Monday 29 November 2021

Free Christmas Scandi style cross stitch pattern designs

Recently on the blog I shared some free mini Christmas cross stitch designs which I've been having fun with for some Christmas crafting. Today I'm sharing an alternative colour scheme for the designs - a red and white Scandi inspired version of the Christmas pixel art patterns. 

These designs could either be used individually or the design could be used in its entirety as a finished piece. Because the background is white the black backstitch is very important to highlight the pictures, and I would recommend using two strands of black thread for the backstitching.

I've been using these mini patterns with Hama beads and they work really well. Because there are 24 designs they would also be perfect for a homemade Advent calendar, perhaps stitched on to individual gift bags or used to decorate the front of a plain wooden Advent calendar with boxes. As a cross stitched design they would also make great Christmas cards using one or several different pictures.

Click to download as .pdf - Scandi style mini Christmas cross stitch designs

Free mini Christmas Scandi cross stitch designs

If you are interested in other Christmas crafts with a red and white theme then you might also enjoy seeing my other Scandi craft tutorials:

Scandi inspired Hama bead bauble decorations

Red and white themed Hama bead Christmas coaster 

Scandi inspired Hama bead battery tea light lanterns

Friday 26 November 2021

What I've been up to lately

I've been blogging a lot lately but it's been ages since I did a proper catch up post! My work has calmed down recently but I still feel like I've been busy, so here are some of the things that I've been up to:


I'm always one to follow a trend and so we watched Squid Game on Netflix as we wanted to know what all the fuss was about. It was really good! Although very gruesome, I had to hide behind a blanket at some points and I'm definitely not letting the children anywhere near it. We've also just started the new series of Tiger King and I really loved the musical Tick, Tick...Boom! I thought it was very cleverly done. We are definitely getting full value from our Netflix subscription!


Mia took her first flute exam last week. She has been learning since May and this was the ABRSM Prep Test, it's like a practice exam before taking Grade 1. It isn't marked as a pass or fail, instead they get a feedback sheet, and it's a great way to sit a proper exam without too much pressure. She did really well and hopefully she'll be ready to take her Grade 1 next term, I'm so pleased with how well she has taken to the instrument. 

Child waiting for a flute exam

I've also been doing a bit more piano playing myself. I reviewed a book a couple of weeks ago, Notes on the Piano, and one thing that it inspired me to think about was trying to memorise a piece or two. I've never been able to play the piano without music, and I'm finding it really hard! I'm beginning with River Flows in You by Yiruma and Snow Prelude No. 3 by Einaudi as we have arrangements of them which aren't too difficult and sound really good when played. 

A different sort of playing now - I'm currently slightly addicted to Pikmin Bloom, the latest game from the creators of Pokemon Go. It's a glorified step counter to be honest, but it has been getting me and the rest of the family out and about together, planting flowers and growing seedlings. 


I have organised my to be read pile with some new bookends and this was how it was looking a couple of weeks ago. It's a little daunting but I think it's achievable, I just need to stop reserving books from the library as I have to read those first. What you can't really see is the Kindle tucked away on the left which also contains just as many unread books!

To be read reading pile of books

I'm currently reading A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, which is a sequel to Life After Life in the pile above, and I'm enjoying it very much. We are going away for a week in December so I'm already planning which books to pack.


I spend quite a lot of time in the car driving to and from school and so I'm very grateful for our Spotify subscription. I always enjoy listening to songs from musicals, especially ones that I know the words to for a good old singalong. I've also made myself a playlist of relaxing piano music for the days when I'm feeling a bit anxious about the driving. 

I'm not really into podcasts as I'm too easily distracted, but I have discovered Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee which I enjoy listening to from time to time. I've picked up some really useful and interesting information as well as tips about exercise and stress management. I also downloaded a new app, Smiling Mind, which is a meditation and mindfulness app that I'd really recommend, it's all free and there are plenty of different meditations and activities to work through if you need to clear your head from time to time. I'm trying to do a ten minute one at some point most days. 


I'm ashamed to say that we've made a start on the festive chocolate boxes. They have been on special offer in Tesco so we've been buying a couple of boxes each week for Christmas...hopefully one or two will make it that far!

I've been really impressed with Harry's food and nutrition lessons at school. He's made all sorts of things - a delicious cheesecake, cheese straws, proper meals like lasagne, quiche and green Thai curry. Yesterday he brought home an amazing Swiss roll - much better than the one that I attempted a few years ago! I've lined him up to make us a chocolate yule log for Christmas in a few weeks.

Homemade Swiss roll


I've been sharing lots of recent festive crafts on my blog lately, like my tin can beaded lanterns and my free mini Christmas cross stitch designs. I've just started work on one of my mini Christmas cross stitch kits from Hobbycraft. It's a snow globe design and it's really pretty with lots of different stitches as well as the basic cross stitch.

Beaded tin can Christmas lantern craft


With my paid work taking a bit of a hiatus I've been spending a bit more time on the blog, both writing posts and improving the design. You might notice some new picture sidebar buttons to the right to easily access my themed content, and I've also updated my profile picture which was several years old. I've got lots of Christmas content to work on and I'm making plans for New Year and spring content while I have some time. I love writing blog posts, I'm just terrible at the promotion side!

So that's what I've been up to lately, how about you?

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments

Recently on the blog I shared some free mini Christmas themed pixel art motifs that can be used for many crafts, including cross stitch and Hama beads. I love working with mini Hama beads in particular, so I decided to use my designs to make some sweet little mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments. They could be used for Christmas cardmaking, as little cake decorations, as Advent calendar fillers or for all sorts of Christmas crafty projects!

