Bell’s sweet shop

Day 21 of #65daysofsummer

Who remembers A la carte kitchen or Mr Frosty? Well the Woman Next Door brings you Bell’s Sweetshop for about a fiver! 😂

I’ve been threatening to do this for a while so I’m really pleased that I finally got around to it. All it is is some old jam jars (funnily enough I have quite a few of those!), a variety of pick-n-mix style sweets and some muffin cases or wee bags to put them in.

We’ve added the scales and tongs plus collected together some pennies to make it as much of a game as a treat. It’s quite good for rewards during the week, role play and a bit of maths whilst you’re at it!

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Nature watch

Day 20 of #65daysofsummer

We continued with our garden project today; clearing more flower beds, tidying the wood shed and planting a few more of the plants we bought yesterday. I am often quite torn when gardening as I am a nature lover and I feel as though to create a garden you have to destroy a wee bit of something that is already thriving. For example, we had to clear away leaves that were naturally composting into the ground, move wood into the woodpile that was already home to plenty of bugs and tear ivy and creepers away to make room for new plants. However, at the same time I want a beautiful garden and I do enjoy getting out there putting in the work to make it so. I know that the new plants will attract insects and the cleared leaves will continue to compost in another spot in the garden and may even become a cosy home to a hedgehog or two some day. If I leave the ivy to it’s own devices then that’s all there will be growing out there so a bit of maintenance is a good thing.

What’s more, all the digging and clearing made for a brilliant bug hunt. There were so many insects to spot that we shall be consulting our books to look up a few. We also saw the biggest and fastest slug any of us had ever seen. I also enjoyed the quiet moments when the robin and the thrush noticed all the turned-over ground and came down to join us to see if there were any bugs going free.

Bug hunts are great fun and you don’t need to do anything other than lift a rock or two. If you want to go fancy though why not place an old white sheet or piece of material under a bush or shrub and gently shake some branches to see what you can catch? For the maths-lovers, why not measure out a sample square of ground and do a count of different species then work out how many bugs there might be in the whole garden based on what you find? Grab a book to look them up and a sketch pad to draw them and you should be able to cover-off a variety of ages and preferences all at once.

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Flowers, fizzies & friends

Day 19 of #65daysofsummer

The children and I were recovering from a couple of days of feeling under the weather today so a short trip to Creative Gardens in Bushmills was just right.

We spent some time selecting some flowers and herbs for the beds we tidied-up at the start of the week and picking a card and present for a friend’s beautiful new baby girl before heading to the indoor play area to let-off steam and slurp some drinks. I was delighted to see paper rather than plastic straws in the cafe so a big thumbs-up from me for that!

Thanks to the 2 other families for joining us today, it was great to catch-up. #wemeetwednesdays takes place every week and is open to everyone.

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99p fun

Day 18 of #65daysofsummer

Don’t underestimate the fun you can have with 99p!

We were in McLister’s, our local paper shop today and I spied a bag of marbles. I remembered how much fun I had playing with marbles when I was young and thought that now the two them have got way beyond the putting-things-in-their-mouths stage that it’d be a good idea to invest.

They’ve spent the afternoon making up new games with them and I can see them becoming a much-loved game. And I can join in too so we’re all happy! 😀

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The garden project

Day 17 of #65daysofsummer

Today we started our project to work our way round the garden over the summer, tidying small sections as we go.

We began with the small bed by the kitchen, weeding, clearing pine needles and leaves, litter picking and planting some bulbs. The children love getting their gardening gloves on, digging in the soil and being given various jobs to do.

We’ll take it slowly, doing just a small part at a time to keep them interested and will plant some new plants as we go. I’ve been meaning to sort a wee pond for a couple of years too so hope to get that done this year as well.

Have you got a patch of garden, a trough or pot you could let the children get creative in? 

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Our roses are thriving this year.

Cocktail party

Day 16 of #65daysofsummer

I made 3 cocktails at a fantastic cocktail making class last night: Cosmopolitan, Whiskey sour and Margarita. It was great fun and each of them were delicious.

It got me thinking about the bottles in the pantry and how I need to get looking through my cocktail books to get some of them used up. I’ll be getting the diary out this week to organise an evening with some friends to get through some of our obscure leftovers.

But cocktail fun doesn’t need to be restricted to adults. The children love mixing paints to see what they can create and they love trying new drinks so I’m going to buy some fruit juices, mixers and garnishes so we can have a mocktail making session together. We often think of making food and baking so coming up with our own drinks recipes will be a nice change.

I’ll take some snaps and get them to name their creations and will follow-up with you all so you can see how we got on.

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Piemontaise salad

Serves 2

This is my take on a traditional French potato salad recipe. It’s deliciously fresh and goes brilliantly as an accompaniment with picnics and barbecues as well as making a tasty lunch dish on its own.

