Monday, 30 August 2010

Tomatoes and tunnels

This summer has, even by Scottish standards, been a little disappointing in terms of the weather. June was glorious, hot and sunny for most of the month, with hardly a drop of rain. Then came July. It was, well, hmm, it was OK, I suppose. The boys were able to play outside a lot but it just wasn't really summer weather. Just mediocre, not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too sunny.

I'm not sharing this to give everyone a run-down of our weather but to explain my excitement when I saw this last week:

My tomatoes are growing outside, not in a greenhouse, so I had begun to think that maybe the summer hadn't been warm enough for them to turn red. There are loads of green fruits and so I was thinking I might be making a big batch of Green Tomato Chutney and then I saw these little delights! And delightful they are too. Lovely and sweet. My beloved and I had a late dinner together once the boys were in bed on Friday, and to finish off my husband had a cheeseboard with some of these freshly picked tomatoes. He was suitably impressed, though perhaps not quite as excited as I was!

I also tested a few of our potatoes from the planter. (The ones in the ground won't be ready for a couple more weeks.)

Yum, they were delicious!

In previous years I have grown pots of salads, herbs and strawberries but this is my first attempt at bigger veg. I'm hoping there will be plenty more veg photos to share in the coming weeks.

Hubby took the day off work today, to finish off the painting in the hall. We had been planning to paint the hall and living room since January! Just took a while to get round to it. He also picked up some boxes so we can de-clutter a little before the house goes on the market.

When he came in with the boxes he set them up like a tunnel for little man to play in. What a fun time he had crawling through the tunnels to his funny daddy! I took this little clip below to share with you all. He has such a funny little crawl!

Gaelic words for the day:

buntàta (bun-TAA-ta) - potato
tomàto (to-MAA-toe) - tomato

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Recipe of the Week - Chicken Goujons

I think it probably says a lot about me that this is my first savoury Recipe of the Week!

This is a nice and easy mid-week dinner recipe. Not only is it suitable for wheat and dairy allergy sufferers but it is far, far tastier (and healthier!) than any shop-bought chicken goujons/nuggets could ever hope to be.

For this recipe I recommend Genius Gluten Free Bread. After years of poor Calum having to endure the stodgy bread that is available on the market as a Gluten Free option this came out. It could almost pass for 'normal' bread.  He can now have sandwiches like everyone else! The previous stuff had to be toasted to render it edible so sandwiches were never an option.

For the goujons you will need:

about 4 slices Genius bread
4 tbps Doves Farm Wheat Free Flour
2 eggs
4 large chicken breasts

- Blitz the bread in a blender or food processor until you have quite fine breadcrumbs and then tip them into a bowl.
- Spoon the flour into a second bowl and then beat the eggs into a third bowl.
- Chop the chicken into chunks or strips.
- I now like to make up a wee production line of bowls in the order you need to use them;
chicken, flour, eggs, breadcrumbs and then an oiled baking tray.

Hmm. I took this photo when I was making this at my parents' recently and now realise that I was working from right to left not left to right. Maybe my OCD isn't as bad as my husband jokes it is! :)

- Now coat each piece of chicken in the flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs and line on the tray.

-Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 20 minutes until they are a lovely golden brown.
- Serve with lashings of mayo/tomato sauce and chips or newly dug tatties like we had with it last night. Mmmmm. Yum.

This photo was taken on holiday too. My newly dug potatoes were eaten so quickly last night I didn't get the chance to photograph them!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Kitchen Questions & Answers

One of my friends had the following kitchen questions on her blog yesterday. I thought it would be fun to join in, after all the kitchen is the heart of the home!

1. Do you have magnets on your fridge?

No. We have integrated kitchen appliances so the door of the fridge-freezer is wooden like the cupboards.

2. Do you have a calendar in your kitchen, if so, what’s the theme of it?

Yes. A family organiser one, with a column for each member of the family. It's also got a pocket for each month which I find useful for putting letters relating to appointments and so on in.

3. What is your favorite kitchen gadget?

I LOVE my Kenwood mixer. It's a Kenwood Prospero, a size down from the Chef, and I probably use it every single day. It has blender, food processor and juicer attachments, as well as the K-beater, whisk and dough hook. I only treated myself (ourselves!) to it last summer. It was a reasonably big investment but worth every penny!

4. Are you lucky enough to have a pantry of some kind?

No. But perhaps one day....

5.What is your favorite appliance?

