Homemade Sparkly Scented Play Dough

We get through so much play dough that I thought I’d be worth having a go making it ourselves. I’ve tried a couple of times before but always ended up with that stodgy floury nursery school smelling stuff. This time I experiented with some different ingredients and invested in some good essential oils. The children enjoyed having different fragrances to sniff, they love smelling the tester perfumes in shops so it was great to have an activity like this at home. 

To make four colours –

You will need 

2 cups plain flour

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1/2 cup salt

2 tablespoons cream of tartar

1 – 1.5 cups of warm previously boiled water

Food colouring 

3-4 drops of glycerine

Essential oils

Vanilla essence

Bowls

Wooden spoons

Plastic containers to store play dough 

Glitter


I used cinnamon leaf, pine needle and mandarin essential oils and vanilla essence. Make sure to research the oils which are safe for you and children, also in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil such as grapeseed oil.

I have used grapeseed oil with all my children in baby massage so I knew their skin wouldn’t react to it. A good tip my baby massage instructor showed me, if using for the first time, is to dab a little on the wrist and wait ten minutes to see if there is a reaction or not.

I divided the ingredients into four so the children could make a tub with a different colour and scent each. But you can always make one batch and then divide the dough to  colour and fragrance.

1. Into four bowls add flour, salt and cream of tartar. 


2. In a separate jug add 2-3 drops of essential oil (or 1tsp vanilla essence) to a teaspoon of grape seed oil and glycerine.

3. Add a 1/4 cup of warm water to the mixture and add the food colouring. 

4. Take one of the bowls of the flour mixture and slowly combine the wet mixture with the dry, adding more plain water if needed, until you get a bread dough like consistency that can be kneaded.

5. Adding different colours and scents repeat stages 2,3,4 for the remaining three bowls of flour mix  

I used yellow with vanilla, green with pine needle, orange with mandarin and red with cinnamon.



6. Place the dough on a smooth surface and add a sprinkle of glitter (too much will cause the dough to crack). 

7. Knead the dough well and it’s ready for play. 


8. Work into a soft ball and store in airtight containers when finished with


If you feel the dough needs refreshing at any point rub a few drops of grapeseed oil into hands and work though the dough, it moistens the dough and your hands!

Sand Garden

One of my favourite things to do with the children is going on walks and collecting pebbles, shells, feathers and flowers.

Last year we made this pretty sand garden with an old plastic tub, some sand, rocks and flowers. My daughter, who was two and a half at the time, really enjoyed arranging it all.

   

Restoration

After a challenging family day out during our holiday I lay awake in the middle of the night trying to untangle my worries. Fear heavy on my chest as I convinced myself I’d got parenting wrong from the start. Then I started to pray, I gave God all my concerns and questions. This is what I love so much about our Lord;- his power, the strength, perfect peace and wisdom he gives along with sometimes just one or two word answers. The word was RESTORATION. With it came an instant coolness to my head and a lightening of my heart. 

In the morning I looked up its full meaning and have been marvelling about it ever since. Like a stone getting stuck in the tread of a hiking boot, short tempers & tantrums were niggling in the smooth running of our family. Seeds of negativity infiltrate and sprout so quickly, even between my husband and I. We needed to come back together. I needed to come back to Jesus not fight with impatience and fear on my own (notice how these feelings always bring division and isolation!). I recalled how the absolute flawless presence of our Lord, the unwavering pillar of truth had gently exposed the lies and filth in me but there was no anger, fear or punishment just boundless LOVE – My blind eyes were opened to the seriousness and vastness of my sin but at exactly the same time I felt the intensity of the love God has for me. The ultimate in gentle discipline! 

  
 At times my behaviour is no better than a toddler’s, my emotions can get blown around by my circumstances but not when I rely fully on Jesus to strengthen the foundations in my heart. He is the joy and peace in all situations. God never gives up on us. He waits for us through our tantrums, pride, sulks and the freedom we have to go our own way, waiting for us to turn back to him so he can set us on the right path. Just as a parent waits for a toddler tantrum to subside, he is always there to scoop us up into his arms the millisecond we stop kicking and allow him to. After the restoration of my heart came the restoration of our family, that evening we were at full peace with each other reading about the greatest love of all under the most perfect dusk sky.
  

Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients
2 eggs
100g unsalted butter softened
100g self-raising flour
100g golden caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
6 tbsp milk

Buttercream
Handful of white chocolate buttons melted
150g Butter
150g Icing sugar
Sugar decorations

Heat oven to 160 fan. I weigh out all the ingredients into bowls for the children and let them get on with it.
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They cream the butter and sugar together, then mix in the eggs. Then in goes the flour and baking powder, then cocoa powder. Add vanilla essence and milk. Mix until left with light smooth batter.

