Thursday, 22 December 2016

Crayola & Cake Angels Wildlife Friends Gingerbread Kit

Christmas Baking is well under way in our house, how about yours? As I write this the Christmas cake has been iced and decorated, and the first batch of mince pies are in the freezer. I thought it would be the perfect time to put up a post about this gingerbread kit my nephew and I tried out a while ago. It's not festive, but I am sure you could decorate to be Christmassy if you wanted.



This kit jumped out at me because it was Crayola branded, and I liked the biscuit icing designs on the front. I don't buy kits that often because I find there's way more icing than biscuit/cake mix and they are not always great value for money, but I love gingerbread so thought I would give this a go.

The kit came with the gingerbread mix, 2 different coloured icing sugars (yellow and red), 2 writing icing tubes (black and white), a plastic cutter and a decoration leaflet. You just need to add syrup, vegetable oil, and water, plus flour when you roll it out.

First impressions were good, the instructions were clear, and they divided them into adult, and child tasks which I thought was a nice touch. I was sceptical about using the plastic cutter, it looked a bit flimsy, but in the end it cut through the rolled out biscuit mix fine. In our oven they took the 10-12 minutes listed - so far so good.


 It was also a bit more work preparing 3 different colours of icing sugar, but I think given the fun designs you can make with them, it was worth spending a bit of extra time on that. As predicted there was more icing sugar than biscuit mix, which was a little disappointing, I was hoping this kit would buck the trend and give me more biscuits, but the design leaflet made up for that a bit. It's on thick, good quality paper, so ideal to keep and use again, there's six different designs to try out, with handy pictures to show the different stages. Really good leaflet, and although it was handy having Mum and I remind my nephew, which pictures to copy and when and a few little tips, he did really well copying the designs, and I joined in and did a few as well. We used some of the leftover icing on some normal biscuits, left them all to dry/set, then tried our gingerbread as an after dinner treat. They tasted very yum, and didn't last all that long either!


Overall, throwing icing sugar in the bin isn't ideal, and the kit only made 5 gingerbread biscuits not 6, but I've kept the box, leaflet, cutter, and icing pens, and will definitely be using those again, so from that point of view it was worth buying. Most of the other kits I've bought before, I wouldn't bother with again, but while this one was a bit small, there's future value in what I get to keep so full marks there Cake Angels.

Here is a link if anyone fancies trying it out for themselves. Wasn't too bad for an impulse buy, and was definitely tasty. What baking kits or recipes have you used with your children? Any suggestion post them below.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Bark Star Tealight Holders

Hi everyone,

How is your Christmas prep going? I feel quite behind, mainly because of my up and down freelance income, and I've still got shopping to do. I'm also stuck on what to buy some people, and have yet to make my family cards. There's still plenty of time to craft though, and I did have the chance to make a couple of tealight table decorations, using some bark stars, and a few other items from my Baker Ross blogger box, and stash.

Layered Flower Tealight Holder


Copyright These City Days 2016. No copying or reproduction
Thank you. 
For this I experimented until I found 3 stars that would sit on top of each other fairly well flat, using the one with the flattest surface for the bottom of the flower. I arranged them on top of each other, twisting the top flowers around so the points filled the gaps, then stuck them together with a glue gum, and added some glitter and a tealight (which I stuck together with a glue gun as well. I wasn't sure how well it was going to stand up, but in the end it wasn't wonky at all and looks really effective. The combination of rustic bar and glitter works really well. and it's quite quick to make.



Long Star Tealight Holder 


Copyright These City Days 2016.
I had a lot of  fun doing the first candle holder, so decided to play around with the stars, and see what else I could create, that would stick together well, and sit nicely on the table. This long design is three stars stuck together with a glue gun, slightly overlapping. I then used self adhesive felt and stars from Baker Ross to decorate, and experimented making a bow with Baker Ross Twine. For me a double bow worked out best, and left a little room to use a flat back snowflake to decorate the centre. Both these tea light holders have been finished off with a glittery tea light and put on the sideboard with our other Christmas bits.

Really enjoyed these festive makes, and will definitely try and find more uses for the twine, felt, and bark stars, I am already planning some Thank You cards. Baker Ross have been a bit hit and miss with their combinations in blogger boxes before, there's been items that I've not known what to do with, or didn't fit with anything in my stash, but I was really pleased with this box, and the quality of the products I had with it. I look forward to seeing how the blogger network grows and develops in 2017. If you are a Baker Ross blogger or a fan of their products, I would love to see your makes.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

On My Doorstep - Sandford Mill, Chelmsford

Hi everyone,

A while ago I decided to do another 'On The Doorstep' and went off to visit Sandford Mill which is in the Chelmer Village area Sorry it's taken so long to get up, but this is a review of an annual event so maybe it'll help you plan for next year. Waste not want not, with local content!!

The Mill is a place that I've always heard of, but never been in before, or really knew where it was, so this was a little bit of an adventure. The mill buildings are used as a museum housing a lot of industrial material and science related content.


One main thing, is it's rarely opened to the public, and you can only get access on their open days. The rest of the year the buildings are used for educational visits.


Most of the work there is done by volunteers, and I think they have done a great job setting up and maintaining the displays, in what must have been a big, abandoned, and perhaps not ideal space at one stage. There were displays on Marconi, The Titanic, with a replica of the control room from which the famous SOS signal was sent, details on local industry, old TV equipment, and a barn packed full of science type experiments, and an old omnibus...!

