Pretend Plants and Handprint Rainbows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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 πŸ™‚ I like to imagine living there if I was rich and so does my daughter πŸ™‚ I think she was experiencing garden envy when she spotted huge swing sets and tree houses in the residents’ gardens πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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. Β We also made some dancing hippos we cut out of magazines and stuck to card πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ I had also made homemade tortillas and a taco beans and rice dish that the girls turned their noses up at too πŸ™‚ (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 πŸ™‚ Finding something like peace and uninterrupted coffee has become the highlight of my day πŸ™‚

 

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ Eating in the sunshine definitely makes me feel freer at the moment. You could almost imagine you’re on holiday πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ I also found my crepe spreader that my mum got me from France, so I’ll have to make some crepes soon πŸ™‚

We found a new street with blossom aplenty πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚ It kept her busy while we got some schoolwork done πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ I’ve never grown sunflowers before, but they are my favourite flowers, so I’ll be happy when they appear πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Collecting Blossom, Colour Wheels & Patisseries

Yesterday, the girls decided to change our walking route. It’s strange how quickly you can fall into new habits, although I do like the fact the Greenway is like a piece of the countryside in the middle of Belfast. On our new walk, the girls came across some blossom trees dropping petals and they pretended it was snowing. They gathered up as many petals as they could to take home. I’m still finding them all over the house πŸ™‚ They had insisted on wearing fancy dress headwear and I thought the blossom bouquet softened the look of my daughter’s zombie bride veil πŸ™‚

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When we got home, we started my daughter’s schoolwork and since she was learning about sea life, I got my younger daughter to draw pictures of sea creatures so she could be involved. Afterwards, we had some chocolate chip cookies and watched the Afternoon Club colour wheel episode. The girls love any excuse to paint and I was surprised by how long it kept them sitting in one place, working out how to mix the colours and where to place them on their wheels. I don’t think they even realised they were learning about tertiary colours in the process πŸ™‚

I was flipping through a cookery book, looking for inspiration for dinner and my daughter’s eyes landed upon a swiss roll she wanted to make. We had the ingredients, so I decided to make it with her. It was a budget recipe that used natural yogurt instead of cream, mixed with strawberry jam. It tasted better than I’d imagined it would πŸ™‚ My daughter insisted on wearing my polka dot apron while we baked πŸ™‚

My younger daughter helped me to make risotto and my older one washed the dishes afterwards. It seems like a good time to teach them how to cook and look after themselves a little, since there are usually too many excuses to rush through those things.

This morning, we went for another walk on the blossom-filled route. I’m enjoying spending time walking with the girls more now that we don’t have anywhere to be at a particular time. We get to have more detailed conversations and stop so they can collect leaves, petals and feathers. In that respect, I think it’s making me more patient (but definitely not in other respects!)

My daughter’s school had suggested doing a quiet family colouring session with relaxing music in the background. We listened to Bob Marley and my younger daughter completed two colouring pages. She normally does one squiggle and runs away, but it felt really calming and I did some colouring too, which I haven’t done in a long time. It reminded me that I have a pile of adult colouring books in the cupboard that I never get around to using, but I should more. I felt more able to deal with the day after it, so I might make it a daily practice.

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My older daughter had her turn at being the chef tonight. She made us some pesto chicken with tomatoes and rice. She even put lime wedges in our drinks and enjoyed serving everyone. My younger daughter was the eager dishwasher. It took a long time, but she did a good job for a four year old πŸ™‚

We sat down to play some board games together while my older daughter worked on her clay models. She made a little cake and then proceeded to make twenty more whilst talking my mum through the process on the phone. My mum reminded her of their birthday date for afternoon tea at Patisserie Valerie and my daughter borrowed a china plate so she could recreate her own tea tier. The girls used the empty clay tubs as cake boxes and set up shops in the living room on an upturned box. I paid them for cakes in change and then they bought from each other’s businesses too πŸ™‚

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I have a feeling I’ll be sold cakes before my eyes are fully open tomorrow morning, so I’ll enjoy the tranquility while it lasts. I love sitting in dimmed light with a glass of wine, writing. In contrast to the nonstop nature of a day at home with kids, it feels even sweeter.

