Monday, 27 March 2023

What I've been up to recently

With the end of the month and also the school term approaching, I thought I'd share some of the things that I've been up to lately.

Reading

I have several excellent books lately which I shared in detail last week. The Book of Form and Emptiness, Cloud Cuckoo Land and The Count of Monte Cristo are all long and involved reads but books where I enjoyed every page. 

Three excellent books

I am making very good progress with my to be read pile, and in fact I am getting very close to finishing it! I will have a few options soon, either a trip to the library to pick up some more recently published books, a second-hand shop at Wob for some of the books on my 'want to read' list or re-visiting some of the excellent books on my shelves that I haven't read for a while. 

Watching

I don't seem to watch much television or film these days, now that the children go to bed later we don't have the energy to stay up late watching anything! We nearly went to the cinema to see the new Ant Man film but the reviews weren't great so we decided to wait for it to hit Disney+.

We did tick The Northman off our list which we've been meaning to watch for a while. I like stories about the Vikings and it was pretty good, it's based on an ancient story which also inspired Hamlet with lots of gore. 

As a family we've been watching The Mandalorian on Disney+ which might as well now be called The Baby Yoda Show! It's one that we all enjoy watching but I can't help feeling that they are aiming this season more at the younger children that have been enticed in by the cute Grogu, he's definitely getting more screen time than the other characters!

I do have a couple of documentaries lined up to watch when I get the chance - Finding Michael (Disney+) and TikTok, Boom (Amazon Prime). I'm hoping that the children will watch the TikTok one with me, I'm anti-TikTok so I'm keen to pass that sentiment on to the children before they get sucked in!

Crafting

I've been very busy crafting this month which has felt good. I got all my crafty bits and pieces out to make this homemade felt Easter bunting which I'm really proud of.

Homemade felt Easter bunting

I've also been using the sewing machine and making a dent in my fabric stash. I made these drawstring bags to give as gifts on our upcoming cruise:

Simple fabric drawstring bags

I also attempted an eye mask to wear on the plane. It was quite a fiddly project and I made a bit of a pig's ear of it - I made so many mistakes and had to keep unpicking it with the result that it kept getting smaller and smaller as I re-sewed it over and over! It does the job though and now that I know how to make one I'll be having a go at some more. 

Next I want to try crumb patchwork which is a way of using up tiny leftover scraps of fabric, and I also have some more Easter crafting lined up, in particular some felt crafts. 

Eating

Mia and I have been enjoying making waffles this month using the waffle plates in our sandwich toaster. They haven't all been massively successful as I find they keep sticking, but practice makes perfect! I've also been making lots of soup to keep me warm and I've been enjoying different meals with wraps including what I call 'TikTok Wraps' (maybe TikTok is good for something!)

Working on

I have been working on reducing my screen time. I discovered Reddit when I was researching bullet journals and before long I was sucked in, subscribing to loads of subreddits and getting distracted by many more. I also have trouble staying away from the news sites - BBC news and we also have a Telegraph and a Times subscription. So I've been trying to keep away and also attempting to keep my focus on things like writing blog posts without getting distracted and clicking away to Twitter.

Planning

I'm still using my bullet journal very successfully. I'm finding it really helpful for getting recurring household tasks ticked off and also for keeping track of birthdays and other important dates. Every Sunday afternoon Harry has a piano lesson at our house and so the half hour slot to sit at the kitchen table and do my planning for the next two weeks.

Feeling proud of

I'm pleased that I've been getting myself out for regular runs when it's been so cold lately. I only missed one recently when it was both freezing and raining. I'm also very proud of both my children, they work so hard for school. 

Looking forward to

I am very much looking forward to the Easter holidays when we are jetting off to enjoy some warmer weather! Hopefully by the time we are back the temperatures here will have warmed up a bit and I can work on getting the garden ready for the summer.

Friday, 24 March 2023

Organising my life in a more analogue way

Since I started my bullet journal at the end of last year I've been really enjoying a more analogue approach to planning. I have shared a few things that don't go in my bullet journal, but the majority of my planning can be found in there and it has now replaced the digital planning system on Trello which I used for a long time.

I find that when I write things down with a pen and paper they are far more likely to stick in my brain. It's also much more satisfying to scribble out a completed task that to simply drag and drop it to the next day! Not to mention that it helps to keep me away from my phone screen. Like many people I am quite capable of picking up my phone to quickly check something and then find myself emerging in a daze after half an hour of aimless scrolling.

