No Spend Days with Kids

I try to have no spend days regularly to make up for days when I’ve overspent, for example, at vintage fairs and other such dangerous places. Visits to shops are the main thing I strive to avoid. When I walk into a shop for one thing I tend to come out with fifteen, so it’s safer to avoid them altogether. Sometimes I like having days where we just do simple things and life is stripped back, and my kids get to have an old fashioned childhood. So, today we baked a coconut cake and had a family day. I put on old jazz/blues and let them follow me round the kitchen. I think it’s good to start young with child labour so they help to do the dishes too. I think my daughter’s favourite activity at the moment is vacuuming the house. It even makes her carefully pick up her toys because she’s scared of them getting sucked up the hoover 😃
The girls have one of those fold-out art sets that takes over the kitchen table (and the floor) so they get it out and we do art together at the table/ have a pretend cafe.
I got a milk frother online a while ago, and some flavoured syrups so I can make the girls babyccinos when I have coffee. I just put some syrup in foamy milk and sprinkle some hot chocolate powder on top. Making my house cosy, lighting candles and putting on calm music might be my favourite things to do that don’t involve spending money.
I’ve realised recently that the main reason I like going out for coffee is because of the atmosphere in a coffee shop. But if you can create that at home, you are less likely to go out for coffee as often. Although, it doesn’t combat cabin fever, so for my sanity we still walked two miles and went to the park. There was some whining but the pay off was that my kids were both soundly asleep by seven. (Long may it last.)

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Cheap Minestrone Soup

This is my “I can’t be arsed going to the shops” recipe. It’s a good way to use up leftover vegetables and pasta too. I always keep frozen vegetables in the house so I can make healthy meals without having to go out and buy fresh stuff first. My kids mostly just pick the pasta out of this, eating around everything that is a vegetable/could be posing as a vegetable – but with their fussiness levels, that is to be expected. You can use any veg you like. It’s good with a mixture of root veg/greens/pulses.

Ingredients

1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 carrots
1 potato
2 large mushrooms
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
900ml veg stock
Two handfuls of random pasta shapes
Broccoli/frozen green veg
Large handful of peas/beans
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Generous shake of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Fry garlic, onion, chopped carrots, potatoes, mushrooms (all fresh veg) in oil until onions are clear. Add tin of tomatoes and stock, herbs/seasoning and cook on medium heat for 15 mins. Add pasta and lower heat. Add frozen veg and beans/peas for last few minutes. Allow it to cook until thickened and flavours developed. This is good with homemade bread and cheese sprinkled on top.

Easy Kids’ Entertainment – Cloud Dough

I made this today for my daughter and it has kept her entertained longer than any toy she owns. It’s easy to make and there are ways to minimise the mess. I fill a baking tray with high sides to contain the dough and try to keep it at the kitchen table. You can make it more powdery if you like but I find this consistency good because it holds together like wet sand. But it is easier to wash off their hands than sand!

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1/2 cup olive oil

Method

Combine the two ingredients in the tray your child is going to play in (fewer dishes :)) Combining it with your hands is the easiest way. It will still crumble apart but if you mould it it holds together.

I just give my kids some measuring cups, silicon bun cases and plastic cutlery and let them pretend to bake/ make sandcastles. My 5 year old likes this just as much as my 3 year old and I like it even more because of the peace it grants me 🙂

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Cinnamon Buns Recipe

This recipe was a bit of an experiment but worked out well. My kids devoured them which is a good sign since they turn their noses up at most homemade treats. I guess the absence of plastic packaging and artificial flavours makes them less appealing. But they were begging me for more of these and they are so easy to make 🙂

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

1 packet of yeast

1/2 cup of milk

1/4 cup of water

2 tbsp butter

Filling:

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Method

Combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl. Heat butter, milk and water in a pan until butter is just melted. Mix with dry ingredients and knead for a few minutes. Cover with a towel and leave to rise for an hour or two.

Roll the dough out as flat and long as you can. Spread butter for the filling all over the dough and then sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. Roll up like a Swiss roll and then slice into 1 inch pieces. Grease the tray well because the butter melts and then hardens on it. Put into a preheated oven at 180c for 20 minutes.

