Friday, 21 September 2018

Craft project ideas for minimalists

I love crafting, but I also love having a house that isn't cluttered with craft supplies and finished products. I've shared a few tips in the past about combining minimalism with being a crafter, and today I thought I'd share a few crafts that are perfect for minimalists.

They need to fulfil several criteria:

1 - They don't need many supplies, or the supplies don't take up too much space
2 - They don't require too much space to work on, and are easy to tidy away
3 - They don't create large finished products that need to be stored or displayed

Craft project ideas for minimalists

So here are some ideas for craft projects if you are a minimalist:

Sewing - You can sew useful things for the home (like cushion covers, curtains, tablecloths), or perhaps clothing for yourself and other family members. You just need to be careful to only buy fabric and other supplies for a specific project, and not just because you like it!

Cross stitch - As long as you can limit yourself to work on one project at a time then cross stitch supplies take up very little space and it's easy to pack away. I always buy a kit so you have exactly what you need for a project and don't need to purchase extra fabric or embroidery silks.

Seasonal decorations - If you use natural materials for crafting such as twigs or flowers, then your creations can be recycled or composted when the season has passed. You could decorate eggs for Easter, or make wreaths and other foliage decorations for Christmas.

Writing or blogging - You need very few supplies to write, and if you write or blog digitally then your hobby will take up no space at all.

Photography - Digital photography lets you take thousands of pictures and you only need to print out your favourites, which can be easily displayed or shared electronically with friends and family.

Card making - Cards are always needed for occasions throughout the year and a homemade card is much more personal.

Jewellery making - Jewellery making supplies take up very little space and homemade jewellery also makes lovely gifts.

Baking and cooking - You can get by with very little in terms of extra cooking equipment and get creative with different ingredients or cake decorating techniques!

You can avoid lots of finished craft projects around the home by working on commissions for people - maybe making quilts or blankets for others. Only of course if the person has specifically requested something, and decide in advance whether you are charging them for materials and/or time spent!

I'd also recommend buying kits for craft projects so that you aren't left with lots of excess supplies, especially if you want to try something new. Pass on supplies when you've finished a project, and try to work on only one or two things at a time so that you don't have unfinished projects all over the place.

I hope that you find something to inspire you!

Ribbons for crafting
Photo credit Rhodi Alers de Lopez via Unsplash

Title photo credit Tim Arterbury via Unsplash

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Cruising with an inside cabin - pros and cons


We've cruised with an inside stateroom twice now, a few years back on Allure of the Seas with Royal Caribbean, and more recently on the Disney Magic. When we booked our first cruise back in 2011, with no experience of cruise ships and as a sea sickness sufferer I was adamant that I was only going to go on a cruise if my room had a window. Fortunately I've since come around to the idea of an inside cabin, because with some of the European itineraries in particular you can save a lot of money by choosing an inside stateroom.

Inside staterooms can vary a great deal according to the cruise line, and some of the newer ships in particular have made great efforts to replace the outside porthole with something exciting. For example on Royal Caribbean you can choose a virtual balcony which streams real time views, or on some of the Disney ships a virtual porthole with a real time view combines with some Disney magic. We've not tried out anything like this - our first interior stateroom had a blank wall, and our second had a large porthole shaped mirror.

Inside deluxe stateroom on the Disney Magic cruise ship

So here are some of the pros and cons that I've found of cruising with an inside cabin. I'll get the negatives out of the way first, because to be honest if it comes down to a cruise with an inside cabin and no cruise at all I'm definitely taking the inside cabin!

Cons


The biggest drawback is of course that you can't see outside. You can't watch the waves, you can't see the sunset, you can't check the weather, and you miss the excitement of pulling back the curtains in the morning and finding yourself docked somewhere new. Sometimes you can't even tell if you are moving or not. The only way to mitigate this is a glance at the stateroom television, which on most cruise ships will have a channel dedicated to a live view outside the ship.

If you suffer from claustrophobia you might find yourself feeling a little shut in. I've found this from time to time, especially if we were all in the stateroom at once and it felt very crowded. Luckily cruise ships are big and there are plenty of open spaces a short walk away that you can visit.

Rough seas - I do suffer with seasickness on smaller boats and ferries but fortunately it's never really been a problem on a cruise ship. However I find it easier to have a view of the waves and the horizon if I'm feeling a bit wobbly.

Noise - there will always be some noise on cruise ships either from the corridor or from the decks above and below. On our recent cruise I did wonder if we might have a service corridor next to the wall because I could occasionally hear what sounded like a trolley being wheeled along next to our bed. It wasn't a big problem for us, but having an inside wall does add another potential source of disturbance.

Pros


The biggest pro is the cost saving. Inside cabins can be significantly cheaper, and having an inside stateroom makes a big difference to us when pricing up a cruise.

In our experience you can get away with spending very little time in the room, both on port and sea days. Even if you aren't leaving the ship on a port day, it's so much nicer to sit up on deck or in an area with larger windows near the top of the ship where the views are much better.

Portholes can be quite small anyway and low down in the ship. It might be that the view from a window isn't that great, and being able to see the sea close up when it's rough can make you feel worse.