They divide mixture between 12 cupcake cases.

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Children then hand tin to me to put in oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile melt chocolate buttons. Gradually sift and mix the icing sugar into the butter. Once all mixed add melted white chocolate.

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The children can then decorate the cakes.

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Boys to Men

Since as far back as I can remember, one of my favourite topics of conversation has been ‘men’. From passing notes about boys in school to giggling with the girls about guys to relatives asking when I was going to find the right man to marry. My relationship with men has had it’s highs and lows. I have gone through boy mad phases and long periods when I’ve wanted nothing to do with them.

The other day my husband was busy mending something and had his toolbox open. It was overflowing with all types of tools. I thought back to when I first met him; he didn’t even own a screwdriver. In a short period of time he’d acquired a mass of tools to fix any type of problem. It made me think how much this man had grown from a boyfriend who used to leap onto night buses with me, sleep till noon and enjoy lazy brunches, to a husband and father who’s main focus is protecting and providing for our family. It made me stop to appreciate what an amazing job he does and my thoughts turned to the men who take on this role. It is not easy. It gave me a new perspective on men, because I’ve not always thought so highly of them.

I banned boys from my fifth birthday party and aged nine announced I was allergic to them, specifically the loud, boisterous ones that were eager to show off their private bits and ‘accidentally’ trip up in the playground to look up girls’ skirts. Unfortunately around this time I developed a crush on a boy in the year above. So new and intense was this feeling, that under a mad haze of euphoria, with my stomach feeling like it was under the attack of a million butterflies, I asked him out. He mumbled something about me being too young and delivered my first painfully brutal rejection that no amount of Walkman rewinds of Kylie and Jason’s Tears on My Pillow could soothe.

After my 11+ I was carted off to an all girls boarding school. At last, no boys! This should have been my idea of heaven. Within the first few weeks the gossip about why the science lab was short on test tubes had completely grossed me out and the expectation to sit around braiding each others hair was just a bit weird. As soon as I was in, I wanted out. Suddenly all I could think about was boys. Boys. Boys. Boys. The boys were on the other side of the school wall. I became good at climbing walls. I just thought they were so cool, I liked the way they made playing pool look easy, I was entranced by their heated competitiveness when kicking a football in the park and the way they started nudging each other, then pushing, then hooking an arm over each others necks.

By fifteen I was a mature, sophisticated woman. A woman who, from photographic evidence, was taking makeup lessons from a drunk clown. I was never impressed or interested in boys and their cars, I was always more about boys who would put their jackets over my shoulders when it was cold and pretend they knew something about astronomy.

By twenty I was completely disillusioned with men and stuck between a highly addictive, unstable relationship and a world of clubbing where some of men’s worst traits were revealed under the mask of alcohol. During this time I began to lose respect for men. Sometimes a girl did just want to dance without some bloke grinding up behind her. Some men seemed to lack any control of their hands, especially when a girl’s outfit included a skirt. Some men didn’t come to dance, they just stared. Some were solitary, prowling around the edges of the dance floor waiting to corner the girls who looked the most drunk. I watched men as they watched girls. I saw how worthless some saw women, how they thought the cost of a cheap drink bought their time. I heard the conversations of groups of men and the derogatory words and phrases they used. Then, after a particularly heavy night out, I watched dawn break and proclaimed that all men were pigs.

It was the new millennium and in the moments of life between the sounds of Kelis’ Caught Out There, TLC’s No Scrubs and Destiny’s Child Independent Woman, I saw men as weak, pathetic beings who at the flash of a purposely exposed Wonderbra cleavage turned into idiotic docile dogs.

Over the next few years I phased out men and began an amazing period of my life where I was back to being just me. No boyfriends, no dates, no men, nothing. I went to the cinema on my own a lot and always felt a thrill asking for a ticket for one and particularly enjoyed having the armrest to myself. It was a magical time in my life and one of necessary self discovery. I knew I didn’t want to cut men out of my life indefinitely but I took a step back and promised myself that if a man came along, he really had to knock me off my feet.

As I was living this new and wonderfully uncomplicated existence I was asked out a few times. I would instantly dismiss men on the most superficial level, too cocky, too fat, too short, too tall, too rude, too bald. Too many teeth, not enough teeth, awful jacket, bad shoes, too creepy, too nice. I once turned down a date just because the guy was a doctor, he fell under the category ‘too boring’. My conversations with men were very brief until the day I agreed to meet a man who I hadn’t been able to come up with any negative adjectives for. We had a ten hour non stop conversation. He felt like home. In a few short weeks I was happily sharing the armrest.

