Monday 28 February 2022

Two very different visits to Monkey World

Recently I wrote about how Mia had adopted a primate from Monkey World with some of her Christmas money. She chose to adopt Kim, a golden-cheeked gibbon who was born at the park. Since then we have discovered the television series Monkey Life which has been running for years and features all the primates at the park and their back stories. We've been watching an episode or two most days and are now pretty familiar with many of the primates and their stories.

Over half term we spent a week in Torquay, and because our adoption package includes admission to the park for the year we decided to visit on both the way there and the way back.

Unfortunately our first visit was badly timed. It was the day after Storm Eunice, and although the park was open we were warned that the majority of the outdoor enclosures were closed and that there was a lot of debris around the park. The weather forecast was also very bad with lots of rain. If we hadn't already booked our admission and weren't driving right past then we would have cancelled.

Monkey World Dorset information sign

With all the animals indoors it was a bit of pot luck as to what you could see. Some of the indoor enclosures are tucked well away and you can't see them from the path, just catch a glimpse through the windows. But luckily the indoor enclosure for Mia's adopted gibbon Kim had a lovely big glass window, and with Kim and her partner Tien indoors it was a great opportunity to see them really close up. There weren't many other people around so we were able to stand at the viewing window for ages watching them swing about and snack.

Monkey World Kim and Tien in indoor enclosure

But to be honest there wasn't a lot else to see in the park on that day, and when the rain started to get heavier we called it a day. Luckily the fact that we knew we would be back the following week made it less of a disappointing visit. The park was closed for the following two days and we learned from social media that they had wanted to close on the day of our visit but felt it was too short notice. But Mia was still really happy after our trip, she loved spotting the celebrity primates that she recognised from the television show and of course she was delighted to see Kim.

Our second visit the next week was much more successful. It was a lovely sunny day and the park was tidied up and fully open for visitors. All the outdoor enclosures were open and there was plenty to see. I think that my favourite primates are the orangutans, they are surprisingly graceful and you can tell that they are intelligent. They have such lovely eyes. 

Monkey World Orangutan outdoors in enclosure

All the primates have wonderful outdoor enclosures to enjoy, and although it was a chilly day there were plenty of them out and about to watch. We saw Kim and Tien sitting in the branches of their large enclosure and swinging about which was really nice to see, although they were too far away for a decent photograph!

Monkey World Orangutan outdoor enclosure

We spent much longer at the park this time and we even discovered a section of the park that we had missed the first time around as we stumbled through the rain! I think that my favourite primate at the park is the golden-cheeked gibbon Peanut, mum to Tien and two other gibbons that have now moved on to their own families. Now she lives in a lovely big enclosure with her partner Pung-Yo. I'm not sure if she's expected to have any more babies, as they do breed the golden-cheeked gibbons, or whether she is now happily enjoying her retirement!

Monkey World Peanut outdoors

I'd definitely recommend a visit to Monkey World if you have an interest in primates, and especially in the rescue and rehabilitation of primates. Watching the Monkey Life series definitely made me realise what an important place this is, there is a great deal going on behind the scenes that you wouldn't necessarily realise as a visitor. We will definitely be back for another visit or two while we have our adoption tickets (and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we end up renewing the adoption when it finishes!)

Friday 25 February 2022

Learning to memorise pieces on the piano

A few months ago I reviewed a book on my blog - Notes on the Piano. I took a lot from the book, and one thing was the importance of learning to play pieces from memory. I had always needed sheet music to play and I assumed that playing a piece by heart was a skill that that some people were born with and I wasn't. 

Hands playing the piano
Photo credit Elijah M. Henderson via Unsplash

But the book inspired me, and so one of my habits for the new year was to practice the piano every day with a view to memorising some pieces. Partly to help with improving my playing, and partly so that I could show off if I ever found myself in front of a piano before a potential audience!

I chose to start with The Snow Prelude No. 3 by Ludivico Einaudi. I chose this piece because I could already play it quite well from the music. I thought I had a simplified version but actually it's almost the same as the one in the video below. It's quite repetitive, the chords in the left hand are repeated almost all the way through and the melody in the right hand is easy to remember, and I think it sounds really good when it's all put together. 

To my surprise it only took me just over a week, practicing 20 minutes a day or so, to learn it by heart. When I first had it memorised I was still making mistakes but now I can play it through flawlessly. 

Buoyed by my success I moved on to a slightly more difficult piece, River Flows in You by Yiruma. This is a beautiful piece and I longed to be able to play it well. The music that I have for this one is definitely a simplified version! But I think it still sounds good, even though my hands are quite small so I sometimes struggle to span the octave.

This piece took me a lot longer to learn. It is repetitive but also subtly different in places. The final page took me over a week on its own - for some reason I just couldn't get it. But after about three weeks I finally got it to a standard that I can get through it with only a very rare mistake. I'm continuing playing it daily to iron out those last hiccups.

I'm now working on Moonlight Sonata (1st Movement) by Beethoven. When I was at school I remember other girls playing this on the piano and I was desperate to play it. I bought myself a copy of the sheet music, but the version I own was just too difficult. I now have a book with a much simpler version in and I can play it through following the notes. It sounds repetitive but it's not, there are lots of variations in the notes. Even though my version is quite easy I'm still struggling to get on with it, but I'm determined to crack it!

I've really impressed myself with my progress. I've loved the whole process of learning the piece, from being able to play it following the music to learning small parts at a time, and gradually building up a sort of mental picture of the piece in my head. 

