Monday, 12 October 2020

Free cross stitch patterns - Simple small Halloween designs

Today I'm sharing some very simple Halloween pixal art designs that would be perfect for Halloween themed cross stitch samplers or Hama bead projects. Because I designed these patterns originally for Hama beads I've added some pictures so that you can see what they look like made up with both midi and mini Hama beads. I'm planning to use some of them for my cross stitch map, as we have often found ourselves celebrating Halloween while on our travels around the world!

This first set of designs are very small and simple, using just a few colours. I have a cross stitch witch's hat, a skull, witch's face and tiny pumpkin.

Mini cross stitch Halloween designs

These simple designs were used to make these Hama bead Halloween napkin rings, a lovely seasonal decoration for a Halloween themed dinner table. 

Hama bead Halloween themed napkin rings

This next set of Halloween pixel designs are slightly larger. There's a pumpkin, a ghost, skull and witch's hat. 

Halloween free mini cross stitch designs simple

I used these designs to make some Mini Hama bead Halloween pin badges for some spooky Halloween party accessories. 

Mini Hama bead Halloween designs

Finally I designed these simple Halloween sugar skull patterns. The basic pattern can be changed to fit the colours that you have available or that fit your theme. You can use both pastel and bolder colours, and choose contrasting or complementary colours. There are all sorts of ways that it can be adapted!

Free Sugar Skull simple cross stitch design

I used this design to make some larger Hama bead Sugar Skull bunting and I used the midi Hama beads to make tiny Mini Hama bead Sugar Skull earrings.

Hama bead Halloween Sugar Skull designs

I hope that you like these Halloween themed designs! If you make something using them I'd love to see it! 

If you like Halloween style pixel art, you might also like to see some of my other Hama bead crafts for Halloween

Thursday, 1 October 2020

September crafting update

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

This year I challenged myself to complete one of my unfinished craft projects each month. The good news is that now I don't actually have a proper unfinished project left to complete! So this month I've been doing a bit more work on my cross stitch map.

You can see it here - Cross stitch map by SUCK UK (affiliate link)

I've had this cross stitch map for a few years now. It's just cross stitch fabric which has a dark blue map printed on it, and then you can stitch in the countries that you've visited. That didn't take me very long, and it was looking quite bare, so I decided to fill in the gaps around the edge with a patchwork of different pictures based on places that I've visited. Eventually I want the whole area to be filled with stitching, but there's still quite a lot left to work on!

This month I completed the dinosaur skull at the bottom and the ice cream on the left. Most of the patterns are ones that I've designed myself, you can find links to some of them at the bottom of this post. I'm also filling in some areas just with blue or with waves. It's something that I can just pick up and put down as the mood strikes me, and I really enjoy coming up with the different designs.

Cross stitch map in progress by Suck UK

Free Kangaroo Crossing cross stitch pattern

Free cruise ship cross stitch pattern

Free Disney inspired castle cross stitch pattern

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Book review - The Organised Time Technique by Gemma Bray

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Last year I turned around my cleaning routine thanks to The Organised Mum Method by Gemma Bray. The book really spoke to me, and helped me to make sense of the way that I could organise my housework to make sure that everything was done on a regular basis. I'm still following the method and it has really helped me to feel in control. So I was very interested to find out that Gemma has written a new book - The Organised Time Technique (affiliate link). 

Here's the blurb:

Do you ever get to the end of the day and feel like you've achieved nothing? Do you find it difficult to decide how to spend the small amount of free time you have? Do you ever wonder how some people seem to be able to do more with their time than others?

The Organised Time Technique is Gemma Bray's unique method for organising the day that will stop us from trying to do everything (and feeling like a failure when we can't), keep us focused on how we use the time we have available, help us to play to our strengths and, most importantly, stop worrying about what anyone else is doing.

The Organised Time Technique by Gemma Bray book review

The premise of the book is to really be aware of the fact that time is finite and that can, and will, run out. You are encouraged to break down your day into small blocks of time, for example 30 minutes, which gives you 48 units to divide between three levels of daily tasks. Level one tasks are absolutely essential - like sleeping and eating. Level two tasks would cause major disruption if you didn't do them - for example going to work, the school run and cleaning. Level three tasks are your focus tasks - the things that you really want to do, like your hobbies.

The first and most important step is to carry out a time bootcamp. Keep an honest record over the week of where your time is really going. This will help you to understand what sort of a timekeeper you are and how you can work with this to make some changes. It will help you to identify your typical time suckers, for example scrolling through social media, and where you are spending more time than you need to on a task. Then you can carry out an audit. You will work out firstly which tasks you can drop completely, and secondly how you can manage the remaining tasks so that they take up less time, for example by grocery shopping less frequently.

Although the techniques in the book can be used by all, it is written with particular relevance to mums, and especially working mums. It might seem sexist, but the reality is that many mums are juggling childcare and housework, as well as work, and are also involved in several other commitments like the PTA at school. The book is written in a really friendly and realistic way, and so it's very easy to relate to how you can use the techniques to turn things around.

