Friday 30 December 2022

How to read more in 2023

I love to read, and I read a lot of books. I don't like to set myself reading challenges because I enjoy shorter and longer books, but I do keep track of all the books that I've read on Goodreads

A New Year is always a good time to make some resolutions, and many people decide that they would like to do more reading. If this is you, here are some tips!

Have a big to be read pile. Reading doesn't need to be an expensive hobby - borrow books from friends and family, visit the library, buy second hand online and in charity shops or download free Kindle books. Make sure that it's a pile of books that you definitely want to read and is filled with different genres and lengths, so you always have something to choose from depending on your mood. 

Seek out book recommendations. Find books that appeal to you and that you really want to read. You can browse libraries and book shops, keep an ear out on social media for books that people are enjoying or ask fellow readers. Look for other books by authors that you've enjoyed, follow new releases and find books which have been shortlisted for major awards. There are also plenty of curated lists of books, for example this one of books you've always meant to read.

Don't get hung up on a particular reading target. Some books I can read in a day, some take several weeks. I don't want to feel as though I need to get to a certain number read over the year or a certain number of pages each day, I just want to be reading.

Don't persevere with a book that isn't gripping you. Even if it's one that a friend loved, that you spent a lot of money on, or were really looking forward to reading. There are so many books out there that it's not worth wasting time on one that doesn't grab you, and it will put you off reading if you don't want to pick up your book. You'll notice on my Goodreads that the vast majority of books I've read are rated four or five star. This doesn't mean that I've not picked up books that I don't enjoy, I've just not finished them!

Pile of new books in a store
Photo credit Sandy Ravaloniaina via Unsplash

Carry a book around with you. I take a book with me for school pick up and any time that I might find myself waiting around.

Plan holiday reading. Whenever I have a holiday planned I always spend time carefully choosing the books that I take with me, although some types of holiday have more reading opportunities than others. If you are lucky enough to be going away think about when you might have some reading time and plan accordingly. Sometimes a change to the usual routine means that you can find that extra time.

Always have a book close at hand. I carry a book around the house with me during the day to read during those odd spare moments - while I'm making dinner, brushing my teeth, or whenever I find myself with a few spare minutes, before it comes up to bed with me at night.

Just take the time to sit and read. I like to put my phone in a different room to avoid distraction and then I just settle down with a book. My favourite time of day to read is just before bed, although sometimes I do find that it makes me sleepy! If you are lucky you will find that other people in your household will copy your behaviour, and you can all sit and enjoy some peaceful reading time together.

Wednesday 28 December 2022

Update on my ten craft projects to complete by the end of the year

At the beginning of September I set myself a crafting challenge - a list of ten craft projects to complete by the end of the year.

With the end of the year firmly in sight, I thought I'd do a little update!

Felt Autumn leaves - I was really pleased with my embroidered felt Autumn leaves. I displayed them in a small bowl by the fireplace and they looked really pretty. Next year I might string them up into some bunting for a bit of a change.

Embroidered felt Autumn leaves displayed in a bowl

Felt sugar skulls - My embroidered felt sugar skulls were another great way to work through my felt stash. I loved making these, and coming up with all the different colour combinations for the felt and embellishments. Next year I'm planning to make some more, perhaps using different colours of felt for the skulls.

Embroidered felt sugar skulls

Cross stitch Christmas hanging - This project idea was always a bit vague, and it changed somewhat in the making! I had three mini Christmas cross stitch kits that I wanted to finish and find some way to display. I ended up framing each one in a mini Christmas embroidery hoop that I painted and added glitter. 

Mini cross stitch Christmas embroidery hoops

Three Christmas wooden shapes to decorate - I had bought a blank wooden sign, a sleigh and a gingerbread house from The Works.

My first craft was a Christmas wooden sign which is now proudly hanging in the hallway to welcome guests. I was very pleased with my attempt at brush lettering!

Christmas painted wooden sign craft

Then I decorated the wooden sleigh with red paint and embellished with metallic pen. I made a little sack from some festive hessian fabric and ribbon and wrapped up some pretend presents. I was originally going to make the wooden house into a gingerbread house but I changed my mind and made it into a sort of Scandi inspired house instead with red and dark yellow.

Painted wooden Christmas decorations from The Works

Stretch beaded bracelets - This was a new craft for me, and so I was delighted with my ocean themed stretch beaded bracelets. They were really easy to make and I love wearing them. I'm definitely going to be making some more bracelets using different colour schemes.

Ocean themed stretch beaded bracelets

A sea themed fabric project - This was another project idea that was quite vague as I had some lovely fabric but didn't know what to do with it. I decided to make an ocean themed fabric tote bag and I was so pleased with the result that I went on to make several more to give as gifts. 

