A Week of Quiet Creativity

I’m a little bit behind on my blogging. I’ve been working on a book and that’s been taking up the small amount of free time I have πŸ™‚ But I thought I’d share a few things that we did this week to keep busy. I’ve been feeling grateful for the amount of sunshine and the warmer temperatures that allow us to spend most of our time in the garden πŸ™‚

We have a baby paddling pool from years ago that I have been filling with warm, bubbly water for the girls to paddle in. It’s small, but they like to pull up their garden chairs and sit with their feet in it. I made some more homemade lemonade and served it to them at their “beach” with straws. We also have a water table in the garden, and the girls requested that I put bubbly water in it too, so they could give their babies a bath πŸ™‚ My daughter was using socks as sleeping bags for them when they’d had their bath πŸ™‚

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We collected twigs, stones, flowers etc so the girls could make some wild art on the ground in the garden. My daughter made a picture of a house with an outdoor den, trees and a shed and was engrossed in it for ages πŸ™‚ She was instructing me on what materials I had to find next πŸ˜€

I wanted to try a craft for kids I’d seen online using felt tips and kitchen roll. I couldn’t find any blank kitchen roll, so we had to improvise with a patterned one, but it was still the same idea πŸ™‚ You tear off two pieces of kitchen roll and fold it like a book – drawing on the top layer and the one underneath. You can draw the outline of a picture on top and the filled in parts underneath, so when you drop it in a bowl of water, the picture becomes one. The girls liked drawing simpler patterns on it and seeing them coming together. Just the novelty of drawing on kitchen roll was enough to keep them sitting for half an hour. They loved dropping the kitchen roll in water to reveal the hidden pictures too πŸ™‚

We made some banana and walnut bread and I tasked the girls with breaking the nuts into the mixture. It kept them quiet for a long time. I find when they are getting really hyper and running wild that giving them a focussed task helps to calm things down a little πŸ™‚

We have a game of charades for kids, which the girls love playing. I found it in a charity shop for just over a pound and it’s their favourite game πŸ™‚ You could make up your own version at home by drawing pictures that younger kids have to act out on card or paper, for example, a horse, a pen, a piano, etc. For older kids who can read, you can write more developed ones, like washing the dishes, wrapping a present, building a house, etc. You could make it fit with any theme you like. If you have an egg timer you could use it too πŸ™‚

I used to make up little mysteries for the girls to solve when they were younger, using pictures. They had to look for the item on the page and find the next picture in that location. Now that they are a bit older, I decided to make up a simple mystery for them to solve, with words and pictures. I just grabbed a baby doll and made up a story about it exploring the house, leaving pink sandy footprints, having a bath in the sink, making friends with other dolls, turning household items into a playground, etc. The girls had to find all the evidence, tick boxes and find where the baby was hidden at the end. It didn’t take long to put it together and it kept them entertained without me having to get up while I finished my coffee πŸ™‚

My older daughter loves art and she’s enjoying watching guided drawing videos online. There have been quite a few free art classes on Facebook since lockdown started. We did a β€œdrawing the Easter bunny” one together and she enjoyed learning about shading and layering colours.

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We went for a walk to the chemist and spotted an Easter window display along the way. I thought it was nice that the owner had left the display there when the shop is currently closed. It brightened the girls’ day seeing it and they wanted to take the bunnies home with us πŸ™‚

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Since I didn’t have many eggs to hide for an Easter egg hunt, I got the kids to cut eggs out of cardboard and draw patterns on them, and hid them along with our remaining chocolate in the garden πŸ™‚ They liked colouring at the table outside too. It’s strange how an activity they do all the time becomes more exciting when it’s in a new location πŸ™‚

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I looked up some recipes for Easter biscuits and adapted a Mary Berry one. We made some egg, chick and bunny shaped cookies with Easter colours icing and sprinkles πŸ™‚ When they were ready, we enjoyed them in the garden and looked at some of the emerging flowers. My tulips came out overnight and I like the fact the girls noticed that they had. They have more time to notice things they might have overlooked before, and I think it’s an important lesson for them.

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I made my first hashbrowns, which was incredibly easy and left me wondering why I’d never done it before. I just fried grated potato in oil until it was softened on the inside and crisped on the inside and topped breakfast burritos with them. I just filled tortillas with scrambled egg and cheese, but you could use any toppings you like, and make more adventurous ones for the non-fussy eaters in your house.

