Monday, 29 November 2021

Free Christmas Scandi style cross stitch pattern designs

Recently on the blog I shared some free mini Christmas cross stitch designs which I've been having fun with for some Christmas crafting. Today I'm sharing an alternative colour scheme for the designs - a red and white Scandi inspired version of the Christmas pixel art patterns. 

These designs could either be used individually or the design could be used in its entirety as a finished piece. Because the background is white the black backstitch is very important to highlight the pictures, and I would recommend using two strands of black thread for the backstitching.

I've been using these mini patterns with Hama beads and they work really well. Because there are 24 designs they would also be perfect for a homemade Advent calendar, perhaps stitched on to individual gift bags or used to decorate the front of a plain wooden Advent calendar with boxes. As a cross stitched design they would also make great Christmas cards using one or several different pictures.

Click to download as .pdf - Scandi style mini Christmas cross stitch designs

Free mini Christmas Scandi cross stitch designs

If you are interested in other Christmas crafts with a red and white theme then you might also enjoy seeing my other Scandi craft tutorials:

Scandi inspired Hama bead bauble decorations

Red and white themed Hama bead Christmas coaster 

Scandi inspired Hama bead battery tea light lanterns

Friday, 26 November 2021

What I've been up to lately

I've been blogging a lot lately but it's been ages since I did a proper catch up post! My work has calmed down recently but I still feel like I've been busy, so here are some of the things that I've been up to:

Watching

I'm always one to follow a trend and so we watched Squid Game on Netflix as we wanted to know what all the fuss was about. It was really good! Although very gruesome, I had to hide behind a blanket at some points and I'm definitely not letting the children anywhere near it. We've also just started the new series of Tiger King and I really loved the musical Tick, Tick...Boom! I thought it was very cleverly done. We are definitely getting full value from our Netflix subscription!

Playing


Mia took her first flute exam last week. She has been learning since May and this was the ABRSM Prep Test, it's like a practice exam before taking Grade 1. It isn't marked as a pass or fail, instead they get a feedback sheet, and it's a great way to sit a proper exam without too much pressure. She did really well and hopefully she'll be ready to take her Grade 1 next term, I'm so pleased with how well she has taken to the instrument. 

Child waiting for a flute exam

I've also been doing a bit more piano playing myself. I reviewed a book a couple of weeks ago, Notes on the Piano, and one thing that it inspired me to think about was trying to memorise a piece or two. I've never been able to play the piano without music, and I'm finding it really hard! I'm beginning with River Flows in You by Yiruma and Snow Prelude No. 3 by Einaudi as we have arrangements of them which aren't too difficult and sound really good when played. 

A different sort of playing now - I'm currently slightly addicted to Pikmin Bloom, the latest game from the creators of Pokemon Go. It's a glorified step counter to be honest, but it has been getting me and the rest of the family out and about together, planting flowers and growing seedlings. 

Reading


I have organised my to be read pile with some new bookends and this was how it was looking a couple of weeks ago. It's a little daunting but I think it's achievable, I just need to stop reserving books from the library as I have to read those first. What you can't really see is the Kindle tucked away on the left which also contains just as many unread books!

To be read reading pile of books

I'm currently reading A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, which is a sequel to Life After Life in the pile above, and I'm enjoying it very much. We are going away for a week in December so I'm already planning which books to pack.

Listening


I spend quite a lot of time in the car driving to and from school and so I'm very grateful for our Spotify subscription. I always enjoy listening to songs from musicals, especially ones that I know the words to for a good old singalong. I've also made myself a playlist of relaxing piano music for the days when I'm feeling a bit anxious about the driving. 

I'm not really into podcasts as I'm too easily distracted, but I have discovered Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee which I enjoy listening to from time to time. I've picked up some really useful and interesting information as well as tips about exercise and stress management. I also downloaded a new app, Smiling Mind, which is a meditation and mindfulness app that I'd really recommend, it's all free and there are plenty of different meditations and activities to work through if you need to clear your head from time to time. I'm trying to do a ten minute one at some point most days. 


Eating

I'm ashamed to say that we've made a start on the festive chocolate boxes. They have been on special offer in Tesco so we've been buying a couple of boxes each week for Christmas...hopefully one or two will make it that far!

I've been really impressed with Harry's food and nutrition lessons at school. He's made all sorts of things - a delicious cheesecake, cheese straws, proper meals like lasagne, quiche and green Thai curry. Yesterday he brought home an amazing Swiss roll - much better than the one that I attempted a few years ago! I've lined him up to make us a chocolate yule log for Christmas in a few weeks.

Homemade Swiss roll

Crafting

I've been sharing lots of recent festive crafts on my blog lately, like my tin can beaded lanterns and my free mini Christmas cross stitch designs. I've just started work on one of my mini Christmas cross stitch kits from Hobbycraft. It's a snow globe design and it's really pretty with lots of different stitches as well as the basic cross stitch.

