Home Spas, Fork Cookies & Thoughtful Flowers

This week, my daughter’s school suggested making sea creatures, so the girls got our their junk box and came up with their own ideas 🙂 One made a turtle and the other made a seahorse. I like watching my kids coming up with their own methods to make things 🙂 There never seems to be any hesitancy or uncertainty about what they’re going to make 🙂

We did a photography video on the afternoon club. The girls experimented with taking photos and changing the lighting. I like watching these videos with them because I learn things from them too 🙂

A while ago, we had some fruit and vegetables delivered to our house and for some reason, the crate they came in has become a favourite toy 🙂 The girls just helped themselves to it and it has been used as a tray for pretend food, a table for their den, a cot for teddies and a bed for them too! I always find the girls play most with something that you spent no money on and that wasn’t even intended for play 🙂

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The girls wanted to use my foot spa, so I set up a “spa” in the kitchen with a nail bar, a chill-out mat and some meditation music in the background. I painted the girls’ nails and they took it in turns using the bubbles and massage settings for their feet 🙂

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Last night, I remembered how much I love sitting in just candlelight. I lit a few candles and sat in darkness watching them flickering and collecting my thoughts 🙂 There is something restorative about it in the same way I benefit from walks by the sea (which we obviously can’t do at the minute.)

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Today I was in a cooking mood, so I tried a new recipe that produces two loaves of bread. The recipe was from Dining on a Dime and worked out really soft in the centre with a crisp crust (although I found the suggestion to use greaseproof paper resulted in it attaching to the loaf like it was superglued to it (so next time, I’ll leave that step out :))

The girls and I looked at their craft inspiration book for kids. It’s the best 50p I’ve ever spent 🙂 There was a section about puppets, so we made some paper ones we called jelly babies with rings made out of paper to attach them to their fingers. We also made some (literal) hand puppets by drawing on the palms of their hands (much to my daughter’s delight.) She draws on herself often, but it isn’t usually encouraged by me.

I made some smoothies and we set up a clothes shop for the girls in the living room. It was only when I started laying out their dress-up dresses that I realised how many they own. Sometimes I find that sorting through toys kills any temptation to buy more since we always find things we had forgotten about 🙂 If we don’t have something we improvise (for example, using bells from their musical instruments as a shop bell :))

We made some easy fork biscuits. They only had three ingredients and were so simple to make. The kids were more interested in licking the bowl than making fork imprints on the cookies prior to baking 🙂

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We also got out their water beads kit and made some ducks. I always think these activities are going to take half an hour and when I look at the clock, five minutes have passed and we are finished 🙂

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I found a recipe in a magazine for a natural bath soak, so I made some using oats, lavender oil and coconut oil. I put it in the girls’ bath in hopes of making them sleepy before bed 🙂 You can store some in a jar and make enough for several uses. I found the process of making it therapeutic too, since you have to melt the coconut oil slowly using a bain marie and the scent of lavender instantly makes me feel relaxed 🙂

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Thankfully, the weather was good today so the girls enjoyed den building and paddling outside. My daughter brought me a few little flowers and it made me realise, even if a kid hands you some flowers you know are weeds, it’s so sweet that they want to collect them for you and give you a present 🙂 That made them more beautiful to me than any shop-bought bouquet.

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Baked Treats, Snail Homes & Coffee Cravings

Today, we had a major baking day. By major, I mean that I used every dish in the house to bake two things 🙂 I spent a lot of the day washing dishes afterwards, but what’s new 🙂 I’ve been listening to Nina Simone a lot and spending lots of time cooking. Yesterday, I made us some bread, which is already half eaten 😀 I tried a new recipe today for what were called Fat Rascals. I found them in a magazine and they are similar to scones, filled with dried fruit, lemon and orange zest. The girls helped me to make them, and I’m always happy to having willing volunteers to grease the tray 🙂 I also made some allspice biscuits again since one of my daughters really enjoyed them last time.