In the 4 years we’ve been married I’ve seen this man step up to the role of husband and father. Provide for my every need. Support me through huge transitions, the best times and some of the worst times. He’s never failed to take my calls at his desk when I’ve been in tears because I just can’t handle another toddler tantrum. I’ve seen a man nod sympathetically when I have gone on another pregnancy hormone fueled tirade and pretend to understand why such a trivial matter has turned my world upside down.

I could not have got through the births of our children without the safety and reassurance he provided. I have seen him work harder than ever before to put a warm, safe roof over our heads. I’ve seen a man that leaves at the crack of dawn, deals with the demands of work and comes home to be grunted at by a frazzled wreck that barely resembles the woman he married and on seeing that her day may not have been filled with breezy play dates tells her to put her feet up while he does bathtime. I’ve seen a man who had the exact same expression on his face as his newborn daughter the moment she let out her first cry. I’ve seen the lightening speed at which our daughters race to the front door the second they hear the key in the latch. I’ve witnessed a special kind of love that only exists between a father and his child. I’ve seen a man who just makes everything easy for us.

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I was probably one of the toughest nuts to crack, it terrified me and went completely against my independent nature to allow him to take the reigns of both our lives but in doing so and seeing him build us a life and home has allowed me to experience and, much to my surprise, actually enjoy a side of my womanhood that I never knew existed in me. No one could be more surprised than me that I find such joy in spending my days with our children. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to immerse myself wholeheartedly into motherhood during these precious years. Every day feels like he’s taking his jacket off to put on my shoulders.

Now I am 34 and I think sometimes men don’t get the recognition they deserve as husbands and fathers. It’s such an important role and equally as hard as that of wife and mother. So much more focus seems to be on babies and mothers at the beginning of family life. My husband gave me my most treasured piece of parenting advice just before our first baby was born, he highlighted the fact that we would both be new to parenting and neither of us would have all the answers. We would have to work together. This really stayed with me and it made me recognise and tame my inner motherly control freak that wanted to do everything my way. Every decision made in caring for our children, however minor, has been a joint one.

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This week he called me over to our 5 month old daughter and said “watch this”. He clapped his hands and to my astonishment she clapped hers! I asked him to do it again. He did. Then she did. I was astonished because at the moment my daily playtime routine with our youngest is tummy time with toys and mostly me making silly faces and talking or singing to her. This baby and I are together all the time and I hadn’t picked up on her readiness for the next stage of development but my husband, through weeks of working late nights, video calls and weekends busy decorating had brought out this incredible moment.

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Some weekends I see fathers with newborns doing laps of the park. It makes me smile because I always think, somewhere indoors, there is probably a shattered mum with her feet up enjoying a cup of tea that’s actually hot. These men are marvellous.

A Puppet Show

My three and a half year old asked to make a puppet show. We started off where we always start, by raiding our recycling tub. One thing we are never short of are nappy boxes. We’ve made loads of stuff from them in the past; racing tracks, robot helmets, cars, train tunnels, a barn for farm animals.

So we had our box and this is what we did with it.

Materials we needed for 1 puppet show and 3 puppets

Cardboard box min. 20x20x30cm
White emulsion matt paint
Scissors
Stanley knife (optional)
Glue stick
Pencil
Sticky tape
A4 coloured felt x3
mismatched Buttons x6 (optional)
lolly sticks x3
cotton thread in 3 colours (optional)
Sewing needle (optional)

1. Cut off 2 short and 1 long flap from top of box, keep these to one side. Stick the the remaining flap down with sticky tape.

2. After children’s bedtime – paint with white decorating emulsion in a well ventilated room. Leave to dry.

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3. Child can then decorate it by painting, colouring or sticking shapes cut from coloured paper, stickers or what ever they like.

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4. Draw three simple shapes on the saved flaps. We chose cat, owl and pig. Cut these out.

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5. Take a lolly stick and stick the top third to back of shape. Stick these to the felt.

6. Make sure to leave half a centimetre seam allowance, cut the felt all the way round.

7. You will now have the lolly stick and cardboard shape stuck to the felt. Place this onto a new section of felt. Cut around using the first piece of felt as a guide.

8. Take the second piece of felt and securely sew two buttons for eyes. If very young children in the house and want to avoid buttons, the eyes can be drawn on.

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9. Place the second piece of felt on to hide the cardboard shape. Double thread the needle and sew the edge of the two pieces of felt together. Alternatively can use glue.

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10. Repeat 5,6,7,8,9 for the remaining two characters.

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With some extra paper we drew different scenes for the backdrop.

Curtain up!