Monday, 29 December 2014

Christmas 2014

Got to say I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the 'in-limbo' period between Christmas and New year. I love that it's not all over and I still have some time to chill out and switch off, but I hate the fact that it will soon be all over, I have normal things to do, and there's just a bit of an anti climax. This feeling is probably magnified this year because it's been a different and not entirely great Christmas.

The run-up to the big day was full of various of us trying to shake off the last of a period of bugs and colds, and a few of us were not really in the mood for normal shopping and xmas prep. First time in a long time that I've had 2 silly long trips to town at a weekend to finish my shopping, and Mum opted for shop bought pudding and mince pies.

Christmas Day itself is normally a drawn out handing out of presents, food, a bit of TV and these days, playing with my nephew. My sister alternates who she visits on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and at what time - with my nephew and her dog Wilson, but they all arrived at ours with the news that my nephew wasn't well. I won't go into details but it put quite a dampener on Christmas and ruined it a bit for my sister who was really looking forward to him being much more aware of the day at 2 years old. He slept a lot, wasn't himself at all and mostly wanted his Daddy.

After putting the world to rights over toast and a hot drink Boxing Day morning Nan left, and that was it really, Xmas over. Not the best Christmas on record, although I did get some rest and time to myself from all the mayhem, and Santa was very kind with his gifts.

I am currently enjoying my new shiny CD player after my old one died, Take That's album, a Mr Selfridge DVD and Book, smellies, some needle felting kits which will keep me really busy, and a super cute writing set and notebook. Feel blessed and love all my gifts so thank you to my friends and family.

I also had a bit of luck before Christmas and won on the Premium Bonds, and won a hamper of Children's Books from a Twitter competition. They arrived super quick before Christmas and had some books in there my nephew will love, and a few I'll probably read as well!!!

Sorry for this post being a bit devoid of bright and colourful festive photo's but we didn't really have anything to take pictures off.

Here's to a happier, healthier, lucky New Year. Hope you all enjoy the rest of the festive break and have a great 2015. Would love to hear about your xmas, so please come and say hello and share your festive posts.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Frozen Lipsmacker Lip Balm Review

A little bit late in coming, but if you're rushing around still searching out stocking fillers, or looking for a little treat for yourself then how about lip balm? Lip Balm is pretty much my all year round must-have but I use it even more in Winter.

I'm a big Disney fan so the opportunity to review anything Disney related was one too good to pass up, and topping up my lip balms is a bonus. Although I own the Frozen DVD, I'm not really sure what it is about the film that's made it such a huge hit above any other Disney film, neither am I the target for a lot of the merchandise which is everywhere, but lip balm? well why not!

I'm not really one for being swayed by packaging but this collection comes in a collectible tin with an image from the film. It's very cute and definitely something I would keep and find a use for. Inside there is:

Coconut Snowball (Olaf photo on tube)
Strawberry Shake (Anna photo)
Cool Vanilla Mint (Elsa Photo)

My firm favourite is the Strawberry Shake as it's not too sweet and my kind of smell. The other two are have quite similar scents, in fact I couldn't really distinguish between them. I'll quite happily use them but I think it should have been either vanilla or mint for one, and the other wasn't really that coconutty. But I will use them all, and the quality is definitely there as my lips (which have been suffering a bit after Winter bugs and cold weather) feel lovely and moisturised. My only other thing would be, it's all about Frozen, and while the product is super cute, it would be great to go into the shops and see collections based around other Disney characters.

Check out Claires Accessories for the Multipack Tin (£10.00) and you may just find the individual lip balms as well for £2.49. I may just have to see if I can get hold of some of the other flavours to try!

*This product was gifted to me for review purposes, but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

2 Craft Projects With Self Adhesive Star Stickers

Christmas is creeping up scarily fast, I've even ended up doing some online shopping to help me be a bit more organised, and I didn't feel like trawling busy shops feeling ill. But I have been Christmas crafting with some of the festive goodies Baker Ross sent me as part of their blogger network.

One of the items I was most looking forward to working with was the bag of self adhesive felt stickers they sent. Although not obviously Christmas I liked the range of colours and sizes in the packet and thought they would work well for a few ideas I had.

In the end I ended up with two different projects using the stickers which I thought I'd share in a blog. Both ideas are fairly easy to make, and cheap too! I wanted to create something different other than just putting the stickers on card, and hopefully I've achieved that.

Felt Stocking

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The first felt stocking I ever made I did last year with a Spot the dog design for my little nephew. I really enjoyed sewing it up, and although the stocking is quite small I think you can still fit a fair few things in, such as make-up, small toys, pens, jewellery etc, and then it's a gift someone can enjoy for years to come. If you're not very good at drawing then Google is great for outline templates to help. I used a sharp embroidery needle to sew the star on to the felt, and quite sturdy felt so it would hold some treats inside.

Handmade Card

This just started off with a pair of festive pipe cleaners from a bag I'd bought a while ago but never used. I struggled to think of something to do with them, and then decided to try sticking them on a card in a bauble shape. The rest of the design just followed from there, with the stickers, and some of a festive ribbon reel from Baker Ross, and a cheeky dab of glitter finishing off the card.

Copyright These City Days 2014
Both ideas were pretty quick to make, and there's plenty of time for you to have a go with your own designs, so why not see what different uses you can find for a sticker or two.

* I was sent the Baker Ross items free of charge as part of their blogger network, but all opinions are my own.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Life Lately For Me And Mine

I was hoping to be posting a few good things up here lately, but plans have fallen flatter than a flat thing and life, well you just couldn't make this up.

While in town a few weeks back I decided to advance buy a ticket for our local fireworks display. I'd not really been out to anything in ages, and hoping for good weather impulse bought a ticket. Now £6 isn't a fortune, but it's still money I'd rather not waste, so I wasn't too happy to come down with a cold just before the day of the display. It was at that stage where I really didn't feel like standing out in the cold so I gave that a miss.

Around the same time I was very lucky to win a pair of tickets to a session at the O2 ATP Tennis Finals in London. Was so surprised and pleased, especially given the tickets were worth £128 and over a thousand people entered the Facebook competition. As it would be too much for my anxiety I mainly entered for Mum, who was really looking forward to going. Unfortunately she fell ill not long after I did, and although was hoping to feel better on the day, decided it was too much. It was the right decision to make, but she was really looking forward to it, it was too late to pass the tickets on to someone, and she's still not over what she caught.

So I don't have lots of fun things to blog about today, and I'm sitting here writing after a long week or so of cooking, shopping, work, then needing to take some time out myself as I had a short period of feeling under the weather.

I might not be officially ill at the moment, but it's freezing outside so I am hunkering down with my blog and a hot drink. Hopefully Mum will be back to normal soon (and my nephew who has had a cold as well) and we'll all be enjoying things a bit more. To cheer myself up I've just pre-ordered the new album from Olly Murs. Hopefully it will be as brilliant as his new single Wrapped Up is.

