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™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ Then again – that’s why I’ve had to convert three of our kitchen cupboards into craft cupboards πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ There are very few items of clothing of theirs left without blackberry stains on them now πŸ™‚

Racing Jellyfish and Bright Flowers on Cloudy Days

I’m constantly collecting content at the moment but never seem to get a chance to compile it. I’ve been working on a book and I still don’t know why editing a book takes so much longer than writing it! I’m unsure as yet if I’ll be able to fit what we’ve been doing into one post, so I’ll improvise and see what happens πŸ™‚

As always, much excitement was expressed at the arrival of the girls’ Toucan boxes. I love capturing the concentration on their faces as they rip them open (and they never open them carefully – they always dismantle the boxes :)) Then they made some racing jellyfish. After making them with cardboard and ribbon, they attach to the window with suction cups and the jellyfish climb on pulleys made of ribbons so you can race them. It reminded me of a toy you’d find at Castle Ward, albeit a cardboard version of their everlasting wooden toys πŸ™‚ We also made some Chinese lion puppets.

We made full use of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme last month. I loved the fact I could take the girls for sprinkle covered marshmallow pops and drinks and coffee for me, and it only came to Β£3 πŸ™‚

We went to the Ulster Museum and walked through Botanic Gardens where we stopped for a picnic. I love how vivid the flowers are in Botanic Gardens at this time of the year. The girls enjoyed smelling the roses and exploring the little hidden part with the bridges. The museum has all the discovery rooms closed so it wasn’t exactly the same experience (mainly because the girls only stop at those parts.) We had a flying tour and did the whole thing in 40 minutes. It was all a bit of a blur but the girls showed appreciation for the old clothes on display and the gemstones that glow under ultraviolet light.

We went back to Belfast Castle and the adventure playground. The girls get more excited about it than any other park for some reason. Someone told me it is only open during the summer months so I’ll have to figure out a way to break that to them πŸ™‚ We walked to the castle and around the gardens too. I find the views there impossible to capture on camera but indescribably beautiful. No matter where we are in life, my daughter manages to make something that isn’t a slide into a slide πŸ™‚ The clouds threatened us with rain the whole time but it never materialised and I think they added to the beauty of the views.

We also went to a Woodland Trust Wood for a walk. Wellies were definitely a good idea. It was a bit swamp-like but filled with dens for the kids to play in and free entry πŸ™‚ These berries made me think of Christmas time. As the girls reminded me, I forgot to bring their Woodland Trust leaf book so we couldn’t identify the leaves, but it didn’t stop them playing in them. Later that day, I went to Strangford for a coffee and noticed an old phone box that had been turned into a little bookshop so I had to take a picture πŸ™‚ I’ll make this a β€œto be continued” in another post and attempt to update my blog more often now I’m finished editing.

On a side note, for any readers of my blog that aren’t on my social media, my book His Mighty Hand is in the library in Northern Ireland now. I also published a new book this week called Three Faces of Phil – Face On. It’s available on Amazon if anyone fancies taking a look.

Blueberry Scones, Bright Boats & Hotdogs on a Hill

Since we got back from Rostrevor, I’ve been focusing on doing free and simple activities with the girls. While we were away, I got some incense that is meant to smell like a turf fire and I’ve been enjoying burning it and pretending we have an open fire πŸ™‚ I ordered sewing machines for the girls a couple of months ago. They loved mine from when I was little but just had to pretend with it since the needle wasn’t replacable. They like the novelty of being able to do a simple stitch on the new ones they got πŸ™‚

I made some scones that turned into giant scones as they expanded in the oven πŸ™‚ They were vegan blueberry ones. Instead of dairy, the recipe used coconut milk and came out surprisingly well. They stayed fresh for days longer than scones usually seem to as well. I used the remaining coconut milk in smoothies and it made a huge difference to the flavour πŸ™‚ Coconut milk might be my new favourite ingredient πŸ™‚

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We have been spending a lot of time outdoors and I renewed our Castle Espie membership. It’s only six pounds a month and we go every week. You can feed the birds again and I love looking at the views over Strangford Lough while the girls enjoy the wildwood playground. Afterwards, we stopped at a little causeway that goes out to an island. We also found a good climbing tree and the girls collected some stones from the beach. It’s lucky we didn’t get caught on the island because the tide was coming in and apparently when it does it covers the walkway πŸ™‚ The girls were excited about the number of butterflies fluttering about. They must be drawn to the flowers there. We liked it so much we made a second trip there πŸ™‚ The island was filled with blackberry bushes and we picked and ate some πŸ™‚ The girls wanted to fill an empty strawberry punnet we had with them but we left some for other visitors πŸ™‚

I’ve developed an obsession with visiting climbs with beautiful views at the top. We went to Scrabo Tower on a really clear day and could see the little island we’d visited from it and lots of other beaches. The girls loved climbing on the rocks and the steps to the tower. I’m always amazed by how long a plain rock can keep them occupied for πŸ™‚

