A Holiday at Home

Last week, I took the girls away for a few days to Rostrevor. I’d never stayed there before and I hadn’t expected the panoramic views. We had a few foggy drives through what looked like images of nineteenth century Ireland. When we got there, we went to Kilbroney Park. As with everywhere we go, the playground was the main attraction for the girls. After they played (and I started to feel time standing still!) we went for a long walk to the bottom of the hill where we found the Fairy Glen. It is a little walk beside a river and its name comes from folklore that claims fairies emerged there at night time to dance. It was a peaceful walk and the girls enjoyed watching the little waterfalls and the river running. It didn’t have any added features to it, but there was something about the lighting and the water that made it seem a little magical. People in the town had made a painted rock snake that anyone in the community could add to. The girls loved stopping to look at all the designs on them. They were particularly taken with a family of ladybirds.

Later, we drove to Warrenpoint and walked along the promenade. It was a bright day and Carlingford Lough was beautiful. The girls love watching boats now, even when they aren’t going anywhere πŸ™‚ We walked along the rocky beach and then found a spot of sand for them to play with their buckets and spades. Afterwards, we walked to a Victorian park. The gardens are really well kept and the girls always love anywhere with a bandstand to dance on πŸ™‚ There was a playground there too. It started to feel like our holiday was a tour of Northern Ireland’s playgrounds πŸ™‚ After constant walking and playing, I tried to get the girls to sit down on a bench and look at the flowers and appreciate just sitting doing nothing. It didn’t really work, but I’m going to keep trying anyway πŸ™‚ They ended up getting up and sniffing each of the flowers to see if it had a scent, which I decided was just as valuable.

The timing of our trip was good because it meant that we could use the Eat out to help out scheme. We went to an Italian restaurant and the girls ate all the seafood toppings on my pizza πŸ™‚ No matter where we go to, they seem to order chicken goujons and then pinch the parts of other people’s meals they like πŸ™‚

The next day, we did the Narnia Trail at Kilbroney Park. They have a treasure hunt for kids and you start by walking into the wardrobe and finding different carvings from the story along the way.

We drove to the upper car park and did the short hike to the Big Stone at the top. The views were amazing and even after complaints from my daughter about sore legs, she said it was her favourite thing from our trip πŸ™‚

The following day, I took the girls into Warrenpoint again. It was raining heavily all day, but we just worked round the weather. They were sad to see that the children’s bookshop they wanted to go to wasn’t open that day. But the window display was enough to entertain them for a little while. Sometimes I think kids like looking as much as they like buying, because as soon as they do, the items are forgotten about πŸ™‚ I think even as an adult it’s good to have things to wish for. It gives you something to work towards and motivates you to save.

The girls spotted a little sit-in bakery, so we went inside for a drink. They had chocolate covered gingerbread men. We also found a little clothes shop for the girls to spend their pocket money in. They found jewellery for Β£5 each and clip on earrings, so that kept them happy πŸ™‚

We returned to the Narnia Trail since the girls enjoyed it so much. Afterwards we called into the cafe at the park for mini ice lollies/coffee and got all of them for Β£3 again πŸ™‚ I’m enjoying the fact you can eat out so cheaply at the minute. Even if it’s just a cup of coffee, it makes a big difference.

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We did a little tour of the village on foot. They have lines of poetry displayed on the walls and it’s like a treasure hunt finding them all πŸ™‚ We came across a cute bookshop. Unfortunately it wasn’t open, but I would like to return to see it. The shops seem to have limited opening hours. I don’t know if that’s because of the virus or because there is just a more laid back vibe to that part of the country πŸ™‚

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On our last night there, we had dinner in the hotel and then went for a walk in the Fairy Glen since it had brightened up outside. The girls seemed to slow down and take time to look at views more and the river running by the end of the holiday. I think the break did their busy minds good, and it did mine good too πŸ™‚

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Sand Dunes, Baking Experiments & Cardboard Creations

