Monday, 30 March 2015

Make it Monday - Crochet Spring Wreath

Last week we had a little promise of Spring.


It was that week when you begin to think that winter really might finally be over.


We saw some blue skies.


The boys got to play with their friends at the park.


Daffodils really opened up properly.


And I noticed the blossom on the trees for the first time.
Today, however, it feels like we have stepped right back to winter, with snow showers on and off all day!
Still, back to last week and that glimpse of Spring weather.
After making this snowman wreath before Christmas, I decided he was too cute to have up for just a Christmas decoration and made him into a winter decoration rather than just a Christmas one.


But as we got into March I felt that I needed to make a Spring wreath to hang up instead.
I bought the same size of foam ring, crocheted a rectangle in green this time rather than the blue and stitched it around the back of the ring.
Then I added some daffodils and a couple of extra little pink flowers. The pattern for the daffodils can be found on the Attic 24 blog.
I'm so pleased with how it turned out.


I've decided now to make one for each season. I'm aiming to make a Summer wreath to hang up round about June, an Autumn one for September time and then the sweet snowman can go back up in December!


Now please Spring, can you come back again?

Friday, 20 March 2015

Things I'm loving

Since Meghan had to stop her linky for Things I'm Loving posts I got out of the way of writing them, but I miss the little reviews of the simple things in our life and so have been meaning to get my own posts up and running again. After all it's in these simple little things that memories are made.


This week got off to a flying start with Mothers Day on Sunday. My star baker, Calum (12) made up a batch of pancakes for breakfast entirely on his own.


Not only that, but he had also baked a chocolate cake for later on in the day! The recipes for both of these can be found under the Allergy Free tab at the top of the blog.
We don't really do Mother's Day presents as such, as I would far rather something handmade - like pancakes and chocolate cake! - and so I was presented with four handmade cards.
I love how each boy's card shared something about their personalities.
For example, James (15) is a great artist who has a rather crazy sense of humour...
His drawing is of Phteven the dog, whose real name is Tuna and who is found in memes all over the Internet.
Being a busy mum of 5, married to a husband with a very hectic work life, it is so easy to find that days are ticking by and we haven't had any proper time together. Time set aside for just us, without children to see to, jobs to be done, work to be dealt with...
So it was lovely one afternoon this week when he had the afternoon off work to be able to grab a cup of tea and some cake before school pickup time, in an amazing Italian coffee house that we haven't been to since before we were married. Of course little Fraser was with us, but we managed to time it right so that he slept in his pushchair the whole time we were there.
This week we had parents meeting at the Primary school.
This little man did us proud.
Before he started school in August I was really unsure how he would be. He had always been such a quiet mummy's boy and he never really settled in to his couple of mornings a week at nursery.
Only a couple of days into his new school routine and we could see that he loved it. Even now, long after the initial excitement of starting school has died down, he is always the first boy up out of bed in the morning and the first dressed for school.
His lovely teacher is really pleased with how his first year in school is going. Of course it does also help that he is the only person in his class who has Gaelic at home and who always understands what the teacher is saying to them!
Anyway, he wanted to show off his new Transformer to everyone.




Sports mad David (9) also got a good report this week too.



He's loved the opportunity to help daddy with some shinty coaching in a different school. The shinty coaches were asked if they would teach a block of lessons to a couple of other primary schools nearby to introduce the sport. David asked his dad if he could go along too, they asked his head teacher and she said he could. So, for an hour or so a week, for a few weeks he has gone along with dad to share his love of shinty with other children. Apparently it was a big hit and these children were sad to have their last session this week.
Today I loved the fact that finally it felt a little bit like spring is on the way.
Fraser loves to be outside and it was a bit more pleasant sitting out with him this afternoon. Don't be fooled by the short sleeves that David is wearing in the photo above though! It wasn't quite that warm, although he didn't notice!





And finally, I couldn't let today go by without sharing my photos of this morning's Solar Eclipse.
It was a beautiful sunny morning at first and then some clouds rolled in about half an hour before the eclipse. They actually made it easier to see the eclipse though, as it wasn't so bright against the sky.
The clouds look really dark in my photos but they weren't that dark at all. I also thought that with a 93% eclipse it would be a lot darker than it turned out to be. It was as dark as a big rain cloud passing by. It did however get an awful lot colder while the eclipse was taking place.
Anyway, here's my view of it.







