Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Referendum Fatigue

It's the Eve of the big vote here in Scotland. 

Should Scotland be an independent country?

I've been asked by various people outwith the UK what it's really like here just now.

Well, on the one hand it is quite an exciting time. 

It's being sold as a once in a lifetime opportunity to vote for our country's independence - even though the last such vote was in 1979, which was in my lifetime too, just!

The train to the boys' school passes right by the bottom of Edinburgh Castle rock, and I couldn't help but think today about all the changes the Castle has seen over the last few centuries and wonder if its about to see another tumultuous one?

On the other hand, well the title of this post sums it up really! 


I know I'm not alone in finding the constant, constant - did I say constant? -  debates, articles shared and arguments on social media a little tiring.

I get that people are passionate about this. I get that it's so great that we as a nation can debate this without resorting to bombs and violence. I get that the mainstream media is perceived to be biased in favour of No Thanks. Really, I do.

But the constant arguing, trying to prove each other wrong, trying to get the last word in, why my facts are right and yours are wrong, well, it's getting very wearying!

People just don't seem to be able to accept that others are able to make their own minds up. For example, late last night a friend posted a long status update on Facebook explaining how hard he had found it to make up his mind which way to vote. He spoke of how he had gone about making his decision and then within no time there were over 50 comments. He had made his mind up! Leave him be!

That's one of the reasons I'm not sharing which way I am voting.

Voting always used to be a personal thing anyway. I don't like the fact that you are being made to feel you should really wear your heart on your sleeve with this one.

While I'm not a fan of watching politics - I just can't stand all that shouting and arguing and general rudeness that seems to be such a big part of it -  it has been really interesting seeing how both campaigns have played out.

The Yes campaign took advice very early on from some US campaign managers who pointed out that the most positive campaign usually wins. For this reason they are trying so hard to keep up a positive spin. It's not always working, but they are mostly managing to get a fresh, youthful, positive energy across.

It seems a little harsh for the No campaign though. How can you fight a positive campaign when you are pushing a negative answer?!

I think the No Campaign didn't think they would need to push as hard, as polls a year ago gave them a clear lead. A huge effort by the Yes campaign has pulled them right back into the fight.

There has been plenty needless vandalism of signs, childish name-calling and such from both sides, each side claiming that the other is worse. I've heard people say that this is part and parcel of politics. It seems like a surefire way to loose supporters to me!

What do I think the result will be?

I think it really is too close to call. Our 20 year old neighbour says that about 65% of his fellow students are planning to vote No. The boys say that all of the older high school students they have spoken to (16 year olds have been given the vote for the first time, a move that the more cynical suggested was a ploy by the SNP to gain more Yes voters) are actually planning to vote No as well. A quick look through my Facebook feed shows an awful lot more posts by Yes voters but it's hard to say if this is because there are more of them or just because they are a lot more vocal!

So, I really don't know how it's going to go.

Whatever happens, come Friday morning all those who have been so passionately against the other side will still have to be friends with the others and accept the result. I was even told by someone today that they don't know what they will talk about on Friday once it's all over, which I think shows you how much 'ordinary' people have been caught up in all this.

So there you have it, my non-political, trying to stay neutral, take on the biggest political even in my lifetime!

Monday, 15 September 2014

The best laid schemes of mice and men

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley.

This line from Burns, which has become a phrase in its own right, sums up last week perfectly. It means basically that whatever we plan doesn't always work out how we want it.

I had been really looking forward to last week. It was my birthday on Thursday and the boys were planning to cook dinner. We had friends coming round on Friday for dinner and then on Saturday we were due at my husband's sister's house for a birthday dinner to celebrate my father in law's 80th birthday. He and I share the same birthday!

But then the sickness bug hit our house.

Looking back it all started a week past Friday with Calum (11). He had complained of a sore tummy and head while we were out doing the food shopping and then headed straight to bed when we got home. He was sick a few times but I assumed he was suffering from a migraine. He has suffered from these since he was quite young and we have discovered that over tiredness is the trigger for them. When he gets one he has a terrible headache and needs to sleep it off. He will often be sick and the sickness is usually the turning point for it getting better. I don't really understand why, but from what I've read about migraines in children this is quite common.

Anyway, now I'm pretty sure that it wasn't a migraine but in fact the first of the sickness bug.

On the Sunday Fraser was hit with it. The little sweetie still remained his bright wee self whenever he wasn't being sick.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning Alasdair (5) went down with it next. Followed about an hour later by me. It wasn't a fun night!

Wednesday evening the remaining two boys were taken down by it too.

It took until Friday for me to begin to feel slightly more normal.

Needless to say, my birthday dinner plans were postponed and our dinner guests on Friday were called off.

We were, however, feeling ready to celebrate granddad's 80th by the time Saturday came around. So here's a wee look at the quiet celebrations.

