Nature Bags, Gratitude Journals & Fairy Houses

I just looked at the volume of photos I have for blog posts that have never materialised and realised I’ll probably never catch up now, but I’ll attempt to anyway 🙂 Last week, the girls and I found a new coffee shop near us that does takeaway coffees/you can have it at little tables outside. I’ve decided I much prefer to drink coffee outside in the fresh air anyway. I’ve done it every day since being in lockdown and it feels like you’re on holiday 🙂 The girls had some hot chocolates in their little takeaway cups and felt grown up 🙂 I got a vanilla latte and we walked around to see what was opening up again in our area. I love calling into the health shop too and stocking up on snacks like popcorn and yogurt covered raisins 🙂

We completed the second craft in the girls’ Toucan boxes: making dyed nature bags. First, they had to put coloured tissue paper strips on foil and they painted it with water until it was all damp. Then, they pressed the fabric bag against it and it dyed it 🙂 After it dried, the girls used the nature stencils to make pictures on top of the dyes. The bags came with little checklists for each season, so the girls can take them with them on nature walks and tick off the things they find along the way.

I finally ordered some sand for the girls’ water/sand table. They never show much interest in it when it’s filled with water, but they played with it all day when I filled it with sand 🙂 We made mini sandcastles and they ended up burying LOL dolls and rescuing them.

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For my daughter’s schoolwork, she had to make a forest school picture, using natural materials and a dividing line to create symmetry. We got out her shell and rock collection and a skipping rope and the girls enjoyed making mirrored shell pictures in the garden for a long time 🙂

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I’d been looking at gratitude journals for kids online and found a cheaper version since some of them are so expensive 🙂 The girls have enjoyed filling them in at the end of the day. They are simple and encourage them to write or draw three things they are grateful for that day. I’m guessing that the more expensive versions have more prompts in them for journalling, but these are good if you just want to teach your kids about gratitude and reflecting on their day.

Apart from the Toucan boxes the girls get, I like the emails they send with suggested activities for kids in them. They sent a template this week for an origami dinosaur bookmark and I’ve decided I’m going to look for more origami animals instructions for the girls. They seem to enjoy lots of paper crafts and games you can play with just a piece of paper and a pencil.

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My friend kindly brought us some beetroot and parsley from her garden 🙂 We made some beetroot crisps for the first time yesterday 🙂 I was surprised that both of the girls tried them (especially since one frequently declares that she doesn’t eat any vegetables.) I think I overcooked them a little, but they were like sweet crisps so they went down well 🙂

Yesterday, we made some toilet roll tube fairy houses. We just painted them with poster paints, using sponge applicators. After they had dried, we cut out doors and windows from coloured paper, adding “curtains” that I cut out from magazines. We added bun cases as roofs, but you could use anything you like. Patterned ones would look good too, or patterned paper to cover the tubes. I liked it because it required minimal preparation and you can be as creative (or as lazy) as you like 🙂

 

 

Shadow Puppets, Blossom Bouquets & Sunflower Seeds

This week we made some plate-sized wholemeal pancakes and had some fresh fruit (and strong coffee for me. Afterwards, we read together in the living room. The girls had put the recliners up for themselves and spent time poring over art books about colour and craft projects for kids. We went onto the library website to look at their free ebooks and magazines. They have lots of children’s books available online if you sign into your account. You can set one up if you don’t already have one using the long number on your library card.

Afterwards, the girls insisted on wearing similar outfits to me (God help them :)) We went on our morning walk and they requested another trip to the cherry blossom. We have now assigned names to our walks and they always want to do the blossom walk 🙂 They gathered flowers and petals to make mini bouquets and put them in water as table displays for dinner time when we got home. I have a feeling they might be interested in flower arranging in the future 🙂

The girls’ Toucan craft boxes arrived in the post, so we did their shadow puppet theatre projects. They had to make puppets on lolly sticks and paint the stage curtains, adding greaseproof paper as a cover for the puppets to produce shadows on. We set them up in the living room. Since I don’t buy practical items like torches, we improvised with lamps and the girls did a very shortlived puppet show 🙂

My neighbour gave the girls some wildflower beebombs. The girls loved raking the soil and scattering them, and I’m hopeful we’ll keep them alive and that our garden will be filled with beautiful wildflowers soon 🙂

Since it was such a nice evening, I made hotdogs on the barbecue and we ate outside. The girls made sure to put one of their flower displays on the outdoor table 🙂 Eating in the sunshine definitely makes me feel freer at the moment. You could almost imagine you’re on holiday 🙂