Apparently when the next one is viewable from the UK my boys will be 26, 23, 20, 16 and 12!


I'll be glad we have this little Things I'm Loving to look back on and remember by then!


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Prizewinning Selfie!

A few weeks ago, in the half term holiday, we took a trip to Edinburgh Castle.
While we were there I remembered that Historic Scotland were running a selfie competition on Twitter.
All you had to do was take a selfie at any of the Historic Scotland properties and post it on Twitter.
I gave the responsibility for our entry to Calum (12) as he's always taking selfies, and this was the result.


It was freezing cold and quite windy, and I'm not really sure what kind of face David was trying to make!


Anyway, just last week we found out that our rather silly selfie won joint first!


James, who at 15 is mortified by all his brother's selfies, couldn't quite believe it!


Monday, 16 March 2015

Make it Monday - Mini Egg Bark

Those of you who have been following our houseful of boys for any length of time will probably know that my absolute favourite Christmas treat is the ridiculously easy to make - and also far to easy to eat - Peppermint Bark.

A layer of milk chocolate covered with a layer of white chocolate that contains some peppermint essence and topped with crushed candy canes.


Well, I got to thinking recently that since the Peppermint Bark season is so short, perhaps I could extend it by making an Easter version.


And so I did.


And boy was I delighted with the results!


I switched the layers of chocolate around, with the white is on the bottom this time so that the mini eggs show up better.


All you need to do is melt 300g white chocolate and spread in a lined rectangular baking tray. Let it harden in the fridge while you melt 300g milk chocolate and then spread this on top of the white layer. Lightly crush a 90g bag of mini eggs (I'm pretty sure there was more in these last year than 90g!) and sprinkle over the top of the milk chocolate while warm. Then just let it all set and slice it into squares.


Our favourite chocolate is Aldis basic chocolate that costs 30p for a 100g bar so this treat is not only delicious but super savvy cost wise too. A whole tray will cost on £2.80 and would make a lovely Easter gift if packaged up nicely. Much cheaper than an Easter Egg and you get more chocolate in it too! Win, win.


In order to compensate for how much of this delight that I may have eaten over the weekend, today marked the restart (after a rather long absence) of our Couch to 5k running for myself and Calum (12) and David (9). I'm not convinced I'll ever be a good runner but it feels good to get out and do something after hibernating all winter!


Monday, 9 March 2015

Make it Monday - DIY white clay

A few weeks ago when we were round at my brother's house for dinner, Alasdair (5) and his 7 year old cousin were busy making some sculptures with some homemade white clay that my nephew had made.


It reminded me that I had pinned a recipe for some DIY white clay before Christmas, with the intention of making some Christmas ornaments out of it, but that I had never got round to making.


So, the next day we looked up the recipe and made up a batch of white clay using this recipe here.


I liked the idea of it as it doesn't contain flour so would be fine for the boys with wheat allergies to handle.


I had read the comments on that post and some people had said that their creations had cracked when drying so I was a little bit wary of it and hoped that the boys wouldn't be too attached to anything they made - just in case!


They made some shapes using cookie cutters and I had the idea of making some labels for some new jars I had bought for storing some baking supplies in. I used some letter stamps to add the names of what was in the jars on each label.


We left our creations to dry overnight as some commenters had said that drying in the oven was worse for cracking. It took a couple of days for them to dry right through.


And some things did indeed crack. I would say less than half of the shapes did though, and my theory is that it was the ones that had been made with clay that had been re-rolled and re-rolled that cracked.


My little latkes didn't crack though and I added a layer of Mod Podge to give them a little bit extra strength.


Then I threaded them up and added them to my jars.



So that it is especially obvious which jar is the one with a gluten free flour I wrote over the letters with Sharpie. Just to avoid any mix ups. In future I might have used ink on the stamps when using them to make this a bit neater but it's fine for now.






