Five lessons from 2017

As with every year that passes, 2017 taught me some real life lessons. Here, I share the five biggest things I learned last year – about myself and my business. 

Lesson One: People still want my work.

When you’re self-employed and work alone from home, you often feel you’re in a little bubble. Your friends, customers and peers are all online, and it’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of comparison and jealousy when you scroll the Instagram feeds of fellow creative businesses and see their amazing creations and picture-perfect lives. Of course, I’m not delusional – I know everyone presents their best side online, but that doesn’t stop me being full of self-doubt.

I’ve been papercutting for more than six years now, and the days of being booked solidly for commissions for 18 months are long gone (I shudder at the pressure I used to put myself under!). I’m a lot less busy than I used to be. I know I’m not alone in this, and I’m happy with the amount of work I have on as it’s easier to balance with family life. So when I do get enquiries and send out invoices for one of a kind pieces, it still feels amazing. Every time my iPhone makes the cha-ching till sound when I get an Etsy sale, I do a little dance and a big “wahoo!”. It’s great to still feel wanted after six years of doing this (despite what my imposter syndrome monsters try to convince me), and it’s an honour to be kept busy by lovely customers with such great projects and orders. It helps put food on our table, pay towards the bills, and keeps me out of trouble – thank you. Always.

2017 saw me hand-draw and hand-cut a wonderful selection of commissions (a few are pictured above), from an architectural wedding venue cut to mermaids, seaside scenes and Cornish landscapes. I created a vintage typewriter which I turned into Valentine’s cards (buy them here!), cut lots more scenes of Yorkshire’s famous landmarks, cut some big family trees, pretty wedding hearts and colourful children’s name pieces, and developed new templates and kits in order to pass my passion for paper to others through delivering three fantastic workshops. I continued my work with Etsy’s Team York, hit 500 sales in my Etsy shop, and undertook my largest commission ever. Again – thank you.

Lesson two: I’m stronger than I realise.

I’m not a very resilient person, and lord knows me and my immediate family have had some trying times over the years. This year has been one of the most trying, but also one that’s taught me I am far stronger than I think. The year began on an unsteady footing as we recovered from the unexpected passing of a close family member, ascended into bliss as we discovered we were expecting our second child, and descended to despair when we discovered there was no pregnancy.

Laurence and I decided earlier this year that we really wanted to extend our family, and we were overjoyed to discover those thin blue lines in July. Everything seemed pretty normal – belly growing, strong symptoms, positive tests – and we were so excited to share our news with our seven-year-old after the 12-week scan in September. But it wasn’t to be. There was just an empty sac, with no baby. I said the words at the same time as the sonographer –  “a missed miscarriage”, while Laurence looked at me, dumbfounded. My body had been playing tricks on me, and it was a further two months of emotional and physical torment (eventually resulting in me needing surgery) before I was officially no longer pregnant. Even though I never really had been.

Missed miscarriage scan

Little Baby Nothing – discovering my missed miscarriage in September was a massive shock.

Once you see those two lines, your world changes. You feel all the fears and have all the hopes. But after that scan, hope went out like a candle. Hope for the little piece of love that would always be in my heart, but never in my arms. I read somewhere that you can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability, and I feel vulnerable putting this in words, but every brave step helps the healing.

A little over two weeks after my surgery, I was driving myself to the Lake District to deliver a workshop, for which I’d created three new products and devised and put together DIY packs and templates (and started selling them in my online shop). I don’t know how I managed it, but I did. December was one of my busiest months ever, with another workshop plus a Christmas market and a ton of online sales – and I was doing it all singlehandedly, putting in crazy hours as Laurence was working away in his new job and only home at weekends. Had my mind not been kept so busy, I think the final weeks of the year would’ve turned out very differently. So again, I’m so grateful for all of the orders and enquiries – you don’t know how much that busy-ness helped me get through the experience. It certainly taught me that I’m stronger than I thought.

Lesson three: I love teaching

After nine years of self-employment, I’ve become used to my own company. Sometimes I can go a full day without speaking to another adult. Which leads me to act like a complete dork when I do engage in adult conversation. I pull stupid facial expressions, and make foot-in-mouth comments. Social decorum is not exactly my middle name!

