Friday 30 September 2022

My sea themed simple tote bag

It's definitely getting cooler now here as we head towards the end of the year, and I'm busy working my way through my list of ten craft projects to complete by Christmas.

Next up on my list was a sea themed fabric project. I bought some lovely fabric while I was in the US this summer, and I intentionally chose some that had a beach or ocean theme or was blue and green in colour. Most of the fabric in my stash was pink and flowery and so I wanted something a bit different. I wasn't sure what to make, but after searching for inspiration online I decided to try a simple tote bag.

Simple beach themed fabric lined tote bag

From my new fabric I chose the blue camouflage, seahorses and turtles and different shells. I already had some fabric with anchors on which I knew would be perfect for the lining.

Making my first simple tote bag with my sewing machine

I searched for simple tutorials and found this one from Skip to my Lou - How to make a tote bag. It's an excellent tutorial for a simple lined and reversible tote bag and I found it pretty easy to follow. The only place I got a bit caught out was with the straps, I'm not very good at visualising how a pattern will come together, and it took me a while to work out how I needed to place them! Next time I would manage the placement a bit better with an extra twist.

A simple lined tote bag craft

And there will definitely be a next time because I was so pleased with how this turned out! I already have an order lined up for Mia, and I'm thinking about making a few smaller ones for some younger family members. It's gong to be a great way to work through some of my fabric stash!

Wednesday 28 September 2022

Watching a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida

Whenever we are in Florida we always check the rocket launch schedule. A few years ago we were lucky enough to see an Atlas V rocket launch, and this summer there were three launches scheduled while we were there, including the very highly anticipated Artemis I launch to the moon's orbit!

Cape Canaveral is about an hours drive from the Orlando area and costs around $7-$8 in tolls each way, so you want to be fairly sure that the launch is actually going to take place before you head out. Unfortunately the second launch was delayed until late at night so it wasn't practical for us. The Artemis launch was scheduled for our final day and we agonised for days over whether to risk the traffic before our flight. We decided reluctantly not to attempt it, which was the right decision as unfortunately the launch was cancelled at the last minute. It was a disappointment, although we did see the rocket on the launch pad when we visited the Kennedy Space Center.

Luckily we did manage to see one of the launches, which was a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching 53 Starlink Satellites. This time we wanted to watch it from somewhere that we could see the launchpad. so after lots of research Ram chose the Rocket Launch View Point which is located next to the Sands Space History Center alongside some of the SpaceX buildings. 

It was all extremely well organised. There was a police officer who directed us to the parking, then we crossed the road to a large grassy viewing area with portable toilets and tiered seating. It was very hot but we found a spot under a small tree to wait, then stood along the edge of the sea as the lift off time approached. It's definitely a good place to watch one of the less popular launches, we wouldn't have managed to get so close for the Artemis launch!

Rocket Launch Viewing Point Cape Canaveral Florida

The thing that surprises me most about watching a rocket launch is that because of the distance you see the rocket a long time before you hear it. So the rocket takes off in complete silence (apart from the gasps of the people around you!) and it is ages before you hear the roar. It's so bright that it hurts your eyes, and you can watch it as it ascends and then disappears leaving behind a trail of cloud. It's an incredible experience.

Watching a rocket launch in Florida

If you are visiting Orlando and a rocket launch is scheduled then I'd really recommend taking the time to fit it into your schedule. There is plenty of useful information about viewing times and locations online from the local experts. In particular we found Launch Rats really helpful as the best viewing locations can differ depending on the launchpad that is being used. 

Monday 26 September 2022

The things that I bring back from the US

An important part of my travel to the US is finding time for some shopping! I'm not after designer clothes or trainers, instead I like to visit the supermarkets like Target and Walmart and the large craft stores. I like to browse the homewares, crafts, stationery, pharmacy and snacks. 

On our visit a few weeks ago the first thing that we noticed was how much prices have increased since our last visit pre-Covid in autumn 2019. A trip to the US is definitely no longer a chance to pick up bargains! Most of the prices were comparable to home, and were in many cases more expensive, especially with the current poor exchange rate. 

However it is a chance to get hold of some things which aren't available at home, and these are the things that I always look for:

Craft supplies - I've already blogged about my holiday craft shop purchases so I won't repeat myself, but I always like to look for things which are a bit different to what we can get at home, and also to look for seasonal things and special offers.

