Planet Posters, Seasonal Cooking & Fungi Fieldtrips

I’ve been busy working on other projects recently and have neglected my blog a bit. But it feels like a new season has started and I felt the desire to share what we’d been doing this morning πŸ™‚

With the school rush a part of our routine again, I’m enjoying the slow development of weekend days. When the weather is favourable, we’ve been going for long nature walks. The girls have told me their favourite place to visit at the moment is Rowallane Gardens. I love the fact that it is so easy to get to but it feels like pure escapism. The trees are beautiful autumnal colours at the moment and I find it helps to reset my mind just being around them. There is definitely something to the Japanese practice of tree bathing. I find watching the kids climbing trees, or just being surrounded by them really healing.

I love walking around the lake and seeing the weeping willows. My kids attempt to play Pooh sticks every time we go but seem surprised each time they discover there is no current to carry their sticks away πŸ™‚ Still, sitting on a bridge prodding at things in the water does them good. I don’t think there is enough down-time for kids nowadays and I like them to experience it when they can. They have found a tree that they call the “Sliding Tree” because it bows in the shape of a slide. I’m surprised they haven’t destroyed their leggings on it yet, but it keeps them happy πŸ™‚ I brought some sausages in a flask and we had hotdogs beside the bandstand. It reminded me of when I was little and we used to have a school barbecue in that spot πŸ™‚

I like walking around the Old Wood part of Rowallane at the minute. There is something spooky about it, so it makes sense they put their Halloween hunt there. They have started to put together some of the tree sculptures. The girls said that they were “scary” but seemed to still want to pose for photos with them πŸ™‚ They have put up little signs about fungi-spotting. There are lots of different kinds if you look around for them. I find it calms my kids looking for things like that – doing anything that resembles a treasure hunt. They became really interested in finding as many different kinds as they could and liked the ones that looked like frills πŸ™‚

They have made a little fairy town out of some tree stumps and the girls were pretending to walk their fingers up the stairs into the little house πŸ™‚ I love finding unexpected things that people have made along the way πŸ™‚ Afterwards, we played Hide and Seek in the walled garden and had some snacks at the cafe. I love the outdoor terrace. It always seems to get the sun when nowhere else does, and it feels like we have left Northern Ireland while we’re there πŸ™‚ Every time we go, I get a scone and my daughter devours most of it, but she still declares that they aren’t as good as “Nannie’s scones.”

I have been experimenting with some new recipes over the last week. I got a book called “Feed your Family for Β£20 a Week” and it has lots of good recipes in it πŸ™‚ I made a sausage casserole yesterday that the kids actually ate, and enough lentil soup to feed a whole town πŸ™‚ There is a recipe for granola too and it turned out better than any I have got from the shops. I also found a recipe for a three ingredient Christmas cake and wanted to experiment with it. It turned out surprisingly well for something with so few ingredients. I added some Baileys to it and I might make a version of it for Christmas time with an attempt at icing/marzipan on it πŸ™‚

It felt Wintery to me yesterday, so we had a pyjamas day in the house. I love finding old movies I loved as a kid and watching them with the girls. We watched Dennis the Menace. It was one of the few non-cartoon films that they have found hilarious. I keep those packets of microwave popcorn in the house so I have them on hand for a cinema day. You can get four of them for a pound in Home Bargains πŸ™‚

We made some gingerbread men. I’m not quite sure why I’m doing so much Christmas-style baking in October, but it just felt like appropriate weather for it. Gingerbread men are the one kind of biscuit both my kids will eat πŸ™‚ They love icing them and adding sprinkles too. The girls just wanted to use all the cookie cutters we own so we have a bit of a mixture of seasons biscuits-wise πŸ™‚

We hadn’t got around to completing the girls’ Toucan boxes, so we made the planets poster. You had to dye coffee filters, using felt tips and a water pipette. Then, you had to add bright tissue paper to add another layer of dye. The effect was interesting and they did come out with a mottled, planet-type surface πŸ™‚ When they had dried, the girls glued them over the holes in the poster and added stickers. To finish it off, they added some glow in the dark stars πŸ™‚

We also made a dreamcatcher. The girls had to paint the wooden hoop with watercolours first. While we waited for it to dry, we had an autumn painting session together and we all painted pumpkins πŸ™‚ We talked about adding more than one colour running through an object and my daughter seems very interested in that now πŸ™‚ When the hoop was dry, we threaded cord through it with a plastic needle πŸ™‚ It’s good practice for kids to get the hang of sewing without the finger-pricking part πŸ™‚ We decorated it with hanging beads and feathers and my daughter put it up in their bedroom to ward off bad dreams πŸ™‚

