Wednesday 30 September 2015

Coat Rail Makeover with Mini Door Knobs

You may or may not already know of my love of bringing new life to old furniture. Sometimes I take it to extremes, taking something that really doesn't have a lot of potential, hidden beauty or any other redeeming features and making something out of it. The Bavarian despairs of me when I refuse to throw out what most people consider rubbish. In the particular case I am going to show you today, the object in question is a broken coat rail that the previous owners of our house left in the cloakroom.

It was the kind of coat rail you can find in any DIY shop for a few quid, made of cheap pine. Of the original six wooden pegs, only four were left. One was very loose. The other three were well secured still. Why bother keeping it? Well, the simple answer is beacuse it might come in handy. The truthful answer is that I cannot accept that something that is not completely irreparable should be dumped because we don't definitely need it right now.

So the rail sat in the cellar for four and a half years until one day in a full-to-bursting trinket shop in Dachau of all places I found the *perfect* knobs to replace the three missing ones. And so the make-over could begin.

To transform my coat rail I needed:
White undercoat suitable for use on wood
Cream satin finish paint
Three small dooor knobs
A drill
A paintbrush

First of all I gave the rail a good cleaning with a damp cloth. It had been in the cellar, so a fair amount of dust and cobwebs had gathered on it.

After that, the whole thing got a coat of white undercoat, knobs and all. After the undercoat had dried, I applied two coats of cream satin finish paint, letting the first coat dry overnight. 
During the painting, the holes for the screws to attach the rail to the wall had become clogged, so these needed drilling through to unclog them. The holes for the screws of the mini door knobs also needed widening, so the drill was used for that job too.

Once the holes has been cleared, the project got to the good part - adding the unique touch. This is the part of renovation projects I love most, making the item my own. 

In this case, I had already selected the knobs. Now I needed to arrange them in the order I wanted. I chose to put the flat-topped knobs to the left and right and place the round-topped knob between two of the original wooden hangers.
Here you can see the rail and knobs in a bit more detail.

Hung on our pale green bedroom wall, the rail has become very handy for scarves, chains or handbags. I am so happy thatit has finally make it out of the cellar and avoided the bin.

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Tuesday 29 September 2015

Finalist in Best Diaspora Blog Category - A Thank You

My dear readers, 

By now I have realised that is is not just my family and close friends that read my blog. There seeems to be a reasonable amount of you out there who pop by now and again for a browse, and for that I am very grateful to you. 

My particular thanks go to those of you who voted for me in the Blog Awards Ireland recently. Your votes counted for 30% of the decision as to whether or not I would qualify as a finalist, having already made it to the longlist and then the shortlist. 

Given that I only began blogging under Three Sons Later in late January, I am delighted to have made it to the finals. Getting further than this would be amazing, but I am truly very happy to have come as far as I have so far. 

So, thanks. I am touched. 

#ClearOutAndEat - A New Food Waste Linky....Coming Soon

One of my least favourite things to do when cleaning the kitchen is throw away food. Very often it is simply laziness that results in food needing to be binned. From leftover soup that wasn't put in the fridge and went off overnight to fruit that went mouldy at the bottom of the fruit bowl, food waste can be avoided with very little effort. 

Luckily, one of my favourite things to do in terms of cleaning the kitchen is to go through the cupboards, freezer and fridge and list all the food we have. It always amazes me how much is there, even on days when I think I simply have to go grocery shopping because there is no food in the house. I then take that list and see what dishes I can cook or bake using what we have and adding as little as possible to my shopping list. 

As well as saving money by buying less groceries, I get to use up all the food in the house and get creative in the kitchen. Some of my regular dishes that result from these clear outs are 
Minestrone and other soups
Stews and casseroles
Banana Bread
Fruit and nut muffins
Homemade Pizza / Baguette Pizza
Puff pastry topped with creme fraiche and roasted vegetables
Macaroni cheese and other pasta bakes

I'd love to hear what you all have to say regarding reducing food waste, so I've decided to start a little linky called #ClearOutAndEat. You can link up anything food waste related, for example
 - tips on using up food
 - how not to buy too much
 - meal planning
 - recipes adaptable to what you have to hand
 - composting food waste
 - recipes for gluts of home grown produce

I'll be hosting #ClearOutAndEat from the beginning of October here and on my recipe blog, My Kitchen Notebook. Please share and tweet and call back in a few days to grab my badge and link up. 

If you're not a blogger but would still like to get involved, leave me a comment here with your tips.

Monday 28 September 2015

To market, to market.....

There are days when life with three can be so very manageable. I have to write this down to remind myself of the fact since it is often the chaotic, stressful, disaster days that are foremost in my mind when I consider taking the boys out alone.

