Cheap Crafts, Wild Weather & Curious Chickens

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my children playing with a cardboard box. I don’t know what it is about it – maybe it’s just a classic childhood activity, but my kids always seem more content when they’re inside one ๐Ÿ™‚ Sometimes they find them without my knowledge and transform them into things on their own. The most recent one was used as a pirate ship and my daughter stuck a flag onto it she made without my involvement ๐Ÿ™‚ The garden was turned into a colouring station and we had some homemade play doh that was transported out for a cookie shop afterwards.

I stocked up on some of the 79p craft packs from Home Bargains. They aren’t made to last, but that’s probably for the best, considering the amount of clutter we have already accumulated in the house ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls enjoyed decorating their own hairbands with ribbons and sequins.

Since our blackberry-picking expedition the girls have been obsessed with finding them on our walks. Every time I look at one of them they’ve spotted another blackberry bush and are collecting them in their then-stained handbag or pockets ๐Ÿ™‚ There are some in our garden too so that has kept them happy.

We had our first proper trip since before Lockdown to the library. After picking out all the books they wanted and finding a book of short stories for myself (I’m hoping there is more chance of me actually getting the time to finish them!) we went to a cafe we hadn’t been to before. I hadn’t realised they sold ice-cream and I love the window seats ๐Ÿ™‚ There was something about it that reminded me of a Turkish tea house.

At home, the girls cut out images from an old magazine so they could make their own collages. I cut out accompanying text that I thought went with what they were making. You could also cut out random words and put them together to make new sentences of your own.

I found some sand and cutters in the pound shop and put it in a tray for the girls to play with. It was the same as kinetic sand and kept them occupied for hours. I love looking in the craft and toy sections in the pound shop ๐Ÿ™‚ Then again – that’s why I’ve had to convert three of our kitchen cupboards into craft cupboards ๐Ÿ™‚ I also found some masks with elastic for the girls to colour. I find my kids seem to sit for longer to colour when they’re colouring something that serves a purpose when it’s finished :/

We went to the beach on a very windy day. The girls turned the picnic blanket into a bed to hide from the wind ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a strange kind of weather: cloudy, sunny, hot, cold and windy all at once. We had a pain au chocolat and tried to shelter from the wind. I like windy days at the beach because I like watching the waves and the sea breeze really clears your head. We kept moving to keep warm. The girls climbed on rocks, we went for a walk and they played in the playground. I love the trees that make up the backdrop of this playground. I think they have so much character and make the place instantly recognisable.

We also went to the Folk Museum for the first time in months. The sweet shop was closed but other than that, things felt fairly normal. In the printers shop a man made the girls a donkey print each. They liked watching the process and they’re always happy to get something to take home with them. I love stopping at the houses and seeing the turf fires. It makes me wish we had a functioning fireplace and that people still cooked over them ๐Ÿ™‚ There were lots of animals wandering about that day. The chickens were roaming around the farmhouse and tried to follow us inside. There were also piglets, a horse, a donkey and sheep. It made the walk more interesting for the girls. There were some people in front of us that had brought punnets for blackberry picking, so that started off the girls’ obsession with it again ๐Ÿ™‚ There are very few items of clothing of theirs left without blackberry stains on them now ๐Ÿ™‚

Beach Tours, Wind Chimes & Wishing Trees

The girls and I have been doing tours of various beaches the last couple of weeks ๐Ÿ™‚ We picked a particularly changeable day, weatherwise, to go to one in County Down, but I liked the fact we got to experience a summer’s day and a stormy day at the beach all in one afternoon ๐Ÿ™‚ It started to rain, but we had brought raincoats, and I like watching the choppy sea anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ Everyone else fled so it felt like we had our own little private beach for a while ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls made sandcastles and decorated them with shells. One of my daughters loves collecting everything she finds at the beach and bringing it home, but I’m thinking of sneaking some of them back to the beach as her shell tin is overflowing now ๐Ÿ™‚

We chose another day that wasn’t sunny to visit the beach and did some rockpooling. We looked for crabs and other creatures in the pools. We only found some snails and pretty shells, but it still entertained the girls for a long time ๐Ÿ™‚ We skimmed stones on the still sea, which was a first for the girls, and for me ๐Ÿ™‚ There was a strange light the whole day that made the sky look like an all-day sunrise. We walked along the seafront and paddled in the water. Afterwards, we got some ice cream and sat overlooking the harbour and chatting ๐Ÿ™‚

