Tuesday 30 June 2015

How to Make a Window Mirror - An Upcycling Tutorial

I *may* have mentioned before that I have a thing for salvaging furniture. A few weeks ago I think I reached a new low. It was pouring rain and I should have been driving directly to Kindergarten so as not to be late.  But it was Sperrmuell day on part of your route. Sperrmuell is the German term for the  annual rubbish collection of furniture, electronic appliances and other oversized items. Basically anything one might normally throw into a skip is left on the footbath to be collected by the bin men. In short, my idea of heaven.

On this particular morning, I was in a rush but needed my fix of salvaging, now that I'd seen what day it was. Unfortunately there wasn't time for more than a quick glance. I spotted kitchen cabinets being dumped, stopped for a nosey and picked up this cabinet door. The glass was gone and it was soaked from the rain. But I thought I might be inspired to upcyce it into something. I love internal windows in houses. That was my starting point.

To cut a long story short, it became a mirror. You may have spotted it in last week's hall renovation post. Here is how I went about it.

Clean the window frame and sand it, if necessary. Thankfully mine didn't need sanding.
Paint with two coats of undercoat suitable for use on wood.
Paint with a top coat of the colour of your choice. I chose a pale cream in a satin finish.

Once I had the woodwork finished, I brough the frame to the DIY centre. I was between two minds as to how to proceed: mirror or photo frame. I tried it out with some passepartouts and it looked fine, but I preferred the idea of a mirror after I tried out both looks.

Luckily I was able to find a mirror in the correct size, but the DIY centre would have ordered one to the correct size if I had needed it. I used a special glass and mirror glue to fix the mirror to the frame.

The mirror now hangs in our hall and helps brighten the place up by reflecting the white of the stairs and wall opposite it. 

A couple of weeks after I had finished and hung my mirror I was shopping and spotted the mirror in the photo below. I couldn't help myself and had to look at the price tag on the back. €99! Mine cost me around €20 for the mirror, glue and hanging fixture I needed. I had the paints and brush already from other projects. But best of all, I had a great time working on it and that is priceless.

Home Etc

A Little Look at Breakfasts

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and "they" are probably right. But I sometimes wonder how much time "they" have in the mornings. I mean, there are very few people I know who, with the best will in the world, are not in a massive rush in the morning. What with getting dressed for work, getting children up and dressed, getting packed lunches made, finding shoes, school books and other mislaid items, it is hard to find the time for anything other than bread or cereal.

Nicola from Simply Homemade recently gave us a great run down on her family's breakfast favourites and started a little linky. So I'm joining in. Breakfast in our house is a real German-Irish mix. Like most people, during the week it is all a bit of a rush and at the weekend we tend to take our time, sit down together and have a bit more of a feast.

In our house sliced pan is known as "toast bread" (I still call it sliced pan but I am the only one) because Germans don't believe in eating "raw toast". It is only for toasting. We are not big toast eaters but we do go through phases. The toaster lives in the press and comes out for a few days at a time, either to make proper toast, to toast the cut side of bagels or to brown the inside of burger buns in the summer.

My husband and children love to eat what I call raw porridge - rolled oats with milk and a little sugar. That is their standard weekday breakfast. I am not a fan, much preferring the cooked variety with cream and brown sugar. Not exactly healthy, but better than scoffing a danish in the office at 10am, right?

Fruit / Yogurt with Fruit
All three of my boys are fruit lovers. About half my grocery shop each week is fruit. Some mornings it is all they want. I know it is not all that filling, but as long as they eat, I'm happy. Often they will have natural yogurt or vanilla yogurt with it. Greek yogurt with honey and banana is one of Number Two's favourite combinations.

Overnight Oats
A combination of the above two breaksfasts, this is a recent addition to our breakfast table. So far it has only found favour with me and Number Three. We share a jar in the mornings. I find he eats more when he is eating the same as someone else. Number Three may be only 9 months old, but he does not want to be treated like a baby! 

I make my overnight oats as follows:
Take a jam jar and 1/2 fill it with oats. Add a few spoonfuls of natural yogurt and mix. Pour a few spoonfuls of pureed berries over it and then slice in some banana and top with a spponful of yogurt or puree to stop the banana going brown. Put the lid on and refridgerate overnight. (If you have time) take it out of the fridge about ten minutes before eating so that it is not icy cold. 

