Friday 21 June 2024

A book themed "this or that"

I found this list of "this or that" questions over at A Wandering Scribbler, and I love writing about books and reading so I thought that I'd share my answers! 

Paperback or Hardcover

I prefer a paperback because it's easier to carry around with me, but I'll buy a hardback if I think it's a book that I'll want to read over and over again. Sometimes when I buy a book second hand from Wob I'll receive a hardback when I wasn't expecting it and it's appreciated, although it makes it more difficult to shelve with paperback books from the same author!

Fiction or Non-fiction

The vast majority of my day to day reading is fiction but I do read some non-fiction, mainly from the 'wellbeing' genre. I prefer fiction because I can get lost in it, with non fiction I feel that I have to concentrate in order to understand what I'm reading and to benefit from it. 

Historical or Science Fiction

I've enjoyed some science fiction but it would definitely be historical fiction for me. There's a trend lately for historical fiction books which are written from two perspectives - one storyline follows a character during a historical period and one storyline is set in the present. I'm not a huge fan of these because the story is plotted with the lives of the characters mirroring each other, and I just want to read the historical story and find out what happened. I enjoy historical books because I like to imagine what it would be like to have lived during a different time period, even if it's not a historically significant one.

Recent release or classic

Probably a classic, mainly for economic reasons as I very rarely buy a newly released books although sometimes I find them in the library or borrow from friends. When it comes to classic books I love Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, George Orwell...I've never got on with Charles Dickens! I also enjoy classic children's books - The Little House on the Prairie series, the What Katy Did series, the Little Women books, A Little Princess, the Anne of Green Gables series and so on.

Woman reading a blue hardcover book
Photo credit Benigno Hoyuela via Unsplash

Coffee or Tea

Tea, I don't like coffee at all. I only started drinking tea a few years ago and it's more of a social thing as I rarely drink tea when I'm by myself. I prefer a herbal or fruit tea, and I'm not a fan of adding milk which confuses people.

Dog ear or bookmark

I have bookmark stashes throughout the house so I can usually grab one when I need one. Most of my books are second hand so I'm not too bothered about scuffs and marks left by others, but I can't fold down corners myself!

Writing in the book or taking notes

The only time I've ever written in books is when they were set texts for an exam and I needed to annotate and highlight them. I don't write in books because many of my books are lent to other people or passed on when I've finished with them, and I don't want to spoil them for others. Occasionally I use a small post it note to mark something that I want to refer back to, and I have a notebook where I copy quotes that have stood out to me. 

Physical or digital books

If I had to choose it would be physical books for the tactile reading experience, but I definitely embrace digital books when it comes to travelling, so that I can take a huge selection of different books with me to suit my mood. I also like a digital book to read while I'm cooking or eating!

Audiobooks or print

Definitely print, I can't do audiobooks. The only time in my day that I would be able to listen to them is while I'm driving, and I just get too distracted. I listen to podcasts in the car and often realise that I've completely switched off and missed the last few minutes!

What is the most effective method for workplace drug testing? A comprehensive guide

This is a collaborative post

When it comes to ensuring a safe and productive workplace, drug testing is an important element. Workplace drug testing has increased significantly in recent years, and the most effective method for workplace drug testing varies depending on the specific needs and constraints of your organisation. Urine tests are often considered the gold standard for drug screening due to their high reliability and ease of collection and analysis. These tests can detect a wide range of substances and are generally straightforward to implement.

For those seeking less invasive options, saliva tests can be a practical choice. Saliva tests are quick, non-invasive, and suitable for on-site testing, making them ideal for random checks. Additionally, saliva tests can detect recent drug use, which is beneficial for identifying current impairment rather than past use.

An increasingly popular method is hair testing, which can detect drug use over a longer period, up to 90 days. This method is particularly useful for monitoring long-term drug use patterns. Regardless of the method chosen, it's important to utilise premium drug testing kits for accurate results to ensure the highest levels of reliability and legal compliance.

Drug testing vials
Photo credit Testalize.me via Unsplash

Workplace Drug Testing Essentials

Understanding the essentials of workplace drug testing involves knowing the legalities, ethics, and common substances screened.

