Monday 31 October 2022

The books that I read on holiday

Over half term I was lucky enough to enjoy a wonderful week away in Athens. There was plenty of sightseeing of course, but we also had some time to chill out and I was able to make an excellent dent in my "to be read" list! 

I decided to concentrate on the out of sight books that I have piling up on my Kindle, and I thought I'd share what I read as I can recommend them all. As a bonus, all of these books were free for me as an Amazon Prime member, either borrowed from Prime Reading or from the monthly Amazon First Reads selection. 

The Beautiful Little Things - Melissa Hall (Prime Reading)

A heart-warming Christmas novel about a family that has fallen apart after the death of a beloved wife and mother. The book follows the family as they gather for Christmas both before and after their loss and how their relationships change as they deal with their grief. It was a good read and although maybe slightly exaggerated in both the highs and the lows it kept me interested and wanting to find out how all the characters would fare.

The Bookstore Sisters - Alice Hoffman (First Reads)

A short story about two sisters that have grown apart but come together in their parent's old bookshop. It's a very sweet and magical story, and I can't resist any story about books and bookshops!

Winter Cottage - Mary Ellen Taylor (Prime Reading)

One of my favourite genres, what I like to call 'inherited house romance'. This one ticks all the boxes - a woman inherits a house from a mysterious stranger in a distant location, a handsome local man is on hand to help her with any renovation assistance and to introduce her to the close-knit community, a backstory is revealed piece by piece as the story progresses, a secret romance is brought to light, and a happy ending takes place as the heroine discovers her place within the story. I've read lots of books like this that are all very similar, but I still love them!

Yellow Crocus - Laila Ibrahim (Prime Reading)

A story about slavery  and a young woman who is separated from her own son to be a wet nurse for Lisbeth, the privileged daughter of the slave owning family. As Lisbeth grows the two women become close despite each taking a very different journey. The story discusses the reality of slavery but it is told in a simple way which makes it very effective.

Well Behaved Wives - Amy Sue Nathan (Prime Reading)

Set in 1960s America in a world of rich young women that are brought up to be nothing more than the perfect wives for their successful husbands. There was a great deal of emphasis on the fact that these women were very much inferior to their husbands and relied upon them for absolutely everything. Perhaps this was emphasised a little too much, but the story was told well and it does make you realise how much a woman's place in the world has changed in just a few decades. 

A Feather on the Water - Lindsay Jayne Ashford (First Reads)

I've read plenty of Second World War historical fiction but this angle was new to me - a story set in a Displaced Persons camp at the end of the war. When the war had ended it was a massive logistical exercise to help all the traumatised people that had been displaced by the events of war and to help them get back to where they wanted to be, whether that was their original homeland or somewhere new. The story follows three women who each have a different reason for helping out in the camp, and by the end of the book they have managed to make sense of their own pasts and move forward to enjoy a hopeful future.

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Friday 21 October 2022

Some of my favourite sugar skull crafts for Halloween

With Halloween approaching I thought I'd share some of my favourite sugar skull crafts, in case you are looking for some simple Halloween décor inspiration!

Embroidered felt sugar skulls

I think these are my favourite Halloween craft. They are so simple to make with white felt and odd scraps of coloured felt. I added sequins and tiny beads and embroidered in contrasting thread colours. You could add a ribbon loop for hanging, string them together to make bunting, or simply pile them in a bowl and leave out on display.

Embroidered felt sugar skulls for Halloween


Painted wooden sugar skull craft

I bought these wooden skull blanks from Hobbycraft last year and knew that they would make perfect sugar skull decorations. We painted them white to start with then decorated with acrylic paint, felt pens, sequins and plastic gems. 

Painted decorated wooden sugar skulls

Hama bead sugar skull bunting


This Hama bead craft is a great way to use up any odd coloured beads that you have lying around. Strung on black ribbon these Hama bead sugar skulls make great bunting.

