32 Ways to Write Lists for Fun

This blog post includes suggestions on how to make lists for fun using writing prompts for self-care and relaxation.

Lists are always something we make in a hurried manner, with a feeling of obligation as we write them. Usually they are reserved for to-do lists of things we don’t want to do: grocery shopping, bills to pay, appointments, reminders of things we resent doing; they just number our responsibilities.

I think they should be transformed into something we do for therapy. There is something soothing about scrawling on paper in a measured way, rather than in a final frenzy  to get out the door.

Here is a list of lists you can make just for fun:

  • Your favourite moments in the last month.
  • Kind things that you have seen people do recently.
  • Small things that make you happy.
  • Your favourite quotes (look up things that inspire you and make a list to refer back to in a low moment.)
  • Ideas of gifts for upcoming birthdays/things you could make for people you know.
  • Specific things you want to buy for your home.
  • Look up a genre of music you like, write down every band you haven’t heard of and then find out if you like them.
  • Your favourite things about each season, eg, marbled autumn leaves, cuttingly-cool Christmas air.
  • Things you have done that you are proud of.
  • Qualities you admire in people you have met.
  • The best ways you have spent a day.
  • Movies you want to see by a director you like.
  • Things you want to research for fun/skills you want to acquire.
  • Good things that have come from the mistakes you have made.
  • Records you want to buy.
  • Mini goals for the next month (only fun things are allowed.)
  • Places nearby that you haven’t visited yet, eg, a bookshop, a nature reserve, a restaurant.
  • Search for free local events and make a list of the ones you want to attend.
  • The seemingly insignificant moments of your week (eg, a kind word from someone, hearing a good song somewhere, the taste of buttercream, the sound of rain.)
  • Your favourite items that you have ever owned.
  • Things you could easily live without.
  • Ways to simplify your life.
  • Things you want to add to your day.
  • The most memorable gifts you have received.
  • Your favourite scents, sights, etc.
  • Your favourite words in the English language.
  • Your favourite writers.
  • The best books you have read since you were a kid.
  • Things to do that don’t involve technology.
  • Your favourite places to go for a walk, eg, a stretch of a city street, a pebbled beach.
  • The funniest things that have happened to you to date.
  • Things you want to save for that you will cherish.

List-making can be really cathartic and emptying your mind on a piece of paper needn’t be done only by necessity. Enjoy listing for relaxation 🙂

 

Advertisements

Slow Cooker Sticky Garlic Chicken

This was an experiment where I threw things into the slow cooker, hoping for something resembling Asian cuisine and was surprised by how well it turned out; especially considering I had no soy sauce. It’s a really easy and cheap meal, with few ingredients that you could eat in lots of different ways. I made it with sticky rice and fried vegetables, but you could also eat it with noodles, potatoes, steamed vegetables, fried rice, etc.

I used chicken drumsticks that I had already cooked the day before, but if you’re using raw chicken, you could just sear the outsides before adding to the slow cooker and increase the cooking time to 8 hours/heat to high for 5. I bought chicken drumsticks for £1, so this recipe cost about £1.50 in total to make.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

8 Cooked Chicken Drumsticks

Pinch of salt

Pinch of black pepper

Pinch of garlic powder

4 cloves of garlic

1 1/2 tbsps honey

2 1/2 tbsps rice wine vinegar

2 tbsps Worcestershire sauce (Or soy sauce)

200ml chicken stock

1 heaped tbsp cornflour dissolved in cold water

Directions:

Put chicken legs in slow cooker and season generously. Add crushed garlic, honey, rice wine vinegar, Worcester sauce and chicken stock. Mix well.

Cook on low for 5 hours. You might want to change to high for the final hour just to crisp up the outsides and cook down the sauce.

At the end, add the cornflour, mixed well into about half a cup of cold water. Whisk the sauce as you stir it in to prevent lumps.

This makes a thick, sweet sauce that should cook down a lot and leaves more of a glaze on the chicken than a large volume of liquid.

