Full Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links. When purchasing on Amazon after clicking the link, I get a little kick-back to keep the site going!
I love crafting (obviously) but there is one craft that has eluded me. I have tried for a long time to be able to crochet, but anything beyond a granny square was something that I just couldn’t get my head around.
I hate not being able to do something. My long-term anxiety has turned into a perfectionist trait, that I’ve never been able to get through. So I’ve been determined to get my head around crochet for a long time. I had numerous books and magazines with instructions, but after a while, I realised I was possibly starting off a bit too ambitious. Knowing that I could make a semi-decent granny square, I searched for a clothing pattern that made use of this skill, along with using up some of my yarn stash.
After a little bit of digging, I found this pattern posted by Lara on her blog, Thornberry, (Originally posted on a no longer available blog). It looked perfect – nice and simple, but still something I would wear often. I dug out my crochet hooks and some t-shirt yarn I’d been hoarding for a while and got to work.
It was great to feel like I was producing something, and the speed of crochet over knitting definitely makes it feel more rewarding! I did hit a couple of speed bumps. I was aiming to make it all purple, but underestimated how much yarn I would need! It’s been in my stash so long the manufacturer has long since disappeared, and I couldn’t find a close enough match elsewhere. So instead I went with grey, which will match most of my current wardrobe. The two colours seem to compliment each other well.
However, different manufacturer means a different feel to the yarn. The purple was quite stretchy, whereas the grey isn’t. In comparison, it’s rather stiff. The difference isn’t hugely noticeable when wearing it, but it did take some getting used to!
The finished item isn’t perfect – it’s a little bit heavy and feels a bit stiff under the arms – but I’m so pleased with myself for finishing it! It’s great for the current cold spell hitting the UK, and it’s been making my gloomy evenings feel a bit cosier! With the practice creating it gave me, I’m feeling a little more confident going into future crochet projects.
If you’d like to make one of your own, follow this link to buy the yarn that I used. (This is an affiliate link, so when you buy anything on Amazon after using it, I get a little kickback to keep the site going!)
What projects have you undertaken to challenge yourself? How great did you feel when you finished it? Let me know in the comments or over on social media!
Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through Amazon after clicking that link, I get a little kickback, which helps keep this site going. However, I did not receive anything in return for writing this review.
I have been playing computer games for as long as I remember. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s true. One of my first memories is sitting on my dad’s lap, playing The Secret of Monkey Island – still one of my favourites, especially now I understand the jokes that went over my head as a babe in arms. For my eighth birthday, my grandmother bought my two games: Tomb Raider II, and The Sims. And so began a lifelong love of simulation games. I remember spending hours playing that first Sims game, followed by every expansion pack. Even when I wasn’t playing, I was designing houses on sheets of paper, trawling through the official guidebooks to select furniture. This continued into Sims 2, 3 and now 4.
As a base game, Sims 4 has been my favourite yet. It received a lot of criticism for not shipping with certain features (basements, swimming pools, toddlers), but learning from their mistakes with Sims 3, EA has been careful to expand the game slowly through both free additions with patches and paid expansion, game and stuff packs. The latest expansion pack, Cats and Dogs, was no doubt the most waited for – but was it worth the wait?
As each version of The Sims has had it’s own pets based expansion pack, Cats and Dogs is no doubt the most thought out. The decision was made to restrict the expansion to just two additions. In contrast, The Sims 3 Pets added cats, dogs, and horses (including unicorns), plus small pets, which could be found all over the open world at random. The ambition is to be commended, but is it any wonder why that’s when it all started to go wrong for Sims 3? I personally never successfully added a horse to my sims’ family – it always crashed the game. So whilst it was a move that resulted in criticism from many, focusing on just two animals seems to have been a wise choice.
‘Create a Pet’ has brought back many customisation features that are missed elsewhere in the game, which possibly suggests a wider roll-out later down the line. Whilst I haven’t played with them extensively, the ability to literally paint spots on your dalmatian’s back is great for users wanting to truly make the game their own. Being able to put a piece of toast on my cat’s head was also much appreciated. But I kept it simple for my first playthrough, and just recreated a cat I know and love – Roxy.
Whilst pets aren’t playable characters this time around, you can give them traits that will influence their autonomous behaviour. Virtual-Roxy is affectionate, clever and spoiled – much like the real one. This made her act quite differently to the stray I later adopted, Tom, who was a free spirit, mischevious and a prowler. I found this actually made the game more fun, as I never knew what the cats were going to do next.
