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™‚

 

 

 

 

Posting Letters and Guided Drawings

I needed a gentler sort of day today. I feel like we have been cramming a lot into our days, and although it works well as a distraction, the exhaustion has hit me a bit. This morning, after having some breakfast, coffee and managing to squeeze in a few hundred words of writing, I put on a live PE video for the girls. The idea was to tire them out in the living room, but they showed little interest in it and ended up rollerskating instead. I guess it is just trial and error – figuring out what will interest them and what won’t. To be fair to them, PE was never my forte either πŸ™‚

Afterwards, the girls decorated the envelopes for the cards they had made for their friends. We went for a quick walk to a nearby postbox so they could post them. It seemed a bit silly, since one of the friends lives within walking distance of our house, but I think the postbox added an element of novelty to it for the girls πŸ™‚ I remembered writing letters to penpals as a kid. I had one in England and another in a different school to mine. We wrote each other regular letters and finally met in person for a shared school trip. That’s a fond memory, and I think it’s good for the girls to experience some form of that in the modern world πŸ™‚

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I did some schoolwork with my daughter when we got back while my other daughter completed some of her magazine. I’ve noticed that they have been sitting for longer when I refer to what we are doing as “school.” Although, they still tired of it after an hour and asked for TV πŸ™‚

We went for a short drive to the roadside honesty box again πŸ™‚ They seem to have expanded it now – maybe they are getting a lot of custom. It’s a good way to buy what you need without having any human contact πŸ™‚ I got some huge kiwis, a loaf of homemade whiskey bread (which I’m curious to try) and a jar of homemade bolognese sauce.

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After we got home, we had some lunch and then the girls watched a recording of a live art show. The fact that a little girl was involved in it seemed to hold their interest πŸ™‚ They learned how to draw unicorns and Batman and were completely engrossed in it πŸ™‚ I hadn’t used guided drawing before with them, but I will again πŸ™‚

I photocopied a page of my daughter’s magazine so they could both make matching letter holders. They just had to paste them to cardboard, cut them out and paint the legs to hold them together. I don’t know if they have any letters to put in them, but I might dig out some birthday cards etc for them to put inside πŸ™‚ For once I was glad of the junk box we have that is filled with cardboard and empties itself every time I open the cupboard πŸ™‚

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Finally, the girls had a play in the garden and I tackled some of the housework. I’m noticing our piles of clutter are worsening since we’ve been in the house and I think we might have to build an extension to contain them all in by the time September comes πŸ™‚ I’m taking some time to myself to write, drink tea and let my children entertain themselves. I feel the need to just sit and “be” for a change and to allow myself some time for creative output too.

Slow Days and Homemade Lemonade

Today was a slow-moving day, centred around the house. I received a lovely surprise basket of chocolate from β€œthe girls” (my parents) for Mother’s Day. It cheered me up because I’d thought it was a package with a returned dress I had sold in it πŸ˜€ I went for a quick walk with the girls early this morning to buy lemons from the fruit shop. My daughter had been requesting my homemade lemonade, so I decided the extra vitamins wouldn’t do them any harm at the moment πŸ™‚ I got a moment of peace to make it, which is rare in our house. But it feels like the girls are slowing the pace they live at (sometimes) to match the world at the minute.

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I found a glass bottle I’d got from IKEA to store the lemonade in. I added the juice of 2 1/2 large lemons and the zest to about 700ml of boiled water in a measuring jug. While it was hot, I stirred in a generous amount of honey to taste (it was at least 1/4 of a squeezy tube) and stirred it well. After it had cooled, I transferred it to a bottle and put it in the fridge to chill. In the hours it spent sitting, reaching the right temperature, I was asked tens of times if it was ready yet πŸ™‚

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We tuned in on Facebook to Wee Bookworms to watch a live video of a reading of Peter Rabbit by a lady who works in the bookshop. They are on every Saturday morning at 11.30am for kids. I also ordered one of their activity packs each for the girls. They’ll be so excited when they see them arriving in the post πŸ™‚Β 

I changed the beds and aired out the house, which always uplifts me and continued to move the piles of clutter to different positions in my kitchen πŸ™‚

For lunch, I made some hummus to go with the flatbreads I had made last night. It was a simple recipe and tasted really good. My kids didn’t agree, but they devoured the flatbreads anyway πŸ™‚ I’ve been looking out for flour when we’ve been in the shops and haven’t seen any in a while. Luckily, I had some left because I tend to bake bread every week anyway. But I was thinking of options for when we run out and remembered you can blend porridge oats and use them instead of flour – Just a tip I remembered if anyone is in the same boat. You can also use polenta to make American cornbread if you have any. My hummus – it tastes better than it looks πŸ˜€

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After lunch, we had some quiet time, playing dominos and I made myself a caramel latte πŸ™‚ I’m not missing my takeaway coffee as much as I thought I would. I tend to get it when I’m writing, but I’ve realised there are cheaper alternatives and the one I made today tasted the same πŸ™‚Β 

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We put on some yoga music and the girls did some kids’ yoga, whilst climbing on me as I attempted to do it! It’s cute actually – my daughter taught me all the poses she uses in nursery, like happy baby, ice skater, tree, happy and sad dog and kitty, etc. I made them an after-yoga snack of fruit and water. Then they headed out to the garden to burn off some excess energy. I hung out the laundry, which has, weirdly, become one of my favourite things to do. They played in the dirt and made food out of soil and water πŸ™‚

We finished the day with some bolognese, stories and playing restaurants. I’m exhausted now, but simultaneously, looking forward to tomorrow. I say that in the spirit of finding the good in a difficult situation, rather than discounting the severity of it.

Wooded Walks & Stopping For Flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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