I'm sure that there are some people that don't have to put in quite as much effort as I do. But it has really brought it home to me that when most people that are displaying some kind of talent it really is down to them having put in a great deal of work and effort, it doesn't just happen.

Maybe at some point I'll have the confidence to share some videos of myself playing these pieces!

Wednesday 23 February 2022

A wish list of cross stitch kits that I'd love to complete one day

I don't have enough time to be able to cross stitch every design that I'd like to. Not to mention not having enough wall space to hang them! But it's always fun to browse, and so here's a wish list of cross stitch kits that I would love to be able to stitch. Who knows, maybe one or two of them might make it into my craft space one day!

I am really pleased with my Three Things sampler by Moira Blackburn, and she has also created many other lovely designs based on historical samplers. This one is called Season and Time. The quote reads "To every thing there is a Season, and a Time to every purpose under Heaven". It's another big one and I like the unusual shape for a sampler.

I also really like Peaceful Garden. "Peaceful is my garden, Contentment is my lot". What a gorgeous wide border and I also love the animals, especially the curled up cat.

A couple of years ago I stitched the Heart cross stitch by Awesome Pattern Studio on Etsy. I first spotted the design on Pinterest I think, but when I went to the shop I found an amazing selection of patterns. It's just the designs, not a full kit, although I have plenty of spare embroidery thread that I can work with.

Love heart cross stitch design by Awesome Pattern Studio

There are so many designs here that I would love to stitch, but if I had to narrow it down I would go for one of the city scenes like the London city scene or the Rome city scene. Or maybe the one that depicts Bryce Canyon National Park in the US, the beautiful national park where we got engaged.

I would really like to complete a Van Gogh cross stitch design. My favourite work is Sunflowers which I had hanging on my student walls for many years.

On a botanical theme I'm also always drawn to cactuses, a theme that I've not worked with yet although I do have a few cactuses around the house. This one is a nice simple sampler style design.

And this one isn't technically cross stitch, it's embroidery with a stamped outline which isn't a type of stitched craft that I've tried before. I must confess that I've added this to my Amazon wish list already, perhaps I'll be lucky enough to get it for my birthday!

Finally, after putting together a post with some Christmas themed cross stitch kits inspiration I would really love to stitch this 12 Days of Christmas. It looks like a tough one, as well as being complex with lots of detail it also has metallic threads and beading. But it would be really satisfying to complete! 

Monday 21 February 2022

Why I like to buy second hand books

Recently I've found myself buying quite a few second hand books. I buy from various places - mainly from charity shops but also from the library and online from World of Books or Wob as it is now known. Charity shops are good for browsing, and I find Wob good if I am looking for a specific book, especially a book that is older or out of print. 

There are so many reasons that I love buying second hand books!

The main one has to be the price. The going rate around here in a charity shop is £1 to £1.50 which I think is very reasonable. From the library it's even cheaper, about 40p, although sometimes the books can be a bit battered. 

If the book is a bit battered then I don't need to worry too much about it if I want to take it on holiday or read it by a pool or in the bath.

It's a good feeling buying in a charity shop because I'm making a donation to the charity, or in the library because I'm contributing to a service which I really apprecite.

Because of the low cost it doesn't matter so much if I don't like the book because I can easily pass it on again without having made a big investment.

It's also a good way to fill in the gaps in my book collection without spending a fortune - many of the books I buy are ones that I either used to own and now regret passed on, or that I have borrowed from the library and know that I will want to re-read. 

Although I do love a new book I also enjoy the feeling of picking up a book which has already been read. The pages are softer and open easily and it just feels more comfortable to read.

I also like the feeling of rescuing a book, I'm saving it from being left unread and unloved on someone's shelf, or even worse being thrown away. 

I would love to hear about your second hand book bargains!

Pile of second hand books

Friday 18 February 2022

Things that only I know how to do

The other day I was cooking up a batch of green pasta sauce for my children, which I've been making for years, and it occurred to me that were I to go under a bus, would there be anyone that could make it for them? (Although loving relatives, if you do need the recipe then I did blog a version of it once and you can find it here - baby led weaning pasta sauces). 

It made me think about all the things that I do which no-one else knows how to. I used to work in the NHS in Business Continuity, and my job was all about making sure that the processes and procedures in our department were documented so that there wouldn't be any loss of service if someone was absent or left suddenly. While things wouldn't fall apart entirely upon my sudden departure, there would be a few things which might be difficult to manage for a time.

Here are some of the things our family needs which only I know how to do:

* Batch cook and serve the favourite pasta sauces.

* Plait hair.

* Cook the meals that we eat regularly, along with organising the cupboards and fridge to make sure that we have all the food that we need in the house..

* Pay for school trips.

* Know how much to pay the window cleaners and keep the money ready.

* Work out a packing list for holidays and pack everything.

* General organisation and decluttering so that drawers and cupboards aren't overflowing with outgrown clothes and other junk.

* Check for school uniform that has been grown out of and sort out getting hold of the next sizes up.

* Retrieve certain items from their storage locations, for example the Christmas stockings, seasonal décor and dressing up clothes, extra bin bags, wrapping paper and cards.

Then of course there are the things that I do which others are perfectly capable of managing but don't:

* Put a new toilet roll on the holder, and top up the spare ones in the rack when we are down to the last one in a bathroom.

* Put away the clean dishes from the dishrack and clean the sink.

* Put dirty washing in the basket instead of the floor, along with putting everything the right way out so it is ready to fold when it comes out the machine.

* Wash up the day's lunchboxes and prepare the next ones.

