Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Summer Crochet Projects

Time now to share some of the crochet I've been working on this summer.

Let's start with this one as it was the first of my summer projects. I got the majority of this tea cosy crocheted on the ferry crossing over to my parents'.

Anyone who remembers my first ever proper crochet project, will notice that it is a larger version of that.

It's so kitsch, I just love it!

Moving on.

I'm trying to build a wee selection of hats for the Etsy shop that will one of these days get off the ground!

This is a child's bear beanie hat, although the ears are still waiting to be sewn on. I was half way through this when the thought struck me that if I made the same again only in white, and with black ears and a couple of black eyes, it could be a panda hat!

It's on my 'to-do' list.

I also made another of these cute owl hats.

Then I thought I'd make a girly version (which is waiting for it's beak, tufts and braids.)

And also a plain ear-flap hat, for those who might be looking for something a bit plainer.

A couple of ladies beanies.......

.... which are far too dark in these photos, so here they are themselves...

I also made a beret, in the lovely teal colour for my mum, but I left that with her (obviously) and another ladies hat in red, which I forgot to photograph.

Moving away from the hats (I'm working on a racoon hat on the school run just now), I've just this week started making these really pretty afghan squares, that I'm hoping to make into my first ever afghan blanket.

Am I the only one who is not sad that autumn/winter is approaching? Nights sitting by the fire, crocheting. Snuggled under aforementioned crochet blanket. 

At least here in Scotland the autumn/winter weather delivers what you expect. Unlike the summer, which has let us down once again!

Do please remind me of this when we are knee deep in snow though!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

House Selling Update......and a wee sponsorship request

Those of you who have known me for a year or more will remember that this time last year I wrote about our potential move north, and the fact that we were putting our house on the market.

A brief background for those who didn't know me then, and just to refresh those who did, is that my husband took up a new post last September. He works for a Christian charity for the homeless that is based here in Edinburgh. They have various levels of care for the homeless, ranging from a Care Van that goes out every night with soup and blankets, to a hostel, to a team that support service users when they eventually make the step up to their own flat/house. Up until last September my husband was the manager of the Supported Housing team.

He had, however, felt led to a new post that had come up as the North of Scotland Development Manager, based in Aberdeen. Like I mentioned before, the post first came up in Autumn 2009. Although he felt really called to the job, I didn't! Alasdair was only a few months old and suffering the worst of his eczema. I really needed our support of family and friends nearby at a time like that, not a fresh start in a place where I knew nobody!

So, he accepted that it wasn't for him.

But a year later and the post had never been filled. He still felt like he was being led in this direction. 

I decided that there was no harm in him applying. If it was meant for him then everything else would fall into place.

The post was his, and last September we put our house on the market. Monday to Friday he stayed up north while I stayed home here with the boys and we waited for the house to sell.

And we waited.

And waited a bit more.

There were plenty people interested in the house. They would come round and say how nice it was etc, but, and everyone had the same BUT....they couldn't sell their own house, which meant that they couldn't buy.

The property market has been affected everywhere except for Aberdeen, where they oil business has kept things booming. We didn't want to drop our asking price as that would have meant that we would never have been able to afford anything up there.

As the months passed we began to see a reason for the house not shifting.

Yes, having a husband working away through the week, and being 'home-alone' with 4 children is hard work. But it's not impossible. Actually, it's really not half as bad as you would imagine. It forces you to be that little bit more organised.

I'm sure I've mentioned before how my brother, his wife and boys live only a few miles away from us. It's great having them so close and able to call on, and vice versa. We would really have missed them so much if we had moved away. I know the boys weren't looking forward to not having their cousins down the road.

The older boys also have really good friends at school. David (5), in fact, already knows who he is going to marry, and has done since he was about 18 months old. To be fair, I think she is slightly more enthusiastic than him, but she is still his best friend!

When my husband was working in Edinburgh, there were often two or three nights a week when he would be working late or have something else on in the evenings so they boys didn't see an awful lot of him during the week anyway.

Now that he works away, he is much more focused on spending all his time with us when he is home.

After months of prayer we decided that if the house hadn't sold by the end of May we would take it off the market.

It didn't, and so we did.

I have to confess to almost sighing a big sigh of relief!

My husband's job is going really well up north. He has been networking with different churches and the local authority, raising awareness of the charity and the work that they do. In the winter time they hold a night shelter for those who would otherwise be sleeping rough on the streets. It is held in church halls and a team of volunteers provide a hot meal every night. Just this week he got confirmation from the council that they would fund this again this coming winter.

I can see that he has the gifts for this post. I can also see that he made the right decision in going for it. I can also see, once again, that God had everything planned out for our good.

Of course I miss my husband when he is away. Since the summer though, he has started working away Monday to Thursday only, and once every 3 or 4 weeks it is only Monday to Wednesday. So now he is always home more nights of the week than he is away.

