(2015) 52 things in 52 weeks update

52 things in 52 weeksI won’t promise to do a monthly update, as life often gets in the way of such things, but here we are at the end of January and I find myself with a few minutes to spare, so I’ll do a quick round-up of how my challenges are going so far.

Surprisingly, I have now completed TEN of the 52 challenges:

2. Watch 5 films nominated for awards in the 87th Academy Awards
I’ve actually now watched seven films this year that have been nominated for various Oscars, and several of the films I watched last year have also been nominated for Academy Awards. You can check out all the films I’ve seen HERE (and there are sometimes links to reviews I’ve written if you click on them!)

4. Post predictions of Oscar winners
Click the link above to be taken to my predictions post.

8. Apply to be a giver for World Book Night (fourth year running!)
I actually applied at the tail end of last year as I didn’t want to risk being late, so I started the year with one challenge completed. A teensy bit of a cheat, perhaps, but for a good reason. I really hope to get chosen again as I love taking part in this!

9. Drink no alcohol for 4 weeks (28 / 28)
Not one drop of alcohol has passed my lips during the whole month of January. It wasn’t particularly difficult, as I’m not really a big drinker, but I do tend to have a few drinks over the course of the festive period, and I have occasionally been tempted to crack open one of the bottles left over from the end of last year!

32. Make a summer holidays bucket list
You can see my list for this summer HERE. It’ll be a work in progress, as I’m sure I’ll hear of various events being held locally nearer to the summer holidays.

35. Make a family photo book/album of last year’s (2014) pictures
My photo book arrived a couple of weeks ago and I love it! It’s sitting with the previous two on the shelf in the living room. If you’d like to make one, I highly recommend Vistaprint – it’s a very easy to use system and a very professional finish.

39. Not shout at my kids for 4 weeks straight (28 / 28)
This was perhaps the most challenging of my challenges. I’m not a partiularly angry person, but I do have a six year old son who likes to push the boundaries! Nevertheless, I have managed not to shout at my kids all month, and I intend to continue as long as possible, I have raised my voice to call out to them from another room or over some distance, but I have not raised my voice in anger. I may have lowered my voice and spoken slightly forcibly through gritted teeth once or twice, but I have not shouted, and of that I am incredibly proud. I have once or twice gone into another room (or even a cupboard) and given out a short, sharp scream to vent some frustrations, but never in the same room as my children. And it hasn’t gone un-noticed. Tadpole has commented on it several times and seems quite pleased. We’re also trying to work on how he vents and expresses himself, so hopefully we will soon have a harmonious and peaceful home where nobody shouts. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?

43. Continue breastfeeding Choochie to the age of 15 months (10 January)
We made it past this milestone and he’s still going strong. Honestly, Choochie is a total boob-monster! He no longer nurses at night, but wakes around 4.30am for a feed and a cuddle, then a couple of times through the day he climbs up on my knee for his Milkies, but mostly when he’s feeling tired and wants to nap. He does, however, usually stop before he falls asleep and will now go to bed while still awake and settle himself down. He’s also started sleeping a little bit longer (most of the time, anyway), which is making a huge difference to me and my quality of sleep!

48. Make / contribute three items for charity (3 / 3)
I’ve actually made about 40 items now! I’m taking part in the Be Aware, Make a Square charity drive to raise awareness and money for a meningitis charity. The squares will be made into various items which will be auctioned off.

52. Make a new list of 52 things in 52 weeks for 2016
I’ve already made my list! It won’t be posted until the end of the year, so I may well tweak it a little bit, but it’s got 52 challenges on it ready to go!

I also have quite a few challenges ongoing and partially completed:

1. Watch 52 films in 52 weeks (17 / 52)
5. Read 2 books each month (2 / 24)
18. Lose 14lbs (9 / 14)
27. Split all my coppers between Tadpole’s and Choochie’s piggy banks each month (1/12)
28. Save all £2 coins into the Xmas fund each month (1/12)
29. Save all silver up to the value of 20p into the Xmas fund each month (1/12)
30. Put aside £2 for each challenge completed into Xmas fund (£20/£104)
31. Save £10 per week (£50 / £520)
34. Visit family in Scotland
36. Take the kids to the library once a month (1 / 12)
41. Share a photo of my kids and me each month (1 / 12) (see the photos HERE)
44. Continue breastfeeding Choochie to the age of 18 months (10 April)
45. Write 12 letters (total, between them) to my various pen pals (3 / 12)
49. Make six gifts /Xmas decorations (3 / 6)
50. Release twelve new cross stitch charts (1 / 12)

And these ones will be started in February:

10. Eat no chocolate for 4 weeks (0 / 28)
11. Drink a green smoothie every day for 4 weeks (0 / 28)
16. Try out 6 recipes I’ve never tried before (0/6)
17. Try 6 foods I’ve never tried before (0 / 6)

So, quite a lot of progress made, and I’m well on my way towards fulfilling my list of challenges!

