Friday 16 August 2019

The Design Works Christmas ABC Sampler - I finished it!

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 (affiliate link). 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!