Wednesday 29 January 2020

Free - Small Disney Castle cross stitch design pattern

I created this free mini Disney Castle cross stitch pattern when I was designing the extra images that I needed for my cross stitch map which tracks my travels across the world. The pink and purple castle doesn't represent any particular Disney Castle, but I hope that it's a good enough representation of the iconic centrepiece that features in all the Disney theme parks!

The cross stitch castle pattern is created using just a few simple colours - three shades of pink for the castle itself, a light purple for the turrets and a dark purple for the windows and flags. It's finished with brown for the door and yellow or gold for the window frame. I used embroidery silks from my stash, and you could easily vary the colours to make your own individual castle design. For example you could use black for the windows or blue for the flags. The design is completed with back stitch in black, which makes the colours and different areas really stand out.

The basic Disney Castle cross stitch pattern is below:

Free Disney Castle small cross stitch pattern

I also amended the pattern to create a day and a night version. This day version has a light blue background to represent the sky. You could add some trees or other greenery if you wanted to expand the design a little.

Free Disney Castle small cross stitch design

The night version of the Disney Castle has a darker blue background and then uses back stitch to make fireworks. These could be stitched in any colour, or perhaps in a gold or other metallic thread.

Disney Castle small cross stitch pattern

I used the cross stitch design to represent all the Disney theme parks that we've visited on our travels around the world. I used a darker blue background, then gold metallic thread for the detail around the window and the fireworks in the sky. I'm really pleased with how it looks on my cross stitch map!

Disney castle simple small cross stitch design

You could use this Disney castle cross stitch design for a greetings card or small framed picture. It could also be used as part of a larger sampler, and because the design is so simple it would be a lovely cross stitch project for a beginner or child. If you use this pattern I'd love to see a photograph of your finished piece!

Free Disney Castle small cross stitch designs

Monday 27 January 2020

Valentine's Day gift boxes and bags you can make

If you are planning to give a small gift to your Valentine this Valentine's Day, I have some ideas for sweet little things that you can make to help your gift really stand out! These boxes and bags are perfect for holding sweets, chocolates or other trinkets. Click the links to find the full details and tutorials for the crafts.

Valentine's Day gift bags and boxes to make

Valentine's Day cardboard tube gift boxes

These simple gift boxes are made from a cardboard tube painted red and decorated with googly eyes along with scraps of coloured paper and card. With a foot shaped base glued to the bottom and stuffed with shredded paper, they can be used to hold sweets and chocolates.

Cardboard tube gift boxes for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day simple felt gift bags

These simple felt gift bags make a great first sewing project for little ones as they are so easy to make. You just need a strip of felt, folded over and sewn up the sides, with some matching ribbon to tie. This gift bag is great for larger items, and can be made in different sizes to match the gift that you want to include.

Valentine's Day felt gift bags

Simple foam sheet Valentine's Day gift tubes

These gift tubes are made using craft foam and are very easy to make as they are just held together using staples. Then can be decorated with cut out paper, card and heart embellishments.

Valentine's Day gift tubes craft

I hope that you've found some inspiration for your Valentine's Day gifts this year!

If you enjoy crafting with Hama beads, you might also like this round up of ideas for different Valentine's Day Hama bead projects.

Hama bead projects for Valentine's Day

Friday 24 January 2020

Valentine's Day crafts for toddlers

Over the years I've shared many Valentine's Day craft posts on the blog, and although my children are now getting a bit too old to indulge me with some seasonal crafting, I'm still proud of the crafts that we've worked on over the years. So with Valentine's Day approaching once again I thought I'd share some of the toddler and pre-schooler Valentine's Day crafts that we enjoyed doing together.

Stock up on red paint and cardboard, then click on the links below to find the details of each craft!

Valentine's Day crafts for toddlers and pre-schoolers

Valentine's Day toilet roll tube gift boxes

These simple gift boxes are so easy to make. All you need is a selection of cardboard tubes which you need to paint bright red or pink, then cut heart shaped pieces of red card to form the base. Glue on googly eyes and scraps of pink and red tissue paper and card. I also used a heart punch to make simple heart shapes. Stuff with shredded paper and fill with small sweets and chocolates.

