Friday, 28 January 2022

Mini Hama bead heart picture

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

I love crafting with mini Hama beads, they are a great grown up alternative to the larger Hama beads which are aimed at children. The beads are tiny and you can create some really intricate designs. I used some of the beads that I have left over from various mini Hama bead craft kits to create a simple, pop art style, colourful heart picture. 

Mini Hama bead pop art style heart picture

For my design I used a basic heart outline. I was originally going to make each heart in a single colour but in the end I decided to make an outline so that I could use a wider range of colours. When it came to the colours I first set out the heart outlines in dark red, medium red, pink and white, trying to spread them out evenly. Then I added in the other colours as I went along, using a mix of colours without any repeated hearts.

It's a great design to use up odds and ends of beads that you might have leftover from a kit, or if you have a bag of beads in mixed colours.

Here is the pattern that I used - I've left it blank as it's very much an individual design depending on what coloured beads you have! But if you do want to use my colours you should be able to see them well in the photographs above and below.

Mini Hama bead or cross stitch heart design pattern

Below are my beads laid out on the large square mini Hama bead pegboard. This is the back of the design. 

Working with mini Hama beads is quite different to working with larger beads as they are very tiny, just 2mm in diameter. They are impossible to place on the board with fingers, so you need to work with tweezers. You also need to be very careful, I know from experience that it's very easy to knock the board and mess up your design!

If you are new to working with mini Hama beads you might find my guide useful - Mini Hama bead guide.

Mini Hama bead hearts on pegboard

When you are happy with your bead placement then it's time to iron your design.

I've written some - Ironing tips for Hama beads.

I must admit that even though I've used mini Hama beads many times I managed to royally mess this one up when it came to ironing! Sometimes the beads can be slightly different heights, so it can look as though they have been ironed when in fact some of the smaller beads are not fused properly. Be very careful when you remove it from the board that all the beads are fused together!

I iron my designs on a cork mat, then I place a second cork mat over the top and flip it over to release the beads from the board. When the design is still warm I place it between the mats with a pile of books on top to make sure that it cools flat. 

I managed to salvage my design with a bit of patience! 

Mini Hama bead pop art style heart picture design

This design uses 1296 mini Hama beads in total. Each heart outline requires 16 beads, the inside of the heart uses 18 and the square around the heart needs 47 beads.

If you like this design you might also like my Mini Hama beads Russian doll tiled picture which also uses beads in a variety of colours. It's made up of four individual pieces which I backed with cardboard and display above my desk on a small wooden easel.

Mini Hama bead Russian Dolls picture

Another design which is great for using up leftover beads is this Hama bead quilt style picture which I made using the larger midi size Hama beads. I mounted it in a square frame for display.

Hama bead quilt style picture

Below you can find links to the products that you will need for this craft. Be careful when shopping that you are buying the beads in the mini size along with a mini pegboard, as the larger sized midi beads usually come up first in searches (of course this project will also work well with the larger beads).

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Book review - Atomic Habits by James Clear

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Like many people, I approached the New Year with a plan for self-improvement and a few ideas in mind. I'd seen lots of habit trackers on social media, and thought this idea would be really helpful to me as I love making lists and setting myself targets and goals.

I identified four things that I wanted to work on. Eating my five fruit and veg in a day, exercise, playing the piano and meditating. Exercise is the only one that I didn't plan to do daily - I count exercise as a reasonable cardio workout for forty minutes or so and I just don't have the energy for that every day! Instead I just wanted to track how often I managed it.

In addition I decided to choose two habits just for January. These were writing a blog post every day (not publishing, just writing and scheduling) and not looking at any news websites and apps. I was particularly interested to try avoiding the news websites because I have been feeling recently that that constantly scrolling through news headlines and articles has a very bad effect on my mental health.

Habit tracker page in bullet journal
Photo credit Phrophsee Journals via Unsplash

While I was looking for ideas on habit trackers and how to make them work I couldn't avoid hearing about the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. It seemed to be the definitive work on the subject, and I read so many good reviews that I treated myself to a copy with some Christmas money. I'm really glad that I did, because I found this book so helpful and motivating.

The premise of the book is that by making tiny changes, atomic habits, in your daily routine you can see remarkable results. 

Atomic Habits book review by James Clear

I discovered that this book is packed with useful and interesting information. It's easy to read and understand, and all of the ideas make perfect sense. 

I found the concept of habit stacking particularly useful. I had noticed that I've been doing this already - I am lucky to have good teeth but last year, after a visit to the dentist and being kindly reminded of the fact that I'm not getting any younger, I decided to make more of an effort with daily flossing. I bought a new pack of dental floss and every evening after I brush my teeth I now floss. Because I'm already brushing my teeth every evening without fail, it was easy to add this extra step and I haven't missed a day since I started. 

So habit stacking is looking for something that you always do every day without even thinking, for example brushing teeth, eating lunch or doing the school run, and then adding a habit that you will always do at that time. Some examples from the book - "after I pour my cup of coffee each morning I will meditate for one minute" or "after I sit down to dinner I will say one thing I'm grateful for that happened today". 

