Things I'm Loving....

Friday 30 June 2017

In the early years of my blog life, I used to join in with some other bloggers and write a weekly post about the things I had been loving for that week. The blog link was started and hosted by NZ blogger PaisleyJade, and the aim of the link up was for us all to focus on all the little things in our lives that make us happy. Because looking back it's these little things that make up the big things. It's also a great mindset to purposefully look out for things that have made you happy, no matter how small, in what may have otherwise been a mundane/difficult/run of the mill/whatever else sort of week.

Several years ago the link-ups stopped happening. Social media had changed so much and the way in which we were all sharing our posts had moved from blogging platforms and email across to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. There were fewer and fewer bloggers linking up the old way, and fewer and fewer comments being left the old way too, so the ladies hosting the link-up felt it was time to retire it. 

I always meant to carry on my Friday Things I'm Loving posts, as I'm a great believer in looking out for the little things, but without the weekly reminder it kind of fell by the wayside. Now though, I'm determined to start mine up again. Better late than never!

So here are the things I've been loving this past week.

Starting off with looking for a bright side to the not very summery weather that has hit us the last couple of weeks. 

Fraser (3) loves his yellow wellies, and will wear them even if it's not raining. He also has a pair of wellies for one of his favourite teddies, Blue. This week, as it was the last meeting of our Parent & Toddlers group at church before the summer holidays, we had planned to have a little Teddy Bear's Picnic. Fraser had really been looking forward to the chance to bring his favourite teddy to Toddlers. The night before the picnic, when he went upstairs to bed he looked out Blue's wellies and put them on him so that he would be ready to go to the picnic. On the morning of the picnic, while I got things into the car, he and Blue enjoyed lots of splashing in puddles together.

He loved the Teddy Bear's Picnic - which we hosted indoors as a result of all the rain!

Fraser continued to make me smile in the rain, despite the fact that it was still pouring down a couple of days later. This time it was his froggy umbrella smiling up at me as I pushed his pram that brightened the greyness of all the rain.


David was keen to play Scrabble one night this week. He's always struggled with his reading and spelling, and was finally diagnosed with dyslexia this school year, and so this would usually be the last thing he would choose to play. But his confidence in his ability to spell has come on a lot this year, largely thanks to the extra help he has been getting from the excellent learning support teacher at school. So despite my large ironing pile that I had planned to get through that evening, I set it aside to join him and Calum in a game of Scrabble. Things were going well for me until I saw my second selection of letters!


Has anyone else been collecting all the Lego cards from Sainsbury's? Our collection got off to a great start, and we were given cards from various people too, but then having so many so quickly meant that we soon ended up with a huge pile of doublers. By trading some of these we eventually ended up needing just four to complete our collection, and this week our store held the last of their swap shops. So we popped along, got those last four cards and then gave them the rest of our monster pile of doublers to help out others.


Last Sunday we enjoyed Sunday lunch at my hubby's sister's house. Whenever we go there for lunch, rain or shine it will involve a walk with her dog, usually to the school playing fields nearby.

And once at the playing fields we always have to stop for a while at the long jump sand box, where everyone shows of their jumping skills.

While we were out we even managed to get a rare photo of me and my boys all together. 

(Along with my sister in law's dog, who is perhaps the most photographed dog in all of Scotland!)

I'm really loving how my little vegetable garden is coming along in the new section at the bottom of our extended garden. I'll leave more about that for another gardening post, but this week when I popped out to plant out some things from the greenhouse, in between rain showers, I spotted some beautiful little Forget-me-not flowers at the bottom of the garden.

I've always loved Forget-me-nots. They are such tiny and delicate things. They also always remind me of my Granny Tong, simply because I remember I first ever saw and heard about what these flowers were when I was quite young, at her house. They always grew beside the wall at her house. So the name seems even more appropriate!

I was also pleased to see that there is the tiniest little fledgling pumpkin on one of my plants. I still have very low expectations of these ever amounting to much, especially if  how little sunshine we have had in the last couple of weeks continues for much more of the summer, but a little bit of me hopes that they might just surprise me.


Finally, and probably the biggest thing we are all loving this week, is that school finished up today for the summer!

