Thursday, 31 December 2020

A year of completing my unfinished craft projects

At the beginning of 2020 I set myself a challenge to complete one of my unfinished projects each month. Despite all the twists and turns that this year brought I did pretty well with my challenge and was very pleased with all the projects that I managed to tick off my list, as well as finding the time to try out some new crafts. Here's how I got on:

My project for January was this Heart cross stitch. Although I only started it the previous December, I had purchased the pattern at least a year before and was really keen to start working on it. It was bought as a pattern only so I used embroidery floss from my stash, and I love the finished product.

Heart cross stitch circular pattern in embroidery hoop

In February I got out my paintbrushes and worked on this Paint by Numbers Fishing Village. I really enjoyed painting it and in terms of buying craft supplies it was a bargain at only £5 from Hobbycraft. It inspired me to take up painting again, something that I spent a lot of time working on during the first lockdown as I completed my 100 Day Project.

Painting by Numbers Fishing Village from Hobbycraft

During March I tackled this Circular weaving project which I had started a couple of times and given up. I found it difficult attaching the warp threads to the circular ring and keeping them all lined up so that I could weave properly. I enjoy the process of weaving but next time I'll stick with a square or rectangle! But I persevered and I was happy with the result, I particularly like the fluffy trees and the patch of sea that I added in a change in the design from the original kit.

Circular weaving project completed

A bit early perhaps, but I started my Christmas crafting in April with this Mini Christmas cross stitch. I bought this in Hobbycraft a few years ago as part of a 3 for 2 promotion, and gave the other two kits to my friends. It was a very simple project to stitch and didn't take too long, and I finished it off with a simple border before mounting it on some green felt and framing it. It has spent the Christmas period on display on the mantlepiece.

Mini Christmas wreath cross stitch

I was very excited for May craft, this Van Gogh diamond painting which I bought on holiday in Florida last year (it's also available in Hobbycraft). I love diamond painting, such a simple and relaxing craft. This piece is very big and was really enjoyable to work on. I bought a frame for it and is now on display in the kitchen where I can see it as I cook dinner.

Van Gogh Starry Night diamond painting kit complete

In June it was back to Christmas crafting with these Christmas felt kits that I received to review a little while back. Two very sweet and simple decorations which graced our Christmas tree this year.

Christmas crafting felt kits, polar bear and stocking

For July I dug out all the bits and pieces that I had collected for my Smash book and had lots of fun sticking them into place. Now it's a fun book filled with colour and memories.

Double spread Smash Book page

August saw me finishing off some Decopatch projects that had been lying around for too long. I replaced the glue that I'd finished and made this large J among other things. 


In September I turned to my Cross stitch map. I knew that this wasn't a project that I could finish during the month, so I concentrated on filling up a bit more of the space. I'm pleased with how this project is going as it's something that I've made up myself rather than following a kit, but I find it quite difficult to do. Both physically because the fabric is very stiff and can't be held easily, and creatively because I need to come up with the designs myself. So it's a very long term work in progress but I'm pleased with how it's coming along.

Cross stitch travel map in progress

Then as the year began to draw to a close I realised that I didn't really have any more projects lying around that I wanted to complete, instead I wanted to concentrate my crafting on something that I could work on without feeling any pressure. So I opened up the cross stitch kit that I'd had lying around for a couple of years and was desperate to start. It's called the Olde World Map and I really love the design. I've made a good start, and hopefully this project will be keeping me company for the next couple of years or so.

Olde World Map cross stitch project beginning

So that was my year in unfinished projects, and I'm really proud of how well I got on. And I have a few more crafty ideas lined up for the year ahead, now that I've cleared some space in my crafting cupboard!

Monday, 28 December 2020

The good things that happened this year thanks to Covid-19

It has been a strange old year hasn't it? Who could have imagined a year ago how much all our plans for 2020 would change.

Soon we'll be saying goodbye to 2020 and hoping for a much brighter year to come. But while I'm in a reflective mood I thought I'd take a positive look back at some of the things that have happened to me this year thanks to Covid-19. 

Spending more time together as a family

This has to be number one, as it really is the best thing to have come out of this year. Although I admit I do often find it overwhelming having everyone at home, all of the time, it really has been lovely and I think we've all benefited from time spent together. In the summer we went out walking and exploring in the local area and this winter we've been watching films, playing games and reading together.

Children standing on a beach at 2m distance

Exploring new parts of the UK

We had three big holidays booked for 2020, and although we were hoping that at least one of them might be salvaged, in the end we had to accept that it wasn't to be. But we were lucky enough to instead enjoy three lovely holidays in the UK. We spent a week in Westward Ho!, in Hunstanton and in Torquay, each time in self-catered accommodation and in our family bubble. 