Even without a window, it won't be pitch black at night. Light comes in from around the door, and a surprising amount of light is generated by electrical items charging, standby lights on devices and so on. If you need to have some light at night for small children, or to find the bathroom, you can take a small nightlight or just leave the bathroom light on and the door slightly ajar.

I hope this helps you to make a decision if you are wondering what an inside stateroom on a cruise ship would be like!

You can see a video tour of our deluxe inside stateroom aboard the Disney Magic below. As you can see, it's a small room yet surprisingly spacious with good use of space and plenty of storage.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Scroll free September - how is it going?

We are nearly halfway through September, and so I thought I'd post a little update as to how I'm getting on with Scroll Free September! For my version of the challenge, I am committing to no phone use in the bedroom either in the morning or at night, and no scrolling after 3pm.

It took me a couple of days to get fully in the swing, mainly because I came back from a wi-fi free holiday and I had lots to catch up on. I was also finding it difficult to make a distinction between quickly checking for messages or updates and mindless scrolling. It felt that any form of looking at my phone was cheating, but I did need to keep up to date with notifications.

I decided that I was happy to open a social media app if it really was just a quick check for notifications. But in reality I've been finding that these catch ups have been happening less and less often as the days have passed and I realise that I'm not actually missing anything. Apart from an occasional and brief check for messages I've mainly been leaving my phone to one side once I've picked the children up from school.

To help me prepare for the challenge I wrote about identifying my trigger points for scrolling. This was a real help, and I've been bearing them all in mind as I go through the day. I've noticed a big difference to my mornings - I'm getting straight out of bed when I wake up, and the morning routine is much quicker when I'm not distracted by my phone every few minutes. Not using my phone in the evening just before bed has meant that I've been reading instead, which leaves me feeling more relaxed at bed time and more likely to turn the light off at a reasonable hour.

Talking of reading, the first week I took the children to the library after school and took out six books which were a mix of easy fiction, in depth fiction and non fiction. To my surprise I'd easily finished them all well within a week!

I've also noticed a difference to my evenings. They seem much longer now once the children are in bed and I've got in the habit of putting my phone upstairs in the bedroom. Before I do this I close down all my apps and delete my search history, which seems to help draw a mental line under it for the day. The other night I found myself sitting on the sofa and leafing through our wedding photo album which was lovely. I've also been doing some logic puzzles, working on my cross stitch, and I've just got out a jigsaw to start.

My biggest challenge still is during the day when I'm trying to work and social media is too tempting. It's not my phone but the desktop PC where I work, it's just too easy to open another window. I'm not sure the best way to combat that yet apart from disabling particular websites, the trouble is that I still need to use social media websites for my work!

I still feel the very strong urge to check my phone throughout the day, and it's worse when the phone is in my sight. Interestingly if it's in another room the urge is less, and fortunately I have noticed it decreasing as the month progresses. It's very scary how addictive it can be to want to reach for my phone, and how quickly time disappears once I am sucked in. Taking part in Scroll Free September has definitely made me think a great deal about my phone usage, and when the month finishes I'm not planning on going back to my old ways!

Scroll Free September progress update

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

An update on my current craft projects

It's been a while since I wrote about my crafting on here, so I thought I'd do a little update! Over the last few months I have mainly been working on my cross stitch Christmas ABC Sampler. At the beginning of the summer holidays, the thought crossed my mind that if I got a real move on there was a chance that I could finish it by Christmas this year. However my crafting time reduced considerably once the holidays were in full swing, and rather than rush it and spoil my enjoyment I decided to take my time with it. Crafting for me is a lot more about the process than the product!

Christmas ABC Cross Stitch sampler

I think that I'm progressing nicely with this sampler. I've completed eighteen of the twenty seven boxes, and I'm really pleased with how it is looking so far. There are still lots of beads to add to the design which I think will take quite a bit of time as I've not used beads before and it might take me a while to get comfortable with them. There are also a few gold bits that need to be added in. I hate working with the metallic thread so I put it off!

Parts of the design are quite complicated to work on. Areas that are green and red are each made up of three different shades that are very similar. It gives a lovely effect but it's very time consuming to work it out. P for Poinsettia, that I'm working on at the moment, was a square that I'd been dreading since I first saw the pattern as it has both the red and the green shades. I took a photo of the pattern, printed out an enlarged version, and coloured in the different areas with felt pens which makes it much easier to follow.

I don't want to hang my finished sampler somewhere permanently as it's so seasonal, so I've been looking at some sort of stand that I can use to display it once it has been framed. I just need to find one that is sturdy enough because it will be large and heavy.

Cross Stitch Christmas ABC sampler in progress

Secondly, a very last minute craft project that I loved doing was making up some Disney magnets to hand out on our recent Disney cruise. I only decided to make them the day before but I'm so glad that I did - they were fun to make and lots of people thanked me for them in our cruise Facebook group. I came up with a quick design based around the Mickey ears using a photo from our past cruise to Stavanger, which was also very similar to the photo used as the Facebook group header image. I added the year and the name of the cruise along with the Norwegian and Danish flags.