However, in the interest of balance , here are some of the very important things that only my husband can do:

* Find the best deals for insurance, utilities, holidays, bank accounts and all the large purchases. He has much more patience than me when it comes to shopping around and knowing where to look for the best prices for things.

* Use the drill. I'm terrified of it, it's so loud!

* Sort out anything to do with our smart home devices, internet, routers, photo back up and so on. 

What does your family rely on you for? I'm wondering if I need to come up with some business continuity documents for our house so that we can each learn each other's jobs!

Spare toilet rolls
Photo credit Anastasiia Chepinska via Unsplash

Thursday 17 February 2022

Outdoor vs indoor: Which is better for your wedding?

This is a collaborative post

In England, it can be tough when deciding if you want an indoor or outdoor wedding. One thing you should always have is a Plan B in case the heavens open on your special day. An indoor ceremony should be able to be set up quickly just in case.


Having your ceremony indoors is the norm for British weddings as our weather is so unpredictable. Finding a venue with plenty of natural light for the perfect wedding pictures can be difficult as some older buildings have quite small windows, so you may prefer a modern wedding venue instead.

The true benefit of an indoor ceremony is control, no external weather factors are likely to affect your ceremony and the bride won’t get sunburnt! Having your wedding indoors also means your friends and family aren’t going to have to deal with insects disturbing them whilst they’re eating their dinner and the wedding cake isn’t going to melt.

Having your wedding indoors comes with the benefit of all the amenities that offers. There will be no concerns over generators or toilets if you host your wedding indoors.

If you’re a bit of a control freak, an indoor wedding is definitely the way to go!

Indoor wedding chairs and aisle
Photo credit Cinematic Imagery via Unsplash


An indoor wedding unfortunately can’t compete with the beauty of an outdoor wedding most of the time! You’ll be surrounded by beautiful scenery and incredible landscapes.

If a wedding in the sun sounds like a dream to you then an outdoor wedding would be perfect. There are plenty of wedding venues with beautiful outdoor spaces that could provide the perfect setting.

When hosting your wedding outdoors you will need to check if it requires any permits from the local council. Your wedding venue should be able to provide all the information you need as well as inform you if they have a license for outdoor weddings.

You’ll save money on décor by hosting an outdoor wedding as mother nature provides all the décor you’ll need. Get some nice chair sashes and some sort of backdrop for you to stand in front of and that’s it. If you want to go all out, add some floral décor to the aisle. You’ll still have plenty of money spare in your budget for some delicious food!

The downside is that there will be creepy crawlies to deal with as well as a potential downpour or two.

Outdoor wedding with aisle and flowers
Photo credit Shardayyy Photography via Unsplash

Just can’t decide?

If the decision is too difficult to make, combine the two together. Begin your wedding celebrations outdoors, exchanging vows under the sun then enjoy some canapes in the garden. Head indoors for your wedding breakfast and evening celebrations, but continue to offer an outdoor area for your guests to enjoy if they get too hot or if they’re smokers.

If you’d prefer to bring the outdoors in, a clear marquee would do the job! You’ll still be able to see the stunning surroundings but you’ll be protected from the elements if the weather took a turn for the worse. 

Wednesday 16 February 2022

What happened when I stopped constantly checking the news

In December I wrote about the ways that my phone makes me anxious, a mind dump about the anxiety that I have related to my phone. In particular I had become hooked on constant news checking throughout the day, scrolling and refreshing, always looking for an update. At my PC I was always clicking over to open a new window full of headlines. 

I had hundreds of different news stories running around in my head, I was wasting a lot of time, and I was feeling the interruption to my concentration every time I even thought about checking the news, let alone actually doing it. 

In January, one of my new habits was to put a firm stop to the obsessive news checking. I wouldn't avoid the news entirely, but the only exceptions were viewing links that had been sent to me directly and only intentional watching of a dedicated news broadcast on television. 

So for the year so far I've not opened up a news app on my phone or accessed a news website through a browser. I've watched an occasional news broadcast and kept up with the headlines through conversations with others and very brief forays into social media. 

What happened?

I didn't miss any important news stories, and nor did I feel like I was missing out. I still heard about the main news stories through conversation with my husband, but I heard about them after the fact, not through constant tiny updates. 

I seemed to have much more time during the day. Cutting down on my Facebook and Twitter time helped with this as well. During this extra time I picked up a book and I created rather than consumed - writing blog posts or working on my craft projects.

My anxiety was definitely lessened. I didn't feel so on edge and I didn't feel so attached to my phone. I usually leave my phone in another room now, and having it out of sight means that I can forget about it.

I feel that my concentration had improved. I have been able to concentrate more easily on longer books. I am also quite happy to just sit and look out the window or stare into space if I find myself with a few minutes to spare.

I'm very happy with this change and I'm really hoping that I can keep it up - I know just how easy it is to get sucked back into addictive smartphone behaviours!

If this is something that you've been thinking about I can recommend this article which really made me think - News is bad for you - and giving up reading it will make you happier.

Person scrolling on phone
Photo credit via Unsplash

Tuesday 15 February 2022

Easy tips to better decorate your bedroom

This is a collaborative post

The bedroom is one of the most important rooms in the house. It's where you relax and recharge, so it's important to make it feel like your own personal oasis. Research has shown that your bedroom's environment directly affects the quality of your sleep. This is why it is so important to have a restful retreat that you love, which reduces stress and helps you wake up feeling refreshed every day.

