New year, new planner for 2018

This year I has surpassed* myself with my efficiency. The planner for 2018 has been designed and ready to hit the virtual shelves.

I have gone portrait this year, having designed landscape versions in the past. Miss Crayons is not impressed and voiced her opinion on the matter, but that’s mainly down to it being a change and not the design itself.

*scared

In the words of a wise cigar chewing white-haired American, “I love it when a plan comes together”.

If you would like to purchase a planner and be in the cool planning gang, you can currently buy it and get free upgraded P&P within the UK!

Coping with the differences in New Zealand as a Brit

Having just returned from a family trip to the land of Hobbits I thought I would write down my thoughts on what I found fabulous and not so fabulous about New Zealand with my Brit hat firmly on.

As a disclaimer, Mister Crayons is a Kiwi so in some ways we are already biased.

We had an amazing time. The children were old enough to enjoy and appreciate the experience and make some of their own memories from the people we met to the places we visited.

Some of our highlights in picture form.

Things that made me love NZ:

  1. Family and friends. Being able to spend time with the antipodean side of the family was wonderful for the mini Crayons. They got to hang out with their cool cousins and new connections have been formed and old friendships have been renewed. It was wonderful to catch up with good friends, the type of friends who you may not have seen for ten years, yet it did not matter one jot. We are grateful to them for their generosity and putting up with us as we travelled the length of the north island – literally.
  2. Reunited with the BFFs. Seeing how well our BFFs have settled into their new life and visiting their new posh house made us all very happy.
  3. The beaches. Beautiful blue/green sea and golden sands, not over-populated and not a windbreaker in sight and not taking ages to get to! Bliss. The children would have been happy to stay on the beach digging trenches and playing chicken with the surf all day long.
  4. Driving. We hired a great touring car, with all the bells and whistles, including beeping bumpers and cameras. I loved it (I miss the reverse parking sensor!). Mister really enjoyed driving around NZ at a slower pace than in the UK (100kms is the limit on open road, which is 60 miles in real money).
  5. Landscape. Breathtaking scenery and twisty winding roads pretty much everywhere you look. Every scene outside of our car window was like a captured photograph. Just wow.
  6. Laid-back lifestyle. Maybe we were in our ‘holiday bubble’ but things just seemed more casual and relaxed and everyone we met was super friendly. Apart from the dude who stole my parking space behind Briscolls on boxing day.

Things that sucked in NZ:

  1. The cost of food and groceries. Everything was generally 20-30% more expensive. I’m pretty sure raspberries were more expensive than gold per gram.
  2. The lack of variety and choice of food. There has been a huge change since I was last back in NZ nine years ago. You can definitely get everything you want, however compared to the UK you just don’t have the wide choice. Go and hug your local Lidl and Aldi and show some appreciation immediately!
  3. The extortionate costs of printed books. Wow, this was a really eye-opener. Hardbacks ranged from NZ$30-40 (£17-22). The same applied to children’s books as well. It made be sad as it was obvious that the high price would mean that only families who have the resources and funds could treat their children, something we totally take for granted. I have since been told that the libraries are amazing, so that is a saving grace.
  4. Insects/mozzie bites. We were all bitten to death by the critters. My ankles and legs took the brunt. I’m surprised we had any blood left to function by the end of our trip.
  5. Hayfever in December. Seriously, WTF. Okay, this is not New Zealand’s fault, but it still sucked as I felt I was suffering two summers’ worth of sneezing and itchy eyes – at Christmas time.
  6. Technically this isn’t ‘in’ NZ, but the flight time to get from UK to NZ is a tough one. We spent well over 30 hours travelling and not being able to get any decent amount of sleep during that whole time, was really tough on the body.
  7. Washi tapes cost $7.95 each *insert weeping emoticon here*.
  8. White goods and electricals very expensive! You’re been warned.
  9. Sucky mobile phone data packages. 700MB per month was the best I was offered. What a load of codswallop.

Tips for next time:

  • Bose noise cancelling headphones. A MUST on the flights. Money well spent for the sake of your sanity.
  • A sleep stopover halfway will make a huge difference. We managed to squeeze in a cheeky city visit to HK on the way back, but the children were so exhausted that they couldn’t really appreciate how magical HK is at night.
  • Don’t book a flight leaving Auckland at 9am. Rookie mistake.
  • Bring a stash of builder’s tea, percy pigs, Heinz tomato ketchup, and A5 perfect bound notebooks!

I think you can tell that we had a wonderful time in NZ and it was really difficult to leave for many reasons. It’s a magical country and we have made some wonderful warm memories that will sustain us while we have to endure the cold British winter.

