Cheap Cosy Days & Comfort Food

There has been a bit of a heatwave this week and I’ve been walking the girls to school every day. I find that starting the day with fresh air and sunlight starts me off in a better mood. I’ve been enjoying the mornings when my kids are in school and nursery and using them as an opportunity to write.
In between this, I’m trying to save money for a short trip at Halloween, so I’m finding ways to treat ourselves without spending money when I can avoid it.

When we aren’t outdoors, I have to come up with ideas to draw my kids away from the lure of the TV. Cooking always seems to work with my younger one. I’ve been trying to use up ingredients we already have in the house, cook from scratch and avoid unnecessary trips to the shops.

I discovered a health food shop near us that I had never been to before. They sell fruit and veg boxes. For £13.50 you get about a week’s worth of fruit and vegetables. It helps with meal planning, because it gives you something to sketch recipes around. We also tried their sourdough bread. It was the most expensive load of bread I’ve ever bought but it was the nicest I’ve had too. I like supporting local businesses and it stops me spending money as thoughtlessly.

0A66C8A3-2851-4F11-95AD-903AD0EB005F

Here are some alternatives to overspending I’ve used this week:

  • Set up a writing/crafts/colouring station at your kitchen table. Add candles and soft music to make it feel more like a cafe. Make yourself fancy toast and real coffee and enjoy having peace to create something.
    Bake snacks and breakfast options for the week. We made some cheesy biscuits for snacks and pear granola, adapted from a recipe at Surprisingly, my daughter has been requesting granola every morning from breakfast since. I think she finds it more appealing because she helped to make it.

DDF51A9D-1192-456C-B38D-DE3FA4AB96D3

  • Make warming meals like stew and casserole. It’s a good way to use up root veg and leftover portions of meat you have in the freezer. Billie Holiday has become my cooking music recently, and it almost feels like a form of therapy.

11A06454-6260-43F2-86CE-AAC96AF4E7B1

  • Walk when you can to save on petrol. There is a garden my kids want to stop at every day, filled with flowers and cartoon characters. If you break up the walk with things of interest along the way, kids don’t notice the length of the walk as much. We also stopped one day at a local ice cream shop. Kids in school uniforms can get a £1 scoop on certain days of the weeks.
  • Explore your local area on foot. Bring some change with you so you can buy something from the bakery, get a book from the library or buy a bunch of flowers. It feels like you are treating yourself without putting yourself into debt 🙂

F31E17DB-39F7-49A0-82B6-9B630A5A6AE8

Advertisements

Hands and Happiness

I’ve realised lately how much happiness it brings me making things with my hands. If your brain and hands are engaged together, it means everything else shuts off and it quietens life down. Even with writing I find that to be the case. You are mentally and physically focussed on what you’re doing and unable to think of anything else. This week has been busy, between kids, school runs, writing two books, socialising and I even attended a rally. When your schedule is busy, I think it’s important to offset that with downtime. So, I have made this morning and this afternoon a time of rest and a time to reconnect with my kids and with what I want in life.

I’m always juggling too many ideas in my head of projects I want to start and there are never enough hours in the day to do them all. I have had a dress pattern sitting cut out for weeks and I still haven’t found the time to use any fabric. I wanted to make time for arts and making jewellery, but I’ve been writing 4000 words a day, and that doesn’t time for much else.

While I was helping my kids make cards today, I realised how essential it is to make time for creative hobbies that don’t require a lot of brainpower. I was cutting out pictures from magazines so they could use them to cover cards and I found the process of cutting things out and looking for pictures soothing. It has made me think about taking up scrapbooking, in addition to everything else I’ve planned to do!
Sometimes I think it is just as important to schedule in relaxation as it is chores. I could clean my house constantly and it would always look the same, or I can sit down and do something creative for half of that time and have something to show for it at the end. It’s essential for your mental health to just sit and do nothing sometimes, or if you have a mind as annoyingly active as mine, close to nothing.
6C056F86-AF0F-479E-9039-D57EEB4BF4D8

141BC7BA-4E19-4803-800C-37EBD79A1CEE

Creating Calm with Kids

Today I needed a calm day. I realise that the idea of calm is incongruous with having kids, but I decided that I would try to balance the day out with activities for my kids and activities for me, to get the closest feeling to calm that I could. The last few days have been exhausting. My daughter had to get her bandage changed on her broken finger in hospital and the next morning, it fell off and the doctor refused to see her, so we had to go back to the hospital. On top of that, my other daughter came down with a vomiting bug the night before, and none of us had had any sleep. After days like that, I need to retreat and go into hibernation mode when they are over. I knew my daughter would be off school today – she’s at the stage where she is back to her normal self, but too contagious to be allowed to go in. So, we did some simple art projects and baked.

