Mixed Media, Garden Play and Garlands

It’s taken me a while to get round to blogging this week. I just finished editing a book and that – that an an insurmountable pile of ironing – has been taking up all my free time (if such a thing still exists :)) This week, we’ve been spending a lot of time in our garden in the sunshine. I ordered a tuff tray for the girls and I wish I’d come across them long before now. It’s an easy way to set up contained messy play and keeps them busy for hours πŸ™‚

This week, we made some mixed media pictures. I found some dark blue card (but you could use any colour or paint a cereal box if you don’t have any.) The girls created little scenes on them. One opted for a sunny day and the other for a rainy one, probably because she is obsessed with umbrellas and jumping in puddles πŸ™‚ We stuck on cotton wool clouds, cut out some fabric scraps for clothes, used colour card for petals and coloured in/drew on plain paper to add details like shoes and stems on the plants etc. I think they turned out really well and were easy to make, plus it’s a good way to use up crafting scraps in your house πŸ™‚

We transformed our living room into a mini library. We set up a desk at the coffee table with stampers and pieces of paper. The girls liked stamping the paper and then inserting them into books they were “borrowing.” They had a toy till they used too, but I always thought the thing that looked the most exciting about being a librarian was the stamping when I was a kid πŸ™‚ One worked at the desk while the other browsed for books πŸ™‚ We laid them out on the hearth and I gave them a little bag to gather them in. They ordered in books that weren’t available and then had them delivered from the bookcase upstairs. After a while, they got out their tea set and pretend food and made coffee, juice and biscuits like the librarian does in the real library we’re missing πŸ™‚ I like games that encourage kids to come up with their own ideas and that they can take in all different directions that you couldn’t have planned.

My neighbour kindly gave us some dried melon seeds so we could dye and thread them to make things. We dyed half of them blue and the other half yellow with food colouring and then threaded them to make garlands and necklaces πŸ™‚ I was surprised how vibrant they turned out and the process of threading them with a needle was so therapeutic. I like the way we are forced to not waste and use what we already have in our houses for entertainment at the moment πŸ™‚

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We played a game where the girls had to choose a teddy to cook for. The teddies whispered into their ears what their favourite foods were. The girls then designed a meal on paper for them and then made it out of play doh to serve to them.

The girls have been dressing up for their morning walk and it feels more precious because we can only go out once. They both wore capes when we walked on the Greenway this week because they wanted people we passed “to know that they are superheroes.” They have also adopted a strange practice of carrying a book when they’re walking. I asked my daughter why she was and she said it was to keep her company on our walk (apparently she is tired of my conversation.)

I had an enormous sweet potato to use up (it was the size of a butternut squash,) so I decided to make some sweet potato and coconut soup πŸ™‚ I just used sweet potato, coconut milk, stock and some coriander we grew from seed on our windowsill πŸ™‚ (That will probably be the only time I ever use that sentence :)) Although, my tomato plant seems to be doing well. I don’t know if it will yield tomatoes yet, but I’m still amazed I kept a plant alive. On the other hand, my chives are looking straggly. I suppose it’s good to experiment even if it doesn’t result in anything impressive πŸ™‚

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I found some blank stickers and the girls enjoyed designing their own stickers on them πŸ™‚ If you have any blank labels lying around the house you could use them for a quick activity with kids. Afterwards, we made a word soup. I asked the girls to call out any words they wanted me to write down and I cut them up and put them into a bowl. They took it in turn mixing them with a big spoon and then picked out one word at a time. They laid them out on the table and we made up a silly story with them. You could do the same with pictures for smaller children or you could make a poem with them using the words and write it down and then decorate it πŸ™‚ It seems to work best with nouns and verbs – I found any of the connecting words didn’t work as well when they come out in a random order.

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We filled the girls’ tuff tray with washing up liquid and water to use as bubble mixture πŸ™‚ They used their bubble guns and we cut the bottoms out of some leftover party cups we had to make giant bubbles. You could use straws too, or anything you can find lying around the house πŸ™‚ It turned into slippery paddling, so I intervened and changed it into a painting tray πŸ™‚ The novelty of painting outside kept them amused and they used different shaped empty boxes and toilet roll tubes to make prints. If you get an old plate and put the different colours on opposite sides of it, when you dip an object into the paint, it creates multicoloured prints πŸ™‚

The girls had been nagging me to have a barbecue, so we had an impromptu one with the things we had already in the house. I made some sausages and mushrooms and some dinner rolls. It was an American recipe and they didn’t turn out like hot dog buns but they were still nice πŸ™‚ I made some potatoes and salad and we ate in the garden, which is the girls favourite thing to do πŸ™‚ It actually made dinner time feel much less stressful and it felt like we were on holiday.

