A Frugal Half Term with Some Dairy Free Baking

It’s the first Monday after half term and I’m starting the week with a nearly empty washing basket! Not only that but pretty much all the clean clothes have been put away. Warm days may be loved by the girls because they can play outside, but I’m enjoying that I can now have a break from doing any washing for a few days.

It’s helped that Little has refused to wear clothes for much of half term as well. Often in the school holidays (and any day really) the girls decide that they need to wear about 6 outfits a day so my washing basket is overflowing and my house a mess with random socks and items discarded all over. So much time has been spent outside the house this half term it isn’t in it’s normal (messy) state.

A toddler reaching out to take a home made dairy free oat and raisin cookie of a wire cooling rack

A Frugal Half Term

As much as I love to go on day trips with the girls we are trying to spend less at the moment so I’m exploring more low cost activities and days at home.  We are lucky enough to have a good size garden which means there is plenty of space for the children to play. On Bank Holiday Monday my Out Laws (G’s parents) came over and spent the day tidying our garden so it’s looking really good at the moment. We were also very lucky to be treated to a Chinese take away. It a bit unfair that they spent the day working and paid for dinner, but I am very grateful.

Toddler with a weed in the garden
Helping to tidy up the garden

Plum Deimos Metal Climbing Dome Assembly

Our garden has seen a lot of action this week with friends over on Thursday and the girls outside whenever they have been home.  On Saturday morning we assembled the Plum Deimos Climbing Frame (affiliate link) which has been sitting in the shed for a while because we kept putting off building it. It wasn’t as hard as some of the reviews suggested and I thought of it as a 3D jigsaw that was just a little frustrating in places. It took us 2 1/2 hours from when I started to finishing it, but I did the first 20 minutes on my own then we had around a half an hour break. It definitely needs 2 people to put it together though, and at one point I had to call M over for an extra pair of hands as two wasn’t enough.  

I bought the climbing frame a while ago when it was on special offer because the flexibility of it appealed to me. It can be used to climb on, but also as a play prop: the girls were covering it in blankets and turning it into a den with an hour of it being finished. It’s secured to the ground with what look like large tent pegs so we can easily move it around to cut the grass etc and I don’t think it looks too obtrusive in the garden. I do have an urge to wrap it in foil though and turn it into a space ship.

While I was in the garden on Saturday I also took time to clean the mud kitchen out and fill it with fresh compost. The mud the girls had used before came from our flower beds and I’m sure it had cat poo in so I was keen to start fresh. It is now pretty much out of mud again after Little decided to smear it all over her body, but kids will be kids.

Assembled Deimos Dome Climbing Metal frame for children

Baking With My Children

For some reason last week turned out to be a week for baking and I took time to do some with both girls individually. On Tuesday I baked Oat and Raisin Diary Free Cookies with Little. I took the time to measure out all the ingredients first so it was a less stressful experience, the end results were really tasty and they didn’t last long.

Messy table covered in measured out ingredients for dairy free cookies

Recipe for Dairy Free Oat and Raisin Cookies


200g Plain Flour
110g White Sugar
90g Light Brown muscovado sugar
a pinch of Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
0.25 tsp Bicarb of Soda
100g Dairy Free Spread
75g Oats
80g Raisins
30ml Almond Milk (or any non-dairy milk)
1 Large Egg


  1. Preheat oven to 180 C/ 350 F
  2. Mix together all the dry ingredients except the oats and raisins (flour, white sugar, muscovado sugar, cloves, cinnamon, baking powder and bicarb).
  3. Rub in the dairy free spread.
  4. Add oats and raisins.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients together (vanilla essence, milk and eggs).
  6. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mix gradually mixing it all together.
  7. Take a heaped tsp of mixture and spoon on to a greased baking tray (it will flatten and spread while cooking).
  8. Bake for about 12 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Leave to cool for 5 minutes on the tray until they harden slightly and then transfer to a cooling rack until cool enough to eat.

