Monday, 14 June 2021

Enjoying the sunshine

I am so enjoying the sunshine and the warm weather that has finally arrived! We've had a lovely weekend eating pizza in the garden, doing a bit of tidying, and watching the poor plants as they start to recover after being blasted by the cold wind a few weeks ago. I even have some flowers starting to appear on my marigolds.

Marigold plants in tin cans in a white painted pallet planter

My vegetable patch is starting to look a little healthier too, the tomato plants in pots are growing nicely and although the ones planted in the main vegetable patch are still looking a little worse for wear I'm hopeful that they'll start to bush out a bit soon. 

Tomato plants growing in pots against wall

This morning I went for a run first thing and it was still so warm. I was running without a jumper for the first time in ages, and it was so nice to feel the sun on my shoulders. Afterwards I took my mat out into the garden and did some outdoor stretches. 

Let's hope that we are treated to this sunshine for a little while longer yet!

Thursday, 3 June 2021

My goals for May - update

The last month has gone by so quickly! We seem to have been very busy, we've started to go out and about a bit more and see friends and family now that the restrictions are gradually being lifted. 

At the beginning of the month I shared my goals for May, and so here's how I got on with them:

Publish a YouTube video - Perhaps a bit of a cheat this one but I got a video published! I hunted through the family home video archives and put together a video from our visit to Euro Disneyland, Disneyland Paris as it is now, back in 1994. I've published similar videos from other Disney parks and they've done well so I thought it would be nice to share the footage. 

Don't go on Twitter - I have managed this very well. The only time that I went on Twitter was to look for photos of Mia on a school trip that were being published throughout the day. It's definitely made a big difference to my phone use. I didn't do quite so well at the second part of this goal which was to avoid looking at the news constantly. I have cut down though.

Read at least two of the books stacked up on my Kindle - This was a fail I'm afraid. I borrowed so many good books from the library this month that I didn't even pick up the Kindle! Perhaps when the library stops doing free reservations I'll get back to the Kindle books. 

Get even closer to my flexibility goal - I've been continuing with the daily stretches and am still noticing improvements, I'm getting close!

Publish at least two crafty blog posts - I've enjoyed working on some bloggable crafts this month. I've shared my Hama bead flower upcycled tin cans and my white painted pallet planter.

Make a start on the border of my cross stitch - I've not worked a huge amount of my cross stitch this month but I have begun the border. It's more difficult than it looks, and the whole thing is going to take me a very long time!

Olde World Map cross stitch border in progress

Make Mia's birthday special - I hope that she had a lovely birthday. We were finally able to host the sleepover that she has been looking forward to since it was cancelled last year. Her best twin friends stayed over and they did everything that she wanted to - they played a game where they had to eat doughnuts suspended from string, went in the hot tub, played Roblox together actually in the same room instead of online and ate lots of party food. 

For her cake she requested a chocolate cake themed around her Roblox YouTube channel. I can bake a decent sponge but I'm not very good at cake decorating so I cheated a bit and ordered a printed fondant cake topper from Amazon. I think that it fulfilled the brief!

Roblox birthday cake with printed cake topper

You can see my new goals for June here. 

Monday, 31 May 2021

My goals for June

I'm really enjoying making myself a list of goals for the next month, I find it really makes me focus on what I want to get done. I did fairly well last month with my goals for May, and so here are the things that I want to get done in June.

Don't obsessively scroll the news websites. I did well avoiding Twitter last month and hopefully that can continue. Now I need to do the same for BBC News, the only news website I really check. I will still check the news, but maybe just at certain points during the day like first thing and lunchtime. 

Throw away or recycle at least 5 things per day. I desperately need a decluttering challenge, but it is  difficult at the moment to find a charity shop taking donations and the drop off box at our gym has been removed. But I'm sure I have plenty of things that can go in the recycling - I'm thinking expired paperwork, instruction leaflets, empty boxes, packaging and so on. I also know that I have a number of small electrical items lying about that can be put out with our household rubbish for recycling. From playing the minimalism game in the past I know what a difference even just getting rid of a few things each day can make. 

Think about taking part in the garage sale trail. My village holds an annual garage sale trail where a number of houses take part on the same day with a map showing all the different locations. I've taken part a few times and we had a pile of stuff for last year, then of course it was cancelled. So I need to make a decision as to whether we take part this year, and if so I can start putting together some things that I can sell. 