It felt like a gentle kind of day and it was a welcome break from running around, picking up and dropping everyone off πŸ™‚ I felt much more ready to face the week this morning and my mind felt rested for once. I think my version of lying down binge-watching a boxset is making things with my hands, and my kids might be the same way πŸ™‚

Sand Dunes, Baking Experiments & Cardboard Creations

After neglecting my blog for a little while, I realise how much we must have been doing since I last posted. It seems to be difficult to condense it all into one post πŸ™‚ We have been spending a lot of time at the seaside and making crafts and baking at home. I took the girls to a beach last week, early in the day, so it was at its quietest. They enjoyed walking on the boardwalk and over the sand dunes πŸ™‚ I love looking at the backdrop of mountains near Newcastle. The combination of sea and mountains is one of my favourite things πŸ™‚ The tide was out and had left lots of little puddles and channels for the girls to paddle and jump in, so they were easy to please πŸ™‚

At home, we used some of the girls’ nature finds to draw pictures from. We set up a table a bit like the one in the Ulster Museum art room πŸ™‚ We have the same chunky colouring pencils to draw with and they make it much more satisfying for some reason πŸ™‚

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I also got out an encyclopedia for kids with pictures of sky scrapers in it. I cut up some leftover party straws and gave the girls glue and paper so they could recreate structures with them. One opted for the tallest building and the other made a miniature eiffel tower πŸ™‚

I wanted to try to make polenta cake. A friend of mine made some a long time ago and served it to us with lapsang souchong tea. I really liked the combination of the two flavours. So, we made an orange and blueberry cake using polenta instead of flour. It has a grainier texture but I liked it and it felt light compared to a stodgy cake.

We have season tickets for the farm, so we have been spending a lot of time there. The girls spotted the mice nibbling ice cream cones and wanted me to take pictures of it πŸ™‚ There are also some baby mice and piglets there now. We arrived just as a lady was about to feed apples to the pigs, so the girls got to feed them and it was funny watching them eating whole apples in one bite πŸ™‚ We got to pet chicks and bunnies and went on the barrel rides πŸ™‚ Afterwards, I treated the girls to a hotdog each for lunch πŸ™‚

I have been trying some healthy snack recipes – none of which can I get the girls to eat πŸ™‚ I made carrot cake balls, using carrots, nuts, coconut, etc. I thought they wouldn’t satisfy my craving for carrot cake, but they contained all the same flavours without being too heavy πŸ™‚ But the girls immediately detected the fact they were healthy and refused to eat them.

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For their benefit (and for mine), we made some peanut butter and chocolate rice krispie buns. I can see why it is such a popular thing to bake with kids, because it skips ahead to their favourite parts (licking the bowl and sprinkles) without any of the measuring and mess (or agony for me.)

My daughter decided to make her own wands out of lolly sticks. She gave my other daughter a little craft chest filled with materials for her birthday. They have both used nearly all of it already πŸ™‚ I like the fact that they come up with their own ideas now and work away at them (even though it does result in them dragging the contents of the craft cupboard out onto the floor.)

We also made some little toilet tube horses. You have to fold them flat and cut the shape around the legs and head before folding them out again. The girls painted theirs with white and black spots, and when they were dry, we added heads cut out of cardboard and manes and tails made with embroidery thread. We also made feeding trays out of egg cartons and the girls painted water and food/made cardboard hay for them. They also made a stable out of an empty cupcake box, but they lost patience when they were halfway through painting it πŸ™‚ I cut half doors into it so they could put the horses inside and it has been the most popular toy of the week.

Finally, I gave the girls some squares cut out of empty cardboard boxes and they painted them bright colours. When they had dried, we collected nature scraps from the garden, like twigs, petals and dry leaves and they made little pictures with them. One made a little house and the other made a bug with antennae and pom pom eyes πŸ™‚

This week, we are on a nearby “holiday,” so we should have plenty of activities to share from it soon too πŸ™‚

 

Saving Stones, Perfume Play & Teatime Treats

This week, we spent as much time as we could in the garden, between downpours πŸ™‚ The girls made some nature bracelets, just using masking tape. You just stick it around their wrist and they can collect leaves and flowers to stick to them. My daughter also decided to start a stone collection and has been taking care of them in a pot. It reminds me of a Shirley Hughes children’s book where a little boy adopts a rock and his mum sews a swim suit and some clothes for it. We haven’t gone that far though πŸ™‚

The girls were very attentive to their little greenhouse plants and they seem to be thriving better than mine. We transplanted them to larger pots and I’m hoping they will grow into full-sized plants πŸ™‚

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We visited my parents in their garden and my dad produced a bag of our toys from the nineties πŸ™‚ I hadn’t seen them since then and the girls enjoyed going through them. They found a little sewing machine that used to be mine (but that I don’t remember for some reason) and claimed it and a couple of dolls. The sewing machine has no batteries at the moment and a broken needle but pretending to sew is their new favourite game πŸ™‚ We did a little bit of hand sewing together so they could learn a basic stitch and they both showed a lot of interest in it πŸ™‚ My daughter loves “designing” things on fabric by adding stickers and cutting it into different shapes.