 

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.

Gardening, Gloop & Beetle Friends

Yesterday, we went for what has become our usual walk on the Greenway. While we were walking, the girls were talking about the different birdsong and they pointed out some Forget-me-nots and butterflies along the way. They are becoming a lot more perceptive about their environment and noticing the little changes in nature on our walks.

Afterwards, I made them some yellow play doh to β€œbake” with outside. I’m glad I kept all the tools from play doh sets over the years. Even though they add to my cluttered cupboards, the girls have got so much use out of them. They also use dough ball trays from M&S as pretend mini bun trays but you could use kitchen utensils too. I know a garlic press works well with play doh and they enjoy the realistic element of having kitchen equipment too πŸ™‚

The girls made me some bright yellow cupcakes to have with my coffee πŸ™‚ Then they started making desserts and made up their own names for them πŸ™‚ Eventually, it ended up turning into a play doh and soil game and I declared it over πŸ™‚

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Then, we made some real chocolate chip cookies using an easy recipe I found posted online. The girls had asked me to pick up some giant chocolate chips at the shop the day before and it felt like a sign it was time to make choc chip cookies πŸ™‚

The girls helped to roll out the dough and proceeded to lick the bowl and pinch bits of dough to eat while I cut out cookies πŸ™‚ Β We listened to some calming music and I made some coffee to go with the cookies/the girls claimed theirs for snack and TV time πŸ™‚

I had some ripe avocados, so I decided to make guacamole and use a nachos kit we had in the cupboard πŸ™‚ I put some lime in our drinks too and when my daughter came into the kitchen and saw the overloaded plate she said it was β€œlike we’re in a restaurant.” We had a slow dinner at the table and listened to 1920’s jazz. She was right; it did feel like we were in a real restaurant πŸ™‚

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Today, we went for a walk to a nearby shop and the girls got some ice-cream and sweets. The weather was so hot today and going for a morning walk almost felt like being in Spain or Portugal πŸ™‚ I like the fact we go to local shops more now and barely use the car. It feels like we get to experience more together and have longer chats while we walk with nowhere to rush to. The girls picked some dandelion clocks and had fun blowing them on the way home.

Afterwards, my daughter had to do some pets colouring in the style of Dean Russo, so I printed off an extra sheet for my younger daughter. She had her ice-cream while she coloured and my older daughter put a lot of time into drawing patterns. I wish maths homework went that swimmingly. My neighbour kindly gave us some spiced buns she had made and we all loved them. They were like a gingerbread cake πŸ™‚

Afterwards, I made some gloop for the girls to play with. My friend suggested it yesterday and I’d never made it before. It’s so easy to prepare and is such an interesting texture. I couldn’t stop playing with it either, because it keeps changing from solid to liquid and is really weird! The girls played with it for a long time, until they started flinging it around the garden, which is how most messy crafts end!Β 

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I finally tackled the weeding at the front of our house. The girls helped me with raking and binning πŸ™‚ Then they started their own games beside me. I uncovered some Clematis on the wall and I’ve no idea how it got there! It must have just been obscured by all the weeds I never get time to remove πŸ™‚ While we were weeding, my daughter found a beetle and decided to befriend it. I was happy to see her not scream at the sight of a bug πŸ™‚ She was really gentle with it and made it a β€œhouse” in an empty container. She named it β€œDude” but then decided to rename it after my parents’ cat. It eventually moved on and she was momentarily disappointed. (That’s it walking upside down on a twig/its new house it quickly vacated,)

For dinner, we had a barbecue in the garden. I’ve realised having a barbecue with the girls means sitting eating alone while they come up with thousands of reasons to repeatedly leave the table πŸ™‚ But it was nice sitting in the hot sun, feeling like we were on holiday and having the company of the neighbours voices and the birds in the background πŸ™‚

 

 

Bluebells, Outdoor Cafes & Mud Pies

On our walk along the Greenway earlier this week, I noticed that the flowers bordering the pathway are starting to change. One of the grassy banks is paved with stepping stones leading up to some bluebells, and we found some clusters of them further along too. Repeating the same walk over and over is allowing us the opportunity to detect small changes we wouldn’t otherwise have noticed, and in a way, the limitations are making us appreciate the little things more.

