While we were out for a walk at Strumpshaw Fen, Mark spotted a kestrel hunting over a field. We stopped to watch and were amazed when it landed nearby – and even more so when… More
Once again this year, I have pushed home the idea that Valentine’s Day is about celebrating all sorts of love and not just romantic love – although, aged four, Freya has already decided who is she going to marry and seems quite determined.
Anyway, we’ve gone a bit craft crazy because when she started thinking about all the people she loves, it was quite a list!
Here are three more fun and easy Valentine’s Day crafts, which we will be sending to various family members and friends.
Hearts and flowers card.
Our monthly craft box, which we receive from Craft Merrily as part of our role as a Tots 100 Bostik Blogger, had lots of beautiful patterned paper and card in it this month, which we thought would be perfect for flowers.
We drew around a heart shape we already had and then cut them out. We folded them to make them look a bit more 3D (although not sure it actually makes much difference).
The stalks are made from green card and we positioned them on the red card first before sticking on the heart blooms. We then stuck on the pink ribbon to make it look like one of those hand-tied expensive bouquets.
Bostik White Glu.
Mini paper roses.
I’d say this was by far Freya’s favourite craft because she got to get her hands messy.
We started by drawing a heart on the baking paper and then dumping the string in a pot of glu (I diluted it the first time but it didn’t dry very well so we made the next ones with pure glu).
Once is was well covered, we then bended it to made the shape on the baking paper and left it to dry over night.
It was really quite solid. I thought it looked a bit bare on its own so I wrapped a couple of the little paper roses around it.
It works well as a hanging decoration, stuck on a flower put or on a card (I think so, anyway).
Salt dough hearts.
Salt dough is an old favourite in our house – and we made these on a day Freya was home from school poorly.
Our tried and tested recipe is a cup of plain flour, a cup of salt and half a cup of warm water. This rolls out well and holds the shape. I know you can oven dry them but, as we’ve had the heating on recently, I just put them on a baking tray on top of the radiator for a few days (I turned them over when the top turned lighter) and job done.
Freya wants to write her name on the back but I also thought you could write a nice message on card and stick it on, in case it’s hard writing directly on to the salt dough.
Please note: We were sent a box of craft materials for free in return for this blog post.
While Natalina Reis has written other genres, she always comes back to her first love – romance.
Currently working on her sixth novel, Natalina juggles writing with teaching and family life.
Her latest release, Blind Magic, came out in November has been winning lots of praise on Good Reads so I was delighted when she agreed to let me quiz her for my Behind The Book series.
Here’s what she had to say.
You’ve strayed into other genres but always come back to romance. What is it you enjoy?
Romance makes me happy, gives me hope that no matter how bleak things look, there is always hope. Love transcends everything else, even death to a certain extent. And of course, there is always the happy ending.
You wrote your first book at 13. Has writing always been your thing?
Yes, I’ve been writing ever since I knew how. I wrote stories even in elementary school. Being an introvert who had the worst time expressing my feelings, writing offered me a way of doing so. For some reason the written word was always a form of solace, of therapy for my soul.
That first book was a collaboration with your best friend, can you explain how that worked? Do you write together or do you do a bit and then send it to her?
We were both on spring break and we spent our evenings in my room discussing characters and parts of the plot. She would suggest something and I would suggest something else. Once we agreed on what to write, I would write it down as part of the story. It was fun. Even though I haven’t done anything like that since, I still enjoy when my critique partners or friends make suggestions. Some great ideas came out of discussions just like those.
In Blind Magic your main character, Marcy, is a witch. What made you want to include that magical element?
Marcy happened as a happy accident to be truthful. She first appeared as a sidekick on Loved You Always where I needed her as comic relief and also as an outrageous way of helping my two main characters out of a very dangerous situation. Turns out Marcy became so much more than that. My sister was also a great inspiration for Marcy’s occupation and beliefs, since she has always been interested in the esoteric.
Did you already have an idea for Marcy’s story when you were writing Loved You Always?
I never expected to love her so much and I definitely didn’t expect the readers would fall in love with her as hard as they did. There were so many requests to write Marcy’s own story that eventually I gave in and wrote it. She is one of my favorite characters.
Blind Magic is winning a lot of praise. How does it feel to know your readers have connected with your story?
It’s amazing. As a writer I love all my characters, but to have others love and connect with them as well is heartwarming and makes everything worthwhile. One of my favorite parts of the publishing process is the beta readers’ comments as they read the book. Marcy got a lot of oohs and aahs. She really touched a chord in many readers’ hearts (and so did her man, Oliver) and I’m still shocked (in a good way) by the reactions.
You don’t just write about male/female relationships, in Lavender Fields your main character, Sky, an angel of death, falls in love with another man. Can you talk about what made you want to explore that angle?
I wanted to write a story that my son, who is gay, could identify with. But most of all I just wanted to write a love story. It just happened that the two main characters are both men. All my books have a few things in common, and one of those is the theme of diversity and universal love. In fact I wrote my first M/M romance when I was about 19 years old (a story that will never see the light of day!).
Let’s go right back to the beginning and talk about your first published book, We Will Always Have The Closet. How long did it take to write? Did you submit it to many publishers?
I wrote The Closet in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month. I polished it, hired an editor and on a whim participated on a Twitter Pitmad and was shocked to have a publisher request the full manuscript. I was offered a contract shortly after and I think I’m still in shock.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a romantic comedy that started as a short story. It’s called Fictional-Ish and it’s set in Scotland where I lived for four years a long time ago. It’s a friends to lovers, second chance story with a lot of humor and, as in most of my stories, a bit of mystery drama.
Do you have any tips for writers?
Write, never stop writing no matter how much you doubt yourself. And don’t get too stuck on what the “experts” say because writing is as individual as humans are and what works for one writer may not work for another.
What fabulous answers, a huge thank you to Natalina for taking part. I love that she wrote a story for her son and her writing tips couldn’t be more relevant to me this week when I’m having yet another crisis of confidence. I’m definitely going to be taking note.
If you’ve ever read articles about love and dating, chances are you’ve already come across Dolly Alderton.
She’s a popular London-based columnist, journalist, director, podcaster and now author of her memoir, Everything I Know About Love.
I’m always intrigued by people who write a memoir before they have even hit 30 – it has always seemed a bit self-indulgent in the past – but Dolly has plenty of life experience to share – and she does so in an open, warm, funny, often heartbreaking, style that, in my opinion, crosses generational boundaries.
Here’s the blurb:
When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all.
In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you’ve ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out.
It’s a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you and you alone are enough. Glittering with wit and insight, heart and humour, Dolly Alderton’s powerful debut weaves together personal stories, satirical observations, a series of lists, recipes, and other vignettes that will strike a chord of recognition with women of every age – while making you laugh until you fall over.
Everything I know About Love is about the struggles of early adulthood in all its grubby, hopeful uncertainty.
Once I started reading, it felt a bit like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole into a world very different from my own but one that was completely immersive (and hard to get out of).
Told in a mixture of stories and anecdotes, lists and vignettes, at times I found her style a bit chaotic – maybe a reflection of her life at that time? – and the inclusion of recipes felt a bit random; like she was simply jumping on the bandwagon.
There was definitely a story arc, of sorts. I won’t say ‘coming of age’ because that seems patronising but as Dolly shares her many and varied experiences with love, sex, friendship, family, alcohol, drugs, work and play, life lessons seem to be learned – although perhaps not immediately.
It is something of a rollercoaster read – and when she dipped I felt genuinely sad for her – but her empowering final chapter left me feeling really positive about her journey.
My rating: Four stars.
With thanks to Penguin Books (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest review.