Yesterday was one of the good days though; the days when I am not the frowning, shouting mammy but the relaxed, easy going one who makes having a day out alone with three small boys look like a doddle. 

The poor Bavarian had to work at a trade show and I was tempted to plonk the boys in front of the TV for the morning. But at heart I am anti TV and pro activity. I couldn't bring myself to give in to a duvet and pj day in front of the telly, especially when the weather was forecast to be good. 

And so Saturday morning saw us load the kids into the car at 8am and drive to the trade show to drop off The Bavarian. Being just on the outskirts of Karlsuhe, I decided we should visit one of the Saturday markets and have breakfast there, rather then head straight home. What a good decision that turned out to be! 

After several laps of Gutenbergplatz, we found a parking space and walked back to the market. Number Three was snoozing happily in the sling, I had a shopping basket with me, cash in my wallet and a son's hand in each of mine. 
The corner of the square we arrived at is the one with the fountain, so we started off by throwing in pennies and making wishes. We then began the important task of deciding what to buy for our picnic breakfast. My boys are good eaters, so we had no problem finding food they liked. Pretty soon we had a basket of food, drinks in our hands and were on the lookout for a bench.

Bench found, we tucked in, chatted and people watched. I wallowed in the happiness I found in watching the boys enjoy themselves and in the admiring glances we got, being taken for a model family. 

Behind our bench was a flower bed. Number One and Number Two had a little inpromptu nature lesson, pointing out to me the mushrooms that had sprouted up between the shrubs and the snails nestled on the leaves of the plants.

I had visions of interest being lost once the food was eaten and the hot chocolate drunk, but happily I was wrong. The colours, sounds and sights of the market kept them entertained and we had great chats about the food on sale as we wandered between the stalls. Number One can read quite well now and was reading signs all over the place. "There is fresh fish from the Black Forest Mammy", "This honey is made from rosemary, look!". Number Two was amazed at the quantities of some types of fruit, like the damson-like plums, the pumpkins and the qunice that are in season at the moment.

Then there were the gasps of wonder and of disgust at some of the produce, like the mushroom varieties they had never seen before and the heads of romanesco.
The morning went so well, I honestly couldn't have hoped for better. We shopped, ate, chatted, spent time in the fresh air, learned about plants, did sums in our heads as we sorted our coins to pay the sellers. I never asked what the children wished for at the fountain, But I know that next time we visit the market, I'll be wishing for another day as happy and relaxed as this one was.

My Random Musings

The Twinkle Diaries

Sunday 27 September 2015

Friday 25 September 2015

Making an Owl Window or Wall Decoration

I've stolen a craft idea from kindergarten and I am going to share it with you today - paper owls with leaf wings.
My own darling children didn't feel like making these, but I thought they were very cute. Number Three pitched in a little, pinching the scissors and glue every now and again, just to keep me on my toes, and Number One and Two collected the leaves for the wings, but they left the actual craft bit up to me.

Here's what you will need:
Coloured card for the owl bodies
White and black card for the eyes
Orange card for the beaks
Brown card for the tree (optional)
A black marker pen
Sticky tape
Step 1: Using a saucer, draw circles on the coloured card. These will form the bodies of the owls, so you need one circle per owl. 

Step 2: Cut out the circles.

Step 3: Cut out circles of black and white card for the eyes. You need a small white circle and a slightly larger black circle per eye. 

Step 4: Cut out one triangle of orange card per owl for the beak. The diameter of the white of the eye should be the width of the widest part of the beak.

Step 5: Glue the white of the eyes to the black circles. Then use the black marker pen to draw a black dot in the white of each eye, as shown in the photo below.
Step 6: Glue the eyes and beak onto each body. 

Step 7: Glue a leaf on either side of each owl's body for the wings. 

Step 8: Per owl, cut out two small triangles of coloured card and tape these to the back of each owl's head as ears.

 Step 9: (Optional) Cut out a tree shape from the brown card. Tape it to a wall or window. Then arrange the owls on the branches and tape any remaining leaves to the tree and around the bottom of the trunk.

The Twinkle Diaries

My Go-To Blogs

The more I blog, share and read, the more I realise that I have gathered several go-to blogs depending on the mood I am in.

For common sense I pop by these two to see what Andrea and Helen have to say:
Office Mum
The Busy Mama's Adventures

For artsy stuff, I open up Emily's inspirational blog.

The Nest

For recipes, foody chat and food photography tips, I drop by these two lovely ladies, Mel and Charlotte.

Le Coin De Mel
Charlotte's Lively Kitchen

For general loveliness, interiors and a good read, I really enjoy Caro's blog.

