4 May 2018

A Lack of Adventures in Tea and Cake

It's been a while! 

I have been a terrible blogger on here lately. I honestly do not know where the time goes! But I have the house to myself for a couple of hours tonight, a very rare occurrence indeed, so how better to fill it than a long awaited catch up?

Here's the story blog wise: A while back, I set myself up a new space - Let's Go Somewhere Nice, where I intended on posting mainly travel and days out type stuff, leaving this old cosy spot for everything else. The somewhere along the line I realised I struggle for time to write one blog, nevermind two! Still, I don't want to let this one go - its been too long and I'm attached I guess! But that means I need to make sure I have something to say! 

Life wise, nothing much has changed - the kids are getting bigger, work is still boring, my diet is still 90% cake.... It's been a slow start to the year, and I'm blaming the weather in large part. It's so hard to get motivated when it's grey and cold out. I'm definitely attributing my new blog motivation to the recent turnaround in temperatures, and now the sun has starting showing his face I'm hoping to make lots of exciting summer plans! 

The bank holiday weekends always help with that too - those extra days are so valuable! I'm making the most of this coming one by taking a little family road trip... to see owls! KC knows I'm a massive fan of owls and birds of prey and we've exhausted most of the more local falconry centres. While looking for somewhere new, he spotted something perfect while he was browsing Groupon's top deals on the best Newcastle attractions and snapped up enough spots for us all! 

It'll be out first proper outdoor day out all year, and I absolutely can't wait! Hopefully it'll just open the floodgates of fun trips for the year! Unusually, I have very little penned in or booked for the rest of the summer but that means I have loads of spaces in the diary to fill! I'd like to spend a bit of time exploring a new bit of the UK - we have a tendency to head North on our trips, and we all love Yorkshire, the Lake District and Scotland - but I actually know very little of the country below Sheffield! If you have a favourite area in England that you can recommend then I'd love to hear where and why! 

Of course, I'm planning a lot of sunny trips to the beach, long days of ice cream and sitting in the park, and we are most likely to get a lot of rain and like three really nice afternoons where I will invariably be stuck at work and miss it,.. but ya gotta be optimistic! Though maybe it'd be a good idea to leave me some of your favourite bad-weather places to go too....?

1 March 2018

Creative Crafts for Leftover Materials

Howdy! I know, its been a while - I've been a terrible blogger here of late (and by 'of late' I mean the last year and a half or so), and I'm no better today as I've not actually written a post.... but I DO have one here to read! My guest poster has put together some really fun ways of re-using spare materials to avoid waste and create fun and unique items for the home - without further ado, I'll hand you over:

In this post we’re tackling one of many peoples’ biggest pet hates: wastage. For both economic and environmental reasons, it’s a shame to waste products that are still usable and in good nick just because they aren’t needed for their original use. Rather than throwing away unused leftovers, there are some nifty ways to put them to best use. Here’s our favourites:

1. Make a picture frame out of leftover wood flooring

When you buy wood flooring, it’s not uncommon to be left with excess once you’ve covered your room. This can of course come in very handy for repairs – especially if you’ve got engineered wood flooring, which uses a tongue and groove system that makes for a fairly simple replacement. However, if you’re left with more than you need, why not try making a bespoke picture frame out of the leftover wood. It will go perfectly with your room’s style, and is a great way to ensure none of the excess wood is wasted. After all, a new wood floor can be a sizable investment. The last thing you want is to throw money down the drain.

See this DIY guide to learn how to make your own!

2. Use leftover fabric to create this cute dreamcatcher

If you often find yourself using fabric, be it in upholstering or creating designs professionally (or for fun!), you’ll know the struggle of always having a tiny bit of fabric left over at the end. Rather than throwing these away, save them up until you’ve got a stash of different colours and styles. These extra pieces of fabric can be put to good use to add the finishing touches to a decorative dreamcatcher. It looks great in any bedroom, and it’s likely to go with most designs due to the differing styles of fabric you’re using.

Learn how to make the dreamcatcher here.

3. Create zipper cases from old plastic bottles

In modern times, we’d hope that most people are environmentally conscious enough to recycle their plastic. If you’re looking for a more creative use for leftover bottles, you can create quirky zipper cases for holding stationery. Not only that, there’s no sewing required! This DIY mini-project is best left to the sturdier plastic bottles, though. You can mix and match the colour zippers you decide to use and, because they’re so cheap, you can make loads to hold more than just stationery. You’re only limited by the size of the bottle you decide to use!

Make them yourself here.

4. Recycle old pallets into a vertical garden

We’re heading into spring 2018 – although someone needs to tell the weather! As the time for flowers arrives and we head back into our gardens to assess the damage and begin to regrow, using old pallets is a great way to build a vertical garden that looks amazing. It’s really simple to do as well, so you won’t have to spend hours to get the final result.

Follow this tutorial to make your own pallet garden.

16 January 2018

Party Hard, Train Harder

It's only the middle of January but already the excesses of Christmas feel a million years away. Sadly though, the results of those excesses are likely to be apparent long after the tree has been put away!

Mindful of this, back in December I agreed to take on the 'Party Hard, Train Harder' challenge with the Teenage Cancer Trust to inspire me to get moving throughout January.

My December 'partying' is a lot more likely to involve hours snuggled up under a blanket, watching Elf and drinking cream-topped, marshmallow-laden hot chocolate than it is to involve boozy nightclubs and late nights - but I imagine too much of either will not be good for you in the long run! A January incentive to get off the couch and hitting at least 10,000 steps a day seemed like it would the perfect antidote to my sedentary December - and all the better if it was to aid an excellent cause like the Teenage Cancer Trust.

