Friday, 3 February 2023

Things that don't go in my bullet journal

Recently I wrote about how I've been trying out the bullet journal organisation system. I've been using my bullet journal for about two months now and I'm loving how well it's working! The system makes a lot of sense to me when it comes to planning both in the short term and long term, and it's helping me to keep up with both my daily tasks and my long term goals.

I appreciate how customisable the bullet journal system is, and I really enjoy both reading about and taking inspiration from ways in which other people use their bullet journals. But as much as I'm enjoying using this analogue system, there are some things that just don't work for me in the bullet journal format. 

Woman writing in blank journal
Photo credit Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

Long term calendar or Future Log

For years we've been using an Outlook calendar, because that's what we use for our personal e-mail. It works very well because I can sync with my husband's calendar and we will probably also add the children as they get older and more responsible for their own diaries. In my bullet journal I only work a week or two ahead, and because we have so many things in the calendar I would soon fill up a Future Log type page. So at the weekend I will go through our shared calendar and make sure that any appointments for the next week are added into my weekly pages, as well as adding them in as the week progresses.

Weekly shopping list

We use an app called Our Groceries which is brilliant for organising our weekly shopping list. Again it can be synced so that both me and my husband can use it, and it's sorted by category to make it easy to add to the online shop. If the list was in my bullet journal only I would see it, and it would be repetitive having to write out the same things each week. It also means I always have the list with me on my phone, as I don't usually take my bullet journal out with me.

Meal planner

I use the Notes app on my phone to keep a list of the meals that I want to make for the next few days, and I don't tend to allocate each meal to a day as I like to keep it flexible. I'm also using my phone to add things to the Our Groceries app and also to do the online shop. I do however have a long list of meals to choose from which is currently stored in Trello, but I may move that over to the bullet journal at some point.

Holiday packing list

I have a very comprehensive holiday packing list which is stored as a Word document on the PC. It covers all sorts of different holidays - self-catering, cruises, camping and so on - and when we are going away I print it out and cross through all the things that aren't needed on that occasion. I definitely wouldn't want to be writing everything that we need out on a separate page each time we go away!

Reading log

I do use my bullet journal to keep track of the books in my to be read pile. I find it very useful, and I enjoy highlighting through books as I read them and adding new ones to the bottom. But I don't use it to record my thoughts, star ratings or anything like that. Instead I use my Goodreads account to keep track of everything that I've read. This is mainly because I know that my bullet journal won't be around forever and I'll probably recycle it when it's full, so the Goodreads account lets me store that information for longer. 

Brainstorming

I have a rough notebook that I use for brainstorming - writing down ideas for craft projects and blog posts, general to do lists and so on. I'm finding that my bullet journal is filling up quickly enough just with weekly and monthly pages and so I don't want to waste all the pages with rough notes that are just going to be scribbled out! I might take out the best ideas and add them to my bullet journal if I think that I'll be referring back to them, for example a particular list of things that I want to work through.

What things do you find don't work for you in the bullet journal system?

Thursday, 2 February 2023

Review - Apple Watch strap from WsC

I received this watch strap in exchange for a review

I was recently contacted by WsC and asked if I would like to review an Apple watch strap. I don't have an Apple watch myself but it was perfect timing as my husband had just broken his old Apple watch strap! 

My husband was looking for something simple and stylish, and he chose the WsC Leather Link Black Apple Watch Strap. This watch strap wraps comfortably around the wrist using concealed ultra-secure magnets. It's made of pebble-textured leather and is black on the outside, brown on the inside.

Apple watch strap review from WsC

The watch strap came beautifully packaged in a vibrant outer box with a padded and sturdy case for the strap. It's soft to touch and feels good quality.

Magnetic Apple watch strap review

He found the strap easy to fit to his watch and comfortable to wear. Because of the wraparound magnetic closure it will fit snugly on wrists of all sizes, and the fastening feels secure with no danger of the watch falling off. 

Black Apple watch strap from WsC review on wrist

The watch strap is black on the inside and brown on the inside. However my husband has discovered that the strap can also be attached to the watch in reverse with the brown side facing outwards. He loves this because it means that he can co-ordinate it with different outfits!

Apple watch strap from WsC review

He's really pleased with this watch strap. It's great quality, comfortable and secure to wear, and also looks good. 