The little model that Alasdair made with his cousin has dried very well with no signs of cracking at all so I must get his recipe from him again. I know it used some PVA glue as he did write it down for Alasdair but I'm not sure where it ended up!


I'll share it when I find it again!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Recipe of the Week - Gluten free & Dairy free Carrot Cake



When I first set about making a free from carrot cake it seemed like a straightforward cake to adapt, and it was. After all, most carrot cake recipes use oil rather than butter and all that extra moisture could only be good for a gluten free cake.


I've added some orange to my cake as well and spent longer than was probably necessary debating with myself whether I should call it Carrot Cake or Carrot & Orange Cake! In the end I decided to stick with just Carrot Cake as it's more like a Carrot Cake with a hint of orange.


Anyway, onto the cake. I bake ours in a square brownie tin and it bakes in about 30 minutes. You could also bake it in a deeper round tin at a slightly lower temperature and for slightly longer if you wanted a deeper cake, or even in a loaf tin. It depends what you are after really. I find the depth of the squares from our brownie tin deep enough.


As this cake is dairy free, the topping is not the traditional cream cheese topping you often get on Carrot Cakes. There is a dairy free cream substitute available but none of us like the taste of it and so I top our cake with an orange flavoured butter icing.


Finally, if you want to make this with non free from ingredients it will work just fine. No need to adjust any of the quantities.


For the cake you will need:

2 eggs

140ml vegetable oil

Grated zest of one orange

200g brown sugar

300g grated carrot (about 4 medium carrots)

180g Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsps ground cinnamon

1tsp mixed spice


For the icing you will need:

50g dairy free margarine

200g icing sugar

4 tsps orange juice


- Preheat oven to 180C (160C if you are baking in a deeper tin) and grease & line your tin.

- Beat the eggs in a bowl and then add the oil and orange zest.

- Add the sugar and carrots.

- In another bowl mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the spices.

- Add to the carrot mix and mix together well, just with a wooden spoon is fine.

- Bake for around 30 minutes (or longer if you are using a deeper tin)

- While the cake cools make your icing.

- Add all the icing ingredients to a bowl and beat together with a mixer until smooth.

- Spread over the cooled cake.



Thursday, 26 February 2015

Recipe of the week - Easy Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls



For our Valentines Day breakfast this year I wanted to try something a bit different. I really, really fancied some Cinnamon Rolls and so searched around for a good straightforward recipe. There are quite a few available online and this is one that I have adapted from some of those that I found.


I wanted the dough to be made in the breadmaker. Paul Hollywood would not approve, I'm sure, but then he doesn't have five children to fit in around his bread making! Besides, the lovely Mary Berry is often heard recommending time saving gadgets so I know she wouldn't mind.


I also wanted to make up the rolls up to the point of cooking them the night before, so that all I had to do in the morning was pop the uncooked rolls into the oven for 15 minutes and then we could enjoy them fresh and warm from the oven.


I'm pleased to say that my technique worked and on Valentine's morning we did indeed have fresh warm Cinnamon Rolls. Those boys who couldn't eat them had our usual weekend breakfast of pancakes so there were no complaints from them.


The cinnamon rolls were so good that I may or may not have eaten one (perhaps two) for my lunch on Valentine's Day too. Let's just say that I'm glad that I'm still nursing a little 16 month old so as to justify those extra calories!


I really can't recommend these enough.


For the dough you will need:

1 cup warm milk

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup butter, melted

4 1/2 cups strong white flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup white sugar

2 1/2 tsps dried yeast


For the cinnamon filling you will need:

A little more butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon


For the glaze you will need:

2oz icing sugar

enough water to make up into a drizzable icing


- Put the milk, eggs, melted butter, flour, salt, white sugar & yeast into the bread machine, select the 'dough' setting and start it working.


- When the cycle is finished, turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle about 1-2cm thick. Spread the extra butter over the dough, as thick as you would if you were having some bread and butter.

- Mix the cinnamon and brown sugar and then spread it evenly all over your buttered dough.

- Roll the dough up like a Swiss roll, starting with the longer side.

- Cut the rolled up dough into about 12 even slices and place them in a greased, rectangular baking dish. Leave a little space between each roll as they will end up touching when they have their second rise.