Ocean themed fabric gift bag

A Christmas mini cross stitch designs craft - I wanted to do some sort of craft using my free mini Christmas cross stitch motifs and so I decided to make some cross stitch gift tags. They were really quick and simple to make and a great way to use up some odds and ends of embroidery thread.

Mini cross stitch Christmas gift tags craft

Finally, there is one craft on the list that I didn't get to, and that was the Wooden READ sign, a wooden sign spelling out the word 'read' which I wanted to display on my bookshelf. Not for lack of time or lack of ideas, I just decided that for the time being I quite like how it looks in its natural state! I may come back to this in the future but for now I'm happy with the way it is.

I found this way of listing out my craft projects really motivated me to get on with them. Next year I want to make an effort to work through some of my crafting stash, and making a list of the things that I want to complete is definitely going to be a big help.

Thursday 22 December 2022

Catching up with the unwatched television

Now that the children are older and staying up later it's really cutting into our television viewing time. My husband and I used to easily watch a film during the evening, but now we struggle to even fit in an episode of a television show once the children are in bed! Many things that we watch aren't very suitable for younger eyes, so we have to wait until they are out of the way.

There are also lots of new shows that we want to watch as a family, but it can be tricky to fit in an episode after dinner during the week when the children have homework and other things to be getting on with.

So we have decided this Christmas to make an effort to get through some of the series and films that we have stacking up on our 'to watch' list, as well as making room for for any seasonal programming that catches our eye.

Television showing Netflix at Christmas time
Photo credit Tomás Evaristo via Unsplash

We've made a start already, and we just finished watching the adaptation of The Essex Serpent. I did enjoy it but I really liked the book, and I think that perhaps I would have been better just reading the book again! It's not the first time that I've watched an adaptation of a favourite book and felt that the book was better, so I'll be more mindful of that in future. However we have just started watching the new series of His Dark Materials and I'm finding this series to be an excellent adaptation of some of my favourite books, so I'll have to keep an open mind too!

Another book adaptation that I enjoy is The Handmaid's Tale, and we need to get started on the latest season of that along with Bridgerton. I've not read the Bridgerton books but I enjoyed the first season.

Watching with the family, we've just finished The Rings of Power which wasn't as bad as I was expecting, it was quite watchable although the episodes felt rather long. We've just started Andor which is a Star Wars spin off, it had a slow start but we are sticking with it for now in case it ups the pace a bit as the episodes are quite short.

Finally being fans of Monkey World we need to get through the rest of the new Monkey Life episodes and I also want to watch some more Malory Towers with Mia. I spotted that there is a Christmas special so we will start with that!

We also have quite a few films to get through as well, some festive ones and some that have been on the to watch list for ages. Luckily quite a few of them are family ones so we can all watch them together! We definitely have lots to keep us busy over the holidays!

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Home improvements for later in life

This is a collaborative post

As you get older there are lots of changes that you can make to your home to adapt to your needs. It's also a good idea to think about whether there are some improvements that could be made to your house if you regularly host elderly visitors. 

Here are a few things that you could consider to help make your home safer and more convenient: 

Grab rails - This could be an extra bannister rail alongside the staircase or fitted rails around the house, for example in the bathroom, to help avoid slips and falls.

A walk in bath or shower - For example a walk in shower means that you don't need to worry about climbing in and out of a bath. If  you still want to keep the bath you can look for options which have a side opening or a moulded seat which allows you to sit up.

Walk in shower
Photo credit Hemant Kanojiya via Unsplash

Non slippery flooring - Make sure that all hard flooring has a non-slippery surface and that any rugs are secure in place.

A Stairlift - Having a stairlift fitted will make getting up and down the stairs much easier and might mean that you can stay in your own home for longer. You can browse some stairlifts and find advice on stairlift prices here.

The front entrance - If you have steps leading to your front door you could consider a ramp. Even if you don't use a wheelchair it will still make your home easier to access. Make sure that the area around the front door is well lit so that you can find your keys and easily get through the door. You might also want to think about having a video doorbell fitted so that you can screen visitors before opening the door, and answer the door from your phone if you are out of the house.

A key safe - There are of course security implications to consider, but if you have regular visitors like relatives or carers then it might make sense to give them the means to let themselves into the house. 

The garden - If you have a large garden which requires lots of maintenance you could think about replacing hedges with a simple fence, or removing border planting areas and grassing them over to save on weeding. You could also consider making the garden all one level to avoid slippery outside steps. If you have wooden decking then make sure that it is regularly cleaned and maintained so that it doesn't become hazardous to walk on, and make sure to have any fallen leaves cleared away.