Each holiday was a wonderful break. Even though we didn't get out to any of the usual tourist attractions and we mainly went for walks or chilled out in our accommodation it was still fantastic to visit some different parts of the country and spend time exploring and relaxing as a family. 

Making time for new hobbies

I was really pleased to complete a 100 Day Project this spring. Although it was one of my goals for 2020, I honestly don't think I would have done it if I hadn't found myself at home for a long period without any interruptions. At a time when my anxiety levels were super high it really helped me to set aside half an hour or so each day to play around with paints.

Simple watercolour beach scene painting

Spending time in the garden

We spent so much time in the garden this year, far more than we would have normally. Working on the vegetable patch, sitting on a garden chair with a cup of tea and watching Mia playing, having discovered a new found love for our swing set. We enjoyed eating pizzas from our pizza oven, regular barbecues, and we spent time outdoors with friends and family when it was allowed. On the few hot evenings in August which coincided with the Perseid meteor shower we lay out on a blow up mattress and gazed up at the stars.

Decorating and improving the house

When it became obvious that Ram was going to be working from home for the foreseeable future we made the decision to turn one of our upstairs rooms into an office. We bought the desk almost as soon as the first lockdown started, but it wasn't until later in the year that we gave the room a proper clear out and decorated it. The bright pink walls that we inherited from the former owner were replaced by a calming cream and white colour scheme and it's now a pleasant and relaxing place for him to work. At the same time we also decorated our dining room, replacing dark red with the same cream, and it has really opened up the room and made the whole of the downstairs much brighter.

We evaluated the storage in some of the bedrooms and found it lacking, so we bought new drawer units from Ikea which have made a big difference to the tidiness level of the rooms.

Watching theatre from home

I was so excited to have tickets for Hamilton in July, having only started listening to the musical at the beginning of the year. Of course that didn't happen, but my disappointment was somewhat assuaged by the fact that I can now watch the original cast perform on Disney + as often as I like. Over the summer I watched several plays streamed by the National Theatre, including Small Island, Frankenstein and Coriolanus, which I enjoyed very much. 

No more supermarket trips

We used to do a weekly big shop as well as several top up shops during the week. No more! Now we have a regular Tesco delivery, we are organised with what we buy, and when we rarely run out of something we pop to the local Co-op in the village. I've only been to the supermarket when I've needed things that can't be bought online, like school uniform and shoes over the summer that needed to be tried on or at least held up against a child. 

Lots of time reading

I have always used the library fairly regularly, but since the summer I've been in the routine of visiting our local library most weeks. I'm loving the fact that I can reserve books for free, and when it has been open I've been stocking up on big piles of books to keep me going through the weeks when it has had to close for browsing. This year I've read an enormous amount of books, and I want to keep that going. 

Large pile of Christmas books under the Christmas tree

No illness

Luckily none of us have tested positive for Covid. However Ram was very ill in late February with all the Covid symptoms, and both children had symptoms when their school closed in March, with Mia having been sat next to a suspected case. 

I always seem to be ill with a bad cold at Christmas and I never get the full enjoyment from our Christmas dinner and assorted snacks. However I can't even remember the last time I had a cold - I think it may well have been Christmas last year - and although the children both caught a bit of a sniffle when they went back to school in September I have been illness free all year.

I'd love to hear about the positive things that have come out of this year for you!

Monday, 21 December 2020

This year's gingerbread houses

Every year I make a gingerbread house for the children to decorate. Last year I even made gingerbread houses for my friends and I to decorate one evening, in what I hoped might become a yearly tradition. But this year I just wasn't feeling the inspiration to make one and so I kept quiet, until Mia asked me when we would be making them. And I'm so glad that she encouraged me because it would be a shame to break the tradition, and I really enjoyed making them with the children.

I use an old Tesco recipe to make the gingerbread, which I have printed out and can't find it online anymore so I had better keep hold of it! I make the gingerbread pieces the day before so that they have time to harden, and I bought some gingerbread house biscuit cutters in the US last year which makes it easier when cutting out the pieces.

So here are this year's efforts!

Two children holding gingerbread houses

Yes, they are still in their pyjamas. Well it is 2020! I did decide not to incorporate any 2020 themes into the houses though, so we don't have any neatly piped facemasks or coronavirus shaped motifs. 

Close up of two gingerbread houses

Now I just need to persuade the children to share them with me!

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Simple Cricut Mini craft - Washi tape gift tags

I was recently lucky enough to receive a fabulous Cricut Mini to review. While I'm getting to know the machine I've been making a few little projects, and I'm sharing my very first one here. I recently discovered washi tape, and I've been using for a few little crafty makes. These little gift tags are made with washi tape on card stock and cut out using the Cricut. Of course, if you don't have a Cricut, you can just cut them out by hand.