My hubby's sister is not a fan of shopping. When it comes to birthdays and Christmas, if you can give her a link to Amazon then she is more than happy! This time round I had my eye on some new, comfy crochet hooks.

Granddad's birthday dinner was a traditional roast.



Aunty Anna has a lot of tempting things for mischievous little boys lying around on her coffee table!


'Nope. Wasn't touching anything.'



James and Calum had agreed to make the cake for grandad, although their energy levels weren't quite up to usual so the decorating effort was a little haphazard!



Still, granddad was happy with it.




They had filled one of the cakes with Smarties like they did for my dad's 60th cake at Easter time.



My father in law with his 5 grandsons.


My postponed birthday took place today as it was a school holiday and my hubs had the day off work.
After being stuck in sick bay all last week I was keen that we should get out for a walk somewhere. It has been such a beautiful autumn here so far but of course today it happened to be the first day it has rained in ages! Despite the initial grumblings of some of the boys, we still headed out for a country walk.




It was pretty wet, and we all got rather soaked, but the rain did show up some lovely spider webs in amongst the autumn berries!


Back home, after drying off, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying out my new crochet hooks while my lovely husband cooked dinner (Spiced Salmon) and Calum baked my birthday cake using our trusty Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake recipe.




In the end, the birthday plans didn't work out too badly.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Make it Monday - Pastry Tarts

On a Saturday afternoon we sometimes like to go to Dobbies Garden Centre for a wee wander around the lovely shop followed by a stop for some hot chocolate and juice in the coffee shop.


We hadn't done this since before the summer holidays began and so everyone was keen to go this Saturday past. Actually, despite it being a garden centre we visit it a lot more in the autumn/winter than we do in the summer! Proving the point that we go there for the shop and coffee shop far more than we do for the garden centre!


As soon as we walked in the doors we were confronted with all their beautiful Christmas displays.


They did have a sign up explaining that the reason they had their Christmas display up so early is that the store is being used to showcase the Dobbies Christmas range. Whatever their reason, we didn't mind. The boys (and me!) had a lovely time looking through their range.


Once we had been round all the Christmas stuff we enjoyed some tea and cream scones, courtesy of a voucher I received from their gardening club since it's my birthday this week...


But where is the making in this post you ask?


Well, the cream scones were just for me and my hubs. The other boys had an assortment of other goodies - one thing I like about Dobbies coffee shop is that they have a decent range of free from sweet things so Calum & Alasdair don't have to miss out. James (14) was tucking into a huge strawberry tart and casually asked, 'do you think you could make one of these mam?'


On our way out we bought a tube of strawberry tart sauce (yes there is such a thing) from the food hall.


Then back home I made up a batch of sweet pastry, cut it into small sizes, baked them blind, cooled them, whipped up some cream with a little icing sugar added, spooned some onto each pastry case, added a strawberry on top and finished with the strawberry tart sauce.




And just so that the free from boys didn't miss out, I used some ready made Genius Gluten & Dairy Free Shortcrust pastry to make them a batch of wee jam tarts.



The verdict on the tarts?


I asked the 14 year old, since his stomach is the one that constantly needs filled, and he said that the pastry and cream in my ones was nicer than the one in the shop but he preferred the extra large size of the shop one!


Friday, 5 September 2014

Bake it like Berry - A few summer bakes

Firstly, thank you for all your comments and messages about where you are from. David is delighted to find such a wide range of places coming up. He is even excited to look up where those of you closer to us here are too. I'll post his map with the pins on it next week.

Moving on for now though.

Bake it like Berry took another bit of a backseat over the summer. That's not to say that there wasn't any baking from the Baking Bible going on, just not many new recipes.

Starting with the most recent bakes, here are the latest new recipes from the book that I have tried out.

Banana & Chocolate Chip Oat Slice.

This is the first time I've been less than happy with a Mary Berry recipe. I know, I can hardly believe I just said that! The recipe asks you to rub the margarine into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs but the ratio of margarine to flour is such that there is no way that it will ever resemble breadcrumbs. More like a dough texture! Perhaps it was a typo though, and with an extra 3 oz of flour it looked more like it should.

I adapted this to make it dairy & wheat free, and Calum loves it. Next time I might actually put the choc chips in the middle layer with the banana though, as they tend to fall off the top.

Traditional Apple Pie

I made this a couple of weeks ago with our freshly picked apples. Normally when I make apple pie I have a pastry layer at the bottom but in this recipe there is only pastry on the top. that's one way of avoiding a soggy bottom I suppose! The next recipe in the book after this one is for a slightly different apple pie, and that one does use a pastry base.

Chocolate Crispie Cakes

These are in the chapter for baking with children and so Alasdair (5) tried them out. After I had melted his dairy free chocolate for him, and helped him weigh out the ingredients he managed to make the rest by himself. He was rather pleased with the results!