Valentine's Day cardboard tube gift boxes

Tissue paper Valentine's Day photo frames

These photo frames are fun for even the youngest children to make. Cut out the shape from thick cardboard, then coat in glue and stick down bits of torn coloured tissue paper. You can then embellish with buttons, beads or paper cut outs.

Valentine's Day tissue paper collage photo frames

Valentine's Day keepsake bookmarks

To make these sturdy bookmarks all you need is a strip of coloured cardboard and some heart cutouts from paper, I used a heart punch. They are laminated and then a matching ribbon is threaded through the hole at the bottom. We wrote personalised messages on the back and gave them as gifts, and although we made them a couple of years ago they are still going strong!

Valentine's Day keepsake bookmarks

Heart sun catchers

These sun catchers can even be made by very young children. They are made using clear sticky backed plastic, which is really easy for young toddlers to use in crafts as there is no mess with glue. They just need to fill the outline with pieces of torn coloured tissue paper, then you can apply another piece of the clear plastic to make a neat finish.

Valentine's themed jewellery box

Young children love having little boxes that they can use to store their precious bits and pieces! My daughter and I decorated this box with a Valentine's Day theme by painting it red and then adding heart themed stickers and embellishments. It's still in use in her room today!

Valentine's Day themed keepsake box

Hama bead heart bunting

These Hama bead hearts are really simple to make using the small Hama bead heart pegboard, and they make a lovely set of bunting when strung together on some narrow ribbon.

Hama bead heart bunting decoration

I hope that you found something to keep you and your toddler busy!

If you have slightly older children that enjoy using Hama beads, you might also like my round up of Valentine's Day themed Hama bead crafts

Wednesday 22 January 2020

How I'm planning to make my exercise routine more interesting

I've been going to the same gym for a long time, and I've definitely got myself into a rut which doesn't help with my gym motivation. So I've been trying to think of some ways that I can make my exercise routine something that I look forward to, rather than a chore to get out of the way.

To start with I've discovered interactive workouts on the fancy treadmills. Instead of my usual half hour running on the flat, I've been 'running' through different scenery alongside avatars of other runners from around the world, with the incline automatically adjusted to reflect the terrain. I quite like setting my sights on another runner in the near distance, then stepping up the pace a bit so that I can overtake them. Are they real people or not? I don't know, but that doesn't really matter!

I've always enjoyed using the stair climber machine, a mini escalator that you climb without going anywhere, making sure that you keep the rhythm going so that you don't fall off the bottom! I've also recently been having a go on the cross trainer. I've always rejected it in the past as I find it quite difficult to co-ordinate arms and my legs at the same time. I'm getting better at it, as long as I don't go too fast!

I've finally dug out the headphones that go with my phone, and I've been using our Spotify subscription and Google to put together some exercise playlists. I've discovered that the songs I like to workout to come from searching for things like 'angry workout music', and putting together a new playlist makes me excited to get down the gym and listen to it.

Exercise equipment in the gym
Photo credit Gina Lin via Unsplash

The one thing that I do baulk at is trying an exercise class. I used to love Body Pump, but since having children and suffering from abdominal separation I'm a bit wary of using my stomach muscles too much. I'm also a bit terrified of going into a new class by myself and not knowing what to do. I'm perfectly happy working out by myself!

Let's hope that I can keep up my new good work!

Monday 20 January 2020

Chinese New Year crafts for toddlers

In 2020, Chinese New Year will be celebrated on Saturday 25th January. I've rounded up some of the Chinese New Year crafts that we've enjoyed over the last few years, in case you are looking for some crafting inspiration for your toddler or pre-schooler. These crafts are great for very young children because they are easy and fun to do, and they use craft materials that can easily be found around the home. Click the links to be taken to the original post will full instructions and photos for the different Chinese New year crafts.

Chinese New Year crafts for toddlers

Simple cardboard lanterns

These simple lanterns can be made with thin cardboard or thick paper, then decorated using stickers or sequins. With coloured pipecleaner handles they look great strung up to decorate the room!