Bedroom with bed and plants
Photo credit Devon Janse van Rensburg via Unsplash

Here are some tips on how to better decorate your bedroom:

Use Linen Bedding

Linen sheets and linen bedding, such as linen pillowcases and linen duvet covers, are extremely breathable, which can help you stay cool throughout the night. The linen is also soft to the touch and has a slight sheen that enhances any room's style. Plus, linen colours tend to fade gracefully, so your bedding will retain its rich look for many years to come.

Decorate With Mirrors

Mirrors are great ways to decorate your bedroom because they can make any room look larger and brighter. Also, they bounce natural light around the room, which is beneficial if you have dark walls. Natural light is very important for your bedroom because it naturally helps you wake up in the morning. It also keeps your room temperature from humidity too much.

Incorporate Your Favourite Colours

Colours can affect how you feel depending on what they are associated with. For example, darker colours like black and brown may create a feeling of being closed off. On the other hand, lighter colors like white tend to have more positive associations with being open and clean. You'll want to choose colours that represent your personality, likes, interests, or even the season.

Add Plants

Having suitable plants is a great way to add life to your bedroom, which can help improve mental well-being through exposure to nature. They may also absorb toxins that commonly build up in bedrooms, which can contribute to poor health. With that being said, make sure to choose air-purifying plants versus ones that are toxic for pets and small children.

Use Natural Materials

Natural fibres look beautiful in any room's décor, while also breathing well. Instead of glass or ceramic lamps, consider buying a fibre optic lamp that uses materials like wood, jute, cane, or bamboo for a modern twist.

Create A Focal Point

A focal point is an important part of decorating any room, but it's particularly useful in bedrooms because this will help you transition from one place to another. For example, your bed should be the main focus in your bedroom, followed by other pieces like the dresser, nightstands, desk, sofa, or fireplace.

Create Layers With Lighting

You want to mimic day into night with the lighting in your bedroom. Different levels of lighting convey different emotions and feelings that can help create a calm environment for sleeping or an energetic one for getting ready in the morning. Use ambient lighting behind your bed or through your window to create a calming palette that reminds you of the outdoors. Try adding task lighting in the form of table lamps with dimmers for more focused illumination when reading, applying makeup, etc.

Add An Accent Wall

An accent wall is a great way to add life to any room's décor, but it's particularly useful in bedrooms because this will help you transition from one place to another. For example, if you have a theme or colour scheme for your bedroom, you can use an accent wall as a way to create a focal point and demarcate the different areas. For example, painting one wall behind your bed red can help instil passion in your bedroom décor.

Incorporate A Rug

Rugs are great at bringing all of the design elements of your bedroom together. For example, you can use a rug to define where your bed is or set up an area for reading. The right colour and pattern of rugs will also bring warmth into the room as well as connect any colours that are used in other parts of your bedroom decor. Be sure to also care for them. One of the most recurring problems with rugs is that they often shed. Keep an eye on how to stop rugs from shedding and they will last forever.

Use Your Bedroom For Different Activities

Your bedroom should represent more than just a place to doze off and get some rest. It can also be the centre of activity in your home. For example, you might use your bed as a comfortable spot during the day to read or watch TV while lounging on pillows. You can also set up a reading chair or desk within your bedroom to create a space for doing work.

When decorating your bedroom, it’s important to keep in mind the different ways that you can use colour, lighting, and materials to create a space that is both comfortable and reflective of your personality. By using these easy tips, you can create a beautiful and functional bedroom that will be a relaxing oasis at the end of a long day. Additionally, by taking into account some basic design principles, you can avoid common decorating mistakes and make sure your bedroom is uniquely yours.

What are some other ways that you like to personalize your bedroom? Let us know in the comments below!

Review - A new series of crafting books

I received these books in exchange for a review.

Today I'm sharing a review of some lovely craft books in a new crafting series from Pen and Sword. There's a huge range to choose from covering all sorts of arts and crafts. I chose Colourful Fun Embroidery, Modern Brush Lettering and Floral Embroidery.

Arts and crafts books from Pen and Sword review

All three books are beautiful to look at and filled with gorgeous photographs. Each has a detailed introduction by the author sharing with their personal stories of crafting and what it means to them. In addition all the books make a connection between crafting, mental health and wellbeing which I really liked. There are clear discussions of the best supplies to use for a project as well as places to buy them. Then they each include plenty of projects with detailed step by step instructions, graded according to difficulty so that you can work through them and improve your skills. 

Below I'll share a detailed review of each book.

Colourful Fun Embroidery by Clare Albans

This book features 24 gorgeous projects which aim to bring some colour and fun into your embroidery. After a brief introduction to the basics, the projects are divided into three sections - Crafternoon projects which take only a couple of hours, Medium Makes which will take a little longer, and Pick Me Up Projects which are longer term projects that you can work on as and when you need something to occupy yourself.

Colourful Fun Embroidery by Clare Albans

I loved all of the projects in the book, and I'm lucky enough to have a good selection of embroidery thread in different colours and fabric, so I was able to make a start on a small project straightaway. I decided to create a simple embroidered mini hoop. The project in the book uses the word 'yay' but I decided to change to the word 'calm' to hang above my desk for when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

Colourful Fun Embroidery by Clare Albans inside review

I've not worked on anything like this before but it was simple and quick to do, I easily finished it within an hour or so and now I have a lovely new piece of art to look at!

Mini embroidery hoop project with the word calm

All of the projects in the book are clearly described with plenty of step by step instructions and at the back you can find all the templates that you need. There is plenty of room for your own interpretation of a project and if you have a reasonable craft supply stash then you can easily work with what you have already without needing to purchase anything new. Many of these projects would make lovely colourful gifts and are calming and fun to work on.

