Fresh Air, Dream Catchers & Easter Salt Dough

Yesterday morning, I had the luxury of a lie-in (almost – until after 7.30am :)) Our pace of life is changing and I can feel the girls adapting to this new way of living. I decided not to rush the day. There was no reason to hurry to get ready, to rush my morning coffee or to not sit and have some quiet time to read. I like the fact that there are no deadlines for anything.

We did some yoga, listened to Jimi Hendrix and played tag in the living room to burn off the girls’ excess energy. They spent a while making mud pies in the garden. I made a little table for them to “cook” at out of an overturned concrete plant pot. At least now I might be able to have a cup of coffee outside without straggly bits of soil floating to the surface πŸ™‚

We worked on a list of needs and wants from my daughter’s school and I adapted it for my younger daughter so she could join in. She made a list with pictures while my older daughter wrote the words. Then I asked her to cut out pictures from a catalogue that had come through the letterbox. She spent some time cutting out furniture, ornaments, etc to make her own room scenes. I thought she could mix them up and create her own pictures of rooms on a piece of paper (like interior decorating for four year olds :)) She’s happy any time she’s offered a pair of scissors, so it kept her busy while I finished schoolwork with my older daughter. Then, they had some free play time. The last few days have felt very unstructured, and it’s strange to think that that is encouraged now, after life being so busy the last few years, with so much emphasis on achievement.

We had lunch and then spent time together in the garden; just feeling fresh air on my face and the warmth of the sun is enough to lift me out of a low mood πŸ™‚ I had some tumeric chai and we talked to family on Facetime. The girls continued making soil desserts and I tried to turn a blind eye to the marshland that our garden has become. It keeps them busy and happy for so long, it might be worth the mess. We went for a walk nearby and I could already see changes to the trees and more colour than the last time we were on the Greenway πŸ™‚

Afterwards, we made some unicorn biscuits together. It came in a box so we just had to add butter to make the dough. The girls enjoyed icing them with melted chocolate and rainbrow drops. I don’t usually try any of the kids’ boxed buns, but I had one with a cup of tea and it was like shortbread with extra toppings πŸ™‚


We spent the evening eating homemade pizza while we watched a film and I gave the girls some ice-cream with a swirled chocolate spread on it. It made a good sundae sauce πŸ™‚

This morning, we completed some more of the activities from my daughter’s toucan box. The girls used watercolours to paint a dream catcher and a headband. They seemed to instinctively know how to attach the feathers and beads. Maybe it’s their Native American heritage πŸ™‚

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After getting ready, we went for a walk to clear our heads. I was started to feel cooped up in the house and the girls had far too much energy to run off in the garden. It was quiet while we were out and we did some rainbow-spotting in house windows. The girls talked about painting rainbows on different materials. They had spotted some on a nearby fence painted on fabric, thick cardboard and made out of paper plates. I like seeing everyone’s creativity coming out during times like this πŸ™‚

After lunch, I made some salt dough. I used rock salt in it, instead of using up all our regular salt and it works fine – it just gives the salt dough more texture. I’ve seen a lot of posts about baking it in the oven for hours on end, but the recipe I use only takes about twenty minutes in the oven and we have had no problems with it setting. I have some Easter cookie cutters, so the girls cut out bunnies, chicks and Easter eggs. After hardening them in the oven, the girls enjoyed painting them and adding glitter.

If I’m honest, I’m struggling this weekend, but I’m finding that the small things uplift me – cherry blossom on our walk, seeing colour appearing in the greenery, a comforting cup of tea and hearing the sound of another adult’s voice on the phone πŸ™‚ I plan to go easy on myself tonight. I have been in productive mode for a while and have been busily doing lots of activities with the girls, and now it feels like it’s a time for rest, surrendering to a bit more TV time and taking the time to give myself as many treats as the kids get πŸ™‚

 

Chai Tea, Champagne Candles & Nature Collages

We have had a slow start to our day the last couple of days. Yesterday morning, my daughter requested pancakes for breakfast and I indulged her since we have all the time we want now for making pancakes πŸ™‚ I had a long cup of coffee, read a bit of a book and had some pancakes with nutella before we got ready. We spent some time in the garden, and I gave the girls plant pots to collect whatever items they could find for a nature collage. We have no craft card, so I just cut up a cereal box and that gave the picture enough structure to hold the bits and pieces they founnd πŸ™‚ There aren’t many living plants in our garden, so it consisted mostly of twigs, discoloured leaves and dirt but they liked the sensory process of making them πŸ™‚ Afterwards, we talked about taking rubbings and collected items with different surfaces and textures, put them underneath paper and I gave my daughter crayons and pastels to rub over the top so the pattern would transfer to paper.