We also went on a day out to Castle Espie. You can’t feed the birds at the moment, but the girls still enjoyed watching them and exploring. They did some rock climbing and ladybird spotting (which they have got into because my parents have a holly tree in their garden that all the ladybirds flock to :)) I spotted some thistles which remind me of my granny and I hadn’t noticed there before. We went to the wooded part to have a picnic and sat on a log ๐Ÿ™‚ We tried some den building (which I am not good at!) Afterwards, the girls suggested we build miniature dens for their dolls and that felt much more manageable ๐Ÿ™‚

They played music at the Pixiephone, climbed on toadstools and whispered their wishes to the wishing tree. My daughter told me she wished that I’d get a machine for my birthday that dispenses chocolate. (I wish that would happen too.) We had a look in the gift shop since the girls had some money to spend. I like looking at all the beautiful books and then putting them back when I see they are nearly twenty pounds each ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls got a little nature book each and have been interested in reading about the countryside and butterflies ๐Ÿ™‚ We sat in the sun and the girls had some sticks of rock while I had a coffee ๐Ÿ™‚ Since they had new things to look at, they sat at peace for a change ๐Ÿ™‚

I picked up some sticker mosaic kits for the girls this week. They are only 79p in Home Bargains. I might go back for some more since they kept them quiet for so long ๐Ÿ™‚

We made a craft I had found online. They are little natural decoration/chime type things ๐Ÿ™‚ You just find a stick and wrap embroidery thread around it until it is mostly covered. You add a loop to hang it from, so it sits either horizontally or vertically. At the end, we just took a piece of the thread and added a bell each and a couple of beads. You attach it and if you hang them up outside they sound like windchimes ๐Ÿ™‚

We also made a finger paints family tree. You just draw the outline of a tree, let your kids do fingerprint leaves all over it and then add family members to it ๐Ÿ™‚ Afterwards, the girls asked me to draw pictures for them to paint and colour in. I find that if I draw pictures for them myself, they tend to trace over them and spend longer colouring them than they do with colouring books.

It was a gloomy day, so we had some hot chocolate and marshmallows and painted some rocks we had collected at the beach too ๐Ÿ™‚ I let them use my acrylic paints for that and for some reason, they seem to think that is a real privilege ๐Ÿ˜€

 

Nature trails, Roadside Treats & Mini Banjos

We have had a quiet, nature-filled few days. This week, I took the girls to Castle Ward for the day. I like the fact that when it’s raining there, you are still sheltered. The trees all make a huge covering, like a giant umbrella and we had our picnic underneath a tree. We walked around the sunken garden and the girls played hide and seek in the rocky area. We found a huge fir tree and discovered that it was a good climbing tree ๐Ÿ™‚ I find it very healing being close to greenery and trees. There is something about the scent that envelops you when you’re standing underneath one, particularly when it’s raining. We walked down to the kids’ nature trail and they still had some of it laid out. The girls left mini bouquets for the fictional frog that owns the summer house ๐Ÿ™‚ There were dens to hide in and swampy paths to navigate. My daughter took advantage of the fact she was wearing wellies and jumped in the largest puddles she could find ๐Ÿ™‚ We came across a giant tic tac toe carved out of wood, as well as some balance beams and a car carved out of a tree trunk.

On our way home, we stopped at a roadside farm shop that served coffee. I got a coffee and traybake and the girls had an ice cream each and I was amazed by how cheap it was. They had wooden seats to sit on outdoors and the scenery was lovely because we were overlooking the green fields and hills ๐Ÿ™‚

We tried a couple of crafts this week, some more successful than others! We made miniature jar lid bangos. They were very easy to make and the girls loved “playing them.” We just stuck two lolly sticks together using washi tape to secure/decorate them, then wrapped some elastic bands around the jar lid. We added tape at the back to secure the “strings” and then taped the lolly sticks onto the back of the strings.

We tried to make fireworks in a jar too. It worked on a smaller scale, but I think we were held back by the quality of our food colouring ๐Ÿ™‚ I had bought a couple recently that are red and green, but they aren’t very pigmented and didn’t give us the colour we wanted. You just add food colouring to olive oil and mix it, adding it to a jar of water and watch as the colours move like little fireworks shooting. It worked but wasn’t impressive-looking.