At least, that was my thinking in December - the reality of forcing myself out into the cold to get those steps up has been a much less enticing opportunity when faced with the damp, foggy reality of it.

Still, somehow, I have managed my minimum step requirement for the day every day so far this month. Some days it's been pretty easy.... other days it's been really really hard. A lot of days I've had to finish off by pacing up and down the kitchen waiting to hit that target so I could go to bed. 

Half way through now though, woo! 

Though if anyone would like to offer a little extra encouragement in the way of sponsorship, it'd be greatly appreciated! Not just by me, stepping away, but by everyone at the charity and those they help. You can learn more about the Teenage Cancer Trust and all he great work they do here, and you can find my Justgiving fundraising page here

Wish me luck for the next couple of weeks!

22 November 2017

The Viking Christmas Arty Party

If I tell you I attended a brilliant Christmas event over a month ago, and I'm only just now getting half a minute to think about it - you'll have a pretty good idea of how my Christmas preparations are going! 

Well before we've even hit Advent-calendar time, my kids are giving me a daily countdown of how many 'sleeps 'til Christmas' and their boundless enthusiasm and those over dwindling numbers are making my just want to stick my head in the sand and not bring it out again 'til January.

It's not that I'm a Christmas Grinch, not by any stretch - I LOVE Christmas, and I think that's half my problem. I want it to be perfect. I want it to be special and magical and wonderful. I don't want to half-ass it, and I don't seem to have to have any time to whole-ass it, but if I don't get my skates on I'll have missed it altogether! 

If it wasn't for the lovely folk at Viking Direct and their fabulous Arty Party, I wouldn't have done a thing towards the festive season - and I'm grasping onto any festive ticked boxes as hard as I can! The event, despite taking place on an unseasonably warm October day, definitely got my festive heart a-jingling, and I hope I manage to get that Christmas Spirit back in full force before the weekend when organisation begins in earnest!

So, looking back to the event should give me some ideas on how to force myself into the right mood, because the afternoon was full of those all-important Christmas staples - garish jumpers and prettily decorated trees, Christmas music and turkey sandwiches, mulled wine and excellent company! 

They'd even put on a couple of crafty activities, with experts to guide us along the way (like Rudolph)

I'll admit, I wasn't particularly looking forward to the calligraphy section - not because I didn't think it would be fun but because I suspected (correctly, as it turns out) that I wouldn't be very good at it. Joyce from Artsynibs was a very encouraging teacher (as well as a remarkably talented lady!) and through her expert tutorage I managed but finally put together something that looked not-terrible. Until I smudged it, oops.

I was amazed at some of the skills displayed by many of my fellow bloggers though, what a clever bunch!

My particular skill set is much more based around the eating of massive sandwiches - I could do that for a living!

The block printing was much more my cup of tea - much as I'd like to be otherwise, I am inherently messy. Having no real artistic skill to speak of, I love to cut, stick and splodge, and it's amazing how easy it is to create something quite pleasing to the eye! We were tasked  with block printing some plain magazine files by Tea and Crafting, and though I kept breaking my block stamp and I ended up with more paint on my fingers than on my file - I'm really happy with how mine turned out! 

I'm really not doing a good job of painting myself as a competent adult, never mind an artist, am I?

Still, I think I managed to make a relative success of the next challenge, with no caveats! Next up was the creation of these super cute little Christmas Crackers... the idea is that 24 of them will make a super advent calendar, but they're so lovely and sparkly on their own that you don't need 24 to make some easy decorations! The glitter paper we were provided with is potentially life-changing as it doesn't shed glitter. At all. Usually you are finding it everywhere for weeks!

The crackers were so easy to put together that my youngest has been making them herself since I got back from the party with all the necessary materials - so we'll definitely have a full set before Christmas!

I just wish I'd carried on the momentum from the party and I'd be all set now!

Please tell me I'm not alone - how far have you got with Christmas prep?

* Because Search Laboratory put on the best events, they send their own photographer, so I didn't have to get my inky-and-painty fingers on my camera, hence none of the pictures are mine but provided by Search Laboratory or stolen from Married To A Geek.

5 November 2017

Design Made Simple with Logojoy

Blog design is such a tricky thing, especially for someone like me who has A) absolutely no artistic skills, B) absolutely no computer-based technical skills and C) absolutely no social skills to explain what I would ideally want to someone who does possess both the artistic and technical skills to produce it.

Luckily for me, I was recently introduced to Logojoy, who make creating a logo a, well,.. you know where I'm going with this...! 

The process couldn't be easier (remember what I said about my none existent technical skills?) - once you hit the web page you can put in a bunch of preferences for design styles and colours, as well as your wording specifications. You'll then be presented with a few logo samples designed to your requirements. None of them quite fit the bill? No problem, all the samples are editable so you can change up shades, fonts and anything else 'til you get a design that you are happy with! 

I love mine, what do you think? 

It's certainly more personal that the pre-made design I bought off ebay, and not any more difficult! And now I have the incentive I need for a full blog-refresh as soon as I get the time!

Once you are happy with your design, you have a couple of different buying options too - from a simple one-time low-res download for $20 to a full $165 'enterprise' package which comes consultation time with a designer if you want something truly custom. The premium package seems like it'd cover most needs though - for $65 you get a high resolution download of your chosen design, as well as an extra black and white version and a bunch of extras. You even have the option to add a social media pack for only an extra $9.

Now, I'm not saying that Logojoy is the best design service in the world. If you have the ability to fully design a completely original and personal logo yourself, this might not appeal to you. But for those of us who can't do that, who want something personal and fun but want it to be really simple and straightforward, this is a great option! The best thing is you don't need to commit to buying anything 'til you come up with a design that you like, so there's really nothing to lose by having a play - you never know what you might come up with!