Sweet Yeast Plait
Another favourite in our house is plaited yeast bread. I make it for special occasions and sometimes for Sundays. The trick to having this ready for breakfast is to make the dough the night before and leave it in the fridge to prove overnight. You just mix everything together really well, pop it into an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and place it in the fridge. The next morning you just need to divide the dough into three pieces, plait it and bake it. The recipe is the same as this one for Easter Nests. Eaten with homemade jam this is a delicious breakfast. Given that it is all homemade and the sugar content of the bread is much lower than cake, it is not as unhealthy as many a processed breakfast. 

When I was growing up, my mother often made us dropscones for breakfast (they are small, fat pancakes and are not at all scone-like, to clarify for the non-Irish readers). Even though she left for a full day's work as soon as we went off to school, she made the time to throw a batch of these together. I love them and have often mase them for my own children, more at the weekend though. Unfortunately my children prefer proper pancakes - thin and flat, for rolling up. I like pancakes too, but they aresuch a chore to fry ad the fryer (me) either has to eat while she fries or wait till the batter is all used up and sit to eat as everyone else is finishing up.

We invested in a waffle maker about 4 years ago and we just love it. Waffles are reasonably quick to cook, the mixture being along the lines of pancake or muffin batter. Our machine cooks two at a time. You can find my recipe here. While I prefer to make them seldom so they remain a treat, you can make wholewheat, low fat variations of waffles. We top them with whatever is going - blueberries, greek yogurt, honey, homemade jam, cinnamon sugar,... They are always a hit in our house. 

Fresh Rolls, Brezel and Croissants
Here in Germany there are bakeries on every corner. Within three minutes walk of our house there are three bakeries in three different directions. They sell delicious fresh bread rolls, croissants, danishes and traybakes of breakfast cakes (light sponge with almonds or crumble on top). At the weekend we very often pop round the corner and buy ourselves a selection. After 12 years here, the novelty has still not worn off. Even on a school morning I will sometimes pop round the corner to the bakery for brezels for us all. I'm there and back in 6 or 7 minutes. The kids don't even notice I'm gone. 

As you can see, we are not the healthiest breakfast eaters but you won't find a pack of fruit loops, a Rice Crispies Bar or a jar of Nutella on our table. Homemade and fruity sums up our taste in breakfasts, and when we go home to Ireland we binge on fry ups.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

My Random Musings

Friday 26 June 2015

This Week I've Loved - Filming with Number Two

There are times in life when you ask yourself "Why did I do that? It was obviously a bad idea" and then it turns out it wasn't such a bad idea after all. Like me moving to Germany with no money and no job. But twelve years later I am still here, happily married and with three sons and a lovely house.
I had one of those bad idea moments this week, albeit on a much smaller scale. I had a notion to make a yeast bread video tutorial. When I couldn't get my phone to the right angle to film from, I asked Number Two (my almost 5 year old) to hold the phone steady for a few minutes. It started off well but then he decided to get creative and take a few photos of me. As he did so, he chatted and waved the phone about, leaving me a video in need of severe editing. But what I also got were some candid shots of me in the kitchen, just doing what I normally do while baking. Number Two enjoyed filming and photographing as he pleased while I had floury hands.
I loved this shared moment with Number Two, interrupting our usual routine of breakfast, chatting and getting ready for the day by adding a phone set to video mode into the mix.
I never got to re-film the start of the tutorial, but here is what i was able to salvage. If you are interested in the recipe, leave me a comment and I'll post it soon.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

This Week I've Loved

Thursday 25 June 2015

Hugo, How I've Missed You

If there's one thing I love*, it is sitting in my garden sipping a drink on a summer's evening. While I really enjoy a nice cool glass of prosecco, there is something about a cocktail that is more relaxed and summery. One I love is Hugo, a phenomenon here in Germany. Just before my last pregnancy I was beginning to get sick of it. But this summer I have re-discovered it.

It is a combination of prosecco and elderflower syrup over ice with mint and a dash of sparking water. For me it is made all the more enjoyable by the fact that I am using my homemade elderflower syrup and mint from my own herb garden. I almost feel healthy drinking it. 