Try three new recipes. I have a box filled with recipes that I've pulled out of magazines but never tried! I need to try them or chuck them.

Don't pick up my phone as soon as I wake up. Even though I find that it helps to wake me up instead of falling back to sleep, it would be much better to just get up and get on with chivvying children and making breakfast.

Play the piano every day. I like playing the piano, I make sure that Harry does his piano practice every day, I can easily find ten minutes to sit down and have a play.

Tidy up the front garden, in particular the area around our front hedge. It's hard to describe, but we have a large hedge that goes around the house and we never see it from the other side as our driveway is on one side. I cut it back last week and discovered that areas have become very overgrown and were blocking a couple of small drainage grills. I sorted out the worse bits, but I need to go back and have a good weed underneath, as well as sweeping away lots of dead leaves. 

I think that all this will keep me busy!

Red poppies in a meadow
Photo credit Alexander Schimmeck

Saturday, 29 May 2021

A year of Hama bead crafts - part 2

A few years ago I published a long post containing an entire year's worth of Hama bead crafts and projects - one for each month. I've published so many more ideas since then that I thought it was time to publish part two! 

So here goes, twelve more Hama bead projects, one for each month of the year.

A whole year of Hama bead projects, part two

January - Hama bead snowflake buntingThe Christmas decorations might have been tidied away but you can still decorate seasonally and we are often lucky enough to see some snow in January! These snowflake patterns were designed to be strung up as bunting, but would also make lovely coasters or as a small mat underneath a candle or ornament.

Hama bead snowflake pattern designs

February - Spinning Hama bead heart decorations. These spinning hearts are made using the large and small heart pegboards, with the smaller heart suspended inside the larger one. When they are hung up the hearts spin really prettily. You can also find more Hama bead Valentine's themed crafts here - Hama bead crafts for Valentine's Day.

Hama bead spinning heart decorations

March - 3D layered Hama bead Easter eggs. I used the large Easter egg pegboard to make Easter eggs in different sizes which are then layered together to make some unique Easter decorations. 

Hama bead layered Easter egg craft

April - Easter egg Hama bead sun catchers. A second Easter themed craft, these sun catchers also use the large Easter egg pegboard with coloured tissue paper stuck to the inside. They look lovely when they are stuck up in a sunny window! You can find more Hama bead Easter crafts here - Easter crafts with Hama beads.

Hama bead Easter egg sun catcher craft

May - Hama bead flower wreath. I love decorating with flowers for spring, and I used the small flower pegboard and some foam shapes to make this simple and colourful wreath.

Hama bead simple spring flowers wreath craft

June - Hama bead flower bouquet craft. The small flower pegboard was used again to make these Hama bead flower bouquets which would make a great front piece for a greetings card or a simple decoration for a mantlepiece or window.

Hama bead flower bouquet craft for children

July - Tin can pots with Hama bead flowers. Finally I used the small Hama bead flower pegboard to decorate these old tin cans to make little planters for the garden. 

Hama bead tin can flower craft project

August - Mini Hama bead decorative plant markers. This craft uses mini Hama beads which are very tiny and allow for some really intricate designs. I created some small designs which are glued to small lollipop sticks and can be used to add some pretty colour to flower pots around the house.

Mini Hama bead plant stick decorations

September - Autumn leaf Hama bead coasters. These Autumn themed coasters are inspired by fallen leaves and can be customised with all different colours to make a unique design.

Hama bead Autumn leaf coasters design patterns

October - Halloween Hama bead coasters. I love crafting for Halloween and I was really pleased with these Halloween themed Hama bead coasters, also perfect for placing underneath candles or small ornaments. You can find more Hama bead themed Halloween crafts here - Hama bead crafts for Halloween.

Hama bead Halloween themed coasters

November - Small Hama bead rangoli for Diwali. These mini rangoli are made using the small circle pegboard and using bright colours. They make lovely coasters, or you could string them up as bunting, scatter them around the dining table, or stick them to walls or windows as decoration.

Small Hama bead rangoli for Diwali

December - Hama bead mini Christmas wreaths. These little Christmas wreaths are made once again with the small circle pegboard. I've used Christmas pictures from cards but you could also use photographs of family and friends. They can be hung from the Christmas tree or you could attach a magnet to the back to display on the fridge. You can find more Hama bead themed Christmas crafts here - Hama bead Christmas crafts.

