Thursday, 16 January 2020

My favourite things to do in Winter

  Coming indoors and knowing that I don't need to go out again that day 

  Eating soup for lunch, either homemade or shop bought 

  Working on the border of a knitted or crochet blanket that covers my knees 

❆ Going up to bed early with a hot water bottle and my book 

❆ Having a really hot, steamy bath 

❆ Cuddling up under a blanket and watching television 

Icy heart and scarf in the snow
Photo credit Brigitte Tohm via Unsplash

❆ Going down to the beach when it's deserted, and the sky goes on forever 

❆ Eating discounted Christmas chocolates, biscuits and festive themed cakes 

❆ Turning the lights on and closing the curtains  

❆ Coming out of the shower to a towel which is warm from the rail 

❆ Wearing long coats and chunky jumpers that are comfy and flatter my figure 

❆ Sitting reading with my back pressed up against a hot radiator 

Wooden figures in a snow scene
Photo credit Paige Cody via Unsplash

What are your favourite things about Winter?

Monday, 13 January 2020

How I motivate myself to go to the gym

We have had a gym membership at a national chain for a long time, and I also try to get out for regular runs. When we first joined a gym we were child free, with all the time in the world to visit several times a week. Our attendance has dropped since having the children, and I am always trying to pick it back up again. Now that January has come around again, I always find it difficult to balancy my New Year eagerness to keep fit with the dark mornings and evenings that make motivation difficult.

So here's how I motivate myself to get to the gym or to go out for a run.

* I remember how much it is costing us. We pay for a year, or more, in advance to save money, which means that we don't have a regular monthly payment. It's a huge chunk of money which we really do need to make the most of.

* I try to fit my gym trips around doing the school run, as the gym is on the way there and it makes sense to save petrol and combine the trips. It also takes less time out from my day if I go straight after drop off or on my way to pick up.

* I plan to go to the gym in advance and make sure that everything is ready to remind me. So if I decide that I'm going to go for a run first thing the next morning, I get all my running clothes out and put my trainers by the front door. If I know that I'm doing the school drop off the next morning I'll make a plan to go to the gym afterwards and pack up my bag the night before so it's ready to load into the car along with the school stuff.

* Our gym has a large collection bin for charity shop bags. If I am tripping over a bag of things that I want to pass on, it's a good way to encourage me to go to the gym if I can clear some space by dropping it off!

* I don't really reward myself for exercise, but I am much more inclined to enjoy an extra piece of cake or chocolate bar if I feel that I deserve it.

* And finally, if my husband has been making the effort to increase his gym visits then I try to make sure that I'm matching his commitment - I don't want to be the one that isn't making the most of our investment!

Feet running up steps
Photo credit Bruno Nascimento via Unsplash

Thursday, 9 January 2020

My completed Persian Tiles blanket in the Eastern Jewels colour scheme

I've been looking forward to writing this post for some time. Over Christmas I was really pleased to finally finish one of my long term craft projects - my Persian Tiles blanket! The blanket is made up of 16 octagons, 9 squares, 12 triangles and 4 corners, sewn together with a narrow border. It's made using Styelecraft yarn and it was bought for me as a kit which contained the original Persian Tiles pattern, the Eastern Jewels colour scheme, along with all the yarn needed and more. My finished blanket makes a large square and measures 117 cm on each side. There was enough yarn in the kit that you could probably add another row of octagons if you wanted to.

Persian Tiles Eastern Jewels crochet blanket spread out

The blanket looks very complicated, but I'm not a particularly good crocheter and I managed to get along with it. I'm quite good at covering up my mistakes! The individual stitches are all very simple, and there is plenty of help on YouTube if you need it. There's also a community Facebook group which I found very helpful, and it includes videos of some of the tricky parts, like the crosses that are found on each piece.

Persian Tiles Eastern Jewels crochet blanket close up

I really enjoyed working on the blanket. The colours are so vibrant, and they go together beautifully. It was a bit fiddly with all the colour changes, and of course there were so many ends to sew in, but it was well worth it as I really love the finished product.