We turned the tuff tray into a rock pool next. The girls have a tin they put shells they’ve collected into after we’ve been to the beach, so we got that out, their nets and their buckets and spades, water cans, etc. They fished for shells and collected them in their buckets. They also found a game hidden amidst the beach supplies – that game with the ball that attaches to a velcro paddle. It’s funny how when you’re spending all your time in the house, you uncover things you forget you had. It has taught me that most things we need are already in the house, in some form, and shopping isn’t always necessary, or conducive to fun.

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ My daughter was using socks as sleeping bags for them when they’d had their bath πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚ She was instructing me on what materials I had to find next πŸ˜€

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 β€œdrawing 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 πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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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Watercolours, Mini Beaches & Bubbles

Yesterday, it hit me just how much bread is consumed in our house πŸ™‚ I had made several kinds of breads over the last week, and with my kids in the house all the time, it disappears overnight πŸ™‚ So, I began my day with coffee and bread dough-prepping. I enjoy the slow process of making bread by hand and I find the kneading cathartic. It’s satisfying, seeing the end product that has spent most of the day rising on your kitchen counter, and the smell of bread baking makes any house more homely.

After some time in the sunshine, we watched a video about watercolours. It was as much for me as the girls πŸ™‚ I like the idea of starting a new project – mind you, I have no idea when I’d slot it in between snack-serving, washing dishes and writing πŸ™‚ It was a live session on Facebook and the lady showed different techniques πŸ™‚ I enjoyed sitting at the table with the girls with all of us trying them out together. Usually I don’t sit down and paint too – I’m just the distributer and the cleaner πŸ™‚ But it was nice to sit and play with paint with them at a leisurely pace.

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We made a sensory beach out of an old sweets tub. We didn’t have any sand, so I made some cloud dough using flour and oil. I tried adding some yellow food colouring to make it look more sand-like, but it clumped a little, so I’d suggest leaving it out πŸ™‚ The girls enjoyed filling the beach with shells we had collected on trips to the beach ages ago. We added some plastic spoons and cups to use as buckets and spades. The girls wanted to make a rockpool too, so we filled a separate tub with water and shells. My daughter added a “boat” – a tiny twig wrapped in tape. The LOL babies were chosen as the pool paddlers πŸ™‚ It was later converted into an ice cream shop and the sand was dispersed all over the garden, so the miniature beach is no more πŸ™‚

When our bread was cooked, my kids descended on it like vultures πŸ™‚ I’m at a loss as to how to keep up with the requests for snacks and keep the cupboard stocked :/

For dinner, I improvised with some leftover chicken and made a white sauce. I wrapped it in pastry to make little chicken pies. It seems to be one of the few meals my kids eat without complaint, especially when served with chips πŸ™‚

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This morning, I filled the girls’ water table with warm, bubbly water and it kept them entertained a lot longer than usual πŸ™‚ They were making pretend snow by throwing it around, and the good thing about bubbles is their ability to dissolve into nothing, so no clean-up was involved.

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My friend had shared a post about Easter painting with pegs and pom poms (thanks Kirsty!) so I tried it with the girls. It was really easy – we just lifted the pom poms with a peg and dipped it in poster paints. We started off with using it to print with, and the girls ended up using it as a giant paintbrush instead. I just drew a few outlines for them to print within – an Easter egg, bunny and chick.

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We spent a lot of time in the garden and my neighbour kindly gave me some honeysuckle as a lovely present πŸ™‚

I also spent an hour cutting circles out of a cereal box to use as a building game for the girls. I just drew around an egg cup, cut the shapes out, cut four slots into each piece, and then you can slot them together to try and build mini structures. I found it quite hard to do, but they proved useful during a tired moment with the girls. It gave them something to play with they watched a Julia Donaldson story time video πŸ™‚

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Since I’m in the mood to bake, I made some more tortillas, as I plan to use them at dinner time for chicken fajitas. We are quickly running out of flour and I’m going to have to get inventive with recipes over the next few days. One thing you can do in a moment’s boredom is to take inventory of what you already have in the house and figure out what recipes can be made out of them. You can use the supercook app if you’re running out of ideas πŸ™‚

Now, I’m allowing TV and snack time while I get some tranquility in the garden to write, drink a homemade latte, eat orange cake and remain hopeful that the questions will relent until dinner time πŸ™‚

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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.

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™‚

 

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.