How about you guys? any good cold remedies to share, have you been hit by bugs? How are you cheering up the Winter months. Love to hear your thoughts and if you have any blog posts to warm us all up with Winter cheer do post them below.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Shopping For My Nephew

When my sister first said she was expecting a baby I was pretty shocked, it was a surprise to her as well, but for me something I didn't think was on the cards for a long while. Now we have a cheeky, lively 2 year old in our family and it's fascinating watching him grow, learn, and develop. I'm second in line for book reading, always get picked out for songs, and we have done an awful lot of Lego building. It also means I get to shop for a little one, something which I have done hardly any of - big kid trips to toy shops!!!

I've impulse bought the odd little toy or t-shirt, and had a birth, birthday, and Christmases to buy for, so I think I'm getting into the swing of things, though there are a few challenges - mainly that little man gets an awful lot of stuff - presents from Mum and Dad, me, Nan, my sisters boyfriends side of the family, sometimes some friends of theirs. Normally there's a bit of co-ordination going on within our core group to try and be different, but even then it doesn't always work.

I'm pretty pleased with some of my early buys though, both from Argos, and both which he is still playing with a year later. His first birthday and Christmas presents were a set of soft animal skittles and a little train on a track that can either bet fixed as a circle, or a flat wave. I think these type of toys worked as he seemed to grow with them in a way, figuring out what to do with them, and what they are, then finding new ways to play with them - the train track has been 'broken' and put together so many times, while the skittles have been thrown about, or we've all played and Joey's giggles have filled the air as he found great fun in 'cheating'.

With Christmas fast approaching I have already got most of his present ready to wrap, I just need to find something for his little stocking I made him last year. Being creative I can't wait to see his face when he opens up his crafty gifts.

Have you any favourites from your childhood you are introducing to your little ones, what toys do you secretly want to play with too? Let me know your thoughts below.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

T.I.N.A - Fuse ODG - Album Review

Normally I am introducing my soon to be 2 year old nephew to all the wonderful things of this world, but on this occasion it was the other way round, as it was his dancing around to a song either on the radio or TV that alerted me to FUSE ODG. Since Joey was taken by the song I used SONG ID to find out what it was, and now it's one of my favourite catchy, bounce around the house kind of tunes.

I was lucky enough to be given the chance to review the full FUSE ODG album, which landed on my doormat this week, and I was quite excited to hear what else the Ghanaian South Londoner had to offer. I'll be the first to admit Afrobeat is not a genre I know a whole lot about, but I think I'll be doing some research from now on.

T.I.N.A is a 16 track album full of character, and featuring not just FUSE ODG and his musical style, but contributions from the likes of Wyclef Jean and Sean Paul. One of the first things that struck me after a listen was the honesty that seems to lie within all the tracks. The press release proclaims this album as an illustration of the artists love for his motherland, with T.I.N.A standing for - This Is New Africa. It's something I got a sense of and enjoyed.

If I hadn't already heard Dangerous Love and T.I.N.A I would have picked those out as potential singles, stand out tracks, and above all mood lifters. They are both easy to listen to, and have the right dose of commercial production for me to put them on at home, or request them when I'm out.

I was born and raised a pop fan, so while I didn't dislike any of the tracks, some of the heavier more electro beats and warped vocals got a little repetitive after I'd listened to the album a few times, while other tracks such as Antenna made my repeat play list and I had a little dance.

Possibly a little too much of the same for one record, but if this is a taste of 'New Africa' then I like it, and would like to hear more; maybe with some more female guest collaborations too.You don't sell over a million records in 12 months without putting the work in, but this album flows out of the speakers with a laid back ease that just makes his work seem effortless.

Are you a fan of Afrobeat? If you've bought this album or seen FUSE ODG live I'd love to hear your thoughts. I wonder what feel good music my nephew will introduce me to next?

T.I.N.A was released on 3BEAT and is out now, you can also click this link for his 2015 gig dates.

* This album was sent to me free of charge for review purposes, but all opinions are my own.

Friday, 31 October 2014

My 5 Favourite Things About Halloween

Happy Halloween everybody! In all my time blogging I've never really done a Halloween post but I think now is a good time to get into the spooky spirit and share some of my favourite things about Halloween. Here's my top five:

1. Witches and Wizards

I'm not really a fan of psychological thrillers, in fact they bore me, and I'm not really into strong blood thirsty gore filled movies. My favourite has always been anything themed around mystical, magical things so witches and wizards are a favourite. No surprise then that I have a full set of Harry Potter DVD's ready to go if the TV companies don't serve up much this year. The Craft, Hocus Pocus, Stardust, Twilight Series have all featured before, and I used to love The Worst Witch When I Was Younger.

2. Pumpkin Carving

One year I will actually try this, no idea why I haven't before, but it makes a nice break from the constant run of depressing news to see some stunning carvings from other people in the news/on TV. If I get a chance to try and carve one this year I will post pics, although I'm not sure my first effort will be that good! I might try the stencil ideas the Daily Mail printed the other day.

3. Halloween Craft

I love looking around the Halloween aisles in town, but they have been a bit lacking in recent years, either a bit predictable or not much choice. Not that I am in the market for buying much, but I love to look, so my alternative is Halloween craft. The photo with this post is of a ceramic tea light holder from Baker Ross which was gifted to me so I could try painting along with their porcelain pens. I didn't think I'd have room to make it look very spooky, so am pretty pleased with the result.

Also in the pic is a little crochet ghost I couldn't resist ordering from craft seller Knitynacs who you can find on Etsy. I think both items together will look cute on the mantelpiece when the witching hour is near.

4. Glow sticks and glitter

I've not dressed up for Halloween since I stopped trick or treating, and it's not something I think I'd feel comfortable doing. The one time I did make an effort recently I went out with glow stick necklaces and bracelets, green glitter eye make-up and devil ear headband, loved the end result, and I think it's fun to add subtle touches, plus I've always loved glitter eye make-up and glow sticks so any excuse to wear them!

5. When my nephew goes boo

At nearly 2 years old little man knows nothing of Halloween, but I've already seen pictures of him in a super cute little pumpkin outfit, and now he knows how to cover his eyes, and then go boo, it's a good giggle and always makes him and us laugh.

Do you guys dress up for Halloween, or have any traditions, favourite films and more? Would love to hear and spooky tales you have to share. Happy Halloween everybody!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Air Puppy Cuddle Crew Soft Toy Review

The mummy blogging community is a huge one, and while I don't have any wish to give birth and join them anytime soon, who says the mummies should have all the blogging fun! I thought it would be a great chance to do an aunty and nephew post.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to receive a toy from the Air Puppy Cuddle Crew range, and the big kid in me was a little bit excited to unbox it and give it to my nephew.

I liked the fact that all the toys in this range are not just soft toys, they are characters, all have names, and there are 3 different types of toy, who all hang out in different places - so there are a lot of opportunities to make up stories. As a book worm a toy that you can involve in play wins my vote.

I was sent the Snickle Futts cat which lives in Burford Yard. This range of toys are taller with beans in the legs so they can stand out. When it arrived and I unboxed it I was a little sceptical as to how well it would stand up, but I didn't need to be. This cat looks and feels like a quality toy and really easy to stand up so Joey had no problems on that score. I think the design really lends itself to carrying around as well and would be easier to take out and about, but what did Joey think?

