Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas from Clan McGonk!


Santa McGonk popped in for a mince pie last night and was able to watch the other McGonks crowding around their Christmas clootie dumpling.
Hope you all have a fabulous Christmas.

Monday, 24 December 2012

McGonks' Christmas Clootie Dumpling

Traditional Scottish Clootie Dumpling

It's Christmas Eve here in Scotland and that means one thing for McGonks - the making of the Christmas clootie dumpling!
What is a 'clootie dumpling', you may well ask. Well, a 'cloot' is a cloth and the dumpling is the cakey goodness that gets boiled inside it to make pudding to have as part of the Christmas dinner. It's a really easy recipe and you can mix and match anything you like into the basic 'goo'. We use raisins or sultanas, but you might choose to include chopped nuts, glace cherries, dried mixed fruit or even grated vegetables, seeds or grains. Our 'secret' family recipe can be found here.
We sent one of the junior McGonks to fetch the cloot this morning and that was when panic struck the tiny, furry inhabitants of Thrift Cottage - they couldn't find the pudding cloth!
"Fear not," declared the wise, red King Ruaidhri, "we'll make a new one!"
With that, he began giving instructions to little 'Rory', while the other McGonks scurried around Thrift Cottage looking for suitable materials.
We still aren't sure if this will work, but we're trying using a freebie pillowslip that had never been used. It's more of a pillow protector than an actual cotton pillow cover, so it remains to be seen if it will hold the Christmas dumpling together for long enough to cook it! We cut our circle the exact same way we do the Tam o'Shanters, only on a much larger scale! Then we'd to rinse it and scald it in boiling water to ensure it was clean. So far, so good - it didn't disintegrate in the boiling water! (McGonks were banished from the area during the use of scalding water.)

Flour, suet, sugar, spices, raisins, syrup and treacle - these all need to be weighed and then mixed together with some milk to turn it into pudding goo! Ruaidhri junior had great fun bouncing about the bowls, jars and tins, making sure all the right ingredients got added in the right combination and in the right quantities. He was most helpful, only falling into the pudding bowl once - thankfully before the ingredients went into it!
Once it was ready to mix with the milk, things go a little bit too sticky and messy for 'Rory' junior, so he was asked to stand back and observe from a safer distance.
The pudding got stirred and mixed, stirred and mixed, adding the milk little by little so it didn't turn into a soggy, muddy looking mess. Once it looked good - not too gloopy, not too doughy, the cloot got rung out so it was nice and damp, laid inside a big bowl and then a sprinkling of flour added, which clung to the damp cloth like frost around a freezing glen.
The pudding mix was then poured, scraping every last morsel into the 'cloot', then it got tied firmly, with enough space for the goo to slowly turn into a big dumpling. You have to be firm and strict with dumplings! They must be tied in tightly, lest thye attempt to escape or, worse still, break free!
Now we have ten McGonks sitting patiently waiting for the dumpling to bump, bubble and boil in the big pan of water, but they'll need to be patient. The dumpling won't be ready to unwrap for at least 3 hours! Let's just hope that it doesn't burst out of its thrifty, homemade cloot before that!
With some festive luck, we'll be back later to update you on progress and, hopefully, with a photo of the McGonks' first attempts at making their own Christmas clootie dumpling!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

McHaggis McGonk's ADVENT-ures

A Gingerbread ADVENTure for McHaggis McGonk

As Christmas approaches, the McGonks have all been getting more and more excited! They couldn't wait to get the tree decorated and then all crowded around to have their photograph taken.

Excitement is probably too tame a word to use at this festive time, as there have been so many things happening, some of them HUGE!

Several McGonks have now left on their Christmas travels and we've sent one to Aberdeenshire, where one of the relatives seems to be partying just a bit too much!

Shortly after the above photo was taken, little 'Beag' disappeared! He is such a naughty micro-McGonk! We searched high and low, until we finally found him in the most obvious of places... Beag loves to climb trees!

The biggest international McGonk news is that 'Duncan McGonk' (#I) has set off on his exciting adventure that will lead him to EGYPT!

The name 'Duncan' derives from the gaelic word meaning 'brown warrior', so I do hope he behaves himself and doesn't get into any confrontations with camels or the like.

Duncan McGonk
Duncan McGonk is going to live in Egypt, so watch out for future tales of his trips along the Nile or visits to the Pyramids, Imagine that! A little piece of Scotland all the way out there in Egypt, by way of a Galloway McGonk. How exciting!

But that wasn't the only excitement of the past week or so, oh no, not by a long chalk!

We also saw the arrival and departure of McHaggis McGonk, a rather dashing chap who received news of his mission earlier this week.

The gingerbread Nativity
McHaggis McGonk has, since, been whisked away to Wigtown, Scotland's national book town. This is him standing guard over the beautiful gingerbread Nativity, during his big ADVENTure. McHaggis has gone to live in the Manse and will be helping *Renita* with her storytelling and entertaining the local childen. Hopefully, he'll be introducing them to 'Frugal Fun' in Febrary 2013...