I decided to do a bit of a clear-out in our kitchen. I love the fact that when you clear out drawers and cupboards, you discover things you had forgotten you had. The girls found some sticker books and a felt board to play with, and I discovered a stash of wax melts and candles I didn’t know I had! I lit the Causeway Coast wax melt and it is the most relaxing scent I have ever breathed 🙂 I find sorting cupboards out really cathartic. It’s good to get rid of some clutter and feel like everything is somewhat orderly for a few days. (Until I start lazily throwing things into cupboards without looking again :))

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We had a couple of kids’ cupcake kits, so we made some chocolate Aladdin ones and some muddy puddle Peppa ones to keep everyone happy 🙂 I always used to think the cupcake kits were pointless because they contain so little mix and it’s almost as easy to just make them from scratch, but I’ve realised they allow kids to skip ahead to the parts of baking they enjoy, ie the icing, decorating and spoon-licking.

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I rearranged the girls’ room a little and I put some decorative kids’ pegs on jewellery wire to make a little washing line for their artwork. I think my daughter thought it was for their dolls’ clothes 🙂 I also found my crepe spreader that my mum got me from France, so I’ll have to make some crepes soon 🙂

We found a new street with blossom aplenty 🙂 The girls have named it the “dead end” walk, for obvious reasons. But it seems to have the best supply of intact blossom flowers. The girls brought a bag to collect some in and made some more little floral posies. I’ll probably be finding wilted flowers all over the house for ages, but it keeps the girls happy 🙂

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When we got home, my daughter had to practise writing her spellings in flour, so after she had finished, my younger daughter converted it into a beach for her LOL dolls 🙂 It kept her busy while we got some schoolwork done 🙂

My friend kindly left a surprise on our doorstep: a gardening kit for the girls. Today, we planted the sunflowers and butterfly seeds. The girls loved having their own plant projects 🙂 I’ve never grown sunflowers before, but they are my favourite flowers, so I’ll be happy when they appear 🙂

As if we didn’t have enough baked treats in the house already, I made my daughter’s favourite coconut cake today. It’s a recipe I found in Dining on a Dime Cook Book and it never fails. It produces two cakes, and I always think it will be a challenge to use it all up, but it always quickly disappears 🙂

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We made a little bird feeder from the girls’ Toucan boxes. You just had to glue layers of lolly sticks to make a little box, with a stick for the bird to perch on. Pipe cleaners were added as handles and we put it on the hedges outside. I’m hoping it attracts more birds to the garden. Our robin hasn’t visited in a few days as I haven’t put out more of his peanut butter food yet, so I might have to make some tomorrow for him 🙂

 

 

 

 

Bluebells, Outdoor Cafes & Mud Pies

On our walk along the Greenway earlier this week, I noticed that the flowers bordering the pathway are starting to change. One of the grassy banks is paved with stepping stones leading up to some bluebells, and we found some clusters of them further along too. Repeating the same walk over and over is allowing us the opportunity to detect small changes we wouldn’t otherwise have noticed, and in a way, the limitations are making us appreciate the little things more.

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My daughter loves the clay workshop she does when she’s at school, so I decided to order a box of air-drying clay for her. My younger daughter tried it for the first time. She liked flattening it and using it as a base for pictures, while my older daughter likes making models with it. She made a pearl inside a shell and a two-toned heart.

 

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I always find that my kids turn their noses up at the most time-consuming meals. I had some hot dogs and decided to try making them threaded onto spaghetti, which I had seen online somewhere a while ago. You just cut them up and push them onto the dried spaghetti before you cook it. It was weird how something so simple fascinated my kids so much. I made a simple tomato sauce to go with it. I just soaked a couple of tomatoes in boiled water, peeled the skins off, chopped them up finely and cooked them with dried herbs and sugar. It tastes much better than pre-made pasta sauce or tinned tomatoes (although I like it too, and I’m rarely in the mood for peeling tomatoes :D)

I set up another tray activity for my daughter outside. I used an old ice-cream tub filled with mud – I just mixed some soil and water together and made it extra muddy. I put some of her plastic animals in it, so they could “roll about in the mud.” Then I gave her a toothbrush and her dolls’ paddling pool to give them a bath afterwards.
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I like the way when I give my kids a messy task, they change it into another one when they’re finished. (The clean-up version of me isn’t just as happy about this.) The girls got out their buckets and spades and made some mud pies in them too. They have an old tea set they use in the garden and filled them with mud and water, putting the teacups in a cardboard cup holder my daughter dug out of their junk box. I find that more and more, they are going to the cupboard by themselves to find a specific material for a project they have in mind and I like to see their creativity coming out without interference from me 🙂

I had ordered some earrings and a top from a lady in Denmark. I love everything she sells and wanted to support her business too. They arrived today and it felt like an extremely early birthday present 🙂 She had put the top into a pretty silk bag and it cheered me up when I opened it and saw it 🙂 I’m definitely noticing people’s thoughtful touches even more now. I made some time for trying the things I’d bought on and then made myself a latte to drink in the garden while I got some writing done. (Thank God for TV time :))

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Today, I also set up a pretend cafe in the garden for the girls. I just gave them some cups and spoons, a filled watering can to use as a kettle, some out of date hot chocolate powder and a few marshmallows and teabags. They loved creating their own hot chocolate and topping it with the marshmallows. It isn’t an activity I’d encourage them to do often because I hate anything that feels like wasting food 🙂 But it made for good messy play and they loved it.