The way I look at it is, there are families where the husband is in the army, away for months at a time in a battle zone. Mine is 2 and a half hours up the road. It's hardly comparable is it?

You can read more about the charity my husband works for here.

And if you do have a wee look, you will see that they are having a sponsored walk to raise funds. We have signed up to take part as a family. The full walk is 11 miles along the Water of Leith, the wee river that flows through Edinburgh, but since we are all taking part we are hoping to reach the half way point, where there is the all important coffee shop!

If you were able to sponsor us, no matter how small, we have set up a webpage for accepting sponsors. You can find that here.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Things I'm loving Friday ♥

This week I have been re-discovering my old, first love.

Settle down now, there is nothing remotely scandalous here. My old, first love on that front is still very much my current love.

No, I'm talking about this...

.........and this book

......................especially this piece

I ♥ the music of Chopin.

It is just so beautiful, both to play and to listen to.

I haven't challenged myself to learn something new for quite a while now. I'm sure you all understand how it is, what with boys, baking, cleaning, and so on.

Chopin has always been my favourite composer, although unfortunately my husband doesn't share this love - he calls it 'wrist slitting' music - Philistine!

I find everything about it so beautiful. The melodies, the amazing harmonies.....

I know I have some fellow music lovers out there. You agree with me, right?

I'm not sure how long it will take me to learn the full piece though. Back in the days when I was studying music at University, I used to practice for a minimum of 3 hours a day. Now I would be lucky to get 3 hours a week in!

So until I am brave enough to share a clip of myself playing it, have a listen to this one from youtube instead.
If you have no idea what the music of Chopin sounds like, I hope it opens your eyes....

............and your heart!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Recipe of the Week - Berry Easy Cheesecake

OK, firstly, sorry about the name.

Well, no, actually, I quite like it.

After last week's picture of my cheesecake in my 'Things I'm loving' post, and all the comments it received, I thought it only fair to share the recipe with all my bloggy friends.

Especially since most of you live too far away for me to invite you round for a slice of the real thing.

This cheesecake is quite a soft set, so although you can make it in a spring-form tin and take the sides off, it won't be as firm as a baked cheesecake, or one that has gelatine in it.

You can use any berry you like. The quantity of berries doesn't have to be exact either. So far I have tried this with just blackberries, just raspberries, and a whole mixture of berries. Each time was delicious!

I've even done my research this week and checked what the American names for the ingredients are too! I've made the assumption (hopefully not wrongly) that in Australia and NZ there surely can't be a third name for these things, and that you guys either use the UK or US name! Do tell me if I'm wrong though!

You will need:

for the base:
8oz digestives (Graham crackers), crushed
3oz melted butter

~Nice and easy, just bash the biscuits to pieces then mix with the melted butter before spreading out and pressing down in your chosen dish, which could be a pie dish or a spring-form tin.
~Chill while you make the filling.

for the filling:
1 tin Nestles condensed milk (397g size, or whatever is the closest equivalent where you live!)
500g mascarpone cheese
the juice of 2 lemons
around about 500g berries of your choice

~Beat the condensed milk with the mascarpone until it is smooth then mix in the lemon juice.
~Now add the berries and mix them in well, leaving some to decorate the top, if you want.
~Spread over the top of the base and chill for at least 2-3 hours. Overnight is best though, if you can.

That's it!

Told you it was berry easy!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A day we will never forget

August 23rd 2003.

It was a beautiful, calm sunny day and we were returning home on the ferry after a brief visit to my family.

Back then I was mum to only two little boys. James was 3 and Calum was 10 months.

We had already been over to Lewis that summer for our holidays. This brief visit was for the funeral of my uncle.

When we boarded the ferry, we saw a good friend of ours, who 3 year old James loved, and so about half an hour into the crossing we went to have some tea with him in the cafeteria.

The men and boys were all sitting at the table. I placed a tray of tea in the middle of the table and went to get a high chair for Calum so that I could drink my tea in peace, without him trying to grab the cup.

As I was fetching the high chair I heard this piercing scream and turned round to see that Calum had reached forward and pulled the tray before anyone could stop him, resulting in hot tea pouring onto him.

I ran over, grabbed him and ran to the mother & baby room. I could see his forearm was scalded and his dungarees and t-shirt were wet on his chest. I knew I had to get cool water onto him fast.

Nothing could have prepared me for the moment I took his t-shirt off though.

His soft baby skin, which was only now beginning to show an improvement with his eczema, had peeled off his chest, leaving an angry red exposed area.  

I got to work pouring cool water over that and his arm.

Someone had summoned the ship's Captain, who came in at this point.

We still had over two hours before the ship was due to reach the mainland, and even then there was another hours drive to the nearest hospital.

The Captain took the decision to call out the Coastguard helicopter, to come and take us off the ship and back to the hospital in Stornoway.

