Monday, 16 November 2020

Waves on the beach

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

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

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

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

Waves on the beach in Worthing

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

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

Monday, 9 November 2020

Beachcombing

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

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

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

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

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

Child holding a skeleton piece found on the beach

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

Collection of shells and stones found while beachcombing

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

Beachcombing book and shells on display in a large wine glass

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

 

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

A short break away to Norfolk

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

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

Old Hunstanton beach at sunset

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

Sandringham Estate playground swing

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

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

Old Hunstanton beach huts

Monday, 2 November 2020

Scandi inspired Christmas crafts using Hama beads

Scandi inspired Hama bead Christmas crafts

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


Scandi inspired Hama bead mat

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

Scandi inspired Hama bead red and white mat

Scandi inspired Christmas baubles using Hama beads

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

Hama bead baubles with Scandi inspiration and free pattern

Hama bead Scandi inspired battery tea light holders

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

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

Scandi themed Hama bead Christmas battery candle wraps

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

Hama bead Christmas crafts collection for children

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Things to fill a wooden Advent calendar this Christmas

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Ideas for filling a wooden Advent calendar

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

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

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

Wooden Advent calendar decorated from Hobbycraft

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



Collectable toys


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



Other small toys


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



Stationery


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



Beauty items and jewellery


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



Christmas decorations


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



Sweets and chocolates


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

Net bag of Christmas chocolates

Christmas activities


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

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

30 fun Advent calendar activities
The ultimate Advent activity list

Other ideas


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


Filling a wooden Advent calendar for adults


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

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

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

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

Monday, 12 October 2020

Free cross stitch patterns - Simple small Halloween designs

Today I'm sharing some very simple Halloween pixal art designs that would be perfect for Halloween themed cross stitch samplers or Hama bead projects. Because I designed these patterns originally for Hama beads I've added some pictures so that you can see what they look like made up with both midi and mini Hama beads. I'm planning to use some of them for my cross stitch map, as we have often found ourselves celebrating Halloween while on our travels around the world!

This first set of designs are very small and simple, using just a few colours. I have a cross stitch witch's hat, a skull, witch's face and tiny pumpkin.

Mini cross stitch Halloween designs

These simple designs were used to make these Hama bead Halloween napkin rings, a lovely seasonal decoration for a Halloween themed dinner table. 

Hama bead Halloween themed napkin rings

This next set of Halloween pixel designs are slightly larger. There's a pumpkin, a ghost, skull and witch's hat. 

Halloween free mini cross stitch designs simple

I used these designs to make some Mini Hama bead Halloween pin badges for some spooky Halloween party accessories. 

Mini Hama bead Halloween designs

Finally I designed these simple Halloween sugar skull patterns. The basic pattern can be changed to fit the colours that you have available or that fit your theme. You can use both pastel and bolder colours, and choose contrasting or complementary colours. There are all sorts of ways that it can be adapted!

Free Sugar Skull simple cross stitch design

I used this design to make some larger Hama bead Sugar Skull bunting and I used the midi Hama beads to make tiny Mini Hama bead Sugar Skull earrings.

Hama bead Halloween Sugar Skull designs

I hope that you like these Halloween themed designs! If you make something using them I'd love to see it! 

If you like Halloween style pixel art, you might also like to see some of my other Hama bead crafts for Halloween

Thursday, 1 October 2020

September crafting update

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

This year I challenged myself to complete one of my unfinished craft projects each month. The good news is that now I don't actually have a proper unfinished project left to complete! So this month I've been doing a bit more work on my cross stitch map.

You can see it here - Cross stitch map by SUCK UK (affiliate link)

I've had this cross stitch map for a few years now. It's just cross stitch fabric which has a dark blue map printed on it, and then you can stitch in the countries that you've visited. That didn't take me very long, and it was looking quite bare, so I decided to fill in the gaps around the edge with a patchwork of different pictures based on places that I've visited. Eventually I want the whole area to be filled with stitching, but there's still quite a lot left to work on!

This month I completed the dinosaur skull at the bottom and the ice cream on the left. Most of the patterns are ones that I've designed myself, you can find links to some of them at the bottom of this post. I'm also filling in some areas just with blue or with waves. It's something that I can just pick up and put down as the mood strikes me, and I really enjoy coming up with the different designs.