Tuesday 20 December 2022

What is Psoriasis and seven useful tips to keep it at bay

This is a collaborative post

Psoriasis can be tough to manage, especially if you are just beginning treatment. The autoimmune disorder whose primary symptom is itchy, scaly skin. Psoriasis is a result of a certain white bloody cell triggering the production of immune markers when it becomes overactive. Although no cure exists for the disease yet, you can cope with it through treatments. Besides the topical creams and ointments used as treatments, you can try other management methods to alleviate symptoms.

Use Gentle, Fragrance-Free Products

Avoid abrasive skin care products that can aggravate the scaling. Gentle ointments, moisturisers and body creams can significantly decrease itching because they don't contain harsh perfumes. Gentle skincare of natural origin, like the Blue Lagoon treatment products for example, is perfect to include in your psoriasis regimen. Also, don't forget to consult a dermatologist about the most effective skin care treatments for you.

Avoid Hot Water

Soaking in water is a guide way to handle the scaling. However, avoid soaking in hot water, regardless of how good it feels. Lukewarm water produces better results. It will help soften the skin without increasing irritation. You can add oils, milk and salts to your bath to smooth the skin.

Get Natural Vitamin D

Light therapy is a highly recommended treatment for psoriasis. For unknown reasons, exposure to ultraviolet light reduces skin lesions from psoriasis. So, sending time in the sun can do wonders for the affected areas. Be careful, though, not to expose yourself to too much sunlight.

Always Moisturize after a Shower

The number one rule of treating psoriasis is moisturisation. Dry skin is more susceptible to flare-ups. A moisturiser seals in the moisture in your skin and prevents excessive scaling. The best time to moisturise is right after a shower when your skin is still damp. You should apply a moisturising cream at least once a day.

Take Supplements

Even though psoriasis manifests on the skin, it begins from the inside. Dietary supplements help manage symptoms by reducing their severity. Fish oil supplements are some of the best for treating the condition because they ease the rash. Oregon grape, milk thistle and vitamin D are others you can include.

Dry skin with flower
Photo credit Carolina Heza via Unsplash

Try Aloe Vera for Flare-Ups

The itching that psoriasis comes with can make life unbearable. So, finding effective ways to soothe the skin is a big part of managing the disease. Aloe vera can help with that. The right aloe gels and creams can ease inflammation and scaling, consequently, reducing itching.

Use a Humidifier at Home

A dermatologist will always recommend avoiding dry skin as much as possible if you have psoriasis. Dry skin can crack and bleed, increasing the risk of infection. You can prevent dryness by using a humidifier in the house and the workplace. Keeping the air moist in the spaces where you spend most of your time helps maintain skin suppleness. 

Consulting with a dermatologist who specialises in psoriasis is critical. Besides getting an accurate diagnosis, you need to know the best way to manage your condition, depending on how severe it is. Additionally, you must have routine checkups to monitor the disorder. 

Monday 19 December 2022

Things that I only do at Christmas time

Go up into the loft. Twice in fact - first to get the decorations down and then to put them all away!

Buy a paper television guide, leave it open on the coffee table and refer to it daily.

Worry what the Elf on the Shelf is going to get up to each night.

Elf on the Shelf with toilet paper Christmas tree

Watch the adverts on television - it's the only time of year that I watch live television!

Put a heap of marshmallows in my morning hot chocolate.

Leave an open box of chocolates on the table in the living room and help myself to it throughout the day.

Wear my Christmas dress.

Eat mince pies, cheese and biscuits, breadsticks, gravy and Brussels sprouts.

Mince pies at Christmas
Photo credit Daniel Morris via Unsplash

Consider cheese and biscuits alongside Pringles and dips to be a balanced meal.

Forget to make sure that the children have a wash because I'm too busy enjoying the post-dinner snacks.

Have the television on in the background rather than just turning it on to watch something.

Use all the trays in the oven for cooking and still run out of room.

Get out my pinking shears (for cutting up the Christmas cards to make gift tags!)

What do you do differently over the Christmas period?

Sunday 18 December 2022

Four car care resolutions to follow in 2023

This is a collaborative post

The beginning of the New Year is the time for fresh starts and taking on new resolutions for the year. We tend to take on resolutions concerning all areas of our lives from healthy eating habits to being more organized to working harder but the one thing that never makes it to our list is car maintenance even though our car is one of the most crucial asset in our life. We use them to get from our home to work or school and practically everywhere else. It directly concerns our safety and therefore should be kept in a spick and span condition no matter what. So, this year we bring you four simple and easy tips that will help you not only keep your car in a more efficient condition but will also make you more handy with your car and less dependent on your local garage.

Learn how to change a tyre:

Learning to change a car tyre is such a basic skill that always benefits you. Every car owner should make this a part of their resolution to learn this skill if they don’t already know it. Sure, you can always call roadside assistance but there can be situations when this skill really comes in handy say when you are on a road trip far away from the city or when your phone’s battery dies down or on a snowy night when the roadside assistance will take some time to get to you and you don’t want to freeze to death. In all such situations you’ll find this skill very useful.