After neglecting my blog for a little while, I realise how much we must have been doing since I last posted. It seems to be difficult to condense it all into one post πŸ™‚ We have been spending a lot of time at the seaside and making crafts and baking at home. I took the girls to a beach last week, early in the day, so it was at its quietest. They enjoyed walking on the boardwalk and over the sand dunes πŸ™‚ I love looking at the backdrop of mountains near Newcastle. The combination of sea and mountains is one of my favourite things πŸ™‚ The tide was out and had left lots of little puddles and channels for the girls to paddle and jump in, so they were easy to please πŸ™‚

At home, we used some of the girls’ nature finds to draw pictures from. We set up a table a bit like the one in the Ulster Museum art room πŸ™‚ We have the same chunky colouring pencils to draw with and they make it much more satisfying for some reason πŸ™‚

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I also got out an encyclopedia for kids with pictures of sky scrapers in it. I cut up some leftover party straws and gave the girls glue and paper so they could recreate structures with them. One opted for the tallest building and the other made a miniature eiffel tower πŸ™‚

I wanted to try to make polenta cake. A friend of mine made some a long time ago and served it to us with lapsang souchong tea. I really liked the combination of the two flavours. So, we made an orange and blueberry cake using polenta instead of flour. It has a grainier texture but I liked it and it felt light compared to a stodgy cake.

We have season tickets for the farm, so we have been spending a lot of time there. The girls spotted the mice nibbling ice cream cones and wanted me to take pictures of it πŸ™‚ There are also some baby mice and piglets there now. We arrived just as a lady was about to feed apples to the pigs, so the girls got to feed them and it was funny watching them eating whole apples in one bite πŸ™‚ We got to pet chicks and bunnies and went on the barrel rides πŸ™‚ Afterwards, I treated the girls to a hotdog each for lunch πŸ™‚

I have been trying some healthy snack recipes – none of which can I get the girls to eat πŸ™‚ I made carrot cake balls, using carrots, nuts, coconut, etc. I thought they wouldn’t satisfy my craving for carrot cake, but they contained all the same flavours without being too heavy πŸ™‚ But the girls immediately detected the fact they were healthy and refused to eat them.

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For their benefit (and for mine), we made some peanut butter and chocolate rice krispie buns. I can see why it is such a popular thing to bake with kids, because it skips ahead to their favourite parts (licking the bowl and sprinkles) without any of the measuring and mess (or agony for me.)

My daughter decided to make her own wands out of lolly sticks. She gave my other daughter a little craft chest filled with materials for her birthday. They have both used nearly all of it already πŸ™‚ I like the fact that they come up with their own ideas now and work away at them (even though it does result in them dragging the contents of the craft cupboard out onto the floor.)

We also made some little toilet tube horses. You have to fold them flat and cut the shape around the legs and head before folding them out again. The girls painted theirs with white and black spots, and when they were dry, we added heads cut out of cardboard and manes and tails made with embroidery thread. We also made feeding trays out of egg cartons and the girls painted water and food/made cardboard hay for them. They also made a stable out of an empty cupcake box, but they lost patience when they were halfway through painting it πŸ™‚ I cut half doors into it so they could put the horses inside and it has been the most popular toy of the week.

Finally, I gave the girls some squares cut out of empty cardboard boxes and they painted them bright colours. When they had dried, we collected nature scraps from the garden, like twigs, petals and dry leaves and they made little pictures with them. One made a little house and the other made a bug with antennae and pom pom eyes πŸ™‚

This week, we are on a nearby “holiday,” so we should have plenty of activities to share from it soon too πŸ™‚

 

Feeding Deer, Unicorn Crafts & New Recipes

I have so much catching up to do on my blog. It feels like every day has been crammed with things to do and I haven’t had a huge amount of down-time for writing. This week, the girls and I spent a lot of time outdoors, even when the weather wasn’t on our side πŸ™‚

We went to Mount Panther for the first time. Although the entry is quite expensive, I thought it was worth it and we spent hours there. My daughters agreed that it is their favourite place now. It is well laid-out for kids. We started with the petting farm and we got the chance to see some unusual animals. I had expected to find the typical animals you find on a farm, but there were bearded dragons, snakes, pygmy marmosets, meerkats and a thirty-year old tortoise. There was also a cockatoo that says hello if you say it first πŸ™‚ The girls got to hold a guinea pig that was surprisingly friendly. We used to feed my friend’s guinea pigs when she was on holiday and they hid from us every time we visited πŸ™‚

