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! 

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.