There was a lot of information displayed around the museum spaces, with some artefact's, and the Marconi radio hut. In a way too much to take in on one visit, and I missed the tour. Outside they had some miniature engines that were merrily puffing away, and in some cases giving train rides, and an old machine, which I think used to be used in hay making.

There was also a refreshment area, canoeing (which you had to pay for) and archery - I saw some 'targets' set up around the site in a trail, but I didn't see anyone running this activity. It's a nice location to have a wander around outside, and they even had a little nook they'd turned into a small blacksmiths.


My only little comments, or criticism, and they were only small things, but the ladies in the refreshment area got confused adding up 2 small sums for my drink and snack, and it would have been nice if the volunteers involved in the museum had name tags to identify them - I wanted to know who I could go and talk to, and ask about things, and where it was obvious people were involved with something (like with the miniature engines) perhaps they could have been more forthcoming with talking to people. They were just small things in my experience though.

Overall it was a nice bike ride there, nice weather, a nice view of the lock/waterway on the cycle route, and it was well worth visiting. There was almost too much information to take in though, so I may have to go back again next year.

To find out more about Sandford Mill Museum and their open events, please visit the Chelmsford City Council Website.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Hessian Christmas Bauble Project / Baker Ross Craft Baubles

This is a project using Craft Baubles from a recent Baker Ross blogger box. They are an easy, effective, and pretty quick make to do, and there's plenty of time to make a few - they would look great on the Christmas Tree, or you could use them to decorate gift wrapping/bags, or even just as a gift as they are quite different. To make them you will need:

Craft Baubles - Pack Of 6  for £3.49
Ribbon
Stick On Gems
Stick On Pearls

To make just follow these steps below:



Unroll the hessian and place a craft bauble on the material, lifting up the sides around it. Move the bauble until you have a good amount of material around each side of the bauble, leaving room for the hanging loop to peek through.

Cut the hessian to size, then place the bauble in the centre again and wrap and fold it around. Tie several knots with the ribbon of your choice round the top, and then tie in a bow and cut to length.

Next gently fold back the piece of material at the top to give it more shape and to reveal the hanging loop.



Finally, it's time to decorate. I used small stick on gems, and pearls to add some colour, but in a subtle way, and I'm really pleased with the results. I'm sure you have all sorts of things you could use in your stash to decorate yours, and make them a bit different.

I'll be back soon with a make with some bark stars, please check in again soon, and if you've made anything for Christmas do share in the comments below, I'd love to check it out if you blogged about it too.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Beyond The Point - Local History Project In Essex

Sometimes, things don't go to plan, but that's okay, because I recently had the chance to catch up with one of the guys behind 'Beyond The Point' and had to give the content a new home on my blog. I really enjoyed their website, and some of their documentaries that I've been able to view. Maybe it's because a lot of their content is Essex related, or they just present things in an engaging way, but this is what I wanted history lessons to be like when I was at school.


BTP at Dover Castle

“Never leave the camera at home” that’s the message from Joe Mander, co-founder of ‘Beyond The Point’, a website bringing the history of South Essex to life. If you take the time to look through the photos and documentaries Joe and Liam have made, you’ll realise how true that message is! This is a blog on what 2 young men, their cameras, and their passion, have created.

When I was at school you could have divided our year quite easily into the history or geography camp. I was the latter, and absolutely loved geography at school, but became quite frustrated with the history teaching. I wasn’t inspired, and felt the curriculum was quite narrow. Thankfully for Essex Joe and Liam had a different learning experience, and were able to explore history in a creative way from a young age. “When Liam and I started junior school we set up the ‘History Club’, where we would make small art and craft items on a Friday afternoon. This was everything from Roman belt buckles made from foil, to cardboard pencil pots. We had always enjoyed history and just did this as a hobby.”


BTP at Vange Well
Joe and Liam continue to explore history in creative, traditional ways, and combine this with technology, to film, photograph and digitally preserve content on historic sites and abandoned buildings. Even ruins and former factories/farmland have made it onto the site. Recognising the role technology can play in connecting people of all ages with history has been an important one, and helped the site grow from a modest blog into a full website and hobby organisation. Joe comments that, “Back in our early days all we had was a horrible history book. Now kids can learn about their history through fun interactive games and videos, which is a really good thing. I think technology has played a big role in changing how people learn about history, now that it is much more accessible for everyone. You can find information in minutes.”

Search the ‘Beyond The Point’ website, and in ‘minutes’ you will find articles on medieval food, the Guildhall and Roman Amphitheatre in London, the gunpowder plot, and Dutch Cottage in Canvey Island. It’s a mix of museums, general historical articles, visits to historic sites, and public land with a story. Then you come to the documentaries.

I have a point and click camera, and just hit record on my videos, but the pieces Joe and Liam film and edit are full documentaries, covering the familiar tourist trails, areas around where they grew up in South Essex, and uncovering lesser known places.


Filming For Their New Website
“Hadleigh Castle is one of South Essex’s most notable tourist ruins, but we are fortunate enough to know that directly adjacent to it you can find a Second World War gun battery, viaduct, pond, and jetty, over a century old, all unmarked. The sheet multitude and variety of locations we have visited is in itself a rare treat, considering it is such an eye opener to what lies un-signposted within our immediate locality.”


As a hobby, building up ‘Beyond The Point’ to the resource it is today has definitely kept them busy, and helped shape their futures. Joe has a role as an ITN news cameraman, Liam is heading off to university. Joe describes ‘Beyond The Point’ as “the best work experience they could ever ask for” and while both boys are looking to their future careers, with the launch of their new website, and expanding the areas and subjects they cover, something tells me they’ll be uploading content for many years to come.

