Blueberry Scones, Bright Boats & Hotdogs on a Hill

Since we got back from Rostrevor, I’ve been focusing on doing free and simple activities with the girls. While we were away, I got some incense that is meant to smell like a turf fire and I’ve been enjoying burning it and pretending we have an open fire πŸ™‚ I ordered sewing machines for the girls a couple of months ago. They loved mine from when I was little but just had to pretend with it since the needle wasn’t replacable. They like the novelty of being able to do a simple stitch on the new ones they got πŸ™‚

I made some scones that turned into giant scones as they expanded in the oven πŸ™‚ They were vegan blueberry ones. Instead of dairy, the recipe used coconut milk and came out surprisingly well. They stayed fresh for days longer than scones usually seem to as well. I used the remaining coconut milk in smoothies and it made a huge difference to the flavour πŸ™‚ Coconut milk might be my new favourite ingredient πŸ™‚

5CC6CB11-85D3-47DC-AD42-3493843FDC6F

We have been spending a lot of time outdoors and I renewed our Castle Espie membership. It’s only six pounds a month and we go every week. You can feed the birds again and I love looking at the views over Strangford Lough while the girls enjoy the wildwood playground. Afterwards, we stopped at a little causeway that goes out to an island. We also found a good climbing tree and the girls collected some stones from the beach. It’s lucky we didn’t get caught on the island because the tide was coming in and apparently when it does it covers the walkway πŸ™‚ The girls were excited about the number of butterflies fluttering about. They must be drawn to the flowers there. We liked it so much we made a second trip there πŸ™‚ The island was filled with blackberry bushes and we picked and ate some πŸ™‚ The girls wanted to fill an empty strawberry punnet we had with them but we left some for other visitors πŸ™‚

I’ve developed an obsession with visiting climbs with beautiful views at the top. We went to Scrabo Tower on a really clear day and could see the little island we’d visited from it and lots of other beaches. The girls loved climbing on the rocks and the steps to the tower. I’m always amazed by how long a plain rock can keep them occupied for πŸ™‚

I’ve started making my own iced coffee with soya or oat milk. It’s really refreshing and easy to make. I didn’t think I could recreate the coffee shop ones but with syrup and lots of ice it tastes exactly the same πŸ™‚

We went to the top of the Cavehill a day (although I cheated and parked at the upper car park!) It took about half an hour to walk to the top from there with the girls. The views were beautiful and I was surprised to see so many cows grazing along the way. The ground was purple with heather and it was one of the prettiest places I have ever walked to. I like the fact you can see the whole city from it too but can’t hear anything. We had hotdogs on the hill which was the highlight for the girls. I just put precooked sausages in a flask and brought hot dog buns and ketchup. As an easy alternative I also saw a post online where someone had put frankfurters in a flask of boiled water and they are heated by the time you serve your picnic πŸ™‚

17769C48-507F-45A6-8436-0B3484A8FC0C

One day, we spent all day at the beach while the sun was still here. We went in the morning and the girls climbed on the rocks and looked for crabs in rock pools. There is a natural paddling pool built into the rocks that the girls love to play in. The day was mostly sunny and warm but the sea was rough. The girls enjoyed jumping over the waves. I joined them even though it resulted in numb feet πŸ™‚ They built and decorated sandcastles and we had a picnic. Afterwards we went for a long walk along the shore. My daughter drew hearts in the sand and they splashed in a channel that had formed. We walked to the caravan park. I usually find that it’s easier to get my kids to walk further if there is a clear aim at the end of it; even if it’s just to see a landmark before you turn back. We got ice-cream from Mauds and found a picnic table at the other end of the beach. The pirate ship playground had reopened, which the girls were pleased about, so they played there while I watched the scenery. There is something about looking at a collection of different brightly coloured boats that makes me feel like I’m on a quaint holiday. I have recently run out of steam for carrying out involved craft projects, so I’m finding spending time in nature and letting the day unfold as it decides to do is the best thing for us πŸ™‚

6EE25507-9165-4ADD-88E1-E82FECA7E1EE

Sand Dunes, Baking Experiments & Cardboard Creations

After neglecting my blog for a little while, I realise how much we must have been doing since I last posted. It seems to be difficult to condense it all into one post πŸ™‚ We have been spending a lot of time at the seaside and making crafts and baking at home. I took the girls to a beach last week, early in the day, so it was at its quietest. They enjoyed walking on the boardwalk and over the sand dunes πŸ™‚ I love looking at the backdrop of mountains near Newcastle. The combination of sea and mountains is one of my favourite things πŸ™‚ The tide was out and had left lots of little puddles and channels for the girls to paddle and jump in, so they were easy to please πŸ™‚