I ended up making about 60 magnets so it was quite time consuming! The pieces were cut out, laminated, cut out again and then had a small piece of magnet glued to the back - I used a small square cut from magnet sheets like these - A4 magnetic sheets (affiliate link). On the back there is a little note saying Happy Cruising and our name and stateroom number. The magnets measure about 5cm across so they were super easy to pack, and the children loved wandering around the ship and choosing which doors to leave them on. I hope that they brought a smile to people's faces!

Disney magnets for cruise door pixie dust

If you want to follow my crafting prorgess, don't forget our crafting community over on Instagram. Just take a look at #craftingismytherapy_september (the hashtag changes each month) and you'll see some beautiful crafty projects.

Post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

The very first port on our recent Disney Cruise was Copenhagen. I'd never been to Copenhagen before, and so I was very much looking forward to our visit. One of the places that I knew I wanted to visit was Tivoli Gardens, and so after a brief stop to see the obligatory Little Mermaid statue we headed straight there.

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park in the centre of the city, set in beautiful grounds. It opened in 1843 and it's wonderfully old fashioned, with the rides blending in fantastically with their surroundings. You first need to buy tickets to enter the gardens and then pay extra for various ride options - choosing whether to pay for rides individually or to purchase a wristband for unlimited thrill seeking.

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen with the family

The gardens themselves are lovely to stroll around and there are plenty of places to sit and relax. There are also plenty of different dining options, shops and fun fair style games to play.

Tivoli Gardens Copenhagen pirate ship

There are around thirty rides in the park which are suitable for all ages, ranging from nostalgic gentle rides to roller coasters and other attractions that swing you about all over the place. Luckily my children aren't really into the thrill rides, because some of them looked very intense! Instead we had a lovely trip around the lake in these little self steered boats, enjoyed a sweet little ride which took us on a journey through different fairy tales, and braved a small yet speedy roller coaster suitable for even the little ones.

Boat ride at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

We also spent some time wandering around the gardens, and enjoying a picnic on some of the colourful Tivoli deckchairs.

Family day out at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

We finished our day in the playground, which is included in your entry fee to the gardens. It was a lot of fun, with instruments to play outside and plenty of climbing equipment to explore inside. The children were very happy here for a long time!

Playground at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

Unfortunately we couldn't stay late as we had a ship to catch, but I have heard that the gardens are especially beautiful at night. You can read some more about the gardens and other attractions in Copenhagen from the perspective of older children in this great post from Mum of Three World - Tivoli Gardens, Danish money and things to do in Copenhagen.

You can see plenty more of our visit the little video that I put together of our day!


We received complimentary entrance to the garden and access to some of the rides in exchange for a blog post and video about our day.

Friday, 7 September 2018

The Norwegian Canning Museum, Stavanger

The Norwegian Canning Museum, Stavanger

One of the stops on our recent Disney Magic cruise was Stavanger in Norway. We first visited Stavanger a couple of years ago on a different itinerary, and I immediately fell in love with the town. The cruise ship docks right in the centre of town so it's easy to get to where you want to go, and Stavanger is such a lovely town with its gorgeous wooden houses along with plenty of museums.

On this visit we decided to visit the Norwegian Canning Museum, just a few minutes walk from where we docked. The museum is situated in the heart of beautiful Old Stavanger, with its wonderful white wooden houses and cobbled streets. The museum is housed in the premises of the former canning factory, and it aims to document the part of the canning industry which based its production on fish as the raw material.

We were lucky enough to have a guided tour with the curator of the museum, Piers Crocker, and this really brought the whole experience to life. He walked us step by step through the production process, with plenty of opportunities for the children to get involved and take part themselves.

Tour of the Norwegian Canning Museum, Stavanger

After a quick introduction, we had a go at threading sardines onto narrow skewers through their eye holes. Luckily these were pretend sardines, I can't imagine what a messy and unpleasant job it must have been to do in real life! It's a lot more fiddly than it looks and it took us quite a while, although I assume that if you are doing it all day you soon pick up the knack. Once each skewer is threaded with fish it is slotted into a wooden smoking frame. We also saw a special threading table which lets you thread multiple fish at once by holding the fish in place while the skewer is threaded through - just one of many opportunities to appreciate how changes in technology over time speeded up and improved the processes.

Threading sardines at the Norwegian Canning Museum, Stavanger

The wooden frames are placed into the large ovens, which are still in use today, to be smoked. Smoking was such an important part of the process that the smokers were very highly valued as they had to control so many different variables in order to achieve the best results. 

Smoking ovens at the Norwegian Canning Museum

The heads of the fish are removed using a special decapitation machine, with the heads being collected for animal feed and fertiliser, and then it's time to pack the sardines into the tins. This process is called laying and it's something which is actually done faster and better by humans than machines. There are various different configurations depending on the size of the fish, the volume of the can, and the number that need to be packed.

Luckily the 'fish' that we had to work with were all the same size and fitted neatly into the cans, so laying them wasn't too difficult. The children loved doing this although were amazed to learn that efficient packers can fill a can in just 5-6 seconds - I must admit that it took us a lot longer than that! I think they could have stayed here all day busily filling up the cans, it was such a satisfying process.