Modern Brush Lettering by Becki Clark

I've never tried brush lettering before but I really love the style of it so I thought this might be a fun new craft for me to have a go at.

Modern Brush Lettering by Becki Clark

The book is aimed at beginners so it starts with the complete basics. I didn't own a brush pen so I bought the one recommended by the author, and I do have some watercolour brush pens which I'm hoping to try out with some of these projects. The book starts with the basic techniques and brush strokes which you can build on, just some simple mark making exercises. I worked my way through these, then I moved on to copying some of the practice phrases. I didn't find it easy at first and I'm a bit wobbly, but I'm really pleased with how well I managed to get on with it! It's a really mindful craft and in fact there is a chapter about mindfulness and how the repetitive strokes of the lettering focus your concentration and let you lose yourself in the moment.

First attempts at brush lettering

I can imagine the enjoyment and satisfaction that you would have in working on a series of projects, for example a set of gift tags or cards. The book contains 20 project ideas which are grouped by season. I can see myself using the technique this Christmas for things like tags, place names, cards and so on. It's such a simple craft but you can make some really lovely things. I'm looking forward to developing my brush lettering technique so that I can become much freer and confident in my style, and this book is definitely going to help me with that.

Modern Brush Lettering by Becki Clark inside review

Floral Embroidery by Teagan Olivia Sturmer

I particularly loved reading the introduction to this book, and about how the author was inspired to create these floral designs by both her grandmothers along with a love of flowers and Shakespeare.

Floral Embroidery by Teagan Olivia Sturmer

This book contains ten modern embroidery projects inspired by nature, each linked to a quote from Shakespeare, which are designed to be worked through in order. The first projects are simple and suitable for beginners, then as you go through the graded projects your skills will improve, you will add in different stitches, and you can build on the techniques that you've learned as you progress to more complex projects.

Floral Embroidery by Teagan Olivia Sturmer inside review

I'm looking forward to making a start on these projects when I've had time to assemble the materials that I need. The book has a very clear chapter on materials which is really helpful as I've not worked on this type of embroidery before. It also makes it very clear how to transfer the design from the book to the fabric, and there is a detailed stitch guide as well as different ways that you can finish off your hoop. The final chapter has some advice for coming up with your own floral embroidery patterns which is really helpful because once you have worked through the designs in the book you will be filled with inspiration for your own future projects!

These are all really lovely books and I'd recommend them to any crafters, whether you are looking to build on skills and experience that you already have or wanting to try something new from scratch.

You can see all the books in the series here - Arts and Crafts books from Pen and Sword.

Monday 14 February 2022

Hama bead magnet ideas

Hama bead magnet ideas and inspiration

Over the years on my blog I've shared lots of ideas for craft projects using Hama beads, and today I thought I'd share some of my favourite Hama bead designs which are perfect for turning into magnets. These make great gifts or party bag fillers and my daughter loves making these to sell at various school fairs. 

Click on the link to see the full tutorial.

Hama bead emoji magnets

Hama bead emoji magnet designs

These are definitely a favourite with my children. They love coming up with different designs based around different emojis. We also seem to always end up with far too many yellow Hama beads for some reason, so these are a great way to use them up!

Hama bead Tetris inspired magnets

These magnets are really fun to play with and rearrange on a magnet board by your desk.

Hama bead Tetris inspired magnets

Hama bead flower magnets

These flower magnets are made using a flower shaped pegboard, but if you follow the link to the tutorial you can see how to make similar Hama bead flowers using the square and hexagonal Hama bead pegboards. They are bright and colourful and a cheerful way to brighten up your fridge.

Hama bead flower magnets craft

Hama bead Disney themed magnets

I made these Disney Cruise themed magnets for a Fish Extender exchange - a gift exchange which takes place on Disney Cruises. You could also use them to display some favourite photographs from a Disney themed holiday. They use the circular pegboard and you can make them in any size that you like. 

Disney Fish Extender Hama bead magnets

Hama bead mini Christmas wreath magnets

These small Christmas wreath magnets also use the circular Hama bead pegboard and are great for holding a small photograph or Christmas related image. You could even attach them to Christmas cards or gifts as a little extra present.

Hama bead mini Christmas wreath magnet craft

Friday 11 February 2022

Where you can find me reading

I read a lot, and I always have at least one book on the go. I'm constantly back and forth to the library, to the bookshelves in local charity shops and browsing Amazon for free books and new books to buy.

So I spend a lot of time reading. And here are the places that you might find me with a book:

While brushing my teeth. Easier with a Kindle as you can hold it in one hand.

While eating, yes I often read while I'm eating. Again it's easier with a Kindle unless I'm eating something like pasta which can be managed with just a fork.

At my desk when I should be working. I used to have a bad habit of flipping away from my current window over into social media or the news, so recently I've kept a book close by and tried to turn to that instead. I'm not sure it helps with my productivity but it feels like less of a waste of time!

While waiting in the car for school pick up. I often get there early to make sure that I can get a parking space in the road that I like, but also so that I can have twenty minutes or so of uninterrupted reading time.

On the cross trainer. This one is a little more difficult, it needs to be a book that doesn't require too much concentration and has a large print size. Again a Kindle works best for this.

Woman reading a blue book with painted nails
Photo credit Benigno Hoyuela via Unsplash

While making dinner. Either with a book in one hand while the other stirs the pot or at the kitchen table while I wait for things to cook by themselves in the oven.

When the children are in the bath. They are old enough now that I don't need to supervise them while they wash, but I'm so used to sitting on the upstairs landing outside the bathroom that it has become a habit!