Cross stitch map in progress by Suck UK

Free Kangaroo Crossing cross stitch pattern

Free cruise ship cross stitch pattern

Free Disney inspired castle cross stitch pattern

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Book review - The Organised Time Technique by Gemma Bray

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

Last year I turned around my cleaning routine thanks to The Organised Mum Method by Gemma Bray. The book really spoke to me, and helped me to make sense of the way that I could organise my housework to make sure that everything was done on a regular basis. I'm still following the method and it has really helped me to feel in control. So I was very interested to find out that Gemma has written a new book - The Organised Time Technique (affiliate link). 

Here's the blurb:

Do you ever get to the end of the day and feel like you've achieved nothing? Do you find it difficult to decide how to spend the small amount of free time you have? Do you ever wonder how some people seem to be able to do more with their time than others?

The Organised Time Technique is Gemma Bray's unique method for organising the day that will stop us from trying to do everything (and feeling like a failure when we can't), keep us focused on how we use the time we have available, help us to play to our strengths and, most importantly, stop worrying about what anyone else is doing.

The Organised Time Technique by Gemma Bray book review

The premise of the book is to really be aware of the fact that time is finite and that can, and will, run out. You are encouraged to break down your day into small blocks of time, for example 30 minutes, which gives you 48 units to divide between three levels of daily tasks. Level one tasks are absolutely essential - like sleeping and eating. Level two tasks would cause major disruption if you didn't do them - for example going to work, the school run and cleaning. Level three tasks are your focus tasks - the things that you really want to do, like your hobbies.

The first and most important step is to carry out a time bootcamp. Keep an honest record over the week of where your time is really going. This will help you to understand what sort of a timekeeper you are and how you can work with this to make some changes. It will help you to identify your typical time suckers, for example scrolling through social media, and where you are spending more time than you need to on a task. Then you can carry out an audit. You will work out firstly which tasks you can drop completely, and secondly how you can manage the remaining tasks so that they take up less time, for example by grocery shopping less frequently.

Although the techniques in the book can be used by all, it is written with particular relevance to mums, and especially working mums. It might seem sexist, but the reality is that many mums are juggling childcare and housework, as well as work, and are also involved in several other commitments like the PTA at school. The book is written in a really friendly and realistic way, and so it's very easy to relate to how you can use the techniques to turn things around.

I was reassured to be reminded that it is often difficult for mums to take pleasure in things that take them away from their parental duties, and that this is perfectly normal. The book has some really good tips on the importance of self-care and looking after yourself so that you are in a position to help others. You shouldn't feel guilty that you are taking time out for yourself, and you only need to be accountable to yourself. And spending just thirty minutes a day working towards a larger goal can yield really big results. 

I found this book really accessible, and although a lot of the advice is common sense, having it all written down in an easy to understand way makes it easy to digest and to think about the changes that you can make. I found it really motivational, and I've already made some changes to my life. For example I already know that I spend far too much time scrolling on my phone, so I've been making a conscious effort to keep it at a distance and pick up a book instead. 

The book was written during the Covid-19 pandemic, and so it's completely up to date with all the new challenges that families have been and still are facing. It arrived at a good time for me, as I begin to pick up things where I left them back in March and as we all get used to a new normal where some things are the same but others completely different. Now that I've given the book a good read through and taken the information on board I'm definitely going to be making some changes to how I manage my time.

If you want to understand where your time goes and how you can organise yourself to make the absolute most of it I'd definitely recommend this book!

Organisation books by Gemma Bray

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

The return of the witching hour

When the children were small, and at home with me all day, I really struggled with the witching hour. We would often go out in the morning followed by an early lunch, and by 4pm everyone was bored and tea seemed a long way off. I struggled to cook dinner with children screaming and hanging off my legs, and there were often tears all round. Even once they were at school I still had tired children to deal with, but as they got older they were easier to look after, they could get on with their simple homework or play, and I was able to get on with preparing lunchboxes and dinner.

But the last few weeks have felt like a return to those difficult days. The children are exhausted after school. They are returning to a routine which they had all but forgotten, and are coping with new teachers, a new timetable and in Harry's case a new school. The amount of homework has increased, and time management skills need to be honed. As with everyone, the state of uncertainty is having a massive effect. With Covid cases already in the school, sometimes I feel as though it's only a matter of time before we are all back home again. 

By the time we get home from school, both children are often in tears. Mia is in no state to begin her homework, she needs a drink, a snack and some screen time to calm down. Harry is very good about getting straight on with his work, but when he looks at his list, which usually contains several tasks, he becomes overwhelmed and doesn't know where to start. I end up bouncing between the two of them doling out snacks, hugs and advice, and that's before I even think about starting dinner. This stops me from doing everything that I need to do, and so we all get cross with each other.

