Slow Sundays, Orange Cake & Garden Games

I have really enjoyed the pace of today. I’ve eased back on the pressure I’ve been putting myself under, where child entertainment is involved. I’m feeling more rested because of it πŸ™‚ I took my time over coffee this morning and read a little. I’m rereading Wuthering Heights since I can’t remember the story clearly. I must have last read it more than a decade ago. I like how atmospheric the writing is. It’s the perfect accompaniment to tea and sitting in front ofΒ  a candle burning πŸ™‚ (especially today – with the wind whipping around the house.)

I printed off some pictures I found online for the girls to colour in. Each page states the colour of the different items of clothing the boys and girls are wearing, and it held the girls’ attention for longer than plain colouring would πŸ™‚ My younger daughter likes to do a rushed drawing and then run away, and the added instructions kept her sitting a little longer. She enjoyed cutting the pictures out too, and presenting them to me as gifts πŸ™‚

I also found some colouring pages on the Spar Facebook page. If you visit it and scroll down, they posted some pictures a few days ago to keep kids busy. I put on a free audio book for the girls to listen to. There are several free audiobooks on Audible for adults and children while we are in lockdown πŸ™‚ I find it a good alternative to soothing music and it keeps them focussed on whatever they are doing with their hands πŸ™‚

I had seen a chalk-drawn game course for kids online, so I recreated it in our garden. I drew hopscotch and other instructions to follow on the ground – zig zags, stepping stones, places to twirl. I was surprised by how much it entertained the girls. They wanted to be rewarded with a cookie upon finishing it, but after three cookies each, we changed it to jumping on the giant cookie drawn on the ground instead πŸ™‚

The girls requested to have their lunch at the table in the garden. I made a mini fry, and they had theirs outside while I had mine in tranquility for once in the kitchen πŸ™‚

After lunch, we made an orange cake I adapted from The Simple Things magazine. It was supposed to have caraway seeds in it, and I didn’t have any, so I ground up cardamom pods in the blender and added them instead. It worked out well and was an easy recipe to make with kids. Their favourite part is still licking the bowl and they loved painting the orange glaze on the top at the end πŸ™‚ I made myself the foamiest coffee ever and had it in relative peace while I did some writing.

I made a roast dinner tonight and served the cake we made warm with vanilla custard we had. The girls loved the custard, but one of my daughters still refuses to eat any cake I make, unless it’s coconut or chocolate πŸ™‚ We played some board games and turned our Sunday into something that felt a little like a celebration.

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™‚

 

Chai Tea, Champagne Candles & Nature Collages

We have had a slow start to our day the last couple of days. Yesterday morning, my daughter requested pancakes for breakfast and I indulged her since we have all the time we want now for making pancakes πŸ™‚ I had a long cup of coffee, read a bit of a book and had some pancakes with nutella before we got ready. We spent some time in the garden, and I gave the girls plant pots to collect whatever items they could find for a nature collage. We have no craft card, so I just cut up a cereal box and that gave the picture enough structure to hold the bits and pieces they founnd πŸ™‚ There aren’t many living plants in our garden, so it consisted mostly of twigs, discoloured leaves and dirt but they liked the sensory process of making them πŸ™‚ Afterwards, we talked about taking rubbings and collected items with different surfaces and textures, put them underneath paper and I gave my daughter crayons and pastels to rub over the top so the pattern would transfer to paper.

Afterwards, we went back outside to the garden. I had some chai tea with soya milk. I usually drink tea black, but I find chai tea with milk and honey a comforting thing to drink. When it reaches the stage of the day when I’ve had my fill of coffee and I’m feeling a bit drained, it picks me up. The girls continued making mud pies and leaf soup in our old barbecue. I’m thinking of converting a large plant pot into a table for them so the garden table isn’t covered in soil every time I sit down πŸ™‚ The girls requested their spray bottles again so they could draw on the fence with chalk and wash it off. It’s strange how something so simple can occupy them for hours πŸ™‚ The only downside is they start squirting it into their mouths or taking the lid off and taking sips from it :/ It’s a good job there was no cleaning solution in it beforehand πŸ™‚

I have a candle I had been saving for a time I needed it, and I decided yesterday afternoon was that time πŸ™‚ It’s from a company I love called the Reading Room Candle Company and smells like champagne and strawberries πŸ™‚ I liked the title too, since I love F Scott Fitzgerald πŸ™‚ I listened to Angel Olsen and took some alone time to write and unwind.