Lemon Drizzle Traybake

There are a few different Lemon cake recipes in the Baking Bible and so far each one I have tried has been equally good! 

Malt Fruit Loaf

This was the first time I had made a cake using malt extract. It made a slightly sticky cake that was full of flavour. David (8) really loved this cake and has been asking when I will be making it again!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Family Dinners - Carrot & Courgette Soup

Now I realise you might be thinking that soup isn't a particularly filling meal for dinner. That it's perhaps more of a lunchtime meal rather than a dinner time one. But we do sometimes have soup for dinner, and whenever we do I also serve it with plenty bread, oatcakes and cold meats. We also always have a nice cake for pudding if we have soup for our dinner. So no one feels hungry!

This recipe is an old one of my mum's and is perfect for this time of year when you might, like I do, have a rather fruitful courgette plant in your garden. It's also a good way to sneak some greens into someone who might be a little less inclined to eat them normally - I had fed this to Calum quite a few times before he found out there was green stuff in it!

Measurements aren't exact, as long as you have around equal quantities of the carrots & courgettes.

Oh, and courgettes are the same as Zucchinis.

You will need

1lb courgettes, sliced
1lb carrots, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp tomato puree
2 pints boiling water 

~ Put a little oil in your pan, add the carrots & courgettes and then soften for about 5 minutes.
~Add the rest of the ingredients and boil for around 30 minutes.
~Remove from the heat and blend until smooth.
~Season with salt and pepper to taste.
~Serve with warm bread and oatcakes.
~Following with cake is optional!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Where are you from?


If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you will know that we are Gaelic speakers and that the boys attend a Gaelic school, where their education is all in Gaelic. They do learn how to read and write in English, but not until their third year of Primary school.


Despite attending a Gaelic school, the fact that they speak Gaelic at home puts them in the minority there. Some parents have chosen to send their children there because they themselves had a parent or grandparent who were Gaelic speakers and they want to bring back the language in their families.


Don't forget that a few generations back it was considered uneducated to speak Gaelic. English was the language of schools and to get ahead in life you were expected to speak English. Because of this belief there were many families who didn't pass the language on to their own children. I have a few friends who have Gaelic speaking parents who didn't speak it to them. These friends now wish that they had been given the chance to learn the language when they were young, as it's a difficult language to learn when you are older.


My parents both spoke Gaelic to us as our first language, and when I started school I had more Gaelic than English. My husband isn't a native speaker, although he knows a little of the language, and it always seemed natural that we would bring our boys up bilingual. I speak to them in Gaelic, he speaks to them in English. From a very early age they know the difference in sounds between the two languages and will naturally speak the correct one to any adult speaking to them.


Anyway, I seem to be digressing from my original point here!


As well as the families at the school who have a Gaelic heritage in previous generations of their families, there are also plenty parents who have chosen to send their children there because they believe in the benefits of a bilingual education. Many of these families also speak more than one language at home. One of the boys in Alasdair's class has an Italian father and a Spanish mother. They both speak to him in their own language and he learns in Gaelic at school!


This week all the children in the school are learning about the different countries that families within the school come from. Would you believe that there are actually 24 different nationalities represented in the school?!


Each class is learning about the countries that some of their classmates' families come from.


David's class of 8 year olds are learning about the United States as the mum of one of the girls in his class (the one pictured with him in the old photo of their first day at school I shared a couple of weeks ago, and who plans to marry him one day) is from the US.


He has been loving learning about the country. Today he told me that France and Germany could fit into Texas. I didn't know this, is it really true?! They have been learning all about baseball and have been playing it in the park beside the school. He has been singing the baseball song, 'Take me out to the ball game' over and over and over!


We have a jigsaw of all the states in the US that my husband bought on a trip there when David was a baby and he has been trying to memorise where all the states are.


He knows a few people from the US, other than his friend's mum, and I told him that some of the people reading my blog were from there. He knows of our friends in Washington State and his friend's mum is from Tenessee. Oh, that's another thing he learned - how to spell Mississippi really fast! But he would really like to know where any other readers are from. And not just those of you reading in the US.


I told him we wouldn't have a list of 24 different countries like there are at his school but he would really love to see where everyone is from.


So, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, how about we help him out and let him know where you are from with a little comment?


Near or far, he's curious as to how far across the globe people are reading about his multi national Gaelic speaking school!


Thank you!


Monday, 1 September 2014

Make it Monday - Crochet Scottie Dog & Sharpie Tiles


Last week I was working on another Christmas project but I also wanted to try out one of these little cuties.
I still need to put a little ribbon around his neck, and I'm thinking of turning him into a key ring.
The pattern is available for free here.
Moving on to a project the boys did in the summer holidays.
We had some old white bathroom tiles lying around so the boys used some Sharpies to turn them into pot stands. We baked them for about 20 minutes at 180C to set the pens but they do still rub off if they are rubbed hard. I think next time we will get some porcelain pens to be sure the picture stays on. Especially if we make some as gifts.
James (14) made this one.


