Growing Lettuces and Cookie Improvisation

Today, we ventured out for a little walk around our neighbourhood first thing in the morning. We didn’t encounter anyone and it was so tranquil and felt like we’d stepped back in time. I’m doubting whether I should continue taking walks with the girls in light of everything that’s going on, even though weโ€™ve just been sticking to our own area and avoiding people. It was misty and the greenway looked like a scene from a gothic novel, like a winding driveway that disappears into fog. It cleared my head and tired the girls’ legs out, which made them much more amenable to the activities we did at home ๐Ÿ™‚

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When we got home, I made some coffee and got out paints for the girls to paint rainbows to stick up in our living room window. I had seen online that other children had been doing that to cheer up their neighbourhoods and as a scavenger hunt for other kids when they are out for a walk. My younger daughter dived head first into the painting, while the other spent a long time making precise lines with felt tips. I like the contrast between their attitudes towards art – one flings everything at the page and is finished in five minutes, the other’s attention to detail and patience is better than mine ๐Ÿ™‚ I liked the fact she also drew a rainbow dot frame for her picture ๐Ÿ™‚

Painting carried on for a long time and then I put on a live video for them to watch that was designed for kids. They were noticeably calmer compared with when we’d first woken up and they were doing somersaults on my bed ๐Ÿ™‚

We spent some time in the garden. The girls continued making soil and leaves meals in a disused barbecue we have ๐Ÿ™‚ They’ve moved it into their play house now and have been hosting pretend parties for us in the garden. I did some weeding while they played. I find that weeding with my bare hands really grounds me and helps me to calm any anxious thoughts I might be having. I’ve been attempting to grow some herbs on my kitchen windowsill and the lettuces were taking over, so I separated them out a little. I have no idea whether I’m doing it properly, so it is all guesswork and hoping for the best ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll be shocked if I ever successfully grow a plant from seed (or keep a potted plant alive for that matter.)

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We spoke to my parents on Facetime to wish each other a happy mother’s day and catch up on what we’d been doing in our respective houses. When I imagine families separated in the past, I realise how lucky we are to be able to still see the animated faces of our loved ones while we are in isolation.

We used up the rest of our flatbreads and hummous (which the girls are still refusing to eat – more for me :)) I made some lentil soup too. Afterwards, I decided to try to make flour from oats. I made some two-ingredient cookies with the girls. It’s a good way to use up overripe bananas, and you can add any additional extras you like. I added some chopped walnuts and sultanas. They tasted surprisingly good for cookies without sugar.

We sat down over cookies and tea and I got out some printer paper for the girls to make cards for friends. I couldn’t find any card, so we just folded the paper length-wise, and then brought the two ends together to make a card. Apparently people used to do that in the past, and they stand up perfectly when you do that. The girls had a great time, writing little notes to their friends and decorating them with sequins and stampers. I’m glad of my craft-hoarding problem during this time. I had found a pack of hundreds of sequins reduced to 50p in B&M a few weeks ago and we made a little home for them in an egg carton. It was a useful way to keep all the colours separate ๐Ÿ™‚

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I had booked to do a live class online for the girls, involving acting and dancing. It didn’t quite go to plan, but it was my first time using Zoom, and the girls still enjoyed it. They had to dance, mime and pull different faces in response to various imaginary flavours ๐Ÿ™‚ They took a while to come out of hiding, but by the end they were enjoying it and asked to do it again. I think they found the fact that the people in the class could see and hear us a little strange ๐Ÿ™‚ But it was worth doing.

I ordered the girls Toucan boxes after reading reviews about them. They send out two a month to your house and they contain craft/gardening packs based on your child’s age. I’m excited to see what comes in them, never mind the kids ๐Ÿ™‚

Apart from that, we just spent some more time in the garden. I find that doing that and connecting with nature, even in small ways, heals something in me. I noticed the most birdsong I have and it made me realise how much we miss behind the heavy noise of traffic. Tomorrow, I’m going to embark on a home-school plan, and I might need vast quantities of coffee to get moving in the morning ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

Play Doh Popcorn, Frog Friends & Bike Rides

This weekend unintentionally ended up being busy. Iโ€™d planned on having a slow weekend in the house, but I always forget that is unachievable without structured activities for my energetic kids!

We started off with some belated Pancake Tuesday celebrations (although I usually make pancakes at the weekend anyway :)) One of my kids loves them, the other loathes them. I find it hard to understand how anyone could dislike pancakes. When I used to live in Paris, my friends and I went to a place called โ€œBreakfast in America.โ€ I always think of it when I make pancakes and try to recreate their plate-sized ones. They also had blueberry-filled ones that I make sometimes.