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After lunchtime, I took a tray with our baked treats and some tea out to the garden and we had a little tea party. It was grey but humid and it was nice to get a chance to sit outside again. I attempted to read a book, but that quickly turned into me building a den for the girls, amongst other things 🙂

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The girls spotted a snail and decided to temporarily adopt it. We read about what snails like to eat and where they can live and made it it’s own little habitat in an empty chocolates tub 🙂 The girls watched its movements for a long time and tried to encourage it to eat some seeds and a grape (apparently they like these.) It didn’t seem to be bothered by them and spent most of the afternoon travelling in and out of its new house. Sometimes having kids makes me become interested in things I’ve never given any thought before. I think that was the first time I googled “what fruit do snails eat?”We learned that they can’t have pools of water because they can drown and they don’t like to be in direct sunlight. Eventually I removed the tub so it could be left in peace 🙂

 

I’ve been experimenting with making my own lattes with different sweeteners since running out of coffee syrup. I tried maple syrup yesterday, which didn’t seem to work well, as it made it separate. Today, I tried honey and cinnamon on top and it worked surprisingly well 🙂 I’m tempted to order coffee to the door, but when I checked how much it was I had second thoughts 🙂 Lockdown mightn’t have broken my coffee addiction, but at least I’m finding cheaper ways to feed it now 🙂

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For anyone that is interested, The Funky Thrifter book is available on Amazon now. It is a collection of blog posts from this year to give people something peaceful to flip through during these weird times 🙂

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 🙂

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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 🙂

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 🙂

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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 🙂 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 🙂 It involved fewer ingredients than I would have imagined, but recipes involving sugar reaching exact temperatures intimidate me 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂 We have a new tradition of leaving baked goods on top of each other’s bins since we’ve been staying at home 🙂

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 🙂 The girls said it was the best day ever, so they must be tired of my cooking too 😀

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 version  of tic tac toe suggested by my daughter’s school using different coloured dots cut out of paper.

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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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂 I’m going to have to build an extension to contain all their creations though 🙂

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 🙂 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 🙂

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Imaginary homes, potato stampers & den decoration

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to vary our walks a little, but still sticking to places nearby. We walked along Cyprus Avenue a couple of times. Aside from the fact there is a Van Morrison song named after it, I just love the tree-lined street and the fancy houses 🙂 I like to imagine living there if I was rich and so does my daughter 🙂 I think she was experiencing garden envy when she spotted huge swing sets and tree houses in the residents’ gardens 🙂 One of my daughters was stopping to hug trees and the other was twirling and pretending to be a ballerina. It’s rare that we go for a walk (without a playground at the end of it) that doesn’t result in whinging, but we were all in a good mood that day 🙂 I love the blue skies we are getting at the minute. When we can’t get out of our houses, it helps being able to look up at the sky. Just the breadth of it makes me feel freer and I’m grateful the rain has relented while we have been in lockdown.

The girls have discovered a love for fruit tea, so I made them a berry one and we had a tea party and played draughts. We have chess too but I’d have to learn it myself before trying to teach them! We did the other crafts from their Toucan boxes: fire flowers and sparklers. They were simple to make and I left the girls in charge of the glitter glue while I twisted the pipe cleaners into sparklers.  We also made some dancing hippos we cut out of magazines and stuck to card 🙂

I made some potato stampers for the girls using cookie cutters. You just cut a potato in half and push the cutter in about a centimetre deep. You carve around the outside of it with a knife and then cut off the excess potato, removing the cookie cutters last. We also had to make some 3D fish for my daughter’s schoolwork, so I combined the activities and let the girls spend the afternoon painting outside in their tuff tray. I added in a couple of other vegetables to give them different shaped prints, like mushroom halves and celery.

The girls have been enjoying building dens in the garden. Even though it often results in soil on their pillows and blankets, it might be worth it for the peace it affords me 🙂 I was impressed by their resourcefulness and creativity. They filled it with cushions, made little beds and had their tea inside. They even put sparkly candles out (unlit) between their tea cups 🙂 They asked if they could sleep in it overnight, which I would probably suggest we do if we had a real tent. They would probably sleep much better there than in their own beds 🙂

We had a Mexican feast. I made nachos again, with strict instructions to only put beans and salsa on one half. I tried to sneak some between layers but I was found out 🙂 I had also made homemade tortillas and a taco beans and rice dish that the girls turned their noses up at too 🙂 (I enjoyed it though.) I like to imagine we could easily survive on dried goods and vegetarian meals if we had to, but in reality, my kids would probably starve without sausages and pasta! Several years later, I’m still trying to convert them to more adventurous menu choices but they are still just chronic snackers.

