Flower Diaries, Felt Mice & Messages on Rocks

Since the girls planted their little greenhouses yesterday, they’ve been keeping a close eye on them for any perceptible changes 🙂 They got a little diary with the kit so they can note down changes to their plants. They’re also eager to water them every five minutes which I’m trying to intercept so their plants don’t meet the same fate as most of mine 🙂

My daughter used the crate they’ve claimed as a net for paper football in the garden. She just flicked the ball into it with her fingers and it occupied her for a few minutes while I did school work with my other daughter.

We also got out the tuff tray and paints to make some cardboard bugs. It was an activity suggested by my daughter’s nursery, so we cut up some egg cartons and made caterpillars, ladybirds and spiders. After they had dried, we added pipe cleaner legs, googly eyes and pom poms to decorate them. My daughter is fascinated by insects at the moment (as long as a bee or big spider doesn’t come her way.)

We got some parcels in the post and it was like Christmas had come early 🙂 I haven’t been able to get flour in a couple of weeks, so I ordered a bag online, but didn’t realise the bag would be half the size of me 🙂 It seems that my baking obsession is going to continue 🙂

Just as I was having a “what are we going to do now?” moment, a package arrived with a toy each for the girls from my parents 🙂 Those kept them occupied for a long time. I wish my kids would play with their toys more often, and it was nice to see them having imaginary play time together 🙂

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Today, we did some rock painting, as it had been suggested for kindness week by my daughter’s school. They used acrylic paints to paint pictures on one side and permanent markers to write little uplifting messages on the other side. The plan was to hide them for someone to find the next time we go out for a walk, but my daughter wrote “I love you” on hers, which I thought might make the person who finds it uneasy 😀 Afterwards, they started to paint some shells we had from ages ago. The flat broken shells actually made a good painting surface and I like to find other uses for things that are on their way out 🙂

We put together a new den, brought out the paddling pool and the girls’ bubble guns and I took some time to notice what has bloomed in the garden 🙂 My lillies I planted last year seem to be thriving, even though they haven’t flowered yet. There is some jasmine and the fuschia is making an appearance again 🙂 The fact we are spending every day in the garden means I notice the slight changes I ordinarily would have missed. There are definitely positivies to being less busy.

We made the second project from the girls’ Toucan boxes: felt mice. They were easy to assemble and the girls made a couple each. I like the fact they include a magazine of activities in the boxes too, so it keeps them entertained for a long time. (Although my kids’ version of a long time is a short time to anyone else measuring time.)

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My neighbour kindly gave us her recipe for spiced buns. They are delicious and we devour them when she makes them, but ours didn’t work out the same. Sometimes I think the results of baking are more to do with the hands that make them than following the recipe 🙂 We might just have to until the next time she makes them 🙂

 

Home Spas, Fork Cookies & Thoughtful Flowers

This week, my daughter’s school suggested making sea creatures, so the girls got our their junk box and came up with their own ideas 🙂 One made a turtle and the other made a seahorse. I like watching my kids coming up with their own methods to make things 🙂 There never seems to be any hesitancy or uncertainty about what they’re going to make 🙂

We did a photography video on the afternoon club. The girls experimented with taking photos and changing the lighting. I like watching these videos with them because I learn things from them too 🙂

A while ago, we had some fruit and vegetables delivered to our house and for some reason, the crate they came in has become a favourite toy 🙂 The girls just helped themselves to it and it has been used as a tray for pretend food, a table for their den, a cot for teddies and a bed for them too! I always find the girls play most with something that you spent no money on and that wasn’t even intended for play 🙂

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The girls wanted to use my foot spa, so I set up a “spa” in the kitchen with a nail bar, a chill-out mat and some meditation music in the background. I painted the girls’ nails and they took it in turns using the bubbles and massage settings for their feet 🙂

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Last night, I remembered how much I love sitting in just candlelight. I lit a few candles and sat in darkness watching them flickering and collecting my thoughts 🙂 There is something restorative about it in the same way I benefit from walks by the sea (which we obviously can’t do at the minute.)

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Today I was in a cooking mood, so I tried a new recipe that produces two loaves of bread. The recipe was from Dining on a Dime and worked out really soft in the centre with a crisp crust (although I found the suggestion to use greaseproof paper resulted in it attaching to the loaf like it was superglued to it (so next time, I’ll leave that step out :))

The girls and I looked at their craft inspiration book for kids. It’s the best 50p I’ve ever spent 🙂 There was a section about puppets, so we made some paper ones we called jelly babies with rings made out of paper to attach them to their fingers. We also made some (literal) hand puppets by drawing on the palms of their hands (much to my daughter’s delight.) She draws on herself often, but it isn’t usually encouraged by me.

