Slow Days and Homemade Lemonade

Today was a slow-moving day, centred around the house. I received a lovely surprise basket of chocolate from “the girls” (my parents) for Mother’s Day. It cheered me up because I’d thought it was a package with a returned dress I had sold in it 😀 I went for a quick walk with the girls early this morning to buy lemons from the fruit shop. My daughter had been requesting my homemade lemonade, so I decided the extra vitamins wouldn’t do them any harm at the moment 🙂 I got a moment of peace to make it, which is rare in our house. But it feels like the girls are slowing the pace they live at (sometimes) to match the world at the minute.

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I found a glass bottle I’d got from IKEA to store the lemonade in. I added the juice of 2 1/2 large lemons and the zest to about 700ml of boiled water in a measuring jug. While it was hot, I stirred in a generous amount of honey to taste (it was at least 1/4 of a squeezy tube) and stirred it well. After it had cooled, I transferred it to a bottle and put it in the fridge to chill. In the hours it spent sitting, reaching the right temperature, I was asked tens of times if it was ready yet 🙂

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We tuned in on Facebook to Wee Bookworms to watch a live video of a reading of Peter Rabbit by a lady who works in the bookshop. They are on every Saturday morning at 11.30am for kids. I also ordered one of their activity packs each for the girls. They’ll be so excited when they see them arriving in the post 🙂 

I changed the beds and aired out the house, which always uplifts me and continued to move the piles of clutter to different positions in my kitchen 🙂

For lunch, I made some hummus to go with the flatbreads I had made last night. It was a simple recipe and tasted really good. My kids didn’t agree, but they devoured the flatbreads anyway 🙂 I’ve been looking out for flour when we’ve been in the shops and haven’t seen any in a while. Luckily, I had some left because I tend to bake bread every week anyway. But I was thinking of options for when we run out and remembered you can blend porridge oats and use them instead of flour – Just a tip I remembered if anyone is in the same boat. You can also use polenta to make American cornbread if you have any. My hummus – it tastes better than it looks 😀

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After lunch, we had some quiet time, playing dominos and I made myself a caramel latte 🙂 I’m not missing my takeaway coffee as much as I thought I would. I tend to get it when I’m writing, but I’ve realised there are cheaper alternatives and the one I made today tasted the same 🙂 

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We put on some yoga music and the girls did some kids’ yoga, whilst climbing on me as I attempted to do it! It’s cute actually – my daughter taught me all the poses she uses in nursery, like happy baby, ice skater, tree, happy and sad dog and kitty, etc. I made them an after-yoga snack of fruit and water. Then they headed out to the garden to burn off some excess energy. I hung out the laundry, which has, weirdly, become one of my favourite things to do. They played in the dirt and made food out of soil and water 🙂

We finished the day with some bolognese, stories and playing restaurants. I’m exhausted now, but simultaneously, looking forward to tomorrow. I say that in the spirit of finding the good in a difficult situation, rather than discounting the severity of it.

Walks by the Sea and Water Bracelets

Today, the morning stood out in stark contrast to the world around us. It felt fresh and the skies seemed to open up. I love the fact in Springtime the sky seems to lift higher and it feels like we aren’t closed into a grey box anymore. We got up early and got ready to go for a walk. I’m finding that starting the day with a walk makes the girls’ energy levels far more manageable. Otherwise, they’d be dismantling everything in the house and fighting with each other and driving me crazy 🙂

We drove to the seaside and went onto the beach. I was surprised by how few people were there. I’d expected everyone to have the same idea as a location for a “remote” walk. We walked along the shore and the girls threw rocks in the sea, built miniature sandcastles with their hands, decorated them with shells and filled the moat with water they’d scooped up with sea shells. I liked seeing what they came up with in the absence of a bucket and spade 🙂 They also started jumping in the shallow water, and I just let them get on with it, even if it resulted in wet feet, because it feels like we all have so little freedom at the minute. The Stena Line passed by and it whipped up the waves and the girls pretended the tide was chasing them and ran away squealing 🙂 There were a couple of dog walkers out, but other than that, it was deserted, and we had the beach to ourselves. We stayed for a while, just absorbing some sunlight and looking at the view.

