Saturday, 29 August 2015

How Pinterest has changed my life

Okay, I'm sure that overall my life wouldn't be that much different without Pinterest, but it's true that it has had a massive influence on me over the last few years! I first heard of Pinterest on some US craft message boards that I used to lurk in, way back in 2011 when it was invite only, shortly after I started blogging. My sister had got there first, and it was thanks to her invitation that I was able to set up an account. At the time, it wasn't really heard of over here in the UK, and bloggers hadn't yet cottoned on to how important it would become as a social media network.

In May 2013 I was really excited when I was invited to join in with many other bloggers to host the #PinItForward campaign to help introduce Pinterest to potential users in the UK.

Then, a short while back, Pinterest chose to make me a featured pinner, meaning that new users that selected certain areas of interest would follow me automatically. That has come to an end now unfortunately, as it did wonders for my follower count! I'm not sure why they chose me, but it probably had something to do with the fact that I use Pinterest pretty much daily and I pin a variety of content. I don't spam it with links to my blog, in fact I'm not very good at all at using it to promote my blog, instead I use it naturally for my own interests.

Speaking about Pinterest at BritMums Live

My use of Pinterest brought me to the attention of BritMums, and I was invited to speak in the session "Winning Ideas from Leading Pinners" along with Helen Neale and Jen Stanbrook. I was so far out of my comfort zone and found it pretty terrifying, but luckily the other two ladies were brilliant and I think that the session went well. And it was an amazing feeling of confidence when I'd done it! I am also currently running the BritMums Pinterest account which I love doing, it's a great excuse to browse for fun things to pin in some different categories to the ones on my boards.

I mainly use Pinterest for inspiration for my own projects. My new interest in sewing is due to all the gorgeous sewing related pins that I've been seeing over the last few years. I've also been introduced to new ideas like sensory play and simple science experiments for children which I wouldn't have come across otherwise.

Pinterest has also made me think more carefully about the content that I produce for my blog, from trying to make more of an effort with my photography (still working on that one!) to being clearer and adding more detail to my tutorials.

Finally Pinterest is a great way to spend a few minutes on my phone just browsing and pinning pretty things, even if there is no expectation that I'll actually do any of them! I also have several boards, like Pretty and By the Sea, that are there purely for me to look through when I want to spend a few minutes looking at nice pictures!

Visit Jennifer Jain's profile on Pinterest.

Are you on Pinterest? Leave a link to your profile in the comments and I'll make sure that I'm following you!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

My holiday scrapbooks

I've always loved documenting things. It's one of the reasons that I've kept up with this blog for so long! I enjoy writing about things that I've done, preserving memories, and if possible presenting them in an attractive way. For some reason though, the more popular hobby of scrapbooking has never appealed to me. Instead of using actual photographs I always preferred to use other types of memorabilia - tickets, postcards, pictures cut from leaflets and so on - to illustrate my writing.

I have great memories from my early camping holidays in France, sitting in the tent and filling up exercise books with cut out pictures and notes. I still have them, and they are great to look back on, I can definitely recall places that we visited and things we did that I would otherwise have forgotten. It was such a fun part of my childhood holidays that I've been encouraging my children to do the same, and I've blogged about how to create a holiday scrapbook with young children

Here are a couple of pages from my French scrapbooks, dating back to 1991 and 1992.

Old childhood holiday scrapbooks

Since Ram and I got together we've been lucky enough to travel widely, and from the very beginning of our adventures together I wrote them up when we returned home. I would take an exercise book with me to write in at the end of each day, as well as a small plastic folder to collect various bits and pieces. I often even took a small pair or scissors along so that I could cut pictures out and save space in the suitcase.

The notes were written up in A5 sketchbooks using gel pens. To begin with I used a rainbow of colours but I eventually settled on black. Copying everything out again did take time of course, but back in those pre-children days I had all the time in the world! There was almost a disaster when towards the end of our five week long around the world trip I left my holiday notebook behind on the plane - fortunately it was waiting for me in the lost property but it caused me a lot of stress at the time!

Written out holiday journals

I don't keep these scrapbooks any more, partly because I don't have as much time as I once did, but mainly because this blog has replaced them. I write about many more of our activities on the blog now, in particular days out, which I never had a record of before. It's also so easy to pop photographs into a blog post, and I use my smash book for storing the odd little bits and pieces of paper.

I love reading through my old holiday scrapbooks, and I really do need to think about preserving them digitally. These days it would be easy enough to at least snap a photograph of each page and back them up somewhere securely, definitely something that I need to get around to! I was looking through them recently which inspired me to write this post, and Harry enjoyed reading through them too. I'm afraid that they are mainly factual and quite boring to anyone that wasn't there, although I did find a couple of pages where I had gone all poetical about Venice which was quite fun to read back. I'm planning on sharing that in a separate post!

