A Week of Quiet Creativity

I’m a little bit behind on my blogging. I’ve been working on a book and that’s been taking up the small amount of free time I have 🙂 But I thought I’d share a few things that we did this week to keep busy. I’ve been feeling grateful for the amount of sunshine and the warmer temperatures that allow us to spend most of our time in the garden 🙂

We have a baby paddling pool from years ago that I have been filling with warm, bubbly water for the girls to paddle in. It’s small, but they like to pull up their garden chairs and sit with their feet in it. I made some more homemade lemonade and served it to them at their “beach” with straws. We also have a water table in the garden, and the girls requested that I put bubbly water in it too, so they could give their babies a bath 🙂 My daughter was using socks as sleeping bags for them when they’d had their bath 🙂

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We collected twigs, stones, flowers etc so the girls could make some wild art on the ground in the garden. My daughter made a picture of a house with an outdoor den, trees and a shed and was engrossed in it for ages 🙂 She was instructing me on what materials I had to find next 😀

I wanted to try a craft for kids I’d seen online using felt tips and kitchen roll. I couldn’t find any blank kitchen roll, so we had to improvise with a patterned one, but it was still the same idea 🙂 You tear off two pieces of kitchen roll and fold it like a book – drawing on the top layer and the one underneath. You can draw the outline of a picture on top and the filled in parts underneath, so when you drop it in a bowl of water, the picture becomes one. The girls liked drawing simpler patterns on it and seeing them coming together. Just the novelty of drawing on kitchen roll was enough to keep them sitting for half an hour. They loved dropping the kitchen roll in water to reveal the hidden pictures too 🙂

We made some banana and walnut bread and I tasked the girls with breaking the nuts into the mixture. It kept them quiet for a long time. I find when they are getting really hyper and running wild that giving them a focussed task helps to calm things down a little 🙂

We have a game of charades for kids, which the girls love playing. I found it in a charity shop for just over a pound and it’s their favourite game 🙂 You could make up your own version at home by drawing pictures that younger kids have to act out on card or paper, for example, a horse, a pen, a piano, etc. For older kids who can read, you can write more developed ones, like washing the dishes, wrapping a present, building a house, etc. You could make it fit with any theme you like. If you have an egg timer you could use it too 🙂

I used to make up little mysteries for the girls to solve when they were younger, using pictures. They had to look for the item on the page and find the next picture in that location. Now that they are a bit older, I decided to make up a simple mystery for them to solve, with words and pictures. I just grabbed a baby doll and made up a story about it exploring the house, leaving pink sandy footprints, having a bath in the sink, making friends with other dolls, turning household items into a playground, etc. The girls had to find all the evidence, tick boxes and find where the baby was hidden at the end. It didn’t take long to put it together and it kept them entertained without me having to get up while I finished my coffee 🙂

My older daughter loves art and she’s enjoying watching guided drawing videos online. There have been quite a few free art classes on Facebook since lockdown started. We did a “drawing the Easter bunny” one together and she enjoyed learning about shading and layering colours.

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We went for a walk to the chemist and spotted an Easter window display along the way. I thought it was nice that the owner had left the display there when the shop is currently closed. It brightened the girls’ day seeing it and they wanted to take the bunnies home with us 🙂

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Since I didn’t have many eggs to hide for an Easter egg hunt, I got the kids to cut eggs out of cardboard and draw patterns on them, and hid them along with our remaining chocolate in the garden 🙂 They liked colouring at the table outside too. It’s strange how an activity they do all the time becomes more exciting when it’s in a new location 🙂

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I looked up some recipes for Easter biscuits and adapted a Mary Berry one. We made some egg, chick and bunny shaped cookies with Easter colours icing and sprinkles 🙂 When they were ready, we enjoyed them in the garden and looked at some of the emerging flowers. My tulips came out overnight and I like the fact the girls noticed that they had. They have more time to notice things they might have overlooked before, and I think it’s an important lesson for them.

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I made my first hashbrowns, which was incredibly easy and left me wondering why I’d never done it before. I just fried grated potato in oil until it was softened on the inside and crisped on the inside and topped breakfast burritos with them. I just filled tortillas with scrambled egg and cheese, but you could use any toppings you like, and make more adventurous ones for the non-fussy eaters in your house.