Luckily once dinner is out the way things are better. The children have a bath and get ready for bed, and then Mia is in a much better mood to get her homework done and Harry can catch up with his screen and reading time. By the time I have read to them and tucked them up in bed we have all calmed down.

It's going to take us a little while to get back into the swing of things so I'm trying to be as patient as I can, and to do the best I can to help with the transition. I'm really glad that the children are able to be back to school, both for their education and to be able to spend time with their friends, but it's going to take us all a few weeks yet to get used to it!

Photo credit Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Reading to the children

As a baby, Mia was never interested in books, so it was lovely when she let me start reading to her. We started with picture books then moved on to chapter books. We started with some classic Enid Blytons then went onto some of my favourite books from childhood - Charlotte Sometimes and Tom's Midnight Garden. We are currently nearing the end of the Snow Spider Trilogy, after watching the BBC adaptation earlier this year.

I used to read to Harry too when he was younger, but he was a much keener reader and quickly moved onto choosing and reading longer chapter books to himself. So I got out of the habit of reading to him and instead settled him into bed with a book of his own before reading to Mia.

Recently I was filling out an online survey and I was asked questions about reading to my children. Harry was in the same room and I mentioned the question to him, and something about the way he reacted to me talking about reading to Mia made me stop. I asked him, "would you like me to read to you too?" and he went all quiet, then admitted that actually he would like me to still read to him. I was a bit taken aback, and felt bad that I'd stopped!

Child reading on a bed from above
Photo credit - Annie Spratt via Unsplash

So I decided to take the opportunity to introduce him to a book that he wouldn't have the confidence to pick up himself. He's a comfort reader and likes to re-read books that he's enjoyed over and over, and he picks his new books from similar genres. So I found a copy of Treasure Island that he had on his shelf. I chose it because I reasoned that as a children's book I'm confident that it's going to be suitable, but the setting and language is quite different to his usual books.

Fortunately he's really enjoying the story, and I can also tell that he's enjoying me reading to him. So even though it takes me a bit of extra time each evening to put them to bed I'm hoping that I can keep it going with him for a little while yet!

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Why travelling is the most important gift you can give to your kids

This is a guest post.

Travelling is something some parents underestimate the importance of, but never should. Travelling does so much for kids mentally and helps them grow, see the world in different views, and become overall well-rounded people. If you can gift your kids with a trip and some travels as they grow up, it is something that they will thank you for now, and later as they reap the benefits of their childhood travels. 

Here are just a few of the reasons why travelling is important for kids: 

Communication 

Communication skills will be with your children throughout their lives, and travelling helps to significantly boost communication skills. It can encourage and challenge to communicate clearly and confidently with new places people in new places, and they can even learn to pick up on some of the local languages. Languages are incredibly important in our globalised world, and it is more common and expected that people speak more than one language nowadays. So in terms of general communication skills as well as communication skills via language, travelling can have a significant impact on your children. 

Before travelling, encourage your child to learn some of the local phrases by using a language app aimed for students such as Babbel, for example. This way, they can have even just the basics down and develop their communication skills from there. These kinds of apps are great as well, because if they ever decide to study abroad, it’s a great tool to take with them! 

Child wearing headphones while travelling
Photo credit Film Bros via Pexels


It’ll make them more adaptable 

It can be easy (and helpful) for children to get into a routine at home, but travelling encourages them to adapt to new situations and places. Especially as they get older, being adaptable is an incredible skill to have, as it can make them be more flexible, comfortable and confident in themselves through work, school, and life changes. 

If you are travelling with young children, it is helpful to keep some routines the same (such as bedtime, meal time, etc.) so that their core routine is consistent as they are challenged and encouraged to adapt to new environments while away from home. 

Make them appreciate the world and nature 

There are all sorts of incredible places and landscapes around the world, and it is an incredible experience to go somewhere and be astounded the natural beauty of a new place. Getting children outside of the environment that they know encourages them to appreciate the world and nature, including places outside of their own little world. While we can see so much via Google Earth, photographs, art and media, there is nothing like experiencing a place for yourself. 

