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™‚

Clay Creations, Chilli Hot Chocolate & Fairy Houses

We have been doing diverse and random things the last couple of weeks, so trying to assemble them into one coherent post might prove challenging. Hopefully it will result in a collection of snapshots of ideas and inspiration πŸ™‚

I got some beads and pipe cleaners from the pound shop for lazy bracelet making πŸ™‚ It makes threading the beads easier as they can’t slide off and they are easy to twist together at the end too πŸ™‚ The girls enjoyed making some multi-coloured creations and managed to do it with minimal interference πŸ™‚

We made another trip to the Ulster Museum and Botanic Gardens to catch the roses before they wilt πŸ™‚ When the girls climb on the bandstand it reminds me of hanging around there as a teenager. It’s strange living through different phases of life in the same place and with a new generation πŸ™‚ There are some lovely bright flowers there at the moment and combining it with the museum is a good way to pass an afternoon. I’ve noticed that since the discovery rooms are closed in the museum, the girls are starting to show more interest in displays they typically ignore. They were building stone age tombs and looking at changing displays of burials, followed by a visit to the mummy. (It was all a bit morbid but at least it kept them entertained :))

I found a bag in B&M of slime accessories. I didn’t see any slime so I got some of the colourful soft clay instead. It kept the girls entertained for hours. I’m still finding the little balls and sequins everywhere! They loved decorating the clay with all the different accessories, and generally making a mess πŸ™‚ I like trying to redirect my kids’ love for mess-making into an activity at the table, to try to minimise the number of water incidents that take place in the bathroom πŸ™‚ I also got some foam stickers and the girls made under the sea pictures. I think that stickers hold their attention longer than anything else. It’s good to have something that quietens them down and that they find therapeutic πŸ™‚

We played some card games. I looked up how to play Crazy Eights and played it with the girls. My skills for cards are at the same level as theirs πŸ™‚ We played Monopoly too and had some hot chocolate. I found a dark chocolate chilli one in Lidl that I’m addicted to at the moment. Oat milk hot chocolate might be my new favourite thing πŸ™‚ I finally found a dessert that my daughter will eat – berry crumble with custard πŸ™‚ It’s so easy to make and I’ve been using frozen berries for it. You can just put them into the dish frozen, top with the crumble and stick it in the oven πŸ™‚ I’m definitely in the mood for autumnal comfort food now. My slow cooker has made a reappearance this week too and I plan to make lots of casseroles and soup. We made some cinnamon cookies too and the girls did the icing and sprinkles. We were planning on gingerbread men but I had no ground ginger so we made those instead.

We are always happy to find interesting things to look at on the school run πŸ™‚ It’s good incentive for my kids to walk and I notice far fewer complaints along the way πŸ™‚ We came across two fairy trees. One is surrounded by painted rocks and has little fairy doors on it. The other is quite elaborate and has lots of little fairy houses and a fairy postbox πŸ™‚ I was thinking about writing letters with the girls soon so they can post them there πŸ™‚ I love the attention to detail and the fact that there are even little figures and trains inside the houses πŸ™‚ My kids could easily stop there for an hour to examine everything πŸ™‚ (as could I.)

We made another trip to the folk museum. I love walking around there and shutting off from modern technology πŸ™‚ I almost resent taking pictures there because it seems to jar with the rustic feel to the place πŸ™‚ My daughter befriended a pig and was talking to him for a long time. They wanted to move into the little cottage and live there with him as a pet πŸ™‚ It was quiet so we didn’t feel rushed and got to take our time over everything. I stopped to look at the flowers, the apples on the apple trees and the girls did some more blackberry picking πŸ™‚ There were lots of animals there and the kids loved uncovering the donkeys in a hidden corner of a barn πŸ™‚ They were really friendly and liked having their noses petted.

We also went to Seapark early one morning and had the playground mostly to ourselves. It was a windy day and I could imagine it being Wintertime. I love looking at the view across the water and trying to spot Carrickfergus castle, seeing the light on the Cave Hill and watching the boats coming in.