The Twinkle Diaries

For laughs, I can always reply on The Mama and The Zen Mama.
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
Mama Zen Blog

What are your current favourites and why? I'd love to know.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Making Homemade Elderberry Syrup and Jelly

Have you ever had homemade elderberry syrup? If the answer is no, then you'd better read on and see about changing it to a yes quick smart because it is absolutely delicious and incredibly good for you. 
Until a few years ago I always thought that making jellies and syrups was much more complicated than making jam, but it is really simple. OK, so there are more steps to it, but they are easy steps. This is a great one to get  the children involved in because there are plenty of activities in it that do not involve boiling fruit and sugar as you do for jam. First of all there is the foraging for berries, then picking them off the stems. Once the berries have been cooked, the children can press them through a sieve to extract the juice. The boiling and bottling are too dangerous to have children involved in due to the heat, but they can decorate labels for the bottles and jars while you boil and bottle. 

You may be thinking to yourself, right, it is tasty and good for me, but what do I do with it then? Well, basically, loads. 
You can use it as a cordial and add it to all sorts of drinks.
You can literally spoon-feed it to the whole family as a tonic. My children call it elderberry medicine and can't wait for their daily spoonful before school each morning. 

You can drizzle it over natural yogurt. 
One tip here - always make sure that you pick the right bottle out of the frige and don't make the same mistake The Bavarian did last winter. He accidentally poured mulled wine over the children's breakfast yogurt because I had bottled the leftover mulled wine from the previous evening and put it into the fridge. Same type bottle, same colour liquid. Luckily the children notced the funny smell before eating. 
You can make it into elderberry jelly to use on bread, in cakes or biscuits

 So what are you waiting for? Grab you kids, coat and wellies and get foraging. 

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Making an Autumn Wreath and A Centrepiece

Recently I started volunteering a bit more at Number One's primary school. Today was my first day lending a helping hand in the classroom and do you know what, I actually learned something. I know they say you learn something new every day and I know I do almost every day. But being back in a classroom and hearing a teacher say something I didn't know was a bit of a throwback. 

To cut a long story short, what I learned was that today, 23rd September 2015, is the autumnal equinox. I had planned to post something completely different here today, but given my newly aquired knowledge, I feel it apt to share something autumnal. 

On returning from the school, I did a quick bit of gardening. Well, weeding really. Badly needed weeding, if I am honest. My German neighbours put me to shame with their neat front gardens and their weeded and swept footpaths. As a little reward to myself when the weeding was done, I snipped a few branches from the rosebush and gathered up some fallen leaves and walnuts from the patio with the aim of making a table decoration or wreath to bring a bit of Autumn feeling into the house.

To the material I had gathered outside I added the following:
some garden wire
a large three-wicked candle
a straight-sided glass bowl
some red and white bakers' twine
some buttons
an embroidery ring
a decorative scissors
washi tape
And a cup of coffee. Then I got to work, with Number Three only too eager to lend a helping hand, especially when it came to getting his hands on the secateurs or the candle, in true toddler fashion.

To Make a Traditional Decorative Wreath
Cut a length of wire. I used a piece approximately 40cm long. Wind it around a branch of the rosebush with plenty of rosehips on it. 

Then form the branch to a circle and wind the two ends of wire together to hold it in place. Look at both sides and decide which is the front and which is the back of your wreath. Next cut a length of twine and wind this around the wreath, arranging and fastening the leaves and rosehips in place at the front as you go. Tie both ends of the twine together. Now decide which end is up and loop a ribbon around that part. I tend to choose the barest-looking patch of the wreath as the top. The ribbon disguises it. 
At this stage you can, if you choose to, add some other elements. I added some of the walnuts from our garden but you could use acorns, chestnuts or a few crisp, dry leaves. 

Apart from the fact that we have an abundance of walnuts, I love that when carefully cracked they reveal a heart shape.

To Make a Craft-Themed Wreath
Having finished one wreath with a toddler running round me, I thought I might as well use up some more of my material and make a second one. This time round I went for a craft-theme. 

As a base for the wreath I used my embroidery ring. I wound a small rose twig around one side, with the rosehips hanging at six o'clock, if you get me. Then I fastened it in place with bakers' twine. Still using the twine, I threaded a couple of buttons and a small decorative scissors onto it and stretched this across the ring a couple of times. With the end of the twine I made a loop for hanging the wreath from. As a finishing touch I tore a length of washi tape and added it across the centre.

To Make a Centrepiece
While I was fiddling round with nuts and rosehips anyway, I thought I'd make a nice autumnal centrepiece to brighten up the kitchen table.
I started by placing my candle in the centre of the glass bowl. Then I twisted lengths of rosebush around it.
I scattered walnuts in among the rosehips and then added a couple of apples from our apple tree to complete the autumn look. 

These don't take a whole lot of time to make, especially the centrepiece, which can be thrown together in a matter of minutes. But they do bring an instant bit of seasonal feel to a room or entrance hall. 
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