So when I have to professionally ‘adult’ in front of other adults, who’ve *paid* for me to stand in front of them and teach them something… It can be quite daunting (we’ll gloss over the fact that I used to teach at a real-life college!). As someone who has long suffered from horrendous panic attacks and anxiety over public engagements, it’s a wonder I can pull my rear end into gear and actually teach workshops. But teach them I do!

I taught three in 2017, at the wonderful ArtisOn and at glorious new venue Swallows & Artisans. There’s nothing I enjoy more than sharing my passion for paper with an enthusiastic bunch of lovely people. Seeing their faces as they pull a finished papercut away from the template, or pose proudly for a picture with their finished creations… I just love it. Expect to see more workshops in 2018 – subscribe to my newsletter if you want to be kept up to date on when they’re happening. And if you know of a great venue who you think would love me to teach there, please let me know about it!

Lesson four: Family and friends are everything

After a trying year, I can barely begin to thank my family and friends for being there for me. I’ve made more of an effort to be social this year, rather than cooping myself up alone in my little studio, and it’s certainly helped my mental health. And probably my productivity as well!

Batfest collage_MelissaHolmes

Batfest… Heavenly!

From lunch dates with creative girlfriends and giggle-filled meetings with my Etsy Team York posse, to full weekends camping with creative geniuses; friends and fun were a central part of 2017. Once again, Batfest was a highlight. It’s not a festival dedicated to bats, it’s just a small get together organised between a bunch of creative indie businesses which this year involved camping, Smores, giant bubbles, stand-up paddleboarding, wheelbarrow races, eating, star-gazing, campfires, balloon modelling, rowing, face-painting, macrame, henna, dogs, country walks and an epic water fight. Very much looking forward to doing it all again this year!

Then of course there are the times when friends and family go above and beyond to help out in times of need – like when school mums take my daughter C to school while I’m struggling to stand upright due to a flare-up of my chronic pain condition, or my Dad and stepmum step in to help out with C when I’m too ill to manage, or one of my oldest friends accompanies me to the hospital to take the tablets to induce my miscarriage, and stays with me for the next ten hours through the contractions and crying to rub my back and bring me pain meds. Thank you Em, I’ll never forget your kindness and love over the past year and will never be able to repay you.

As independent as I like to think I am, 2017 taught me that I can’t get by without my friends and family. I’m so grateful to have such a special bunch of people in my life.

Lesson five: Self-care is vital

A couple of years ago, I read the quote “an empty vessel cannot serve”. To me, that translates as “you’ve got to fill your own cup before you can fill anyone else’s” – like when you put your own oxygen mask on first on a plummeting plane.

Spring is always a great time for new beginnings for me, and starting to try to extend our family corresponded with me really pushing my exercise and clean eating up a notch from around March onwards. I started lifting weights, my daily workouts went from 20 minutes to at least an hour a day and I was restless and tetchy if I didn’t get my exercise-induced endorphin boost. To me, exercise is a huge part of self-care – it gives me more energy, and helps me manage my pain condition. Plus lifting weights makes you feel ruddy incredible, like you can take on the world. So 2018 is seeing much more of that happening (I had to put exercise on hold with the whole pregnancy thing last year), along with more early nights, more daily gratitude lists and more making time for the things I enjoy doing (reading, art galleries, day trips with my family, good walks…). Last year showed me the rewards I can reap when I take better care of myself, and that’s a great lesson to learn. It’s inspired one of my new product ranges this year, and I’m so excited to share with you the first piece from the new range, which sums up this happy-go-lucky approach.

DoMoreOfWhatMakesYouHappy art print_HolmesMadePapercuts

Do More of What Makes You Happy – words to live by for 2018, and a fab new print by me, available now in my Etsy shop

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know a little more about my lessons of 2017. What were the biggest things you learned last year? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Much love,

Melissa x

PS – I know I’m posting this blog at the end of January, so it’s a bit late. But I don’t think I’m the only one who finds those first few weeks of the new year a little overwhelming! There was a lot to process last year… And this post is better late than never.