Hama bead sugar skull bunting

Mini Hama bead sugar skull earrings


I used the same Hama bead pattern with the tiny mini Hama beads to make a pair of delicate sugar skull earrings. You could make matching or contrasting ones, they could also be mounted on pin badge backings to make badges.

Mini Hama bead sugar skull earrings

A Halloween picture with Hama bead sugar skulls


The Hama bead sugar skulls also look great displayed on a black background for a spooky Halloween picture.

Hama bead sugar skull picture

The last three sugar skull crafts were made using this simple Hama bead cross stitch or pixel art design. It would also be perfect for some cross stitch Hama bead sugar skulls, something that I'm going to be working on for next year!

Free sugar skull mini pixel art cross stitch design

I hope that you enjoyed my sugar skull Halloween craft round up!

If you are looking for more Halloween craft posts then you might like these:


Tuesday 18 October 2022

The Autumn tag

I spotted this Autumn Tag over on Life as Kim and as it's been ages since I took part in one of these I thought I'd give it a go!

1. The smell of pumpkin guts OR rotting leaves?

I'm not sure that I like the smell of either to be honest, but I'd probably choose the leaves because I don't much enjoy scooping out pumpkin guts!

2. Sweet OR salty pumpkin seeds?

I've not had either but I think I'd prefer salty ones, I associate pumpkins with a savoury taste.

3. Store bought OR pumpkin patch pumpkins?

I've never been to a pumpkin patch, I think they started up around here when mine were getting a bit too old for them, and also I'm not organised enough to get to one in time. So we usually have a store bought one unless my Dad has given us one that he's grown!

4. Wool OR knit sweaters?

As a crafter I probably should know the difference, but I'm afraid I don't. But I'm thinking that knit sweaters are probably easier to wash so I would choose that!

5. Halloween party OR explore haunted places?

A Halloween party definitely. This year we having a very small one for the first time combined with trick or treating in my village. So I'll be putting up a few extra decorations and maybe springing for some themed tableware. 

Simple Halloween party food

6. Apple pie or pumpkin pie?

Apple pie definitely. I prefer pumpkin as a vegetable in a stew or soup. 

7. Still, silent nights OR rainy, windblown nights?

I love a rainy, windblown night or even a day, just as long as I don't have to go out anywhere!

8. Witches OR ghosts?

I think witches, ghosts are too unpredictable.

9. Raking leaves or climbing trees?

I hate raking leaves so definitely climbing trees for me!

10. Ouija boards OR ghost stories around a campfire?

Ghosts stories around a campfire, I wouldn't use an Ouija board. I remember a guide camp once when I took a book of horror stories and that was a very bad idea, I was terrified at night time. It was one of those Point Horror books which I loved to read at that age but not a good idea for when camping in the woods.

11. October OR November?

October because that's my birthday month! Also the weather can still be sunny and not too cold, I associate November with dark afternoons and rain.

12. Black cats OR owls?

I love a black cat.

13. Fireplace OR candle light?

I'm not sure that I could be bothered with a real fire, we do have a gas one but we've never used it so it's not connected at the moment. I do like to have candles though, especially now the children are older so I don't have to worry about them so much.

14. Monster movies OR their classic novels?

The classic novels, and I've read quite a few of them. We do watch some horror films and television shows and I like them, but there have been some that I've had to turn off halfway through because I just found them too disturbing. I thought It was a horrible film and I remember being freaked out by Jeepers Creepers a few years ago.

15. Carve OR paint pumpkins?

Always carve, at least then they can be composted. I'm not very good at carving them though, I just go with a very simple face and lots of jagged lines that are easy to cut!

Two carved pumpkins reflected
Photo credit David Menidrey via Unsplash

Three things you should consider when buying a car for a teen driver

This is a collaborative post

Seeing your teenage son or daughter getting their driver's licence is an emotional moment for most parents, and you may have thought about buying them their first car to commemorate the event. This could make for a great gift and could also give you the chance to choose which type of vehicle they will be driving. Buying a car for a new driver is not like buying one for a seasoned one, and their inexperience will affect things like cost and security, among other things.