Find Out More:
Beyond The Point has recently re-launched online, and their new website offers an interactive map to help you digitally explore photo and video content from all the places they have documented, and new guides to help everyone else explore the outdoors – I know I’ll be reading those to pick up some tips. Click over to http://www.beyondthepoint.co.uk/  or find them on Facebook.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Baker Ross Christmas Blogger Box - Overview And Pom Pom Bauble Make

Hi everyone,

It's happy post time again, and this time it was some Christmas craft goodies from Baker Ross. I think Christmas is one of my favourite boxes, there's always something different to try, and for some reason I find Christmas one of the most exciting things to craft for!



My box this time didn't disappoint. There was a good mix of things that I would use again, and for different crafts, and it's a box that has made me think on my feet. There's no patterned papers or pretty topper - nothing is done. I think my favourite items are probably the roll of jute twine, just because I think it'll add a shabby chic/rustic touch to so many things, it will last for ages, and I'll have fun adding little touches to it, also the glitter paper. I LOVE glitter card/paper, the self adhesive kind that doesn't shed. The colours are just so vibrant, I don't understand why some crafters cover it up so much with their layering, I want to see it sparkle.

So here's my box in full:




  • Bark Stars - £3.99 for 20 - Good size for different projects, and you can decorate the surface easily, but some of them were a bit curled up so wouldn't sit flat on anything.
  • Jute Twine - £2.99 per reel. Big reel and good quality jute. Handy to have in my stash.
  • Hessian Roll - £4.50 per roll. Good amount for your money, though not as easy to use as the self adhesive sheets. Good to shape round craft products.
  • Self - Adhesive Glitter Paper Sheets - £2.45 for 5 sheets - Lovely range of colours, no shedding of glitter, easy to use and cut - good value for the price, but the size of the sheets is too small, won't go very far. I'd prefer to buy A4 sheets, or more in 1 pack.
  • Mini Pom Poms - £2.45 for 500 - good amount in a pack, like that there are different sizes included, and a good amount of each colour. Bit hit and miss finding the right adhesive to get them to stick to things, but fun for all ages to use.
  • Self-Adhesive Felt Sheets - £3.60 for 18 sheets - Good selection of colours, easy to use, need a good pair of scissors to cut. Handy for backgrounds and basic shapes.
  • Craft Baubles - Pack Of 6 - £3.49 - Easier to work with than some of the other bauble shapes they have, though a bit small in terms of decorating. Good quality and size, though a bit pricey for 6.
  • A4 Coloured Card - £2.99 for 50. I've not opened this yet, but a good selection of colours, and just what I needed for my stash - which has too much pastel in it.



Pom Pom Makes

I have a few blog posts planned which will be up in the coming days and weeks, but I thought I'd share my first make with the blogger box here. Although my four year old nephew isn't really into drawing and painting much yet, he does quite like sticking and some crafty activities so I shared my pom pom pack and craft baubles with him and we made these.





I did try and make some kind of pattern but that didn't really work, however they are bright and fun, and something different for the crafty tree this year. We did have a fail trying to get them to stick though, we tried glue, tacky double sided tape - which worked better, but for a final attempt at sealing and sticking them, I've sprayed them with hairspray. So far, so good.



* This blogger box was sent as part of the Baker Ross Blogger Network activity, but all opinions and feedback are my own.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Sarah Hurley Botanical Stamps Overview

Hi everyone,

This is my first official blog post as part of the Sarah Hurley Community, and I am quite excited to get going and share some of Sarah's new products with you all. First up is a new range of stamps themed as 'botanical' so all things floral and fauna, perfect for me and my Pawprints and Petals page.

I thought I would kick off by giving you an overview of the range and a little review, then hopefully share a few projects over the next weeks to show what you can do with them. There are 8 sets in the range, all priced at £5.99. With each set you will get at least one sentiment, and a variety of different flowers and foliage. I received the Birthday Flowers, Friendship Flowers, Thank You For The Flowers, Brushstroke Roses (my favourite so far), and Thinking Of You Flower sets.




Things I Like:

It's something everyone is talking about now, but it does make a difference if you get a full stamp sheet, and a choice of different images to stamp with. I do sometimes buy a big/intricate stamp if I really like the image, but I also enjoy using smaller stamps, and cutting, pasting, layering and creating with them, so the Sarah Hurley stamps win there. I've already tried using them for small projects, and creating a scene on a card and they work well.

I also like how some stamps such as the flowers are solid and others an outline, again great for layering. I need to invest in some new colour ink pads and try faded backgrounds, but I find ink quite pricey.

For me each stamp set is quite different, which again is refreshing as I see so any floral products on the market that are the same repeated, patterns, it gets boring. I've seen some of the makes my fellow community members have made, and for me they can be bold, modern, and if you want bright, and that's what I want with flower products.




Not So Good:

I've been thinking a lot about this and there's only a couple of things I could find to comment on. The stamps are made from good quality, tacky materials, but they don't take the ink clean off when I'm cleaning them after use, I've had this before with stamps, still completely usable, but some have black marks left on them from inking.

The only other thing I'd say was with the sentiments, which look hand drawn or painted. Whichever way they were produced, I think having used them all, some of the words/phrases have been made into stamps which are a bit small for the style of writing, and I would have preferred a different font or bigger word for a clearer finish.

Overall:




I like the hand drawn/painted look to these stamps, and although I wasn't too sure at first how they might come out, I have been pleased with the results. There are co-ordinating papers to go with these stamps, double sided (yes!!), but while a few of the flower designs do say Spring to me, others can be used for all different occasions and seasons!