Outside, we went to a little town they had made for kids. They pedal from shop to shop on tractors. There was a playground and one of those permanent bouncy castles in the ground – I still don’t know what those are called! We got to feed the deer and goats and looked at the wallabies. I’m not sure what the difference is between wallabies and kangaroos, but my kids were excited to see the “kangaroos” anyway, and so was I πŸ™‚ They stood and waited for a long time, hoping to see them jumping. I like the way nature keeps my children in the moment and teaches them how to stand still and wait for something. Usually they don’t do this at all πŸ™‚

We went on the barrel rides over the fields and there was a deer safari, but it costed an extra Β£12 for a family, so we didn’t go. We got to feed the deer in their outdoor enclosure anyway πŸ™‚ At the end, the girls asked me if we could go again the next day which is always the sign of a successful outing πŸ™‚

We have been hoarding cardboard and empty boxes, etc for crafting. The girls often use their junk box without my involvement now, making gift boxes for doll’s birthday presents πŸ™‚ They like to have a different toy’s birthday each day, to console themselves over the fact it isn’t one of their own birthdays πŸ™‚ We made some toilet roll tube unicorns I saw online. I tend to look for inspiration online but don’t have the patience to read the instructions, so we just make it up as we go along πŸ™‚ We made some pink paint and the girls painted their unicorns pink and white, adding dots of paint for cheeks. I also just cut shapes out of another toilet roll tube to make the ears and horns. We used yellow paint on the unicorns’ horns and added lots of glitter while the paint was still wet. We let the parts dry overnight and then added manes and tails that we made out of colourful embroidery thread. If you wrap it around four fingers and keep winding it until you have several layers you can tie a knot around it with the end of the thread and then jut cut the end of the loop open so it hangs like hair. We glued them all together and then I added eyes with a marker at the end. I still don’t know where to store all of our cardboard creations. The girls act like each one is their most treasured possession and immediately notice if I try to throw any out (even when they aren’t in the room – I think they can sense it.)

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I’ve been experimenting with new recipes this week. I wanted to make some healthy snacks, so the girls helped me to make cashew nut energy balls and nut bars – both of which they refused to eat! I made some pineapple chicken to use up what we had in the fridge. It turned out like a chinese-style meal and was surprisingly good πŸ™‚ The girls both ate the sauce and I was stunned.

My kids’ Toucan boxes arrived, so they completed the activities inside. One was to make a hanging picture of cherry blossom. They used lolly sticks as the frame and a pipe cleaner as the hook. There was also a crown to make and a fish puppet. The girls are interested in colour mixing at the moment, and if I give them watercolours and lots of paper, it keeps them busy for a long time. My older daughter asked me to move vases of flowers onto the table so she could paint from them. I’ve been thinking of doing the same with nature finds soon.

We made some easy cookies using just bananas, oats and chocolate chips. The girls took their bikes to the Greenway and afterwards, I made some hot chocolate to warm them up since it was such a gloomy day. I made some homemade burgers and chips and we had a board game dinner, which is the girls’ favourite thing to do (apart from watching TV while they eat – or while they do anything for that matter :))

 

Beach Tours, Wind Chimes & Wishing Trees

The girls and I have been doing tours of various beaches the last couple of weeks πŸ™‚ We picked a particularly changeable day, weatherwise, to go to one in County Down, but I liked the fact we got to experience a summer’s day and a stormy day at the beach all in one afternoon πŸ™‚ It started to rain, but we had brought raincoats, and I like watching the choppy sea anyway πŸ™‚ Everyone else fled so it felt like we had our own little private beach for a while πŸ™‚ The girls made sandcastles and decorated them with shells. One of my daughters loves collecting everything she finds at the beach and bringing it home, but I’m thinking of sneaking some of them back to the beach as her shell tin is overflowing now πŸ™‚

We chose another day that wasn’t sunny to visit the beach and did some rockpooling. We looked for crabs and other creatures in the pools. We only found some snails and pretty shells, but it still entertained the girls for a long time πŸ™‚ We skimmed stones on the still sea, which was a first for the girls, and for me πŸ™‚ There was a strange light the whole day that made the sky look like an all-day sunrise. We walked along the seafront and paddled in the water. Afterwards, we got some ice cream and sat overlooking the harbour and chatting πŸ™‚