WsC offers a wide range of designer watch straps for all occasions in all different materials, including a selection with ethically sourced diamonds if you are looking for something that really stands out. They are definitely worth a look if you want to find something different that matches your style!

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

My personalised January challenge

When January comes around I always feel the need for a good tidy up and house reset. For the last few years I've signed up to the Apartment Therapy January Cure - a twenty day challenge with a home related task each day to help you refresh and reset your home. They include things like making a list of projects to complete around the house, decluttering a specific area and getting rid of expired items.

It's a really good idea and I have wanted it to work for me but I had a few problems with it. The main one was that the e-mail with the day's task arrived in my inbox at 2pm, and you can't see future tasks in advance. That's just too late in the day for me, by then I'm winding down ready for school pick up. Another problem was that some days I had lots of time to spend on a task and other days I have less time. Finally some of the tasks didn't really achieve anything, they were either things that I already do or just weren't relevant.

I recently wrote about trying out a bullet journal for the new year, and it seemed like the perfect space to work out a personalised January challenge for myself. I went around the house and looked for the areas that needed a bit of extra attention, then I worked out a list of tasks which would help me to get the house in order. I tried to mix it up with longer and shorter tasks, with some being more enjoyable than others. I knew that I would be away for a few days in January so my list only had 27 tasks.

Then I wrote them all out on a blank page in a bullet journal and put them inside boxes. Usually when I complete tasks in my bullet journal I scribble them out but this time I planned to colour the boxes in. This means that I can easily refer back to the list if I want to make myself another challenge at some point!

Personalised January home reset challenge

It's not perfect - clean kitchen floor was in there twice so I had to divide it into edges/skirting boards and the main floor area! But I stuck to it and got everything done and the house is definitely cleaner as a result. I really liked being able to choose the task I wanted to work on each day, I usually chose a task related to an area I was cleaning that day anyway and I saved easier tasks for busy days.

I'm going to repeat the challenge in the spring I think, maybe for the month of March as we are away for some of April. I have a few specific spring jobs like jet washing the patio and cleaning the garage doors, and of course some of these January jobs will probably need doing again by then! I've found it a really useful way to get some of those awkward areas looking much better.

Monday, 30 January 2023

Simple Hama bead heart coaster

The children might be growing up, but I still have plenty of Hama beads in the house! I was looking through the stash the other day and noticed that I had an abundance of red, white and pink beads and so I decided to make a simple Valentine's Day craft. 

The design for this Valentine's Day Hama bead coaster is based on my colourful mini Hama bead heart picture which lives above my desk. I used four of the heart squares to make the coaster, along with a single line of beads for the border.

Simple Hama bead heart coaster

The coaster is just the right size to sit under a mug for my morning cup of tea. It also makes a nice Valentine's Day decoration by itself, I think this heart design is simple but really effective.

Hama bead heart coaster craft

I have plenty of Hama bead project ideas on my blog. If you are looking for more Valentine's Day Hama bead crafts then you might like this post:

Hama bead crafts for Valentine's Day

Friday, 27 January 2023

Food and drink at Champneys Forest Mere - what is included, menus, photos and timings

Before my recent spa break at Champneys Forest Mere I was really interested to find out more about the food that would be on offer. The Champneys website wasn't very helpful, and so I thought I'd share some of my experiences with the food - what was included, timings, photographs of the food that we tried and also some photos of the menus. I hope that it is helpful if you are planning a stay at Champneys Forest Mere! Scroll to the bottom to see a few menus.

We stayed at Champneys for three nights and so our stay included three breakfasts, two lunches and three dinners. There is additional food and drink available to purchase in the café during the day and there is also a kettle along with tea and coffee in the hotel rooms, as well as plenty of drinking water stations.

For breakfast and lunch dining you are welcome to wear casual clothes, including your robes and flip flops, but for dinner the dress code is smart casual. When we visited all our meals were served in the same restaurant.

Meal times do need to be booked in advance. You can book your first meal when you arrive, then you can book a meal or two ahead each time you arrive to eat. We had no problems booking the slots that we wanted. We were given the following timings - Breakfast 7.30am - 10am, Lunch 12pm - 2pm and Dinner 6.30pm - 8.30 pm however the restaurant did in fact open at 6pm for dinner. We usually ate early so it wasn't very crowded, but later slots seemed to be busier. It's worth arriving a few minutes early to avoid a queue when you arrive to check in for a meal.