Well little man didn't show too much interest in soft toys when he was a baby but he has got into them more lately, and likes to bring one or more on visits or take them out with him, he likes walking around with them, sitting them down to share his dinner and sometimes uses them for songs or games.

He does take a while to show full interest in new toys, but he cooed when he opened the bag and saw the cat inside (which we have nicknamed Bob for ease!) and has given him some cuddles since. Hopefully it won't be too long before our Air Puppy toy is a full part of the toy collection in our house, in the meantime I've managed to grab a few photo's of little man with 'Bob' and we both give him the thumbs up.

The Air Puppy collection is available now with prices starting from £12.00. Take a look in selected Boots stores or on their website. You can also find out more about Air Puppy's Cuddle Crew on their Facebook page.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

2 Christmas Decoration Craft Projects

You know that slightly smug feeling crafters get, when they move from not knowing where to start, to coming up with a an idea (or two) they are buzzing about. That was me after receiving a festive themed box of Baker Ross goodies as part of their blogger network. I'm on a mission to not do the obvious here, so hopefully I've ticked some boxes here.

Project One - Small Christmas Tree Table Decoration

You will need

Small Gift Box (circle, square, or hexagon ideal)
2 Self Adhesive Stars
Stick On Gems
A 12 by 12 Sheet Of Paper
Cardboard For The Trunk
Double Sided Tape

  • First job is to put the base of the gift box into the lid, and you can stick them together if you wish, but they will be pretty solid.
  • Next line the insides of your box with felt to make it look a little more festive.
  • Next task is to cut circles of card (I used thick corrugated card from a box I had) and layer them up one by one in the middle of the box until they reach almost the top using double sided tape. This is the base to your xmas tree.
  • Next job is to design your tree, mine was roughly 9cm high to suit the size of the box. Cut out 2 symmetrical trees, fold one in half down the middle, and stick one side of this to one side of the back of the other tree.
  • Continue cutting out tree shapes, folding each one, and sticking half down on the on the folded piece already on the tree, Work your way around until you have a 3D model, then stick the last two pieces together.
  • Decorate your tree as you like, with glitter, small gems, or embellishments, gel pens, then stick it on to your tree trunk with a glue gun.
  • Lastly stick two star stickers back to back, cut a slit in the bottom, and carefully slot this in the top of the tree.
Project Two - Upcycled Cardboard And Decopatch Hanger

This is a fairly quick make using a mix of upcycled and new materials. Why not give it a go, or come up with your own designs.

You Will Need

Red Stars Decopatch Paper
Decopatch Glue and Brush
Paper Mache Star
Card (I used Corrugated from an old box)
Christmas Sentiment Stamp
Stick On Gems
Glitter Glue (Crystal and Red)
Green Gel Pen
Black Promarker


This design can very much be adapted, so feel free to use different style stamps, cut different size circles for the top part, and adapt the design features.

  • First off I decopatched the paper mache star, I use the tearing technique rather than precise cutting as I like the finish. It's a basic glue, place piece, glue over technique. I recommend either clear PVA glue or official decopatch glue, and investing in a proper decopatch brush.
  • Leave the star to dry, and draw a circle from the card, cut out, then draw a smaller circle inside this - it should be big enough to fit your sentiment stamp inside. Outline this in your choice of glitter glue, gel pens or liquid pearl.
  • Stamp the sentiment inside the inner circle and leave to dry.
  • Next draw and cut your embellishments from the left over card. I chose a letterbox idea, robin, and holly leaves and berries (which I decorated with stick on gems). Use pens or glitter glue to add details such as the robin's eyes or red breast.
  • Arrange the embellishments around the outside of the inner circle and fix in to place.
  • Then all that's left to do is carefully make 2 holes in the top space a cm or so apart to thread some ribbon through, then one hole at the bottom to attach the star. Your decoration is then ready to hang come Christmas.

I've had a lot of fun coming up with some different ideas to do with these products, when originally \I thought I'd just be using them as they were. I've still got plenty left as well, so there may be a few more ideas creeping onto my blog before long.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

2true Colour Drench Lipsticks Review

I'm sitting here at the laptop on a pretty dreary Essex day so I thought it would be a great time to inject a bit of colour into the blog and review the 2 True Colour Drench Lipsticks I recently received to review. When the package arrived I was quite surprised to find all 6 lipstick shades, I was expecting only one so I was a lucky reviewer.

The six shades (6--11 for 2true fans) were grouped in 2's, so there were 2 brown tones, 2 pink, and 2 red. Labelled as colour drench they promise rich colour, and are enriched with vitamin E to protect the lips. The outer casing is a stylish silver and looks a lot more classy than other lower budget lipstick brands, a bit smaller than some other cases as well so ideal for taking out for touch-ups.

I think 2True have got it right with their colour choices here, and I was initially impressed with the range of colours, offering bright, rich, and subtle in one range is good going. I was a bit wary of the darker/brighter shades though as normally I avoid bright pink and red thinking they are too loud and would just look silly with my skin tone and outfit choices. But I have gamely done a swatch on my hand, and tried all the shades and pleasantly surprised with some of the results.

These are £1.99 lipsticks though and don't glide on as effortlessly as some higher priced sticks or glosses, and there is a slight synthetic smell at first but that soon fades, and I didn't even notice it when I'd applied any of the lipsticks. The colours do last longer than expected, but at the same time will need touching up more often than some brands.

The biggest surprise was the darker and brighter shades, as I normally avoid pink and red thinking I look a bit silly, but I'd feel comfortable wearing all these colours. I'd have to play around with the bright/dark ones to achieve a tone I was happy with (blotting and reapplying), but they are more subtle shades than I was expecting and have won me over a bit on that count.

All in all I think I am still more of a lip gloss fan than lipstick, but I will have fun wearing these 2True items to brighten up the autumn/winter, and would consider buying one or 2 of in the future.

Apologies for the no make-up selfie, just wanted to show you one of the lipsticks against a natural palette so to speak!

You'll find 2True lipsticks in Superdrug stores across the country and online.

* I was kindly gifted these products for a review, but all opinions are my own.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Summer 2014

Ahh Summer, the time when everyone was posting holiday snaps, planning concert trips or day visits to places, it seemed like everyone had some kind of plan, apart from me. I've not been out a whole lot this year to 'things', in fact I've only been to the Fling Festival. Bit unusual for me, but local nightlife/events can sometimes get a bit samey or predictable and I've just not had the motivation, and going elsewhere day or night is a bit restrictive with money issues/anxiety.

This isn't a woe is me post though, because apart from some things, which I will nickname stresses and strains, I've been perfectly happy enjoying the weather (yes actual Summer weather, yay!), our garden, my nephew, and a few little and lucky windfalls that have enabled me to treat myself.

At the park with little man

Part of the garden I've been tackling/tidying

My birthday in June was probably one of my favourite days, no stress, no fuss, was a lucky girl with lovely pressies, and I did some work in the morning, then sat out in a hot and sunny garden all afternoon, relaxed, switched off and doing nothing!