Each stamp set in the Beautiful Botanical range retails at £5.99 and the set of matching papers is £7.50 each. These products will be available very soon at www.sarahhurley.com .

* I was sent these stamps as a member of the Sarah Hurley Community/Design Team for the purposes of experimenting/review/possible project blogs. All opinions are my own.

I'll be back soon with some gift box/packaging ideas using some of the Botanical stamps. Thanks for reading and please comment and let me know what you think, and what your favourite crafty products are.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Looking For Work As A Freelance Writer

I'm sure some people think I live a privileged existence as a self employed worker - bumming around the house in my PJ's, getting up when I like, flexible hours etc. Working for myself does have it's advantages (maybe I'll cover that in another blog post), but it's also like you're on a constant cycle of looking for work! especially in the quiet times in between projects, when the fear of the unknown creeps in, and you think you may never work again!

It's impossible to have my eyes everywhere, and my brain honing in on every possible avenue I could look down, or use to find new connections and opportunities, but having my virtual ears pricked is something I think I'm pretty good at.

I'm on a few Facebook groups for journalism and copywriting, and they are useful for writer shout-outs for articles, jobs, and possible networking opportunities. For me these groups work best for those reasons, and if I just happen to come across a useful tip, resource, or piece of advice I hadn't thought of. If I'm honest though sometimes when I have posted, the resulting comments have been a bit 'obvious' - i.e. suggesting I contact past clients.

Twitter is also a must, but for slightly different reasons, for me this is the public place to be seen, and to show what I can do, what I know and am passionate about, and to build relationships with people in the field. Showing genuine interest in something goes a long way! I've found a few things/people to write about recently on there who I am still in touch with, whereas I prefer to keep my Facebook profile private, and for who I know.

It's also worth playing around with hashtags and search terms as well. It's worth keeping an eye on general ones such as #journorequest, prrequest, journalism job etc, but adding some specifics can also give good results, such as copywriter job uk, freelance writer job, content agency Essex, content editor remote (if you're looking for homebased work).

Here's a few other things I'd suggest:

1) Keep your eyes on job sites, even if you see a position advertised that isn't for you, if the organisation, publication etc. has captured your interest, make sure you read the fine print of the advert - I've seen 'commission freelance writers' a fair few times in job descriptions, so have added them to my contact list.

2) Advertise your availability, but with care - I personally have no problem writing little adverts reminding people I'm about, or highlighting certain things, but I think they have to be done in the right way. Talk about a recent project you've done (are you looking for similar?), show your keen to make new connections and broaden your experience, but don't appear over keen, or highlight any quiet times in a negative way. Use your time constructively.

3) Think outside the box - apart from a typical media job, project, pitch - where else could your writing skills benefit people, and how could you combine these with your other passions/hobbies/knowledge. I love craft, and have been lucky enough to be chosen for 2 design teams, and been published a couple of times in that area, so I have started to do a little advertising targeted towards craft businesses and start-ups who might need help with content. It helps with the cold calling element as well if you are confident in your knowledge.

If you are self employed, what do you suggest for finding work and advertising yourself? It's not always easy to realise your strengths and get out there, and keep going through freelance ups and downs, so if you have any tips please share them below.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Sherbet Lane - Stationery Subscription Box Review


I don't think everyone quite understands it, but I love stationery, and while I wouldn't call myself addicted, I have to write letters on pretty paper, and use notebooks with a funky cover. Plain is just a bit boring! I was lucky enough to chat with designer and illustrator Claire Keay for Essex Lowdown, and kept in touch after doing the article. It's great when you freelance and you can keep some of the connections you make, and write follow up content.

So hear I am with a new and shiny #SherbetBox - this is the stationery subscription box from Claire's Sherbet Lane brand, which was initially crowd funded in super quick time. So far it seems, so good, so well done, as I know it's not easy launching a new project, and wondering if anyone will fund or buy it.



My Sherbet Box was the second one to be released for July 2016, and the theme was all seaside related. Inside my box of goodies was a themed pencil, a themed gift tag, a small sweet, a colouring sheet, a small note pad, 3 large greetings cards, postcards, and a seaside print, limited edition for the box. There was also a large sticker, some small stickers, and a tin with magnets and paper clips in.

The box fits through your letter box, and it's surprising how much you can fit neatly into it - maybe I'll put together and send all my presents like this in future! First impressions were good, it was all nicely themed, and the note describing the theme and why it was chosen was a really nice touch. I think it makes it more unique and a bit more personal, plus I love hearing the inspiration behind things I'm buying.



The quality was a big plus point for me, the small print was on good quality card and ideal for framing. The greetings cards were also really good quality, better than I expected to be honest, and unlike some have said not too large for me.

One thing that was slightly disappointing was the colouring sheet, it was a bit flimsy, and got a bit crumpled tucked into the bottom of the box. Perhaps thicker paper, a sheet placed in an envelope for extra protection, or maybe a mini book of a few sheets to colour would have fared better in the post.



The contents are a surprise, so you are partly buying on Claire's previous work, other boxes, or because you like the latest theme. My concern would be while I love stationery, and the idea of getting a box full of goodies through the post, different to what's in the shops, I might eventually end up with a lot of 'stuff''. Lovely stuff, but stuff that might start gathering dust, if it's the sort of items I don't use all that often, or slight repeats from previous boxes. I think that will be the challenge, producing box after box, and balancing the mix of treats and useful things you can never have enough of.