It is traditionally made with ham and gherkins. I’ve also added chicken and used cucumber and a little Tabasco instead of the gherkins as I didn’t have any to-hand. 

Ingredients 

4 large new potatoes, steamed

4 Glenballyeamon free range eggs, boiled & peeled

0.5 tray of baby plum tomatoes

0.75 cucumber

2 slices of ham

2 small chicken breasts

3 tbsp mayonnaise

3 dashes of Tabasco

2 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mayonnaise

Seasoning

Method

Chop the potatoes into small pieces. 

Slice the chicken, ham, eggs, tomatoes and cucumber to your liking. 

Arrange the prepared ingredients in a dish or on a plate. 

Combine the remaining ingredients in a cup and stir thoroughly to make a dressing. Use a spoon to drizzle over the salad. I like to have some of the salad undressed so choose to do it this way rather than fully tossing the salad in the dressing.  

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Don’t watch from the sidelines

Day 15 of #65daysofsummer

Often we look back at the fun or confidence we had as children with nostalgia and confine it to something we did when we were young. Perhaps we look on as our children try new things and go crazy at parties and think that we can’t do that anymore as we’re older, grown-up and responsible. Well, I don’t believe the saying that you can’t teach a dog new tricks and I certainly don’t think that the children are the only ones who can have the fun.

I’m on a hen-do in Dublin this weekend and today started with kayaking on the Liffey. I’d never been kayaking before and certainly not on a river through a capital city. The weather was amazing and the experience was fantastic. We kayaked in the sunshine for about 2 hours, had a lot of fun learning the techniques and seeing the sights. We definitely earned our lunch too, which we ate al fresco by the dockside.

I probably wouldn’t have tried this without some encouragement and I’m so pleased I got the opportunity.

So the next time you find yourself looking on, join in!

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Take the train

Day 14 of #65daysofsummer

I am a complete romantic and adore travelling by train. I used to have to do it for work and back then it was far less enjoyable: delays, overcrowding, no air conditioning ... but with the last companies I worked for before leaving London I was either getting on at the terminus or very close to it and/or going against the grain of the majority of commuters. Getting a seat and not being packed-in turned my daily commute into a pretty peaceful and often productive trip.

I’m heading to Dublin today to share a hen-do with my longest-serving friend 😜. It’s a real treat to sit back and let the train take the strain, catching-up on some work and some reading. I love taking the children on the train too. It’s something we do so rarely given where we now live and what our weeks involve. Whether it’s a long or short trip, could you take the train somewhere and even make the journey itself the destination?

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Holiday bingo card

Day 13 of #65daysofsummer

A friend shared this on Facebook from Mindfulness Ireland a wee while ago and I squirrelled it away for my daily summer blog.

It’s a brilliant list or bingo card that you can have up your sleeve if you’re struggling to come up with some new ideas for holiday activities.

You could see how many you manage to tick off before the end of the holidays. We’ll certainly be referring to it over the coming weeks.

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Love your library

Day 12 of #65daysofsummer

For the first #wemeetwednesdays of this summer we headed to the library then to Ursa Minor Bakehouse for coffee.

We were joined by 2 other lovely families and enjoyed selecting books, reading, colouring and finding out about the various events taking place in libraries all over Northern Ireland this summer.

As with previous years the children have entered the reading competition and this year there is a family weekend break up for grabs, which is an additional incentive to get reading! 😉There is a seaside theme this year and a couple of events will be taking place in Ballycastle connected to that theme. Pick up a leaflet in your local library to find out more about what’s going on near you.

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Fresh food

Day 11 of #65daysofsummer

We all went raspberry picking today in one of the most beautiful gardens I know. The owners kindly invite me to pick fruit in their garden as there is just too much for them to use themselves.

It was a lovely afternoon picking (and eating) the fresh raspberries and I made a couple of batches of jam with them as soon as I got home. I’ll be taking it down to Ursa Minor Bakehouse in Ballycastle tomorrow so look out for it there.

There were plenty for us to have as dessert tonight too. I drizzled mine with delicious Mil  local honey and they were incredible!

So is there somewhere you could go fruit picking? If not, could you plant-up a pot or area in your garden with some fruit or vegetable seeds or plants? Herbs, lettuce and radishes will grow very quickly. What about a trip to a farm shop or green grocer where you can select the produce together and support local growers? Cooking or preparing the produce together is a perfect ending and the fresher the food the less you need to do with it to make something delicious.

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Build it up

Day 10 of #65daysofsummer

After a really active holiday last week it was nice to set a different pace today. Amongst the usual gym session, household chores and some jam making we made some time for some family Lego building.

A joint project kept us busy and you can see that our museum 😉 turned out pretty well.

We don’t play with the Lego with the children an awful lot so it was a nice thing to do together. What children’s games could you join-in with?