The garden has been a surprisingly enjoyable task as well. I used to mow the lawns and take on some other tasks when my Dad was working, but he does quite a bit of that, and mums the plant pruner, so I've just had small jobs, for some reason a while ago though I decided I was going to attack weeding with a vengeance, unusual since normally I hate weeding, but I've found it very satisfying. It's surprising how absorbing it can be, and gradually working my way around the garden I've seen a big difference. We didn't live in a jungle before, but we have had an ivy problem, and some areas were neglected. Might seem a bit boring to some but I've enjoyed it.

We have my nephew here 2 days a week while my sister and her boyfriend are working, and it's great fun. Working from home means I get to play with him when he arrives in the morning, and my work schedule works out quite well, so I've had some nephew time later in the day too. We've grown some lettuce, watered the plants, tidied up some of the garden, been to the local parks a few times, played football, and we are just getting into drawing some pictures. Joey is 2 soon, and I think he has always been entertaining, but I wish he could stay this age for longer. Auntie Lauren always gets a big smile and a cuddle when Joey comes over, and as he loves lego and puzzles I've got someone to play games with too.

Added to that being able to replace my glitchy Samsung phone, treat myself to a pair of super comfy croc sandals and get the chance to wear them, along with buying a Superdry coat for colder weather (never been able to afford one before) this Summer really hasn't been too bad at all. I wouldn't wish the nice weather away either so long may it continue!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Whitworths Sugar Competition Win

Wow, what a few weeks it's been, and I will be glad to see the back of them. I've had a few anxiety triggers, my website was hacked (still trying to sort this out), our laptop died, then I've had to try and help my Dad, who is a complete technophobe and doesn't like tech change get familiar with our new laptop. And sigh!

About time for some positive blogging so I thought I'd show off my little prize haul that I won on Twitter a while ago and have now received. Given the sheer scale of Twitter I didn't expect too much when I started doing a little bit of comping to keep myself amused, but I've been lucky enough to win the odd prize here and there. I recently sent off a pic of a cake I'd baked to a Whitworths Sugar competition and was pretty excited to win. I'm not sure Dad quite understood why I was excited given the prizes, but that's men for you!

Anyway here is my HUGE array of sugar which should keep us in baking supplies well into next year, and a very fancy looking digital scale to weigh it all out on, I may well keep this as I love the way you can put your mixing bowl on there, and reset each time you want to add ingredients and it will measure each correctly - scale technology!

Have any of you guys had any lucky wins lately or had the chance to blog about any cool treats? would love to hear from you if you have, and do be sure to leave a blog link so I can have a nosey!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Garden Wildlife

I was sitting in the living room yesterday, checking the TV guide for something to watch when I suddenly shot up on to the chair and let out a little yelp. I think mum despairs sometimes thinking I am a wimp, but I really don't like being surprised by big, quick moving spiders, nor do I want them anywhere near me. Tiny ones wouldn't bother me, but last nights one was another matter. Luckily Dad got rid of it, but it's the season! hopefully the rest stay hidden.

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Luckily not everything visible is eight legged. I love where we live for the variety of wildlife we've had in our garden. Over the year's we've lived here I've spotted a deer in broad daylight, seen or heard owls, and even had an owl fall down our chimney in the early hours of the morning. My favourite was our hedgehog that got all cosy and had a family of mini hedgehogs in our half empty compost bag, so cute! Least favourite has to be the sight of a sparrow hawk (which scared some of our birds etc off) killing and tearing apart some dinner.

Things were quiet in the garden for a while, and we've blocked some holes up so my furry friend Wilson the dog can't escape, but as I sit and type this I can hear some bird song. I'm also pretty chuffed that I managed to photograph our resident Robin who has been flitting around recently. Have never seen one when I had a camera prepared but this time managed to get really close and snap a few photo's. The weather was lovely as well so there was something relaxing sitting outside watching our favourite tweeter.

Copyright These City Days 2014
I've added a few pics to this post so you can meet him for yourself. I wonder if he'll have any friends come and join him soon. What have you spotted and pictured in your gardens? have any of you been lucky enough to use night vision cameras to see what's out there at night? Would love to know below if you've got any stories to tell.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Sugar And Crumbs Chocolate Icing Sugar Review

Up until the other week I hadn't baked in ages, which is not a good thing considering I've been watching Great British Bake Off. Mostly Mum makes lighter lower fat cakes, and sometimes If I bake I'd just be eating it all myself, but a product review opp made for a very good excuse to get the scales out, and get everyone sampling.

I'd known of Sugar And Crumbs from Twitter for a while, but hadn't really looked into them until I saw them post for bloggers to review their new icing sugar range. Out now, their range of flavoured icing sugars includes Jaffa Cake, along with the Chocolate Milkshake and Black Forest packets I received to try. Sugar and Crumbs were looking for bloggers to try and taste and comment on everything from that to the packaging, which was a pretty easy task.

The packaging looks great, and it makes absolute sense to have a universal package that they can use for any of their icing sugars, or other products they might come up with. It's a simple but clever brand name, and the colours would stand out on the shelves. My only niggle here was with the paper labels on each packet, which might get damaged or watermarked in general kitchen mess over time. Also had to be a little careful opening the packets as some sugar was stuck up the top of the resealable bag.

Each packet of icing sugar can be used to make a batch of buttercream for 12-24 cupcakes, but as I'm not a fan I searched for recipes that could use normal glace icing. After a bit of searching I opted for Mary Berry's lemon biscuit recipe - which I adapted to make orange biscuits, and I also slightly tweaked a black forest cupcake recipe from a book called The Cupcake on the Love Food Imprint.

I baked both one after the other on a Saturday morning, and later on that evening started the tasting with Mum and Dad. First up were the orange biscuits, and I just drizzled the choc milkshake icing on those. I think a drizzle is just right for small biscuits, plenty of flavour, not too sweet and sickly, and worked really well with the orange biscuits.

I don't think the black forest cupcakes fared so well, perhaps a double dose of icing sugar and cupcake in the same flavour was a bit too much. The cakes got good feedback but we all thought the taste of the black forest icing sugar was a bit unusual and overpowering. For me it also tasted a little like a bitter selection box chocolate. It may have been better if I'd used it with a different cake or cookie recipe, but so far I'm not a fan.

The winner here has to be the Chocolate Milkshake one as I'd give it points for taste and flavour, everyone enjoyed it, and it worked really well as a biscuit drizzle. I'd definitely use it again, but I did wonder a bit what I'd be paying for if I bought the sugar myself. Sugar And Crumbs promote a lot the natural flavourings in their icing sugars, but the labelling lists them as just that, and doesn't explain further, so I did wonder what I getting, and would've liked to learn more about the product(s).

Overall they've done pretty well with their new additions to the icing sugar collection, and although I didn't really enjoy the Black Forest, and wouldn't buy it, might try it again in smaller doses on a different recipe. As for the choc/orange biscuit combination, I may have to bake some more of those come Christmas.

Find out more about Sugar And Crumbs and their products at their website. Flavoured icing sugars are priced at £2.99 for 250g and £4.99 for 500g.

*I was kindly sent these products free of charge for review but all opinions are my own.