Money Talk:



The Sherbet Boxes currently cost £45.00 for a 3 month subscription, and £15.00 for a one-off box.

I absolutely appreciate the effort gone into creating the designs and producing/sourcing items for the box, and that you get free postage in the UK. It was all very well done, but I would have expected some kind of deal if I was subscribing for more than 1 month.

Some contents were absolutely worth the money and had value to me, but I think overall I wanted a bit more - 1 pencil is great, but one gift tag? it was cute, but it looked a little sad on it's own and would've been great as a set.



I don't think I'd buy regularly as a subscriber, but I would consider buying occasionally as a treat if I had the funds, and they'd make a lovely gift for someone. I think the designs will appeal to a wide audience as well - cute stationery is fairly well ageless!

For all the insider gossip on #SherbetBox and the chance to have your say on future themes, visit Facebook or for all of Claire's work check out he Sherbet Lane website. You can also read my interview with Claire on Essex Lowdown here.

* This box was sent to me for a review, but all opinions and feedback are my own.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Book Review - The Woolworths Girls By Elaine Everest

Although I don't get the chance to read, or be in the mind set to read as much as I'd like, yep I still have a pile of un-read books to keep me going for the rest of the year, I couldn't pass up the chance to review a new book by fellow writer/journo Elaine Everest. The Woolworths Girls jumped out at me, apart from loving and missing their Pick and Mix, I also love seeing and reading about what town centres and iconic shops used to be like, so this novel sounded a great fit.

The story opens on three nervous young women, all slightly different ages, and coming from different backgrounds. Maisie, Sarah, and Freda all turn up at Erith Woolworths on the same day hoping for a job. They became instant friends, and the shop where they ended up working becomes the backdrop for life, love, and sometimes pain.

New characters are introduced at various points in the story, some like Alan, trainee manager, make an instant impact as a love interest, while others such as Betty Billington develop bigger roles as the story moves on, both through daily life, bigger dramas, and the onset and eventual impact of war.
Sometimes the book left me wanting more - it would've been fun to see old pictures of Woolworths, and what the store was like, beyond working for the company. I also questioned how quick Sarah fell in love, and would've liked to have seen a bit more of Freda and Lenny together.



I'd say this was a book full of moments, and all of those moments I enjoyed. The obvious contrast between the 3 girls when they met, the insights into the local community, and the inclusion of local busybody Vera were all well-written. I don't want to give away too much and end up writing a spoiler post, but some of the lesser characters have some surprises I didn't expect, and as for the ending - it's a poignant one.

My concentration did go a few times, but overall I was engaged, and enjoyed Elaine's vivid writing style. I've read a fair few historical based novels before, and some of the story is nothing new, but this novel will stand out against the rest for the variety of characters in the same community, and the shop setting provided scope for interesting day to day details.

I can't imagine the work that goes into writing a whole book, I've only ever tried the odd short story, so well done Elaine, and I would read/buy your work again in the future.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Nickleodeon's The Other Kingdom - Accessories and Craft Unboxing

When I was living in a rented house for six months last summer we didn't have any access to a TV aerial, and rather than connect to Sky, we bought Internet TV boxes. I had a Now TV Box connect to my TV, and I have to admit to using the entertainment pass, and watching some of the American teen programmes on there - light and easy Saturday morning viewing! It's more of a guilty pleasure, rather than me being their target audience, but when an email popped through about a new show The Other Kingdom, promising a box of handicrafts, or make-up/accessories I wanted to give the opportunity a go - you know me and crafts.



What came through the post was a very pretty gift box (definitely a keeper), with an outer sleeve that had the programme logo on, and a 3D butterfly. Opening the box wasn't quite what I expected, as I thought it would be a mix of branded merchandise to make or use, but it was a mix of products from other sources.

My box had - glitter nail art and body glitter sets, small fabric flowers, shimmery fabric in 2 different colours, an unusual Amethyst Necklace, small pink beads, and two colours of ribbon, along with a beaded fairy crown headband.



I think the ribbon would be great to make hair bow clips with, or a bigger bow to decorate a plain top. I even had the idea of hemming the fabric so it doesn't fray, and shaping it into an apron, with the ribbon as a tie at the top - I've not tried it out yet, but you could easily accessorise to make a fairy costume without cutting up any existing clothes, or buying a one-time wear fairy outfit.

I couldn't resist a more crafty project though, so I used a plain cardboard wreath from my stash, and cut strips of fabric to tie around the wreath, with the ends pointing into the middle to make it look more quirky. I then added some fabric flowers, a fairy wand, and a few other bits to finish decorating the project. Time is needed to tie up the fabric pieces, and let the glitter glue dry, but other than that it's a fairly quick project to do, and would look great hung up for a party, or room decoration.



I hope this gives you or your teens a few ideas for fairy princess makes or decorations - if you keep an eye on my blog or follow my Instagram account (These City Days) you may find a few other bits and pieces as the series gets under way.

About The Other Kingdom

The Other Kingdom premieres on Nickleodeon at 6.30pm on August 8th 2016. It's a live action series featuring Astral as the fairy princess. Follow her journey as she has to choose between being a fairy princess, or living her life as a human. Human teen-dom v's the fairy kingdom of Athenia!

* I was gifted this box of goodies for a possible unboxing post, but any opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Popband London - Mini Haul And Review

Hair, I am very lucky to have lots of it, although I am not very good at styling it, and it normally ends up in a pony tail of some description. Because I have my hair back a lot hairbands are important to me, and I've probably bought a lot over the years that either don't grip my hair at all, or they pull it too tight, which can hurt and give me headaches.