I'm assuming appliance means big things, if not see Q3, but if it does then probably my washing machine/dryer. I think we take these a bit for granted. I can survive without my dishwasher (it's been broken for the last couple of months) but I couldn't get by handwashing our clothes!

6. Do you have an eat in kitchen (table in it)?

Yes, kind of. The dining room is through an archway in the kitchen.

7. Do you have a bread box?


8. Do you have a picture of your kids on the fridge?

No, see Q1.

9. Do you ever cook breakfast in your jammies?

No. I actually hate coming downstairs in the morning without being dressed first! I'm not sure why. I just feel kind of lazy if I do!

10. Do you have a favorite cookbook that you use?

I have a shelf full! I love all my Nigella books, I've been a long time fan of hers. In the last year or so I've also discovered Rachel Allen and I have to say I love her just as much (sorry Nigella!). Her books Bake and Home Cooking are excellent. I have a couple of books the church compiled which I use a lot for baking recipes too.

11. Are you lucky enough to have recipes that were passed down from your mom or grandma?

I use a lot of my mum's recipes. I wish I had some of my granny's. She made wonderful scones, apple pie, dumplings and doughballs. They were never written down recipes though.

12. What’s your favorite food?

This is tricky one. I love most foods. I'm definitely a pudding/cake girl though, not a savoury one.

13. What’s your favorite thing to cook?

I love ALL cooking.

14. Is your coffee pot electric or stove top?

We have both. Mostly the electric one gets used. The stove top is only for making espressos after a big dinner. I don't drink coffee but my husband loves it. I'm a tea girl.

15. Do you ever make your own bread?

All the time, but in my bread-maker.

16. Name one thing that you have hanging on your wall in your kitchen:

Photos of my boys by the table.

17. Is there a clock in your kitchen?


18. Do you have a bowl of fruit sitting on your table or counter?


19. What type of canisters do you have?

Retro cream metal ones.

20. Does your kitchen have a theme?

The cupboards are all oak, the worktops marble effect, the tiles cream, the floor slate effect tiles.

21. What’s for supper tonight?

We already had it - homemade chicken goujons with homegrown tatties (yes the first ones, we tested them tonight!)

22. Do you have enough cabinet space?

No, not really. I'd love to have more but we get by. I am able to get everything squished in somehow.

23. Does your family use paper plates?


24. Do you have a good set of china?

I have a Denby dinner service. One day (when I get my extra cupboard space!) I'd love some old-fashioned china.

25. Do you wear an apron to work in your kitchen?

Yes, if I am baking. Not usually to make dinner though.

26. Name one thing, if anything, that you would like to change about your kitchen.

I love my kitchen. We had all the units and appliances re-done about 3 years ago. It's not the biggest kitchen but it's my little place and that's why I love it.

You can see my friends answers at No Place Like Home.

Oh, and a suitable Gaelic word of the day would be:
cidsin - kitchen
Same pronounciation as the English.
There is no 'K' in the Gaelic alphabet. (or J, Q, V, W, X, Y, Z!)

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

David's First Day at School

Boy was he excited!

Here he is outside the classroom with his best friend. They've been best buddies since they were about 18 months old.

I am a native Gaelic speaker, it was my first language. I speak only Gaelic to my boys and so it is their first language too. They speak it to each other and English to their daddy, who has a little Gaelic, having studied it at night school many years ago.

I know quite a lot of people my age whose parents didn't see the importance of passing on the language.They now regret the fact that they cannot speak it.

This is one of the reasons that we have chosen to send our boys to a Gaelic Medium school. Here they are taught purely in Gaelic, no English at all, until the end of Primary 3 (age 7). When they do start doing English reading/writing it is so easy in comparison to the Gaelic. Within no time they have 'caught up' on the English they 'missed' in their infant years. Our Calum (7) is already fluent in his English reading.

The attainment levels at the school are much higher than the national average, even their attainments in English are higher!

The children are immersed in not only the language, but also in the culture, including the beautiful musical culture, history and a strong church influence.

Funnily enough though, the majority of the children at the school don't actually have a parent that speaks Gaelic to them at home. A lot of them had/have grandparents/great-grandparents who spoke the language and their parents are keen to re-learn the language. Their are numerous learners classes for parents in the school.  David's best friend in the photo above has a mom from Tenessee, who is now reasonably fluent in the language. Others are simply convinced of the benefits of bi-lingualism or have heard of the reputation of the school.

I could go on and on.

David had a great day. His seat is right next to his best friend's. They had singing with the singing teacher. He can't wait until they do gym and he gets to wear his cute little gym shoes. They only attend for mornings for the first 5 weeks but he's already planning what to take in his lunch box. And doesn't he look handsome in his uniform?!

