Monday, 10 May 2021

My current cross stitch project - Olde World Map by Janlynn

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

I thought I'd share a little bit about my current cross stitch project! I'm working on the Olde World Map by Janlynn (affiliate) which was purchased as a kit a year or two back. It's a full kit containing everything that you need, with a completed size of 18" by 15".

I started the kit in December 2020. Sometimes when I start a long term craft project like this I set myself a vague deadline, thinking about when I'd like to see it finished, but there's no rush with this one, I just want to enjoy the process. I can see it taking several years to complete.

So far I've almost finished the left hand circular part of the map and I've started working on the background in the lower left of the design going into the wide border. I always start my cross stitch in the middle to make sure that the design is centred on the cloth, then I like get the borders in place so that I can see how the design is going to take shape.

Olde World Map cross stitch kit by Janlynn in progress

I spent more time than I usually would sorting out this kit before I got started. I wound all the different coloured threads onto individual cardboard bobbins and then sorted them into small plastic bags based on their colour. I normally just leave the threads on the cardboard holed sorter that they come on and end up with a huge tangled mess, so this has made a big difference. 

Also for the first time I made myself a copy of the pattern to work from, in case I lose the original. It also means that I can mark the pattern if I need to. In some places it's not the easiest pattern to follow, and in particular some of the backstitch is quite difficult to work out. There are also lots of half stitches, and sometimes it's difficult to see which thread you should be using, so you have to guess a little bit.

It's an interesting design to stitch, with a variety of different types of stitching. There are full coverage areas, parts with lots of similar colours where need to pay close attention to the pattern while you stitch, and repetitive outlines and backstitching that you can work on while there are other distractions around you.  

Janlynn Olde World Map cross stitch kit review

I really love the design and I'm enjoying working on it. I think it's going to look really good when it's finished, and I've already lined up a spot for it on the wall of our dining room!

Friday, 7 May 2021

Tin can flower pots with Hama bead decorations

 This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Upcycled tin can flower pots with Hama beads tutorial

I've been collecting old tin cans for a while now as I have a plan to make a tin can planter for the garden this summer. Here's how I brightened up some of the cans with a simple Hama bead flower design!

Tin can flower pots upcycled with Hama bead flower decorations

For this design I used the Hama bead small flower template. It's expensive to buy individually but is available as part of this lovely set of boards - Flower, Pony and Princess pegboard set (affiliate link). I chose to make my Hama bead flowers using just the top flower part of the design but there would be plenty of space on the tin can to add in a design including the leaves. 

If you don't have this specific pegboard then that's not a problem at all. Just scroll to the bottom of this post where you can see similar flower designs using the small square and hexagonal pegboards. There is also a large flower pegboard which is commonly found in Hama bead sets. Although bigger, this pegboard would also work really well, especially if you want to decorate a larger tin or planter.

The petals of the flowers can of course be made in any colour or design that you choose. I made mine using pastel Hama beads. The best value way to purchase these is in a Pastel mix Hama Beads bucket (affiliate link) which contains a massive 10,000 beads, plenty to keep you going! You can also buy bags of Hama beads in individual colours if you are working on a specific colour scheme. 

Hama bead flower designs on pegboard

To create your Hama bead flower simply place the beads onto the board. When you are happy with your completed design you need to iron the beads so that they fuse together. If you are new to using Hama beads you might find this post helpful:

If you are looking for some different designs using this small flower pegboard you might like my Hama bead flower wreath where I tried out some different bead patterns.

Hama bead completed flower designs

When you've made as many Hama bead flowers as you will need then you can glue them to the tin cans. If you are using the plant pots indoors then a blob of Blu Tack or a large adhesive glue dot will be sufficient. If you want to use the plant pots outdoors then you will need some stronger glue. I'd recommend using a glue gun as you can make a large blob of glue to compensate for the curve of the tin.

Hama bead flowers

I made my flower designs in a range of different colours so that they will have a colourful impact when viewed together.

Upcycled tin cans decorated with Hama bead flowers

I really like how the bright colours contrast with the colour of the tin. I can't wait to see how they look in my tin can planter when it's finished! I've planted my pots with marigolds, I grew marigolds in tin cans last year and they worked really well. They will be kept indoors for now and placed outside when the weather has warmed up, probably mid to late May. If you wanted you could punch drainage holes at the bottom of the tin, although mine have been fine without them.