Checking your fluids regularly:

More often than not, most drivers don’t know the importance of maintaining optimum levels of car fluids. Get routine oil changes and check oil levels frequently, preferably every month. Changing oil regularly is important; otherwise you can risk permanent damage to your vehicle.

Regular MOT & Car Servicing:

Yes! Yes! MOT is a government imposed requirement for every vehicle owner every year anyway. But many people think of this as an expense that they don’t want to bear. But in all honesty, it’s for our own benefit. Think of it as a cycle, if you maintain good car health all year round by regularly getting your car serviced say after every six months then it is highly likely that you will pass the MOT test every time with flying colours. A contrary approach, will result in a lot of expense as failure in passing the test will result in the hassle and expense of getting your car fixed and then taking the test again. A good car health will rid you of all such worries associated with MOT test failure. So, take out time from your busy schedule and book MOT today at Elite Direct London before you receive a penalty for driving without MOT. 

Car garage for service
Photo credit Laurel and Michael Evans via Unsplash

Learn how to check Tyre Pressure:

Spend some money and get a dial gauge. It is extremely easy to use. You can get them from your local auto parts shop. Refer to your car’s manual for optimum tyre pressure. This gauge comes in handy; periodically keep checking tyre pressure to avoid over or under inflated tyres. Optimally inflated tyres will give you a much smoother drive.

These car care resolutions if followed religiously will save you a tonne of money and hassle in the long-run.

Thursday 15 December 2022

The 2023 Gingerbread Houses

Making a gingerbread house at Christmas is a tradition that I started back in 2012. I can't believe that it has been ten years of gingerbread houses! Well apart from last year as we were away the week before Christmas and we just didn't have time to make one. But I wasn't allowed to get away with that, and so we had to make Easter houses instead!

I use a recipe from Tesco which is unfortunately no longer available. My first houses were made using their paper template, but the more recent ones are made using some brilliant gingerbread house cutters which I bought in the US a few years ago. I've made gingerbread houses so many times that I have a printed out recipe which is annotated with the different quantities that I need according to how many houses I'm making. One year I made five! It is a bit of a mission though so I was glad to stick with just the two this year.

Two children holding their gingerbread houses

We had a lovely time making the gingerbread and then decorating the houses. As the children are getting older there is more that they can do to help, even if it's just keeping me company for the endless rolling and cutting out! We were reasonably successful this year, Mia's house did fall apart a little bit but I told her that just means that she can start eating it sooner!

Two homemade gingerbread houses

The houses don't stick around as decorations, the children start eating them almost straight away. Which is probably a good thing, because there are so many other treats around at Christmas that it's good to spread them out a bit!

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Things for older children and grandparents to do together this Christmas

This is a collaborative post

If you have grandparents visiting this Christmas, sometimes it can be difficult to think of ways that they can enjoy spending time with their older grandchildren. Teenagers are long past wanting to get out the glitter and glue for some children's Christmas crafts, and they are too old for a visit to Father Christmas. But there are still lots of ways that older children and grandparents can have fun spending time together, and I've put together a few ideas in this post.

Help them with their tech

Older relatives often have the smartphones, the tablets, the smart watches and so on, but in my experience there is usually something that they've not quite got the hang of. Maybe they want to learn something that they've seen their friends do, they've managed to change some of the settings by mistake, or something just isn't working quite like it should. Teenagers can usually sort these problems out in seconds!

Make some videos

The teenagers in my house love making videos on their devices. Maybe they could film their grandparents talking about their childhood Christmas memories and edit them together along with other video clips and music. Or perhaps take a video of their grandparent preparing a favourite recipe or doing one of their other hobbies. They could teach their relative how to make their own videos using fun special effects and filters to share with their friends.

Go out for a walk

If the grandparents don't live locally it's nice for older children to wrap up warm and take them out for a walk to see some of the local sights. For example the way that they walk to school or the local library and shops. If you go out later in the day as it's getting dark you could visit some houses with impressive Christmas light displays.

Decorate a gingerbread house

If you don't have time to make a gingerbread house from scratch there are many kits that you can buy which have everything that you need to build and decorate a gingerbread house. Or you can even buy chocolate house kits! Either work on one together, or see who can fit the most sweets!

Decorating a gingerbread house
Photo credit Lan Gao via Unsplash

Do a jigsaw or play a board game

At this time of year I always like to have a Christmas jigsaw on the go and it's a lovely thing to work on together. Or else a board game is always fun. It doesn't need to be a long epic game like Monopoly, there are plenty of faster paced games which don't need to take the whole afternoon. A few that we enjoy are The Genius Square, Othello and Rubik's Race, which are all two player games. 

