I often make pasta pictures with my kids because it is a simple craft to set up and my kids have an obsession with gluing things. Today I was feeling more chilled out than usual about the clean-up, so I let them use other items too. (Warning: the clean-up was time consuming and not enjoyable.) You can use beans, lentils, rice, seeds, etc to make collages and pictures of objects. The girls wanted to make bunnies, spiders and a dolls’ house. This activity lasted a long time (a child’s long time, not an adult’s long time, ie, 25 minutes!)
Here are a few more ideas of things to use for collages and pictures: magazine cuttings, buttons, cut-up straws, cereal, shells, fabric scraps, cotton wool, tin foil, leaves.
The only problem with making these is when your almost three year old thinks that because food is involved, the pictures are edible. Oh, and that you can make hand prints with pva glue. Activity – 25 minutes, Clear up – 50 minutes 🙂
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:
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 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
I don’t really get bored, probably because I always have an unaccomplished list of things to do composed in my mind. I am more familiar with being broke, thanks to my natural inclination to buy pretty things the moment they enter my line of vision. So, here are a few ideas of free/relatively cheap activities to do after a particularly bad case of impulse buying:
I probably shouldn’t be suggesting more shopping, but go to the pound shop and buy as many interesting things as you can for three pounds. Eg, items for your own spa night, books, sweet treats and hot drinks, craft materials, gardening equipment, movies.
Gather up items you no longer use and put them up for sale on Gumtree/Ebay/give them to charity.
While you’re on Gumtree, look for free items that people are giving away; you might find a treasure.
Make your own bookmarks with your favourite quotes/images on them.
Go to a language exchange/a reading group/a craft group in the library.
Host a dinner party for friends where you agree on a meal to make and each person brings one component of it. Each bring a board game and a type of fruit juice and make non-alcoholic cocktails.
Start a sketchbook and draw pictures that summarise the moments of your day.
Make a wish list and start a savings jar to save towards it. Once you buy one item, add one more to the end of the list.
Create a cosy corner in your home of interesting objects/candles/lights to make it more homely.
Take pictures of the most beautiful and the most ordinary things in your life.
As I write this, I am somewhat ironically, drinking a £2.50 cup of coffee in a coffee shop. But in my defence, I very rarely have a kids’ free hour, so if babysitting is offered I’m going to enjoy a cup of coffee without interruptions that lead to it to it being microwaved multiple times. I am guilty of committing some of these money wastages and it is from experience that I speak. I have often taken into account the small amount that an individual item costs, but failed to see it as part of a shockingly large total.
Takeaways. It’s ok to get the occasional takeaway but when it becomes a weekly habit it wastes more money than you would think. If you spend £20 a week on takeaway for your family, that equates to over £1000 a year just on food deliveries. Keep appetising alternatives in the freezer to avoid temptation.
Buying bottled water. I don’t really understand why people drink bottled water in places where the water is perfectly safe to drink; perhaps it is just a flavour preference or the idea of the water being cleaner. If that’s the case, it would be cheaper to buy a water filter and bring your own water in a reusable bottle when you go out.
Coffee shop coffee can be a nice treat, but if you make it into a regular habit it proves very expensive. If you buy three cups of coffee a week in the average coffee shop, you would spend about £350 a year just on coffee. You can easily make filter coffee at home and I find that one bag of own brand coffee (costing £4.25) lasts me about two weeks. I usually drink two cups a day, so that works out at 15p a cup, and to be honest, it’s just as good.
Buying branded items for no reason. I can understand buying certain branded items, if they have a distinctive taste. For example, I can’t get my taste buds around unbranded versions of cola. But spending five times the amount on branded stock cubes doesn’t make sense to me; is there a better-tasting version of fake chicken water? The value ones are just fine. Don’t be put off by plain packaging: you can barely detect the difference in its contents.
Unnecessary TV channels. I know a lot of people who spend large amounts of money each year on TV packages when they only use a small percentage of the channels. I don’t know anyone who has time to watch hundreds of channels. I’m a bit weird, but I barely watch TV and only spend £2.99 a month on Now TV for my kids. If you only watch recorded shows you don’t even need to TV license. They also have entertainment, movie and sport passes.
Going overboard at Christmas and birthdays. It shocks me how many people put themselves into debt to keep up with present requests from friends, family, and especially from their kids. If your get kids too much they don’t appreciate what they do have and don’t have time to play with it all. I have noticed when my kids have more toys they are easily distracted and more unsettled. It is pointless trying to outdo other parents with expensive parties and presents: those won’t be the things your kids remember. Agree to a Christmas budget for each member of your family. For example, my family members don’t spend over £20 on any person and we are always happy with the presents we receive. The less you get the more you remember. Have you ever noticed how many unwanted presents end up in charity shops in January?
Going to shops “just for a look.” I have learnt that window shopping always turns into shopping indoors, with a bank card leaving your purse and a bag exiting the shop alongside you. The items you end up buying are always unplanned and leave you feeling regretful afterwards too. I think it is better to think over any purchases you hadn’t planned to get to figure out if you really want them or if you just got over-excited by the fancy window displays. I am definitely speaking from experience on this one.
Driving distances you could easily walk. If you try to refrain from doing this, at least if the weather is cooperative, you would be surprised how much of your petrol is wasted on ten minute round trips.