New year… New projects!

My first projects of the year...
My first projects of the year…

Happy new year!

Yes, this is the first post of 2015. We’re already three days into the new year, and I already have a number of new craft projects on the go – gotta keep my hands busy!

Once scarf finished, an afghan begun, and some dark grey pillowcases to edge – I hope the recipients will like their gifts when they receive them!

I’ll also be starting a cross stitch project this month – it’s been a while since I cross stitched anything, so I have that curious mingling of excitement and apprehension.

On top of that, I’ve already started with my 52 things in 52 weeks challenge for this year. You can check out my challenges and my progress on the challenge page HERE.

Right, back to it – my fingers are itching to pick up a hook and yarn and get back to it!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Here at Kincavel Korner, things are definitely looking more festive – the tree is up and decorated (although I think we’ll pick up a few more decorations for it this afternoon, to fill it out some more!), and the mantelpiece is decorated too.

We kind of just let the kids loose with the tree ornaments, and then had them (well, Tadpole, at least) help rearrange them and spread them out a bit. Much fun was had by all and now we’re all ready to gather our supplies to make some festive cookies and mince pies over the next few weeks!

Have yourself a crafty little Christmas…

Crafty little ChristmasIf you’re anything like me, you love giving hand-made gifts for that personal touch. And if you’re anything like me, you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day and days in the week to get everything made in time for the holiday season.

Fear not! There are plenty of lovely little ideas that are easy on the wallet (because, let’s face it, who isn’t a little strapped for cash around the festive season?), and won’t eat away all of your precious time.

And don’t worry if you don’t feel particularly talented in the crafts department, there are some clever little ideas that even the least artistic of us can put together and have them look great and have quite an impact on the recipient.

Here are a few gift ideas, some of which I’ve made and given over the last few years. I won’t reveal this year’s gifts, as I obviously want them to be a surprise! Many of the ideas on this list are great projects to work on with kids for other family members too…

  1. If you knit or crochet, a nice easy option, and one that you can produce in multiples if required, are scarves and mitts. And even if you live in a warmer climate, ladies often like lightweight lacy scarves, so they can be an option.

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  2. Little tree decorations can be a very quick gift to make, and you can use whatever craft you’re most comfortable with, to create all manner of lovely decorations. And if you’re not particularly crafty, get hold of some clear glass baubles (the kind you can take the top off) and pop a few feathers or scrolls of vintage paper inside for a unique decoration.
  3. If you bake, cookies or cakes are always a nice gift that can either be make far in advance (individual Christmas cakes that have been fed for months with booze), or just a few days before you see people (sugar cookies, shortbread, sweet mince pies). They can be wrapped in colourful cellophane for a festive look.
  4. Even if baking isn’t your thing, there are other foodie gifts you can make – truffles, chocolates, peppermint fondant sweeties, fudge, tablet and toffee are all great fun to make and also tasty to eat. Not to mention jams, chutneys, pickles and preserves – if you’ve had a bumper harvest from your garden or allotment, or there has been an abundance of fruit growing wild, this is a particularly great way of giving the double-whammy of using up excess items that would go off if not preserved.
    B&B Jam
  5. If you have friends or family who enjoy a tipple or two, you could always try flavoured vodka. There are the sweetie-flavoured ones you can make using things like Skittles or Gummy Bears, but there’s also the very chic vanilla-flavoured option, where you split a couple of vanilla pods and pop them into a pretty bottle with a tight stopper, and jut occasionally swish it around till, over the course of a few weeks, the vodka becomes infused. Or a pretty jar with peaches preserved in brandy, or cherries in kirsch. These are all delicious food and drink gifts you can make in advance.
  6. If you know someone who loves books or films, find a pretty jar and fill it with quotes from their favourites. Write them by hand, or print them off your computer, and either fold them or roll them into little scrolls.
  7. Looking for something special for Mum? A love jar will bring a tear to her eyes. Same as with the quote jar, except you fill it with reasons you love her. Guaranteed to keep you on her “nice” list for another year!
    Love Jar
  8. For kids and jokers, a joke jar, filled with one-liners, knock knocks, and doctor doctor jokes will keep them giggling all year round and cheer them up when they feel down.
  9. For grandparents, a memory jar, filled with all those little stories that you associate with them. If the stories are longer, fill a little scrap book with them and decorate it to your heart’s content.
  10. Another one for the parents and grandparents is a photo book. Grab an inexpensive photo album or scrap book and pop in all the pictures that will make them smile. Make it small enough for them to carry with them and show off how beautiful their kids and grandkids are!
  11. Luminaries are a beautiful way to display a candle and are very easy and inexpensive to make. Again with the glass jars, find all manner of items – pressed leaves and flowers, feathers, tissue paper in different colours – then cover the jar in glue (a good craft glue like Mod Podge) and stick the items on the outside before giving them a good covering too. Or you can use glass paints for some stunningly colourful effects. Then you just pop a tea light in the bottom (you can buy bags of, like, 50 of them for next to nothing). Or you could make your own candles, either using paraffin wax or beeswax (which smells divine as it is!), because if you make your own, you can choose your own colours and scents to add, making them even more personal!