Legality and Ethical Considerations

Implementing drug testing in a workplace requires knowledge of legal and ethical obligations. In the UK, it's important to have a clear and communicated drug testing policy. This policy should outline why testing is done, how it’s conducted, and what happens if a test is positive.

Employers must get informed written consent from employees before testing. Adherence to privacy and data protection laws is essential. Testing should be fair and non-discriminatory, ensuring reasonable adjustments where necessary. Always respect the confidentiality of test results to maintain trust and compliance with legal standards.

Common Drugs Tested for in the Workplace

Drug tests in the workplace often screen for substances that can impair performance and safety. Commonly tested drugs include cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and amphetamines. Different tests, like urine and saliva tests, can detect these substances. Urine tests are highly reliable and widely used.

Saliva tests are non-invasive and offer quick results. Hair tests can detect drug use over a more extended period, up to 90 days. Knowing your testing options and the substances they screen for can help maintain a safe and productive workplace. For relevant resources, you can explore options like FlowFlex Covid Self-Tests which we used when we were taking a cruise while Covid-19 restrictions were still in place.

Methods of Drug Testing

There are several drug testing methods used in workplaces, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Factors like detection windows, invasiveness, and accuracy can impact the choice of method.

Urine Drug Testing

Urine drug testing is one of the most common methods. It's widely used because it is affordable, reliable, and easy to administer. This test detects recent drug use, usually within the past few days.

Urine samples can be collected without professional medical personnel, making it a practical choice for many workplaces. The results are typically available quickly, which helps in making timely decisions. However, it's important to ensure the sample collection process maintains privacy and integrity to avoid tampering.

Blood Drug Testing

Blood drug testing is known for its accuracy and can detect recent drug use. This method is less commonly used in workplaces due to its invasive nature and higher cost.

Blood tests are highly reliable for detecting substances shortly after use. It requires trained medical professionals to draw the blood, which makes it less convenient than other methods. The time frame for detecting drugs in the bloodstream is shorter compared to urine tests, usually within hours to a couple of days.

Saliva Drug Testing

Saliva drug testing is non-invasive and easy to administer. It detects recent drug use, making it a popular choice for post-accident testing or reasonable suspicion testing.

Saliva tests typically detect drug use within the past 24 to 48 hours. The collection process involves taking a swab of saliva from the mouth, which can be done on-site. This method is less susceptible to tampering compared to urine tests. However, it may not be as effective for detecting long-term drug use.

Saliva swab testing
Photo credit Mufid Majnun via Unsplash


Hair Follicle Drug Testing

Hair follicle drug testing can detect drug use over a longer period, typically up to 90 days. This method is less common due to its higher cost and longer processing time.

A small sample of hair is collected, usually from the head, and sent to a lab for analysis. Hair tests are highly reliable and hard to cheat, as external contamination does not affect the results as easily as with other tests. This method provides a comprehensive history of drug use but is not effective for detecting very recent use.

Choosing the Right Method

Choosing the right drug testing method depends on the specific needs and circumstances of the workplace. Considerations include the detection window, the invasiveness of the test, the cost, and the specific substances that need to be detected.

Urine tests are cost-effective and reliable for recent drug use, while blood tests are accurate but more expensive and invasive. Saliva tests offer a non-invasive option for detecting recent use. Hair tests provide a longer detection window, making them suitable for identifying long-term drug use. By assessing these factors, you can choose the most appropriate method for your workplace needs.

Conclusion

Implementing an effective workplace drug testing programme requires clear policies and fair practices. Pre-employment testing ensures a drug-free start for new hires. Random testing keeps employees accountable but must be done transparently. Incident-driven testing is necessary after accidents to determine causes.

Open communication and good management enable a supportive workplace environment. Above all, combining drug testing with strong managerial practices improves safety, productivity, and staff reliability. This balanced approach leads to a healthier and more productive workforce.