Hama bead mini Christmas wreaths craft

I hope that this has given you plenty of inspiration for Hama bead crafts!

Friday, 28 May 2021

Essential car checks before a road trip

This is a collaborative post

If you are planning to go on a road trip with your family over the coming season, you need to be prepared very well to avoid any car trouble and to have a pleasant trip. If you follow the following car checks before leaving for a road trip it will help you save you unnecessary car repair costs and help you enjoy an enjoyable journey. 

Check Fuel Level

No one misses this check , however at times motorists in a hurry forget checking the fuel levels before they go out for a drive. At times you might have put adequate fuel for your vehicle to be driven however it may finish quicker than expected which means your car is losing its fuel efficiency. In that case you would have to change your driving style to a smoother driving or get it checked by a proper service centre to see which part of your car is causing this trouble. 

Is your MOT certificate up to date?

Having an up to date MOT certificate is very important if you are driving in the UK, not only to help your car perform better but also for you and your family’s safety.  The MOT test ensures that all the important parts of your vehicle are performing well. If you have just have purchased a new car, you won't be liable for an MOT test until three years have passed.  

However if your car is older and is reaching the MOT expiration date then it is very important to take your car for MOT renewal certification. Some of the parts that are mandatory to be checked during MOT are exhausts, battery, engine, tyres, windows, mirrors and tyres to name a few. 

An MOT test usually takes an hour for a normal vehicle, however if any mentioned part is not up to MOT level then you will have to stay back to get it fixed there and then. In case you want to book MOT, you can check DAT Tyres here. It is important to note that not having a proper MOT certificate can result in you paying heavy fines.

People driving inside a car
Photo credit Alex Jumper

Are your tyres fit ?

How to know if your tyres are fit to be driven on a long route? You just need to see three major things in order to determine whether your tyres are roadworthy or not. First of all and most importantly checking the tyre pressure levels is very important. You can check this on your own with a portable tyre pressure measuring gauge. If it falls under adequate level, then you are good to go. Next thing you need to see is whether your wheels are properly aligned or not. You can easily note incorrect wheel alignment if your steering vibrates while you are on drive, or in case you have properly aligned tyres while parking and the steering wheel has tilted in either direction. If any such a case occurs you can get help from a nearby tyre garage. Lastly, you need to measure the appropriate tread depth of the tyres , if it is around 1.6mm you are safe to go . However if the tread falls below the mentioned level that means you would require a tyre change. 

Keep Essentials

In order to achieve a smooth and happy trip with your family you need to gear up by packing proper snacks that you can store for a longer road road trip. Sandwiches or crisps are among few snacks that are tasty and that cause less mess in the car. Furthermore, keeping cell phone chargers is essential too. If your battery runs out and you require any help you would easily be able to contact the required person. 

Sandwich and cherries
Photo credit The Fry Family Food Co.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

My poor garden

For today's blog post I really wanted to share some lovely photos of my spring garden, but unfortunately Mother Nature has had other ideas. 

It's been so cold here that I've barely even been out in the garden for the last couple of weeks. The garden furniture has been packed safely away because of the wind, and we've not even been in the hot tub for a few days because the weather has been so miserable.

So the poor garden has become sadly neglected. It's been far too wet to cut the grass or the hedge, and so it's all looking a bit overgrown. The weeds are growing up in the vegetable patch, but I just can't bear to wait for a gap in the rain and sit out there in the cold to give it some attention.

Everything has also suffered really badly from the strong winds that we've been having. My poor marigolds in tin can pots are looking very battered. They were already spindly from being kept inside for too long due to the cold weather, and that made them even more vulnerable to the wind. A couple have snapped completely. Luckily I have some spare plants still indoors that I can use to replace them, and more seeds if necessary to start from scratch. 

Snapped flowers from wind damage

It's my poor tomato plants that I'm most worried about. I always do well with tomatoes, I think the climate in this area is very good for them, and I'm always confident that they'll grow well. I have a few in pots to the side which aren't looking too bad, but the ones planted in the middle of the vegetable patch have had their leaves literally blown off and they are also stunted due to the cold. They aren't quite dead, but I'm just hoping that they have it in them to recover!