If you are new to working with mini Hama beads you might like my post A complete guide to crafting with mini Hama beads. 

To make these mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments I used my free Christmas pixel art designs which you can find below. They are also available to download as a .pdf file here for easy printing - Mini Christmas pixel art designs to download.

Mini Christmas pixel art cross stitch designs and patterns for free

To create my designs I used a large square mini Hama bead pegboard, and you could also use the small square pegboard. When working with the mini Hama beads I find it necessary to use tweezers to place the beads on the board. They are very tiny and can be very fiddly to craft with! When you are happy with the position of your beads on the board then you need to cover them with ironing paper (baking paper will also work) and iron them very carefully.

Mini Hama bead Christmas designs on pegboard

To iron mini Hama beads I use the iron on a low setting and hold over the beads for a very short period of time, probably less than a second. There is an art to ironing these tiny beads which comes with practice. I iron my designs on both sides to make sure that the beads are firmly fused.

If you are new to crafting with Hama beads you might find this post helpful - Ironing tips for Hama beads

Then your mini Hama bead embellishments are finished! They are surprisingly durable and I love how they look when complete. Each one measures about 3cm in height. They are really fun to make, and I can think of all sorts of uses for these little pieces. 

Mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments

For example, I used some of them to make some mini Christmas Hama bead pin badges which are a great way to decorate a festive outfit or hat.

Mini Hama bead Christmas pin badges

Monday 22 November 2021

Christmas journal prompts and ideas

A few years ago I shared how to make a simple Christmas journal and so today I thought I'd share some ideas for journaling prompts that you can use to fill it! There are all kinds of ideas for things to write about, from specific ideas for this year to more general Christmas memories and experiences.

Christmas journal prompts and ideas

Particular things that you want to remember about Christmas this year

The Christmas activities that you got up to - what part did your children play in the Nativity play? did you visit Father Christmas? was there a school Christmas fair?

A list of the gifts that you and your family received

Which new Christmas decorations did you purchase or make this year?

What Christmas crafts did you do this year?

If you have an Elf on the Shelf, what were his most memorable antics this year?

Did anything new happen this Christmas? any new guests for Christmas dinner, or any activities that you tried for the first time?

What books were you reading this Christmas, and were they festive themed?

Did you stay at home this Christmas or were you visiting family and friends?

What Christmas crafts were you been working on?

Who did you receive Christmas cards from this year and who did you send them to? maybe stick in some of your favourites.

Glue in a page or two from the Christmas television guide so you can see which programmes were popular and which ones come round year after year.

Create a collage with some of your favourite scraps of wrapping paper, gift tags or Christmas cards.

Stick in a page from a toy catalogue (or a print out from the website!) so that you can remember which were the top toys this year and how much they cost.

How do you celebrate Christmas in your family?

What are your Advent calendar traditions? do you have the same one or a new one each year? are they for everyone or just the children? how have Advent calendars changed since you were a child?

What new Christmas traditions have you started as an adult or with your family? for example Elf on the Shelf, Christmas Eve boxes, reindeer food, gingerbread houses.

Your memories of Christmas past

What sort of Christmas tree did you have growing up? was it real or artificial?

What do you remember eating for Christmas dinner growing up? how has it changed?

What Christmas crafts did you do at school or with your parents?

What Christmas films did you watch growing up?

Do you have any heirloom or vintage Christmas decorations from your childhood that you still display today?

What were your family Christmas traditions as a child? have you continued them now that you are an adult?

Ask other family members, for example your parents or grandparents, to contribute their own Christmas memories, both of you as a child and of their own childhoods.

General Christmas topics to write about

What would it not be Christmas without?

Ten (or more!) things that you love about Christmas.

Do you prefer a real or an artificial Christmas tree? why? 

Share some of your favourite seasonal recipes and the memories associated with them.

What are your favourite Christmas songs and carols and what do they remind you of? copy out the lyrics so that you have a record in your journal.

What are your favourite Christmas movies to watch with your family?

What are your favourite Christmas tree ornaments and decorations? are there any with particular special memories?

What are your favourite Christmas decorations around the home and garden?

How would you spend your ideal Christmas Day?

Who would be your fantasy Christmas dinner guests?

Which foods do you only eat at Christmas time?

Ask your children some questions about Christmas that you can repeat each year, for example what time will you get up on Christmas morning, what gifts are you hoping to receive, what gifts do you think that Mum and Dad are hoping for, who do you want to spend Christmas with, what foods are you looking forward to eating? Then you can see how their answers change over time!

If you are writing your Christmas journal in the form of a blog then you might find this post helpful - Blog post ideas for Christmas

If your journaling style leans more towards video then I also have lots ideas for Christmas Vlogmas videos and vlogging.

I hope that this post has given you plenty of inspiration when you come to record your memories this Christmas!

Christmas journaling ideas and prompts
Photo credit Joanna Kosinka via Unsplash

Main image credit pure julia via Unsplash.

Friday 19 November 2021

Tin can beaded Christmas lanterns craft

Christmas lanterns from upcycled tin cans tutorial diy

A couple of years ago I upcycled some old tin cans to make some summer tin can lanterns and I was really pleased with how well they came out. They looked lovely in the garden over the summer, especially when I was entertaining my friends outdoors in a socially distanced fashion! They hold a lit tealight candle and the high sides of the tin can make sure that the candle stays lit. You can create all sorts of designs in the sides of the can that are lit up and then projected out from inside.