Champneys flavoured water station

The only included drinks with meals were still or sparkling water, apart from at breakfast when there was juice available. If you want something more interesting to drink (including alcohol at both lunch and dinner) then that will cost extra at bar prices that I would say are on the expensive side. 

Breakfast

Breakfast was served as a buffet with lots of cold choices, if you want a cooked meal then that is at an extra cost. There was a selection of healthy cereals, fruit and yoghurt, a bread station with different breads, spreads and a toaster, along with juice, tea and coffee. One morning there was a smoothie available, and you could also request a generous portion of hot porridge as an included choice. 

Lunch

Lunch was served as a sit down meal with starter and a main, with a dessert station with three or four small desserts to help yourself to. Sometimes there was a bit of a wait for the desserts as they disappeared quickly - they were admittedly quite small and so lots of people were enjoying more than one! We found the lunch menu was definitely as filling as a main meal. The only dessert that wasn't a hit was the vegan chocolate mousse (bottom right) which didn't taste of chocolate at all! The other desserts were much nicer, and don't let me put you off the vegan chocolate torte on the dinner menu which was delicious! The soup of the day for a starter was always a vegetarian soup of some kind and was very good.

Champneys Forest Mere Lunch menu - mains, starters and desserts

Dinner

Dinner was a slightly more formal meal, with larger portions than lunch. Some of the meat, the more indulgent dessert and the cheese board cost extra. It seemed that they alternated menus, so we had the same menu for the first and last night of our stay. There were also a few dishes that were repeated on both menus.

I enjoyed all of these meals. The samosas (top left) and the halloumi Caesar salad (top middle) were particularly good. The only one that I wasn't keen on was the vegan plant burger (centre) as it was too 'meaty' for my liking, I'm not keen on meat replacements that taste like meat. But everything else was delicious! All the meals had plenty of garnish and were well presented. They were large portions but not too big, and it was a good opportunity to try out some different foods that I wouldn't prepare or eat at home. I've never eaten so many pumpkin seeds in my life!

Champneys Forest Mere Dinner menu - starters, mains and desserts

I tried to take some photos of the menus so that you can see the different choices and what is included with the cost of a stay.

Champneys Forest Mere Lunch Menu One:

Champneys Forest Mere Lunch Menu one

Champneys Forest Mere Lunch Menu Two:

Champneys Forest Mere Lunch Menu two

Champneys Forest Mere Dinner Menu Two:

Champneys Forest Mere Dinner Menu two

Champneys Forest Mere Dinner Menu Three:

Champneys Forest Mere Dinner Menu three

We were all very pleased with the range of food on offer. Admittedly we are mainly vegetarian and not big eaters. I could imagine that if you are used to eating more meat and larger portions then you might not find it as satisfying. But as part of a health conscious break then I found that it was perfect (and of course there is nothing to stop you bringing your own extra food and drink to enjoy in your room!)

We enjoyed trying out some new things and found plenty of interesting choices. Additionally the service in the restaurant was very good with plenty of helpful staff, and plates were cleared promptly. All in all we had an excellent dining experience on our spa break at Champneys Forest Mere!

Thanks to my family members for help with the photos!

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

A museum day out in London

Harry loves a museum, so when we were planning a day out for his birthday a London museum trip was the obvious choice. We last did a family London trip in January 2020 before Covid, and we were also keen to visit the British Museum to see the real Parthenon Marbles after our holiday in Athens last year. 

We decided to spend the morning at the British Museum and then head to the Science Museum for the afternoon, another favourite that we've visited many times over the years. We booked free tickets online for both of these museums but it didn't seem too busy, so I think you can probably visit without booking especially if it's first thing or later on in the day.

At the British Museum we started with the Egyptian collections. There's a lot to see! Although currently some exhibits like the Rosetta Stone have been temporarily moved to a paid exhibition. We saw the mummies of course, before heading to the Greek sculptures. The Parthenon Marbles exhibition area is nicely done, but you can't help thinking that the marbles should probably be back in Athens. 

Parthenon Marbles at The British Museum in London

I can see the argument both ways, because if they hadn't been removed to the museum then they probably wouldn't be in such good condition now. But now that there is an excellent new Acropolis museum in the very shadow of the Parthenon, with spaces for the missing marbles, it really does feel as though they should all be displayed there together. 

