Monday, 29 September 2014

Welcoming Autumn in our Woods

Although it's almost the end of September, and the leaves are showing the start of their beautiful autumnal colours, the weather has continued so mild lately that it hardly seems like conker season is really here.

We almost didn't think of going looking for some yet, but when we went for our Sunday afternoon walk to the woods yesterday we found them in plenteous supply. Perhaps everyone else is also fooled by the weather and hasn't been gathering them up yet!

Going on a conker hunt always ushers in the start of the proper autumn season for me and boys 2, 3, 4, and even 5 enjoyed hunting them down.

There is still a lot more green around the woods than browns, reds and yellows.

Calum (11), being part of the selfie generation, always likes to take a few whenever we are out anywhere!

I love how he captured their eye colour so well in this one!

Did you know that our local wood is home to some magical people?


Don't believe me?

Then who else lives in here then?

Just down from where the little people live is the duck pond, which I've shared many times before. It always looks so pretty no matter what time of year it is.

Time for another selfie by the duck pond.

(As a complete aside, do you see David's chipped front tooth? It's been fixed three times since he broke it in the Spring and then it's broken again! Sums that boy up really!)

Now, at the narrowest point of the duck pond is a bridge. But crossing over it normally is no fun, is it?

Look, another magical house!

When Calum (11) was hunting for conkers he came across this unusual thing growing but we don't know what it is.

Anyone able to help us identify it?

I love all of autumn's red berries and their contrast with the greens.

Back home it was time to check out the spoils.

These were the conkers David (8) collected.

We took home a bag full of pine cones for crafting with. I've seen a tutorial for making those beautiful cinnamon scented pine cones we see every year in the garden centre, but that I can never justify buying as they are so expensive! If we have success I will share it here soon.

And here is Alasdair (5) with his collection.

We will be kept busy the next few days stringing up these conkers!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Into everything









'No, I don't know anything about those flower petals on the ground.'


Monday, 22 September 2014

Make it Monday - Apple & Raisin Chutney

Remember this large bag of freshly picked apples we brought home from a barbecue about a month ago?

Well, some of them ended up in apple pies but the rest of them ended up like this.....

I made them into a double batch of Apple & Raisin Chutney, which should mature nicely to give away as Christmas presents. Not all of it of course! Some of it will do very nicely for ourselves, along with a nice cheeseboard and some oatcakes.

I base my chutney recipe on Nigella's Spiced Apple Chutney from How to be a Domestic Goddess.

I thought I'd share my version of it, just in case anyone else wants to feel all domestic goddessy and get a head start on homemade Christmas gifts. Or even just to keep in your own larder!

You will need:

500g cooking apples, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
250g brown sugar
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled & grated
1 - 2 handfuls raisins or sultanas
350ml cider vinegar

Just put everything into a large pan and bring it to the boil. Let it simmer away over a low to medium heat for between 45 minutes to an hour, until you see it thickening nicely and the apples have gone mushy. 

Then just cool a little before spooning into sterilised jars.

It really couldn't be much easier.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Referendum Fatigue

It's the Eve of the big vote here in Scotland. 

Should Scotland be an independent country?

I've been asked by various people outwith the UK what it's really like here just now.

Well, on the one hand it is quite an exciting time. 

It's being sold as a once in a lifetime opportunity to vote for our country's independence - even though the last such vote was in 1979, which was in my lifetime too, just!

The train to the boys' school passes right by the bottom of Edinburgh Castle rock, and I couldn't help but think today about all the changes the Castle has seen over the last few centuries and wonder if its about to see another tumultuous one?

On the other hand, well the title of this post sums it up really! 


I know I'm not alone in finding the constant, constant - did I say constant? -  debates, articles shared and arguments on social media a little tiring.

I get that people are passionate about this. I get that it's so great that we as a nation can debate this without resorting to bombs and violence. I get that the mainstream media is perceived to be biased in favour of No Thanks. Really, I do.

But the constant arguing, trying to prove each other wrong, trying to get the last word in, why my facts are right and yours are wrong, well, it's getting very wearying!

People just don't seem to be able to accept that others are able to make their own minds up. For example, late last night a friend posted a long status update on Facebook explaining how hard he had found it to make up his mind which way to vote. He spoke of how he had gone about making his decision and then within no time there were over 50 comments. He had made his mind up! Leave him be!

That's one of the reasons I'm not sharing which way I am voting.

Voting always used to be a personal thing anyway. I don't like the fact that you are being made to feel you should really wear your heart on your sleeve with this one.

