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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Water Beads, Tea Parties & Pyjamarama Day

This week, we have spent a lot of time at home, (obviously!) being creative and creating mess I never seem to get on top of. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that there will be no order to our house until the girls return to school – or maybe that is just wishful thinking, as clutter just seems to follow me around.

We went for our usual walk on the Greenway. The sound of the pigeons under the bridge makes me laugh every time we descend the steps now because the girls are convinced they are owls and mimic the sound for most of the walk. Due to the fact that the greenway is mostly greenery, when colour pops up, it’s immediately noticeable. I have no idea what this plant is, but I like the yellow petals; it’s like the bare twigs have put on little yellow skirts overnight πŸ™‚

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A couple of days ago, I got the girls a water beads set. They had never used one before, and the fact that there was only one bead pen in the set encouraged them to take it in turns. They were both so excited to try it that they were actually courteous to each other about sharing the project πŸ˜€ I think it was good value for what was included. There are several bead pictures to make and one of them kept them busy for an hour πŸ™‚

I decided to try out some different coloured homemade play doh. I had picked up some red and green food colouring when we got groceries. The green was less vibrant than I’d imagined and the red made the play doh resemble raw mince πŸ˜€ But the girls didn’t seem to mind – maybe it made them feel more like real ingredients πŸ™‚ They played with their dough in their tuff tray until the rain started, and then moved it in to the kitchen table. I gave them a couple of old half-filled dried herb shakers, so they could season the pretend food they were making. Those caused more excitement than the play doh did.

I received a lovely surprise in the post from my parents. It was a box filled with my favourite candles, all literary-themed. There was also some passionfruit and blood orange tea included. The girls loved it as much as I did and it’s already gone πŸ™‚

I decided to make Chinese food for dinner, as we had picked up some prawn crackers at the shop and I had the ingredients to make fried rice and sweet and sour. I set the table with straws and napkins, tealights, a jug of juice for the girls and played traditional Chinese music in the background, so we could pretend we were in a restaurant. The food wasn’t exactly authentic, but it still tasted good, and the girls liked the novelty of having our own restaurant. Afterwards, they insisted on doing the dishes, and I was happy to let them πŸ™‚

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Today, we did the Pyjamarama festival, held by the Book Trust. They had a programme of online activities for kids and the idea was that you stay in your pyjamas all day whilst completing them. That didn’t last very long for us, because we spend so much time in the garden and my kids don’t tend to sit still πŸ™‚ In the morning, the girls did a guided drawing of a teddy bear. They took their time copying it and then listened to a storytime video.

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My older daughter had to do a picture of The Golden Fish painting for school, so I included my younger daughter in the process and they painted their own versions. They are both always keen to paint and sometimes I join them. Other times, I just enjoy the temporary tranquility to drink the rest of my morning coffee, which was what I did today πŸ™‚

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The girls wanted to play in the garden and there was a spell of sunshine, so they cycled in circles on their bikes πŸ™‚ They played a game of naming all the plants they could remember in our garden, and I was impressed by how much they’d taken in. Maybe they will make better gardeners than me πŸ™‚ They are currently growing some broad beans my neighbour gave them as gifts and keep checking on them to see if they’ve produced beans overnight πŸ™‚

When it clouded over, we returned indoors and did another activity from the festival: a video about making diaries. They had to draw a picture of themselves and then print off a photo of somewhere they’d been to that day, (for example, in the garden, out for a walk, at the shops.) They had to place the pictures of themselves in front of the scenes and glue them on. Our photos came out very green, probably due to my poor printing skills, but the girls really enjoyed making them, and green is my favourite colour anyway πŸ™‚

I took down some of our Easter crafts that were adorning the kitchen walls and replaced them with today’s artwork πŸ™‚
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The girls did another interactive storytime and enjoyed joining in with the rhyme and stories. Afterwards, I noticed we had consumed all of our baked treats, so I decided to try a new recipe with them. I found one in a magazine for Abernethy Biscuits with fennel seeds. I didn’t have fennel seeds in the house, so I decided to improvise and use Allspice instead and they turned out really well πŸ™‚

We had a little tea party when they were ready and I made the last of our tisane tea and served it in cups and saucers, with tealights and our biscuits πŸ™‚ I had printed off worksheets for the girls to complete from the Pyjamarama page, so they designed their own bookmarks, did some matching games and designed their own pyjamas. I’m so grateful for these kinds of fun worksheets – they provide needed distraction during difficult moments πŸ™‚

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Tonight, we made some homemade pizza and had a movie night and ice-cream. I’ve been trying to do a little less writing in the evenings at the moment and spend more time on yoga and reading in the bath πŸ™‚ I feel too drained to write after a certain time of the day and I’ve accepted my word counts will be reduced by the constant company I have at the moment πŸ™‚ I feel forced to slow down, and maybe that’s what we all need most.

