Thursday, 27 September 2012

Recipe of the week - Chequerboard Cake (Gluten & Dairy Free)

Well, after far too long an absence it's time to return to the Recipe of the Week again. And what a fancy looking recipe to return with, although not at all tricky to make!

My brother got a new job last week and it seemed the perfect excuse to try out this cake. It's very much a congratulations-on-your-new-job type of cake. Or any other sort of reason to celebrate sort of cake. 

The fun part of the cake is that it looks like an ordinary chocolate cake until you slice it open and reveal...

..a real 'ta-da' moment inside. 

Doesn't that look fancy? Like it took you hours to make? Not at all though.

The idea came from one of my new birthday cookbooks, the new Great British Bake-off book (How to turn your everyday bakes into a showstopper, or something similar) Anyone else loving the new series? It's not just me though, the boys are big fans too!

Anyway, I saw this cake in there but of course wanted to make it gluten and dairy free so I used my trusty old Victoria Sponge recipe. But doubled.

Here's how you do it.....

You will need;

12oz sugar
12oz dairy free margarine
12oz Doves Farm (or own choice) Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
6 eggs
about 4 tbsp soya milk
2oz cocoa powder

3, 8 inch round sandwich cake tins, greased and base lined

chocolate buttercream icing 

~ Put the sugar, margarine, flour and eggs into a free standing mixer and beat well until it is light and fluffy. Add the milk and then mix again until it is all mixed together.

~Once you have mixed up your basic sponge, put half of the mix into a different bowl. To this bowl you add the cocoa powder.

~Now put the chocolate mix into one piping bag and the plain mix into another. I use disposable piping bags and just snipped the end off them both but didn't add a piping nozzle. I didn't have two nozzles the same size you see!

~Pipe a circle of chocolate mix around the outside of one of the tins. Now pipe a circle of the plain mix just inside this. Follow this with another chocolate one and finish with a blob of plain in the middle. I don't have a photo of the uncooked version, but here is what you are aiming for. The circles don't have to be perfectly neat, as you can see!

~In the other two tins do the opposite pattern, so start with the plain mix in them.

~Bake at about 180C for around 20 minutes, then leave to cool.

~Once the cakes are cool it's time to layer them together. I had planned to make up a batch of chocolate buttercream (which you can find here in my very first ever post!) but we were due for dinner at my brother's house about 10 minutes before and so I just used a tub and a half of good old Betty Crocker icing that I keep in the cupboard for just such an emergency. (Betty Crocker is gluten and dairy free)

~Make sure that the cake you put on the bottom is one of the ones that you have two of. In my case, the one with the plain mix on the outside. Cover with a thinish layer of chocolate icing, add the middle layer (the one with the chocolate on the outside) and cover with another layer of icing and then add the top layer.

~Cover the whole of your cake, sides and all, with chocolate icing so as not to give away the surprise. My sister in law was under the belief that it was a plain old chocolate cake (no bad thing) until the boys all came through to the kitchen after dinner saying 'we want to see the cake being sliced!'

~To add a wee celebratory touch, we finished off the decor with some gold coloured sugar sprinkles.

In case you are wondering how many slices it gives? We got 13 that night. Four adult sized ones and 7 boy sized ones. Not a crumb left over.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Make it Monday (yes, on a Tuesday, again)

These past 48 hours it seems like the weather has decided to skip past autumn and head straight for winter! We have been buffeted by gale force winds and soaked by torrential rain. If the wind doesn't go down soon I'm concerned that the leaves will all have been blown off the trees before we have had a chance to properly admire their autumnal hues!

Anyway, this sort of weather is the perfect excuse to stay cosy indoors, drink plenty tea.....


....and crack on with some festive crafting!
Those keys, cars and houses are keyrings and the robins are going to be Christmas tree decorations.

I'm also working on some tree, gingerbread and heart decorations. The floral hearts below are going to be stuffed and filled with some lavender too. Possibly a few with rose petals as well, but it depends what I can find and Hobbycraft.

I was doing all my crafting while sitting on the floor and all the time my little assistant was never too far away. He decided to make a big snowy mountain for his trains out of some lovely soft fleece that I have earmarked for a blanket!


Friday, 21 September 2012

Things I'm loving...

How come it's Friday again already? Surely I was only writing a 'Things I'm Loving post' yesterday?!

The boys are rightly proud of their special badges they received at Boys' Brigade commemorating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year. One to keep and show their grandchildren, I think!


Speaking of grandchildren, some time ago I remember sharing how special it was that I had inherited my granny's china.

Well, last week I was looking online to see if I could find any more china to match it.

I already have a couple of round cake plates from my granny, but on ebay I found this.....