While I'm not a fan of watching politics - I just can't stand all that shouting and arguing and general rudeness that seems to be such a big part of it -  it has been really interesting seeing how both campaigns have played out.

The Yes campaign took advice very early on from some US campaign managers who pointed out that the most positive campaign usually wins. For this reason they are trying so hard to keep up a positive spin. It's not always working, but they are mostly managing to get a fresh, youthful, positive energy across.

It seems a little harsh for the No campaign though. How can you fight a positive campaign when you are pushing a negative answer?!

I think the No Campaign didn't think they would need to push as hard, as polls a year ago gave them a clear lead. A huge effort by the Yes campaign has pulled them right back into the fight.

There has been plenty needless vandalism of signs, childish name-calling and such from both sides, each side claiming that the other is worse. I've heard people say that this is part and parcel of politics. It seems like a surefire way to loose supporters to me!

What do I think the result will be?

I think it really is too close to call. Our 20 year old neighbour says that about 65% of his fellow students are planning to vote No. The boys say that all of the older high school students they have spoken to (16 year olds have been given the vote for the first time, a move that the more cynical suggested was a ploy by the SNP to gain more Yes voters) are actually planning to vote No as well. A quick look through my Facebook feed shows an awful lot more posts by Yes voters but it's hard to say if this is because there are more of them or just because they are a lot more vocal!

So, I really don't know how it's going to go.

Whatever happens, come Friday morning all those who have been so passionately against the other side will still have to be friends with the others and accept the result. I was even told by someone today that they don't know what they will talk about on Friday once it's all over, which I think shows you how much 'ordinary' people have been caught up in all this.

So there you have it, my non-political, trying to stay neutral, take on the biggest political even in my lifetime!

Monday, 15 September 2014

The best laid schemes of mice and men

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley.

This line from Burns, which has become a phrase in its own right, sums up last week perfectly. It means basically that whatever we plan doesn't always work out how we want it.

I had been really looking forward to last week. It was my birthday on Thursday and the boys were planning to cook dinner. We had friends coming round on Friday for dinner and then on Saturday we were due at my husband's sister's house for a birthday dinner to celebrate my father in law's 80th birthday. He and I share the same birthday!

But then the sickness bug hit our house.

Looking back it all started a week past Friday with Calum (11). He had complained of a sore tummy and head while we were out doing the food shopping and then headed straight to bed when we got home. He was sick a few times but I assumed he was suffering from a migraine. He has suffered from these since he was quite young and we have discovered that over tiredness is the trigger for them. When he gets one he has a terrible headache and needs to sleep it off. He will often be sick and the sickness is usually the turning point for it getting better. I don't really understand why, but from what I've read about migraines in children this is quite common.

Anyway, now I'm pretty sure that it wasn't a migraine but in fact the first of the sickness bug.

On the Sunday Fraser was hit with it. The little sweetie still remained his bright wee self whenever he wasn't being sick.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning Alasdair (5) went down with it next. Followed about an hour later by me. It wasn't a fun night!

Wednesday evening the remaining two boys were taken down by it too.

It took until Friday for me to begin to feel slightly more normal.

Needless to say, my birthday dinner plans were postponed and our dinner guests on Friday were called off.

We were, however, feeling ready to celebrate granddad's 80th by the time Saturday came around. So here's a wee look at the quiet celebrations.

My hubby's sister is not a fan of shopping. When it comes to birthdays and Christmas, if you can give her a link to Amazon then she is more than happy! This time round I had my eye on some new, comfy crochet hooks.

Granddad's birthday dinner was a traditional roast.



Aunty Anna has a lot of tempting things for mischievous little boys lying around on her coffee table!


'Nope. Wasn't touching anything.'



James and Calum had agreed to make the cake for grandad, although their energy levels weren't quite up to usual so the decorating effort was a little haphazard!



Still, granddad was happy with it.




They had filled one of the cakes with Smarties like they did for my dad's 60th cake at Easter time.



My father in law with his 5 grandsons.


My postponed birthday took place today as it was a school holiday and my hubs had the day off work.
After being stuck in sick bay all last week I was keen that we should get out for a walk somewhere. It has been such a beautiful autumn here so far but of course today it happened to be the first day it has rained in ages! Despite the initial grumblings of some of the boys, we still headed out for a country walk.




It was pretty wet, and we all got rather soaked, but the rain did show up some lovely spider webs in amongst the autumn berries!


Back home, after drying off, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying out my new crochet hooks while my lovely husband cooked dinner (Spiced Salmon) and Calum baked my birthday cake using our trusty Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake recipe.




In the end, the birthday plans didn't work out too badly.