Monday 17 June 2024

Picking up my neglected cross stitch project - Olde World Map by Janlynn

A while ago I wrote a post about my currently incomplete cross stitch projects - there were four in progress, plus at least two that are still unopened. Perhaps not as bad as some with this hobby, but the ones on the go are large projects that will take a long time to complete!

Probably my favourite in progress cross stitch project is the Olde World Map by Janlynn (affiliate link) which appeals to me because I love maps and I love historical cross stitch designs. It's a large piece but I've completed complicated cross stitch projects before like Three Things by Moira Blackburn and the Christmas ABC Sampler by Design Works, so I wasn't too daunted. I started with one of the map sections in the centre and didn't find it too difficult.

But then I reached the border along the bottom, and this is where I got stuck. The cross stitch pattern is very dense, with lots of different symbols for all the different colours and also a lot of the colours are very similar. Here's a small section of the pattern for the border. The pattern is printed with some colours, including the yellow section which refers to a golden coloured thread. 

Olde World Map cross stitch border pattern section

But! When you come to stitch it, you realise that most of the colours you are using in this section are almost identical, including the ones that are printed red on the pattern! Even in natural light it's really difficult to see the difference between a couple of the colours. So I was struggling with this, and that is what had made me put the project to one side. However this time when I picked it up I was determined, and I worked really hard to complete a large section of the border.

I began by adding the stitches in the darkest colours and counting very carefully, so that I had some markers in place. Then I worked on the areas marked yellow in the pattern. After adding in the simple lines I used a post it note and moved it across to work on one column at a time. It was slow going, although the pace picked up once I'd got used to the pattern. Then I was able to fill in the background colours, again counting very carefully and constantly rechecking my stitch positions.

Olde World Map border section before backstitch

However what really makes the border design pop is adding the backstitch. There is lots of backstitch in the border, some of it is simple straight lines and some is more fiddly, although once I'd done one of the outline sections I was able to copy that for the next ones rather than going back to the pattern. It really makes such a difference!

Olde World Map by Janlynn cross stitch border

Now that I've finished this section I have more confidence when it comes to tackling the rest of the border. I've already started to work up the left hand side and I'm finding it all much easier. Even though I've only done part of the left hand section of the design I'm tempted to next finish the border all the way up to the top.

You can see what the finished design will look like in the picture below. I still have a long way to go but the whole thing is starting to feel a little more achievable, and I'm looking forward to working on the more interesting designs in the corner and the middle!

Olde World Map by Janlynn cross stitch in progress

Friday 14 June 2024

My favourite places to read

Where do you like to read? Here are some of my favourite places!

Favourite places for everyday reading:

In bed. This is where I do most of my reading! We have a large padded headrest and I prop myself up with cushions. When my husband is away I go to bed around 9pm and tuck myself up in the duvet with a hot water bottle to read for a couple of hours.

In the egg chair in the dining room. It looks out over the garden and when the sun is out it's really warm. I have to prop a foot against the floor or a wall though to stop myself swinging too much otherwise I get seasick!

In the living room. The living room is cool in summer but lovely and warm in winter, especially on the sofa under a heated blanket.

Woman sitting on the sofa with a book
Photo credit Lenin Estrada via Unsplash

In my study. When everyone is around I can shut the door and sometimes I'm able to enjoy a few minutes peace and quiet to read before someone disturbs me.

In the car at school pick up. I arrive near the school nice and early, partly so that I can get a parking space but mainly because it gives me 20 minutes or so of undisturbed peace and quiet to read!

In the garden. I have to spend some time finding the perfect position - what to sit on and how to make sure that I'm not in full sun but still warm enough.

At the dinner table. I always read while I'm eating my lunch and sometimes also during my dinner if it's a particularly good book!

Favourite places that aren't quite as easy to manage:

The balcony on a cruise ship, ideally in a warm location. If the ship is at sea I can enjoy the breeze and the sight and sound of the waves. If it's docked then there is always something to see - either beautiful scenery or a busy dock with plenty of activity.

Any other kind of balcony. We've stayed a couple of times in an Airbnb in Westward Ho! which had a fantastic balcony with a view over the beach and a busy promenade beneath. I spent hours out there with a book!