New Zealand

Letter to Santa 2016 – Free Download

Christmas is just around the corner, so it’s time to start sending your letters to Santa (also known as Father Christmas or the Reindeer Whisperer). Download a free printable letter/wishlist for your small person to personalise. If you are super organised (AND live in the UK) and you send it to the address on the printable before the 9th December 2016, you could get a reply from Santa!

By downloading this file you agree to the following terms:

You may use the file
For personal use ONLY.

You may NOT use the file
For pornographic, unlawful or other immoral purposes, for spreading hate or discrimination, or to defame or victimise other people, sociteties, cultures.
To endorse products and services if it depicts a person.
As part of a trademark, service mark or logo.
SELLING AND REDISTRIBUTION OF THE FILE AND ANY ASSOCIATED PARTS (INDIVIDUALLY OR ALONG WITH OTHER IMAGES) IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN!

Happy Christmas folks!

icon_downloadTo download the PDF, right-click on the link below and select ‘Save Link As’.
Who Ate My Crayons – Free Letter to Santa – December 2016 – PDF 130KB

New year, new planner

For the past four years I have been producing and designing my own personalised wall planners. This was partly due to the fact that I couldn’t find anything that was pretty enough for my wall (yes, I am a design snob) and that I enjoyed the challenge of producing something like that, but I think that it was mainly because Mrs PinkMilk asked me to make one. I tend to do as I am told where she is concerned. It’s just easier that way.

Regardless of how it all came about, it’s been really fun working on these designs and through the years people have been buying them and enjoying them, which gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

Over the years there have been quite a few test samples where I have tried to find the right printer to outsource my large format printing to. You would be surprised at the variations you get based on the papers and inks used. Some samples were poorly cropped or had a rubbish saturation of colours and others where the paper weight wasn’t to my liking — yes, it turns out I am THAT picky. However, after much experimentation, I have finally found a printer that I am happy with and I’ve managed to keep the costs down. So everybody’s a winner!

I love being able to plan ahead and being able to see all the (many) school dates, playdates and holidays at a quick glance makes my life so much easier. But, then I am a total control freak, so I would say that.

I get the feeling that 2017 is going to be an important and busy year for Crayons HQ and I look forward to making lots of exciting plans and pretending to be in control by writing down things with pretty coloured pens (because it makes me happy).

So, allow me to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and healthy new year and may it bring you everything you have planned for.

If you would like to purchase a planner and be in the cool planning gang, you can currently buy it and get free P&P!

How to organise a STEM festival and still remain sane

As a self proclaimed veteran (having organised one STEM festival for Peterborough), I thought it might be helpful to impart some useful tips to anyone looking to embark upon the same insane journey.

Before I start, I’d like to point out that this is not in any kind of logical order. It’s almost as if I am sat perched on the sofa with thoughts spilling out of my (cake deprived) mind. Maybe.

Here goes:

1. Choose co-organisers on your team who are generous, like-minded and level-headed. You’ll probably need to call on their ability and dedication to put up bunting and event decoration with you at 10pm the night before the big day.
2. Make sure one of your co-organisers is good with words. He’ll need these skills so that he can reply to the emails that make you want to curse like a fish-wife.
3. Surround yourself with awesome people who know what they are doing so that you inadvertently bask in the glow of their achievements and talent.
4. Recruit a team of dedicated and wonderful volunteers, supply them with a complicated spreadsheet so that it looks like you have put some thought into their roles and then step back and let them do their jobs on the day.
5. Use your influence on your school mum friends to get them to help you spread the word to their networks and then nag them into booking tickets on the pretense that they are ‘testing’ the booking system for you. Repeat this several times.
6. Use all your skills at begging for freebies and calling on people’s generous nature, because you will have zero budget to work with.
7. Wait for your friends to offer to help with a small task and then somehow escalate their role until they end up managing the front registration desk on the day.
8. Don’t organise another major digital event four days after the festival day because you’ll end up feeling knackered.
9. Be sure you are married to a supportive partner who is unfazed by your crazy schemes (this one should probably be the first thing on this list).
10. If anyone asks you when you will be organising the next STEM festival, don’t start sobbing and rocking on our heels, it makes people feel uncomfortable.

So, those are my top tips. Unfortunately, they don’t guarantee any success for organising a STEM festival, but I can guarantee that it will be a once in a lifetime experience, and you will make some amazing friends along the way.

Peterborough STEM Festival 2016

One friend to rule them all…

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m rubbish at blogging frequently. I am more of a ‘micro-blogger’ (aka twitter) kind of girl.