I, of course, can’t talk about the game without mentioning the new vet career. However, this is slightly misnamed. Becoming a vet operates more like buying a shop or a restaurant than getting a career. Whilst a great addition to the game, this does mean I haven’t explored the feature much yet – Gone is my excitement over designing buildings, and I don’t have enough time to play to make my sim rich enough to buy one. But the small elements I’ve played were enjoyable, and I look forward to exploring it more.
One of my few qualms about the game is this – for a game solely about cats and dogs, there’s really not that much for cats to do. As a regular cat walker, I wanted my sim to be able to harness train their cats and take them out too! (Maybe a future mod will fix this for me?) You also can’t teach them tricks, so you’re limited to getting them to run an obstacle course to build your Sims’ Pet Training skill in a cat-only household. Neither of these things are massive issues but would have added new features to the game that hadn’t featured in previous versions.
My main problem with the game is one that I have had for a long time. Whilst the overall aspiration system is, in my opinion, an improvement over previous games, giving you little goals to complete over a Sims’ lifetime, new aspirations have been few and far between. The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs adds only one, the Friend of the Animals aspiration, which even in my short time playing I’ve been able to complete. For a casual player, this may be less of an issue, but for someone like me who loves a challenge, I’d love to see more aspirations in the game in the future.
As in, graphics problems. I’ve never noticed any graphics problems in The Sims 4, until this expansion pack.
There are so many clipping problems.
And when it’s not clipping, it’s weird moments like the one pictured below.
Here’s hoping they get that cleaned up in a future patch. Until then, I’ve been turning a blind eye to those little problems!
So, there we have it. The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs – in my opinion, an essential addition to the base game. Just don’t be expecting anything revolutionary.
If you have been purr-suaded by this review, you can pick up the game by clicking on the picture above. When you make a purchase on Amazon through this link, you’ll also be supporting me and Roxy to keep this site going! Then, be sure to let us know what you’ve been up to in game!
Where has 2017 gone? I can’t believe it’s December already! As everyone gears up for the holidays, I’m looking back on my 2017 goals. So, let’s dive in!
1. Finish my Master’s Degree
This one was always a dead cert unless something went drastically wrong. There were a few weeks in August when I began to think about deferring my final essay until 2019 (this has been the year of continuous fatigue) but I manage to stick with it and get everything in. This was despite that fact that by that time I was basically working full-time! (More on that later). I knew that I probably hadn’t done enough at that point to get a distinction, but was happy with what I had achieved. I finally got my results back a couple of weeks ago, and not only passed by got a mark high enough for a merit – except my university doesn’t do them! Boo! Regardless, I am proud to have gone from a lower-second Bachelor’s degree to a Master’s degree, whilst also working crazy hours. I will be officially graduating on the 11th, and have basically been told I have to go because my family wants to come! I don’t particularly feel the need to spend a whole afternoon socialising and waiting for my name to be called, but there we are!
2. Fit in More Crafting
This goal has been a little bit up and down! I have added ten minutes knitting to my daily to-do list (although don’t really time it, I just finish one row of whatever I’m working on!). This has definitely helped, as it’s one of the easiest things I set myself to do. But, I’m still not managing to do it every single day, and non-knitting crafts have really fallen by the wayside. I’d love to be able to do some more papercraft and cross stitch, so think when my current knitting project is done I’ll have to mix it up again!
3. Develop My Career
This one has been a little bit of a rollercoaster this year! Way back in January, I was working as a stage manager for a brilliant new show. This was a fantastic opportunity to return to my first love, theatre. Shortly afterwards, I stage managed another show, this time a devised ‘dramatised tour’. Both experiences were great, I loved them – but they were so stressful. My anxiety and depression were all over the place, making it difficult to get anything done that wasn’t work. Not what you need when you’re also trying to finish a Master’s! I began to see that even though I loved the career, it wasn’t working for me. On top of my mental health, I’ve had more physical health problems during the year that, as of yet, the doctors have refused to diagnose. A job that requires lots of running around and late nights just isn’t healthy for me. I think I knew this four years ago when I first left, but because I had never loved anything the same way, I didn’t know where to turn.