You can then combine this with a second strategy called temptation bundling, which makes your habits become more attractive. So you do something unappealing, for instance for me that might be cleaning a bathroom, then you can do something that you enjoy afterwards, like sitting down with a book and a biscuit.

There are also some great tips for avoiding complacency. For example I want to practice the piano every day but I don't want to just sit down and play for ten minutes, I want to demonstrate improvement. So I am working on learning and memorising some pieces that I enjoy playing. The book has some really good tips on how to avoid getting stuck in a rut.

One thing that I really liked about this book was that I could identify with most of the situations described. Sometimes this type of book can be aimed at someone in a corporate environment, looking to improve their performance in the workplace. I can't relate to this at all. But I could relate to the habits that were being described in this book - simple every day things like exercise, eating more healthily, taking more time for yourself whether through meditation, reading or a digital detox. I also liked the focus on self-improvement and working towards goals and targets. 

So how am I getting on with my habits nearly three weeks in?

I'm pleased to say that I'm doing really well, although the one habit that hasn't stuck is filling in the daily habit tracker! After a few days I had the habits that I wanted to work on stuck in my head and I had worked out a routine for all of them. To my surprise I didn't feel the need to tick boxes.

Eating five fruit and veg - I started off with an app to track this but got fed up filling it in. I planned ahead, drinking orange juice for breakfast, making and eating two portion soup for lunch and aiming for two servings of veg with dinner. After dinner, if I've missed out I will have an apple or some dried fruit.

Exercise - I already had a good routine of exercising at least three times a week so I've been trying to fit in at least one extra trip to the pool.

Meditation - I've started doing meditation using an app straight after lunch and this fits in really well with my day. I just have to be careful not to fall asleep, this has happened several times! I feel like I'm definitely improving with keeping my focus.

Piano practice - During the the half an hour before school pick up works well for me. But if I miss it I have time after dinner to fit some in. I've completely memorised one piece and have another that I'm nearly there with.

Writing a blog post every day - This is going really well, and I'll be sharing my progress on this at the end of the month!

Avoiding the news websites and apps - Finally, this really has made a massive difference. I don't feel that I've missed out as my family keep me up to date and I've also watched the news on television a couple of times. The challenge isn't about avoiding the news entirely, it's just the mindless scrolling and anxious waiting for updates to stories.

If you are looking to make some simple changes to your life in order to see some great results then I would really recommend giving Atomic Habits a read. I found it very helpful and although some of the ideas were things that I was already intuitively doing, it helped and motivated me to see them written out and have the psychology behind them explained.

Monday, 24 January 2022

Why running is the perfect exercise for me

I must admit that the main reason I exercise is to stay fit and healthy, not always because I particularly love it. But I do try to run outside often. At the moment I'm regularly managing three times a week, and this is one form of exercise that I can say that I enjoy, or at least I do enjoy the feeling I get when I've done it!

I'm not a competitive runner and I've only ever taken part in two organised charity runs. The furthest I've ever run in one go is just over 10 kilometres and my usual run is about half an hour or forty minutes which takes me about 5 kilometres. I probably could run a marathon if I put my mind to it and completed the training, but I just don't have the urge to push myself for it. I think that it would probably put me off running forever!

But out of all the different forms of exercise that I've tried over the years I keep coming back to running.

Some of the reasons that running works so well for me when it comes to exercise:

It's individual thing. I can go out when I feel like it and when I've got the time, I don't need to organise myself around others. I'm not competing with anyone else. 

I can set myself goals and come up with challenges. For example running a certain distance in one go or getting out a particular number of times.

I can track my progress in various apps if I want to stay motivated. It's fun to look back and see a map of where I went and how quickly I managed a favourite route! I'm also currently playing Pikmin Bloom and I like getting out to grow my seedlings and pick up virtual fruit.

Woman running on country road
Photo credit Emma Simpson via Unsplash

I can fit it into my routine. At the moment I like to run first thing in the morning after a small breakfast, and then I'm done for the day.

I like exploring my local area. There are lots of new build estates nearby to have a nose around, as well as rural paths and a golf course if it hasn't been raining. I can get down to the sea if I fancy a longer run, or I can stop on the way back from school drop off to run along the promenade. 

I don't need fancy equipment. I have some half decent trainers but the rest of my running kit comes from either the supermarkets, Decathlon or Amazon.

I feel really good afterwards and definitely like I've had a proper workout. I always head straight for a nice hot shower as soon as I get in, especially if it has been raining or cold!

Do you like to get out for a run?

Friday, 21 January 2022

Celebrating a birthday with a Python coding theme

This week Harry turned 13 - we now have a teenager in the house! His current top interest at the moment is the programming language Python. Over the last few months he has taught it to himself, and he spends ages working away on his coding and writing programmes. So I decided that I would bring a Python theme to his birthday.

My first thought was the cake. The Python logo is pretty simple and could probably be recreated with fondant icing but my skills aren't that good so I cheated and bought a printed cake topper. There are lots of companies that do this, I used one that I found on Amazon and have used before. You upload your own picture and choose some text, then the printed cake topper arrives a few days later. It's slightly larger than the size of cake that I normally make but I was able to cut it to fit.