Well, that was the simple plan, but then we were alerted to a rather alarming misshap that had occured while McHaggis was watching all the delicious gingerbread making and decorating! He decided to go for a swim in the frosting and has had to have a bath and a blow dry! Oh dear! I am so glad we opted to fill him with lovely fluffy stuffing rather than shredded paper, otherwise he could have been trying to play papier mache McGonks, especially if he'd been near flour! We hope he recovers very soon - perhaps he thought it was snow and wanted to go sledging!

Chilli McGonk
As if all of the above wasn't exciting enough, Clan McGonk decided to put their heads together to come up with something unusual for someone local who has a passion for chillies! She kindly brought us a jar of her luxury *Galloway Chilli Jam* ... and we absolutely love it - with absolutely anything and everything!

However, being inhabitants of Thrift Cottage, living within the lands of Frugaldom, the purchase of such luxury items doesn't fall within the reaches of a thrifty spender, so we called upon the help of one firey, Scottish red head - Chilli McGonk! Hopefully, he will be attending the Wigtown Christmas Fair as an ambassador for Frugaldom. Of course, you can guess what this all means! Can't you?

It means that this Saturday, there will be both (Mc)Haggis and Chilli McGonks in Wigtown and that could make for a very interesting combination if the two should happen to meet. Perhaps we'll leave that one for closer to Burn's Night!
(Edited in: Chilli McGonk stayed with us for Christmas, so didn't make it to Wigtown.)

That's it for now but stay tuned for all the latest McGonk news and updates. We've now introduced the new 'About' page along with a 'Contact' page. These should provide any information you require.

Until next time,
Ruaidhri 'the red king' McGonk

*You can find out how the children and Renita made the gingerbread Nativity by visiting www.facebook.com/RenitaBoyleBibleTalesAndTunes

** You can see the actual Galloway Chilli Jam logo by visiting www.facebook.com/GallowayChillies

Friday, 14 December 2012

How to... Make a Tam o'Shanter for your McGonk

Scottish Clan McGonk 'How To...' Guides

Now that you have your wee frugal friend, the Scottish McGonk, you'll need a Tam o'Shanter (traditional Scottish hat), so here's the instructions for an easy to make and very frugal version.

  • An offcut of tartan or tweed coloured material
  • Pompom
  • Scissors
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Glue
Tartan material always makes the best Tam o'Shanter
Cut a piece of fabric approximately 17cm square
Fold it into a triangle - 3 folds is usually enough
Trim from corner to corner with circular edges, like a slice of pie
Unfold the 'pie piece' and you should have a rough circle
Keep all your trimmings, as these can be used for stuffing
Find a pompom, or else you could make a tiny one from wool
I was lucky enough to have been given this pompom edging, so I have been cutting the pompoms from that to attach onto the tops of the Tam o'Shanters.

Stitch around the edge of the circle of material. Once you have stitched all the way round, draw the thread tight, so it pulls the fabric together like purse-strings drawing a money bag.

Stitch the folds together around the centre on the underside and this will give you the small, circular hat. Tie the thread off firmly and that's it - all that's needed now is the pompom glued or stitched to the top and hey, presto! A mini Tam o'Shanter for your newly made McGonk. You can either stitch it on or, as I do, glue it in place.

You can use any fabric at all for making the McGonk hats. I use a pastel shade or flowery cotton for the lady McGonks as this gives them little mop caps. (Tam o'Shanters are, or were, normally only worn by the men.)

Have fun making your McGonk and please remember to take a photo and share it with us on the Clan McGonk fan page on Facebook. It can be found at www.facebook.com/ClanMcGonk

Now you are all ready to join the fun in 2013, taking McGonks wherever you go and photographing them. Next year, we'll have an exciting set of competitions for McGonk owners as we follow the explouts of our furry, frugal little friends as they branch out and spread around the globe.

If you'd prefer to buy a handmade Scottish McGonk, I will happily make one for you and list it in the new frugal store, along with any others I have available. Check out the Frugal Shop at www.frugalshop.co.uk

Watch out, McGonks about! and they're hopefully coming to a town near you.