It was also a big day for David (11) as it was his last ever day of Primary school. He was a little bit sad, as the staff at his school are so lovely, and he has so enjoyed the responsibility of being a P7 and being able to help out with the younger classes, but he is more excited about joining his older brothers at high school after the summer. 

Recipe of the Week - Gluten & Dairy Free Rocky Road

Thursday 29 June 2017

It's a tough decision for me to choose what my favourite traybake is. If you asked me I would probably say Rocky Road. But then if I had time to think about it I would say that maybe it has to be Mint Aero Slice. I would never say no to a slice of Malteser Slice either though. And I've recently been making a Turkish Delight traybake, inspired by one that a lady in my parents' church makes, but more loosely based on a recipe I saw on the BBC Good Food website.

Despite adapting lots of recipes to make them suitable for our free from boys, I've not often tried out free from traybakes. One of the main reasons is that most of my traybake recipes use a tin of condensed milk in them, and so far there is no dairy free alternative available for this! I have seen recipes online for making your own condensed milk, using milk, powdered milk and a slow cooker, and have always meant to try this out, but so far haven't quite got there. It's moving further up my to-do list though!

The second reason is simply the cost of the free from ingredients. I can buy a big packet of rich tea or digestive biscuits for around 30p if I buy the savers version or shop in Aldis. I can get 100g bars of chocolate for 35p in Aldis (or 50p a bar for the savers version in Sainsburys). Using these ingredients I can make a tray of Rocky Road for under £2.

With free from ingredients, biscuits rarely cost less than £2 for a smaller sized pack. Chocolate bars also start at around £2 for 100g. So the exact same traybake would have cost nearly £10! 

Thankfully though, our Sainsbury's store has recently begun selling their own brand free from chocolate in 100g bars for only £1. Yes, it still costs more than double what I can get a normal bar for in Aldi's, but it's a vast improvement on £2.50 for a 100g bar of MooFree.

They also sell free from Rich Teas for around £1.30 a pack. 

So although it now comes in at around £5 for a tray, that's now about half of what it used to cost.

I only started making this free from Rocky Road a couple of months ago and it has been such a hit with the free from boys that I now need to make a batch almost every week. It's a really straightforward recipe to make.

You will need:

125g dairy free margarine
100g dark dairy free chocolate
200g 'milk' dairy free chocolate
3 tbsp golden syrup
250g free from rich tea biscuits
100g marshmallows (quartered, or use the mini marshmallows)
dusting of icing sugar


~ Put the margarine, two types of chocolates and the syrup in a pan and melt over a low heat. Then let it cool a little or you will melt your marshmallows when you add them. About 10 minutes will be long enough.

~While it is all melting and cooling, crush the rich tea biscuits. Don't crush them too finely, as this works best if there are still some chunks of biscuit in it. I just put the biscuits in a deep bowl and use the end of a rolling pin to crush mine, like you would use a pestle and mortar. I used to use a freezer bag full of biscuits and a rolling pin, but I always ended up tearing the bag and ending up with too much mess! You could also use a food processor, but be careful not to overdo it and end up with a fine powder.

~ Also use the cooling time to cut your marshmallows. The best way to do this is to put a pair of scissors in a mug of boiling water. Using hot scissors means that the marshmallows won't stick to the scissors. You can also save yourself the time of snipping the marshmallows, not that it takes much time at all, and use mini marshmallows instead. I have made this recipe both ways but the version with the larger marshmallows was more popular with the boys. They preferred the extra, chunkier gooey-ness of the larger marshmallows.

~Add the crushed biscuits and marshmallows to the melted mixture and then mix everything together well.

~ Spread evenly in a greased and lined rectangular baking tray and then chill for a few hours until set.

~Once set, dust generously with icing sugar and then slice into squares or rectangles. Whichever you prefer.

Highland Show Day

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Most years we take a trip along to the Royal Highland Show, and it's always been a day out that everyone has really loved. This year was no exception and on Friday we spent a great day out at the show.

We headed off early in the morning, taking the train in to the city and then the tram out to near the showground. There were extra staff out selling tickets for the trams so that they could cope with the huge increase of travellers, and they were also handing out little squishy tram toys to little kids. We didn't have to wait long for a tram at all, and although it was quite busy and we had to stand most of the way, Fraser rather enjoyed being able to hang onto the 'monkey bars', with a little help of course!

