Baked Treats, Snail Homes & Coffee Cravings

Today, we had a major baking day. By major, I mean that I used every dish in the house to bake two things πŸ™‚ I spent a lot of the day washing dishes afterwards, but what’s new πŸ™‚ I’ve been listening to Nina Simone a lot and spending lots of time cooking. Yesterday, I made us some bread, which is already half eaten πŸ˜€ I tried a new recipe today for what were called Fat Rascals. I found them in a magazine and they are similar to scones, filled with dried fruit, lemon and orange zest. The girls helped me to make them, and I’m always happy to having willing volunteers to grease the tray πŸ™‚ I also made some allspice biscuits again since one of my daughters really enjoyed them last time.

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After lunchtime, I took a tray with our baked treats and some tea out to the garden and we had a little tea party. It was grey but humid and it was nice to get a chance to sit outside again. I attempted to read a book, but that quickly turned into me building a den for the girls, amongst other things πŸ™‚

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The girls spotted a snail and decided to temporarily adopt it. We read about what snails like to eat and where they can live and made it it’s own little habitat in an empty chocolates tub πŸ™‚ The girls watched its movements for a long time and tried to encourage it to eat some seeds and a grape (apparently they like these.) It didn’t seem to be bothered by them and spent most of the afternoon travelling in and out of its new house. Sometimes having kids makes me become interested in things I’ve never given any thought before. I think that was the first time I googled “what fruit do snails eat?”We learned that they can’t have pools of water because they can drown and they don’t like to be in direct sunlight. Eventually I removed the tub so it could be left in peace πŸ™‚

 

I’ve been experimenting with making my own lattes with different sweeteners since running out of coffee syrup. I tried maple syrup yesterday, which didn’t seem to work well, as it made it separate. Today, I tried honey and cinnamon on top and it worked surprisingly well πŸ™‚ I’m tempted to order coffee to the door, but when I checked how much it was I had second thoughts πŸ™‚ Lockdown mightn’t have broken my coffee addiction, but at least I’m finding cheaper ways to feed it now πŸ™‚

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For anyone that is interested, The Funky Thrifter book is available on Amazon now. It is a collection of blog posts from this year to give people something peaceful to flip through during these weird times πŸ™‚

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.

 

Gardening, Gloop & Beetle Friends

Yesterday, we went for what has become our usual walk on the Greenway. While we were walking, the girls were talking about the different birdsong and they pointed out some Forget-me-nots and butterflies along the way. They are becoming a lot more perceptive about their environment and noticing the little changes in nature on our walks.

Afterwards, I made them some yellow play doh to β€œbake” with outside. I’m glad I kept all the tools from play doh sets over the years. Even though they add to my cluttered cupboards, the girls have got so much use out of them. They also use dough ball trays from M&S as pretend mini bun trays but you could use kitchen utensils too. I know a garlic press works well with play doh and they enjoy the realistic element of having kitchen equipment too πŸ™‚

The girls made me some bright yellow cupcakes to have with my coffee πŸ™‚ Then they started making desserts and made up their own names for them πŸ™‚ Eventually, it ended up turning into a play doh and soil game and I declared it over πŸ™‚

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Then, we made some real chocolate chip cookies using an easy recipe I found posted online. The girls had asked me to pick up some giant chocolate chips at the shop the day before and it felt like a sign it was time to make choc chip cookies πŸ™‚

The girls helped to roll out the dough and proceeded to lick the bowl and pinch bits of dough to eat while I cut out cookies πŸ™‚ Β We listened to some calming music and I made some coffee to go with the cookies/the girls claimed theirs for snack and TV time πŸ™‚

I had some ripe avocados, so I decided to make guacamole and use a nachos kit we had in the cupboard πŸ™‚ I put some lime in our drinks too and when my daughter came into the kitchen and saw the overloaded plate she said it was β€œlike we’re in a restaurant.” We had a slow dinner at the table and listened to 1920’s jazz. She was right; it did feel like we were in a real restaurant πŸ™‚

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Today, we went for a walk to a nearby shop and the girls got some ice-cream and sweets. The weather was so hot today and going for a morning walk almost felt like being in Spain or Portugal πŸ™‚ I like the fact we go to local shops more now and barely use the car. It feels like we get to experience more together and have longer chats while we walk with nowhere to rush to. The girls picked some dandelion clocks and had fun blowing them on the way home.