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Afterwards, I decided to make some homemade play doh. I have a recipe that is so easy to make and you can keep it plain or add food colouring if you like. I had yellow and blue, so we made two colours and the girls enjoyed shaking glitter in at the end and kneading it. Iโ€™m always surprised by how long play doh keeps them occupied for. They literally played with it for hours. Cutting it up into tiny pieces with scissors and pretending theyโ€™re making popcorn is their favourite thing to do with it, along with baking cakes, ie, putting play doh creations on a baking tray and pretending to put them in the oven under the table.


I had booked the free screening for kids at the cinema, so we went to see Finding Dory and brought our own snacks and drinks. We walked there to get some fresh air. I notice if we donโ€™t get any it really affects my mood, and not in a good way ๐Ÿ™‚

After the film, we called into a local ice-cream shop and the girls tried screwballs for the first time. They had never had bubblegum before and wondered why bubbles didnโ€™t magically appear the minute they started chewing it. I had some coffee ice-cream with white chocolate sauce ๐Ÿ™‚


As we were walking home, it was getting stormy, so we retreated inside and the girls resumed their play doh play. I lit a new white chocolate candle I had. I always feel like lighting a new candle marks a new beginning… of what Iโ€™m not sure… hopefully nothing sinister ๐Ÿ™‚ I always have a candle burning and a place doesnโ€™t feel like home without it ๐Ÿ™‚ It makes a good substitute for our blocked-off fireplace ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

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The girls have a big art set I got for one of their birthdays. It is filled with pens, pencils, watercolours and opens out so they prop up their artwork while they draw. It has provided so much entertainment and the girls decided to do a joint effort picture with watercolours and painting sponges. I wouldnโ€™t have thought to combine the two but they were happy so I let them work away ๐Ÿ™‚ It turned out really well. I like the way there is a dividing line down the centre of the page. It reminds me of when my sister and I used to argue and we made a line in the middle of our bedroom so we each had a side ๐Ÿ˜€

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I finally got a bike rack for the car for the girlsโ€™ bikes. We have a little yard at our house where they can only cycle in circles, so they were excited to get out in an open space ๐Ÿ™‚ We went to a nearby park which I love because itโ€™s like a secret park – no one ever seems to be there when we use it ๐Ÿ™‚ We stayed for a long time and even though it was bitterly cold, the sunshine made it bearable ๐Ÿ™‚ I went on the swings for a while too (when I was allowed a break from pushing everyone else.) I noticed some springtime flowers and it cheered me up seeing some colour. It feels like years since there was any colour other than grey ๐Ÿ™‚

Afterwards, we went to my mumโ€™s house and the girls continued riding their bikes in their cul de sac. They have a couple of friends they see there sometimes and had a great time playing with them. My mum made them some hot chocolate in cute little cups she got for them and we all warmed up inside. We also saw a frog outside the house which the girls were fascinated by ๐Ÿ™‚

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A Busy Weekend of Budget Activities

This weekend, I decided to try a spending freeze. I managed to find a few things to do with the kids that werenโ€™t costly.ย After I picked them up from school, we went to the Gruffalo trail at Colin Glen Forest Park. It was a grey afternoon that felt like it was bordering on twilight at three pm, so apart from a few lone dog walkers we were the only ones there. The girls enjoyed searching for all the characters from the Gruffalo and that was the first time weโ€™d been there together.

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When we go for a walk in the cold, I tend to bring coffee and snacks with us, so we had a biscuits picnic on a bench we found. It was a strange outing. My kids loved uncovering all the hidden creatures and playing Pooh sticks at the riverside with twigs we had no hope of spotting further downstream. It had a spooky kind of feel to the place that reminded me of the opening scene of Rebecca with the drive to Manderley. But gladly, the rain stayed off until the moment we got into the car. There was a memorial for someone that had died there and that prompted a discussion about death with my kids. I donโ€™t shy away from such conversations with them but it all turned a bit moody and morbid ๐Ÿ™‚ But everyone cheered up when we found the Gruffalo at the end of the trail and some painted rocks that someone had hidden there. The girls took them so they could hide them elsewhere for someone else to find ๐Ÿ™‚ When we were leaving, my daughter discovered a nut and decided to make a shelter for it to keep it safe for a squirrel we had spotted ๐Ÿ™‚

I took the girls to a screening of Paddington 2 at a local cinema. It was free as it is part of the kidsโ€™ club. I brought some snacks and got to enjoy warm coffee, seated ๐Ÿ™‚ Afterwards, I had hoped to take the girls to the park, but the weather was against that idea, so we went to a board game cafe instead.