(Some of the photographs below show the progress of my summer lanterns, I used the same process for the Christmas lanterns)

First I found that it was a good idea to fill the can with water and freeze. This prevents the can from becoming bent out of shape when you make the nail holes. Just take care not to overfill the can or else the side may split!

Draw out a simple pattern for your design on some scrap paper and tape it to the can in the correct position. If your can is wet because of the ice you can also use a rubber band or two around the can to hold the template in place. For my Christmas lanterns I chose a simple star and snowflake design.

Freezing water in cans to make tin can lanterns

Then use a hammer to bang a nail through into the tin can, and remove once the hole has been made. I used an old tea towel underneath to protect my table surface. You can make the designs as simple or as complex as you would like. It is quite hard work so I would recommend choosing a simple design to begin with!

How to make tin can lanterns with nails

When making the holes, make two additional holes close together under the rim of the can at the back. This will be where you affix the wire that holds the beads around the top of the lantern. 

How to make a tin can lantern with nail holes

When the cans are dry use some wire and beads to make the decoration to go around the top. Simply thread the beads onto a length of thin wire, then tuck the ends through the two holes that you have made at the back of the can. Make sure to pull the wire nice and tight so that the beads don't sag. I used red, green and silver pony beads, along with some smaller clear plastic beads. You could also add further strings of beads at the bottom or around the middle of the can. Then they still look good even when not lit!

Christmas tin can lanterns with beaded top

These cans are suitable for use with tealight candles and also battery powered tea lights. A little tip - to light a tealight candle that is at the bottom of the can use a stick of dried spaghetti - light it at one end and you can then use it to reach inside the can to light the candle! The lanterns make a great table centrepiece, or can be grouped around the fireplace or on the mantelpiece.

Christmas tin can lanterns with candles inside

For this project I used some plastic coloured pony beads that I already had in my craft box, but they are easily available to purchase in all sorts of colours.

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Some Christmas reading inspiration for adults

 Christmas reading inspiration and ideas

The nights are now well and truly drawing in and it's definitely the time of year to find yourself snuggled under a blanket with a good book! I read widely but I always enjoy matching my reading to the seasons, and especially at Christmas time when everything is so festive it's nice to get into the spirit with a suitable book. So I thought I'd share some Christmas reading inspiration, most of these are books that I've read myself and enjoyed, along with a few that I'm adding to my wish list!

Christmas classics

I read A Christmas Carol for the first time last Christmas and not being a fan of Dickens was pleasantly surprised. It's a very familiar story which helps of course, and also it's not too long and was a very enjoyable read. Most people also know the story of The Nutcracker, and are familiar with Sherlock Holmes and Poirot, so this selection is a great way to enjoy a classic story that isn't too demanding.

Christmas short stories

Sometimes at Christmas you can be so busy that you don't have time to sit down and read a full novel, so a short story is perfect when you have a few minutes to relax with a book and also great for reading aloud to children. Many of these classic short stories are also available in beautifully illustrated keepsake editions - I recommend keeping them tucked away with the Christmas decorations so that they can be enjoyed over the festive season.

Modern romantic comedy style Christmas novels

Last Christmas before going on holiday I went into the library and loaded up my bag with Christmas books to take with me. Luckily there was a lovely festive display full of suitable books, and it's also easy to find similar displays in book shops and charity shops. There are many, many books in this genre and to be honest they can be pretty predictable, but they are great to get you into the festive spirit!

Just one thing to be aware of, sometimes the author of a series of books will write a Christmas themed book using characters and locations from a series that you might not know. So just make sure that you've picked a standalone book, or one from a series that you've already read.

Christmas coffee table and illustrated books

I love a nice hardback book with plenty of lovely illustrations to browse through when I get a moment. Some of these books are winter rather than purely Christmas themed but they can still make you feel cosy and festive. I've added the The Almanac to my Christmas list - it looks like a wonderful book to refer to all year long.

Christmas poetry

Like short stories, poems are great for dipping in and out of when you only have a few minutes to spare. I particularly love Wendy Cope's Christmas poems, very funny yet with a important message.

Books that aren't purely Christmas themed but have Christmas elements

These books are all classics that I enjoyed as a child. They aren't entirely Christmas themed but they have descriptive and memorable Christmas scenes that have stayed with me, and are also good reminders of the true meaning of Christmas and the importance of friends and family rather than gifts.

Happy festive reading!

Pile of Christmas themed books under the tree

Main photo credit Diana Polekhina via Unsplash

Why Wait For New Year? Three Good Habits To Get Into For 2022

This is a collaborative post

The New Year always comes around so quickly. Even though we are currently gearing up for the holidays, we all know that January is lurking just around the corner. When the first day of the new year arrives, most of us have our resolutions ready and we feel like we are raring to go. This is the year we are going to do better, eat healthier, exercise more and generally not fall into all the bad habits of the previous twelve months. All those good intentions are wonderful, but we are sure that we are not alone in finding that we often end up falling short when it comes to our resolutions. 

One of the main reasons for this is that we so often end up making them in a panic. We make them when we are already feeling overwhelmed, overstressed, overtired, overweight, or whatever the situation might be. We do not make any sort of plan for how we are going to action to these big life changes, we just know that we want to make them. Well, if you want to give yourself the best chance of sticking to your new habits, you need to make sure that you prepare ahead of time and create a platform for success. Here are some tips to help you get into better habits.

Find An Exercise Routine That Works For You

Let’s start with one of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions. It is so easy to feel like you are out of shape by the time we reach the end of December. It’s the middle of winter so we are staying inside a lot more and we are doing a lot more comfort eating. It is also the end of the holidays, and how many of us want to watch what we are eating during that period? 