In the bath myself. This is reserved for my own books though, not library books, in case of watery accidents. I also have a waterproof case for my Kindle.

Under my blanket on the sofa in my study. This is the cosiest place in the house, but sometimes I just have to be careful not to doze off!

In bed at night. I try very hard not to check my phone during the evening or late at night and so I always take a book to bed. I also keep my pile of to be read books on the bedside table, so I can plan which one to read next. I find that it makes me feel relaxed and calm before sleeping.

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Learning to do the splits

I've wanted to be able to do the splits since I was little, but I always thought that it was something you either could or couldn't do. It wasn't until I started looking through exercise videos on YouTube and found videos with splits stretches that I realised it was something that you could actually train yourself to achieve!

So when I spotted a video from one of my favourite fitness channels promising 'Splits in 28 days' I had a sudden urge to train myself to get my splits. I was realistic and knew that it would take longer than 28 days - I am no longer a flexible young thing after all! But I do exercise regularly and my fitness level is decent. I decided to try for side splits rather than box splits because they felt more comfortable. 

I didn't take many photos of my progress, as I didn't really expect to get there! But here are a few that I took along the way. I was probably about 7 inches off the ground when I started, and I had to lean quite far forward to support myself in that position, it was very uncomfortable. 

Day 6 - Not very much progress from when I started so I'm still a fair way off from the ground and the back leg has a long way to go down. I'm also needing to lean forwards to support myself on the ground in this position.

Splits progress at the beginning

Day 27 - Nearly the end of the 28 day challenge! But I'm still a long way off, although I have gone down by several inches. The back leg has improved but but I'm still having to lean forward to support myself in this position. I didn't feel that I'd made a huge amount of progress at this point, but I could see that if I continued it would improve so I didn't give up. But I do remember being in quite a lot of discomfort when this photo was taken, perhaps you can tell by my expression!

Splits progress after a month

There's a long gap between photos here. My progress was quite slow and went in fits and starts. But when I got to the point where I could comfortably get my front leg flat on the floor I felt more confident in my progress, even though the back leg still had a way to go. And then after about two months I was just over an inch off the ground.

Day 68 - At this point I had been working on my over split for a week or so by stretching using a yoga block to raise my front leg and this really seemed to help. I was definitely starting feel that I was getting there as you can see from the happy look on my face! It's hard to see but I'm only just over an inch off the ground although I'm still needing to support myself quite a lot with my arms.

Splits progress after two months

Day 75 - Only a tiny bit more progress with the back leg but I'm now able to sit more upright without any real support from my arms. At this point I'd been continuing using the yoga block for the stretches every day and I had also started alternating my stretches with a second video (see below). To be honest at this point I was tempted to say that I had achieved my splits, but I just really wanted to get that back thigh down to the floor!

Splits progress after two and a half months

Day 114 - Finally I took this photo after a run last summer. Although I've still been working on my stretches almost every day as part of my general exercise routine I've not noticed much more improvement than this since then. I think that I have to accept that at age 42 this is the best that I'm going to get (and it's definitely as good as many of the pictures and videos that I've seen of the splits online!) 

Splits progress after about three months

I'm very proud of what I've managed to achieve. My flexibility has improved a tremendous amount and I can also really feel the muscles in my legs now as they have developed! 

If you are interested in trying it for yourself, there are lots of splits stretching videos available on YouTube. The one that I used originally is no longer available, but I also had a lot of success with the video below. It's quite short and can be a bit difficult at first, even though it doesn't include doing the actual splits. I think that the high lunges at the beginning in particular really helped with the stretch, and I also like the music on the video.

Good luck if you want to give it a go!

Tuesday 8 February 2022

Buying crafting supplies online - what to look out for

This is a collaborative post

Purchasing anything online comes with many challenges and considerations that you should remain aware of. Whether you’re an experienced internet user or rarely browse the web, there are hurdles and risks which can cause you some significant problems. 

At the same time, there are things to watch out for that could give you better deals and help you to find exactly what you’re looking for, as well as some unexpected delights. To help you on the journey of buying your new crafting supplies online, we’ve put together this handy guide for you to use during the process.

Check Catalogues

If a supplier offers a catalogue, it may be worthwhile to sign up for one of these. These may contain deals and sale items that may only be available when purchasing via a catalogue, and you may even be able to sign up for special member deals and offers when subscribing to the catalogue. Remember that if you choose to begin purchasing your supplies using a catalogue and shopping online, make sure you remain aware of other hidden costs, especially on cheaper items. 

Rainbow of paper on shelves
Photo credit shawnanggg via Unsplash

Be Aware Of Shipping Costs

One of these costs you need to be conscious of will likely be delivery costs. Cheap items may seem like a fantastic deal and could easily be the best price you’ve seen on that particular item, but it may actually benefit you to choose a higher-priced item with free shipping compared to paying for a heavily discounted item. 

Don’t forget that there are also some scammers out there that claim that you only need to pay shipping costs on certain items, so keep your wits about you here. Depending on where the items are purchased from, geographically, as well as which delivery services that supplier has available, you may find that you’re paying a small fortune on delivery, far outweighing what you’d pay for buying a more expensive item. Keep your wits about you, and don’t rush into a purchase without calculating the best deal possible.

Consider Mailing Lists

When you’re searching for new supplies for your craft projects, no matter what that craft is, you will know that there are always changes in stock levels and offerings from many suppliers, whether they’re a physical store or a digital one. To keep track of these stocks, especially when it comes to rare materials that can come and go within a few weeks per year, signing up for mailing lists of suppliers can be extremely useful.