We also went on a day out to Castle Espie. You can’t feed the birds at the moment, but the girls still enjoyed watching them and exploring. They did some rock climbing and ladybird spotting (which they have got into because my parents have a holly tree in their garden that all the ladybirds flock to :)) I spotted some thistles which remind me of my granny and I hadn’t noticed there before. We went to the wooded part to have a picnic and sat on a log πŸ™‚ We tried some den building (which I am not good at!) Afterwards, the girls suggested we build miniature dens for their dolls and that felt much more manageable πŸ™‚

They played music at the Pixiephone, climbed on toadstools and whispered their wishes to the wishing tree. My daughter told me she wished that I’d get a machine for my birthday that dispenses chocolate. (I wish that would happen too.) We had a look in the gift shop since the girls had some money to spend. I like looking at all the beautiful books and then putting them back when I see they are nearly twenty pounds each πŸ™‚ The girls got a little nature book each and have been interested in reading about the countryside and butterflies πŸ™‚ We sat in the sun and the girls had some sticks of rock while I had a coffee πŸ™‚ Since they had new things to look at, they sat at peace for a change πŸ™‚

I picked up some sticker mosaic kits for the girls this week. They are only 79p in Home Bargains. I might go back for some more since they kept them quiet for so long πŸ™‚

We made a craft I had found online. They are little natural decoration/chime type things πŸ™‚ You just find a stick and wrap embroidery thread around it until it is mostly covered. You add a loop to hang it from, so it sits either horizontally or vertically. At the end, we just took a piece of the thread and added a bell each and a couple of beads. You attach it and if you hang them up outside they sound like windchimes πŸ™‚

We also made a finger paints family tree. You just draw the outline of a tree, let your kids do fingerprint leaves all over it and then add family members to it πŸ™‚ Afterwards, the girls asked me to draw pictures for them to paint and colour in. I find that if I draw pictures for them myself, they tend to trace over them and spend longer colouring them than they do with colouring books.

It was a gloomy day, so we had some hot chocolate and marshmallows and painted some rocks we had collected at the beach too πŸ™‚ I let them use my acrylic paints for that and for some reason, they seem to think that is a real privilege πŸ˜€

 

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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Nature Bags, Gratitude Journals & Fairy Houses

I just looked at the volume of photos I have for blog posts that have never materialised and realised I’ll probably never catch up now, but I’ll attempt to anyway πŸ™‚ Last week, the girls and I found a new coffee shop near us that does takeaway coffees/you can have it at little tables outside. I’ve decided I much prefer to drink coffee outside in the fresh air anyway. I’ve done it every day since being in lockdown and it feels like you’re on holiday πŸ™‚ The girls had some hot chocolates in their little takeaway cups and felt grown up πŸ™‚ I got a vanilla latte and we walked around to see what was opening up again in our area. I love calling into the health shop too and stocking up on snacks like popcorn and yogurt covered raisins πŸ™‚

We completed the second craft in the girls’ Toucan boxes: making dyed nature bags. First, they had to put coloured tissue paper strips on foil and they painted it with water until it was all damp. Then, they pressed the fabric bag against it and it dyed it πŸ™‚ After it dried, the girls used the nature stencils to make pictures on top of the dyes. The bags came with little checklists for each season, so the girls can take them with them on nature walks and tick off the things they find along the way.

I finally ordered some sand for the girls’ water/sand table. They never show much interest in it when it’s filled with water, but they played with it all day when I filled it with sand πŸ™‚ We made mini sandcastles and they ended up burying LOL dolls and rescuing them.

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For my daughter’s schoolwork, she had to make a forest school picture, using natural materials and a dividing line to create symmetry. We got out her shell and rock collection and a skipping rope and the girls enjoyed making mirrored shell pictures in the garden for a long time πŸ™‚

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I’d been looking at gratitude journals for kids online and found a cheaper version since some of them are so expensive πŸ™‚ The girls have enjoyed filling them in at the end of the day. They are simple and encourage them to write or draw three things they are grateful for that day. I’m guessing that the more expensive versions have more prompts in them for journalling, but these are good if you just want to teach your kids about gratitude and reflecting on their day.

