Craft Packs, Pretend Play and Fig Scones

The last couple of days have been slightly calmer, as we’re getting used to this new way of life. I’ve been trying to schedule in more time for myself, and allowing myself to leave the girls to their own devices sometimes, guilt-free. After catching up with my daughter’s school class on Zoom yesterday, we watched a nature show about water nymphs. It’s on Tuesday and Thursdays and is run by a nature centre. The classes are interactive, with a quiz for kids and a creative task for them to complete before the next one. Last time, they enjoyed designing their own plants and naming them.

We did some of my daughter’s schoolwork and made a multicoloured number grid to help her with it ๐Ÿ™‚

After some academic time, we made egg carton daffodils, which was an activity suggested by my other daughter’ s preschool. The girls enjoyed painting the bell part of the flower yellow, and then I cut out what felt like millions of petals from a cereal box for them to paint. If you have white paint, it’s better to paint the cardboard with that first and let it dry, as the yellow will look less patchy when added, but we didn’t have any so we just slathered a lot of yellow on ๐Ÿ™‚ We are still waiting for it to completely dry ๐Ÿ™‚

I tried a recipe from a magazine for fig and walnut scones. They turned out really well, but the girls refused to eat them because of the fruit and nuts inside. (More for me :)) It was a beautiful day and the girls spent a lot of time in the garden playing. I made some chai tea and attempted to sit outside and read a magazine, but I think I just read the same paragraph multiple times and then stopped to watch their “bike races.”

Since my daughter is learning about pets in school, I set up their vets when they were asleep. I just improvised with items we had in the house, using cushions and blankets for pet beds, plasters and calpol syringes for them to use on teddies. My kids are obsessed with plasters, so I knew they’d be happy to be granted permission to put them on their toy animals ๐Ÿ™‚ I set up a little desk with two seats, a pen holder, a phone, paper to write the animal’s ailments down, and a grooming corner, as well as all the toy animals I could find without raiding their bedroom and waking them up ๐Ÿ™‚ It was so simple to throw together, but the girls were excited to see it when they came downstairs ๐Ÿ™‚

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We had some overnight oats for breakfast. I love the fact that they’re ready when you get up and no pre-coffee preparation is required. I used oats, grated apple, plain yogurt and milk, mixed it and put some frozen berries on top and put it in the fridge overnight. Sometimes I just use milk without yogurt and sometimes I do an apple and peanut butter one. I like porridge weirdly thick so this picture might look unappealing to some ๐Ÿ™‚

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After breakfast, we spent some time in the garden, did some more dancing and kids’ yoga and then worked on my daughter’s pets theme for school. We did some creative writing and my younger daughter drew pictures of her imaginary pet, its food and a house for it to live in. Then, two activity packs I’d ordered for the girls arrived in the post and they were very excited ๐Ÿ™‚ They got a world book day book each, a sticker book, a mask to make, bookmarks and a paper lady to decorate that came with pretend hair and fabric. I like the fact it has crazily curly hair. The gluing kept the girls occupied for a long time too ๐Ÿ™‚

I repurposed some leftover chow mein I’d made last night by combining it with chicken stock I had in the freezer. I had put ginger, onion, garlic, a small bit of chicken, soy sauce and oyster sauce in the noodles last night, so it was like chicken noodle soup with extra flavour ๐Ÿ™‚ It felt like a good thing to eat to fend off any germs ๐Ÿ™‚

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After lunch, we watched a kids’ music class so the girls could make use of their musical instruments and run around inside ๐Ÿ™‚ They spent a little more time in the garden and we are having an early close-the-curtains, put-on-pyjamas and watch-a-movie night ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

 