Monday, 18 August 2014

How To Transform A Plain Gift Bag

Not sure why, but somewhere along the line we ended up as a gift bag family. More for birthdays and Mother/Father's Day than anything else, but our presents are wrapped and given in gift bags. Got to be honest though some of the offerings in the shops are pretty expensive for just a bag, while others are just too plain, which is why I was quite excited to receive a pack of plain white gift bags in my pack of crafty goodness from Baker Ross.

If you saw my post around June when I was creating a bag for Mum's birthday you'll know it normally takes me quite a while to think up ideas with a totally blank canvas in front of me, but this one didn't take too long. For this bag I used

Baker Ross Ribbon
Glitter Glue
A few stickers and a flower topper from my stash
A Hunkydory vintage/cute postcard topper (free with a recent order)

I started with the handles this time as I knew I wanted something really colourful and striking, but not too much for a bag; so why not focus on the handles for a change? I have been impressed with my Baker Ross Ribbon since it arrived for the range of colours, and lengths of each plain ribbon so I decided to ribbon up the handles rag wreath style with a few different colours. I'm really pleased with the effect although it does take up a bit more ribbon than expected! A gift for someone who'd appreciate and not bin it I think, and if I did it again I could space the ribbon out a bit more, or maybe add some simple details in between so I don't use up quite so much.

When the handles were done I decided perhaps foolishly to light some matches to seal the ribbon ends to stop them fraying. Personal choice but I think it looks a lot better, although it takes ages. The rest was quite easy, as I wasn't feeling too artistic I filled the space with a few toppers and then painted some glitter glue as a border around the outside. I think this gave just the effect I wanted, and is pretty cost effective if you don't want to spend too much transforming a bag.

I've still got a few bags left, and although smaller in size, I can still fit a good few things in them, so may well be decorating for Autumn birthdays or Christmas. Always love to hear from you if you have any feedback or crafty tales to share, just comment below, in the meantime I better get back to a tea light holder I am trying to paint.

*I was gifted the bags and ribbon from Baker Ross as a member of their blogger network but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Mad About The Boy - Helen Fielding - Book Review

Bridget Jones has been one of those in a growing stable of chick flicks that is shared and repeated on TV so many times. It's not one of my favourite series, but it's ideal when I want some silly humour. I'd never thought to read the books until Helen Fielding released the latest in the series though, but got lucky at the library with a quick reservation.

My first thought when I started reading Mad About The Boy was how well the film makers did with the previous films in bringing the books to life, they definitely stayed true to the book, and if this new one is anything to go by, Fielding definitely brings her characters to life to the point that in Mad About The Boy, they were jumping off the page.

It felt at times that Bridget was living in an alternate universe, and I chuckled at the friends and children in her circle, not many places you could get away with names like Cosmo, Roxster, and Farzia. Humour  pops up all over the place, but I especially enjoyed Bridget discovering Twitter, obsessing over followers, and unsurprisingly managing to put together some embarrassing drunken tweets.

It's funny, more funny than I expected, but at times I thought all it would be is funny, and get a bit too bubble gum, then I turn pages and 'feel' the poignant reality of being a single mum, feeling old and lost, and trying to find a voice in amongst the prep school mums at the gate. Then there is the pride at bagging a toy boy and showing him off to the world. It was sad, a little bit cringe worthy, and awkward to read, but the novel needed some depth of character and something beneath the silliness to keep readers interested so I think it worked on that level.

Some books I've read have been a bit obvious in their romantic outcomes, girl voices dislike, argues with and avoids boy to the point that you know they will end up together - or girl in oblivious to their own feelings for someone in their life. I won't give too much away in case you haven't read the book, but I like the way Fielding suggests a romance early on, then does a great job (in my opinion) of putting you off the scent. I was fooled!

I wouldn't say this novel is a page turner, it took me a while to get into it, but I am glad I read it, and for me, I had no idea what to expect, even having seen the films, which is always a bonus. have you read it, or the other books in the series? would love to know what you thought. Please leave a comment below and lets be bookworms for a while. If you have any reviews of your own I'd love to read them too.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Missing Out When You Have Anxiety

I've been sitting here in the mood to blog and not quite sure what to write about, but then a penpal gave me an idea and I decided to touch a little on anxiety again. I think sometimes there's a perception that if anxiety and/or panic attacks affect your life in a big way then you must be suffering all the time, must be bored, isolated, and not have much of a life.

For me, my problems are a lot better than they used to be, although a lot of that has been through self help, trying to make the most of what I have got, and I suppose in a way replacing what I don't have in my life with new things and distractions.

I work as a freelance writer, and while that may be in my home office, I am pushing myself in new ways professionally, and without writing I may not have got to know some music and media people in my local area and been to as many gigs as I have (on my own) in the last few years or so. It's not always win win though, for me it's good to come and go as I please, to not have to worry about anyone else, and to socialise with people I know when I'm ready, but yes I do feel the isolation etc that many others speak about.

One of my hobbies is crafting, and I sold for 6 months in a pop-up shop last year, met some new crafty people who I still see about sometimes, and sold quite a lot of my craft as well. It was a big push going in there, I was really nervous, but it has helped a lot and spurred me on to try and find more crafty opportunities.

What I'm saying is, mental health problems are not fun at all, I've still a long way to go, but I know you can find rich rewards despite everything else you are going through. I definitely have! I know some will disagree, but having motivational factors, even if they don't help with the bigger anxiety picture to me is a powerful thing, and one I can't help making the most of.

Yes there's a good case for anyone to point out I avoid certain things - such as travelling, big events, unfamiliar places, and I'm not jumping up and pushing myself to try baby steps towards these things every day, month or week. I wouldn't say it's right, but I don't think it's wrong either.

Maybe sometimes it's really good just to be happy, relaxed, and working on something else positive, and know your own limits. It's helped me in a lot of ways, but of course there are still times I think it would be great to just go and 'do', especially considering one thing I would love to do......

FLORIDA.... if you've read any earlier holiday type posts you'll know how much this has stuck with me since I visited when I was probably about 7 and 11. One holiday I would love to repeat, and I found out recently my parents would be up for going back if I was able. As a distraction in this summer weather I even picked up a cheeky brochure from the travel agents and have been on Google a few times. It will be a task though, and one I'm not sure how to make happen. I have no anxious associations with Florida, only happy memories, but I've not been away since I reached that age where I didn't want to go away with my parents (pre-problems). I'm not quite sure of the steps I should take, and would practically be able to take to help this, and whether certain things would make much difference to this end goal, it's all an unknown at the moment but it's something that could potentially happen one day, and although it's just day dream territory at the moment it's actually made me feel a bit more hopeful about the bigger stuff. That's Disney magic for you.

I shall leave it on that note, because if I can find small hope in something big, when big goals normally seem impossible, then I am sure you can too. I can't always connect the dots that will lead to achieving something anxiety related, but I know how much better it is with positive things to think about, do, and hopefully achieve in the meantime. Miss out in one way, gain in another!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Summer Ceramic And Glass Painting

If you're a crafter I bet you have times when you're restless and want to make something but don't really know what you fancy doing. I was a bit like that recently, so I raided my crafty stash from Baker Ross and decided to do some ceramic and glass painting.