The girls had some washi tape left, so we used it to make some bracelets. I didn’t have any string or elastic, so we used pipecleaners I cut to fit the girls’ wrists and twisted them together at the end. They cut off small amounts of the decorative tape and wrapped it around the pipecleaner to form “beads.” They were happy with the end result and it was quite a therapeutic activity to do. You could also use it to make decorative chains/bunting instead of jewellery.

The girls made some Easter cards out of paper and they were very excited to receive a package from a lady we know with some Easter chick bows inside 🙂 I think that sending letters and parcels brings a lot of joy in these times when we can’t see family and friends.

I find that doing these quiet activities makes the days go quicker and keeps us sane, but also makes us stop to treasure the time we have to do things that usually get pushed aside for routine.

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An Unplanned Easter

It seems that Easter has become as commercial as every other seasonal celebration, and apart from Easter eggs, I was, apparently, ill-prepared for it. But sometimes I prefer to leave things until the last minute to see what ideas I come up with on the spot. I put Easter eggs in the girls’ bedroom when they were asleep last night and then printed off a simple rhyming egg hunt 🙂 I was low on chocolate, so I used the last of our mini eggs for the hunt, finishing with a surprise Easter egg each in the fridge at the end. They really enjoyed the egg hunt and I found that the fact it was to the point held their attention better than more elaborate ones I’ve tried with them. I didn’t have anything resembling an Easter basket, so I printed off some Easter egg and bunny colouring sheets and put them in a box for the girls to open with craft supplies and some sweets.

After the girls had eaten far too much chocolate, I tried to calm things down with some hard-boiled egg painting. They painted patterns on their eggs and we used them as part of our Easter table display. I might make some sort of pretend hill in our garden for them to roll them down tomorrow 🙂

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I noticed our robin visitor had eaten all of the bird food we made him, so we made some really simple bird feeders. We just used toilet roll tubes, spread peanut butter on them and rolled them in a baking tray filled with bird seed to coat them. You don’t even need string to hang them up; you can just hook them onto a branch 🙂 I saw the robin eating some of them today and I was glad the fact they were refashioned out of a holder for toilet roll didn’t make them unappetising to him 🙂

I have started trying to make some sourdough starter. I looked up how to make it in a quiet moment last night and was surprised how few ingredients it requires – just lots of patience and attentiveness. I started one with wholewheat flour and water as an experiment, so I will try to remember to feed it tonight 🙂

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The girls were worn out after crafting and playing in the garden, so they sat down to colour their Easter colouring sheets and listened to the Little Baby Bum Easter album (my younger daughter’s music of choice.)

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We also started to put together a memory box for the girls. They decorated an old shoe box with sequins and wrote their names on the outside of it. They are going to add pictures of their favourite memories to it, as well as little souvenirs of our time spent together. One toy has been added to the box, but I’m wondering if it will permanently reside there or if it will be missed by tomorrow.

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Our day was busy with lots of short-lived craft projects, so I allowed earlier TV time than usual and we all got a chance to sit down and gather our thoughts (I’m talking about me.)

I decided to make a celebratory Easter dinner, since my girls love any excuse for a party. I laid the table with wine glasses, napkins and candles. I put oranges on the girls’ glasses to make their water a bit more exciting 🙂 I made roasted chicken with homemade stuffing, roast potatoes and honey sweet potato/carrot. For dessert, I made apple crumble and custard. The girls refused to eat my stuffing and apple crumble, but at least they expressed appreciation for my table decorating skills and the pin the tail on the bunny game I produced at the end 🙂

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Small Thoughts to Make You Smile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Busy Weekend of Budget Activities

This weekend, I decided to try a spending freeze. I managed to find a few things to do with the kids that weren’t costly. After I picked them up from school, we went to the Gruffalo trail at Colin Glen Forest Park. It was a grey afternoon that felt like it was bordering on twilight at three pm, so apart from a few lone dog walkers we were the only ones there. The girls enjoyed searching for all the characters from the Gruffalo and that was the first time we’d been there together.