Anywhere that I'm on holiday. When I don't have any other responsibilities to distract me and everyone else is occupied. I love a hotel room, even if there are other people there too and it can be a little cramped it always feel luxurious.

Balcony view in Westward Ho!

However - Places to read where the expectation doesn't meet reality!

These sound like good places to read, but they aren't for me!

On a plane. I can never read on a plane, I don't know if it's the vibration of the engines, the fact that it's so cramped, or constant disturbance from travelling companions, fellow passengers or the food and drink service. Likewise reading on a train!

On the beach. It's not that it's difficult to manage - I can get to a beach with a book in about fifteen minutes. But I always get too cold, too hot or it's too windy, and what if I need the toilet?

A coffee shop. I love the idea of sitting in a coffee shop with a book, a hot chocolate and an indulgent cake. But I would feel self-conscious, worry about staying too long after I'd finished my drink, and feeling exposed with people walking past. 

Zero-Emission road trips: Reducing environmental impact with a Tesla

This is a collaborative post

If the hustle of daily living is starting to take its toll on you, going on a road trip is a great way to break free from all of life's stresses. That said, this journey is not without consequences. For gas-powered car owners, going on a road trip means releasing non-renewable resources into the air, damaging the ozone layer and exacerbating climate change over time.

But in this day and age, there's one up-and-coming solution that can help reduce your carbon footprint: electric vehicles. Particularly, Tesla vehicles. Using Tesla vehicles to conduct your road trip is an excellent way of lowering your emissions. Not only is it a highly capable EV, but it's also one of the fastest-selling EV brands in the market--a testament to its reliability in the realm of sustainable transportation.

If you own a Tesla and plan to embark on a road trip, you're doing your part in helping the future generation enjoy a healthy world.

Read on to learn what you need to know when going on a road trip with a Tesla EV.

How Tesla Reduces Environmental Impact

Tesla is a proponent of sustainable design and incorporates it heavily into their product catalogue, including their fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles. They do several things to manufacture their products sustainably. For one, their factories are built to maximise on cooling and heating efficiency. They do this by strategically placing windows near machinery to facilitate this efficient temperature exchange. They also ensure that their water consumption is lower than their competitors.

Furthermore, their factories are also partially run on solar panels--with the biggest one being in Texas. They also incorporate AI to help optimise their factory's ventilation and cooling infrastructure. Having said all this, it should be clear that buying a Tesla for yourself is essentially voting on a sustainable future. 

But, then you may wonder, why bother anyway?

Four Benefits of Driving an EV on Your Next Road Trip

It's easy to feel loyal to gas-powered vehicles when that's the only vehicle type you've been driving for your entire life. But, trust us, there's a lot of merit in making the switch to a Tesla EV.

Here are the benefits of choosing an electric vehicle over your standard run-of-the-mill gas-guzzling car.

1) Charging Infrastructure is Expanding Rapidly

If you're anxious about not being able to charge your EV when you're going on a road trip, quell those worries at once. Electric vehicles are becoming more and more mainstream with each passing year, and this effectively translates to an improved network of EV-supporting infrastructure such as widespread placement of charging ports.

Going on a zero-emission road trip with a Tesla or any other EV is a viable option, especially for established routes like the Grand Pacific Drive. Many others have done it in the past, and so can you.

2) You're Not Emitting Greenhouse Gases

Arguably the biggest perk of going electric is your decreased greenhouse gas emissions. The exhaust of traditional gas-powered vehicles can slowly erode the ozone layer's protective barrier. This means hotter days and increased UV radiation. Electric vehicles, over time, produce less of these destructive emissions.

3) You're in For a Smoother Ride

Teslas and other electric vehicles are fantastic choices if you want a smooth ride. They are made of fewer moving parts compared to your traditional engine-powered car. Particularly, there's no combustible engine in cars like Tesla.

The absence of this engine means you'll feel less car movement on the road. You'll also enjoy a more silent drive, which can be a fantastic quality-of-life improvement in the passenger's seat when you're planning to drive hundreds of miles or more.