Group of people gathered around a laptop
Photo credit Mimi Thian via Unsplash


Teaches them geography and history 

It’s one thing to learn about geography and history, but it’s another thing to travel and experience it in person. Before traveling, encourage your child to read up on the history, geography and human geography of the destination so that they feel more connected and educated about the site. This can be especially beneficial if your child is learning about a time in history or a specific place at school, as it can give them hands-on experience with the place, historic sites and amazing culture

Can give them social skills 

The social skills that you learn while travelling are unparalleled to what your child will develop at home. Whether it is asking for directions or assistance in a local language that is not your own, connecting with other travellers and locals, or relying on social intelligence to determine what to do in a challenging environment, social skills are critical for travelling and can significantly impact how well a trip goes. You will probably see your children more comfortable asking for help or expressing their needs once back home! 

With all of this said, travelling really is something crucial for kids to grow. It can expand their horizons and show them new things they never thought of before. Plus, travelling is a fun and educational experience that is full of adventure!

Blank notebook

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

We're all addicted to Animal Crossing

We were a bit late to the game, as it were, with Animal Crossing. During lockdown, people all over the world were losing themselves in an imaginary reality, creating their own peaceful islands and holding virtual meet ups with friends to swap fruit and flowers. But having played the game before, many years ago and before children, I knew that once I started playing I'd be hooked, and I remembered what happened when you didn't play for a few days - a return to an overgrown village in ruins, being chastised for your absence by angry villagers.

But having seen everyone chatting about it all summer on social media I was rather keen to play the new game, and so we finally bought a copy in the last couple of weeks of the holiday. The Switch console had been neglected recently as the children tend to use their iPads for their gaming, and so I thought it would be nice to get a bit more use from it.

Luckily I was the one to play the game first, which in hindsight was a really good move. I didn't realise until afterwards that this new version of the game is set up slightly differently. If there are several players on the one console then they need to share an island, and the first one to play is in charge and the only one able to perform certain functions. I can't imagine the conflict it would have caused if this role had been given to one of the children! There's a multiplayer mode to the game but it isn't very good.

I wasn't very happy sharing at first, as I was looking forward to having my own island to plan and decorate. However it's not so bad, the children and I can pool our money and resources for island improvements, we share our surplus items and we send little gifts to each other. But the problems come with the need to make sure that everyone has equal playing time, and I recently caused an argument by spending my savings to add a room to my house instead of contributing to a bridge upgrade. 

Animal Crossing game displayed on a Nintendo Swith
Photo credit Sara Kurfess via Unsplash

Animal Crossing is definitely an addictive game, despite the gentle repetitiveness. It's definitely much more fun roaming around a virtual island to pick up twigs and weeds rather than spending half an hour weeding my own vegetable patch. Likewise, I spend a lot more time rearranging the furniture in my virtual home than dusting my actual house. I'm not an expert on the science of digital addiction but I know that a big factor is the dopamine hits, which are continually triggered throughout play when you successfully catch a fish or acquire a recipe for the missing furniture item in a set. 

Playing the game is also a way of escaping from the real world to somewhere that you can control and improve, which is why I can see it was such a hit during lockdown. It also offers opportunities to meet up with friends online and play together as well as sending letters and gifts, so it's a fun way to keep in touch with family and friends.

Of course now that the children are back at school they have less opportunity for screen time. So it has become part of my own routine to log under their accounts each day to collect the 'Nook Miles' which accumulate as you spend consecutive days playing, keep an eye on the fluctuating turnip prices and generally make sure that they've been present and active in the game world. I'm also busy on my own account catching sea creatures and selling shells so that I can save up enough money to pay for all the improvements that they want.

We've been having a lot of fun playing this game and I can see it continuing for a good while yet!

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Back to school

Like children all across the country, this week mine return to school. Harry went back for a few weeks in July but that didn't feel like real school, more of a chance to catch up with friends and say a proper goodbye to his junior school. The school run was easy with no traffic on the roads, he didn't have to wear uniform, and he had no homework.

Now of course we are back to school properly, with Mia joining Year 5 and Harry starting Year 7 at the senior school. We had a fair bit of anxiety leading up to the first morning, but I'm pleased to say that so far the transition seems to be going well. Of course they are tired, and I'm sure missing their screens, but they have both settled well and seem to be enjoying themselves. 

There are a few changes - no blazers this term, PE kit to be worn all day on PE days, and staggered start and pick up times that are a little bit awkward at first. Harry spends most of the day in one classroom rather than moving around for different lessons, so he doesn't need to worry about being trodden on by the older pupils because he doesn't see them!