Growing Lettuces and Cookie Improvisation

Today, we ventured out for a little walk around our neighbourhood first thing in the morning. We didn’t encounter anyone and it was so tranquil and felt like we’d stepped back in time. I’m doubting whether I should continue taking walks with the girls in light of everything that’s going on, even though weโ€™ve just been sticking to our own area and avoiding people. It was misty and the greenway looked like a scene from a gothic novel, like a winding driveway that disappears into fog. It cleared my head and tired the girls’ legs out, which made them much more amenable to the activities we did at home ๐Ÿ™‚

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When we got home, I made some coffee and got out paints for the girls to paint rainbows to stick up in our living room window. I had seen online that other children had been doing that to cheer up their neighbourhoods and as a scavenger hunt for other kids when they are out for a walk. My younger daughter dived head first into the painting, while the other spent a long time making precise lines with felt tips. I like the contrast between their attitudes towards art – one flings everything at the page and is finished in five minutes, the other’s attention to detail and patience is better than mine ๐Ÿ™‚ I liked the fact she also drew a rainbow dot frame for her picture ๐Ÿ™‚

Painting carried on for a long time and then I put on a live video for them to watch that was designed for kids. They were noticeably calmer compared with when we’d first woken up and they were doing somersaults on my bed ๐Ÿ™‚

We spent some time in the garden. The girls continued making soil and leaves meals in a disused barbecue we have ๐Ÿ™‚ They’ve moved it into their play house now and have been hosting pretend parties for us in the garden. I did some weeding while they played. I find that weeding with my bare hands really grounds me and helps me to calm any anxious thoughts I might be having. I’ve been attempting to grow some herbs on my kitchen windowsill and the lettuces were taking over, so I separated them out a little. I have no idea whether I’m doing it properly, so it is all guesswork and hoping for the best ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll be shocked if I ever successfully grow a plant from seed (or keep a potted plant alive for that matter.)

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We spoke to my parents on Facetime to wish each other a happy mother’s day and catch up on what we’d been doing in our respective houses. When I imagine families separated in the past, I realise how lucky we are to be able to still see the animated faces of our loved ones while we are in isolation.

We used up the rest of our flatbreads and hummous (which the girls are still refusing to eat – more for me :)) I made some lentil soup too. Afterwards, I decided to try to make flour from oats. I made some two-ingredient cookies with the girls. It’s a good way to use up overripe bananas, and you can add any additional extras you like. I added some chopped walnuts and sultanas. They tasted surprisingly good for cookies without sugar.

We sat down over cookies and tea and I got out some printer paper for the girls to make cards for friends. I couldn’t find any card, so we just folded the paper length-wise, and then brought the two ends together to make a card. Apparently people used to do that in the past, and they stand up perfectly when you do that. The girls had a great time, writing little notes to their friends and decorating them with sequins and stampers. I’m glad of my craft-hoarding problem during this time. I had found a pack of hundreds of sequins reduced to 50p in B&M a few weeks ago and we made a little home for them in an egg carton. It was a useful way to keep all the colours separate ๐Ÿ™‚

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I had booked to do a live class online for the girls, involving acting and dancing. It didn’t quite go to plan, but it was my first time using Zoom, and the girls still enjoyed it. They had to dance, mime and pull different faces in response to various imaginary flavours ๐Ÿ™‚ They took a while to come out of hiding, but by the end they were enjoying it and asked to do it again. I think they found the fact that the people in the class could see and hear us a little strange ๐Ÿ™‚ But it was worth doing.

I ordered the girls Toucan boxes after reading reviews about them. They send out two a month to your house and they contain craft/gardening packs based on your child’s age. I’m excited to see what comes in them, never mind the kids ๐Ÿ™‚

Apart from that, we just spent some more time in the garden. I find that doing that and connecting with nature, even in small ways, heals something in me. I noticed the most birdsong I have and it made me realise how much we miss behind the heavy noise of traffic. Tomorrow, I’m going to embark on a home-school plan, and I might need vast quantities of coffee to get moving in the morning ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