 

Collecting Blossom, Colour Wheels & Patisseries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Foliage Crowns, Paddling & Cardboard Flowers

Yesterday, we made the most of the weather and spent a lot of time in the garden. I suggested making foliage crowns for the girls and they collected a few leaves and flowers for me before their interest waned πŸ™‚ I just used some gardening wire and wrapped to it fit their heads. They I used my jewellery wire to attach leaves, etc. I hope to make a second attempt at it when they’re in a more focused frame of mind πŸ™‚ I might use a less visible colour of wire next time though πŸ™‚ The girls still insisted on wearing their single-leafed headbands πŸ™‚

I got to read a complete short story in the sun (which is an achievement when the girls are awake.) I filled the old baby pool we have with bubbly warm water for the girls to soak their feet in. It seems to provide as much entertainment as the full-sized pool we used to have and takes much less time to fill πŸ™‚

I noticed that my tomato plant was getting too big for the windowsill, so I repotted it outside. I’m hoping it continues to thrive there and that one day it might even produce a tomato πŸ™‚ Some daisies I planted a couple of years ago have come out again, along with a few yellow poppies. It’s nice seeing bits of colour in our garden, however limited πŸ™‚

I came across a cake recipe in a magazine that I wanted to try. It had cardamom in it, which I’m obsessed with. I love Indian dishes, chai tea and anything with that flavour in it πŸ™‚ I had some overripe bananas to use up, so I made a cardamom banana cake. I didn’t realise that to release the flavour of the cardamom, you take the seeds out of the pods and crush them (I’ve been using them whole or blending the whole pod.) You learn something new every day πŸ™‚ It was a slow kind of cake to make and the girls were otherwise occupied for a change, so I enjoyed sifting ingredients and taking my time over it. It produced an aromatic, indulgent kind of banana bread and I had to bake it in a roasting tin because there was too much batter to fit in a cake tin πŸ™‚ It produced large wedges of cake that are too easy to eat πŸ™‚

This morning, I took the girls for a walk on the Greenway. We went early and the pathway was quite quiet. The girls collected dandelion clocks along the way and named each one. I looked around and tried to identify different plants and weeds along the way. I read in a magazine that there are certain weeds you can use to make pesto, but I have to figure out how to identify them first πŸ™‚ I also wanted to try to make nettle soup or tea, but have to find some first πŸ™‚ I don’t often go for walks with gardening gloves on so it might be tricky to do that one.

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On the way home, we spotted a tree that had been decorated with rainbows and kids’ craftwork. (Sorry if this is your tree but I had to take a picture of it because it really brightened our day.) The girls asked if we could make something similar, so I’m going to work on adding things to some of the hedges outside.

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I think I’m just starting to recognise the creative potential of toilet roll tubes πŸ™‚ It’s funny how when you don’t have access to craft shops, you save everything in your house to use in future projects. We made some simple toilet roll tube flowers. I just got the girls to paint the tubes green, I cut some leaves out of an empty box and then they painted them and added glitter. When they were dry, they attached the leaves and I cut two slits in the tops of the tubes to slide their flower heads into. They were easy to make and kept them entertained for a while πŸ™‚

Afterwards, the girls worked on some more rainbow-themed items. They spread glue onto cardboard and used some confetti to make collage rainbows. Then we made some colourful feather hangings to put outside. We didn’t have any wool or ribbon, so we used gift ribbon I found in the cupboard πŸ™‚

I made a quick yeastless pizza for lunch and then we spent some time in the garden. The girls made a pretend campfire in the middle of their tuff tray. Once it turned into a runny pile of mud, we converted it into a lego table and the girls made some cars and flowers. We had a very American style dinner and the girls discovered a new love for ribs with barbecue sauce. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and I no longer have the energy for planning anything πŸ™‚ I’m just hopeful it’ll bring some sun with it.

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™‚