Busy in the kitchen!

Kale... From my veg patch to my green juice!

#TeamKale… From my veg patch to my green juice!

My love of being creative extends to the kitchen, so trying new recipes and food ideas is one of my favourite things… I even love to grow my own food.

Those of you who follow my Instagram feed will know I’m a huge fan of juicing and healthy eating, but that I also have a seriously sweet tooth.

So imagine my delight – thanks to the big surge in popularity of whole foods and clean eating – when I discovered a simple recipe for homemade chocolate hazelnut spread, and when I found out about the marvel that is ‘nice cream’.

Homemade pancakes... One of my favourite naughty treats just got a smidgen healthier thanks to homemade chocolate spread.

Homemade pancakes… One of my favourite naughty treats just got a smidgen healthier thanks to homemade chocolate spread.

Nutella is a go-to for me; whether I’m spreading it on homemade pancakes (here are some I made earlier!), dipping my pretzels in it, or just eating it straight from the jar. On a spoon.

But the ingredients list isn’t all that appetising, with palm oil high on the list. Since my large jar was down to its last dregs, I decided to attempt to make my own. Right after I finished eating those pancakes! Homemade hazelnut chocolate spread is actually really simple to make, with just a few ingredients. Here’s how I made mine, with my recipe slightly adapted from this one which I found in the Guardian.

You’ll need…
200g whole hazelnuts
One teaspoon of cacao powder (if you don’t have this, you can use regular cocoa powder, like you’d use in baking)
Four teaspoons of caster sugar (you can leave this out if you prefer)
Two teaspoons of groundnut oil
One teaspoon of vanilla essence

Roasted hazelnuts, before removing the skinsFirst, spread the hazelnuts out on a baking tray and pop in the oven at 180ºC for about ten minutes, maybe fifteen. Once the outside skin of the nuts has gone dark brown, wrap the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel and massage the tea towel ‘bag’ vigorously against your worktop. Give the bag a good rub back and forth to loosen the skins of the hot nuts (so many opportunities for sniggering here, sorry) – it’ll take some doing but you’ll be left with a pile of clean hazelnuts (you can pick any stubborn skins off by hand, or pop them back in the oven to roast a little longer).
Once you’ve got skinless nuts(!), pop them in the food processor with a teaspoon of the oil and whizz for a few minutes till the mixture takes on a buttery consistency. You can then add the rest of the ingredients including the remaining teaspoon of oil, along with a pinch of salt. Whizz all of this up for a few more minutes in order to get chocolate hazelnut spread. Once done, pop it into a clean jam jar and store it in the fridge, where it’ll keep for a month. If you can actually keep it that long!

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Mine has a lovely roasted nutty taste (I left a few stubborn skins on the nuts) and a rich chocolatey flavour (I used a posh block of pure cacao which is meant to be for hot chocolate, but I grated it and it worked fine!). My spread was also quite crunchy (I could’ve blended it for longer) which is really tasty, especially with the little crumbles of salt I can taste in it. It might not look as smooth or as dark as the original recipe, but… Mmmmmm… Pass me a spoon!

Next up was tea (roast chicken, blanched kale and summer potatoes, in case you’re wondering!), then – more importantly – pudding!!

If you’ve never heard of nice cream, you’re missing a treat. It’s dairy free and divine. What’s more, it’s been taking over my Instagram feed for months. Just look at these beautiful examples…

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So how do you make it? Next time you have overripe bananas (a rarity in this house), simply slice them up and put them in the freezer. Then when you want a refreshing, cooling dessert, just grab those frozen banana bits and whizz them up! It’s as simple as that. With frozen bananas as the base, you can then any other frozen fruit into the food processor at the same time (we used strawberries tonight) or even cocoa powder or matcha. It’s a great reason to raid the reduced-price fruit in the supermarket – just bring it home and pop it in the freezer. After a couple of minutes of blending, you’re left with a delicious, creamy nice cream!

Strawberry and banana 'nice cream'

Strawberry and banana ‘nice cream’

It’s definitely something I’ll be making again… She wolfed it down in minutes!!

Strawberry and banana 'nice cream'... Didn't last long!