- Cover with cling film and leave overnight. (Alternatively you could leave them to rise for about 30 minutes and then bake.)

- In the morning, preheat the oven to 180C, remove the cling film and bake the rolls for around 15 minutes until lovely and brown.

- While the rolls are cooking, make up a thickish icing .

- Remove the rolls from the oven and then drizzle with the icing.

- Enjoy as a lazy weekend breakfast.



Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Makings - Furniture Painting

At the beginning of the year I was putting something away in the shed when I discovered an old shelving unit hidden away behind a pile of stuff. It was an old display shelf that we used to have hanging in the study/spare room when we used to have one and before it became a bedroom. I think it must have been in the shed for nearly 10 years and I had completely forgotten about it!

It looked like just the sort of thing I was after to hang in our dining room as a little space for some of my things.

It was rather dusty and cobwebby and I wasn't so keen on the darkness of the wood but I was excited at the chance to try my hand at furniture painting!

After giving it a good hoover - in case there were any spiders lurking on it anywhere - and then a throrough wash, I was ready to give it a makeover.

As you can see above, I also had an eager helper!

When I went out to buy the chalk paint I had an idea in my head that I wanted something duck-egg blue. Then when I was looking at the colours in the shop I thought that since our walls are light coloured maybe it would look a bit bland and so I challenged myself to be a bit braver and go for a darker colour.

The colour I chose was called 'Belgrave' by Rustoleum and before I started painting I began to have a few doubts about whether I had done the right thing by being so bold!

Only a few strokes into the painting and I new I had chosen the perfect colour. I couldn't wait to get the second coat of paint on and get it hanging on the wall!

But before I reveal the finished shelf, first a little explanation about some lovely new china I bought to display on it.

My in-laws gave me a gift card for the lovely Cath Kidston as a Christmas present. 

By the time I got round to spending the card, the January sales were coming to an end with some major reductions and I was able to buy this fun set of cups and saucers with £30 off! Quite the bargain! And a couple of other matching items too.

Although I would have liked four plates to go with the cups, this was the last one in the store and there were no more left online either, so this is my special plate, perfect for a slice of chocolate cake.

Now, onto the shelf.

Remember how dark it looked before?

Look at it now!

Ah, I'm so pleased with how it turned out. The colour matches my tablecloth perfectly, as well as the colours in the china and everything else on the shelf. I love the 50s retro feel of it and I'm so glad I didn't go for the pale colour now too.

It's my little corner of pretty in this male dominated house and I find myself walking past and gazing at it with immense satisfaction that I transformed it from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.

The trouble is, now I seem to have caught the furniture painting bug and am wondering what I can try next!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Makings - Woodwork Projects & Blanket Update

Over to some of the boys for a few makes tonight.


Firstly, Calum (12) and his first completed project from woodwork at school.


In first year at high school they have to design their own spatula, thinking through what it will be used for before sketching it out and then making it.

Calum loves his pancakes and wanted to make a spatula that we could use when making them. He designed the front to be quite thin and also quite wide as well, so as to fit a pancake on it!


He engraved 'The Murray Spatula #2' on it as James' one that he made a couple of years ago was the first one.
That's he two of them below.


James (15) also brought home his latest woodwork project this week.
He has been designing and making a little side table, which he wanted to convey his love of comic books.


I think he certainly achieves that!
The colour on the top is much brighter than it looks in these evening light photos, and I love the retro comic feel of it.


He's done a really great job of the woodwork as well as the decor. It's the perfect size to sit beside where dad sits on the sofa so that he can put his coffee on it when he sits down in the evening.
James makes sure that dad has a coaster though so that he doesn't mess up that paint job!


Ally (5) has also been creating this week, this is his drawing of me and Fraser on the front of the Valentines card he made this week.


Finally, a wee update on my Cosy blanket.
This week I've just passed the half way point.


Here it is alongside a cute five year old for an idea of the size.



And since the colours weren't showing up as bright in the dull evening light, here is a closer shot, complete with a cute one year old making a bee line for the crochet hook!


Got it!


I'm still loving working on this blanket as much as when I started it and it now has the added bonus of being big enough to keep me warm as I work on it!