Afterwards, we went back outside to the garden. I had some chai tea with soya milk. I usually drink tea black, but I find chai tea with milk and honey a comforting thing to drink. When it reaches the stage of the day when I’ve had my fill of coffee and I’m feeling a bit drained, it picks me up. The girls continued making mud pies and leaf soup in our old barbecue. I’m thinking of converting a large plant pot into a table for them so the garden table isn’t covered in soil every time I sit down πŸ™‚ The girls requested their spray bottles again so they could draw on the fence with chalk and wash it off. It’s strange how something so simple can occupy them for hours πŸ™‚ The only downside is they start squirting it into their mouths or taking the lid off and taking sips from it :/ It’s a good job there was no cleaning solution in it beforehand πŸ™‚

I have a candle I had been saving for a time I needed it, and I decided yesterday afternoon was that time πŸ™‚ It’s from a company I love called the Reading Room Candle Company and smells like champagne and strawberries πŸ™‚ I liked the title too, since I love F Scott Fitzgerald πŸ™‚ I listened to Angel Olsen and took some alone time to write and unwind.

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For dinner, I used up the last couple of chicken drumsticks we had and made a big batch of mashed potato so I could use the rest to make potato bread again today πŸ™‚ I improvised and made stuffing using some homemade bread we had left. I didn’t want to use up our last onion so I made it with an egg, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme. I dotted knobs of butter on top before putting it in the oven and it might be the best stuffing I’ve made. My daughter seemed to appreciate the fact the recipe was simple and contained nothing resembling a vegetable too πŸ™‚

My tomato plant is sprouting on the windowsill and I’m wondering if it’s because I have more time to remember to water it at regular intervals πŸ™‚ I’m hopeful it will yield tomatoes at some stage but I’m not getting ahead of myself or my gardening skills πŸ™‚ My coriander seems to be doing well too and I used it in a dish for the first time a couple of days ago πŸ™‚

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We got a lovely surprise in the post of Easter eggs from my parents πŸ™‚ I doubt any of them will last until Easter but it’s good to know there is chocolate nearby now πŸ™‚

Today I tried a recipe my friend had sent me for pizza dough and just shaped it into a small loaf. It contains equal parts self raising flour and greek yogurt, and no other ingredients, and I was surprised by how bread-like it looked when it emerged from the oven. It only took about fifteen minutes to cook too πŸ™‚

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We ventured out for the first time in days to pick up some things from a local health shop. I got some new teas to try and a sourdough loaf, as well as replenishing our snacks. The girls are constantly asking me for snacks and one of them refuses to eat most things I bake, so it’s been a challenge stretching snacks πŸ™‚ I think I’m going to continue shopping at local shops when things return to normal. I prefer the pace of them to racing around a large supermarket, beating your way through crowds.

After having some garden and schoolwork time, my kids caught up on an activity from last week we hadn’t had time to do. It was to make a poster of how to look after a pet. The girls both chose a rabbit and I liked their attention to detail in creating the hutches and the rabbits’ meals πŸ™‚ We did some reading together and then I got some writing done while the girls watched TV. I tried the tumeric chai tea I bought at the shop, and am saving my bedtime one for tonight πŸ™‚

I used up the mashed potato and made more potato bread. They are so easy to make, I don’t know why I haven’t made it regularly before. I’m going to have to ration it this time since last time the girls ate fifteen bits of it in one day πŸ™‚ I used my easter egg cookie cutter to make them πŸ™‚ For dinner I made macaroni cheese for some comfort food with our new bread (which my daughter has named pie bread because I cut it like pie :)) Now I’m planning on spending the evening inactive in front of a book or magazine with a constant supply of tea πŸ™‚