Beaded tin can Christmas lantern craft

Blogging


With my paid work taking a bit of a hiatus I've been spending a bit more time on the blog, both writing posts and improving the design. You might notice some new picture sidebar buttons to the right to easily access my themed content, and I've also updated my profile picture which was several years old. I've got lots of Christmas content to work on and I'm making plans for New Year and spring content while I have some time. I love writing blog posts, I'm just terrible at the promotion side!

So that's what I've been up to lately, how about you?

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Recently on the blog I shared some free mini Christmas themed pixel art motifs that can be used for many crafts, including cross stitch and Hama beads. I love working with mini Hama beads in particular, so I decided to use my designs to make some sweet little mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments. They could be used for Christmas cardmaking, as little cake decorations, as Advent calendar fillers or for all sorts of Christmas crafty projects!

If you are new to working with mini Hama beads you might like my post A complete guide to crafting with mini Hama beads. 

To make these mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments I used my free Christmas pixel art designs which you can find below. They are also available to download as a .pdf file here for easy printing - Mini Christmas pixel art designs to download.

Mini Christmas pixel art cross stitch designs and patterns for free

To create my designs I used a large square mini Hama bead pegboard, and you could also use the small square pegboard. When working with the mini Hama beads I find it necessary to use tweezers to place the beads on the board. They are very tiny and can be very fiddly to craft with! When you are happy with the position of your beads on the board then you need to cover them with ironing paper (baking paper will also work) and iron them very carefully.

Mini Hama bead Christmas designs on pegboard

To iron mini Hama beads I use the iron on a low setting and hold over the beads for a very short period of time, probably less than a second. There is an art to ironing these tiny beads which comes with practice. I iron my designs on both sides to make sure that the beads are firmly fused.

If you are new to crafting with Hama beads you might find this post helpful - Ironing tips for Hama beads

Then your mini Hama bead embellishments are finished! They are surprisingly durable and I love how they look when complete. Each one measures about 3cm in height. They are really fun to make, and I can think of all sorts of uses for these little pieces. I'll be sharing a few on the blog in the weeks to come!

Mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments

Monday, 22 November 2021

Christmas journal prompts and ideas

A few years ago I shared how to make a simple Christmas journal and so today I thought I'd share some ideas for journaling prompts that you can use to fill it! There are all kinds of ideas for things to write about, from specific ideas for this year to more general Christmas memories and experiences.

Christmas journal prompts and ideas

Particular things that you want to remember about Christmas this year

The Christmas activities that you got up to - what part did your children play in the Nativity play? did you visit Father Christmas? was there a school Christmas fair?

A list of the gifts that you and your family received

Which new Christmas decorations did you purchase or make this year?

What Christmas crafts did you do this year?

If you have an Elf on the Shelf, what were his most memorable antics this year?

Did anything new happen this Christmas? any new guests for Christmas dinner, or any activities that you tried for the first time?

What books were you reading this Christmas, and were they festive themed?

Did you stay at home this Christmas or were you visiting family and friends?

What Christmas crafts were you been working on?

Who did you receive Christmas cards from this year and who did you send them to? maybe stick in some of your favourites.

Glue in a page or two from the Christmas television guide so you can see which programmes were popular and which ones come round year after year.

Create a collage with some of your favourite scraps of wrapping paper, gift tags or Christmas cards.

Stick in a page from a toy catalogue (or a print out from the website!) so that you can remember which were the top toys this year and how much they cost.

How do you celebrate Christmas in your family?

What are your Advent calendar traditions? do you have the same one or a new one each year? are they for everyone or just the children? how have Advent calendars changed since you were a child?

What new Christmas traditions have you started as an adult or with your family? for example Elf on the Shelf, Christmas Eve boxes, reindeer food, gingerbread houses.

Your memories of Christmas past

What sort of Christmas tree did you have growing up? was it real or artificial?

What do you remember eating for Christmas dinner growing up? how has it changed?

What Christmas crafts did you do at school or with your parents?

What Christmas films did you watch growing up?

Do you have any heirloom or vintage Christmas decorations from your childhood that you still display today?

What were your family Christmas traditions as a child? have you continued them now that you are an adult?

Ask other family members, for example your parents or grandparents, to contribute their own Christmas memories, both of you as a child and of their own childhoods.

General Christmas topics to write about

What would it not be Christmas without?

Ten (or more!) things that you love about Christmas.

Do you prefer a real or an artificial Christmas tree? why? 

Share some of your favourite seasonal recipes and the memories associated with them.

What are your favourite Christmas songs and carols and what do they remind you of? copy out the lyrics so that you have a record in your journal.