The girls had some washi tape left, so we used it to make some bracelets. I didn’t have any string or elastic, so we used pipecleaners I cut to fit the girls’ wrists and twisted them together at the end. They cut off small amounts of the decorative tape and wrapped it around the pipecleaner to form “beads.” They were happy with the end result and it was quite a therapeutic activity to do. You could also use it to make decorative chains/bunting instead of jewellery.

The girls made some Easter cards out of paper and they were very excited to receive a package from a lady we know with some Easter chick bows inside πŸ™‚ I think that sending letters and parcels brings a lot of joy in these times when we can’t see family and friends.

I find that doing these quiet activities makes the days go quicker and keeps us sane, but also makes us stop to treasure the time we have to do things that usually get pushed aside for routine.

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An Unplanned Easter

It seems that Easter has become as commercial as every other seasonal celebration, and apart from Easter eggs, I was, apparently, ill-prepared for it. But sometimes I prefer to leave things until the last minute to see what ideas I come up with on the spot. I put Easter eggs in the girls’ bedroom when they were asleep last night and then printed off a simple rhyming egg hunt πŸ™‚ I was low on chocolate, so I used the last of our mini eggs for the hunt, finishing with a surprise Easter egg each in the fridge at the end. They really enjoyed the egg hunt and I found that the fact it was to the point held their attention better than more elaborate ones I’ve tried with them. I didn’t have anything resembling an Easter basket, so I printed off some Easter egg and bunny colouring sheets and put them in a box for the girls to open with craft supplies and some sweets.

After the girls had eaten far too much chocolate, I tried to calm things down with some hard-boiled egg painting. They painted patterns on their eggs and we used them as part of our Easter table display. I might make some sort of pretend hill in our garden for them to roll them down tomorrow πŸ™‚

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I noticed our robin visitor had eaten all of the bird food we made him, so we made some really simple bird feeders. We just used toilet roll tubes, spread peanut butter on them and rolled them in a baking tray filled with bird seed to coat them. You don’t even need string to hang them up; you can just hook them onto a branch πŸ™‚ I saw the robin eating some of them today and I was glad the fact they were refashioned out of a holder for toilet roll didn’t make them unappetising to him πŸ™‚

I have started trying to make some sourdough starter. I looked up how to make it in a quiet moment last night and was surprised how few ingredients it requires – just lots of patience and attentiveness. I started one with wholewheat flour and water as an experiment, so I will try to remember to feed it tonight πŸ™‚

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The girls were worn out after crafting and playing in the garden, so they sat down to colour their Easter colouring sheets and listened to the Little Baby Bum Easter album (my younger daughter’s music of choice.)

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We also started to put together a memory box for the girls. They decorated an old shoe box with sequins and wrote their names on the outside of it. They are going to add pictures of their favourite memories to it, as well as little souvenirs of our time spent together. One toy has been added to the box, but I’m wondering if it will permanently reside there or if it will be missed by tomorrow.

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Our day was busy with lots of short-lived craft projects, so I allowed earlier TV time than usual and we all got a chance to sit down and gather our thoughts (I’m talking about me.)

I decided to make a celebratory Easter dinner, since my girls love any excuse for a party. I laid the table with wine glasses, napkins and candles. I put oranges on the girls’ glasses to make their water a bit more exciting πŸ™‚ I made roasted chicken with homemade stuffing, roast potatoes and honey sweet potato/carrot. For dessert, I made apple crumble and custard. The girls refused to eat my stuffing and apple crumble, but at least they expressed appreciation for my table decorating skills and the pin the tail on the bunny game I produced at the end πŸ™‚

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Watercolours, Mini Beaches & Bubbles

Yesterday, it hit me just how much bread is consumed in our house πŸ™‚ I had made several kinds of breads over the last week, and with my kids in the house all the time, it disappears overnight πŸ™‚ So, I began my day with coffee and bread dough-prepping. I enjoy the slow process of making bread by hand and I find the kneading cathartic. It’s satisfying, seeing the end product that has spent most of the day rising on your kitchen counter, and the smell of bread baking makes any house more homely.

