New Christmas Traditions – Satsuma Thrifty Christmas Campaign

Last year I decided to start a new tradition for Christmas. I was fed up of buying the same cheap little chocolate advent calendars year on year, and while my daughter liked them, I could never find anywhere to put them and they just didn’t seem to be very Christmassy. So I started to crochet some little stockings and made them into a perpeptual advent calendar.

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It looked lovely up in the hall last year as a Christmas garland as well as being my daughter’s favourite part of the run up to Christmas. I filled it with individual wrapped chocolates, so it didn’t cost a fortune to fill either.

This year I’m looking round for inexpensive little gifts to fill it with again. At seven (almost eight), my daughter is becoming a little more difficult to please with sweets and chocolates. I’ve bought a couple of selection boxes and will add those to the stockings. I think it’s always nice to see something peeking out of the top of the stocking. But I also want to add something other than sugar loaded treats. The stockings aren’t very big so I can’t go mad with gifts, but I think a couple of packs of her favourite (My Little Pony) Stickers and perhaps one of the mystery bags as a treat for Christmas Eve. She also loves to draw, so I’m going to get a pack of pens and split them up putting a different one in each stocking.

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It’s great to think that this will be a tradition that we can carry on and hopefully she will enjoy the individuality of her calendar. I know I certainly enjoyed making it and have great fun thinking of things to fill it with. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot either. I’m going to stick to a budget of £10 maximum to fill it. Who knows I might even find some of the stocking fillers I put away last year and forgot about!

Now I just need to hang it up high enough that the meddlesome cats don’t attack it!

Not long to go.
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See mine and other ideas for a savvy Christmas here

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Unexpected crafting!

I know I’m a crafter, so this title in itself is rather unexpected.  However, our Alice has been unwell really for a few weeks now, but she’s finally given in to being fully blown ill and is currently enjoying / enduring  some restful time off school.

This has meant I am now totally behind with my preparations for Halloween and Christmas, but that’s the life of a crafting Mum!  So today I decided to find something for both of us to do that would help lift Alice’s spirits and maybe go some way to starting my stash of Christmas decorations.

I’ve been thinking about making some simple, no knit hat decorations for a while and this seemed the ideal opportunity with a willing helper too!  What I wasn’t counting on was how much she loved making them.

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We had such a great crafty afternoon watching ‘Equestria Girls’ on dvd and making these hats, that she decided she wanted to make them and sell them too.  So it rather turned into me being her assistant and she’s planning on taking her little stash to her dance class at weekend and maybe even to the school Christmas Fair! I’m hoping that she will make her own gifts for her teachers this year too.

I think she may have caught the crafting bug – much better than the virus she is recovering from.

Happy crafting
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Paint-a-Pot

As we approach the end of the school year, we seem to be on a never ending run of parties – and not just children’s.

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What I am pleased to find is that now she’s seven, Alice’s party invitations have become a bit more adventurous than a soft play centre.  Today we’ve been at Emily’s Paint-a-Pot in Prestwich. Each child was able to choose an animal to paint and was given instruction on how to go about it. It felt far more grown up than the usual running wild amidst screaming kids of all ages! So we left them to it and had a stroll around Heaton Park before the rain set in and we headed back. The party room is upstairs and we could hear squeals of delight along with the traditional rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to you.’ They were all obviously having a great time. We stayed downstairs in the main painting room, where we had a very lovely cuppa and a look at all the drying pots. It’s a pretty little place and they don’t just cater for children. I was intrigued to see they run Pottery and Prosecco evenings. Something I quite fancy, I wonder why?!

Alice really enjoyed her afternoon. She painted a cat and can’t wait for it to be finished off in the kiln.

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It’s a great place to go on a rainy day, and while not a cheap activity, it is something different to what we generally do at home, so it’s definitely somewhere I hope to visit again. Next time I want to have a go too.