I added some food colouring to water so the girls could make their own perfume (it was a suggestion from my daughter’s preschool.) It started off yellow and I added red to make orange after the girls pointed out it looked like pee πŸ˜€ I gave them some flowers, bowls and spoons, etc to mix and pretend to make different scents.

I’ve been using Jack Monroe’s cookery book a lot at the minute. It’s good for making recipes out of nothing πŸ™‚ We made some lemon curd biscuits and marmalade buns (we called them Paddington buns, but one of my daughters still refused to eat them!)

My daughter suggested we have a tea party when they were ready, so she set the table with our “fancy” plates and teacups. The girls had some berry tea and I had some assam tea that came in a surprise box of teas from my parents πŸ™‚ That and Russian Caravan are my favourites so far.

I drew pictures for my daughter to colour in last night, hoping it would inspire her to colour more. (She doesn’t usually have any patience for it.) But it just turned into another scribbling session πŸ™‚

This morning, I made some homemade play doh and set up a kitchen play station at the table. The girls seem to play with play doh for longer than anything else and they made pretend cakes and treats, using a lid as a tray πŸ™‚ Afterwards, we played some Orchard board games. I don’t know why the girls tend to sit much better for them than more drawn out games like Junior Monopoly! Llamas in Pyjamas is a favourite in our house πŸ™‚

As I was filling the kettle to make a cup of tea, I noticed that one of the plants I grew from seed has flowered. I got far too excited about that and it felt like a real achievement. It’s the first time one has ever made it that far πŸ™‚ My courgettes also seem to be doing well and are ready to be repotted now. I’m still determined to create a kitchen garden against all odds.

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Sometimes I like having a rainy day inside, lighting candles, listening to Tim Buckley’s Happy Sad. (It’s my rainy day album/ seems to dampen the girls’ hyperactivity a little.) It’s nice to have the contrast of a wet, fresh day (as long as there are sunny days ahead too.)

Flowerbeds, Photography & Iced Tea

This week, the girls have continued spending most of their time in the garden, creating masterpieces out of soil and coming up with reasons to change their outfits multiple times a day πŸ™‚ They each set up their own den and then decided to make “flowerbeds” outside them. They just laid some sticks down and scooped soil into it, planting some sunflower seeds they had. They proceeded to water their plants and turned the garden into a bit of a swamp, but it bought me peace for a long time and I got to look at the pretty flowers πŸ™‚


I bought the girls a camera each. They weren’t expensive and they have played with them a lot. They love taking pictures, changing the frames and filters and making videos and voice recordings. They are both interested in photography and rather than handing over my phone, I decided to let them have a camera of their own. I like seeing the creative ideas they come up with on their own and they enjoy showing me all their photos and silly videos too πŸ™‚

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I made some iced tea while the weather was warm. It’s really easy to make. I’d had the Plain sweet one in America years ago and the girls’ dad used to make it a lot, so I just stole his method πŸ™‚ I just make hot tea, sugar it to taste and then refrigerate it until it’s really cold πŸ™‚ The girls weren’t as impressed by it as they were by my lemonade, but I’m thinking of making a berry tea version for them.

The girls received a handmade card each from my parents in the post and were so excited to open them. They love seeing things addressed to them and rush to check the post every morning to see if anything has arrived for them πŸ˜€ We sat outside and played board games in the sun and I made some wholewheat pizza. I was using up the last of what was in the fridge, so I just improvised with tomato puree, cherry tomatoes and cheddar on a wheaten base I made.


We made some “sea foam,” as suggested by my daughter’s preschool. I made a double batch since my older daughter seemed to like it too. You just mix two tbsps of cornflour with two tbsps of washing up liquid with 1/4 cup of warm water for one. It foams easily and holds the bubbles and was a bluey-green colour, so the girls turned it into a bath for their dolls (which they do with most liquids.) Eventually, they descended into making foamy icing for mudpies. They filled up all the containers they could sneak out of the kitchen with soil and foam and used it for a birthday party for a baby doll.

