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 🙂

 

 

Small Thoughts to Make You Smile

I felt the need to write a positive post today. I like to reflect upon the good things that have happened in each individual day in spite of what is going on around us and it feels particularly needed at the moment.

One of my daughters was off school today for exceptional closure and the other was in preschool, so I got to spend some quality time with my older daughter. We are rarely alone together and it was strangely calm without my little whirlwind there 🙂 We were glad to welcome her back at pick-up though.

I wore my most vivid outfit to counteract the darkness surrounding us 🙂 We took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked to my daughter’s school. It was eerily quiet with the primary schools closed, but the sky was an amazing shade of blue and it was nice to bypass all the usual traffic. I took some pictures of how peaceful and blue-skied the morning was.

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I’ve decided to make greater effort to support local businesses. I tend to go through phases of doing so and then I return to a shop where I can buy everything in one place. So, we went to a local butchers and fruit shop. It was a good opportunity to use the cute fabric vegetable bags I got from a market a while ago 🙂 The fruit looks so much fresher and my daughter enjoyed selecting fruit and veg and putting them in our bags 🙂 I also got taking to a lady in a queue, which wouldn’t ordinarily happen when you’re rushing around a major supermarket. I’ve decided to just go with the flow and embrace a simpler way of life for now. Not everything about our fast-paced living is a positive thing and I think some time for meditation could do us a lot of good, mentally.

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My daughter and I had a coffee date in Tim Hortons. (She requested it and I decided she’d more than earned it after the miles of the walking.)  She loves gingerbread men and I was amazed that she finished it and her entire cup of hot chocolate before I’d even finished my coffee 🙂 Of course, we had to sit on the highest stools there.

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This evening, I’ve been writing and thinking of recipes and ideas I can share in the coming weeks. I brought out my old cure for sadness tonight – wine and Percy Pigs 🙂 I’ve been limiting the amount of time I spend reading the news and taking the  time to listen to dreamy music, light candles and fill my world at home with things to feed my soul.

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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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Ways to Have a More Peaceful Life

20 Ways to Have a More Peaceful Life

I was getting snappy this afternoon; I’d had enough of the onslaught of requests from my kids. So, I decided to have a cup of tea in the garden and be still for a while. It’s windy but I’m wrapped up and watching the girls’ windmills go round in the breeze. Here are a few ideas of ways to have a more peaceful life:

1. Have a cup of tea and a biscuit in your garden.

2. Don’t allow housework after a certain time of the day.

3. Listen to Nick Drake and Tim Buckley.

4. Go to a place with shades of green everywhere and let it calm you.

5. Book appointments with yourself to have a bath, pamper yourself, go for coffee alone, read a magazine in its entirety. It is as important as obligatory appointments.

6. Have a long shower with lavender scented products (when your kids are asleep, if you have kids.)

7. Care about people’s problems, but be there without fixing everything for them.

8. Drink less caffeine and more herbal tea when you’re winding down for bed.

9. Make more time to read on paper instead of on a screen.

10. Do puzzles, crosswords and word searches.

11. Use your hands more and let your mind switch off. Start a picture journal or if words are your thing, write down all the beautiful details of your day.

12. Listen to recordings of sea sounds if you can’t get close to the real thing.

13. Learn about types of flowers and trees. Get books from the library and teach your kids too. Go for nature walks with them and identify them.

14. Make your own fairy garden or gnome garden. Use a pot if you don’t have a garden.

15. Take an umbrella and go for a walk in the rain. Let the rainwater wash away your worries.

16. Go for walks with no destination in mind.

17. Make your own bunting with fabric scraps or coloured paper.

18. Take a basket to the beach and collect pretty shells and stones.

19. Read books about mindfulness.

20. Make your own bread. Kneading it is cathartic and you can add any interesting ingredients you like.

Hope you manage to incorporate peacefulness into your day in little ways 🙂

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Ways to Enjoy a Mellow Morning

7 Ways to Find the Joy in a Mellow Morning

I think it’s important to have a mellow morning at least once a week. It’s a rare indulgence in my house since we’re always rushing off somewhere. This morning I sat and enjoyed strong coffee, not allowing myself to feel guilty about the fact my kids were unattended while I wrote; they are well able to amuse themselves. Here are a few ideas to have a morning at your own pace:

1. Make yourself a teapot of tea or a cafetière of coffee

Sometimes these things are reserved for the arrival of guests, but you should treat yourself too. Sit at the table with a cup and saucer, some tea lights and soft music and treat yourself like you would a visitor in your house.

2. Make a special breakfast

Make filled croissants, pancakes or fancy eggs. Take more time over what you’re eating when you can. Sit for as long as you want before you get ready.

3. Lie in the bath and stare at the ceiling

There is something calming about being submerged in water. It gives you time to collect your thoughts and the sound of water is a peaceful way of blotting out stressful sounds.

4. Read Under A Blanket

How often do you get to read without interruptions? Granted, if you have kids this will be harder to achieve, but encourage them to do the same and appreciate inactivity.

5. Stare dreamily into space

Maybe this only appeals to me because I’m a day dreamer, but I think it’s good for your brain to just let it have some down time and just look at your surroundings while you think about unimportant things.

6. Make listening to music an activity in itself

People usually make listening to music a background activity. Let it be the main one so you can focus on it and allow yourself to stop multi-tasking

7. Do Calming Crafts

Some crafts require a lot of brain power, while others let your hands work while your mind rests. Try cross stitch, decoupage or even those knitting dolls for kids. Repetitive crafts don’t demand much for you but help you to destress.