We made a cereal box postbox by painting it red and making a slot for letters. I gave the girls some envelopes and they wrote letters and drew pictures to post. They used stampers for the stamps and my older daughter picked them up in her backpack and took them to the post box. I love how simple activities like these keep them happy for so long πŸ™‚ I might need to buy more envelopes now though 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™‚

 

Beach Tours, Wind Chimes & Wishing Trees

The girls and I have been doing tours of various beaches the last couple of weeks πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ It started to rain, but we had brought raincoats, and I like watching the choppy sea anyway πŸ™‚ Everyone else fled so it felt like we had our own little private beach for a while πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ We skimmed stones on the still sea, which was a first for the girls, and for me πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ The girls got a little nature book each and have been interested in reading about the countryside and butterflies πŸ™‚ We sat in the sun and the girls had some sticks of rock while I had a coffee πŸ™‚ Since they had new things to look at, they sat at peace for a change πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

We made a craft I had found online. They are little natural decoration/chime type things πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ I let them use my acrylic paints for that and for some reason, they seem to think that is a real privilege πŸ˜€

 

Nature Bags, Gratitude Journals & Fairy Houses

I just looked at the volume of photos I have for blog posts that have never materialised and realised I’ll probably never catch up now, but I’ll attempt to anyway πŸ™‚ Last week, the girls and I found a new coffee shop near us that does takeaway coffees/you can have it at little tables outside. I’ve decided I much prefer to drink coffee outside in the fresh air anyway. I’ve done it every day since being in lockdown and it feels like you’re on holiday πŸ™‚ The girls had some hot chocolates in their little takeaway cups and felt grown up πŸ™‚ I got a vanilla latte and we walked around to see what was opening up again in our area. I love calling into the health shop too and stocking up on snacks like popcorn and yogurt covered raisins πŸ™‚

We completed the second craft in the girls’ Toucan boxes: making dyed nature bags. First, they had to put coloured tissue paper strips on foil and they painted it with water until it was all damp. Then, they pressed the fabric bag against it and it dyed it πŸ™‚ After it dried, the girls used the nature stencils to make pictures on top of the dyes. The bags came with little checklists for each season, so the girls can take them with them on nature walks and tick off the things they find along the way.

I finally ordered some sand for the girls’ water/sand table. They never show much interest in it when it’s filled with water, but they played with it all day when I filled it with sand πŸ™‚ We made mini sandcastles and they ended up burying LOL dolls and rescuing them.

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For my daughter’s schoolwork, she had to make a forest school picture, using natural materials and a dividing line to create symmetry. We got out her shell and rock collection and a skipping rope and the girls enjoyed making mirrored shell pictures in the garden for a long time πŸ™‚

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I’d been looking at gratitude journals for kids online and found a cheaper version since some of them are so expensive πŸ™‚ The girls have enjoyed filling them in at the end of the day. They are simple and encourage them to write or draw three things they are grateful for that day. I’m guessing that the more expensive versions have more prompts in them for journalling, but these are good if you just want to teach your kids about gratitude and reflecting on their day.

Apart from the Toucan boxes the girls get, I like the emails they send with suggested activities for kids in them. They sent a template this week for an origami dinosaur bookmark and I’ve decided I’m going to look for more origami animals instructions for the girls. They seem to enjoy lots of paper crafts and games you can play with just a piece of paper and a pencil.

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My friend kindly brought us some beetroot and parsley from her garden πŸ™‚ We made some beetroot crisps for the first time yesterday πŸ™‚ I was surprised that both of the girls tried them (especially since one frequently declares that she doesn’t eat any vegetables.) I think I overcooked them a little, but they were like sweet crisps so they went down well πŸ™‚

Yesterday, we made some toilet roll tube fairy houses. We just painted them with poster paints, using sponge applicators. After they had dried, we cut out doors and windows from coloured paper, adding “curtains” that I cut out from magazines. We added bun cases as roofs, but you could use anything you like. Patterned ones would look good too, or patterned paper to cover the tubes. I liked it because it required minimal preparation and you can be as creative (or as lazy) as you like πŸ™‚

 

 

Beach Days, Tie Dye & Face Paints

This weekend, I took the girls to the beach. I think that’s what I’ve missed most during lockdown: getting away to the sea and letting the girls build sandcastles πŸ™‚ They always seem happiest when they’re digging in sand, collecting water from the sea and jumping over waves, and I am too πŸ™‚

I ordered some face paints on eBay since the girls love getting their faces painted and won’t get the opportunity to get them done any time soon πŸ™‚ They were excited, even though my face painting isn’t up to the same standards πŸ˜€

The girls played hopscotch and we managed to get a glimpse of the garden before the stormy weather arrived πŸ™‚ My lilies are thriving and I didn’t remember having yellow and white ones last year, so that was a nice surprise πŸ™‚

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We made some tie dye butterflies. The kit came with the girls’ Toucan boxes. You just draw patterns with felt tips in the centre of a coffee filter and then fold it into a cone, dipping it into water for 30 seconds. That makes the pen run and when they dry they look like tie dye πŸ™‚ Then, we just folded them and put them into wooden pegs. The girls decorated the pegs and we added pipe cleaners as antennae.

