Monday, 16 November 2020

Waves on the beach

We've not been up to much at all lately. We had just started getting back into the gym and taking the children swimming, but of course it has closed again now. We have our shopping delivered, we've not been socialising with others, so apart from taking the children to school and back, along with some exercise, we haven't left the house. 

I'm really glad that the children are able to go to school, it's definitely needed for both their education and their mental health. They had to miss a few days before half-term because we had to isolate for a few days while awaiting a test result after Harry developed a temperature, but both schools have remained open so far with no problems.

Last week I was really hoping that Harry would be able to sit his long delayed piano exam. Unfortunately it was cancelled at the very last minute. It was due to be held in a church and I assume they weren't allowed to host it. We have him rebooked next month at a different, not very local, venue but I'm not convinced it will actually go ahead - fingers tightly crossed!

I mentioned leaving the house for exercise - this is one habit that I started when the children went back to school in September and I've successfully continued. I have designated Monday, Wednesday and Friday as exercise days. I usually go out for a run in the streets around my house, and I aim to run at least 5 kilometres, but usually between 6 and 7. It's a distance that I can now run quite comfortably, it's enough to feel like a good workout but not so challenging that I struggle and avoid it. If the weather isn't looking great I've been doing a Joe Wicks workout on YouTube - they are definitely not for the fainthearted, they are very tough and they leave me struggling to walk the next day!

Waves on the beach in Worthing

I'm lucky that my husband usually drops the children off at school in the morning. But when I do find myself on the morning school run I've been parking up on the seafront and going for a run along the promenade. It's a lovely clear run with plenty of space, a nice view, and when I've finished I can have a little sit on the pebbles and watch the waves which I find very calming. 

Like everyone, it's difficult to make plans at the moment without knowing what will be happening over the next few weeks. We have a short break booked just before Christmas and then we are planning for a Christmas at home just the four of us. This weekend we'll be putting up the Christmas decorations, I think we are definitely ready for something sparkly to cheer us all up a bit as the dark evenings draw in!

Monday, 9 November 2020

Beachcombing

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

I'm very lucky in that as well as living close to the sea I've also had the opportunity to visit and spend time on beaches across the world. I love how each beach is different, and as soon as you step onto the sand or the pebbles you are face to face with the unique features of that part of the coast. For example, on my local beaches near Worthing you can hardly move for mermaid's purses (egg cases for sharks and skates) and cuttlefish, but it's unusual to find an intact shell more interesting than the slipper limpet. In contrast, on our recent holiday to Hunstanton the beaches were thick with razor shells, which I've never seen down here. 

I particularly love to find sea glass, but I've found that beaches either have it or they don't - Barcelona beach was a particular hot spot, perhaps because it's in the middle of the city, as well as beaches on the Isle of Wight. I'm also desperate to find some sea pottery, but I've had no luck yet!

Pebbles and stones on a sandy beach with waves coming in
 
Despite spending a lot of time hunting for treasures I feel that I'm not very good at it, perhaps I'm still developing my eye. I'd love to find a fossil, or even some interesting things like on the Lego beaches in Cornwall. Luckily I don't tend to see much rubbish washed up by the sea. 

I'm a bit squeamish when it comes to finding parts of dead crab, although I was relieved to read recently (see my book recommendation below) that they are more likely to be crab moults rather than actual dead crabs. We did pick up this interesting 'skull' which was later identified by my wildlife expert friend as a herring gull pelvis. 

Child holding a skeleton piece found on the beach

I think that most people, even those that don't live by the sea, have some kind of receptacle in their home where they keep shells and stones that they've collected. I have several vases and bowls scattered throughout the house with no kind of order to them. One day I'll get around to doing something crafty with everything! Here is just a small selection of my Hunstanton bits and pieces, I found such a lovely variety.

Collection of shells and stones found while beachcombing

When we got back from holiday I bought this brilliant book - Beachcombing and the Strandline (affiliate link) - which is an excellent read if you are interested in the things that wash up on beaches. It doesn't just cover the things that should be there like shells and seaweed, it also helps you to identify pieces of beach rubbish like security seals and tags from the fishing industry and pieces of lobster and crab traps. Although it's focussed on British beaches there's also a section on the more exotic finds from around the world that occasionally wash up, and it also has information on common marine wildlife. 