I got lucky though. On a whim, back in February, I applied to do a marketing administration work placement for an arts organisation. I figured it would be good experience whatever I ended up doing. Well, soon after that placement started, their Student Recruiter left, and I was offered the position until that contract ended. Then, their Marketing Assistant left, and I was asked if I wanted to take on that role for an additional two days a week. Meanwhile, my previous experience working with adults with learning disabilities and driving minibuses meant I was asked if I would like to work with our after school disability programme, with the occasional Saturdays. ‘Why not?’ I said, suddenly working five and sometimes six days a week. By this point, I’d fallen in love with the organisation, and had found a new passion in marketing – something I never thought I would enjoy! But all of this was only until the end of 2017, when they were recruiting a full-time Marketing and Communications Officer.
Of course, I applied for the full-time role, really not expecting to get it but not wanting to let go of the job I’d fallen in love with. Much to my surprise, I found out last week that my application was successful! Plus, my manager wants me to continue my work with the disabilities programme, allowing me to be flexible with my hours to make that happen. I really couldn’t be happier, and am still riding on the high from the news!
Safe to say, I have achieved this goal for 2017!
4. Make Some Friends
This was always going to be a hard one. I did start off the year really trying, but as socialising isn’t always something I enjoy, it’s pretty easy to talk myself out of it. Now I’m starting to get a more regular timetable, I will continue to try to do this. I have been talking to people at work, and going out on our work socials. I just always struggle to trust people! But all I can do is keep working on it. I have been trying to at least maintain current friendships, which I guess is something?
This will have to be a goal that comes with me into 2018!
- I passed my Master’s degree, and didn’t just scrape through like I expected!
- I applied for and gained a full-time job at an organisation that I love.
- I’ve nearly finished another large craft project – this time, crochet, which I’m really not good at but determined to try!
Tune back in at the end of the year, when I’ll be outlining my goals for 2018 – and let me know if you have any suggestions or goals of your own!
Saying goodbye to the best stupid dog
It’s quite obvious that I am a cat person. If you didn’t know that already, then where have you been? I do have a special place in my heart for all the dogs we have had through the years though. One stupid dog in particular. But more on her later.
Offie (full name Othello), was my first dog. It took an exceptionally long time to realise that no, he hadn’t gone to live in the attic (a place four-year-old me wasn’t allowed to go). My parents had made the heartbreaking but wise decision that an ageing dog in the same house as four children under four wasn’t the best living situation.
It was a few years before we got Dizzy (full name Desdemona), an amazing Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. I have an image in my head of Dizzy being quite a serious dog, but I know that in reality she probably wasn’t. She was certainly pretty well skilled with the ‘Toller scream’ (see – and hear – below). When she was a few years old, we decided to get a second dog, Mabel (full name Mabel.)
Mabel: The Best Dog Ever
I remember the day we went to get Mabel. It was quite a drive from our home, but I was so excited. It was unfortunate that when we got there we discussed she’d had a bit of a dodgy tummy, but because of the long drive, we had to take her home that day.
The smell of doggy diarrhoea is one I can remember vividly to this day. It didn’t help that my and my sister refused to put her in the boot because we wanted to play with the cute puppy.
Mabel seemed to stay as a puppy for most of her life, both in appearance and behaviour. When Dizzy was still around, Mabel was always beta of their pack of two, so never really needed to grow up. After Dizzy went over the Rainbow Bridge, we got Hector and Cassie. Mabel seemed happy to bow down to her feline overlords rather than acting like an adult dog. Even now, she has a cheeky smile as she climbs onto the sofa next to you, and she gets overexcited about any little thing.
She is getting older though. It’s what surprises me most when I go to my parent’s because I’m not there to see the gradual decline like when I lived there. When I visited last weekend, even sitting up made her pant. She wasn’t eating her food (although she was eating plenty of ice creams when offered) and would look at me in confusion when I tried to send her into the garden to go to the bathroom before bed. Whilst we’ve joked for many years that she was a dead dog walking, it became apparent that the date was fast approaching.
When I left my parent’s last Monday, I made my last goodbye to Mabel. I was half expecting her to still be dragging herself around the house when I return later in the year.
It’s a weird thing with pets, isn’t it? That sometimes we know they’re going to die before it happens. It’s written into the calendar as something that will take place at a certain time.
My mum phoned me on Thursday to let me know the veterinary appointments have been made. One on Wednesday, for a checkup. One on Friday for the procedure. Part of me hopes that the vet may still turn around and say ‘Don’t be silly, she’s got years left in her.’ But it’s unlikely.
