Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eilean Donan Castle

Last week we took our first trip to the Scottish Highlands on the west coast. It was beautiful!
{By the way, we visited on the longest day of the year, so this night picture was taken at 11:30pm.}

On our first day we visited Eilean Donan Castle. A castle was first built here in the sixth century, and has been destroyed (at least one time by Viking attacks, not to mention clan rivalries) and rebuild many times through the years. It is easily the most recognized castle in Scotland. It is one of the most photographed and is also the location of movies (such as Braveheart).

This privately owned castle lay in ruin for 200 hundred years before it was recently rebuild in the nineteenth century. It has really nice displays of life in the castle and artifacts from the clan, including swords. The kids really enjoyed the tour guides, who were dressed in formal kilts.

We had beautiful weather. The sun shone so brightly on the water, and the hills around Dornie (the little town nearby) were incredible.

The location is stunning, in the middle of the highlands on the small island of Donan, named after the 6th century Irish Saint, Bishop Donan who came to Scotland around 580 AD.

There were also nice displays in the kitchen with life-like mannequins. Joshua kept asking me if they were real people who were once alive and "when did they live here?" He kept touching them to see if they were real, until he grabbed the leg of a tourist who was standing too still ... they both jumped and he decided to stop touching the people. But sorry, no photography inside...

This was a beautiful visit, in an amazing location. The drive out to the castle, though the highlands, was incredible. We took hundred of pictures and still felt like we couldn't quite capture the beauty.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Joshua's 'Away Day'

Today Joshua and I attended a special "Away Day!" His school sponsored a special outing for all the new P1 pupils. He got to meet his new classmates (many we already new from nursery) and had a great day fun. The outing was held at the Aberdeen Ranger center at Lochinch Farms.

After snacks, our first activity was a nature walk through the fields and woods. They gave us a check list of things find and questions about our observations. Joshua loved taking notes about the things he found and ended up asking me to write down everything he saw that was of interest.

One of our observations was about the texture of trees. Joshua did bark rubbings on several different trees to compare the texture and markings.

Near the loch / pond there was a little bird-watching shed. Much to Joshua's pleasure, they supplied extra binoculars for the kids to use. We saw beautiful swans, great blue herons, fish jumping at the bugs and lots of diving ducks.

After the nature walk (and a prize of bubbles, and a little time on the playground), we headed back to the ranger station for some more activities. The kids got to decorate their own t-shirts. Joshua insisted on doing all the work himself, but kindly asked if I would help hold the shirt in place while he colored.

Before beginning the next activity, Joshua asked if he could wear his shirt for the rest of the day. Then he started the exciting task of decorating two cupcakes with frosting, gummies and sprinkles. "One is for me and one for my sister," he explained to his teacher. Very sweet of him to remember Abigail, who was quite disappointed that she couldn't attend the Away Day, too.

Back at the playground, Joshua is sporting his newly decorated t-shirt. He wrote his name, then drew a fire engine, a castle and a tree in the autumn. After a little more play, the ranger took the kids on a bug hunt (beasties hunt, as they call it here). The kids had nets and caught butterflies, moths, spiders and any number of other things.

This was a great day out. Joshua seems to have new confidence and excitement about starting P1 in August. He also really enjoyed getting to know his new teacher, Mrs. Ritchie (who we learned really likes Percy the Park Keeper, one of our favorite book series). Check out the rest of our pictures from the day on FB.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Last weekend we went on a family trip to the Highlands and the Isle of Skye. So beautiful! Stay tuned or more pictures.

This is the last week of school for Joshua. Both kids are very excited about the new school year beginning in August. Abigail will be starting nursery (preschool); she will be in the Owls class (Joshua's class this year) and will have the same teacher.

Joshua will be moving into Primary 1 / P1 (kindergarten). We bought his school uniform this week (all the schools here use uniforms), and he has been able to visit his new classroom and meet his new teacher.

Here is the menu for the coming week.
Check out more great meal ideas at Organizing Junkie.

Happy Monday!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Joshua's Sports Day

A few weeks ago, Joshua's class had their annual sports day. This year was a little crazy because the nursery school (preschool) was included with the P1 thru P3 classes, but the little kids did great!

Joshua was so excited for the races and relays they had practiced all week. They were so patient sitting on their blankets waiting for their turn.