If your favourite online supplier has the option to do this, it may be very worthwhile doing so. Learning that you’ve missed out on a new supply of rare wool for a knitting project, for example, can be extremely frustrating and may even scupper the progress of your project for weeks or even months.

Keep An Eye On Reviews

When you’re unsure about an item, whether you’re not confident about the quality, size, colour or authenticity, it’s always worth reading reviews both on-site and off-site. You’ll find many suppliers will have the option for users to leave reviews about the items they’ve bought, providing answers to some of your potential questions before you even have to ask. 

Remember that some suppliers may be tempted to remove overly negative yet informative reviews in the hope to avoid buyers from being dissuaded, although many will steer clear of this unethical and deceptive tactic. However, this is why it’s worth checking reviews about the website itself from external sources in case you’re unsure about trusting that particular site.

Coloured cotton in shop display
Photo credit Héctor J. Rivas via Unsplash

Be Wary Of Scams

One of the most important things to be wary of when buying online from suppliers is scammers. When it comes to selling raw materials, as with many other things of value, there is always the chance that unsavoury individuals will be trying to deceive buyers with fake or poor-quality items. You may find that you never even receive the items you pay for together. 

There is also the chance that you could fall for a delivery phishing scam when you’ve purchased anything online. When you’ve ordered a particular item, you’ll likely be waiting for that delivery excitedly. Only to find that you’ve received a text message saying that your package wasn’t delivered, has been cancelled, or is delayed, suggesting that you click a link to rectify the situation. Remember to never click a link like this unless you can ensure it’s from the seller. Online tracking information will be updated with any official delays or failed deliveries, so it’s best to always check those first before acting. 

Visit Trusted And Secure Sites

Another great tip when buying your crafting supplies online is to stick to reputable sellers and sites. You may find that you want to go exploring for other sellers that may offer some more favourable deals and discounts, but the further afield you go, the more likely you are to stumble on a site that doesn’t have the customer’s best interests at heart. 

This is true especially if that site is not fully encrypted and secured. Even if the sellers themselves are trustworthy, entering your details on a site that doesn’t have an SSL certificate can leave your data exposed to hackers and cybercriminals who may steal your information or even your payment details.

Stay On The Lookout For Rare Supplies

When shopping online, you have much more access to a wider range of products and supplies that you may not find in your local craft shop. While local stores may be able to order these items for you, cutting out the middleman and locating these items yourself can be much faster, and you may even get a better deal. Shipping from overseas may provide you with some exotic materials for your next craft project, so keep an eye on your favourite suppliers and stay signed up to those mailing lists.

Follow Trusted Crafters

As with many other hobbies, crafts are home to many communities and influential individuals who offer advice and helpful discussion to others in these crafting communities. It’s worth listening to those that have been involved in this hobby for longer than yourself, as they’ll have a wealth of experience to offer you and others around you. 

Of course, many of these individuals may become sponsors or influencers and therefore may not recommend the best products or sellers and might instead be only championing those they’re paid to sponsor. However, the chances are they’re still not going to damage their reputation by sponsoring a poor service or seller, and it may be worth listening to their suggestions.

Use Bulk Discounts

Many crafters get involved with the help of friends and family who’ve influenced them, or you might be the one that’s got your friends hooked on this fun new crafting hobby. Whichever applies to you, if you’ve got friends and family with this common interest, it could be extremely beneficial to buy your supplies and tools in bulk to make use of bulk discounts and cheaper shipping costs. 

For example, if a supplier charges a rather expensive delivery cost, instead of all of you buying things individually whenever you need them, you can pool your funds together and get everything you need in one order, saving everyone a small amount. You may also find that some suppliers offer free delivery on orders over a certain amount of money. Finding ways to make these orders cheaper without sacrificing quality or even specific items is always worthwhile.

Monday 7 February 2022

Review - The Sit2Go Fitness Chair from FlexiSpot

I received this item in exchange for a review

FlexiSpot is a company focussed on designing ergonomic office furniture which helps people to stay healthy while they are at work. This is something which is especially important now, when many people are working more regularly from home and are looking for ways that they can improve their working space. 

I was contacted by FlexiSpot and offered the opportunity to review the Sit2Go Fitness Chair. With both myself and my husband currently working from home, and keen to find ways that we can keep healthy while working at our desk based jobs, I loved the sound of an exercise bike that you can use while you are working.

The Sit2Go Fitness Chair is available in black and white and has a comfortable, height adjustable seat with plenty of support. You can use the pedals to keep active while sitting, with several different resistance levels depending on whether you want an intensive workout or if you just want to keep moving. There's a simple display to show different statistics, and it sits on smooth rolling castors so you can easily move it from place to place. 

Sit2Go Fitness Chair from FlexiSpot review

There was some assembly required for the Fitness Chair, but having built many similar products I didn't find it too difficult. The pieces aren't heavy or awkward, and I found it straightforward to put together myself. The only part that wasn't obvious to me was where to insert the two AA batteries for the LCD display! So I made a little video to show where the battery compartment is. It's obviously really, I just didn't want to force it without being sure what I was doing.

I was really pleased with the look of the Fitness Chair. It's not too big and it is neat and streamlined. The seat is comfortable and easy to adjust into different positions, and although it is heavy I was able to lift it upstairs myself without too much trouble. For moving it around on the level, for example from your desk to the television, it's very easy to push on the smooth castors.

If you want to use the Fitness Chair as an under desk bike then you will need a high desk. Although the fitness chair does fit under my desk, with the movement of the knees going up and down there isn't enough space for me to use it while I'm working. Luckily my husband has a height adjustable stand for his monitor, so it fits much better into his home office set up. For myself I've found it easier to use when watching television or while sitting with a book or magazine.