I know it’s not a decision that has been lightly by my family. It’s a topic we’ve come back to again and again. It is a kindness, to have her put down. But it’s still heartbreaking.
Mabel has been around for half of my life. I don’t really remember a time before her. She’d been a constant companion – one of the best – and she’ll be greatly missed. Here’s hoping that my parent’s give her a good send off this week – with lots of ice cream.
A Good Send-Off
I’m going to be posting my favourite pictures of me and Mabel over on my Instagram throughout the week, so please check it out.
Love you Mabel, my stupid dog. Cassie, Moët, Chandon and Dizzy will meet you on the other side of the bridge.
Update: Good news! When Mabel visited the vets, they said they felt that there was one last thing they could try before putting her down. Something nmust be working, as at time of updating this post (1st Dec.) she is still with us! Fingers crossed we get to spend one last Christmas together.
What did you do this Bank Holiday?
This time last year, a Bank Holiday meant another day at work for a little bit more pay. Now I’m working and studying, they are a welcome reprise in an otherwise busy life. I have been looking forward to this for several weeks, literally counting down the days until it came along – since I spent my Easter bank holidays travelling to and from my parents!
Taking full advantage of this rest day, I spent my morning deep cleaning my flat – something that has needed to be done for quite some time! I then took Roxy for a little walk and got some work done, before diving back into one of my craft projects that has been pushed to the side for a while.
I’ve been working on this shawl since before Christmas, hoping that it would be done for the cold winter – and obviously failed! The pattern is by Noora Laivola and I found it over on Ravelry. (If you’re not familiar with Ravelry but love knitting and/or crochet, you need to check it out!) I’m using some gorgeous yarn from Sirdar (Sylvan, Broadleaf Colourway) that I fell in love with when I saw it. However, I failed to take into account the texture of this yarn’s impact on the outcome. As the yarn varies in width, some holes have come out bigger than others, and it’s looking a bit weird. I really love the colours though, so I’m willing to overlook the problems with it. It’s definitely taught me a lesson to remember in the future though.
How about you? How did you spend your bank holiday? Or for those across the seas, what would you do if you had a day off work right now? Join the conversation below!
AKA. Finally, A Wedding Present
When you’re invited to the wedding of two special people, you need a special wedding present. Traditionally, this is given, you know, at the wedding, But when you decide it needs to be handmade, even though you have zero time, sometimes the timeline…slips a little. Still, that makes it more of a surprise! After many months of work, I finally sent off a wedding present to my dear friends Emma and Jonny last week, and that means I can finally share it with you all!
Nearly two years after I started it, and several months late, I finally finished @emma_luisa_rose & @jedimasterjonny's wedding present! And now I know it's with them, I can finally post about it! ⠀ ⠀ When I started this project I wasn't really sure who or what it was going to be for – then I found out that these two were getting engaged and given Emma's love for baking, it seemed obvious! Much love to both of you⠀❤ ⠀ #crafts #craft #crossstitch #xstitch #finishedproject
When I started on this project, I wasn’t sure who or what it was going to be for. As I flicked through CrossStitcher I came across the pattern and immediately fell in love. Then, just after I started working on it I found out that Jonny was planning to propose to Emma. Emma is one of the best bakers I’ve ever met, so the sentiment seemed perfect.
Who knows? If they’re really lucky, I might manage the matching cake band one day! Think I might need to tackle a few other works in progress first though.
We’re nearly a quarter of the way through 2017, so now seems as good a time as any to review the goals I set myself for this year. This is also a chance to share my 2017 Achievements so far with you all, and for you to let me know how you’re getting on with you own in the comments below.
1. Finish My Master’s Degree
Back in January, I submitted my first essays for my Master’s degree. I’m not going to lie, it was terrifying. I barely scrapped through my Undergraduate degree, so have been going through some serious imposter syndrome since I got accepted onto the course.
All of this taken into consideration, imagine my surprise when I more than passed my first two modules. My university doesn’t do merit grades for Master’s degrees, but if they did I would be well on my way to getting one. I honestly couldn’t be happier! I’m holding onto my achievements so far as I head into the Easter break – the time to get my next two assessments done and dusted. A distinction isn’t completely out of the question if I score well on these, so I’m going to be throwing myself into the work to make it the best that it can be!
