Tuesday, 15 April 2014

60th Birthday Makings

Now that his big day has been and gone, I can share some of the things we made for my dad's 60th birthday last week.


We arrived home at my parents' a couple of days before his birthday, which gave us time to work on a few decorations.


My mum has a rather large collection of jam jars which I raided to make these candle holders.


A few doilies and some ribbon and they were ready to decorate the table for the birthday dinner.


I wish I could say that the idea was mine but I have to give thanks to Pinterest where I had seen several similar ones!
I also made up a pile of paper pom-poms (thanks again, Pinterest). We hung some of these up around the room and used the others as table decorations.


We were able to decorate the room at the hotel where the birthday dinner was going to be.
One of the decorations we had was a line of old photos of my dad from various decades.
While going through the old photos I found enough to make up a scrapbook of photos, which we gave to my dad at his dinner. The writing on the cover is made from some nice felt letters I found in Hobbycraft.
On the right hand side of the photo above is a pile of envelopes tied together. This was a project idea that my brother's wife suggested. She had seen it on a blog, where someone gave their dad 60 memories for his 60th birthday. We knew we wouldn't be able to get 60 memories together as she only suggested it a week before his birthday but, after getting some names from my mum, and me spending a morning sending out emails, we were able to get memories from people who have known my dad from different times in his life - from childhood, through his college days to today. The boys and my nephews all wrote or drew something as well. Each memory/picture was printed out and placed in an individual envelope so it took my dad a wee while to open them all!
The boys' present to him was a decoupage one. The Gaelic for grandad is Seanair (Shen-ar) which is almost always abbreviated to Shen.
Calum and David worked on the decoupage, which was a little bit fiddly in places, but the result was worth it.
And the final make, again by Calum and James, was the birthday cake.


Calum baked a gluten & dairy free '6' and I baked a non free from '0' and then we left James to do the decor.


He spent a couple of hours on it.


My dad likes golf and so this is James' icing version of him on the golf course.


The photos were taken while the icing was still soft which is why he is held up with a cocktail stick!


He made the bunker out of cake crumbs...


...and he said the extra golf balls are the ones that Shen has missed!


You can also see where James' name comes from!
We managed to keep my dad out of the kitchen while James was busy on the cake so he didn't see it until he was presented with it after the meal.
He had one more surprise when he cut into the cake.
The reason I made the '0' non free from was because we filled the middle with m and ms!





I have a few more fun photos of the day to share but I think that's enough photos for one post!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Things I'm loving....

We've been busy, busy this week getting a few things ready for a big birthday celebration next week, which is why I haven't posted much. I really want to share some of what we have been working on but it's still Top Secret. The big birthday is my dad's 60th and since he reads my blog then I can't share our craftiness with you until after the big day!
In the meantime, here are a few of the other things that I was loving this past week though.
Actually, let's start with a couple of weekends ago when my hubs and oldest son took part in the sponsored sleepout that the homeless charity my husband works for organise every spring. We set James the fundraising target of £50 as I thought he would mostly be getting sponsorships from his friends and maybe a few teachers. I shared his Just Giving page on my Facebook though and he smashed his target!
He managed to beat his dad's total by about £30 too so he was even more chuffed! Plus, he even managed to get a little sleep on the cold car park floor that night, unlike his father who was one of the organisers and was up and down all night checking everything was OK.
I think last year the charity raised around £39,000 from the sleepout so it will be interesting to see how much they raise this year.
Moving forward to last weekend and to Mother's Day. As is our tradition for Mother's Day, the boys cooked Sunday lunch with dad. This was the place setting that David (8) set for me....
....and here is the lovely lunch - roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, mashed tatties, cauliflower cheese and roast vegetables. I did take pity on them and make the Yorkshire puddings but the rest was made entirely by them.


My husband commented that it's not actually that hard making a roast dinner, it's just getting everything ready at the same time that's tricky! They did really well though and lunch was delicious.
Calum (11) made his yummy Chocolate Coca Cola Cake for pudding but I was too eager to eat that to remember to snap a photo of it!
I've also been loving my lovely new Cath Kidston apron these last couple of weeks. I was given a voucher for the Cath Kidston store for my birthday back in September but I only got round to spending it a few weeks ago!
The apron is so pretty I found that I had forgotten to take it off the other day when I popped in the car to collect my husband from the train station when he finished work!