We made some bubble wrap prints. You just wrap a piece of it around the end of a toilet roll tub and sellotape it. Then you can put different colours of paints on a plate and make prints in several colours at once. The girls did this activity for a long time and it was so easy to set up.

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Today we went to the farm for the first time this year ๐Ÿ™‚ We had missed it and they had organised plenty to do, even though certain parts were closed off. They gave us little packets when we arrived of feed for “furry friends” and “feathered friends.” We fed some goats and sheeps with curled horns ๐Ÿ™‚ Then we fed some of the bunnies and a calf started licking my coat ๐Ÿ™‚ It was so calming seeing the animals and walking around at a slow pace. I found the fact that the activities were limited easier as the girls weren’t rushing between things, spending five seconds on each activity ๐Ÿ™‚ They went on barrel rides and the tractor ride to see the red deer. We held some chicks and fed the hens (and turkey.) I felt like my sanity was restored by the end of it ๐Ÿ™‚ We also had some of the ice-cream they make on the farm and it might be my favourite kind ๐Ÿ™‚

When we got home, we did some easy baking. I like to buy the boxes of baking mixes for days when the girls want to decorate buns and I don’t feel like baking ๐Ÿ™‚ We just had to add a couple of ingredients and made some chocolate cupcakes. The girls loved putting the icing and chocolate swirls on top (and tried to sneak most of them into their mouths when I wasn’t looking.) I’m relieved its summertime now, even if the weather thinks otherwise. It feels like we have been released from the pressure of teaching at home and can just enjoy our days in our own way now ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Galaxy Jars, Chocolate Buttons & Cress Heads

This week, my daughter had to make a 2D shapes picture for school, so my younger daughter joined in. They had to find objects to draw around on coloured paper, cut them out and glue them together to make a picture. They both really enjoyed it which surprised me, but it was so successful I’d do it again with them for fun instead of by obligation ๐Ÿ™‚ The days were colder and gloomier, so we made some hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows and played lots of board games ๐Ÿ™‚

I also decided to make cress egg heads with the girls. We had never done them before and I ordered some cress seeds online so we could ๐Ÿ™‚ I just cracked two eggs, emptied and washed them. The girls drew faces on them with permanent marker, but you could paint them too if you have time to let them dry ๐Ÿ™‚ We put a damp cotton ball inside and sprinkled some cress on top of it. They are now sitting in our sunniest window in their egg cups and the girls are checking them every couple of hours to see if they’ve grown yet ๐Ÿ™‚

The girls made a shop for their LOL dolls’ shoes and bags by turning a chair on its side and using it as shelfing ๐Ÿ™‚ I thought that was quite inventive. Sadly they spend little time playing with the things they work so hard to assemble!

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Today, we made a galaxy jar. I found the process really therapeutic and the girls were fascinated by it. You just need an empty jar, paints (we used acrylics, but poster paints should work too,) glitter and cotton balls. We filled the jar 1/3 full with water and added a squeeze of paint (you don’t need much.) Then you put the lid on and shake it until the water turns the colour you’ve chosen. Then you add some glitter, put the lid on and shake again (the glitter is supposed to be the stars.) Next, you tease out the cotton balls a little, keeping them in one piece. You add as many as you can fit into the water, pressing them down with a knife. Next, you add another 1/3 jar of water, a different colour of paint and the glitter using the same steps as before. You add cotton balls again, pressing down as many as you can fit into the water. Then you repeat the same steps a third time. It gives it a layered colours effect and looks a bit like a lava lamp ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls asked to keep it in their room and they want to make more, so it was a popular activity ๐Ÿ™‚

Afterwards, on our space theme, we drew pictures of aliens and cut them out. I wrote little messages on the back of alternative ways to communicate with them. I then hid them around the house and the girls had an alien hunt. When they found them, they had to complete the action on the back, for example, pat the aliens ears, dance around with it, say silly space words.