The tram stop is about a 10 minute walk away from the showground, and the closest gate to the tram stop takes you in at the area with all the vehicles. We had only been in the show for about 2 minutes when we picked up these bags of freebies from Arnold Clark. Inside the bags were these hilarious sunglasses.

Fraser's favourite colour is yellow, a colour that suits his sunshiny personality perfectly. He loves anything that is yellow and so was delighted to see a yellow car on display. He had to have his photo taken beside it, as well as a wee sit inside it too.

Moving away from the cars takes you towards the farm vehicles, and first up was the quad bikes. I have an almost identical picture of Fraser sitting on a quad bike at last years show, where he was making the exact same face. (You can see that one here.)

Within about half an hour of arriving at the show there was a heavy shower of rain. We had seen the weather forecast and so were expecting it. The forecast also said that soon afterwards the weather would brighten up, which it did. but during that short heavy shower the boys found a particularly classy place to shelter. It wasn't big enough to fit us all in though, and so I just stayed outside in the rain!

The tractors were a big hit, as always. This one stood out a bit from the others! 

Calum (14) would love to be a crofter one day, driving his quad bike out to see his sheep, with his trusty collie dog by his side, so he has titled this next picture 'goals'.

We didn't stop to watch of the animals showing in the main arena, but briefly saw some of them each time we walked past on our way to the next areas.

We always have to pop in to the Lantra tent, where my hubby's sister is located as part of her job for the Department of Rural Affairs. I have no idea what it is exactly that she does on a day to day basis, but I do know that she is involved in rural policy. 

As ever, there was so much to see as we walked about the show.

I'm not sure if I should be offended that my husband has replaced his Facebook profile picture, which was a lovely one of the two of us taken on our anniversary last year, with that one above of him and a giant pig!

The main supermarkets were all there, sharing about the sources of their foods, giving out lots of free samples and other extra things for kids.

One exciting thing about this year's show is that I had something on display there myself!

I had entered a crochet blanket into the handcrafts competition. You were to make a 'knee rug' in the theme 'By the Stream.' I made up a blanket using the Attic24 neat wave pattern that I used for my sister in law's birthday blanket, and using blues, greys and greens. The colours were meant to represent the colours of a clear stream and the moss/grass around it.

I didn't win anything, although I didn't expect to anyway, but I was so pleased to see it on display on the wall in the handcrafts hall. That's it on the right below. The winners are in the middle, and took the theme more literally than I did. I'll bear that in mind if I enter next year! Look how lovely the winner is, and how much work went into sewing all those hexagony shapes.

We only stopped walking around to have our picnic lunch, and when we were eating we spotted the Army inflatable assault course. Ally (8) challenged Calum, and with a little head start managed to beat him too!

Everyone was engrossed watching the guy from the wilderness survival skills tent light a fire using only some fungus called chaga, a couple of stones and some cats tails.

It might have taken a lot longer than it would have done with a match and some firelighters, but it was far more impressive.

The toy tent, with the great display of toy vehicles has been a favourite since the older boys were small. James (17) said how it used to be one of the things he looked forward to seeing most when he was little.

Fraser and I hopped on board the Play bus for a visit, and he made a very cute little lamb mask.

After a long day walking around the show, we hopped back on the tram and train home again, and indulged in a chippie for dinner. It had to be a haggis supper for me.

But we didn't have long to sit, as it was the Armed Forces Day parade in the evening, and James had to be dropped off ready to march with the Army Cadets before 6. He's at the opposite end of that line below.

After the parade there were some stalls to wander around and see, as well as the annual challenge between the Army, Air and Sea Cadets. 

The Army Cadets gave the young kids there the chance to try on a helmet and some camo cream, which Fraser was calling 'face paints'.

James was on camo cream duty, and when we went over to see him we did a double take as the trailer used to advertise the Army Cadets has a huge picture of him across the back!

There was another inflatable assault course at the Armed Forces Day event, and again Ally challenged Calum. This time there were cadets scattered throughout it, ready to try and make it harder for the bigger kids, while helping the littler ones.

Ally won again!

Eventually we were able to come back home and sit down again for a well earned rest. We went through our bags of freebies from the show, some of which are shown below, and checked our step totals for the day.

It was a new record for both Calum and I, and one that will take some beating - over 22000!