After some time in the sunshine, we watched a video about watercolours. It was as much for me as the girls πŸ™‚ I like the idea of starting a new project – mind you, I have no idea when I’d slot it in between snack-serving, washing dishes and writing πŸ™‚ It was a live session on Facebook and the lady showed different techniques πŸ™‚ I enjoyed sitting at the table with the girls with all of us trying them out together. Usually I don’t sit down and paint too – I’m just the distributer and the cleaner πŸ™‚ But it was nice to sit and play with paint with them at a leisurely pace.

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We made a sensory beach out of an old sweets tub. We didn’t have any sand, so I made some cloud dough using flour and oil. I tried adding some yellow food colouring to make it look more sand-like, but it clumped a little, so I’d suggest leaving it out πŸ™‚ The girls enjoyed filling the beach with shells we had collected on trips to the beach ages ago. We added some plastic spoons and cups to use as buckets and spades. The girls wanted to make a rockpool too, so we filled a separate tub with water and shells. My daughter added a “boat” – a tiny twig wrapped in tape. The LOL babies were chosen as the pool paddlers πŸ™‚ It was later converted into an ice cream shop and the sand was dispersed all over the garden, so the miniature beach is no more πŸ™‚

When our bread was cooked, my kids descended on it like vultures πŸ™‚ I’m at a loss as to how to keep up with the requests for snacks and keep the cupboard stocked :/

For dinner, I improvised with some leftover chicken and made a white sauce. I wrapped it in pastry to make little chicken pies. It seems to be one of the few meals my kids eat without complaint, especially when served with chips πŸ™‚

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This morning, I filled the girls’ water table with warm, bubbly water and it kept them entertained a lot longer than usual πŸ™‚ They were making pretend snow by throwing it around, and the good thing about bubbles is their ability to dissolve into nothing, so no clean-up was involved.

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My friend had shared a post about Easter painting with pegs and pom poms (thanks Kirsty!) so I tried it with the girls. It was really easy – we just lifted the pom poms with a peg and dipped it in poster paints. We started off with using it to print with, and the girls ended up using it as a giant paintbrush instead. I just drew a few outlines for them to print within – an Easter egg, bunny and chick.

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We spent a lot of time in the garden and my neighbour kindly gave me some honeysuckle as a lovely present πŸ™‚

I also spent an hour cutting circles out of a cereal box to use as a building game for the girls. I just drew around an egg cup, cut the shapes out, cut four slots into each piece, and then you can slot them together to try and build mini structures. I found it quite hard to do, but they proved useful during a tired moment with the girls. It gave them something to play with they watched a Julia Donaldson story time video πŸ™‚

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Since I’m in the mood to bake, I made some more tortillas, as I plan to use them at dinner time for chicken fajitas. We are quickly running out of flour and I’m going to have to get inventive with recipes over the next few days. One thing you can do in a moment’s boredom is to take inventory of what you already have in the house and figure out what recipes can be made out of them. You can use the supercook app if you’re running out of ideas πŸ™‚

Now, I’m allowing TV and snack time while I get some tranquility in the garden to write, drink a homemade latte, eat orange cake and remain hopeful that the questions will relent until dinner time πŸ™‚

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Slow Sundays, Orange Cake & Garden Games

I have really enjoyed the pace of today. I’ve eased back on the pressure I’ve been putting myself under, where child entertainment is involved. I’m feeling more rested because of it πŸ™‚ I took my time over coffee this morning and read a little. I’m rereading Wuthering Heights since I can’t remember the story clearly. I must have last read it more than a decade ago. I like how atmospheric the writing is. It’s the perfect accompaniment to tea and sitting in front ofΒ  a candle burning πŸ™‚ (especially today – with the wind whipping around the house.)