5DA7933C-6C66-42E9-A625-1F6B59005138.png

 

 

 

Simple Things For A Sick Day With Kids

Generally if we spend an entire day indoors it happens because we’re stuck in and not because I willingly sign up for the idea. I like the idea of having old-fashioned days in the house with my kids where the TV is off and my sanity is still intact. My daughter was off sick today and we managed to have the peaceful day that usually only exists in my completely unrealistic parenting fantasies.

Here are a few ideas of things we did that kept everyone happily entertained.

  • Since it was Pancake Tuesday I made pancakes and then let my kids choose their own toppings and put them on. Giving them little choices always makes them feel more involved and more content with whatever we’re doing.
  • I read stories to them under a fluffy blanket on the sofa. Then they can read the stories by themselves to each other or to their teddies.
  • I let them watch TV (how shocking and what awful parenting! I’m joking. They like TV, so make life easier for yourself sometimes.)
  • They made pasta pictures. I just gave them a bowl of dry pasta and they stuck it to paper with PVA glue. If your kids are older they can make pictures out of it, like houses, etc. Mine are at the stage where they just enjoy sticking the pasta on in random patterns.
  • My daughter had made bird food in a yogurt pot at nursery and we looked to see if the birds had eaten all of it, which they had. She wanted to make more, which I had no idea how to do, so we improvised with oats, peanut butter and raisins. Apparently birds love grapes so we added them as a treat. (Hopefully this won’t result in untimely death for the local bird community.)
  • It was cold so we made hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, which for some reason, appeal to them more than regular sized marshmallows.
  • We played a game where you cut up little bits of paper or card into squares, your kids ask you to draw particular objects, eg, pasta bows, kangaroos, teapots. You draw two of each object on different cards so there are pairs of them. You can let the kids colour them in, so don’t spend time on fancy drawings; just something quick and barely recognisable will do. Then you use them as cards: you set them face down in a pile in the middle and each person takes one at a time. Whoever has the most pairs at the end wins.
  • They found a kids’ make-up set they got for Christmas that I had hidden since. To be honest, the clean-up was grim but it entertained them for a full hour, which is a new record. If you are going to do this, get your kids to do it at the table with a wipeable table cloth so you aren’t cleaning gloopy glitter off every surface for days afterwards.

 

The day was actually really calm, probably influenced by jazz I was playing. I find it really calms my kids down and makes them more focused on activities if it is quietly playing in the background.

I’m not expecting a repeat of today’s calmness any time soon, but it was nice to have a relaxing day indoors for a change.

 

 

Tight Budget Taco Soup

I should probably preface this post by saying that my cooking usually tastes better than it looks. This recipe is so simple and uses very few ingredients, so it’s very cheap to make.

Makes 4 servings at 20p a serving using value range ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp oil
  • Taco seasoning (see below)
  • 1 cup of sweet corn (frozen)
  • 1 cup of kidney beans
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Sprinkle of grated cheese
  • Dollop of sour cream/Greek yogurt

Taco Seasoning Ingredients

  • 1tsp hot chilli powder (makes medium heat)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

I usually make my own taco seasoning because I already have all of the spices and it is so easy. If you don’t you can just buy a packet of taco seasoning.

34F8B54E-3C57-44EA-85F2-0765D691A904.jpeg

Mix the herbs and spices well in a bowl.

Fry onion and garlic in the oil until softened. Add the seasoning and fry for a further minute. Add the corn (you can add it frozen) and fry until defrosted. Add kidney beans and the tin of tomatoes. Then add the beef stock and sugar to sweeten the tomatoes and simmer until it has thickened.

Serve topped with grated cheddar and sour cream.

Before the taco seasoning even touched the pot my daughter announced “I don’t like spicy.” I guess she’s going to have to like it.

9E200663-6BC9-463E-9173-54E70473FCD4.jpeg

How to Entertain your Kids without Entertaining your Kids.

As a parent, sometimes I find that there is too much emphasis on kid-focused entertainment. I think it overwhelms the kids and the parents in equal measure. Sometimes when you leave your kids to do something simple it makes them more imaginative and it is when they come up with their best ideas.