I made some smoothies and we set up a clothes shop for the girls in the living room. It was only when I started laying out their dress-up dresses that I realised how many they own. Sometimes I find that sorting through toys kills any temptation to buy more since we always find things we had forgotten about 🙂 If we don’t have something we improvise (for example, using bells from their musical instruments as a shop bell :))

We made some easy fork biscuits. They only had three ingredients and were so simple to make. The kids were more interested in licking the bowl than making fork imprints on the cookies prior to baking 🙂

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We also got out their water beads kit and made some ducks. I always think these activities are going to take half an hour and when I look at the clock, five minutes have passed and we are finished 🙂

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I found a recipe in a magazine for a natural bath soak, so I made some using oats, lavender oil and coconut oil. I put it in the girls’ bath in hopes of making them sleepy before bed 🙂 You can store some in a jar and make enough for several uses. I found the process of making it therapeutic too, since you have to melt the coconut oil slowly using a bain marie and the scent of lavender instantly makes me feel relaxed 🙂

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Thankfully, the weather was good today so the girls enjoyed den building and paddling outside. My daughter brought me a few little flowers and it made me realise, even if a kid hands you some flowers you know are weeds, it’s so sweet that they want to collect them for you and give you a present 🙂 That made them more beautiful to me than any shop-bought bouquet.

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Cheerfully Cheap Days with Children

I’ve been saving money for a trip we are going on early next year, so I’ve been trying to take advantage of every free activity we can find. Sometimes it’s easy to fill days with costly activities with kids, especially if it’s cold or the rain puts limits on the what you can do. I try to regularly check local papers, NI for kids and Facebook for upcoming events. If you plan them out and think about ways around extra costs, it’s easy to avoid unnecessary spending. Here are a few examples of what we have been doing recently.

I took my kids to a lantern workshop, where they made lanterns in a local cinema for a nearby parade. Correction: I made two lanterns while they ran wild and climbed on other kids. The idea was nicer than the execution of it but I still found it strangely therapeutic sticking tissue paper to willow. We had to book it in advance, but it didn’t cost anything and the girls will enjoy walking with their lanterns and seeing the fireworks.

I’ve started taking the girls to the busiest park in the area. Now the temperature is dropping, it seems that people are put off doing outdoor activities with their kids. But if you get wrapped up, sometimes I think the cool air is more refreshing and the wind wipes your worries away. I brought a flask of hot chocolate with us to keep everyone warm and kept walking so I didn’t notice the cold 🙂

I took the girls to a twilight market at a farm. It was hard to find, but the tents that were set up in the dark helped to awaken my Christmas spirit. It was deathly cold, but the exhibitors prices were great and it’s hard to feel unhappy when you’re looking at coloured, twinkling lights. The girls found some unusual crocheted hats for ten pounds and less and I picked up a couple of handmade Christmas presents. I also bought a head sculpture from an artist called Chronic Crafts. They are really unique and cute and I want to own the whole collection. I like small scale events like that too because they feel more personal and you get talking to people you wouldn’t have the chance to interact with at busier markets. There was a stall with light up fairies in jars and fairy houses that made the place look cheerful and festive. My kids are like magpies and love a bargain as much as I do, so they enjoyed the lucky dip and picked out a couple of small items each.

On Saturdays, we have started going to the minors’ club at a local cinema. They have a free screening on Saturdays for kids and an optional workshop for an extra three pounds. We saw 101 Dalmatians and Homeward Bound recently. The films are a good length for kids, with no trailers and the snacks are inexpensive/you can bring your own. I think having a quiet coffee in the cinema is my new favourite thing to do on what would typically have been a frantic Saturday.

I’m going to keep looking out for local events that we can enjoy without paying extortionate prices. I think Christmas can be extra costly now because it has become such a commercial event, but if you’re creative and look out for smaller events that aren’t as well advertised, it is easy to find things to do that don’t eat up your whole Christmas budget.

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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 live a more frugal life that doesn’t suck

20 Tips for a More Frugal Life that doesn’t Suck.

Here are some simple tips to help you lead a more frugal life with fewer money worries and unnecessary expenses (without depriving yourself of everything enjoyable.)

1. Buy house plants instead of freshly cut flowers that will wilt after a few days. Although, if you’re like me it’ll be a miracle if the plants outlive the flowers.

2. Buy your kids’ toys second hand. My kids’ favourite toy is a dolls house I bought in a charity shop for £40 including dolls and furniture.

3. If you want to go out for lunch, go for picnic using items you already have in your house instead. Bring fresh coffee or hot chocolate in a flask.

4. Stop drinking fizzy drinks all the time. I always see people carrying around bottles of fizzy drinks, everywhere they go. Try and save them for treats and bring a reusable water bottle instead. Add cucumber, lemon or blueberries to ice cold water to make it more interesting.