Glittery cardboard lanterns craft

Paper cup lanterns

These paper cup lanterns are really simple to make and are a great way of recycling old paper or plastic cups that you may otherwise be throwing out. You just need stickers or sequins to decorate, and you can add some tissue paper streams to the bottom for some extra decoration. They are really fun for children to play with too, and make great decorations.

Paper cup lanterns for Chinese New Year

Paper plate dragon mask

Children love dressing up, and a paper plate makes a really good base for a dragon themed mask, complete with streamers and glitter.

Paper plate dragon mask for Chinese New Year

Cardboard tube dragon puppets

These dragon puppets are made from old cardboard tubes and are great fun for children to make and decorate before putting on a Chinese themed show.

Chinese New Year cardboard tube dragon puppets

I hope that I've inspired you for some fun Chinese New Year crafting!

Thursday 16 January 2020

My favourite things to do in Winter

  Coming indoors and knowing that I don't need to go out again that day 

  Eating soup for lunch, either homemade or shop bought 

  Working on the border of a knitted or crochet blanket that covers my knees 

❆ Going up to bed early with a hot water bottle and my book 

❆ Having a really hot, steamy bath 

❆ Cuddling up under a blanket and watching television 

Icy heart and scarf in the snow
Photo credit Brigitte Tohm via Unsplash

❆ Going down to the beach when it's deserted, and the sky goes on forever 

❆ Eating discounted Christmas chocolates, biscuits and festive themed cakes 

❆ Turning the lights on and closing the curtains  

❆ Coming out of the shower to a towel which is warm from the rail 

❆ Wearing long coats and chunky jumpers that are comfy and flatter my figure 

❆ Sitting reading with my back pressed up against a hot radiator 

Wooden figures in a snow scene
Photo credit Paige Cody via Unsplash

What are your favourite things about Winter?

Monday 13 January 2020

How I motivate myself to go to the gym

We have had a gym membership at a national chain for a long time, and I also try to get out for regular runs. When we first joined a gym we were child free, with all the time in the world to visit several times a week. Our attendance has dropped since having the children, and I am always trying to pick it back up again. Now that January has come around again, I always find it difficult to balancy my New Year eagerness to keep fit with the dark mornings and evenings that make motivation difficult.

So here's how I motivate myself to get to the gym or to go out for a run.

* I remember how much it is costing us. We pay for a year, or more, in advance to save money, which means that we don't have a regular monthly payment. It's a huge chunk of money which we really do need to make the most of.

* I try to fit my gym trips around doing the school run, as the gym is on the way there and it makes sense to save petrol and combine the trips. It also takes less time out from my day if I go straight after drop off or on my way to pick up.

* I plan to go to the gym in advance and make sure that everything is ready to remind me. So if I decide that I'm going to go for a run first thing the next morning, I get all my running clothes out and put my trainers by the front door. If I know that I'm doing the school drop off the next morning I'll make a plan to go to the gym afterwards and pack up my bag the night before so it's ready to load into the car along with the school stuff.

* Our gym has a large collection bin for charity shop bags. If I am tripping over a bag of things that I want to pass on, it's a good way to encourage me to go to the gym if I can clear some space by dropping it off!

* I don't really reward myself for exercise, but I am much more inclined to enjoy an extra piece of cake or chocolate bar if I feel that I deserve it.

* And finally, if my husband has been making the effort to increase his gym visits then I try to make sure that I'm matching his commitment - I don't want to be the one that isn't making the most of our investment!

Feet running up steps
Photo credit Bruno Nascimento via Unsplash

Thursday 9 January 2020

My completed Persian Tiles blanket in the Eastern Jewels colour scheme

I've been looking forward to writing this post for some time. Over Christmas I was really pleased to finally finish one of my long term craft projects - my Persian Tiles blanket! The blanket is made up of 16 octagons, 9 squares, 12 triangles and 4 corners, sewn together with a narrow border. It's made using Styelecraft yarn and it was bought for me as a kit which contained the original Persian Tiles pattern, the Eastern Jewels colour scheme, along with all the yarn needed and more. My finished blanket makes a large square and measures 117 cm on each side. There was enough yarn in the kit that you could probably add another row of octagons if you wanted to.