Persian Tiles crochet blanket in the Eastern Jewels colour scheme

The crochet pattern for this blanket is Persian Tiles, designed by Janie Crow. I made it using the Eastern Jewels colourway which was created by Lucia Dunn from Lucia's Fig Tree, and you can read a really interesting post about how she chose the colours here - Eastern Jewels Persian Blanket

The Eastern Jewels Persian Tiles is available as a kit from a number of retailers for around £30, or you can buy the Persian Tiles pattern separately and use either the original colours or your own colours. At the time of writing, it was only possible to buy the Eastern Jewels colour scheme if you bought it as part of a kit including the Persian Tiles pattern and yarn, as it's not available separately.

Folded up colourful crochet blanket

Monday, 6 January 2020

Ten things to do in 2020

I know that we are already a few days into 2020, but for me the New Year really starts today - the Christmas decorations are packed away, the house is tidied, most of the extra food is eaten, and the children are back at school.

This year, alongside my usual resolutions (go to the gym more, lose weight, declutter and so on) I've decided to come up with a list of ten things that I want to do this year. They are specific, one off things rather than vague goals, and I can tick off as I complete them.

So here is my list of ten things that I want to do in 2020, in no particular order:

Learn to play Moonlight Sonata on the piano - I've wanted to do this since I was a teenager, and I even bought the sheet music, but it was too difficult for me. I recently bought Harry a piano book which has a simpler version of the piece that I can just about muddle through - I just need to practice and increase my speed and confidence!

Read at least five books from my bucket list books poster - For my birthday last year I received a very cool gift, a scratch off poster with 100 bucket list books to read. I've read quite a few already and I've been working my way through a few more over the last few months. This year I want to read at least five more from the list.

Play the Minimalism Game - I've completed this month long decluttering challenge several times over the last few years and found it a great way to quickly pass on lots of things that I no longer need and clear some space. I'm thinking about aiming for February with this one to make it a bit easier!

Take my sketchbook to the beach - I bought a sketchbook at the end of last year and I've been bringing home bits of seaweed from the beach to draw. When the weather warms up a bit I want to take it down to the beach so that I can draw in situ.

Sort out my books - It's been a while since I had a book clear out and I'm suffering with an overflow. I want to fit all my books into the bookcase and leave room to spare for new ones.

Do 100 days of something - I'm not sure what yet, but I'd love to complete the 100 Day Project. It officially begins this year on 7th April, but I may choose my own dates as we'll be away for some of that time, or else I'll need to choose something portable to work on.

Sort out our 2019 photos - We are quite good about copying photos from our phones and backing them up, but not quite so good about sorting them out and deleting the duplicate and rubbish ones. I need to go through the 2019 photos, get them organised, and then choose the top ones to make my computer screensaver for the next year.

Use our English Heritage membership - We've already got our money's worth from the passes that we bought last summer, but as a minimum I still want to visit Kenilworth Castle, Battle and Portchester Castle before they expire in July.

Fill up my sketchbook - There are 100 pages if I use both sides, so plenty of space to keep me going!

Proper meal planning - I do meal plan to a certain extent but my repertoire is quite limited and we do eat the same things over and over again, I need to list out the meals that I can make and try and incorporate some new ones. I'm thinking about making up a Trello board which lists the ingredients in each recipe so that I can easily add them to the weekly shopping list as part of my planning.

Person writing a to do list
Photo credit Glenn Carstens-Peters via Unsplash

I'll update with my results at the end of the year!

Monday, 30 December 2019

My crafting plans for the year ahead

It's the time of year when I start to make my plans for the year ahead, and those plans include the crafting projects that I want to work on and complete. I've got a long list of craft projects in progress at the moment, so I've decided that each month I'm going to concentrate on one project, and with any luck I'll complete it during the month.

So my first project for January is going to be finishing this cross stitch piece. I only started it a few weeks ago, so it's not been hanging around for ages, but I have owned the pattern for quite a while!

Heart cross stitch by Awesome Pattern Studio

The design is Heart from Awesome Pattern Studio, and I bought it on Etsy for what I thought was a very reasonable price - at the time of writing £3.79. The centre of the design is a white heart containing the word 'Love', which is framed by a border of colourful butterflies. It appeals to me because of the cheerful bright colours, and the fact that it should be easy to frame in an embroidery hoop once completed. I have lots of odds and ends of embroidery silks in my stash, so I'm hoping to complete it without needing to buy any more. It might mean that some of the colours don't match up exactly to the original, but it should be close enough!