As for myself, I feel a bit lost now that they are back at school. I need to remember what I used to do to fill my time! I've made a list of my September goals, and I'm hoping to pick up my exercise again as well as getting back into the blogging. 

I do have a feeling of unease at the back of my mind. Both concerns about the virus and concerns that at any minute the school may have to close and they'll be back home again, with all the distress that will cause. But for now I'm really pleased that they are doing well and are happy to be back learning with their friends.

Kids back to school standing by door

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Tyre Material: What makes your car tyres powerful?

This is a collaborative post.

Different tyres are used by motorists depending on different weather and road conditions. While some differences in tyres may be noticeable, others may go unnoticed. For example tyre rubber is one compound that is difficult to differentiate but greatly affects tyres’ overall performance and longevity. In this article, such compounds will be discussed, so that readers are well aware of what makes their tyres better and powerful:

Rubber 


The main component of a car tyre is rubber, also known as polymer. Leading tyre manufacturers make sure of the fact that the selected tyre material will get you safe through any weather. Therefore, the rubber compound used to make tyres helps in increasing tyre grip, increases elasticity and reduces downtime. 

Fillers 


Fillers are black carbon or silica that are generally added to the tyre rubber to reduce tyre wear. Alone rubber can crumble, but with fillers tyres become more resistant to wear and helps improving your car’s mileage as well. 

Pile of tyres
Photo credit Robert Laursoo via Unsplash


Plasticiser 


Plasticisers are used to ensure that the car is safe to drive during rainy and snowy seasons. These are oils and resins that make sure that the tyre has improved grip and rolling resistance. Plasticisers may also help in preventing the hardening of rubber during cold weather. In winter tyres, these oils are used more so that the tyres offer better grip and safety during low temperatures. 

Tyre Care 


Now that we are aware of primary components of tyres, therefore efforts should be made to prevent tyre wearing and improving tyres’ longevity. Rubber is a compound that tends to wear out with the passage of time. Improper maintenance and excess heat can accelerate the process of tyre wear. Due to these reasons, cracks may appear on the surface or sidewalls of tyres. Such a tyre can prove to be dangerous, as driving with it can result in tread separation or even a blowout while driving. 

By maintaining tyre pressure, rotating your tyres regularly and investing in wheel alignment one can surely decrease the process of tyre wear. Excess tyre wear can be dangerous to drive along with, therefore always opt for replacing your tyres if they do not appear to be roadworthy. For readers looking for car tyres in Basingstoke, reserve tyres online from Headley Tyres Basingstoke Branch and make sure you’re driving safely.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

My September goals

This week both the children are back at school full time - Mia starts in Year 5 and Harry starts Year 7 at a new school. They've been at home for a long time, with both learning from home and enjoying a summer break, and it's going to be a big adjustment for us all. Like most people, even though we are getting back into a routine, my life looks quite different than it did back in March when everything turned upside down.

September and the start of a new term always feels like a good time to reassess goals and make plans for the remaining months of the year. So here are some of the things that I want to achieve this September, and onwards.

* A positive transition back to school. A return to routine, with normal and relaxing bedtimes, making time to chat about any worries and anxieties, along with a massive reduction in screen time.

* Getting back into blogging. As well as being the time of year for reflection and planning, with Halloween and Christmas coming up there is plenty of seasonal content to both create and update. I'm going to aim for three blog posts a week and I'll be pleased if I manage two for the time being.

* Picking up the exercise again. Our gym has been shut since April and our membership is currently frozen until the beginning of October. Thanks to a great deal we signed up for back in January we are fully paid up for at least the next year, so cancelling the membership isn't an option. Until we return, I need to get my fitness back by going out for some runs now that I have some free time during the day.

Glass jars in the pantry
Photo credit Nadia Pimenova via Unsplash


* Stock up the cupboards again in case of a future lockdown/quarantine and for any issues caused by Brexit. I was grateful to have prepared a modest Brexit stockpile which kept us going through the first weeks of lockdown - we had plenty of pasta and sauce at least, although the flour and yeast shortages took me by surprise! But we've been working our way through it over the summer, and now that I know the sorts of things that people stockpile, it's easy to pick up a few extra bits each week to make sure that we have enough food and other essentials on hand.

* I've re-discovered the library over the last few weeks and I definitely want to keep up with regular visits and making the time to read. It's almost easier in some ways because our library has very limited opening hours so it helps me to plan in a regular visit!

