Oh my, how I have missed you! I never intended to take such a long break, but life took over and last December (including all of us getting sick at the same time!) between work + homeschooling and getting the new website ready I hardly slept!
But now, the new website is finally ready I’m so eager for you to see all the big changes! Because this time, though not immediately apparent, the changes are not only cosmetic.
Do you remember how this blog started? Do you remember the old logo I had designed myself the best I could following an online tutorial? Do you remember the blue and white polkadot background? Here’s a pic to make you travel back in time, to those days of May 2011.
It’s been such a long, long time since I last visited this, my happy place, since I last talked to you, my dear friends. Summer came and went and so did most of Autumn (my favorite season!), and it is only now that the advent is almost upon us that our lives have regained some sort of normality, of calm and that I begin to find the way back to the words I have been wanting to write for a while.
So here I am, listening to The Piano, which is the soundtrack with which I have written every post of this blog, and thinking about the roller coaster of emotions that have been the last few months (pardon the cliché).
You see, On the 1st week of October: 1) We pulled Luka and Zoe out of their new school, worried about the high levels of stress that they were enduring and, advised by a psychologist, decided to home school them (insert worry, doubts and sadness), 2) We lost our babysitter ( a big deal for expats like us, trust me) and 3) I started working, from home, on the most amazing project I could have ever dreamed (insert jumps of joy and huge smiles). Our daily lives, and the plans we had for the immediate future, as you can imagine, changed pretty much overnight, and it has taken a while for all of us to re adjust and find the calm and quiet of a new normal.
During all this time there were many occasions in which I sat at the computer with the intention to type a new blog post, only to be met by the most atrocious writer’s block. It seemed as though I had run out of words or, rather, as if I had too many words waiting to be said, too many raw emotions inside of me battling to be put on paper first. Should I talk to you about the sadness and worry for our children’s well being that had haunted us during September, or should I talk about the relief we found when, unexpectedly and surprisingly, we decided to home school them? And how to discuss the joy, hope and personal fulfillment that the new project I am working on had brought into my life? How could I piece those feelings together, in a blog post, or two, or three, when I was still dazed myself by all that had occurred?
And the more I thought about it, the more daunting the task seemed. As days and then weeks passed by, this first blog post acquired mythical proportions and it became more and more difficult to write.
Until this week, when I realized I didn’t have to do any of this: that I can take my time to write about it all in greater detail when the words come to me in their own time, and that I could just come back here being me, the confused, worried, joyful, warm and simply happy me that I have always been. And that I could just say hello to you again, bring you a piece of pie, and ask you (like old friends do):
How have you been, my dears, during all this time?
And speaking of pie, here’s the recipe I promised:
Vegan & refined sugar free apple pie
Ingredients: For the crust:400 grs all purpose flour, 200 grs margarine, cold (the best quality you can find, preferably from the health food store), 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar, 1/4 cup very cold water. For the filling: 2 big Granny Smith apples, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in cold water, 7 tablespoons coconut palm sugar, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon.
1) Make the crust: Put flour, sugar and margarine in the food processor. Pulse until the flour reaches a sand-like consistency. Add water while the processor runs, until the dough separates from the bowl. Wrap the dough in foil and let it rest in the refrigerator for one hour. Note: If you don’t have a food processor, use two knives to incorporate flour, sugar and margarine.
2) After one hour, pre heat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in two. Roll one half and cover the botton of a pie dish with it.
3) Prepare the filling: Peel and finely slice the apples and put them in the pie dish. Mix the dissolved cornstarch, coconut sugar and cinnamon and pour it evenly over the apples, to coat. Cover the dish with the other half of dough and bring it to the oven. Bake until the crust is golden. Serve warm and, if you are feeling decadent, accompanied by a scoop of good quality vanilla bean ice cream.
Spending Summer at home with kids means fun, water games and crazy schedules, right? Well, yes, but, let’s be honest, it frequently also means facing the inevitable “I AM BORED” (with tons of emphasis) and “I don’t know what to do!” and, in those cases, having a few summer themes and activities that are easy to put together in a whim and that will keep our children happy and stimulated becomes very (VERY) important.
So, if you are facing the prospect of a full month of August at home with your kids, and would like to be prepared, this post is for you! I have put together my tips for planning themes and gathering activities around them, so that you can plan the ones that are best for your child, and I have included a downloadable pdf with a list of great things to have at home to quickly put together fun projects and games. You can take this list with you when shopping for supplies and you can also use it as a checklist for things to recycle.
WHY PLAN ACTIVITIES AROUND THEMES
I know you may be wondering this. I also asked myself this question in the past and, after having tried this system, here are my reasons:
* Having a few themes makes it easier to find activities (I’ll show you how)
* It is easier to gather resources,which can then be reused several times within the same them
* Children get to explore a subject in greater depth, and when the subject is one they are already interested in, they get the most out of it.
