Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Japan Candy Box review and giveaway

Every time Japan Candy Box offer me one of their boxes to review I always say yes!  There are two reasons for this, firstly everyone in our house likes to try new things and my son really loves Japanese food.  Secondly they always offer a second goody box for me to giveaway to one of you!  


Japan Candy Box

If you haven't seen my previous posts let me tell you a little about Japan Candy Box, they offer a monthly subscription service and you can choose from a one off box or a six or twelve month subscription.  In return you receive a box of ten fun and quirky candies and treats delivered straight to your door all the way from Japan!  A single box is $19.90 USD which is just under £15 depending on the exchange rate but the price of the box reduces as the length of your subscription increases.  Worldwide shipping is also free!  

Let's open this one up and show you what is inside!


Yummy treats

Everything looks so fun!

Star shaped choco biscuits

Tohato chocolate biscuits - I am told these biscuits are the favourite snack of the characters in a popular Japanese anime called Crayon Shin Chan.  They are supposed to be puffy and sweet choco corn biscuits but they taste more like cereal to me.  I think they'd be quite nice in a bowl of milk.

Peanuts

Kasugai mixed flavour green beans - There are a few different bags of this product in the boxes including roasted green beans with spices, roasted peas, peanuts and spiced peanuts My bag is regular peanuts which I like, they taste very slightly salted and I'm a fan.  

Choco bananas

Meiji choco bananas -  My children love these!  They are banana shaped chocolates with a banana flavour crisp candy shell on the outside and a nice chocolate filling.  The three of them have polished the box off and I only got to try one!

Soda flavour chewy sweets

Coris soda candy - These chewy round sweets have some fun flavours, pink lemonade, grape soda, cider, cola, ginger ale, apple cider and melon soda.  I'm not sure which colour is which flavour though and it was hard to guess.  I think the pink ones were pink lemonade and they were my favourites.

Lemon cream biscuits

Gilco cream lemon biscuit rolls -  Oh my gosh, these are very moreish!  They are little wafer tubes filled with a yummy, soft, creamy lemon filling. They remind me of Lemon Puff biscuits here in the UK but the Gilco rolls are much lighter.

Grape gummies

Bandai grape gummy - Doraemon is a cute robotic cat who travels back in time and these gummies are shaped as characters from the show.  When I opened the packet I was hit by the smell of grape, it was really strong and they tasted just as good.

Vanilla cookies

Fujiya country ma'am mini vanilla cookies - Fujiya has made these famous and cherished chocolate cookies in Japan for over 30 years, they are incredibly popular! Hidden inside is the vanilla biscuit is a soft, chewy chocolate filling which is nice but if you heat them up a little they are amazing!


Nissin coconut mini sable biscuits - These are very crunchy, sweet little coconut flavoured biscuits with a sugary coating on top.  They would go very well with a cup of tea!

Pineapple candy

Meigum cool pineapple soft candy - These are my favourite treat out of the whole box, they are delicious!  It starts off with a sour hard shell and inside is a sweet, soft and chewy pineapple centre.  I ate all of these by myself and I still want more!

Ramune chewy bar

Meigum Ramune bar - Ramune is a Japanese soda which I have never tried but I have eaten a few sweets that are Ramune flavoured like this chewy bar and I really like it!  I can't describe how it tastes because there's nothing I can compare it to over here in the UK but it is really nice and refreshing.  I think I would enjoy the drink if I ever got to try it!

Okay so this box was fantastic, I got to try lots of weird and wonderful Japanese snacks and they were all yummy!  If you would like to purchase a box for yourself then click here or if you are feeling lucky fill in the gadget below to enter the giveaway!


She's Eclectic Japan Candy Box Giveaway

Good luck everyone!


Monday, 16 October 2017

Artline Monday - Half term ideas and activities

The half term holiday is just around the corner here in the UK so I thought I would give you a few ideas to keep your children entertained while they are at home.  