Afterwards, we went to a local health food shop to get a few things. I’d forgotten how much I like going there. I’d got into a habit of convenience shopping instead of supporting local shops, and I’m trying to break that now. The girls loved going there too. The lady who owns it is so friendly and has a box of toys for kids. We got some spelt pasta, which I’ve never tried before, some biscuits, yeast, chai tea and oat milk, so I could make myself some Starbucks-style lattes 🙂 The lady very kindly gave the girls a lolly each and they were so excited about them 🙂 I have already noticed the girls becoming a bit less demanding, and I think the simpler lifestyle will do them no harm, apart from maybe missing the social side with others.

I picked up The Simple Things magazine and a couple of magazines for the girls. I know a lot of people think kids’ magazines are a waste of money, but I find that it settles them and it makes us sit down at the table together to work on them, and they’re educational too. For some reason the cheap toys in them provide more entertainment than any toys I’ve ever bought them. They’ve been playing pizza restaurants all day, in between other activities, with a pizza that slices into quarters and comes with a box, loyalty card, menu etc. You could recreate it with cardboard if you wanted to, for a cheap activity to do indoors, cutting out and colouring the different toppings they can add. It might keep them busy for a few hours creating the toppings 🙂 The girls have been taking “phone orders” and set up a desk in the living room for their takeaway 🙂

When we got home, we did some word games and I helped them with their magazines for a while. We had some coffee and snacks and I’ve set up a snack shop. I’d seen the idea for it on a friend’s social media 🙂 We have a list of snacks and prices and they get a pound each in different change so they can practise counting out money and learn about budgeting for the day. Once their money is gone, they aren’t allowed any more. It’s a good way to ration snacks, and then when they run out of change, you can announce that the shop is closed for the day 🙂

I dug out some stencils we had in the cupboard and the girls used them for a while. I also had a book we’d borrowed from the library about beating boredom for kids. It has some great ideas in it that don’t require materials. I find most kids’ activity books require you to make a special trip to the shop to source all the parts. The book has simple things like drawing a picture without lifting the pencil from the page, making paper cup telephones, taking fun photos, inventive ways of blowing bubbles. If anyone wants me to share some of the ideas for them while they’re indoors with their kids, message me and I’ll send you them 🙂

The girls played on their bikes in the garden for a little while to get some fresh air and I hung out some laundry. I usually shove everything in the tumble drier because I don’t have time to hang out laundry and iron it all, etc, so it was nice to have the time to do that for a change. I find it quite a restful chore when I actually get around to doing it 🙂 I made some fried rice for lunch with leftover rice from yesterday and the girls devoured it. They’ve been constantly hungry since they stopped school; maybe because they know that snacks are accessible at any hour of the day now 🙂

After lunch, we made water bracelets with a set I had got my daughter for her birthday. You just put stoppers in a tube, fill it with sequins and beads and then fill it up with water, adding a charm before you seal it. One of my daughters wanted me to help with hers and I realised how therapeutic they are to make. They should make them for adults too. I think it would lower all our stress levels at the moment 🙂

I made myself a vanilla oat latte and got a chance to do some writing while the girls watched TV. I had already made bolognese for a handy dinner. I’m going to use some of my time in the house for batch cooking – not because I’m hoarding 🙂 but just because I find cooking days relaxing. I lit my white chocolate candle and was bombarded with constant questions – which made me glad I’d prepared dinner in advance for once 🙂

The girls have started a new game where they skate with one rollerskate on – like a mini skateboard. I’m half amused by it – half waiting for an accident to happen :/ Before bed, they wanted to play races in the living room. I started shouting ready, steady and something silly instead of go and it turned into a new game, like ready, steady, tiny baby chick poop (probably not the best game to discourage toilet humour) but they ended up lying on the floor laughing and I didn’t have to get up and got to drink my tea while it was warm 🙂

I don’t know what we will do tomorrow yet, and usually I have everything somewhat planned out. But I’m actually happy to let the day unfold as it decides to do without my interference 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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 don’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 “school trip” 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 🙂

I was amused when my younger daughter sat down on a wall and started to unpack her backpack. I’d thought it was empty and she’d just brought it for show but she had brought her toy kettle and cups so she could make “tea” while we were there 🙂

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After a long walk, we sat down with snacks and coffee and my daughter did “creative writing” and came up with sentences about our walk and the Spring-like things we saw. Then she used the photos of flowers we’d taken to draw from. It kept her busy for a long time 🙂 My other daughter coloured and cut out pages from a learning ABC’s box that we got at Christmas time and hadn’t really used yet. I also dug out a kids’ 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 hadn’t used in a long time. It’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 🙂 My older daughter read out the measurements to me for numbers practice and then they ate the leftover jam while I washed up 🙂