Ready to get started? Here are my tips!
HOW TO PLAN FUN SUMMER THEMES AND ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
1) Observe your child: What does your child like? What activities does he enjoy? What is he attracted to? What books does he prefer? Follow you child’s lead when choosing themes for greater success. For example, one of our themes this year is Space, because both Luka and Zoe are fascinated with stars, planets, galaxies, aliens and the solar system. As a consequence, every activity I suggest in this theme is quickly embraced and we have been able to do much more with it than if I had randomly chosen something else.
2) Think about some areas where your child may be struggling: Look at what your child is struggling with and use the opportunity to reinforce those areas through play and fun activities. Let him learn without realizing it. For example, if your child has an immature pencil grip or can’t use scissors properly, you could check this website for ideas on games that you can do with him in order for him to get better . If your child needs to work on controlling his temper, or getting better at socializing, you could check this website, makes face dolls with toilet paper rolls, use puppets to talk about feelings, etc.
3) Pick a few themes. After you have observed what your child likes and what he needs, decide on a few themes. I like to chose just a few, no more than 3 or 4, because I find that a bigger number can be overwhelming, especially when planning.
4) Create Pinterest boards: This is the fun part where we get to use pinterest for research 😉 I suggest opening a pinterest board for each theme, it will help you keep everything organized-remember that you then have to be able to use those ideas and in order to do that, you first need to find them.
5) Research: I use pinterest a lot for this purpose and I also visit my favorite children blogs. Here they are:
Remember to look for activities that are developmentally appropriate. If they are too easy, your child may get bored. If they are too difficult, he may become frustrated. Show him the next step, not the end of the ladder.
6) Start making lists of activities for each theme
7) Take a good look at your lists and ponder:Which ones are more complicated and require some preparation (example, planning an experiment, or building a rocket ship according to NASA’s instructions)?Which ones can be put together in no time and are sure to entertain bored little minds? Take a calendar and plan when to do the more complicated ones, but be realistic with your time and resources. I normally mix a more complicated one per day, or every two days, with simple ones (such as sensory work) and free time. You can decide to schedule themes per week or mix them all during the week, according to your child’s motivation and interests.
8) Write a bucket list. From each theme, select some to put into your list of things that you don’t want the Summer to end without having done. Themes aside, which other experiences do you wish to have this summer with your children. Make this a summer to remember!
9) Make a list of emergency activities Make a list of activities that are reaaaaaaaly easy to put together in a whim, for emergencies, and glue it to your fridge. I find that sensory work and water play work wonders in these cases.
10)Gather the materials: Now that you know what you want to do, look around your house: what do you already have that can be used?What do you need to buy? I find that a well stocked art basket/box is a precious tool because it allows us to always have the right resources on hand to bring all our projects to life. Luka and Zoe call it “the magic box” because we always find something fun to do with it. In order to help you put one together, I have attached below a pdf with my own list of resources. Use it to gather things around the house and to go shopping, if needed!
Last Monday, after I finished writing the last post and started taking notes on the one I had planned for today, I realized that it had been over a month since the last time I had posted a recipe! A month?! How could this be?!
So I decided to remedy this and, for this reason, I am bringing you today my favorite homemade muesli recipe, and adding possible variations to suit you in case you have any food allergies or intolerances- on in case you just don’t like some of the ingredients.
This muesli, together with granola, is one of my favorite breakfast options. It is, not only lush, but also really healthy and it gives me long lasting energy. During school times, when I know I will be in a rush, I make big batches of it and store them in glass jars, so that i just need to put a few spoons in a bowl, pour some vegetable milk over it, let it sit for a few minutes while I prepare my children’s breakfast or boil the water for chamomille tea, and it’s ready!
Ready to try it? Here it goes
HOMEMADE MUESLI RECIPE
Ingredients: 3 tablespoons oats, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, 1 teaspoon raw cocoa nibs, 1 tablespoon hazelnuts, 1 teaspoon sunflower seeds, 1 cup vegetable milk, 1 tablespoon raisins, 1/2 cup fresh fruits to top it all.
Preparation: Put the oats in a bowl, add the seeds and nuts and pour the milk over them. Let it sit for a few minutes (or overnight, covered, in the refrigerator if you like the oats to be really soft), add the raisins and fresh fruits and enjoy!
1) You may replace hazelnuts for any other nut (almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazil, whichever you prefer)
2) If you can’t eat nuts, add another seed (such as pumpkin seeds, for example)
3) If you can’t eat oats, you may replace them by millet, rice or quinoa flakes.