We like to spend time outside either in the park, exploring or going on nature walks during the school breaks but in October the weather is usually against us so we end up spending a lot of time indoors.  This sometimes leads to cries of "I'm bored!" and "There's nothing to do!" so I have come up with some rainy day activities for when we are stuck inside.

Make your own board game

This is a fun way to pass some time, first of all making the game and then you can play it as often as you like. When it comes to thinking of an idea for the game remember to keep it simple for younger children but do ask them for their ideas because they tend to have the best imaginations!  If you are stuck for inspiration you could try to make your own version of a game that already exists like Snakes and Ladders.  

Supplies to make your game

You can use a large sheet of paper or stick two or four pieces of A4 together to create your base and then flip it over so the tape is on the bottom.  Get some pens and design your board.  Will it be squares like a checker board or will it have a winding path you need to travel along?  You will also need a dice or two, if you don't have any spare you can print out this template and make your own.  For counters you could use small toys, plastic milk bottle tops or pebbles.  I've used a few Artline poster and paint markers to write our initials on some pebbles we collected on holiday.  These are both water proof and fade proof and they really stand out against the grey stone, much more than a regular permanent marker would.

Artline poster & paint markers work on lots of surfaces

I haven't finished making our game yet as I will be doing it with my girls over half term but I will share it on Facebook when it's done!


Whiteboards are pretty useful when you have children.  You can buy small boards for a pound or less and they are the perfect size for playing with.  I have seen them in quite a few shops recently with the back to school supplies so they are easy to get a hold of and Artline have some great whiteboard markers that come in a range of different colours so you aren't stuck with just boring black!  If you own a laminator you could make your own board by laminating a sheet of white card.

Here are a couple of things we do with our boards: 

Traditional games 

Noughts and crosses and hangman are both fun to play whatever age you are!  Of course you can play them on paper too but using a whiteboard means there's no wasted paper and you can play as often as you like.  One quick swipe with the magnetic eraser and you can start again!

Noughts & crosses and Hangman

Quick draw

Who can draw the fastest?  Give the players their own whiteboards or pieces of paper and then tell them something to draw, e.g a cat, a ship, a monkey, a present or a train.  They have to draw the item as fast as they can and the winner is the person who finishes their picture first.

Quick draw

Designer

My eldest daughter wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up and my youngest wants to be just like her big sister!  This designer activity usually takes up quite a bit of time as they both love to draw and we tend to use paper for this so the girls can keep their pictures afterwards.  I give them both a character and they design an outfit for them.  For example Elsa from Frozen getting married or design Supergirl a new costume to fight crime in.  This week they designed their own Halloween costumes, we always start the spooky fun early in our house!  

Halloween costume designs

If your children aren't into fashion you could ask them to come up with an idea for an invention and get them to draw that or design their ideal bedroom or car instead.  


Hopefully these ideas will keep your little ones occupied during half term!  If you have any more games or activities to share with us please let me know in the comments below, I'd love to hear them!



Monday, 9 October 2017

Artline Monday - Bullet Journal basics

Bullet journaling is, according to it's creator Ryder Carroll, an analog system for the digital age.  The idea behind it is to help you track the past, organise the present and plan for the future but a bullet journal is more than just a planner.  It can be anything you want it to be including a sketch book, to do list, notebook, diary and journal, that is the beauty of it!  It is also really easy to set one up, all you need is a notebook and some pens.

My notebook and Artline pens & highlighters

Ideally your notebook should have dotted or squared pages but if you have a lined or plain notebook sat on your shelf you can use that too. 


Index

The first page you need to create is your Index, this will be where you write the page numbers for each section of your bullet journal.  My favourite way to write headers in my journal is to print the word using a highlighter first and then write over the top of it in a smaller, cursive font, I think it looks really pretty.

There are three main sections in a bullet journal, these are the Future Log, the Monthly Log and the Daily Log.  These sections are bones of your bullet journal, anything you add after these are the meat, so-to-speak.