I had some plain white chocolate, which is strange, considering chocolate never lasts long in our house (mainly because of me.) So, we made some white chocolate buttons. You just melt the chocolate. I melted ours in the microwave on a defrost setting – this takes a few minutes but stops it accidentally burning. Then you use a teaspoon to put circles of white chocolate onto a sheet of greaseproof paper. Then, you can add whatever sprinkles you like and let them set in the fridge ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls kept peering into the fridge, assessing whether they were ready or not ๐Ÿ™‚
(Turns our they make a good after dinner treat with strawberries :))


I’m so glad to have some sunshine back this afternoon. I’m sitting in the garden, watching the clean sheets swaying back and forth on the line and listening to my chimes clinking above my head ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls are happily occupied and for once, I almost feel relaxed ๐Ÿ™‚

Buttercups, Homemade Paint & Clay Creations

This morning, I took the girls for a walk on the Greenway. I’ve decided I prefer going for walks on gloomier days because the pathway is less crowded and the walk less stressful ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls took their time, blowing dandelion clocks, working out if we liked butter by holding buttercups to our chins and stopping to admire new additions to the rainbow displays ๐Ÿ™‚ There was a carpet of forget me nots which were hard to capture properly on camera. We talked a lot about nature and the environment. I find that my daughter seems to show more interest in her schoolwork when we do it in a practical way, rather than sitting down at the table writing.

The girls helped me with chores today and really seemed to enjoy themselves. I’m going to recruit them to help out more often because it cut my cleaning time in half ๐Ÿ™‚ One washed the dishes and the other mopped, both to a surprisingly high standard. I think it’s good to give them a chance to learn skills and have pride in their work too.

Afterwards, I made us some more tea and honey and we made some homemade paint. I’d never made it before and it was a bit of an experiment. I just mixed 3/4 cup of flour with 1 1/2 cups of almost boiled water. I whisked it a lot to try to stop lumps forming. They still did and I think next time I might try adding the water more gradually. But it still worked out ๐Ÿ™‚ It comes out like a ready brek consistency. I divided it up and the girls helped me to mix it with food colouring. They used them as finger paints. I like the way one of them is so careful she uses a different finger for each paint colour while the other grabs as much as she can and spreads it on the page ๐Ÿ™‚ I think this is another art project that is more about the process than the end result. I’m going to try letting a couple of the pictures dry overnight, but I have a feeling it’s more for the sensory experience than to have something to frame at the end ๐Ÿ™‚

My daughter has been doing the Jumping Clay tutorials on Youtube. I got her some more air drying clay and she is really focused on it, making sure she has every detail right. My younger daughter joined in today and they made cherry pies, whales and bubble birds (whatever they are!) I think she’s going to be going through a box of the clay a week, but I’m glad there is something she enjoys in school that she can still do at home ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m going to have to build an extension to contain all their creations though ๐Ÿ™‚

The weather was brighter and windy this evening, so I hung out clothes on the line. The girls built a new den, using their tuff tray as a roof, set on two chairs. They made themselves little beds and their baby a cot out of a crate ๐Ÿ™‚ Sometimes it can be ill-timed when they decide to drag everything out of the cupboards, but I’m glad they have learnt how to make games out of nothing and how to find substitutes for toys they don’t have ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ˜€ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜€ But the girls didn’t seem to mind – maybe it made them feel more like real ingredients ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

I took down some of our Easter crafts that were adorning the kitchen walls and replaced them with today’s artwork ๐Ÿ™‚
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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ They had insisted on wearing fancy dress headwear and I thought the blossom bouquet softened the look of my daughter’s zombie bride veil ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Iโ€™d imagined it would ๐Ÿ™‚ My daughter insisted on wearing my polka dot apron while we baked ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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.

 

Foliage Crowns, Paddling & Cardboard Flowers

Yesterday, we made the most of the weather and spent a lot of time in the garden. I suggested making foliage crowns for the girls and they collected a few leaves and flowers for me before their interest waned ๐Ÿ™‚ I just used some gardening wire and wrapped to it fit their heads. They I used my jewellery wire to attach leaves, etc. I hope to make a second attempt at it when they’re in a more focused frame of mind ๐Ÿ™‚ I might use a less visible colour of wire next time though ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls still insisted on wearing their single-leafed headbands ๐Ÿ™‚

I got to read a complete short story in the sun (which is an achievement when the girls are awake.) I filled the old baby pool we have with bubbly warm water for the girls to soak their feet in. It seems to provide as much entertainment as the full-sized pool we used to have and takes much less time to fill ๐Ÿ™‚

I noticed that my tomato plant was getting too big for the windowsill, so I repotted it outside. I’m hoping it continues to thrive there and that one day it might even produce a tomato ๐Ÿ™‚ Some daisies I planted a couple of years ago have come out again, along with a few yellow poppies. It’s nice seeing bits of colour in our garden, however limited ๐Ÿ™‚