4) If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, use gluten free oats or make the replacements above
5) You can replace raisins by any dried fruits, such as dried cranberries, goji berries, or dried apricots, for example.
6) You may omit the raw cocoa nibs- I love their crunchy bitterness but this is a matter of taste, of course.
7) In Summer I like to use frozen fruits to top the muesli, because it adds freshness to it-hence the frost present in the picture’s raspberries. This is a matter of choice. Chose whatever you prefer, or have on hand!
Now it’s your turn: what do you generally have for breakfast? have you ever made muesli before? Please share in the comments below!
Summer, summer, summer….what does it mean to you? Holidays? The Beach? Warm weather? Relaxation?
Chances are that, if you are a mum, Summer also means Kids at home 24/7 , and that your google searches from the end of May until the end of August are mostly focused on finding cool, entertaining, educational, fun and, yes, affordable, summer activities to do with kids.Am I right? Are you like me?
Then this blog post is for you!
As I mentioned before, Luka and Zoe are not going to Summer school this year, nor are we going on holidays because of my husband’s work, so this has meant finding TONS of activities to keep their energetic little minds and bodies active, stimulated and entertained. Summer in Cyprus is very, very hot, so it is not possible for us to spend all day outside and, since we live in an apartment, several activities have to adapted, but we make it work!
In following posts I will tell you all about how we are planning each day (schedules, schedules!) and I will share with you specific ideas, activities and resources for our “Summer themes” but, for today, here’s a list of general books I have found more useful in this process. With these resources on hand I know I’ll never run out of ideas for fun summer activities!
Here they are:
6 great resouces for fun Summer activities
1)The Pre-schoolers busy book: 365 creative games & activities to occupy 3-6 year olds: This is a wonderful general resource book that you can use all year long, for many years. What I love about this book is that it has resources for everything: rainy days, cooking with children, outdoor adventures, drama and music, arts and crafts, and even holiday activities. It also included lists of material to buy and recycle, lists of age-appropriate books and home-made recipes for things such as play-dough and bubble solution. If your child is smaller than 3 years, you may want to know that we had the previous one too (The Toddler’s busy book) and it is also great!
2) Camp mom: Summer activities pack: This is an ebook created by 20 blogger mums, full of guidance on how to plan, schedule and execute tons of super fun activities in three main themes: water, art and nature. Many of the ideas can be used all year long, and it also contains an area called “sensory play every day” which is great for emergencies (a.k.a I need an idea FAST!) and which includes links to sensory activities.
3) Self-Esteem games: 300 activities that make children feel good about themselves: I really love this book and it has been a wonderful resource for encouraging a sense of self in Luka and Zoe. The games help children focus on the things they do well, learn to love their names, getting to know themselves (their bodies, their feelings and emotions, their reactions) and learning how to be with others, how to trust and express affection. If you have a child who has been bullied or who has gone through a difficult first socialization experience, this is a beautiful book to add to your library.
4) Science is Simple: Over 250 activities for pre-schoolers: Children are naturally curious about the World around them and the early years are a great time to teach them to think scientifically: to question, to observe, to hypothesize, to draw conclusions. This book teaches children (and the adults teaching them) to be mindful about the world and think about things such as why do tree leaves change color, how to seeds grow, what is melting, what can the wind do, where do trees come from, how to explore the unknown and many, many others. What I love about this book is that it teaches children to find their own answers to the multiple whats, whys and hows they encounter everyday, and to be active in the finding of knowledge and not mere receptacles of the ideas of others.
5) Montessori Geography curriculum: This ebook was originally conceived to help Montessori teachers, but I have found wonderful ideas in it as well (and it’s free!). The main idea of the Montessori Geography curriculum is to help children develop spatial awareness and understand themselves as part of a bigger group that includes neighbourhood, city, country, continent and, ultimately, our planet. The instructions are detailed and the activities are, even though the country geography lessons are US-specific, they are easily adaptable.
6) Art not craft ebook: I love this ebook! I was not a creative person before having children and their artistic explorations opened a whole new world for me. This book provides instructions, ideas and resources for drawing, painting, printmaking, collage and even making sculptures, as well as ideas on how to prepare a creative space, how to store art materials and how to store artwork. (Note: the ebook I bought is no longer available for purchase and has been replaced by a book called “Time to create”, which is very similar)
In my next blog posts I will share with you our Summer themes (you may have guessed them from my book descriptions!) as well as the specific activities and resources that I have planned for each of them, so make sure to come back for more ideas. Or even better, subscribe to this blog in the pink box below to receive them all directly in your inbox!
Now it’s your turn: how are you planning your kid’s summer and what are your favourite resources for doing so? Let me know in the comments below!
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