Plant pot with Hama bead flowers

Hama bead flower tin can decorations

If you don't have a small flower Hama bead pegboard then you can easily make some similar flowers using either the hexagonal pegboard or the square pegboard. Both of these pegboards are readily available and are often included as part of Hama bead starter kits. 

Small Hama bead flower design on hexagonal pegboard

Small Hama bead flower design on square pegboard

If you are looking for more ideas using the small Hama bead flower pegboard then you might also like these Hama bead craft ideas:

Upcycled tin can flower pots with Hama bead flowers tutorial

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

How Roblox changed my daughter's life (for the better!)

Mia had been desperate to play Roblox for ages, but for a long while I was very reluctant about letting her play. I'm not against videogames for children, but I'd read a lot of negative articles about Roblox in particular, concerned with the safety of this game for young children.

It was last September, when she went back to school and saw her friends for the first time since March, that she really started pestering to play. Lots of children in her class were playing it, and she felt like she was missing out. So I did a bit of research, found out more about the game, learned how to use the parental controls, and reluctantly set her up with an account.

But I'm so glad that I did, and it wasn't what I expected at all. She plays several different games, but they aren't at all what I was imagining. One of her favourite games is Club Roblox, and she uses this virtual world to do role play with her friends. They each have their own character, families and homes, and they play in the same way that I used to play Barbies with my friends.

They spend time beforehand planning and setting up different scenarios which they then play out in the different game locations - the school, the restaurant and so on. She doesn't play with people that she doesn't know, instead she meets her friends there so that they can play together, usually while talking to each other at the same time over Facetime. I love hearing them all chatter away while they are playing.

Roblox characters crafted from shrink plastic

Playing Roblox has also set her off on a number of different creative pursuits. She has set up a YouTube channel with her friends, publishing a steady stream of new content which they have planned out based on video ideas that they have researched and think will be popular. She makes cover screens for her videos using graphics software, and she's learning about using different keywords and descriptive text to help her videos stand out.

Her creativity has even taken her beyond the screen. This week she's been writing some amazing stories based around her characters in the game. She's made sweet little booklets filled with drawings and information about her virtual family and over the weekend she rediscovered my stash of shrink plastic, turning her drawings into little plastic figures complete with accessories.

Roblox video game characters

In particular, Roblox was a lifesaver for her during the long period of lockdown earlier this year. She was in daily contact with her friends, playing and chatting. They've been learning about sharing and being fair to each other as they set up trades for items. She's been spending time 'working' in the game to earn points so that she can buy gifts for her friends. It's definitely given her opportunities for interaction with her friends that she wouldn't have had otherwise. 

I'm really pleased that despite my reservations playing Roblox has become a really positive experience for her, and if you are wavering about your child playing Roblox then I hope that this post might help you to make a decision!

It's really important to take internet safety seriously, and when I was researching Roblox I found this website very helpful - Parents Guide to Roblox. It will help you to make sure that you've set it all up correctly and safely. In particular I think it's important to make sure that you limit the games that your child is playing to those curated by Roblox staff (information on how to do this is in the link above). We also don't allow her to add people as friends that she doesn't know in real life and we talk often about how to play videogames safely online. 

Monday, 3 May 2021

My goals for May

A new month means a new list of things that I want to focus on! May is one of my favourite months, it's when the weather finally starts to warm up properly, the garden starts looking nice, and there's a half term holiday as well as a couple of bank holidays to enjoy. 

So here are my goals for this month:

Publish a YouTube video. My YouTube channel doesn't do too badly, considering that I rarely promote it and I have very low production values. It even brings in a small amount of money from advertising, and so I want to make sure that I keep publishing regularly. I don't have any thing specific in mind for a video yet, although I do have a few ideas.

Don't go on Twitter. I'm very bad at mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed and as well as being a waste of time it also causes me anxiety so it's best for me to just avoid it entirely. Only exception - following a direct link to a specific tweet from a friend or news article, then leaving immediately before I get sucked in.

On a related note, avoid constant refreshing of the BBC news website. I'll aim to check first thing in the morning and then late afternoon. Ram is constantly on his phone, I won't miss anything.