Afterwards, my daughter had to do some pets colouring in the style of Dean Russo, so I printed off an extra sheet for my younger daughter. She had her ice-cream while she coloured and my older daughter put a lot of time into drawing patterns. I wish maths homework went that swimmingly. My neighbour kindly gave us some spiced buns she had made and we all loved them. They were like a gingerbread cake πŸ™‚

Afterwards, I made some gloop for the girls to play with. My friend suggested it yesterday and I’d never made it before. It’s so easy to prepare and is such an interesting texture. I couldn’t stop playing with it either, because it keeps changing from solid to liquid and is really weird! The girls played with it for a long time, until they started flinging it around the garden, which is how most messy crafts end!Β 

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I finally tackled the weeding at the front of our house. The girls helped me with raking and binning πŸ™‚ Then they started their own games beside me. I uncovered some Clematis on the wall and I’ve no idea how it got there! It must have just been obscured by all the weeds I never get time to remove πŸ™‚ While we were weeding, my daughter found a beetle and decided to befriend it. I was happy to see her not scream at the sight of a bug πŸ™‚ She was really gentle with it and made it a β€œhouse” in an empty container. She named it β€œDude” but then decided to rename it after my parents’ cat. It eventually moved on and she was momentarily disappointed. (That’s it walking upside down on a twig/its new house it quickly vacated,)

For dinner, we had a barbecue in the garden. I’ve realised having a barbecue with the girls means sitting eating alone while they come up with thousands of reasons to repeatedly leave the table πŸ™‚ But it was nice sitting in the hot sun, feeling like we were on holiday and having the company of the neighbours voices and the birds in the background πŸ™‚

 

 

Fresh Air, Dream Catchers & Easter Salt Dough

Yesterday morning, I had the luxury of a lie-in (almost – until after 7.30am :)) Our pace of life is changing and I can feel the girls adapting to this new way of living. I decided not to rush the day. There was no reason to hurry to get ready, to rush my morning coffee or to not sit and have some quiet time to read. I like the fact that there are no deadlines for anything.

We did some yoga, listened to Jimi Hendrix and played tag in the living room to burn off the girls’ excess energy. They spent a while making mud pies in the garden. I made a little table for them to “cook” at out of an overturned concrete plant pot. At least now I might be able to have a cup of coffee outside without straggly bits of soil floating to the surface πŸ™‚

We worked on a list of needs and wants from my daughter’s school and I adapted it for my younger daughter so she could join in. She made a list with pictures while my older daughter wrote the words. Then I asked her to cut out pictures from a catalogue that had come through the letterbox. She spent some time cutting out furniture, ornaments, etc to make her own room scenes. I thought she could mix them up and create her own pictures of rooms on a piece of paper (like interior decorating for four year olds :)) She’s happy any time she’s offered a pair of scissors, so it kept her busy while I finished schoolwork with my older daughter. Then, they had some free play time. The last few days have felt very unstructured, and it’s strange to think that that is encouraged now, after life being so busy the last few years, with so much emphasis on achievement.

We had lunch and then spent time together in the garden; just feeling fresh air on my face and the warmth of the sun is enough to lift me out of a low mood πŸ™‚ I had some tumeric chai and we talked to family on Facetime. The girls continued making soil desserts and I tried to turn a blind eye to the marshland that our garden has become. It keeps them busy and happy for so long, it might be worth the mess. We went for a walk nearby and I could already see changes to the trees and more colour than the last time we were on the Greenway πŸ™‚

Afterwards, we made some unicorn biscuits together. It came in a box so we just had to add butter to make the dough. The girls enjoyed icing them with melted chocolate and rainbrow drops. I don’t usually try any of the kids’ boxed buns, but I had one with a cup of tea and it was like shortbread with extra toppings πŸ™‚


We spent the evening eating homemade pizza while we watched a film and I gave the girls some ice-cream with a swirled chocolate spread on it. It made a good sundae sauce πŸ™‚

This morning, we completed some more of the activities from my daughter’s toucan box. The girls used watercolours to paint a dream catcher and a headband. They seemed to instinctively know how to attach the feathers and beads. Maybe it’s their Native American heritage πŸ™‚

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After getting ready, we went for a walk to clear our heads. I was started to feel cooped up in the house and the girls had far too much energy to run off in the garden. It was quiet while we were out and we did some rainbow-spotting in house windows. The girls talked about painting rainbows on different materials. They had spotted some on a nearby fence painted on fabric, thick cardboard and made out of paper plates. I like seeing everyone’s creativity coming out during times like this πŸ™‚

After lunch, I made some salt dough. I used rock salt in it, instead of using up all our regular salt and it works fine – it just gives the salt dough more texture. I’ve seen a lot of posts about baking it in the oven for hours on end, but the recipe I use only takes about twenty minutes in the oven and we have had no problems with it setting. I have some Easter cookie cutters, so the girls cut out bunnies, chicks and Easter eggs. After hardening them in the oven, the girls enjoyed painting them and adding glitter.