* General tidying up and sorting out. At the beginning of lockdown the children took over our guest bedroom and turned it into their playroom. They spread Lego and Playmobil out all over the floor and built complicated built train tracks and Hexbug layouts. Even though we don't have any immediate plans for overnight guests it would be nice to have a room that isn't full of dusty plastic, so I'm gradually tidying it up, or at least trying to contain some of the smaller bits in boxes.

* I need to make the time for my crafting. I've been doing really well this year with finishing an incomplete craft project each month, so well in fact that I don't have an obvious project to complete this month. So I'm planning to put my time in September towards my cross stitch map with is a long term work in progress.

* Embrace the school run. Like many people I find the school run stressful, with time spent sitting in traffic and arriving early to secure a parking space. I'll be listening to some new music on Spotify and maybe searching out a few podcasts to listen to so that I can try and make it more enjoyable.

Lots to be getting on with there!

Writing a to do list
Photo credit Glenn Carstens-Peters via Unsplash


Thursday, 3 September 2020

It's September and I'm saying goodbye and hello...

September is now underway, and the children will very shortly returning to school after a break much longer than I ever imagined back in March. It's a big change for us all, and a departure from the new habits and routines that we've developed over the last few, very strange, months. Here are some of the things that I'll be saying goodbye and hello to, some more gratefully than others.

Goodbye to...

* The constant presence of the children. Providing a stream of snacks and entertainment served alongside far too much screen time.

* Late nights and lie-ins.

* The continuous noise of squeaky voices throughout the house.

* Clutter and junk lying around leading to constant tidying.

* Daily refilling of the toilet roll holders.

* Watering and weeding the garden every day.

* Long light summer evenings and star gazing.

Hello to...

* Back to a familiar routine - school runs, homework, piano practice, early nights and the chance to watch television as a couple once the children are in bed.

* Hopefully returning to the gym, or at least attempting a little more exercise.

* Some uninterrupted time for work and blogging during the day.

* Tidying something and it remaining tidy for several hours.

* Constant driving back and forth to school.

* The chance to work on a craft project without interruption.

It has been a lovely long summer, it was difficult at times but fortunately in the main it has been a time to look back on with fondness. We've been blessed with the most wonderful weather and with two lovely children that are old enough to look after themselves for a large proportion of the day, yet will still play happily together and indulge me when I just want to grab and hug them.

We have some big changes ahead. Harry starts senior school next week, a transition which would have been challenging enough at the best of times, and who knows how the next few months will pan out. But for the most part I'm looking forward to the next season of our lives. 

Autumn leaves hanging on a line
Photo credit Chris Lawton via Unsplash

Thursday, 27 August 2020

This month's completed project - Decopatch crafts

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Every month I have been challenging myself to complete an unfinished project that I have lying around the house. This month was the turn of Decopatch!

A few years ago I bought a Decopatch kit which included everything that you needed to create some heart themed projects. My original kit isn't available any more but you can buy this very similar one - Decopatch Love Kit Décopatch Love Kit(affiliate link). I originally blogged about it here - Trying a new craft - Decopatch hearts.

I completed all the projects inside but I had some paper left over, and also I wanted to find a use for the nice box that the kit was contained in. I had some spare Decopatch paper that I'd bought once in a sale, but I had run out of the special Decopatch glue and that had stopped me attempting any more projects. 

Decopatch craft supplies to use up

So I put together an online order. I bought some offical Décopatch Glossy Glue (affiliate link), I know that you can use different types of glue, but I've used this before and I know that it works well. I also bought myself a cardboard letter J (affiliate link) so that I had a project for some of the red flowery paper.

Decopatch letter J and glue

When doing Decopatch, you take the patterned tissue paper and tear it up into small pieces which you glue down using a brush with stiff bristles. It's very satisfying, the glue dries to a nice glossy finish and the paper is thin so you can easily smooth it down around any uneven edges. I really like this floral paper so it was nice to be able to use it for a project that will be on display in my study.

Decopatch letter J with flowers

To use up some of the extra paper I also covered this mini chest of drawers which has been sitting on my desk for years and was looking very scruffy. It had a dark pattern on it already so I painted it with white gesso paint first to make a neat surface. I painted the fronts of the drawers as I didn't want to increase the size too much and make them difficult to open.

Mini decopatch chest of drawers

I decided to leave the box from the original kit plain in the end and it will make a nice storage compartment for some of my art equipment - paints and brushes and so on. The leftover Decopatch paper has been tidied away in to my folders of craft paper, and so that's another unfinished project ticked off the list!

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