Python coding language birthday accessories

The trouble is that Harry doesn't actually like cake. He likes having the cake experience and blowing out the candles, which is why I made him one, but he won't eat it. So last year I made him a batch of biscuits to go with it, and I did the same this year with some Python cookies.

I was going to make a paper template and cut the biscuits by hand, but then I was really pleased to find a Python logo biscuit cutter on eBay. The company offers cookie cutters in a huge range of designs which are machine printed and I was very happy with it. It was a little fiddly to use admittedly, especially around the eyes, but it made some lovely shaped biscuits that were instantly recognisable (well, at least to those that know their programming languages!)

Python logo shaped cookies and biscuits

I piled everything up on a cake tray, along with some glittery candles and chocolate fingers which are one of the few biscuits that he likes. Then I decorated with yellow and blue balloons. I think he was pleased!

Python themed birthday cake and biscuits

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Adopting a primate from Monkey World

Mia has always loved monkeys and other primates and for a little while now she has been desperate to adopt her own monkey. We took her to Monkey World in Dorset for her birthday a few years ago and she fell in love with it, and even though it's quite a distance from our house it seemed like the first place to look when it came to primate adoption.

Mia's favourite monkeys are squirrel monkeys but at Monkey World they have so many smaller primates that squirrel monkeys are only available to adopt as a group rather than an individual. So Mia spent a lot of time working through the website to find the primate that she wanted. She quickly narrowed it down to a female golden-cheeked gibbon, but then it became more difficult! Eventually she chose Kim, a female golden-cheeked gibbon born at Monkey World on 31/3/08. Kim has been paired with a male golden-cheeked gibbon, Tien, and they are very close.

Adoption kit from Monkey World in Dorset

A year long child adoption costs £27 which includes annual entrance to the park, a photograph, a certificate and three copies of their magazine. But because if we were taking her to the park we would all have to go and pay for entry anyway we decided to let her chip in £27 towards a family adoption which costs £94 for two adults and two children. 

Hopefully we can manage a few trips over to the park, and Kim will be out and about for her to have a good look at! The magazine that you receive is really good with lots of information about all the different primates and will definitely make our visits there much more interesting. We've also been watching some episodes of the television show Monkey Life which is all about the centre. 

She's so thrilled to have her very own adopted monkey!

Monday, 17 January 2022

A cold January morning run along the beach

When I find myself doing the school run in the morning I often like to combine it with stopping for a run on the way back. Here are some photos that I took on a very cold morning last Friday along Goring and Worthing seafront.

Goring beach seafront soon after sunrise in January

I started in the Goring area of Worthing and headed towards town. The sun had just risen and everything was bathed in a lovely golden light. Below is one of the fishing boats at Goring. There is a hut here where you can buy fresh fish, although I don't know how much of it is caught from this actual boat!

Fishing boat on beach in winter

I love the beach huts which are all the way along the seafront in Goring.

Goring beach huts in early morning sunshine

As you head towards town you pass the Waterwise Garden which demonstrates how gardeners can reduce water consumption with plants that don't need much water. It's been established for a few years now and it's a nice place to stop and look out to sea. 

Water saving garden sculpture on Worthing seafront

Finally on the outskirts of the town centre, here are the palm trees on the seafront, all wrapped up to keep them warm over the winter!

Wrapped up palm trees on Worthing beach in winter

It's so nice having such a lovely place nearby to go for a run!

Friday, 14 January 2022

Winter snowflake lantern with mini Hama beads

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

A few days ago I shared how I made some mini Hama bead snowflake embellishments and today I'm going to show how I used them to make a simple lantern from an upcycled jam jar. 

Snowflake lantern from a jam jar using mini Hama beads

To make the snowflake embellishments you need some mini Hama beads and a mini Hama bead pegboard. You can find links to the materials that you will need at the bottom of this post. The mini Hama beads are very tiny and take some practice to work with - you can find all the instructions and the free snowflake pattern in my mini Hama bead snowflakes tutorial as well as some tips for working with the tiny mini Hama beads. 

How to make mini Hama bead snowflakes

I made six mini snowflakes to decorate my jar. You will see that because they are so delicate the snowflake pattern includes transparent beads which are hardly visible when the snowflakes are in position on the jar. 

Mini Hama bead snowflake embellishments

Then you just need to find an old jam jar which is a good shape for holding a candle. One with a wide neck is best so that you can easily light the candle. This lantern is suitable for both battery powered candles and real tealight candles.

To stick the mini snowflakes to the jam jar a glue dot works really well as it is transparent and will hold the embellishment firmly. You can also use glue, or for a temporary lantern a blob of Blu Tack also works really well, although it may show through from the other side of the jar.

It makes a great winter or festive decoration!

Jam jar winter lantern decorated with snowflakes

You can find my tutorial for the mini Hama bead snowflakes here. Below are the products that you need to make the snowflakes. I have made these snowflakes using mini Hama beads which are not the size which is commonly used. Make sure that you are buying the correct size board and beads. 

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