Getting into an exercise routine is always a good idea, but it is not something that you should just try and do overnight. That is how you end up setting unrealistic goals and getting frustrated when you do not achieve them. Start by asking yourself what your fitness goals are. Do you want to lose a certain amount of weight? Is there a run that you would like to be able to do comfortably? Do you just want to be in better shape in general? Then look at how much time you have every day to dedicate to these goals. 

Experts agree that it is important to be realistic, be organised, remember to start small and look for ways to make it fun. See if any of your friends and family members would like to join you on this journey to keep each other motivated when things get tough.

Man going for a run
Photo credit Jenny Hill

Start Getting To Grips With Your Finances

There is no panic like money panic, and we all know that feeling of looking at our bank balance when January rolls around and wondering where it all went. But rushing to make quick cuts is a sure-fire way to ensure that you end up right back in the same bad habits. A big part of getting better with your money is understanding where it goes every month. 

Create a monthly budget and make sure that everything is written down. When it is all in front of you, from debt repayments to how much you are spending on meal deals every week, you will be able to make more informed decisions about what you can cut and what is necessary. You should also learn about your responsibilities when you take on a loan. It is so easy for debts to start to pile up, and that is when you can start to lose track of interest rates and repayment dates. Be sure to read the fine print carefully on any loan and never take one out without understanding exactly what you are liable for and knowing that you can manage the repayments. Using a pay day loans comparison site like Payday UK will show you what your options are without any obligation. They process over 4500 loan quotes every day and your application is confidential and secure.

Jam jar with coins spilling out
Photo credit Michael Longmire

Start Getting Greener

It is impossible to ignore the climate situation right now, as the world’s leaders gather to work to find a way towards net zero and extreme weather events become more and more routine. It can be difficult to see how you can make an impact as one individual but remember that there are always ways to make a difference. 

Committing to using as little plastic as possible is a huge step. Recycling is obviously crucial, but you should be thinking about your electrical waste as well as your household waste. If you are a meat-eater, you should keep in mind that switching to veggie options is one of the most effective ways of cutting down on your carbon footprint. Use public transport when you can, instead of taking your own car. We all know that the news about global warming can feel overwhelming but taking responsibility for your actions and actively looking for ways to do better can really help.

Monday 15 November 2021

Free - 24 Christmas mini cross stitch and small pixel art designs

Christmas is my favourite time of the year for crafting, and I love sharing crafty ideas and projects on my blog. Recently I've been working on some mini Christmas pixel art designs which are perfect for any cross stitch or Hama bead crafts and I'm sharing them for free below. There are 24 designs, which also makes them ideal for any Advent themed crafts. You could use them with cross stitch to decorate small bags or boxes filled with Advent surprises. 

The patterns could also be used for cross stitch Christmas cards, to make tiny Hama bead embellishments, to decorate bunting, or even for online designs that use pixel art - there are all sorts of possibilities!

I have shared the free designs as images below, and you can also click the links to download them as printable .pdf files.

Click to download as .pdf - Classic Christmas colours

Free mini small Christmas cross stitch designs and patterns

I have also produced the designs as a blank outline version so that you can come up with your own colour schemes. I'm working on some different colours for the designs that I'll be sharing shortly. 

Click to download as .pdf - Blank outline designs

Free small mini cross stitch designs outline to colour

I have also made a Scandi style Christmas cross stitch designs version of the pattern which you can find here - Free Christmas Scandi style mini cross stitch patterns.

Here you can see some of the designs stitched on 14 count Aida. They measure about 2cm square and are very quick to stitch, a great way to use up any scraps of embroidery thread from your stash.

Tiny Christmas cross stitch motifs free pattern

I used these mini cross stitch designs to make some Christmas cross stitch gift tags

Christmas cross stitch gift tags craft

I have also used these Christmas pixel art designs to make a couple of festive crafts using mini Hama beads. My first craft was these Mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments using the tiny mini Hama beads which each measure about the same size as a single cross stitch. They are perfect for Christmas cards or other small Christmas crafting projects.

Mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments craft

Then I used some of these embellishments to make some Christmas mini Hama bead pin badges which are a great way to make your Christmas outfit even more festive.

Mini Hama bead Christmas pin badges on a Santa hat

Click below to download these graphics as a printable .pdf file:

Classic Christmas colours

Blank outline designs

Scandi style red and white colours

More Christmas cross stitch patterns:

I have also designed some other Christmas themed cross stitch patterns which you can find here:

Free simple cross stitch snowflake designs and patterns

Snowflake cross stitch embroidery hoop design - free pattern

Saturday 13 November 2021

Book review - Being Lean by Michelle Leong

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

This week I've been reading Being Lean by Michelle Leong. This book aims to guide you towards a better quality of life in all areas - for example at home, with regard to your health, when travelling or at work. The book takes lean principles, which are usually used in a business environment, and shows how they can be applied to everyday living. This focus on the everyday means looking at specific areas of your life, for example food preparation, laundry or fitness, and working out ways to help things run more smoothly and avoid wasting time and effort. 

The book is divided into four parts - 1 = Lean Theory and Methodology, 2 = Complementary Thinking Tools, 3 = Lean Tools and Technique, 4 = Practical Application and Examples. It's a very dense book with a lot of information packed in. Some of the text sizes are very small and the pages are full, which can be a bit daunting at first glance. I found it best to look through the detailed Contents page to see which parts were covered where, so that I could concentrate first on the areas that most interested me. 

For me this was easily Part 4 - Practical Application and Examples. Here the author shares lots of different examples of ways in which you can change your existing systems around the home and set up new ones to save time and effort. For example she describes her laundry system - a three drawer unit with each drawer roughly the same size as a load, one each for black, white and coloured clothes. When a drawer is full it's time to do a wash. 