Baker Ross have produced a great colourful summertime range of products, and I was impressed by the range of things there were to colour and personalise as well. 3D items and flat decorations. I was sent:

Ceramic Seaside Hanging Decorations - £3.95 for 5

Glass Tealight Holders - £4.50 for 6

Large White Porcelain Mugs - £4.48 for 4

My first impressions were good, for me I think the value is there and you get quite a lot for your money, especially with the tealights, but they all looked sturdy and good quality. Having ready glazed mugs was great as well.

Copyright These City Days 2014

The only downside were my porcelain pens, they seem to have a mind of their own at the moment. I stored them as instructed, but at times I'd take the lid off and not have to do anything and too much colour came out, other times I didn't get a smooth flow. The black outline pen was a godsend for tidying everything up though, just would have been good to have some other fine nib colours for the smaller items/details. I've had to be careful of dried up paint in the lids and round the nibs as well, so I'd recommend careful wiping/cleaning every now and then.

I was a little wary of painting the 3D items, but I am so chuffed with my first attempts. The paint wipes off when it's not heat set, brilliant when you want to make sure a drawing has a passing resemblance to an animal etc. Heat setting was easier second time round, although what appeared a smooth deep layer of colour didn't come out quite the same after a trip to the oven.

The mug is sitting pretty upstairs, but the tealight went off to a good friend as a birthday gift. The glass is thick and sturdy so it survived posting, and was pretty light to post as well. I'd definitely consider painting up some more to send as gifts, although I might do one or two for the house first! The feedback I got from my friend and her other half was amazing too. One happy crafter!!

* I was kindly sent these products as a member of the Baker Ross Blogger Network, but as always all opinions are my own. If you've used these products or have some other crafty stories to share, I'd love to hear from you. Just post below.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Easy Spicy Pasta Recipe

I don't know about anyone else, but as work on my blog I'm getting a bit hungry. I normally review snacks and things here, but when mum's looking after my nephew, or it's a bit less hectic at the end of the day, then it's my turn to cook.

I was watching Celebrity Masterchef the other week when one of the contestants was making a supposedly spicy tomato pasta for a challenge - as you can probably guess it didn't taste spicy at all. At the time I thought 'I can do much better than that', so that was my challenge next time I cooked. I don't tend to use a recipe for things like this, although I am sure there are similar out there, but at the time I cooked, it was just me and the cupboards!


Pack of sausages


Crushed chilli flakes

Worcester Sauce


Can chopped tomatoes

Tomato Ketchup

Fresh or dried pasta


This was super easy to make, and a lot of it was tasting and adapting as I went along to get the sauce how I liked and wanted it flavour wise.

The sausages were grilled as normal, you can do this before and just heat them through a little more before serving, or if you're super organised you could time each part of the recipe and cook it all together.

I first cooked down a can of tomatoes, starting off on a higher heat, then reducing as it started to boil. When the tomatoes had cooked down a fair bit, I started adding the rest of the ingredients, with a splash of Tabasco and Worcester Sauce first, and then the crushed chilli flakes, about a heaped teaspoon of those, enough to give a kick without being over powering. Finally I added 2 teaspoons of sugar and a splash of ketchup to add a bit of sweetness, and my sauce was ready.

I took the sauce of the heat to cook the pasta, then when this was cooked I put the sauce back on to warm as I was serving up. I plated up the pasta and sausages, then added the sauce, and it was time to eat. Sometimes my efforts have been a little hit and miss - like the odd time I have over cooked rice when it needed a bit longer and I was distracted by other things I was cooking, but I got clean plates this time!

If you fancy giving it a go, or you have a favourite pasta recipe of your own to share do let me know. I love to hear from my blog readers, and if you like what you see, please feel free to follow me on Blog Lovin.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Liebster Award

Hi all,

I've been nominated for something, which is pretty exciting, especially as the Liebster Award is all about finding new blogs, and finding out more about bloggers. Thanks to the lovely Lauren T at Princess Of Pretty for nominating me. Here are the rules:

  • Thank the person who voted you and leave a link to their site
  • Write 11 facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 up and coming bloggers with under 200 followers
  • Come up with 11 questions for your nominees
  • Leave a comment on their blog with a link to your post to let them know you've nominated them!

11 Facts About Me

1. I became an aunty for the first time in 2012, and now have a full of mischief 18 month old in my life.

2. I was once in the audience of CD:UK and got filmed on camcorder by H from Steps.

3. Swimming with dolphins is probably the ultimate on my 'things I've always wanted to do list'.

4. I hate onions with a passion and refuse to use them whenever I cook dinner.

5. I once did an e-mail Q&A with Beverley Knight one of my favourite female singers.

6. I am a big Olympics fan, and have a small collection of London 2012 goodies, including a few bits my parents picked up from Wimbledon.

7. My favourite feel good song is Katrina and the Waves, Walking on Sunshine. Always cheers me up.

8. I have very awkward feet, narrow one end, wide the other, and it takes AGES to find shoes. My collection is small too!

9. I have a thing for nail polish, though I am rubbish at applying it/being patient, and it always seems to chip easily.

10. I have on occasion been sleeping or half asleep and convinced a great big spider was on the ceiling, and have woken up with a big jump, only to find nothing was there.

11. I would love to have a book of short stories for children published, I just need the inspiration.

The questions I was asked.

What is your favourite food?

That is a pretty hard question to answer, I guess I'd have to say salad, or roast turkey and Yorkshire pudding - nom!

What film did you last see at the cinema?

Titanic - we used to go and see films as a family, and sometimes I went with friends, but these days I prefer curling up with a DVD uninterrupted at home on the sofa. Maybe with some cheeky treats as well.

3 things you'd take to a desert island with you?

Erm, a multi tool knife, sun tan lotion, and a water purifying kit.

Who is your celeb crush?

I'd have to say Scott McGregor who currently plays Mark Brennan in Neighbours, great acting in his character, and nice to look at as well.

What is your Least favourite house chore?

Ironing - it always seems so tiresome and longwinded, but I did set myself a New Year's Resolution not to build up a massive ironing pile, and so far, so good.

Do you prefer Red, White or Rose wine?

None, I very very rarely touch any alcohol, and am not a fan of any of it, would much rather have a soft drink.

Which do you use more - Facebook or Twitter?

Look at - probably Facebook, use-Twitter - I think Twitter has taken over as the more interactive, interesting social network.

What is your weakness when shopping?

Craft stuff, nail polish (although I am rubbish at nails), and anything with Dolphins on.

Do you play a sport?

No, not really, I used to swim a lot when I was younger, so am trying to get back into that. I like playing badminton in the garden on a nice day as well, and like tennis as well but haven't played that for ages.

Describe your perfect date.

I'm single so don't really have any strong views either way at the moment, but I like being outdoors, and just relaxing, not really into clubbing etc. Maybe just a pub beer garden on a sunny day.

How long have you been blogging?

I'm a freelance writer by trade, so I have been blogging professionally for a while, I had a review blog for a while too, but this is my first proper personal blog project, which was 1 year old on June 11th.