Future Log

Your Future log is an overview of the next six months.  You just need to split your two page spread into six equal size boxes and list the first six months you want to work with.  I have started mine in November as we are already in October. You can use these pages to plan ahead, add any birthdays, reminders and events to the corresponding month and this will give you an idea of what you will have going on.  You can add a little calendar for each month but I decided to pop some inspirational quotes on mine instead.

Monthly Log

The Monthly log is your month at a glance.  On the first page you write down the days of the month and then make a note of anything you need to do or remember.  Some of these things will already be on your Future Log so you can just transfer them across at the start of the month.  I have highlighted the weekends on this page as it helps me break down the month into weeks easily.

On the second page of this log you can get creative!  I have given myself space to list my goals, kids reminders, blog stuff and my tasks for the month but you can put anything on this page that you want to keep track of, accomplish or remember.  You can change this up every month too, if you find the page isn't working for you one month you can try something different the following month until you find your perfect system.

Daily Log

The third section is your Daily Log, this is usually a two page spread set up to plan and record your day.  I have a timeline on the first page, it starts at 6am when I get up and goes on until when I go to bed in the evening.  I use this to visualise my day so I can see what I need to do, where I need to be and at what time.  

I also have two more sections on this page, they are for the weather and a reminder of the goals I want to complete each day.  


Again, on the second page you can do what ever you want!  I divided up the page using a highlighter and the squares on my paper which is a quick and easy way to create a layout.  If you are using plain paper you could use a ruler to make your sections or draw them freehand, your bullet journal doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be useful!



Food tracking, memories, brain dump & more

My first section on this page is for me to record the food I have eaten and then the next two are for my best and worst moments of the day. 

Brain dump is where I write down things I need to remember and my Christmas countdown is just there because I'm childishly excited for the festive season!


I have a small section for my shopping list, I add anything on here that I either need to buy that day or things I am running out of and will need to buy when I do the weekly shop.


My last section is to record my mood that day, I am still doing my year in pixels as well but I wanted to keep everything together in the bullet journal instead of spreading them out over two books.


Ideas for your daily log could be:


  • A doodle a day
  • Exercise 
  • Meditation
  • Reminders
  • Reading log
  • Quote of the day

If you don't think you need a whole page or two for your Daily Log then you could create a weekly spread instead.  It is up to you to decide what would work best for you or try out a few different things and see how they feel.

Bullet journal symbols

On my Index page I also added a key for the symbols you use in the logs as part of this system.  They are a dot for tasks, a circle for events and a line for notes.  You can also use an asterisk to signify something as important.  Once you have completed a task you change the dot into an X.  Any tasks that you haven't completed need to be considered, is it something that still needs to be done and is it worth your time doing it?  If you no longer need to complete the task you can cross it through, if you decide to complete it at a later date you change the dot into a > to show you have moved it onto your Monthly Log.  If you think the task will be completed at a much later date, like in a month or two then you use this < to show it has been moved onto your Future Log.  This is called migration and it is an important way to help you manage your time and whittle down your to do lists.

So what do you think of Bullet Journalling?  Will you be giving it a go or are you already a seasoned user? 


Monday, 2 October 2017

Artline Monday - Study tips

As it is still the beginning of the school year now is the perfect time to get into some good study habits.  A little bit of preparation can save you some time and stress later on so let's get started!


My study tips list created with Artline pens

When it comes to studying I've always found it easier to break down what I need to learn into small chunks and then take a short break after completing each section as a reward.  You could go and make yourself a drink, give yourself a little treat, go for quick walk to stretch your muscles or try a breathing exercise to relax before hitting the books again.


Colour coding is a great way to make your notes look more interesting, easier to read and helps you to highlight important information.  I've also read that you are more likely to remember something written in blue ink than black ink so it's worth giving that a go and try writing the most useful things in blue ink to see if it helps you.