Although I found that I already so some of the things in this book it helped me to spot a few things that I could do to speed things up. For example most mornings for breakfast I eat a bowl of muesli and add in a teaspoon or two of chia seeds. This process involves taking out and putting away two separate containers - if I were to mix the two together in advance in one container then that would save me a process step. It might only be a minute or so, but by looking for opportunities to save time throughout the day it would really add up.

There is an emphasis on fitness and health which I could really relate to. The author puts across the idea that we have a duty to both ourselves and others to take care of our bodies by eating well and keeping fit. This is so important that if you don't have the time then you need to make the time. There are some great tips on how to get the most from a fitness regime, along with some suggested exercises, and lots of tips for meal planning and organisation. 

This is a really useful book and would definitely add value to the life of anyone that is interested in streamlining their processes across their whole life, not just at work. I can see that even just implementing a few new processes could easily make everyday things run more smoothly.

Friday 12 November 2021

A visit to Lindos, Rhodes and the Acropolis

On our recent holiday to Rhodes, Greece, several people told us that we must visit Lindos. So so we made sure to fit in a trip one afternoon, and we are very glad that we did!

Visit to Lindos town and Acropolis archaeological site

Lindos is generally accepted as the best archaeological site on Rhodes. The Lindos Acropolis stands at the top of a large hill, surrounded the maze of streets that forms the town of Lindos covering the slopes below, filled with cobbled streets and attractive whitewashed buildings. We were dropped off by our taxi in the main square, with beautiful views out to sea along with the town and historic buildings.

Lindos and the Acropolis viewed from below

From the bottom of the hill you need to climb up to reach the Acropolis. It's well signposted, but there are several different routes. Really you just need to keep heading upwards and you can't get lost! The first part of the walk takes you through beautiful little cobbled streets, well shaded from the sun. They are lined with shops selling all sorts of different goods - clothing, tableware, tourist souvenirs like postcards and magnets, honey and olive oil based products, lots of gorgeous things! The prices all seemed very reasonable too and there was no hassling to buy. 

Lindos Old Town narrow shopping streets

Then the climb continues up the more open side of the hill. It's a bit steep and uneven, but not too difficult to walk up as long as you go carefully. There are donkeys available which will take you to the top of the hill via a longer and more gentle route, which is also an option for pedestrians to use. The Acropolis is situated right at the top, and once you have paid to enter the site there some more climbing over uneven ground and steps, but nothing too strenuous. 

Lindos Acropolis with information board

The Acropolis site is big and a bit confusing at first. The site has been built and rebuilt over the centuries by many different civilisations so it's a bit of a jumble of different bits of stonework, but there are plenty of informative boards in English and in Greek to explain what you are looking at and which parts of the structure are original to which era.

You can see the main structures and columns, most of which have been restored over the years. But anything loose that could be taken away, like statues and other artefacts, has been removed. While some is displayed on the island, much of it is now as far away as Denmark (some of the archaeologists were Danish) so instead of statues for example all you can see is the blocks with foot holes where a statue would have once stood - like at the bottom of the photo below:

Lindos Acropolis viewed from above

It's a very impressive site, and the remaining columns and steps give you a good idea of what it has looked like at various points in its history. There are some lovely views from the top across the beautiful blue sea and surrounding countryside.

If you are visiting the island of Rhodes I think that Lindos is definitely one of the must-see sights.

We visited the Acropolis in October 2021. Entrance to the Acropolis was 12 Euros for adults and 6 Euros for children. The whole Acropolis site is outdoors, and we were not asked for proof of Covid-19 vaccination to enter. 

We travelled to Lindos from our hotel just north of Faliraki by taxi. It took about forty-five minutes and cost 52 Euros each way, which was clearly posted at the taxi rank and agreed before we got in. The taxi driver dropped us in the main square where the path begins to the Acropolis, and we easily found a taxi here to take us back to the hotel. There are also frequent and very cheap buses available to travel around the island of Rhodes, however for this longer journey we took a taxi because we found on a shorter journey that the bus was very crowded and it would have been uncomfortable to stand for that long. 

Wednesday 10 November 2021

How I motivate myself to get out for a run

As I dragged myself out of bed this morning, knowing that I had 'Get out for a run' on my to do list for the day, I found myself thinking up excuses. I was feeling tired, it looked like it might rain, I had lots of other things that I wanted to get done. But I managed to get out, and of course when I got back I felt so much better for it - both for having done the exercise and for having encouraged made the effort.  

It made me think of sharing a few of the ways that I motivate myself to get out for a run, and some tips to make sure that you always manage to get out when you are planning to.

 How to motivate yourself to go out for a run

I like to schedule regular days for exercise. At the moment that's Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with anything extra at the weekend being a bonus. So I always know that these are my exercise days and I can plan my timetable accordingly, whether that's a run, swim or cross trainer workout. I've had this plan for over a year now, and although I do occasionally miss a workout or swap things around, for the main part it has stuck.

I like to get exercise out the way first thing in the morning. Of course this doesn't work for everyone's schedule, but I feel much happier when it's done. It's all about eating the frog!

So to help with this I always make sure that to get everything ready the night before. My clothes are laid out and my running belt and headband are by the front door. If I'm planning on wearing my headphones then I make sure that they are charged and that I've got a running playlist in mind.

If I'm not feeling particularly inspired at the thought of a run the following morning then I pull out Google maps and try to find a new running route. I have a number of different routes that I like to run from my house, and sometimes even just running one in reverse is enough to switch things up a bit. 

