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! 

29 October 2017

Why Winter Sun holidays just make more sense....

One of my work colleagues is off this week, having taken himself and his family down to his favourite spot in Cornwall on holiday.

Don't get me wrong - I love the look of Cornwall, and all reports tell me its a beautiful place to visit. I'd make the drive for the clotted cream alone. But not in November!

This interesting holiday decision has been the starting off point for many an-office discussion this week about appropriate-weather destinations for holidays and the benefits of jetting off to the sunshine Vs staying closer to home. Infinitely more interesting that usual office talk of deadlines and margins and bills!

One guys' top choice of a couple of July weeks in Turkey annually came with tales of temperatures so high they made me crave shade and ice cream even from my chilly Yorkshire office, and stories of Spain's sweltering summers don't do anything for me either. See, I think they've got it all backwards - surely the best time to go seeking the sun is Winter? 

In the summer, the holiday options are pretty limitless. I've said I wouldn't fancy Cornwall in November - - but June? Sounds lovely! We've had a great time on our last couple of Summer trips to Scotland - would I want to visit again in January? No I would not. 

The British summer weather is just fine with me - sure it's not guaranteed to be hot, or dry but it will usually at least be light out, and the rain doesn't usually last for too long. Certainly nothing I feel the need to run away from at any rate. 

But the winter is a different thing altogether! People can romanticise pretty snow-covered winter walks as much as they like but that vary rarely reflects the reality of a British winter, which is much more likely to cold, wet, dark and miserable. 

THAT's when I need a sunny holiday. When I haven't seen daylight for a week because its dark when I get to work in a morning and dark again when I leave - when I need to buy boots in a size bigger than I need so I can fit three pairs of socks on under them, when I practically live in a hot bath because it's the only thing that can make me feel actually warm. THAT is the perfect time to jet off to Tenerife for a bit of R'n'R, or to catch some rays on the beaches of Cape Verde. 

Winter sun holidays just make more sense - and as it starts to get darker in the evenings, and the cold starts to creep in,... I know where I'd rather be (and it's not Cornwall!)

* Incentivised post, but you know I'm right! 

22 October 2017

Emily's Scottish Holidays Diary - Day One

Since I have been an absolutely horrible blogger of late, I'm passing responsibility of writing up our Scottish adventures to my dear daughter miss Emily. She's already written up her holiday journal and not only will typing up her thoughts be much quicker that organising and writing up my own, but I think she's done a grand job of capturing the spirit of our trip. So, without further ado, I shall pass you over to the little lady....

Day One

Woke up early today because it was time to go to Scotland so I shoved on my dungarees (which I packed yesterday) over my checked red shirt and raced my brother Harry to the car. When we got in the car Mum asked us what we want for breakfast so I said McDonalds. The closest one was in Kendal but when we got there McDonalds was shut. So I was a bit disappointed because I wanted a McDonalds pancake and syrup, but there was a place called Booths Café which also had that so we had breakfast there. My mum had a bacon sandwich, harry had pancakes, berries and yoghurt, KC had crisps because he's a vegan but us three had hot chocolate and marshmallows with cream except me I don't like cream.

In a bit we drove to Scone Palace. When we got there I opened the café door and there was tonnes of cake. My favourite was the Malteser Cake. My mum ate a scone. The scones were fabulous but I don't like scones so I did not eat one. My least favourites are cheese scones and then its cherry scones.

Also we saw some Highland cows (Heilan Coos) and it was love at first site. I loved the baby one and I stroked its fringe and I touched the adult ones horns. Not to forget we were in a maze but it was pouring it down, also known as raining cats and dogs. We never found the other end. We could have bathed for a month with all the rain.

At night we had a large carvery and stayed in Travelodge at number 2034.

25 August 2017

Cool Things you can do in Switzerland

I'm on holiday, woo! 

And in the weeks before my holiday, I remember having many a discussion with family, friends and workmates, who - with a simple look at the rain we seem to have had all month - questioned my choice of booking our family holiday to the Scottish Highlands, as opposed to Spain, Corfu, Turkey or any of the other sunnier destinations they were all flying off to! 

Now, sadly coming to the end of our holiday, I regret nothing! We've had a wonderful time in Scotland and I'm looking forward to getting back and reminding those folks at home with renewed vigour - there's more than one kind of holiday! 

With that in mind, along with my apparent predilection for beautiful scenery over sunshine and my desire to enjoy the last couple of days of my trip, let me pass you on to my guest poster who can tell you some of the best reasons to visit Switzerland - I'm already convinced! 