Let's take a look at a few things to consider when buying a car for a teen driver.

Safety

Safety should be the first thing on your mind when picking a car for a new driver. You need to look for security features like adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning/lane keep, and more. Another thing you have to do is not make the mistake of getting a compact car for a first car.

That is because a small car will leave much less of a margin for error in case they get into an accident. You also never know who they will be sharing the road with. A bigger car will give them more protection and will reduce the risk of serious injuries.

Maintenance Costs

One thing a lot of people overlook when buying a car for a new driver is that they will often have bad driving habits, and these habits could increase maintenance costs on the vehicle. For instance, some new drivers will tend to wait too long to make certain fluid changes, which can lead to certain parts giving out before they should. They may also do things like accelerating too fast, leaving the motor idle, or braking too abruptly. Or they may not have the reflexes to avoid potholes and other obstacles on the road. All of this leads to premature wear and tear which is why you need to pick a car that is known for being reliable. You also have to make sure that the cost for replacement parts is not too high and that the parts are easily available.

Fuel Consumption

Fuel consumption will also be important since they'll probably have to pay for it instead. The cost of fuel is very high at the moment too, and you have to pick a vehicle that has a reasonable consumption rate or they might not be able to afford to drive it.

Now could be a good time to look at electrical vehicles as well. The cost of electricity is not rising at the same rate as petrol, and there are tons of great EVs out there for new drivers. If you want to know where to start your search, you can check out this guide on how to choose an electric car.

These are all things you'll need to think about before buying a new car for your teen child. Make sure that they are ready for the responsibility first, however, and think about their well-being first and foremost.

Young woman driving a car
Photo credit Jan Baborák via Unsplash

Sunday 16 October 2022

Ready for the half term holiday

We have now broken up for half term and we are all definitely ready for a break! We are lucky enough to have two weeks off, and as well as going away for a few days it will be an opportunity for us to recharge our batteries. 

The term doesn't seem to have been particularly long, in fact it has flown by. But it has been an adjustment, especially for Mia. She started at the senior school and it has been a difficult transition. When Harry started we were in the midst of covid and so he didn't find it so difficult. He didn't even see most of the older children as they were all kept in separate bubbles with different start and finish times. I've been meeting Mia outside the school at her request and I can see why she finds the older teens intimidating - they are well behaved but most of them are bigger than me!

She's also been finding it stressful to remember to bring what she needs each day and to get all her homework done in time. I remember often feeling anxious that I had all the books and equipment that I needed for the school day so I can relate to that. I also fell into the trap of overscheduling myself too much with extra clubs and activities at school so I've tried to keep that to a minimum at least for the time being.  I'm hoping that she will be more settled when she goes back, as it will just be more of the same rather than a complete change.

Autumn trees with coloured leaves
Photo credit Dan Freeman via Unsplash

The last day of term was an inset day, which has been rebranded since covid as a "school development day". They are still at home but they are given a full day of work to do which took both of them longer than the school day. I've encouraged them to get all their work done in their first few days off so that they can enjoy the rest of the holiday!

The first day back at school is Halloween, which seems to be a bigger thing every year. We have a couple of school friends coming over to go out trick or treating in our village, which always puts on a good show. I'm going to make a few spooky themed snacks (taking heavy inspiration from here - Scary Halloween Desserts) and making sure that all our decorations are out, so the last few days of the holiday will be spent preparing. I usually decorate the window which people walk past to get to our front door - I line it with black bin bags and then fill the window with bunting, battery candles and other spooky décor. We've also stocked up on sweets!

If your children are off for half term around this time I hope that you have a lovely break!

Monday 10 October 2022

Homemade Halloween felt bunting

I love making seasonal bunting to string from our mantelpiece and decorate for the season. A few years back I made some embroidered felt Christmas bunting, and as I'm currently trying to work through my felt stash I decided to make some similar Halloween felt bunting using felt, buttons and scraps of ribbon. 

