Thursday, 9 August 2018

Introducing daily creative time - and the wonderful results

In the run up to the  summer holidays there were lots of posts floating about on social media with suggestions for things that children were required to do before they could have any screen time. As I've shared before, I am quite lax when it comes to screen time, but I also don't want them to spend the holidays glued to the screen. So we sat down together and had a chat. I showed them a version of the list (you can see the one I used here), and asked them how they felt about something similar. We decided to come up with a more flexible approach - we would make a list of things that I'd like to to be completed during the day, and if they did then they would generally be allowed their screens.

We divided our list into two. The first half was non-negotiable tasks - getting dressed, brushing teeth, five minutes tidying their bedrooms, half an hour of reading, piano practice for Harry and some kind of worksheet or activity book for Mia. We then wrote a second list of things which were an alternative to screen time - things like help Mum with a job, do a jigsaw or play a board game. I also added 'do something creative'.

I stressed that the list was always going to be a work in progress, and could be changed and updated as we saw fit. This happened very early on, when I noticed how popular the 'do something creative option' was, and so I moved it to the first column as an alternative to reading (which to be fair they both generally do at some point during the day anyway).

My reason was that I found after just a few days choosing a creative activity, the children really ran with it and they amazed me with what they came up with in just a short space of time. Harry chose to work on writing a Viking themed story, and he eagerly sat down at his desk to write a chapter each day. Here's his prologue, and when it's finished he intends to publish the whole story on his own blog!

Night was falling. A fine mist hung over Humber River. Edward walked up to his Master. "Where is he?" the Master asked? "I...I...I...well, we've been searching, but we've been unable to find h...h...h...ech" he fell dead. The Master lowered his hand.

"Find that boy!" he ordered his army...The Destroyers.

Small boy writing at his desk

Mia has also been working on a story, but her preferred creative activity is junk modelling - she loves to go through the recycling box and accessorise her creations with stickers, pipe cleaners, feathers and so on from the craft box. She has produced some wonderful pieces of work - I love seeing what she comes up with!

Adding creative time to the day has been a big success, and although it will be harder to fit these things in once they are back at school I'm definitely going to continue - I may make it part of the after dinner routine, and maybe I can fit in a bit of time for crafting for myself too!

Monday, 6 August 2018

I'm attempting Scroll Free September

A few days ago I came across this article on the BBC - Scroll Free September: Social media users urged to log off. At first I dismissed it and scrolled right past (ironic!), but later that day I found myself coming back for a proper read, and clicking through to the Royal Society for Public Health website which explains more about the campaign - Scroll Free September.

The reason for my initial dismissal was that I perceived it as an all or nothing approach. I do accept that my use of social media is fairly excessive, but as someone that doesn't get out much I use social media to keep up with family and friends, and as my work involves using and promoting myself on social media it's impossible to stay away. But the video for the campaign really hit home:

I realised that while I do need to keep up with social media for my work, too often I'm scrolling aimlessly and without purpose, and losing minutes and hours to it. I'm also distracted from family life, and although I have tried in the past to cut down the amount of time I spend on my phone, I always slip back into bad habits.

The part of the video that really spoke to me was thinking about the things that you can do instead of scrolling. I have many hobbies that I'd like to dedicate more time to - reading, cross stitch, crochet - as well as new hobbies that I'd like to try.

When you sign up to Scroll Free September you can commit to one of five different challenges - Cold Turkey where you aim give up all personal social media for the whole month, Social Butterfly where you remain scroll free at social events, Night Owl where you have a break from 6pm, Busy Bee which sees you without social media at school or work, and Sleeping Dog to improve your sleep by going scroll free in the bedroom. You can also choose your own challenge depending on your personal scrolling habits.

Scroll Free September challenges list

I've decided to commit to my own challenge. I want to avoid scrolling in the bedroom, after 3pm (that's when I usually leave home to pick up the children) and while I'm working. So I can have a few catch ups during the day, as long as I'm honest with myself about not getting distracted from my work! I will need to have my phone handy for phone calls and messages throughout the day, but to be honest I get very few of those anyway!

Although the challenge doesn't officially start until September, I've already started to notice and take stock of my scrolling habits, as well as thinking about the changes that I'm going to make. I see a visit to the library on the cards, along with some Pinterest browsing for recipes to try and craft projects to attempt.

I'll keep you updated with how I get on!

Scroll Free September logo

Have I inspired you to give Scroll Free September a go? I'd love to hear if you are planning to take up the challenge!