So, there are just a small handful of ideas. I’ve come up with a few new ones for my Yuletide gifts this year, which I will share after Xmas, but if you have some other ideas for hand-crafted gifts, I’d love to hear them. Share them in the comments below and we can all benefit from the additional inspiration!

What we did on our holidays…

Hubby has had two weeks off work, so we’ve used that time to do loads of day trips and family activities. Here are some of the photos of our adventures during the past fortnight, during which time we have:

  • Gone to a teddybears’ picnic, Blyth
  • Gone rockpooling at St. Mary’s Lighthouse, Whitley Bay
  • Gone to the circus, Blyth
  • Visited the Discovery Museum, Newcastle
  • Gone to Kirkley Hall Zoo, Ponteland
  • Gone to Beamish Open Air Museum, Durham
  • Gone to Alnwick Castle and Gardens, Alnwick

I hope the photos will give you an idea of the fun we’ve had!

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52 things in 52 weeks – January update

52 things in 52 weeksSo, here is my first full monthly update on this year’s 52 things in 52 weeks challenge. You may remember I did weekly updates last year, but this year I know I’ll be much busier, so I opted for monthly updates instead – something far more achievable.

Here’s how January has fared:

Food challenges (one week each):
1. Two fruits and/or vegetables per meal – Eat a minimum of two different fruits or vegetables (preferably organic) with every breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal.
2. “Real” beverages – Beverages will be limited to coffee, tea, water, and milk (only naturally sweetened with a little honey or 100% pure maple syrup). One cup of juice will be allowed throughout the week, and wine (preferably red) will be allowed in moderation (an average of one drink per day).
3. Meat – All meat consumed this week will be locally raised (within 100-miles of your hometown). Meat consumption will also be limited to 3 – 4 servings this week, and when it is eaten meat will not be presented as the “focal point” of the meal. Instead meat will be treated as a side item or simply used to help flavor a dish.
4. No fast food or deep-fried foods – No fast food or any foods that have been deep-fried in oil.

Food challenges (30 days each):
15. 30 days of green smoothies – January (24 / 30)
I didn’t quite complete all 30 days because, as part of the crappiest run of luck during one week, my blender packed in. The new one I bought at the start of the month to replace the old one that died. It sucked anyway – it never once made a completely smooth smoothie. Either way, as I would have completed it, I consider this one completed in spirit.

Other food challenges:
21. Apply for an allotment
The application form has been sent off! My brother-in-law has expressed an interest in getting on board with this so we’ll hopefully be sharing a plot so it’s half the work and half the price for both of us, but still all the benefits of organic, home-grown produce! There’s a waiting list of 17 people, but there are 50-60 new plots being developed at my first-choice site, and I have been assured that everyone on the waiting list will be offered a plot as soon as they’re ready, so this one is definitely getting off the ground (ahem – sorry, for the bad pun!) sooner, rather than later!

Food challenges (one week each):
5. Try two new whole foods – Try a minimum of two new whole foods that you’ve never had before.