And finally, this little man and the fact that every time we pass one of these doggy charity coin collection things he asks me to take his picture with it!





Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Eczema Outreach Scotland

Eczema Outreach Scotland are a charity I've written about here before.

They are a relatively new charity, set up by a mum of a girl with eczema to help and support other families living with eczema. They do so in many different ways, one of these being organised days out for families to get together.

On Saturday we attended one of these events, the second one we have been to.

It was held at an indoor snow slope near Glasgow - David & Calum loved how the UV lights at the entrance made their jumpers glow!

While the children all took part in some sledging, the adults stayed warm and had an informal chat with a dermatologist.

Before hitting the slopes the boys were kitted out with helmets. Alasdair (4) had been saying that he didn't want to go sledging but he went down to see what the boys were doing anyway.

Once he saw them on the snow though, he changed his mind and got a bit braver. He loved every minute of it!

Once their time on the slopes was up they all came in for some juice and snacks and then had the chance to fill in some surveys and give suggestions of any tips they have for managing their own eczema, as well as writing down any questions they would like to ask a dermatologist.

It was a great morning. They boys really loved the snow slide and are keen to go back another time.

I thought it was good to hear the questions and concerns the other parents had about their children's eczema. Everyone seems to agree that many people who don't have to live with eczema think of it as a much milder thing to live with than it really is.

Having been at a similar event last year - in fact I think it must have been almost exactly a year ago as I was in the midst of the worst weeks of pregnancy sickness - I was already aware of other families going through the same skin care routines and sleepless nights as we are, but somehow it really hit home to me more this time because as I was greasing Fraser up on Saturday night, while my hubs was doing Alasdair's creams, I thought of the others who right then would be doing the exact same thing.

Knowing this doesn't make what you have to go through any easier, you still have to spend all that time looking after the skin, watching your child cry in pain while they scratch and you try 101 things to distract them etc, and yet it does help that little bit too to know that you aren't the only family going through it either.

I'm not sure if that makes any sense but if you are another eczema family then maybe it does to you! And if you haven't joined up with Eczema Outreach Scotland yet then do head on over to their newly re-launched website here and sign up.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Crate of Nothing

It's been an exciting couple of months in the Gluten and Dairy Free food world.


Well, exciting in that there have been quite a few new products launched by companies like Genius Gluten Free and Dietary Specials to help those on special diets have things to eat that are a bit more 'normal'.


A couple of months ago I received an email from a new company called 'Crate of Nothing' asking if we would be interested in trying out one of their crates. I thought it sounded like such a great idea that I immediately agreed.


Once a month they send out their little boxes of goodies. You can choose either gluten free or gluten and dairy free. We obviously chose the second option and waited until the beginning of the month, which is when they post out the boxes.


Calum (11) was rather chuffed when he came home from school one day to find this box waiting for him, with everything inside it safe for him and Alasdair (4) to eat. David (8), who can, and will, eat anything had his eye on a few things too but I told him that there were enough treats he can eat. These were all for Calum & Alasdair, who so often have to forego treats.



The box contained gluten and dairy free foods that you would be less likely to find in the supermarkets, with the aim of helping out these smaller producers, as well as helping to introduce you to foods you would otherwise not have heard of. It also contained the non perishable measured out ingredients to make some free from Chocolate Brownies, along with the recipe for them.

Of course my little baker Calum had to try these out, and they were the finest Chocoate Brownies I have ever tasted - free from or allergy filled! You can find the recipe for them here. We did make one little change to them and didn't make the chocolate icing to go on top. I thought this might be too chocolatey, even for me, especially as we were using dark chocolate. Instead we finished them off with a dusting of icing sugar


They were still slightly warm when we had them for pudding one night and I may, or may not, have eaten more than two slices in one sitting.


The boxes cost £22.50 for a one off purchase of a box, or £20 if you set up a monthly subscription. Postage is included in the cost. If you think this is a little pricey for a smallish box of food, then you can't be a regular shopper for free from foods. The free from flour I buy costs nearly three times what the ordinary flour I buy costs!


I think the boxes are a great way to widen the food horizons of those on restricted diets.