....a lovely rectangular one. I used a bit of my birthday money to treat myself.

Speaking of birthdays, I got some lovely new cookbooks for my birthday last week and have been enjoying trying out some new recipes.

Red velvet and Malteser cupcakes. Can anyone guess what book they are from? Red Velvet is their signature cake.

Little man was enjoying some dress up time at his cousins' house this week.

He was rather fascinated by the hat!

And, although it hasn't quite happened yet, I'm pretty sure the boys will be loving what we've got planned for tomorrow!

These are their favourite mini figures. We have them on display in the living room cabinet that was originally for dad's lead soldier collection. The lead soldiers have been squashed a little bit closer together to make way for a whole host of mini figures!

Enjoy whatever you have planned for the weekend!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Meal Planning 101

You may, or may not, have noticed the return of our Dinner Menu tab at the top of the blog.

I took it down a while back as I wasn't sure was anyone remotely interested in what things we like to eat for dinner! Since it came down I have had quite a few people ask if it could come back again, as well as asking how I go about making up our weekly meal plans. One friend even joked that she thought they might be eating sandwiches for dinner every night without a little bit of inspiration - she shall remain nameless, but she knows who she is :0)

So. Why bother with a meal plan? I know I used to always have a rough idea what we were going to have for dinner every night, but inevitably there would be days when 5pm would come round and you would find me staring in the fridge wondering what I could rustle up. Or the days when I had thought about having a certain something for dinner but hadn't remembered to take the meat out of the freezer. Or how about the days when you decide what to make and then on starting it, realise you don't have everything you need in.

You get the picture.

Getting my weekly dinner plan out of my head and onto paper really makes a huge difference.

Another big benefit of making and sticking to your meal plan, is that you should end up paying less on food shopping. No more popping down to the shop to get the one thing you need for dinner then coming out with another £15 worth of stuff! Who can run into the shop and buy just that one thing they went in for? 


I make our weekly menu up on a Monday and write it out on our menu board in the dining room. 

I also write it up in my home management binder (oh, don't worry, I have a whole other post in the pipeline about that!)

A great resource I have found for my binder is Listplanit. I love this site for all my household organising needs. You do need to pay a subscription (£10 a year) but after that you can print out any one of their hundreds of lists, as often as you like. If you don't fancy paying for it, then I have also used Donna Young Printables. She has a good selection of free printables for household management as well as homeschooling.

So here you are, pen in hand, ready to write up your weekly menu and then your mind goes blank. What do we like to eat for dinner? What are everyone's favourites? What can I make without even thinking about it?

This is where your 21 meals list will come in handy. Apparently everyone has 21 meals that they make and rotate as their family staples. Try and think of them and write them down on a list, either a lovely pre-printed chart or simply a list of paper.

I actually had a few more than the 21 so just continued on the other side!

The list above also has space for you to write in which cookery book you would find each recipe in. i didn't fill mine in because, since I make these so often, the recipes are in my head.


Following on from my 21 meals list, I have another list which I have adapted to become my 'Recipes I want to try' list. I love my cookery books. Every time I got a new one I used to read through it thinking 'I must make this soon' and of course 'soon' forgot which ones they were. Now when I get a new book (or magazine), I sit with a notebook and write down all the ones I want to try, including page numbers, then write them on this sheet in my folder.

This means I have two lists of meals that I can choose from for our menu.


The final page in my meal planner section of my folder is the monthly meal plan. I have this simply so that I can see at a glance what we have had for dinner the last couple of weeks. I haven't decided if I prefer the grid or list style yet though!


One final factor when making up your meal plan is perhaps a bit obvious, but do check what is in your cupboards too! I do our weekly food shop on a Thursday so I know that the meals for Monday to Wednesday need to include things we already have in. From Thursday's meal onwards I add things we need to my shoping list.

Oh yes, one final hint. I try and plan ahead for leftovers. On Sunday we almost always have a roast (either chicken or beef). I buy a big piece of the meat and then we can usually get Mondays dinner out of it too, as well as a stock for some soup. Like this week, we had chicken on Sunday and chicken fajitas on Monday. Two for the price of one!

And that's about all there is to it. Once you get into the swing of it, it takes up no time at all and you will feel the warm glow of domestic goddess-ness sweeping over you!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Miscellaneous Monday (with a few makings too!)

The past couple of weeks I have been busy crocheting. 

Yes, I know it seems like I am always busy crocheting, but I mean more so than usual. You see, I have a craft fair booked for 3 weeks time. There is already a jewellery and a cards stall booked in, so I can't have any of these on my stall, just crochet and sewing.

So, I have been busy making up some kiddie hats. And some adult ones.

