Friday, 20 September 2019

Things that I'm currently using up

As I was going about my day to day life the other day, I suddenly realised how many of the consumables that I was using were things that I was working my way through in order to finish them off.

For example...

Shower gel - When the husband gets towards the end of a bottle of shower gel, he can't be bothered to use it up so he just opens a new one. I on the other had will extract every last drop from the bottle, so we usually have two bottles on the go in the shower, one nearly full and one nearly empty.

Shaving foam - I don't use shaving foam, I just use shower gel. But I bought Harry some value shaving foam for making slime with last year, and now that his interest has waned I couldn't bear to throw away the unused can, so I'm slowly working my way through it.

Using up old toiletries

Hot chocolate sachets - My Mum very kindly gave me her stash of hot chocolate sachets purloined from hotel rooms. I saved some to take on self-catering holidays, and I'm busy working my way through the rest. It's nice to try a few different brands!

Hotel moisturisers - Stocking up from hotel rooms runs in the family, and I find it difficult to turn down the toiletries, in particular the moisturiser. Luckily I'm not particularly fussy about the product that I use, and I can't remember the last time that I had moisturiser on my shopping list.

Hotel slippers - Another thing that I can't turn down when I see it in a hotel room. I always wear slippers, even in the summer, and the hotel ones last a surprisingly long time. Unfortunately the tread on the bottom doesn't always, which has led to a few near misses when encountering a puddle on the kitchen floor.

Slippers purloined from hotel rooms

Ryvita - I don't really like Ryvita. But the husband bought some when he was last a health kick which didn't last, so I've got a box to eat up before they expire.

Chocolate yoghurt tubes - I bought the wrong Frubes for Mia, an easy mistake to make I think, as they changed the packing for a recent promotion, and she only likes the strawberry ones. They make a nice snack, although they aren't large enough to be particularly satisfying.

Cling film - This is one that I feel very guilty about. Like most people I want to reduce my use of single use plastic, but a few years ago when I was doing large soft play birthday parties I used to use cling film to wrap up veggie sticks and so on to go in party food boxes. I was always worried about running out, so I used to buy a new roll for each party, leaving me with three 90m rolls to use up. I'm slowly working my way through it for lunchbox sandwiches, and when it's all gone I'll be buying some tupperware boxes that I can reuse.

Luckily these will all get used up eventually, although by then I'll probably have more things that I need to get through!

Related post - Things in the house that I have more than I need of

Disadvantages of not caring for tyres when driving in London (Ad)

This is a collaborative post

Tyre care is essential if you want to prolong the life of your vehicle and also want to save yourself from road troubles. The exterior and interior of car is also important, but that one aspect that makes the biggest difference in your car’s performance – is tyres. Let’s say you live in a local vicinity like London and want to make sure that your car is fit to be on the road – then you need to take special care of the way that you maintain your tyres. Worn out tyres are a hazard and although they might seem like a good cost cutting option in the beginning, if you continue to drive with them, they can put you at risk!

 Let’s see what disadvantages you will face if you choose to ignore the defects in your tyres. 

1. Exposure to penalty points 

The law requires you to maintain the optimum tread level – otherwise you will be exposed to a penalty. In order to be confident about your tyres, you can get help from professional tyre fitters. In London and its surrounding areas there are many different tyre providers and you can find someone closer to you. For instance, if you need tyres in London then visit DAT Tyres as they have good customer recommendations.

2. Your car will need more fuel 

Bad tyres cause the vehicle to increase the fuel consumption and you have to pay more for the fuel. Simple tyre care checks can save you time and money.

3. You’ll be risk prone to road accidents 

Tyres are a point of contact with the road’s surface and without proper grip – your vehicle will not be able to keep its balance. Every year there are so many road accidents triggered by faulty tyres.

Pile of car tyres
Photo credit - Goh Ryh Yan via Unsplash

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Disney Halloween cruise pixie dust ideas

Pixie Dust ideas for a Halloween Disney cruise

We are very lucky to be departing shortly on a Halloween on the High Seas themed Disney cruise. This will be our fourth Disney cruise, and after dabbling with Pixie Dust on our last cruise, this time I've signed up for a variety of different gift exchanges. I just hope we'll have enough space in our suitcases!

I've written before about the ways that you can add some extra magic to a Disney cruise. To find out exactly what is going on, you need to join the specific Facebook group for your cruise. There will almost certainly be a Fish Extender exchange, where you arrange to exchange gifts with other specific cabins. These gifts have a higher value, and tend to be tailored to the recipients. There will very likely also be plenty of additional exchanges that you can sign up to, for example ornaments, postcards or candy.