My other gripe is there isn't much choice in the shops for hair ties, unless you want a plain elastic, or vintage style floral, and yes sometimes the quality isn't there and material is fraying on shop shelves as well. When I received a You Beauty Box recently, one of my extras was a Popband sample, and after trying that out, I had to order more!!



A Popband is made from soft, stretchy elastic, knotted to form a hair tie. It sounds simple, and it is, but I think behind the scenes thought has gone into the type of materials used here. The claim is that they will be kind on hair, and leave no kinks, and they have scored on both counts. The hair ties are really easy to knot around my thick hair, and I don't even notice they are there, which is just what I wanted it.

In my mini haul I ordered:

Sweetie - A set of 4 Popbands, 1 with a cute cupcake charm - £8.00

Pop - A set of 5 Popbands in different colours - £6.00

And I ordered around the time of HRH The Queen's Birthday, so I got a cute red, white, and blue set free. Delivery is free to UK addresses, and I received my order in the 3-5 day timescale listed - in a shiny, pink jiffy bag - which looked great sitting on my door mat when I arrived home.




I did hesitate a bit on price - I have bought a set of basic hairbands from the pound shop for a lot less, by the same token I could spend £4-5 on a hair ruffle/set which don't seem to last all that long, and I end up throwing them away. I was indecisive as to whether I wanted to spend £14.00 on hair bands, but I did need to replace and invest in new hair ties, so I am glad I did. the quality is there, and I love the colours. The jury is out on how long they will last before they need replacing, so I'll get back to you on that one.

The free delivery appeals, and I've found smaller size bands and sets in Superdrug, so I would buy again as treat.

See all the colours in the Popband range online, along with their shoelaces and headbands - just click here.


Thursday, 28 July 2016

On My Doorstep - Hylands Park, Chelmsford

I remember once suggesting to Dad he go out for a walk when he was bored, and he gave me a look as if to say I'd feel silly just walking around somewhere. I'm completely different and will quite happily get out and walk or cycle around the area I live, but sometimes I forget the wider area I live in. I know I'm not alone in sometimes forgetting what's on the doorstep, or taking it for granted. So I have made it my mission, now the weather is nicer, to explore places that I haven't yet seen, or don't go to that often, starting with Hyland's Park over towards Writtle.


Copyright These City Days 2016

I cycle over to Hylands, and it's actually quite a good route from where I live now, although still a hike that tires me out a little afterwards. It partly goes through parks, and a registered cycle network path, and then you end up in the village of Writtle, not very far from the duck pond.

I went to Hyland's for a pet and country show, but the event wasn't all that great. I think they struggled with the concept a bit, and didn't have enough pet, or enough country in there. Most of the things you had to pay for, or donate to, and some of the displays weren't very clear, or in the case of the arena shows, accessible to all the audience watching around the area.

I did however find an amazing food van offering proper coffees and pastries, and got myself a yummy cake - I wish I could remember their name as I'd recommend them for sure. After that I took my cake, and went and sat and enjoyed the view, before heading off with my camera to explore the rest of the park.


Copyright -These City Days 2016

One of the things I love about Hyland's is it's a mix of parkland, and formal gardens, and there's always something new to look at. This visit I finally found the lake, which I'd often seen signposted, but never found, the formal gardens almost looked brand new as they were in full bloom, and very pretty, and it never feels too crowded. It's just a peaceful place to go around, and although it's a longer ride, I definitely feel better after doing it.

There's also a visitor centre with artist studios, café, and a gift shop, and I normally stop off there for a drink and a little shop on the way home. This trip I came back with a scarf, and a model dinosaur for my nephew.


Copyright - These City Days 2016


Copyright - These City Days 2016


If you've been to Hyland's Park, what are some of your favourite things about it, do you have any suggestions for other open spaces to visit in Chelmsford?

To find out more about Hyland's Park, Hyland's House, and their forthcoming events programme, please click here.

Thanks for visiting, and if you like what you see, sharing is caring.

Monday, 6 June 2016

You Beauty Box - May 2016 Review

Hi all,

It's been a while since I've had a beauty box, around a year in fact, and that's partly money, but also the free beauty samples I have been lucky enough to get were more interesting than the promised contents of the beauty boxes. But after a decent break I decided to give the You Beauty Box another go, and order one for May.

The good thing about this beauty box is it's very easy to cancel your membership if you're not interested in the next months contents, which are normally emailed in advance. I'm probably going to cancel for June as I am saving for things, so just have to do it before the 28th of the month. At £6.95 including postage it's one of the cheaper options as well, but most of the time they manage to get a good selection of brands to provide samples. Some are full size products or small sample size pots, others sachets.

Here are the two items I chose this month:



Burts Bees Tinted Lip Balm Hibiscus - I'm a bit of a lip balm fan, and have a little pot which at one point probably had 5 sticks in, I was also attracted to the fact that it's 100% natural. The blurb says it's made with shea butter and botanical waxes so I thought this would be kind for my lips, and a good option if I want something subtle in summer, or extra moisturising in winter. I've used it a few times already and it lasts a while so think I chose well.

MUA Prime & Conceal Palette - I am a big fan of primer ever since I first reviewed one in a beauty box years ago, it just makes my skin feel nice and provides a good base for make-up - hopefully helping tone and protect my skin on the way. I've not used MUA products before, and they do have a bit of stiff competition with my favourite primer (Sheer Cover is brilliant) but I look forward to giving this a go. It has 5 correcting cream shades to target different areas/issues and suits a variety of different complexions. There's a free tutorial online, so although I've tried out a couple of shades, I'll have to load that up and have a proper go.