At home, we used some of the girls’ nature finds to draw pictures from. We set up a table a bit like the one in the Ulster Museum art room πŸ™‚ We have the same chunky colouring pencils to draw with and they make it much more satisfying for some reason πŸ™‚

74CC25FA-19AC-431F-8845-79CA60A4453E

I also got out an encyclopedia for kids with pictures of sky scrapers in it. I cut up some leftover party straws and gave the girls glue and paper so they could recreate structures with them. One opted for the tallest building and the other made a miniature eiffel tower πŸ™‚

I wanted to try to make polenta cake. A friend of mine made some a long time ago and served it to us with lapsang souchong tea. I really liked the combination of the two flavours. So, we made an orange and blueberry cake using polenta instead of flour. It has a grainier texture but I liked it and it felt light compared to a stodgy cake.

We have season tickets for the farm, so we have been spending a lot of time there. The girls spotted the mice nibbling ice cream cones and wanted me to take pictures of it πŸ™‚ There are also some baby mice and piglets there now. We arrived just as a lady was about to feed apples to the pigs, so the girls got to feed them and it was funny watching them eating whole apples in one bite πŸ™‚ We got to pet chicks and bunnies and went on the barrel rides πŸ™‚ Afterwards, I treated the girls to a hotdog each for lunch πŸ™‚

I have been trying some healthy snack recipes – none of which can I get the girls to eat πŸ™‚ I made carrot cake balls, using carrots, nuts, coconut, etc. I thought they wouldn’t satisfy my craving for carrot cake, but they contained all the same flavours without being too heavy πŸ™‚ But the girls immediately detected the fact they were healthy and refused to eat them.

121A5E54-0C56-4CDF-A438-6FEF1E9F0A77

For their benefit (and for mine), we made some peanut butter and chocolate rice krispie buns. I can see why it is such a popular thing to bake with kids, because it skips ahead to their favourite parts (licking the bowl and sprinkles) without any of the measuring and mess (or agony for me.)

My daughter decided to make her own wands out of lolly sticks. She gave my other daughter a little craft chest filled with materials for her birthday. They have both used nearly all of it already πŸ™‚ I like the fact that they come up with their own ideas now and work away at them (even though it does result in them dragging the contents of the craft cupboard out onto the floor.)

We also made some little toilet tube horses. You have to fold them flat and cut the shape around the legs and head before folding them out again. The girls painted theirs with white and black spots, and when they were dry, we added heads cut out of cardboard and manes and tails made with embroidery thread. We also made feeding trays out of egg cartons and the girls painted water and food/made cardboard hay for them. They also made a stable out of an empty cupcake box, but they lost patience when they were halfway through painting it πŸ™‚ I cut half doors into it so they could put the horses inside and it has been the most popular toy of the week.

Finally, I gave the girls some squares cut out of empty cardboard boxes and they painted them bright colours. When they had dried, we collected nature scraps from the garden, like twigs, petals and dry leaves and they made little pictures with them. One made a little house and the other made a bug with antennae and pom pom eyes πŸ™‚

This week, we are on a nearby “holiday,” so we should have plenty of activities to share from it soon too πŸ™‚

 

Beach Tours, Wind Chimes & Wishing Trees

The girls and I have been doing tours of various beaches the last couple of weeks πŸ™‚ We picked a particularly changeable day, weatherwise, to go to one in County Down, but I liked the fact we got to experience a summer’s day and a stormy day at the beach all in one afternoon πŸ™‚ It started to rain, but we had brought raincoats, and I like watching the choppy sea anyway πŸ™‚ Everyone else fled so it felt like we had our own little private beach for a while πŸ™‚ The girls made sandcastles and decorated them with shells. One of my daughters loves collecting everything she finds at the beach and bringing it home, but I’m thinking of sneaking some of them back to the beach as her shell tin is overflowing now πŸ™‚