Or perhaps you yourself might not be on a free from diet but you know of someone who is. If so, then I think a one off box would make a great present for them, either for a birthday or for a 'just because' present. Something a little bit different, and foodie treats are so tricky to buy for free from diets.


There are only a limited number of boxes available each month, and orders are closed now for the boxes being sent out at the beginning of April, but I do recommend having a wee look once ordering is opened up again for the May boxes.




Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Another eczema update for Fraser

Fraser still continues to be seen once a week by the dermatologist at our local hospital. It's been our weekly trek since the beginning of the year but I am glad they are taking such good care of him and his skin.
Each week we would go back and there would be little to no improvement. His skin would be swabbed. We would be told his skin showed infection and then he would be put on a course of antibiotics. It would clear a little but then come back again. He would be swabbed again a few weeks later. Another infection. More antibiotics.......and so on.
Last Monday when we were there, the doctor asked for more swabs to be taken and also suggested we try adding a little bit if Milton sterilising solution to his bath. She said that not much research has been done here about it but that studies in the US have shown it to be a great help for children who have repeated skin infections.
So I went straight from our appointment to buy a bottle.
We started adding it to his bath that evening, when his skin still looked like this....




By the end of last week it looked like this....







He still has the redness and the itchiness in patches but the weeping a crusting has gone for the first time since the start of the year.
His scalp had also been completely covered in the scaling a weepy skin and it's so lovely to be able to snuggle up to him without him sticking to you!


I hesitate to say that this is him on the mend, as every other time we have seen an improvement it has only been for a few days before flaring up again. But this is now a week without a flare up and I'm thankful for even that. He has been dropped down a strength of steroid for his face this week and so I'm also a little nervous that the eczema will creep back up because of that.
He is also on another course of antibiotics, a different one, as last week's swabs showed another Strep infection.
Although he has always been remarkably content despite his soreness, this past week we have really seen his little personality shine through.








I'm so pleased for his sake that he has this little window of relief.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Recipe of the Week - Gluten & Dairy Free Onion Rings


This recipe is just basically the batter recipe from last week's recipe with onions in it instead of chicken but it's still worth writing as a separate recipe too as it was such a success!


We found our onion rings were a perfect accompaniment to a plate of homemade chilli.



All you need is:


2 eggs

5-6 tablespoons of cornflour

2 onions

Enough oil for deep frying



- Beat your eggs and add the cornflour to them. Beat until you have a smooth batter. Depending on the size of your eggs, you might need either 5 or 6 tablespoons of the cornflour to make a nice thick batter.

- Slice your onions into rings.

- Heat up the oil until it's really hot, coat the sliced onion in the batter then fry for a few minutes, turning half way.

- Drain the onion rings on some kitchen towel to soak up some of the excess oil.


And that's all there is to it!




Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Little Smiler

I've mentioned before what a sweet nature our littlest man has.


Months of really sore eczema and yet he hardly complains and continues to charm us all with his gummy smiles.


Well today his eczema was looking great and his smile was even bigger than ever!

Look at that twinkle in his eyes.


His skin has cleared a little like this before, only for it to flare up again a few days later so I'm trying not to get my hopes up that it's a long term improvement.



Monday, 17 March 2014

Make it Monday - Calum's Crochet Ripple Blanket

I mentioned in last week's Make it Monday post that Calum (11) has asked me to make him a blanket too.
He wants a stripy blanket so I showed him a granny stripe or a ripple stripe to see which one he preferred.
He chose the ripple and I'm using the ripple pattern from Attic 24, which you can find here.
He also chose the colours himself: a turquoise blue, a lighter blue and an apple green. It's also going to have the occasional cream stripe in there.
He was very concerned that it should be long enough to have a good overhang on his bed and so when I was doing the foundation chain he kept asking me to make it a bit bigger. And a bit more!
Fraser is helping give the scale in the photo below and even though the blanket isn't lying flat, you can see that it will certainly be nice and wide for him.


The Attic 24 pattern is really easy to follow, with lots of clear pictures for those who are more visual learners.
Sticking with Calum, here's another make.
His class had organised a Bake Sale at school last week and this was his contribution.


Rainbow cupcakes. Made entirely by himself.




James (14) was calling them 'play dough cupcakes' but that didn't stop him from wolfing down the ones that Calum left at home!