Beachcombing book and shells on display in a large wine glass

Now I'm all inspired to jump in the car and head down to the beach again!

 

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

A short break away to Norfolk

It's fair to say that this year didn't go quite as planned when it came to global travel. We have had three big holidays cancelled this year, and have nothing booked for next year which is unheard of for us. We've been lucky though, we managed to get away at the beginning of July for a lovely last minute week in Westward Ho! and we've just returned from a week in a bungalow on the Norfolk coast. 

Our trip to Norfolk wasn't quite the one that we had planned. It was intended to be a joint holiday, with extended family members staying in accommodation nearby. Unfortunately due to tier restrictions and isolation requirements the rest of the family had to cancel, so just the four of us went. But even if we had all been able to make it, with the rule of six in effect we wouldn't have been able to spend time together anyway. 

Old Hunstanton beach at sunset

We stayed in a lovely little bungalow in Old Hunstanton, just a few minutes walk from the beach. We do live quite close to the sea but I love visiting different parts of the coastline, especially when you can walk easily from where you are staying. The weather wasn't that great but we were able to get out for a walk on the beach every day, and several days I took myself out late afternoon to watch the sunset. I love wandering slowly by the edge of the sea searching for shells and pretty stones.

Sandringham Estate playground swing

We didn't venture out very much as we are wary of crowded places, so we spent most of our time going for local walks and relaxing in the bungalow. I read a book almost every day and also worked on my cross stitch, the children played on their iPads and we watched some films together. I even managed to get out for a couple of runs along the promenade. One morning we drove out to the Sandringham Estate, the house and gardens were closed but we went for a walk in the grounds and the children enjoyed the playground.

It was a really lovely spot for a holiday, and although not what we had planned we had a lovely week away. It was wonderful to have a change of scenery and spend time together.

Old Hunstanton beach huts

Monday, 2 November 2020

Scandi inspired Christmas crafts using Hama beads

Scandi inspired Hama bead Christmas crafts

I love the red and white Scandi style at Christmas, so simple yet you can create so many different variations on a theme. Regular readers of the blog will know how much I enjoy crafting with Hama beads, and over the last couple of years I've designed several different Hama bead Christmas crafts with a Scandi feel, using red and white beads. I've rounded them all up here in case you are looking to update your decor this Christmas!


Scandi inspired Hama bead mat

I use this mat for my daily hot chocolate at Christmas time. It's made with a simple Hama bead red and white striped base, then I used red and white embroidery thread to mark out some different designs. The holes in the Hama bead design are perfect for trying out some cross stitch and other simple stitches, and I love the contrast in textures and colours. The mat is perfect for both hot and cold drinks.

Scandi inspired Hama bead red and white mat

Scandi inspired Christmas baubles using Hama beads

These Hama bead baubles are really easy to make, and although I've provided some patterns in my post you can create a huge number of variations. They are designed to have a ribbon tied around the top and then they can be hung from the Christmas tree, or you could string them to create some Scandi Christmas bunting for the mantlepiece.

Hama bead baubles with Scandi inspiration and free pattern

Hama bead Scandi inspired battery tea light holders

Note - these Hama bead candle holders are designed for battery tea lights only - it would be very dangerous to use them with real candles!

This simple wrap design is a perfect way to add a bit of interest to your battery tea lights and they look so pretty with the light shining through the holes created by the Hama bead design. Again, there are so many options for different patterns and designs.

Scandi themed Hama bead Christmas battery candle wraps

If you enjoyed these Scandi themed crafts using Hama beads then you might also like some of my other Hama bead Christmas crafts. You can find a full round up here - Hama bead Christmas crafts.

Hama bead Christmas crafts collection for children

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Things to fill a wooden Advent calendar this Christmas

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Ideas for filling a wooden Advent calendar

A few months after I started blogging I wrote a blog post full of ideas for things to fill a wooden Advent calendar. At that time, the idea of giving a small gift for each day leading up to Christmas was quite new and children usually just had a picture or chocolate Advent calendar. In the last few years things have really taken off in the world of Advent calendars, especially when it comes to Advent calendars for adults, and so I thought I'd write an updated version of my post with some new ideas and links to products that might be useful if you are looking for inspiration for how to fill those wooden boxes.