Selection of fabric purchased on holiday

Nestle crunch chocolate bars - I've seen them in the UK, but they aren't as easy to find and also tend to just be the larger bars. I like to bring home a multipack bag of the tiny bars, especially if we are visiting around Halloween when they are on offer. 

Ghirardelli Brownie Mix - whenever we go to Costco I pick up a box of Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate brownie mix as it's so delicious and easy to make. But in the US there are so many different flavours available! The only trouble is that they can end up being quite heavy so you have to be restrained. This time I also bought some Betty Crocker mug cake mixes which were very tasty.

Ghirardelli brownie mix different flavours

Pharmacy things - I like to get some antibiotic cream as we can't buy that over the counter here. I also usually get a bottle of melatonin tablets as they are useful when travelling, to help with jet lag and adjusting to new time zones. There are also a few other things which are much cheaper and available in larger quantities, like hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines. I find that nail varnish is cheaper too!

Chips Ahoy - I love Chips Ahoy cookies! They are much sweeter at first but you soon get used to them. This time I discovered the Red Velvet flavour which were really tasty. 

A jigsaw - I often like to buy a jigsaw as a souvenir, and this time I came back with a jigsaw showing the map of the Magic Kingdom park. The only trouble that I've found is that US jigsaws tend to be a different size to the ones we get here. This one is square, and it won't fit on my jigsaw mat!

Disney World Orlando map jigsaw

A mug - I don't drink many hot drinks but I do like a morning hot chocolate and I love drinking from a mug which reminds me of my travels. We visited a discount gift store near our accommodation and I picked up a Mickey Mouse mug with images from across the years.

Do you visit the US? What are the things you buy that aren't as easy to get hold of here?

Friday 23 September 2022

The best things about visiting theme parks with older children

We've always taken the children to theme parks, and when they were young we did several holidays to Disney World in Florida, which were brilliant although hard work with toddlers. This summer we repeated the two week intensive Disney World holiday, two years later than planned, and it was such a difference travelling with our children now that they are older, aged 11 and 13!

* No more pushchairs! We had two on our previous visit, and although they are handy for stashing things it is a pain pushing it through crowds, finding somewhere to leave it while you go on a ride, and it slows you down. It was very freeing to be without it.

* Longer legs and more stamina means they can walk longer distances, spend longer in the parks and get more done. 

* Visits to the toilet are uncomplicated! You don't need to worry about finding somewhere to change a nappy, and they know when they need to go so you don't have to constantly nag.

* You have some help carrying the bag, or at least they can be responsible for their own small bag or bum bag with essentials like phones and snacks.

* They understand about needing to queue for a ride and won't make a fuss. They are also able to keep themselves entertained while waiting, especially if they have the aforementioned phones close by.  

Family at Magic Kingdom park, Orland, Florida

* They can sit quietly for a show or longer attraction, even if they aren't really that interested. Once I had to take a screaming Mia out of the Carousel of Progress show which is a revolving theatre attraction and probably shouldn't be exited at any point!

* They are much more likely to go on the faster or scarier attractions, but if they don't fancy it they can wait for you at the exit, ideally taking charge of your larger bags while you ride. 

* They can help with the planning so they can do the things that they want to as well as being understanding about doing things for others.

* You can take them in the souvenir shops safely without them wanting everything and making a fuss when they don't get it!

* They understand the importance of an afternoon nap or chill time and they are able to stay up later in the evenings. For the first time this visit we were able to see the Electrical Water Pageant which happens on the lake around the time the park closes - we were never able to keep them up late enough before! We also saw all the firework displays several times because they weren't too tired to stay up and wait.

It was definitely a different trip to our previous visits, and I think that we all got a lot more out of it!