Images via Royal Society for Public Health

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Finding the balance between our different personalities over the holidays

The long summer holidays are always a big adjustment. At other times of the year we often go away for a week or two, but we tend to avoid travel over the summer and so for most of the time it's just the three of us at home. I love it - we enjoy chilling out at home with late bedtimes and no morning rush.

It's not easy though, because both of my children are very different when it comes to personality. Harry is like me, happy with his own company. He's able to entertain himself for ages - reading, building Lego or doing activities based on things from his books. Last week he built a computer using a matchbox filled with beads, and he spent ages teaching it to play noughts and crosses!

Mia on the other hand needs a lot more input from others to keep her entertained. The two of them will play happily up to a certain point, then there will be tears. Harry will have had enough, and Mia becomes frustrated that he no longer wants to play with her.

This means that Harry needs the time to retreat for a little. I learned about restorative niches a little while ago, and when I explained the concept to Harry he completely understood. It's basically the term for a place that you go when you want to return to your true self, either a physical or temporal place, and a way to take a break from whatever you are doing. For an introvert it's the chance to recharge.

I've told Harry that whenever he starts to feel overwhelmed, he's to tell me that he needs a restorative niche, and he can take himself off to his bedroom for some quiet time. Mia doesn't really understand why he needs this, so I've told her that when Harry needs a break we can have some 'Mummy time' to do something together. I'm also trying to make sure that I build restorative niches into our week, so a long day out with friends is followed by a quiet day at home.

It's also important for me to find time during the day for my own restorative niches. I am usually exhausted at the end of a day spent with the children, and I need time to myself to recharge. So Ram will often take the children by himself after dinner. If the weather is nice he'll take them for a walk down the beach and if it's not so good they'll watch a film together in the other room. It's a chance for me to sit with my book or cross stitch, and enjoy some peace and quiet.

I can also find quiet moments throughout the day. If we do an activity together - like playing a board game or doing a jigsaw - then afterwards they are content to amuse themselves for a little while. There are also always screens of course - if they've had a long gap from screens then I can guarantee myself a little bit of a break when they get them back!

Child reading in his bedroom

It's been a lovely few weeks so far of the holidays, and I'm very glad that we still have several more weeks to go. Even though it can be hard at times, I know that I'm so lucky to be able to spend this time at home with the children, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

How to keep on top of clutter

Tips for keeping up with the decluttering

I try really hard to keep up with and reduce the clutter in our home. I've never done a really big Marie Kondo style declutter, instead I am constantly decluttering. Not necessarily because I didn't do it right the first time, as Marie Kondo would allege, but because being a family with young children means that many new things are constantly coming into the house and many other things are being grown out of or replaced. So I thought I'd share a few tips which help me to keep control of the number of things in our home.

I think that the most important thing is to have a place set aside in the home for things to pass on - whether that's to charity, to be sold (as long as you will actually get around to the selling part!), or to give to friends and family (once you've agreed that they want the items). I am very lucky that my gym has a collection point for charity donations, so I keep a donation bag on the go in the wardrobe, and drop it off when it's full.

Packing for a holiday is a great way to go through the clothes. Sort them by category - for example if you need seven t-shirts put all the t-shirts together and decide which ones you will take. Look carefully at the ones that you've rejected, and if there is a reason (too small, looking tattered, no longer like it) then get rid of it. It also helps you see what you've got too much of.

I love to regularly take part in decluttering challenges.  I really like playing the Minimalism Game where you get rid of the number of items that corresponds to the day of the month, and in fact I started it again yesterday. I don't always make it all the way through the month, especially if we are going to be away, but I definitely notice a difference when I've had a good go at it.

Notice the things in your house that you have too many of. This is different for everyone - personally I have a particular fancy for collecting hotel toiletries, cardboard boxes and candles. Make an effort to stop collecting, and see if you know anyone that could use some of the things that you have accumulated.

Make sure that everything has a home, and that it is returned to that home when finished with. Don't buy anything without knowing where it will go, whether that's something large like a new piece of furniture, or something small like a new pen.

Think about things that you are storing unused that could bring joy to someone else and consider passing them on. For example books that you have read or DVDs that you've watched. You'll always be able to find them again if you want to!

If you have a filing cabinet, every time you file a new bill or statement remove one or two older ones from the back. Whenever you close a bank account, sell a car, house or similar, go through the folder and keep only the very essential paperwork.