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When we go for a walk in the cold, I tend to bring coffee and snacks with us, so we had a biscuits picnic on a bench we found. It was a strange outing. My kids loved uncovering all the hidden creatures and playing Pooh sticks at the riverside with twigs we had no hope of spotting further downstream. It had a spooky kind of feel to the place that reminded me of the opening scene of Rebecca with the drive to Manderley. But gladly, the rain stayed off until the moment we got into the car. There was a memorial for someone that had died there and that prompted a discussion about death with my kids. I don’t shy away from such conversations with them but it all turned a bit moody and morbid 🙂 But everyone cheered up when we found the Gruffalo at the end of the trail and some painted rocks that someone had hidden there. The girls took them so they could hide them elsewhere for someone else to find 🙂 When we were leaving, my daughter discovered a nut and decided to make a shelter for it to keep it safe for a squirrel we had spotted 🙂

I took the girls to a screening of Paddington 2 at a local cinema. It was free as it is part of the kids’ club. I brought some snacks and got to enjoy warm coffee, seated 🙂 Afterwards, I had hoped to take the girls to the park, but the weather was against that idea, so we went to a board game cafe instead.

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They have a good range of adults’ and children‘s games. The kids’ food is reasonably priced and the girls had sandwiches while I had tea and got to eat a traybake without having it snatched from my hand 🙂 We tried to work out a few games with complex rules and my kids aren’t fans of patiently waiting while I read the instructions, so we settled on one with penguins you balance on a rocking pirate ship and a fish-eating shark game 🙂 It was a good way to spend a dreary afternoon and my kids were begging me to go back.

Today, we set out to Rowallane. I think getting to scan National Trust cards at the machine is one of my kids’ favourite things to do in life. They had some crafts indoors, so my daughter set to work colouring a robin, before cutting it out and making wings. My other daughter followed the paw print trail on the floor and roamed after doing a couple of squiggles on a page. I have one crafter and one wanderer and sometimes it’s hard to contain them in the one space 🙂

We walked through the Walled Garden and my kids looked for an appropriate place to hide the rocks they had found on Friday. The weather was cool and sunny, with a low, blinding sun hanging like a bare lightbulb 🙂 But I was glad of the brightness and fresh air after a number of hours indoors with my kids dismantling the furniture. We walked to the stile they love to climb over and the spring ground. They enjoy running down the hill and climbing on the rocks. I grew up near Rowallane and showed them the trees I used to make dens under. They found some especially muddy puddles to jump in and were using giant leaves to clean their wellies off afterwards. I love seeing their creativity coming out and how much they enjoy the simple things we do. We had some snacks and I got to sneak into the secondhand bookshop before we left. I never come out empty-handed, so I have some more books to add to my ever-increasing to-read pile.


We didn’t spend much money this weekend but got to have rich experiences. I’ve realised that my kids need to be allowed to run freely in open spaces or their excess energy is directed towards our living environment instead. But the fresh air and space does my head as much good as it does their limbs. One of the biggest struggles I have with parenting is being mentally present all the time. I can be emotionally present, but mentally, in a daydream, thinking of all the other creative things I want to cram into my day. Stopping to look at nature with them definitely helps to root me in the present.

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A Christmassy Day without the Chaos

Today I was talking to my mum about cutting out all of the Christmas chaos. There are so many Christmas events you could be signing up and paying out for, and parental guilt struck me when I realised I hadn’t booked anything for the girls over Christmas. Then I arrived at the conclusion that there are few of them I have actually enjoyed. Unless it is off the beaten track and not overly populated, most Christmas events are overwhelming, so I might stick to making salt dough at home and going for Wintery walks in the countryside instead.

I’ve been trying to walk my kids to school every morning. It’s about a mile from our house and it just feels calmer than fighting our way through traffic to struggle to find a parking space. Along the way, you notice more than you would in a car, like the cheerful lollipop man, the window displays, the fruit shop hanging out wreaths and mistletoe and the Christmas lights. There is a house my kids love to stop at every day because they have a festive display along with lots of toys in the front yard. They call it “our favourite garden.” I noticed a holly tree while we were walking and I think the icy air clears your head before you start your day too. I actually talk to my kids properly on the walk too, which rarely happens when I’m stressed behind the wheel.

Today, I decided to bypass my writing and coffee date with myself and stay in instead. I turned the Christmas lights on along with the National Lampoons and made some costa coffee at home with mini mince pies. (I had to have two because they were small :)) I tackled some of the present wrapping I had left to do and enjoyed it with the absence of demands and interruptions while my kids were at school.

