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 blogspot.com 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

Instructions:

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!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

My canal boat fantasy life

We often spend the weekend with Ram's Mum, and the thing that I love about her house is that at the bottom of the garden there is a canal. Even though I'm quite used to it now the novelty still hasn't worn off, and when I hear a boat approaching I'm often rushing to the nearest window to watch it go past. I also love going for a walk along the towpath and trying to peer inside the windows of the boats that are moored alongside.

I like to imagine an alternate fantasy life where I live on a canal boat. It's not a perfect fantasy because I don't fancy the idea of crowded family life on a canal boat so I'm living there on my own, and it's not at all realistic because the thought of piloting my own canal boat terrifies me. I also definitely don't like the idea of navigating the boat through all those locks.

I think that what appeals is the idea of living in a small, cosy space with only the essentials. I imagine going for a morning run along the towpath, sitting out in the evening with a glass of wine and a book, nodding to passers by, and being gently rocked to sleep at night. I've always been fascinated with the idea of small space living, probably fuelled by Pinterest and various interiors magazines. I also love following Cruising the Cut on YouTube and learning a bit more about daily life on a canal boat.

The truth is that it's a fantasy that I don't really want to become a reality. Although I do strive to be a minimalist, I'm also a sentimental hoarder, and I'd much rather be living in a house with my family than on my own in a small space. But it's nice to dream sometimes!

Canal boat at the bottom of the garden

Monday, 16 July 2018

Seven years of blogging

I've just celebrated seven years of blogging. I can't believe I've lasted that long! From my very first post sharing my homemade felt biscuits, through writing about life with a newborn and a toddler, sharing the crafts and activities that we got up to. As we started to travel more with the children I wrote about our days out and holidays, sharing tips and advice that I hoped would help others. Now although I still write a great deal about parenting and family life, I also write more about myself, my own thoughts and feelings, as well as the crafts and other things that I'm working on.

I don't publish a new post nearly as often as I used to. It seems strange as these days I have a lot more time to write, but for one thing I've drastically cut down on the amount of reviews that I was accepting, and so I hope that the quality of posts has increased along with the decrease in quantity! I do publish occasional sponsored posts as I need to earn some money somehow, but I hope that they aren't too intrusive.

Things have changed a lot in the blogging world, even just over the last couple of years. Many people are seeing blogging and social media as a way to earn some easy money, especially if you are wanting to work from home or around other commitments, and it's all become much more competitive. Luckily most people quickly realise that it's very hard work to be constantly creating new, interesting content - it's not nearly as easy as it looks!

With so many other bloggers and social media influencers out there it's easy to feel a little bit lost, and sometimes as though you are shouting into a void. It's also not just about the blog now, in order to be noticed online you need to have an active presence across all forms of social media. I get easily overwhelmed and feel that I don't have the time or energy to devote enough time to promoting myself and my blog. I just love writing my blog posts and planning the next ones, I'm not very good at shouting about myself.

I'm so glad that I started my blog though. There are so many happy memories shared, records of the things that we've done and the challenges that we've faced and overcome. I hope that I'm still here for a good while yet, I think that I have plenty more to share!

Birthday cake for blogging anniversary
Photo credit Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Friday, 13 July 2018

Like lighting a fuse - when the children play together

Our summer holidays have just begun, and we are quickly settling into our summer routine. We have a couple of short breaks planned, as well as activities and play dates, but a lot of the time we'll spend together at home. I'm definitely a home bird and I like pottering about in the house. Luckily the  children do too, although I still need to keep them busy.

I'm very lucky that the children will still play nicely together quite a lot of the time. Although he's growing up fast, Harry still loves imaginary play and he's not ready to pack away his toys just yet. Mia loves playing with him, and they can occupy themselves for quite a while with the train set, the teddies, the Playmobil and so on. They come up with some lovely games, and I also notice them acting out scenarios which relate to things that they are going through in real life - it's wonderful to observe.

But the trouble is that it will only last for a certain amount of time. I liken it to lighting a fuse. They will start playing nicely together and everything will be going fine, then suddenly there will be an explosion - something will be triggered that causes an argument - and it will all end in tears.

There's no knowing how long the fuse will burn for before the explosion. Generally, Mia will become frustrated with something, blame Harry, he'll get upset and Mia will get even more cross. One of them will come up to me in tears, and then there's no going back to the peaceful state of play. I have to try and comfort both children and come up with some kind of distraction, usually a snack for Mia while letting Harry retreat with a book.

It's a similar story when we sit down to do something all together, perhaps crafting or playing a game. Everything will be going well and we'll all be having fun, then something will happen to trigger the explosion. The crafting scene below may look idyllic, but they are just minutes or even seconds away from meltdown.

Children cross stitching together

Mia in particular gets very easily frustrated and will quickly lose her temper. I know there are hereditary factors at play, as well as hunger being a trigger, but I'm also wondering whether it could be caused by a little too much screen time. I worry that real life isn't as easy as a computer game, and it's affecting her ability to focus on a real world task and see it through to completion. She certainly doesn't have the patience for things that Harry does.