If I put my mind to it I should definitely be able to complete it by the end of January.

I have my project for February lined up already. It's a paint by numbers seaside scene, which I bought using some birthday Hobbycraft vouchers. I fancied having a go at some painting, and thought that a paint by numbers kit would be a good way to practice my brush skills. I made a pretty good start on it back in November, and then it got put away as the house filled up with Christmas bits. I'm looking forward to having it completed!

Paint by numbers sea scene in progress

Stay tuned, and hopefully this time next year I'll have twelve completed projects to share!

Monday, 23 December 2019

Hama bead mini Christmas wreath magnets

Hama bead Christmas wreath magnets

These Hama bead wreath magnets are really simple to make and make a lovely gift at Christmas, especially when they contain the photograph of the giver!

The mini Hama bead wreath design can be made on any size circular pegboard, and all you need are some green and red beads. If you have them it's nice to have a selection of different green beads, but if you only have the one shade then that will work well too. You could also use different colours instead of the red beads - maybe a variety of different colours to look like coloured fairy lights!

Once the beads have been ironed, I like to leave them flat under some heavy books until they are cool, so that they keep a nice flat shape.

Related post - Ironing tips for Hama beads

Hama bead mini Christmas wreath design

In the centre of each wreath you need to glue a photograph. I like to keep the sample photographs that come from our school photographer as they are the perfect size for crafts like this and I know that my children will be looking smart!

Hama bead photograph magnets using magnetic tape

To turn the Hama bead wreaths into a magnet I used some magnetic tape. The tape is self-adhesive, and I find that it sticks really well for small Hama bead projects like this. But you can use any type of magnet, and if you aren't confident in the quality of your glue you can also add a piece of tape over the back to hold it firmly in place. I've found that glue dots work very well for sticking magnets down. 

Hama bead magnets with a Christmas theme

The wreaths are finished off with a small bow made from some narrow red ribbon glued into place. The children loved making these magnets, and it would be fun to make some each year with updated photographs so that we can see how they change over the years!

Hama bead Christmas gift magnets with photograph

If you enjoyed this craft you might like to see some more of my Hama bead crafts for Christmas.

Friday, 20 December 2019

What happened when I deleted Facebook from my phone

For a while now I've been concerned about how much time I spend scrolling on my phone. It's something that was on my mind again recently after completing Scroll Free September. Although I could never be without my phone as I have many useful apps that I use regularly, I definitely waste a lot of my time in front of a screen. In particular it's Facebook, as I'm in lots of groups and am constantly hunting for something new to read.

So I decided to try an experiment and delete the Facebook app from my phone. For good measure I removed Twitter too, and when I discovered that I was turning to the BBC news app instead, that went as well. I wouldn't remove myself from Facebook entirely because I enjoy using it to keep up with family and friends and I do pick up useful information. But it's limited to when I'm on my desktop PC.

Here's what happened:

* I got out of bed quicker in the mornings without reaching for my phone and being pulled into all the new information on my screen.

* I found more productive ways to fill odd minutes of spare time, like having a quick tidy up or preparing something to help me later on, like getting things out ready to make dinner.

* I started going up to bed early to read, and the amount of reading that I've been doing has increased massively. I've also left a book in the car for when I'm waiting outside school.

* I've started new hobbies, like painting and watercolours, and picked up some of my neglected craft projects.

* I discovered that when I wasn't logging in to Facebook regularly the urge to check it faded immensely as I didn't know anything about what I might be missing.

* I also didn't feel the need to check Facebook when I was at my PC. Even though I'd not set any restrictions on myself I found it easy to avoid.

* I didn't miss out on anything important anyway.

* When I did log in, the algorithm began to show me more updates from family and friends, the things that I actually wanted to see.

* I started to see my phone more as a helpful tool rather than a guilty time suck.

* I got stuck in traffic. Well, it can't all be good. Because I hadn't checked in with our local village group over my lunch I didn't find out about a nearby road closure which added half an hour to my journey. Luckily I had allowed extra time!

Getting rid of Facebook on the phone
Photo credit Thought Catalog via Unsplash

The experiment has been a massive success for me. I really feel like I've gained so much extra time in my day and I've been so much more productive. I've not missed it at all, and it's made me think about my other apps and whether I really need them too. I definitely won't be putting it back on!
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