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My daughter loves the clay workshop she does when she’s at school, so I decided to order a box of air-drying clay for her. My younger daughter tried it for the first time. She liked flattening it and using it as a base for pictures, while my older daughter likes making models with it. She made a pearl inside a shell and a two-toned heart.

 

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I always find that my kids turn their noses up at the most time-consuming meals. I had some hot dogs and decided to try making them threaded onto spaghetti, which I had seen online somewhere a while ago. You just cut them up and push them onto the dried spaghetti before you cook it. It was weird how something so simple fascinated my kids so much. I made a simple tomato sauce to go with it. I just soaked a couple of tomatoes in boiled water, peeled the skins off, chopped them up finely and cooked them with dried herbs and sugar. It tastes much better than pre-made pasta sauce or tinned tomatoes (although I like it too, and I’m rarely in the mood for peeling tomatoes :D)

I set up another tray activity for my daughter outside. I used an old ice-cream tub filled with mud – I just mixed some soil and water together and made it extra muddy. I put some of her plastic animals in it, so they could “roll about in the mud.” Then I gave her a toothbrush and her dolls’ paddling pool to give them a bath afterwards.
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I like the way when I give my kids a messy task, they change it into another one when they’re finished. (The clean-up version of me isn’t just as happy about this.) The girls got out their buckets and spades and made some mud pies in them too. They have an old tea set they use in the garden and filled them with mud and water, putting the teacups in a cardboard cup holder my daughter dug out of their junk box. I find that more and more, they are going to the cupboard by themselves to find a specific material for a project they have in mind and I like to see their creativity coming out without interference from me πŸ™‚

I had ordered some earrings and a top from a lady in Denmark. I love everything she sells and wanted to support her business too. They arrived today and it felt like an extremely early birthday present πŸ™‚ She had put the top into a pretty silk bag and it cheered me up when I opened it and saw it πŸ™‚ I’m definitely noticing people’s thoughtful touches even more now. I made some time for trying the things I’d bought on and then made myself a latte to drink in the garden while I got some writing done. (Thank God for TV time :))

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Today, I also set up a pretend cafe in the garden for the girls. I just gave them some cups and spoons, a filled watering can to use as a kettle, some out of date hot chocolate powder and a few marshmallows and teabags. They loved creating their own hot chocolate and topping it with the marshmallows. It isn’t an activity I’d encourage them to do often because I hate anything that feels like wasting food πŸ™‚ But it made for good messy play and they loved it.

Tonight, I am listening to some new calming music, doing some writing and I’m attempting to bake my first ever sourdough. I checked my sourdough starter earlier and was excited to see that it floated when added to water, so it should be ready for use. I’m hoping the end result resembles bread, even if it doesn’t taste anything like sourdough πŸ™‚

 

 

Mixed Media, Garden Play and Garlands

It’s taken me a while to get round to blogging this week. I just finished editing a book and that – that an an insurmountable pile of ironing – has been taking up all my free time (if such a thing still exists :)) This week, we’ve been spending a lot of time in our garden in the sunshine. I ordered a tuff tray for the girls and I wish I’d come across them long before now. It’s an easy way to set up contained messy play and keeps them busy for hours πŸ™‚

This week, we made some mixed media pictures. I found some dark blue card (but you could use any colour or paint a cereal box if you don’t have any.) The girls created little scenes on them. One opted for a sunny day and the other for a rainy one, probably because she is obsessed with umbrellas and jumping in puddles πŸ™‚ We stuck on cotton wool clouds, cut out some fabric scraps for clothes, used colour card for petals and coloured in/drew on plain paper to add details like shoes and stems on the plants etc. I think they turned out really well and were easy to make, plus it’s a good way to use up crafting scraps in your house πŸ™‚

We transformed our living room into a mini library. We set up a desk at the coffee table with stampers and pieces of paper. The girls liked stamping the paper and then inserting them into books they were “borrowing.” They had a toy till they used too, but I always thought the thing that looked the most exciting about being a librarian was the stamping when I was a kid πŸ™‚ One worked at the desk while the other browsed for books πŸ™‚ We laid them out on the hearth and I gave them a little bag to gather them in. They ordered in books that weren’t available and then had them delivered from the bookcase upstairs. After a while, they got out their tea set and pretend food and made coffee, juice and biscuits like the librarian does in the real library we’re missing πŸ™‚ I like games that encourage kids to come up with their own ideas and that they can take in all different directions that you couldn’t have planned.