So I'm determined to try and cut down the screen time over the holidays and make sure that she's also spending time sat down with a book or playing a board game. Wish me luck, we still have many more weeks of the holiday left!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Make your bedroom the perfect relaxing retreat - Create the perfect ambience with dimmable LED bulbs

After a long day at work, chasing the kids, fixing dinner, running errands, spending summer days out in the sun entertaining the kids. You’re going to need somewhere to relax and unwind when you finally get the chance! We don’t tend to spend much time in our bedrooms – just using them for sleep at the end of a busy day. But creating your own relaxing bedroom retreat is a great way to ensure that you’re fully recharged for the next day, and ready to take on anything the kids or work can throw at you!

Here you’ll find some easy ways you can update your bedroom into the bedroom heaven you’ve always wanted.

Lighting 

Lighting is crucial if you’re hoping to relax in your bedroom. Many of us make do with a single light fixture that hangs miserably from the centre point of the ceiling. But there are so many other options out there! More and more homes are turning to LED lights to give bedrooms a much more relaxed ad stylish feel, particularly because they’re dimmable! You can browse the range here, or look online for more information.

Simply updating your light fixture can dramatically alter the look of your bedroom, and if you like the idea of finally putting your feet up and reading a good book whilst in bed, then adding a couple of table lamps to you bedside tables will be the perfect solution.

Photo credit Christopher Jolly via Unsplash

Embrace simplicity

It can be difficult if you have a busy household. But keeping your bedroom simple and free of clutter will give your bedroom and your mood, an instant lift. Try to keep things as simple as possible and don’t overcrowd your room with overbearing ornaments and furniture. A bed, a nightstand, dresser/wardrobe, bedside tables and maybe a painting over your headboard is ideal. Try to keep piles of ironing out of there, as these only serve as a reminder of all the chores you have to catch up on. You’re there to relax, not to worry even more! Keep the distractions to a minimum.

Photo credit Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Make your bed dreamy

When was the last time you had a good nights sleep? The quality of your sleep could be down to your mattress. Many mattresses come with a 60-90 day money back guarantee so there’s plenty of time to find the mattress that best suits your needs. If your budget won’t stretch to a new mattress then don’t worry, invest in a thick, cushiony mattress topper instead and you’ll notice the difference straight away.

It’s time to bin those old, brightly coloured sheets and covers. Try to keep things clean, crisp and simple when it comes to your bedding. Invest in some 100% natural fibre sheets and linen, such as cotton – which is more breathable and will last much longer too – purchase some new pillows too and remember to swap them every six months or so, this is not only god for your quality of sleep, but also for your skin and health!

This is a collaborative post

Monday, 9 July 2018

Things that I do differently during a heat wave

At the time of writing we are enjoying the longest heatwave that I can remember. It hasn't rained for weeks, and although a few days have been greyer than others, on the whole the weather has been glorious. The novelty isn't wearing off in the slightest, and I'm hoping that it continues for a while yet! It made me think about all the things that I do differently during a spell of nice weather...

* Wear shorts. Normally shorts are reserved for holidays only, when I won't see anyone that I know apart from immediate family. However for the last few weeks I've been living in them, both around the house and out and about.

* Wear dresses. Again, usually my legs are kept hidden away, even during the summer, with dresses reserved for weddings and other special occasions. But all of my dresses have been out over the last few weeks, along with the sandals, and I've really enjoyed wearing them.

* Wash the cars. In the past it's been a once yearly event, over the last month I've been washing them every week! It's much quicker to clean them when they aren't filthy, and it's lovely and refreshing when I get splashed with the hose!

* Drink alcohol in the evenings at home. We never drink at home, only when we are out and about. But with our new firepit we've been sitting outside together in the evenings and indulging in a can or two of gin in a tin, or some Pimms.

* Let the children stay up later. It's such a shame to miss out on the lovely warm, sunny evenings.

* Stop exercising. I can't face going out for a run in the heat!

* Eat outside. So nice to be able to sit in the garden with our food, and it seems to make less mess to clear up as well.

* Eat ice cream. I'm not normally a fan of ice cream - when I indulge I go for cake and biscuits. But I'm gradually working my way through the different flavours of Ben and Jerry's!

* Make lots of plans for outdoor activities over the school summer holidays. I've forgotten that the British weather is normally too unpredictable to make firm plans that involve being outside!

* Constantly check the real time lightning map. I'm sure that there must be a big storm on the way soon!

Garden furniture in the sun shine

What do you do differently when we are enjoying such wonderful weather?

Friday, 6 July 2018

This introvert's need for her own room

I spend quite a bit of time scrolling through social media and I love coming across articles like this one - 12 things introverts absolutely need to be happy. In fact I liked it so much that I subscribed to the blog! Since I read the fantastic Quiet by Susan Cain a few years back (you can read my book review here - Quiet) I've found that I definitely identify as an introvert.

I loved the list in the link and it made a lot of sense to me - I could agree with all of them. My favourite thing that introverts need was 5 - A quiet space that's all ours.