Wednesday 21 September 2022

Two different wooden painted signs

A few weeks ago I was in The Works and found myself tempted by the Christmas crafts. I bought a few plain wooden decorations which I thought would be fun to decorate, and also a couple of these Wooden Hanging Signs. I think they were buy one get one free at the time, and as Mia was with me I said that we could each make our own sign. Here's what we started with:

Plain wooden sign from The Works

I was planning a Christmas theme, but Mia decided that she wanted to make a sign for her bedroom door. She takes great pride in her bedroom - she keeps it beautifully clean and tidy and she loves spending her birthday and Christmas money on accessories like fairy lights and fluffy cushions. She searched for some colour schemes and chose the colours that she wanted, mixed up the paints and set to work. I helped her out with the lettering - we chose a font in Word and typed out what she wanted before I copied it as I could using some metallic pens. It says 'Welcome to the cosy den'. 

She added large star sequins and glitter, and I think that it looks amazing! It's hanging on her bedroom door along with some other accessories and it makes me smile every time I go past.

Welcome to the Cosy Den painted door sign

For my sign I went with the Christmas theme. We all spent a mealtime together coming up with various words that I could use. I wanted words with a Christmas theme that weren't religious or too cheesy, and I liked having a rhyme. We came up with 'stars twinkle bells jingle'. I used simple green and red for the background and gold for the lettering. Then I used star sequins for the star words and a couple of small bells glued on next to 'jingle' - I knew that saving them from all those Lindt reindeer over the years would be worth it one day!

Christmas homemade painted wooden sign

I really like how we both started with the same sign and came up with such different interpretations!

Monday 19 September 2022

Coping with theme parks in the Florida heat

This August we had a brilliant couple of weeks in Florida doing the Disney theme parks. We've not been in August before and I wasn't quite prepared for how intense the heat would be. It was hard work, but we managed, and so I thought I'd share some tips which made it more bearable:

Apply plenty of sun cream and take a bottle with you for top ups.

Drink plenty of water. I found that I was sweating constantly and you need to be drinking almost constantly to keep up with the rate of water lost. There are plenty of water fountains and at Disney World parks you can get free iced water from most of the quick service dining locations.

Likewise eat plenty of snacks. You are allowed to take your own food and drink into the Disney theme parks (with a very few restrictions - check the park websites for the latest guidance). I'm not a nutritional expert but I'm assuming that a snack like crisps might replace some of the salts that you have lost through sweating.

Wear loose and comfortable clothing, avoid dark colours and high necklines. If you feel too body conscious to even think about wearing shorts then there's no need, there are honestly people of all shapes and sizes in the theme parks. But I wouldn't recommend skirts unless you aren't planning on going on any of the faster rides!

Wear comfortable footwear, an important tip for theme parks regardless. I bought a pair of Teva sandals which were really comfy and were great for rides where my feet got wet, as well as during the frequent Florida storms.

Take and use hats and sunglasses. If you are a glasses wearer it can be a pain to keep swapping between normal glasses and prescription sunglasses as you move from indoor to outdoor spaces. My son gets round this by taking a large pair of non-prescription sunglasses that he puts on over the top of his normal glasses!

We bought some cooling towels and they were brilliant, and you can buy a set of four for £10-£15. They are small, light pieces of fabric which you wet under a tap or at a water fountain, wring loosely to dry, and then wrap around your neck. I liked to use mine to dampen my arms, legs and face and make the most of any slight breeze on my wet skin to cool down.

We also saw lots of people with cooling fans which I was quite envious of. Some people even had fans which looped around their necks, and a fan is also great to direct at a child sitting in a pushchair. Some people had umbrellas for shade, which are also useful for the frequent downpours.

Coping in the Florida heat at theme parks

There are plenty of indoor, air-conditioned attractions and it's definitely worth saving these for the hottest parts of the day. Even the outdoor theatres are usually undercover with fans, and are a great place to sit and have a snack if you are early for a show. You can also sit down and rest while waiting for a parade or the evening fireworks. You might want to bring a small mat to sit on but I always felt comfortable sitting on the ground. 

You can also duck into one of the shops. When walking down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom we often walked some of the way through the shops on either side which are all connected.

It's also fun to go on a water ride. The wettest ride in all the parks is Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom which will leave you soaked. You also get pretty wet on Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom. Keep an eye out for fountains - there's a spitting camel next to The Magic Carpets of Aladdin at Magic Kingdom, and the ride itself can be steered through a water spray. At Epcot there are some fantastic jumping fountains that you can use to cool down in.