Paying for expensive classes for your kids instead of looking for free events/cheap memberships. When my oldest was a baby, I paid for her to go to baby classes that were £10 a session. I think she got more out of mums and tots, which was £1 a time and involved a free snack for her, and for me. Sometimes I think parents get lured by advertising and comparing what they are doing to what other parents are doing. If you ask most kids about expensive classes they are attending, they would probably rather be spending their time with their family or playing with their friends in the garden. There are so many free and cheap community events that it is pointless putting a financial strain on yourself just to keep up with what everyone else is doing. On the other hand, I think it is worth paying a membership for somewhere you go to often, as it works out much cheaper than paying per time.
Buying lots of pairs of cheap shoes instead of investing in a really good pair. My boots cost about £100, but I have had one pair of them for five years, and another pair for two years, with little sign of wear. Any time I buy a pair of shoes for a fraction of this price they fall apart in a number of weeks. Some things are worth investing in: like decent, sturdy footwear and toilet roll that doesn’t feel like printer paper on your delicate parts.
I decided to make something today as an experiment to see if I could produce something inspiring that didn’t require going out to buy materials or advance-planning. I like to set myself little pointless challenges because I’m easily excited by that type of thing.
So, here is how I set about making a very unprofessional ideas board 🙂 (the point of this exercise isn’t to have a flawless finished product, but to relax and make something personal to you.)
I used a large piece of thick cardboard: the ribbed kind. You can use whatever size you like.
I took a piece of fabric that I had left over from a dress I made for my daughter. I placed it under the piece of cardboard and cut around it, making the fabric 1 to 2 inches larger than the cardboard so that it could be folded over the back of the board. The piece of material I had wasn’t large enough to cover the full piece of cardboard so I sewed two smaller pieces together. I used a sewing machine, but you could do this by hand, or leave it out entirely if the idea fills you with horror.
You could also sew together different patterned fabrics to create more interest. Depending on your sewing skills, patchwork squares could be used, or a pocket could be added to the fabric.
After sewing the two sides together I opened it out and flattened the seam in one direction so that it would sit smoothly against the board.
I pinned the corners around the back of the board, folding them in like on an envelope. I then sewed these to secure them in place. (You could also use tape, glue or tack them.)
I taped down the edges of the fabric and pulled them back tautly so the fabric would sit flatly against the front of the board.
Next, I took a piece of ribbon and stitched the ends of it to the back of the board. (Again, you could use tape or glue.) Don’t worry about being too perfectionistic about the back of the board as, unless my wonderful method fails and it collapses off the wall, no one will ever have to see it.
After attaching the ribbon, the board was ready for ideas to be pinned to it. I used some pastel coloured push pins. You can use any colour you like, or just use plain drawing pins. If the cardboard isn’t very thick just be careful you don’t stab yourself when you have pushed them through, or push them in at an angle to avoid this!
You can add anything you like to your board. It is supposed to be inspiring to look at and it’s designed to remind you of positive ideas and things you want to experiment with. Avoid putting work-related information on it. Its purpose is to encourage creativity and allow you to daydream; not to act as a reminder of your incomplete to-do list. You can update it as frequently as you like, or tailor it to what you find inspiring in a particular month.
Here are some ideas of items you can add to it:
A list of books you plan to read.
A word that prompts ideas in you or reminds you of a quality of yours would like to focus on more.
Recipes to try and pictures of the end results.
Home décor you admire that gives you inspiration for ways to change your home.
A list of music you would like to learn more about.
Any topic to research for fun.
A list of kind acts that you have recently witnessed.
Clothing styles you would like to try/an item that you would like to add to your wardrobe this month.
A photograph that reminds you of the future memories you’d like to create.
A relaxing project you plan to complete this month.
A list of things you would like to buy.
A drink recipe.
A place you want to dream about visiting/a nearby place you can visit now.
You don’t just have to add notes or pictures to it, you can also pin fabrics, mementoes, tickets, embellishments, etc. It is something that you can constantly add to and that should evolve with you, as your interests and plans change.
I place a lot of importance on treating myself, particularly since entering single parenthood, as it can leave you feeling depleted. I think everyone should have a weekly designated treats-day. It gives you a positive plan for the week in the midst of all of your obligatory ones. It is easier to neglect this practice as an adult than it is as a kid. If someone else isn’t supplying the treats, I say you should take it upon yourself to do so.
It doesn’t have to be extravagant and can include items that you already have in your house, if you are imaginative with what you have on hand.
I like to pick three or four items and set them aside as incentive to persevere until Friday’s bedtime. And by Friday afternoon, that is all that is sparing my sanity. Making it something deliberate and pre-planned, instead of just shoving chocolate into your mouth in a moment of despair, makes it feel more like you have properly been rewarded for your hard work. (Although the aforementioned is sometimes essential too.)
Just because you have financial constraints or limited time shouldn’t mean that you forego all forms of self-indulgence. (I am consciously skirting around the term “self-care” due to the frequency of its usage at the moment and my strong dislike for clichés.)
This week I have a more elaborate treat eagerly awaiting Friday’s bedtime, but often I just pull together something simple out of what I have lying around. (I always have a fully stocked sweetie cupboard anyway.)
Here are a few examples:
Hot chocolate with marshmallows
A magazine/free e-magazine on your library’s website.
A band you have yet to hear/ a record you found in a charity shop.
A hot water bottle
A drink you haven’t tried before. This could be a homemade cocktail or just a flavoured fizzy drink. Whichever one you opt for, you should drink it out of a fancy glass.
New cosy bedsocks
A tub of your favourite ice-cream
A playlist of soothing songs
Fudge or chocolates
Loose leaf tea
A new tea cup
A new scented bath product or shower gel
A colouring book for adults
I find that the best treats are composed of something to eat, something to drink and something to do/an item that provides comfort 🙂
You could formulate any number of treats using this method and still have something different to look forward to each week. It’s weird how something so small can lift your mood.