The thing is, though, that the helicopter can't land on the ferry, and so we would need to be winched off one by one!

It took about 10 minutes for the helicopter to arrive. All this while, I was pouring cool water over poor, screaming Calum. Someone from the ship's crew came and suggested I hold a bag of frozen peas to his chest. I'm no medical expert, but I was pretty sure this was a bad idea. I asked them for some cling film to cover his wounds before we would be getting on the helicopter. (The burn's unit later told me this was exactly the right thing to do)

In the summertime, it is quite common to see the Coastguard helicopter hovering alongside the ferry for training. The winchman lowers down to the back of the ship and then he goes back up again. We had seen it countless times ourselves, and it is always quite exciting to watch.

Don't worry, I wasn't snapping these photos while we had this emergency! These were a training exercise we watched last summer!

This time it was happening to us for real!

First up was my husband, who had kind of gone into shock. He was followed by James, who was loving the whole adventure of it! 

Then it was my turn. The winchman puts a harness under your arms, and that is all that is keeping you from the Minch (the sea) below. He does wrap his legs around you too for a bit of extra security. I remember wishing I hadn't been wearing a skirt (although it was a long one) and flip flops!

Somehow I was able to look round and marvel at the beauty of the scenery and the skill of the Coastguards. 

Once on the helicopter James, wearing a set of ear protectors, shouted over to me, 'Seo math mamaidh!' - 'This is good mammy!'

Calum was winched up last, in a little yellow holdall.

He had stopped screaming quite so much, and on the return to Stornoway I was given the job of holding his oxygen mask on.

At the hospital they phoned my dad, who was really confused to hear we were at the hospital in Stornoway, as he had waved us off on the ferry only an hour earlier!

The doctors there knew that Calum needed a burn's specialist, which they don'y have, and so they sedated him to dress his wounds properly, then the following morning we would be flown by Air Ambulance to the Sick Children's Hospital in Edinburgh.

Calum's arm had a huge bandage like a club, his entire chest was padded with bandages, and to make it look even worse, the only place they could find a vein for his canula was in the side of his head so he had a huge bandage round his head too.

Our overnight stay at the Stornoway hospital was filled with well-wishers. Not only does everyone seem to know everyone, but my mum is a nurse at the hospital so this was even more the case!

My husband and James took the overnight freight ferry back to the mainland so that they would be waiting for us in Edinburgh.

The Air Ambulance was another experience! Much smaller than the helicopter but the Paramedic on board was wonderful and reassuring. He let me hold Calum for the entire flight, which took about an hour and a half. (A few years later, this Paramedic was sadly killed when the Air Ambulance he was on board crashed. I recognised him at once when I saw the reports in the papers.)

At the Sick Children's hospital Calum's scalds were undressed again. Throughout our stay in hospital, the staff were always commenting on what a smiley baby he was, despite everything. We were told that with scalds you need to leave them for a few days before they can determine whether a skin graft is needed. Their initial suggestion was that the scalds to his forearm were superficial and would heal on their own. Those on his his chest wouldn't.

They were right.

A week after the accident I was again kissing him goodnight as the effects of another anaesthetic took effect.

A slither of skin was taken from the top outside of his thigh and grafted onto his chest. 

It all went well, and a week after the operation were allowed home. By the time we got home, two weeks after the accident, the scald on his arm had completely healed.

He had regular checks at the hospital to ensure that the skin on his chest was all healing well and growing properly.

The doctors were pleasantly surprised at how quickly he healed. They had told us that he might need to wear a pressure garment for a few months afterwards. This would have been to help the graft heal flatly, but we were concerned how it would affect his eczema. It didn't matter, as his skin was healing so well he didn't need one.

By the time Calum was about 3 years old, the doctors said they wouldn't need to see him again. 

He still has a scar on his chest, but it seems to get better every year. You could never tell which leg they took the donor skin from.

About 6 months after the accident, when we were back on Lewis, we went to visit the Coastguard crew and thank them. James had drawn them a wee card with 'Thank-you for rescuing my brother' on it. 

We took this photo of me, Calum, James, my youngest brother and the pilot when we went back to say 'Thanks'.

The pilot who had been on duty that day told us that he had looked over at my husband in the helicopter and had almost cried himself as he had children the same age. 

They told us it was the first time they have every winched up a baby.

They also told me that they had thought I must be a medic of some sort, as I had remained so calm throughout the whole thing. Inside I wasn't as calm as I was on the outside, but when this sort of thing happens, instinct or something, takes over and your only concern is for your child. Afterwards I couldn't sleep for days, thinking over the 'What ifs..?'

The fact was, that despite the ordeal, we had so much more to be thankful for. The tea missed his face, the day was calm, we have great friends and family who supported us through it all, we have a burn's unit near our home, he healed quickly and so on.