Posting Letters and Guided Drawings

I needed a gentler sort of day today. I feel like we have been cramming a lot into our days, and although it works well as a distraction, the exhaustion has hit me a bit. This morning, after having some breakfast, coffee and managing to squeeze in a few hundred words of writing, I put on a live PE video for the girls. The idea was to tire them out in the living room, but they showed little interest in it and ended up rollerskating instead. I guess it is just trial and error – figuring out what will interest them and what won’t. To be fair to them, PE was never my forte either πŸ™‚

Afterwards, the girls decorated the envelopes for the cards they had made for their friends. We went for a quick walk to a nearby postbox so they could post them. It seemed a bit silly, since one of the friends lives within walking distance of our house, but I think the postbox added an element of novelty to it for the girls πŸ™‚ I remembered writing letters to penpals as a kid. I had one in England and another in a different school to mine. We wrote each other regular letters and finally met in person for a shared school trip. That’s a fond memory, and I think it’s good for the girls to experience some form of that in the modern world πŸ™‚

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I did some schoolwork with my daughter when we got back while my other daughter completed some of her magazine. I’ve noticed that they have been sitting for longer when I refer to what we are doing as “school.” Although, they still tired of it after an hour and asked for TV πŸ™‚

We went for a short drive to the roadside honesty box again πŸ™‚ They seem to have expanded it now – maybe they are getting a lot of custom. It’s a good way to buy what you need without having any human contact πŸ™‚ I got some huge kiwis, a loaf of homemade whiskey bread (which I’m curious to try) and a jar of homemade bolognese sauce.

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After we got home, we had some lunch and then the girls watched a recording of a live art show. The fact that a little girl was involved in it seemed to hold their interest πŸ™‚ They learned how to draw unicorns and Batman and were completely engrossed in it πŸ™‚ I hadn’t used guided drawing before with them, but I will again πŸ™‚

I photocopied a page of my daughter’s magazine so they could both make matching letter holders. They just had to paste them to cardboard, cut them out and paint the legs to hold them together. I don’t know if they have any letters to put in them, but I might dig out some birthday cards etc for them to put inside πŸ™‚ For once I was glad of the junk box we have that is filled with cardboard and empties itself every time I open the cupboard πŸ™‚

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Finally, the girls had a play in the garden and I tackled some of the housework. I’m noticing our piles of clutter are worsening since we’ve been in the house and I think we might have to build an extension to contain them all in by the time September comes πŸ™‚ I’m taking some time to myself to write, drink tea and let my children entertain themselves. I feel the need to just sit and “be” for a change and to allow myself some time for creative output too.

Trams, Snow Cones & Salt Painting

If the weather continues to be as wild as it is tonight, I foresee another blog post of activities for children tomorrow πŸ™‚
My daughter finished school early yesterday, so went went to the Ulster Transport museum. It was the quietest I’ve seen it and my kids enjoyed having free rein to climb on the trains, run down the slopes and lust after all the clutter in the gift shop (which we managed not to get.)
We have membership of the Folk and Transport Museum, which costs Β£60 for the year. I didn’t think that was bad, considering the fact that you could easily spend that on a couple of visits. The girls love seeing the buses and trams and pretending to drive the trains. My favourite part is looking at the 1960’s living room and then hearing the girls liken it to our decor πŸ˜€ It was a free visit for us and we had a snack outdoors at the picnic tables. It was blustery, but it’s a good-sized green space for kids to run around and play hide and seek in πŸ™‚ Tea and creme eggs were more satisfying than anything we could have bought in the cafe anyway. I think some exposure to the elements, even in Winter, does your mind good. Returning to the museum reminds me of being a kid and having no phone access. It feels like a reminder of simpler times and a place to switch off from the demands of living a life half-online.