My neighbour kindly gave us some dried melon seeds so we could dye and thread them to make things. We dyed half of them blue and the other half yellow with food colouring and then threaded them to make garlands and necklaces πŸ™‚ I was surprised how vibrant they turned out and the process of threading them with a needle was so therapeutic. I like the way we are forced to not waste and use what we already have in our houses for entertainment at the moment πŸ™‚

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We played a game where the girls had to choose a teddy to cook for. The teddies whispered into their ears what their favourite foods were. The girls then designed a meal on paper for them and then made it out of play doh to serve to them.

The girls have been dressing up for their morning walk and it feels more precious because we can only go out once. They both wore capes when we walked on the Greenway this week because they wanted people we passed “to know that they are superheroes.” They have also adopted a strange practice of carrying a book when they’re walking. I asked my daughter why she was and she said it was to keep her company on our walk (apparently she is tired of my conversation.)

I had an enormous sweet potato to use up (it was the size of a butternut squash,) so I decided to make some sweet potato and coconut soup πŸ™‚ I just used sweet potato, coconut milk, stock and some coriander we grew from seed on our windowsill πŸ™‚ (That will probably be the only time I ever use that sentence :)) Although, my tomato plant seems to be doing well. I don’t know if it will yield tomatoes yet, but I’m still amazed I kept a plant alive. On the other hand, my chives are looking straggly. I suppose it’s good to experiment even if it doesn’t result in anything impressive πŸ™‚

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I found some blank stickers and the girls enjoyed designing their own stickers on them πŸ™‚ If you have any blank labels lying around the house you could use them for a quick activity with kids. Afterwards, we made a word soup. I asked the girls to call out any words they wanted me to write down and I cut them up and put them into a bowl. They took it in turn mixing them with a big spoon and then picked out one word at a time. They laid them out on the table and we made up a silly story with them. You could do the same with pictures for smaller children or you could make a poem with them using the words and write it down and then decorate it πŸ™‚ It seems to work best with nouns and verbs – I found any of the connecting words didn’t work as well when they come out in a random order.

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We filled the girls’ tuff tray with washing up liquid and water to use as bubble mixture πŸ™‚ They used their bubble guns and we cut the bottoms out of some leftover party cups we had to make giant bubbles. You could use straws too, or anything you can find lying around the house πŸ™‚ It turned into slippery paddling, so I intervened and changed it into a painting tray πŸ™‚ The novelty of painting outside kept them amused and they used different shaped empty boxes and toilet roll tubes to make prints. If you get an old plate and put the different colours on opposite sides of it, when you dip an object into the paint, it creates multicoloured prints πŸ™‚

The girls had been nagging me to have a barbecue, so we had an impromptu one with the things we had already in the house. I made some sausages and mushrooms and some dinner rolls. It was an American recipe and they didn’t turn out like hot dog buns but they were still nice πŸ™‚ I made some potatoes and salad and we ate in the garden, which is the girls favourite thing to do πŸ™‚ It actually made dinner time feel much less stressful and it felt like we were on holiday.

We turned the tuff tray into a rock pool next. The girls have a tin they put shells they’ve collected into after we’ve been to the beach, so we got that out, their nets and their buckets and spades, water cans, etc. They fished for shells and collected them in their buckets. They also found a game hidden amidst the beach supplies – that game with the ball that attaches to a velcro paddle. It’s funny how when you’re spending all your time in the house, you uncover things you forget you had. It has taught me that most things we need are already in the house, in some form, and shopping isn’t always necessary, or conducive to fun.