 

Growing Lettuces and Cookie Improvisation

Today, we ventured out for a little walk around our neighbourhood first thing in the morning. We didn’t encounter anyone and it was so tranquil and felt like we’d stepped back in time. I’m doubting whether I should continue taking walks with the girls in light of everything that’s going on, even though we’ve just been sticking to our own area and avoiding people. It was misty and the greenway looked like a scene from a gothic novel, like a winding driveway that disappears into fog. It cleared my head and tired the girls’ legs out, which made them much more amenable to the activities we did at home πŸ™‚

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When we got home, I made some coffee and got out paints for the girls to paint rainbows to stick up in our living room window. I had seen online that other children had been doing that to cheer up their neighbourhoods and as a scavenger hunt for other kids when they are out for a walk. My younger daughter dived head first into the painting, while the other spent a long time making precise lines with felt tips. I like the contrast between their attitudes towards art – one flings everything at the page and is finished in five minutes, the other’s attention to detail and patience is better than mine πŸ™‚ I liked the fact she also drew a rainbow dot frame for her picture πŸ™‚

Painting carried on for a long time and then I put on a live video for them to watch that was designed for kids. They were noticeably calmer compared with when we’d first woken up and they were doing somersaults on my bed πŸ™‚

We spent some time in the garden. The girls continued making soil and leaves meals in a disused barbecue we have πŸ™‚ They’ve moved it into their play house now and have been hosting pretend parties for us in the garden. I did some weeding while they played. I find that weeding with my bare hands really grounds me and helps me to calm any anxious thoughts I might be having. I’ve been attempting to grow some herbs on my kitchen windowsill and the lettuces were taking over, so I separated them out a little. I have no idea whether I’m doing it properly, so it is all guesswork and hoping for the best πŸ™‚ I’ll be shocked if I ever successfully grow a plant from seed (or keep a potted plant alive for that matter.)

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We spoke to my parents on Facetime to wish each other a happy mother’s day and catch up on what we’d been doing in our respective houses. When I imagine families separated in the past, I realise how lucky we are to be able to still see the animated faces of our loved ones while we are in isolation.

We used up the rest of our flatbreads and hummous (which the girls are still refusing to eat – more for me :)) I made some lentil soup too. Afterwards, I decided to try to make flour from oats. I made some two-ingredient cookies with the girls. It’s a good way to use up overripe bananas, and you can add any additional extras you like. I added some chopped walnuts and sultanas. They tasted surprisingly good for cookies without sugar.

We sat down over cookies and tea and I got out some printer paper for the girls to make cards for friends. I couldn’t find any card, so we just folded the paper length-wise, and then brought the two ends together to make a card. Apparently people used to do that in the past, and they stand up perfectly when you do that. The girls had a great time, writing little notes to their friends and decorating them with sequins and stampers. I’m glad of my craft-hoarding problem during this time. I had found a pack of hundreds of sequins reduced to 50p in B&M a few weeks ago and we made a little home for them in an egg carton. It was a useful way to keep all the colours separate πŸ™‚

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I had booked to do a live class online for the girls, involving acting and dancing. It didn’t quite go to plan, but it was my first time using Zoom, and the girls still enjoyed it. They had to dance, mime and pull different faces in response to various imaginary flavours πŸ™‚ They took a while to come out of hiding, but by the end they were enjoying it and asked to do it again. I think they found the fact that the people in the class could see and hear us a little strange πŸ™‚ But it was worth doing.

I ordered the girls Toucan boxes after reading reviews about them. They send out two a month to your house and they contain craft/gardening packs based on your child’s age. I’m excited to see what comes in them, never mind the kids πŸ™‚

Apart from that, we just spent some more time in the garden. I find that doing that and connecting with nature, even in small ways, heals something in me. I noticed the most birdsong I have and it made me realise how much we miss behind the heavy noise of traffic. Tomorrow, I’m going to embark on a home-school plan, and I might need vast quantities of coffee to get moving in the morning πŸ™‚

 

 

 

Walks by the Sea and Water Bracelets

Today, the morning stood out in stark contrast to the world around us. It felt fresh and the skies seemed to open up. I love the fact in Springtime the sky seems to lift higher and it feels like we aren’t closed into a grey box anymore. We got up early and got ready to go for a walk. I’m finding that starting the day with a walk makes the girls’ energy levels far more manageable. Otherwise, they’d be dismantling everything in the house and fighting with each other and driving me crazy πŸ™‚

We drove to the seaside and went onto the beach. I was surprised by how few people were there. I’d expected everyone to have the same idea as a location for a “remote” walk. We walked along the shore and the girls threw rocks in the sea, built miniature sandcastles with their hands, decorated them with shells and filled the moat with water they’d scooped up with sea shells. I liked seeing what they came up with in the absence of a bucket and spade πŸ™‚ They also started jumping in the shallow water, and I just let them get on with it, even if it resulted in wet feet, because it feels like we all have so little freedom at the minute. The Stena Line passed by and it whipped up the waves and the girls pretended the tide was chasing them and ran away squealing πŸ™‚ There were a couple of dog walkers out, but other than that, it was deserted, and we had the beach to ourselves. We stayed for a while, just absorbing some sunlight and looking at the view.