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. It’s weird how once you label yourself their “teacher” they start listening and being receptive to what you say 😀 I have a feeling it won’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 😉 I love how homemade they look in the little jars with gingham fabric 🙂

When we got home, we had some hot chocolate with marshmallows and continued to divide up puzzle pieces. We’ve started a 1000 piece puzzle that is composed of six Disney scenes, so we’ve been working on separating them to make it easier to begin. I’ve never done a large jigsaw before and I hadn’t anticipated how time consuming it would be, so this is the perfect time for it, since all we have is time 🙂 (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 I’m working on. There were constant interruptions but I somehow still hit my word count for the day 🙂 – although it is quite dark subject matter and I’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 “roller discos” 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 🙂

I’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 🙂 The girls even ate it. For dinner, I used up some chicken goujons I’d got at the butchers, with rice, veg and the barbecue sauce we got at the farm shop 🙂 We finished the day with stories and I hope I can keep up the same pace tomorrow 🙂 I’m thinking of making some lists of things to do indoors to inspire myself and others and keep everyone’s spirits up 🙂 With a little resourcefulness, having our routines altered doesn’t have to upturn our worlds.

Updates from the Inside

I feel the need to create something slow-moving and thoughtful to work against the fast-paced media bombardment we’re experiencing at the minute. I’ve been trying to find the right balance between staying informed and staying sane, and because I’m empathic, I find it important to have times of rest where I fill myself with inspiration rather than negative news.

I spent the day indoors with the girls and explained everything that’s happening to them in child’s terms. They listened (for a minute) and then asked if we could do salt painting again, so we did that, and I did a picture of my own 🙂 I find doing physical things that employ your hands settles my mind down when it’s getting overactive and realised the importance of not just being an instructor or observer, but of joining in with the fun when my kids do crafts 🙂 I’d recommend salt painting for adults too – just sitting dabbing paint on the page and watching it move along the little channels of glue and salt soothes your mind.

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After the wild weather collapsed my little pop-up grow house (!) I got a window box for the plants I’m trying to grow (special emphasis on the “trying.”) My tomatoes and coriander have actually sprouted  and watching them get taller each day fills me with happiness. I think I might need to thin out my chives as they’re looking a bit straggly, but it’s all part of the learning curve 🙂 and with gardening, I never make my way out of the curve and onto the straight line 🙂

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I’ve been thinking of ways to use up the food we have and to make things last longer so we don’t have to make needless trips to the shops. I stretched out leftover sausages by slicing them up and making a variation on hot dogs 🙂 It was the bribery I used to get the girls to eat my homemade soup. I had made a carrot and ginger one and a plain lentil one for my fussier eater. She announced she’d “changed her mind” about liking it midway through her bowl though :/ This new way of life that we have all had to adopt is already making me slow down and think of ways to use leftovers/keep meal plans interesting 🙂 I love these little sort of challenges 🙂

The girls wanted to dance, so I put on some records and it ended up being a work-out for me too 🙂 Their favourite game at the minute is making me slide them on the floor between my legs 😀 It’s exhausting and results in lots of squealing, which I’m sure my neighbours aren’t thanking me for 🙂

We had some milk and cookies (coffee for me) and played Guess Who. My younger daughter is very pro-women at the minute and sighs loudly if she is presented with a card that has a “boy” on it. It’s a bit of a giveaway as to what she has, but at least she’s showing interest is doing something that involves sitting down for once 🙂
4EDA16DC-960B-44DF-8041-119C35C327D8We played hairdressers and I had to sit on a kid’s chair while my daughter put fifty-seven bows in my hair and put some strain on my scalp 🙂 But the resulting hairdressing photos made it worth it 🙂 I’ve almost become so desperate for a massage that having my hair pulled out almost feels like a day in the spa 🙂

This enforced social distancing has already made me slow down, keep in touch more with friends and see what is truly important. An opportunity to over-listen to music and find new bands is always a treat for me too 🙂 I even got around to fixing one of my favourite necklaces I got in Camden Market with my jewellery wirework tools. (It took two minutes to fix and I had put it off for months :)) It turns out there are some benefits to being stuck in the house if you just take the time to look around and find them.