Financial challenges:
23. Put £20 into Tadpole’s savings every month (£20 / £240)
24. Put £20 into Button’s savings every month (£20 / £240)
25. Split all my coppers between Tadpole’s and Button’s piggy banks each week (5/52)
26. Put £1 for each day of every month into savings (£31 / £365)
27. Put £1 for each challenge completed into the Xmas fund (£6 / £52)
28. Save all £2 coins into the Xmas fund each week (5/52)
29. Save all silver up to the value of 20p into the Xmas fund each week (5/52)

Entertainment challenges:
30. Read 52 books in 52 weeks (2/52)
Check them out HERE.
31. Watch 52 films in 52 weeks (28/52)
Check them out HERE.
32. Take part in three author book blog tours (1 / 3)
The Tudor Conspiracy by Christopher Gortner – Book review / Author interview

Family-related challenges:
34. Continue breastfeeding Button to the age of 6 months (10 April)
38. Share a photo of my kids and me each month (1/ 12)

Tadpole and Button
My lovely boys having a cuddle
My fringe is in serious need of a trim,
but I’m holding off on a haircut
till my cousin’s wedding next month…

41. Take the kids to the library once a month (1 / 12)
We LOVE going to the library, so this one should be pretty easy to keep up. 🙂

Personal challenges:
42. Lose 14lbs (4.75 / 14)
46. Write twelve letters to my pen-pal (1 / 12)
I have written my January letter to my buddy, Louise. We’ve been writing a couple of years now. One of these days we might even meet!
48.  Use FlyLady.net to get into a regular routine with the housework
I’ve allocated a room to focus on each week of the month to work in rotation. There are things in each room that will be daily or weekly anyway, but once a month I’ll give each room a detailed going over. Not quite on top of things yet, but I’ll get there!
49. Make twelve Xmas gifts /decorations (1 / 12)
Obviously I’m not going into any detail at all, in case the intended recipient sees it, but I’ve started on the Xmas gifts already and completed one so far, and am working on several more…
50. Release twelve new cross stitch charts (2 / 12)
My annual band sampler was released on New Year’s Day. Download it free HERE. I also released my Hope Sampler for sale. Buy it HERE.
51. Post a monthly update (1 / 12)
Here it is!

Kincavel Krosses January Sale!

January SaleFor those of you who don’t already know, I design cross stitch and blackwork charts and showcase them over at my Kincavel Krosses blog. And as it’s a new year and everyone is enjoying the January sales…

It’s the new year and stitchers everywhere will be looking forward to some post festivity relaxation time, hopefully with a project or two on the go. Well, at Kincavel Krosses, we like to enable stitchers to do that so that means SALE TIME!

Anyone who emails me between 00.01 Saturday 4th January and 23.59 Friday 31st January (GMT), can have any one of my designs that are for sale for just £2.00 (instead of £3.50 each) . There is no upper limit to the amount of designs you can purchase, so if you really want to, you can take advantage of this sale to stock up on all the available charts for sale. *

Just email me at lady.kell.smurthwaite@gmail.com with the heading “January Sale” with your choice of chart(s) and I will send you a Paypal invoice for the total amount, I will then email you the charts once payment is confirmed.

Choose your charts from the ones listed HERE.

Thank you in advance!
Kell @ Kincavel Krosses

*The only exemptions to this are:

  • Team Twilight multipack – they must be purchased separately at £2.00 each (which still gives you a significant discount!)
  • The two Cancer charity designs – they remain £3.50 each and all proceeds go to Cancer Research UK

52 things – week 30

52 things in 52 weeksThree fifths of the year have now passed and we’re busier than ever! Still getting everything sorted out at the flat ahead of our moving. And that moving date is edging ever closer – it’s scary, but exciting at he same time. We’ve still found time to do some fun stuff, but mostly our time has been taken up with all the little things you need to do before you sell your home – the list seems endless! I know we’ll get there in the end.m This week we had the guy round to do the home report (just waiting to hear how much our flat is worth!) and also the photographer to take pictures for the schedule. I have to say, the flat looks pretty fabulous right now!

And in the midst of all this, another couple of challenges have been completed (or at least, the second one has progressed to a point where I feel confident in calling it completed), and it’s one of which makes me incredibly proud!

1. Read 52 books in 52 weeks (45/52)

Reading: Alexandre Dumas – The Man in the Iron Mask (K)
Reading: David Peace – The Damned United
Reading: Kate Forsyth – The Wild Girl (for blog tour – review and interview!)

4. Read only books that I already have, have been given as gifts/to review, or have borrowed from the library for 52 weeks (30/52)
Still not bought any books. It’s getting easier as I go on, but it’s been made easier still by my decreasing the amount of books on my shelves in readiness for moving. I know I can’t afford to take up more room with new books! Looking forward to getting registered at the local library shortly after we move.