Halloween homemade felt bunting

I made a simple cardboard triangle template for the flags which I used to cut out the felt. Because I was working from my stash I was a little limited when it came to my colour choices, so I chose to alternative black felt with a dark orange mustard shade. I first used my sewing machine to go around the edges of each flag and to sew them each to a length of thin black ribbon. The patterned ribbon and ric rac along the top of each flag covers up the stitches.

I love working with felt, it's so forgiving and so satisfying to sew on by hand. 

Halloween felt bunting embroidered flags and buttons detail

Each flag is different, with a different felt cut out picture as you can see in the pictures above. I either made up my own templates or adapted designs that I found online. The basic shapes are cut from felt and sewn into place, then the flags are embellished with scraps of ribbon, ric rac and buttons. I used co-ordinating embroidery threads for the sewing. The spider is sitting on some gorgeous spiderweb fabric and the cauldron is spouting tiny star shaped buttons.

Homemade Halloween bunting on mantelpiece

The scariest thing about this bunting is that I was able to make it entirely from my craft stash! Between past blog collaborations, supplies that I've treated myself to over the years and leftovers from past projects I have a sizeable stash of crafty bits and pieces. Although I'm not sure that I've made much of a dent, it was nice to be able to use up some things that I've had around for a while!

Homemade felt Halloween bunting with embroidered flags

I'm really pleased with my spooky Halloween bunting!

Friday 7 October 2022

Some simple ocean themed stretch beaded bracelets

A few years ago I didn't buy a bracelet in Accessorize, and I've regretted it ever since! It was something like this one - Willow Stretch Bracelet - a selection of different simple beaded bracelets that are complementary and worn together. When I was shopping the craft stores in the US this summer I found myself in the bead aisle, and my thoughts turned towards making myself something similar.

Beaded bracelet jewellery making supplies

I've not really done jewellery making before so I wasn't quite sure what to buy. But I was really pleased with the Stretch Magic cord that I ended up with. I bought the .7mm size which is small enough for the tiny beads. The beaded part of each of my bracelets measures 20cm, so allowing a few extra centimetres each side the 5m pack should be enough to make at least 15 bracelets. It is also available to purchase in the UK, and you can see it here (affiliate link) - Stretch Magic elastic cord

I bought three strings of smaller beads which I was able to mix and match with the beads I already had in my stash. The glass beads on the far right were chosen because they look just like sea glass. Then I bought one large string of coloured beads and one of shiny beads. It was a bit of a pain sorting out the colours, but it was worth it as it made making the bracelets much easier!

I wanted to make a bracelet with a sea/ocean theme so I went through my stash and gathered together all the beads I could find in different shades of blue, turquoise, white and silver. I had some small pearl beads, large shiny glass beads and lots of tiny beads. I made eight bracelets in total, some follow a strict pattern and some are more random. 

Selection of simple small beaded bracelets in blue and turquoise

To make the bracelets I just threaded the beads onto the elastic, which was quite easy as it's so stiff. When I'd reached the right length, which for me was 20cm, I tied a simple knot and pulled the elastic as tight as I could. Then I sealed the knot with a blob of superglue before cutting the ends. The hole in the beads wasn't big enough to hide the knot inside, but because it is transparent you can hardly see it. The bracelets seem pretty secure to me, hopefully they won't all fall apart!

Stretch beaded bracelet pile in blue and turquoise with ocean theme

I had such fun making these and I'm so pleased with them! It was quite addictive in fact, and as I have plenty of beads left in my stash I'm very tempted to myself a couple more sets in different colours. I think next up might be an autumnal theme with reds, browns and golds. 

And this is another of my ten craft projects that I'm aiming to complete by Christmas - I'm really working through them!