I came across a cake recipe in a magazine that I wanted to try. It had cardamom in it, which I’m obsessed with. I love Indian dishes, chai tea and anything with that flavour in it ๐Ÿ™‚ I had some overripe bananas to use up, so I made a cardamom banana cake. I didn’t realise that to release the flavour of the cardamom, you take the seeds out of the pods and crush them (I’ve been using them whole or blending the whole pod.) You learn something new every day ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a slow kind of cake to make and the girls were otherwise occupied for a change, so I enjoyed sifting ingredients and taking my time over it. It produced an aromatic, indulgent kind of banana bread and I had to bake it in a roasting tin because there was too much batter to fit in a cake tin ๐Ÿ™‚ It produced large wedges of cake that are too easy to eat ๐Ÿ™‚

This morning, I took the girls for a walk on the Greenway. We went early and the pathway was quite quiet. The girls collected dandelion clocks along the way and named each one. I looked around and tried to identify different plants and weeds along the way. I read in a magazine that there are certain weeds you can use to make pesto, but I have to figure out how to identify them first ๐Ÿ™‚ I also wanted to try to make nettle soup or tea, but have to find some first ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t often go for walks with gardening gloves on so it might be tricky to do that one.

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On the way home, we spotted a tree that had been decorated with rainbows and kids’ craftwork. (Sorry if this is your tree but I had to take a picture of it because it really brightened our day.) The girls asked if we could make something similar, so I’m going to work on adding things to some of the hedges outside.

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I think I’m just starting to recognise the creative potential of toilet roll tubes ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s funny how when you don’t have access to craft shops, you save everything in your house to use in future projects. We made some simple toilet roll tube flowers. I just got the girls to paint the tubes green, I cut some leaves out of an empty box and then they painted them and added glitter. When they were dry, they attached the leaves and I cut two slits in the tops of the tubes to slide their flower heads into. They were easy to make and kept them entertained for a while ๐Ÿ™‚

Afterwards, the girls worked on some more rainbow-themed items. They spread glue onto cardboard and used some confetti to make collage rainbows. Then we made some colourful feather hangings to put outside. We didn’t have any wool or ribbon, so we used gift ribbon I found in the cupboard ๐Ÿ™‚

I made a quick yeastless pizza for lunch and then we spent some time in the garden. The girls made a pretend campfire in the middle of their tuff tray. Once it turned into a runny pile of mud, we converted it into a lego table and the girls made some cars and flowers. We had a very American style dinner and the girls discovered a new love for ribs with barbecue sauce. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and I no longer have the energy for planning anything ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m just hopeful it’ll bring some sun with it.

Watercolours, Mini Beaches & Bubbles

Yesterday, it hit me just how much bread is consumed in our house ๐Ÿ™‚ I had made several kinds of breads over the last week, and with my kids in the house all the time, it disappears overnight ๐Ÿ™‚ So, I began my day with coffee and bread dough-prepping. I enjoy the slow process of making bread by hand and I find the kneading cathartic. It’s satisfying, seeing the end product that has spent most of the day rising on your kitchen counter, and the smell of bread baking makes any house more homely.

After some time in the sunshine, we watched a video about watercolours. It was as much for me as the girls ๐Ÿ™‚ I like the idea of starting a new project – mind you, I have no idea when I’d slot it in between snack-serving, washing dishes and writing ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a live session on Facebook and the lady showed different techniques ๐Ÿ™‚ I enjoyed sitting at the table with the girls with all of us trying them out together. Usually I don’t sit down and paint too – I’m just the distributer and the cleaner ๐Ÿ™‚ But it was nice to sit and play with paint with them at a leisurely pace.

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We made a sensory beach out of an old sweets tub. We didn’t have any sand, so I made some cloud dough using flour and oil. I tried adding some yellow food colouring to make it look more sand-like, but it clumped a little, so I’d suggest leaving it out ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls enjoyed filling the beach with shells we had collected on trips to the beach ages ago. We added some plastic spoons and cups to use as buckets and spades. The girls wanted to make a rockpool too, so we filled a separate tub with water and shells. My daughter added a “boat” – a tiny twig wrapped in tape. The LOL babies were chosen as the pool paddlers ๐Ÿ™‚ It was later converted into an ice cream shop and the sand was dispersed all over the garden, so the miniature beach is no more ๐Ÿ™‚

When our bread was cooked, my kids descended on it like vultures ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m at a loss as to how to keep up with the requests for snacks and keep the cupboard stocked :/

For dinner, I improvised with some leftover chicken and made a white sauce. I wrapped it in pastry to make little chicken pies. It seems to be one of the few meals my kids eat without complaint, especially when served with chips ๐Ÿ™‚

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This morning, I filled the girls’ water table with warm, bubbly water and it kept them entertained a lot longer than usual ๐Ÿ™‚ They were making pretend snow by throwing it around, and the good thing about bubbles is their ability to dissolve into nothing, so no clean-up was involved.

