Thursday, 27 November 2014


At the weekend one of our neighbours asked the boys if they would like their old Go-Cart.

Of course they jumped at the chance!

The older two boys were out at first but the other three had a ball pulling each other around the garden for a couple of hours.

Once the others were back though, Calum (12) was keen to join in the fun so we went for a walk with it. Ally (5) sat on it the whole way, pulled by Calum for a circuit of about a mile and a bit!

Our aim was to find a hill. Steep enough to go down but not too steep to cause any damage to either boy or cart.

They wanted a wee clip of each of them going down the hill and so here they are! I think you can hear Fraser chatting while I carried him in the sling and Ally singing beside me too!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Make Your Own Cinnamon Scented Pine Cones

One of our favourite places to go and look at the Christmas decorations is Dobbies Garden Centre. 

Not only do they have so many lovely things to look at, but they also sell those lovely Cinnamon Scented Pine Cones that smell so perfectly Christmassy.

Despite their loveliness, I've never quite been persuaded to buy them as the price tag has always put me off!

This year I stumbled across a tutorial on Pinterest for how to make them yourself at a fraction of the cost so we decided to give them a bash.

All you need is:

 a bundle of pine cones
 an empty spray bottle
 some ziplock bags 
Cinnamon bark essential oil 

Make sure you buy Cinnamon bark essential oil and not the Cinnamon leaf essential oil. The Cinnamon leaf will smell more like Cloves than Cinnamon.

One more thing to note is that you need to give yourself a few weeks to make these as they need time for the scent to infuse on the pine cones.

First thing you will need to do is check if your pine cones need cleaning. Ours were actually OK but if they do need cleaned you can gently wash them in some warm water. Washing in water may make your pine cones close up a bit but they will open up as they dry. Alternatively you could put them on a lined baking tray in a very low oven for around an hour.

Now put a little water in your spray bottle.

Add quite a generous amount of your essential oil to the water. I added at least 60 drops to about 50ml of water.

Put some pine cones in a ziplock bag, making sure you haven't overfilled it so that there is plenty space to zip it closed.

Now scoosh your water/oil spray all over the cones, shaking them around and scooshing some more. And some more!

Every couple of days open your bags up and scoosh in some more of that lovely spray.

If you were in a hurry you could Mod Podge some ground Cinnamon onto your pine cones but this will eventually rub off and make a bit of a mess so the oil infused way seems the better way to go - unless you want to have your cones smelling of Cinnamon by tomorrow!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Make it Monday - Homemade Mincemeat

At the weekend I got a proper start on my festive baking.

I've already made a few batches of mince pies since the beginning of November using shop bought mincemeat, but it's not until I make up a batch of the homemade stuff that I feel like my Christmas baking has begun.

Why bother making your own mincemeat though? 

Isn't it one more thing to add to the list of things needing done for Christmas?

Well, I don't think so. I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong with ready made mincemeat. Or that there is something superwoman and domestic goddess-y about making your own. I just think this tastes nicer, and feels more homely. And it is so straightforward and easy to make that it isn't burdensome at all.

With all our food allergies it is always good to make something at home too, as you know exactly what you are eating.

The fabulously Christmassy smell as it cooks is an added bonus. A smell so good that it will even get the teenager in your house out of bed earlier than usual on a Saturday morning to see what is cooking!

I first came across a homemade mincemeat recipe in Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess and my recipe is one that I have adapted from hers over the years.

You will need:

250g brown sugar
250ml orange juice 
1kg cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
500g mixed dried fruit
100g glace cherries, washed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 lemon - grated rind of it and the juice of half of it
3-4 tablespoons port (optional)

~Put the sugar and orange juice in a pan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.
~Add everything else except for the port and let it bubble away on a medium to low heat for around 30 minutes. It should look all soft and mushy when it is ready.
~Let it cool for a little while and then, if you are adding it, add the port and stir it in.
~Put into clean, sterilised jars.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Family Dinners - Meatballs & Pasta in a Tomato Sauce {gluten free & dairy free}

I'm revisiting an old Recipe of the Week tonight for one of my Family Dinners posts.

