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 🙂 They always seem happiest when they’re digging in sand, collecting water from the sea and jumping over waves, and I am too 🙂

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 🙂 They were excited, even though my face painting isn’t up to the same standards 😀

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

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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 🙂 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 🙂

I ordered a build a garden set for the girls. It might be my favourite one of their toys 🙂 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 “TV time.” But I’ll also be glad of it when it returns so I can have some headspace to write too 🙂

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Bluebells, Outdoor Cafes & Mud Pies

On our walk along the Greenway earlier this week, I noticed that the flowers bordering the pathway are starting to change. One of the grassy banks is paved with stepping stones leading up to some bluebells, and we found some clusters of them further along too. Repeating the same walk over and over is allowing us the opportunity to detect small changes we wouldn’t otherwise have noticed, and in a way, the limitations are making us appreciate the little things more.

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My daughter loves the clay workshop she does when she’s at school, so I decided to order a box of air-drying clay for her. My younger daughter tried it for the first time. She liked flattening it and using it as a base for pictures, while my older daughter likes making models with it. She made a pearl inside a shell and a two-toned heart.

 

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I always find that my kids turn their noses up at the most time-consuming meals. I had some hot dogs and decided to try making them threaded onto spaghetti, which I had seen online somewhere a while ago. You just cut them up and push them onto the dried spaghetti before you cook it. It was weird how something so simple fascinated my kids so much. I made a simple tomato sauce to go with it. I just soaked a couple of tomatoes in boiled water, peeled the skins off, chopped them up finely and cooked them with dried herbs and sugar. It tastes much better than pre-made pasta sauce or tinned tomatoes (although I like it too, and I’m rarely in the mood for peeling tomatoes :D)

I set up another tray activity for my daughter outside. I used an old ice-cream tub filled with mud – I just mixed some soil and water together and made it extra muddy. I put some of her plastic animals in it, so they could “roll about in the mud.” Then I gave her a toothbrush and her dolls’ paddling pool to give them a bath afterwards.
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I like the way when I give my kids a messy task, they change it into another one when they’re finished. (The clean-up version of me isn’t just as happy about this.) The girls got out their buckets and spades and made some mud pies in them too. They have an old tea set they use in the garden and filled them with mud and water, putting the teacups in a cardboard cup holder my daughter dug out of their junk box. I find that more and more, they are going to the cupboard by themselves to find a specific material for a project they have in mind and I like to see their creativity coming out without interference from me 🙂

I had ordered some earrings and a top from a lady in Denmark. I love everything she sells and wanted to support her business too. They arrived today and it felt like an extremely early birthday present 🙂 She had put the top into a pretty silk bag and it cheered me up when I opened it and saw it 🙂 I’m definitely noticing people’s thoughtful touches even more now. I made some time for trying the things I’d bought on and then made myself a latte to drink in the garden while I got some writing done. (Thank God for TV time :))

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Today, I also set up a pretend cafe in the garden for the girls. I just gave them some cups and spoons, a filled watering can to use as a kettle, some out of date hot chocolate powder and a few marshmallows and teabags. They loved creating their own hot chocolate and topping it with the marshmallows. It isn’t an activity I’d encourage them to do often because I hate anything that feels like wasting food 🙂 But it made for good messy play and they loved it.

Tonight, I am listening to some new calming music, doing some writing and I’m attempting to bake my first ever sourdough. I checked my sourdough starter earlier and was excited to see that it floated when added to water, so it should be ready for use. I’m hoping the end result resembles bread, even if it doesn’t taste anything like sourdough 🙂

 

 

gardening for mental health

Weeding out your Woes

I find spending time in my garden healing. I’m not a natural gardener; in fact I have managed to kill almost every plant I’ve ever owned. But I still try to grow things. I think sometimes the process is more important than the result. For example, my garden might looked like an untamed wasteland but the act of planting is satisfying in itself. I have begun trying to apply the same attitude to my writing. I find when I am ultra-focused on the end result, it takes the joy out of just doing it, and ultimately makes my writing worse too.

This week we have had our first spell of consistent Spring-like weather, so I’ve been making a conscious effort to spend more time outdoors, even if it’s only having a cup of tea at the fold up table in my back yard.

When I’m struggling to manage my thoughts, or to parent without snapping, returning to something simple that keeps your hands busy is always helpful. So, today I embarked on weeding my garden. The weeds had overtaken everything, in much the same way my thoughts do when I’m in an anxious state. Unrooting weeds from the ground somehow helps me to unroot patterns of unhelpful thinking from my own mind too.

So, while my daughter blew bubbles and had a biscuits picnic outside, I started stripping back all the unwanted growth. And when I did, I uncovered an opening tulip, some persistent violas and a thriving foxglove. And I realised, sometimes to find the good you have to weed out the bad bits. They might seem more prominent but when you reach the undergrowth, you can stand back to properly admire your garden.

Finding little things to be grateful for

Little Reasons to be Grateful

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?