Video call friends and relatives

Grandparents love to show off their grandchildren, and maybe there are some more distant friends or relatives that they'd like to introduce them to. If the children have a particular talent like playing a musical instrument or a sport then perhaps they can share that over the call.

Watch some videos together

Video sharing sites like YouTube have a huge wealth of content. Maybe the teenager can help their grandparents search for videos of places that they lived growing up or things related to their hobbies and interests. They could show them how to put together a playlist of favourite videos that they can come back to when they are back at home.

Girl showing older man how to use a phone
Photo credit Tim Kilby via Unsplash

I hope that this post gives you some ideas for ways for grandparents and older children to bond while spending time together over the holidays!

Finally, if you are looking for ways to make your home more accessible to older relatives throughout the year you can find lots of mobility product solutions at Age Co Mobility.

Monday 12 December 2022

Ways that I keep Christmas simple

Christmas can be a really stressful time of year, but I try to make things as easy for myself as I can, and over the years I've found a few strategies and routines that work well for me when it comes to keeping Christmas simple. 

I do enjoy decorating the house for Christmas, but I don't go overboard. We only have decorations in the living room and hallway, and after Christmas I pack away most of the odd bits and pieces. A few days later I take down my two garlands and then the tree comes down a few days after that. Spreading it all out helps to makes the packing away feel less of a mission.

We have a lovely artificial tree that I received to review a few years ago. It's a few years old now but still looks great. We are often away around Christmas so I don't like to have a real tree, and also I'm not sure that I could cope with the needles everywhere. Last year I watched a video of one of my favourite YouTubers taking down her real tree, and it made such a mess!

Christmas tree branch close up
Photo credit Tj Holowaychuk via Unsplash

When it comes to buying presents, I try hard not get carried away with presents for the children. They usually get one large present from us, then a main present from Father Christmas alongside a few smaller gifts. These are things like books and toys as well as practical things like socks, hairclips or stationery along with some chocolate. I don't worry too much about spending exactly the same amount on each child at the moment, but that might change if they get older and develop more expensive tastes!

Luckily my wider family is very easy to buy for. We all have Amazon wish lists, and if we may not have chance to meet before Christmas we have them delivered straight to the recipient for wrapping. We all keep to a similar budget with just one or two gifts per person. 

Normally most of our shopping is done on Black Friday, just in case anything pops up on offer. It seems early, but the rest of my family are usually ahead of me! I try to buy as much as I can online, although there are always a few click and collect things that need to be picked up. 

Pile of neat Christmas gifts and presents
Photo credit freestocks via Unsplash

Christmas is a time of year when it feels necessary to be very sociable. But we don't stress about seeing lots of family members on Christmas day itself, and we usually spend it just the four of us. Instead we spread out our family visits out over the weeks before and after. 

This means that I don't have to prepare a huge Christmas dinner, which I'm very grateful for! We keep things very simple with the food too. I buy everything prepared - last year we bought a huge box of veggies from Tesco which was brilliant. As well as being ready to cook they had different seasonings, like honey roasted parsnips, and they were very easy to cook as well as keeping us fed for three meals. It helps that we are vegetarian so I don't need to worry about the meat side of things. 

For the rest of the Christmas period I take some time off from the kitchen and we eat party food - cheese and biscuits, veggie sticks, fruit and chocolate alongside food that is easy to pop in the oven like garlic bread, home cook rolls, pizza and nachos. 

Row of model wooden houses in front of Christmas trees
Photo credit Elena Mozhvilo via Unsplash

One thing that is difficult to simplify is all the school activities and things that need to be remembered, like donations for the school fair. I remember a terrible week pre-Covid where we had several things on each day and evening and it was far too stressful for all of us. Since then I've tried to cut back and only do the necessary activities like school concerts. Extra things like playdates and haircuts can be arranged for a different time.

I go through the letters from the school as soon as they arrive and sort out everything that is needed well in advance, like bottles for the bottle tombola, secret Santa gifts, food bank donations and so on. Then if I can I try to send it in early with the children so that I don't need to worry about forgetting on the day that it's due. 

On the big day itself we open presents with a bin bag handy for the rubbish (which I hold on to for a couple of days just in case anything ended up in there by accident!) I also like to get the presents either in use or stored as soon as possible - clothes in the wardrobe, books on the to be read pile, electronic devices set up and extra packaging put away. 

I also make a plan for the Christmas food to make sure that it is all eaten before it goes out of date. We eat the leftover party food for several days after Christmas, so I make sure that we work through everything before the healthy eating begins in the New Year!

