Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Collection Jars // Kids Activity

When both kids are sick with terrible colds, including non-stop coughs and runny noses that kept the entire house up through two nights, boy does time tick tick  tick  t  i  c  k   t    i    c    k that next day. That was our house a few nights ago. After I'd run through entertaining them with the usual list of toys and games and it was only 10am, it was time to get more creative. The thing is, I was exhausted! I didn't have the energy to pull out the big box of arts and crafts so I needed a simple activity.

I ended up pulling down a small jar of items that I've been collecting over the last ten+ years. The jar contains seashells from the shores of the Algarve, Galway, Cape Cod and Florida. There is colorful sea glass I'd discovered along Lake Michigan and Rhode Island's coastline. The contents of the jar instantly transported me back to Bermuda where my husband laughed at my ability to walk a beach at nearly a 90 degree angle, as I scoured the sands for bits of coral to add to my collection. And then there were some of my more recent discoveries, including a few interesting rocks and shells found at local spots like Killiney & Bray beaches. 

Love those little hands, digging through the contents

While I enjoyed reminiscing, the kids dug through the jar, happily inspecting and separating every piece. It was a nice, simple way to spend an hour of our morning and an easy enough activity to distract from the kids most recent addiction... watching Kinder Eggs being opened on YouTube! (Seriously, kids' obsession with Kinder Egg videos on YouTube should have its own blog post)

Once the jar was packed up and placed back on top of its shelf, I thought more about the jar and another memory soon came to me. This one wasn't of exotic travels in foreign lands though. No, this memory brought me right back to my childhood home in Burrillville, RI. One of my most favourite activities from when I was a young girl was sifting through the contents of my mother's wooden button box. My sister and I would pick out our favorite buttons, sorting them by size, shape and color. I can still remember some of those gorgeous vintage pieces so clearly. That box was (and still is!!) a little treasure chest, filled with many memories that I hold so dear. And perhaps, as I continue to add to my own collection and occasionally take the jar out for the kids to look through, my children will someday reminisce of their mom's little treasure trove too! It's nice to have these sort of simple activities to include in the roundup, especially knowing how easy it was and how much pleasure the three of us got out of it.

What kind of rainy day activities do you enjoy with your children? Are there any activities that are inspired from your childhood? 

Need another idea to keep your kids busy? Why not try making these simple Salt Dough Hearts

Friday, 20 February 2015

Photo Fun // Instagram & Blog Inspired

One of my favorite parts of Instagram is creating custom hashtags. Don't laugh, but I have hashtags for my children, family vacations, and even our local hilltops. That last one is #dollymanjaro and it's a hill found in our current village of Cabinteely, a place that I absolutely love to take family photographs on. To learn more about Cabinteely, read my previous blog post here.

Below are some of the photos taken on the same hill over the last year of living just a 5 minute walk away. My favourite has to be the bicycle one because those big, fluffy clouds are just heavenly!

One idea that I think is just brilliant is the "Same Spot Calendar". This is where you take a photo in the same place every month so that by the end of the year, you can create a calendar of the collection of 12 photos. I first saw this done on Heart & Habit. The author is a blogger who lives in Toronto and takes the same spot photos of the backs of her 2 children along a path in the city. I am especially jealous because they experience a true designation of the four seasons. The change in season is evident by both the area's surroundings, like the colours of the trees' leaves, but also in what her children are wearing- shorts in summer months and woolly hats during the winter. In Dublin we have such a mild, rarely changing climate that I think it would be hard to differentiate the months! For example, I've been outside in February and June with the exact outfit of a hoodie and jeans on.  That being said, I still really want to do this calendar one of these years. If I kept up with my hill photos a little more consistently and actually took them each month, then I might get a calendar's worth of shots eventually! 

