Flowerbeds, Photography & Iced Tea

This week, the girls have continued spending most of their time in the garden, creating masterpieces out of soil and coming up with reasons to change their outfits multiple times a day πŸ™‚ They each set up their own den and then decided to make “flowerbeds” outside them. They just laid some sticks down and scooped soil into it, planting some sunflower seeds they had. They proceeded to water their plants and turned the garden into a bit of a swamp, but it bought me peace for a long time and I got to look at the pretty flowers πŸ™‚


I bought the girls a camera each. They weren’t expensive and they have played with them a lot. They love taking pictures, changing the frames and filters and making videos and voice recordings. They are both interested in photography and rather than handing over my phone, I decided to let them have a camera of their own. I like seeing the creative ideas they come up with on their own and they enjoy showing me all their photos and silly videos too πŸ™‚

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I made some iced tea while the weather was warm. It’s really easy to make. I’d had the Plain sweet one in America years ago and the girls’ dad used to make it a lot, so I just stole his method πŸ™‚ I just make hot tea, sugar it to taste and then refrigerate it until it’s really cold πŸ™‚ The girls weren’t as impressed by it as they were by my lemonade, but I’m thinking of making a berry tea version for them.

The girls received a handmade card each from my parents in the post and were so excited to open them. They love seeing things addressed to them and rush to check the post every morning to see if anything has arrived for them πŸ˜€ We sat outside and played board games in the sun and I made some wholewheat pizza. I was using up the last of what was in the fridge, so I just improvised with tomato puree, cherry tomatoes and cheddar on a wheaten base I made.


We made some “sea foam,” as suggested by my daughter’s preschool. I made a double batch since my older daughter seemed to like it too. You just mix two tbsps of cornflour with two tbsps of washing up liquid with 1/4 cup of warm water for one. It foams easily and holds the bubbles and was a bluey-green colour, so the girls turned it into a bath for their dolls (which they do with most liquids.) Eventually, they descended into making foamy icing for mudpies. They filled up all the containers they could sneak out of the kitchen with soil and foam and used it for a birthday party for a baby doll.

I had ordered some courgette seeds which arrived in the post, so I potted them and transferred some of my larger plants from my windowsill to the garden. My sunflowers have already died, but I’m hoping the tomato plant survives outside now. I have several thriving plants now, so I’m going to persevere and try not to be put off by my gardening failures πŸ™‚

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The girls and I made some ice lollies, using smoothies. They’re a healthy alternative to the ones from the shops. My kids think ice lollies should be served every day there is a spell of sunshine, so I’ll make these again πŸ™‚ I made them with frozen banana and berries, apple juice, yogurt and some frozen mango. You can also freeze fruit as it’s starting to go off and save it for lollies, overnight oats and smoothies. I’ve been scattering frozen berries in overnight oats a lot lately so they’ve defrosted by the morning.

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We tried a new recipe for cookies too. I wanted to find a crunchier one that resembled biscuits from the shops, so we made a batch of them. I found slicing the solid cookie dough when it comes out of the fridge very soothing πŸ™‚ They turned out well and the girls were asking for them all day. They are unusually fussy about baked treats, so it was good to find one they both loved.

I was running out of candles (which are a staple in my house) so I ordered some Yankee candles from Groupon. They had an offer of six small jars for twenty pounds, so I am enjoying the baby powder one now while I create a little zen in my kitchen until my kids tire of the TV and start bombarding me with questions about the developments of dinner πŸ™‚

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Flower Diaries, Felt Mice & Messages on Rocks

Since the girls planted their little greenhouses yesterday, they’ve been keeping a close eye on them for any perceptible changes πŸ™‚ They got a little diary with the kit so they can note down changes to their plants. They’re also eager to water them every five minutes which I’m trying to intercept so their plants don’t meet the same fate as most of mine πŸ™‚

My daughter used the crate they’ve claimed as a net for paper football in the garden. She just flicked the ball into it with her fingers and it occupied her for a few minutes while I did school work with my other daughter.

We also got out the tuff tray and paints to make some cardboard bugs. It was an activity suggested by my daughter’s nursery, so we cut up some egg cartons and made caterpillars, ladybirds and spiders. After they had dried, we added pipe cleaner legs, googly eyes and pom poms to decorate them. My daughter is fascinated by insects at the moment (as long as a bee or big spider doesn’t come her way.)