Finally I'm trying to be more relaxed about not having to do everything, every year. For example, for the last few years we had made a gingerbread house each year. Last year we were away for a bit around Christmas and I just couldn't face it - I make the gingerbread pieces from scratch so it takes several days to make and decorate the house as well as giving me a huge shopping list of ingredients. I'm hoping to make some this year as we have a little more time, but if we don't manage it we don't manage it!

What tricks do you have for keeping your Christmas simple?

Thursday 8 December 2022

Lately I've been...


I've been doing so, so much reading! I've been making a huge effort to get through my stash of Kindle books. Our Prime membership is brilliant for filling up my Kindle - I get at least one free book each month as part of the First Reads promotion and the Prime Reading library lets you borrow ten books at a time from a really good selection of recent and older titles. Along with the many free Kindle books already available on Amazon I had amassed quite a collection, and because I couldn't physically see them I never found myself inspired to read them.

So I wrote myself a list which really helped me to visualise the scale of the problem, then I started reading and ticked them off with a flourish each time I finished one. I started with the low hanging fruit, mainly children's books and modern chick lit type books which I can read very quickly. I'm pleased to say that I'm now down to only four unread Kindle books! I've just started The Three Musketeers though which I can see is going to hold me up a bit, it's not difficult to read it's just very long!

Some of my recent favourites - The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams, Karitas Untitled by Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir, The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett (free classic) and Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup (free classic). 

Kindle on table with mug
Photo credit felipepelaquim via Unsplash


When we have had time around the football we are working through The Rings of Power which we are watching as a family. It's not bad, it's not as good as the Lord of the Rings films but it's quite watchable. There's also a new series of Monkey Life which Mia loves as she's a big fan of Monkey World where she has an adopted gibbon. My husband and I also watched The Crown which we enjoyed although I'm finding it less interesting as it approaches more recent history. I preferred the earlier seasons where a lot of the history was new to me, and it didn't matter so much if the actors didn't look like the real life people.


I've had the paints out and I've been decorating some blank wooden Christmas decorations to add to our seasonal stash. I'm also planning to get the Hama beads out tonight - I have a few new crafts in mind!

Wooden painted decorations from The Works


I recently started a Bullet Journal along with Mia and we've been having a lovely time making all sorts of plans for the rest of the year and the next. I've been using the system for a few weeks now and I'm finding that it works really well for me. I've been listing out all the things that I want to achieve next year - craft projects, home projects, housework routines, books to read, exercise tracking and so on. It's definitely helping me to feel more organised.


I'm trying to cut down and to make some healthier choices at the moment - it's not easy at this time of year! On Black Friday I treated myself to a new soup maker after my old one sadly died. I do love a soup maker - I don't follow a recipe I just throw stuff in and see what happens and luckily it has always worked out well. My husband is cutting back too which has made things a lot easier, we've not been filling the house up with the usual pre-Christmas chocolate tubs, biscuit boxes and mince pies. I won't be holding back over the actual Christmas period though!

Feeling proud of

Harry for passing his Grade 3 Music Theory exam and Mia for passing her Grade 2 Flute practical exam. They both worked really hard and I'm so impressed with their progress. 

Looking forward to

The end of term, not long to go now! And then two lovely weeks at home with no school run, packed lunches or uniform to wash before what will hopefully be a fun Christmas period. 

Common childhood illnesses

This is a collaborative post

It might seem like your child is constantly picking up infections and viruses. From starting nursery, to playing outdoors, children are exposed to new germs all the time. Their immune systems are also still developing, which makes them more prone to ailments. It’s therefore very likely that your child will at some point catch some of the most common childhood illnesses. But what are these common ailments and how can you relieve them? 

Common cold

The common cold is caused by a virus in the upper respiratory tract and, although rarely serious, it can leave your child feeling miserable. Colds are extremely common and your little one is bound to catch one sooner or later. Symptoms of the cold include a blocked and runny nose, cough, sore throat, sneezing, fever, and sore ears. Colds don’t respond to antibiotics, but you can ease your child’s discomfort by giving them warm baths and hot drinks, and making sure they drink plenty of fluids. Paracetamol can also help if your little one is running a slight fever or has a headache. 


If your child develops a rash that turns into red, itchy spots on the face and body, then they might have chickenpox. Chickenpox is very contagious, so make keep your child home until the spots have crusted over into scabs. Give your child cool baths to relieve the itching and try to discourage them from scratching as this can cause scarring. Thankfully, chickenpox is usually mild and most children will get it at some point. Furthermore, studies show that exposure to the chickenpox virus in childhood reduces the chances of getting shingles as adults. The chickenpox vaccine is an effective protection against the virus and is recommended for babies aged 12 months and over. You can arrange vaccination through Childhealthy, which specialises in high-quality personalised paediatric care services. 