Per glass you will need:
2 ice cubes
2-3 fresh mint leaves
100ml prosecco or other sparking wine
50ml tonic water (I prefer the taste when made with tonic water rather than mineral water)
1-2 dsp elderflower syrup /cordial, to taste

place the mint in the bottom of the glass and add the ice cubes. Pour the cordial over them. Add the prosecco making sure that it dilutes the cordial. Top up with tonic water. You may need to give it a little stir. Then sit down and enjoy it.

*I'm talking food and drinks love here, not family love, just to be clear.

The Twinkle Diaries

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Our Hall, Stairs and Landing Transformation

When we first moved into our house, we hadn't the time to renovate or decorate anything that didn't need immediate attention. That meant that the dark and gloomy but otherwise fully functional hall, stairs and landing was not a priority. The ugly peach coloured woodchip wallpaper was given a very hasty coat of white emulsion and that was it.  
The dreadful peach walls being painted over.
It was a year before we had time to set to work on it. What kept me going was that I knew it had the potential to be beautiful without costing us a fortune. When we first viewed the house, I fell in love with the old wooden staircase and the shape of the banister. 

The Stairs.
When we finally had the time and the inclination to begin renovating, we began to realise that it was going to be a bigger job than we thought. Stripping the old painted and re-painted woodchip wallpaper was a tough job. Underneath it the walls were a mess. Some were old internal walls, others were old external walls (the hardest to strip) and only one was plasterboard. 

The state of one of the walls when we removed the woodchip wallpaper.

But we'd statrted, so we had to see it through to the end. We got the hall and the wall along the stairs plastered but we decided to keep the woodchip wallpaper on the landing. Now I never imagined I would agree to woodchip wallpaper in my house. I really didn't. But it was relatively new, it came up nicely painted white and we really did not have the endurance it would have taken to strip it. *Maybe* some day. But, I mean look at the angles we would have been dealing with:

After the plaster dried, we painted the whole hall, stairs and landing area white and put in new pre-painted white skirting boards. We also had the stairs painted white with a pale grey handrail. 


White seems a bit mad for a house full of little boys but it was our only option to brighten the gloomy space up. I really wanted a bit of contrast somewhere, so we painted the wall along the stairs a very pale grey with a hint of lavender. Looking directly at it, it looks like white but when you see it against the white of the stairs, you notice the difference.

I was very keen on having a pretty wall-mounted light-fitting at the top of the stairs. I found this one at the online shop Mirabeau and in reality it was even prettier than it seemed online. I love how it finished off the top of the stairs. For weeks after we installed it I would come out to the hall, look up at it and smile. I just adore it.

Since we finsihed all the actual plastering and painting, I have been taking my time with decorating. The landing was particularly tricky because there are three doors as well as the stairs to the hall and another stairs to the attic leading off it. 

To make things even more complicated, there is a sloping ceiling. After much deliberation, we opted for a Hemnes chest of drawers in white from Ikea. It is the right depth and height for that space and offers a lot of storage. Above it we've hung some Irish art we got as wedding presents.

 I  am far from a collector of art, but I do like to have pieces around the house that reflect my/our interests. It gives the place more personality. I'd hate to walk into someone else's house and see that we have entirely the same furnishings, frames and fabrics. Here's a selection of what you'd see around our hall, stairs and landing now. 

A mirror I made from a cupboard door
One of three limited edition children ;)
A print of Pooh and Piglet
Part of Edward Lear's Nonsense Alphabet
My own left hand, painted by my own right hand
We had to take a few  short cuts along the way, but we are happy with how it has turned about. It may not be perfect, but it is comfortable, lived in and a damn sight better than peach woodchip.

Home Etc

Monday 22 June 2015

Multicultural Family Life - Meet the Walsh-Olesens

Because of the fact that we are a family made up of two nationalities, I am always interested to hear how other families in similar situations live their lives. And I thought you might be too. I managed to convince Amber Walsh Olesen to let us in on how her secrets to harmonious multicultural family life. 

Amber hails from Dublin and after living in the US, Portugal, Germany, Sweden and Denmark decided to make Connemara, County Galway her home. She lives there with her Danish husband and two young children. Great food, exploring new places, fresh air, and arts and crafts are what makes her tick.