We got some parcels in the post and it was like Christmas had come early πŸ™‚ I haven’t been able to get flour in a couple of weeks, so I ordered a bag online, but didn’t realise the bag would be half the size of me πŸ™‚ It seems that my baking obsession is going to continue πŸ™‚

Just as I was having a “what are we going to do now?” moment, a package arrived with a toy each for the girls from my parents πŸ™‚ Those kept them occupied for a long time. I wish my kids would play with their toys more often, and it was nice to see them having imaginary play time together πŸ™‚

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Today, we did some rock painting, as it had been suggested for kindness week by my daughter’s school. They used acrylic paints to paint pictures on one side and permanent markers to write little uplifting messages on the other side. The plan was to hide them for someone to find the next time we go out for a walk, but my daughter wrote “I love you” on hers, which I thought might make the person who finds it uneasy πŸ˜€ Afterwards, they started to paint some shells we had from ages ago. The flat broken shells actually made a good painting surface and I like to find other uses for things that are on their way out πŸ™‚

We put together a new den, brought out the paddling pool and the girls’ bubble guns and I took some time to notice what has bloomed in the garden πŸ™‚ My lillies I planted last year seem to be thriving, even though they haven’t flowered yet. There is some jasmine and the fuschia is making an appearance again πŸ™‚ The fact we are spending every day in the garden means I notice the slight changes I ordinarily would have missed. There are definitely positivies to being less busy.

We made the second project from the girls’ Toucan boxes: felt mice. They were easy to assemble and the girls made a couple each. I like the fact they include a magazine of activities in the boxes too, so it keeps them entertained for a long time. (Although my kids’ version of a long time is a short time to anyone else measuring time.)

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My neighbour kindly gave us her recipe for spiced buns. They are delicious and we devour them when she makes them, but ours didn’t work out the same. Sometimes I think the results of baking are more to do with the hands that make them than following the recipe πŸ™‚ We might just have to until the next time she makes them πŸ™‚

 

Cardboard Towns, Peanut Cookies & Mini Greenhouses

The hot weather is exactly what I need this week to revive me. I find sitting in the garden such a healing thing. Apart from spending time in our small bit of greenery, we have been doing lots of craft projects this week, as our enthusiasm for home learning wanes.

The girls have become really interested in den building, and I’m happy to encourage it. I always hear about kids getting obsessed with a particular game or toy and it absorbing all their time. My kids’ favourite game until now has been following me around, asking for things πŸ™‚ They have worked out ways of constructing their own tents around the washing line, and it’s nice to hear them playing happily in the imaginary world they rarely inhabit πŸ™‚ When it’s sunny, they like to have lunch inside their den too.

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I decided to make use of our collection of cardboard and attempt to make a village with the girls. We had two large pieces of cardboard we painted as the ground, adding a pond, streets and grass. The girls painted some empty small boxes in grey, brown, red etc to make buildings. I found some pictures in magazines to use on the shop fronts, like a crate of vegetables, a bookshop window and some kitchen equipment for another shop. I painted some flowers in the flower beds on the base and then my daughter painted some flowers of her own too πŸ™‚

The next day when it had dried, we stuck it all together. I added some nature scenes from magazines to the grass and the girls made some play doh ducks for the pond. We added some green confetti to give the grass texture too. You could add so many things to it, depending on your child’s attention span πŸ™‚ That was all mine would allow us to do πŸ™‚

I made some easy pizza this week, using some homemade bread. I just put tomato paste, cherry tomates, cheese and hotdogs on it, and it was an immediate hit with my kids. They ate theirs inside their dens and I sat in the sun at our little garden table with pizza and a glass of wine. It reminded me of when we go for pizza in Glasgow and I get a small tumbler of white wine with pizza in the afternoon. It’s the only time I drink during the day because I don’t drive when we’re over there, and pizza in the garden had the same sort of tranquil feel to it πŸ™‚ I love the creepers my neighbour planted between our gardens. Sitting next to them helps me imagine I’m elsewhere when I’m feeling hemmed in in the house πŸ™‚

I made some more homemade lemonade sweetened with honey. I like making it as a vitamin-filled drink that the girls actually like to drink πŸ™‚ We also baked some peanut butter and jelly cookies and some more chocolate chip ones. The chocolate chip ones have vanished already πŸ™‚ The girls left me to finish making them so they could eat cookie dough and fight over the spoon!

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There was a lot of excitement when the girls’ Toucan boxes arrived in the post. They love having their own parcels to open once a month and it’s interesting to see what activities they have included each time. We did the first activity together, which was building mini greenhouses. The set came with plywood to slot together to build into little containers, a liner to hold the soil and the soil came in little solid packets you had to soak in water to make it expand. The girls loved making the labels and planting their seeds. There were sunflowers, nasturtiums and basil. A sticker sheet came too so they could add stickers to decorate it at the end (that might have been the part they were most enthusiastic about :))

Afterwards, we spent some more time in the garden and I had a Starbucks instant caramel latte I got from the shops πŸ™‚ It was surprisingly good for instant coffee. I’ve realised that the only thing close to reading that is achievable during my children’s waking hours is looking at pictures in magazines. There are a lot of interrupted sentences, so I might have to resort to picture books if I want to take up reading in daylight again πŸ™‚ The girls changed the shape of their den and connected it to their playhouse so they could crawl from one to the other πŸ™‚