It could all have been so much worse, and so we will always be thankful for God's guiding hand through those days.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Miscellaneous Monday

~I have the usual tatties growing in the garden this year, as well as onions, french beans, beetroot, salads, strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants and courgettes (my courgettes aren't doing too well though, this year.) 

I've grown all of these before, but I'm also growing for the first time: cabbages, which are thriving, chillies and cucumber. 

I was pretty confident the cabbages would work out OK, but wasn't sure if cucumber or chillies would grow without a greenhouse. The chillies are a bit slow, but I think they will get there. I'm quite excited about the cucumber though.

It's not the straightest cucumber ever but it's mine! It's also grown a bit more since I took this picture and there are a couple more round the back.


~I'm sure I've mentioned numerous times before, that our David (5) is quite fearless.

It was no surprise then, that when we took the stabilisers off his bike earlier in the summer (I think these are called training wheels in other places?) he took all of about 2 minutes to crack riding it without them. James, on the other hand, when he was his age, took the entire summer to master it. He is still the cautious one.

The great thing about not having a rider using stabilisers, is that we can go for proper off road bike rides now and there are excellent cycle tracks around where we live.

On Saturday morning we headed off on one of them to a newly refurbished play-park.

And what better thing to do after cycling three miles, including a half hour run around a park, than spend the later half of Saturday enjoying tea and scones at the local garden centre with my brother and his wife, while the boys and their cousins ran around another park?

Happy days!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Things I'm loving Friday ♥

Time to join in with my favourite linky again.

Here are my things I'm loving this week, with a bit of a vintage theme.

Firstly, my new tiered cake stand.

I loved the colours of the cake stand, and it matches perfectly with my granny's china, which my mum brought me down recently.

I think the colours of this set match the cake stand particularly well.

But I love all the different sets, and how they match each other too even though they are different.

I'm also loving this sign that I picked up in a shop when I was home at my parents.

I haven't hung it up yet, but I'm hoping to have it just as you come in the front door.

Finally I'm loving home grown produce.

Enough berries from the garden to make a yummy mixed berry cheesecake.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Brògan Ùr aig Daibhidh

Look at that.

Tonight's post starts with a language lesson. 

Just in time for the schools returning.

So, pronounciation first, is 'brogan oor egg Da-ee-vee'.

The meanings of the words:

brògan - shoes (singular shoe would be bròg)
Ùr - new
aig - literally means 'belonging to' 
Daibhidh - David

I thought that by explaining it this way would show you how sentence structure is made up in Gaelic.

You might also have noticed, both here and in previous Gaelic word of the days, that the 'v' sound in Gaelic is made by combining either 'mh' or 'bh'. There is no letter 'v' in the Gaelic alphabet. Or J, K, Q, W, X, Y, Z!

Now, onto those brògan of Daibhidh's.

(If there is a Gaelic version of the children's name, then that is what they are known as by the teachers at the school, and so David's school friends all call him Daibhidh. My boys attend a Gaelic Medium school where they are taught using Gaelic as the first language. I wrote a bit more about it here, for any newer followers who may have missed that.)

ANYWAY, the brògan.

Here they are.

At first glance they are quite a cute pair of Kicker's boots.

Now, what is our boys' biggest love? (Apart from their Mamaidh, that is!)

Yes, that's right, LEGO.

That's a Lego Police Landrover on the back of that foot above..........

.........and a Lego Police Man and Motorbike on the back of the other one!

Not only that, but there are lights that flash in the soles!

He just loves his brògan ùr.

And just to finish off, here are the boys ready for the first day back to school this morning.

James has just started his last year at Primary school, and the P7s have a special red school jumper.

Alasdair still has another 3 years before he joins them at school, but he grabbed his bag this morning too when he saw the other boys with theirs!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A trip to the Transport Museum

Here are a few photos from a trip we took last week.

We headed west, to Glasgow, to visit the Museum of Transport in it's new home by the river.

Trains, trams, buses, motorbikes, boats, more trains, more cars......

It really is a little boy's dream day out.

Alasdair recognised Postman Pat's van, even with the old style livery....

....and the other boys recognised Professor Z, one of the baddies from Cars 2 (which we also saw last week - excellent film, by the way!)

I liked the sense of humour whoever set up this display of a South African steam train had...

But it's not just transport in the new museum. 

There were a few fabulous dresses from the 50s on display.

And to top things off, there was a display of some old toys.

I don't imagine that big Stormtrooper above ever belonged to anyone, but I had the dark haired Sindy doll in the photo below, only my one had a pink tutu.

Back in the days when I loved my Sindys, I loathed all things Star Wars.

I didn't imagine then, that one day my life would be full of all things Star Wars!

Gaelic word of the day:
deideag (jay-jag) - toy
there should be a grave accent on the e, but it's not playing ball tonight, ironically!