What are your favourite Christmas movies to watch with your family?

What are your favourite Christmas tree ornaments and decorations? are there any with particular special memories?

What are your favourite Christmas decorations around the home and garden?

How would you spend your ideal Christmas Day?

Who would be your fantasy Christmas dinner guests?

Which foods do you only eat at Christmas time?

Ask your children some questions about Christmas that you can repeat each year, for example what time will you get up on Christmas morning, what gifts are you hoping to receive, what gifts do you think that Mum and Dad are hoping for, who do you want to spend Christmas with, what foods are you looking forward to eating? Then you can see how their answers change over time!

If you are writing your Christmas journal in the form of a blog then you might find this post helpful - Blog post ideas for Christmas

If your journaling style leans more towards video then I also have lots ideas for Christmas Vlogmas videos and vlogging.

I hope that this post has given you plenty of inspiration when you come to record your memories this Christmas!

Christmas journaling ideas and prompts
Photo credit Joanna Kosinka via Unsplash

Main image credit pure julia via Unsplash.

Friday, 19 November 2021

Tin can beaded Christmas lanterns craft

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Christmas lanterns from upcycled tin cans tutorial diy

A couple of years ago I upcycled some old tin cans to make some summer tin can lanterns and I was really pleased with how well they came out. They looked lovely in the garden over the summer, especially when I was entertaining my friends outdoors in a socially distanced fashion! They hold a lit tealight candle and the high sides of the tin can make sure that the candle stays lit. You can create all sorts of designs in the sides of the can that are lit up and then projected out from inside.

(Some of the photographs below show the progress of my summer lanterns, I used the same process for the Christmas lanterns)

First I found that it was a good idea to fill the can with water and freeze. This prevents the can from becoming bent out of shape when you make the nail holes. Just take care not to overfill the can or else the side may split!

Draw out a simple pattern for your design on some scrap paper and tape it to the can in the correct position. If your can is wet because of the ice you can also use a rubber band or two around the can to hold the template in place. For my Christmas lanterns I chose a simple star and snowflake design.

Freezing water in cans to make tin can lanterns

Then use a hammer to bang a nail through into the tin can, and remove once the hole has been made. I used an old tea towel underneath to protect my table surface. You can make the designs as simple or as complex as you would like. It is quite hard work so I would recommend choosing a simple design to begin with!

How to make tin can lanterns with nails

When making the holes, make two additional holes close together under the rim of the can at the back. This will be where you affix the wire that holds the beads around the top of the lantern. 

How to make a tin can lantern with nail holes

When the cans are dry use some wire and beads to make the decoration to go around the top. Simply thread the beads onto a length of thin wire, then tuck the ends through the two holes that you have made at the back of the can. Make sure to pull the wire nice and tight so that the beads don't sag. I used red, green and silver pony beads, along with some smaller clear plastic beads. You could also add further strings of beads at the bottom or around the middle of the can. Then they still look good even when not lit!

Christmas tin can lanterns with beaded top

These cans are suitable for use with tealight candles and also battery powered tea lights. A little tip - to light a tealight candle that is at the bottom of the can use a stick of dried spaghetti - light it at one end and you can then use it to reach inside the can to light the candle! The lanterns make a great table centrepiece, or can be grouped around the fireplace or on the mantelpiece.

Christmas tin can lanterns with candles inside

For this project I used some plastic coloured pony beads that I already had in my craft box. I've put some links below for similar beads that would work well to decorate these tin can lanterns (Amazon affiliate links).

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Some Christmas reading inspiration for adults

 Christmas reading inspiration and ideas

The nights are now well and truly drawing in and it's definitely the time of year to find yourself snuggled under a blanket with a good book! I read widely but I always enjoy matching my reading to the seasons, and especially at Christmas time when everything is so festive it's nice to get into the spirit with a suitable book. So I thought I'd share some Christmas reading inspiration, most of these are books that I've read myself and enjoyed, along with a few that I'm adding to my wishlist!

Christmas classics

I read A Christmas Carol for the first time last Christmas and not being a fan of Dickens was pleasantly surprised. It's a very familiar story which helps of course, and also it's not too long and was a very enjoyable read. Most people also know the story of The Nutcracker, and are familiar with Sherlock Holmes and Poirot, so this selection is a great way to enjoy a classic story that isn't too demanding.

Christmas short stories

Sometimes at Christmas you can be so busy that you don't have time to sit down and read a full novel, so a short story is perfect when you have a few minutes to relax with a book and also great for reading aloud to children. Many of these classic short stories are also available in beautifully illustrated keepsake editions - I recommend keeping them tucked away with the Christmas decorations so that they can be enjoyed over the festive season.