Blogs I am nominating:

A Book And A Brew
Ramblings Of A Biscornu Addict
Fruit Of My Scraps
Joanne Dewberry
Rainy Day Faces
An Essex Wife
Creative Craft Marketing
The PR Mummy
Jennifer Grace Creates
A Southern Girl Up North
Eee Bah Gum

Questions I'm Asking:

1. Are there any blog related things you wish you were better at?
2. What has been your most popular post lately?
3. What's your favourite day trip to make in your area?
4. What would your ideal/fantasy job be?
5. What posters were on your walls when you were younger?
6. Do you have any guilty pleasures food wise?
7. Do you have any goals for your blog?
8. How would you describe yourself in 140 characters (Twitter style)?
9. If you could put any one thing into the Big Brother house what would it be?
10. If you could get one person (dead or alive) to guest post on your blog who would it be?
11. If someone asked you to plan a unique night out, what would you do?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Tour De France Came To Chelmsford

Le Tour De France Caravane copyright: Lauren John

There's been a few debates going around this week, one was how on earth Brazil failed so dismally in their 7-1 defeat in the World Cup to Germany, the other is a local one, and that's was it worth watching the Tour De France come through the county on Monday. I don't normally sit on the fence with my opinions, but I am pretty undecided about this one.

I've never seen any live pro sport before though, so when I heard that the famous cycle race was coming through Essex, and at one point crossing a point that I could reach and watch from I was a little bit excited. I do follow cycling a little, although mainly when the big events are on TV or events feature in the Olympics etc. It's a sport I like, but it's not one of my favourites, but it was coming to Essex so I set off to where the Tour De France passed through Chelmsford on the junction of Chignal Road and Roxwell Road, and prepared myself for a long wait.

Another shot of the Caravane

I'd read that the Caravane was huge and something like a carnival procession; but when it did pass through it wasn't quite as big as promised, was flanked by a lot of official race vehicles, and went through very quick, barely throwing out any freebies to the crowds - I could have done with some Haribo! Maybe the rules stated they had to be well ahead of the cyclists, but I think they could have made more of this aspect - even if it's purely advertising, it would have been nice to have a bit more to cheer.

After the Caravane had passed through there were a lot of people saying 'that was quick' and 'is that it', then debating whether they could risk moving to get an ice cream or use the conveniently located portaloos. I had no room to sit, so was standing around for almost 2 hours getting a bit bored before the cyclists arrived - and when they did I was quite glad of my position, even if my feet were feeling the pain.

As I was standing at the junction I got a little warning of the cyclists coming and saw them for a bit longer as they zoomed off down the road. They came and went in a flash and I was so busy trying to snap photos and cheer that it seemed even quicker. It was a spectacle that's for sure - which led to an impulse buy of a Tour De France magnet and water bottle. Just a shame ITV apparently cut to adverts when they went through Chelmsford.

It was great to see something this big pass through my hometown, and it was something different to do that I hope it leads to more opportunities for us to see some kind of top level sport in the future, I'm not sure if it was worth all the waiting or not - I am quite chuffed with all my pics though!

Did you go out and see Le Tour De France? What did you think of the race and coverage? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Fling Festival Chelmsford - 28th June 2014

There has been a slight lack of local life posts on here lately, partly because there's not been much going on, and not been much of a social bunny, but the same weekend as Glastonbury was our local festival The Fling, and armed with my VIP ticket I ventured through roads less known, eventually arriving at Hyland's Park on my trusty bike to see what this year's event would bring.

I'll be honest, some of my views of the event are probably tempered by the fact I go on my own, and am mostly quite happy to wander and do my own thing, but the experience is a bit different. I wasn't feeling full of festival spirit that day either, in fact I felt a bit rubbish. I think also I've been a few times before now, and have gone to the Street Theatre event in town, so it's not quite as new and shiny and curious as it was when it was brand new.

This was the first time the Fling had been held in Hyland's Park, and before the event it caused some debate, us locals being used to the smaller, easier site in town. I cycled, and travel wise, despite a couple of slight wrong turns it was ok though a little tiring, and there was a walk between the bike locks and the festival site. The location itself didn't quite work for me though - it felt like the festival was just picked up and put down in it's new location, instead of making the most of the park. It must've been a challenge making sure there was no bleed from the different stages, but to me it felt a little too spread out in the inner area and hemmed in a bit with so much circled around the edge. I wanted to feel like I was in Hyland's Park a bit more - maybe some aspects of what happens on the estate normally could have been integrated into the event, and I wanted little things like the drinking water taps easier to find.

The VIP area I loved though - I don't drink and was on my own, so perhaps didn't make use of some of facilities as much as I could, but the separate queues, DJ, places to sit and chill, table tennis table, and face painting looked like great little touches, and paying extra for the VIP loo's was well worth it as well!

My day seemed to involve a lot of wandering, a few catch-ups with people I knew, and a little visit to the vintage tent to buy myself a treat. Although I'm not a big vintage fan, I think having a little market fits in well with the festival vibe and it was nice to come away with a little something as I didn't do any making this year.

Out of the bits I stopped and watched the best was probably Total 80's - these guys need a bigger stage so they can really perform - but a tribute in a packed tent full of dancing happy people, and free glow sticks, was just what I needed.

Jakob Deist had the job of following this, but held his own with a well chosen cover and some lively folk/Indie/Pop originals, while later still in the AT Music Group tent Lara George's set of covers added a bit of pop/funk to the evening. One of those times where if I'm honest I wasn't expecting too much, but a strong voice and the live percussion gave her an edge she should definitely make the most of.

Earlier in the day I caught local band Strike It Zero perform on one of the main stages, and I think they held their own too. Not something I'd listen to normally, their set came across much better live, and there's one song in particular (name unknown) which I think will go down well in the future.

I love taking photo's so always enjoy snapping the art work and walk about performers in between different performances, although that seemed a bit lacking this year, I also found myself avoiding the comedy tent (again too packed) and the cabaret - different acts but a bit too samey for me, so did get a little bored at times, and there didn't seem to be as much atmosphere - perhaps because of the larger site and the attractions that got people in or didn't.

It must be a struggle catering for those new to the Fling, those who come every year and are starting to find it a bit too familiar, and those who love it all anyway, but I do think in some ways they are trying to do too much, and in other ways could be more adventurous - maybe if the Fling continues to grow there's an opportunity to work with new providers, or alternate some of the tents some year's and attract new activities.

If the question is does the Hyland's Fling work - then my answer would be no not yet, as it just didn't match up with the memories I have of a Fling in the city centre.There are some positives I'll take from the Hyland's Fling, and it's good to know it's a doable thing for me to opt for, but please Fling team remember the city centre in your events planning, and if the Hyland's Fling is returning, I think it needs a bit more work.

As I said at the top, the best laid plans don't always work, so I missed Next Of Kin early on in the Fling, but have since found a stream/recording of what I missed. All I can say is when they have a beat to work with, they really are at their best, and even on a phone recording their version of Trumpets (Jason Derulo) and a new original Right Side Of The Road, well it sounded like they nailed it and then some!