I printed off some pictures I found online for the girls to colour in. Each page states the colour of the different items of clothing the boys and girls are wearing, and it held the girls’ attention for longer than plain colouring would πŸ™‚ My younger daughter likes to do a rushed drawing and then run away, and the added instructions kept her sitting a little longer. She enjoyed cutting the pictures out too, and presenting them to me as gifts πŸ™‚

I also found some colouring pages on the Spar Facebook page. If you visit it and scroll down, they posted some pictures a few days ago to keep kids busy. I put on a free audio book for the girls to listen to. There are several free audiobooks on Audible for adults and children while we are in lockdown πŸ™‚ I find it a good alternative to soothing music and it keeps them focussed on whatever they are doing with their hands πŸ™‚

I had seen a chalk-drawn game course for kids online, so I recreated it in our garden. I drew hopscotch and other instructions to follow on the ground – zig zags, stepping stones, places to twirl. I was surprised by how much it entertained the girls. They wanted to be rewarded with a cookie upon finishing it, but after three cookies each, we changed it to jumping on the giant cookie drawn on the ground instead πŸ™‚

The girls requested to have their lunch at the table in the garden. I made a mini fry, and they had theirs outside while I had mine in tranquility for once in the kitchen πŸ™‚

After lunch, we made an orange cake I adapted from The Simple Things magazine. It was supposed to have caraway seeds in it, and I didn’t have any, so I ground up cardamom pods in the blender and added them instead. It worked out well and was an easy recipe to make with kids. Their favourite part is still licking the bowl and they loved painting the orange glaze on the top at the end πŸ™‚ I made myself the foamiest coffee ever and had it in relative peace while I did some writing.

I made a roast dinner tonight and served the cake we made warm with vanilla custard we had. The girls loved the custard, but one of my daughters still refuses to eat any cake I make, unless it’s coconut or chocolate πŸ™‚ We played some board games and turned our Sunday into something that felt a little like a celebration.

Fresh Air, Dream Catchers & Easter Salt Dough

Yesterday morning, I had the luxury of a lie-in (almost – until after 7.30am :)) Our pace of life is changing and I can feel the girls adapting to this new way of living. I decided not to rush the day. There was no reason to hurry to get ready, to rush my morning coffee or to not sit and have some quiet time to read. I like the fact that there are no deadlines for anything.

We did some yoga, listened to Jimi Hendrix and played tag in the living room to burn off the girls’ excess energy. They spent a while making mud pies in the garden. I made a little table for them to “cook” at out of an overturned concrete plant pot. At least now I might be able to have a cup of coffee outside without straggly bits of soil floating to the surface πŸ™‚

We worked on a list of needs and wants from my daughter’s school and I adapted it for my younger daughter so she could join in. She made a list with pictures while my older daughter wrote the words. Then I asked her to cut out pictures from a catalogue that had come through the letterbox. She spent some time cutting out furniture, ornaments, etc to make her own room scenes. I thought she could mix them up and create her own pictures of rooms on a piece of paper (like interior decorating for four year olds :)) She’s happy any time she’s offered a pair of scissors, so it kept her busy while I finished schoolwork with my older daughter. Then, they had some free play time. The last few days have felt very unstructured, and it’s strange to think that that is encouraged now, after life being so busy the last few years, with so much emphasis on achievement.

We had lunch and then spent time together in the garden; just feeling fresh air on my face and the warmth of the sun is enough to lift me out of a low mood πŸ™‚ I had some tumeric chai and we talked to family on Facetime. The girls continued making soil desserts and I tried to turn a blind eye to the marshland that our garden has become. It keeps them busy and happy for so long, it might be worth the mess. We went for a walk nearby and I could already see changes to the trees and more colour than the last time we were on the Greenway πŸ™‚

Afterwards, we made some unicorn biscuits together. It came in a box so we just had to add butter to make the dough. The girls enjoyed icing them with melted chocolate and rainbrow drops. I don’t usually try any of the kids’ boxed buns, but I had one with a cup of tea and it was like shortbread with extra toppings πŸ™‚


We spent the evening eating homemade pizza while we watched a film and I gave the girls some ice-cream with a swirled chocolate spread on it. It made a good sundae sauce πŸ™‚

This morning, we completed some more of the activities from my daughter’s toucan box. The girls used watercolours to paint a dream catcher and a headband. They seemed to instinctively know how to attach the feathers and beads. Maybe it’s their Native American heritage πŸ™‚

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After getting ready, we went for a walk to clear our heads. I was started to feel cooped up in the house and the girls had far too much energy to run off in the garden. It was quiet while we were out and we did some rainbow-spotting in house windows. The girls talked about painting rainbows on different materials. They had spotted some on a nearby fence painted on fabric, thick cardboard and made out of paper plates. I like seeing everyone’s creativity coming out during times like this πŸ™‚

After lunch, I made some salt dough. I used rock salt in it, instead of using up all our regular salt and it works fine – it just gives the salt dough more texture. I’ve seen a lot of posts about baking it in the oven for hours on end, but the recipe I use only takes about twenty minutes in the oven and we have had no problems with it setting. I have some Easter cookie cutters, so the girls cut out bunnies, chicks and Easter eggs. After hardening them in the oven, the girls enjoyed painting them and adding glitter.