Packing sardines at the Norwegian Canning Museum

Once packed the cans are sealed, another part of the process which has speeded up considerably over time. Originally each can was soldered shut at the rate of about a can a minute, which obviously wasn't nearly fast enough to keep up with the rest of the production. We saw a demonstration of one of the early machines that made mass production possible by folding and sealing the can, and increasing the rate to around 7000 cans per day. 

The technology steadily improved over the years, and you can see a selection of different machines which each offer an improvement on the previous one, both by working faster and by sealing more than one can at once. Harry loves any kind of machinery and learning how it all works, so this was all fascinating to him. 

On the top floor of the museum we watched a short video which took us through the process and brought each part to life, beginning with the catching of the fish and finishing with the boxes being loaded for transport and the canned fish being enjoyed at a tea party. There's also a display of advertising posters and labels through the years. The labels are very collectable and I can see why, they really appealed to me with their bright colours and cheerful designs!

The Workers Cottage

As part of our visit we also enjoyed a tour of the Workers Cottage. Located right next to the museum, it's an authentic 1800s house, with the ground floor rooms restored to around 1920 and the upper floor to around 1960. As well as being renovated and decorated, the rooms are filled with authentic items from those time periods which were fascinating to see, and I particularly loved all the examples of handmade embroidery. Definitely make sure not to miss it if you are visiting!

The Workers Cottage, Norwegian Canning Museum

We really enjoyed our visit to the museum, and we all learned a lot. There was plenty to keep the children interested and they loved the hands on activities - Harry has been telling everyone about sticking the skewers through the eyes of the fish, it made a big impression on him! I'd definitely recommend a visit to the Canning Museum if you are in Stavanger, it's such an important part of the history of the town.

You can see a short video below of my children getting stuck in to the canning process.


If you are visiting Stavanger you may also enjoy the Petroleum Museum, which I wrote about after our previous visit - The Norwegian Petroleum Museum. When visiting with children I'd also really recommend a visit to the Stavanger Geopark, an amazing playground made from recycled materials from the oil industry located right outside the Petroleum Museum.

We received a family ticket to the Canning Museum and a tour, in exchange for sharing on my blog and social media.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

A second cruise through the Norwegian Fjords on the Disney Magic

We have just returned from a fantastic end to the long summer holiday - a week long cruise aboard the Disney Magic. We have cruised the Norwegian Fjords before with Disney and loved it, so we were excited to be returning. Although billed as a Norwegian Fjords cruise, this one was a bit less fjordy than the last, with stops in Copenhagen, Oslo, Kristiansand and Stavanger. I'll be sharing lots about what we got up to in port!

This time I was determined to really enter into the spirit of the Disney cruise experience. We improved our door magnet display with an Olaf printout and individual family snowflakes. A lot of people on a Disney cruise hang 'fish extenders' from the fish hook outside their door and exchange gifts with other cruisers. I wasn't brave enough to sign up for a fish extender group, but I made a last minute decision to join a 'pixie dust' list that was organised through our cruise Facebook group. I put together about forty small gifts and also handmade nearly sixty magnets. On our first day at sea, the children and I roamed the corridors handing out the gifts to other people on the list, and choosing some of our favourite decorated doors to leave a magnet. Then I hung a small gift bag outside our door to see if we received anything back.

Disney cruise stateroom door with magnets

I'm pleased to say that people were very kind, and we received some really lovely things back! The children were thrilled to come back to the room and find a present, and it was so much fun to take part. I'm already putting together ideas for next time in case we are lucky enough to book another Disney cruise!

Mia's highlight for the cruise, as always, was the princesses. The princesses are so good with the children, she met some of them several times and they always remembered her and had such a lovely chat with her. She had a huge smile on her face after meeting them.

Disney cruise meeting Princess Tiana

Our children won't do the kids club by themselves which is a shame as they look excellent. We did have fun with some of the family activities though - making masquerade masks, trying origami, attempting to draw Disney characters, a Disney music trivia quiz, making flubber - there is always lots going on! We also went to the cinema and watched all the main shows in the theatre, some of them twice, they are all amazing.

The cruises in this part of the world all have a bit of a Frozen theme, with a special Frozen meet and greet gathering and a Frozen themed day which finishes with a Freezing the Night Away deck party (you can see my previous video of the show here - Freezing the Night Away)

Freezing the night away on board the Disney Magic

I do love a cruise. I like the chance to get dressed up for dinner (even if I'm back in my jeans for the air conditioned theatre later on!), the excitement of waking up somewhere new to explore in the morning, having everything organised for you, and no cooking, cleaning or washing up. You really do feel like you in a bubble away from the real world. I hope that it's not long until we are back on board again!

Dressed up for dinner on the Disney Magic

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Identifying my trigger points for scrolling

It's not long now until I start Scroll Free September! I've already been trying to make some changes since I signed up, in particular taking a look at my typical scrolling behaviour. I've been trying to work out my particular trigger points for scrolling, and thinking about how I can divert myself away from my phone, ready for when I start the challenge for real.

So during the course of a typical day, this is when I reach for my phone...

First thing in the morning - my children wake me up a little before I actually need to get up, so I have a few minutes to lie in bed before I start the day. I reach for my phone because I want to see if I've missed anything overnight.

