about.

Finished weather themed bunting

Then decide where to hang your bunting! Ours looks fab in the summerhouse, and it's really easy to hang as I just stick drawing pins into the wood.

Weather craft hanging in summerhouse

Rainy bunting craft

This box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club.
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