Pixie Dust is separate to these exchanges. It's a small gift given without the expectation of receiving anything in return, a way of spreading the fun and excitement of a cruise, and either given completely at random or to people that you spot while on board. On our last cruise the group set up a list of people that were interested in receiving and giving pixie dust, and we also placed lots of magnets on random doors around the ship. People that are taking part in gift exchanges will usually hang a bag or hanging organiser outside their cabin so that gifts can be left easily.

You can see my Fish Extender here - Moana themed Fish Extender.

For this cruise I've made a bit more effort when it comes to pixie dust, so I thought that I'd share a few of the things that I've put together.

Hama bead Disney magnets - These magnets are part of the cabin gift for my Fish Extender exchange, but they'd also make great pixie dust. They are very simple to make and use only a few Hama beads. I used pictures of the ship we are sailing on, as well as the Halloween on the High Seas logo.

Hama bead Disney themed magnets

I used the same design, this time with Mickey ears in place, to make some simpler magnets. They are just printed onto glossy card, laminated, and with a small magnet attached to the back. They take up hardly any room and are very light, which is a bonus for packing. They are also easy to pop in a bag and distribute around the ship, perhaps to add to doors that take your fancy. All my pixie dust has a small label on the back to explain that it's a gift, along with our cabin number.

Magnets to make for Halloween themed Disney pixie dust

The laminator came out again for these Halloween on the High Seas bookmarks. Again printed on glossy card, they are just laminated with a hole punched in the top and ribbon threaded through. I added a blob of glue to the back of each ribbon to make sure that it stays firmly in place. I've included some of these in my Fish Extender gifts as well, with plenty left over to leave outside random staterooms. Like the magnets, they each have a note on the back to explain that the recipient has been pixie dusted.

Halloween on the High Seas cruise bookmarks for pixie dust

Finally, I've made up some little bags of goodies. I've not decided how to distribute these yet, I may just leave it up to the children! These bags contain a variety of different things that I picked up from Halloween last year and over the last few months - small Halloween trinkets like plastic spiders, erasers and mini notebooks, along with Disney themed bits and pieces like jewellery, nail stickers and nail polish. Each also has some Mickey Mouse head punched confetti in Halloween colours. I hope that they will make someone smile!

Pixie Dust to give out on a Disney Cruise

We had a very long countdown to this cruise, and the fun of preparing for the different exchanges and putting together little gift bags has definitely helped to build the excitement! I'd love to hear about your Disney cruise gift exchange experiences!

Related post - Crafting for a Disney cruise

Halloween themed Disney Cruise pixie dust

Monday, 16 September 2019

Hama bead projects that children can gift to their friends

Hama bead projects to gift to friends

My children and I love crafting with Hama beads. Over the years I've shared many different Hama bead projects that we've come up with, and I thought I'd round up a few of my favourite ideas that make great gifts for children to give to their friends. They can be used in party bags, like we did with our Minecraft themed keyrings, or they might be popular sellers at a summer fair or garage sale, like our Hama bead Emoji magnets. They also make great little Christmas or end of term presents.

Have fun Hama bead crafting!

Related post - Ironing tips for Hama beads

Hama bead covered pen holders

I love these cheerful pen holders, and they are really easy to make. You could choose colours that the recipient likes, or experiment with different designs to reflect their interest. For example you could incorporate some Minecraft characters or Emoji designs.

Hama bead pen pots tutorial

* Hama bead summer frames

I love making Hama bead frames because I think that it's a really fun way to display a photo or postcard. These frames are simple and made using bright colours that match the picture behind.

Hama bead bright coloured picture frames

* Hama bead emoji magnets

These Emoji magnets have been very popular with my children's friends. They are really simple to make, and there are lots of different emojis that you can base your magnets on so you can make a different one for everyone.

Hama bead emoji designs

* Melted Hama bead bracelets

Melting the Hama beads is a fun way to make something a bit different using the beads. This one does require a bit of adult help as you need to use the oven, but the finished beads are really unique and fun to wear.

Melted Hama bead bracelet

* Minecraft themed Hama bead keyrings

We used these as party bag fillers and they were very popular. Minecraft lends itself really well to Hama beads and other pixel art, and there are so many different characters that you can choose from.

Hama bead Minecraft keyring designs

* Hama bead frames with different themes

Like the frames above, these Hama bead frames would be a fun way to gift a photo of a child and their friend, or a postcard of a place that they've enjoyed visiting together.

Hama bead themed photo frames

* Hama bead Tetris inspired magnets

These Tetris style magnets are really fun to play with and make a lovely gift all packaged up together.

Hama bead Tetris magnet designs

Related post - A year of Hama bead crafts

If you are looking for more Hama bead project ideas you can find many more on my Hama beads page!

Friday, 13 September 2019

Thoughts on scrolling for #ScrollFreeSeptember

With Scroll Free September 2019 now well under way, I thought I'd put down some of my thoughts about what scrolling is to me, and how I'm attempting to stop.

