Friday, 29 April 2016

My Marie Kondo approach and sparking joy

"Discarding is not the point; what matters is keeping those things that bring you joy." - Marie Kondo, Spark Joy

I've written a little bit before about Marie Kondo and the Life Changing Magic of Tidying and what an effect it had on me, and having recently purchased her latest book Spark Joy I thought I'd write a bit of an update. I do declutter quite regularly so to be honest I never felt the need to do her complete tidying as my clothes and books are quite well under control, but I have been fascinated by her philosophy and found it very helpful when it comes to streamlining my possessions.

Kondo's second book Spark Joy is advertised as being 'An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying', and from the title I'd sort of been expecting a more visual book, perhaps with some photographs, so I wasn't really sure whether it would work as a Kindle book. It turns out that the illustrations are  just a few simple line drawings and it's fine to read on a Kindle. The book does repeat a lot of information from the first book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, but it goes into a lot more detail, and for me the biggest thing that I took from Spark Joy was the emphasis on how to make the most of the possessions that you have chosen to keep.

"If you think that tidying up just means getting rid of clutter, you're wrong. Always keep in mind that the true purpose is to find and keep the things you truly love, to display these proudly in your home, and to live a joyful life." - Marie Kondo, Spark Joy

Marie Kondo describes four ways to use items that spark joy for decorating your home - placing them on something (for example a necklace on a stuffed animal), hanging them (like keychains), pinning or sticking them up (like postcards) or using them as wraps or covers (like scraps of cloth). Then everywhere you look you will see something that you love.

Over the last few weeks I've been going through my things again and following some of the advice in the book. For example I started with my photographs, which I thought were pretty well sorted. But I ended up going through them three times over the course of a week, discarding more and more each time, until I had reduced by almost a half. Those I got rid of were duplicates, blurry photos, random landscapes and unflattering ones of me!

Marie Kondo - displaying things that spark joy

I moved a big stack of Ram's photos into his own memory box (I don't need photos from his drunken holidays among my joy sparking photographs!) and I pulled out about 90 of my very favourite photos to store in an album by my desk that I can flip through whenever I want. They are all photographs that I remember being taken, mostly of family but also of friends throughout the years, special photos with a meaning behind them. This is the album that I bought - Small Shabby Chic Pink Floral Photo Album. I also updated the photos in some of the frames that I had on my bookshelves and moved them to the shelves by my desk so I can see them more often.

I then invested in a new photo storage box to replace the old plastic box for the rest of my photos, which are also nice to browse through.

Next I moved on to my postcard collection, which were all stored in another huge box. I've always collected postcards, mainly the free ones that you can pick up at the cinema, but some that I'd bought on holiday. At university I used to blu tack them to the walls of my various student accommodations so I thought that they were quite meaningful, but to my surprise I found that most of them didn't spark joy at all, I put so many into the recycling.

Then I treated myself to a hanging postcard display which holds 40 postcards and is reversible to display 20 at a time. I easily picked out my favourite forty and the hanger is now on the back of the utility room door, tucked out of the way yet where I still see it several times a day. I will swap the postcards from time to time, and I also have a big collection of Ladybird postcards which I'd like to put out on display sometimes. Much better than crammed tightly in an ugly storage box and never looked at!

I also stuck a few around my computer monitor so that I can see them while I'm working. I realised that although I aspire to a minimalist look I do also like having lots of neatly organised and pretty "clutter" around!

Postcard hanger for back of door

I sorted through my bookshelf too. I wrote about my bookshelves a few years ago, and I've downsized massively since then, I only have one big bookcase now and my smaller fiction bookcase. I still found a few books to pass on, and I rearranged the shelves a bit as well. Only keeping the books that spark joy is something that you somehow don't notice until it's done, and now I can sit and look at my bookshelves and they make me feel happy.

Bookshelf displaying favourite things

I also moved out some little ornaments that I had there that were crammed in and getting a bit lost. I pulled them out and put them in the melted Hama bead tray above my desk where I can see them (and they are easier to dust!)