Parthenon statues at The British Museum in London

We stopped for a quick sandwich and then headed to the Science Museum. Mia isn't such a museum fan, so my husband took her to the shops for a break while I made a start with Harry. When we arrived I asked Harry where he wanted to start and he answered 'with the boats!' I couldn't work out what he meant until I realised that he was talking about the play area in the basement of the museum - The Garden - where there is a huge water play table with boats. He spent many happy hours playing there in the past when he was tiny! But sadly I had to break it to him that it's only for ages 6 and under - he was so disappointed!

Luckily there is plenty to see at the Science Museum and so he wasn't sad for long. We started with a new temporary (and free) exhibition - Injecting Hope: The race for a Covid-19 vaccine. It was really good, very approachable with just enough science to make it interesting without being overwhelming. There was also lots of memorabilia to see like home testing kits, signage from vaccine centres, even the penguin T-shirt worn by the first lady to receive the vaccine! I must admit that it did bring back quite a lot of emotions to see the timeline to a vaccine laid out like that and remembering all the anxiety that was around, especially in the early days of the pandemic before the vaccine was developed.

Covid vaccine exhibition at The Science Museum

Then we walked back through one of Harry's favourite areas, the Exploring Space area. We are pretty familiar with this area as we've visited it many times over the years, but there are still lots of interesting things to see. I like all the areas about daily life in space and the future of space travel. Then I was starting to get quite tired legs, so I was happy to have a sit down and let Harry wander around the Mathematics gallery before we headed up to Flight. Harry can spend ages here, so I had to speed him up a bit! My favourite exhibit is the cut-through section of a Boeing 747 showing two floors of seating and the cargo hold. It's fascinating, I can stand looking at it for ages!

We did a quick sweep through some of the other galleries but we couldn't possibly see everything and we were all a bit museumed out. It was time to head home, despite Harry's longing glances as we walked past the Natural History Museum. We'll have to save a visit there for another day! 

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Home projects that you shouldn't attempt by yourself

This is a collaborative post

Most homeowners like to think that they’re more than capable of fixing things around the house. Given the recent rise in the cost of living, it is more tempting than ever to reach for the toolkit and look for a how-to guide on YouTube. But there are many problems in the home that need a professional to avoid accident, injury, or damage to the property. Here are just a few of the most important.

Anything to do with the boiler

If you have any concerns about your boiler, you should always call a professional. Making a mistake with any appliance that involves gas or electricity, and which also involves water, is asking for trouble if you do not know what you are doing. You may be risking your safety and your family’s if you try to fix it yourself, so get an expert involved.

Fixing the roof

The statistics for people who have hurt themselves while up on their roofs trying to fix a tile, a leak, a gutter or even the TV aerial are pretty staggering. There are so many ways that you could injure yourself if you do not know what you are doing. You may also only end up fixing a symptom of a larger problem. Finding roofers near you can be easy. Visit MyBuilder to put your project out there and receive quotes from their local roofers. You can read reviews from their previous clients and compare bids to find one that’s right for you.

Men repairing roof
Photo credit Raze Solar via Unsplash

Serious electrical repairs

We are talking about more complex issues than changing fixtures here. Even if you think you know what you are doing, there are so many ways for things to go wrong when you are dealing with electrics. If you think that you need to break out some power tools to handle it, then you should always consult a professional. It only takes something very small to go wrong to end up with a terrible electric shock.

Major plumbing issues

There are a lot of problems with your sinks, bathroom fixtures and loo that you can probably fix yourself. Everyone has had to pick up a plunger or tighten a tap at some point, but there comes a time when you need to admit that you need a plumber. It is easy for you to start doing damage to the pipes (putting chemicals down on top of a blockage is a classic example). And you may also be unaware of an issue that is out of sight. For example, if tree roots, frost or flood damage have impacted a pipe as we saw a lot of over Christmas, it will wreak havoc on everything else. Call a plumber to avoid making any situation worse.

Gas fittings on ovens

If you are moving anything that involves a gas fitting, you are taking a serious risk. Even if you think you have put it back the exact way it was, you can never know for sure. A gas leak is one of the most dangerous things that can happen in your home. All it takes is a spark. Or you and your family could be breathing in toxic fumes without you knowing it. It is always better to call a professional. 

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