How do I define scrolling?

For me, scrolling isn't all time spent on social media. It's the time that comes after I've checked on what I need to, and yet I continue to scroll through the updates. It's when I find myself at a loose end around the house and I pick up the phone out of boredom or habit. It's when I'm doing something else, like watching a television show or reading a book, and catch sight of my phone and feel the urge pick it up to see if I'm missing out on anything.

What are my scrolling habits?

I find myself scrolling first thing in the morning and last thing at night. While I'm waiting in the car at school pick up time, while dinner is cooking or while I'm watching a swimming lesson. Also when I'm putting off something that I don't want to do, or I become distracted from something else that I'm doing. Most of this scrolling takes place on my phone, although some on my desktop PC as that's where I sit to do my work and it's so easy to just open another window.

Which apps do I scroll?

Most of my scrolling time is spent on Facebook. As well as the news feed, which is mainly filled with family and friends, I'm a member in lots of groups, some of them very active, so there is always something new to see. When I've exhausted Facebook I turn to Twitter with it's endless feed, and when that bores me I'll pop over to the BBC News app. I also use Instagram, although that tends to be on the desktop as I find it easier to leave comments with a keyboard, and I find it easier to limit my time as I'm more satisfied when sucked in by words than by images.

What do I gain by scrolling?

I feel that I do gain from spending time scrolling through social media. I enjoy reading through Facebook and seeing what other people have been up do - I like to see other people out and about doing interesting and exciting things. I get inspiration from Facebook craft groups, and I find out useful information about my other interests, like blogging, parenting and cruising.

On Twitter I find lots of links to blog posts that I want to read, as well as trending topics. I like to keep up to date with the news, and find that the BBC News app has a good selection of articles alongside longer reads on topics that interest me.

Photo credit Yura Fresh via Unsplash

What do I lose by scrolling?

Of course I lose time. It's very easy to get sucked in to reading just one more thing, and before you know it lots of time has gone by. I lose the time that I could spend in having a quick tidy up, working on a craft project, or spending time helping the children with something.

How do I feel afterwards?

Sometimes if I feel like I've spent too long scrolling in a day it's almost like a hangover. Especially if I've been on my phone late at night which sometimes happens when my husband is away. I inevitably feel a sense of wasted time that I don't get from reading a book or watching a television show.

What would happen if I stopped scrolling?

I always think that if I spend less time on Facebook then I'd start to lose touch with what is going on. But the truth is that if I do take a break from Facebook it's very easy to catch up with what I've missed. For example, you can read a whole group thread about a topic all at once rather than reading it over and over again as new comments are added.

What does scrolling replace?

I can't remember very well what I used to do before phones and social media became a thing, when I was a teenager or student for instance. I did use to spend longer talking on the phone and I was in the habit of carrying a book around with me, whether that was for a train journey or a waiting room. I did spend quite a bit of time as a teenager playing computer games like Civilisation or Tetris which perhaps satisfied the urge in my brain to do something mind numbing.

I remember when I first started living with my husband back in the early 00's he used to spend a significant portion of the evening scrolling aimlessly through the different television channels included in our cable subscription. I read somewhere that this was the modern equivalent of staring in to the campfire at the end of a long day out hunting and foraging and I think that there is something in this theory, with the television now being replaced by the smartphone.

What have I done to prevent scrolling which works?

Scrolling is a habit, and it's hard to break. I made a good effort during Scroll Free September last year, but of course the bad habits crept back. But here are some of the things that I'm trying to do to help:

* Out of sight, out of mind. I try to keep my phone in a separate room, or if it needs to be with me I turn it face down so I can't see the screen, or even better I place something else over it like a book so I can't see it. It sounds a bit silly but it does work!

* I don't post very much on social media, so I don't need to keep going back and checking for updates and replies to my comments or tweets.

* I attempt to keep my scrolling limited to particular times. For example having a quick catch up with Facebook while I eat my lunch or while I take a break, with a set time limit.

* I'm a big fan of timers. I find that timers are a brilliant way of helping with procrastination, and I don't use them nearly enough. If I have set myself a timer, even if just for 20 minutes, it's much easier to be accountable and actually do something productive during that time, whether it's writing a blog post or cleaning the kitchen. It really helps me to focus and to see how much I can achieve in a short space of time as well as getting me in the mood to continue the task once the timer has stopped.

* I like to have a hobby available with easy access that I can work on for a short period of time at once. Reading is ideal as I can read a few pages at a time, and so I always have a book or two on the go. I also like to have a jigsaw out that I can turn to for a few minutes.

* I also have a longer project on the go, like a long term craft project, that gives a goal to work towards and a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when it's complete. Currently it's my Persian Tiles blanket, and I have a deadline in mind which I'm working towards.