13. Teach Tadpole to read – COMPLETED!
After trying in vain for what seems like forever to encourage him, Tadpole has suddenly grasped the concept! We’ve always read a lot of stories to him and tried to encourage him to sound out and recognise words here and there, but he always gets frustrated very quickly and refuses to even try. However, I downloaded a little game to my tablet computer that encourages him to sound out the letters, then blend them together to read the word and he’s being doing very well with it! We were so impressed this week when, even without the game, we could verbally spell out words and he recognised them, as well as when he sees them written down. He can even now spell some of the words himself without seeing them written down! I feel this is such an excellent improvement that I can consider this part of the challenge well and truly completed, even though I know we still have a long way to go. Keep up the good work, Tadpole – you’re making Mummy and Daddy VERY proud indeed!

Food and Drink:
38. Eat only vegetarian meals one day every week (30/52)
Vegetarian day: Thursday

43. Make / contribute to three items for charity (3/3) – COMPLETED
While sorting out my craft gear ready to move, I hauled out a few more items I’ve made to donate to a charity. These cards, key rings and buttons, all designed and cross stitched by me, will go to a local cancer charity.

donated to charityFinances:
45. Save all £2 coins for 52 weeks (30/52)
Total saved in £2 coins: £78.00

46. Save all 1p/2p/5p coins for 52 weeks (30/52)
Total 5p pieces saved: £18.75
All coppers have gone directly into Tadpole’s piggy bank.

47. Put aside £10 for every challenge completed (£130/£520)
Two more challenges completed this week – #13 and #43, so an extra £20 in the pot!

50. Self portrait picture every week (30/52)
Something a little bit different this week. A first public showing of my already colossal baby bump! This is at 28 weeks, so there are still anywhere between nine and fourteen weeks to go before Button makes an appearance, although I have a feeling Button may well be earlier rather than later. Tadople was very kicky on the inside, but Button really takes the biscuit – I am constantly being kicked to the extent that it often makes me physically jump with the surprise and force of it, so I reckon we’ve got another long-leggedy beastie in there! Sometimes it feels like Button is doing a really B-I-G stretch out as I’ll feel a very definite slow push at opposite ends of my belly which feels very weird. Anyway, here I am, already the size of a small country, with the promise of ending up looking like a very large one by the time Button is ready to emerge! I’ll post bump pics every few weeks for growth comparison…

My Mam reckons my bump is actually slightly smaller that it was at this stage with Tadpole, which just makes me think I must have been the size of a planet last time round! Although, I have to say, I think my butt has got a lot bigger this time!

And Tadpole couldn’t resist photo-bombing me as we tried to record the size of my bump for posterity. We did actually take another photo right after this, but I liked this one better!

27.07.13 - Week 30
Week 30
28-weeks pregnant
(and Tadpole photo-bombing me!)

51. Post a weekly update of my progress on my blog (30/52)

Kincavel Krosses Summer Sale

summer-saleIt’s the summer time and stitchers everywhere will be looking forward to some relaxation time, hopefully with a project or two on the go. Well, at Kincavel Krosses, we like to enable stitchers to do that so that means SALE TIME!

Anyone who emails me between 00.01 Monday 24th June and 23.59 Sunday 18th August (GMT), can have any one of my designs that are for sale for just £2.00 (instead of £3.50 each) . There is no upper limit to the amount of designs you can purchase, so if you really want to, you can take advantage of this sale to stock up on all the available charts for sale. *

Just email me at Kincavel_Krosses@yahoo.co.uk with the heading Summer Sale with your choice of chart(s) and I will send you a Paypal invoice for the total amount, I will then email you the charts once payment is confirmed.

Choose your charts from the ones listed HERE.

Thank you in advance!
Kell @ Kincavel Krosses

*The only exemptions to this are:

  • Team Twilight multipack – they must be purchased separately (which still gives you a significant discount!)
  • The two Cancer charity designs – they remain £3.50 each and all proceeds go to Cancer Research UK

Stash sampler

Now that my Patriotic Hearts series is completed (for now, at least!), it’s time for a new cross stitch sampler that will strike a chord with all crafters. Why? Because it equates acquisition of stash with happiness! As any crafter can tell you, when you have some new stash in your hands, your smile will split your face in two.

So, if you’re a crafter who can relate to the sentiment, you’ll love this simple little sampler that says it loud and proud:

Stash = Happiness!

You can download this chart FREE of charge from my Kincavel Krosses blog HERE.

Stash stitch view