Skydiving Toys, Window Pictures & Finding Freedom Again

Yesterday was one of those days my children insisted on starting before the caffeine had made its way into my system πŸ™‚ Over breakfast, we made a parachute for one of the girls’ toys. I had seen it on the blog “No Time for Flashcards” and wanted to attempt it myself. Any form of construction doesn’t come naturally to me, even if it involves cutting and sticking, but it was quite simple to make. We just used a napkin and reinforced the corners with sellotape, threading string through them and tying them together. We made little armholes and my daughter decided her baby doll would be the skydiver. It kept the girls entertained for a long time, dropping it over the banister from upstairs and watching it sail to a smooth landing on the floor πŸ™‚

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The kids helped me to make some homemade playdough and I gave them some real sprinkles to use on them. They “baked” at the table and made lots of different pastries and desserts, adding sprinkles at the end. I like mixing toys with “real” elements of cooking, etc to add more interest to it for the girls. They love playdough in any form, but when they get to add herbs, spices, sprinkles, etc, it definitely captures their interest for longer.

I had ordered colourful adhesive paper for the girls to make window pictures with. You just cut whatever shapes you like out of it and let them peel the backing off and stick it to the windows. It peels off again easily so you can change your scenes and it kept the girls busy for hours πŸ™‚ It’s funny how taking a simple concept like stickers and transposing them to a window suddenly makes it much more exciting πŸ™‚

We had booked Mount Stewart before the weekend, so we went on an afternoon adventure there. It almost felt like things had returned to normal when we were there (apart from the one way system and the extreme levels of organisation.) I actually found the visit less stressful than usual because the trails were clearly laid out with arrows and I get lost easily πŸ™‚ We walked around the lake and saw the white stag, the girls climbed trees and went out to the little islands. The swans were there with their cygnets and the girls loved watching them on the water. They found a little corner enclosed with bamboo and pretended it was a house and that they were pandas πŸ™‚ We have a book about a dog that makes a giant pile of leaves and jumps into it with his friends, so they recreated that underneath a huge tree and then made “mud angels” on the ground πŸ™‚ I love all the flowers and scents in Mount Stewart and the fact that it feels like we are abroad when we visit it. The fact that we hadn’t been able to go there in a while made us appreciate every moment of it more. I brought the girls’ nature bags and they collected petals and leaves to litter the house with πŸ™‚ I might encourage them to make some nature collages or drawings from them as an activity tomorrow πŸ™‚

We finished the day quietly with some homemade pizza and I baked some bread for this week using a new recipe. My kids liked it but informed me that they still prefer sliced bread from the shop. If I didn’t enjoy baking so much, I’d wonder why I bother πŸ™‚

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Galaxy Jars, Chocolate Buttons & Cress Heads

This week, my daughter had to make a 2D shapes picture for school, so my younger daughter joined in. They had to find objects to draw around on coloured paper, cut them out and glue them together to make a picture. They both really enjoyed it which surprised me, but it was so successful I’d do it again with them for fun instead of by obligation πŸ™‚ The days were colder and gloomier, so we made some hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows and played lots of board games πŸ™‚

I also decided to make cress egg heads with the girls. We had never done them before and I ordered some cress seeds online so we could πŸ™‚ I just cracked two eggs, emptied and washed them. The girls drew faces on them with permanent marker, but you could paint them too if you have time to let them dry πŸ™‚ We put a damp cotton ball inside and sprinkled some cress on top of it. They are now sitting in our sunniest window in their egg cups and the girls are checking them every couple of hours to see if they’ve grown yet πŸ™‚

The girls made a shop for their LOL dolls’ shoes and bags by turning a chair on its side and using it as shelfing πŸ™‚ I thought that was quite inventive. Sadly they spend little time playing with the things they work so hard to assemble!