I will readily admit that I'm not perfect and I don't stick to Scroll Free September absolutely, but I really do feel that I've made some changes this month which I hope to carry forward.

Scroll Free September logo

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Ad - Book Review - Easy Paper Projects by Maggy Woodley

I received a copy of this book in exchange for review, post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

I've been a big fan of Red Ted Art for a long time, so I was delighted to be asked to take a look at Maggy Woodley's new book - Easy Paper Projects. This brilliant book is packed with 60 different crafts that children can wear, gift, use and admire.

The projects in the book are designed to be worked on by children independently, using a small range of materials which are easily found around the home - for example coloured paper and card and basic office supplies like pens, scissors and glue. 

Mia is 8 and loves crafting, and she's now at the age when she's happy to work on something by herself. I gave her the book to have a browse, and she immediately spotted several crafts that she wanted to try out straight away. She loves making things that feature cute animals, and decided that her first project would be a "Hug a Book" Bookmark. 

Review - Easy Paper Projects by Maggy Woodley

I really liked that the way the book is bound means that you can open it flat to see the pages clearly while crafting, without damaging it. A simple thing maybe, but it really makes it easy to work on the projects. The crafts are grouped by theme, for example seasonal crafts like Halloween and Christmas, and other topics like wearable crafts and cards.

Each page is clearly laid out, with a photo of the finished product and plenty of step by step instructions and photos. Mia worked mainly from the photos, which gave her a clear image of the different pieces that she needed to cut from coloured paper and assemble.

Making a paper panda craft

She was so proud of her finished panda, created entirely by herself with no help - she even cleared up after herself when she was finished!

Child holding their panda craft

Harry aged 10 was also really interested in the book. He enjoys crafts that have a purpose and do something, so he had a lot of fun making a simple Helicopter using just paper and paperclips. He loved watching it fly down from the top floor of the house, and he worked out how to tweak his design to make it fly perfectly! 

I particularly love all the themed crafts in the book, and I'll definitely be turning to it in the run up to Christmas. There are lots of really sweet ideas which would make lovely decorations and gifts.

If you have crafty children I'd definitely recommend this book. The projects are great for children to work on by themselves and create a finished product that they can be proud of. They'll love looking through and choosing which projects to try, and you'll see their imagination fly as they adapt the crafts to suit their own interests and tastes.

Easy Paper Projects by Maggy Woodley - selection of crafts

Friday, 6 September 2019

Ad - Book review - The Organised Mum Method by Gemma Bray

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Today I'm sharing a review of a new book - The Organised Mum Method: Transform your home in 30 minutes a day by Gemma Bray. Gemma Bray believes that there is more to life than housework, and she has been sharing her perfected system - The Organised Mum Method - on her blog and social media channels since January 2017. There has been a phenomenal response to her method, and this book contains the tips, tricks, cleaning schedules and more which will help you to get your housework under control and completed quickly and efficiently, leaving you plenty of time to do the things that you'd much rather be doing.

The Organised Mum Method book review

Despite being familiar with the method and already a subscriber to the blog, I must admit that I hadn't actually embarked on the plan myself. With my review copy arriving at the beginning of our school summer holidays, I decided that now was the time to make a proper start, and I've been following the routine for over 8 weeks - enough time to work through the plan in its entirety.

What is the Organised Mum Method?

In a nutshell, the Organised Mum Method involves completing Level 1 daily jobs (which should take 15 minutes), Level 2 jobs in one room each week (which will take 30 minutes), and a Friday Focus where you concentrate thoroughly on one room or area (again for 30 minutes). The Friday Focus rooms rotate through an eight week schedule so that each room receives a deep clean during that time. You are encouraged to use a timer to keep yourself within the time limits and to prevent distraction, although you can spread the cleaning throughout your day in smaller chunks, depending on your personal schedule.

You can find all the information about the method on Gemma's Blog The Organised Mum, along with free printouts and plenty of other information and tips.

So why buy the book if all the information is available on the website?

Well, I think I can answer that from personal experience. As I said, I was familiar with the method and subscribed to the blog, but I hadn't actually done anything about it. I just needed something to get me started, and for me this book was the kick.

For a start, I found it really helpful to have all the information organised in one place in a sensible order, rather than having to jump around different parts of the website. It's really easy to find what you are looking for when you need to refer back to something.

The book also has plenty of supplementary discussion about the method. For example, I found that the explanation of the rationale behind the method, and why certain rooms are scheduled for particular days, really made sense and helped the plan to stick in my mind.

For me, I find information in book form rather than online much easier to digest. I took the book on holiday with us at the beginning of the summer and made notes about how I was going to use the schedules, ready to go when I got home. Reading the book in advance meant that I was fully familiar with the process before I got started, and I found the tips and advice really motivating.