Strawberry and banana ‘nice cream’… Didn’t last long!

Well that’s enough of my foodie chatter for now… I just had to share the homemade choc spread and more importantly the nice cream with you! Definitely worth a try this summer. Why not give them a go?

All images and words © Melissa Holmes :: holmesmadepapercuts, unless stated/otherwise credited. Please do not use, alter, copy or redistribute without my prior consent.

Spring update

spring pic

March already! Yikes. Life continues at a hectic pace here at HM HQ. New designs, more commissions and new products seem to be appearing left, right and centre! To match the blooming daffs and blossoming crocuses, I am going through a wonderful period of creativity and productivity – it’s fab! Alongside that, my little girl is really flourishing and showing me more and more of her creative side everyday, which is just wonderful! At four and a half, she’s quite the little artist, and I’m proud that she sees that as a viable job option for her future! I must share some with you, being a super-proud mum and all…

She has been helping with some order packing too… Sticking on stickers and my return address labels. Well, I have been kinda busy!

It's a good job I get on with the folks at my village Post Office!

So, what’s new? Well, I recently had my first small exhibition through in beautiful Harrogate at the stunning RHS Gardens, Harlow Carr. “Let’s Get Creative” saw a host of designers and makers come together to showcase their work and also do demonstrations of their craft, in a bid to encourage others to take up new crafts for the new year.

Papercutting demonstration by Melissa Holmes at RHS Gardens Harlow Carr, February 2015.

In preparation for the event, I was asked to put together Beginner’s Papercutting Sets. These feature everything you need to get started with the wonderful hobby of papercutting, including a couple of Holmes-made templates, spare papers, the same tools and materials I use, and of course a hints and tips sheet which condenses more than three years of my self-taught knowledge and experience! Feedback on the kits has been great so far; you can get yours here!

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I’m absolutely thrilled to say that my work will be exhibited and for sale again at RHS Gardens Harlow Carr from March 17th until April 12th 2015, with a selection of originals, prints, cards and other products available.

Which leads me nicely on to those ‘other products’. 2015 is very much a year of new things for me here at Holmes-made, and I’m delighted to share with you these new products, which first went on sale in January and have been really popular. I have introduced a range of notebooks featuring some of my favourite designs, including my very popular ‘Creative Minds’ piece, which is a new original completed in January. These notebooks are perfect for doodles, daydreams, and dull stuff like shopping lists. I’ve also had two sizes of mugs printed with my ever-popular rainbow hearts design… Just to give you that extra boost with your morning cuppa!

Just some of the new items available from Holmes-made

And finally, I’ve also been working on more beautiful fabricy pieces, including extending my flora and fauna range with three new originals featuring British birds (pictured below are my robin and blue tit prints). I’m still working on this range, with more flowers and creatures to come, all featuring gorgeous fabric infills which, much like my tiny colour infills have in the past, are becoming something of a trademark to my work!

I think that pretty much covers it… For now! More mug and notebook designs are on their way, along with more new original pieces that I’m so excited to complete.

I hope you like what you see. Thanks as always for your support of my business!

Melissa x

PS – I’m very excited to be hosting my first ever papercutting WORKSHOP in early May! Further details of this will be announced in early April… Please keep your eyes on my social media for more info.

Breathless with gratitude.

As I approach my fourth year of papercutting, I look back over the wild ride of the past three years since I first picked up a scalpel and “had a go”.

Gosh, it’s been a while since my last post, and a lot has been going on!! But as we approach Christmas and I take a quick breather from the commissions I’m working on which will be gifted on the 25th, I want to take a brief look back over this year.

From having the privilege of completing lots of beautiful personalised commissions to creating a number of new print designs, to launching my own website and online shop and taking part in the Small Business Saturday national bus tour, 2014 has really been a busy year for me!!