I had ordered some courgette seeds which arrived in the post, so I potted them and transferred some of my larger plants from my windowsill to the garden. My sunflowers have already died, but I’m hoping the tomato plant survives outside now. I have several thriving plants now, so I’m going to persevere and try not to be put off by my gardening failures πŸ™‚

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The girls and I made some ice lollies, using smoothies. They’re a healthy alternative to the ones from the shops. My kids think ice lollies should be served every day there is a spell of sunshine, so I’ll make these again πŸ™‚ I made them with frozen banana and berries, apple juice, yogurt and some frozen mango. You can also freeze fruit as it’s starting to go off and save it for lollies, overnight oats and smoothies. I’ve been scattering frozen berries in overnight oats a lot lately so they’ve defrosted by the morning.

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We tried a new recipe for cookies too. I wanted to find a crunchier one that resembled biscuits from the shops, so we made a batch of them. I found slicing the solid cookie dough when it comes out of the fridge very soothing πŸ™‚ They turned out well and the girls were asking for them all day. They are unusually fussy about baked treats, so it was good to find one they both loved.

I was running out of candles (which are a staple in my house) so I ordered some Yankee candles from Groupon. They had an offer of six small jars for twenty pounds, so I am enjoying the baby powder one now while I create a little zen in my kitchen until my kids tire of the TV and start bombarding me with questions about the developments of dinner πŸ™‚

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Cardboard Towns, Peanut Cookies & Mini Greenhouses

The hot weather is exactly what I need this week to revive me. I find sitting in the garden such a healing thing. Apart from spending time in our small bit of greenery, we have been doing lots of craft projects this week, as our enthusiasm for home learning wanes.

The girls have become really interested in den building, and I’m happy to encourage it. I always hear about kids getting obsessed with a particular game or toy and it absorbing all their time. My kids’ favourite game until now has been following me around, asking for things πŸ™‚ They have worked out ways of constructing their own tents around the washing line, and it’s nice to hear them playing happily in the imaginary world they rarely inhabit πŸ™‚ When it’s sunny, they like to have lunch inside their den too.

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I decided to make use of our collection of cardboard and attempt to make a village with the girls. We had two large pieces of cardboard we painted as the ground, adding a pond, streets and grass. The girls painted some empty small boxes in grey, brown, red etc to make buildings. I found some pictures in magazines to use on the shop fronts, like a crate of vegetables, a bookshop window and some kitchen equipment for another shop. I painted some flowers in the flower beds on the base and then my daughter painted some flowers of her own too πŸ™‚

The next day when it had dried, we stuck it all together. I added some nature scenes from magazines to the grass and the girls made some play doh ducks for the pond. We added some green confetti to give the grass texture too. You could add so many things to it, depending on your child’s attention span πŸ™‚ That was all mine would allow us to do πŸ™‚

I made some easy pizza this week, using some homemade bread. I just put tomato paste, cherry tomates, cheese and hotdogs on it, and it was an immediate hit with my kids. They ate theirs inside their dens and I sat in the sun at our little garden table with pizza and a glass of wine. It reminded me of when we go for pizza in Glasgow and I get a small tumbler of white wine with pizza in the afternoon. It’s the only time I drink during the day because I don’t drive when we’re over there, and pizza in the garden had the same sort of tranquil feel to it πŸ™‚ I love the creepers my neighbour planted between our gardens. Sitting next to them helps me imagine I’m elsewhere when I’m feeling hemmed in in the house πŸ™‚

I made some more homemade lemonade sweetened with honey. I like making it as a vitamin-filled drink that the girls actually like to drink πŸ™‚ We also baked some peanut butter and jelly cookies and some more chocolate chip ones. The chocolate chip ones have vanished already πŸ™‚ The girls left me to finish making them so they could eat cookie dough and fight over the spoon!

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There was a lot of excitement when the girls’ Toucan boxes arrived in the post. They love having their own parcels to open once a month and it’s interesting to see what activities they have included each time. We did the first activity together, which was building mini greenhouses. The set came with plywood to slot together to build into little containers, a liner to hold the soil and the soil came in little solid packets you had to soak in water to make it expand. The girls loved making the labels and planting their seeds. There were sunflowers, nasturtiums and basil. A sticker sheet came too so they could add stickers to decorate it at the end (that might have been the part they were most enthusiastic about :))

Afterwards, we spent some more time in the garden and I had a Starbucks instant caramel latte I got from the shops πŸ™‚ It was surprisingly good for instant coffee. I’ve realised that the only thing close to reading that is achievable during my children’s waking hours is looking at pictures in magazines. There are a lot of interrupted sentences, so I might have to resort to picture books if I want to take up reading in daylight again πŸ™‚ The girls changed the shape of their den and connected it to their playhouse so they could crawl from one to the other πŸ™‚