If I hadn't read the book, I doubt I ever would have started.

The Organised Mum Method review

What was particularly helpful about the book?

Reading the book helped me to understand what stage I was already at when it came to housework. Luckily I do keep my home fairly decluttered so I was able to jump straight in with the method. If your house is quite messy then you are encouraged to complete a one week 'Boot Camp' first to get your house into a state that you can work with.

It also helped to cement the reminder that it's much easier to clean quickly if you don't have to tidy up first. For example, wiping down the kitchen counters only takes a few seconds if they are already clear, so it's an incentive to keep things tidy as you go along so that you can clean more efficiently and stick to the time limits.

How I adapt the method to work in my larger house

One of the things that had first put me off this cleaning method was that I have quite a large house. As all the rooms need to be divided over just four days, I didn't think that I would have time to fit everything in, and it all felt too overwhelming. However I sat down with a pen and paper and came up with a timetable that I felt I could make work for me. Gemma's suggested daily rooms are in italics, and I've added in my extras.

Monday - Living room and dining room
Tuesday - Bedrooms - Master bedroom, Harry's bedroom and en-suite, Mia's bedroom (clean sheets are alternated weekly between ours and the children)
Wednesday - Hallway, cloakroom, study
Thursday - Kitchen
Friday - Focus Day - a rotation of eight different rooms
Weekend - Family bathroom and master bedroom en-suite.

You'll notice that the bathroom/toilet is missing from Gemma's plan. This is because the bathroom comes under the Level 1 jobs and should be cleaned daily. However as our house contains four bathrooms/toilets there is no way that I can clean them all thoroughly, along with the other daily jobs, in just 15 minutes.

So I add the downstairs toilet to Wednesday as our hallway doesn't take long to clean, and I do Harry's en-suite bathroom on Tuesday as it doesn't get much use. Then at the weekend I give the family bathroom and our en-suite a thorough clean. I do clean the toilets more frequently and I wipe down the surfaces in all bathrooms daily.

I have a couple of extra rooms - a dining room and study - which are added on to Monday and Wednesday respectively. I also have two guest bedrooms at the top of the house. These rooms aren't used regularly so I clean them properly as part of the Friday Focus Miscellaneous Rooms (or if we have guests using them!).

Hand holding a cleaning spray
Photo credit JESHOOTS.COM via Unsplash

How realistic is the 30 minutes of cleaning a day?

I do have to accept that along with appreciating the benefits of a larger house I need to spend a little more time cleaning it. So I must admit that it does take me longer than 30 minutes to do my Level 2 jobs. However it's not usually longer than 45 minutes, and if I was stretched for time I could finish within the half hour. I also don't include tidying in my room cleaning, I try to make an effort to keep things tidy daily anyway throughout the house, rather than leaving it until I'm concentrating on a particular room.

Because of my extra bathrooms I do need to spend a short amount of additional time cleaning at the weekend. I could probably fit this cleaning in during the week, but it wouldn't be at the standard I want it to be.

The thirty minutes of daily room cleaning doesn't include the Level 1 jobs, and it also doesn't include things like washing up and wiping surfaces after making a meal, as these are all things which are part of running a home.

Do you still need the book if you follow the method already?

Many people have been following this method for a while now, having used the information on the blog and in the Facebook group, and may feel that they don't need the information in the book. However while I feel that the book is aimed more at people that are new to the system, I think that it would still be of interest to people who are familiar with the method. It helps with understanding more about the method and why it works, and there are lots of really useful tips and pieces of advice.

Has this method worked for me?

My answer to this question has to be yes! There is no doubt that since I started following this method my house has become cleaner. It's a little and often method of cleaning which really does work, and there are so many benefits. For example, when you are dusting the same ornaments every week you start to think about whether you really need them, or whether you could do a little decluttering. When you actually set a timer, you discover just how much you can actually get done in a short period of time if you concentrate and don't allow yourself to be distracted.

I've started to take more notice of my home, and do something about the parts that were bothering me. When you spend the time to care for your house you start to think of ways that you can improve your storage or just make things look a little nicer.

I really felt the benefit a couple of weeks ago before we went away. Normally the week before we go on holiday I'm running around like mad trying to clean everything because I like to come home to a clean house. This time I found myself at a loose end, because everything was already clean!

Obviously there is no escaping the fact that in order to be successful with this method you do actually have to get on and clean, no-one else is going to do it for you. But if you are someone that likes seeing tasks broken down into easily manageable chunks and enjoys the satisfaction of ticking things off a list, then this could well be the system for you.