Happy crafting
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Summer Activities for Children (with Provident)

I know many parents will be dreading the long school summer holidays.  It’s always difficult trying to find enough for the children to do without breaking the bank and/or your own sanity.  I’m in my third summer break from school and I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home Mum, so I don’t have to find lots of childcare.  However, I also don’t have much extra cash lying around as we’re a one income family.  So finding cheap or free activities is high on my priority list for the next few weeks.

Of course the activities have to be something to keep my child interested, and we try to do a variety of things each week to stop boredom setting in.  I plan to arrange some ‘home’ days as well as days out.  We might even manage a few full family days a bit further afield, but I’ll have to wait and see if that’s possible.

Summer

So, my first port of call for activities is my local library network.  I consider us quite fortunate in Bury as we still have a relatively good network of libraries around the borough.  I love the annual national Summer Reading Challenge as it keeps up reading for pleasure as well as me not having to buy a pile of books every time we go out.  My daughter is mad on the Rainbow Magic Fairies and the library has been a real godsend as she always finds different ones every time we visit (And it’s only cost me the price of a bus ticket.  She can take out up to eight books at a time and they all count towards the reading challenge.  The website for the Reading Challenge is very interactive with games and puzzles as well as being able to unlock different content as more books are read.    This year’s Challenge is titled ‘The Big Friendly Read’ and is all about Roald Dahl, so this will be a fun set of books to read.  At the end of the challenge – reading six books in the six weeks – it’s great for the child to receive a certificate and possibly some other reward linked to the challenge theme.  I can’t wait to see the Roald Dahl poster.

Roald Dahl Books

While in the library we can find out what other workshops they have on.  We’ve taken part in arts and crafts (in collaboration with the art gallery) and writing workshops with local bookshops and learning centres.  Our local shopping centres also have regular themes over the summer.  The trick here is to avoid the high priced funfair rides and head over to the main gazebo where we take part in any competitions (drawling and treasure hunts) which are mostly free to enter and there’s often a craft workshop or something being sponsored by some of the retailers in the centre.  I love these days out as all the mess is left in the workshop and we come home with a few treats and something we’ve made.

I’ve also found that Pets at Home frequently run animal workshops – ‘My Pet Pals’ .  These give children (and parents) a chance to learn about reptiles, aquatics, insects, wild birds and small furries.  They are free of charge but you need to book a place, so keep an eye on the website for more information in your local store.

Another of our favourite things to do is pay a visit to the cinema.  Our cinema (Vue) runs a film every morning in the holidays at £1.99 per ticket (Mini Morning).  They are usually films coming to the end of their general release but we’ve seen quite a few films this way and at a fraction of the cost.  I’m hoping they’ll be showing ‘the secret life of pets’ over summer, fingers crossed.  Be warned though, it’s probably better going when it’s not pouring down as they can get pretty busy!

On our home days we alternate between enjoying some relaxation time in the garden (weather permitting), playing inside doing something creative.  Summer is a great time for the garden and I plan to do some major garden work this year.  This will include encouraging my daughter to grow some plants of her own.  I’ve bought a couple of packets of radish and spring onion seeds for her to plant.  As they grow pretty quickly she’ll be able to see the fruits of her labours and hopefully it will encourage her to try eating them too!

Radishes

If we do have to spend some time indoors (highly likely in a British summer), then we will undoubtedly get out something creative to do.  I’ve been keeping an eye out for low cost crafting materials and always try to have some available just in case.  There’s quite a lot of choice out there on the high street and you can find something for most budgets.  My favourites for the sheer volume of materials are the large craft jars in the Entertainer (around £10) and Wilko’s selection of boxes (£2 – £15).  Another great kit is the activity bag from craft planet (around £10) and they can be found online and from craft shops.  There are loads of materials and the essential glue as well as ideas sheets and instructions on how to make a project or two.  I like how the projects are aimed at children but all materials are good quality.  We’ve had felt pieces, funky foam, card blanks, coloured card, pipe-cleaners, beads and stickers (to name a few) in the past and I can’t wait to see what’s in the next one.  It’s always great fun to empty out the contents and start making.  These bags even come in boys and girls versions.