Washi tape gift tags made using the Cricut Mini

Watch my how to video for a full demonstration and to see the Cricut Mini in action:


The gift tags are very simple to make up. Take a sheet of light cardstock and run a few strips of washi tape across the top. Make sure to stick it down firmly. Lay it down on the cutting mat and open up the Cricut Craft room software on the PC.

Washi tape gift tags made using the Cricut Mini

For the gift tag template I used a shape that came free with the Cricut Mini. It's from the Something to Celebrate cartridge. Under the D├ęcor tab, it's called HvngPrty. I enlarged it slightly, then copied and pasted it across the screen to make three tags. The layout on your screen corresponds exactly to the cutting mat that you are using so you can work out where to position your shapes.

Washi tape gift tags made using the Cricut Mini

I used the setting for medium card stock which worked fine and the shapes were cut beautifully.

Washi tape gift tags made using the Cricut Mini

Once the card stock is removed from the machines, peel it away and reveal your lovely gift tags! I added some ribbon through the top. The space at the bottom is perfect for adding the name of the recipient.

Washi tape gift tags made using the Cricut Mini

If you have a Cricut or similar cutting machine there are many different craft projects that they can be used for. If you are looking for downloadable SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic) files that you can use for all sorts of crafts like bags, shirts and mugs, have a look here for some options - Design Bundles SVGs.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

What I've been up to lately

This post contains Amazon affiliate links in case you are interested in finding out more about any of the things I mention!

I haven't blogged for ages!

I've been quite busy with some transcription work that I do for a home working company but that's no excuse, I've also found plenty of time for doom scrolling on Twitter. The truth is that it feels as though we haven't done anything very exciting over the last few months and I've lost a bit of my blogging motivation. But I've missed writing here, and so I thought I'd come back with a little post about all the the things that have been keeping my busy and entertained lately.

Watching 


We've enjoyed watching a few of our favourite television series which have returned. We watch The Mandalorian together and it's pretty entertaining even though every episode is basically the same plot. Ram and I binge watched The Crown which we also enjoyed very much although I would have liked to have seen more of the Queen. I love all the domestic scenes where they sit around lunching, drinking tea and playing parlour games. Finally we are all enjoying the latest episodes of His Dark Materials. I'm quite familiar with the books and I'm loving how the writers have added extra material which expands the world and the characters, like when Mrs Coulter sees how her life could have been different in an alternative world.

Reading


I have been reading so much lately! I go to the library once every week or so and return with a bulging bag filled with books. There are too many to list so I'll just share a few that I've given five stars to on Goodreads recently (affiliate links):

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach - I wasn't sure about this one when I picked it up but I really enjoyed it!

Spirited by Julie Cohen

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke - came highly recommended by my sister, I must confess that it's a bit of a strange read but it's very compelling!

House of Glass by Susan Fletcher

Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem - last but not least, a non-fiction book about the discoveries that can be made along the shores of the Thames. A fascinating read, also packed with lots of tales of London history.

I've just realised that half of the above books are historical novels about women experiencing mysterious happenings, that must be a genre that particularly appeals to me. Now I've just been to the library and stocked up on a nice new pile of books, including some lovely, festive reading!

Pile of festive books under the Christmas tree

Playing


We are all still playing Animal Crossing, and I set aside at least half an hour every day to catch up with my island, harvest my pumpkins (it's a great way to make easy money if you are a player yourself!) and chat to my villager friends.

Out and about


Obviously not much of that lately. But I did have an exciting day this week. Harry's piano exam in Worthing was cancelled at the last minute last month, but we managed to rebook at a centre in Brighton. The two of us went over on the train (our first time on a train since February) and although we didn't stop there for long, as he had to get back to school, it did feel like an exciting outing! He was quite positive about the exam, so fingers crossed we won't have long to wait for the results. 

Crafting


I set myself a challenge this year to complete an unfinished craft project each month, although I came a stop when I realised that I'd completed everything. So last week I pulled out a brand new cross stitch that I've had in my stash for a little while now and have been looking forward to starting. The Olde World Map (affiliate link) is a nice big piece with lots of lovely detail that should keep me busy for a while!

Olde World Map cross stitch project in progress

Celebrating


So it's nearly Christmas, and like the rest of the world it's a bit of a different one this year.
 
Last week we had a pre-Christmas meet up with other family members in a local playground. We stood in the rain huddled under umbrellas drinking hot drinks from our Thermos and swapping bags of Christmas presents. We aren't forming a bubble for Christmas so it will just be the four of us together for the three week school holiday. We have booked a few days away, and then we'll be hunkering down with the chocolate biscuits and the gin.
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