We finished the day with a film. I surrendered and let them choose a cartoon, which ironically, they weren’t very keen on. We finished the day with ice cream sundaes. I just put vanilla ice-cream in a bowl with whipped cream, some chocolate spread and sprinkles. I put banana in my younger daughter’s bowl because she wanted to try a banana split, but after tasting it she said “I think I’ll keep the banana as a decoration in my bowl – it’s just, I don’t like banana with ice-cream.” πŸ™‚

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Home Spas, Fork Cookies & Thoughtful Flowers

This week, my daughter’s school suggested making sea creatures, so the girls got our their junk box and came up with their own ideas πŸ™‚ One made a turtle and the other made a seahorse. I like watching my kids coming up with their own methods to make things πŸ™‚ There never seems to be any hesitancy or uncertainty about what they’re going to make πŸ™‚

We did a photography video on the afternoon club. The girls experimented with taking photos and changing the lighting. I like watching these videos with them because I learn things from them too πŸ™‚

A while ago, we had some fruit and vegetables delivered to our house and for some reason, the crate they came in has become a favourite toy πŸ™‚ The girls just helped themselves to it and it has been used as a tray for pretend food, a table for their den, a cot for teddies and a bed for them too! I always find the girls play most with something that you spent no money on and that wasn’t even intended for play πŸ™‚

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The girls wanted to use my foot spa, so I set up a β€œspa” in the kitchen with a nail bar, a chill-out mat and some meditation music in the background. I painted the girls’ nails and they took it in turns using the bubbles and massage settings for their feet πŸ™‚

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Last night, I remembered how much I love sitting in just candlelight. I lit a few candles and sat in darkness watching them flickering and collecting my thoughts πŸ™‚ There is something restorative about it in the same way I benefit from walks by the sea (which we obviously can’t do at the minute.)

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Today I was in a cooking mood, so I tried a new recipe that produces two loaves of bread. The recipe was from Dining on a Dime and worked out really soft in the centre with a crisp crust (although I found the suggestion to use greaseproof paper resulted in it attaching to the loaf like it was superglued to it (so next time, I’ll leave that step out :))

The girls and I looked at their craft inspiration book for kids. It’s the best 50p I’ve ever spent πŸ™‚ There was a section about puppets, so we made some paper ones we called jelly babies with rings made out of paper to attach them to their fingers. We also made some (literal) hand puppets by drawing on the palms of their hands (much to my daughter’s delight.) She draws on herself often, but it isn’t usually encouraged by me.

I made some smoothies and we set up a clothes shop for the girls in the living room. It was only when I started laying out their dress-up dresses that I realised how many they own. Sometimes I find that sorting through toys kills any temptation to buy more since we always find things we had forgotten about πŸ™‚ If we don’t have something we improvise (for example, using bells from their musical instruments as a shop bell :))

We made some easy fork biscuits. They only had three ingredients and were so simple to make. The kids were more interested in licking the bowl than making fork imprints on the cookies prior to baking πŸ™‚

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We also got out their water beads kit and made some ducks. I always think these activities are going to take half an hour and when I look at the clock, five minutes have passed and we are finished πŸ™‚

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I found a recipe in a magazine for a natural bath soak, so I made some using oats, lavender oil and coconut oil. I put it in the girls’ bath in hopes of making them sleepy before bed πŸ™‚ You can store some in a jar and make enough for several uses. I found the process of making it therapeutic too, since you have to melt the coconut oil slowly using a bain marie and the scent of lavender instantly makes me feel relaxed πŸ™‚

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Thankfully, the weather was good today so the girls enjoyed den building and paddling outside. My daughter brought me a few little flowers and it made me realise, even if a kid hands you some flowers you know are weeds, it’s so sweet that they want to collect them for you and give you a present πŸ™‚ That made them more beautiful to me than any shop-bought bouquet.

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Baked Treats, Snail Homes & Coffee Cravings

Today, we had a major baking day. By major, I mean that I used every dish in the house to bake two things πŸ™‚ I spent a lot of the day washing dishes afterwards, but what’s new πŸ™‚ I’ve been listening to Nina Simone a lot and spending lots of time cooking. Yesterday, I made us some bread, which is already half eaten πŸ˜€ I tried a new recipe today for what were called Fat Rascals. I found them in a magazine and they are similar to scones, filled with dried fruit, lemon and orange zest. The girls helped me to make them, and I’m always happy to having willing volunteers to grease the tray πŸ™‚ I also made some allspice biscuits again since one of my daughters really enjoyed them last time.