15795905416_2cfca29b81_o

Me with a local councillor and local small business owners in York City Centre as part of Small Business Saturday celebrations. Image courtesy of York City Council. https://www.flickr.com/photos/yorkcouncil/15795905416/in/set-72157649344248052/

In a few days’ time it’ll be exactly three years since I first picked up a scalpel to create a papercut. It was something that would change my life completely. I could never have imagined that within a few of months of starting I would have enough work to keep me going for three years!! The enquiries have continued, the gratitude-filled feedback from my customers just gets more and more heartwarming, and I’m forging links with clients and other businesses which are so supportive and beneficial to both me and my little company… And to others I hope!!

MAKE TODAY MARVELLOUS

A key element of what I do is about spreading joy. It’s one of my main reasons for doing what I do. Whether it’s a personalised family tree cut, a colourful print with a motivational quote or a charitable action (such as contributing a raffle prize to a DEC appeal fundraiser, or helping to raise £750 for Cancer Research UK), I want to use my skill and my reach to help create change. From my clients’ wonderful feedback, I know I am doing that. And it means so much – *so much* – that I am able to do that. I’ve made people I’ve never even met cry with the happy memories that feature in their bespoke commissions. I’ve helped others celebrate birthdays, marriages, civil partnerships, christenings, anniversaries and retirements through my work. My work has been used by my clients to mark a turning point in their lives, a new start, a chance to “Make Today Marvellous” and begin every day with a fresh start and a positive mindset as they glance at my work on their walls.

Do you know how amazing that feels? Can you possibly comprehend the feeling I get when a valued customer (who really doesn’t know me from Adam) opens their heart to me, spills out their soul and explains their motivation for buying an original, ordering a print or commissioning a piece? And so many of them do it – it’s something I could never have anticipated when I first started out three years ago.

And I am so grateful for it. So grateful.

You really are.

NOT ALL PLAIN SAILING

It sounds like 2014 has been a great year for me, and it has in so many respects. But, after a rocky start, I had a breakdown in March and hit rock bottom with my depression. Bad things were going on, work fell to the wayside and life felt incredibly tough. I didn’t open up about it on my blog, on my Facebook page or anywhere really. A tight-knit circle of online friends became my life raft; people to cling to when I felt I was drowning in my emotions, unable to function on the most basic of levels and really struggling to maintain the facade of the happy, joy-making artist. Simply getting by as a mummy, making it to preschool drop-offs or doing the weekly shop, was like dragging myself through wet cement.

This was my third or fourth bout of severe depression. It wasn’t until I posted a pic on my Instagram (a crumpled up tissue with a caption about anxiety and how it had such a control over my life) that I realised I was ok to talk about it. That by opening up a little, I was helping heal myself and also – amazingly – helping others. The tragic loss of Robin Williams saw many more people open up. I began to see a counsellor, I went to group sessions to discuss self-esteem and valuing yourself… Two proper breaks away, with sunshine, beaches and facing my fears and anxieties head on (I can’t tell you the terror I felt at the most basic everyday activities) have helped a lot. The support of friends and loved ones has helped a lot. Opening up about it (a little) to my social media followers helped a lot.

Feeling the love (and the fun!) with some of my online support network in real life in November 2014; an activity that I couldn't have even contemplated earlier in the year. Pictured with fellow small business owners and party types SoFire Creations, Emma Boyes Papercutting Artist, Sarah Travis Artist and Illustrator, Dolly Dearlove and halfpinthome

Feeling the love (and the fun!) with some of my online support network in real life in November 2014; an activity that I couldn’t have even contemplated earlier in the year. Pictured with fellow small business owners and arty types SoFire Creations, Emma Boyes Papercutting Artist, Sarah Travis Artist and Illustrator, Dolly Dearlove and halfpinthome

But mostly, it was down to me. I have had some serious revelations this year about my almost-lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety, and I am so proud of myself for turning it around. It’s taken a huge shift in thinking, in behaviour and in me, but I’m starting to find myself again, feel comfortable in my own skin and – quite simply – to love myself again. Cripes… Don’t I sound mega-cheesy?? But it’s how I feel.

PICK A PART THAT LOOKS GOOD

All of that is for another blog post really, but I wanted to share a little of it with you because it’s true we all have our struggles, our battles and our demons; and in this highly edited, Instagram-filtered, rose-tinted online life, it can be very easy to take things at face value and think everyone has it better than you; that everyone else’s life is more fun-filled, vibrant, picture-perfect and just ruddy perfect than your own. It’s not.