Craft Bag

My last tip is to start collecting small boxes, tubes, yogurt pots and bottle tops a few weeks before the holidays.  (Yogurt pots make great paint and glue pots).  You never know what these items can be turned into – just search Pinterest and You Tube for ideas – and best of all, anything that hasn’t been used can be given to your local nursery or reception class in September.

www.creativemeinspiredyou.com

www.creativemeinspiredyou.com

Don’t forget to do some baking too. Some scones, biscuits or cupcakes make great treats for a picnic, whatever the weather!

Vanilla Fairy Buns

Vanilla Fairy Buns

I’m looking forward to the holidays and I hope you have a great summer whatever you get up to.

Happy Holidays
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Wanderings

Once again I am waiting for Alice – this time at her tuition class.  But this time I opted for wandering around town for a bit before going for a drink in Costa!  I headed over to TK Maxx, as I love it in there and I haven’t been in for ages.  It’s always good for a browse and they have recently been stocking a few (often rather random) craft items.  I decided to give the clothes a miss and headed straight for the home décor, kitchen and gardening sections.  I was hoping to be spoilt for choice with papers, kits and accessories, but I was disappointed.  There were plenty of gorgeous notebooks, gift bags and painting tings, but nothing I could really justify So I browsed round the clearance aisles and found myself a complete bargain – right at the back of the bottom shelf – an A3 glass cutting mat for only £5 (RRP £19.99).  I’m so glad I went.  I’ve wanted one for ages and always forget when I’m out and about.  It proves it’s always worth routing  in the clearance items too!

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Thrilled with my bargain I felt quite cheery and browsed around the other aisles looking for some ideas and maybe a bit of inspiration.  I saw some lovely knitted cushion covers which made me want to completely redecorate the living room.  I will have to shelve that idea for the time being as the kittens are still doing a decent job of wrecking the joint, so I think we’ll leave that one for a little while.  I also saw an owl doorstop which reminded me of the pattern from an early issue of Craftseller magazine that I was going to crochet.  I really could do with a doorstop for my bedroom, I’m currently using my dance shoe bag which is not ideal – I’m forever tripping over the handles!  So that’s risen to the top of my to-do list – after my current order list and school teacher gifts that is!

owl doorstop craftseller mag

I also picked up a set of cupcake cases and little flags which I think will be great for some Summer baking in the holidays.  They were only £2 and are covered in little flowers, butterflies and ladybirds – what more could a seven year old want for her cakes?!

Time to collect Alice now, so

Happy crafting
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The Final Craftseller

Last month I was absolutely gutted to receive a letter with my Craftseller magazine, to advise that this would be the last ever issue.

This magazine has been such a revelation for me, and other crafters. Finding a magazine that not only came with a free gift and free card-making papers every month, but included copyright free patterns, instructions and recipes for all types of crafts and articles written for the small crafter starting out in a business was wonderful inspiration. Every month included articles following different crafters with hints and tips from their experiences. I have found some fantastic fellow crafters around the country.

I was lucky enough during the few years it’s been on the shelves to have had a letter published with pictures of some of my Christmas makes, as well as being featured as an online seller.

I have thoroughly enjoyed using the patterns and papers over the years, here’s just a few things I’ve made.

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I have been given the encouragement to attend my first craft fairs, and also to help negotiate having my cards stocked in the local newsagents.

It is with a heavy heart I say goodbye to Craftseller, it was a unique publication and will be sadly missed.

Happy crafting
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Last week of the School Holidays

Well this summer holiday really has flown by. I can’t believe we’re in the last week already, where has the time gone – does this mean I am getting really old? I feel like my feet haven’t touched the ground at all this week, as we’ve been visiting family, playing with friends and having fun in town.