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I lit another strawberry and champagne candle and have been finding new music I like, as well as writing when I’m allowed to 🙂 Finding something like peace and uninterrupted coffee has become the highlight of my day 🙂

 

Shadow Puppets, Blossom Bouquets & Sunflower Seeds

This week we made some plate-sized wholemeal pancakes and had some fresh fruit (and strong coffee for me. Afterwards, we read together in the living room. The girls had put the recliners up for themselves and spent time poring over art books about colour and craft projects for kids. We went onto the library website to look at their free ebooks and magazines. They have lots of children’s books available online if you sign into your account. You can set one up if you don’t already have one using the long number on your library card.

Afterwards, the girls insisted on wearing similar outfits to me (God help them :)) We went on our morning walk and they requested another trip to the cherry blossom. We have now assigned names to our walks and they always want to do the blossom walk 🙂 They gathered flowers and petals to make mini bouquets and put them in water as table displays for dinner time when we got home. I have a feeling they might be interested in flower arranging in the future 🙂

The girls’ Toucan craft boxes arrived in the post, so we did their shadow puppet theatre projects. They had to make puppets on lolly sticks and paint the stage curtains, adding greaseproof paper as a cover for the puppets to produce shadows on. We set them up in the living room. Since I don’t buy practical items like torches, we improvised with lamps and the girls did a very shortlived puppet show 🙂

My neighbour gave the girls some wildflower beebombs. The girls loved raking the soil and scattering them, and I’m hopeful we’ll keep them alive and that our garden will be filled with beautiful wildflowers soon 🙂

Since it was such a nice evening, I made hotdogs on the barbecue and we ate outside. The girls made sure to put one of their flower displays on the outdoor table 🙂 Eating in the sunshine definitely makes me feel freer at the moment. You could almost imagine you’re on holiday 🙂

I decided to do a bit of a clear-out in our kitchen. I love the fact that when you clear out drawers and cupboards, you discover things you had forgotten you had. The girls found some sticker books and a felt board to play with, and I discovered a stash of wax melts and candles I didn’t know I had! I lit the Causeway Coast wax melt and it is the most relaxing scent I have ever breathed 🙂 I find sorting cupboards out really cathartic. It’s good to get rid of some clutter and feel like everything is somewhat orderly for a few days. (Until I start lazily throwing things into cupboards without looking again :))

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We had a couple of kids’ cupcake kits, so we made some chocolate Aladdin ones and some muddy puddle Peppa ones to keep everyone happy 🙂 I always used to think the cupcake kits were pointless because they contain so little mix and it’s almost as easy to just make them from scratch, but I’ve realised they allow kids to skip ahead to the parts of baking they enjoy, ie the icing, decorating and spoon-licking.

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I rearranged the girls’ room a little and I put some decorative kids’ pegs on jewellery wire to make a little washing line for their artwork. I think my daughter thought it was for their dolls’ clothes 🙂 I also found my crepe spreader that my mum got me from France, so I’ll have to make some crepes soon 🙂

We found a new street with blossom aplenty 🙂 The girls have named it the “dead end” walk, for obvious reasons. But it seems to have the best supply of intact blossom flowers. The girls brought a bag to collect some in and made some more little floral posies. I’ll probably be finding wilted flowers all over the house for ages, but it keeps the girls happy 🙂

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When we got home, my daughter had to practise writing her spellings in flour, so after she had finished, my younger daughter converted it into a beach for her LOL dolls 🙂 It kept her busy while we got some schoolwork done 🙂

My friend kindly left a surprise on our doorstep: a gardening kit for the girls. Today, we planted the sunflowers and butterfly seeds. The girls loved having their own plant projects 🙂 I’ve never grown sunflowers before, but they are my favourite flowers, so I’ll be happy when they appear 🙂

As if we didn’t have enough baked treats in the house already, I made my daughter’s favourite coconut cake today. It’s a recipe I found in Dining on a Dime Cook Book and it never fails. It produces two cakes, and I always think it will be a challenge to use it all up, but it always quickly disappears 🙂

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We made a little bird feeder from the girls’ Toucan boxes. You just had to glue layers of lolly sticks to make a little box, with a stick for the bird to perch on. Pipe cleaners were added as handles and we put it on the hedges outside. I’m hoping it attracts more birds to the garden. Our robin hasn’t visited in a few days as I haven’t put out more of his peanut butter food yet, so I might have to make some tomorrow for him 🙂

 

 

 

 

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 🙂

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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 😀 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 🙂

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 😀 But the girls didn’t seem to mind – maybe it made them feel more like real ingredients 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂

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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 🙂 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 🙂

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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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂

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

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 🙂 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 🙂

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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 🙂 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 🙂 I feel forced to slow down, and maybe that’s what we all need most.