If I’m honest, I’m struggling this weekend, but I’m finding that the small things uplift me – cherry blossom on our walk, seeing colour appearing in the greenery, a comforting cup of tea and hearing the sound of another adult’s voice on the phone πŸ™‚ I plan to go easy on myself tonight. I have been in productive mode for a while and have been busily doing lots of activities with the girls, and now it feels like it’s a time for rest, surrendering to a bit more TV time and taking the time to give myself as many treats as the kids get πŸ™‚

 

Chai Tea, Champagne Candles & Nature Collages

We have had a slow start to our day the last couple of days. Yesterday morning, my daughter requested pancakes for breakfast and I indulged her since we have all the time we want now for making pancakes πŸ™‚ I had a long cup of coffee, read a bit of a book and had some pancakes with nutella before we got ready. We spent some time in the garden, and I gave the girls plant pots to collect whatever items they could find for a nature collage. We have no craft card, so I just cut up a cereal box and that gave the picture enough structure to hold the bits and pieces they founnd πŸ™‚ There aren’t many living plants in our garden, so it consisted mostly of twigs, discoloured leaves and dirt but they liked the sensory process of making them πŸ™‚ Afterwards, we talked about taking rubbings and collected items with different surfaces and textures, put them underneath paper and I gave my daughter crayons and pastels to rub over the top so the pattern would transfer to paper.

Afterwards, we went back outside to the garden. I had some chai tea with soya milk. I usually drink tea black, but I find chai tea with milk and honey a comforting thing to drink. When it reaches the stage of the day when I’ve had my fill of coffee and I’m feeling a bit drained, it picks me up. The girls continued making mud pies and leaf soup in our old barbecue. I’m thinking of converting a large plant pot into a table for them so the garden table isn’t covered in soil every time I sit down πŸ™‚ The girls requested their spray bottles again so they could draw on the fence with chalk and wash it off. It’s strange how something so simple can occupy them for hours πŸ™‚ The only downside is they start squirting it into their mouths or taking the lid off and taking sips from it :/ It’s a good job there was no cleaning solution in it beforehand πŸ™‚

I have a candle I had been saving for a time I needed it, and I decided yesterday afternoon was that time πŸ™‚ It’s from a company I love called the Reading Room Candle Company and smells like champagne and strawberries πŸ™‚ I liked the title too, since I love F Scott Fitzgerald πŸ™‚ I listened to Angel Olsen and took some alone time to write and unwind.

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For dinner, I used up the last couple of chicken drumsticks we had and made a big batch of mashed potato so I could use the rest to make potato bread again today πŸ™‚ I improvised and made stuffing using some homemade bread we had left. I didn’t want to use up our last onion so I made it with an egg, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme. I dotted knobs of butter on top before putting it in the oven and it might be the best stuffing I’ve made. My daughter seemed to appreciate the fact the recipe was simple and contained nothing resembling a vegetable too πŸ™‚

My tomato plant is sprouting on the windowsill and I’m wondering if it’s because I have more time to remember to water it at regular intervals πŸ™‚ I’m hopeful it will yield tomatoes at some stage but I’m not getting ahead of myself or my gardening skills πŸ™‚ My coriander seems to be doing well too and I used it in a dish for the first time a couple of days ago πŸ™‚

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We got a lovely surprise in the post of Easter eggs from my parents πŸ™‚ I doubt any of them will last until Easter but it’s good to know there is chocolate nearby now πŸ™‚

Today I tried a recipe my friend had sent me for pizza dough and just shaped it into a small loaf. It contains equal parts self raising flour and greek yogurt, and no other ingredients, and I was surprised by how bread-like it looked when it emerged from the oven. It only took about fifteen minutes to cook too πŸ™‚

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We ventured out for the first time in days to pick up some things from a local health shop. I got some new teas to try and a sourdough loaf, as well as replenishing our snacks. The girls are constantly asking me for snacks and one of them refuses to eat most things I bake, so it’s been a challenge stretching snacks πŸ™‚ I think I’m going to continue shopping at local shops when things return to normal. I prefer the pace of them to racing around a large supermarket, beating your way through crowds.