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Today, we made a galaxy jar. I found the process really therapeutic and the girls were fascinated by it. You just need an empty jar, paints (we used acrylics, but poster paints should work too,) glitter and cotton balls. We filled the jar 1/3 full with water and added a squeeze of paint (you don’t need much.) Then you put the lid on and shake it until the water turns the colour you’ve chosen. Then you add some glitter, put the lid on and shake again (the glitter is supposed to be the stars.) Next, you tease out the cotton balls a little, keeping them in one piece. You add as many as you can fit into the water, pressing them down with a knife. Next, you add another 1/3 jar of water, a different colour of paint and the glitter using the same steps as before. You add cotton balls again, pressing down as many as you can fit into the water. Then you repeat the same steps a third time. It gives it a layered colours effect and looks a bit like a lava lamp πŸ™‚ The girls asked to keep it in their room and they want to make more, so it was a popular activity πŸ™‚

Afterwards, on our space theme, we drew pictures of aliens and cut them out. I wrote little messages on the back of alternative ways to communicate with them. I then hid them around the house and the girls had an alien hunt. When they found them, they had to complete the action on the back, for example, pat the aliens ears, dance around with it, say silly space words.

I had some plain white chocolate, which is strange, considering chocolate never lasts long in our house (mainly because of me.) So, we made some white chocolate buttons. You just melt the chocolate. I melted ours in the microwave on a defrost setting – this takes a few minutes but stops it accidentally burning. Then you use a teaspoon to put circles of white chocolate onto a sheet of greaseproof paper. Then, you can add whatever sprinkles you like and let them set in the fridge πŸ™‚ The girls kept peering into the fridge, assessing whether they were ready or not πŸ™‚
(Turns our they make a good after dinner treat with strawberries :))


I’m so glad to have some sunshine back this afternoon. I’m sitting in the garden, watching the clean sheets swaying back and forth on the line and listening to my chimes clinking above my head πŸ™‚ The girls are happily occupied and for once, I almost feel relaxed πŸ™‚

Foliage Crowns, Paddling & Cardboard Flowers

Yesterday, we made the most of the weather and spent a lot of time in the garden. I suggested making foliage crowns for the girls and they collected a few leaves and flowers for me before their interest waned πŸ™‚ I just used some gardening wire and wrapped to it fit their heads. They I used my jewellery wire to attach leaves, etc. I hope to make a second attempt at it when they’re in a more focused frame of mind πŸ™‚ I might use a less visible colour of wire next time though πŸ™‚ The girls still insisted on wearing their single-leafed headbands πŸ™‚

I got to read a complete short story in the sun (which is an achievement when the girls are awake.) I filled the old baby pool we have with bubbly warm water for the girls to soak their feet in. It seems to provide as much entertainment as the full-sized pool we used to have and takes much less time to fill πŸ™‚

I noticed that my tomato plant was getting too big for the windowsill, so I repotted it outside. I’m hoping it continues to thrive there and that one day it might even produce a tomato πŸ™‚ Some daisies I planted a couple of years ago have come out again, along with a few yellow poppies. It’s nice seeing bits of colour in our garden, however limited πŸ™‚

I came across a cake recipe in a magazine that I wanted to try. It had cardamom in it, which I’m obsessed with. I love Indian dishes, chai tea and anything with that flavour in it πŸ™‚ I had some overripe bananas to use up, so I made a cardamom banana cake. I didn’t realise that to release the flavour of the cardamom, you take the seeds out of the pods and crush them (I’ve been using them whole or blending the whole pod.) You learn something new every day πŸ™‚ It was a slow kind of cake to make and the girls were otherwise occupied for a change, so I enjoyed sifting ingredients and taking my time over it. It produced an aromatic, indulgent kind of banana bread and I had to bake it in a roasting tin because there was too much batter to fit in a cake tin πŸ™‚ It produced large wedges of cake that are too easy to eat πŸ™‚

This morning, I took the girls for a walk on the Greenway. We went early and the pathway was quite quiet. The girls collected dandelion clocks along the way and named each one. I looked around and tried to identify different plants and weeds along the way. I read in a magazine that there are certain weeds you can use to make pesto, but I have to figure out how to identify them first πŸ™‚ I also wanted to try to make nettle soup or tea, but have to find some first πŸ™‚ I don’t often go for walks with gardening gloves on so it might be tricky to do that one.