Tonight, I am listening to some new calming music, doing some writing and I’m attempting to bake my first ever sourdough. I checked my sourdough starter earlier and was excited to see that it floated when added to water, so it should be ready for use. I’m hoping the end result resembles bread, even if it doesn’t taste anything like sourdough 🙂

 

 

Sunshine Smoothies, Feeding Robins and Cardboard Pets

We started the day yesterday with sunshine smoothies, and the sun joined us in the background. One thing that has helped with the self isolation is the accompaniment of the sun 🙂 Even if you can only enjoy it in your garden, or with the light bouncing off the windows, or warming a room, it is more cheerful than looking out at a grey day 🙂 The girls are obsessed with smoothies, and they’re a good way to get vitamins into their systems without complaints 🙂 I just used some frozen mango and papaya we had in the freezer but you could use pineapple too, and combined it with orange juice and honey in the blender.

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We absorbed some of the sun in the garden and I brought my coffee and reading material outside 🙂 Even though it is a challenge to make it through a sentence on paper without interruption, I’m enjoying using the little table and chairs in our back garden. It is positioned next to some plants that are budding and it’s a restful spot to sit in. I’m looking forward to sitting out there when the kids are in bed and the nights are a bit longer. But for now, I’m grateful to have somewhere to enjoy my coffee surrounded by nature, even if we are confined to a smallish yard 🙂

I planted some hyacinth bulbs a while ago and I was surprised to see they are flowering and looking healthy so far 🙂 I decided to make some bird food to attract the birds back to our garden. I checked online to make sure we weren’t giving them anything they couldn’t eat. Every time I have made bird feed like this, the birds devour it in a couple of days. Meanwhile, they seem to be neglecting the seeds in the proper bird feeder next to it 🙂 I found this online for anyone that wants to try making some.

The girls helped me to make it. We combined oats, rice krispies, raisins, peanut butter, a little oil and some grapes. I read somewhere that birds love grapes, and couldn’t imagine them eating them, but they do 🙂 Today, we noticed a robin had been spending a lot of time in our garden and was eating it 🙂 I always wonder how birds find out there is new food in a garden. Are they always watching to see? Do they tell each other?

After making our bird seed, we stuck our egg carton daffodils together 🙂 The girls were much less interested in assembling them than they were in painting them yellow 🙂

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We made some chocolate rice krispie buns, and the girls enjoyed taking charge of making them and eating them 🙂

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Afterwards, I opened one of the Toucan Boxes we got. It had a bunny racecar to make, but as always my mechanical skills let me down 🙂 We managed to make the bunny and today we improvised and made a car out of an empty teabox. The pack also contained an Easter bunting kit and a bunny hairband kit. Both crafts were much easier and we completed them. The pack contained white crayons and watercolours for magic painting, which the girls enjoyed doing. There was also a magazine for kids with suggested projects and sticker activities in it.

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After the kids were in bed last night, I tried making my first homemade tortillas. I find cooking really soothing, particularly when no one is howling at my feet 🙂 It was therapeutic making the dough. It doesn’t contain any yeast, so you don’t have to worry about kneading, etc. I was happy with how they turned out. They were a bit misshapen but tasted fresher than ones I would have bought in the shop.

This morning, I decided to put our Easter tree up 🙂 I love the way it brightens up the kitchen. I was surprised it still had some life left in it, as we’ve had it for a few years now. The girls were happy to see it make a reappearance.

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My daughter had been given a task by her school, to make a junk model pet. She decided on a parrot and I helped her assemble and tape it together. She added feathers and made a beak shape out of a pipe cleaner. We strung it up with balloon ribbon and it is currently suspended from our kitchen door handle, blessing us with its beauty 😀

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My other daughter decided to make a five-eyed hamster out of an egg carton. I’m glad I’ve saved up so many cardboard boxes now. At times, my craft hoarding can be a nuisance, but during this period of staying at home, it has become a gift 🙂 Our kitchen table permanently looks like this at the moment, but I just try to remember that saying about excusing the mess because the kids are busy making memories 🙂

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