After having some garden and schoolwork time, my kids caught up on an activity from last week we hadn’t had time to do. It was to make a poster of how to look after a pet. The girls both chose a rabbit and I liked their attention to detail in creating the hutches and the rabbits’ meals πŸ™‚ We did some reading together and then I got some writing done while the girls watched TV. I tried the tumeric chai tea I bought at the shop, and am saving my bedtime one for tonight πŸ™‚

I used up the mashed potato and made more potato bread. They are so easy to make, I don’t know why I haven’t made it regularly before. I’m going to have to ration it this time since last time the girls ate fifteen bits of it in one day πŸ™‚ I used my easter egg cookie cutter to make them πŸ™‚ For dinner I made macaroni cheese for some comfort food with our new bread (which my daughter has named pie bread because I cut it like pie :)) Now I’m planning on spending the evening inactive in front of a book or magazine with a constant supply of tea πŸ™‚

Treasuring the Tranquility

The last couple of days have been slow and quiet. I’m actually enjoying aspects of them, like the birdsong, the fact I can hear a clock ticking, the fact I don’t feel pulled in as many directions (apart from when my kids are queuing up for constant snacks, obviously.)

Yesterday, we started the day with yoga/dancing/garden time. My aim is to burn off as much of my kids’ energy as possible before we sit down to do schoolwork πŸ™‚ While my older daughter did some work, I gave my younger one glue and craft materials to make a collage. She glued her bookmark onto her picture but I just let her get on with it. I don’t think many of her books need a bookmark since we finish them in one sitting πŸ™‚

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Afterwards, we watched a Maddie Moate video and had some sultana cake/breadsticks/coffee number two for me. One of my daughter’s activities was to make a chick out of card. My younger daughter likes to join in with any craft project, so they made one each. I was impressed by how little I had to help with the concertina folds and cutting the sellotape πŸ™‚ I could almost imagine a time when I’ll be able to sit with idle hands while they do artwork πŸ™‚

I had chocolates left from my Mother’s Day basket and we all had one each. The girls liked choosing their own and the fact they were limited to one seemed to make them view it as more of a treat πŸ™‚

For dinner, I decided to make a mini fry with ingredients we already had in the house. I had made some mashed potatoes the previous night. I mixed them with flour to make potato bread and fried them. I thought I’d made enough to last days, but the girls are all of it πŸ™‚ Here is a picture of our food. I know, I’m weird because I eat ketchup and baked beans on one plate. Clearly my first priority is eating, my second priority is photography πŸ™‚

I hung up the bunting we had made in my daughter’s toucan box to cheer up the kitchen πŸ™‚ It’s going to make opening cupboards difficult for a while, but at least it looks seasonal πŸ™‚

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This morning, I gave the girls one of my daughter’s preschool’s suggested activities.They drew on the fence and the ground with chalk and then used spray bottles of water to clean it off. It kept them occupied for a long time and they were reluctant to come inside.

One of my kids did magic painting to practise writing words for school. She wrote the words with white crayon and painted over them with watercolours. If you don’t have a white crayon, you can use a white candle instead. Meanwhile, my other daughter did her own magic Paw Patrol picture. We had some stories and a snack and watched a video about growing vegetables.

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We went back outside after lunch to identify outdoor sounds in the garden. It’s harder than it appears at first glance with kids involved πŸ™‚ It was a struggle to hear anything over their bikes and their voices πŸ™‚ But we completed the list and then went indoors to do the indoor sounds section.

I’ve made 3pm my designated writing time. At that time, the girls are allowed to watch TV and have a snack while I catch up on some writing. They make many visits throughout with requests for more snacks, so I’ve had to relax my ideal word count for this period πŸ™‚ My act of self-care today was to write, drink a homemade latte and sneak chocolate truffles when no one was looking πŸ™‚

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For dinner, I improvised and made something like chicken korma. I used up some of the flatbreads we had left and they were a good substitute for naan bread πŸ™‚ I like the fact that this phase of life is making everyone more resourceful, and it shows us we can survive on much less than we typically buy πŸ™‚