How do you preserve the memories of things that you've done?

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Book review - Molly Maybe's Monsters: The Dappity-Doofer

Bestselling author-illustrator Kristina Stephenson has introduced a brave new adventurer - Molly Maybe and her faithful canine companion Waggy Burns. The first book in this new picture book series is Molly Maybe's Monsters: The Dappity Doofer.

Molly Maybe's Monsters cover

Molly Maybe has a secret - she has a trap door in the floor of her tree house, and by travelling in her incredible Mundervator she can travel to the magical monster world of Undermunder. It's a world inhabited by bright, colourful monsters, and they are searching for the town's mascot which has been stolen.

Molly Maybe's Monsters inside

It's a great story. Little ones will like the cheerful, vibrant illustrations, and older ones will appreciate the exciting plot as they work out what has happened. It looks like it's going to be a fantastic series!

Molly Maybe's Monsters illustration

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

Monday, 24 August 2015

Behind the scenes of my blog

I thought I'd share a little bit about where I blog and how I blog. I hope that it's interesting!

A few months ago I wrote about my blogging area, when we had just bought a new desk. It's where I do all my blogging, because I need a full size keyboard when I'm typing. It does mean that I'm limited to writing blog posts from one particular spot in the house, but I think that it also helps with my productivity because if I'm sitting down at the desk I know that I'm here to work.

I rarely get the chance to sit down here when there are small children in the house, and if I do I'm constantly interrupted, so I'm to be found here on my child free mornings and some evenings. I do social media catching up from my phone at various points throughout the day. This is how the desk looks at the moment - not quite as tidy as in the original pictures!

Desk for blogging

To the right of my desk on the floor you can usually find a small stack of books and jiffy bags which are things waiting to be reviewed. On this occasion the jiffy bag contains fabric. As hard as I try I can never seem to be without it, as soon as I've got through the pile another jiffy bag, often full of books, will appear! Please don't think that I'm complaining at all though, receiving things to review is a fantastic reward for all the time that I spend on my blog.

Pile of books to review

I recently decided that I wanted a decent white background for some of my posts, especially the crafty ones. So my photo studio is a piece of white cardboard, folded over, which I store folded up next to my desk. I take most of my photos on my iPhone in my study, below the window. It's starting to look a little scruffy now so I should probably replace it. I'd really like to improve my photography, it's definitely something that I need to work on!

Basic photography set up

I have a bullet journal style notebook which I use to plan my week, both for blogging and for other things that need to be done. I try to plan my blog posts a week in advance, leaving spaces for posts that come up, for example if we've been on a brilliant day trip or something has happened that I want to remember. I also have a longer term editorial calendar which I use for a rough plan of posts about a month in advance, and various lists of craft ideas and blog posts that I want to write. I have a vague yearly schedule too with ideas for upcoming months based around the seasons and celebrations.

I love seeing behind the scenes posts from other bloggers and so I'm sharing some others that I've come across. Helen from The Crazy Kitchen has shared her budget friendly food photography studio, and there are some ideas there that I'm definitely thinking about implementing. Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary has a lovely desk for writing which fits neatly into the corner, and Annie from Mammasaurus has a beautiful colourful workspace surrounded by inspirational keepsakes.

If you are a blogger and have written a 'behind the scenes' post I'd love to see it, please leave a link in the comments!

Friday, 21 August 2015

On buying some new books

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to have a weekend away with some girl friends. We had a lovely time, and one of the highlights was a visit to a real bookshop, some time to browse, and an opportunity to treat myself to some real, actual books!

It has been ages since I bought myself any books, these days it feels a bit extravagent. I do love my Kindle, and I do buy and download e-books (although free ones whenever I can!), but there is definitely something different about reading a real, paper book. We have decided that we are going to form a relaxed book group, where we each read the same book and then meet up to discuss it. We spent ages browsing for our first book and we chose The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I remember reading his book Cloud Atlas a few years back and enjoying it. I've made a start on it already and I'm enjoying it very much!

The books were Buy One Get One Half Price so it seemed a shame not to take advantage of the offer. I'd eyed up The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton a few weeks before and it looked like a good read, so we decided to go with that as a second book. They are both lovely thick books with a nice cover, and although you shouldn't of course judge a book by its cover it is hard not to!

Some new books to read

Finally I managed to accumulate some credit on Amazon in the Kindle store so I was able to download The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris for free. I've always enjoyed Joanne Harris's books, I think that I've read them all, and so I'm confident that it will be a good read.

