Easy Kids’ Crafts – Tea Jewellery/ Treasure Boxes

Activities For Children, Crafts July 6, 2018

I’m a fan of kid-led crafts: ones that actually look like a kid made them instead of being manufactured by me and photographed from flattering angles for the purpose of improving my blog! These are so easy to make and required minimal direction from me 🙂

Materials

Herbal Tea Box (box where the lid flips open and recloses)

Poster Paints & brushes

Glitter (the shaky kind)

Glue Stick

Embellishments

Method:

Get your kids to paint their boxes however they like. Leave them to dry fully and give in to their demands for TV time. When dry, let your kids use a glue stick and shake their own glitter over it. Add stickers, sequins, buttons, shells, beads. You can decorate it however you like and have a theme if you want. (Eg, summer flowers, sea life, snowy day.) Let your kids choose what to keep inside it. They like putting toys in it and getting you to guess what is inside. Enjoy the twenty minutes this activity will keep them occupied for 😀

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe

Baking, Recipes June 14, 2018

My kids asked me to make banana bread this week. I’m convinced they only offer to help so they can lick the bowl and wreck the kitchen with my permission. I decided to sneak some chocolate into the recipe to spare my sanity during the flour explosion clear-up afterwards. My kids keep asking for a second slice of this, so I guess it must be alright.

Ingredients

4 bananas (this might sound excessive but they make it extra-moist)

1/2 cup of sugar

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup veg oil

1tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 3/4 Cups flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda

Handful of milk chocolate chunks (or in my case, halved chocolate buttons)

Method:

Preheat oven to 160 c

Mash bananas with a potato masher.

Whisk in the oil, milk, vanilla, eggs and sugar. I find whisking by hand works best. Don’t be too thorough – leave some banana chunks if you like.

Mix in flour and baking soda. Add chocolate at the end and stir in so it is dispersed evenly. Put mixture in a greased loaf tin.

Bake for about 40 mins in the middle of the oven. Add a layer of foil halfway through cooking so the outside doesn’t become over-crisp.

 

 

Sweet Potato Soup Recipe

Super Easy Sweet Potato Soup

budget recipes, Recipes June 14, 2018

I never use the term “super” but for the sake of sibilance, I’m using it today. So if you think I’ve had a personality transplant, fear not. I made this soup today and it worked out pretty well. It was one of those days where you’re down to three items in the fridge and you either have to improvise or go outside. I chose the former. I usually come up with recipes I like when that happens; maybe I should use that as an excuse to avoid the dreaded weekly food shop and accompanying trolley tantrums.

Ingredients:

5 small sweet potatoes (fewer if using larger sized ones)

1 litre chicken stock

1/2 tsp lazy ginger/ small piece grated ginger (it gives warmth without overpowering the soup)

Pinch of salt

Small handful of Coriander

Method:

Peel and chip sweet potatoes into fine slices/cubes. Add boiled water and salt, (and ginger if using fresh) bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer to stop sweet potato froth 🙂 Crumble in a chicken stock cube. Cook for 15-20 mins. (Add ginger at this stage if using from a jar.) Add coriander. Blend using a hand blender. Taste to make sure it’s ok before giving it to people and stuff.

 

 

Finding little things to be grateful for

Little Reasons to be Grateful

Budget Activities, inspiration May 30, 2018

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?

 

 

First Scoop of Vanilla – Micro Fiction

Fiction, Writing May 30, 2018

I decided to share some of my “writing rejects” with readers of my blog, for possible entertainment and my own catharsis. So, here is a recent non-winning entry 🙂 (on the theme of summer.)

First Scoop of Vanilla

“Mummy, can we get an ice-cream today?” she asked, with hopeful eyes. I looked at the window like a temperature gauge. Expecting the sea to be dashing its usual frothy rage against the rocks, I was surprised. It was a still pool with summer casting its first light on the seascape. My lips changed their typical tune from “it’s too cold today.”

We sat on a wall, it’s paint chipped from months of wild weather. Her little face looked up at mine; rainbow hundreds and thousands glued to her chin with vanilla cream. She looked engrossed, enjoying every lick like the first taste of summer sun’s kiss.

Simple Activities With Kids: Mint Tea and Popping Bubbles

Simple Days with Kids: Mint Tea and Bubble Popping

Activities For Children, Creativity April 18, 2018

We have spent a lot of time indoors this week and I’ve been working to combat cabin fever. I think I need a directed activity as much as the girls do. We decided to have mint tea, using fresh mint from our garden (or what was left of it after the snails made their happy way through my greenery.)

My daughter enjoyed helping to identify which herb was mint, picking it and smelling it. She even excitedly ran to get her sister to smell it. It always makes me happy seeing them getting inspired by something simple. We put it in a teapot and let it steep while my daughter prepared the snacks: Cadbury’s fingers and buns made by my talented baker-friend. My daughter loved assembling it all on a tray and bringing it to her sick sister. We put a picnic blanket on the living room floor, since she was a little too tender for a real picnic. We listened to Française Hardy and my kids showed their first interest in vinyl. (Unfortunately this means I’ll have to keep a close eye on my stylus now.)

We made extra soapy bubble solution and blew bubbles that stayed put until you’d popped all of them. My kids really enjoyed the simplicity of what we did and it went down better than any more complicated activity we’ve done lately.

How to cook when you don’t want to go to the shops

Tips for when you’re too Sick, Tired or Broke to do a Food Shop

Budgeting, Food April 17, 2018

I’ve spent the last week with the flu and food shopping has seemed like an unachievable task. Here are a few ways to improvise with what you have and avoid going to the shops.

Use your Slow Cooker

Slow coolers are great for sickness because they require minimal effort on your part and you can throw in random ingredients and it somehow turns out edible! Use up vegetables you have lying around in casseroles and stews. You can make vegetarian versions if you have no meat in the house. I made a veggie chilli in mine with what I had left. If you season it well and add extras like chocolate and chilli flakes and coriander it won’t taste bland.

Make Minestrone

Soups are good in general for using up what you already have. I find I always have the ingredients to make minestrone, if nothing else. I always have tinned tomatoes, pasta and tinned or frozen veg even if I don’t have fresh veg. You can put anything you want in it: carrots, courgettes, peas or beans, corn, etc.

Top things with cheese

I find that even a dish made from simple ingredients tastes better with cheese on top. You can mix some into a rice dish or pasta to make it more substantial too. If you roast or fry vegetables and mix it with rice/pasta, oil and cheese it tastes surprisingly good for how little effort is involved.

Improvise with breakfast

If you don’t have essentials like bread or milk there are ways round it that don’t involve trailing yourself to the shops. Make porridge with water and liven it up by adding some butter and sugar/peanut butter/Nutella/honey and raisins, etc. Use old bananas to make banana bread for a breakfast treat. Make omelettes using whatever fillings you have on hand. Make your own cereal bars using oats, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, Rice Krispies or cornflakes, golden syrup, seeds, etc.

Add sauces and crispy toppings

Macaroni cheese is a good staple when you’re running out of food. You can also omit the cheese and make a plain white sauce. Use it over chicken or just with vegetables. Top with breadcrumbs, crackers or crisps and bake in the oven. This is a good way to use up stale ingredients too, as they will crisp up again in the oven.

Change your idea of what counts as a meal

A meal is something that fills you and that hopefully tastes good. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, or always contain certain ingredients, or have three courses. Sometimes my kids appreciate the simple things best, like a peanut butter sandwich, or hotdogs, or tinned soup. You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to follow a meal plan formula when you don’t feel like it.