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 :))

 

Water Beads, Tea Parties & Pyjamarama Day

This week, we have spent a lot of time at home, (obviously!) being creative and creating mess I never seem to get on top of. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that there will be no order to our house until the girls return to school – or maybe that is just wishful thinking, as clutter just seems to follow me around.

We went for our usual walk on the Greenway. The sound of the pigeons under the bridge makes me laugh every time we descend the steps now because the girls are convinced they are owls and mimic the sound for most of the walk. Due to the fact that the greenway is mostly greenery, when colour pops up, it’s immediately noticeable. I have no idea what this plant is, but I like the yellow petals; it’s like the bare twigs have put on little yellow skirts overnight πŸ™‚

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A couple of days ago, I got the girls a water beads set. They had never used one before, and the fact that there was only one bead pen in the set encouraged them to take it in turns. They were both so excited to try it that they were actually courteous to each other about sharing the project πŸ˜€ I think it was good value for what was included. There are several bead pictures to make and one of them kept them busy for an hour πŸ™‚

I decided to try out some different coloured homemade play doh. I had picked up some red and green food colouring when we got groceries. The green was less vibrant than I’d imagined and the red made the play doh resemble raw mince πŸ˜€ But the girls didn’t seem to mind – maybe it made them feel more like real ingredients πŸ™‚ They played with their dough in their tuff tray until the rain started, and then moved it in to the kitchen table. I gave them a couple of old half-filled dried herb shakers, so they could season the pretend food they were making. Those caused more excitement than the play doh did.

I received a lovely surprise in the post from my parents. It was a box filled with my favourite candles, all literary-themed. There was also some passionfruit and blood orange tea included. The girls loved it as much as I did and it’s already gone πŸ™‚

I decided to make Chinese food for dinner, as we had picked up some prawn crackers at the shop and I had the ingredients to make fried rice and sweet and sour. I set the table with straws and napkins, tealights, a jug of juice for the girls and played traditional Chinese music in the background, so we could pretend we were in a restaurant. The food wasn’t exactly authentic, but it still tasted good, and the girls liked the novelty of having our own restaurant. Afterwards, they insisted on doing the dishes, and I was happy to let them πŸ™‚

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Today, we did the Pyjamarama festival, held by the Book Trust. They had a programme of online activities for kids and the idea was that you stay in your pyjamas all day whilst completing them. That didn’t last very long for us, because we spend so much time in the garden and my kids don’t tend to sit still πŸ™‚ In the morning, the girls did a guided drawing of a teddy bear. They took their time copying it and then listened to a storytime video.

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My older daughter had to do a picture of The Golden Fish painting for school, so I included my younger daughter in the process and they painted their own versions. They are both always keen to paint and sometimes I join them. Other times, I just enjoy the temporary tranquility to drink the rest of my morning coffee, which was what I did today πŸ™‚

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The girls wanted to play in the garden and there was a spell of sunshine, so they cycled in circles on their bikes πŸ™‚ They played a game of naming all the plants they could remember in our garden, and I was impressed by how much they’d taken in. Maybe they will make better gardeners than me πŸ™‚ They are currently growing some broad beans my neighbour gave them as gifts and keep checking on them to see if they’ve produced beans overnight πŸ™‚

When it clouded over, we returned indoors and did another activity from the festival: a video about making diaries. They had to draw a picture of themselves and then print off a photo of somewhere they’d been to that day, (for example, in the garden, out for a walk, at the shops.) They had to place the pictures of themselves in front of the scenes and glue them on. Our photos came out very green, probably due to my poor printing skills, but the girls really enjoyed making them, and green is my favourite colour anyway πŸ™‚

I took down some of our Easter crafts that were adorning the kitchen walls and replaced them with today’s artwork πŸ™‚
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The girls did another interactive storytime and enjoyed joining in with the rhyme and stories. Afterwards, I noticed we had consumed all of our baked treats, so I decided to try a new recipe with them. I found one in a magazine for Abernethy Biscuits with fennel seeds. I didn’t have fennel seeds in the house, so I decided to improvise and use Allspice instead and they turned out really well πŸ™‚

We had a little tea party when they were ready and I made the last of our tisane tea and served it in cups and saucers, with tealights and our biscuits πŸ™‚ I had printed off worksheets for the girls to complete from the Pyjamarama page, so they designed their own bookmarks, did some matching games and designed their own pyjamas. I’m so grateful for these kinds of fun worksheets – they provide needed distraction during difficult moments πŸ™‚

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Tonight, we made some homemade pizza and had a movie night and ice-cream. I’ve been trying to do a little less writing in the evenings at the moment and spend more time on yoga and reading in the bath πŸ™‚ I feel too drained to write after a certain time of the day and I’ve accepted my word counts will be reduced by the constant company I have at the moment πŸ™‚ I feel forced to slow down, and maybe that’s what we all need most.