Stomach flu

Also known as gastroenteritis, stomach flu is caused by a virus. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle aches, and a slight fever.  Whilst stomach flu should pass within a few days, it’s important to make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids as vomiting and diarrhoea can put them at risk of dehydration. Replace lost water and salts by giving your child frequent small sips of water or juice. 


Bronchitis is caused by a swelling of the airways and lungs, usually because of a virus. Symptoms of bronchitis include soreness in the chest, coughing, tiredness, muscle aches, sore throat, and headache. You might also notice that your child is breathing rapidly, having trouble breathing, or that they are wheezing. Antibiotics won’t help, but you can relieve your child’s symptoms by ensuring that they stay hydrated and keeping them away from tobacco smoke. 

Child having temperature taken
Photo credit Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash


Sinusitis is the medical term for a sinus infection and is usually caused by a virus. Symptoms that suggest your child has a sinus infection include a runny or stuffy nose, pressure or pain in the face, headache, sore throat, coughing, and bad breath. Usually, you can ease your child’s symptoms with over-the-counter medicines and by ensuring they stay hydrated. However, if the sinusitis is caused by bacteria trapped in the sinuses, then antibiotics can help


Common childhood illnesses are difficult to avoid and in most cases, you just have to let them run their course. While it’s not pleasant to see your little one suffering, thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can relieve their symptoms. 

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Upcycling a Christmas ornament from the sales

Last January I found myself in a local garden centre where they were selling off the last dregs of the Christmas stock. My eye was caught by this simple wooden tree ornament filled with jangly bells. It was reduced from £12 to £3 which I thought was a good price, but it was just too plain for me. I could see the potential though so I picked it up and had a think about what I could do to make it a bit more colourful.

Plain wooden Christmas tree ornament with bells

A few coats of paint later and I think it looks great! I've kept the bells white and just added the gold star, green tree, brown trunk and red base. Then I took some glitter glue and added a coat to the star and base for some extra sparkle. 

If I had paid full price for the ornament I wouldn't have dared touch it, but because it was cheap I was happy to have a play with it and I'm really pleased with the result. It will look lovely next to our fireplace!

Painted wooden Christmas tree ornament with bells

Tuesday 6 December 2022

So you want to go back to work? Here is where to start

This is a guest post

There are plenty of reasons people choose an absence from work. Perhaps you are taking a break to look after an elderly relative or need a few months to become a full-time parent to your kids. Regardless of your reasons, returning to work after an absence can be a demanding experience. Luckily, with a solid plan and a few guidelines, your return to the workforce will be smoother.

Here are a few tips for re-entering the job market after being absent for a few years.

Set your goals and figure out your path

When going back to work after taking a break, it is essential to set your goals and define the path to follow to achieve them. For instance, you should consider getting a part-time or contract job to make your transition back to work smoother. Setting goals is essential as it gives a better sense of direction and motivation as you try to return to work stronger than ever.

Update your skillset

After a long time away from work, your skills might become outdated and unreliable. As such, it is essential to sign up for a refresher course to update your skillset and ensure you are more confident as you start attending interviews. Luckily, there are plenty of online platforms where you can get top quality courses that are flexible and affordable, like EPICODE for example that has a great price point.

Be honest

When going back to work after taking a break, your employers will likely ask questions about your absence. It is essential to be honest about your reasons and explain the projects you took on during your career break. That boosts the employer’s confidence in you as a perfect match for the position you are interviewing for.

Refresh your CV

Your CV is your greatest weapon in an interview. So, if you plan to go back to work after a break, it is essential to update your resume. The updated CV should include additional information, such as the skills you gained during your absence from work - your cover letter can go into the details to explain how these skills are relevant to the post you are applying for.

Get on platforms like LinkedIn

As you try to return to work after taking a long break, it is essential to grow a professional network. Platforms such as LinkedIn can help you build professional associations and networks with individuals with similar interests. It also exposes you to new job opportunities.

Look for advice from people that have done it before

If you are having trouble transitioning back to work after taking a break, it might be wise to seek help from others who have been in your position. Seeking their advice can give you insights and strategies you can apply to ease your way back into the workplace.

Re-entering the workforce after taking an extended break can be a daunting experience. However, these tips can help you ease your transition phase. Above all, it is imperative to be confident and keep a positive attitude.

Laptop against grey wall
Photo credit Rachel Moenning via Unsplash

Monday 5 December 2022

Hama bead Christmas crafts for adults

This is an older post, you can find an updated list of Hama bead Christmas crafts here!

Christmas Hama bead crafts for adults

Hama beads might be marketed as a children's craft but I love crafting with them too! I've made lots of Hama bead projects over the years and so today I thought I'd bring together some of my favourite Hama bead crafts with a festive theme that make great crafts for adults as well as children. Click on the link in the title for a full tutorial along with tips and tricks for working with Hama beads.