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Stopping to Look at the Sky

My daughter was sent home sick from school last Friday and before that, I’d been running around a lot. It forced me to slow down and spend some time in our house. Sometimes I’m so busy driving myself to produce things that I forget about the importance of taking time out.

A couple of days ago, I drove to the seaside and brought homemade coffee and a donut and sat and listened to Jefferson Airplane while I watched the sea and the sky. I always have something to do in front of me: writing, my phone, an activity with my kids, housework, a book to read. I used to spend vast periods of time sitting on my bed listening to music, writing in journals, or just thinking and looking out the window as a teenager. Ok, that was a different way of life, but I never allow myself to do that anymore. So, I forced myself to sit in quiet contemplation with no buffer between myself and the present moment. And it was uncomfortable, but also important. Afterwards, I went for a walk along the seafront and couldn’t help noticing how many runners were pushing themselves to achieve around me. It feels like everyone is rushing around in life, not particularly enjoying themselves, but doing it anyway. I’ve decided to schedule in time to sit still without distractions. It’s as important for creativity as it is for my sanity 🙂

We had a couple of days in the house, and I was glad of the craft projects and games my daughter had got for her birthday. She got a Build a Beetle game that she is obsessed with. I like Orchard kids’ games. The simple concepts allow them to quickly grasp the rules so they don’t lose interest before you even start playing. We finished off some birthday cake while we had a game 🙂

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She had got a play doh set that included facial features, limbs and accessories to add to the creatures you make. It kept the girls busy for a long time. I’m enjoying the fact they’re becoming more independent and that we can have more grown up conversations around the table while we work on our respective projects 🙂

I had a stack of magazines I hadn’t got round to reading in about a year 🙂 I love magazines about creativity and mindfulness (even though the word itself irritates me :)) Flow magazine is expensive, but it has so many inspiring articles in it, and as my sister pointed out, the images in it are so unique and beautiful you could frame them and use them as decoration around your house 🙂 I only get it now and again but it often comes with extra items like journals, postcards and mirror stickers with inspiring quotes on them. I found some unused postcards inside that I plan to use for friends or family. I’d like to revive the tradition of hand-delivered cards and postcards. I spotted this quote in the magazine and it felt fitting for the mindset I was in at the time.

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So, I let myself enjoy reading at the table and chatting to the girls over coffee 🙂 We didn’t have to rush anywhere and I didn’t force myself to be “productive” and by the end of the day, I could feel the creativity starting to grow again in its own natural environment.

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Later that day, I got out my sewing machine and some second hand dresses I’d bought that didn’t fit and cut them up to use the fabric for other things. I made a cape for my daughter and a skirt for the other one and they spent the rest of the day parading around the house in them. 

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Lollipop Ladies, Seed Sowing and Stall Shopping

I thought I’d share a few things we’ve been doing recently. I’m in budgeting mode at the minute after booking some trips for the summer, so I’m going to be coming up with ways to occupy the kids without spending money 🙂 The Belfast children’s festival is starting next week, so I’ve been going through the programme and circling what I plan to attend with the girls. I find circling things in papers as therapeutic as making lists 🙂

I came across the idea for washi tape dolls online, so decided to try making them with the girls. They are so simple to make and held their attention for a long time. They love sticking decorative tape on anything but with the added dimension of making dolls outfits, they were completely absorbed by it. We had some craft lolly sticks lying about. I just got them in the pound shop. We had tapes I’d collected and stuck them on first as clothes. You just cut them to the shape you want and wrap them around the sticks. Then I used permanent pens to draw faces, hair and features on the clothes. It was a pretty girly activity but you could adapt it for boys, making superheroes with capes, animals, dinosaurs or people they know. I found the pen runs a little when you draw on the wood so it might be easier to stick on white paper for heads and draw on it (if you can be bothered with all that!) You could add wool for hair too if you’re in the mood for it 🙂

 

I recently bought a grow house from B&M for a tenner. My purchase was poorly-timed, considering the weather. I don’t know if anything will cure my off-green fingers, but I thought it’d be a good activity for the girls anyway. We planted tomatoes, herbs and some pansies. They are growing well in their tiny pots on the windowsill, but I guess we will see what happens when we transplant them to larger pots in the garden! The girls love planting things and watching them grow and they’re much better than me at remembering to water things 🙂

I’ve also been trying to give the girls more free play time. Sometimes life can be crammed with too many structured activities and I like to see the creativity they come up with when left to their own devices. This is one of their recent creations.