But by far my biggest tip would be to simply avoid the parks during the hottest part of the day as much as you can. We planned our days to arrive just before the park opened and keep going until lunchtime, often finishing the morning with an ice cream to cool us down before the long walk back to the car. Then we returned to our accommodation for some lunch, a visit to the pool and then a nap or quiet time. We went back to the parks anytime from 4pm and stayed until late in the evening. It was still hot in the evening, but once the sun has gone down it makes a big different to comfort levels.

Finally the most important thing is to keep a careful eye out for the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke for all members of your party. If anyone starts to feel unwell then you need to find a cool, shaded spot, have a rest and make sure to drink plenty of water. There are first aid stations throughout the parks and any cast member can help you find medical assistance.

Friday 16 September 2022

Book review - What a Shell Can Tell by Helen Scales, illustrated by Sonia Pulido

Regular readers will know that I love beachcombing and hunting on beaches for treasure, so when I was offered the chance to review this gorgeous book I knew that it would be right up my street! What a Shell Can Tell by Helen Scales and illustrated by Sonia Pulido dives into the world of shells and the creatures who inhabit them, from the common and familiar to the weird and wonderful.

Book Review - What a Shell Can Tell by Helen Scales

The book is aimed at young readers, but I think that it would make a wonderful addition to the bookshelf of anyone that has an interest in the sea and its creatures. 

Each double page spread asks a a question about what we can learn from a shell, for example what can a shell's pattern tell you, or what can a shell tell you about where it lives. There's a handy spotters guide to help identify different types of shell and the book is packed with fascinating information, presented in an easy to understand format and full of gorgeous, colourful illustrations. It's designed to connect observations to scientific explanations, looking at what you can see and learning about what that means.

What a Shell Can Tell book inside illustrations

I love hunting for shells and have quite a collection, but I realised that I didn't really know a great deal about them, and I've found this book enormously informative. I was particularly interested in finding out what you can learn about shells from their patterns and textures and it has really made me think more about the shells in my collection. 
What a Shell Can Tell book inside illustrations

I would absolutely recommend this lovely book, not just for children but for anyone that wants to learn more about the world of the ocean and seashore. Sharing this book is a great way to connect with your child as you explore the beach together.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Embroidered felt Autumn leaves

I'm busy looking for crafts to work my way through my felt stash, and I decided that as the weather is slowly beginning to turn somewhat autumnal that I would make some embroidered felt leaves for some Autumn decoration. This is also the first of my ten craft projects that I want to complete by the end of the year.

At first I was going to make something similar to my felt heart garland using smaller leaves, but I couldn't face all that cutting out, especially because leaves are so intricate! So I made some larger leaves to display in a bowl on the fireplace, and embellished them with embroidery and tiny beads. Each one measures about 10cm in height.

Felt Autumn Fall leaves displayed in a white bowl

I was greatly inspired by a couple of designs that I found online. First were these gorgeous Felt Fall Leaf Ornaments with a digital pattern available to purchase on Etsy. Mine aren't nearly as beautiful as these, they are just perfect! Secondly these Embroidered Felt Oak Leaf Brooches from the brilliant Bugs and Fishes, which has a detailed tutorial and pattern for the oak leaves. For my leaf patterns I searched for leaf outlines and traced them from my computer screen. 

Felt Autumn embroidered leaves

I did all the embroidery freehand so they aren't very neat or symmetrical, but I like to think that they have a rustic feel to them! I tried to use a mixture of colours in the felt and the embroidery thread and each one is backed with a piece of grey felt. I had a lot of fun making these and I really like having them out on display.

Hand embroidered felt Autumn and Fall leaves

Why more people are choosing a cruise holiday in 2022, and why you should too

This is a collaborative post

There are so many reasons to go on a cruise. From having everything you could want to do all in the one place, to seeing many new places all in one trip without the added stress that planning flights between various countries would bring, a cruise is the best choice going for an exciting yet stress-free holiday.

Whether you’re an old hand at cruising, or you want to try something new and exciting this year, here’s why you should choose to go on a cruise holiday in 2022.

No more stress!

Cruises make for a great low-stress holiday. No need to plan lots of flights and transportation to airports and various accommodations, it is all in the same place. Once you’re on the ship you can relax anywhere you like, whether it is in your room or by the pool, a cruise is made to be relaxing from start to finish.

