Flower Diaries, Felt Mice & Messages on Rocks

Since the girls planted their little greenhouses yesterday, they’ve been keeping a close eye on them for any perceptible changes πŸ™‚ They got a little diary with the kit so they can note down changes to their plants. They’re also eager to water them every five minutes which I’m trying to intercept so their plants don’t meet the same fate as most of mine πŸ™‚

My daughter used the crate they’ve claimed as a net for paper football in the garden. She just flicked the ball into it with her fingers and it occupied her for a few minutes while I did school work with my other daughter.

We also got out the tuff tray and paints to make some cardboard bugs. It was an activity suggested by my daughter’s nursery, so we cut up some egg cartons and made caterpillars, ladybirds and spiders. After they had dried, we added pipe cleaner legs, googly eyes and pom poms to decorate them. My daughter is fascinated by insects at the moment (as long as a bee or big spider doesn’t come her way.)

We got some parcels in the post and it was like Christmas had come early πŸ™‚ I haven’t been able to get flour in a couple of weeks, so I ordered a bag online, but didn’t realise the bag would be half the size of me πŸ™‚ It seems that my baking obsession is going to continue πŸ™‚

Just as I was having a “what are we going to do now?” moment, a package arrived with a toy each for the girls from my parents πŸ™‚ Those kept them occupied for a long time. I wish my kids would play with their toys more often, and it was nice to see them having imaginary play time together πŸ™‚

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Today, we did some rock painting, as it had been suggested for kindness week by my daughter’s school. They used acrylic paints to paint pictures on one side and permanent markers to write little uplifting messages on the other side. The plan was to hide them for someone to find the next time we go out for a walk, but my daughter wrote “I love you” on hers, which I thought might make the person who finds it uneasy πŸ˜€ Afterwards, they started to paint some shells we had from ages ago. The flat broken shells actually made a good painting surface and I like to find other uses for things that are on their way out πŸ™‚

We put together a new den, brought out the paddling pool and the girls’ bubble guns and I took some time to notice what has bloomed in the garden πŸ™‚ My lillies I planted last year seem to be thriving, even though they haven’t flowered yet. There is some jasmine and the fuschia is making an appearance again πŸ™‚ The fact we are spending every day in the garden means I notice the slight changes I ordinarily would have missed. There are definitely positivies to being less busy.

We made the second project from the girls’ Toucan boxes: felt mice. They were easy to assemble and the girls made a couple each. I like the fact they include a magazine of activities in the boxes too, so it keeps them entertained for a long time. (Although my kids’ version of a long time is a short time to anyone else measuring time.)

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My neighbour kindly gave us her recipe for spiced buns. They are delicious and we devour them when she makes them, but ours didn’t work out the same. Sometimes I think the results of baking are more to do with the hands that make them than following the recipe πŸ™‚ We might just have to until the next time she makes them πŸ™‚

 

Cardboard Towns, Peanut Cookies & Mini Greenhouses

The hot weather is exactly what I need this week to revive me. I find sitting in the garden such a healing thing. Apart from spending time in our small bit of greenery, we have been doing lots of craft projects this week, as our enthusiasm for home learning wanes.

The girls have become really interested in den building, and I’m happy to encourage it. I always hear about kids getting obsessed with a particular game or toy and it absorbing all their time. My kids’ favourite game until now has been following me around, asking for things πŸ™‚ They have worked out ways of constructing their own tents around the washing line, and it’s nice to hear them playing happily in the imaginary world they rarely inhabit πŸ™‚ When it’s sunny, they like to have lunch inside their den too.

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I decided to make use of our collection of cardboard and attempt to make a village with the girls. We had two large pieces of cardboard we painted as the ground, adding a pond, streets and grass. The girls painted some empty small boxes in grey, brown, red etc to make buildings. I found some pictures in magazines to use on the shop fronts, like a crate of vegetables, a bookshop window and some kitchen equipment for another shop. I painted some flowers in the flower beds on the base and then my daughter painted some flowers of her own too πŸ™‚

The next day when it had dried, we stuck it all together. I added some nature scenes from magazines to the grass and the girls made some play doh ducks for the pond. We added some green confetti to give the grass texture too. You could add so many things to it, depending on your child’s attention span πŸ™‚ That was all mine would allow us to do πŸ™‚

I made some easy pizza this week, using some homemade bread. I just put tomato paste, cherry tomates, cheese and hotdogs on it, and it was an immediate hit with my kids. They ate theirs inside their dens and I sat in the sun at our little garden table with pizza and a glass of wine. It reminded me of when we go for pizza in Glasgow and I get a small tumbler of white wine with pizza in the afternoon. It’s the only time I drink during the day because I don’t drive when we’re over there, and pizza in the garden had the same sort of tranquil feel to it πŸ™‚ I love the creepers my neighbour planted between our gardens. Sitting next to them helps me imagine I’m elsewhere when I’m feeling hemmed in in the house πŸ™‚

I made some more homemade lemonade sweetened with honey. I like making it as a vitamin-filled drink that the girls actually like to drink πŸ™‚ We also baked some peanut butter and jelly cookies and some more chocolate chip ones. The chocolate chip ones have vanished already πŸ™‚ The girls left me to finish making them so they could eat cookie dough and fight over the spoon!

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There was a lot of excitement when the girls’ Toucan boxes arrived in the post. They love having their own parcels to open once a month and it’s interesting to see what activities they have included each time. We did the first activity together, which was building mini greenhouses. The set came with plywood to slot together to build into little containers, a liner to hold the soil and the soil came in little solid packets you had to soak in water to make it expand. The girls loved making the labels and planting their seeds. There were sunflowers, nasturtiums and basil. A sticker sheet came too so they could add stickers to decorate it at the end (that might have been the part they were most enthusiastic about :))

Afterwards, we spent some more time in the garden and I had a Starbucks instant caramel latte I got from the shops πŸ™‚ It was surprisingly good for instant coffee. I’ve realised that the only thing close to reading that is achievable during my children’s waking hours is looking at pictures in magazines. There are a lot of interrupted sentences, so I might have to resort to picture books if I want to take up reading in daylight again πŸ™‚ The girls changed the shape of their den and connected it to their playhouse so they could crawl from one to the other πŸ™‚

We finished the day with a film. I surrendered and let them choose a cartoon, which ironically, they weren’t very keen on. We finished the day with ice cream sundaes. I just put vanilla ice-cream in a bowl with whipped cream, some chocolate spread and sprinkles. I put banana in my younger daughter’s bowl because she wanted to try a banana split, but after tasting it she said “I think I’ll keep the banana as a decoration in my bowl – it’s just, I don’t like banana with ice-cream.” πŸ™‚

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Home Spas, Fork Cookies & Thoughtful Flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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™‚

 

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.