A Holiday at Home

Last week, I took the girls away for a few days to Rostrevor. I’d never stayed there before and I hadn’t expected the panoramic views. We had a few foggy drives through what looked like images of nineteenth century Ireland. When we got there, we went to Kilbroney Park. As with everywhere we go, the playground was the main attraction for the girls. After they played (and I started to feel time standing still!) we went for a long walk to the bottom of the hill where we found the Fairy Glen. It is a little walk beside a river and its name comes from folklore that claims fairies emerged there at night time to dance. It was a peaceful walk and the girls enjoyed watching the little waterfalls and the river running. It didn’t have any added features to it, but there was something about the lighting and the water that made it seem a little magical. People in the town had made a painted rock snake that anyone in the community could add to. The girls loved stopping to look at all the designs on them. They were particularly taken with a family of ladybirds.

Later, we drove to Warrenpoint and walked along the promenade. It was a bright day and Carlingford Lough was beautiful. The girls love watching boats now, even when they aren’t going anywhere 🙂 We walked along the rocky beach and then found a spot of sand for them to play with their buckets and spades. Afterwards, we walked to a Victorian park. The gardens are really well kept and the girls always love anywhere with a bandstand to dance on 🙂 There was a playground there too. It started to feel like our holiday was a tour of Northern Ireland’s playgrounds 🙂 After constant walking and playing, I tried to get the girls to sit down on a bench and look at the flowers and appreciate just sitting doing nothing. It didn’t really work, but I’m going to keep trying anyway 🙂 They ended up getting up and sniffing each of the flowers to see if it had a scent, which I decided was just as valuable.

The timing of our trip was good because it meant that we could use the Eat out to help out scheme. We went to an Italian restaurant and the girls ate all the seafood toppings on my pizza 🙂 No matter where we go to, they seem to order chicken goujons and then pinch the parts of other people’s meals they like 🙂

The next day, we did the Narnia Trail at Kilbroney Park. They have a treasure hunt for kids and you start by walking into the wardrobe and finding different carvings from the story along the way.

We drove to the upper car park and did the short hike to the Big Stone at the top. The views were amazing and even after complaints from my daughter about sore legs, she said it was her favourite thing from our trip 🙂

The following day, I took the girls into Warrenpoint again. It was raining heavily all day, but we just worked round the weather. They were sad to see that the children’s bookshop they wanted to go to wasn’t open that day. But the window display was enough to entertain them for a little while. Sometimes I think kids like looking as much as they like buying, because as soon as they do, the items are forgotten about 🙂 I think even as an adult it’s good to have things to wish for. It gives you something to work towards and motivates you to save.

The girls spotted a little sit-in bakery, so we went inside for a drink. They had chocolate covered gingerbread men. We also found a little clothes shop for the girls to spend their pocket money in. They found jewellery for £5 each and clip on earrings, so that kept them happy 🙂

We returned to the Narnia Trail since the girls enjoyed it so much. Afterwards we called into the cafe at the park for mini ice lollies/coffee and got all of them for £3 again 🙂 I’m enjoying the fact you can eat out so cheaply at the minute. Even if it’s just a cup of coffee, it makes a big difference.

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We did a little tour of the village on foot. They have lines of poetry displayed on the walls and it’s like a treasure hunt finding them all 🙂 We came across a cute bookshop. Unfortunately it wasn’t open, but I would like to return to see it. The shops seem to have limited opening hours. I don’t know if that’s because of the virus or because there is just a more laid back vibe to that part of the country 🙂

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On our last night there, we had dinner in the hotel and then went for a walk in the Fairy Glen since it had brightened up outside. The girls seemed to slow down and take time to look at views more and the river running by the end of the holiday. I think the break did their busy minds good, and it did mine good too 🙂

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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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Finding little things to be grateful for

Little Reasons to be Grateful

After a trying period on a personal level, (which, let’s face it, in my life, is most of the time!) someone suggested that I should start a gratitude journal. I don’t think their suggestion was well-received at the time. However, in spite of the fact I have yet to put it to paper, I have mentally begun composing a list. Sometimes being happy isn’t about stumbling upon natural contentment; it’s looking for reasons to not be sad in the face of tragedy.

I have a tendency to focus on the negative (or joke about the negative and then laugh), so listing positive things doesn’t come naturally to me. But I am finding that the more I consciously try to make note of things to be grateful for, the more I find that there are.

Here a few things:

Flowers

My sister sent me a bunch of surprise flowers. They’re beautiful colours and cheer me up every time I look at them. They were the letterbox kind, but are the most vibrant bunch of flowers I’ve ever seen. Even when there is no occasion for flowers or plants, I think that buying some lifts your spirits. You can buy several cheap bunches and mix them together to create a bouquet of your own. Or pick out some bright plants and make a colourful flowerbed or planter. I like to have pretty things to stare at while I daydream (which I do most of the time.)

Tea

Tea is like the tear-stained shoulder of a reliable friend. When you’re having a bad day, there is nothing like tea to cheer you up. You can bring it in a flask and go to the park or drink it in your garden, have a tea party with friends or your kids, or get into bed early with tea and a book. I have a huge variety to fit my different moods (of which there are many.) My favourites at the moment are Lady Grey (an orange-infused Earl Grey) and Night Time tea with lavender and oat flower.

Candles

My mum recently gave me a Yankee candle. They’re my favourite and I never buy them for myself. (I can’t justify spending that much on a candle – I just spend the same amount on five lesser ones with no scent.) I love the baked goods candles; they make your house smell like it is filled with the scent of freshly baked treats (without the effort of having to make them.) I have a Crisp Apple Strudel one at the minute that lifts my mood every time I light it.

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Inspirational Magazines

A lot of people think magazines are a waste of money. I don’t – I have a couple of monthly subscriptions and when they come through the door I still get excited. Turning the physical pages of magazine engages your senses more than just reading from a screen. I like magazines with ideas on how to create things,inspiration and recipes. When I’m not writing, I also like to read magazines about writing (because apparently I don’t do enough of it.) There are magazines on such a vast range of topics that reading one doesn’t just have to be a way to catch up on celebrity gossip (unless that’s your thing.)

Picnics

Northern Ireland has had a dash of good weather and I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity to get outdoors. Sometimes I take my kids on “road trips” (we drive about an hour from our house and go to the beach.) Sometimes we just take a picnic and a Frisbee to a park a few streets away from our house. Lying on the grass and making daisy chains for your kids help to distract you from whatever problems might be circulating inside your head. We collected some “flowers” (flowering weeds) in a sandwich bag yesterday and brought them home to draw them and then press them in a book. Sitting in the garden drawing together is a good way to unwind during a tense motherhood moment too.

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Going Out For Lunch

If you don’t want to spend a lot on eating out, going out for lunch, or coffee and an ice cream is a good alternative. There are usually lunch deals on, that offer you meals from the dinner menu, but at a fraction of the price. It feels like treating yourself in the same way, but without doing the same damage to your bank balance.

 

What little things are you grateful for?