You can buy the book here -   The Organised Mum Method: Transform your home in 30 minutes a day

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

The stages of eating on an all inclusive holiday

We've just returned from a lovely all-inclusive break in Lanzarote. I do like an all-inclusive holiday, it's nice not having to worry about all the stress of firstly deciding what to eat, preparing it, and finally having to clean it all up, repeated three times a day. Now that the children are older they can be responsible for choosing and fetching their own food, so we can actually sit down to eat ours, and they will sit still happily for long enough that we can finish what is on our plates.

I don't know about you, but I definitely go through several distinct phases when it comes to the all-inclusive holiday buffet experience.

Stage 1 - Arrival

There's so much food! At home we don't eat a huge variety of different foods, and I often eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast and lunch at least. So it's very exciting to see different food stations on offer at each meal, and to select my favourites from each one. I always find it necessary to make several trips back to the buffet over the course of the meal - I want to try the things that other people have returned with, and I don't want to miss out on anything.

Stage 2 - In full flow

Much of the food has re-appeared, albeit possibly in a slightly different format, but there is still plenty to be eaten. I can slow down a bit and take a bit more time choosing what I want to eat, and I have also found some favourite items that I can concentrate on loading my plate up with.

Child with treats from a breakfast buffet in a hotel

Stage 3 - Overstuffed

The novelty of eating three different types of cake for breakfast has worn off and I'm starting to think that my skimpy holiday clothes are feeling a bit tight. I begin to wonder if it's time to slow down a bit, although a trip to the dessert station usually reveals my lack of will power.

Stage 4 - Diet day

For me this often occurs around day 5. I'll eschew the cake at breakfast and stick with juice and muesli, followed by a small sandwich for lunch. At dinner time I may eat a little more as a main course, but I'll limit myself to just the one dessert.

Stage 5 - No point stopping now

The holiday is nearly over, and since I'll definitely be starting a new diet and exercise regime the minute that I arrive home, there's no point in missing out. It's back to the cake for breakfast, along with trying out a few new types of cheese and rolls, and enjoying my vegetables coated with cheese along with a plate of nachos on the side. Diet tomorrow!

Monday, 2 September 2019

Scroll Free September 2019

Once again the RSPH has launched Scroll Free September - a chance to step back and take a break from personal social media accounts for the entire month, or at least for as long as you can. It's a very flexible challenge, with lots of different options to choose from to help you make the break. You can sign up to choose your plan and find some great Scroll Free September top tips here.

You can also read my wrap up post from last year to see how I got on - Scroll Free September 2018

I find approaching this challenge a little difficult as I have quite an overlap between using my social media channels socially and for my blog work. So I need to observe the distinction between logging in to Twitter to send a blog post related tweet, and wasting time scrolling aimlessly through the never ending list of irrelevant tweets. So I'm not banning myself from all social media entirely, but I'll be making a big effort to only log in on the desktop PC when I need to do something, and to keep away from my phone for the majority of the day.

Scroll Free September graphic
Image created by Evelyn Basch

September is a great time for this challenge, as I have plenty to do this month once the children are safely back at school. I'm hoping to free up my time to get the house back together, to get back on track after holiday with my exercise and healthy eating, and to make some good progress on my Persian Tiles Blanket. We also have a big holiday coming up over October half-term, and I have lots to prepare and pack as well as getting back in to blogging and writing and scheduling blog posts for when we are away. With such a long to do list to work through I should never find myself at a loss without Facebook to scroll through.

I'm hoping that this challenge will make me think more about my scrolling habits, the reasons that I use social media, and what I gain and lose from my use of it.

Scroll Free September logo

Are you taking part in the challenge? It's never too late to start!

Friday, 16 August 2019

The Design Works Christmas ABC Sampler - I finished it!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links

One of my summer goals was to complete a project which I've been working on for a little while - my Design Works Christmas ABC Sampler. I'm pleased to say that it's finally finished! I always intended to have this sampler finished and framed to display ready for Christmas 2019, and so I'm well ahead of schedule!

Christmas cross stitch sampler

It's a large sampler, as you can see from the picture. The sampler was fun to stitch, with lots of sweet little Christmas pictures and bright, cheerful colours. Some of the areas were quite complicated, in particular the red and green parts where some of the colours are very similar. It was worth it though, the different shades of colour give a really lovely effect. The gold metallic thread was also much more difficult to work with than I expected although it does look really good and will make the sampler sparkle under the Christmas lights. It has lots of beads in it too, I hadn't worked with beads before and found them a little fiddly but again they really do add plenty of extra interest to the finished project.

Christmas ABC cross stitch sampler

I'm very grateful for the help of my Mum in mounting and framing the sampler! I don't want to display it all year round so I won't be hanging it up on the wall. Instead I'll bring it out with the Christmas decorations and I'll either prop it up as it is now or buy a stand for it, although it's quite big and heavy so I'll need to make sure that it's a sturdy one.