We finished the day with a film. I surrendered and let them choose a cartoon, which ironically, they weren’t very keen on. We finished the day with ice cream sundaes. I just put vanilla ice-cream in a bowl with whipped cream, some chocolate spread and sprinkles. I put banana in my younger daughter’s bowl because she wanted to try a banana split, but after tasting it she said “I think I’ll keep the banana as a decoration in my bowl – it’s just, I don’t like banana with ice-cream.” πŸ™‚

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Home Spas, Fork Cookies & Thoughtful Flowers

This week, my daughter’s school suggested making sea creatures, so the girls got our their junk box and came up with their own ideas πŸ™‚ One made a turtle and the other made a seahorse. I like watching my kids coming up with their own methods to make things πŸ™‚ There never seems to be any hesitancy or uncertainty about what they’re going to make πŸ™‚

We did a photography video on the afternoon club. The girls experimented with taking photos and changing the lighting. I like watching these videos with them because I learn things from them too πŸ™‚

A while ago, we had some fruit and vegetables delivered to our house and for some reason, the crate they came in has become a favourite toy πŸ™‚ The girls just helped themselves to it and it has been used as a tray for pretend food, a table for their den, a cot for teddies and a bed for them too! I always find the girls play most with something that you spent no money on and that wasn’t even intended for play πŸ™‚

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The girls wanted to use my foot spa, so I set up a β€œspa” in the kitchen with a nail bar, a chill-out mat and some meditation music in the background. I painted the girls’ nails and they took it in turns using the bubbles and massage settings for their feet πŸ™‚

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Last night, I remembered how much I love sitting in just candlelight. I lit a few candles and sat in darkness watching them flickering and collecting my thoughts πŸ™‚ There is something restorative about it in the same way I benefit from walks by the sea (which we obviously can’t do at the minute.)

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Today I was in a cooking mood, so I tried a new recipe that produces two loaves of bread. The recipe was from Dining on a Dime and worked out really soft in the centre with a crisp crust (although I found the suggestion to use greaseproof paper resulted in it attaching to the loaf like it was superglued to it (so next time, I’ll leave that step out :))

The girls and I looked at their craft inspiration book for kids. It’s the best 50p I’ve ever spent πŸ™‚ There was a section about puppets, so we made some paper ones we called jelly babies with rings made out of paper to attach them to their fingers. We also made some (literal) hand puppets by drawing on the palms of their hands (much to my daughter’s delight.) She draws on herself often, but it isn’t usually encouraged by me.

I made some smoothies and we set up a clothes shop for the girls in the living room. It was only when I started laying out their dress-up dresses that I realised how many they own. Sometimes I find that sorting through toys kills any temptation to buy more since we always find things we had forgotten about πŸ™‚ If we don’t have something we improvise (for example, using bells from their musical instruments as a shop bell :))

We made some easy fork biscuits. They only had three ingredients and were so simple to make. The kids were more interested in licking the bowl than making fork imprints on the cookies prior to baking πŸ™‚

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We also got out their water beads kit and made some ducks. I always think these activities are going to take half an hour and when I look at the clock, five minutes have passed and we are finished πŸ™‚

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I found a recipe in a magazine for a natural bath soak, so I made some using oats, lavender oil and coconut oil. I put it in the girls’ bath in hopes of making them sleepy before bed πŸ™‚ You can store some in a jar and make enough for several uses. I found the process of making it therapeutic too, since you have to melt the coconut oil slowly using a bain marie and the scent of lavender instantly makes me feel relaxed πŸ™‚

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Thankfully, the weather was good today so the girls enjoyed den building and paddling outside. My daughter brought me a few little flowers and it made me realise, even if a kid hands you some flowers you know are weeds, it’s so sweet that they want to collect them for you and give you a present πŸ™‚ That made them more beautiful to me than any shop-bought bouquet.

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Buttercups, Homemade Paint & Clay Creations

This morning, I took the girls for a walk on the Greenway. I’ve decided I prefer going for walks on gloomier days because the pathway is less crowded and the walk less stressful πŸ™‚ The girls took their time, blowing dandelion clocks, working out if we liked butter by holding buttercups to our chins and stopping to admire new additions to the rainbow displays πŸ™‚ There was a carpet of forget me nots which were hard to capture properly on camera. We talked a lot about nature and the environment. I find that my daughter seems to show more interest in her schoolwork when we do it in a practical way, rather than sitting down at the table writing.

The girls helped me with chores today and really seemed to enjoy themselves. I’m going to recruit them to help out more often because it cut my cleaning time in half πŸ™‚ One washed the dishes and the other mopped, both to a surprisingly high standard. I think it’s good to give them a chance to learn skills and have pride in their work too.