Small tray of knick knacks

I'm really enjoying going through some of my favourite things and putting them on display so that I can enjoy them instead of having them stuffed in boxes.

Are you a Konvert? I'd love to hear your experiences!

If you enjoyed this post you might also like my blog post with some recommendations for organising and decluttering books that I've enjoyed.

I'm linking this post up to Happy and Home, the lovely linky hosted by Penny at A Residence.

Happy and Home at A Residence blog

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

How did you choose your blog name?

I spent a long time thinking about a name for my blog. I knew I wanted to choose a name that would be relevant for a long time, so I decided not to go with 'Mummy' in the name or anything that referred to my children. I  nearly went with 'Sleepless in Sussex' because my parenting years have been very much defined by a complete lack of sleep, but I desperately hoped that one day that blog title would no longer be relevant, and to be fair it's not quite as appropriate as it was five years ago!

I'm not exactly sure how I chose my blog name in the end, I do quite like having my name in the title and I'm pretty pleased with my choice so far. But I love hearing stories about how other bloggers chose their blog names, so I asked around to find out how they were chosen.

How did you choose your blog name?

Lots of bloggers use their names in the titles, Alice from Life as Alice writes about her life and so it was an obvious choice, and Marianne from Mari's World didn't know exactly what she would be writing about so she chose her world, and as Marianne's World was too long, Mari's World was born.

Some bloggers use a nickname, like Pinkoddy which was based on her Twitter name, and 2 Littlefaces who has the nickname Bigface because her face seems bigger than everyone else's in photos and so her blog about her boys is named after her two little faces!

Locations are another popular choice for a blog name, like A Bavarian Sojourn which was previously called A Scandinavian Sojourn when written upon embarking on a stint to Denmark. Another travel blog, Mum's Gone To..., started with a series of posts on Mum's Gone to Iceland based on Kerry Katona and the frozen food shop adverts! Trish intended to change when her son left for uni but stuck with it and recently bought the domain name!

A good choice for a blog name is something that interests you, like Cupcake Mumma who was and still is obsessed with cupcakes, or else a favourite song lyric like I'm Counting UFOs from Incubus, Wish You Were Here. Perhaps a book title, like Bug, Bird & Bee which is based on the title of a book from the Eden Project and represents Aly's interests and the direction that her blog is taking.

It seems like most of the people that answered me chose their blog title to represent what they were intending to blog about. Some people chose a blog name that describes exactly what they blog about, like Becky's blogs Thrifty HomeBaby Budgeting and Family Budgeting or All the Camping Gear which was inspired by a comment from blogger Louise's husband on their way to look at tents before they started camping.

Play & Learn Every Day is an accurate description of the play based learning activities covered on the blog and In the Playroom was started while Anna was literally sitting in the playroom, as well as reflecting the content of the blog. Rainy Day Mum was named by Cerys while wondering what to do with her young children on a rainy day and Kiddy Charts was the obvious blog name that worked with what the website was offering.

Family has also been a big influence on bloggers when choosing a name. Louise named her blog
A Strong Coffee after her response to people asking how she coped with three boys under 5 and Actually Mummy started her blog writing in her daughter's voice and so she named it after a phrase that she used to say.

Mum of Three World named her blog very quickly to emphasise that she had three children, with world to sum up that it was about everything relevant to them, and it's still an accurate reflection! Mummy From The Heart was originally called 'My Life' and was intended to be more private, but once more people started reading Michelle had a rethink and chose the new name to suit her writing style and who she was. Mummy Alarm has its name because pregnancy came as a surprise, one second Carolin was just living for the day and the next she was pregnant and expecting a baby!

Finally some bloggers named their blog after asking others - Jen from Smiles & Trials had her husband make the decision and last but not least The Soup Dragon Says was named thanks to help from a group of bloggy friends!

I really enjoyed putting this post together, and reading everyone's answers was fascinating! If you are a blogger, how did you choose your blog name? Would you choose the same name again, or go for something different?