2. Fit in More Crafting
I’ve been a little up and down with this goal. Some weeks I’ve been doing loads (generally when I have something to procrastinate from),and others I haven’t gone near anything craft related. I’m slowly improving though, remembering to make time for myself. I’ve also been reminded that I always feel better when my downtime still seems productive. With this in mind, I’ve taken to adding craft projects to my to do list, so that I feel like I’m getting stuff done whilst still making time for myself to relax. I currently have a couple of projects on the go, which I hope to share with you all soon. I’ve also just finished a huge cross stitch project that I’ve been working on for over a year. I’m hoping to post about it soon – it just needs to get to it’s recipient first!
3. Develop My Career
I started the year by returning to a career I thought I had left behind me long ago. In hindsight, adding a full time job on top of full time studies probably wasn’t the wisest of choices. Regardless of this, it went really well, and I began to question why I had ever left it in the first place.
So, since then I have been seeking out stage management work again. It’s been a little difficult, as I’m restricted by my contact hours at university, but I’ve been making a couple of applications a month. I even have a job interview this week for a perfect sounding job that would combine my stage management experience with my growing applied theatre knowledge. So, fingers crossed for that.
In the meantime, I’ve been continuing with my work placements for university. On top of my pre-existing one from last term, I have a new placement each Wednesday. This one focuses on Marketing and Administration; Two areas I have very little experience in but which will be essential in my future involving an amount of freelance work. On top of my work placement, I’ve started doing some paid reception work with them, which should help make ends meet!
I’m still not sure where all this is leading me. I suspect though that I might be heading towards a series of odd jobs to make ends meet, interspersed with the work I want to do. When I work out what that is, exactly.
4. Make New Friends
I kind of hate myself for putting this on my list of goals for the year. It’s not that I don’t want friends – it wouldn’t be on my list if that was the case. It’s just so difficult! I hate having to put myself out there. Years of social anxiety and trust issues have built a massive wall I have to climb over whenever anything remotely friendship like comes my way.
That being said, I have been making baby steps in the right direction (mainly with help from my lovely ‘Mental Health Specialist Mentor,’ courtesy of the university.) I met up with an old work colleague. I’ve been pushing myself to join more conversations between classes at university. Most scarily of all (for me, at least) I went along to a London Craft Club meetup earlier in the month. The bonus of this is that there was very little pressure to socialise, as everyone was engaged in their own crafts. Plus, it helped me towards my second goal of making more time for my crafts. I haven’t managed to go back since then, but I’m hoping I will some time soon.
So basically, no huge leaps of progress towards any of my goals as of yet, but a couple of little achievements worth mentioning. I’ve listed them below, mainly for personal bragging reasons. It also helps boost my mood when I’m feeling rubbish to remember everything I’ve achieved. Don’t forget to add your own achievements and goals in the comments!
- I have received good marks for my Master’s degree assessments so far.
- I worked on a show as a Stage Manager for the first time in three years. The show got great reviews, and I received high praise for my part on the show.
- Pushing myself to the edges of my comfort zone, I went to a craft group meetup.
- I completed a super secret craft project that I’ve been working on for over a year. Hopefully you’ll hear more about this really soon!
I have never made my love of Lawn Fawn products a secret on this blog. They regularly feature on my wishlist. So, it was with great excitement that I awaited news of their new products for this Spring. When I came across this video by Lesley Oman from Creativation, my excitement tripled.
Lawn Fawn Scalloped BOX Card Die aka. My Saviour
I love making box cards, but I very rarely make them. Why? Because they’re such a pain! All the measuring and hand cutting the box and then trying to fit it all together? I just don’t have the patience for it. So when I discovered Lawn Fawn were releasing a die to solve all my problems, my heart soared.
This video from Lesley perfectly demonstrates what can be done with the new die, as shown by the range of designs on display in the video. It looks super easy to use, which is great for a crafter with a busy life! Unsuprisingly, I’m also quite taken with the Meow You Doin’ Stamp and Die Sets – check out the inspiration from Lawn Fawn below!
Long story short, I cannot wait for Lawn Fawn’s new offerings. I am always uneasy about ordering from outside the UK (mainly due to shipping costs), but with a big enough shopping list, I think I’m going to bite the bullet and go ahead with an order!
How about you guys? Has anything from Lawn Fawn’s new range taken your fancy?