But the last couple of weeks I have been on an emotional rollercoaster. A real case of Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to feeling happy and excited one moment and weepy and sad the next. What has caused this? My bestie of 10-11 (ish) years has taken the family and is moving back to the motherland that is New Zealand. I know that this is an amazing opportunity and wonderful new adventure, but still – how rude.

It seems like the other day that they told me they had decided to leave and then all of a sudden the house was sold and the packing company arrived to put everything into a big wooden crate to be shipped to the other side of the world. Literally.

csamfojwaaaeqywWe’ve been able to spend the final two weekends together, to say our goodbyes, having lots of tearful hugs, exchanging lovely gifts (see my awesome print above) and buying of new matchy-matchy bling. I had a great idea that it would be cool to get the kids to help me make a music video for them during their final goodbye BBQ with their closest friends and colleagues. I didn’t really think it through, as I ended up doing most of the work myself (the children found it more interesting to play minecraft – the swines).

It was rather bittersweet to go through all the home video clips and photos (there was a lot, having two budding photographers on the scene) of our families together, at parties, on joint family holidays and just generally messing around (like all families do). Our children have grown up together from those chubby baby photos to the toothless grins to the early school days and many many joint birthday parties. How time flies when you spend it with the people you love.

It was very emotional to look back and see all the lovely memories we have made together as two families and I did experience a few moments of ‘oh no, this will be the last time we…’ feelings, but I also know that new memories will be made and shared and while it won’t be as frequently as we would like, time and distance will not change how precious they will be.

20160916_184846I was remarking to the Mister that we were rather lucky to find people who ‘get us’. What were the chances that we would all become besties, adults AND children alike. We seriously lucked out on that front. Aye?

I’m not one for song lyrics, but having recently fallen in love with the musical WICKED (yeah – I’m always late to the party), this really sums up how I feel about Mrs PinkMilk.

[warning: gushing cheese alert!]

So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…

So, while A is sipping cheap airport hotel wine and N is attempting to gross me out with his man-boobs photo and the girls are treating me to fish-lips selfies, on the night before they leave Blighty, I want to say… thank you for the memories, beautiful Crowthers. It’s been EPIC.

Charity shop treasure

I found this gorgeous dinky little watch at a charity shop in Southampton at the weekend.

I love how small and delicate it is, so much so that I ignored the fact that it probably didn’t work and would need servicing or repair.

So now my smugness is dampened by the fact that I will probably have to spend more to fix it than it actually cost to buy.

Insert #Fail here.

UPDATE – 6 SEPT 2016

Turns out a wind-up watch requires — winding. Genius!

Free Letter to Santa – Download

Free download letter to santa 2015

New design for 2015!

By downloading this file you agree to the following terms:

You may use the file
For personal use ONLY.

You may not use the file
For pornographic, unlawful or other immoral purposes, for spreading hate or discrimination, or to defame or victimise other people, sociteties, cultures.
To endorse products and services if it depicts a person.
As part of a trademark, service mark or logo.
SELLING AND REDISTRIBUTION OF THE FILE AND ANY ASSOCIATED PARTS (INDIVIDUALLY OR ALONG WITH OTHER IMAGES) IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN!

Happy Christmas folks!

icon_downloadTo download the PDF, right-click on the link below and select ‘Save Link As’.
Who Ate My Crayons – Free Letter to Santa – December 2015 – PDF 370KB

Gabriella Buckingham New Portfolio Website

gabs buckingham websiteLast year, my good friend and talented artist Gabriella Buckingham asked me to help her with designing and developing of her new portfolio based website. The driving force behind this was that Gabs had agreed to exhibit at the SURTEX show in New York City in May 2015! SURTEX is an important trade show for designers of patterns and illustrators to showcase their work to buyers of world famous brands.

For months we have been emailing and meeting up to discuss on how we wanted it to look and work. It wasn’t a chore for me, as it’s always lovely to spend time with Gabs talking about art, life, and children!

We both agreed that the new website had to be white, simple, and clean. Gab’s work is very colourful and bright (something I wish I could do for my own illustrations) and we wanted the emphasis to be on the pieces and not the website design. She was also in the process of reinvigorating her logo and brand, so it had to all tie in beautifully.

So, I set about creating the theme and structure and functionality and handed it over to Gabs to populate with her images and copy over a period of weeks. Gabs had to familiarise herself with a new content management system and upload new work as she produced it.

Gabriella BuckinghamI have to say that I love photography that has been used (well done Mr B). It really shows how much fun and creative Gab’s personality is and of course this shines through in her style of work.

I’m really pleased with the result and I think Gabs likes it too. It’s always a pleasure to work with other designers and artists and such an added bonus that it’s for a friend. I’m very proud of the website and I hope that it continues to adapt and grow with the business.