Cruises also mean you don’t need to plan a packed itinerary. Most cruises offer lots of activities and plan all the stops for you, so you don’t need to worry! You no longer have to limit yourself to just one location, as cruises are designed to give you a taste of lots of different places in one trip.

Planning a trip on a cruise also makes getting travel insurance much easier. Where you ordinarily would have had to purchase insurance for your flight, insurance for your trip as well as health insurance for each of the countries you visit, if you opt for a cruise you can take out a cruise insurance policy to cover your whole trip.

Cruise ship docked in Norway

Offer a huge range of activities

Although you are mostly confined to the ship while you are on a cruise, modern cruise ships are huge and offer a massive variety of restaurants, bars, and activities for customers to enjoy. There will always be something to do on a cruise ship, and you’ll not only never get bored but you’re likely to make friends through your time there. Talk to people you meet, make connections, and enjoy the various lounges, pools and games on offer across the ship together.

The variety of things on offer on a cruise ship means that you don’t need to plan every day in advance, you can instead wait to see what mood strikes you on a day-to-day basis. This also means that travelling in a group can be a lot easier, as individuals can take part in different activities at the same time.

Cruise ships often have an extensive range of food options, with everything ranging from classic breakfasts to 5-star restaurants, cruise ships can feature some really incredible food. If you’re looking for a place to try out something new while having the experience of a lifetime, look no further!

Cruises are unique

Cruises are an absolutely unique experience and one that everyone should try out at some point. The ability to do so many different things from the middle of the ocean is an experience like no other. It is a time to forget about the worries of real-life and take time out for every moment.

More people than ever are choosing to go on a cruise in 2022, and you should do the same. Step away from the outside world for a while and step into the immersive, vibrant atmosphere of a cruise ship. See incredible sights and try out luxury restaurants all from the comfort of the ship, and spend your days filled with fun activities and experiences like no other, all without the stress of planning!

Cruise ship docked

Monday 12 September 2022

The Titanic Artefact Museum in Orlando, Florida

On the last day of our recent holiday in Orlando we were looking for something to fill a couple of hours on our way to the airport for our evening flight. We chose the Titanic Artefact Museum which is located on International Drive, about a twenty minute drive from Orlando International Airport. Harry has long had a fascination with the Titanic, and when he was about five he made a brilliant Lego model which he used to play with. It's also a subject that really interests me, I remember watching documentaries from when the shipwreck was discovered and being fascinated by the blurry underwater images.

I'm really glad that we made this choice! We spent just over an hour at the museum, and I have to say that it was excellent. I was so impressed that I felt I had to share our visit here, as I really would recommend it to anyone that is in the area and has a passing interest in the Titanic.

At the beginning of our visit we were each given a different boarding pass for a real passenger, along with some history about them and their reasons for making the trip. Both Mia and I were rich ladies travelling in first class. In fact she was one of the richest passengers on the ship, travelling in a suite with a private promenade deck and two staff. Ram was a first class gentleman and Harry was a Swedish immigrant travelling in third class. We were told that at the end we would find out what had happened to our passengers, and that gave us lots to think about as we went around the museum. Mia sometimes struggles to maintain her interest, but it really engaged her when we found a map of the ship showing her private deck, and a reconstruction of a stateroom similar to the one that her passenger would have occupied.

Titanic Artefact Museum boarding passes on entry

The reconstructions throughout were in my opinion the best part of the museum. As well as the stateroom there was the famous grand staircase, one of the dining areas and part of the boiler room. Then my favourite part was the Promenade Deck. It was a short section of decking with mirrors at the side to make it appear longer, in an area of the museum with the air conditioning turned down low so that you could feel the chilly air. It was set at night, with clever projections of the sea on the floor on the other side of the rail. I've travelled on cruise ships at night and it felt so realistic and also spooky.

The museum story began with the history and building of the Titanic, then a large part of the museum focused on life on board and the amenities available to passengers, with an interesting look at the differences between the different classes. Then followed information about the sinking and the salvage. There are plenty of genuine artefacts scattered throughout, including a piece of the hull and a small piece of the ship that you can touch. There's even an actual iceberg!