One of the most memorable afternoons I’ve had with my kids was spent in our garden, which to be honest, is too much of a barren wasteland to be considered more than a yard. Gardening is still a pastime I need to pass some time figuring out. Anyway, it was a cold day, but as long as kids are well wrapped-up they don’t care whether it’s the sun or rain that is beating down. (Actually, they’d rather be coat-less and jumper-less in either case.)

I recently bought two second-hand scooters and a bike online, all for £30. They are still in good condition, if a bit faded, but I’ve never seen my kids react with such excitement to a gift before. We went outside and they happily scooted in circles for two hours, collected sticks and stuck them in a hole in the ground and played hide and seek in the only hiding place.

I sat and watched them, with minimal input, drinking lapsang-souchong and mentally transporting myself to my student days, spending an entire afternoon sipping tea on a veranda, without having to move, once. It was really peaceful, with no tantrums from them, or from me, for that matter.

8ED02DB5-152F-4D61-9315-6BB2D12E15CB

It showed me how we over-complicate our lives and how much our parenting culture expects us to provide parent-led entertainment for our kids. Sometimes they don’t even want it. Sometimes all they want is to stick a stick in a hole in the ground while you watch them, with a smile on your face because you’re enjoying a cup of tea at a more than tepid temperature, in one place.

F1C17E4B-93F6-4188-A9C1-37BCB5960123

Here are a few other simple ideas of things to do with kids where you are involved, without being “the entertainment:”

  • Colouring in together. You can do your own drawing/colouring in a sketchpad while they happily do whatever they want to their own page. Kids get fed up with adults nagging them to colour in a specific way, sometimes they just want to do things their own way.
  • Watching them playing with a toy, handing them things they ask for and answering their questions without having to write the storyline for them. An added bonus is that you can also enjoy coffee at the same time.
  • Playing your choice of music for them, telling them who the artists are and letting them listen to their favourite song from the album as many times as they like. Goodbye, “wind the bobbin up.”
  • Getting your kids to gather up any library books they have, putting them in a bag with you and then returning them and picking out new ones for themselves. It makes feel competent, act responsibly with their books, and they think it’s a fun game too.
  • Create mini traditions. For example, Friday night is pizza night where they can add their own toppings. Or on Saturday mornings you go for a walk, followed by hot chocolate. Give them fluffy bed socks to wear when they get home. My granny used to do this and it was so simple but we loved it.
  • Give them a pound and let them choose a book or small toy from a charity shop while you have a look too.

Sometimes kids just want to be kids, and that means not having an adult telling them how to be a kid.

 

20 Easy Ways to Feel More Positive About Life

I always find when I’m feeling negative that if I physically create something positive it shifts my mindset. Over-thinking can leave you feeling incapacitated, but if you can take some sort of small, positive action it helps you to quiet your worries.

Here are a few ideas of things to do to feel more positive:

  • Clear things out. Throwing things out makes you feel like you’re getting rid of the crap that’s in your head too. Having less visible clutter makes you feel more at peace  (which is why mine is mostly shoved into cupboards. Out of sight, out of mind, at least until it falls on my head.) Bagging up items to give to charity is a good form of distraction too.
  • Buy a notebook with a cheerful cover or caption on it. Get a new pen and start a journal with a huge to-do list of only pleasant things. (No boring or dreaded reminders allowed.)
  • Plan a nearby holiday. It could be camping, staying in a cheap B&B in a town you don’t know well or visiting a friend. Give yourself a budget  and plan for a few months away. It feels more attainable than a big summer holiday overseas.
  • Get supplies for a new project. Learn how to make jewellery, learn a new language, start painting. Get supplies in the pound shop or discount book shops.
  • Make a calendar just to pencil in books you want to read each month/week, or in my case, year.
  • Make fudge and when you’re finished eat all of it 🙂
  • Make a gift basket or hamper for someone you know.
  • Empty your wardrobe and put everything back in new outfit combinations.
  • Buy writing icing, sparkly sprinkles and confetti and decorate buns or a cake in a really extravagant way.
  • Make mood playlists. “Hyped up mood/chilled out mood/happy mood/get me out of this grumpy mood bloody quickly” music.
  • Write someone you usually text a handwritten letter.
  • Change a room around. Add small decorations or move furniture around to give it a new feel.
  • Sit in a dark room filled with candles and enjoy silence. If you don’t have a fireplace listen to videos online of the sound of fire crackling.
  • Have a hot shower with your favourite scent of shower gel. It’s good to have one to wake you up and one to put you to sleep. At the minute, mine are a lemon and chilli one and a marshmallow one.
  • Put up fairy lights for no reason.
  • Make cocktails and appetisers just for yourself.
  • Go back to paper reading. Have a magazine-reading marathon.
  • Have a picnic somewhere tranquil where all you can hear is water, leaves rustling or birds.
  • I read in one of my kids’ books that if you’re worried you should draw lots of clouds to help your worries float away. I wonder if thirty is too old for this type of thing? I imagine it to be quite relaxing.
  • Get new sheets, spray them with lavender and have a restorative sleep (if you have kids, obviously skip step three.)