Apart from the Toucan boxes the girls get, I like the emails they send with suggested activities for kids in them. They sent a template this week for an origami dinosaur bookmark and I’ve decided I’m going to look for more origami animals instructions for the girls. They seem to enjoy lots of paper crafts and games you can play with just a piece of paper and a pencil.

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My friend kindly brought us some beetroot and parsley from her garden πŸ™‚ We made some beetroot crisps for the first time yesterday πŸ™‚ I was surprised that both of the girls tried them (especially since one frequently declares that she doesn’t eat any vegetables.) I think I overcooked them a little, but they were like sweet crisps so they went down well πŸ™‚

Yesterday, we made some toilet roll tube fairy houses. We just painted them with poster paints, using sponge applicators. After they had dried, we cut out doors and windows from coloured paper, adding “curtains” that I cut out from magazines. We added bun cases as roofs, but you could use anything you like. Patterned ones would look good too, or patterned paper to cover the tubes. I liked it because it required minimal preparation and you can be as creative (or as lazy) as you like πŸ™‚

 

 

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

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 πŸ™‚ They were excited, even though my face painting isn’t up to the same standards πŸ˜€

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

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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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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

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Saving Stones, Perfume Play & Teatime Treats

This week, we spent as much time as we could in the garden, between downpours πŸ™‚ The girls made some nature bracelets, just using masking tape. You just stick it around their wrist and they can collect leaves and flowers to stick to them. My daughter also decided to start a stone collection and has been taking care of them in a pot. It reminds me of a Shirley Hughes children’s book where a little boy adopts a rock and his mum sews a swim suit and some clothes for it. We haven’t gone that far though πŸ™‚

The girls were very attentive to their little greenhouse plants and they seem to be thriving better than mine. We transplanted them to larger pots and I’m hoping they will grow into full-sized plants πŸ™‚

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We visited my parents in their garden and my dad produced a bag of our toys from the nineties πŸ™‚ I hadn’t seen them since then and the girls enjoyed going through them. They found a little sewing machine that used to be mine (but that I don’t remember for some reason) and claimed it and a couple of dolls. The sewing machine has no batteries at the moment and a broken needle but pretending to sew is their new favourite game πŸ™‚ We did a little bit of hand sewing together so they could learn a basic stitch and they both showed a lot of interest in it πŸ™‚ My daughter loves “designing” things on fabric by adding stickers and cutting it into different shapes.

I added some food colouring to water so the girls could make their own perfume (it was a suggestion from my daughter’s preschool.) It started off yellow and I added red to make orange after the girls pointed out it looked like pee πŸ˜€ I gave them some flowers, bowls and spoons, etc to mix and pretend to make different scents.

I’ve been using Jack Monroe’s cookery book a lot at the minute. It’s good for making recipes out of nothing πŸ™‚ We made some lemon curd biscuits and marmalade buns (we called them Paddington buns, but one of my daughters still refused to eat them!)

My daughter suggested we have a tea party when they were ready, so she set the table with our “fancy” plates and teacups. The girls had some berry tea and I had some assam tea that came in a surprise box of teas from my parents πŸ™‚ That and Russian Caravan are my favourites so far.

I drew pictures for my daughter to colour in last night, hoping it would inspire her to colour more. (She doesn’t usually have any patience for it.) But it just turned into another scribbling session πŸ™‚

This morning, I made some homemade play doh and set up a kitchen play station at the table. The girls seem to play with play doh for longer than anything else and they made pretend cakes and treats, using a lid as a tray πŸ™‚ Afterwards, we played some Orchard board games. I don’t know why the girls tend to sit much better for them than more drawn out games like Junior Monopoly! Llamas in Pyjamas is a favourite in our house πŸ™‚

As I was filling the kettle to make a cup of tea, I noticed that one of the plants I grew from seed has flowered. I got far too excited about that and it felt like a real achievement. It’s the first time one has ever made it that far πŸ™‚ My courgettes also seem to be doing well and are ready to be repotted now. I’m still determined to create a kitchen garden against all odds.