So Gaelic word for the day must be:

sgoil (sgol) - school
a chiad latha aig sgoil (a chee-ad laa eg sgol) - the first day at school

that ch sound is the stereotypical Scottish ch as in loch, och etc.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Courgettes, chocolate and dumpling.

Not altogether though!

I always like to have some baking done for the weekend in case we have any visitors in. Thursday is often when I do most of it but if we don't have too much on on a Saturday, I'll often make some more.

Todays baking was a mixture of the new and the old. I found a recipe in the latest BBC Good Food Magazine for Courgette & Lemon Cake so thought I'd try it out. I also made the chocolate cake from my very first post and a good old, traditional dumpling.

Now, my husband is a traditional kind of guy, and being a traditional kind of girl, that is the way I love him. We often joke that we were born in the wrong decade. We should have been living in the forties or fifties. I love all the elegant clothes the women wore then and love the whole emphasis on mums staying at home to cook, clean and, most importantly, look after the children. He too is a big fan of the feminine way of dress, the looking good for your husband and the looking after him after he has spent a hard day at the office.

When I first got married, one of my friends from University sent me an e-mail that has been doing the rounds on the internet, about rules for new wives, supposedly taken from a 1950s book. I wish I still had a copy of this, though I haven't searched online for it so it will be out there somewhere. It was meant as a joke and contained all the usual things like warming his slippers by the fire for him coming home and putting on a clean apron and a fresh slick of lipstick to meet him at the door. I found it amusing at the time too, but as time has gone on I have realised that so much of that IS helpful!

Too many women slip into bad habits. It's so easy to make excuses, especially with little ones to look after, about not having time to do your hair nice, put on a bit of make-up, or why bother with a nice outfit if the baby is going to be sick on it etc. I think there is a difference between vanity and simply wanting to look your best for the man you love. I'm not suggesting that I wear beautiful clothes every day but what I am saying is that I don't spend every day in baggy t-shirts and tracksuit bottoms. And yes, I do find myself putting on that fresh slick of lipstick when I know he is due in the door soon. And yes, I really do find that it makes a difference in our relationship.

And, going back to today's baking, my traditional man was not at all keen on the courgette cake, although I loved it. The good old fashioned dumpling was much more to his taste. And before anyone gets too witty, there are no similarities between me and the dumpling except for us both being traditional!!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Recipe of the Week

Now that I'm back home and back in our routine it's time for a return to Recipe of the Week. I still haven't decided what day of the week is best for it. I was thinking Wednesdays to brighten up the midweek but then thought maybe Friday would be better and now here it is on a Thursday! Suggestions are always welcome.

I'm also going to try and always have it as a wheat & dairy free recipe as there are so many 'normal' recipes around anyway.

Now, before I go ahead and show you this week's recipe, I need to share with you David's first pudding. Although he is our most 'energetic' boy, he loves to help out in the kitchen and often helps me baking by turning on the mixer or spooning out the flour or other wee jobs. This pudding, though, was all his own work. He cored the apples, filled them with a mix of raisins, sugar and cinamon, topped them with a bit of butter and all I did was pop them in the oven. Here he is, justifiably proud of them,

So, onto the Recipe of the Week.

Mum's Never-Fail Gingerbread

You can make this gingerbread in a 2lb loaf tin, 2 smaller loaf tins or in a deepish traybake sized tin.
The mixture is quite wet and runny once you add the water but it makes a lovely moist cake. I like the fact that there is not too much treacle in it either, I don't like cakes that are too dark and heavy.

I usually keep the gingerbread plain and serve it either plain or with butter. My mum likes to put icing and coconut on top, as in the picture, which is equally yummy - the only reason I don't do this is that Calum doesn't like coconut and he is the main reason for my wheat/dairy-free cooking!

4oz dairy-free margarine
1 cup  caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp syrup
1 tbsp treacle
2 cups Dove's Farm Wheat-Free flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup of hot water

(I use the cup from my breadmaker for the cup measurements but have also used an tea-cup as in the photo above.)

-Beat the margarine and sugar together until light and creamy.
-Beat in the eggs.
-Add the syrup and treacle and mix well until combined.
-Add the flour and spices and fold into the mixture.
-Mix the bicarb with the hot water and add to the mixture, mixing until everything is combined. Don't worry about how thin it looks!
-Pour into a 2lb loaf tin and bake at 180C for 1 hour, although check after about 45 minutes. Obviously if you use shallower tins then cook for less time.
-Check that it is cooked right through by sticking a skewer in the middle. It should come out clean.