We started the week with a trip into Ramsbottom and any trip there has to include a visit to the Aladdin’s cave that is Clark Crafts. I was determined (as always) not to spend a small fortune, but it’s so much easier said than done. We had a really good browse around all the products, finding more things that we ‘need’. I was quite good and just bought some more card blanks, but we found a lovely little craft kit to keep little ones amused.

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And at only £2.50, it was a bargain! We added some rainbow stickers (essential for any self respecting 6 year old) and foam shapes to the mix before calling in at the wine shop for Hubby’s birthday present. Well it wouldn’t do not to get him something from our lovely shopping trip.

Once home, the kits were immediately opened and the house was suddenly full of pom poms and pipe-cleaners. This kit is great, it came complete with self-sticking googly eyes as well as flat back gems, lolly sticks, and glue. My daughter started to make some spiders first, no glue required on these and all her own work, she cut up the pipe-cleaners for the legs and wrapped them around the pom pom bodies.

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We then had a look at what was left – absolutely loads – and decided on a caterpillar. She chose the order of the pom poms and I threaded them on a piece of cotton for her. We completed the look with googly eyes, a mouth cut from a piece of funky foam and rainbow antennae and hair made from pieces of pipecleaner. A truly rainbow hungry caterpillar, I think you’ll agree. Very cute though.

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She’s now thinking of other creatures she can make with the remaining pom poms. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

We’ve also had a trip to the Fusiliers Museum in Bury this week, where they had a craft session making peg dolls. The theme was heroes and heroines of the wars. So of course, we made a superhero dog with special ice powers, a posh lady and little red riding hood!

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This has sparked the imagination and inspired, we made a trip to find dolly pegs and tissue paper, as my daughter wants to tell her Rainbows group leaders about it and make them with the group. We have several little green aliens and red superhero peg dolls peeping out around the house now!

After making peg dolls we headed over the art gallery where there were crayons and paper available to do some art. We have been inspired this week watching Big Blue Live and Big Blue UK, so sea creatures have featured heavily in drawings. Here we have the pick of the art from the art gallery. Superb attention to detail I hope you’ll agree.

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Now it’s back to sorting out all the school uniform and making sure everything fits! I hope she doesn’t need more new shoes…

Happy crafting
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Working on my PHD

Yes you did read that correctly, I am working on my PHD – Projects Half Done that is!

I was looking in my living room at the steadily growing pile of patterns, yarn and project bits and thought enough is enough, I need to finish some of these before I start anything new.

So first up is my little crochet unicorn. I had already completed the head, body and horn, so it’s time to make the legs and mane.

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This is a pattern from LGC Knitting and Crochet magazine that I started several months ago. My daughter is mad about horses, ponies and unicorns, so it seemed like a great gift for her. With her real love of Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony, the colours were almost perfect too. We had an afternoon watching ‘The Cat Returns’ and I made all the legs, but the mane took ages! Who would have thought that cutting 80 20cm lengths of yarn and then tassling them into a 21ch length would take almost 2 hours!!! Maybe it’s just me being really slow….

Anyway I now have all the pieces ready to stuff and sew together.

Next up is a crochet snowman I started last year.

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Again it’s a pattern from Knitting and Crochet magazine and it uses up some of my larger left over yarn balls. I’ve made the head and body using baby yarn, so it was time to make the nose, scarf and earmuffs. This called for a watch of ‘Frozen’, something we haven’t actually sat down to watch for a few months. This was a bit fiddly as it meant using a 2.5mm hook, which is very delicate. Fingers crossed I have enough yarn to finish the headband, or I might be making it in a co-ordinating colour! Watch this space..

My next projects to finish are to start off my Christmas collection. I know I didn’t start in June, but I need to get cracking on some of the little stockings as they are always in demand for stocking fillers, teacher gifts, table presents and tree decorations. I have 6 rainbow stockings ready to sew up now, and I have finished my first two winter coloured ones, complete with fluffy tops!

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Finally I have the knitted and crochet blanket I started for Bury Show that I didn’t get chance to finish in time. I love the sampler feel of this and all the bright colours. I now need to finish off the connecting of the squares and decide how to edge it. Any suggestions are gratefully received.