We chose another day that wasn’t sunny to visit the beach and did some rockpooling. We looked for crabs and other creatures in the pools. We only found some snails and pretty shells, but it still entertained the girls for a long time πŸ™‚ We skimmed stones on the still sea, which was a first for the girls, and for me πŸ™‚ There was a strange light the whole day that made the sky look like an all-day sunrise. We walked along the seafront and paddled in the water. Afterwards, we got some ice cream and sat overlooking the harbour and chatting πŸ™‚

We also went on a day out to Castle Espie. You can’t feed the birds at the moment, but the girls still enjoyed watching them and exploring. They did some rock climbing and ladybird spotting (which they have got into because my parents have a holly tree in their garden that all the ladybirds flock to :)) I spotted some thistles which remind me of my granny and I hadn’t noticed there before. We went to the wooded part to have a picnic and sat on a log πŸ™‚ We tried some den building (which I am not good at!) Afterwards, the girls suggested we build miniature dens for their dolls and that felt much more manageable πŸ™‚

They played music at the Pixiephone, climbed on toadstools and whispered their wishes to the wishing tree. My daughter told me she wished that I’d get a machine for my birthday that dispenses chocolate. (I wish that would happen too.) We had a look in the gift shop since the girls had some money to spend. I like looking at all the beautiful books and then putting them back when I see they are nearly twenty pounds each πŸ™‚ The girls got a little nature book each and have been interested in reading about the countryside and butterflies πŸ™‚ We sat in the sun and the girls had some sticks of rock while I had a coffee πŸ™‚ Since they had new things to look at, they sat at peace for a change πŸ™‚

I picked up some sticker mosaic kits for the girls this week. They are only 79p in Home Bargains. I might go back for some more since they kept them quiet for so long πŸ™‚

We made a craft I had found online. They are little natural decoration/chime type things πŸ™‚ You just find a stick and wrap embroidery thread around it until it is mostly covered. You add a loop to hang it from, so it sits either horizontally or vertically. At the end, we just took a piece of the thread and added a bell each and a couple of beads. You attach it and if you hang them up outside they sound like windchimes πŸ™‚

We also made a finger paints family tree. You just draw the outline of a tree, let your kids do fingerprint leaves all over it and then add family members to it πŸ™‚ Afterwards, the girls asked me to draw pictures for them to paint and colour in. I find that if I draw pictures for them myself, they tend to trace over them and spend longer colouring them than they do with colouring books.

It was a gloomy day, so we had some hot chocolate and marshmallows and painted some rocks we had collected at the beach too πŸ™‚ I let them use my acrylic paints for that and for some reason, they seem to think that is a real privilege πŸ˜€

 

Beach Days, Tie Dye & Face Paints

This weekend, I took the girls to the beach. I think that’s what I’ve missed most during lockdown: getting away to the sea and letting the girls build sandcastles πŸ™‚ They always seem happiest when they’re digging in sand, collecting water from the sea and jumping over waves, and I am too πŸ™‚

I ordered some face paints on eBay since the girls love getting their faces painted and won’t get the opportunity to get them done any time soon πŸ™‚ They were excited, even though my face painting isn’t up to the same standards πŸ˜€

The girls played hopscotch and we managed to get a glimpse of the garden before the stormy weather arrived πŸ™‚ My lilies are thriving and I didn’t remember having yellow and white ones last year, so that was a nice surprise πŸ™‚

CC069528-24D0-4557-9405-3F08A98173E3

We made some tie dye butterflies. The kit came with the girls’ Toucan boxes. You just draw patterns with felt tips in the centre of a coffee filter and then fold it into a cone, dipping it into water for 30 seconds. That makes the pen run and when they dry they look like tie dye πŸ™‚ Then, we just folded them and put them into wooden pegs. The girls decorated the pegs and we added pipe cleaners as antennae.

The girls also received watercolours with their box and practised mixing paints to make different colours. I thought it would be a short-lived activity since they’d done colour mixing before, but they were really interested in coming up with different shades and made pretty pictures that looks like decorating samples books πŸ™‚

I ordered a build a garden set for the girls. It might be my favourite one of their toys πŸ™‚ They spent ages constructing flowers and coming up with different combinations and shapes. We have been having a TV-free week, which has been good for the girls. I notice they have more time to get lost in an imaginary world without it being interrupted by the arrival of β€œTV time.” But I’ll also be glad of it when it returns so I can have some headspace to write too πŸ™‚

8179845B-FC92-47D2-9FBC-EC1DEB1A0880