Gingerbread will last well in an airtight tin and is, in fact, even tastier after a day or so. To use up gingerbread that is going a bit stale, heat it up and smother with custard for a yummy pudding.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A new calling

My house is clean and tidy from top to bottom. Not just any old tidy, not even as tidy as when my mother is coming to stay, but even more so! This is some achievement. I don't like to live in a clutter but nor do I keep my house showhome tidy either. I usually have it in what I like to think of as a welcoming sort of in-between state. One where visitors don't feel nervous about dropping a crumb here or there, but where they won't risk injury falling over a toy, or need to hunt through the clutter for a seat on the sofa.

Keeping the ENTIRE house tidy, though, is something akin to painting the Forth Rail Bridge. I start with one room and by the time the last room is sorted the first one needs redone again! There seems to be some sort of whirlwind follows through the house un-doing my good work.

The reason for todays cleaning mission is that we were having an estate agent round to look at the house (and another tomorrow and another on Wednesday!). My beloved has accepted a new post that will mean us moving north to a new part of the country.

My hubby works for a Christian charity for the homeless.  Bethany have various levels of care including a Care Van that goes out every night with soup and blankets, a hostel for the homeless, an addiction unit and a team who suppport people once they move into their own flats. Currently hubby manages this last team. At the moment Bethany work mainly in Edinburgh but they are looking to expand north and so his new job is as Northern Development Manager.

The post first came up this time last year and my beloved felt he was really being called to it but with a new baby I really didn't want to move and so he did nothing about it. A year later and despite advertising several times, the post had never been filled. He felt more called than ever to it and so after much prayer we felt it was the right thing for us as a family.

I have lived in this area since I came to university 15 years ago. We also have strong family ties around us here. My brother, his wife and three boys are only a few miles away from us and they were one of the main reasons I wasn't keen to move the first time. My hubby also has his parents reasonably close and his sister is also nearby. I also have a couple of really good friends among the mums at school who I will really miss.

Good friendships, though, last despite the distance, and this is the direction we are being led. Only last night at church the sermon was about being called to do God's work and how you can't say no. It was a very timely and comforting sermon.

We are actually all quite excited about everything now. We are only moving 2 1/2 hours drive up the road. Like my hubby said at first, he could have been called to work in Africa, we aren't going that far away! The boys are all looking forward to the new adventure. They will go to a much smaller school. The city is much smaller. It's famous for long cold winters (my hubby isn't a summer man, I don't think many red-heads are!) It's also famous for butteries. Mmmm I love butteries. It's also where my parents first lived when they married and where I was born!

Now I only need to keep the house like this until we sell it and the adventure can begin!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

More sunshine= another beach trip

Today's destination was the village where my dad is from. There is a secluded beach there that not many people know about, so we arranged to meet up with some friends there. I have so many happy memories of playing on this beach as a child when we would spend holidays with my grandparents.

The tide was going out when we arrived which meant we could safely walk around the rocks on the left of this photo above, to the caves.

The boys then all played in the sea, which was actually warm!!! Unbelievable!

This beach also has fresh water springs which are quite amazing. The water is really cold and so pure.

Here you can see James has given up trying to scoop up the water and is lapping it up like a dog instead!

My dad is obviously very biased towards this beach, always claiming it as the best on the island, but he might not be too wrong. It offers so much. The boys spent a while playing on the sands, exploring the caves, in the sea, examining the springs and then fishing in the many rock pools.

Some feisty crabs - wouldn't you be if some giant had stuffed you in a bucket!

These star-fish were much more to my liking!

This tidal pool was soooo warm I just couldn't keep out of it!

Here is one more shot of the beach,

I've been thinking too, that as native Gaelic speakers I'm going to finish each post with a relevant word of the day so for today it is:

crubag (croo-bag) - crab
and to sound really authentic you need to make that oo as long as possible,

An exciting visitor!

Well, not so much the visitor himself, but what he was driving.

 More later!

We are enjoying the last few days of our island holiday with my family (we go home on Thursday) and the weather seems to have started behaving itself a bit more too. After a dull and dreich start to the day, the sun came out at lunchtime and it was a really lovely day from then on.

When I went out to the washing line I thought the clouds were so pretty I got the camera out.

One of the sights that fills me with domestic bliss is that of a line of freshly laundered nappies drying outside!

But what of this visitor?

After dinner my oldest boys were out playing cricket in the croft with my youngest brother.