If I really want a change (and if it's not too windy!) then I'll drive down to the seafront and run along there. I also use MapMyRun which makes planning routes of specific lengths really easy. Sometimes I like to look for points of interest on the map, like a church or a park, and plan a route to take it in.

I've also begun to reconsider whether tracking runs is really a good idea. I used to log every run that I did in Strava, just for my own information as I only have one friend on there. I liked seeing how far I'd run, how fast and so on. But then I realised that if I only fancied a short run I didn't want to log it, as it didn't feel like a proper effort! And so then I'd wonder whether it was actually worth going out at all. 

So now I tend to just check my watch when I begin, and if I've been running for half an hour or longer then I call that a good run. I can always go back and plug the route into MapMyRun if I'm feeling curious about my distance. 

Finally as I get ready to go out I always remind myself that I've never felt worse after going for a run. Barring injury or an accident of course, it would be very rare to come back from a run and regret it!

Main image credit Emma Simpson via Unsplash

Monday 8 November 2021

A visit to Rhodes Old Town

On our recent holiday to Rhodes, Greece, we spent a few happy hours wandering around Rhodes Old Town and so I thought that I'd share a few photos!

We reached Rhodes by bus from the stop just outside our hotel near Faliraki. The buses were easy to use and very cheap, but the bus that we took was very crowded with standing room only. If you don't fancy the bus there are plenty of taxis to take you from place to place around Rhodes, with clear pricing structures so you know exactly how much you'll be paying.

If you are planning a visit to Rhodes Old Town there are lots of historical walking routes that you can download, for example this Self-Guided Medieval Town Walking Tour which has plenty of information about all the sights. Alternatively, when you arrive there are plenty of maps around with suggested walking routes, just take a photo of one to follow. 

We followed a simple circular route through the old town which took in the main sights, and then we just wandered off if we saw a street that looked particularly interesting. 

Rhodes old town shopping street

There were plenty of cafes and restaurants, and also lots of tourist shops selling souvenirs. We found that the prices for touristy gifts were very cheap compared to other places that we've visited. For example Harry collects magnets and we would usually pay about 5 Euro, but here they were usually just 1 Euro. So we bought a few bits and pieces here and there, I found some bracelets and Mia's eye was caught by many shops selling her favourite popit fidget toys. 

Rhodes old town historical buildings

There are plenty of lovely old buildings to admire. We had to wait our turn to take a photo of the staircase and door below which was a very popular spot! The Street of the Knights was also one of our favourite areas, a narrow cobbled street which is one of the best preserved medieval streets in Europe. 

Rhodes old town balcony building

Kolona Harbour is located in the old town, accessed through a gate in the city walls and with a path that runs beneath them. There are lots of smaller fishing boats moored here and it's a lovely walk along the edge looking back towards the old city. 

Rhodes old town boats in the harbour

There are also a couple of amazing boats selling sea shells and other marine bits and pieces that are all beautifully displayed, you could stand here and gaze for hours!

Rhodes harbour ship selling sea shells

If you are visiting Rhodes island I'd definitely recommend a visit to the Old Town, it's a great place to explore, shop and spend time.

Saturday 6 November 2021

Book review - Notes on the Piano by Christopher Russell

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

As a teenager I took piano lessons for several years and enjoyed being able to play at a decent standard, so I was very keen for my children to take music lessons when they were old enough. Harry has been having piano lessons since he was around six and recently passed his Grade 4. He plays beautifully now, I really enjoy hearing him practice and he can play some really lovely pieces.

So I was very interested to take a look at the book Notes on the Piano by Christopher Russell. Written by a concert performer and teacher, in the author's words it is "an encouraging companion to someone's piano lessons in the exciting journey of discovery that learning the piano is all about." 

Notes on the Piano by Christopher Russell

The book is divided into essays, each one themed around different aspects of learning, playing and teaching the piano. It's an enjoyable read for anyone that has learned the piano in the past, is currently learning, or has a child currently taking lessons.

Now that Harry has reached a slightly more advanced level he has recently started working with a new piano teacher. He's always had his lessons at home, with me half listening in from the next room. I found it really interesting to pick out some of the techniques that I've noticed his piano teachers using and to read about the theory behind this. For example, his new teacher has encouraged him to work on improvisation which he loves. I discovered that as well as being a way of helping with the aural tests in the exams it also helps to develop the musical ear which is vital for successful playing. 

I was also interested to learn about the importance of scales - for warming up the fingers, improving the strength and flexibility of the fingers and reinforcing the flats and sharps which are found in different keys - all skills that are useful when it comes to playing pieces. It's definitely information that's worth sharing with people that can't see the benefits in practicing scales over and over.

The book is clearly arranged with each chapter focussing on a different aspect of learning and playing the piano. I found the chapter on Methods of Practising particularly helpful, as Harry still needs some guidance when it comes to his practice! It was a good reminder that a shorter session of quality practice will reap better rewards than a longer session of poor quality practice. There were also some excellent tips about the different ways that you can practice a piece, as well as how this can vary person to person and is learned and improved by experience.

Another section that I found useful was about memorising pieces, as this is something that I'm terrible at. Although I can play reasonably well, I can only play with music in front of me, which is no good if I encounter a piano and someone asks me to play a piece! I hadn't really thought before about making a conscious effort to memorise a piece or two, but it's something I'm definitely going to have a go at.

I found this book a really interesting and accessible read, great for dipping in and out of, and perfect for piano teachers and piano players, whether beginner or advanced, child or adult. 