Break things down, colour code,
organise supplies & make notes

My favourite thing about studying is the stationery!  You definitely need some nice pens in a variety of styles and colours.  Artline fineliners, highlighters and markers all make fab notes and will add a splash of colour to your revision.  Post it notes, page flags and a planner or notebook are also essential.

When it comes to going back over your work it is worth making some notes to help the information sink in.  Writing something down once is said to be the equivalent of reading it seven times and putting the info down in your own words also makes it easier to recall and understand. 

Use mind maps & don't stress out

Mind maps are a fun way to see how things connect when studying.  They are especially helpful for people who prefer a visual learning tool and as they are both analytical and creative, they engage both sides of your brain.  Mind maps are a good way to see the structure of the subject you are studying, the central idea goes in the middle of the page and then the main branches are for all the subtopics which then lead onto the smaller subtopics.  Make sure you use a large size piece of paper like A4 or A3, turn it to landscape orientation so you have plenty of room to create your map and try to incorporate some colour for each set of branches/subtopics.

Finally, don't stress out!  If you are feeling overwhelmed take a proper break and talk to someone, share your woes and worries.  Sometimes just saying out loud what is bothering you can make you feel better.   You could also try going for a long walk outside to clear your brain, the exercise will release some endorphins and help you come back to things in a better frame of mind.

Do you have any study tips to share with us?  I'd love to know!


Friday, 29 September 2017

Planner Friday - September

Planner Friday has rolled around again and my latest post is now up on the Trendy Twine blog.  Please pop over and say hi!

Hello!  There are only a few days of September left and I am so excited for October and Halloween!  I love having spooky fun with my family throughout the month, we watch scary movies, carve pumpkins, put creepy decorations up and sort out costumes for trick or treating.  I thought I'd create a Halloween theme for my planner pages too with some of my APB stamps!



Products used:

My October at a glance


The first thing I did for this monthly spread was to colour in any special days, these are my husband's days off work, Halloween (of course!) and the half term school holiday.  Then I used the At Home and School Days stamp sets to add in bills due, reminders and my children's after school clubs.  Because this is just an overview for October I don't have to put too much detail into it, I mainly use it to see how my month looks as a whole and how busy I am going to be.  Thankfully it doesn't look to crazy at the moment! 
  


Frankenstein and vampire bat treats...



You can read the rest of my post here and thanks for stopping by!


Monday, 25 September 2017

Artline Monday - Thinking of you week

Have you heard of Thinking of you week?  I can't believe it is in it's fourth year and I have only just learned about it!  The idea behind this special week is to create a wave of love and happiness by sending greeting cards, letters and notes to people to let them know you care.  The good news is you don't have to wait to grab your pens and other stationery bits, the week starts today!

I have always been a fan of letter writing and love it when I see a handwritten envelope arrive through the letter box.  The majority of my post is bills, leaflets and marketing materials so receiving a card or letter always brightens my day!  It is nice to get a text, a message or email from friends but post is extra special, someone has taken the time to put pen to paper and get in touch which leaves me feeling happy and positive.  If you want to spread a little happiness too this week is the perfect time to do it.


Here are some ideas to celebrate Thinking of you week...


Send a card and put a smile on someone's face!


You could send a greeting card to someone special just to let them know you are thinking about them.  If you have some fun stamps like this gold star one you can make plain envelopes look more exciting!



Spread a little happiness with greeting cards and fun stamps

Write a letter to a friend

Why don't you send a letter to one of your friends?  If you are like me then you might be hoarding some lovely writing paper and envelopes, break them out and put them to use!  


Find yourself a penpal


If you like the idea of having a penpal there are lots of groups on Facebook dedicated to helping you find someone to exchange letters with all over the world or hit google and see what website are available.


Send a drawing or postcard

If you have children why not get them to send a picture or postcard to someone they care about?  I'm sure their Nanny, Grandad, Aunt, Uncle or best friend would love a little surprise in the mail from them!