Get rid of things that have the potential to become sentimental as soon as you can. It's much easier to throw away birthday cards and the like a couple of weeks after the event than years down the line! I do keep sentimental things, but I think very carefully about adding to what I already have because I know that it will only become even more sentimental over time. I am to keep just the highlights rather than everything.

Bright uncluttered living room
Photo credit Sophia Baboolal via Unsplash
I hope that these tips were helpful! Do you have any to add? How do you keep on top of clutter in the home?

Top image photo credit Ina Soulis via Unsplash

Monday, 30 July 2018

Nostalgia for my early days of blogging

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated seven years of blogging. Seven years! I never expected to still be blogging away, and I never anticipated how much both blogging and my blog would change over the years. It has made me all nostalgic for the way things were back in 2011, and so I thought I'd share some of the things that I remember. Were you blogging back then too? Perhaps I can take you on a trip down memory lane!

I was delighted when I was nominated for the Liebster Award! I did understand that it wasn't the greatest of accolades, but it did at least mean that someone else was reading my blog. I don't have my original post sadly, but as far as I remember you had to answer some questions about yourself, then keep the chain going by nominating other bloggers.

Another chain letter type blog post was the meme. The meaning has changed slightly over time, and back then it meant writing a blog post based around a theme. Someone would tag you to write a post, then you would pass it forward by tagging other bloggers. This sort of thing - Blog your heart out. I loved writing the posts but I was terrible at choosing other people to tag - I didn't want to burden anyone and I didn't want to leave anyone out! I've not seen one of these going around for years!

Blogs generally looked rather chaotic back then. There were lots of buttons and badges in the sidebar, patterned backgrounds, bright colours, lots of people using the same Blogger templates. There were very few professionally designed headers or graphics, and it didn't matter at all.

How my blog looked back in 2012

There were many more people using Blogger, and no-one was bothered about a domain name. People also used the fancy widgets that Blogger had to offer - like the word cloud to highlight frequently covered topics.

Everyone had a blog roll on their blog with links to their favourite bloggers. This is something that I really miss! It was a great way to find new blogs - if you enjoyed reading a blog then there was a fair chance you'd like the blogger's recommendations. Everyone also had a badge to grab that they hoped people would add to their blog.

There was much more emphasis on the writing, and the photography definitely took a back seat. Many photos were small, badly lit and with cluttered backgrounds, but it really didn't matter as people were following a blog for the text. I also don't remember any selfies - in fact there were hardly ever any photos of the actual blogger.

There was no need to maintain a presence across social media, and there definitely wasn't any scheduling of social media posts. I did join Twitter but no one was really promoting their blog on there, it was just for chatting, and adding your blog to your profile if people wanted to check it out. People tended to share posts from other bloggers as much as their own.

Connecting with a fellow blogger was all about the comments - you would comment to show that you'd read a post and if someone left you a comment you'd always go back and reciprocate with a comment on their blog.

You could write freely about brands that you liked and places that you'd visited without feeling the need to disclose that you'd paid for something yourself - collaborations and sponsored posts were much rarer.

I also remember everyone being obsessed with Page Rank - I've not heard anyone bother about it for years!

The way that I blog has also changed a lot too. I've come a long way, and hopefully I've made some improvements! This is how I used to blog:

I would often write a quick post with just a couple of pictures, sharing what we'd been up to that day. My blog was started to share photos with friends and family, and that's what I used to do. Now I worry that people won't find that kind of content interesting if they don't know me personally.

I wrote posts as they came into my head, and I never scheduled a post or thought further ahead than the next day.

I was always changing the design of my blog and trying out new templates. Now I'm just worried I'll break everything if I change one or two small things!

I wrote entirely for myself and never imagined anyone else reading. Quite freeing, although I must admit I did waffle on a bit.

I didn't care about image size, I just uploaded the pictures via Blogger. When I ran out space I moved to Photobucket, a decision that came back to bite me. I also didn't pay much attention to my photos, there were no white backgrounds and styled images.

I got to know other bloggers through blog commenting or on Twitter. It took me ages to add bloggers as friends on Facebook and it was exciting for me when I joined a Facebook blogging group and found other bloggers that I knew there.

There weren't as many people blogging back then, which made it easier to keep up with everyone. I feel so out of touch now when I see all the new blogs out there. I'm so glad that many of the people that I was reading back then are still around, and I wonder what happened to the ones that have fizzled out.