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Sometimes I like having a rainy day inside, lighting candles, listening to Tim Buckley’s Happy Sad. (It’s my rainy day album/ seems to dampen the girls’ hyperactivity a little.) It’s nice to have the contrast of a wet, fresh day (as long as there are sunny days ahead too.)

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™‚

Cardboard Towns, Peanut Cookies & Mini Greenhouses

The hot weather is exactly what I need this week to revive me. I find sitting in the garden such a healing thing. Apart from spending time in our small bit of greenery, we have been doing lots of craft projects this week, as our enthusiasm for home learning wanes.

The girls have become really interested in den building, and I’m happy to encourage it. I always hear about kids getting obsessed with a particular game or toy and it absorbing all their time. My kids’ favourite game until now has been following me around, asking for things πŸ™‚ They have worked out ways of constructing their own tents around the washing line, and it’s nice to hear them playing happily in the imaginary world they rarely inhabit πŸ™‚ When it’s sunny, they like to have lunch inside their den too.

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I decided to make use of our collection of cardboard and attempt to make a village with the girls. We had two large pieces of cardboard we painted as the ground, adding a pond, streets and grass. The girls painted some empty small boxes in grey, brown, red etc to make buildings. I found some pictures in magazines to use on the shop fronts, like a crate of vegetables, a bookshop window and some kitchen equipment for another shop. I painted some flowers in the flower beds on the base and then my daughter painted some flowers of her own too πŸ™‚

The next day when it had dried, we stuck it all together. I added some nature scenes from magazines to the grass and the girls made some play doh ducks for the pond. We added some green confetti to give the grass texture too. You could add so many things to it, depending on your child’s attention span πŸ™‚ That was all mine would allow us to do πŸ™‚

I made some easy pizza this week, using some homemade bread. I just put tomato paste, cherry tomates, cheese and hotdogs on it, and it was an immediate hit with my kids. They ate theirs inside their dens and I sat in the sun at our little garden table with pizza and a glass of wine. It reminded me of when we go for pizza in Glasgow and I get a small tumbler of white wine with pizza in the afternoon. It’s the only time I drink during the day because I don’t drive when we’re over there, and pizza in the garden had the same sort of tranquil feel to it πŸ™‚ I love the creepers my neighbour planted between our gardens. Sitting next to them helps me imagine I’m elsewhere when I’m feeling hemmed in in the house πŸ™‚

I made some more homemade lemonade sweetened with honey. I like making it as a vitamin-filled drink that the girls actually like to drink πŸ™‚ We also baked some peanut butter and jelly cookies and some more chocolate chip ones. The chocolate chip ones have vanished already πŸ™‚ The girls left me to finish making them so they could eat cookie dough and fight over the spoon!

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There was a lot of excitement when the girls’ Toucan boxes arrived in the post. They love having their own parcels to open once a month and it’s interesting to see what activities they have included each time. We did the first activity together, which was building mini greenhouses. The set came with plywood to slot together to build into little containers, a liner to hold the soil and the soil came in little solid packets you had to soak in water to make it expand. The girls loved making the labels and planting their seeds. There were sunflowers, nasturtiums and basil. A sticker sheet came too so they could add stickers to decorate it at the end (that might have been the part they were most enthusiastic about :))

Afterwards, we spent some more time in the garden and I had a Starbucks instant caramel latte I got from the shops πŸ™‚ It was surprisingly good for instant coffee. I’ve realised that the only thing close to reading that is achievable during my children’s waking hours is looking at pictures in magazines. There are a lot of interrupted sentences, so I might have to resort to picture books if I want to take up reading in daylight again πŸ™‚ The girls changed the shape of their den and connected it to their playhouse so they could crawl from one to the other πŸ™‚

We finished the day with a film. I surrendered and let them choose a cartoon, which ironically, they weren’t very keen on. We finished the day with ice cream sundaes. I just put vanilla ice-cream in a bowl with whipped cream, some chocolate spread and sprinkles. I put banana in my younger daughter’s bowl because she wanted to try a banana split, but after tasting it she said “I think I’ll keep the banana as a decoration in my bowl – it’s just, I don’t like banana with ice-cream.” πŸ™‚

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