Sit2Go Fitness Chair from FlexiSpot in home office

The chair remains stable when on the wooden floor, and it doesn't feel as though it would roll about. It's also very quiet when in use, so can easily be used while watching television or on a phone call. 

In terms of the statistics available it's quite basic, but that's fine with me as I don't like to get too obsessive about tracking my fitness stats. The LCD display turns on automatically when you start pedalling and cycles between time, speed, distance, calories, odometer and RPM. You can use the button to switch from one to the next, and press and hold to reset. The number of calories burned can only ever be a guide, as it will vary greatly depending on body type. But it calculated that I had burned 50 calories in a ten minute workout which seems pretty good!

Sit2Go Fitness Chair from FlexiSpot LCD display close up

I certainly felt as though I had enjoyed a good workout - I've been using it at resistance level three which is enough to get my heart pumping but easy enough that I can keep at it for a little while. 

If you are looking for a simple piece of exercise equipment that you can integrate into your home office setup then I would definitely recommend the Sit2Go Fitness Chair. You will most likely need to add a height adjustable desk or monitor stand to get the most from it, but I can see it being a really useful way to keep us both moving while working from home. 

Friday 4 February 2022

What I've been reading, watching and listening to lately

A little glimpse of some of the things that I've been enjoying lately!


I've read lots of books over the last few weeks as usual, and there have been a few in particular which have really stood out. I loved Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, a story about a young girl who raises herself after her family abandon her in their shack in the marshes. It's a little far fetched in places perhaps, but I enjoyed all the descriptions of nature and of the woman's solitary life. 

I also liked The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, a horror classic which I was inspired to read after seeing it mentioned in reviews of another book I enjoyed. It was a good read, I'm not normally scared by books but this one was quite terrifying. The popular Netflix show is very loosely based on the novel, but I watched a trailer for it and it looks a bit too scary for me.

Finally I've been finishing off some of the paperbacks that I received for my birthday - a couple of books of short stories by Daphne du Maurier who is one of my favourite authors. The stories are usually quite short and cover a wide range of characters, often with something that is a little bit off about them, something that leaves you feeling a bit uncomfortable. 

Reading a book
Photo credit Clay Banks via Unsplash


Over the last couple of weeks we've been binge watching The Witcher, a series that we've had on a vague 'must watch' list for a while. I really enjoyed it, once I'd worked out what was going on in the first few episodes where the timelines are in a bit of a muddle. It was a nice easy watch with plenty going on and lots of interesting characters. The second season was definitely better, and it looks as though there will be more seasons to look forward to in the future.

Since Mia adopted her gibbon we've been watching an episode of Monkey Life most days after dinner, a documentary series about Monkey World. Each episode is quite short, but with over 250 episodes to get through it's going to take a long while to watch them all! But when we do get to visit Monkey World, hopefully over half term, we'll be able to take so much more from our visit now that we know more about the park and the individual primates.

As a family we've been watching Boba Fett on Disney+. I'm not so into this series I must admit but it's nice to have something to enjoy together as a family. Also on Disney+ we've been enjoying a series called Behind the Attraction which takes a look at some of the most famous and popular rides at the Disney parks. Disney are very clever about giving you a look behind the scenes without revealing too many secrets but it's still a really interesting watch. 

Television on stand with plants
Photo credit Wang John via Unsplash

Listening to

I don't generally listen to podcasts as I find that I'm too easily distracted! But one that I drop in to from time to time is Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee. There's a good mix of longer and shorter episodes and I've picked up some really useful and helpful information. The episode that I started listening to most recently was How to Reclaim Your Attention with Johann Hari, and I say started listening to because I was so taken by the information in the first part of the podcast that I went and bought the book and I read that instead!

In terms of music I've been enjoying the Encanto soundtrack. I also have a playlist called Relaxing Piano which is also a collection of pieces that I would love to be able to play on the piano myself. 

Wednesday 2 February 2022

Our new hedgehog house and our hedgehog visitor

We've known that we have hedgehogs in our garden for a while. We often see them scooting about on our security cameras, sometimes I spot them when I go to the garage at night to put washing in the tumble dryer, and once we were in the hot tub and were treated to a half hour or so watching two hedgehogs snuffling around us.

So a couple of weeks ago we decided to try and entice a hedgehog to stay for a little longer, and we bought a hedgehog house for the garden.

This is the hedgehog house that we bought - Predator Proof Hedgehog House and Hibernation Shelter. We also purchased a pack of hedgehog food from the same company, although I think we'll move to cheaper cat biscuits when it's finished. Then we bought a pack of hay from Amazon. The entire sleeping area of the hedgehog house is filled with hay, then we left some piles outside as we read that hedgehogs like to build their own nests with it. We put a small bowl of food inside and scattered some about. There's a saucer of water too.

Hedgehog house in garden, UK

The house is located in a sheltered part of the garden that we don't go in very often, tucked away from the main part of the garden between the house wall and a fence. Then we have one of our Ring security cameras opposite so we can watch what the hedgehog is up to.

Harry made this video for me of the first night that the hedgehog visited the house, about a week after we placed it. If you watch to the end you'll be treated by the gently steaming gift that the hedgehog left behind for us!

Over the next week the hedgehog kept coming back to snuffle around, eat the food and explore inside the house. Then last night we saw him go into the house at about 6.30am and stay inside for the whole day which was very exciting! It's great to have the camera so that we can see what it's up to!

Do you have hedgehog visitors to your garden?