In the memorial room we discovered what had happened to our passengers. The first class ladies had survived but the first class gentleman had not. Sadly, we weren't surprised to find out that Harry's steerage passenger had also perished. The lists of names were organised by their ticket class on the ship, and it was sobering to see how few of the third class passengers had actually survived.

Titanic Artefact Museum real iceberg

If you do decide to visit the Titanic Artefact Museum do remember to have a look online or in a voucher booklet for current discount coupons as we managed to save quite a bit on our entry.

Friday 9 September 2022

Ten craft projects to complete by the end of the year

I seem to have collected rather a lot of new craft materials recently, as well as already having a sizeable stash. So in order to motivate myself to get on with some projects I thought that the best thing to do would be to make a list of the things that I want to work on and get finished. Only one of these projects has already been started, so I have plenty to be getting on with! 

Ideally all of these crafts will be finished by the end of the year. 

Felt Autumn leaves - I have lots of felt that I need to work through so I fancy making some Autumn leaves, something like these ones from Bugs and Fishes - Embroidered Felt Oak Leaves. I'm not sure yet if I want to string them into a garland or just leave them on display in a bowl or basket.

Felt sugar skulls - Another project to use up some of my felt! I've seen lots of inspiration online but I do particularly like these Felt Sugar Skull Sachets. I've got lots of felt scraps in bright colours and plenty of embroidery thread, and I bought some pumpkin ribbon last week which I might use to string them together with.

Cross stitch Christmas hanging - This is the one project that I've already started. Last year I bought three mini Christmas cross stitch kits from Hobbycraft. I've finished two and have just the caravan to complete. I also bought some Christmas fabric and so I want to put it all together to make some kind of hanging. I'm not quite sure how yet though, I need to do some planning!

Mini Christmas cross stitch kits from Hobbycraft

Three Christmas themed wooden shapes to decorate - I bought this sleigh, wooden house and hanging sign from The Works a few weeks ago, they were only a pound or two each which I thought was a bargain. I'm going to paint them in acrylic paint. The wooden house will definitely be a gingerbread house and the sleigh will be used to hold chocolates. I'm not sure about the wooden sign yet, I need to come up with four (short!) Christmas words to paint.

Wooden Christmas shapes from The Works

Stretch beaded bracelets - I also recently bought some beading supplies and I'd like to have a go at making something like these stretch bracelets from Accessorize. I've got lots of little coloured beads and also some glass beads that look a bit like sea glass so I'm going to go with a blue/green/cream theme. I've not done this before really so I need to have a think about the best way to do it so that I don't end up with beads pinging everywhere!

Stretch beaded bracelet supplies

Wooden READ sign - I bought a wooden sign which spells out the word 'read' to go on my bookshelf. I'm torn between leaving it neutral and painting it cream, or going all out to decorate it with different colours, beads, buttons and so on. 

A sea themed fabric project - I recently acquired some new fabric with sea themed motifs and some ocean themed ribbon. I'm not sure what I want to make just yet, maybe a simple zipped pouch or pencil case

A Christmas mini cross stitch designs craft - I'm not sure exactly on this one either, but I want to make some kind of Christmas craft using the free mini Christmas cross stitch designs which I shared last year. I also came up with a red and white Scandi colourway so I think I'd like to use that in some way, perhaps for some individual hanging decorations.

That gives me plenty to be getting on with! I think that I'm going to start with the felt Autumn leaves as I love working with felt, and I need to get a move on now as Autumn will be over before we know it!

Wednesday 7 September 2022

My holiday craft shop purchases

Whenever we visit the US I always make a beeline for a craft shop. It's not quite as exciting as it used to be - thanks to online shopping we now have access to a much wider range of products, and on this trip in particular we found that prices over there have really shot up. But I always enjoy having a good look around and there are always plenty of things that I can't resist bringing home to add to my crafting stash. 

I made trips to three large craft stores - Michaels, JOANN and Hobby Lobby. I also browsed the craft aisles in Target and Walmart and picked up a few bits at Dollar Tree (although thanks to inflation products are now priced at $1.25!) If you are planning a US shopping trip it's well worth downloading the app or looking on the website for each store and looking for coupons, as they are almost always available. I found coupons for 20% off the whole shop, or 40% off the highest priced item. Many of the shops also had rotating offers on specific product categories, with further discounts of 40% or 50%. If you are downloading the app from a non US phone then you might need to change your location settings to download the US version of the apps.