Mini Hama bead snowflakes

I used mini Hama beads to make these tiny snowflake decorations, they measure less than 2cm in diameter and make lovely embellishments for cards or other craft projects. I used my own Hama bead snowflake designs which also work well for the larger beads. 

Mini Hama bead snowflake embellishments

Mini Hama bead Christmas embellishments

I used the mini Hama beads again to make these tiny Christmas embellishments, again each one measures less than 2cm across. They are easy to make using just a square pegboard. For the designs I used my free mini Christmas themed pixel art designs.

Mini Hama bead Christmas designs

Scandi inspired Hama bead baubles

I love red and white Scandi style themed decor at Christmas and these baubles look beautiful hung on the tree with some ribbon around the top. I have designed several different Scandi themed Hama bead craft projects.

Scandi inspired Hama bead Christmas bauble ornaments

Hama bead Christmas wreath ornaments

These simple Christmas wreath ornaments are made using a circular pegboard. You can use coloured thread to make hanging decorations or you can also attach a magnet to the back. For these ornaments I used a small picture from an old Christmas card but you can also personalise them with a photograph of a child or pet.

Simple Hama bead Christmas wreath ornaments

Hama bead and ribbon bauble ornaments

These Hama bead Christmas baubles are similar to the Scandi themed baubles above but using a wider range of colours. The Christmas ribbon really makes them stand out.

Hama bead and ribbon Christmas bauble ornaments

Scandi style Hama bead Christmas mat

This Christmas Hama bead mat is made on the square pegboard using simple stripes then the holes are used for cross stitch designs on top. I love combining two of my favourite crafts!

Scandi style Hama bead Christmas mat

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

If you enjoyed these Hama bead projects then you might also like this post - Ten Hama bead projects for adults - which contains lots of Hama bead crafts that adults will enjoy working on as well as children.

Happy festive crafting!

Friday 2 December 2022

Felt star Christmas hanging ornaments with buttons and beads

Lately I've been attempting to work my way through some of the crafty bits and pieces that I have in my stash. I've been challenging myself to craft with what I have rather than buying new, and I've also found that sorting through my various stashes has been a great way to kickstart my creativity. 

One of my recent makes has been these felt hanging ornaments. Measuring about 6cm in diameter, these circular decorations are made using contrasting felt star shapes and buttons and filled with a small amount of stuffing. I worked using felt from a limited palette of green, red, purple, pink and mustard (the colour scheme being determined by what I had available!). They are finished with a coloured central button and some small seed beads. I bought the beads when I made some mini felt Christmas stockings for our first Christmas tree together - nearly twenty years ago!

Felt Christmas ornaments with stars and beads

When the felt ornaments were complete I thought of a few ways to display them. I was originally thinking about placing them loose in a basket or bowl by the fireplace, or hanging them from some ribbon to display as bunting. But in the end I decided to turn them into hanging ornaments.

Felt Christmas ornaments with star design

Luckily I had some lovely thick gold thread in my stash, so I used it to make the hanging loops. They can be hung from the tree, or else I might look for some mini suction hooks to hang them across the window. I really love the (perhaps unusual) colour combination and I really enjoyed sewing these ornaments together. Working with felt is so satisfying!

Homemade felt hanging Christmas ornaments with star design and buttons

Thursday 1 December 2022

Counting down to Christmas

I can't believe it's the 1st of December already. Since the children went back to school after half term the time has just flown, and they finish for Christmas at the end of next week. We aren't going away this Christmas apart from a short visit to family before New Year, so we will have two weeks at home before the big day. It will be nice to have some time to relax, and we also have some tasks to take care of like visits to the dentist and the optician. We'll also be making our yearly gingerbread houses and definitely doing some Christmas crafting!

The children were very excited to open their Advent calendars this morning. We don't go overboard at all, they have a simple chocolate one each (and I have a Maltesers one). Last year we bought a train Advent calendar in the sales after Christmas which they are sharing, and it looks as though it's going to be very sweet, we got a little wooden engine today. I'm hoping that it can come out year after year.

The Elves on the Shelf are back of course and their arrival was very highly anticipated. The magic of Christmas is definitely still alive in our house! 

Two Elf on the Shelfs sitting in the Christmas tree

One year when the children were smaller I had a very stressful last couple of weeks of term. My husband was away at all his Christmas parties and we had multiple things on every day - swimming galas, school fair, pantomime, carol service and so on, as well as the regular music lessons, meeting up with friends and other appointments. I really struggled with it, and ever since I've been very mindful about the things that I commit us to at this time of year. Luckily now that the children are older and at the same school there are fewer things to worry about, and we are only doing the things that we want to and will enjoy.

So I'm looking forward to a fairly relaxed festive season with lots of family time!