David (8) did this one.


And Calum (11) drew one of his favourite vehicles.



Thursday, 28 August 2014

Family Dinners - Slow Cooked Pork in apple, honey & mustard sauce

One of the most common questions I get asked when people hear about the boys' food allergies is, 'What do you all eat then? It must be so hard!'


I reply that we eat very well. Good old fashioned meals, cooked from scratch, and it's not very hard at all.


That got me thinking that it would be good to share some of our favourite dinners. Simple family dinners that don't need fancy ingredients or hours of preparation in the kitchen. They are dairy free, wheat free, egg free and nut free.


But certainly not taste free.


So let's get going with the first one.


The slow cooking of this makes the meat so soft and tender.


Although it takes over four hours to cook, for most of those 4 hours you aren't actually doing anything. If you don't have a slow cooker you could also make this in a casserole dish in a low oven for around the same length of time.


One thing to watch out for if you are gluten free is the mustard you use. Some types will have gluten in them so do double check the ingredients. I use Dijon mustard as it tends to be fine. You could use a whole grain mustard if you aren't concerned about food allergies but they do often have gluten in them. Like I said, and you probably always do if dealing with allergies anyway, just double check ingredients lists!


Serves 4-6


You will need:

8 pork loin steaks

1ltr carton of apple juice (cheap &cheerful is absolutely fine)

1 onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, well chopped

2 tbsp cornflour

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3 - 4 tablespoons honey


- Put your pork loins, sliced onion & chopped garlic in the slow cooker (or your casserole dish, if you don't have one).

- Pour over all of the apple juice then cook on HIGH for around 4 hours, or on LOW for about 6-8 hours.

- Once the cooking time is almost up, ladle out about 1 pint of the cooking liquid, put it into a small pan and heat it up until nearly boiling.

- Mix the cornflour with enough cold water to dissolve it and make a loose paste.

- Add the cornflour paste to the heated up liquid and mix in. It should thicken up nicely. If you think it's too thick then take a little more of the liquid from the slow cooker.

- Add the mustard and the honey to the sauce and mix in well.

- Serve the pork covered in the sweet appley sauce and put out the extra sauce in a gravy jug on the table.


If you want you can serve it with some fresh apple sauce as well as some potatoes and veg of your choice.



Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Garden Pretties

On the way to hang out the washing I walk past our dwarf sunflowers.


Today I noticed a little visitor on one of them.



The boys and I plant sunflowers every year as they are so reliable to grow, and so cheerful when they open up.


I feel as though I have done very little in the garden this year, although I have done so much more than I did last summer when I was expecting Fraser. That pregnancy sickness didn't make me feel like doing much in the garden!
I don't mind not having done much this year either, I'd far rather look back and remember the time spent cuddling my little man!
I think that it is because I have done so little that it is so satisfying to see the things I have done growing well.
As well as my veg boxes and our sunflowers, I also planted some marigold seeds in the spring time. I hadn't tried growing them from seed before but here they are, growing thickly and flowering!


We also have lots of taller sunflowers as well as the dwarf ones.



The far corner of the garden remains neglected while we decide what to do with it. Calum (11) has built a tiny wildlife pond there using an old washing up basin and James (14) started building a road out of old bricks for Alasdair (5) to play with his cars on but it's not finished at all.
I have raspberries and red currants in that corner too.
When I hang the washing out, Fraser sits on the ground beside me and loves to play in the peg tub.
(The mess around Peter Rabbit is blood from some eczema on his chin that he scratched that day)
Sometimes, though, he decides to go off for a wee explore around the garden.



It's funny to watch him as he sits stroking the grass between his fingers. Or concentrating for ages as he tries to pick something up from the ground.
Off he goes.


He's heading for that football over by the back fence.
But he doesn't stay far away from me for long and is soon crawling back to me at high speed!


We're trying to make the most of the late summer warmth and enjoy the garden before the autumn chill puts a stop to us.


My only complaint though?




Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Makings - Meet Meep!

As promised last week, here is the completed little alien.


Alongside his snoozing buddy.




I didn't plan it, but he goes rather well with the colours in Fraser's blanket!


Since completing Meep I have nearly finished another project but that one needs to remain secret for now as it's a present for someone who might be reading this.


A Christmas present actually.


I know it's only August but I'm trying to get way ahead with my handmade gifts this year because by the time November comes round life becomes a whirlwind of festive activities.


I'm planning on giving as many handmade presents as possible this year. If not handmade by me, then handmade by other crafters.


I also hope to share some ideas that I come across on here, in case anyone else is planning a handmade Christmas too. Although, as with this weeks make, a few will just need to wait until the new year before I can share them!