Blowing Bubbles in the Sunshine
Do you have a local place that you love to take photographs at? I'd love to hear what photo fun you get up to!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Dublin, Our Playground // Cabinteely Park

This post is the first installment of a series titled, Dublin, Our Playground. It's here that I'd like to highlight our favourite spots for fun and amusement, be it playgrounds, park lands, play cafes, local attractions or whatever happens to keep my two children entertained! (And bonus if I actually enjoy it too!) The best part, for all you Dubliners and soon-to-be toursists, all places in this series will fall within the borders of Dublin. And for those readers who don't live here or are not planning to come visit soon- what in the world are you waiting for?! I do hope these posts inspire you to visit one day in the future though. 

For this first post, it seems appropriate to showcase the place where we spend the majority of our free time outdoors: Cabinteely Park. This is our local park, located in Cabinteely village. Cabinteely is a village located just off the main N11 road (Stillorgan Dual Carriageway) through South Dublin, bordering our neighbors in Cherrywood, Foxrock, Cornelscourt, Carrickmines, and Deansgrange.

There are two main entrances to the park. One is located off of Old Bray Road and has minimal metered street parking. The other entrance is at the top of the park, off Park Drive and this entrance boasts a free car park. When we're visiting, we typically are walking and therefore enter off Old Bray Road. I recommend entering from this entrance, as it is a spectacular view, where you are greeted by a path bordered with towering pines, leading down to a well-populated duck pond. In addition to the ducks, there are also two swans, and the occasional heron. You can pretty much wander to the pond on most any day and they'll be folks of all ages with their bag of slightly stale bread in hand. Feeding the ducks has most definitely become a favorite pastime for my family. 

Just beyond the duck pond is a stream with a small waterfall. Its beyond there I should warn you to mind the hills! Cabinteely Park is a very hilly area, with minimal long flat stretches. It's all gradual though, and while reasonably hilly, very doable for visitors. 

The playground is located in the middle of the park grounds and it includes several areas that can appeal to a wide variety of age groups. There is a toddler slide unit with balance beam and climbing wall, two toddler swings, a couple of ride-ons, stand alone play panel units and several other pieces too. 

A larger, wooded castle-like structure towers over the playground area, and offers a place for the older children to play too. This structure includes a rope bridge leading to the zip line, for those brave hearted souls and further along is a massive climbing structure for the even braver!

The sand pit is the most popular spot for my children. It includes a couple of diggers, as well as a very cool water feature with an Archimede's screw.  Hours have been spent playing here, as well as getting absolutely filthy!  We typically bring our own pails & spades, but anytime we've forgotten ours there are always plenty of kids willing to share their extras. 

Visitors can also find random, scattered pieces of artwork throughout the park. The most obvious, and thought-provoking piece in my opinion is the thirteen 7' granite sculptures by Irish-born artist, Agnes Conway. Titled "Theatre", there are six "Performers" and seven "Audience" members included in the piece. This sculpture represent's Conways' view of an Utopian society where the Audience can watch the Peformers play out the evils of the world, but not have to actually interact with or make mention again of them. Of course, the kids' just think they are some really cool heads to play hide-and-seek around! And those performers resemble Pez-like figurines so I naturally love them!

"Theatre" by Agnes Conway

Historic Cabinteely House is located on the grounds. Currently under Dun-Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council  ownership, it hosts occasional cultural events, including these upcoming heritage lectures and tours. The house was also host to the 2014 Cabinteely Carnival, a fantastic family event that I hope continues this year!

Cabinteely House in the background

2014 Cabinteely Carnival

There are plenty of green areas, perfect for a game of frisbee or football, as well as several wooded areas with trails throughout the park, perfect for exploring with the young ones. There are wooded signs placed throughout the park to indicate types of flora and fauna which can be found here, as well as any wild animals that live in the area. Cabinteely Park appears to be a popular spot for birdwatching, so bring those binoculars along too.  