And some of these wee guys.

These cute little monsters have been made under the direction of James! He tells me how many eyes to put on each one and how to make it's mouth. I'm working on a kiddie hat to match the blue one.

This little cutie is made to an arigurumi cupcake pattern {click here to find it} but since I chose to make it up in purples (my favourite colour) it looks more like a little Ribena Berry. I'm just going to pretend that that's what I meant to do all along!


I've also been busy this week working on an order for my Etsy shop.

These cufflinks are currently in the care of Royal Mail and somewhere between here and the US!


A few weeks ago we all attended a  family fun day where the boys entered a design your own t-shirt competition. James won his age group and the prize was getting your design made up onto a t-shirt.

His t-shirt arrived today. The drawings were all professionally re-drawn and it looks great!


Have you seen the new Facebook like box in the sidebar? I'd love to have some more likers for the Lifeinmyhousefulofboys Facebook page. If any of you are on Facebook it would be lovely to connect on there.


Oh yes, that sound clip I had in my Things I'm loving post below. I had a funny feeling it wouldn't work. I was posting from an ipad app and I didn't think I had done the link properly. Here it is now though. It's worth waiting for ;0)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Things I'm loving....


It's the start of the weekend and so that means it's time to join in with Meghan's Things I'm loving linky.

This week I loved the wonderful gifts my beloved and my boys got me for my birthday. I didn't want anything fancy but they got me a whole selection of beautiful Cath Kidston goodies.

Like this.........

.....and this......

.....and this..... well as a few more things.

Loving the fact that as a mum of boys you can rely on finding some sort of weaponry in the strangest of places.

Like a sheriff's gun on top of the toilet.
Well, a sheriff has to go sometimes too!

Loving that we have booked our train tickets for a holiday to London next month. The boys are so excited and planning all the sights they want to see, studying the map with daddy to see where everything is. The long train journey is an equally exciting thought for them!

And a really sweet one to end with. Every night at bedtime Alasdair asks me to sing the theme song from the old Winnie the Pooh movie to him. He calls it the Christopher Robin song. Some nights he likes to sing along too. One of those nights, I recorded our singing on my phone which you can hear here (if this works!)

Have a great weekend everyone!


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Co-la-breith sona!

'Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many'

I don't remember who wrote this, but it's a phrase I whole-heartedly agree with as I turn another year older.

We celebrated by going out for lunch to Pizza Express, where the wee man was kept entertained with some colouring in. 

When we walked out of the Pizza restaurant, what did we find next door, but oh joy of joys, a French Patisserie!

We just had to go in, it was my birthday after all.

And the perfect excuse to have a slice of double chocolate gateaux large enough to feed a small nation. I don't think this photo does justice to the full scale of the cake - it was HUGE!

Later on in the afternoon the boys banished me from the kitchen so that they could make a birthday cake. Calum (9) had remembered the recipe since I taught him how to make a sponge cake in the summer. James (12) took charge of colouring the sugarpaste and other decorative touches. David (6) helped them both.

When everything was ready, they set up a birthday tea for me.

The cake was so pretty!

Calum had coloured the inside pink and purple.

'Co-la-breith sona mamaidh!' I'm sure you can work out that one!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Super {busy} Saturday

On Saturday it was the annual sponsored walk organised by the homeless charity my husband works for. This year the walk was across the Forth Road bridge, the main route north out of Edinburgh.

You can see the bridge stretching across the background in this photo below.

Right beside the road bridge is the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. Opened in 1890 it is famous for having a never-ending paint job. once the painters reached one end it was time to start all over again from the other side. Only, not any more. Within the last couple of years they finished painting it with a special paint that won't need re-doing for some time.

Anyway, I digress.

The road bridge is fairly high up and despite their being no wind on street level, once we were up on the bridge it was a bit breezy.

The traffic on the bridge is constant. And we were surpised at how much of a sway there was on the bridge too - especially when a lorry or two passed!

On the north side of the bridge is North Queensferry, a pretty little village.

Snacks at the halfway point.

The sponsored walk took us across the bridge and then all the way back across to where we had started. 3.5 miles in total.

When we reached the start point there were refreshments to revitalise everyone!

As if that wasn't enough to fit into a Saturday, once we got back home, mid afternoon, we popped across to our neighbours' for a little while as they were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

Then in the evening my parents in law came through to look after the boys while my beloved and I went to a wedding reception. To get to the wedding we had to drive across the same bridge we had walked over earlier!

We were more than ready for our beds when we got home that night!

The great thing is that we reached our fundraising target for the walk. Every penny goes to help those who don't have that welcoming bed and roof over their heads that we do.