Take your opportunities for a slow start and allow yourself to stop being busy all the time. When you have to face business again, you’ll be better-equipped to cope with it.

 

 

 

Make an ideas board on a budget

How to Make a Homemade Ideas Board for Free.

I decided to make something today as an experiment to see if I could produce something inspiring that didn’t require going out to buy materials or advance-planning. I like to set myself little pointless challenges because I’m easily excited by that type of thing.

So, here is how I set about making a very unprofessional ideas board 🙂 (the point of this exercise isn’t to have a flawless finished product, but to relax and make something personal to you.)

I used a large piece of thick cardboard: the ribbed kind. You can use whatever size you like.

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I took a piece of fabric that I had left over from a dress I made for my daughter. I placed it under the piece of cardboard and cut around it, making the fabric 1 to 2 inches larger than the cardboard so that it could be folded over the back of the board. The piece of material I had wasn’t large enough to cover the full piece of cardboard so I sewed two smaller pieces together. I used a sewing machine, but you could do this by hand, or leave it out entirely if the idea fills you with horror.

 

You could also sew together different patterned fabrics to create more interest. Depending on your sewing skills, patchwork squares could be used, or a pocket could be added to the fabric.

After sewing the two sides together I opened it out and flattened the seam in one direction so that it would sit smoothly against the board.

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I pinned the corners around the back of the board, folding them in like on an envelope. I then sewed these to secure them in place. (You could also use tape, glue or tack them.)

 

I taped down the edges of the fabric and pulled them back tautly so the fabric would sit flatly against the front of the board.

Next, I took a piece of ribbon and stitched the ends of it to the back of the board. (Again, you could use tape or glue.) Don’t worry about being too perfectionistic about the back of the board as, unless my wonderful method fails and it collapses off the wall, no one will ever have to see it.

 

After attaching the ribbon, the board was ready for ideas to be pinned to it. I used some pastel coloured push pins. You can use any colour you like, or just use plain drawing pins. If the cardboard isn’t very thick just be careful you don’t stab yourself when you have pushed them through, or push them in at an angle to avoid this!

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You can add anything you like to your board. It is supposed to be inspiring to look at and it’s designed to remind you of positive ideas and things you want to experiment with. Avoid putting work-related information on it. Its purpose is to encourage creativity and allow you to daydream; not to act as a reminder of your incomplete to-do list. You can update it as frequently as you like, or tailor it to what you find inspiring in a particular month.

Here are some ideas of items you can add to it:

  • A list of books you plan to read.
  • A word that prompts ideas in you or reminds you of a quality of yours would like to focus on more.
  • Uplifting quotes.
  • Recipes to try and pictures of the end results.
  • Home dĂ©cor you admire that gives you inspiration for ways to change your home.
  • A list of music you would like to learn more about.
  • Any topic to research for fun.
  • A list of kind acts that you have recently witnessed.
  • Clothing styles you would like to try/an item that you would like to add to your wardrobe this month.
  • A photograph that reminds you of the future memories you’d like to create.
  • A relaxing project you plan to complete this month.
  • A list of things you would like to buy.
  • A drink recipe.
  • A place you want to dream about visiting/a nearby place you can visit now.

You don’t just have to add notes or pictures to it, you can also pin fabrics, mementoes, tickets, embellishments, etc. It is something that you can constantly add to and that should evolve with you, as your interests and plans change.

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A Day For Treats

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I place a lot of importance on treating myself, particularly since entering single parenthood, as it can leave you feeling depleted. I think everyone should have a weekly designated treats-day. It gives you a positive plan for the week in the midst of all of your obligatory ones. It is easier to neglect this practice as an adult than it is as a kid. If someone else isn’t supplying the treats, I say you should take it upon yourself to do so.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant and can include items that you already have in your house, if you are imaginative with what you have on hand.

I like to pick three or four items and set them aside as incentive to persevere until Friday’s bedtime. And by Friday afternoon, that is all that is sparing my sanity. Making it something deliberate and pre-planned, instead of just shoving chocolate into your mouth in a moment of despair, makes it feel more like you have properly been rewarded for your hard work. (Although the aforementioned is sometimes essential too.)

Just because you have financial constraints or limited time shouldn’t mean that you forego all forms of self-indulgence. (I am consciously skirting around the term “self-care” due to the frequency of its usage at the moment and my strong dislike for clichés.)

This week I have a more elaborate treat eagerly awaiting Friday’s bedtime, but often I just pull together something simple out of what I have lying around. (I always have a fully stocked sweetie cupboard anyway.)

Here are a few examples:

  • Hot chocolate with marshmallows
  • A magazine/free e-magazine on your library’s website.
  • A band you have yet to hear/ a record you found in a charity shop.

 

  • A hot water bottle
  • Incense sticks
  • A drink you haven’t tried before. This could be a homemade cocktail or just a flavoured fizzy drink. Whichever one you opt for, you should drink it out of a fancy glass.

 

  • New cosy bedsocks
  • A tub of your favourite ice-cream
  • A playlist of soothing songs

 

  • Fudge or chocolates
  • Loose leaf tea
  • A new tea cup

 

  • A new scented bath product or shower gel
  • A colouring book for adults
  • Popcorn

 

I find that the best treats are composed of something to eat, something to drink and something to do/an item that provides comfort 🙂

You could formulate any number of treats using this method and still have something different to look forward to each week. It’s weird how something so small can lift your mood.