 

Collecting Blossom, Colour Wheels & Patisseries

Yesterday, the girls decided to change our walking route. It’s strange how quickly you can fall into new habits, although I do like the fact the Greenway is like a piece of the countryside in the middle of Belfast. On our new walk, the girls came across some blossom trees dropping petals and they pretended it was snowing. They gathered up as many petals as they could to take home. I’m still finding them all over the house πŸ™‚ They had insisted on wearing fancy dress headwear and I thought the blossom bouquet softened the look of my daughter’s zombie bride veil πŸ™‚

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When we got home, we started my daughter’s schoolwork and since she was learning about sea life, I got my younger daughter to draw pictures of sea creatures so she could be involved. Afterwards, we had some chocolate chip cookies and watched the Afternoon Club colour wheel episode. The girls love any excuse to paint and I was surprised by how long it kept them sitting in one place, working out how to mix the colours and where to place them on their wheels. I don’t think they even realised they were learning about tertiary colours in the process πŸ™‚

I was flipping through a cookery book, looking for inspiration for dinner and my daughter’s eyes landed upon a swiss roll she wanted to make. We had the ingredients, so I decided to make it with her. It was a budget recipe that used natural yogurt instead of cream, mixed with strawberry jam. It tasted better than I’d imagined it would πŸ™‚ My daughter insisted on wearing my polka dot apron while we baked πŸ™‚

My younger daughter helped me to make risotto and my older one washed the dishes afterwards. It seems like a good time to teach them how to cook and look after themselves a little, since there are usually too many excuses to rush through those things.

This morning, we went for another walk on the blossom-filled route. I’m enjoying spending time walking with the girls more now that we don’t have anywhere to be at a particular time. We get to have more detailed conversations and stop so they can collect leaves, petals and feathers. In that respect, I think it’s making me more patient (but definitely not in other respects!)

My daughter’s school had suggested doing a quiet family colouring session with relaxing music in the background. We listened to Bob Marley and my younger daughter completed two colouring pages. She normally does one squiggle and runs away, but it felt really calming and I did some colouring too, which I haven’t done in a long time. It reminded me that I have a pile of adult colouring books in the cupboard that I never get around to using, but I should more. I felt more able to deal with the day after it, so I might make it a daily practice.

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My older daughter had her turn at being the chef tonight. She made us some pesto chicken with tomatoes and rice. She even put lime wedges in our drinks and enjoyed serving everyone. My younger daughter was the eager dishwasher. It took a long time, but she did a good job for a four year old πŸ™‚

We sat down to play some board games together while my older daughter worked on her clay models. She made a little cake and then proceeded to make twenty more whilst talking my mum through the process on the phone. My mum reminded her of their birthday date for afternoon tea at Patisserie Valerie and my daughter borrowed a china plate so she could recreate her own tea tier. The girls used the empty clay tubs as cake boxes and set up shops in the living room on an upturned box. I paid them for cakes in change and then they bought from each other’s businesses too πŸ™‚

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I have a feeling I’ll be sold cakes before my eyes are fully open tomorrow morning, so I’ll enjoy the tranquility while it lasts. I love sitting in dimmed light with a glass of wine, writing. In contrast to the nonstop nature of a day at home with kids, it feels even sweeter.

