Monday, 8 February 2016

2015 in Review: A Year of Nice Days Out

Flowers at Liberty, London

At the start of 2015 I resolved to get back into the regular habit of taking a Proper Day Off once a week and going on a small adventure - taking a break from my endless work To Do list and stretching my legs, exploring new places and seeing new things.

This was an excellent resolution to make. I had lots of Nice Days Out in 2015 (52 in total) some big, some small, some near, some far... and they were all awesome.

Writing a post about my year's mini adventures is a little tricky though as the trips I blogged about in 2015 are not exactly the same as where I went in 2015. I blogged about some 2014 trips and there are lots of trips from 2015 that I've not yet got round to blogging about (so many photos to edit and so little time!). I also spent several days catching up with friends in various parts of the country, and took my mum to visit historic buildings and exhibitions and to see my book for sale in Liberty and didn't take my camera with me (gasp!).

So, instead of a month-by-month diary of my travels, here are (in roughly chronological order) fifteen of my highlights from 2015.

1. Climbing all 528 steps to the top of St Paul's Cathedral

My camera died before I got to the very top (remember to charge your cameras, folks!) so this is actually the view from just part of the way up. You get an amazing view of London and the Cathedral itself is, of course, a pretty special place to visit.

2. Admiring the blooms at the Chiswick Camellia Festival.

As well as many delightful follies, the gardens at Chiswick House contain a lovely long greenhouse which is filled with a vast collection of camellias. Beautiful - and free to visit! (Psst - the 2016 show starts this week!).

3. Exploring a battleship.

The HMS Belfast is one of those places that it would never have occurred to me to visit if it hadn't been for my Art Pass but it turned out to be completely fascinating. I spent hours working my way round the ship, climbing up and down ladders and generally having a whale of a time. Such an unusual space to explore and so much history to learn along the way, I loved it.

4. Enjoying the magnolias at Kew Gardens.

Last January I treated myself to a year's membership of Kew and visited the gardens several times over the changing seasons. It's a gorgeous place at any time of the year but spring was especially wonderful and the magnolias in April were particularly magnificent. Imagine a whole grove of trees filled with these huge, beautiful blossoms! Simply swoonworthy.

5. Following the Shaun in the City art trails through London and Bristol.

The sculptures were cute, finding as many as possible was a fun challenge, and I spotted lots of other great stuff (and did sooo much walking) along the way! You can read about my London sheep-spotting here, here, here and here and about my Bristol trip here.

6. Celebrating makers and making at London Craft Week.

The inaugural London Craft Week was almost overwhelmingly special. So many amazing things to see, so many interesting places to visit and so many incredibly talented makers to meet! I can't wait to what they've got planned for this year's programme 

7. Having tea with a tiger at the Jewish Museum.

I visited dozens of interesting exhibitions in 2015 but my favourite had to be the Judith Kerr retrospective at the Jewish Museum. I adored Judith Kerr's books when I was a kid and still have a huge affection for her characters (the Christmas ad featuring Mog made me blub so much!). This was such an enjoyable exhibition to explore, not least because I got to "meet" the famous tiger :)

8. Witnessing the historic ceremony of Swan Upping.

The annual census of the swan population on the Thames is a delightfully quirky tradition and was a perfect excuse to go for a walk along the river on my day off. History, royalty and swans, what more could you ask for in a Nice Day Out?

9. Climbing Cabot Tower for a spectacular view of Bristol.

I was pretty lazy about exploring Bristol when I actually lived there, so it's been a joy to take some trips back to the city and do lots of the tourist-y things I missed out on. I especially loved climbing the city's famous Cabot Tower, which is situated in a lovely park and gives you great views over the city.

10. Visiting Osterley House & Gardens.

This is another place I'd never have visited were it not for my Art Pass. It turned out to be rather wonderful and a perfect place to visit on a hot summer's day. Osterley has huge, peaceful gardens and a fascinating house with intricate, pattern-filled decor. Even the veg for sale at their farm shop was patterned!

11. Soaking up some history with Oxford Open Doors.

Oxford's annual heritage festival is something very special: dozens of interesting buildings across the city open their doors to the public in a celebration of the city's architecture and history, and it's all free to visit! I still haven't blogged about my 2015 visit but it was a wonderful, busy day spent exploring some really amazing spaces. You can see some of my photos from 2014's equally awesome festival here (Oxford is such a beautiful place).