On Sunday M asked if she could bake a “Victorian Sponge”, I gave up correcting the name after the 5th time, especially as G then asked "Who is Victoria?" each time. We used a classic recipe which uses equal parts of the main ingredients, but made it dairy free by switching butter for dairy free spread. The quantities were taken from a Mary Berry recipe. I taught M to cream the sugar and spread together, but after we mixed everything together I decided to get the electric whisk to make it all smooth rather than watching her stir it all painfully slowly. The cake was delicious and is nearly all gone already.

7 year old mixing together dairy free spread and sugar in her night dress for victoria sponge

Recipe for Dairy Free Victoria Sponge Cake


225g self raising flour
225g caster sugar
225g dairy free spread (I use Pure Olive Oil Spread)
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
Strawberry Jam for the filling
Extra caster sugar to sprinkle on top.


  1. Preheat oven to 170 C (Fan)
  2. We creamed the sugar and flour into the spread before adding eggs, but you can throw all the ingredients (except the jam) into a bowl and use an electric blender to mix it all together.
  3. Pour mixture evenly into 2 cake tins
  4. Bake in the oven until they look golden and the sponge bounces back when touched or a skewer comes out clean.
  5. Turn on to a wire rack to cool as soon as you can do so without burning your fingers.
  6. When totally cool add a layer of jam to one cake, put the other cake on top and sprinkle with a little caster sugar. 

M at 7 years 8 months

M was with her Dad for the first half of the holidays and I only picked her up on Wednesday afternoon after Karate. She always takes time to adjust when she switches between the two of us so I was confused when she didn’t get upset or shout at us on Wednesday evening. She wanted to spend time with us all and we didn’t have the normal melt downs. 

On Thursday afternoon she struggled a bit while we had friends over and her behaviour was the worst of everyones (and Little wasn’t on top form having gone to bed late and got up for the day at 5am!). Fortunately the children we had over were really well behaved and overall everyone had a great time. 

Friday lunchtime was Little’s dance class and I offered M the chance to do what she wanted in that hour. We ended up looking at some shoes, heading to Costa for a babyccino and buying some sweets from the supermarket.

M behaved normally for her over the weekend, which basically means she had up and down time. We had a few big arguments and an impressive meltdown when she got upset because she was writing a “poem for fun” (her words) but couldn’t think of a word to fit. We had 20 minutes of her shouting, crying and wanting to smash things up. Funnily enough I didn’t bother to push her to do her homework after that if that’s the reaction choosing to do something for fun gets. She puts so much pressure on herself and hates it when she finds things difficult. We did have some special loving times together over the 4 days she was here despite that though and she was more cuddly than normal.

7 children ranging from 0 to 10 having a picnic in the garden on picnic blankets

Little at 3 years 4 months

We continue to make slow progress on the potty training although she has totally cracked the poo side of it. Unfortunately even having her bum out for much of the time she had quite a few accidents. The good news is they did seem to be actual accidents unlike the week before when they seemed intentional.

We also tried to introduce some more dairy to her diet last week, but after complaining of a sore tummy and a touch of diarrhoea we have taken a step back again and will try again more slowly in a few weeks time.

Siblings sitting on a playmat while the toddler reads a magazine and Baby Boy looks at it

Baby Boy at 20 weeks

Baby Boy’s passport arrived only 12 days after applying for it online so I’m thinking of disappearing to the airport with him next time the school run gets a bit frustrating. Unfortunately I suspect I’m too sensible and dull to do that so we might have to wait until we go to my Mum’s in the summer to make use of it.

We finally got round to getting a toothbrush for Baby Boy last week and brushed them for the first time on Sunday night. We really need to get into the habit of brushing them as part of his routine. M was always really challenging as a toddler to get her to brush her teeth because she would never let us do it, Little has been much better and she loves a new toothbrush. She has about 5 on the go at anyone time and often pleads for new ones when we are in the shops.

My children all have their special sides.

Baby Boy holding his new UK Passport (without mention of EU on it)

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