 

Wooded Walks & Stopping For Flowers

I didn’t get a chance to document what we did yesterday, so I thought I’d share it with you today πŸ™‚

I’ve been making the effort to still get ready by about nine o’clock (ok, a bit later at the weekend.) But I find that getting dressed up, putting on make-up and going out for a walk first thing lifts my mood. We are mostly self-isolating, only going out for walks in remote places or if we need something from the shop.We drove to a forest near a village in County Down and the fact we’d arrived so early meant we were the only ones there, apart from one dog walker in the distance πŸ™‚ I didn’t know my way around, but that was part of the adventure. I followed the girls and just tried to remember where we’d left the car so we could get home again πŸ™‚ We found logs laid out around a fire pit. The girls wanted me to light a campfire, but I had nothing to light it with, and I don’t trust myself with anything bigger than a candle anyway πŸ™‚ So, we just sat down around it and pretended to light one instead. I had brought some coffee and gingerbread men and water for the girls, so we had a free snack while we were there πŸ™‚ There were a couple of dens someone else had built there. But the thing that kept the girls entertained the longest was a puddle with two planks balanced across it, like a little bridge πŸ™‚ They spent ages climbing across it, practising balancing and creating more obstacles on it with bits of wood and leaves πŸ™‚ They also used sticks to measure how deep the puddle was, so it was vaguely educational as well πŸ™‚ We followed the paths which were visible, but muddy. Next time, I’ll remember to bring wellies πŸ™‚ But squelching in it was part of the fun. I have felt less worried this week about the girls getting messy and wrecking their clothes, probably because I know no one else will see πŸ™‚ I had brought a leaf sample book from the Woodland Trust so the girls could try to identify leaves. We built a den of our own and climbed the hill, taking a shortcut back to the car, as by then the girls were both worn out. The weather was perfect while we were there and it was nice being out in the natural light and feeling the sun on our faces.

On the way home, I stopped at one of the little honesty box farm shops to see what they had. They had some anemones they had cut and were selling them in bunches. We brought some home and put them in a vase at the window to cheer things up for ourselves and our neighbours πŸ™‚ The girls are becoming gentler with things and my older daughter looked after the flowers on the drive home without pulling the heads off them πŸ™‚

At home, I made the girls some noodles and one of my girls completed her magazine while the other one wrote “creative writing” sentences about our morning and the things we’d done. She drew an accompanying picture. It’s a bit like journalling for kids and will be nice to look back on in the future.

Afterwards, the girls asked to paint and did pictures with spring colours, like candy egg pink, blue and yellow. The girls used the colours to make seasonal pictures with daffodils, blue skies, etc.

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Then, they played in the garden for a while. Their favourite game is to β€œcook” soil and leaves in our old barbecue and serve it at the outdoor table for someone’s pretend birthday πŸ™‚

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We followed it with a film afternoon, watching a kids’ movie with popcorn, sweets and coffee (for me.) I need something to sustain me through this period πŸ™‚ I made some homemade pizzas and chips and the girls continued their film throughout dinner. The benefit to making your own dough is you can make the pizzas into any size you like. The girls requested “baby pizzas,” so I made small ones for them, You can also freeze the dough after it rises and defrost it for use another day, or to make homemade dough sticks or doughballs. (You can make your own garlic butter or dip for them too.)

I spent the evening baking and cooking/freezing food before it expired. Β I made some flatbreads, a huge loaf of bread and some pizza dough. I lit a candle in my window for everything that’s been happening and took some time to just sit and think.

Apart from a small bunch of flowers, we spent no money yesterday and didn’t see a soul all day, but in many ways, it felt like a richer day than if those things had been possibilities.

 

Easy Kids’ Crafts – Tea Jewellery/ Treasure Boxes

I’m a fan of kid-led crafts: ones that actually look like a kid made them instead of being manufactured by me and photographed from flattering angles for the purpose of improving my blog! These are so easy to make and required minimal direction from me πŸ™‚

Materials

Herbal Tea Box (box where the lid flips open and recloses)

Poster Paints & brushes

Glitter (the shaky kind)

Glue Stick

Embellishments

Method:

Get your kids to paint their boxes however they like. Leave them to dry fully and give in to their demands for TV time. When dry, let your kids use a glue stick and shake their own glitter over it. Add stickers, sequins, buttons, shells, beads. You can decorate it however you like and have a theme if you want. (Eg, summer flowers, sea life, snowy day.) Let your kids choose what to keep inside it. They like putting toys in it and getting you to guess what is inside. Enjoy the twenty minutes this activity will keep them occupied for πŸ˜€

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