Design Works Christmas ABC Sampler completed

Now it's time to move on to the next project on my to be completed list - the Persian Tiles crochet blanket. I've not set myself a deadline yet (I do like to motivate myself by setting crafting goals!) although it would be wonderful if I could complete it by the end of the year - I've still got lots of work to do on it though!

Monday, 12 August 2019

Ad - The Lego Brick Animal Trail at WWT Arundel

We received complimentary admission to WWT Arundel and lunch in exchange for this blog post.

This weekend we headed over to WWT Arundel to explore the wetlands, and to take part in a Lego brick trail adventure. There are currently 14 giant Lego brick animals to find, as well as other Lego related activities. The Lego trail is included as part of the normal admission price, and Lego Brick Workshops can be booked for £10 each, which includes a Lego owl model to take home.

Feeding the ducks at WWT Arundel

Our first stop was the hand feeding bay, where for just 20p you can buy a generous handful of bird feed. There was plenty for both children to have fun feeding the ducks and spotting all the different types of birds. We also found our first Lego animal, an appropriately located mallard duck! To help you find the Lego animals as you go around the centre you can download the Lego Brick Trail Map in advance, and we easily managed to find them all!

Lego brick animal trail at WWT Arundel

Next we headed for the Wetlands Discovery Boat Safari. This guided electric boat takes you on a ride through a watery wetlands trail. We saw dragonflies and damselflies, plenty of fish, as well as ducks and swans. It was really interested to learn a bit about the history of the area, and our guide was happy to answer our questions.

Boat ride at Arundel WWT

The Lego animals scattered throughout were fascinating to see as we are a house of Lego fans, and as well as information about the creature depicted there were also interesting facts about the models, like the number of bricks used and the time taken to build.

WWT Arundel large Lego frog

There are a couple of play areas to keep the children busy, with fun and challenging equipment in lovely natural settings. 

WWT Arundel children's play area

We took a lovely walk along a boardwalk through the reeds along wooden decks and bridges. It was really peaceful and we enjoyed following the rustling noises in the undergrowth and seeing what we could spot.

Lego squirrel model at WWT Arundel

We finished our day with some pond dipping at the Pond Explorer Station. We were greeted by a friendly guide who explained what we needed to do, and we had fun dipping our nets and seeing what we could find. There were pots and magnifying glasses to examine our finds further, along with identification guides to help.

Pond dipping at WWT Arundel

We had a really lovely day out at WWT Arundel, there was lots to do and the Lego brick animals definitely added to our fun. I'd really recommend a trip here if you are looking for a family outing!

The Lego animals will be at the centre until the 1st September, so you have plenty of time left to plan a visit over the school holidays.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Finding 'me time' during the summer holidays

During term time I'm on my own in the house quite a lot. I do my work, go to the supermarket, meet with friends, go to the gym and keep up with the housework, as well as just generally pottering about enjoying my own company before it's time to collect the children from school. I like being at home, and I'm quite happy to spend time by myself. So it's a big adjustment for me when the summer holidays come along, all eight weeks of them, and I no longer have any time at all to myself.

Even when the children are busily occupied doing something that keeps them quiet and out of the way, whether that's playing together, reading, or on their tablets, I'm always on edge because I know that at any moment I'm likely to be interrupted. I find it difficult to concentrate on anything because I can't be guaranteed a long stretch of time to complete a task.

However, I really love having the children around during the holidays, and I wouldn't change it for the world. I know that I'm very lucky to have this time with them, and I do genuinely enjoy spending time in their company. But sometimes I find it a bit overwhelming!

Kids playing in the garden

Here are some of the ways that I can find a few minutes to myself:

Working in the garden - the children aren't very fond of gardening so they are quite happy to leave me to it and not disturb me, in case they get roped in to help.

Giving my uninterrupted attention for a set period - I've found since the children were little that if I spend some time doing an intensive activity with them, when it's finished they will go off and play by themselves for a bit. For example, baking together or working on a craft kit. It's like they reward me for my time by giving me a little bit of time to myself back!

Using a clock - They both have Fitbits now, which has really helped with their understanding of time. So I can tell them that at a certain time we will do something fun together, if they can occupy themselves until then.

Reading - We all love to read, so I've built a reading den in the living room with an old plastic Wendy house and some blankets. By scheduling it in as joint reading time, rather than when they just happen to pick up a book, I'm more likely to have some time when I can read to myself too.

Going to the gym - This isn't something that I can do with the children of course, but if my husband is around then I can get out to the gym first thing or in the evening for a bit of a break.

Movie nights with Daddy - Many evenings my husband will watch a film with the children after dinner, and now that they are older they are both more likely to last through the entire film. So I have a bit of time to myself in the evening to do some work (or scroll aimlessly through Facebook!)