I've also started keeping a small notebook in my handbag which I can use to make notes while I'm out and about, mainly while I'm parked up at school waiting for the children. I have a few ongoing lists there that I add to, for example books that I want to read or buy and songs that I want to add to my running playlist. 

Person writing things down in a notebook
Photo credit Kenny Eliason via Unsplash

Since I started my bullet journal I've noticed a real shift in my approach to regular tasks which I can only explain by the fact that when I have everything physically written down it makes me more likely to get things done. For example last week I had scheduled to defrost the freezer, a job which I normally do every few years and I hate it because it takes hours. But because I last did it only a few months ago it took half an hour and was so easy! It was a real lesson in keeping on top of things rather than letting them get out of control, and my bullet journal is making it really easy for me to track those types of tasks.

I've also enjoyed using my planner to schedule in things that aren't tasks as such but things that I want to do. For example to do exercise, watch a television programme that I'm interested in or to spend time working on a particular craft project. This makes sure that I actually get on and do it because I've committed to it by writing it down, rather than having it float around as a vague idea.

I'm really enjoying using a pen and paper regularly again after going a long time hardly writing anything at all. I'm feeling pretty much on top of things at the moment and enjoying making plans and putting them into action!

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Review - Geomag Glow 60 Piece Set

I received this set in exchange for a review 

My son loves magnets and construction sets, and so he was delighted to have the chance to try out a GeoMag Glow set. This 60 piece set is aimed at all ages from 3+.

There are four sets in the GeoMag Glow range with a choice of 25, 42, 60 pieces and a new 93 piece set. The magnetic rods, panels and spheres click and snap together to form three dimensional creations that glow in the dark. I recently reviewed the Geomag Supercolour 42-Piece Magnetic Building Set which contains compatible balls and sticks. These two sets can be combined to make larger structures, and the pieces work with other sets in the range to make even bigger models.

GeoMag Glow 60 piece set review

The set also comes with some small bespoke plastic storage containers, which are great for keeping the pieces together and organised. 

My son loves playing with these sets even though he is a teenager now. He finds it really relaxing and satisfying to slot the pieces together, and enjoys coming up with his own creations. It's a great toy for him to fiddle with while he's working on something at his desk! For younger children the GeoMag toys are perfect for developing fine motor skills and spatial thinking. The pieces fit together easily and the finished models are sturdy and can be easily carried around for approval and admiration.

The plastic pieces are made with 100% recycled plastic and are particularly fun to play with while glowing in the dark, or left to make a soft glow in the corner of a darkened room at bedtime. The set comes with a detailed instruction sheet, it's worth noting that it does include pictures of designs which require more than one set to build. However most children won't mind this as as they will be more interested in making up their own creations.

GeoMag Glow 60 piece set review

My son really enjoyed playing with this set and I've loved seeing all the different creations that he has come up with!

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Some books that I've enjoyed recently

I read a lot, and every now and then I like to share some books that I've particularly enjoyed in case anyone is looking for some reading inspiration!

My list this time is quite short because one of the books that I loved was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Normally I can read a book in a couple of days, this one took me two and a half weeks, and I enjoyed every minute! My edition of the book is an old one of my Grandma's, so as far as I know it's the unabridged version with tiny text and nearly 800 pages. I couldn't find any information on the translator, but I found it mostly easy to read and understand. I did start to get a bit confused in the middle section as lots of plans were being put into place and different characters were interacting, so I found a website with some really good chapter summaries and analysis so I didn't miss anything.

It's a long and complicated tale of revenge after Edmond Dant├Ęs is wrongly thrown into prison. After his escape he inherits a fortune and exacts powerful revenge on the three men that put him there. The plans for his vengeance are being laid before you even realise what is going on, and the story is full of twists and turns and co-incidences which lead to a satisfying conclusion. I really enjoyed being engrossed in such a long novel and I felt quite bereft when I had finished it, I've been reading some non-fiction for a while as I don't feel ready to move onto another story just yet!

Before this I really enjoyed The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki. This was a book that I picked up before Christmas when I had a Waterstones voucher and I wasn't sure what to buy. I'm so glad that I picked this one! It's another long book, the story of fourteen year Benny who struggling to cope after the death of his beloved father. 