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For dinner, I used up the last couple of chicken drumsticks we had and made a big batch of mashed potato so I could use the rest to make potato bread again today πŸ™‚ I improvised and made stuffing using some homemade bread we had left. I didn’t want to use up our last onion so I made it with an egg, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme. I dotted knobs of butter on top before putting it in the oven and it might be the best stuffing I’ve made. My daughter seemed to appreciate the fact the recipe was simple and contained nothing resembling a vegetable too πŸ™‚

My tomato plant is sprouting on the windowsill and I’m wondering if it’s because I have more time to remember to water it at regular intervals πŸ™‚ I’m hopeful it will yield tomatoes at some stage but I’m not getting ahead of myself or my gardening skills πŸ™‚ My coriander seems to be doing well too and I used it in a dish for the first time a couple of days ago πŸ™‚

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We got a lovely surprise in the post of Easter eggs from my parents πŸ™‚ I doubt any of them will last until Easter but it’s good to know there is chocolate nearby now πŸ™‚

Today I tried a recipe my friend had sent me for pizza dough and just shaped it into a small loaf. It contains equal parts self raising flour and greek yogurt, and no other ingredients, and I was surprised by how bread-like it looked when it emerged from the oven. It only took about fifteen minutes to cook too πŸ™‚

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We ventured out for the first time in days to pick up some things from a local health shop. I got some new teas to try and a sourdough loaf, as well as replenishing our snacks. The girls are constantly asking me for snacks and one of them refuses to eat most things I bake, so it’s been a challenge stretching snacks πŸ™‚ I think I’m going to continue shopping at local shops when things return to normal. I prefer the pace of them to racing around a large supermarket, beating your way through crowds.

After having some garden and schoolwork time, my kids caught up on an activity from last week we hadn’t had time to do. It was to make a poster of how to look after a pet. The girls both chose a rabbit and I liked their attention to detail in creating the hutches and the rabbits’ meals πŸ™‚ We did some reading together and then I got some writing done while the girls watched TV. I tried the tumeric chai tea I bought at the shop, and am saving my bedtime one for tonight πŸ™‚

I used up the mashed potato and made more potato bread. They are so easy to make, I don’t know why I haven’t made it regularly before. I’m going to have to ration it this time since last time the girls ate fifteen bits of it in one day πŸ™‚ I used my easter egg cookie cutter to make them πŸ™‚ For dinner I made macaroni cheese for some comfort food with our new bread (which my daughter has named pie bread because I cut it like pie :)) Now I’m planning on spending the evening inactive in front of a book or magazine with a constant supply of tea πŸ™‚

Treasuring the Tranquility

The last couple of days have been slow and quiet. I’m actually enjoying aspects of them, like the birdsong, the fact I can hear a clock ticking, the fact I don’t feel pulled in as many directions (apart from when my kids are queuing up for constant snacks, obviously.)

Yesterday, we started the day with yoga/dancing/garden time. My aim is to burn off as much of my kids’ energy as possible before we sit down to do schoolwork πŸ™‚ While my older daughter did some work, I gave my younger one glue and craft materials to make a collage. She glued her bookmark onto her picture but I just let her get on with it. I don’t think many of her books need a bookmark since we finish them in one sitting πŸ™‚

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Afterwards, we watched a Maddie Moate video and had some sultana cake/breadsticks/coffee number two for me. One of my daughter’s activities was to make a chick out of card. My younger daughter likes to join in with any craft project, so they made one each. I was impressed by how little I had to help with the concertina folds and cutting the sellotape πŸ™‚ I could almost imagine a time when I’ll be able to sit with idle hands while they do artwork πŸ™‚

I had chocolates left from my Mother’s Day basket and we all had one each. The girls liked choosing their own and the fact they were limited to one seemed to make them view it as more of a treat πŸ™‚

For dinner, I decided to make a mini fry with ingredients we already had in the house. I had made some mashed potatoes the previous night. I mixed them with flour to make potato bread and fried them. I thought I’d made enough to last days, but the girls are all of it πŸ™‚ Here is a picture of our food. I know, I’m weird because I eat ketchup and baked beans on one plate. Clearly my first priority is eating, my second priority is photography πŸ™‚

I hung up the bunting we had made in my daughter’s toucan box to cheer up the kitchen πŸ™‚ It’s going to make opening cupboards difficult for a while, but at least it looks seasonal πŸ™‚

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This morning, I gave the girls one of my daughter’s preschool’s suggested activities.They drew on the fence and the ground with chalk and then used spray bottles of water to clean it off. It kept them occupied for a long time and they were reluctant to come inside.

