Blogmas 2018 · christmas · craft · Guest Post

Craft: 3 simple festive crafts

 

Craft: 3 simple festive crafts – a collaboration with Lisa’s Notebook

There’s no better time for quick crafts than in the run-up to Christmas. Whether you’re looking to distract the children for half-an-hour, to make a last-minute gift or for a bit of time out, factor some craft time into your festive agenda. 

This post is a collaboration with Lisa from Lisa’s Notebook. I adore Lisa’s blog. With regular features about gardening, self-care and kid-friendly activities, there is something for everyone. Be sure to check out Lisa’s post and see how she got on with the same crafts.

We chose some crafts from Pinterest – collaborating was a lovely way to motivate each other to do the crafts, rather than just pinning them to our boards. It was also a great way of finding things we might not have picked ourselves. Our theme was ‘nature’ and I love how we interpreted this in different ways. 

The three crafts featured here are:

  • A pine-cone elf
  • Bird feeders
  • Star decorations made from twigs 

Check them out below, then have a look at Lisa’s post to see how her crafts came out. 

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Pinecone elf – 

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This was the first craft I picked. There are many examples over Pintest and by looking at these I decided I wanted to keep my elf simple, to add a jingle-bell to his hat and to have accessories in two colours. 

The fiddliest part was making the hat, but once I found a template it came together quickly enough. The result was very sweet and I think these would make lovely little gifts or table-favours. 

 

You will need:

  • Sheets of felt
  • One pinecone 
  • A wooden ball 
  • Jingle bells
  • A pen to draw on the face
  • A glue gun 

 

Instructions: 

  1. Cut out the hat. There is a great template here which shows you the shape to cut the felt. Stick the hat together using your glue gun and add a jingle bell at the top. 
  2. Cut out the feet and scarf.  
  3. Stick the hat to your wooden ball, then stick the head on to the pine cone. Add the feet and scarf. When everything is dry, draw on the face. 

 

Bird feeders – 

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You will need – 

  • Dry mix: Birdseed, currents, sultanas, oats 
  • Fat. I used vegetable fat. 
  • Cookie cutters laid out on a baking tray. You need open cookie cutters, not the ones with patterns in. 
  • Straws (Paper ones work just fine.) 

 

Instructions –

  1. Measure out your dry ingredients. I used a ratio of 2 parts dry ingredients to one part vegetable fat, so I used 500g of dry ingredients to 250g of vegetable fat. Mix your dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Melt the fat in a saucepan. When it is ready, pour it in with the dry mixture and stir until all the fat is soaked up. This step should be done by an adult. 
  3. Distribute your mixture between the cookie cutters, patting it down with a spoon. 
  4. When you’ve filled your cookie cutters, stick a straw in each one near the top of the cutter. This will form a hole so you can hang up your bird-seed cake when it is set. Leave your bird-seed cakes to set. 
  5. When your bird-seed cake is solid, remove the cookie cutter, tie the string through the hole and hang it on a branch. 

 

Twig star decorations:

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Never again will I judge a craft by the picture on Pinterest. When I saw this, I thought it would make a nice, easy extra. Little did I know how difficult it would be. The tricky part was cutting twigs to equal length and laying them out in a five-pointed star. They move so much that it was like a game of pick-up sticks. I am pleased with my final result and would try this again. 

You will need –

  • Twigs (we picked up longer sticks and branches and cut them to equal length. This should be done by an adult.)
  • A glue gun
  • Raffia or any ribbon or thread to wrap around the centre. 

 

Instructions – 

  1. Cut the twigs to equal length and lay them out in the shape of a five-pointed star. This is easier said than done. My advice is to draw the star out on paper and not overthink the layout. See how it comes together. 
  2. Stick your star together. Before you get the glue-gun out, look at where your twigs overlap and make a plan. I started with the overlaps nearest the bottom and worked up. 
  3. When your star is dry, tie raffia on to the twigs and wrap it around the decoration. This is a very kid-friendly part and you could use all sorts of ribbons and spare bits of thread. 