4) You Have Self-Driving Features

Tesla's suite of features in its infotainment system is extensive, to say the least. Perhaps one of the most useful tools that Tesla provides its customers is its self-driving feature.

This allows the car to take the wheel and do the driving for you, literally. So if you want to take a break, you can kick back, put in a route, and let your Tesla do the work.

This is, of course, reserved for high-end models of the electric vehicle company. But if it's within your budget, then this feature can be a godsend in ensuring that you can stick to your schedule.

Tesla car parked on a scenic mountain side
Photo credit Charlie Deets via Unsplash


Planning Your Road Trip With a Tesla: 4 Essential Tips

If you've been thoroughly convinced to undertake the zero-emission life with a Tesla, then great! It's a wonderful car type with a diverse range of vehicle options, ranging in driving range, size, and more.

That said, you should still prepare beforehand.to ensure that your road trip goes without a hitch and as sustainably as possible. Here are four tips to achieving just that.

1) Get Car Insurance

Whether you're renting out an electric car or buying one outright, it doesn't matter--car insurance is a must. Having an insurance policy for your vehicle grants you peace of mind when driving. Depending on the plan, you can have coverage for collisions, medical visits, and damages to the car - which can help keep your own savings intact.

If you need a lead, ROLLiN' has comprehensive car insurance plans for all Tesla vehicles in selected Australian cities. That said, there are many other insurance plans you can avail of wherever you are located in the world.

2) Plan Your Trip in Advance

Let's face it: having to call a tow truck to pick up your zero-battery EV is pretty embarrassing. On top of that, it's also contributing to car emissions, particularly if the tow truck is gas-powered. To prevent this totally avoidable situation from happening, it's important to plan your trip in advance. You don't have to make it extremely rigid, just a rough sketch of places you want to tick off your bucket list would be ideal.

Furthermore, and most importantly, planning your trip can help you optimise your charging time. If you're expecting your battery's car to hit zero a couple of times throughout your trip, it's good to have it timed with visits and rest stops in desirable locations. You can use EV-specific navigation tools like PlugShare or ChargePoint to help you find nearby charging stations along your route. If you're embarking on a multi-day trip, you can also plan to stay in accommodations that have overnight charging ports readily available for your Tesla.

3) Be Sustainable Beyond the Car

Sustainability doesn't just stop inside your car. You have to embrace the lifestyle and incorporate it into every facet of your life. How to do that, you may wonder. There are a couple of ways. Number one, don't accept or use one-use plastics. Second, reuse and recycle belongings as much as you can. Thirdly, embrace a minimalist lifestyle, pack light, and stray far from consumerism. By applying these habits, you can lessen your rubbish contribution, which can be pivotal when making the world a more pleasant place to live.

4) Have a Plan B

Even with the most well-researched plan, many things can go wrong during travel. You could encounter a flat, roads could be under construction, and so on. If you want to see your trip to the finish, then it's important to have contingency plans in case things don't go exactly how you planned it.

For instance, don't wait for your battery to be at the single digits before you arrive at a charging station. Make sure that there's extra juice left for you to travel to the nearest charging port and a bit more. Secondly, if a site that you wanted to see is closed to the public, think of other spots near the area to visit. And, if your car somehow breaks down in the middle of nowhere, it's best to be prepared and have a GPS phone to ping your location for help.

Doing these things can help ensure you enjoy your time in the face of setbacks and still continue to enjoy your upcoming road trip, whether it’s a family escapade or a solo adventure.

Enjoy!

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Ringing in the New Year with a splash: Why a cruise is the perfect NYE celebration

This is a collaborative post

As the calendar year draws to a close, the excitement of bidding farewell to the old and ushering in the new fills the air. New Year's Eve is a time for reflection, celebration, and making resolutions for the year ahead.

While many opt for traditional parties or gatherings, there's nothing quite like ringing in the New Year aboard a luxurious cruise ship, surrounded by the vast expanse of the ocean and a vibrant atmosphere of revelry. In this article, we'll explore why booking a holiday cruise deal is the perfect way to celebrate the arrival of the new year in style. 