12. Visiting a tiny island in the Thames.

Guards Club Park is a petite, riverside park with a bridge that leads to the equally petite Guards Club Island. This is quite an enchanting space to visit - and how often do you get to explore a tiny island that features in one of your favourite movies? Magical (and just as delightful in the autumn).

13. Going behind the scenes at Windsor Castle with a tour of the Round Tower. 

I love Windsor and visited it several times in 2015, exploring the town itself (and neighbouring Eton), following the Castle's audio tour, watching the Changing the Guard ceremony (the band played the Star Wars theme, to general delight!) and seeing the magnificent spaces decorated for Christmas.

I also took a couple of special tours at the Castle, one of the Great Kitchen and one of the Round Tower. Both the tours were really interesting (so many fun facts!) but it was particularly wonderful to get to climb the Tower and look out over the Castle and the surrounding area - especially as I grew up being able to see the outline of the tower in the distance from our house!

14. Taking a magical autumnal walk along the Thames.

The riverside is so beautiful! Autumn is so amazing! Even on a grey day this was an excellent combination.

15. Last but by no means least, celebrating Christmas at Kew. 

Okay so I know I already picked Kew in the spring as one of my 2015 highlights, but their winter light trail was something really, really special. The mile long trail of sculptures and installations was beautiful and fun and filled my heart with joy. The perfect end to a year of Nice Days Out!

It was ridiculously difficult to select just 15 things to include in this post, which I guess is a pretty good sign that 2015 was filled with good things!

Here's hoping that I have just as much trouble picking my 2016 Nice Day Out highlights :)

P.S. You might also enjoy my look back at my crafty 2015: part one & part two.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Three Easy Valentine's Day Craft Ideas

This is an advertorial and I received a fee to create some Valentine’s Day crafts for

It looks like we're in for a wet and windy weekend, doesn't it? Perfect weather for staying indoors doing some crafting for Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day isn't just about romantic dinners with chocolates and roses, it's also a great excuse to let your family and friends know you love them with a handmade card or gift.

I've designed three easy paper crafting projects that are lots of fun to make... wanna see them?

First up, there's a Valentine's printing project: use everyday things from your home like kitchen sponges and cotton buds to make pretty printed heart cards.

This is a great craft to do with young kids, but honestly I'm in my 30s and I had an absolute blast making these! Click here to see the cards and the step by step instructions.

Next up: make a Valentine's Day card with a secret, hidden message!

It might be because I read so many spy and mystery novels when I was a kid but I adore anything involving a secret message. Can you guess where the message is hidden? Click here for the full tutorial, including all the templates you'll need to make your cards.

Finally (and, not gonna lie, this is probably my favourite of the bunch), I made some bunny gift boxes.

Not boxes for putting bunnies in (sadly, as a box filled with bunnies would be pretty awesome) but boxes that look like bunnies. They have little fluffy tails and everything! For added cuteness, the bunny faces are made from heart-shaped pieces :)

The bunny gift boxes would be perfect for Valentine's Day gifts, or you could make a whole set over the next few weeks and use them for Easter instead.

I made a whole rainbow of bunny gift boxes, click here to see how they turned out and grab the templates for making your own.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Ready, Steady... Destash!

My "Laura looked at her huge stash of craft supplies and was brutally honest with herself about what she's actually going to use" sale has begun! Time to clear things out to make way for exciting new things.

I've listed lots of crafty bits and pieces over in my Etsy shop and will be adding more gradually in the next couple of days as I get everything measured and weighed and so on.

If you order something and then spot something else you'd like to add before I've shipped your parcel I will, of course, combine shipping and refund any excess postage charges :)

Click here to visit my shop and see what's on offer...

Friday, 29 January 2016

Fuzzy Nostalgia

Remember all those puzzles and games hidden away in our attic? Well, brace yourself for a bit more childhood nostalgia because...


... we found a box of Fuzzy-Felt!

What fun this stuff was!

We spent hours and hours and hours as kids re-arranging these little felt pieces and using them to tell all kinds of stories.

Sadly they don't stick to the board any more, and some of the pieces are definitely showing their age.

It feels totally wrong to just throw them away though, so I'm thinking maybe I should make something from them? Maybe combine them with some plain felt and patterned papers to make some nostalgic cards to send to my friends? Hmmm...

I shall add the pieces to my box of "random things that might be useful for a crafty project sometime" (every crafter has a box like that, right??) and see if/when inspiration strikes!

P.S. You might also enjoy these posts about board games, toys, books, erasers, badges and stickers from my 80s childhood :)


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