Abigail enjoyed all the races, but was a little disappointed that they didn't have time for any sibling or parent races. She did have a great view of the action, though.

Above is Joshua in the bucket-shovel relay races. I love to see how his running has improved over the last year.

He was also so careful to follow the rules to balance the hoop on his head without using his hands at all.

We all had a lovely day! The sun came out for the celebration, though the wind was quite chilly.

As a treat at the end, the kids were all given popcicles from the teachers and bouquets of flowers from his friends! More great pictures in our Sport's Day photo album.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

I can hardly believe it is Wednesday. We were gone for three days on holiday to the Highlands and the Isle of Skye. It was a wonderful time, and it only rained one day, which is quite incredible for the west coast of Scotland.

In all the busyness, I never finished the menu plan for the week. But better late than never, right? So, on to the menu for the this week. It will mostly be repeats that we never made in all the craziness of the last several weeks...

Check out more great meal ideas at Organizing Junkie.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trip to the A & E!

Today after school, Joshua took a fall at the park. He tripped and fell right onto a large stick, seriously splitting his chin. It definitely warranted a trip to the A&E (Accident and Emergency) at the Aberdeen Children's Hospital.

Joshua was very brave while the examined the cut and cleaned it out. Sorry, no pictures of the wound. It was the worst I have ever seen in person. They removed a small piece of bark, and decided that they needed to have a plastic surgeon take a look at it. There was a possibility that they would need to put him under anesthesia to further investigate for debris or muscle injury.

We waited almost three hours for the surgeon to come, but he was very friendly. As the surgeon put on his gloves, he offered one to Joshua as well. That was a big hit.

The surgeon was able to see that it was clean, with no damage beyond skin and fatty tissue.... nothing that some butterfly tape and glue couldn't fix.

Darren joined us about two hours in to our wait. Joshua perked up as soon as he arrived. They played connect four and talked about Darren's many visits to the doctor as a kid. Joshua was also inspired to play doctor. He treated Darren's pretend knee wound using many of the same techniques that were used on him that day. Very fun to watch!

What a brave, little boy! It was a very long wait at the A&E, over four hours. But we are so blessed in our community here to have friends who kept Abigail all evening, and even pulled in my laundry and folded it. Long day, but the kids are sound asleep and I am gonna sleep well tonight!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Last week we had some wonderful food, including a new recipe for Garlic Lime Shrimp, at Darren's specific request, and a repeat favorite dessert Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toffee Sauce at a gathering yesterday. Both were amazing and are well worth trying.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to our good friends, the Nigh's, who moved to Scotland the same time as us almost two years ago and have been incredible friends ever since. We are rejoicing with them in the new opportunities before them, but so sad to see them go. They will be sorely missed!

This week is about easy and comforting foods, as much as possible. It was a long, busy week last week, and will continue to be for the rest of the month. There are so many things happening this month to wrap up the school year for Joshua and, more so, to prepare for next school year -- for Joshua to start P1 (kindergarten) and for Abigail to start nursery (preschool).

Next weekend we will be taking our first trip to the Scottish Highlands and the west coast. We will be staying over night two nights and will be driving and sightseeing for the three days total. I am very excited, but have done so little planning so far. There is so much we want to cram into our three days, so I need to have all the details planned carefully.

Now on to the menu for the coming week.

Check out more great meal ideas at Organizing Junkie.

Happy Monday!

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toffee Sauce

For the pudding (cake)
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 3/4 cups [200g package] dried dates, pits removed
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp black treacle (molasses)*
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup (light corn syrup)*
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (self-rising flour, or use all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda)*
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)*
For the sauce
  • 1/2 cup double cream (heavy cream or heavy whipping cream)*
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp black treacle (molasses)*
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup (light corn syrup)*
* NOTE: Substitutions are offered in parenthesis for items not readily available in the U.S.