Here are some of the bits that I picked up, and I think that I was very restrained! Firstly fabric. I know I know, I've been writing about working through my fabric stash and trying to use some of it up. But the fabric that I have is all quite similar, mainly pink and flowery, and I wanted some more blues and greens. I found some lovely sea themed fabrics and all of these fat quarters were so cheap, some of them were just $1 each.  

New fabric for my stash with beach sea theme

I also found some lovely rolls of ribbon, including some more sea themed patterns and a couple of Christmas ones. 

New rolls of patterned ribbon

I love a bargain, and lots of this ribbon came from two discount trolleys which were filled with rolls of ribbon for less than $1 each! I had a good rummage through and I love this photo that Mia snapped of me digging away - I was so engrossed that I didn't even notice her taking it!

Hunting in a craft store trolley for bargains

I was recently given some beading supplies and that has given me a hankering to try some simple jewellery making. I want to make a simple stretch beaded bracelet with several different strands of coloured beads, mainly blue and green. On the right you can also see some lovely glass beads which look a little bit like sea glass which I'm planning to mix in. I just need to do a bit of research to find the best way to do it!

Beads and beading supplies for bracelet

Finally two projects which I can start on right away. A little cross stitch kit of a colourful cat and a wooden letter shape to decorate - it says 'READ' and I think it would look good on my bookshelf. I've not planned what to do with it yet, I'll definitely paint it and then see if I think it needs something else added.

Cross stitch kit cat and wooden word read

I'm really pleased with all my purchases and I didn't really spend that much. I'm looking forward to crafting away!

Monday 5 September 2022

Back to school after the long summer holidays

September is here, and the beginning of the summer seems like an awfully long time ago. We were lucky enough to enjoy two amazing holidays this summer - a last-minute cruise at the beginning of July and then a long delayed trip to Florida and Disney World in late August. In the middle unfortunately I was mostly recovering from Covid so we didn't get up to much!

Because we have such intensive (and of course expensive) holidays away, when we are at home I don't feel the need to take the children out and about too much, or to fill their time with pricey days out and activities. Luckily like me they are quite content to stay at home. Harry has been spending lots of time on Minecraft building all sorts of complicated projects and Mia can occupy herself for hours with her coloured pens and stationery collection. We had a major sort out in Harry's room which took almost a week here and there, and I've also had time to get on with my work when it was available.

But now it's time for us all to get back into a proper routine, in particular with reasonable bedtimes and a reduction in screen time. Mia will be starting at the senior school this year which is quite a change for her. Luckily it's a small school, Harry is already there, and many of the children in her classes will be the ones that she has come up from junior school with. Harry is going into Year 9 and I'm assuming that at some point soon he'll have to make some decisions about which GSCE subjects he wants to take, although he already has a pretty clear idea.

Autumn flat lay in reds
Photo credit Elena Mozhvilo via Unsplash

I'm not looking forward to the return of the school run, which I find quite stressful as it involves driving through the traffic and then finding somewhere to park. I'm also not very fond of making packed lunches. And I miss the children when they are at school, I like having them around to chat to and see what projects they are working on.

Over the weekend I shared some of my September goals, and I enjoy having a few goals to work towards. I've set up a habit tracker with three new daily habits - declutter ten items, do a short tummy exercise routine and write a blog post. So far so good! Although I'm already struggling with the decluttering, I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to keep it up!

Fingers crossed it will be a smooth back to school for us all.

Saturday 3 September 2022

September goals

For me September always feels like a new start, maybe even more so than January. Of course it's linked to the children going back to school, but I think even when we are done with school it will still feel like a new start! At the end of a long, hot and lazy summer it's a chance to get organised, get the house back into shape, and it's an uninterrupted stretch to work on some new projects.

So here are some of the things that I'm hoping to achieve this September.

I want to get on top of my blog. I have a number of posts scheduled for the run up to Christmas, with lots of gorgeous crafts to share. But the next few weeks are looking pretty thin. We have just returned from holiday and so I have plenty of travel content to write. I'm aiming to publish at least four holiday related posts, and ideally I will be able to spend this month both planning and writing posts to schedule until the end of the year.