A real-life moment of pure joy; walking the dog with my daughter in Summer... No filters required.

A real-life moment of pure joy; walking the dog with my daughter in Summer… No filters required.

And it’s this that inspires me. Creating my art (although it can cause me a lot of headaches at times) makes other people happy, and it makes me happy too. I want to live my life authentically, to be true to myself and to create a life I love and that my family loves. These are my goals. I am so privileged to do what I do, and I certainly don’t take it for granted.

FULL STEAM AHEAD

2015 will be an exciting year for me. I’m already setting goals and making plans – something I’ve never really done before (being an expert at bumbling along!!). I have some interesting events coming up which will require a lot of work but could lead to great things, I’m going to be introducing new products and spreading my wings a little, and I’m going to focus more on taking care of myself and my family, as well as keeping my wonderful clients happy.

And although I guess I’ll always live with depression and anxiety, I’m now better equipped with the tools to cope with the bad patches and knockbacks. As a thank you for your support this year, I’m running a little giveaway over on my Facebook page, and will continue to run offers and reward customer loyalty with discount codes in 2015.

Here’s to a wonderful Christmas and New Year for all of my friends, family, customers and supporters. Let’s make 2015 marvellous.

Make Today Marvellous

Inspired by this post?? Want to share your own goals for 2015, or your own milestones of 2014? Feel free to leave a comment!!

Don’t forget I have commission slots available from May 2015 onwards, so if you’d like to commission a special piece, please drop me a line.

HELLO SUNSHINE

Splashing in the paddling pool, dangling off the climbing frame, creating masterpieces in poster paint and camping in the garden… Those are some of my childhood memories of summer. Six long weeks of full-time fun; I’m sure it wasn’t entirely rose-tinted, but I’m pretty sure I had a great time a lot of the time.

And now I’m all grown up (boo) with a daughter of my own (yeay!). I have the luxury of working from home and getting to spend the duration of the summer holidays with my girl, C. It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong – juggling a home-based job with an active three-year-old and no childcare is certainly a challenge (as I’m sure many of you will understand), but I know I’m privileged to get to spend the time with little C. She’ll start big school in a year, and it’s weighing heavy on my mind that the lazy, hazy days of the summer hols will soon be the longest amount of time we get to spend together all year, so I need to make the most of them.

Here’s how…

FREE STUFF

Exploring the woods  © Holmesmadepapercuts

Exploring the woods
© Holmesmadepapercuts

Holidays can be an expensive time, whether it’s forking out for days out, coughing up for the increased costs of a holiday away or paying for those little treats when you pop to the shops.

No matter where you live, there are endless amounts of free stuff you can get out and do. From creating science experiments using ingredients in your kitchen cupboards to enjoying a teddy bears’ picnic in your local park or spending a day at a free museum, there’s probably more available than you expect, right on your doorstep. Check out your local library, Children’s Centre (if you’ve still got one!) or contact your local council or leisure centre to find out if there’s anything going on near you for free. We recently discovered that a local council offers free swimming sessions every week under the Leeds Let’s Get Active programme, so we’re going to as many of those as we can for a splash about – why not see if something similar is happening where you are?

GETTING CREATIVE

C and I can have hours of fun with some glue and torn-up magazines (only if I can drop my impatient perfectionist streak!), and there are so many options for creative fun that don’t need to cost a lot. Making cloud dough, mixing up sidewalk chalk paint, creating a holiday diary, building an epic marble run using the contents of your plastic recycling box, whipping up some funky fairy cakes or even a fruity smoothie (which you can then freeze in lolly moulds), building a puppet show stage out of a giant cardboard box…

A simple biscuit recipe, homemade and ready to be jazzed up with icing and sprinkles. Hours of fun. And mess!

A simple biscuit recipe, homemade and ready to be jazzed up with icing and sprinkles. Hours of fun. And mess! © Holmesmadepapercuts

Not only will you have a good time together, your little ones will also learn at the same time! And there are plenty of activities that smalls of any size can enjoy independently while you get on with stuff that needs doing. Hit Pinterest to see what you can find, and go and have some fun!