Alternative - either rest in bed with my eyes shut (aka go back to sleep!) or simply get up and jump in the shower. As a bonus, this gives me a head start on the before rush. Then I can catch up with any important notifications or e-mails while I eat my breakfast.

While waiting around at home before I need to go out - I'm always early for things, so I often find myself ready to go out well before I need to leave the house. Scrolling through my phone helps me to waste those last few minutes.

Alternative - think about what my first task will be when I get back home and do something to make that easier - e.g. if I'll be making lunch get out the lunch things ready. Or else tidy the area around the front door, put shoes away etc.

While procrastinating - sometimes I find it difficult to settle to a task and I'll procrastinate by scrolling through social media, all the time feeling more anxious when I think about the work that I'm not getting done.

Alternative - if it's an urgent task then I've always found setting a timer to work well. But if I really can't concentrate I need to find myself something else to do, whether that's housework or something crafty, and come back later when I'm in the right mood.

While waiting in the car at school pick up - I'm always early for school pick up and usually have ten minutes or so to wait in the car.

Alternative - walk to the school the long way around to get some extra fresh air and exercise. Take along a puzzle book (I've recently rediscovered Sudoku and other logic problems!), I could even get one to keep in the car.

During swimming lessons - swimming lessons are so boring, and stressful!

Alternative - take a book with me instead. Also, this coming term the children are in the same swimming class, so I'm hoping that I can swim myself while they have their lesson.

While making dinner - I seem to spend ages making dinner and lunchboxes every night, and it's easy to pick up my phone while I'm waiting for something to cook.

Alternative - wash up and put things away as I go along. Clear and clean the kitchen counters and other surfaces.

While children are getting ready for bed - there's so much faffing with getting the children ready for bed, and I often grab my phone as it's a way of switching off from the chaos.

Alternative - keeping a book handy to turn to, using the time to tidy upstairs and help the children to unwind by reading with them and talking to them.

In bed in the evening in bed - I think that this is a part of winding down after the day, as I use the mindless scrolling as a way of switching off. The irony is that it's well known that it's not a good idea to use your phone before bed because it actually disrupts your sleep!

Alternative - reading a book in the bed is the obvious one, and I could also have a bath or shower to help unwind beforehand.

When Ram is away - Ram will be away for some of September. The trigger point here is when I'm in bed at night, sometimes I find it difficult to switch off and get to sleep so I find myself scrolling through my phone until late so that I'm really tired.

Alternative - I have some films lined up to watch during the evenings and I'll work on some cross stitch while I'm watching them. Having a bath should help me to relax before I go to sleep, and I'll make sure that I've got some good books to read. Often when Ram is away I stock up on junk food, but as I'll be watching what I eat this September maybe I'll spend the junk food money on some new books!

Something else that I need to do is to get in the habit of leaving my phone in one place when I'm not using it. We have a bowl in the kitchen for keys so I'm thinking I'll place it there when I'm in the house and hopefully because it's not on me all the time I'll be less tempted to pick it up.

I'm hoping that having come up with these alternatives in advance I'll find things easier as I start the month!

I'm taking part in Scroll Free September

Saturday, 25 August 2018

A short break in the Cotswolds

Last week we spent an enjoyable few days near Cirencester in the Cotswolds with family. It was our first experience using Airbnb and I must admit that we were a little apprehensive, but I'm pleased to say it all worked out very well - we stayed in a lovely lakeside holiday home in South Cerney, which was in a great location to explore Cirencester and the surrounding areas.

Waters Edge, South Cerney accommodation

On our first day we took the children to the Corinium Museum in Cirencester. I hadn't realised before how important a city Cirencester was in Roman times - in terms of size it was second only to London! The museum had some lovely mosaics and other Roman artefacts and was also a history of the archaeology of the Cotswolds along with some interesting pre-historic and Anglo Saxon displays as well.

Corinium Museum mosaic, Cirencester

We paid £1 each for the children to take part in the museum trail which was a big hit. Harry loves a museum and wants to spend time at each display but it's a little more difficult to keep Mia interested, so she loved hunting for little Stone Age knitted characters. There were also lots of games and interactive displays to entertain them.

Corinium Museum interactive game, Cirencester

We spent quite some time playing some Roman board games, and when they had completed the trail they were delighted to receive a museum eraser each as a gift.

Corinium Museum kids trail, Cirencester

Our second trip out was to Chedsworth Roman Villa. Chedsworth was one of the grandest Roman villas in Britain and it's set in some beautiful Cotswolds scenery. There are some amazing mosaics preserved inside one of the buildings and there are plenty more still to be discovered - recently many more mosaics were uncovered which have been temporarily covered up - the villa really was enormous. I was particularly fascinated by the dining room where you could see the grandest mosaics, and I found it fascinating to imagine the dinner parties that must have once taken place there.

Chedworth Roman Villa, Cotswolds

We watched a display by some Roman soldiers, did some crafting, and the children were able to dress up in Roman outfits. We don't have many National Trust properties near to us so we've never really considered a membership, but we are now thinking that it might be a good idea to get one for a year and tick off as many properties as we can!

National Trust, Chedworth Roman Villa, Cotswolds

We had a really lovely few days away!