An unforgettable experience

A New Year's Eve cruise offers an unparalleled experience that combines the thrill of travel with the luxury of a floating resort. Imagine counting down to midnight under a canopy of twinkling stars, with the gentle sway of the waves and the sound of champagne flutes clinking all around you.

The ambiance aboard a cruise ship during this festive time is truly unmatched, with decadent decorations, lively entertainment, and a palpable sense of excitement in the air. 

Diverse celebration options

One of the standout features of a New Year's Eve cruise is the variety of celebration options available. Whether you prefer an intimate gathering or a grand, extravagant party, cruise lines cater to every preference. From elegant dinners with multi-course menus and live music to lively dance parties with themed costumes and dazzling light shows, there's something for everyone.

Many ships even offer multiple venues and events, allowing you to hop from one celebration to the next, ensuring an unforgettable night. 

Cruise ship at sea
Photo credit Josiah Weiss via Unsplash

Escape the ordinary

For those seeking an escape from the ordinary, a New Year's Eve cruise offers the perfect opportunity to break free from the routine. As you set sail, you'll leave behind the stresses and responsibilities of everyday life, immersing yourself in a world of relaxation and indulgence.

With a vast array of amenities and activities at your fingertips, including gourmet dining, spa treatments, live shows, and recreational options, you'll have the freedom to embrace the spirit of the new year in a truly extraordinary setting. 

Family friendly fun

If you're looking for a family friendly way to ring in the new year, a cruise is an excellent choice. Many cruise lines offer special programming and activities tailored specifically for children and teens, ensuring that everyone in the family can enjoy the festivities.

From kid-friendly parties and entertainment to supervised clubs and activities, your little ones will have a blast while you relax and soak in the celebratory atmosphere. 

Explore new destinations

Another enticing aspect of booking a holiday cruise deal for New Year's Eve is the opportunity to explore multiple destinations in one trip. Many cruise itineraries include stops at exotic ports of call, allowing you to immerse yourself in new cultures, sample local cuisines, and create lasting memories. Imagine waking up on New Year's Day in a picturesque Caribbean island or a charming European city, ready to embark on a new adventure. 

Conclusion

Ringing in the new year aboard a luxurious cruise ship is an experience like no other. From the vibrant celebrations and diverse entertainment options to the opportunity to explore new destinations and unwind in style, booking a holiday cruise deal for New Year's Eve promises an unforgettable way to bid farewell to the old and embrace the new.

Whether you're seeking a romantic getaway, a family-friendly adventure, or simply a chance to escape the ordinary, a New Year's Eve cruise offers a celebration that truly has it all.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Craft ideas for a teen girls sleepover or craft afternoon

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

My daughter has hosted several sleepovers over the last few years, and I always like to have an activity or two that will keep the girls busy and away from their screens for a little while. My requirements for a sleepover craft - a project that can be completed ready to take home, something that doesn't require too much supervision or cleaning up, not too expensive or too many materials needed, and a finished product that will be a nice reminder of the sleepover and their friends.

Of course these craft ideas are perfect for groups of boys as well, I'm just writing about my own experiences! These are all crafts and activities that have been tried and tested with great results.

Mini diamond painting kits or stickers

I love all the different diamond painting kits that you can buy, and a small project is perfect for a sleepover. We've had many different kits over the years, and the sticker kits are particularly good because they are inexpensive, really quick to complete and come in all sorts of designs. I would choose something like this Diamond Painting Sticker Set (affiliate link) because there's a wide range of designs and everyone can complete several. We've used them to decorate notebooks and storage boxes.

Diamond painted sticker decorating a notebook

Pottery painting

Hobbycraft sells a great range of pottery painting kits, and they are often on special offer during the school holidays - there's usually a big display near the entrance and sometimes they are as cheap as £2.50 each. They come with a few paints but I usually get out our own acrylic paints for a wider range of colours, you can buy some great value sets of acrylic paints from The Works Save up a few old margarine tub lids for paint mixing, and gather paintbrushes in different sizes for large and small areas. Just make sure that everyone is wearing older clothes, or provide aprons!

