Over the weekend we had a lovely time celebrating Lara's 3rd birthday, with a Saturday full of fun with their cousins. There has been something in the air, that smell of warmth, of freshness, the promise of the weather turning for the better - you know what I mean - you can just feel that spring is in the air!
I had a pretty busy week last week and made two celebration cakes - one for Lara and one for a family we know at church to celebrate an 80th birthday. I did either bake or decorate every night last week but enjoyed it - it's a shame it has to fit around so many other things at the moment.
I tried making my own modelling paste - having looked at how much it was to buy ready made, I was reluctant and thankfully looked into a cheaper way around it. I found a great video on YouTube showing me how to make a basic figure, and another how to make the modelling paste so didn't think I'd got much to lose!
Well, it turned out really well, and after posting the photos on Facebook had two more requests to make cakes for people we know. Whilst I love doing it, making it a business is a little bit of a dream at the moment until the kids are all at school. It gave me hope though that one day I might get to do what I love doing (whilst that may not do my waistline any good!!).
I thought about how easy it is to create something, and that for me, making them from scratch is far cheaper than buying one, and certainly far cheaper than getting one made from a bakery as I'm not paying for the time it takes to make. For example, one of the cakes I made last week took me 6 hours to decorate, and that's not including baking the cake itself (not that it takes a huge amount of time).
I think being on such a tight budget for so long whilst we were on our journey to become debt free has made me look at the costs of things differently - whilst I'd happily pay a fair amount for a good cake (if I didn't have time, or if baking wasn't something I did), for me it still falls into the realms of luxury.
Mr Strong and I spend the weekend before last together without the children for the first time - my parents generously agreed to have the children overnight for us and I think all of us had a good time having a change of pace and company.
Whilst the kids had fun making and baking, and generally having a fab time with Nana and Grandad, we on the other hand went shopping, had coffee, went out for a meal, actually BROWSED the different departments we visited - I wasn't sure I remembered what that was like! Just doing one of those things would have been a luxury, let alone all of them. We actually bought ourselves a few new clothes in the sales, staying overnight at the local Premier Inn (saver deal booked a few months ago) and then had breakfast at a local pub after having... wait for it... A LIE IN!! So momentous was it all that I felt as if we'd just been on a luxury round the world cruise. Living on a budget, even now we are debt free, doesn't allow for regularly doing these things a lot of people would call normal. It makes you appreciate the little things, and it was simply amazing.
That was the first time we had spent any time away from the children since having them apart from one night when some friends of ours had the girls overnight (before Caleb was born), and when I was in hospital giving birth!!
Lara will start her free 15 hours nursery place soon, and so for half of the week it will just be Caleb and I. For so long I've felt like I'm only just surviving, treading water whilst desperately trying to keep my head above the waves. Having three children aged 4 and under (three under 3 years old when Caleb was born) is great but it is hard work I'll be honest. I am looking forward to having a little more breathing room, to being able to have enough of a break in the week to not feel completely stressed out 85% of the time. It's also nice to think I'll get some quality time with Caleb - having the children so close together has meant they are so used to all being together (which isn't a bad thing) but that they don't have a huge amount of one-on-one time, something that we'll hopefully get better at scheduling in one day.
We have a holiday coming up in a few months, again, this is a huge luxury! It's by no means anything fancy, a caravan on the south coast, somewhere with open spaces for the kids to run around in (we don't have a garden) and a change of scenery. We have lots of things to look forward to, but I don't ever want to lose sight of the things we learnt whilst becoming debt free - learning to appreciate the small things in life.
I challenge you to consider your every day, and what you consider luxuries. Consider those around you, and whether they might benefit from a small act of kindness to be able to enjoy one of these luxuries that you might take for granted - especially those living on a budget, with little family support or with little spare time. Random acts of kindness - the most rewarding things you could do this week!