Friday, 24 August 2018

Creating a Minimalist Wardrobe for a Man

Many of the best-dressed people do not own that many clothes. They follow a few simple styling principles to make sure that they stay on trend and always look good. In the past, capsule wardrobes were mainly created for women. But, increasingly men are learning to do the same. If you want to encourage your husband or boyfriend to do the same, all you need to do is to read on. It is far easier than you think and you can easily buy what you need from somewhere like Jacamo.

Trousers and jeans

Most men can get away with owning just two pairs of trousers. A pair of jeans and chinos is usually all they need.

 Activewear 

The athleisure look is still huge. Men who prefer this style can easily swap a pair of chinos for tracksuit or training bottoms. In fact, all men should consider including at least one pair of these in their wardrobe. They are a really versatile item of clothing. Tracksuit bottoms are comfortable, so are perfect for wearing at the weekends or in the evenings.

Tracksuit from Jacamo

Footwear 

For most men, a pair of trainers and one pair of shoes or boots are adequate. Ideally, the shoes or boots should be in a style that looks good with a suit or smart trousers.

Shirts and t-shirts

You are going to need about 8 different tops. They need to be in a different mix of styles. A few traditional t-shirts, a couple of polo shirts and some long-sleeve shirts is usually a good mix. However, every man has different needs. Someone who works in an office with a dress code that requires them to wear shirts will need to have at least five in their wardrobe.

Underwear 

Eight pairs of underwear and socks are enough for most men. However, a man that works out regularly is likely to need more.

Jackets and coats 

Most men can get away with owning only two coats or jackets. A smart jacket and a leather coat is a good combination that works well.

Suits 

A man who has to wear a suit to work will need two suits. One to wear and a spare just in case the other one gets dirty or is at the dry cleaners.


Men's suit from Jacamo

Accessories 

What accessories a man buys is very much a matter of personal taste. For example, some men like to wear a belt, while others never need one.

Colour coordination

Key to creating a capsule wardrobe that works whether you are a man or woman is colour coordination. Get that right, and you can create an amazing array of outfits using just 14 items of clothing. This short article explains how men can work out which tones and colours work best for them and use them as the basis of their wardrobe.

Minimising your children’s wardrobe

If you want to you can do the same with your children’s wardrobes. I promise you that if you make the right choices they will not even notice that you have reduced the number of clothes they own. This article, which I wrote last year, tells you more about helping your kids to look great without your having to spend a fortune on clothes.

This is a collaborative post in association with Jacamo.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Book review - Minecraft STEM Challenge books

My children are massive fans of Minecraft - I think that they'd play it all day if they could! Personally I'd much rather they chose to play Minecraft than some of the other games that are out there - they play beautifully together as well as following their own projects, and they have both created some really amazing structures. So I knew that they would love these two new Minecraft STEM Challenge books from Carlton - Build a Theme Park and Build a City.

Minecraft STEM Challenge books review

These books claim to be a first-of-a-kind addition to the Minecraft market, and they are certainly very different to the other Minecraft books that they own. They are large format, packed with colourful pictures and texts, and easy to dip in and out of.

Kids reading Minecraft books

Each book takes you through the step-by-step construction of a Minecraft City or Theme Park. You can follow the instructions to create an exact copy, with directions given for overall layout and how to make each building. Or if you prefer you can copy the individual buildings, or just take inspiration from the creations and come up with your own designs. Alongside the instructions you can read about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) topics in the real world, then put this learning to use in the game. For example calculating the total area needed to house a theme park ride, or learning how gravity and friction will affect the speed of a roller coaster.

Minecraft STEM Challenge - build a city

Mia chose to work with the Build a City book, and decided to start by building a tower block. She wanted to come up with her own design for the city as a whole, but chose to copy the instructions for the tower block from the book. I sat down with her and helped her to work through them step-by-step. The book explained why we needed to use particular materials, and there was lots of maths involved in calculating where to place the blocks to form the sides to make sure that everything lined up. There's also a calculation to work out how many families you can house in the tower block based on the number of floors that you build. It was a lot of fun!

Minecraft built shop

I left her to it and came back to find that she'd gone on to build her own versions of other structures from the book - this time taking inspiration from the book but using her own designs. She had chosen to use different materials and I was really impressed to hear her telling me about why she'd chosen particular materials. She built a park with different rides in it and some shops.

Harry pounced on the Theme Park book and quickly set to making his own park. He's built roller coasters in Minecraft before, and was eager to first come up with his own projects rather than follow the ones in the book. He designed his own bumper car ride after seeing a similar ride in the book that talked about using ice to make it slippery and I was really impressed with how well he'd designed it.

Minecraft STEM Challenge - building a theme park

He copied his design for the Ferris Wheel from the book as he found it helpful to have something to copy - he says he can't make circles in Minecraft very well! He was very proud of it and I love the detail, it's definitely something that he would have struggled to make alone, but I wouldn't be surprised if it inspires him to make lots of similar designs using it as a jumping off point.

Minecraft build ferris wheel

I was really impressed with both of these books, and I can see that my children are going to be referring to them and being inspired by them for a long time to come. There are several other books available in the series and I'm definitely going to be putting them on the Christmas list!