 All Amazon links are affiliate links. This makes no difference to you as a buyer, but I earn a small amount from a purchase made through this link.

My own wooden Advent calendar is one that I decorated myself from Hobbycraft. You can see how I did it here - Decorating a Hobbycraft wooden Advent calendar. It has a small box for each day of December, and the boxes are a good size for filling with small treats.

Wooden Advent calendar decorated from Hobbycraft

There are lots of different styles of wooden Advent calendar available and I've shared a few below. A little tip, the ones shaped like a tall Christmas tree like I have can be a little unstable. If you are buying one for a younger child I'd look for the more squat versions, like the house or the train, that won't be knocked over easily.



Collectable toys


A few years ago we bought a big pack of mixed Pokemon figures. We had enough Pokemon to fill two Advent calendars with plenty left over which we used as party bag favours for years, and the children still play with them. It was perfect because we only needed to buy one bag, and it had enough variety to make each day interesting. It's easy to find big packs of small toys like this on a variety of themes. Just check the delivery dates as some of these are shipped from China and so can take a little while to arrive, order in plenty of time.



Other small toys


There are lots of other small toys that can be bought in bulk. If you don't want too much repetition in the gifts, you could always get together with a friend or two and swap, so that each child receives an assortment of gifts. And there are some toys, like cars, that it seems children can never have too many of!



Stationery


Children love collecting erasers, and there are some really pretty ones available which come in a range of different designs so they won't be too similar each day. You could also think about mini gel pens or highlighters, tiny decorated adhesive note blocks, little notebooks, decorative paper clips or magnetic clips, magnets or keyrings.



Beauty items and jewellery


Look for multi-packs of things like mini nail varnish or lip gloss. I also love the range of tiny Christmas charms that you can buy. You could make the first gift a bracelet, with a new charm to be added each day ready for this Christmas and then to be re-used every year.



Christmas decorations


Christmas decorations make a lovely Advent gift that can be re-used from year to year. I particularly like the blank wooden decorations which the child can decorate as a Christmas activity like the ones that I made here - Decorated wooden Christmas ornaments.



Sweets and chocolates


Probably the most economical way to fill a wooden Advent calendar is with chocolates and sweets. In the supermarkets at Christmas you can easily find net bags of individually foil wrapped chocolates or chocolate coins. I personally love Lindor chocolate balls from Lindt, and would be very happy to receive one of those each day. You could also include mini bags of sweets like Haribo or packs of Love Hearts, treat size chocolate bars or individually wrapped chocolates from a Christmas chocolates tub.

Net bag of Christmas chocolates

Christmas activities


Finally, a free way to fill your Advent calendar is to include a family Christmas activity to do each day. They can be as simple or elaborate as you like, for example doing some Christmas baking, a visit to Santa, a trip out in the car to see some decorated houses in your neighbourhood or writing the Christmas cards.

If you need some inspiration here are some great lists to get you started:

30 fun Advent calendar activities
The ultimate Advent activity list

Other ideas


You could also buy one larger toy, like a Lego set, and include a few pieces each day. This would be a much cheaper alternative to a Lego or Playmobil advent calendar! Another idea is a jigsaw - you could first make the jigsaw yourself and then break it up with the pieces for each row in a separate box. Then the jigsaw will build up over Advent to reveal a festive picture.


Filling a wooden Advent calendar for adults


As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Advent calendars for adults have become very popular over the last few years. There are many different pre-filled ones available, but although some can represent good value, when it comes to the contents they can work out very expensive.

Many of the gifts above would also be perfect for adults, but some additional ideas you might want to consider could be:

Miniature alcoholic bottles (or even full size ones!), nail varnish, make up, bath bombs, pens and pencils, keyrings, Christmas decorations, jewellery or stationery.

I hope I've given you plenty of ideas - have fun filling up those Advent calendars!

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

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