Eagle-eyed readers might be able to see them on the left of this photo in the distance.

I took this photo of them to prove it had been a lovely summers evening and then went inside to nurse and settle the baby. Then the boys came running in and said,

'There's a man here...........and he's on a TRACTOR!'

Yes, that's the visitor, the tractor.

The tractor was here to cut some grass in the field at the front of the house. The boys all watched excitedly because they were to get a turn on it when the work was done.

This is little David watching from a distance.

Here Calum gets his turn. (Please note the man in the background fighting against the dreaded midgies!)

Off they go!

Here comes David.
 He wants to be a farmer when he grows up.

James also had a turn, and was big enough to do the pedals himself too

.Not much excites boys as much as a tractor. In fact grown men love them too. I can't say I understand the attraction, but then I suppose they don't get excited by lovely shoes and pretty lipsticks, so that makes us even.

sigh and one of these days I'll get a post done before midnight!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The end result(s)

Well here it is, my first proper crochet project!  
(small fanfare and round of applause)
Is that not just the cutest? 

I might try and make a bigger one now. This one only fits a wee teapot.

I have another project in mind first though, and I'll keep you all posted on the progress.

Since we're on the subject of completed projects: the boys' pottery from our weekend in Skye came in the post the other day.

This is the goblet and bowl that James(10) made on the potters wheel.

And again. Didn't he get the shape of the bowl nice and even?

This fellow here is the Shrek piggy bank that David (4) painted.

The sweet boy wanted to make something for me too and so painted this coaster. Purple is my favourite colour.

 And this is the bowl that Calum (7) painted. All of the three oldest boys love Lego but Calum is by far the biggest fan. Note the glasses because he wears them too!

I love how each of the three pottery projects reflect their different personalities so well.

I wonder what the tea cosy reflects about mine?!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Hook, loop and through

As a result of the 80s/90s British Education system, we girls at school were not encouraged to try too much at 'old-fashioned' pursuits such as knitting and sewing. I, and a couple of my friends, however, loved Home Ecconomics and persuaded our teacher to start up a sewing lunchtime club. We would go there twice a week with our cross-stitch and sew and chat away to our teacher, who was lovely.

At home my mother did teach me the basics of knitting but I didn't really have the knack for it. Embroidery was much more my thing.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, every time I came away on holiday I would have an embroidery project on the go but this year I decided to try something new. Knitting is supposed to be the latest craze but I still can't seem to get a grasp of it. I always lose track of whether to be knitting or purling and get all tangled up. Instead, I decided to teach myself to crochet. There was still the odd bit that confused me and so I thought I'd take it here on holiday and get my mum to explain it.

And that's what I've done. These last 10 days or so since we came here I've been trying out odds and ends of crochet stitches.I'm so proud of them I'm going to share them with you here.

OK, here's the first effort. I was trying out my double, treble and half-treble stitches. (My boys now use this as a blanket for their Lego men!)

Then I had to try joining on a new colour:......

                                                                   ............... voila!   

Feeling brave I thought I'd try out a granny/afghan square......

                                   .............ta-da! Can you tell how excited I am to be mastering this?

                                               Next project, a flower.

My current project isn't quite finished yet, but below are the two halves of a retro-style tea cosy. It's going to have a couple of wee flowers on the top and no matter how chintzy it is, I love it!
I can forsee crocheted gifts for friends and family this Christmas. You have been warned!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Double Celebration

I metnioned in my last post that my brother, wife and boys are at my parent's on holiday just now too. Well, at the weekend we not only celebrated our wedding anniversary but my oldest nephew turned eight years old. That's him at the back left of the photo.

It was very cute to see each of the boys almost as excited as the birthday boy when it was time to open his presents.

My sister-in-law is an excellent cake decorator and after spending several hours in the kitchen (and with a little help from my brother) this is the cake that she made.

Impressive, huh?! For anyone not sure who it is, it's the main character from the computer game Zelda, who I thought for ages was also called Zelda (as surely logic would call it after the main guy?) but have been reliably informed by my boys is actually called Link. Zelda is the princess, I think. Confussed? Anyway, the cake looks just like the character it's meant to be!

Not only was there a Madeira Cake under all that icing but the shield was made of a wheat & dairy free cake for my 7 year old, Calum.His birthday is the next in line so I can already feel the pressure building for an impressive cake!

Finally, I knew there was a photo I'd forgotten to post on my anniversary post.

My hubby drew this in the sand the other day when we were at the beach and said it was for my blog. And there is a little token of that love crawling along the top!