Bracelet making

There is some adult supervision required with this one to avoid bead spillage disaster! Hobbycraft is a great place to buy beads as they have a pick and mix selection so that you can pick out some special beads that are themed to the girls' interests. Teenagers at the moment love making beads to wear and swap at concerts, and they like to include words so some letter beads (affiliate link) are a great type of bead to include. Clay beads (affiliate link) are also really popular and come in a huge range of colours.

When it comes to putting a bracelet together I like to keep it really simple. I buy some clear stretch elastic thread (affiliate link) and cut a length that fits easily around the wrist with some extra at each end. I use a bulldog clip on one end to stop the beads slipping off, and then the girls thread on the beads that they want. When it's long enough to go around the wrist, tie it really tightly with a triple knot, then secure with a big blob of superglue before snipping the ends. You can read how I made some bracelets for myself here - simple stretch beaded bracelets.

Simple stretch beaded bracelets

Bath bomb making

This is a fun one for younger children, with some adult supervision! You can keep things easy and buy a bath bomb making kit like this one (affiliate link) or else there are lots of recipes online for making your own. The only drawback to this is that you do need to have some moulds to use, and some of the ingredients might not be ones that you have in the cupboard.

Shrink plastic keychains

We've been playing with shrink plastic for years, it's a lot of fun! We recently used shrink plastic to make some cute keyrings. You just need to buy a set of the shrink plastic sheets (affiliate link) and draw on your designs. We printed out some Sanrio characters that could be traced over and then coloured - follow the instructions on the packet to check how much the image will reduce in size and what type of pens or pencils to use. If you are making keyrings, the most important part is to punch a hole in the design before you put it in the oven! Then when it has shrunk and cooled you can attach a keychain or coloured ball chain (affiliate link) so that it can be attached to a school bag or notebook.

Decorated letter shapes for room decorations

A wooden initial letter is a great keepsake and looks great on the wall. Hobbycraft sell these pretty ornate wooden letters which are easy to paint or colour using marker pens. You can also buy fun wooden fillable letters which can be decorated with fake flowers and pom poms or choose simple mache letters which can be covered with decopatch paper and glue.

Decopatch letter decoration

Friday 7 June 2024

My early summer garden

My gardening this summer has been delayed. We are planning an extension project at some point this year, and I wasn't sure how much of our garden I would be able to easily access. But we won't be starting until later in the year, so a few weeks ago I planted out seeds for the two things that I'm always successful at growing - tomatoes and sunflowers.

One part of my garden that gets more beautiful every year is my lavender bush. When it was planted a few years ago the young plant was confused with a rosemary bush, and so it ended up in my vegetable patch instead of a pot (the rosemary bush that was put in the pot has sadly long since died). This means that it has the space to grow and grow, and it certainly has. I do cut it back every year but I don't over prune as I don't want to kill it!

It's not quite at peak flowering yet but there isn't long to go. The bees love it!

Large lavender bush in the garden

Last week I planted out my tomato and sunflower seedlings into the vegetable patch. Hopefully it won't get any colder, and although they are small I think that they are hardy enough to survive outside. Due to the late start they aren't as impressive as they usually are at this time of year, but I'm hoping that there will be plenty of time for them to pick up and get going.

Small tomato seedlings in vegetable patch

I've also done the first cut of our large hedge at the front of the house. It takes so long - all the clearing up afterwards! Over the years both me and my husband have sliced through the cord on different electric trimmers, so recently I've been hacking at it using a low powered battery trimmer which means I've had to cut in stages and then recharge. It was a struggle, so we've treated ourselves to a new corded electrical strimmer. It's already had a very narrow escape but fortunately the blades only slightly damaged the plastic cord coating and so it's still fine to use - I hope that it can make it through this year at least!

Now I'm looking at my borders and they are very bare so I think I'll be doing a trip to the garden centre to pick up some bedding plants to try and add a bit more colour.

It's been a slow start, but hopefully this week's sunshine is here to stay and we'll be able to enjoy the garden this summer!