My daughter's seascape drawing for someone special

Write a note

Another idea for children is to pop a little note in their school or lunch bag for them to find later.  It could be a joke, a silly poem or just wishing them a good day at school.  If your note is going in with their lunch make sure you use a waterproof pen like this Artline Supreme permanent marker so it will still be readable if anything leaks or spills!  If you want you can add some stickers or extra decoration with a metallic pen like the Artline 900XF, I love how well pink and silver go together.

My note and Artline pens

Did you already know about Thinking of you week?  Will you be joining in and sending some surprises out in the mail?  Studies have shown that receiving a handwritten card, letter or note has an emotional impact which makes people feel far more special and cared for and I think that is a beautiful thing!  Let's get writing!


Friday, 15 September 2017

Artline Monday - Hand lettering and calligraphy

Earlier in the year I was bitten by the lettering bug and ever since then I have been trying to improve my writing and learn how to do calligraphy again.  I used to be quite good at it when I was younger, I had a set with different colour inks and assorted nibs but I got out of the habit and I'd forgotten the basics so I had to start again from the beginning.  I would definitely say that I am still a novice but I do have some tips for you today if you fancy giving it a go.


Created using Artline calligraphy pens, calligraphy markers,
brush markers and drawing pens

Look online

If you don't know where to start then the internet holds the answers!  I have found lots of help and ideas for hand lettering by simply Googling it and searching Pinterest.  There are worksheets you can print off and use or you can find interesting fonts to copy freehand.  There are also hours and hours of video on YouTube with lessons on how to do calligraphy and lettering for beginners.  Grab yourself some paper, a pen or brush marker, fire up the videos and start learning!


Take your time and don't forget to breathe


A good piece of advice I was given by a calligraphy expert is to go slowly and take your time.  There's no rush and the longer you take on each letter or word the more control you will have over your pen. 

It is really easy to sit and hold your breath while you are writing because you are concentrating so hard, don't forget to breathe!  

Have fun

There's no point in learning a new skill if you don't enjoy it!

Mix fonts and pens

Try mixing fonts and different kinds of pens to create a fun look.  In the spread above I used some Stix drawing pens which have a really fine tip and then paired that with brush markers which are much broader and great for any type of flowing/cursive writing.

Practice

Spend a little time on your writing each day, you will soon see an improvement!

I am using these Artline calligraphy pens to practice the alphabet at the moment, they are available in four different widths, 1mm through to 4mm and come in a range of colours.  What I especially like about these pens is that the ink doesn't bleed through the pages of my notebooks so I can use both sides of the paper and not waste any space.  They are also smudge resistant so there's less chance I will ruin my work with a stray finger!  

Depending on how much spare time I have, I try to do a page or two of practice a day.  I want to get to the point where it becomes second nature for me to write letters this way instead of my regular handwriting!  When you are trying to do calligraphy remember that your down strokes should be harder making them thicker and the up strokes lighter and thinner.  

I also have a few calligraphy markers in my collection, these are permanent markers and are great for crafts like card making because they write on coated papers that are nice and glossy.

My calligraphy practice using a 1mm pen in sepia

Cheat

Sometimes I sketch out the word I want to write in pencil before going over it in pen.  It gives me a chance to work on how it looks before I commit to doing it in ink and I can play around with the thickness and adding little flourishes to the letters.  

It doesn't have to be perfect


It is okay to make mistakes, you can either try to correct them or start again.

Try different pens


Try different pens to see which work best for you.  I have a calligraphy pen that you have to dip into the ink to use but I find it much easier to use a regular pen that has a calligraphy style tip.  This means I don't have to stop every minute to reload my ink or worry about knocking the bottle over when I am trying to work on my letter formations.    


Pen test - calligraphy pens and Stix brush markers

If you are learning calligraphy or lettering at the moment or if you have already mastered the skills do you have any hints or tips I have missed out?  Please share them with us!