It's still as popular with the boys as it was 4 years ago when I first posted this!


The boys in this house would have something made with mince for dinner almost every night of the week if they could! I would say this is one of their favourite ways to have mince, but then they love it equally as much just with tatties, as a bolognese, as chilli, as meatloaf, lasagna................

Because wheat-free bread is so expensive, I like to make sure I use up every last bit. When the heels are all that is left, I blitz them in the blender to make breadcrumbs and then freeze them. You can just keep adding to the bag in the freezer each time you make a wee bit more. Then just add them to whatever recipe you need them in. No need to defrost.

The picture isn't the clearest, but you get the idea. I took it in such a rush as the hungry hordes were desperate to be fed!

To serve 6

For the meatballs:
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2lb mince
2oz wheat-free breadcrumbs (about 2 slices of a wheat free loaf)
1 egg
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp dried mixed herbs

For the sauce:
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1-2 tbsp sugar, to taste
 generous handful fresh basil

~Preheat your oven to about 180C
~Put all of the meatball ingredients into a large bowl and get mixing together with your hands.
~Once everything is well mixed together, start rolling into meatballs and place on a plate.
~Heat a little oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the meatballs in batches until they are browned all over. I use a lid on the frying pan to help speed this up and stop the meatballs drying up.
~When one batch is browned, transfer them to a large ovenproof dish and put in the oven to keep warm while you get on with the next batch.
~Once all the meatballs are browned, keep them in the oven and add a little more oil to your frying pan.
~Add the second onion and garlic and soften.
~Add the chopped tomatoes, sugar and a handful of chopped fresh basil.
~Bring to the boil.
~Puree the sauce with a hand blender if you want a smooth sauce. This step is optional but my boys prefer the sauce smooth!
~Pour the sauce over the meatballs and cook it all in the oven for another 15- 20 minutes or so, depending on how fast your oven is.
~Serve with wheat-free pasta and an extra sprinkling of fresh basil for decoration. Those who can eat cheese also like some grated over the top of this on their plates. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Makings - My creative space

 I thought I would share my little creative space tonight.

Beside where I usually sit on the sofa is where I keep my big basket of yarns and crochet WIPs.

I like to keep it nice and organised, with the colours I need for each project bundled together neatly. However, the temptation for a little 12 month old to get his little fingers in there and have a wee rummage about is often too great and sometimes it looks more like this.....

I'm still working my way through my handmade Christmas presents. So far I can tick my granny, my mother in law and my brother's wife off my list. I'm currently working on my mum's and my hubby's sister's presents and still have to make a couple of wee things for the teachers at school. I also have a couple of ideas of little things I would like to make for the younger boys but I'm not getting ahead of myself and might just leave them for another time!

I can't wait to share all the makes once they have been received.

One thing that I can share and that you can see in my basket above is the Snowman wreath I am working on - I like to have more than one thing on the go at a time! You can also see Calum's ripple blanket peeking out of the basket too!

The snowman wreath is based on one from Repeat Crafter Me

It's just a long, straight strip of double crochet (US single) that is then wrapped around a polystyrene wreath and sewn on. The snowman and snowballs are waiting to be sewn onto the bottom. I'm not too pleased with how the bunting looks though and will either make some out of felt or leave it off altogether. I'll decide on that once I have the other parts sewn on.

My snowman also needs a nose but I am loathed to buy a ball of orange wool just for 4 stitches worth of nose so I might leave that off and improvise with something else too!

I'd love to hear what everyone else's creative spaces look like! Do you have a little corner where you can sit and create like I do or are you one of the ones who has a bigger space all to yourself? 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Another birthday in the house

There's been another birthday in the house this week.


This time it was David's turn to be celebrating as he turned 9.


Birthday boys always get to choose what they would like for their birthday dinner, as well as what type of cake they would like.


David asked if we could have take away pizza from Pizza Hut for dinner! We've never had Pizza Hut for dinner before because it wouldn't be fair on the boys who can't eat it. However, when David asked for this I also got to thinking that it's his choice of treat after all. Calum and Alasdair were both fine with it - they both got to have Sainsburys Free From fish fingers for dinner so they were happy too.