What do you like to do when you’re having a bad day?

9 Frugal Things to do on a Frosty Day (with kids)

Sometimes the weather overrules your plans and dictates what you’re going to do. For example, I wouldn’t dare to drive in frost again after a recent skid in the snow. So, when the weather is chilly we won’t be covering a great distance, but that makes us enjoy nearby nature and cosy comforts more.

Here are a few frugal things to do on a cold day:

  • Winter walks. I love going for wrapped-up walks on winter days. It makes you appreciate the warmth even more once you retreat indoors. You can go to watch the sea when it is rough, go to a park, or just wander around and see what you find. My kids like to fill their pockets with leaves, pine cones and twigs along the way.

8F91F3A7-E61B-4738-A82F-8619CC06956B

  • Scrapbooking. Your kids can add what they have collected to a scrapbook. It doesn’t have to involve expensive crafting materials. They just need a blank notebook or paper hole-punched and tied with string or ribbon, glue, pens, scraps of paper, things they have picked up at places you have visited, stickers, etc. You could make a Winter-themed scrapbook for yourself while they are making theirs. Fill it with found objects, quotes, photos and seasonal colours.
  • Hot chocolate with marshmallows. My kids and I like to have tea parties on cold days. We make hot chocolate, I light candles and put on jazz and we sit and chat at the table.
  • Sitting under a cosy blanket with books and a hot water bottle. Sometimes I read alongside my kids and sometimes I read to them. They like to make up their own stories to the pictures sometimes and I use the opportunity to read something other than Winnie the Pooh.

11378645-BB4F-4BBD-A997-F7071EE7F5B8

  • Pretend post-box. Use a cereal box and cut a slot into the front of it. You can let your kids paint it if you’re feeling particularly patient, or just leave it as it is. Give them little pieces of paper to write on and pens. Get them to draw pictures or help them write letters to family members or friends. Ask them what they’d like you to write. Then get them to put them in envelopes, add a “stamp” with a sticker or stamper and then get them to post them. They like to empty the post box and open their own letters too.
  • Movie afternoon. Make some popcorn and drinks with straws. Let your kids agree on a movie and make a home cinema. You can make tickets for them and let them pretend to buy their snacks. You can also set snacks out for them to put in their own bowls, eg, breadsticks, raisins, popcorn, crackers, etc. I usually put a small amount out in different cups so it seems like they have lots of options, without ruining your dinner plans.
  • Make warming foods. Making foods like soups, stews, casseroles and bread help to pass a day indoors and you can involve your kids. If I’m making soup I let them do simple things like placing the vegetables in a roasting tin and sprinkling seasoning on top.
  • Go to a charity shop and get a board game or a book of crafts/cooking/activities for kids. I have found quite a few of these second hand and they are great for inspiration. Alternatively, find these for freeat the library.
  • Going out for a small treat. My kids particularly like to get ice-cream on cold days. It’s a bit weird, but they are my children, so bizarre choices aren’t exactly cause for alarm.