Today, I took the girls to a free screening of Annie at the cinema. I had never seen it before. One of my kids was enthralled by it, the other one fell asleep πŸ˜€ For a kids’ musical, it could have been worse πŸ™‚

Afterwards, I took the girls to Morelli’s to have their first snow cones πŸ™‚ I had promised my daughter one a while ago. They loved picking their own syrup and drinking the liquid through a straw. They ended up being incredibly messy, but everything my kids do is messy anyway πŸ˜€ Β I had coffee and tried their warm apple pie. It came with ice-cream and was adorned with lots of chocolate extras that the girls pinched πŸ™‚ It might be my new favourite ice-cream/coffee shop. The atmosphere is really relaxed, it is good value and the staff are so welcoming.

When we got home, I decided to try salt painting with the girls. We had never done it before, so it was a bit of an experiment. You just get some paper and drizzle PVA glue on it in whatever pattern you like. Then, you sprinkle salt over the glue. The girls loved that part and were very thorough about making sure every bit of glue was covered πŸ˜€ Then they just painted over it with poster paints. You just gently dab the paint onto the salty glue πŸ™‚ The salt makes it spread out and creates a cool effect. It’s more of an enjoy-the-process type of painting than one to frame. Once it dries out, the effect wears off. But it kept the girls entertained for an hour, which is rare for them πŸ™‚ Afterwards, we did some of what they call β€œSplat Paintings.β€œ To avoid getting it all over the walls, you can get kids to dip the brush in paint, hold it horizontally over the page and tap the brush handle to splash paint on the paper rather than shaking it all over the house πŸ™‚ If you layer different colours and keep separate brushes for each one, it looks really pretty when you’re finished.

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i don’t know what we will do tomorrow yet, but I’m mentally preparing myself for some creative projects indoors to minimise the house wrecking/shouting if this storm decides to stick around πŸ™‚

A Weekend of Watching the World

This post is a bit of a latecomer, but I’ve been editing a book this week and it’s taking up most of my time. I spent most of last weekend absorbing what was happening around us, in a bit of a daze. Sometimes I just need a break from running around and being busy to give new ideas a chance to grow.

My daughter is really interested in making clay creatures at the minute. We found some air-drying clay in the pound shop and she’s been creating things with it. I also got some plasticine without giving her any instruction and she cut it into thin strips and made a rainbow and mermaid using that technique. I like seeing what ideas kids come up with without adult interference. I also picked up a kids’ book from the library about growing things and learning to cook. The gardening basics are suitable for me, considering my lack of luck with keeping plants alive πŸ™‚ I’ve also been planning on teaching my kids some basic recipes. We have always baked together but I like the idea of them learning how to cook simple things without much help.

My older daughter had an event at her school one evening. so I used it as an opportunity to take my younger one on an ice cream date. She ordered a Peppa pig milkshake and we sat at the window, watching the activity in the street. It made me realise we don’t go out together much after dinner time because she was intrigued by people out and about after dark πŸ™‚ I think it’s important teaching kids how to sit in contemplation and wonder about things. They don’t get enough down time anymore, and observing the world or sitting with nothing to fill the void teaches them how to handle boredom and to come up with creative ideas of their own. We sat for a long time and I had some ice cream mixed with white chocolate πŸ™‚ The shop has recently come under new management and they have snow cones, which I don’t think I’ve seen before in Northern Ireland.

On Sunday, we went to the Chinese New Year celebrations at the Ulster Hall. The hall was decorated with parasols and lanterns and bunting. The event only cost Β£2 per person and it lasted for two hours and was composed of dances from all different cultures. As well as Chinese dragons, drumming, martial arts, gentle traditional dance with parasols and ethereal costumes with sleeves longer than wedding dress trains, there was break dancing, a man who juggled hats and caught them with his head and Irish and Ulster Scots dancing (I didn’t know that was a thing.) I was surprised how long the girls sat still for, rapt. I think the live music and dancing held their attention far longer than a film or dialogue-based show would. I found that it helped me switch off and forced us to be in the moment, which was needed after the hectic week we’d had. The girls think everything is an adventure when we take the Glider to get there anyway.