 

Final thoughts – 

Thanks again to Lisa for joining me in this collaboration. Our nature theme got me outside looking for bits and pieces, and it was lovely to take time out of the busy Christmas schedule for some crafting time. 

Have you tried any of the above crafts? Do you have any favourite Christmas activities? Let me know in the comments below. 

craft · Uncategorized

Annual reading challenges – why I won’t be setting targets for 2019.

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A reflection on annual reading challenges

Last December, book-bloggers everywhere set their annual challenges. The GoodReads counter felt obligatory. Beyond that, there were challenges based on Diversity, challenges for fantasy book lovers and challenges for people who wanted to broaden their literary horizons., challenges everywhere. Like every other book blogger, I set my targets and made a page, copying out my bingo-list of books to read in 2018.

Six weeks into the New Year and that page was forgotten.

If you like and enjoy challenges, please understand I think there is space for them. This is not a page to knock book challenges. It is a personal reflection and a post to explore the reason I won’t be signing up for reading challenges in 2019.

What are reading challenges anyway? 

 

I set three challenges last year – to read 100 books, to read eight or more books by an Australian YA author and the Modern Mrs Darcy Challenge. I gave some more consideration than others – the Australian YA came from my enjoyment of Begin, End, Begin, an anthology which showcased the brilliant work of Australian YA authors. One hundred books, now that was arbitrary. It was the figure-I-would-reach-but-not-too-quickly. The Modern Mrs Darcy just ticked a broad range of literary styles. I certainly wanted to include poetry, essays, work in translation etc in my reading diet, although on reflection they were also targets I was going to hit without serious consideration.

This isn’t a space to reflect on my success or failure – this is a space to question whether we should hold ourselves accountable to goals we set at the start of the year.

Every bookworm knows that feeling. The one we get when we walk into a bookshop or a library. I know it – I see a room full of bookshelves and change from woman to book-sniffer. My hunting instincts kick in. With no conscious decision, my walk slows, my eyes become alert and I prowl the shelves. Titles are sized-up and discarded. Covers are scanned, pages read until … something clicks. Certainly, there are times when I go in search of a specific book but on those occasions when I am browsing, I know the right book by instinct.

Subconscious plays an important role in reading. When I say I’ve found the right book, when I say it feels right, I mean I subconsciously know the sort of book I’m looking to read next. This is one of the most magical parts of being a bookworm and I don’t want to ignore it for the sake of a list.

Notice how many ghost stories are published in the autumn? How many light YA romances in the summer? Our reading tastes are shaped by our day-to-day experience and publishers know it. Come the autumn, come the need to cuddle up under a blanket and read by torchlight into the small hours. That’s not to say everyone reads seasonally or we only read ghost stories in the autumn, but seasonal conditions are one of the things which affect our choices without us giving the matter any thought. Likewise a popular documentary or film could put us in the mood for a certain type of story. Hands-up who read lots of fairytale spin-offs when Beauty and The Beast was released?

We absorb the world around us and go in search of more. This is magical and special, like a current flowing through our minds, and I want to ride it.

That’s not to say I won’t be reflective or go in search of particular things. I would certainly like to read more books which represent minorities – books which represent BAME characters, LGBTQA characters, characters from different socio-economic backgrounds and characters with a long-term health condition or disability. Less than one percent of all books published in 2017 featured a BAME main-character, but those which are out there? They are windows into life-experiences and I will pick those books up. I will pick them up because I want every story told and every life represented on the bookshelves, not to tick off a box on an annual challenge.  

What about the social side of challenges? There’s nothing better than talking to other bookish people about specific bookish topics. Maybe I picked the wrong selection of challenges, or maybe I should have kept track of my challenges on social media. Certainly, I didn’t have any additional interaction beyond the comments when I initially wrote the page. I would love more interaction in 2019 and want to talk to all kinds of people – book bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, people who have never written in their lives. I want to take part in chats and receive recommendations. I’m just not certain annual challenges bring that.

With events, readathons and tags throughout the year, there will be opportunities to engage with the blogging community and try out something new. As the New Year approaches I may write a post looking to the year ahead and my commitment to read a wide range of voices. After that I’ll see where 2019 takes me and I will be here to blog about it. 

