30 December, 2013


We're all sad Christmas is over so soon-- after so much anticipation I think it should be more than a day.  But our tree is still up and the holidays are still in swing here-- in one week we have Christmas, a birthday, a wedding anniversary, and the New Year.

We've baked and eaten a lot, and are enjoying showing Peter's brother and sister around St Andrews.  Friday was my birthday, and Peter took me to Edinburgh for the night to celebrate. Saturday we had dinner, dessert, and drinks with some local friends here.

We don't have snow, but have had plenty of low temps, wind, and rain in the past week.  The cold wind is one of my favourite things about Scotland.

28 December, 2013


Our Christmas was extremely happy this year. We were sent love and gifts from so many friends and family that we all felt entirely too spoiled, and having my brother- and sister-in-law here has been icing on the holiday-time cake.

Christmas morning was slow and relaxing. The little ones slept until almost 9, but the grown ups were all up slightly earlier to cook breakfast and brew coffee.

Santa came to Ivybank this year, and we weren't sure if he was going to because we never believed in him in my house growing up. But Sebastian and Katharina put out cookies, plenty of carrots, and an old fashioned to warm his bones, and he did come.  I'm excited to nurture little imaginations.

The night of Christmas Eve we opened pyjamas, read stories, and sang songs. After the little ones were in bed we opened a bottle of wine and did some last minute wrapping.

Sebastian got more Brio pieces to add to his collection, some of which were Peter's from when he was Sebastian's age, and Katharina got a wooden farm and animals. Philippa got her first doll, and when I asked her if it was worth the wait, she nodded vigorously, kissed the doll's face and whispered "yeah.

Interview season is upon Peter now, but he has thoroughly enjoyed having nothing to do, and I love to see him sitting around laughing hysterically at Looney Tunes

We're so thankful for rest and our toasty home, faithful friends and family, and as Sebastian and Katharina would say-- "Jesus is born!"

Happy Christmas, all. We're still celebrating over here.

23 December, 2013


One morning last week Sebastian, Katharina, and I made salt dough ornaments. The following morning we painted them, left them to dry, and later strung them with twine.

Below is the recipe we used. This was such a fun project and Sebastian and Katharina were a great age as they love using cookie cutters and painting. We'll look forward to doing this every Christmas to come.

Salt Dough Ornaments

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 250ºF/120ºC. Mix all ingredients until well combined. Dust surface with flour and roll dough to approximately 1/4 inch thickness. Add more flour if dough seems too sticky.

Place cut out dough on cookie sheet and use a straw to cut hole in top.

Place ornaments in oven and bake 2-3 hours, or until completely dry. 

Once cooled, decorate as desired with paint and/or glitter.

20 December, 2013


Every time I've tried a homemade or store-bought natural shampoo it's done the same thing to my hair: it leaves it tough, stringy, squeaky, and so tangly. Not to mention it doesn't lather.

For a long while now I've been shampoo hopping while on the hunt for an affordable, healthy shampoo recipe, free from sodium laurel sulphate (in the exact same form, it's used to degrease car engines!), drying detergents, and carcinogenic parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl and butyl). I also don't like to wash my hair more than 2-3 times a week, so I wanted something gentle but effective, so I could continue this.

I have found it.

I've been using this for about a month, and I waited to share the recipe because I wanted to give an honest review. 
For my soft hair this shampoo is the perfect medium-- it doesn't leave it silky soft yet it is far from tough and tangly.  It foams and works up a nice lather, and is pretty liquid so a small bit goes a long way (I use about a teaspoon or two each time I shower). I can run my hands through my hair, it smells great, and I don't need a conditioner.* It also gives me nice natural volume, which has always been tough for my fine, pin-straight hair.  

*The first week in I was conditioning with a few tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar, but didn't notice a huge difference. Currently I am just using this super-hydrating shampoo.

I appreciate this recipe because it is easy, and motherhood calls for time management. I simply don't have time to run to the fridge for my shampoo before I take a shower, and I most certainly don't have time to whip up a batch before I hop in.

a grainy shot of Katharina sporting a nice lather.