He begins to hear the voices of the inanimate things that surround him and so he takes refuge in the library where he meets a cast of unusual characters. I also related to the character of his mother who is trying to work on her hoarding problem. She picks up a book called 'Tidy Magic' which introduced a very funny Marie Kondo-esque character. 

It was a really enjoyable read about. Among many other subjects it covered our attachment to material possessions and books, both subjects which interest me a lot!

Three books that I have enjoyed recently

Finally I loved Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr, another one of my Waterstones purchases. I was more confident about this one because I really enjoyed All The Light We Cannot See and I wasn't disappointed, this was a brilliant book. The story takes place over three different time periods - past, present and future - and five different main characters. All of the narratives are linked by an ancient text which exists only in fragments and we see the impact that this story has on all the different lives. It's an amazing book, beautifully written, and I enjoyed reading every page.

If you want to see what I'm reading you can follow me on Goodreads!

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

How to encourage your fussy feeders to enjoy their meals

This is a collaborative post

If you have a child that is very fussy around food, it can be easy to get frustrated with their lack of cooperation. Before you know it, every mealtime has the potential to become a battleground, as you attempt to cajole your young ones into eating their greens or trying that new pasta dish. 

Unfortunately, getting frustrated can do more harm than good. It’s best to try and come up with a variety of gently persuasive strategies to show your child that eating as many different foods as possible can actually be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. 

With that goal in mind, here are some top tips to get you started. 

Start off small

If you’re weary of your child’s restricted appetite and you’re keen to get them to sample new foods, it may be more effective if you start off with very small portions. 

After all, if your child is super fussy, then introducing a new type of food could be alarming for your little one - or at best, off-putting. By placing just a tiny amount on their plate, or in a little cup or saucer at their elbow, you can help to make the prospect less intimidating and hopefully pique their curiosity. 

Feed them facts

Children are famously curious little creatures, so one technique that may prove particularly effective is to give them some fun facts about their food and where it comes from. In fact, you may find it interesting to do some research on this matter yourself! Recent research has revealed that significant numbers of British adults have admitted to having poor knowledge of how their food is grown and where it comes.

The good news is, there are plenty of enjoyable ways to find out – from watching educational programs to trying to grow your own, and maybe even visiting a local farm to pick your own fruit.

Vegetables harvested
Photo credit CA Creative via Unsplash

Try a new gadget

Sometimes, your efforts at placating a fussy feeder can be helped by introducing some helpful new culinary tools and gadgets. For instance, if your child prefers fast food fries or chicken to your home-cooked version, you can produce the same kind of mouth-watering taste – but in a much healthier way – by using an air fryer. 

It’s not just fried chicken and chips that you can whip up in a hurry using air fryers such as these cost-effective models stocked by OnBuy. They can also be used to prepare a range of other delicious meals, from roasted veg to desserts, giving you plenty of options for your fussy eater. 

And finally - make food more fun!

If your finicky feeder is being particularly difficult, then a tactic you may want to try is experimenting with ways to make mealtimes more fun. For instance, you could make faces and figures out of the different ingredients, create colourful fruit kebabs, or serve miniature meals inside dainty ramekins so they will feel like they’re eating at a fairy’s table. 

By making mealtimes entertaining, you can help to distract them enough to actually take a bite and discover that new foods aren’t that bad after all!

Monday, 20 March 2023

A fabric stash project - drawstring gift bags for a Disney cruise gift exchange

This year one of my goals is to make a dent in my fabric stash. I have lots of projects in mind, and this week I suddenly found a new opportunity to use up some more of my fabric! 

In a couple of months we are lucky enough to be going on a Disney cruise, and one thing that I love about Disney cruises is the Fish Extender gift exchange. It's an organised way of giving little gifts to families in other staterooms, and lots of people take part. You can find out details in the Facebook group for your cruise, and sign up with the commitment of giving gifts to a certain number of staterooms.

We went on a Halloween Disney cruise back in October 2019 and I went for it in a big way. We were in an exchange group of ten staterooms, and I also took part in an ornament exchange, a postcard exchange, and I made lots of smaller 'Pixie Dust' gifts which are given out at random. The exchange is called a Fish Extender after the long hanging pockets that people hang from the fish shaped hook outside their stateroom door - you can see how I made my Moana themed Fish Extender here

Moana themed Fish Extender for Disney cruise

I really loved taking part but it took up a lot of suitcase space so this time I have scaled it back. We are in an exchange group with five other families, and I'm not doing any other exchanges although I have a few little things to give away as Pixie Dust.