Read at least two of the books stacked up on my Kindle and ideally more. I love searching for free books on Amazon, I use the Prime Reading library selection and also browse through the top free Kindle books to download. But then I go to the library and come home with a pile of physical books that call to me first because they are more visible. It's time to make a dent in the digital pile.

Get even closer to my flexibility goal. I'm hoping that my new yoga blocks will help me to deepen my stretches.

Publish at least two crafty blog posts. I like to think that I write a craft blog, but it's been ages since I posted a real craft tutorial. 

Make a start on the border of my cross stitch project. I've spent the last month working on a more fiddly area of the piece, so this month I'm going to take it easy with some mindless repetitive stitching.

Make Mia's birthday special. It's at the end of the month, and last year we promised her a sleepover with her best friends which of course had to be cancelled. Fingers crossed it will be able to go ahead this year!

Writing a list of goals in a journal
Photo credit Glenn Carstens-Peters

I'll update with my progress at the end of the month!

Friday, 30 April 2021

My goals for April - update

I can't believe another month is over already! Time has been going so quickly now that the children are back in school and we are back to some sort of a routine. At the beginning of the month I posted my goals for April, and it's already time for an update.

So here goes:

Finish my pallet planter - Well it's not finished but I have made a start. I sawed my pallet into two pieces, a smaller one and a larger one. I've taken the smaller part, sanded it down and painted it with some white emulsion that we had lying around. Now I'm leaving it outside for a bit to see what happens to it when it rains, before I paint the larger part. My plan is to fill it with old tin cans that I've been saving, each one with a marigold or similar plant in. If they work out well then I'll share how I made them in more detail!

Simple planter made from a pallet

Spend lots of time in the garden - I've definitely done this. Even if most of that time has been spent sitting in our hot tub! When it's sunny I've been taking my morning hot chocolate outside and often my lunch as well. A couple of times I've taken my yoga mat out and done my stretches on the grass, I love lying on my back and looking up at the sky.

Plant out the rest of my seeds - I've done well at this too, I have a windowsill of vegetable and flower seedlings ready to plant out in the garden this summer.

Baby tomato plants in pots on the windowsill

Keep up with the exercise - Again this has been going well, with a good combination of outdoor runs, indoor cross trainer workouts and core exercises. 

Continue my leg stretches - I'm working towards a particular flexibility goal, which I'll share when (if!) I ever reach it, but I'm carrying on with my stretches and noticing improvements. I also bought some yoga blocks to help deepen my stretches, and I've inspired Mia to join me (she's doing way better at it!)

Spend time down at the beach. Oh yes. I've spent a lot of time at the beach. There's a particular seafront café where we often meet friends, and I think I've been there on average twice a week this month. I've also been for some seafront runs, and had a nice sit with Harry while we waited for Mia to do an afterschool club.

Pebbles on the beach

Refine my YouTube stream - I was doing well at this for the first couple of weeks but it's now got worse. I start to watch one video that doesn't interest me and then suddenly my feed is clogged with similar videos. I delete my history and set YouTube to forget my viewing history and then of course I see the same videos that I've already watched over and over again. I think the answer here might be to spend less time on YouTube and just watch new videos from channels that I'm subscribed to. 

Publish more blog posts. I'm very pleased with how I've done on this one. I've published three posts a week this month and I'm more than happy with that frequency. Now to keep the momentum going!

Pick up my cross stitch more often. Setting this as a goal really helped with my stitching motivation this month. My current long term cross stitch project is Olde World Map by Janlynn and I'm really pleased with the progress that I've made on the bottom left hand corner. This chap was quite challenging to stitch, as there are lots of different colours mixed together, plenty of half stitches, some detailed backstitching and a couple of French knots. You can see the corner where the border will go and that's the next part I'll be working on. It's a wide border but quite repetitive with only a few colours so I'm hoping it will be quite relaxing to stitch, and the sort of thing that I can work on while I'm watching television. 

Olde World Map cross stitch in progress - lower left corner

Thank you for reading! I'll shortly be publishing my goals for May, I find listing out my goals a really useful way to help me feel more productive and get things done. It's definitely helped me to get lots done this month!

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

How my exercise routine has changed over the last year

As restrictions ease, our gym is now open again. But we've not been going regularly for a long time - we stopped visiting in March 2020 when the speed of coronavirus ramped up, and we only went back for a few tentative visits in October before they closed again. 