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After lunchtime, I took a tray with our baked treats and some tea out to the garden and we had a little tea party. It was grey but humid and it was nice to get a chance to sit outside again. I attempted to read a book, but that quickly turned into me building a den for the girls, amongst other things πŸ™‚

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The girls spotted a snail and decided to temporarily adopt it. We read about what snails like to eat and where they can live and made it it’s own little habitat in an empty chocolates tub πŸ™‚ The girls watched its movements for a long time and tried to encourage it to eat some seeds and a grape (apparently they like these.) It didn’t seem to be bothered by them and spent most of the afternoon travelling in and out of its new house. Sometimes having kids makes me become interested in things I’ve never given any thought before. I think that was the first time I googled “what fruit do snails eat?”We learned that they can’t have pools of water because they can drown and they don’t like to be in direct sunlight. Eventually I removed the tub so it could be left in peace πŸ™‚

 

I’ve been experimenting with making my own lattes with different sweeteners since running out of coffee syrup. I tried maple syrup yesterday, which didn’t seem to work well, as it made it separate. Today, I tried honey and cinnamon on top and it worked surprisingly well πŸ™‚ I’m tempted to order coffee to the door, but when I checked how much it was I had second thoughts πŸ™‚ Lockdown mightn’t have broken my coffee addiction, but at least I’m finding cheaper ways to feed it now πŸ™‚

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For anyone that is interested, The Funky Thrifter book is available on Amazon now. It is a collection of blog posts from this year to give people something peaceful to flip through during these weird times πŸ™‚

Shadow Puppets, Blossom Bouquets & Sunflower Seeds

This week we made some plate-sized wholemeal pancakes and had some fresh fruit (and strong coffee for me. Afterwards, we read together in the living room. The girls had put the recliners up for themselves and spent time poring over art books about colour and craft projects for kids. We went onto the library website to look at their free ebooks and magazines. They have lots of children’s books available online if you sign into your account. You can set one up if you don’t already have one using the long number on your library card.

Afterwards, the girls insisted on wearing similar outfits to me (God help them :)) We went on our morning walk and they requested another trip to the cherry blossom. We have now assigned names to our walks and they always want to do the blossom walk πŸ™‚ They gathered flowers and petals to make mini bouquets and put them in water as table displays for dinner time when we got home. I have a feeling they might be interested in flower arranging in the future πŸ™‚

The girls’ Toucan craft boxes arrived in the post, so we did their shadow puppet theatre projects. They had to make puppets on lolly sticks and paint the stage curtains, adding greaseproof paper as a cover for the puppets to produce shadows on. We set them up in the living room. Since I don’t buy practical items like torches, we improvised with lamps and the girls did a very shortlived puppet show πŸ™‚

My neighbour gave the girls some wildflower beebombs. The girls loved raking the soil and scattering them, and I’m hopeful we’ll keep them alive and that our garden will be filled with beautiful wildflowers soon πŸ™‚

Since it was such a nice evening, I made hotdogs on the barbecue and we ate outside. The girls made sure to put one of their flower displays on the outdoor table πŸ™‚ Eating in the sunshine definitely makes me feel freer at the moment. You could almost imagine you’re on holiday πŸ™‚

I decided to do a bit of a clear-out in our kitchen. I love the fact that when you clear out drawers and cupboards, you discover things you had forgotten you had. The girls found some sticker books and a felt board to play with, and I discovered a stash of wax melts and candles I didn’t know I had! I lit the Causeway Coast wax melt and it is the most relaxing scent I have ever breathed πŸ™‚ I find sorting cupboards out really cathartic. It’s good to get rid of some clutter and feel like everything is somewhat orderly for a few days. (Until I start lazily throwing things into cupboards without looking again :))

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We had a couple of kids’ cupcake kits, so we made some chocolate Aladdin ones and some muddy puddle Peppa ones to keep everyone happy πŸ™‚ I always used to think the cupcake kits were pointless because they contain so little mix and it’s almost as easy to just make them from scratch, but I’ve realised they allow kids to skip ahead to the parts of baking they enjoy, ie the icing, decorating and spoon-licking.