 

Are you setting challenges this year? How did you find the experience in 2018? Let me know in the comments below. 

 

 

craft

Craft: Make A Scrapbook Memory Jar – Collaboration with HelloBexa

Making a scrapbook memory jar – collaboration with HelloBexa. 

I was looking to add a little more craft to my blog, and I needed some inspiration. That’s when I turned to my blogging friend Bexa. HelloBexa is one of my ultimate blog-reads. It’s a little bit of craft, a load of positivity and the cutest photographs on the internet. Not to mention Bexa’s sunny personality. 

If any blog could make me feel creative it was HelloBexa. There’s something special about her approach to craft. She never makes it feel like a chore. The crafts she suggests are all about self-care and spreading positivity and I can’t think of a better approach to crafting. Check out her blog here. 

So what did I decide on for my first craft? 

Autumn is here. The leaves will fall and Christmas will be upon us and once again we’ll be looking to the new year. Whether we care to admit it or not, 2018 is winding to an end.

And oh the memories!

Last week, I was looking for a way to display my memories from the NYA Festival and the spin-off event in August. I have always loved journaling and papercraft but there is something final about a scrapbook. Scrapbook pages can’t be unstuck. There are bookmarks and charms which I might want to use in other ways. 

Then I heard about memory jars. 

A memory jar is essentially a scrapbook page inside a jar. It can be added to and reorganised and this exactly fitted the way I wanted to display my bits and pieces. 

You can decorate the jar any way you like – and there are heaps of pictures across the internet – but here are some ideas to get you started. 

How to washi-tape a jam jar lid: 

Washi-tape. What doesn’t it improve? Washi-tape has been one of my happy discoveries of 2018 so it only seemed fitting to incorporate it into my jar. 

Here are some tips:

Stick the tape on in straight lines. Fold it carefully over the sides then cut off the overhanging tape. Do not fold it in. 

Start in the middle and work outwards in both directions. The final pieces you fold will be a bit messier. Do not worry. Just stick one strip of washi tape around the edge. This will hide all your trimmed ends. 

My tape was a little see-through. I was happy with this because I wanted blue and white, but you might want to do a test-strip before you start. 

Finding decorations to fill the jam jar: 

It was my wish, as far as possible, to use objects from around the house. I thought I might need some sand or glitter to fill the bottom of the jar. Then I thought of my bath petals. Regular readers might remember that I won a haul of bath goodies back in the Spring. The bath bombs have long since been used but the petals were so pretty I kept them on display. 

In fact, they were so pretty I felt terrible tearing them up. Until I saw them in the jar.

Using bits from around the house is not only eco-friendly, it adds to the memory theme. Those bath petals not only look pretty, they are another happy memory from 2018. 

Write a secret message:

img_7008At the first NYALiterature Festival back in March, author Alwyn Hamilton gave a piece of advice which had changed the way I approach plotting for the better. 

You don’t need to know everything but know your ultimate destination. It is hard to plot a course without knowing how the story ends. 

This piece of advice has seen me finish and edit a 42,000-word manuscript. It will see me plot my next work, and my next one and just knowing other people have found their way through the plotting stages gives me courage. 

I wrote this in my best left-handed-scrawl on a sparkly gift-tag. Nobody looking at the jar would know it was there except me. (And … you guys. Sssh!) 

The Finished Jar:

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Here’s my finished jar. It contains:

  • A photograph of me on the day. I love this picture – I’m wearing the crown knitted by my blogging friend Charlotte and have a unicorn painted on to my cheek.
  • A candle 
  • A secret message
  • A badge
  • Blue – the hall was decorated with blue balloons 
  • A unicorn charm – to represent the unicorn facepaint 
  • Other charms. I made this necklace years ago and sourced charms which related to imagination. See, there’s a crown, a unicorn, and keys to magic kingdoms. 

 

Making my jar was a pleasure and I can’t wait to make something else. Which crafts would you like to see? What would you put in your memory jar? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thanks to Bexa from HelloBexa for joining me. This was such a lovely collaboration and I can’t wait to see your jar. Make sure you check out Bexa’s blog and find her memory jar post.