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On the way home, we spotted a tree that had been decorated with rainbows and kids’ craftwork. (Sorry if this is your tree but I had to take a picture of it because it really brightened our day.) The girls asked if we could make something similar, so I’m going to work on adding things to some of the hedges outside.

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I think I’m just starting to recognise the creative potential of toilet roll tubes πŸ™‚ It’s funny how when you don’t have access to craft shops, you save everything in your house to use in future projects. We made some simple toilet roll tube flowers. I just got the girls to paint the tubes green, I cut some leaves out of an empty box and then they painted them and added glitter. When they were dry, they attached the leaves and I cut two slits in the tops of the tubes to slide their flower heads into. They were easy to make and kept them entertained for a while πŸ™‚

Afterwards, the girls worked on some more rainbow-themed items. They spread glue onto cardboard and used some confetti to make collage rainbows. Then we made some colourful feather hangings to put outside. We didn’t have any wool or ribbon, so we used gift ribbon I found in the cupboard πŸ™‚

I made a quick yeastless pizza for lunch and then we spent some time in the garden. The girls made a pretend campfire in the middle of their tuff tray. Once it turned into a runny pile of mud, we converted it into a lego table and the girls made some cars and flowers. We had a very American style dinner and the girls discovered a new love for ribs with barbecue sauce. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and I no longer have the energy for planning anything πŸ™‚ I’m just hopeful it’ll bring some sun with it.

Small Thoughts to Make You Smile

I felt the need to write a positive post today. I like to reflect upon the good things that have happened in each individual day in spite of what is going on around us and it feels particularly needed at the moment.

One of my daughters was off school today for exceptional closure and the other was in preschool, so I got to spend some quality time with my older daughter. We are rarely alone together and it was strangely calm without my little whirlwind there πŸ™‚ We were glad to welcome her back at pick-up though.

I wore my most vivid outfit to counteract the darkness surrounding us πŸ™‚ We took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked to my daughter’s school. It was eerily quiet with the primary schools closed, but the sky was an amazing shade of blue and it was nice to bypass all the usual traffic. I took some pictures of how peaceful and blue-skied the morning was.

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I’ve decided to make greater effort to support local businesses. I tend to go through phases of doing so and then I return to a shop where I can buy everything in one place. So, we went to a local butchers and fruit shop. It was a good opportunity to use the cute fabric vegetable bags I got from a market a while ago πŸ™‚ The fruit looks so much fresher and my daughter enjoyed selecting fruit and veg and putting them in our bags πŸ™‚ I also got taking to a lady in a queue, which wouldn’t ordinarily happen when you’re rushing around a major supermarket. I’ve decided to just go with the flow and embrace a simpler way of life for now. Not everything about our fast-paced living is a positive thing and I think some time for meditation could do us a lot of good, mentally.

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My daughter and I had a coffee date in Tim Hortons. (She requested it and I decided she’d more than earned it after the miles of the walking.) Β She loves gingerbread men and I was amazed that she finished it and her entire cup of hot chocolate before I’d even finished my coffee πŸ™‚ Of course, we had to sit on the highest stools there.

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This evening, I’ve been writing and thinking of recipes and ideas I can share in the coming weeks. I brought out my old cure for sadness tonight – wine and Percy Pigs πŸ™‚ I’ve been limiting the amount of time I spend reading the news and taking the Β time to listen to dreamy music, light candles and fill my world at home with things to feed my soul.

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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 weren’t costly.Β 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 we’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 don’t shy away from such conversations with them but it all turned a bit moody and morbid πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

I took the girls to a screening of Paddington 2 at a local cinema. It was free as it is part of the kids’ club. I brought some snacks and got to enjoy warm coffee, seated πŸ™‚ 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 adults’ and childrenβ€˜s games. The kids’ 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 πŸ™‚ We tried to work out a few games with complex rules and my kids aren’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 πŸ™‚ 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 kids’ 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 it’s hard to contain them in the one space πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 didn’t spend much money this weekend but got to have rich experiences. I’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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