How do you carve out those precious minutes for yourself when you need a short break over the holidays?

Friday, 2 August 2019

Craft ideas for play dates

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Over the summer holidays I often find myself hosting other children along with my own at home for a few hours. Sometimes the children are happy to play together, and other times it's nice to have an activity planned for them. I particularly like doing crafts with children, and making something that they can have fun creating and then take home as a keepsake. I've shared lots of ideas on my blog over the years, and so I thought I'd pick out a few that work brilliantly as play date crafts for a small group.

We often get the Hama beads out when we have visitors, but many of our peg boards are large and take a long time to complete, not to mention they use up lots of beads. So I try and steer keen visitors towards smaller projects that will be finished in time for them to take home. I'm especially fond of using Hama beads to make magnets, like these Hama bead emoji magnets. All you need is the beads, a square pegboard, and some magnetic tape (affiliate link). Once the design is completed and ironed just stick a couple of magnetic strips to the back and it's ready to go, no waiting around for glue to dry.

Hama bead emoji magnet designs

Hama beads also make great keyrings, like these Minecraft themed Hama bead keyrings. If you keep some keyring blanks (affiliate link) on hand you can quickly assemble any small beaded creation into a simple keyring.

Hama bead Minecraft themed keyrings

We've also had a lot of fun using shrink plastic (affiliate link) when we've had friends visiting. You draw your design on the plastic sheet, then place in the oven for a few minutes and watch it shrink to a sturdy, thick piece of plastic which can be used as a magnet or key ring (make sure to punch a hole before baking if you want to add in a key ring).

Another easy craft which is great for play dates is diamond painting. I bought a set of small diamond painting kits (affiliate link) which contains a variety of different cute animal designs. Because they are small they don't take too long to finish, and can easily be completed before the child gets bored. Each design also uses only a couple of colours of bead, so they aren't too complicated. It's a great way to keep a small group of children quiet around the table for a little while!

Simple diamond painting for children

If you don't want to keep lots of craft supplies around the house but still want to have some activities on hand, there are lots of craft kits that you can buy which will entertain lots of children at once. I've always found Baker Ross good for craft kits, especially themed and seasonal ones, or Hobbycraft often has some cheap craft kits like pottery painting or mosaic art.

I hope I've given you some ideas for making play dates a bit more interesting this summer!

Monday, 29 July 2019

Brading Roman Villa, Isle of Wight

We had a lovely week in the Isle of Wight earlier this month, and another of the places that we really enjoyed visiting was Brading Roman Villa, so I thought that I'd share what we got up to. Brading Roman Villa is considered one of the finest Roman sites in the UK, and is mainly preserved undercover so it's a good choice for a rainy day. We paid £25 for a family ticket and our visit lasted for a few hours.

The West Range of the Villa is preserved in the museum, with walkways so that you can have a good look around it. Outside you can see the North and South Ranges marked out with chalk outlines as well as a Roman garden. I must confess that we felt that the mosaics aren't as spectacular as some that we've seen elsewhere, but the layout of the museum gave you a good overview of the structure of the villa, and there was plenty of artist's impressions and information to help you understand how the villa would have looked in Roman times.

Brading Roman Villa mosaics indoors

The children are both interested in the Romans, and thanks to studies at school and their own reading they are able to identify characters from the myths and legends that they could spot in the mosaics, as well as identifying different objects from Roman life. But when visiting a museum like this they do need to have some additional child friendly activities to keep them interested, and luckily Brading Roman Villa provided quite a few of these. 

Children doing a mosaic activity at a Roman Villa

They spent ages working on these mosaics, and behind them you can see a toy model of a Roman villa which they also enjoyed looking at, with Mia desperate to recreate one for herself when we got home!

Brading Roman Villa kids activities

There were also dressing up costumes, and various puzzles to complete as you went around, like reassembling the layers of artefacts excavated from the well on site. This also meant that us adults could spend time reading the information boards without interruptions!

Dressing up as Romans

The children also loved creating some different realistic and mythical Roman figures, and putting together a large jigsaw puzzle representing one of the mosaics on the floor. These activities really kept them interested as we explored the remains, and definitely meant that we made the most of our visit.

There was a special exhibition running during our viist, Hoards, which was included in the entrance price. It's a touring exhibition featuring various hoards of valuable objects which have been discovered, and there were some fascinating objects and stories behind them to learn about.

Brading Roman Villa activities for children

We visited on a Saturday and we didn't see any other children, which makes me think that perhaps the villa is marketed more towards an adult audience. But if your children are studying the Romans at school or just generally interested in Roman history, then I'd recommend a visit to the villa.

Related post - Tapnell Farm Park, Isle of Wight
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