If you have memories of blogging over the years I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Fabric covered decorative plant pots

How to make fabric covered flower pots tutorial

I am currently working with Bostik to create a series of crafting posts with projects that you can complete using Bostik products. Each month I'll share a themed craft, and this month my theme is garden decor and accents. Here's how I made these colourful decorated plant pots, using fabric and other embellishments. Although they will last much longer if you use them indoors, if they are placed in a shady, sheltered spot they should still stand up to the weather for some time!

Flower pots covered with fabric

You need:

Clean plant pots (terracotta or plastic both work well)
Fabric scraps
Embellishments - for example ribbon, decorative shapes, twine or wool
Bostik White Glu
Bostik All Purpose Clear glue
Bostik Glu Dots

How to make fabric covered plant pots for the garden


For the plain fabric pot:

Cut a piece of fabric. The length should be the circumference of the pot and the width should be 5-10cm longer than the height of the pot. Wrap it around the pot to make sure that it will cover the pot completely, and trim as much excess fabric as you can.

Coat the pot with Bostik White Glu using a paintbrush to make sure that the glue covers evenly. Stretch the fabric around the pot and press down, making sure to smooth out any wrinkles as you go. When the fabric is all in place you can trim away any extra. To cover the bottom of the pot, cut the overhanging fabric into small strips and pull them into shape over the bottom. Hold them firmly in place with a thick coat of White Glu, and leave to dry.

Using Bostik glue for crafting

To decorate the rim of the pot I used a strip of contrasting fabric. The fabric was already hemmed, which made a nice smooth line. Use the White Glu to stick the fabric to the pot. Fold over the excess fabric around the rim and glue down firmly.

When it has dried, use Bostik All Purpose to add a strip of ribbon. The All Purpose glue can stick all sorts of different surfaces together and is a really strong adhesive.

Sticking ribbon with Bostik all purpose glue

For the patchwork fabric pot:

Cut your fabric into small squares - it's a great way to use up any fabric scraps that you have lying around! Then once again use the Bostik White Glu to stick the fabric to the plant pot. I used a brush with stiff bristles which was really good for making sure that the fabric stuck smoothly around any ridges.

I made sure to use plenty of the White Glu on top of the fabric to hold all the edges down smoothly - it dries with a really nice finish and it's strong enough to make sure that the fabric holds firmly in place.

How to make a patchwork style fabric covered flower pot

To finish:

To add some extra embellishments I used Bostik Glu Dots. The ones that I used are the Extra Strong Sticky Dots. The thing that I love about glue dots is that they stick things together instantly, and they are also clear so you don't need to worry about anything showing through on your project. You just remove one side of the plastic covering, press the dot into place, remove the second plastic side, and add your embellishment, making sure to press down firmly.

Using Bostik Glu Dots for crafting

Here are my finished pots! If you want to put a plant inside them you'll need to put it inside another flower pot so that it doesn't leak and spoil the fabric, and take care when watering.

Fabric covered flower pots tutorial

Of course they don't just need to be used for plants - they'd make great storage for pens, paintbrushes, make up brushes...anything that is calling out for some cheerful storage!

Fabric covered flower pots in the garden

This is a collaborative craft post with Bostik.

Friday, 20 July 2018

The Angmering Garage Sale Trail 2018

Last year we really loved taking part in our community garage sale trail, and so I was definitely keen to take part again this year! Around 60 houses took part, and everyone was published on a map so that the shoppers could find us all. I do declutter regularly so I didn't have a huge amount to sell, but we sorted through the children's rooms and they came up with a tables worth of bits and pieces each to sell. They were really excited to be joining in.

Like last year I made a big batch of brownies and cookies to sell. To be honest it probably cost nearly as much in ingredients as we made selling them, but they were very popular and hopefully enticed people over to view our wares! I split to proceeds between the children and they were very happy with that.

I also had a big box of free stuff to put out - things that weren't quite good enough for the charity shop but were too nice to throw away. The vast majority of it went and one couple even gave me some money for it - hopefully I managed to save some things from landfill.

There was a steady stream of visitors, not nearly as many as you'd get at a car boot sale but it felt much friendlier and it was lovely to meet and chat to so many people. I didn't make a fortune but I got rid of nearly everything that I had, including lots of crafty bits and pieces, and the children sold some of their larger things too.

I also put out a big tin of painted rocks for people to take, and we'll be hiding those left behind around the village over the next few weeks, I'm looking forward to seeing if people share their adventures.

Angmering Rocks #angmerocks

It was a really lovely community event and I hope that I'll be able to take part again next year!
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