1.  Tell us a little about your family's background - where you're from, where you've lived, where you are now.
I grew up in Dublin and met my husband, the Dane, when we were both studying at the University of Porto, Portugal. I worked in Stockholm after I graduated and then re-located to Copenhagen, where we lived for six years. We took the plunge and moved to Ireland just as the economy was taking a nose dive. After nine months in Dublin we moved to Connemara, where we’ve been for seven years (feels like less). We now have a little boy aged four and a little girl aged 1.

2. What languages are your children exposed to and how do you juggle these? Do you have a family language you speak at home or does each parent have one language they stick to?
Our children are exposed to English and Danish constantly. It’s never been any other way. I speak English all the time (I only speak Danish when I’m with Danish friends or family), and the Dane only speaks Danish. It’s very consistent, but it must seem very odd to others to hear me speak English and be answered by the Dane in Danish. It works because I understand and speak Danish, but sometimes I do long for a bit of adult conversation in English!

3. What have you noticed about your children's language skills? Have they picked up on both languages equally well?
Our son spoke quite late, but as soon as he began to speak his language skills improved rapidly – it was like flicking a switch. He is completely fluent in Danish now and often talks to the Dane in Danish without thinking about it. I’m jealous of his accent – it’s so authentic! At first he used to sometimes mix up the two languages, but that phase didn’t last very long. Sometimes he uses a Danish word when speaking English if he doesn’t know the English word, or vice versa, but I think he’s quite conscious that he’s doing this. Our son has a real love of Danish and I think it’s because it’s just what he’s been used to hearing right from day one, plus the Dane reads to him a lot (we are seriously good at translating kids books on the go!) and he watches Danish DVDs, hears Danish radio etc.

4. Your husband is Danish. The Danish are often said to be among the happiest nationalities in the world. Have you noticed this? What is it that makes the Danish so happy? Has this any effect on your family life?
Can’t say I’ve noticed it, although I find the Danes fairly laid back and jovial, which means they tend to gel well with the Irish. I know the latest studies link Danish happiness to DNA...I know nothing about DNA(!), but I think a certain amount of their supposed happiness has to do with the relatively high quality of life in Denmark – you know that childcare is of a fairly high quality, you know you can get about the place efficiently on public transport, you know you’re going to be looked after if you’re sick, you know you’ll be taken care of in old age. This certainty simplifies the logistics of life and lets people focus on other things.

5. How different, if at all, would your life be if you lived in Denmark rather than Ireland?
We’d definitely be living in Copenhagen if we were in Denmark, so city life would be a big change to where we live now. In Denmark, there is more support for parents working outside the home. The availability of high-quality childcare would be considerably better and the Dane could have availed of paternity leave – something he would have loved to have done. They have something called ‘barnets foerste sygedag’, where one parent gets the first day off if their child is sick, so small things like that would make life easier. Part-time work is quite accepted and available in Ireland, but not so much in Denmark, so I might be working full-time if we were in Denmark (I currently choose to work four days a week).

6. Have there been any child-rearing differences between you and your husband based on the mentality of your home countries?
I couldn’t help chuckling when I saw this question! Differences over creating a fenced-in play area for our children aside, I think we’re actually very much on the same page. Having lectured in Denmark, I think Danish students come across as quite confident and are well able to get their points of view across. On the other hand, Irish children are much better versed in saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and so on. A good mixture of both would be great, which I suppose is what we’re aspiring to in our multicultural home!

Thanks for sharing your family's story with us, Amber. It sounds like life has worked out well for you, despite the economic downturn just as you made the decision to return to Ireland. 
It is wonderful that your son has such a good grasp of and affinity for Danish. That must be a joy for The Dane and his family when you visit them in Denmark. Fingers crossed your daughter will pick the language up just as easily.
It is interesting to hear that part-time work is not as common in Denmark. Both parents working full time and trying to spend enough time with the children too can be a real challenge. By the sounds of it there would be upsides and downsides for you if you were to relocate to Denmark.
Best of luck with your multicultural family life. May you continue to nurture the best of both nationalities!

[Are you interested in joining the series? Contact me on the contact form on the right. I'd love to hear from you.]
The Twinkle Diaries