So a few months ago we made the difficult decision to cancel our gym membership. It was a shame, because we've been members for years, but we are hesitant about the covid risks and it's a lot of money to pay if we aren't going regularly. I do feel bad, because even though they are a big national chain I know that they will have suffered from the closures. 

It has worked out well for us though. Luckily we didn't have to pay any membership fees while they were closed, and so we have saved a significant amount of money. We have put some of this towards our own cross trainer, and also bought a few other pieces of exercise equipment - sports bras, leggings, new trainers, exercise mats, resistance bands, all sorts of things which are now in daily use!

Exercise equipment in a basket at home

At the start of lockdown we replaced our gym workouts with running. We both ran nearly every day, although we tailed off a bit as the summer drew on. But when the children went back to school in September I picked it up again and was running regularly three times a week.  

As the weather got colder in December I investigated home workouts on YouTube. I started with Joe Wicks after the success of his PE with Joe videos over lockdown. I found his workouts really tough at first but soon I could manage them without too much trouble, and I increased the intensity by adding weights. But I found that it was becoming a bit repetitive, and I also wanted to work out to music. 

I had a brief fling with YouTube dance workouts, but I never found them very satisfying as I spent most of the workout trying to follow along with the moves and failing miserably. So I settled on HIIT workouts to music, and with so many to choose from it's easy to keep a bit of variety.

I also found that I wanted to do some more targeted workouts, and I was really impressed with the difference that they made. I've been doing some two week ab challenges which really have helped to tone up my stomach, and I've noticed a huge difference in my leg flexibility after I started a ten minute daily stretching video in February. These are exercises that I wouldn't have thought of doing if I was still going to the gym. I have also developed the habit of exercising throughout the day rather than cramming it into one intensive session. 

The one thing that I will miss about the gym is the swimming pool. I enjoyed a swim after a workout, because as well as the exercise I find it a good way to stretch out and relax. Our local public pools are busy and expensive, and I can't see us using them. So I think it is very possible that we will pick up our gym membership again in a year or two, especially once the infection rates are down. 

My exercise routine is another one of those everyday things that has had a massive shake up due to the lockdown, and it's been a really positive thing for me. 

Cross trainer screen at home

Monday, 26 April 2021

The first of the spring planting

It's still pretty chilly outside, but I've really been enjoying the sunshine over the last week or so. We've bought some lovely new lounger chairs for the garden and we've been soaking up the sun, even if I sometimes need to add a blanket to keep the wind off!

I've also been making a start on my planting for the garden this summer. I don't have many pots or much space indoors so I tend to plant out my seeds in stages. 

In terms of vegetables I've only planted tomatoes so far. Last year all my lovingly cared for cucumbers and courgettes died as soon as I put them outside, even though they were much bigger and the weather was much warmer. I always do well with tomatoes though so I'm confident about these, I've got twelve plants in pots which are from several different varieties. Some will go directly into the vegetable patch and some will stay in pots around the edge. 

I also have some spinach and carrots which I'll sow directly outside when it gets a bit warmer. 

Small tomato plants in pots on windowsill

I've started sowing seeds for some bedding plants, in particular marigolds as I want to grow lots on the planter that I'm making from a pallet. I've been saving tin cans for several months now so when they are a bit bigger I'll be putting them out into individual cans, but I don't have the space to keep them indoors in cans at the moment! I've planted some other flower seeds too but I can't remember what they are as I didn't label them so it will be a nice surprise to see what pops up.

I'm growing some sunflowers in pots because they always seem to do well here, I'll put some in the vegetable patch and some in a small flower bed at the bottom of our garden where there is a trellis to attach them to.

Small seedlings in trays on windowsill

My sweet peas are the only plants that I've been brave enough to put outside yet. They've been out for a couple of weeks and they haven't died yet so I'm hoping they will be okay now. Last year my sweet peas all ended up in a bit of a tangled mess, so I don't have as many planted this year and I'm trying to train them to run neatly up the poles. 

I have some strawberries outside as well, last year I successfully managed to grow lots of new plants from runners and they all unexpectedly survived the winter so I've now got four large planters full. Hopefully I'll have some yummy strawberries before long!

Small sweet pea seedlings planted against canes in vegetable patch

I'm looking forward to watching my garden grow over the summer, fingers crossed for plenty of warmth and sunshine!

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