Photo in image by Lauren Mancke via Unsplash.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Some animal themed crafts from Baker Ross

As a member of the Baker Ross Bloggers Network I'm lucky enough to receive regular deliveries of their fabulous arts and crafting kits. The latest box had so many lovely things in that I've divided it into two posts, and this first post is all about some animal themed crafting.

Zoo themed stuffed toy storage box

Mia loves her stuffed animals. She has quite a collection, and she loves all of them. She has a huge pile in bed with her at night, they follow her around the house, and although she does have a few particular favourites she seems to play with them all equally. I never really had any proper storage for them, I just shoved them on a bookshelf in her bedroom when I found them lying about, so I thought that it was time to come up with a way to store them properly, yet still make it easy for her to access them.

So she helped me to make a zoo themed storage box which fits nicely on her shelf and means that her soft toys are a little more contained and easy for her to put away. You just need a large cardboard box,  and we used the one that our Baker Ross order was delivered in. I cut off the top flaps and cut away some of the box on one side so that you can easily see and access what's inside. I reinforced the box with some packing tape to make sure that it was sturdy, then Mia and I ripped up lots of different coloured Safari Tissue Paper (£4.50 for 24 sheets) and used slightly diluted white glue (approx. one part water to two parts glue) to stick it down over the sides and inside the box. Be warned, you need a lot of glue!

Safari themed soft toy storage box

To finish we used some zoo themed letter stickers that we had in the house to make a sign for 'Mia's Animal Zoo' (her choice of words!). Then when she wasn't looking I surprised her by hiding some gorgeous Jungle Animal Plush Toys (£9.90 for six) inside. She was thrilled, they really are lovely little stuffed toys.

Soft toys from Baker Ross

Unicorn Sewing Kits

Both children really enjoyed making up these Unicorn Cushion Sewing Kits (£3.95 for two). The shape of the unicorn head is simple to sew around, and because it's not too big it wasn't too daunting for them. They enjoyed decorating their head with the self-adhesive stickers, although I ended up doing the manes as it was a bit fiddly for them and they got bored! They were really pleased with their finished stuffed unicorns, they are a gorgeous finished craft product!

Unicorn cushion sewing kits

Elephant Coin Banks

Last month we had a lot of fun painting ceramic bird planters, so I was pleased to see these Elephant Ceramic Coin Banks (£2.95 for two) and some more of the lovely Brights Porcelain Paint Pots (£9.99 for six). The paint covers the ceramic beautifully, drying to a lovely shiny finish, and the colours are so vivid, it looks fantastic. The paint dries really quickly too so you can do a first coat and then add detail on top in the same painting session.

Painted ceramic elephant

Farm Animal Pom Poms

I loved these cheerful Farm Animal Pom Pom Decoration Kits (£3.75 for three). The pom poms are very easy to make around the foam shapes, and because they are quite small it doesn't take too long for children to make them. We made a lovely sheep and duck, with the pig saved for another day.

Pom pom farm animals

Modelling Clay Animals

Finally we tried out the Rainbow Clay Multi Bars (£2.49 for a 500g pack) modelling clay. I asked the children to go along with the theme and make animals, and they eagerly got started. The clay was lovely and soft to work with, and didn't make their hands smell which is a bonus. It was a bit difficult to separate the colours initially but it didn't bother the children (and of course it always ends up mixed together in the end anyway!) Here's Mia working away busily (yes, her hair always looks like that by the end of the day!)

Child playing with modelling clay

The clay comes in lovely bright colours and I think it's a bargain for the price! They made some lovely little models and it looks as though it will store well ready for play another time.

Modelling clay animals

All prices correct at time of publication. I received a box of crafting supplies from Baker Ross as part of their Bloggers Network. 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Review - Shadowlands at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing

This week I went along with a couple of friends to the Connaught Theatre in Worthing to see William Nicholson's Shadowlands, visiting Worthing as part of the 2016 tour. Shadowlands tells the love story of the author C.S. Lewis and American poet Joy Gresham (nee Davidman).