The freebies this month were a small Verso Super Facial Serum, I'm saving this for a pamper day, an Anne Semonin Gift Card, which went in the bin as it's basically discount on a spend so won't get used. The last freebie was a sample hair tie from pop band - these things are great, they are designed to be kind on your hair, leave it kink free, and are soft to touch. I have my hair in a pony tail a lot, but it's quite thick, so wasn't sure it was going to work. Surprisingly it holds my hair really well, without grabbing it too tight, and I don't even notice it's there. I've noticed a little discount voucher in the booklet that comes with the box, so may have to buy a few more!

Have you received this months box? what did you think of the freebies? Do you have a favourite beauty box or product you've received in one? Would love to hear your thoughts below.

Find out more about the You Beauty Box here.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Garden Mosaic Picture - With Wood And Mosaic Tiles

* Craft Alert*

I recently received a box of goodies from the lovely people at Baker Ross, and if you've seen my previous make you'll know that I was intrigued by the sisal, and enjoyed making with it. I have some colourful looking pens to try out soon as well. The rest of the box was a little disappointing, in that the wood pieces, small wooden logs (my best name for them) and a big box of mosaic tiles, didn't come together in an obvious way at first, and none of the packs had any suggestions to get you going with how they could be best attached to things or manipulated.

My art in the garden copyright These City Days 2016

It was mum who came up with the idea of sticking some of the bigger bits of wood (mulberry slices) together and then decorating the shape, and after a bit of experimenting I came up with a rough circle shape. I decided then to make a little piece of artwork for the garden, and painted the wood up with an outdoor paint.

There are a lot of mosaic tiles in the box, in all kinds of shapes and colours, with some quite pretty patterns/grains on some of them. I was confident I could make something colourful, but not having any mosaic cement/grout - I opted for a scene style picture, using a glue gun, rather than an all over pattern.

Copyright - These City Days 2016
It was a bit hit and miss with the glue gun, a couple of pieces fell off when I stood the finished result in the garden, but I'm pleased with the end result - it looks like a proper scene which is what I wanted, and hopefully when we do our garden I will find a place to put it outside so I can see how it lasts.

Thanks to Baker Ross for the challenge - I was gifted these products to craft with as a member of their adult blogger network, but all opinions and designs are my own. To find out more about the full range of art and craft items they have available, please visit Baker Ross online.

Copyright - These City Days 2016
Mulberry Slices - 500g for £5.99
Glass Mosaic Tiles - 2kg for £9.99
* Prices correct at time of writing.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

3 Places To Hop Off The Train In Essex


I'm Essex born and bred, but sometimes it's harder than you'd think to recall all the sights and attractions on my doorstep, I'm sure there's a few gems I don't yet know about as well. But if you're coming from out of town and want something to do in the county for an afternoon, or even a day trip, here's a few quick ideas, all accessible when you hop off the train.
Chelmsford

Landscaped Gardens @ Hylands House

Where? 40-45 minutes on the Liverpool Street line.

What? A small city with a lot of culture

Why? Chelmsford is growing into a vibrant shopping destination, with plenty of options for families. Head to the museum in Moulsham Street and introduce your children to the legendary bear, and busy bee hive. On a nice day Central Park is the place to picnic.

Highlight? Hylands Park – a short taxi ride from the station, with plenty of space for young ones to run around, hidden gardens to explore, and the visitor centre which has a café, art studios and gift shop. There’s also a great adventure castle play area, and regular events and festivals for adults and children alike.

Southend

Where? 45 minutes to 1 hour journey on either the Fenchurch Street to Southend Central line or the Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria line.

What? Family friendly coastal down with lots to see and do for all ages.

Why? 3 words, Rossi’s ice cream, and lots of it. The famous arches cafes along the seafront are also a must see. founded in 1932 and serving up traditional seaside fare ever since. Southend also has a long history of providing amusements and your children will happily lose themselves in the arcades, Adventure Island theme park, or sea life centre.

Highlight? Southend Pier – the longest pleasure pier in the world, will you walk it or ride the train? Fishing is available along the pier, and the Royal Pavilion hosts events including puppet shows and live music, along with seasonal fun.

Billericay

Where? A small town not too far from Chelmsford, and just over 30 minutes by train via Stratford/Shenfield.

What? An ideal half-day visit if you want to escape the capital and enjoy the outdoors.

Why? Lake Meadows is an easy walk away from the station, and home to the largest firework display in Essex. Activities include crazy golf, pitch and putt, a skate park, and tennis.

Highlight? Take the bus from the station to Barleylands and turn a half day into a day trip with a visit to the farm park and craft village.

 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Spring Wreath Project With Baker Ross


Crafters, have you ever had the problem of starting off a project, completing one element, and then having no idea what else to do to finish it? That was me recently as I felt like making a wreath, got out my Baker Ross Wreath Rings, and some spring themed Artepatch Paper - covered the front of the ring, and then ground to a halt.

Copyright These City Days 2016
I thought the project might lay gathering dust for a while, but Baker Ross delivered a new blogger network box the other week and that provided some much needed ideas. Inside this box was a pack of sisal sheets - 5 in assorted colours. I'd never come across this fibre before, but it was easy to cut and use, and the mix of bright and more subtle colour choices was spot on. The main plus point for me was the packaging leaflet had a few photo's for inspiration. I often get my stash out and just experiment, but sometimes when I am trying new products I value some tips or photo ideas to get me started.