Friday 5 November 2021

Advent calendar ideas for crafters

Rather than buying one, I love the idea of putting together my own Advent calendars with a particular theme. This was sparked by the first ever wooden Advent calendar that we bought our then toddler, and I wrote a popular post filled with ideas for things to fill your own Advent calendar which I loved researching and updating.

Advent calendar filler ideas for crafters

As a crafter I would really enjoy receiving an Advent calendar filled with crafty bits and pieces as I count down to Christmas, and so I thought I'd have a browse for some ideas which would make great Advent calendar fillers for the crafty person in your life. Some of these gift ideas are a little large for the traditional wooden Advent calendar, but they could easily be wrapped and numbered separately for a small treat every day in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

So here's a big list of small gift ideas which would make wonderful fillers for a craft themed Advent calendar.

Mini craft kits, especially those with a Christmas theme

They sound like an expensive item, but craft kits can be reasonably priced if you keep your eyes open, or if you buy a larger pack that can be split into smaller parts. I bought these lovely mini Christmas cross stitch kits in Hobbycraft (sneakily positioned by the till for impulse purchasing) and they were priced at just £5 for 3. There are many mini craft kits available, and if you buy a multipack you can spread them out over several days of your crafty Advent calendar.

Mini Christmas cross stitch kits from Hobbycraft

Christmas decorations to make

There are lots of options for blank decorations or gift tags which can be decorated for Christmas. We had a lot of fun decorating some blank wooden ornaments a few years ago - it's a simple and quick craft which is easy to do with pens and paints that you have lying around. Blank gift tags are also fun and easy to personalise as Christmas approaches.

A Christmas jigsaw

There are lots of Advent Calendar jigsaws available, or you could just buy a large Christmas themed puzzle and place a few pieces into a small box for every day of Advent. It's a good idea to put the jigsaw puzzle together first and break it up into sections otherwise it might get frustrating to complete the puzzle at random!

Small craft supplies

This can be tailored according to the crafts that the recipient enjoys. For example a small skein of floss, a pack of needles, a piece of fabric, a coloured pen - there are endless possibilities! 

Wednesday 3 November 2021

Using Apple AirTags to track luggage and suitcases when flying

Updated May 2022

When Apple announced the release of the Apple AirTag earlier this year I knew that they were something that we'd be buying. We could imagine all sorts of uses for them! And one of the first things that I thought of was using an AirTag to track your suitcase and other luggage while flying. I would feel much happier sitting on a plane knowing that my suitcase was sitting right underneath me, and if your suitcase does end up going walkabout, as has happened to me in the past, at least you have an idea of where it's ended up.

We've been using the AirTags successfully over the last few months to find our keys inside the house, and also to send out with a child if they are popping down the road. But with Covid it has taken a while for us to be able to actually test them out on a flight!

So on our recent holiday to Rhodes we placed an Apple AirTag inside each of our suitcases to see how well they worked. We put the AirTags in small pockets inside the suitcases, rather than hang them on the outside, as that seemed like the best way to keep them safe. Before we left we made sure that the AirTags could still be located and it worked perfectly. Then after we checked in at Gatwick we waved them off from the bag drop and went on our way through the airport!

When we were waiting at the gate before boarding we loaded up the app and were pleased to see that all three suitcases (tracked across our two phones) had made it to the general vicinity of our plane which was located at the far gate. I'm the blue dot, and so you can see that mine was nice and close to me!

Tracking suitcase with Apple AirTag at airport

Then when we had landed and disembarked the plane we did another quick check to make sure that our luggage had arrived along with us. Fortunately there had been no mishaps, and the suitcase was there, just outside the terminal building waiting to be moved from the plane. Once we arrived at baggage reclaim we checked again and found that it had made its way into the terminal, so all we had to do was to sit and wait for it to appear on the carousel.

Tracked a suitcase with Apple AirTag in checked baggage

Apparently there is one situation when the Apple AirTags don't work with luggage and that is when the suitcases is moving at a reasonable speed, for example while moving through the airport conveyor system or being transported on a baggage truck. This means that you can't use precision finding to track it to within a few feet. 

However this wasn't a problem for us, because once we knew that the suitcase had made it to our arrival airport we just waited patiently for it at baggage reclaim. Presumably if your suitcase ends up in a different part of the airport by mistake it would be left waiting somewhere, and you could track it properly once it had stopped moving.

As well as being fun to track our luggage it certainly gave us some peace of mind to know that our suitcase was where it was supposed to be during our flight, and I think that we'll definitely be bringing the AirTags along every time we fly!

Update May 2022

We recently made another trip abroad, this time a long haul flight to Mauritius, and once again we took our AirTags along to track three suitcases. It all worked perfectly once more. We were at the gate ready to board and could see that our suitcases were located near the plane, we couldn't see them waiting on the tarmac so were able to confidently assume that they had been loaded!

On arrival it did take a little while to update the location of our bags, but by the time we had walked through the airport and reached the baggage reclaim the tracking had updated to confirm that our bags had made it to the same airport as us. 

We place our AirTags within the suitcase in a zipped inside pocket. There are devices available that you can use to attach your AirTag to the outside of the suitcase but I think that these are unnecessary as they leave the AirTags vulnerable to loss, damage or theft.

Monday 1 November 2021

Review - The Amada Colossos Resort, Rhodes, Greece

We have just returned from a lovely holiday at the Amada Colossos Resort in Rhodes, Greece and I thought I'd write a quick review in case anyone is looking for some holiday inspiration as we begin to adventure and holiday abroad again! 