When we moved into our new house a few years back we were lucky enough to have a spare room on the ground floor that is probably intended as a study. Instead I christened it 'The Quiet Room' because it's a room that doesn't have a television in it (although it does have a PC so it is still used for watching videos). I had originally intended for it to be a playroom for the children, and I had in mind some of those Ikea Kallax units for the toys. But inevitably it turned out that the children never wanted to play very far away from me and we found storage elsewhere for their toys, and gradually over the years it has become more and more 'my room'.

I laid my claim to the space early with my bookshelves. I've since downsized and only have the one, but it's the only place in the house where we keep the 'grown up' books. I also have my desk and PC where I work. I like that the desk is next to the window at the front of the house so I can see comings and goings to the front door, yet I have a tall front hedge for privacy from the outside world. The room doesn't get any sun so it's nice and cool all year round, and it's large enough to feel spacious yet small enough to be cosy.

I've gradually customised my desk space, first with my favourite photographs and ornaments and then by hanging up some of my crafty projects. All my finished cross stitch pieces are displayed in the room, and there's a lovely comfy sofa with one of my favourite crochet blankets over it.

My introvert room and quiet space

I spend most of my time here during the day, and in the evenings if I need a bit of space to myself or to escape from the other noisier rooms. I'm very grateful for my little space!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Custom stickers, labels and more from Sticker You

Recently I was invited to try out some custom stickers from Sticker You. Sticker You offer a wide range of stickers and labels for every situation, along with an easy to use editor that allows you to create your own designs using their graphics and fonts. The stickers are printed on to high quality vinyl, and you can choose from a huge range of sizes, shapes and quantities.

Thinking ahead to going back to school in September, I decided to start by looking at name labels for the children. It's always useful to have a stock of labels around for all those things that they have to take into school! There are lots of different Kids Labels, and I chose a sheet of Round Rectangle Kids Labels for each child. There are 33 labels per page, and you can choose to have a page of identical labels or a range of different designs. You can customise an existing design, or start from scratch and select your own colours, fonts and images.

For Mia I went with pink and unicorns. Harry prefers a more grown up name label so I kept his plain. I was really pleased with the quality of the labels, they are really thick and sticky and will definitely make their belongings stand out.

Name label stickers from Sticker You

It will be really handy to have a sheet of these labels around for all the things that need to be identified! Each sheet of these name label stickers costs $9.99.

Name stickers for children from Sticker You

I also ordered some circular shoe labels. They each need to take their school shoes, trainers and wellies to school regularly, and I also find it useful to label their 'home' shoes as they are so often left lying around at soft play or friend's houses. These labels fit neatly into the heel of the shoe and they look as though they will be very durable. A sheet of 30 shoe labels costs $9.99.

Shoe labels for children from Sticker You

I also ordered some address labels which I can use for my own correspondance. There was a lovely selection of different designs to choose from and again the vinyl finish makes them look really smart and professional.

Finally I ordered some lovely Christmas themed stickers which I thought will be fantastic for adding to the Christmas cards this year. They were really easy to design and there were lots of different holiday themed pictures to choose from. I kept it simple with a circular holly leaf design, but you could also customise stickers to include your family name, and you can also upload your own photographs or artwork to come up with something really unique!

Custom Christmas stickers from Sticker You

If you would like to try out some Sticker You products for yourself, click here to request a free sample pack.

This is a collaborative post with Sticker You. Prices correct at time of publishing.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Our craze for this summer - rock painting

The last few summers have been marked by various crazes. There were the loom bands, the fidget spinners and then those Sainsbury's Lego cards. This summer we are jumping on board with a craze that has been around for a while but has only just reached us locally - rock painting. The idea is to decorate stones and them hide them, with instructions on the back for finders to share a photo on social media. There might be a hashtag, or the details of a Facebook page. If you find a rock you can keep it, but it's more fun to re-hide it for someone else to find.

A local group has recently been set up for our village, and so I've been busy collecting stones for us to paint. I find that Posca pens (affiliate link) are brilliant for decorating the rocks - the come in lots of really bright and vibrant colours and are very easy for the children to use. When decorated they then need to be sealed to protect them. You can use clear nail polish, varnish or a sealing spray, we've been using this one - Plastikote Fast Dry Project Enamel (affiliate link) - which is working well.

To start with I let the children have a go and these are the ones that they produced - they obviously liked the idea of giving the rocks faces!

Painted rocks by children

While they were at school I could resist having a go myself. There is so much inspiration online, and I used this Unicorn rock painting tutorial to get me started, I think that a new Pinterest board is in order!

Unicorn and patterned painted rocks

One of our rocks has already been found and shared on Facebook which was very exciting. I'm not quite sure how well we should be hiding them or whether it's better to leave them somewhere obvious like on a wall or post, some of ours may be hidden a little too well and need to be moved! I'm hoping it's going to help get us up and out over the summer, and we'll be looking out for them wherever we are now around the country, in case we spot one that we can help to travel a bit further!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
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