We received copies of these books to review. These books will be published on 6th September 2018.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Chilling out at home over the summer holidays

I'm definitely a home bird. I'm always happy when I'm at home, keeping myself busy and pottering about. If it wasn't for my husband, who is always on the go, I'd probably rarely leave the house! But since having children I've found that a day at home can drag, and it's important to try and get out and about somewhere. Even just a quick walk to the playground or a couple of hours spent at a friend's house can break up the day and give the children enough social interaction that they will amuse themselves quietly at home for the rest of it. So I do like to make an effort to get a few things scheduled in the calendar over the summer.

But I'm not one of those people that takes the children out and about all over the place. I think we'd all get exhausted! I also don't want my husband to feel left out, not to mention the fact that we'd have no money left by the end of the summer. We'll probably only do one or two full day trips out over the holidays with friends and then the rest of the time we'll fill our time with some play dates, trips to the swimming pool, and local outings to break up the day.

The children do play nicely together at home (for a short while at least!) and they are happy with crafting, jigsaws, reading, helping me with bits and pieces of housework, baking and so on. They also do have time to spend playing video games and watching their iPads, although I try to limit it as they'd happily do that all day!

Sometimes I do feel a little bit inadequate when I see pictures of people out and about visiting all sorts of exciting places over the summer. But I remind myself that we often go away on holiday during the school holidays and have amazing experiences together - everyone needs some downtime to relax and if the children are content to spend time in the house with me then so am I.

Children reading sitting on the sofa

What do your summer holidays look like - are you out and about all the time or are you happy to spend time chilling out at home?

Friday, 17 August 2018

Alternatives to scrolling

This September I'm planning to take part in Scroll Free September. It's a chance to take a break from all personal social media accounts for 30 days during September, and you can read more about it here - Scroll Free September, along with the different types of challenge that you can commit to.

I will still need to use my social media accounts for my job, so I've come up with my own challenge. I'll be going scroll free in the bedroom both morning and evening, and after 3pm, which is when I leave to pick up the children from school during the week. I can still check my e-mails and notifications after 3pm, but I'll be limiting that as much as I can and stopping any mindless scrolling.

I've tried to make a bit of a start over the last few weeks to get ready, and it's not easy! I've become so used to turning to my phone if I find myself with a few spare minutes, and before I know it I'm sucked in and far too much time has passed. It's also a problem when I'm sitting at my desktop computer and trying to get some work done. So I thought that I'd come up with a few things that I can do instead of grabbing my phone!

Reading - This is the one that I really want to focus on. I'm currently re-re-reading my way through my shelf of favourite books, but I'm intending to make visiting the library a more regular part of my routine. There's no excuse - there's a small library in our village and a large one next to where my children go to school, so it's very easy to find the time to pop in. It will be good for the children too as they are always looking for new books

Crafting - I'm currently working on both a cross stitch sampler and a crochet blanket and both of those are easy to pick up and put down when I have a few minutes to spare.

Exercise - I've been very slack with the exercise lately with no excuses. It doesn't need to be the gym, although it should be as we have a gym membership, but it's so easy to pop out for a half hour run, or even just a walk around the block.

Tidying/cleaning - Not the most interesting of pastimes, but I feel so much better when the house is tidy and it only takes a few minutes to put a few thing away and clear a counter top. This is something that I can do while I'm making dinner or if I have a few minutes to wait before going out. Hopefully little and often will work out well!

Play a game with the children - We've been playing lots of games lately with the children, and I'm finding it so much more fun now that we can play games that are a challenge for me as well and I don't always have to let them win! We have quite a collection and we've also just been playing simple card games. When they are back at school it will be something fun to do together after dinner.

Play the piano - I really enjoy playing the piano but I don't do it nearly enough, I definitely need to pick up playing again!

Brainstorm some blog post ideas - I find it much easier to brainstorm with a pen and paper so it's a good way to take a break from the computer and make some lists.

My husband will also be away for some of September so I'll have lots of evenings by myself to fill - I've got plenty to keep myself busy, and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can achieve!

Taking part in Scroll Free September

Thursday, 16 August 2018

What we can teach our kids about money

You know what it’s like, you’re sat watching TV with the kids and a big flashy ad appears on screen advertising the latest, coolest toy that all the kids at school have. The kids want it, but the price tag makes your heart sink. It can be difficult to make children understand the value of money, and why they can’t always have the things they want. So, with this in mind, why not take some time to teach your little ones about the value of money and how to make the most of it when they have it?

Debt 

It might sound a little ominous but discussing the prospect and reality of debt with your older children can help prepare them for financial scrapes and making better decisions. Whether it’s the danger of payday loans, out of control spending on a credit card, a student loan, or a utility bill that’s proving difficult to pay; by introducing your older child to the perils of debt and how they can avoid it will make them savvier in the future. It’s also worth mentioning how companies such as Credit Fix can help get people in debt back on track and how it’s better to tackle the problem head on rather than letting it get worse and worse.