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Last weekend, we went to a market at the Titanic Hotel with my mum. A lady described her as a vision of colour and I thought that perfectly summed up her outfit 🙂 It was a cool, bright day. You could imagine Spring emerging, even though it was icy cold next to the docks. I had decided before I went in to allow myself to buy hair bows from my favourite bow lady 🙂 I find if I limit myself to one treat I’m less likely to splurge on twenty. My mum kindly treated me to some more bows to add to my collection 🙂 We spotted a coffee stand and grabbed a seat before the place filled up 🙂 It was really good coffee and two pounds a cup. I had thought ahead and brought water and cakes for the girls. Afterwards, we just looked around the other stalls. They have everything from photographs to baked treats. The girls had been given some money from a friend so they bought a bow and a cupcake each. The buns were so cute; they had ones shaped like hamburgers and so much work had gone into them. These are the ones the girls chose. I don’t know how they brought themselves to eat them, but they managed to 🙂

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I love finding markets with free entry that support local artists. It has become a Sunday tradition of mine and my mum’s and the girls enjoy looking around too. I like the fact you have unexpected conversations with people and get inspiration from looking at their lovely artwork 🙂 I always leave them feeling creatively charged and ready to write 🙂

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Trams, Snow Cones & Salt Painting

If the weather continues to be as wild as it is tonight, I foresee another blog post of activities for children tomorrow 🙂
My daughter finished school early yesterday, so went went to the Ulster Transport museum. It was the quietest I’ve seen it and my kids enjoyed having free rein to climb on the trains, run down the slopes and lust after all the clutter in the gift shop (which we managed not to get.)
We have membership of the Folk and Transport Museum, which costs £60 for the year. I didn’t think that was bad, considering the fact that you could easily spend that on a couple of visits. The girls love seeing the buses and trams and pretending to drive the trains. My favourite part is looking at the 1960’s living room and then hearing the girls liken it to our decor 😀 It was a free visit for us and we had a snack outdoors at the picnic tables. It was blustery, but it’s a good-sized green space for kids to run around and play hide and seek in 🙂 Tea and creme eggs were more satisfying than anything we could have bought in the cafe anyway. I think some exposure to the elements, even in Winter, does your mind good. Returning to the museum reminds me of being a kid and having no phone access. It feels like a reminder of simpler times and a place to switch off from the demands of living a life half-online.

Today, I took the girls to a free screening of Annie at the cinema. I had never seen it before. One of my kids was enthralled by it, the other one fell asleep 😀 For a kids’ musical, it could have been worse 🙂

Afterwards, I took the girls to Morelli’s to have their first snow cones 🙂 I had promised my daughter one a while ago. They loved picking their own syrup and drinking the liquid through a straw. They ended up being incredibly messy, but everything my kids do is messy anyway 😀  I had coffee and tried their warm apple pie. It came with ice-cream and was adorned with lots of chocolate extras that the girls pinched 🙂 It might be my new favourite ice-cream/coffee shop. The atmosphere is really relaxed, it is good value and the staff are so welcoming.

When we got home, I decided to try salt painting with the girls. We had never done it before, so it was a bit of an experiment. You just get some paper and drizzle PVA glue on it in whatever pattern you like. Then, you sprinkle salt over the glue. The girls loved that part and were very thorough about making sure every bit of glue was covered 😀 Then they just painted over it with poster paints. You just gently dab the paint onto the salty glue 🙂 The salt makes it spread out and creates a cool effect. It’s more of an enjoy-the-process type of painting than one to frame. Once it dries out, the effect wears off. But it kept the girls entertained for an hour, which is rare for them 🙂 Afterwards, we did some of what they call “Splat Paintings.“ To avoid getting it all over the walls, you can get kids to dip the brush in paint, hold it horizontally over the page and tap the brush handle to splash paint on the paper rather than shaking it all over the house 🙂 If you layer different colours and keep separate brushes for each one, it looks really pretty when you’re finished.

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i don’t know what we will do tomorrow yet, but I’m mentally preparing myself for some creative projects indoors to minimise the house wrecking/shouting if this storm decides to stick around 🙂