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?

 

 

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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.

 

Kids Smoothie Cups Recipe

Smoothie Cups For Kids (and Adults) Recipe

Activities For Kids, Budgeting, Recipes April 11, 2018

This isn’t really a proper recipe, but I thought I’d share it since it went down as well with my kids as ice cream, without the hyperactive results. I was looking for easy ways to entertain kids today since I’m sick and these took two minutes to make and eating them kept them entertained for a long time 🙂 they’re like a cross between a smoothie and frozen yogurt.

Ingredients

1 frozen banana (just peel and shove in the freezer and add straight to blender)

1 handful frozen strawberries

a few blueberries

2 tbsps Greek yogurt

300ml whole milk (or any milk you like)

a large squeeze of honey

1 tsp chia seeds

Method

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until you have achieved your desired consistency.  Give it to them in little cups with spoons, party cups or add an umbrella if you want to make them for a party 🙂

I got all of the ingredients in Lidl. They have lots of frozen berries which are great for smoothies 🙂

8 tips for adventures with kids

8 Tips For Mini Adventures With Kids

Activities For Children, Adventures April 6, 2018

I was feeling inspired to write this post after a waterlogged week away with my kids. The weather was conscientiously working to spoil our holiday, so we had to be inventive with what we did. Here are a few ideas for mini adventures with kids.

1. Find little surprises in small places

My kids and I drove to what used to be a little fishing village. It was remote and had quaint little cottages overlooking the harbour. There was nothing to do there; even it’s one craft shop was closed. However, we went for a walk and found a shed that had baby lambs and sheep inside it. They were just sitting peacefully, inches from us and it ended up being a moment that stayed with my daughter. Don’t rule somewhere out just because no one talks about it or it seems like nothing significant is there 🙂

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2. Bring supplies and go out in the rain anyway

If there is torrential rain, dress for it and go for a walk in puddles. We went to a National Trust property in heavy rain and ended up having a picnic under a tree there. A room had been opened for indoor colouring for kids and we went for tea and scones and played games in a notebook I brought. It always helps to have paper and crayons with you to keep your kids entertained during an unplanned moment.

3. Collect simple items and draw them/make collages

My kids love going beach combing and  wearing wellies while they jump in rock pools. They have a little tin they keep shells in. We went for a windy walk and then retreated indoors, lit the fire and drew pictures of shells. You could do the same with leaves, flowers, pine cones. rocks, etc. You can also do rubbings, where you scribble on a page laid over textured items and teach your kids about different patterns and textures while you’re doing it.

4. Stop somewhere you weren’t planning to visit

We went to Scrabo Tower just as we were passing it one day. Some children happened to have gathered there to roll eggs down the hill. The girls enjoyed watching them and climbing up the steep hill. The views were spectacular as it was such a clear day. We found a picnic table in what felt like a quiet meadow and I had brought coffee and snacks that kept the girls entertained while they made a play house under the picnic table.

5. Eat in the garden, even if it’s cold

You can still eat outside even in unfortunate weather. It feels like a preamble to a barbecue and makes you appreciate returning to the warmth of indoors afterwards. I made hotdogs indoors and had a pretend barbecue outside the cottage we were staying in. The girls loved it and followed it with dancing outside and hide and seek.

6. Stop at charity shops in unexpected places

Sometimes the remotest of places contain the best second-hand stuff. I found two cups from the 70’s for 50p 🙂 My daughter got some blocks that she has played with constantly since. Sometimes letting kids choose an item themselves makes it more valuable to them (even if it’s only 20p.)

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7. Drive the long way

Sometimes choosing the longer route means more scenic drives and more interesting things to point out to your kids. My kids loved watching to see if the sea was rough or still, which birds they could identify and if there were any boats along the coast. Involving them in sporting things outside definitely makes them less tetchy when you’re driving.

8. Get your kids binoculars or a disposable camera

My granny did this for us as kids and we loved it. My kids picked up some binoculars for bird watching on our trip but have also been using them to look at the sea and the sky (and to spy on people in the street!)  They love spotting things in the distance and sharing them with you.

Adventures don’t have to be about travelling great distances or spending excessively. Kids always remember the simplest, cheapest thing that you just fell upon along the way.

 

 

Ways to have a simple Easter party with kids

7 Ways to Have a Simple Easter Party

Activities For Kids, Easter March 29, 2018

My kids and I had an early Easter party with family a few days ago (we like any excuse for a party.) Here are some simple ideas for an Easter Party without the stress or expense.

1. Make Your Decorations

Buy supplies from the pound shop. Buy packs of Easter crafts for kids and get your kids to help you make your own decorations. Paint eggs, make an Easter banner, paper chains, Easter bonnets or wall decorations.

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2. Forget the Party Food

Party food can cost a lot and I find it stressful working out all the different timings for food to go into the oven. Make a slow-cooked roast: you can stick it in the oven at a low temperature and forgelt it all day. Pre-peel potatoes and vegetables so all you have to do is turn things on when guests are there.

3. Play Simple Games

Do an egg hunt for mini eggs or chicks and bunnies in your garden (or in the house.) Give your kids a basket to collect their eggs in. Give them pound shop medals when they find all the eggs 🙂 Play guess the number of mini eggs in a bowl/jar with a prize for the person with the closest number. Do an egg hunt for adults with written clues leading you to other hidden clues with a prize at the end. Play pin the tail on the bunny.

4. Fancy-Looking Drinks

Put flavoured water or lemonade in wine glasses or cocktail glasses. Add ice or frozen berries to make them look more exciting, or wedges of fruit on the rim of the glass.

5. Frozen Desserts

Buy frozen cake or buy ice cream and lay out sprinkles, marshmallows, sweets, fruit, nuts or sauce to add to them. People enjoy choosing their own toppings. Simplify things for yourself instead of buying an expensive Easter cake or attempting to craft your own in the midst of organising everything else.

6. Happy Music

Make a playlist of upbeat Spring-like music that reminds you of sunny days and venturing outdoors again. Having happy music on creates half of the party atmosphere for you.

7. Fresh Spring Flowers

Decorate your home with daffodils and baby pink or sky blue flowers. Alternatively, plant them in the garden and have a garden party with tea and finger sandwiches/cream scones on a sunny day 🙂

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