I was reassured to be reminded that it is often difficult for mums to take pleasure in things that take them away from their parental duties, and that this is perfectly normal. The book has some really good tips on the importance of self-care and looking after yourself so that you are in a position to help others. You shouldn't feel guilty that you are taking time out for yourself, and you only need to be accountable to yourself. And spending just thirty minutes a day working towards a larger goal can yield really big results. 

I found this book really accessible, and although a lot of the advice is common sense, having it all written down in an easy to understand way makes it easy to digest and to think about the changes that you can make. I found it really motivational, and I've already made some changes to my life. For example I already know that I spend far too much time scrolling on my phone, so I've been making a conscious effort to keep it at a distance and pick up a book instead. 

The book was written during the Covid-19 pandemic, and so it's completely up to date with all the new challenges that families have been and still are facing. It arrived at a good time for me, as I begin to pick up things where I left them back in March and as we all get used to a new normal where some things are the same but others completely different. Now that I've given the book a good read through and taken the information on board I'm definitely going to be making some changes to how I manage my time.

If you want to understand where your time goes and how you can organise yourself to make the absolute most of it I'd definitely recommend this book!

Organisation books by Gemma Bray

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

The return of the witching hour

When the children were small, and at home with me all day, I really struggled with the witching hour. We would often go out in the morning followed by an early lunch, and by 4pm everyone was bored and tea seemed a long way off. I struggled to cook dinner with children screaming and hanging off my legs, and there were often tears all round. Even once they were at school I still had tired children to deal with, but as they got older they were easier to look after, they could get on with their simple homework or play, and I was able to get on with preparing lunchboxes and dinner.

But the last few weeks have felt like a return to those difficult days. The children are exhausted after school. They are returning to a routine which they had all but forgotten, and are coping with new teachers, a new timetable and in Harry's case a new school. The amount of homework has increased, and time management skills need to be honed. As with everyone, the state of uncertainty is having a massive effect. With Covid cases already in the school, sometimes I feel as though it's only a matter of time before we are all back home again. 

By the time we get home from school, both children are often in tears. Mia is in no state to begin her homework, she needs a drink, a snack and some screen time to calm down. Harry is very good about getting straight on with his work, but when he looks at his list, which usually contains several tasks, he becomes overwhelmed and doesn't know where to start. I end up bouncing between the two of them doling out snacks, hugs and advice, and that's before I even think about starting dinner. This stops me from doing everything that I need to do, and so we all get cross with each other.

Luckily once dinner is out the way things are better. The children have a bath and get ready for bed, and then Mia is in a much better mood to get her homework done and Harry can catch up with his screen and reading time. By the time I have read to them and tucked them up in bed we have all calmed down.

It's going to take us a little while to get back into the swing of things so I'm trying to be as patient as I can, and to do the best I can to help with the transition. I'm really glad that the children are able to be back to school, both for their education and to be able to spend time with their friends, but it's going to take us all a few weeks yet to get used to it!

Photo credit Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Reading to the children

As a baby, Mia was never interested in books, so it was lovely when she let me start reading to her. We started with picture books then moved on to chapter books. We started with some classic Enid Blytons then went onto some of my favourite books from childhood - Charlotte Sometimes and Tom's Midnight Garden. We are currently nearing the end of the Snow Spider Trilogy, after watching the BBC adaptation earlier this year.

I used to read to Harry too when he was younger, but he was a much keener reader and quickly moved onto choosing and reading longer chapter books to himself. So I got out of the habit of reading to him and instead settled him into bed with a book of his own before reading to Mia.

Recently I was filling out an online survey and I was asked questions about reading to my children. Harry was in the same room and I mentioned the question to him, and something about the way he reacted to me talking about reading to Mia made me stop. I asked him, "would you like me to read to you too?" and he went all quiet, then admitted that actually he would like me to still read to him. I was a bit taken aback, and felt bad that I'd stopped!

Child reading on a bed from above
Photo credit - Annie Spratt via Unsplash

So I decided to take the opportunity to introduce him to a book that he wouldn't have the confidence to pick up himself. He's a comfort reader and likes to re-read books that he's enjoyed over and over, and he picks his new books from similar genres. So I found a copy of Treasure Island that he had on his shelf. I chose it because I reasoned that as a children's book I'm confident that it's going to be suitable, but the setting and language is quite different to his usual books.

Fortunately he's really enjoying the story, and I can also tell that he's enjoying me reading to him. So even though it takes me a bit of extra time each evening to put them to bed I'm hoping that I can keep it going with him for a little while yet!

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Why travelling is the most important gift you can give to your kids

This is a guest post.

Travelling is something some parents underestimate the importance of, but never should. Travelling does so much for kids mentally and helps them grow, see the world in different views, and become overall well-rounded people. If you can gift your kids with a trip and some travels as they grow up, it is something that they will thank you for now, and later as they reap the benefits of their childhood travels. 

Here are just a few of the reasons why travelling is important for kids: 

Communication 

Communication skills will be with your children throughout their lives, and travelling helps to significantly boost communication skills. It can encourage and challenge to communicate clearly and confidently with new places people in new places, and they can even learn to pick up on some of the local languages. Languages are incredibly important in our globalised world, and it is more common and expected that people speak more than one language nowadays. So in terms of general communication skills as well as communication skills via language, travelling can have a significant impact on your children. 