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My friend had shared a post about Easter painting with pegs and pom poms (thanks Kirsty!) so I tried it with the girls. It was really easy – we just lifted the pom poms with a peg and dipped it in poster paints. We started off with using it to print with, and the girls ended up using it as a giant paintbrush instead. I just drew a few outlines for them to print within – an Easter egg, bunny and chick.

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We spent a lot of time in the garden and my neighbour kindly gave me some honeysuckle as a lovely present ๐Ÿ™‚

I also spent an hour cutting circles out of a cereal box to use as a building game for the girls. I just drew around an egg cup, cut the shapes out, cut four slots into each piece, and then you can slot them together to try and build mini structures. I found it quite hard to do, but they proved useful during a tired moment with the girls. It gave them something to play with they watched a Julia Donaldson story time video ๐Ÿ™‚

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Since I’m in the mood to bake, I made some more tortillas, as I plan to use them at dinner time for chicken fajitas. We are quickly running out of flour and I’m going to have to get inventive with recipes over the next few days. One thing you can do in a moment’s boredom is to take inventory of what you already have in the house and figure out what recipes can be made out of them. You can use the supercook app if you’re running out of ideas ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, I’m allowing TV and snack time while I get some tranquility in the garden to write, drink a homemade latte, eat orange cake and remain hopeful that the questions will relent until dinner time ๐Ÿ™‚

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Slow Sundays, Orange Cake & Garden Games

I have really enjoyed the pace of today. I’ve eased back on the pressure I’ve been putting myself under, where child entertainment is involved. I’m feeling more rested because of it ๐Ÿ™‚ I took my time over coffee this morning and read a little. I’m rereading Wuthering Heights since I can’t remember the story clearly. I must have last read it more than a decade ago. I like how atmospheric the writing is. It’s the perfect accompaniment to tea and sitting in front ofย  a candle burning ๐Ÿ™‚ (especially today – with the wind whipping around the house.)

I printed off some pictures I found online for the girls to colour in. Each page states the colour of the different items of clothing the boys and girls are wearing, and it held the girls’ attention for longer than plain colouring would ๐Ÿ™‚ My younger daughter likes to do a rushed drawing and then run away, and the added instructions kept her sitting a little longer. She enjoyed cutting the pictures out too, and presenting them to me as gifts ๐Ÿ™‚

I also found some colouring pages on the Spar Facebook page. If you visit it and scroll down, they posted some pictures a few days ago to keep kids busy. I put on a free audio book for the girls to listen to. There are several free audiobooks on Audible for adults and children while we are in lockdown ๐Ÿ™‚ I find it a good alternative to soothing music and it keeps them focussed on whatever they are doing with their hands ๐Ÿ™‚

I had seen a chalk-drawn game course for kids online, so I recreated it in our garden. I drew hopscotch and other instructions to follow on the ground – zig zags, stepping stones, places to twirl. I was surprised by how much it entertained the girls. They wanted to be rewarded with a cookie upon finishing it, but after three cookies each, we changed it to jumping on the giant cookie drawn on the ground instead ๐Ÿ™‚

The girls requested to have their lunch at the table in the garden. I made a mini fry, and they had theirs outside while I had mine in tranquility for once in the kitchen ๐Ÿ™‚

After lunch, we made an orange cake I adapted from The Simple Things magazine. It was supposed to have caraway seeds in it, and I didn’t have any, so I ground up cardamom pods in the blender and added them instead. It worked out well and was an easy recipe to make with kids. Their favourite part is still licking the bowl and they loved painting the orange glaze on the top at the end ๐Ÿ™‚ I made myself the foamiest coffee ever and had it in relative peace while I did some writing.

I made a roast dinner tonight and served the cake we made warm with vanilla custard we had. The girls loved the custard, but one of my daughters still refuses to eat any cake I make, unless it’s coconut or chocolate ๐Ÿ™‚ We played some board games and turned our Sunday into something that felt a little like a celebration.