Apart from being familiar with the stories in the Chronicles of Narnia series, I knew very little about the life of C.S. Lewis and nothing at all about the story in the play. Jack, as he was known to his friends, and Joy met after corresponding by letter for several years, and what began as a formal meeting over afternoon tea developed into a friendship which slowly turned into love. Then just as his experience of love was beginning, Lewis found his Christian faith and convictions about God tested when Joy was diagnosed with cancer.

Shadowlands at Worthing Connaught

The production was beautifully staged, with a simple yet detailed set that quickly transported you through the changing locations. In particular I thought the lighting was wonderful and really conveyed the changing of the seasons as well as providing a focus for the scene. There are also a couple of beautiful moments where the audience catches a glimpse of some Narnian inspired magic.

Shadowlands Tour 2016

The acting was flawless, with some long monologues that were beautifully delivered and expressed really thought provoking concepts, with the premise that "real life hasn't happened yet, this is just the Shadowlands". It raises some of the big questions about why God allows us to experience pain and suffering, and it's definitely a play that will stay in the mind long after the curtain falls. 

I received complimentary tickets for the show in exchange for a review. Shadowlands is playing at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing until Saturday 23rd April, 2016 from where it will move to Doncaster. You can find full details of the tour here - Shadowlands 2016 Tour.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Harry and the Brighton Mini Mile

After Ram ran the London Marathon last year, Harry showed an interest in running, and so this year Ram signed him up for the Brighton Mini Mile held at Preston Park in Brighton. It tied in with a weekend of running, culminating with the Brighton Marathon, and Harry was really excited to be taking part.

The Brighton Mini Mile 2016

It was only intended to be a bit of fun for him, so I was quite surprised to find out how competitive the event was. They were given t-shirts and proper running numbers, and they even had a chip for their shoe so that their run could be timed.

Harry did a bit of training in the weeks leading up and so we knew that he would be able to run the mile, but we are also realistic, he's not the most athletic child, and we knew that there would be plenty of children faster than him.

It was pretty obvious from quite early on that he was going to end up near the back, he's only got little legs and he was among the youngest running, but it didn't bother him at all. The track was circular so we were able to zip across and watch him at various points, and he had such a look of determination on his little face as he kept going.

Child running in a race

When he crossed the finish line he was delighted, and so thrilled with his medal and goody bag.

Child finishing Brighton Mini Mile

He ran the mile in 11 minutes 34 seconds, two minutes faster than his previous best time, and we were really proud of him!

You can read Harry's own account of his race on his blog here.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Our favourite family days out in West Sussex

I've lived in West Sussex all of my life, apart from brief spells in Nottingham and Germany, and I have many fond memories of days out with my family growing up, then rediscovering them with my own children and discovering new places to visit.

Here are some of my favourite places to visit wither with or without the family in West Sussex. Click on the links to see my more detailed review.

Free places to visit in West Sussex:

Highdown Hill and Gardens, Worthing

I only discovered Highdown Hill and Gardens when we moved to Worthing a few years ago, and it's such a lovely place.  Highdown Hill itself is part of the South Downs and so it's always open with a large free car park at the top (and another at the bottom if it's full). Then Highdown Gardens are open throughout the year during the week and every day during Spring/Summer (check Highdown Gardens opening times here), completely free to enter although donations are welcome.

The gardens are beautiful, there are a couple of fish ponds, grassy slopes for running down, foresty areas to explore, stepping stones and a cave, and lots of little hidden paths. It changes throughout the seasons and it's a really wonderful place to visit. There is also a cafe and often ice creams during the summer.

Dinosaur Island at Southwater Country Park

Southwater Country Park has been there for a long time, but the Dinosaur Island playground is relatively new and it's a huge draw for little ones. It's aimed at children of all ages, with play equipment for both younger and older children. There's a long slide, a large sandpit where you can uncover dinosaur bones, and the centerpiece is a volcano that you can climb. The rest of the Country Park is lovely too, with a beach and man made lake that swim in, and lots of nice walks.

Swanbourne Lake, Arundel

Swanbourne Lake is situated just outside Arundel, and if it's not too busy you can park for free just outside or on the road (there's a playground along the road too!). The lake is the perfect size for walking around with small children (you can take a pushchair if you don't mind a few bumps) and there are plenty of ducks to feed, you can buy duck food at the cafe. There are also little boats to hire, although we've not been brave enough to try that yet!