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I rearranged the girls’ room a little and I put some decorative kids’ pegs on jewellery wire to make a little washing line for their artwork. I think my daughter thought it was for their dolls’ clothes πŸ™‚ I also found my crepe spreader that my mum got me from France, so I’ll have to make some crepes soon πŸ™‚

We found a new street with blossom aplenty πŸ™‚ The girls have named it the “dead end” walk, for obvious reasons. But it seems to have the best supply of intact blossom flowers. The girls brought a bag to collect some in and made some more little floral posies. I’ll probably be finding wilted flowers all over the house for ages, but it keeps the girls happy πŸ™‚

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When we got home, my daughter had to practise writing her spellings in flour, so after she had finished, my younger daughter converted it into a beach for her LOL dolls πŸ™‚ It kept her busy while we got some schoolwork done πŸ™‚

My friend kindly left a surprise on our doorstep: a gardening kit for the girls. Today, we planted the sunflowers and butterfly seeds. The girls loved having their own plant projects πŸ™‚ I’ve never grown sunflowers before, but they are my favourite flowers, so I’ll be happy when they appear πŸ™‚

As if we didn’t have enough baked treats in the house already, I made my daughter’s favourite coconut cake today. It’s a recipe I found in Dining on a Dime Cook Book and it never fails. It produces two cakes, and I always think it will be a challenge to use it all up, but it always quickly disappears πŸ™‚

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We made a little bird feeder from the girls’ Toucan boxes. You just had to glue layers of lolly sticks to make a little box, with a stick for the bird to perch on. Pipe cleaners were added as handles and we put it on the hedges outside. I’m hoping it attracts more birds to the garden. Our robin hasn’t visited in a few days as I haven’t put out more of his peanut butter food yet, so I might have to make some tomorrow for him πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

Water Beads, Tea Parties & Pyjamarama Day

This week, we have spent a lot of time at home, (obviously!) being creative and creating mess I never seem to get on top of. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that there will be no order to our house until the girls return to school – or maybe that is just wishful thinking, as clutter just seems to follow me around.

We went for our usual walk on the Greenway. The sound of the pigeons under the bridge makes me laugh every time we descend the steps now because the girls are convinced they are owls and mimic the sound for most of the walk. Due to the fact that the greenway is mostly greenery, when colour pops up, it’s immediately noticeable. I have no idea what this plant is, but I like the yellow petals; it’s like the bare twigs have put on little yellow skirts overnight πŸ™‚

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A couple of days ago, I got the girls a water beads set. They had never used one before, and the fact that there was only one bead pen in the set encouraged them to take it in turns. They were both so excited to try it that they were actually courteous to each other about sharing the project πŸ˜€ I think it was good value for what was included. There are several bead pictures to make and one of them kept them busy for an hour πŸ™‚

I decided to try out some different coloured homemade play doh. I had picked up some red and green food colouring when we got groceries. The green was less vibrant than I’d imagined and the red made the play doh resemble raw mince πŸ˜€ But the girls didn’t seem to mind – maybe it made them feel more like real ingredients πŸ™‚ They played with their dough in their tuff tray until the rain started, and then moved it in to the kitchen table. I gave them a couple of old half-filled dried herb shakers, so they could season the pretend food they were making. Those caused more excitement than the play doh did.

I received a lovely surprise in the post from my parents. It was a box filled with my favourite candles, all literary-themed. There was also some passionfruit and blood orange tea included. The girls loved it as much as I did and it’s already gone πŸ™‚

I decided to make Chinese food for dinner, as we had picked up some prawn crackers at the shop and I had the ingredients to make fried rice and sweet and sour. I set the table with straws and napkins, tealights, a jug of juice for the girls and played traditional Chinese music in the background, so we could pretend we were in a restaurant. The food wasn’t exactly authentic, but it still tasted good, and the girls liked the novelty of having our own restaurant. Afterwards, they insisted on doing the dishes, and I was happy to let them πŸ™‚

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Today, we did the Pyjamarama festival, held by the Book Trust. They had a programme of online activities for kids and the idea was that you stay in your pyjamas all day whilst completing them. That didn’t last very long for us, because we spend so much time in the garden and my kids don’t tend to sit still πŸ™‚ In the morning, the girls did a guided drawing of a teddy bear. They took their time copying it and then listened to a storytime video.

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My older daughter had to do a picture of The Golden Fish painting for school, so I included my younger daughter in the process and they painted their own versions. They are both always keen to paint and sometimes I join them. Other times, I just enjoy the temporary tranquility to drink the rest of my morning coffee, which was what I did today πŸ™‚

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The girls wanted to play in the garden and there was a spell of sunshine, so they cycled in circles on their bikes πŸ™‚ They played a game of naming all the plants they could remember in our garden, and I was impressed by how much they’d taken in. Maybe they will make better gardeners than me πŸ™‚ They are currently growing some broad beans my neighbour gave them as gifts and keep checking on them to see if they’ve produced beans overnight πŸ™‚

When it clouded over, we returned indoors and did another activity from the festival: a video about making diaries. They had to draw a picture of themselves and then print off a photo of somewhere they’d been to that day, (for example, in the garden, out for a walk, at the shops.) They had to place the pictures of themselves in front of the scenes and glue them on. Our photos came out very green, probably due to my poor printing skills, but the girls really enjoyed making them, and green is my favourite colour anyway πŸ™‚