A Glimpse of Homeschooling and Making Some Home-Baked Treats

I decided to keep my kids off school today. My daughter was disappointed because she was meant to have a nature walk this morning. So, I decided to take them for one of our own. We went for a walk on the greenway and stopped to spot and take pictures of signs of Spring along the way. They donโ€™t usually seem to enjoy walking unless there is the promise of a playground at the end of it, but they are adapting to the way things are at the minute and seemed happy to go out and look around. I found calling it a โ€œschool tripโ€ and making jokes about how I was their new teacher seemed to help. We made a rough schedule of things to do while they are off to keep their routine in place and try to eliminate the bickering that comes with boredom ๐Ÿ™‚

I was amused when my younger daughter sat down on a wall and started to unpack her backpack. Iโ€™d thought it was empty and sheโ€™d just brought it for show but she had brought her toy kettle and cups so she could make โ€œteaโ€ while we were there ๐Ÿ™‚

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After a long walk, we sat down with snacks and coffee and my daughter did โ€œcreative writingโ€ and came up with sentences about our walk and the Spring-like things we saw. Then she used the photos of flowers weโ€™d taken to draw from. It kept her busy for a long time ๐Ÿ™‚ My other daughter coloured and cut out pages from a learning ABCโ€™s box that we got at Christmas time and hadnโ€™t really used yet. I also dug out a kidsโ€™ magazine that had come with our National Trust book. It is about the differences between the seasons and has little doors kids can open to see what they can do in each one. The suggestions for Spring are some things we can do even with social distancing: finding your first spring Blossom, counting the types of birdsong you can hear on a walk, growing a cress head in an egg shell and getting up early to watch the sunrise, as well as hunting for daffodils, making a nest out of twigs, feathers, etc, looking for a carpet of bluebells and identifying birds.

Afterwards, I got out a cookery book I hadnโ€™t used in a long time. Itโ€™s called A Girl Called Jack and was written by a single mum living on a tight budget. It has some good recipes that use up things that you tend to already have lying around your house. So, we made peanut butter thumbprint cookies. I liked the idea of the kids being able to be more involved since it was a simple recipe and they got to make thumbprints in the cookies to fill with jam ๐Ÿ™‚ My older daughter read out the measurements to me for numbers practice and then they ate the leftover jam while I washed up ๐Ÿ™‚

I drew some clock faces with times written beside them so they could practice drawing the hands on, and I was surprised by their enthusiasm. Itโ€™s weird how once you label yourself their โ€œteacherโ€ they start listening and being receptive to what you say ๐Ÿ˜€ I have a feeling it wonโ€™t last though.

I had to go out in the car to drop something off so we stopped at an honesty box farm shop at the side of the road. There are quite a few just off country games roads if you look out for signs for free range eggs. We got some eggs and jam there the other day and today we got some barbecue sauce and potatoes ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love how homemade they look in the little jars with gingham fabric ๐Ÿ™‚

When we got home, we had some hot chocolate with marshmallows and continued to divide up puzzle pieces. Weโ€™ve started a 1000 piece puzzle that is composed of six Disney scenes, so weโ€™ve been working on separating them to make it easier to begin. Iโ€™ve never done a large jigsaw before and I hadnโ€™t anticipated how time consuming it would be, so this is the perfect time for it, since all we have is time ๐Ÿ™‚ (I still have my doubts about my ability to complete one but we will see.)

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The girls had some down time while I wrote part of a new book Iโ€™m working on. There were constant interruptions but I somehow still hit my word count for the day ๐Ÿ™‚ – although it is quite dark subject matter and Iโ€™m thinking something more uplifting might be a better idea in the current situation!