I’ve started making my own iced coffee with soya or oat milk. It’s really refreshing and easy to make. I didn’t think I could recreate the coffee shop ones but with syrup and lots of ice it tastes exactly the same πŸ™‚

We went to the top of the Cavehill a day (although I cheated and parked at the upper car park!) It took about half an hour to walk to the top from there with the girls. The views were beautiful and I was surprised to see so many cows grazing along the way. The ground was purple with heather and it was one of the prettiest places I have ever walked to. I like the fact you can see the whole city from it too but can’t hear anything. We had hotdogs on the hill which was the highlight for the girls. I just put precooked sausages in a flask and brought hot dog buns and ketchup. As an easy alternative I also saw a post online where someone had put frankfurters in a flask of boiled water and they are heated by the time you serve your picnic πŸ™‚

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One day, we spent all day at the beach while the sun was still here. We went in the morning and the girls climbed on the rocks and looked for crabs in rock pools. There is a natural paddling pool built into the rocks that the girls love to play in. The day was mostly sunny and warm but the sea was rough. The girls enjoyed jumping over the waves. I joined them even though it resulted in numb feet πŸ™‚ They built and decorated sandcastles and we had a picnic. Afterwards we went for a long walk along the shore. My daughter drew hearts in the sand and they splashed in a channel that had formed. We walked to the caravan park. I usually find that it’s easier to get my kids to walk further if there is a clear aim at the end of it; even if it’s just to see a landmark before you turn back. We got ice-cream from Mauds and found a picnic table at the other end of the beach. The pirate ship playground had reopened, which the girls were pleased about, so they played there while I watched the scenery. There is something about looking at a collection of different brightly coloured boats that makes me feel like I’m on a quaint holiday. I have recently run out of steam for carrying out involved craft projects, so I’m finding spending time in nature and letting the day unfold as it decides to do is the best thing for us πŸ™‚

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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 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ Then we fed some of the bunnies and a calf started licking my coat πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ We also had some of the ice-cream they make on the farm and it might be my favourite kind πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

 

Skydiving Toys, Window Pictures & Finding Freedom Again

Yesterday was one of those days my children insisted on starting before the caffeine had made its way into my system πŸ™‚ Over breakfast, we made a parachute for one of the girls’ toys. I had seen it on the blog “No Time for Flashcards” and wanted to attempt it myself. Any form of construction doesn’t come naturally to me, even if it involves cutting and sticking, but it was quite simple to make. We just used a napkin and reinforced the corners with sellotape, threading string through them and tying them together. We made little armholes and my daughter decided her baby doll would be the skydiver. It kept the girls entertained for a long time, dropping it over the banister from upstairs and watching it sail to a smooth landing on the floor πŸ™‚

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The kids helped me to make some homemade playdough and I gave them some real sprinkles to use on them. They “baked” at the table and made lots of different pastries and desserts, adding sprinkles at the end. I like mixing toys with “real” elements of cooking, etc to add more interest to it for the girls. They love playdough in any form, but when they get to add herbs, spices, sprinkles, etc, it definitely captures their interest for longer.

I had ordered colourful adhesive paper for the girls to make window pictures with. You just cut whatever shapes you like out of it and let them peel the backing off and stick it to the windows. It peels off again easily so you can change your scenes and it kept the girls busy for hours πŸ™‚ It’s funny how taking a simple concept like stickers and transposing them to a window suddenly makes it much more exciting πŸ™‚

We had booked Mount Stewart before the weekend, so we went on an afternoon adventure there. It almost felt like things had returned to normal when we were there (apart from the one way system and the extreme levels of organisation.) I actually found the visit less stressful than usual because the trails were clearly laid out with arrows and I get lost easily πŸ™‚ We walked around the lake and saw the white stag, the girls climbed trees and went out to the little islands. The swans were there with their cygnets and the girls loved watching them on the water. They found a little corner enclosed with bamboo and pretended it was a house and that they were pandas πŸ™‚ We have a book about a dog that makes a giant pile of leaves and jumps into it with his friends, so they recreated that underneath a huge tree and then made “mud angels” on the ground πŸ™‚ I love all the flowers and scents in Mount Stewart and the fact that it feels like we are abroad when we visit it. The fact that we hadn’t been able to go there in a while made us appreciate every moment of it more. I brought the girls’ nature bags and they collected petals and leaves to litter the house with πŸ™‚ I might encourage them to make some nature collages or drawings from them as an activity tomorrow πŸ™‚

We finished the day quietly with some homemade pizza and I baked some bread for this week using a new recipe. My kids liked it but informed me that they still prefer sliced bread from the shop. If I didn’t enjoy baking so much, I’d wonder why I bother πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ I’m going to have to build an extension to contain all their creations though πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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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.

 

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ I might use a less visible colour of wire next time though πŸ™‚ The girls still insisted on wearing their single-leafed headbands πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ It produced large wedges of cake that are too easy to eat πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ I also wanted to try to make nettle soup or tea, but have to find some first πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ I’m just hopeful it’ll bring some sun with it.