The birthday boy was delighted when the girl came to the door with the pizzas, although a little disappointed that she didn't come on a scooter like they do on the movies.


He had also requested that we have Pizza Express dough balls, which I was able to buy in the supermarket. Nothing like mixing up your pizza restaurants!




Boy are those pizzas filling! I can hardly move 6 hours later!
His birthday cake request surprised me a little - he asked for a lemon cake. Despite the request for pizza, I think his taste buds are actually quite sophisticated for a 9 year old!
Lemon cake it was.
Triple layered, as it was a special occasion.
And he specifically asked if I could decorate it the way I usually do 'with that wee slice of lemon twisted on the top.'






'Gather round your brother so I can get a nice photo of you all together', I said.
'A nice one please?'


'Because Granny & Grandad and Granny & Shen will be asking to see one...'


There we go.


And of course, here is the obligatory clip of the cake and the birthday song.



Happy birthday to our sport loving David. Everything this boy does he does with a passion, both the good and the not quite so good. Channel that passion in the right direction and he will move mountains for you.


May he be blessed with many more birthdays, pizza filled or not.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Weekend Happenings

This weekend saw the first batch of this seriously yummy Christmas treat being made. I shared the simple recipe for it here last year.

There was none of this left by the end of the weekend!

This weekend saw both Bonfire Night celebrated and Remembrance Day, well, remembered I suppose.

Every year we go to watch the fireworks display that takes place at the cricket club a few minutes walk from our house. My brother, sister in law and their boys usually come with us too and everything was on schedule for a repeat this year - despite the fact that my brother had had a cycling accident and needed surgery to an injury to his face the day before!

However, when the time came to leave our house we looked out and saw that it was pouring rain. Nobody protested at all at the suggestion that we just stay home, try and watch the fireworks from an upstairs window and then have some fun with sparklers if the rain stopped later.

The rain did stop and the boys and their cousins were able to enjoy the sparklers.

Sunday morning was dry, and not frosty like last year's Remembrance Sunday which was bitterly cold.

We joined the crowd at the town Civic Centre for the Remembrance Day service. 

James was taking part in the parade with his Army Cadets.

Each year I remember my grandfather and so many men like him. An ordinary island crofter who was called on to do so much more than ordinary things. It's hard to imagine, not just what they went through, but how they were then able to come home and live their every day lives again.

Calum, David and Alasdair were taking part in a different service with their Boys' Brigade and so when we were all home again I thought I would try and get a photo of them all dressed smartly.

It took quite a few shots but I eventually got a couple where they all looked reasonably happy together!

Looking at them all so happy together, mucking about and making silly faces in the out-takes....

...I can't help but think of the many mothers who saw/see their sons off only for them never to return.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Make it Monday - Lego Minifigure Costumes

On Friday it was the annual Boys' Brigade fancy dress party.


We had been thinking over what costumes the boys wanted to make for a few weeks but nobody could decide what they wanted to be. Ally (5) was first to make a decision, choosing to dress up as a soldier with the soldier dress up clothes from the dress up box that he wears quite often. All he wanted to add was some Camo face paint.


Two days before the party Calum (12) decided he would like to be a Lego Minifigure. Of course, as soon as David (8) heard this he decided that he wanted to be one too.


Look at that mean soldier above!
The mini figures were really easy to make, which was just as well given the last minute of the decisions!
The heads are just made up of sheets of yellow card stuck together and the features drawn on with Sharpie.


For the hands I bought a piece of the foam insulation you buy for putting round pipes. It already has a hole in the middle of it and we just cut out a little wedge to make the right size of opening for the hand. Then the boys painted them yellow with some acrylic paint. Rather haphazardly it would have to be said! We stuck a straw in the foam so that the could hold them inside their sleeves.








They were really pleased with their costumes, and one of them even won the prize for the best costume.
I think it was awarded for cuteness rather than the skill of the costume though as it was this boy who won.....


And yes of course soldiers wear wellies. It's a vital part of their uniforms!