I cleared some space in our living room and put records on while my kids played โ€œroller discosโ€ in their roller skates. (My next door neighbour must loathe us by now.) It helped to tire the girls out and they actually looked as tired as they would after school by the end of the day ๐Ÿ™‚

Iโ€™ve been using up the food we had in the house, making simple dishes and trying to stretch food so we can stay away from the shops for a bit longer. I made spaghetti mixed with sardines in tomato sauce for lunch and it was surprisingly delicious ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls even ate it. For dinner, I used up some chicken goujons Iโ€™d got at the butchers, with rice, veg and the barbecue sauce we got at the farm shop ๐Ÿ™‚ We finished the day with stories and I hope I can keep up the same pace tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚ Iโ€™m thinking of making some lists of things to do indoors to inspire myself and others and keep everyoneโ€™s spirits up ๐Ÿ™‚ With a little resourcefulness, having our routines altered doesnโ€™t have to upturn our worlds.

Quick Chocolate and Candy Cane Fudge

I have had so many fudge setting disasters it feels laughable I have a fudge recipe to share that actually worked out ๐Ÿ™‚ But this is so quick and tastes pretty good ๐Ÿ™‚ It is quite soft and should be kept in the fridge, or add more chocolate if you want it to be more solid in the centre.

Ingredients

1 can of condensed milk

1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

2 Candy Canes
Method

Grease a baking tray and line with baking parchment. I used quite a small, deep tin. If youโ€™re using a larger one, you might want to double the quantities.
Empty the tin of condensed milk and all the chocolate chips into a microwaveable bowl. Heat for one minute. Stir well and heat for another 20 seconds until melted. Heat in 10-20 second increments if it needs extra time, so it doesnโ€™t burn.
Whip the mixture with a metal spoon. Apparently using a metallic one helps it solidify.. I have no idea why.

Put candy canes in a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin. You can keep the pieces chunky or beat into tiny shards. I chose to leave the pieces a bit larger. If I had been in a bad mood, I probably would have opted for the latter.
Pour fudge mixture into tin and sprinkle candle canes on top. Allow to set on counter and when cooled keep in fridge. Cut into squares and serve. Give as presents to other people, or to yourself ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheap Cheesy Biscuits Recipe

This recipe was quickly thrown together and it worked out to be edible so thought Iโ€™d share it. It might not be the healthiest snack for kids, but at least there are no unknown ingredients or sugar in it ๐Ÿ™‚ It also makes a good activity for kids eager to cookie cut ๐Ÿ™‚

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup grated cheddar

1/2 cup chilled, cubed butter

1 egg

Splash of milk

Shake of salt (optional)

Method

Measure flour into a bowl and rub in chilled, cubed butter to make breadcrumb-like consistency. Add grated cheese, egg and milk. (Salt too if you like.) Mix to combine but donโ€™t over-mix. ย Shape into a ball and chill in fridge for 1/2 an hour. Roll out the pastry. Your hands might work better than a rolling pin because of the crumbly texture. Cut out cookies and place on baking parchment/ greased tin. Put in preheated oven at 180c for 10 minutes. Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

Courgette Cake/ Zucchini Bread Recipe

Today I was in the mood for some baking and I recently remembered I used to make zucchini bread and how addictive it is. It sounds strange but the courgettes cook down into a treacly consistency, so it just tastes like a sweet, caramel-type cake. I decided to make two loaves since this always goes down well in our house.

(Makes two cakes.)

Ingredients

3 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oil
3 tsps. vanilla extract
2 cups of grated courgettes

Method

Sift the flour, salt, cinnamon, backing powder and bicarb of soda together. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, sugars, oil and vanilla extract. Combine the wet and dry ingredients well. Add the grated courgettes and mix well. Put in two greased loaf tins. Cook at 160c for 45 minutes, covering with tin foil halfway through to stop the top getting too crispy.

Cinnamon Buns Recipe

This recipe was a bit of an experiment but worked out well. My kids devoured them which is a good sign since they turn their noses up at most homemade treats. I guess the absence of plastic packaging and artificial flavours makes them less appealing. But they were begging me for more of these and they are so easy to make ๐Ÿ™‚

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

1 packet of yeast

1/2 cup of milk

1/4 cup of water

2 tbsp butter

Filling:

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Method

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

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