5. Stop making going to shopping centres an outing. Go to a museum, a nature reserve, the library, a new park, or a friend’s house instead. You’ll feel like you have spent your time in a much more valuable way.

6. Buy own-brand cereals; most of them taste the same and are so much cheaper.

7. Replace half of the TV you watch with reading, going for a walk or making something. It will make you feel more satisfied and energised.

8. Only buy books you can’t order at the library/read as ebooks for free.

9. Compare cinema ticket prices before booking a ticket. Save it for films you are dying to see so it feels like a treat. Get a discount card if they have one, to get cheaper tickets, popcorn or drinks.

10. Stop feeling pressured to keep up with others. Who cares if their kid has more stuff than yours? They probably just feel overwhelmed by it all and are already learning to be materialistic.

11. Don’t make over-complicated meals with a huge variety of ingredients that go to waste because they are only used in one meal. Simplify your life in whatever ways you can.

12. Learn basic sewing skills so you can fix clothes rather than throwing them out/ make friends with someone who sews 🙂

13. Check in newspapers for free local events. You might find a one-off event you would have missed otherwise.

14. Exchange magazines with friends so you each only have to buy one but still get to read a variety.

15. Get rid of any TV channels you are paying for but never use. Save the extra money towards something you really want instead.

16. Start buying value range long grain rice. It is less than 50p and is really versatile. You can easily make sticky rice and I have also used it in risottos and rice pudding.

17. If you are going to eat out, have one course and have dessert or coffees at home or at a friend’s house after.

18. Instead of having wardrobes that are specific to each season, make a wardrobe that can be used year-round, by adding layers in Winter and taking them away in Summer. It saves you having to find storage space too.

19. Stop drinking juice like it is coming out of a tap; the goodness of the fruit is cancelled out by the sugar content anyway. Buy different kinds of tea instead: it will last longer and give you more variety.

20. Don’t deprive yourself of everything you want just to save money; you will only end up splurging at intervals instead. Find cheaper alternatives that still make you feel like you are treating yourself, without the financial fallout 🙂

Hope these tips give you some ideas to help you to have a more frugal way of life with less stress 🙂

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Cheap, Easy Ways to Feel More Positive

20 Easy Ways to Feel More Positive About Life

I always find when I’m feeling negative that if I physically create something positive it shifts my mindset. Over-thinking can leave you feeling incapacitated, but if you can take some sort of small, positive action it helps you to quiet your worries.

Here are a few ideas of things to do to feel more positive:

  • Clear things out. Throwing things out makes you feel like you’re getting rid of the crap that’s in your head too. Having less visible clutter makes you feel more at peace  (which is why mine is mostly shoved into cupboards. Out of sight, out of mind, at least until it falls on my head.) Bagging up items to give to charity is a good form of distraction too.
  • Buy a notebook with a cheerful cover or caption on it. Get a new pen and start a journal with a huge to-do list of only pleasant things. (No boring or dreaded reminders allowed.)
  • Plan a nearby holiday. It could be camping, staying in a cheap B&B in a town you don’t know well or visiting a friend. Give yourself a budget  and plan for a few months away. It feels more attainable than a big summer holiday overseas.
  • Get supplies for a new project. Learn how to make jewellery, learn a new language, start painting. Get supplies in the pound shop or discount book shops.
  • Make a calendar just to pencil in books you want to read each month/week, or in my case, year.
  • Make fudge and when you’re finished eat all of it 🙂
  • Make a gift basket or hamper for someone you know.
  • Empty your wardrobe and put everything back in new outfit combinations.
  • Buy writing icing, sparkly sprinkles and confetti and decorate buns or a cake in a really extravagant way.
  • Make mood playlists. “Hyped up mood/chilled out mood/happy mood/get me out of this grumpy mood bloody quickly” music.
  • Write someone you usually text a handwritten letter.
  • Change a room around. Add small decorations or move furniture around to give it a new feel.
  • Sit in a dark room filled with candles and enjoy silence. If you don’t have a fireplace listen to videos online of the sound of fire crackling.
  • Have a hot shower with your favourite scent of shower gel. It’s good to have one to wake you up and one to put you to sleep. At the minute, mine are a lemon and chilli one and a marshmallow one.
  • Put up fairy lights for no reason.
  • Make cocktails and appetisers just for yourself.
  • Go back to paper reading. Have a magazine-reading marathon.
  • Have a picnic somewhere tranquil where all you can hear is water, leaves rustling or birds.
  • I read in one of my kids’ books that if you’re worried you should draw lots of clouds to help your worries float away. I wonder if thirty is too old for this type of thing? I imagine it to be quite relaxing.
  • Get new sheets, spray them with lavender and have a restorative sleep (if you have kids, obviously skip step three.)

What do you like to do when you’re having a bad day?