Persian Tiles Eastern Jewels crochet blanket spread out

The blanket looks very complicated, but I'm not a particularly good crocheter and I managed to get along with it. I'm quite good at covering up my mistakes! The individual stitches are all very simple, and there is plenty of help on YouTube if you need it. There's also a community Facebook group which I found very helpful, and it includes videos of some of the tricky parts, like the crosses that are found on each piece.

Persian Tiles Eastern Jewels crochet blanket close up

I really enjoyed working on the blanket. The colours are so vibrant, and they go together beautifully. It was a bit fiddly with all the colour changes, and of course there were so many ends to sew in, but it was well worth it as I really love the finished product.

Persian Tiles crochet blanket in the Eastern Jewels colour scheme

The crochet pattern for this blanket is Persian Tiles, designed by Janie Crow. I made it using the Eastern Jewels colourway which was created by Lucia Dunn from Lucia's Fig Tree, and you can read a really interesting post about how she chose the colours here - Eastern Jewels Persian Blanket

The Eastern Jewels Persian Tiles is available as a kit from a number of retailers for around £30, or you can buy the Persian Tiles pattern separately and use either the original colours or your own colours. At the time of writing, it was only possible to buy the Eastern Jewels colour scheme if you bought it as part of a kit including the Persian Tiles pattern and yarn, as it's not available separately.

Folded up colourful crochet blanket

Monday 6 January 2020

Ten things to do in 2020

I know that we are already a few days into 2020, but for me the New Year really starts today - the Christmas decorations are packed away, the house is tidied, most of the extra food is eaten, and the children are back at school.

This year, alongside my usual resolutions (go to the gym more, lose weight, declutter and so on) I've decided to come up with a list of ten things that I want to do this year. They are specific, one off things rather than vague goals, and I can tick off as I complete them.

So here is my list of ten things that I want to do in 2020, in no particular order:

Learn to play Moonlight Sonata on the piano - I've wanted to do this since I was a teenager, and I even bought the sheet music, but it was too difficult for me. I recently bought Harry a piano book which has a simpler version of the piece that I can just about muddle through - I just need to practice and increase my speed and confidence!

Read at least five books from my bucket list books poster - For my birthday last year I received a very cool gift, a scratch off poster with 100 bucket list books to read. I've read quite a few already and I've been working my way through a few more over the last few months. This year I want to read at least five more from the list.

Play the Minimalism Game - I've completed this month long decluttering challenge several times over the last few years and found it a great way to quickly pass on lots of things that I no longer need and clear some space. I'm thinking about aiming for February with this one to make it a bit easier!

Take my sketchbook to the beach - I bought a sketchbook at the end of last year and I've been bringing home bits of seaweed from the beach to draw. When the weather warms up a bit I want to take it down to the beach so that I can draw in situ.

Sort out my books - It's been a while since I had a book clear out and I'm suffering with an overflow. I want to fit all my books into the bookcase and leave room to spare for new ones.

Do 100 days of something - I'm not sure what yet, but I'd love to complete the 100 Day Project. It officially begins this year on 7th April, but I may choose my own dates as we'll be away for some of that time, or else I'll need to choose something portable to work on.

Sort out our 2019 photos - We are quite good about copying photos from our phones and backing them up, but not quite so good about sorting them out and deleting the duplicate and rubbish ones. I need to go through the 2019 photos, get them organised, and then choose the top ones to make my computer screensaver for the next year.

Use our English Heritage membership - We've already got our money's worth from the passes that we bought last summer, but as a minimum I still want to visit Kenilworth Castle, Battle and Portchester Castle before they expire in July.

Fill up my sketchbook - There are 100 pages if I use both sides, so plenty of space to keep me going!

Proper meal planning - I do meal plan to a certain extent but my repertoire is quite limited and we do eat the same things over and over again, I need to list out the meals that I can make and try and incorporate some new ones. I'm thinking about making up a Trello board which lists the ingredients in each recipe so that I can easily add them to the weekly shopping list as part of my planning.

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

I'll update with my results at the end of the year!