Monday, 11 September 2017

Artline Monday - Christmas planning

I am sorry if you aren't feeling ready to deal with Christmas just yet but it is September and I always find my mind wondering towards Christmas planning around now.  You might be thinking "Ahhh it's ages away!" but we're already nearly down to double digits when it comes to the number of shopping days left!  I find the more I plan ahead and get things out of the way early means I have more time to relax and enjoy the season when December rolls around.


My Christmas planner, notebook and festive Artline pens

I have a special Christmas planner that I have been using for years.  It contains everything I need, from Christmas card lists, gift ideas and recipes to shopping lists and a record of our traditions.  I usually take it down from the shelf in September and have a flick through it to get me in the mood for starting my Christmas prep.  If you have a notebook or a ring binder you can make your own planner to help you stay on track of festive things each year too.  I recommend the following to help you get ready for the season ....

Declutter

Now is the perfect time to have a clear out.  If your house feels cluttered you’ll want to simplify things.  You will need room for your tree, decorations and festive nic nacs soon enough!  Start small, a room at a time, consider if you need everything.  Sort things in piles – toss, donate or keep. Organise everything that you’ve decided to keep into drawers, cupboards and wardrobes, keeping them out of sight. 

If you have children get them to sort through their toys to find things that are broken or have missing pieces, these can be thrown away.  Any toys they have outgrown or no longer want can be donated to a charity shop if they are clean and in working order.  You want to make space for the new toys, gadgets and games they will be receiving.

If you have too many books in your house (I'm not sure that anyone can have too many books but that's just me!) you can donate some to your local library if they are in good condition.

Gift ideas

Work out your budget for gifts this year and who you need to buy for.  Do you have an idea of what they would like for a present?  If not you still have plenty of time to find out, either surreptitiously or just ask them directly.  

I usually keep a notebook in my bag, if I see a gift I think someone would like I can make a note of it.  I also write down the shop it is in and the price, this means I can either find it again later when I am ready to do some Christmas shopping or I can search online and see if I can find it for a better price elsewhere.


Making lists is a great way to get organised

Shopping

If you can start some of your present shopping now it will save you some stress later on.  Ordering things online in December is a bit of a nightmare, will it be in stock?  Will it arrive on time?  Will I be home when they try to deliver?  Will it get caught up in the Christmas post backlog and disappear? Shopping now means you will have lots of time if things go wrong and you will avoid the Christmas rush.

Shopping in actual stores is a lot nicer now too, yes there's no Christmas music blaring through the speakers yet but you will avoid the queues, the hustle and bustle and panic buying.  If you don't find something today you still have time and you won't be tempted into buying something you wouldn't usually just because Christmas Day is looming and you can't face hitting the shops again!

Lastly, don't forget to cross them off your shopping list once you have purchased their gift/s.  It's quite easy to buy someone a present earlier in the year and then forget about it so you end up shopping for them twice!

Christmas cards

No, I'm not suggesting you buy, write and post your Christmas cards right now but it is easier to write them in small batches over a period of time so your handwriting stays nice and neat and you won't get cramp in your hand.  If you can buy the cards earlier (after all they will probably be in the shops just after Halloween!) you can take your time getting them done.  

Sometimes the only contact I have with some people is a Christmas card once a year so I like to make them look special.  I use metallic pens and I add some decorative tape and festive stamps and stickers to the envelopes to spread a little extra festive cheer.  If you are going to use a gold or silver pen to address your envelopes make sure it is a waterproof one like the Artline900XF or Artline999XF so the ink doesn't run in bad weather as they make their way through the postal system.


Metallic pens, tape, stamps and stickers add a touch of fun


Friends and family who live abroad

If you know anyone who lives abroad it is worth checking the last postage dates for parcels and cards before December.  Some countries need the items shipped within the first week of December to arrive on time which is cutting it fine if you haven't planned ahead.


Do you have any hints or tips for Christmas planning?  I would love to hear them!