Simple stretch beaded bracelets with a sea or ocean theme

Wednesday 5 October 2022

My craft stash is getting out of control

I have recently come to realise that my craft stash is starting to get a bit out of control. I don't feel that I buy very many crafty things (apart from trips to the US that is!) There's a Hobbycraft within walking distance but I usually only visit when I have a voucher - last weekend they had a £5 voucher promotion and I walked out with £5 of products for free, I didn't spend an extra penny! I think I'm just very lucky to have lots of generous family and friends that think of me when they are having a crafting clear out!

But I'm starting to realise that my craft supplies are adding up. Earlier in the year I wrote about working through my fabric stash, and I have been doing pretty well at this. Last week was all about the tote bags - I made my own sea themed tote bag and then went on to make a few more which I am intending as gifts for smaller family members. 

I also sorted through all my smaller scraps of fabric which I couldn't bear to part with. I tried some crazy patchwork but I couldn't get the hang of it so I made myself a template 7cm square and cut out as many squares as I could from leftover fabric in shades of pink, before being ruthless and throwing away the leftover pieces. I used the squares to make a little patchwork drawstring bag to hold my sewing machine pedal and cables. It's not perfect, and I really need to get better at lining up the squares before I sew them, but it does the job and it made a dent in my fabric drawer!

Small pink patchwork drawstring bag

I don't have masses of stuff to be fair. But my stocks of fabric, felt, buttons and ribbons are now bulging out of their storage containers. I've collected quite a few Hama beads in both the mini and the midi sizes, and I also have plenty of paints, brushes and sketchbooks. So I really need to do something about it!

A few weeks ago I found it really helpful to put together a list of ten craft projects to complete by the end of the year. I've already ticked off six and have another one nearly finished! So I'm going to challenge myself to come up with a nice long list of craft projects that I want to make, based on the supplies that I already have in my various stashes. Then my intention will be to have a 2023 filled with crafting but not craft shopping, buying only the very basic supplies that I need for a project like glue or cotton. 

I've made a start already with a couple of inspirational Pinterest boards for my fabric and felt stashes, and next I want to turn that into a written list of specific projects. Then I'll aim to gather the supplies for the first projects together so that I can get going. I'll be sharing my list towards the end of the year, so stay tuned!


Monday 3 October 2022

Embroidered felt sugar skulls craft for Halloween

I've really been enjoying crafting with felt lately. After I sewed these felt Autumn leaves my thoughts turned to Halloween, and seeing that I had plenty of white felt in my stash I decided to make some felt sugar skulls. I also took the opportunity to sort through my sequin collection and discovered some fantastic flower sequins which I knew would be perfect for the eyes, and that gave me my starting point. I made four skulls, each one measures about 10cm in height and each one is different.

Felt embroidered sugar skulls for Halloween

They were so easy and quick to make. I made paper templates for the different pieces, cut them out and then sewed them together, sometimes using matching thread and sometimes using contrasting colours. I tried to spread the colours out across the skulls so that they work well together as well as on their own. 

Simple Halloween craft embroidered felt sugar skulls

If like me you have various scraps of coloured felt and a collection of sequins and beads this is the perfect craft for a bit of stash busting! They would also make great hanging decorations with a loop of string or ribbon, or could be strung onto bunting. I always make a window display for our house on Halloween and these sugar skulls will definitely be making an appearance!

Halloween craft felt embroidered sugar skulls

I loved making these felt sugar skulls and I'm filled with ideas for making more. I have some lovely bright colours of felt in my stash so I think that next time I might use brighter colours for the background rather than the white. I quite fancy having a big bowl on display filled with tiny felt sugar skulls in a rainbow of colours!

Embroidered felt sugar skulls craft for Halloween

I've made several different sugar skull crafts over the years as Halloween approaches. If you enjoyed this craft then you might also like these:

Hama bead sugar skull bunting

Halloween picture with Hama bead sugar skulls

Mini Hama bead sugar skull earrings

Painted wooden sugar skull craft

Halloween Hama bead sugar skull picture