First, the girls painted pasta tubes. We left them to dry so they can thread them onto necklaces later. You can also use PVA glue as a varnish to put on top of the paint. It stretches out the pasta necklaces activity for longer. For boys that don’t want to make necklaces, you could make pasta snakes instead and thread them on pipe cleaners.
E82E8649-5B31-468D-A192-0E2CDE5D9250
Then, we made dried food collages. Sometimes if we don’t have card, I cut up old cereal boxes and they use them instead. It works better than paper for gluing solid items. I just set out plates with dry beans, lentils, rice, seeds, oats, etc. You get the kids to draw a large picture and then fill in the different parts of it with whatever they like. You can also do this with cut-up coloured paper, fabric remnants or string painted with a mixture of glue and paint. This activity took more than an hour and the girls didn’t get bored with it – which is rare for them 🙂 A word of warning – the clean up took a while, but it was less painful than I’d expected it to be.
9117B43C-A471-4D17-A84D-63110E556021
The girls watched a film for a while and I got an opportunity to have a cup of tea and write. I think it’s important to squeeze in time for your own things when you’re with kids all day. If you never get time to yourself, it’s easy to get snappy!

We made some easy shortbread. It was just three ingredients and we tried some new cookie cutters we hadn’t used before. They have cut out parts so you can balance them on the rim of a teacup. I made some babyccinos and a vanilla latte for myself and then allowed TV time again so I could drink it and write uninterrupted. It reenergises me, so when I do something else with my kids I’m able to focus more on them. Jazz helped us survive the day in the house too. I’m convinced that it cuts down on the number of squabbles over toys and creates a calmer atmosphere.

It can be hard to treat yourself as a stay at home mum, but I think the things that work best for me are taking time out in the kitchen, listening to music, lighting scented candles and wax melts, making coffee-shop style coffee, squeezing in short times to write, read or draw. You can colour alongside your kids too if you get an adult colouring book. I like using the kids as an excuse to bake too so I have freshly-baked treats 🙂 There is a youtuber I like watching called “Coffee with Kate.” She makes videos about her simple lifestyle and the creative things she does. My daughter likes watching it too, because she does cooking videos and has two children. Finding something you like to watch that your kids enjoy too is a good way to attend to your need for a break while they’re awake 🙂 At the moment, our house is a dump, and I’m just letting it go, because being with my kids and sitting drinking coffee in the midst of the mess are more important today.

8097F726-F520-40E1-AE32-BFAED9AA3A19.png

Garden Blackberry Picking

I never used to notice much around me, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to observe my surroundings the last few years. I tend to get lost in my thoughts and forget to pay attention to things. If you’re having a hard time and getting stuck in your own mind, it’s good to take some time to notice the simple things around you. A few days ago, I was walking outside in my mum-trance to put something in the bin. Then I noticed in the hedges in my garden that there were lots of blackberries growing. I got the girls to help me pick them, which they loved. They devoured them in seconds and seemed to enjoy them more because of the novelty of picking them themselves. I was really excited because I usually successfully end the life of every plant in my vicinity. I have a strawberry plant that has only produced two strawberries this summer, so that made up for our strawberry drought. (Unless my kids are eating them without my awareness.) Sometimes when you’re racing around, trying to do too much, it’s worth taking the time to slow down or sit with a cup of tea in the garden and not to allow yourself to think thoughts other than observational ones about your surroundings. If you don’t, you might miss something small that makes your day salvageable.

Things to do with Fed-Up Kids

My kids need a lot of stimulation or they just fight each other for fun. Maybe that’s by my own doing. We tend to go out a lot and have lots of varied experiences. The downside to that is that they probably don’t get enough time to face their boredom, which I think stifles their creativity. I’m making a conscious effort to let them entertain themselves more, but here are a few ideas for the moments when they’re climbing the walls and you’re about to crack up 🙂

1. Get out and go to the nearest beach. Bring snacks and drinks, get a net so they can “fish” in rock pools, make castles and collect pretty shells. Get a special box for them to put their treasures in.

2. If they have a tent/house in the garden, or if not – picnic blanket,  bring your kids milk in teacups and biscuits on a tray. There’s something about getting a delivery when they aren’t expecting it that puts them in a good mood 🙂

3. Draw pictures with crayons and paint over them with watercolours. You can also use candles instead of crayons to make “magic pictures” too.