As I said we've just returned from holiday and following a summer of unhealthy eating it's time to reign in a bit and cut back a bit on the calories. I don't like to call it dieting, but there's definitely some reducing to do!

September goals and targets
Photo credit Elena Mozhvilo via Unsplash

On a similar note my exercise routine fell by the wayside due to the lack of routine and also recovering from Covid. As well as getting back into my running, over the summer my daughter and I bought some roller skates and I'm intending to get myself down the seafront for a skate from time to time. I also need to make the most of our gym membership.

I have several sets of friends that I've neglected over the last few months so I'll be planning some catch ups.

The house needs a bit of a tidy, and I find that a good way to go about it is with a decluttering challenge. I've not decided yet whether to do the Minimalism Game again or whether to come up with my own targets but I'll definitely be doing something! I'm most likely to try the Minimalism Game in reverse where you get rid of 30 items on Day 1, 29 on Day 2 and so on, making it easier as you go along.

I'd like to get back to daily journalling as I find it very helpful to write out the things that are on my mind. I need to also set some limits on my screen time, in particular the mindless scrolling and the obsession with stories in the news that aren't healthy for me to keep reading about. To fill my time I have some borrowed jigsaws to work on and plenty of craft projects to think about and start.

Here's to a productive and relaxing month!

Friday 2 September 2022

Different types of decluttering challenges

I always find myself in September with a longing to sort out the house once the children are back at school. I find that a good decluttering challenge helps me to stay motivated and can make a big difference to the tidiness of my home, so I thought I'd share some of my favourite challenges below. Some of them I have tried in the past with great success, and others are ones that I definitely want to attempt in the future!

The Minimalism Game

I love playing the Minimalism Game, and I've done it several times over the years. It's very simple, you just discard the same number of items as the number of the day in the month. So Day 1 is one item, Day 2 is two and so on. It's very easy to start with, but it's pretty tough by the end! It also requires a certain amount of self-policing - for example do you count smaller items in a container as a group, or as individual items? A twist on the game is to play it in reverse, so that you get the most difficult part out of the way first thing. 

A certain number of items each day

This is the challenge that I'm working on this September. It's a variation on the Minimalism Game, but you remove the same number of things each day. For me, ten items per day is a manageable amount.

A particular amount of time each day

Set a timer, for example fifteen minutes or half an hour, and declutter as much as you can during this time. This challenge doesn't work so well for me because I get easily distracted and then panic that I'm not working efficiently, but I can see this being effective if you have a very cluttered house or lots of rubbish lying around.

A different area each day

Plan for this by making a list of all the areas in your house that need decluttering but try to keep it manageable, for example a cupboard or drawer at a time. Then work on one area each day. It's best not to be too rigid about it, and to keep the larger or more difficult spaces for days when you have more time.

Surface cluttered with red objects
Photo credit Elena Mozhvilo via Unsplash

A different category each day

This is the core of the Marie Kondo method and I find it works really well for me when I need to have a big clear out. Sorting by category means that it's easy to get rid of duplicates which might be missed if you are working on different areas at a time. It can be quite overwhelming and messy at times though, and you need to have the space to set aside an area for sorting.

Declutter the things that you don't use

This challenge works really well for clothing but can also be used for other items. Take out all your clothes, and only return them to the wardrobe or drawers once you have worn them. After a certain amount of time you will easily be able to see the clothes that you don't wear regularly and pass them on. Of course there are exceptions for seasonal items and special occasions, but it's a good way to remind yourself just how much you own.

Sorting through piles of clothes to declutter
Photo credit Sarah Brown via Unsplash

One item in, one item out

Every time something new enters your home, something else must leave. Ideally this would be something from the same category, for example a new pair of shoes or a book.

Join in with an online guided challenge

There are plenty of online challenges that you can take part in which can be very motivating and inspiring if you want to share your progress with others. Often there is an attractive printable calendar available for download.

My favourite challenges are run by Apartment Therapy, and they host regular free decluttering challenges using a daily e-mail to keep you on track. The next one starts on the 19th September 2022 and you can sign up here - Decluttering Cure 2022. You can also find the older completed challenges with links to the daily tasks, for example the January Cure which I did this year, or a previous two week Decluttering Cure challenge.

I hope that I've given you some inspiration for a September declutter!