The money jar 

We’ve all had a piggy bank at some point in our childhoods – they’re cute and a great way to save a few pennies for some sweets or a magazine. But they don’t provide much of a visual. If you want to encourage your little one to save, then avoid the big brash piggy bank and opt for a clear jar instead. Allowing them to see the pennies mount up and the jar get fuller and fuller will not only be super exciting, but watching the jar get fuller means they’re more likely to want to put more in it to see their savings grow! Make a big deal about what pennies you can see in there and go through their value. Share their excitement.

Set an example 

Our kids are pretty impressionable, and they take their lead from us. We literally pass on our habits and traits to them – so with that in mind, we need to be careful. If you’re pulling your credit card out and spending every time you go anywhere, the kids will notice. If you’re making off the cuff purchases and buying something simply because you want it then they’ll notice. If you and your partner are arguing about money, then they’ll pick up on that too. Setting a good example means, saying No once in a while. It means saying to your child, you can’t have that because we’re planning to do this instead. We don’t have money for fast food because we’ve just been grocery shopping and have food at home.

Contentment 

Yes, their friend has a brand new car, or the latest pair of trainers. But you need to teach your child to be content with what they have. Yes their first car might not be flashy, but it gets them from A to B!

Piggy bank for children
Photo credit Fabian Blank via Unsplash
This is a collaborative post

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Paper pumpkin Autumn centrepiece craft

Tutorial - Paper pumpkin table decoration

Today I'm sharing a simple Autumn themed craft using Bostik products - how to make a paper pumpkin table decoration to use as a centrepiece for your table this fall.

You need:

Coloured paper or card in a variety of shades of orange
Green tissue paper
A circular cardboard container, I used the lid from a container of cheese triangles but you could use any circular plastic or cardboard lid
Fabric Autumn leaves (or cut your own from fabric or felt)
Acrylic paint
Bostik White Glu
Bostik Glu Dots

Bostik materials for crafting

Instructions:

Use your circular base as a template to cut circles for your pumpkin. Use as many different shades of orange as you can to add plenty of variety, and if you have patterned paper that also adds some extra interest. Cardboard is best for stability but you can also use paper as it will be glued together. Take care to make sure that all your circles are the same size. I made eight circles.

Cutting circles to make a paper pumpkin

Fold all the circles in half. If you are using paper which is only coloured or patterned on one side make sure to fold it so that the coloured side is on the inside fold.

Folded cardboard circles for crafting

Glue your folded circular pieces together to form the pumpkin using the Bostik White Glu. Make sure to use only a thin layer of glue, especially if you are using paper, so that it doesn't get too wet. The White Glu is perfect for sticking paper because you can apply it exactly where it needs to go and it will hold the paper together firmly. It also dries clear, just in case you end up with any where it shouldn't be!

Gluing together cardboard circles to make a pumpkin

It's a good idea to lay out your pieces in advance so that you can make sure you are balancing out the different shades, and use paperclips to hold the pieces together until the glue is dry so that they stay in place while still wet.

Make a pumpkin from cardboard circles

Wait for it to dry and then remove the paperclips. Check the pumpkin to see if there are any edges which need to be trimmed slightly. Fold the pieces out so that they are evenly spread to form the sides of the pumpkin.

Pumpkin made from circles of orange cardboard

Cut a small section out from the bottom, so that when the pumpkin is stood up it has a flat base to stand on. Don't cut too much, but just enough so that the paper pumpkin can stand by itself.

How to make an orange paper pumpkin

To make the stalk, cut a strip of card and curl round to form a tube, secure in place with tape. Cover with green tissue paper, stuck in place using the Bostik White Glu, and use scrunched up tissue paper to fill the hole at the top. Cut eight small slits in the base of the tube so that it slots on to the sides of the pumpkin, and this will also ensure that the pumpkin sections remain well spread out. It should stay in place but if not it can be secured with a small blob of White Glu - this will dry clear so you don't need to worry about it showing.

Making the stalk for a craft pumpkin

Paint the base for the centerpiece. You can either choose to paint it in a neutral colour like I did, or a contrasting colour for some extra interest. I used acrylic paint to make sure that it covered well with a bold colour.

Painting with acrylic paint

Finally use the Bostik Glu Dots to stick the fabric leaves around the base.

Using Bostik Glu Dots for crafting

To adhere the Glu Dots you need to peel off one side of the plastic, stick the dot to one of the surfaces, then remove the second side of plastic and stick them firmly together. I found it easiest to stick the Glu Dot to the leaf first, then I could position the leaf where I wanted it.

Crafting with fabric leaves and Bostik Glu Dots

The Glu Dots are great at sticking together all types of surface, and because you don't need to wait for them to dry they are perfect if you want to see your finished result quickly. They are very sticky but can also be re-positioned if you don't get the placement exactly right first time.

Making a pumpkin themed centerpiece

To finish, position the cardboard pumpkin inside the base. Use a couple of Glu Dots underneath the bottom to make sure that it is firmly in position and can be easily transported. Just stick them to the inside of the base, and press the pumpkin down gently but firmly.

Pumpkin made from coloured cardboard and Bostik products

Your pumpkin centre piece is finished! These can be made in all different sizes to suit your table, or you could make a row for your windowsill or mantelpiece.

How to make a cardboard pumpkin center piece for Autumn

This is a collaborative craft post with Bostik.
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