4. Have a no electricity day. Turn off the TV, the lights, light candles (out of their reach!) and read stories together by candlelight and give them a glimpse of life before technology.

5. Let your kids dress up in your clothes and do a fashion parade/ play with your jewellery collection. My kids are like magpies and love shiny things and trying to pinch my stuff.

6. Bake bread together. Show your kids how to knead it and they’ll enjoy eating it more because they’ve made it themselves.

7. Watch old musicals and make popcorn. I find it hard to get my kids to sit still for any movies without cartoons in them, but for some reason, if they are music-based, they sit for longer and it holds their interest.

8. Give your kids old magazines to cut up and make collages with. If they are learning to write, get them to practise writing the words underneath, or get them to write an accompanying story.

9. Speaking of stories, my daughter likes if I make her a “book” by folding paper or card and tying it with a string. She comes up with phrases to write and I help her spell them. You can give younger kids an idea and they can draw it for you.

10. Have a treasure hunt. Hide a toy/a treat, draw a map or give clues to help them find them. When I was little, my grandparents used to hide a thimble and we had to find it using “hotter/colder.” It was one of my favourite games and didn’t even involve toys 🙂

Simple Activities With Kids: Mint Tea and Popping Bubbles

Simple Days with Kids: Mint Tea and Bubble Popping

We have spent a lot of time indoors this week and I’ve been working to combat cabin fever. I think I need a directed activity as much as the girls do. We decided to have mint tea, using fresh mint from our garden (or what was left of it after the snails made their happy way through my greenery.)

My daughter enjoyed helping to identify which herb was mint, picking it and smelling it. She even excitedly ran to get her sister to smell it. It always makes me happy seeing them getting inspired by something simple. We put it in a teapot and let it steep while my daughter prepared the snacks: Cadbury’s fingers and buns made by my talented baker-friend. My daughter loved assembling it all on a tray and bringing it to her sick sister. We put a picnic blanket on the living room floor, since she was a little too tender for a real picnic. We listened to Française Hardy and my kids showed their first interest in vinyl. (Unfortunately this means I’ll have to keep a close eye on my stylus now.)

We made extra soapy bubble solution and blew bubbles that stayed put until you’d popped all of them. My kids really enjoyed the simplicity of what we did and it went down better than any more complicated activity we’ve done lately.

32 Ways to Write Lists for Fun

Lists are always something we make in a hurried manner, with a feeling of obligation as we write them. Usually they are reserved for to-do lists of things we don’t want to do: grocery shopping, bills to pay, appointments, reminders of things we resent doing; they just number our responsibilities.

I think they should be transformed into something we do for therapy. There is something soothing about scrawling on paper in a measured way, rather than in a final frenzy  to get out the door.

Here is a list of lists you can make just for fun:

  • Your favourite moments in the last month.
  • Kind things that you have seen people do recently.
  • Small things that make you happy.
  • Your favourite quotes (look up things that inspire you and make a list to refer back to in a low moment.)
  • Ideas of gifts for upcoming birthdays/things you could make for people you know.
  • Specific things you want to buy for your home.
  • Look up a genre of music you like, write down every band you haven’t heard of and then find out if you like them.
  • Your favourite things about each season, eg, marbled autumn leaves, cuttingly-cool Christmas air.
  • Things you have done that you are proud of.
  • Qualities you admire in people you have met.
  • The best ways you have spent a day.
  • Movies you want to see by a director you like.
  • Things you want to research for fun/skills you want to acquire.
  • Good things that have come from the mistakes you have made.
  • Records you want to buy.
  • Mini goals for the next month (only fun things are allowed.)
  • Places nearby that you haven’t visited yet, eg, a bookshop, a nature reserve, a restaurant.
  • Search for free local events and make a list of the ones you want to attend.
  • The seemingly insignificant moments of your week (eg, a kind word from someone, hearing a good song somewhere, the taste of buttercream, the sound of rain.)
  • Your favourite items that you have ever owned.
  • Things you could easily live without.
  • Ways to simplify your life.
  • Things you want to add to your day.
  • The most memorable gifts you have received.
  • Your favourite scents, sights, etc.
  • Your favourite words in the English language.
  • Your favourite writers.
  • The best books you have read since you were a kid.
  • Things to do that don’t involve technology.
  • Your favourite places to go for a walk, eg, a stretch of a city street, a pebbled beach.
  • The funniest things that have happened to you to date.
  • Things you want to save for that you will cherish.

List-making can be really cathartic and emptying your mind on a piece of paper needn’t be done only by necessity. Enjoy listing for relaxation 🙂