I was trying to think of a better way of presenting my gifts than using plastic gift bags, and I remembered I had some London Underground themed fabric in my stash which would make perfect gift bags. It's fairly likely that most of the other people taking part will be from the US, and if not then they will be people that enjoy to travel, so I hope that they like the design. I had enough fabric to make up four of my five bags, and some colourful spotty fabric for the fifth bag.

London Underground fabric used to make simple drawstring bags

My drawstring bag method is super simple. I just take a rectangle of fabric and sew a deep seam on the longest side to hold the ribbon. Then I turn the right sides together and sew around the sides, making sure to leave the ribbon seam free. I turn the bag the right way around and thread a length of  ribbon through for closing the bag (I also made quite a dent in my huge ribbon stash!)

Simple drawstring bags for Disney cruise Fish Extender exchange

I used some smaller leftovers of fabric to make tiny drawstring bags for Pixie Dust, along with a little tag to let people know where it came from. I had a collection of little Disney figurines which fit perfectly. The bags were a bit fiddly but were very quick to sew up. You can see some leftover anchor and pirate Mickey fabric from when I made Disney cruise themed scrunchies.

As for the gifts inside the bags I have tried my best to keep them small and light. Each person in the stateroom has an individual gift wrapped in tissue paper. I found some gorgeous Disney themed stationery on sale in Asda, there are also bags of Easter chocolates, pretty pens, keyrings, pin badges and small toys and games depending on the different ages.

Now I need to make sure that they arrive safely on the ship, and hope that the recipients are pleased with them!

Friday, 17 March 2023

Sorting out our masses of Lego and Playmobil

We are lucky enough to have a guest bedroom on the top floor of our house, a big room with a double bed and plenty of floor space. But during covid and those long months at home I allowed the children to use the guest bedroom as a playroom and a home for their many and varied large Lego and Playmobil sets. The children don't play up there anymore, and we don't heat the top floor over the winter, so I had forgotten just how messy it was. Faced with the imminent prospect of house guests I ventured up to see what I could do to tidy it, and I was quite overwhelmed when I realised the scale of the job in hand.

They had several large Playmobil sets with pieces scattered across the room, and most of the pieces from multiple sets all jumbled together in a large miscellaneous box. Then there were Lego sets, some set up, some half dismantled, all covered in dust and all mixed up. I'm usually quite organised when it comes to the toys and I found it really stressful to see them all in such confusion! So I decided it was time to have a good sort out.

We decided that we wanted to keep the larger Playmobil sets and all of the Lego, which is fine and I'm happy for it to be kept, but I wanted it all in order. I had kept all the instructions and inventories for each set, so I hauled them all out and began on a mammoth sorting task beginning with the Playmobil.

It was quite a job, and it took me many hours spent up in the cold room. I went through all the pieces and worked out which set they went with. I managed to find the vast majority and assign them to a set, there are a few small bits missing but there are more than enough pieces to make up playable sets. The smaller sets were bagged up and lent to my parents for my niece to play with when she visits.

Large blue plastic tub full of Lego bricks

The Lego was more difficult. While looking for a picture for this blog post I came across this ancient post - How I organised the Lego - and I had to laugh at how much simpler our Lego set up was way back then! The children chose their favourite sets and took them away for display in their rooms. Then I broke up the smaller sets and put them away in boxes, as well as sorting through the huge tub of miscellaneous Lego bricks to find any missing parts.

Again, I couldn't find everything, but I think I did a decent job. Now that it is mostly packed away I have officially handed it over to the children. I've said we will store it for them as they are good quality toys that they want to keep, but as soon as they own their own homes with a loft they become their responsibility, and if they want to make some pennies by selling it all on eBay sooner then they are welcome to!

It's amazing what a difference sorting it all out has made to me. Even though I wasn't seeing the room daily, it was always there as a future job at the back of my mind and now it's done! It was a little bit emotional for me because I have loved watching them play with these toys over the years and now they are all grown up. It's not perfect as we still have lots of boxes of toys. But I do keep going up there to admire all the extra space that we now have, and how clean and dust free it all is!

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