Here is how I made it exactly, only doubled to fill the bottles I bought:

Natural Homemade Shampoo from Wellness Mama

1/4 cup coconut milk (get it from a carton if possible, to avoid BPA. Ours was in a pouch)

1/3 cup liquid castile soap (I used this)
1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil
20 drops essential oil of choice (I used lavender

1/2 teaspoon olive or almond oil (this can be omitted if you have oily hair)

Combine all ingredients in a bottle or jar of some kind (I bought pump bottles). Shake to combine.

Give it a quick shake each time before using, as the oils sink to the bottom. This can also be used as a shaving cream!

Keeps in shower for one month. (This is not tear-free, so be careful with little ones. Mine are getting good at looking for helicopters on the ceiling).

18 December, 2013


Sometimes before her afternoon nap Philippa begs me to take her out for some photos. I love when she does that.

This year she's really grasped the concept of opening presents, and she can't wait to help everyone out.

We purposed to do Christmas small and simple this year. We've also been striving to give more to people in need-- whether donating boxes of toys or giving a small Christmas gift to the Big Issue lady outside the grocery. We want our children to grow up delighting in giving to others, and believing the truth that it is better to give than to receive. 

We bought each of the children one special present from us, a couple of things to share, and filled their stockings. Plus they have things to open from grandparents and aunts and uncles.

We plan to spend the entire day relaxing and keeping cosy. We'll read and talk about the Nativity story, sing the little ones' favourite Christmas songs, and of course have a big dinner.

We're also starting a new tradition this year where we all open pyjamas Christmas Eve to wear to bed and stay in nearly all of Christmas Day. 

What Christmas traditions does your family have? 

16 December, 2013


Here is a quick and delicious recipe for gluten-free pizza crust.

While it doesn't get fluffy and soft like a regular pizza crust would, it is delicious and dense and holds its shape nicely. It doesn't get terribly crunchy either, which I appreciate, since I don't tend to like thin-crust pizzas.

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust from Minimalist Baker
*This recipe gave us one regular sized pizza and one 6x11" cheesy garlic bread

3 cups gluten-free flour blend (I use this, or you can blend your own: 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup white rice flour, 1 cup tapioca flour, 1/2 tsp xanthan gum)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar, divided (honey would also work well)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 176ºC/350ºF.

In small bowl combine yeast and 3/4 cup warm water (approx. 110ºF). Allow to sit for 5 minutes to activate yeast. Add 1 tablespoon sugar or honey.

In separate bowl combine flour blend, salt, baking powder, and remaining sugar or honey. Whisk well. 

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add yeast mixture. Add olive oil and additional 1/2 cup  of warm water. Stir well using wooden spoon.

Lightly coat a baking sheet or pizza stone with olive oil. Using your hands, and a wee bit of flour if it gets too sticky,  work the dough from the middle of the pan out. Piece together as necessary. Flatten to slightly less than 1/4 inch.

Pre-bake crust for 25-30 minutes, or until it begins to look dry. Remove from oven and spread generously with pizza sauce*, cheese, and toppings. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

Serve immediately.

*we make our own pizza sauce, which is nothing fancy and would certainly put Italian's to shame. Nevertheless, I will share the recipe shortly.

10 December, 2013


This morning was cool and crisp and a great chance to get out to play.  We've had quite a few bitter cold days here recently and this week's mid-50ºF has been very welcome.

We walked to the park not even a quarter of a mile from our house to throw pinecones (which Sebastian at first mistook for pineapples) in the stream, take pictures in the field, and fly to the moon on the swings.

I love autumn, and I love these little ones far more. 

Peter just made plans for my birthday/our anniversary getaway in less than three weeks. He's keeping most of it a surprise, but I do know we're staying at The George Hotel and dining at KyloeI cannot wait.

I'm off to kiss these sweet faces and bake some more Christmas cookies.  Can you believe 2013 is almost over?