So many places to be explored

The grounds are incredibly well maintained and the grounds keepers add another source of entertainment with the bustle of tractors and maintenance crew busy work. With several picnic tables located throughout the entire park, there are plenty of options for a picnic area. And if you've forgotten the lunchboxes, there is a cafe at the top of the park called the Stable Yard Cafe. It's a great spot to grab a quick lunch, a takeaway coffee or it offers the perfect shelter if you need a place to take cover from any rain. In nicer weather, there is an outdoor Japanese Garden with ample seating for relaxing with your cuppa. And summertime weather calls for a 99 ice cream from the van parked at the playground's gated entrance. 

One of the best part's of the warm weather season is the arrival of the wild flowers here. I swear they are simply magical! The colors and variety are stunning and they make the most gorgeous bouquets.

Wildflowers & Bubbles = Magic
Wildflower Crowns are for the boys too!

With approximately 45 hectares (11 acres) of land, I can honestly say that we are constantly discovering new places within Cabinteely Park. Make it your next adventure! And let me know when you're visiting, chances are we might already be there! 

Rose Garden is a Mini Maze

Have you visited Cabinteely Park? What did you think of it? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below! Thanks & enjoy exploring!

For directions to Cabinteely Park, check out the county council's website.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Valentine's Day Salt Dough Hearts // Kids Craft

Thanks again to the glorious powers of Pinterest, we’ve recently rediscovered salt dough. I say rediscovered because I used to craft with salt dough when I was a kid and had nearly erased those long-forgotten Christmas ornaments from memory. (I knew all those late nights spent pinning would come in handy eventually!) Salt dough is such an easy, versatile craft. And while salt dough hearts have  already been brilliantly done and done and done, here’s another version for your V-Day fun!

When coming up with an idea for a Valentine’s Day craft for the kids, I was inspired by a creative friend’s own line of screenprinted items.  EARTHCADETS creates some really rad pillows, banners, totes and clothing pieces. Some of my kids’ favourite tops are from this environmentally conscious shop. I can vouch that the tops are all super soft & more importantly they can withstand the test of toddlerhood. Plus the owner, Krissy Callahan, is the most incredibly sweet girl you’ll ever come across! So part of the inspiration for this project goes out to her! Please take a look at some of her playful Valentine's Day pieces here.

Recipe for Salt Dough Hearts:
·         2 cups of flour
·         1 cup of salt
·         ¾ cup to 1 cup of WARM water

Decorative Elements:
·         Googly Eyes of Varying Sizes
·         Tacky Glue
·         Heart Shaped Cookie Cutter
·         Bakers String
·         Optional Paint

1. Mix the flour & salt together. Gradually add in the warm water until the dough is smooth. If it becomes too wet, just add a bit more flour.

2. Roll the dough out and cut out some hearts. We used some playdough cutters in different heart sizes.

3. Place the hearts on a baking tray. I covered mine with parchment paper first. 

4. Use a skewer or toothpick to create a hole in the heart for hanging later.

5.Place the baking tray in the oven for 100 degrees C.

6.After 5 minutes, turn the hearts over. You might need to repoke the holes if they closed up. Repeat this process 2-3 times. Then leave them in the oven for 3-4 hours. Remove the hearts before they start to bubble or brown at the edges.
Recommend to leave the hearts to dry in a safe spot for another couple of days.

7.If you wanted to paint your hearts, now would be the time to do so. We kept ours plain this particular time but I think red hearts would look fab! Once fully dry, thread the bakers twine through the hole. Then use your tacky glue and place drops of glue all over the hearts. Place the googly eyes on the tacky glue spots. Let the glue dry.

Alternative ideas for salt dough hearts include adding paint, glitter or food coloring to change the color and texture, or adding children's thumb prints for a personal keepsake, or stringing several hearts together and creating a banner. 

We popped these heart ornaments into the mail to surprise some of our favorite people with a little Valentine love. Will you be on the receiving end of this fun & easy craft?! What is your Valentine of choice to give this year?

Wishing you all a very Happy Valentines Day! XOXO

Oh and I swear I did not realize Emme was wearing a top with hearts on it until I was taking these photos. But how perfect did that work out?! 
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