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They have a good range of adultsโ€™ and childrenโ€˜s games. The kidsโ€™ food is reasonably priced and the girls had sandwiches while I had tea and got to eat a traybake without having it snatched from my hand ๐Ÿ™‚ We tried to work out a few games with complex rules and my kids arenโ€™t fans of patiently waiting while I read the instructions, so we settled on one with penguins you balance on a rocking pirate ship and a fish-eating shark game ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a good way to spend a dreary afternoon and my kids were begging me to go back.

Today, we set out to Rowallane. I think getting to scan National Trust cards at the machine is one of my kidsโ€™ favourite things to do in life. They had some crafts indoors, so my daughter set to work colouring a robin, before cutting it out and making wings. My other daughter followed the paw print trail on the floor and roamed after doing a couple of squiggles on a page. I have one crafter and one wanderer and sometimes itโ€™s hard to contain them in the one space ๐Ÿ™‚

We walked through the Walled Garden and my kids looked for an appropriate place to hide the rocks they had found on Friday. The weather was cool and sunny, with a low, blinding sun hanging like a bare lightbulb ๐Ÿ™‚ But I was glad of the brightness and fresh air after a number of hours indoors with my kids dismantling the furniture. We walked to the stile they love to climb over and the spring ground. They enjoy running down the hill and climbing on the rocks. I grew up near Rowallane and showed them the trees I used to make dens under. They found some especially muddy puddles to jump in and were using giant leaves to clean their wellies off afterwards. I love seeing their creativity coming out and how much they enjoy the simple things we do. We had some snacks and I got to sneak into the secondhand bookshop before we left. I never come out empty-handed, so I have some more books to add to my ever-increasing to-read pile.


We didnโ€™t spend much money this weekend but got to have rich experiences. Iโ€™ve realised that my kids need to be allowed to run freely in open spaces or their excess energy is directed towards our living environment instead. But the fresh air and space does my head as much good as it does their limbs. One of the biggest struggles I have with parenting is being mentally present all the time. I can be emotionally present, but mentally, in a daydream, thinking of all the other creative things I want to cram into my day. Stopping to look at nature with them definitely helps to root me in the present.

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Finding Quiet Moments in a Busy World

Now that the madness of Christmas has been replaced by the madness of the school run, I find it just as necessary to find moments of tranquility around us. It feels like the world is always hurrying along, and I want to intentionally take time outside the rush to observe things and stop us missing what is important.

Based on myย  mum’s recommendation, on my daughter’s last day off preschool, I took her to an asian supermarket. It has a cafe upstairs that serves bubble tea. This is a drink I search far and wide for, and every time I finally locate a premises that sells it, it closes down. I must be one of the few people for whom tapioca floating in tea sounds appetising (or other people haven’t discovered how much fun it is to drink – it’s like tea and chewing gum in one.) I had one of these while my daughter was adventurous and tried guava juice (before loudly expressing her distaste for it, but at least she tried it :)) We also tried a green scone that was coated in coconut. I always like to try new foods and purposely choose whatever sounds the weirdest to see if I like it. It was a drizzly and depressing Monday that epitomised the January feeling for me, and finding the cafe with all its interesting decor and wall hangings brightened the day up. We sat at the window, overlooking what was likely-a queue of enraged road users, chatting and enjoying our last Christmas holiday moments together. Afterwards, we looked around the supermarket to see what unusual items we could find. I didn’t know how to cook half of them, but my daughter enjoyed trying to identify them all and making me aware of where the sweets were, in case I had failed to notice.

I’ve been trying to spend plenty of time outdoors with the girls, even in lower temperatures. We went to a local park and followed it with a walk on a woodland trail they have there. They have little wooden animals hidden in the woods for children to find, fairy houses, wishing trees and wood carvings. I got an intro to the joys of the teenage years when my daughter complained about us having to go for a walk for the first time, but sitting on a throne and riding on the back of a pretend badger soon cured that. I like the message on the throne – it reads “when it rains, look for rainbows, when it’s dark, looks for stars.”

 

There is a library near our house that I make a point of visiting every week with my kids. It has a whole downstairs dedicated to children’s books, a miniature soft play-type area and a colouring table. It seems to be underused, but the staff are so friendly and the librarian often has coffee, juice and biscuits for the adults and kids. I like the fact that we don’t feel any pressure to hurry up and get out and that there is such a warm welcome every time we go in. My kids also enjoy their bedtime story event, they hold lego mornings and other craft activities. I love finding hidden and underpopulated events that are creative and cheap to attend ๐Ÿ™‚

Apart from that, I have been making a point of finding writing time, lighting candles, listening to music and allowing creativity to come at its own pace.