If I’m honest, I’m struggling this weekend, but I’m finding that the small things uplift me – cherry blossom on our walk, seeing colour appearing in the greenery, a comforting cup of tea and hearing the sound of another adult’s voice on the phone πŸ™‚ I plan to go easy on myself tonight. I have been in productive mode for a while and have been busily doing lots of activities with the girls, and now it feels like it’s a time for rest, surrendering to a bit more TV time and taking the time to give myself as many treats as the kids get πŸ™‚

 

Sunshine Smoothies, Feeding Robins and Cardboard Pets

We started the day yesterday with sunshine smoothies, and the sun joined us in the background. One thing that has helped with the self isolation is the accompaniment of the sun πŸ™‚ Even if you can only enjoy it in your garden, or with the light bouncing off the windows, or warming a room, it is more cheerful than looking out at a grey day πŸ™‚ The girls are obsessed with smoothies, and they’re a good way to get vitamins into their systems without complaints πŸ™‚ I just used some frozen mango and papaya we had in the freezer but you could use pineapple too, and combined it with orange juice and honey in the blender.

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We absorbed some of the sun in the garden and I brought my coffee and reading material outside πŸ™‚ Even though it is a challenge to make it through a sentence on paper without interruption, I’m enjoying using the little table and chairs in our back garden. It is positioned next to some plants that are budding and it’s a restful spot to sit in. I’m looking forward to sitting out there when the kids are in bed and the nights are a bit longer. But for now, I’m grateful to have somewhere to enjoy my coffee surrounded by nature, even if we are confined to a smallish yard πŸ™‚

I planted some hyacinth bulbs a while ago and I was surprised to see they are flowering and looking healthy so far πŸ™‚ I decided to make some bird food to attract the birds back to our garden. I checked online to make sure we weren’t giving them anything they couldn’t eat. Every time I have made bird feed like this, the birds devour it in a couple of days. Meanwhile, they seem to be neglecting the seeds in the proper bird feeder next to it πŸ™‚ I found this online for anyone that wants to try making some.

The girls helped me to make it. We combined oats, rice krispies, raisins, peanut butter, a little oil and some grapes. I read somewhere that birds love grapes, and couldn’t imagine them eating them, but they do πŸ™‚ Today, we noticed a robin had been spending a lot of time in our garden and was eating it πŸ™‚ I always wonder how birds find out there is new food in a garden. Are they always watching to see? Do they tell each other?

After making our bird seed, we stuck our egg carton daffodils together πŸ™‚ The girls were much less interested in assembling them than they were in painting them yellow πŸ™‚

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We made some chocolate rice krispie buns, and the girls enjoyed taking charge of making them and eating them πŸ™‚

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Afterwards, I opened one of the Toucan Boxes we got. It had a bunny racecar to make, but as always my mechanical skills let me down πŸ™‚ We managed to make the bunny and today we improvised and made a car out of an empty teabox. The pack also contained an Easter bunting kit and a bunny hairband kit. Both crafts were much easier and we completed them. The pack contained white crayons and watercolours for magic painting, which the girls enjoyed doing. There was also a magazine for kids with suggested projects and sticker activities in it.

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After the kids were in bed last night, I tried making my first homemade tortillas. I find cooking really soothing, particularly when no one is howling at my feet πŸ™‚ It was therapeutic making the dough. It doesn’t contain any yeast, so you don’t have to worry about kneading, etc. I was happy with how they turned out. They were a bit misshapen but tasted fresher than ones I would have bought in the shop.

This morning, I decided to put our Easter tree up πŸ™‚ I love the way it brightens up the kitchen. I was surprised it still had some life left in it, as we’ve had it for a few years now. The girls were happy to see it make a reappearance.

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My daughter had been given a task by her school, to make a junk model pet. She decided on a parrot and I helped her assemble and tape it together. She added feathers and made a beak shape out of a pipe cleaner. We strung it up with balloon ribbon and it is currently suspended from our kitchen door handle, blessing us with its beauty πŸ˜€

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My other daughter decided to make a five-eyed hamster out of an egg carton. I’m glad I’ve saved up so many cardboard boxes now. At times, my craft hoarding can be a nuisance, but during this period of staying at home, it has become a gift πŸ™‚ Our kitchen table permanently looks like this at the moment, but I just try to remember that saying about excusing the mess because the kids are busy making memories πŸ™‚

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