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Summer ratatouille

Day 9 of #65daysofsummer

Here’s the first recipe to make it into the daily summer blog posts! It’s a really nice barbecue accompaniment but can be eaten as the main event or stirred through pasta too.

Our children aren’t that keen on aubergine so I use other vegetables in its place. This one has broccoli but I would also use green beans and baby spinach.

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

2 peppers of choice (I used 1 red & 1 orange), chopped

2 courgettes, sliced

Half a head of broccoli, florets halved

Generous splash of Worcestershire sauce

1tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

1/3 tube tomato purée

1 can of chopped tomatoes

1/2 box of passata

200ml water

Oil of choice for frying

Seasoning

Method

Fry the onion in a pan with the oil until soft then add the peppers for a few minutes before adding the courgette and broccoli.

Stir and allow to cook together for a few minutes before stirring in the tomato purée.

Next add the canned tomatoes, passata, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, seasoning and water. Stir and allow to bubble until the vegetables are just tender. 20 minutes should do it but it depends on the pan you are using.

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Challenge yourself

Day 8 of #65daysofsummer

Today I completed a half Tough Mudder with my husband and cousin’s wife. It was 5 miles and 13 obstacles involving heights, water and mud.

I wouldn’t have signed myself up for it alone and when my cousin’s wife mentioned it I was pretty apprehensive. However, after a little bit of thought and some encouragement from my husband I decided to go for it.

There were lots of things about it I knew I would find hard but the great things I’d heard about the Tough Mudder experience made me think it was worth a try.

Now that I’m sitting with my feet up in front of the TV I’m delighted that I allowed myself to be convinced and am really proud of my efforts. The atmosphere was fantastic and the event so really well run. All participants help each other round and offer support when things get tricky - a really great ethos.

Is there something that you could do to challenge yourself this summer? Something that would push you out of your comfort zone or make you face a fear or something you often chose to avoid? It doesn’t need to be sport-related and it could be something you do with a friend, relative or child.

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Happiness is handmade

Day 7 of #65daysofsummer

I am lucky enough to be part of the award-winning Naturally North Coast & Glens artisan market. It is where it all began for me really.

Not only is our market full of fantastic handmade products and beautiful artisan trades but the traders themselves are super people who support one another and make attending the market a wonderful experience for fellow traders and customers alike.

The next market is Sunday 8th July 2018 at Ballycastle seafront, starting at 11am. Go along to see what there is on offer and if you’re not in the area why not try to find an artisan market near you?

https://www.naturallynorthcoastandglens.co.uk/market-dates 

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New skills

Day 6 of #65daysofsummer

It’s always fun to have a go at something new but it can also be pretty daunting. There’s so much research out there on the positive impact of trying new things, both physically and psychologically and the summer holidays are a perfect time to find out first-hand if it’s all true.

Why not find an activity you’ve never tried before? It could be something just for you or your child or it could be an opportunity to learn something new together.

Have you always fancied trying a sport, craft or one of the arts? Would you like to know more about a particular topic or connect with new people?

Today I played badminton for the first time outside of messing about in the garden and the children each tried roller skating, something they had been talking about for a while. It wasn’t easy for any of us but we all had a great time trying and felt good for having given it a go.

What will you try this summer?

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Learning made fun

Day 5 of #65daysofsummer

There are plenty of moments over the summer holidays where the children need a bit of extra entertainment: long journeys and waiting for food orders in restaurants are prime examples.

It’s nice to have a few options and educational puzzles and non-fiction books are winners in our family. These sorts of things are fun, related to topics they enjoy and help them practise things from school without them realising.

I bought age relevant books at low prices in The Works. It’s worth a look if you haven’t been there already. 

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Outdoor dining

Day 4 of #65daysofsummer

Few things beat eating outside. Barbecues are a favourite in our house and with the exceptional weather we’ve been having we have certainly had way more opportunities than usual to get out there and cook a sausage or two.

But it doesn’t have to be a barbecue or a fancy picnic. Grab whatever you have to hand. A quick sandwich or salad or whatever you’ve just cooked for dinner and eat it in the garden or on your front doorstep. Throw it in a box and take it to the park or beach. I think that food tastes better outside in the sunshine and if we’re lucky enough to have the weather why not get out there?

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When nature calls

Day 3 of #65daysofsummer

It’s important to me to spend time outdoors in the natural world. It offers me both a source of relaxation and renewed energy, depending on how I feel and where I go.

I will be sure to be building-in plenty of time in nature over the weeks ahead as part of #ProjectMe including a week staying in a forest with the family. This will be a lovely change as we’ve spent lots of time at the beach recently.

The creativity that comes with playing in nature rather than manmade spaces such as play parks or soft play is something I love to see and sharing my love of wildlife with children is really enjoyable.

What space in nature inspires you? Where haven’t you been in a while? Beach, forest, fields, hills, waterways; they’re usually free to visit and offer hours of fun.

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