Poor tomato plants in cold and wind

Fortunately, having replaced most of our fencing over the last couple of years we've not lost any more this time around, so that's something to be thankful for. I'm hoping that all we need is a bit of warmer weather and sunshine to really get things going. The forecast looks good for later in the week, so I'll be charging up the hedge trimmers and pulling on the gardening gloves!

Monday, 24 May 2021

Making a very simple planter from a pallet

My pallet planter is a project which had been on my to do list for far too long! This pallet was delivered along with our piano, which thanks to this blog post I can date back to February 2016. It was a nice pallet, made from new wood although a little splintery, and I wanted to make something cool but kept putting it off.  

Tutorial for upcycled painted pallet planter

I decided that this was the year that I would make something from it! I browsed Pinterest for ideas, but because all pallets are different shapes and sizes I found it difficult to find something that I could copy. I also tried to take the pallet apart but it needed a lot more strength than I have, so I needed to come up with something that would use the original shape of the pallet. After some success growing marigolds in old tin cans last year I thought that the dimensions of the pallet would be perfect for holding tin cans, and so I came up with the plan to build a simple pallet planter.

I'm not much of a woodworker, and I am rather lacking in tools. After looking at the pallet from all angles I decided that I could use a saw to chop it into two pieces and make both a small and large planter. So I chopped off the top, and started by working on the smaller half. I'm afraid I neglected to take a photo of the pallet before I hacked away at it, I think because I didn't really believe that the project would work!

Pallet cut into two pieces to make planters

I sanded the pallet down, then I painted it with two coats of a white emulsion paint that we had left over in the garage. I'm sure that it's not the correct paint to use for outdoor paintwork, and also not the correct paint to use on bare wood, but I was going for a sort of shabby chic look so I thought that I'd try it out. I found that although it was a rather glaring white to start with, after it had been outdoors for a few weeks the colour had faded and it was looking less bright, which I liked. It is open at the bottom so the tin cans rest on the floor, and it's a perfect size.

Small pallet planter painted white

Marigold plants in tin cans in a white painted pallet planter

Then there was a change in the weather and I didn't much feel like working outdoors in the cold, so my project became a little neglected. In the meantime I continued collecting tin cans (yes we eat a lot of passata) and planting them out with a variety of different marigolds. I planted marigolds in tin cans last year and found that they worked really well, so I'm hoping that they will do as well this year! Each row holds twelve cans, so I needed thirty-six cans filled with plants in total. 

Marigolds planted in tin cans

With warmer weather in the air I turned my attention to the larger half of the pallet. My problem was that although I could stand pots on the floor at the bottom, I needed something underneath to hold the cans on the upper layer. My problems were solved with a strip of wood that I found behind our summerhouse last year and had been using across a flowerbed to keep out the cats. I think it may have fallen off a trellis at one point. I nailed it in underneath the upper section and it makes a nice solid shelf.

Pallet planter with strip of wood to hold tin cans

Then I gave the pallet a good clean, and sanded it down as well as I could, before painting it with the white emulsion. It took me ages to paint - over an hour! But it looked good when it was all done. 

White painted pallet for planting

Then I tried it out in a few spots in the garden before settling on the final position by the fence at our side gate. I grew marigolds here last year so I know that they will grow well, it gets a good mix of sun and shade and it is sheltered from the wind. I can also see it easily from the kitchen window, where I seem to spend a lot of time. I've fixed it to the fence by looping some thin wire around the fence panels and pallet, and it seems a sturdy yet easily removable solution.

Pallet painted white for tin can flower pots

Finally I could fill the planter with my tin cans full of marigold and other plants that I've been growing. They've been getting a bit spindly as I've kept them inside for so long due to the cold weather, so hopefully they will bush out a bit!

Painted upcycled pallet with plants in the garden

I'm hoping that it won't be too long before I have some flowers, and then I can move the cans around a bit to make sure that I have a nice even spread of heights and colours.

Small simple pallet planted painted white with tin cans

I'm so pleased with my free pallet planters, and it wasn't nearly as much work as I was expecting!

In the autumn when the flowers have died I can empty out and recycle the tins. For next year I plan to start saving my tin cans earlier on, especially now that I know how many I'll need. I want to have a go at decorating them a bit more, maybe with some bright spray paints, stickers, fabric or with some Hama bead flower decorations. I'm hoping that it will last for a good few summers to come. Now I just have to stop myself looking out for more free pallets to hoard in the garage for years!

Upcycled pallet planter for the garden
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