Easiest White Bread Ever

My daughter loves this bread and she doesn’t eat anything unless it’s coated in chocolate or filled with no nutrients, just sugar. It is so easy to make and is really good toasted too. I find most homemade breads crumble when you cut them. I always revert to plastic bread from the shop due to this, but I haven’t had that problem with this one 🙂 It is also still soft on the second day and toast-able after that 🙂

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp white sugar

1 packet of yeast

1 cup of warm (not hot) water

2 tbsp olive oil

Method:

Combine all dry ingredients with a spoon. Add the cup of warm water – I heat it beyond tepid but not so hot it kills the yeast. Add the oil and mix with a spoon until combined. Knead in the bowl (to make life and the clean up easier for yourself.) You don’t have to knead this bread for long – I find 5 minutes is usually enough. Set in a warm spot covered with a towel until doubled in size. Knock air out of it and put in a loaf tin – cover with towel and leave it to prove. When it has risen again, put in a preheated oven (180c.) Check it after 20 minutes and knock the top – if it sounds hollow it’s ready.

This bread has a brioche-type consistency so it is good with savoury toppings and also with anything you’d put on a croissant 🙂

Things to do with Fed-Up Kids

My kids need a lot of stimulation or they just fight each other for fun. Maybe that’s by my own doing. We tend to go out a lot and have lots of varied experiences. The downside to that is that they probably don’t get enough time to face their boredom, which I think stifles their creativity. I’m making a conscious effort to let them entertain themselves more, but here are a few ideas for the moments when they’re climbing the walls and you’re about to crack up 🙂

1. Get out and go to the nearest beach. Bring snacks and drinks, get a net so they can “fish” in rock pools, make castles and collect pretty shells. Get a special box for them to put their treasures in.

2. If they have a tent/house in the garden, or if not – picnic blanket,  bring your kids milk in teacups and biscuits on a tray. There’s something about getting a delivery when they aren’t expecting it that puts them in a good mood 🙂

3. Draw pictures with crayons and paint over them with watercolours. You can also use candles instead of crayons to make “magic pictures” too.

4. Have a no electricity day. Turn off the TV, the lights, light candles (out of their reach!) and read stories together by candlelight and give them a glimpse of life before technology.

5. Let your kids dress up in your clothes and do a fashion parade/ play with your jewellery collection. My kids are like magpies and love shiny things and trying to pinch my stuff.

6. Bake bread together. Show your kids how to knead it and they’ll enjoy eating it more because they’ve made it themselves.

7. Watch old musicals and make popcorn. I find it hard to get my kids to sit still for any movies without cartoons in them, but for some reason, if they are music-based, they sit for longer and it holds their interest.

8. Give your kids old magazines to cut up and make collages with. If they are learning to write, get them to practise writing the words underneath, or get them to write an accompanying story.

9. Speaking of stories, my daughter likes if I make her a “book” by folding paper or card and tying it with a string. She comes up with phrases to write and I help her spell them. You can give younger kids an idea and they can draw it for you.

10. Have a treasure hunt. Hide a toy/a treat, draw a map or give clues to help them find them. When I was little, my grandparents used to hide a thimble and we had to find it using “hotter/colder.” It was one of my favourite games and didn’t even involve toys 🙂

gardening for mental health

Weeding out your Woes

I find spending time in my garden healing. I’m not a natural gardener; in fact I have managed to kill almost every plant I’ve ever owned. But I still try to grow things. I think sometimes the process is more important than the result. For example, my garden might looked like an untamed wasteland but the act of planting is satisfying in itself. I have begun trying to apply the same attitude to my writing. I find when I am ultra-focused on the end result, it takes the joy out of just doing it, and ultimately makes my writing worse too.

This week we have had our first spell of consistent Spring-like weather, so I’ve been making a conscious effort to spend more time outdoors, even if it’s only having a cup of tea at the fold up table in my back yard.

When I’m struggling to manage my thoughts, or to parent without snapping, returning to something simple that keeps your hands busy is always helpful. So, today I embarked on weeding my garden. The weeds had overtaken everything, in much the same way my thoughts do when I’m in an anxious state. Unrooting weeds from the ground somehow helps me to unroot patterns of unhelpful thinking from my own mind too.

So, while my daughter blew bubbles and had a biscuits picnic outside, I started stripping back all the unwanted growth. And when I did, I uncovered an opening tulip, some persistent violas and a thriving foxglove. And I realised, sometimes to find the good you have to weed out the bad bits. They might seem more prominent but when you reach the undergrowth, you can stand back to properly admire your garden.