One of my kids did magic painting to practise writing words for school. She wrote the words with white crayon and painted over them with watercolours. If you don’t have a white crayon, you can use a white candle instead. Meanwhile, my other daughter did her own magic Paw Patrol picture. We had some stories and a snack and watched a video about growing vegetables.

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We went back outside after lunch to identify outdoor sounds in the garden. It’s harder than it appears at first glance with kids involved πŸ™‚ It was a struggle to hear anything over their bikes and their voices πŸ™‚ But we completed the list and then went indoors to do the indoor sounds section.

I’ve made 3pm my designated writing time. At that time, the girls are allowed to watch TV and have a snack while I catch up on some writing. They make many visits throughout with requests for more snacks, so I’ve had to relax my ideal word count for this period πŸ™‚ My act of self-care today was to write, drink a homemade latte and sneak chocolate truffles when no one was looking πŸ™‚

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For dinner, I improvised and made something like chicken korma. I used up some of the flatbreads we had left and they were a good substitute for naan bread πŸ™‚ I like the fact that this phase of life is making everyone more resourceful, and it shows us we can survive on much less than we typically buy 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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Craft Packs, Pretend Play and Fig Scones

The last couple of days have been slightly calmer, as we’re getting used to this new way of life. I’ve been trying to schedule in more time for myself, and allowing myself to leave the girls to their own devices sometimes, guilt-free. After catching up with my daughter’s school class on Zoom yesterday, we watched a nature show about water nymphs. It’s on Tuesday and Thursdays and is run by a nature centre. The classes are interactive, with a quiz for kids and a creative task for them to complete before the next one. Last time, they enjoyed designing their own plants and naming them.

We did some of my daughter’s schoolwork and made a multicoloured number grid to help her with it πŸ™‚

After some academic time, we made egg carton daffodils, which was an activity suggested by my other daughter’ s preschool. The girls enjoyed painting the bell part of the flower yellow, and then I cut out what felt like millions of petals from a cereal box for them to paint. If you have white paint, it’s better to paint the cardboard with that first and let it dry, as the yellow will look less patchy when added, but we didn’t have any so we just slathered a lot of yellow on πŸ™‚ We are still waiting for it to completely dry πŸ™‚

I tried a recipe from a magazine for fig and walnut scones. They turned out really well, but the girls refused to eat them because of the fruit and nuts inside. (More for me :)) It was a beautiful day and the girls spent a lot of time in the garden playing. I made some chai tea and attempted to sit outside and read a magazine, but I think I just read the same paragraph multiple times and then stopped to watch their “bike races.”

Since my daughter is learning about pets in school, I set up their vets when they were asleep. I just improvised with items we had in the house, using cushions and blankets for pet beds, plasters and calpol syringes for them to use on teddies. My kids are obsessed with plasters, so I knew they’d be happy to be granted permission to put them on their toy animals πŸ™‚ I set up a little desk with two seats, a pen holder, a phone, paper to write the animal’s ailments down, and a grooming corner, as well as all the toy animals I could find without raiding their bedroom and waking them up πŸ™‚ It was so simple to throw together, but the girls were excited to see it when they came downstairs πŸ™‚

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We had some overnight oats for breakfast. I love the fact that they’re ready when you get up and no pre-coffee preparation is required. I used oats, grated apple, plain yogurt and milk, mixed it and put some frozen berries on top and put it in the fridge overnight. Sometimes I just use milk without yogurt and sometimes I do an apple and peanut butter one. I like porridge weirdly thick so this picture might look unappealing to some πŸ™‚

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After breakfast, we spent some time in the garden, did some more dancing and kids’ yoga and then worked on my daughter’s pets theme for school. We did some creative writing and my younger daughter drew pictures of her imaginary pet, its food and a house for it to live in. Then, two activity packs I’d ordered for the girls arrived in the post and they were very excited πŸ™‚ They got a world book day book each, a sticker book, a mask to make, bookmarks and a paper lady to decorate that came with pretend hair and fabric. I like the fact it has crazily curly hair. The gluing kept the girls occupied for a long time too πŸ™‚

I repurposed some leftover chow mein I’d made last night by combining it with chicken stock I had in the freezer. I had put ginger, onion, garlic, a small bit of chicken, soy sauce and oyster sauce in the noodles last night, so it was like chicken noodle soup with extra flavour πŸ™‚ It felt like a good thing to eat to fend off any germs πŸ™‚