Afterwards, I just made fakeaway pizza for our family. I’ve noticed that if I’m preoccupied or my mind is too much elsewhere, kneading dough helps to slow everything down. My kids always want to help too. I guess it’s like play doh on a grand scale. This weekend I’m considering planning some nature-related outings, to allow us some headspace and time to absorb more ideas from the world around us, and just to get some mental rest since physical rest with kids is never an option πŸ™‚

An Old Fashioned Christmas Outing

Today, I took the girls on an impromptu day out, planning on just having a walk around the Folk Park. It turned out to be the best Christmas event I’ve ever been to. We are members of the Ulster Folk Museum, so the day out was free. We arrived at the park and were greeted by an old fashioned Santa with a bell and a green suit. He had a long chat with my kids about Christmas time and what he β€œremembered” from last year. We had been given a page with a Christmas hunt and had to find the hidden clues to win a prize. As we started walking into the little town part of the folk park, I thought it had started snowing and the girls got really excited. It turned out there were bubble machines placed around the town that produced realistic snow. It was a misty day and the whole scene reminded me of a Dickensian Christmas.

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Usually when we go to the folk park, it isn’t in full operation. There usually seem to be parts closed off or unoccupied, but everything was open today and staffed, and there was hardly anyone there πŸ™‚ that’s my favourite kind of Christmas outing – one without hoards of people πŸ™‚

I think they mentioned that there had been a candlelight carol service on the previous night, and maybe more people had attended that, so it was the best time to go πŸ™‚

The pub was open and there was live Irish music being played and a choice between alcoholic and non alcoholic mulled wine. My kids had some of the punch and loved it. We sat at an old wobbly table and listened to the music and chatted. I’ve been becoming increasingly bothered by the consumerism of Christmas time. I don’t know if it’s because it starts earlier now and the build-up is heightens it, but I’ve just noticed the madness and poor manners have been worse this year than any I remember. (Maybe I’ve just blotted it out.) I loved the fact that today ran counter to that and I didn’t have to subscribe to the suffering for a little celebration.Β 

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We went a cottage where a lady had made vegetable soup on the stove and served some to us. I was surprised how quickly it vanished from the girls’ cups. Maybe I need to get a stranger to cook for us to get them to eat πŸ™‚ It was already dark inside and the fire and candlelight were cosy.
Afterwards, we went to the old schoolhouse where the girls got to write Santa letters. A man in costume who worked there helped them stamp the letters to be posted at the post office later on our walk.

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There is a thatched cottage with gardens that are beautiful in the summer. We heard music coming from inside and when we went in there was a group of musicians playing. They played Jingle Bells just for the kids and were making a wooden toy dance. The guitarist had a willow, woven star hanging from her guitar and they were dressed in fancy clothes. A lady had been cooking in a pot over the fire and we got to try a steamed Christmas cake filled with currants. It reminded me of a boiled cake my granny used to make.

In the printers, a man showed us the process of printing Christmas cards with a printing press. He also made bookmarks and pictures. He talked to us about the differences between now and then and said that Christmas cards used to be made of paper and folded twice to make them stand upright. He let the girls make simple cards of their own with traditional stampers.

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We walked to the post office and the girls posted their Santa letters in the post box. Next door, in the house adjoining the bank, there was a lady making chutney and she offered some crackers and apple chutney to the girls. She told us about the two kinds of ovens they had, to bake and to roast in and talked me through how to make your own Christmas pudding. She had made her own pudding and cakes, decorated with holly.

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The girls danced in the pretend snow again and then we passed some people roasting chestnuts. My daughter loved pulling the outer shell off and trying them. We called into the picture house where they were showing silent movie clips about preparations for Christmas. It made me realise how much calmer things seemed then and today gave me a glimpse of it. I think modern society has ruined the traditions of Christmas by going overboard and it just makes people feel rushed and angry. When I looked around the streets, none of the houses had elaborate decorations. The smaller houses had handmade wreaths and pillar candles and the wealthier homes had simple Christmas trees with a few decorations on them. As I was noticing the small signals of Christmas, I also noticed how much simpler life was with fewer possessions. We have so many and I get overwhelmed by the clutter everywhere. The experience has put me in the mood to further simplify life and made me realise how excessive it all is. Happiness has nothing to do with things; in fact I think the presence of too many things and the pressure to buy them makes us a bit miserable.

The day ended with the girls getting a few chocolate coins for their efforts in the Christmas tree hunt and I’ve never seen them happier.

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