I took down some of our Easter crafts that were adorning the kitchen walls and replaced them with today’s artwork πŸ™‚
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The girls did another interactive storytime and enjoyed joining in with the rhyme and stories. Afterwards, I noticed we had consumed all of our baked treats, so I decided to try a new recipe with them. I found one in a magazine for Abernethy Biscuits with fennel seeds. I didn’t have fennel seeds in the house, so I decided to improvise and use Allspice instead and they turned out really well πŸ™‚

We had a little tea party when they were ready and I made the last of our tisane tea and served it in cups and saucers, with tealights and our biscuits πŸ™‚ I had printed off worksheets for the girls to complete from the Pyjamarama page, so they designed their own bookmarks, did some matching games and designed their own pyjamas. I’m so grateful for these kinds of fun worksheets – they provide needed distraction during difficult moments πŸ™‚

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Tonight, we made some homemade pizza and had a movie night and ice-cream. I’ve been trying to do a little less writing in the evenings at the moment and spend more time on yoga and reading in the bath πŸ™‚ I feel too drained to write after a certain time of the day and I’ve accepted my word counts will be reduced by the constant company I have at the moment πŸ™‚ I feel forced to slow down, and maybe that’s what we all need most.

 

Collecting Blossom, Colour Wheels & Patisseries

Yesterday, the girls decided to change our walking route. It’s strange how quickly you can fall into new habits, although I do like the fact the Greenway is like a piece of the countryside in the middle of Belfast. On our new walk, the girls came across some blossom trees dropping petals and they pretended it was snowing. They gathered up as many petals as they could to take home. I’m still finding them all over the house πŸ™‚ They had insisted on wearing fancy dress headwear and I thought the blossom bouquet softened the look of my daughter’s zombie bride veil πŸ™‚

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When we got home, we started my daughter’s schoolwork and since she was learning about sea life, I got my younger daughter to draw pictures of sea creatures so she could be involved. Afterwards, we had some chocolate chip cookies and watched the Afternoon Club colour wheel episode. The girls love any excuse to paint and I was surprised by how long it kept them sitting in one place, working out how to mix the colours and where to place them on their wheels. I don’t think they even realised they were learning about tertiary colours in the process πŸ™‚

I was flipping through a cookery book, looking for inspiration for dinner and my daughter’s eyes landed upon a swiss roll she wanted to make. We had the ingredients, so I decided to make it with her. It was a budget recipe that used natural yogurt instead of cream, mixed with strawberry jam. It tasted better than I’d imagined it would πŸ™‚ My daughter insisted on wearing my polka dot apron while we baked πŸ™‚

My younger daughter helped me to make risotto and my older one washed the dishes afterwards. It seems like a good time to teach them how to cook and look after themselves a little, since there are usually too many excuses to rush through those things.

This morning, we went for another walk on the blossom-filled route. I’m enjoying spending time walking with the girls more now that we don’t have anywhere to be at a particular time. We get to have more detailed conversations and stop so they can collect leaves, petals and feathers. In that respect, I think it’s making me more patient (but definitely not in other respects!)

My daughter’s school had suggested doing a quiet family colouring session with relaxing music in the background. We listened to Bob Marley and my younger daughter completed two colouring pages. She normally does one squiggle and runs away, but it felt really calming and I did some colouring too, which I haven’t done in a long time. It reminded me that I have a pile of adult colouring books in the cupboard that I never get around to using, but I should more. I felt more able to deal with the day after it, so I might make it a daily practice.

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My older daughter had her turn at being the chef tonight. She made us some pesto chicken with tomatoes and rice. She even put lime wedges in our drinks and enjoyed serving everyone. My younger daughter was the eager dishwasher. It took a long time, but she did a good job for a four year old πŸ™‚

We sat down to play some board games together while my older daughter worked on her clay models. She made a little cake and then proceeded to make twenty more whilst talking my mum through the process on the phone. My mum reminded her of their birthday date for afternoon tea at Patisserie Valerie and my daughter borrowed a china plate so she could recreate her own tea tier. The girls used the empty clay tubs as cake boxes and set up shops in the living room on an upturned box. I paid them for cakes in change and then they bought from each other’s businesses too πŸ™‚

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I have a feeling I’ll be sold cakes before my eyes are fully open tomorrow morning, so I’ll enjoy the tranquility while it lasts. I love sitting in dimmed light with a glass of wine, writing. In contrast to the nonstop nature of a day at home with kids, it feels even sweeter.