We visited during our October half-term holiday which falls a week earlier than much of the UK. The resort was full, but mainly with adults and older children. We booked the holiday as a package with TUI as they are currently offering fee-free changes if you need to alter your booking due to Covid-19 related issues. At the time we visited, fully vaccinated adults and unvaccinated children under 12 could enter Greece freely with just a Passenger Locator Form and our unvaccinated 12 year old needed to take a private antigen test two days before arrival which was easily booked through TUI.

Review - The Amada Colossos Resort in Rhodes, Greece for a family holiday

We stayed in a swim-up family room which sleeps four. This room had a large private terrace with two sunbeds, and access to a long pool shared with nine other rooms. There was a sliding partition to separate the two sleeping areas with a double bed and two single beds. Because it had been so long since our last holiday abroad we splurged a bit for a fancier room than usual, and are very glad that we did as the room was fantastic. It's swim-up rooms all the way for us now!

Amada Colossos swim up pool room terrace

We loved having access to the pool from our room and it was great to have two guaranteed sunbeds as well as two chairs and a table. The terrace was hot and sunny in the morning and shaded in the afternoon. As well as the view over our pool we could also see over the main pool and had a wonderful view of the sea in front of us and to the side. 

Amada Colossos swim up pool rooms

The water in the swimming pools and the waterpark was a little chilly and you really had to brace yourself to jump in! Once you were in it was fine, and it was nice to come out into the sunshine and warm up. The waterpark was open for most of the day, but not all the slides were open at once, so if you wanted to try them all you had to visit at different times of the day. They were also closed for disinfecting for an hour over lunch. Our children did find the water a bit too cold to spend very long here, but plenty of other people didn't seem bothered. The area seemed to be well supervised with a good variety of faster and slower slides. There was also a lazy river and pools to splash around in.

Amada Colossos waterpark

We spent most of our pool time in the pool by our room, but we did venture out a couple of times. There was quite a lot of sunbed reserving going on which was a bit of a problem, but we always managed to find at least one lounger spare. We don't tend to spend long sitting by the pool anyway, so we only needed somewhere to put our things while we were in the water. 

The main pool is very large, with a separate adults only area at one end. It was never busy with people swimming so there was plenty of space for relaxing on a float or attempting to swim the long length all in one go.

Amada Colossos main pool area

We also spent an afternoon on the private beach. We found plenty of sunbeds here, and there is a bar close by for drinks and snacks. The beach is quite stony, so we were glad that we had read this in a review before we went and so came equipped with water shoes. The sea was usually calm and no colder than the swimming pools. It gets deep very quickly so it's perhaps not so good for toddlers and small children to play in, but it's great for swimming as you don't have to go out too far from the shore. The water was beautiful and clear.  

We don't tend to travel for the food, so the buffet restaurant in the resort was more than adequate for our needs. It did get quite busy at peak times so we tried to get there as soon as it opened for meals. There were always several clearly labelled vegetarian options as well as a separate children's buffet with simply prepared vegetables, chips, nuggets, salad bits, ice cream and so on. There was a different theme every evening in the main restaurant, for example Mexican, Greek or Italian, and there was plenty of bread, salad and so on. There were also lots of delicious desserts, including an amazing chocolate fountain buffet one evening! 

Amada Colossos resort buffet chocolate fountain

The resort also offers three specialty restaurants which can be booked during your stay - Asian, Greek and Italian. We didn't eat at these though as our children get on better with the buffet dining.

The resort is situated really well for travel to other places on the island - we visited Rhodes town (about 20 minutes on the bus), Lindos (about forty-five minutes by taxi) and Faliraki (less than ten minutes by taxi). There is a bus stop right outside the resort and a taxi rank a minute's walk away. The taxis have very clear pricing so you know in advance how much you'll be paying. The buses were convenient and easy to use, however we only used the bus to get to Rhodes and back as on our outward trip the bus was very crowded and we had to stand in the doorway which wasn't very comfortable.

There are some small shops within a few minutes walk and the hotel also has a supermarket and souvenir shop. We found the prices in the shops very reasonable compared to similar places that we have visited, there were some lovely cheap souvenirs to buy like hand painted bowls and ornaments along with postcards, magnets and so on. You could also buy inflatables, snorkels, beach shoes and that sort of thing as well as toys, games and snacks in the supermarket.

There is a very large Waterpark just opposite the resort which looked pretty amazing if that's something that you are interested in. It was closed at the time of writing but it looks like it will be opening again for 2022.

We had a lovely stay at the Amada Colossos Resort. We felt that it represented good value for money with plenty to do in terms of swimming and relaxing. The food and drink selection was very good, and there was no problem with getting food or drink when we wanted it. The staff were friendly and helpful and although it was busy it all felt clean and well organised.

Here you can see a short video that I put together with some clips from around the resort, including some footage of our swim-up pool.

I've also written about a couple of the trips that we did from the hotel:

A note about Covid-19 considerations (October 2021)

Amada Colossos Rhodes Greece coronavirus precautions

We felt that the coronavirus precautions taken by the hotel were excellent. Both staff and guests were strict about wearing masks indoors, even when just going to and from rooms. The buffet restaurant did get a little crowded, but masks were worn, plastic gloves were provided and used for handling utensils, and the tables were situated at a good distance from each other. There was plenty of outdoor dining space and bar seating, and when wet weather meant that it was necessary to eat indoors there were two sessions for dining to make sure that everyone could be accommodated safely inside. 

However I must mention that unfortunately my husband tested positive for Covid-19 on our return home. There's no way of knowing where he caught it of course, although we feel that the places on our holiday where we were most vulnerable were on the flight or the local bus rather than at the resort as it genuinely did feel like a safe environment.