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This will really clear up my living room and give me a chance to make something new for Christmas. I am newly enthused for these projects now and can’t wait to see them finished.

Happy crafting
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Bury Show 2015

Somehow I managed to leave everything to the last minute this year. I suppose I could blame it on my operation and recovery, but I think I was actually just trying to cram in too many things at the same time! We had a pretty manic few days with dancing classes (not me) and a long-standing diary date to actually go out! So I was trying my best to get everything organised for my daughters’ school homework, that my entries for Bury Show just got pushed to the back of the queue.

Anyway, I did manage to make a couple of cards. I had already made one owl,
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but decided it needed something more, so I added a baby owl too and a little sentiment.

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I love the quirky faces on these owls, just a different position of the pupils in the eyes makes such a difference to their characters. They are a real hit with my daughter and her friends too, so I can see a few of these being made in the future.

I wasn’t happy just with this little owl though as although it was time consuming and looks cute, I wanted to show some different skills, so I decided to make a birdhouse card too. This was great fun and a bit fiddly at times. The birdhouse is quite straightforward a shape to make and it really lends itself to being made out of vintage-style papers. I then made a rosette using a papermania template and added some hand rolled paper roses. To finish off I added some paper leaves, an insert and a little bird on the insert.

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It was a race down to the show before judging started at 9:30am on Sunday. We managed it and had a look round all the other classes too. It’s always interesting to see what other people re making. The knitting and crochet class had lots of entries as usual. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to finish my blanket of knitted squares and crochet connections, so I entered one of my crochet baby comfort blankets instead. There were lots of toys this year and a few blankets, but not many clothes. This is probably due to the theme being babys and toddlers this time. Another well entered class was the photography, although some of the photographs were not very interesting (to me). My husband is a very keen photographer and he was very disappointed in the technical standards of the shots. There was one gorgeous picture of avocets which I would happily have had on my wall.

After a race to collect our daughter from Grandma and Grandad’s it was back to the show to see how I had got on.

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I have to say I was very disappointed this year. I spoke with ne of the organisers and they have a new judge this year, but she couldn’t really tell me anything on what the judge was looking for. Having examined the first place card I’m still unsure and just assume it was down to personal preference. I will try to do something different again next year as I got some lovely comments from visitors to the show, and I suppose if just goes to show that personal opinions are very different.

So next year I will try to finish my kitting project and show some more skills with cable and bobbles I think. I would also like to have a go at some of the baking classes as I think my scones would go down pretty well. It’s time to get thinking and planning again, but this year I must actually write my ideas down or else they will be lost in the Christmas madness!

Happy crafting
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Recovery

Well, this week I am recovering from my surgery.  So I’m working day-to-day depending on how I feel.

Typically in the times when I’ve been feeling rough I’ve been thinking about everything I’ve been making and having second thoughts about all my designs and ideas!  In particular I’m rethinking my makes for Bury Show at weekend.  I like my card design but I’m not sure it’s adventurous enough, so I might have to make something else.  The one causing me the most worry at the moment though is my knitted make.  It’s very different for me but I’m now sure it would class as a knit for a baby or toddler.  I don’t really have enough time to make something else though, so I shall stick to it and try to get it finished in time.

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I’ve also been thinking a lot about what I need to be making at the moment, mainly about thank you cards and gifts for the teachers at school.  Well it’s only four weeks to the end of term for my little one, so as I feel a little better today I have decided to make some apple cards for my daughter to send.  This year I’m going to add a little tag with the teacher’s name on.

Thank You Card

I can’t believe how fast this school year has gone. With all the health scares I feel like I’ve been out of it for quite a while. But now I’m recovering I can hopefully, put all the pain and discomfort behind me and we can have a fun packed sunny Summer – as long as the British weather decides to play nicely!

Well I had better get back to my apples, leaves and tags before school pick up.

Happy crafting
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