RAINY DAYS

Summer is the time to get outdoors – bug hunts, crabbing, nature walks… But the weather isn’t always kind, and sometimes you just want to have a day at home anyway. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sitting your kids in front of the telly for a few DVDs (especially if it means you can tackle the laundry pile or online shop in peace!) but it’s even more fun if you make it an event – popcorn, closed curtains and even homemade tickets and money (there are loads of printables online) all add to the enjoyment. There are so many screen-free options too – making dens with sheets and blankets, enjoying story time, threading your hall and staircase with coloured wool for a spot of spy training (possibly the best fun ever!), doing some baking, letting your hair down with a living room disco, or simply playing hide and seek. Don’t let the weather stop you!

Let  your small folk play secret agent with string taped throughout the house!! Image from http://diyfamilyti.me

Let your small folk play secret agents with string taped throughout the house!! Image from http://diyfamilyti.me

READY-MADE FUN

As lovely as it’d be to have all the time in the world to think up and create a huge range of stimulating and worthwhile activities for our offspring, we are only human and there are only 24 hours in each day. Last summer I made a colourful list of anti-boredom activities C and I could enjoy over the hols. I ended up leaving the list on display in the kitchen, so I could keep referring to it for ideas over the course of the year, and because barely anything got ticked off – we got busy immersing ourselves in such a wide range of stuff, plus I was still fitting in a few hours of work every day. Those summer hols do have a tendency to fly by!

Our boredom-busting list © Holmes-made

Our boredom-busting list © Holmes-made

Investing a bit of cash in things you know will suit your child’s skill level and interests (as well as keep them occupied) is a great way to take the pressure off. A small spend on a new puzzle, some new action figures or a new activity book or crafty kit will reap rewards by keeping your kids busy.

Alphadoodle pad by Becka Griffin Illustration, image used with permission. https://www.etsy.com/listing/195138158/alphadoodle-the-alphabet-game-for?ref=shop_home_active_2

Alphadoodle pad by Becka Griffin Illustration, image used with permission.

I love the Alphadoodle pads by Becka Griffin Illustration. I’ll be adapting the rules of Becka’s game slightly with C to help her literacy this summer, as she loves drawing and sounding out letters. And, since she adores girlie stuff and jewellery, I’ve bagged a button bracelet kit from Make It Friday (who make the loveliest no-sew and simple craft kits) to help with colour matching and fine motor skills. See? I’m all about the learning…

Button Bracelet Kit from Make It Friday. Image used with permission.  http://www.makeitfriday.co.uk/collections/featured/products/button-bracelet-kit-1

Button Bracelet Kit from Make It Friday. Image used with permission.

SWITCH OFF

Running my own business means I’m one of those annoying people whose tech is such a part of me that all my jeans and shorts have an iPhone outline worn into the pockets.

Phone addict??

The mark of a phone addict??

I really find it hard to switch off, and I’m not alone – so many of us power down our laptops at night, only to get end up on our phones in bed checking emails and Instagram and seeing what’s trending on Twitter… You get my drift. This summer I’m making a point of switching off, of having one on one time with C (as opposed to me, her and my mobile) and of not checking my Facebook business page or work email so frequently. I’m very aware that being constantly switched on does nothing for my stress levels, and I know that to be a patient, present mum – and therefore make great memories with my girl – I need to power down and refocus.

FINALLY…

Relax. Think about what made summer fun when you were little – I’m pretty sure it was most likely spending quality time enjoying simple pleasures with your loved ones. I know that I didn’t need the latest toy, or constant stimulation, or my entire day planned out for me to have a good time. And I’m pretty sure it’s the same for C. And perhaps it’s the same for your kids too. Take time to chill, to sit under a tree and share a story, to have some silly time, or to recount the day’s events at bedtime. Those are the memories great summers are made of.

Melissa x

 

Holmes-made papercuts © Melissa Holmes

LET ME KNOW!

What are your kids’ favourite things to do in summer? What are your happiest memories of those long days from your childhood? Share your ideas, suggestions and thoughts in the comments!!