Tilgate Park, Crawley

Tilgate Park is lovely, and although you have to pay for parking, entrance to the park with its large lake and playgrounds is free. You can also pay a small fee to visit the Nature Centre with lots of animals to see. I'm also booked in for the Go Ape adventure there next month which I'm a little nervous about!

Not free, but still worth a visit!

Petworth House and Park

Petworth House and Park is a National Trust property, but you can visit the park for free (you do have to pay for parking if you aren't National Trust members). The park is lovely to explore, and the house is very nice too with lots of child friendly activities to make the visit more interesting for them.

Ferring Country Centre, near Worthing

Ferring Country Centre is a lovely place to visit, it's not very expensive and there are farm animals and a nature trail to explore, as well as a garden centre and refreshments. There are often seasonal activities, for example at Easter and Halloween, and it's worth keeping an eye out for them as they are very good.

The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton

I really love the Weald and Downland Museum, I have such happy memories of visiting with my family when I was little and when I took the children for a visit last year we had such a lovely time. There are houses to explore and all sorts of activities to have a go at like candle dipping and cooking in the Tudor kitchen. There's a fantastic indoor museum area where children can learn about tiling a roof and even building a small house using different types of joints. There is a working water mill, ducks to feed and plenty of outdoor space for picnics, it's a fantastic day out!

My West Sussex, UK for Families board on Pinterest has lots more ideas if you are looking for days out in the area! Of course there are loads more fantastic places to visit around here that we've not yet explored - where would you add?

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Review - Labyrinth board game from Ravensburger

Labyrinth board game box

This week we've been taking a look at the family board game Labyrinth from Ravensburger. Designed for 2-4 players from age seven and up, the object of the game is to find your way through the labyrinth to reach a selection of different objects and treasures, then return home before your opponents. The catch is that with each turn the pieces of the maze shift as other players try to reach their own treasures.

The game was completely new to me, but after sharing a picture on Instagram it seems that I've been missing out and other people have been enjoying it for years!

Labyrinth board game contents

To start the game, you set up the labyrinth using the game board and lots of square pieces, many with treasures on, to build a unique maze with one piece left over. The moveable pieces fit in around pieces which are glued to the board. Then you divide out the treasure cards between players, and each player looks at their first card to see what they need to search for, without showing it to the other players.

On their turn, the player uses the spare maze piece to push a row of movable pieces across and change the design of the labyrinth, hoping to create a route to their treasure. I actually found it quite difficult to visualise - many times I moved the pieces around and they didn't do what I expected them to at all! And then you can set up a route and someone else will move the pieces and change the whole thing entirely!

I played the game initially just with Harry, aged 7. He picked it up straight away, although we did start with a slightly easier version of the game - we only had five treasures each to look for and we showed each other what we were heading towards so that we could help each other while we got the hang of the game.

There is a lot of strategy involved. Some of the object pieces move and some don't, so you need to work out if it's better for you to try and reach the treasure, or to arrange for it to move closer to you. You need to think about the spare piece that you are inserting, and which way up is best. Sometimes there is a less obvious route through the labyrinth that is easily missed, and sometimes you are convinced that you've made the correct move only for it to end up completely different.

Child playing board game

We played several times, and we both got better at it each time. I found that we were very evenly matched which was great, Harry won our second game and it definitely wasn't because I was helping him!

Later on Mia joined us. She's nearly 5, which is a little young for the game, but she loved the concept. You can make the game easier for younger players by letting the child choose which object they want to reach next from all their cards, conversely you could also make it more difficult by leaving your treasure card turned up so that other players can block you when they see what you are after.

Labyrinth game from Ravensburger

The game could even be played solo by selecting an object card and working out the quickest way to reach it - this would be good practice for playing too!

We had a great time playing this game and I know that it's going to become a staple of our board game cupboard - we are going to be challenging all our visitors to a game!

I received the game in exchange for a review.
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