I'm off to plan my next gig, but if you went to the Fling Festival, I'd love to know your thoughts on the event, what you'd like to see or not in the future, and let's just keep the festival spirit going for a bit longer. I've got a few ideas so may just do another blog post about those.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Handmade Rag Wreath And Decorated Gift Bag

Apologies for the lack of blogging here in the past few weeks, June is a bit hectic with birthday's, Father's Day, last minute work requests, and other such things, plus I have been lucky enough to dog sit a few times (fluffball always wins!), but I've also had to hide my recent makes as they were for Mum's birthday. I look forward to hearing what you all think though, comments are really appreciated! So here are my 2 makes.

Rag Wreath

It's funny but I've never been interested in rag wreathes before, just didn't like the look of them, but there was something about the one my sister made recently that stuck in my mind, maybe it was just the colours. I wanted to try something different though, so ended up with a rag wreath incorporating some left over paper flowers I made up. I'll be doing a tutorial piece on those soon. I was really pleased how it turned out, and I think it gives a different dimension to the project.

To make the wreath I used a wire coat hanger. You can shape it in one piece, although I untangled it and tied it together to make a circle. I'd got lucky and found a large piece of fabric reduced as well (the green floral print), but didn't want to do the wreath all one colour, so pondered the alternatives, and in the end raided by Baker Ross ribbon stash, and found some other scraps of fabric. It was super easy to make in the end, and although I was a bit worried at first, the paper flowers went well with the fabric. I'm glad I experimented with the ribbon as well to give it a different finish. Definitely helps to have a good colour selection and different types to choose from.

Decorated Gift Bag

It's been hard thinking of things to make Mum sometimes, as I've gone through quite a few of the crafts I can do, but I discovered a pack of blank gift bags in my Baker Ross box, and thought I'd make one of those to keep Mum's presents in, as something to keep and treasure as well.

This project was harder than the wreath, as I came up with a focal point quite quickly, but it took ages to think of the embellishments to finish it off. This project involved cutting a piece of paper to fit as the background, adding the glitter and finishing touches around the edge, and then working on the central flower design.

I made this by cutting the middle out of 2 doilies. One I threw away, the other I cut into a smaller circle and put to one side. Then I cut the patterned pieces of doily in half, and folded each piece back on itself, all the way around to make it look a little like petals. I stuck these on the underside of the small circle to complete the flower, and finished off with some stick on gems and a large pearl from my stash.

It was a little tricky to fold the doily so it sat right, but after a bit of experimenting I was happy with the result, and really pleased with how the bag turned out. I think I have learnt a lesson as well. Sometimes cutting up and refashioning a complete item can be a good thing. So from that point of view I am glad I was sent doilies, as I hadn't even seen them for years, loved the colours, and liked the challenge.

Hope you are enjoying the crafty posts, and find the ideas helpful. Thank you for your comments and shares as well. Happiness is definitely handmade!

* This post was written as part of the Baker Ross Adult Blogger Network but any opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, 12 May 2014

A Letter To Anyone Caring For People With Mental Health Problems

I just want to start by giving everyone reading this a high 5 and a hug. I don't often write about mental health issues, although it's a cause very close to me. It's important to me that anything I do write, also feels right. I want to hopefully help and inspire in a positive way.

So this is my letter that I am prompted to write, from the point of view of someone who has suffered with panic attacks, and now still deals with anxiety and mild agoraphobia. It's to everyone out there be it a friend or family member that is in effect 'caring' for someone with a mental health problem such as those I have been through.

It can be a tiring, frustrating, upsetting, confusing, and long journey to go on. I can see that in my parents eyes at times. I know they worry and want the best for me, just as I am sure you all want the best for those you know. It's a hard to get my head around sometimes, so I know and understand you will feel the same way too.

That said, I have experienced judgements, blame, frustration at trying to reach out and help people understand what I am going through, and I've not always been able to communicate the support I need. But this is what I would say to you all from my own experiences.

1) We're all different - one of the most important things to remember - no problem or person will be the same. However much or little you understand what's going on, try and remember there's no logic to it, and try not to compare and contrast too much. I know I've had to explain many times why I find one thing easy and another impossible, and it's hard work.

2) It's not all about anxiety and panic - I've had quite a few situations over the years where a lot has come back to my problems - it's all to easy for others to see it as an excuse for not doing something, or a reason for your life being the way it is. Sometimes there may be a lot of truth in that, but I'm not a problem or an illness, I'm a person behind it, and I do have thoughts, opinions, reasons, likes and dislikes just like anyone else.

3) Recognise the small things - Again I understand fully that whatever help your friend or family member might seek, or self help process they use, you'll be looking for measurable improvements, solid evidence of them seeking help and benefiting from it, or trying something new. A lot of things you take for granted may not be as easy for an anxious person, so it won't be one step after another all the time. It could be a long road to walk, with a few roundabouts in between. But when you have an understanding of their problems, then you'll know how much the little steps mean, even if they are repeating them and not moving forwards as you think they should. Sometimes it's a shame there's not more support and encouragement for the little things, it really does help.

4) You'll learn when to push, and when to take a step back - I had to undergo some dental treatment a few years ago, and I won't go into all the boring details, but it took a while to get it all done. I never used to have any problems with the dentist, but this was very hard work, and on a few occasions I didn't want to go in. Despite my protests at the time, I needed mum there, and I needed to be pushed, and she knew that. There's been other times over the last 10 years, when I've not had the space I've needed ( literally, and in my head) and it's been pretty frustrating, but ultimately I think my family have learnt in this respect, and are always learning just like I am.

5) Forget the blame culture - While I am ultimately responsible for helping myself, or seeking help, and it's my problems, I think also carers have to take some responsibility for their own actions and reactions - this could be when anxiety and panic rears it's head, or just when you're frustrated at how it's effecting someones life. However much you want someone to be fully involved in something, sometimes you just have to have faith that they are doing as much as they can, that maybe they can't get involved just now, but will be more in the future, or that there are other things they can do and be encouraged in. Ask yourself this, if your sister or best friend goes home early, or wants a bit of space for ten minutes, is that really ruining the occasion, or is it someone just recognising what they need. Would blame really make anything better?

6) Take your lead from them - If you don't know what to do, or can't understand what someone needs when they reach out, take a little time to think about the signs, what is said and done during a tough time, and just be there - to hug, to listen, to not question when someone needs to talk and talk over the same things, or just wants a rant. I don't always find it easy to get through to my loved ones, and it's hard work trying, but I feel like I have to, and in the end it has paid off to some degree. Maybe some of it comes from familiarity, but I know that they have been watching and learning as well. To know that something won't generate a reaction is calming.

I know I have things that have taken over some aspects of my life, and at times, maybe those are big aspects - I've never denied that - I am still on an anxiety journey like many others - and no my journey hasn't always been with as much support as I'd like - but that's why I am here now, to say to sufferers - that it can get better, that understanding is a two way street that can benefit all of you, and that as a freelance writer, blogger, and crafter I have found new ways to add good things to my life.

If you care for people with any kind of mental health problem or deeper illness, I hope I have given you food for thought, and shown you that as sufferers we do understand your journey, but that there are ways to make it a better, if not eventually easier one for us all.

This week is mental health awareness week - Find out more at