For the pudding (cake)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. 
  2. Grease cake pan (9x9 or 11x7) generously, then dust with flour.
  3. Place the dates and the water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn off heat.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and the sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. 
  5. Gradually add the golden syrup, treacle, vanilla extract and eggs to the mixture and continue beating. 
  6. Turn the beaters down to a slow speed and add the flour, one spoon at a time. Beat until all the ingredients are well combined.
  7. Purée the hot date mixture in a food processor or blender, then stir in the bicarbonate of soda. 
  8. Quickly add the date mixture to the mixture in the bowl while it is still hot. Stir to combine.
  9. Pour mixture into cake pan.
  10. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is just firm to the touch.
For the sauce
Place all the sauce ingredients into a small sauce pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.

To serve, pour generous amounts of hot toffee sauce over individual pieces of cake and top with vanilla ice cream. Serve immediately once sauce has been poured.
The cake and sauce can be made in advance, just reheat the sauce before serving.

We LOVE this "classic," British dessert. My version was converted from the recipe on BBC Food. It is a yummy cake served with warm toffee sauce (and perfect with vanilla ice cream). 

For those of you in the States, "pudding" in the UK generally refers to any dessert or sweet dish served after a meal, though the term also describes some of the savory (salty) dishes as well (such as Yorkshire pudding). 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Garlic Lime Shrimp

We love this recipe.There is a bit of 'heat' from the cayenne, but it is mostly in the sauce. The kids didn't find it too spicy as long as they didn't have the juice.

  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • Hot cooked pasta

In a large skillet, saute the shrimp, garlic, salt and cayenne in butter until the shrimp turns pink, about 5 minutes.
Stir in lime juice and parsley. Heat through.
Serve over pasta (and don't forget to spoon out a little extra juice, too)

Makes about 4 servings.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

House of Cards

Last week, Joshua asked me to help him build a house with his deck of cards. I have no clue where he got this idea, but I knew I was not the best person to teach such a skill. I encouraged him to ask Daddy to show him as soon as he got home.

Darren carefully showed the kids how to balance the cards and shared tricks to helping them stay up. He reminisced about the car garages he use to build with his brother. The idea of a garage inspired Joshua. By the end of the evening, after working hard on several failed attempts, he created his own version.

Joshua carefully parked his Stanley train in the new Tidmouth Sheds constructed entirely out of cards. And this has been an obsession ever since.

Above is the train parked nicely in the sheds, cozy and dry. His only frustration is that mommy makes him take down the sheds each night and he has to start over in the morning. There are a few more pictures on FB.

Abigail was excited about the building, but became frustrated at her lack of ability. We quickly suggested Legos as a better building option for her. So now the kids sit on the living room floor building houses (or garages) ... Joshua with his cards and Abigail with the Legos. Awesome!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Water Play Day

We invited our friends over on one of the two hot days last week for some water play. I realized now that I didn't take very many pictures, but here is a taste of the fun we had...

Abigail enjoyed the water table and buckets. Who doesn't love pouring water on a hot day when no one cares if you spill.

Joshua was pretty excited about the little pool... until some one brought cupcakes out. All the kids sat down and quickly consumed the chocolate cakes. Yummy!

Abigail sat at the edge of the little, blowup pool taking one cup full from the pool at a time in order to fill her bucket. This was quite brave especially when the boys started running and splashing into the pool.

Joshua really did enjoy himself (regardless of how unthrilled he looks in this picture). What a fun day!

More pictures from our sunny days in our FB photo album.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day at the Aberdeen Beach

Last week we had two glorious days in Aberdeen. It was incredibly warm and we headed to the beach with our friends after school. It was pretty windy by the water, but we had fun!

The kids even decided to run around in the freezing, North Sea. I was surprised that the water didn't feel quite as cold as usual.

Joshua and I tried to fly the cheap little kite I had brought, but the wind was too strong for the plastic kite. We finally had to give up or risk ruining the kite.

Abigail was very excited about playing in the waves. The North Sea doesn't get high waves, just enough for a little playful running.

Joshua took a fall in one of the bigger waves, but after he recovered, it gave him more confidence to get wet in the waves.

After the beach, we walked up to the nearby Burger King for a special dinner. It was a fun, tiring day. Abigail laid down on the seats after dinner to rest for a little bit while waiting for ice cream.

There are some more shots in our online photo album.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

We had a two days this week with AMAZING weather... the warmest since we moved here. We had lots of fun at the beach and outside water play. Stay tuned for pictures coming soon!

Here is the menu for the coming week.
Check out more great meal ideas at Organizing Junkie.

Happy Monday!

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