Before travelling, encourage your child to learn some of the local phrases by using a language app aimed for students such as Babbel, for example. This way, they can have even just the basics down and develop their communication skills from there. These kinds of apps are great as well, because if they ever decide to study abroad, it’s a great tool to take with them! 

Child wearing headphones while travelling
Photo credit Film Bros via Pexels


It’ll make them more adaptable 

It can be easy (and helpful) for children to get into a routine at home, but travelling encourages them to adapt to new situations and places. Especially as they get older, being adaptable is an incredible skill to have, as it can make them be more flexible, comfortable and confident in themselves through work, school, and life changes. 

If you are travelling with young children, it is helpful to keep some routines the same (such as bedtime, meal time, etc.) so that their core routine is consistent as they are challenged and encouraged to adapt to new environments while away from home. 

Make them appreciate the world and nature 

There are all sorts of incredible places and landscapes around the world, and it is an incredible experience to go somewhere and be astounded the natural beauty of a new place. Getting children outside of the environment that they know encourages them to appreciate the world and nature, including places outside of their own little world. While we can see so much via Google Earth, photographs, art and media, there is nothing like experiencing a place for yourself. 

Group of people gathered around a laptop
Photo credit Mimi Thian via Unsplash


Teaches them geography and history 

It’s one thing to learn about geography and history, but it’s another thing to travel and experience it in person. Before traveling, encourage your child to read up on the history, geography and human geography of the destination so that they feel more connected and educated about the site. This can be especially beneficial if your child is learning about a time in history or a specific place at school, as it can give them hands-on experience with the place, historic sites and amazing culture

Can give them social skills 

The social skills that you learn while travelling are unparalleled to what your child will develop at home. Whether it is asking for directions or assistance in a local language that is not your own, connecting with other travellers and locals, or relying on social intelligence to determine what to do in a challenging environment, social skills are critical for travelling and can significantly impact how well a trip goes. You will probably see your children more comfortable asking for help or expressing their needs once back home! 

With all of this said, travelling really is something crucial for kids to grow. It can expand their horizons and show them new things they never thought of before. Plus, travelling is a fun and educational experience that is full of adventure!

Blank notebook

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

We're all addicted to Animal Crossing

We were a bit late to the game, as it were, with Animal Crossing. During lockdown, people all over the world were losing themselves in an imaginary reality, creating their own peaceful islands and holding virtual meet ups with friends to swap fruit and flowers. But having played the game before, many years ago and before children, I knew that once I started playing I'd be hooked, and I remembered what happened when you didn't play for a few days - a return to an overgrown village in ruins, being chastised for your absence by angry villagers.

But having seen everyone chatting about it all summer on social media I was rather keen to play the new game, and so we finally bought a copy in the last couple of weeks of the holiday. The Switch console had been neglected recently as the children tend to use their iPads for their gaming, and so I thought it would be nice to get a bit more use from it.

Luckily I was the one to play the game first, which in hindsight was a really good move. I didn't realise until afterwards that this new version of the game is set up slightly differently. If there are several players on the one console then they need to share an island, and the first one to play is in charge and the only one able to perform certain functions. I can't imagine the conflict it would have caused if this role had been given to one of the children! There's a multiplayer mode to the game but it isn't very good.

I wasn't very happy sharing at first, as I was looking forward to having my own island to plan and decorate. However it's not so bad, the children and I can pool our money and resources for island improvements, we share our surplus items and we send little gifts to each other. But the problems come with the need to make sure that everyone has equal playing time, and I recently caused an argument by spending my savings to add a room to my house instead of contributing to a bridge upgrade. 

Animal Crossing game displayed on a Nintendo Swith
Photo credit Sara Kurfess via Unsplash

Animal Crossing is definitely an addictive game, despite the gentle repetitiveness. It's definitely much more fun roaming around a virtual island to pick up twigs and weeds rather than spending half an hour weeding my own vegetable patch. Likewise, I spend a lot more time rearranging the furniture in my virtual home than dusting my actual house. I'm not an expert on the science of digital addiction but I know that a big factor is the dopamine hits, which are continually triggered throughout play when you successfully catch a fish or acquire a recipe for the missing furniture item in a set. 

Playing the game is also a way of escaping from the real world to somewhere that you can control and improve, which is why I can see it was such a hit during lockdown. It also offers opportunities to meet up with friends online and play together as well as sending letters and gifts, so it's a fun way to keep in touch with family and friends.

Of course now that the children are back at school they have less opportunity for screen time. So it has become part of my own routine to log under their accounts each day to collect the 'Nook Miles' which accumulate as you spend consecutive days playing, keep an eye on the fluctuating turnip prices and generally make sure that they've been present and active in the game world. I'm also busy on my own account catching sea creatures and selling shells so that I can save up enough money to pay for all the improvements that they want.

We've been having a lot of fun playing this game and I can see it continuing for a good while yet!

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