Afterwards, I made us some more tea and honey and we made some homemade paint. I’d never made it before and it was a bit of an experiment. I just mixed 3/4 cup of flour with 1 1/2 cups of almost boiled water. I whisked it a lot to try to stop lumps forming. They still did and I think next time I might try adding the water more gradually. But it still worked out πŸ™‚ It comes out like a ready brek consistency. I divided it up and the girls helped me to mix it with food colouring. They used them as finger paints. I like the way one of them is so careful she uses a different finger for each paint colour while the other grabs as much as she can and spreads it on the page πŸ™‚ I think this is another art project that is more about the process than the end result. I’m going to try letting a couple of the pictures dry overnight, but I have a feeling it’s more for the sensory experience than to have something to frame at the end πŸ™‚

My daughter has been doing the Jumping Clay tutorials on Youtube. I got her some more air drying clay and she is really focused on it, making sure she has every detail right. My younger daughter joined in today and they made cherry pies, whales and bubble birds (whatever they are!) I think she’s going to be going through a box of the clay a week, but I’m glad there is something she enjoys in school that she can still do at home πŸ™‚ I’m going to have to build an extension to contain all their creations though πŸ™‚

The weather was brighter and windy this evening, so I hung out clothes on the line. The girls built a new den, using their tuff tray as a roof, set on two chairs. They made themselves little beds and their baby a cot out of a crate πŸ™‚ Sometimes it can be ill-timed when they decide to drag everything out of the cupboards, but I’m glad they have learnt how to make games out of nothing and how to find substitutes for toys they don’t have πŸ™‚

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Bluebells, Outdoor Cafes & Mud Pies

On our walk along the Greenway earlier this week, I noticed that the flowers bordering the pathway are starting to change. One of the grassy banks is paved with stepping stones leading up to some bluebells, and we found some clusters of them further along too. Repeating the same walk over and over is allowing us the opportunity to detect small changes we wouldn’t otherwise have noticed, and in a way, the limitations are making us appreciate the little things more.

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My daughter loves the clay workshop she does when she’s at school, so I decided to order a box of air-drying clay for her. My younger daughter tried it for the first time. She liked flattening it and using it as a base for pictures, while my older daughter likes making models with it. She made a pearl inside a shell and a two-toned heart.

 

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I always find that my kids turn their noses up at the most time-consuming meals. I had some hot dogs and decided to try making them threaded onto spaghetti, which I had seen online somewhere a while ago. You just cut them up and push them onto the dried spaghetti before you cook it. It was weird how something so simple fascinated my kids so much. I made a simple tomato sauce to go with it. I just soaked a couple of tomatoes in boiled water, peeled the skins off, chopped them up finely and cooked them with dried herbs and sugar. It tastes much better than pre-made pasta sauce or tinned tomatoes (although I like it too, and I’m rarely in the mood for peeling tomatoes :D)

I set up another tray activity for my daughter outside. I used an old ice-cream tub filled with mud – I just mixed some soil and water together and made it extra muddy. I put some of her plastic animals in it, so they could “roll about in the mud.” Then I gave her a toothbrush and her dolls’ paddling pool to give them a bath afterwards.
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I like the way when I give my kids a messy task, they change it into another one when they’re finished. (The clean-up version of me isn’t just as happy about this.) The girls got out their buckets and spades and made some mud pies in them too. They have an old tea set they use in the garden and filled them with mud and water, putting the teacups in a cardboard cup holder my daughter dug out of their junk box. I find that more and more, they are going to the cupboard by themselves to find a specific material for a project they have in mind and I like to see their creativity coming out without interference from me πŸ™‚

I had ordered some earrings and a top from a lady in Denmark. I love everything she sells and wanted to support her business too. They arrived today and it felt like an extremely early birthday present πŸ™‚ She had put the top into a pretty silk bag and it cheered me up when I opened it and saw it πŸ™‚ I’m definitely noticing people’s thoughtful touches even more now. I made some time for trying the things I’d bought on and then made myself a latte to drink in the garden while I got some writing done. (Thank God for TV time :))

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Today, I also set up a pretend cafe in the garden for the girls. I just gave them some cups and spoons, a filled watering can to use as a kettle, some out of date hot chocolate powder and a few marshmallows and teabags. They loved creating their own hot chocolate and topping it with the marshmallows. It isn’t an activity I’d encourage them to do often because I hate anything that feels like wasting food πŸ™‚ But it made for good messy play and they loved it.

Tonight, I am listening to some new calming music, doing some writing and I’m attempting to bake my first ever sourdough. I checked my sourdough starter earlier and was excited to see that it floated when added to water, so it should be ready for use. I’m hoping the end result resembles bread, even if it doesn’t taste anything like sourdough πŸ™‚

 

 

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.