Modern romantic comedy style Christmas novels

Last Christmas before going on holiday I went into the library and loaded up my bag with Christmas books to take with me. Luckily there was a lovely festive display full of suitable books, and it's also easy to find similar displays in book shops and charity shops. There are many, many books in this genre and to be honest they can be pretty predictable, but they are great to get you into the festive spirit!

Just one thing to be aware of, sometimes the author of a series of books will write a Christmas themed book using characters and locations from a series that you might not know. So just make sure that you've picked a standalone book, or one from a series that you've already read.

Christmas coffee table and illustrated books

I love a nice hardback book with plenty of lovely illustrations to browse through when I get a moment. Some of these books are winter rather than purely Christmas themed but they can still make you feel cosy and festive. I've added the The Almanac to my Christmas list - it looks like a wonderful book to refer to all year long.


Christmas poetry

Like short stories, poems are great for dipping in and out of when you only have a few minutes to spare. I particularly love Wendy Cope's Christmas poems, very funny yet with a important message.

Books that aren't purely Christmas themed but have Christmas elements

These books are all classics that I enjoyed as a child. They aren't entirely Christmas themed but they have descriptive and memorable Christmas scenes that have stayed with me, and are also good reminders of the true meaning of Christmas and the importance of friends and family rather than gifts.

Happy festive reading!

Pile of Christmas themed books under the tree

Main photo credit Diana Polekhina via Unsplash

Why Wait For New Year? Three Good Habits To Get Into For 2022

This is a collaborative post

The New Year always comes around so quickly. Even though we are currently gearing up for the holidays, we all know that January is lurking just around the corner. When the first day of the new year arrives, most of us have our resolutions ready and we feel like we are raring to go. This is the year we are going to do better, eat healthier, exercise more and generally not fall into all the bad habits of the previous twelve months. All those good intentions are wonderful, but we are sure that we are not alone in finding that we often end up falling short when it comes to our resolutions. 

One of the main reasons for this is that we so often end up making them in a panic. We make them when we are already feeling overwhelmed, overstressed, overtired, overweight, or whatever the situation might be. We do not make any sort of plan for how we are going to action to these big life changes, we just know that we want to make them. Well, if you want to give yourself the best chance of sticking to your new habits, you need to make sure that you prepare ahead of time and create a platform for success. Here are some tips to help you get into better habits.

Find An Exercise Routine That Works For You

Let’s start with one of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions. It is so easy to feel like you are out of shape by the time we reach the end of December. It’s the middle of winter so we are staying inside a lot more and we are doing a lot more comfort eating. It is also the end of the holidays, and how many of us want to watch what we are eating during that period? 

Getting into an exercise routine is always a good idea, but it is not something that you should just try and do overnight. That is how you end up setting unrealistic goals and getting frustrated when you do not achieve them. Start by asking yourself what your fitness goals are. Do you want to lose a certain amount of weight? Is there a run that you would like to be able to do comfortably? Do you just want to be in better shape in general? Then look at how much time you have every day to dedicate to these goals. 

Experts agree that it is important to be realistic, be organised, remember to start small and look for ways to make it fun. See if any of your friends and family members would like to join you on this journey to keep each other motivated when things get tough.

Man going for a run
Photo credit Jenny Hill


Start Getting To Grips With Your Finances

There is no panic like money panic, and we all know that feeling of looking at our bank balance when January rolls around and wondering where it all went. But rushing to make quick cuts is a sure-fire way to ensure that you end up right back in the same bad habits. A big part of getting better with your money is understanding where it goes every month. 

Create a monthly budget and make sure that everything is written down. When it is all in front of you, from debt repayments to how much you are spending on meal deals every week, you will be able to make more informed decisions about what you can cut and what is necessary. You should also learn about your responsibilities when you take on a loan. It is so easy for debts to start to pile up, and that is when you can start to lose track of interest rates and repayment dates. Be sure to read the fine print carefully on any loan and never take one out without understanding exactly what you are liable for and knowing that you can manage the repayments. Using a pay day loans comparison site like Payday UK will show you what your options are without any obligation. They process over 4500 loan quotes every day and your application is confidential and secure.

Jam jar with coins spilling out
Photo credit Michael Longmire


Start Getting Greener

It is impossible to ignore the climate situation right now, as the world’s leaders gather to work to find a way towards net zero and extreme weather events become more and more routine. It can be difficult to see how you can make an impact as one individual but remember that there are always ways to make a difference. 

Committing to using as little plastic as possible is a huge step. Recycling is obviously crucial, but you should be thinking about your electrical waste as well as your household waste. If you are a meat-eater, you should keep in mind that switching to veggie options is one of the most effective ways of cutting down on your carbon footprint. Use public transport when you can, instead of taking your own car. We all know that the news about global warming can feel overwhelming but taking responsibility for your actions and actively looking for ways to do better can really help.

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