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After lunch, we watched a kids’ music class so the girls could make use of their musical instruments and run around inside πŸ™‚ They spent a little more time in the garden and we are having an early close-the-curtains, put-on-pyjamas and watch-a-movie night πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

Gentler Days

I name this post gentler days because of the slower pace of life we have all been forced to take. I’m finding sticking to a schedule, albeit a looser one, is helping us to pass the days, and even enjoy the unique gifts they bring with them

Yesterday, we started the day with some exercise and outdoor time to increase the chances of my children sitting still for schoolwork πŸ™‚ We did some of the girls’ yoga for kids and had a dance party to my Β records in the living room πŸ™‚ They played outside on their bikes for a while so I could sit at the garden table with a cup of coffee and gather my thoughts πŸ™‚ With the onslaught of questions, it doesn’t really work, but I still try πŸ™‚ The girls practised skipping and played with their bubble guns and I noticed that our tulips are close to coming out to cheer up our garden πŸ™‚

My older daughter practised her spellings for the week by making the letters with play dough. It turned into a play dough session with my other daughter making me β€œpancakes” with various toppings πŸ™‚ My older daughter had a reading activity about a kangaroo, so we ended up making play dough kangaroo families πŸ™‚ I find that interspersing schoolwork with play related to it in some way increases their concentration. I like the fact my daughter made hats for the kangaroos too πŸ™‚ We visited the national geographic website for kids and read some facts about kangaroos. I didn’t know that the baby ones are the size of a grape and that they can jump 9 metres. The girls tried to recreate that in our hallway πŸ™‚

My friend had sent us a scavenger hunt you can complete with kids around the house. They enjoyed racing off to find the essential objects and proudly showing me what creative choices they’d come up with πŸ™‚

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We made some more flatbreads for lunch and the girls helped me with the mixing. I think I’ve discovered my new addiction and probably won’t buy flatbreads from the shop again πŸ™‚ I made what the girls called β€œsnacky lunchβ€œ, where I set finger food out and they help themselves. I dug out some miniature cups I have that I’d forgotten for the girls to use. They liked having their own little tea cups and it felt like a tea party πŸ™‚

Today, we started the day with outside time in the garden again, as well as dancing and kids’ yoga. We filled up a bird feeder to try and attract more birds to our garden. I’ve noticed a robin and some blackbirds making frequent visits the last few days, and the girls show an interest in them too.

One of my daughter’s school activities was to write a book review of her favourite book, so I adapted it to include both of them. They each chose their favourite book and we read them together. While my older daughter made a summary and answered questions about it, my younger one drew a picture of hers from the cover. They had to rate the book out of five stars so I got my younger one to draw her stars and colour them in πŸ™‚

Afterwards, we watched a Maddie Moate recorded live show about birds. There was a quiz and aΒ craft project for making your own bird feeder. The girls seemed genuinely interested in guessing birds by their song and spotting birds in our garden.

For lunch, I decided to try a new recipe to use up wilting lettuce we had, so I made a soup with potato, onion, garlic and lettuce in it. I blended it before the girls got a chance to look at it and was surprised they actually ate it and said they liked it. (They still don’t know there was lettuce in it.) It tasted like leek and potato soup, but a little thinner. I’m trying to grow more lettuce from the lettuce ends that were left. I’ve put them in a bowl of water to see if they grow back. I’d seen people doing that with root veg too and was interested to see if it’d work for us. I’m grateful for the fact this last week has made me more aware of food and waste and unnecessary trips to the shop. I always liked cooking from scratch and baking, but it’s made me more inventive in using everything up.

My younger daughter’s preschool had suggested some activities for home, so we decided to try one today. We made a sensory garden/farm. I used an old tub and the girls enjoyed scrunching Weetabix into it to make pretend soil. The instructions said you could use any crushed cereal or soil. We made a tin foil β€œpond” and then I gave the girls empty plant pots and we went on a β€œschool trip” into the garden to collect leaves, stones, twigs and anything else the girls found for the garden.

The girls came up with their own way of decorating the garden. They put stones as rocks around the pond, leaves, twigs planted as trees, a couple of flowers, and some weeds hanging over the side as β€œivy.” When they’d finished, they added toy animals to it. I think it’ll provide hours of entertainment if I can manage to dissuade my daughter from eating the Weetabix soil πŸ™‚ There are aspects of life that are difficult at the moment, but I’m glad of the extra time it has given me with the girls and the projects we wouldn’t have had time to do otherwise.