Cool Things You Can Do In Switzerland

Travelling, they say, is the best way to broaden one’s perspective. It does not just allow you to see tourist attractions or taste local food, but it also enables you to meet other people and talk to them. Indeed, travelling is the best way to immerse yourself in a different culture and truly live in other people’s shows. However, true travelling is being a globetrotter rather than a tourist, and the best way to start is in Europe. The continent is home to a rich and vibrant history, one that is wholly preserved in their cities. And there is nothing like seeing the old world mix with new world luxuries -- it gives the place texture and personality.

Europe is a vast continent though, not to mention, countries are extremely close to each other. So while it is the perfect first chapter in your travels, the next question would be which country you should start with.  For that, the answer is simple Switzerland. Yes, a Switzerland vacation is an ideal prelude to your European tour because it has everything - medieval landmarks, mountains, good food, and some of the happiest people in the world.

Shopping and food tour around the city
Let us start off with something simple, and activity you probably already love doing: shopping. Especially if you plan on exploring the whole of Switzerland, it would be best to get shopping out of the way first, each time you are visiting a new town or city. When you stop by Bern, Geneva, and Zurich, you would see chic boutiques, high-end brands, and local labels that highlight their exclusive Swiss fashion trends. You can start by browsing through all of the shops and see which items will catch your attention. But do not just limit yourselves to clothes, accessories, and house fixtures, consider buying chocolates and cheese in Switzerland -- both of which are Swiss specialties. One of their most famous cheese dishes is melting Gruyere and Vacherin Fribourgeois, and mixing in garlic, cherry brandy, and white wine. They also serve raclette dishes that will surely get you stuffed with cheese for the whole week.

If you can, try to rent a car so that you will not have any problems roaming around the city with hands full of shopping bags and a stomach full of cheese and chocolates.

Hiking and skiing activities in mountainous towns
If that view of the Alps and the other purple or snowcapped mountains are to go by, you would know that Switzerland is home to some of the best ski slopes and hike trails. Outdoor, nature-based activities are a norm in Switzerland, if you are the adventurous type, you would surely enjoy yourself here. Make your way to Zermatt where you can find 200 miles of slopes to ski and 400 kilometres of trails to trek. There is also a cable car that ascends to heights of up to 3,883 metres high and gives you a view of 63 mountain peaks that can be seen jutting at Zermatt.

As a tip, when you go hiking up those trails, bring a walking stick with you as a precaution. No matter how often you hike, there may be unexpected events during your trek, especially when it is the Winter time. Wear sturdy hiking boots and protective gear to help prevent the onslaught of cold wind when you reach a high peak and injuries such as a twisted ankle.

Cruising on the lakes
Switzerland is not just surrounded by mountains, you can also find beautiful lakes too. Riding a boat at any of the lakes when you visit a town is the perfect way to relax and unwind. If you want to take a break from all those adrenaline-pumping activities, the shopping, and even the eating -- you can always make your way to the docks. Ride a small cruise ship or rent a boat so you can row on your own and be alone with your thoughts for a while.

You can visit Interlaken, a town sandwiched between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. You can also cruise by Lake Geneva and see the Chateau de Chillon, or experience riding a paddle steamer at Lake Luzern. You can even cross the border to Italy when you ride through Lake Lugano.

Learning different languages
During your tour of Switzerland, you will notice that the locals speak very different languages. There is German in the northern and central parts of the country, Italian in the south, Romansh in the east, and French in the west -- those are also national languages, too, so you cannot really pinpoint one language that everyone widely speaks. If you know some of the basic of these languages, then consider your Switzerland vacation as one of the ways in which you can improve on any of those languages.

By learning any of these languages at any of the cities in the Swiss regions, you will fully understand the effect of lenient borders within the European countries. Because they are so close share borders with each other, they are able to introduce their cultures with one another. As a globetrotter, this is one of the things you will appreciate about not being too severe with visitors and accepting new ideas from neighbouring countries.

Visit remote villages
Switzerland is also known for its quaint villages, remote enough that you will not be bothered by city noise. Some people think “remote, quaint villages” connote a backwards place where people still churn their own butter. But this just means that they are a small village that does not have all the modern luxuries a city has like boutique shops. Yes, you can only find the more practical luxuries and nature -- what more can you ask for?

Simply make your way to Arosa -- a place where rolling hills and a lush green is a welcome sight. There are a range of activities like skiing and hiking which you can enjoy during your stay here. Additionally, Arosa has some of the best spas and cafe that you will not want to miss.

Switzerland is the quintessential European country -- filled with natural beauty, exciting activities, and delectable dishes to try. So start your journey here and enjoy a different kind of travel experience.