Afterwards, we went to a local health food shop to get a few things. I’d forgotten how much I like going there. I’d got into a habit of convenience shopping instead of supporting local shops, and I’m trying to break that now. The girls loved going there too. The lady who owns it is so friendly and has a box of toys for kids. We got some spelt pasta, which I’ve never tried before, some biscuits, yeast, chai tea and oat milk, so I could make myself some Starbucks-style lattes πŸ™‚ The lady very kindly gave the girls a lolly each and they were so excited about them πŸ™‚ I have already noticed the girls becoming a bit less demanding, and I think the simpler lifestyle will do them no harm, apart from maybe missing the social side with others.

I picked up The Simple Things magazine and a couple of magazines for the girls. I know a lot of people think kids’ magazines are a waste of money, but I find that it settles them and it makes us sit down at the table together to work on them, and they’re educational too. For some reason the cheap toys in them provide more entertainment than any toys I’ve ever bought them. They’ve been playing pizza restaurants all day, in between other activities, with a pizza that slices into quarters and comes with a box, loyalty card, menu etc. You could recreate it with cardboard if you wanted to, for a cheap activity to do indoors, cutting out and colouring the different toppings they can add. It might keep them busy for a few hours creating the toppings πŸ™‚ The girls have been taking “phone orders” and set up a desk in the living room for their takeaway πŸ™‚

When we got home, we did some word games and I helped them with their magazines for a while. We had some coffee and snacks and I’ve set up a snack shop. I’d seen the idea for it on a friend’s social media πŸ™‚ We have a list of snacks and prices and they get a pound each in different change so they can practise counting out money and learn about budgeting for the day. Once their money is gone, they aren’t allowed any more. It’s a good way to ration snacks, and then when they run out of change, you can announce that the shop is closed for the day πŸ™‚

I dug out some stencils we had in the cupboard and the girls used them for a while. I also had a book we’d borrowed from the library about beating boredom for kids. It has some great ideas in it that don’t require materials. I find most kids’ activity books require you to make a special trip to the shop to source all the parts. The book has simple things like drawing a picture without lifting the pencil from the page, making paper cup telephones, taking fun photos, inventive ways of blowing bubbles. If anyone wants me to share some of the ideas for them while they’re indoors with their kids, message me and I’ll send you them πŸ™‚

The girls played on their bikes in the garden for a little while to get some fresh air and I hung out some laundry. I usually shove everything in the tumble drier because I don’t have time to hang out laundry and iron it all, etc, so it was nice to have the time to do that for a change. I find it quite a restful chore when I actually get around to doing it πŸ™‚ I made some fried rice for lunch with leftover rice from yesterday and the girls devoured it. They’ve been constantly hungry since they stopped school; maybe because they know that snacks are accessible at any hour of the day now πŸ™‚

After lunch, we made water bracelets with a set I had got my daughter for her birthday. You just put stoppers in a tube, fill it with sequins and beads and then fill it up with water, adding a charm before you seal it. One of my daughters wanted me to help with hers and I realised how therapeutic they are to make. They should make them for adults too. I think it would lower all our stress levels at the moment πŸ™‚

I made myself a vanilla oat latte and got a chance to do some writing while the girls watched TV. I had already made bolognese for a handy dinner. I’m going to use some of my time in the house for batch cooking – not because I’m hoarding πŸ™‚ but just because I find cooking days relaxing. I lit my white chocolate candle and was bombarded with constant questions – which made me glad I’d prepared dinner in advance for once πŸ™‚

The girls have started a new game where they skate with one rollerskate on – like a mini skateboard. I’m half amused by it – half waiting for an accident to happen :/ Before bed, they wanted to play races in the living room. I started shouting ready, steady and something silly instead of go and it turned into a new game, like ready, steady, tiny baby chick poop (probably not the best game to discourage toilet humour) but they ended up lying on the floor laughing and I didn’t have to get up and got to drink my tea while it was warm πŸ™‚

I don’t know what we will do tomorrow yet, and usually I have everything somewhat planned out. But I’m actually happy to let the day unfold as it decides to do without my interference πŸ™‚