When my younger daughter got home, we made some chocolate fudge with crushed candy canes in it. I’m hoping it sets properly because fudge always confuses my brain, but my daughter enjoyed making it. She had the job of bashing the candy canes with a rolling pin and she’s an expert on tray greasing 🙂

Tonight, once my kids were in their pyjamas, I surprised them with our drive to see the Christmas lights. They brought milk and gingerbread men in the car, listened to Christmas songs and enjoyed driving all over the city and looking for the most over-the-top light displays 🙂 If I knew how to climb ladders and hang lights properly, ours would probably look like a Christmas grotto too 🙂 I always loved multicoloured fairy lights and tacky Santa’s and some things don’t change with age 🙂

Ways to Keep Christmas Calm

Like most introverts, I find the build-up to Christmas a bit overwhelming. Once you have kids it seems to quadruple the number of events you can’t talk your way out of. Sometimes I just need to hear the quiet and calm down the frenzied festivities. Last weekend, I made a point of not signing up for any Santa-themed, city-centre based activities and we just did our own things before my head exploded like a Christmas cracker 🙂

I’d planned on staying in for most of the weekend, but as always, the idea of that was easier than the execution of it. I stopped at the pound shop before collecting the girls and picked up some Christmas activity packs, DVDs and baking things.

When my kids got home, they painted ceramic snowmen, did scratch pictures, coloured and played with stickers. My friend had sent me some hot chocolate bombes as a gift and we used those. My kids were amazed when they erupted in the cup, producing mini marshmallows. I put on calm music and they didn’t even ask to watch TV (which is rare!)

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My daughter decided she wanted to write Christmas cards for her class. I usually avoid this tradition but watching her do it made me realise how it could be therapeutic and a good way to focus your attention on something less brash and materialistic. I always saw the obligation side to writing cards before and thought it was just a box ticking exercise, but watching how attentively she did it slowed my mind down and helped me see the thoughtful side to it.

We baked some Christmas cupcakes. They had orange zest and juice inside them and cinnamon for a Christmassy flavour 🙂 They turned into mermaid cupcakes when my kids plastered them with icing and sprinkles but they still tasted good 🙂

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Once the cabin fever set in, we went to the beach. It was bitterly cold and we seemed to be the only ones there, apart from a few dog walkers passing through, but I like going to the sea even more when it’s a wild than when it’s like a holiday scene. The air tired the girls out and they had the playground to themselves 🙂 I brought tea with us and some snacks. The tide was in and we spent a long time sitting watching the seagulls “surfing” on the waves. It reminded me that I need to allow myself more time to stare into space and watch things and tune out. I think it’s important for your mental health, plus that’s when the ideas usually come to you 🙂 The girls were really interested in watching the seagulls bobbing over the waves and it showed me how little time there is for stillness nowadays. But just because it isn’t popular or right in front of us, doesn’t mean we can’t claim it. After a weekend away from the Christmas rush, I felt (almost) refreshed enough to face it again.

Ordinary Days

I think there is a lot of emphasis placed on always doing things with your kids nowadays. I’m not very good at sitting still for long periods of time, so keeping them occupied suits me well. But lately if we have a busy week, I like to have an ordinary day to wind down from it and let my kids have the room to be creative.

When I got up today, the first thing my kids asked me was “what are we doing today?” Sometimes I think if we have a lot of busy days, they come to expect it and become more entitled, so I like to offset it with uneventful days too.

Today, I let my kids watch TV, they played in the garden and made a pretend barbecue with flowers, stones, leaves etc. I like to see what games they come up with when I allow them the space to do it. I sat in the garden with them, my writing and a cup of tea. I think it’s good to let your children watch you doing something creative of your own. They need to know you have value beyond serving them snacks sometimes 🙂 They usually show curiosity about what I’m doing when I do write/read/make things in front of them. My daughter usually joins in with an idea of her own. Today they were drawing pictures of some lilies in our garden.

We had to go out for a little while to do errands and we stopped at the pound shop and one shop on our way out. Even if you are trying not to spend too much money, I think it’s good to treat yourself to one pound treats 🙂 I got the girls a couple of canvases to colour and decorate and I got some chocolate and Yankee candles that were on sale.
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I think music and candles are important. They make you feel like you’re treating yourself when you don’t have the time to do it, and you can enjoy them whilst occupying your kids. Sometimes the best times I have are when my kids are happily playing (before they inform me of their next fall-out!), I’m listening to music, dreaming up ideas and enjoying the aroma of a new candle, coffee and cooking. My multicoloured hydrangeas make me happy too, with my new unicorn lights 🙂 Sometimes it’s important to just enjoy whatever your version of ordinary is.

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