The girls also received watercolours with their box and practised mixing paints to make different colours. I thought it would be a short-lived activity since they’d done colour mixing before, but they were really interested in coming up with different shades and made pretty pictures that looks like decorating samples books πŸ™‚

I ordered a build a garden set for the girls. It might be my favourite one of their toys πŸ™‚ They spent ages constructing flowers and coming up with different combinations and shapes. We have been having a TV-free week, which has been good for the girls. I notice they have more time to get lost in an imaginary world without it being interrupted by the arrival of β€œTV time.” But I’ll also be glad of it when it returns so I can have some headspace to write too πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚ The days were colder and gloomier, so we made some hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows and played lots of board games πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

The girls made a shop for their LOL dolls’ shoes and bags by turning a chair on its side and using it as shelfing πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ The girls asked to keep it in their room and they want to make more, so it was a popular activity πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ The girls kept peering into the fridge, assessing whether they were ready or not πŸ™‚
(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 πŸ™‚ The girls are happily occupied and for once, I almost feel relaxed πŸ™‚

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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Pretend Plants and Handprint Rainbows

I’m just taking some time to reflect on what we have done in last week and catch up with recording some of it. Before the weather changed for the worse, we made good use of our garden and I set up a gardening game for the girls. I just filled the old barbecue they play with with soil and put it on their tuff tray, supplying them with kids’ gardening tools, empty plant pots and some sunflower and pumpkin seeds I found in the kitchen. The girls loved planting their own seeds and watering them. I doubt they will actually develop into plants, but the fun of this game was in making a mess and recreating gardening for them without adult interference πŸ™‚

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My younger daughter has taken to bugs in the last couple of weeks and says she wants to have one as a “pet.” It was good to see them being gentle with insects and showing an interest in their body structures and eating habits πŸ™‚

We still have a book from the library filled with activities for bored kids, so today I drew out some random shapes and the girls enjoyed filling them in to turn them into cats and dogs. It’s interesting to see that even if the girls are presented with the same starting page, they come up with their own ideas of how to draw them.

I got myself some yellow carnations and cheap candles at the shop, and it’s funny how such small things seem to enliven everything around you. I’ve decided that flowers might become an essential on my shopping list, and I love the fact that carnations last so long. A week later, they are still going strong πŸ™‚

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I made some tea for us and got out some recipe books out of the bookcase that I never seem to get time to look at. The girls enjoyed flipping through them too and announcing every recipe they wanted to try πŸ™‚ One of the books had homemade lollipops in it that the girls, of course, want to try. I’ve never made homemade sweets before, but I might try it now while we have time to experiment with such things πŸ™‚ It involved fewer ingredients than I would have imagined, but recipes involving sugar reaching exact temperatures intimidate me πŸ™‚

I found a recipe for seafood chowder in one of the books and adapted it to go with salmon we had in the house. It worked out really well and the girls enjoyed it too. I’d always thought it would be a complex recipe but it was pretty straight forward.

My older daughter enjoyed drawing a map of our house (it was part of her homework.) She chose objects to hide, marked them on the map and we had to figure out where she had hidden them. There seems to have been a revival of hide and seek in our house too.

I also got the girls to do some fingerpainting. I might suggest adding faces and features to turn them into animals now they’re dry. We also made a big poster for the living room window of a rainbow made out of handprints. It was a good chance to talk about mixing colours too, since we only had four in the house. The sun had completely faded our other rainbow pictures in the window, which shows just how long we’ve been in lockdown for πŸ™‚

My daughter and I made some homemade pizza together. I made my own pizza sauce and I let her chop the mozzarella with a blunt knife, which she was excited about. She laid them on top of the pizza. She is really enjoying learning about cooking, and I might look up some more savoury recipes later to try with her.

My neighbour kindly gave us some date and walnut bread. It was lovely with a cup of tea πŸ™‚ We have a new tradition of leaving baked goods on top of each other’s bins since we’ve been staying at home πŸ™‚

On Sunday, I was feeling depleted and suddenly worn out from constantly cooking and washing dishes, so I ordered brunch to the house. It was so nice to have a latte made for me by someone else again πŸ™‚ The girls said it was the best day ever, so they must be tired of my cooking too πŸ˜€

I ordered the girls a kids’ encyclopedia online and it is presented in a vibrant way that actually holds their interest. I made some hot chocolate and marshmallows on a grey day, dug out a felt board dress-up game and we played a versionΒ  of tic tac toe suggested by my daughter’s school using different coloured dots cut out of paper.

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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 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.