The neutral sisal sheet I cut a piece from for the middle of my wreath, using the idea given to add some thread and a bead or 2 across the area. It was easy to cut the thread to size and just push it through the sisal at each end. The adhesive hessian sheets I have blogged about before made an appearance, and the rest of the decorations came from my embellishment box. It was a relaxing time picking, choosing, and arranging until I was happy with the finished product, then it was just a case of getting out my double sided tape and securing it all. I backed it with another wreath ring again to give some strength, but the decorations are light on this one, so it would work without and you could just paint the back.

Sitting pretty in the office

Hope you enjoy this colourful Spring make - Do check out Baker Ross, they have a larger than expected range of basics for all ages. These products were gifted to me as a member of their blogger network, but all opinion and feedback is my own.

* Coming Soon * Baker Ross challenge me to make something with sea grass - this is going to be a challenge.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Name On Rice Creations - Keyring Review

Saturday blogging of a creative nature, as I recently was lucky enough to be picked as a tester for Name On Rice Creations. They were offering a group of lucky customers to order a product simply for paying postage. There was a choice of items available that could be customised a bit.

This page caught my eye because of the name - Name On Rice Creations - what could it mean? How could you possibly write on rice. I had to try it out.



There are bookmarks, bracelets, bag charm/keyrings, Christmas decorations and a few other items available, all based around a cute little vial which houses pretty sparkly things in liquid, and your name on rice. It's all slightly mysterious, but I like not knowing exactly how it's done and what's been used.

I chose a keyring, with pink sparkle, my name on the rice, and you also get to choose extra charms, so I ended up with a pawprint and a petal (my craft page is called Pawprints and Petals). It's a busy and popular page, so I had to wait a little while to receive my item, but it wasn't too long, and it arrived well wrapped and with an organza bag to keep it in.

As this item is so different to the craft I've seen so far, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. It was smaller than I thought after seeing the photo, and the bits move about a bit like a snow globe, so I couldn't see my name at first. It's very cute though, and since you get to choose the charms, I think it would work as a gift for young or old.



I'm a happy shopper, and if you'd like to check out all the items on sale that can be personalised, you'll find Name On Rice Creations on Facebook. A personalised bag charm or keyring would normally be £8 plus postage.

Monday, 18 April 2016

News - I've Joined The Sarah Hurley Community

Hi all,

Hope everyone is well. Just wanted to share some exciting news with you all. I am now working with my second craft company, and have been chosen from lots of applications, to be part of the Sarah Hurley Community.

Sarah Hurley is an entrepreneur from Essex I have interacted with and known of for a while. It's been interesting for me to see a local crafty business grow, and grow they are. Check out Sarah Hurley Website for more about Sarah, all her business ventures, and when you can see her as a guest demonstrator on Hochanda, a newish craft channel.

You'll hopefully see all the community pop by on various social media platforms in the near future, introducing some of the new Sarah Hurley products, trying and testing things, and producing all kinds of fun content. From what I have heard so far there are some fun things planned - so watch this space.


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Craft Projects - Easter Peg Picture And Easter Bookmark

It doesn't seem that long ago that I was opening my last box of blogger network goodies from Baker Ross, but a new Easter themed box arrived a little while ago, and I've finally managed to get my craft on and come up with a couple of ideas.

This box looked quite challenging to start with, it had several Easter themed decopatch packs, but the rest was a blank canvas of quilling items, pegs, and some self adhesive hessian - what to do??

Easter Bookmark




Design copyright These City Days 2016
For this I used:
  • Orange ribbon (stash item)
  • Patterned backing card (stash item)
  • Sheep topper (stash item)
  • Decopatch paper - 4 sheets in a pack, 4 different designs. £2.99 each. Would definitely recommend Baker Ross for their Artepatch range, some lovely designs in bright colours, and something a bit different to the standard offerings in the shops. I liked having bolder Easter patterns and plainer designs.
  • Self adhesive hessian - £3.60 for 4 sheets. This could be my new favourite thing - like the idea of using a natural, textured backing for cards and other projects, having it self adhesive is really handy, and I think worth the money as I could get quite a bit of use out of the 4 sheets.
Easter Peg Picture

I've had a small number of mini pegs in my stash for a while and had no idea what to do with them, so when confronted with a bigger pack I was a bit lost, but I got some out the pack and started playing around and decided to try sticking them to a background, and that's where the idea for the flower came from, and it grew from there into a picture. I like the finished product and combination of different textures and materials, from the needle felted flower leaves to the stamped paper banner. It was all mounted on a piece of cardboard saved from some packaging, and I'm thinking of standing it on our new sideboard/dresser as a decoration.



Additional Items I used (different to above)

Green needle felting wool (stash item)
Quilling paper - £1.50 for 100 strips
Quilling tools - £1.50 - Bit disappointing, would prefer a bigger tool and was a bit tricky getting the quilling off the tool once I'd wrapped the paper around. Decent for the price, although I've used better quality tools.
Bunny stamp and alphabet stamps (stash items)
Patterned paper (stash items)
Mini Pegs - £.2.75 for 100. These will last a while so worth the money, although one of those extras I'd like some project ideas with.



Design Copyright These City Days 2016

 Really enjoyed making these two projects, and hoping to squeeze in a couple more things before Easter. These items were gifted for the purpose of this craft project, but all feedback and opinions are my own. Have you got any craft planned for Easter? makes with or for the family? I'd love to hear what you've been up to so please feel free to comment below and leave your links - there's lots of easy ways to comment, even if you're not a blogger.