We are off on holiday shortly and as we are going with family I'm hoping that I might get the opportunity to actually sit down and read by myself for a bit, that would be lovely!

Have you read any of these? What have you been reading this summer?

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

How to make a papier mache volcano

How to make papier mache volcanoes

I'd been thinking of making a papier mache volcano with the children for some time now, and the summer holidays are the perfect opportunity for a long term craft project. It took us a couple of weeks to make our volcanoes, what with waiting for all the layers of paper mache and paint to dry, but the finished project is pretty cool and the perfect backdrop for Harry's dinosaur scenes!

You need:

A thick piece of cardboard for the base
A cardboard tube
Lots of newspaper
Lots of plain tissue paper
Glue (we used homemade flour glue - mix one part flour to five parts water and boil for three or four minutes until it's thickened, stirring continously, wait for it to cool before use)
Coloured tissue paper

How to make the volcano:

Begin by glueing a cardboard tube to the centre of a square of cardboard to form the middle of the volcano. Scrumple newspaper up into balls and use it to build up around the shape of the volcano. Using lots of glue, wrap strips of newspaper around your structure and mould with your fingers until you have a smooth shape. This step can be a little fiddly, and you might also want to use tape to secure your newspaper balls. Then leave to dry.

How to make a papier mache volcano

Then add a second layer of newspaper. This time use smaller squares of newspaper and think about where you can add some smaller scrumpled up balls of paper to build up the texture a little bit, especially around the base. Make sure that you use plenty of glue and smooth it all down with either a brush or fingers.

Making a paper mache volcano

When the second layer of newspaper has dried you can move on to a couple of tissue paper layers. The tissue paper becomes softer with the glue on it, so you can mould it to fit any gaps. We also used it to make extra lumps and texture which we covered with more tissue paper. By the time our two layers of tissue paper had been completed our volcanoes were looking pretty good. I wanted to make sure that they were completely dry before we began paining, so I left them for a few days, outside in the sunshine when I could.

Paper mache volcano

When the volcanoes were completely dry we began painting. We used bright poster paint, and I found that it covered really well. I had in mind that they would both make realistic looking volcano models, but Mia had other ideas, and I really liked her vision of a pink and purple 'fairy volcano' so I let her go along with it! Harry painted a base coat of brown with green around the base, and Mia went with a mixture of pink and purple, finished with a layer of glitter glue embedded with sequins.

Paper mache volcanoes drying outside

When the paint was dry they added another coat of paint for some more details. Mia mixed up some grey with glitter for the base of her volcano and Harry used grey to paint in some rocky areas and added plenty of red paint for lava running down the edges. It looks really effective where he put the paint on thickly so it could form a natural dribble down the sides. I think he did a great job, and he took it really seriously!

Painting a papier mache volcano

Finally, the volcanoes were finished with some coloured tissue paper. Because Harry's volcano already had lava flowing down the sides, we just used a ball of scrumpled up red paper to stick out of the top before taking it outside for some dinosaur play fun.

Paper mache volcano with dinosaurs

Mia chose pink tissue paper lava for her fairy volcano, and she decorated it with some of her Playmobil fairies, although she couldn't resist adding a dinosaur or two as well!

Paper mache volcanoes

They are both so pleased with them, it was such fun making them together and I know that they are going to be well played with!

Child playing with papier mache volcano

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Review - Stitch markers from Charmed Knitting

Today I'm sharing some gorgeous stitch markers that I was sent to review by Charmed Knitting. Charmed Knitting is a small, family business, aiming to provide unique and beautiful collections to knitters and crocheters across the globe. They sell stitch markers in different sizes to cater to different styles and sizes of knitting, ranging from simple inexpensive charms to luxury charms, as well as seasonal and limited edition sets.

My stitch markers arrived beautifully packaged in tissue paper, wrapped with ribbon and secured with a little heart charm. Each set of stitch markers also comes with a little drawstring bag for storage. I received a set of gorgeous enamel Blue Daisies (£4.99), which are a good size and have a clip so you can clip them over the needles without moving the stitches about.

Blue daisy stitch markers

Here is one marking the beginning of the round in my current sock knitting project, it's just the right size!

Stitch markers on sock knitting

I also received a set of Owl Family (£3.99) bronze stitch markers which are really lovely, and I really like the matching large safety pin to keep them all together when not in use!

Owl stitch markers

Charmed Knitting are currently offering a free gift with all orders - a sweet The Happy Knitter set with five stitch markers. You can find more information here and the voucher code here -
Free Gift.

You can follow Charmed Knitting across social media, including Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.

Stitch markers from Charmed Knitting

I was sent a bundle of stitch markers in exchange for this review.
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