Ruaidhri McGonk
The Red King

How to... Make your own Frugal McGonk in 10 Easy Steps

How to Make a Frugal McGonk

Please remember that the McGonks are not toys.
Children should always be supervised when crafting.
Some people accuse us Scots of being mean, but we prefer to think of ourselves as frugal. We try to lead a 'waste not, want not' lifestyle here at Thrift Cottage, so every little bit of anything counts in the quest for frugal fun.
If you have anything left over that can be made into something else, then it can be rather fun getting crafty and making the most of what you've got.
This is the part 1 of 2, showing you in easy to follow steps how to make your very own McGonk using nothing more than bits, bobs, scraps and offcuts.
  • Offcut of fleece or furry fabric, approximately 12cm x 24cm
  • Small piece of black felt, fabric or cardboard
  • Small piece of white felt, fabric or cardboard
  • Button for nose
  • Oblong piece of firm cardboard for base
  • Needle and thread

STEP 1 - Gather your materials together.
STEP 2 - Lay out your fabric then fold it in half, so the fur is inside.
STEP 3 - Stitch along both edges to form the body, leaving the bottom open.
STEP 4 - Turn the fabric inside out, this is the body of your frugal mcgonk.
STEP 5 - Prepare your stuffing - I just shred some old paper but you can use anything available.
STEP 6 - Stuff the body of the frugal mcgonk, leaving about 1cm at the end.
STEP 7 - Stitch around the edge and then draw the thread tight to pull the ends together before stitching this all flat.
STEP 8 - Cut your cardboard base into an oval shape - I include a nick in the middle to make the front edge look like mcgonk's feet.

STEP 9 - Glue the cardboard base onto the bottom of your frugal mcgonk so it stands upright on its own. (I use my hot glue gun for this but any glue should do.
STEP 10 - Cut two ovals about the width of a penny from black card/fabric/felt and two much smaller circles from the white. Glue these onto the mcgonk, along with a button for a nose. You can also use smaller buttons for eyes - this one has beads in the middle of its felt eyes for a good reason.

Hoots, maun, there's a moose, loose, aboot this hoose... and Owl McGonk has spotted it!
In the next part, I'll show you a quick and easy way to make your frugal McGonk friend a bonny Tam o'Shanter hat.
Until then, 
Frugaldom. :)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Beag's Sunny, Sunday Mini Adventure


In the Gaelic language, the word 'beag' means small. As expected, the way we say the word depends on our dialects and accents, so to make things easy, it sounds quite like 'BUG'. Personally, I think it's a fantastic name for any of the micro McGonks!

This is Beag (Bug). He's grey, measures about 6cm high, has a pink button nose, pink felt 'shoes' and wears a blue tartan Tam o' Shanter with a tiny white pompom on top. Beag McGonks are great, they can be clipped onto almost anything and go anywhere without causing too much of a fuss - handbags, keys, zippers, bicycles...
But first, a little bit about Tam o' Shanter:

Tam o' Shanter is the character in a very famous poem of the same name written by Robert Burns. (You can find the poem in its entirety HERE.) Rabbie Burns, as he's commonly referred to, is possibly Scotland's most famous and influential poet. His birthday is celebrated every year on 25th January on "Burns' Night", when all good McGonks eat the customary haggis, neaps and tatties (haggis, turnip and potatoes) for dinner. Official Burns' Supper events are held all around the country and wherever else you find McGonks - I mean Scots! The Tam o'Shanter hat is the flat tartan cap that was often worn by Scotsmen of that time and so-named after the poem's main character, Tam.
Today the sun shone and the outdoors beckoned. Beag McGonk couldn't really go for a gallop on his trusty steed, Black Bess, so he donned his Tam o'Shanter, wrapped up against the blustering wind, hitched up the bike and had a wander along the local lanes. The views on such days can literally blow you away, but there really wasn't much to see by way of life - no cows, no sheep, no birds flying overhead, no herons by the stream. In fact, not a soul in sight - so nobody to spy Beag as went secretly exploring.
First stop was a signpost. There was still nobody about, so Beag climbed right to the top to see if he could see any signs of life further afield. Scrambling up, blown all ways by the blustery winds, he almost lost his balance more than once! He finally made it to the top and scrutinised the panoramic views for signs of life. Unbelievably, on such a glorious day, there still wasn't a soul in site, not even the hare that's usually bouncing around the adjacent field! But then he spotted a fabulous, huge tree, leaf-less and begging to be climbed!
Beag Mcgonk up the treeBack on the bikes, we cycled a little further along the lane until Beag stopped by a prickly looking clump of winter-bare hedging. Off the bike, stumbling through the grass he went, scaling the gnarled, twisting branches with a definite mission in mind. Once he'd reached a particular spot in his chosen 'tree', Beag stopped, looked all around and then peered anxiously downwards. Following his gaze, I spotted the long, slender, pointed looking branch he was eyeing.
Just at that exact minute, I heard a yell and watched as Beag leapt clean off his resting place and then hooked the branch below in one death-defying action. Off he went, swinging along, shouting with glee as he flew through the air, almost as though on a magic zip-wire, sliding his way in a flash to the base of the branch. What a naughty little McGonk he is! If this is the kind of exploits the micro-McGonks are going to get up to then I really don't know how the red king Rory or any of the others are going to cope!
Still, Beag seemed as proud as Punch with his flying trapeze act and was quite happy to settle back onto the bike and come home afterwards. Phew! First mini-adventure over without mishap and we all got some fresh air and exercise into the bargain.
Back home, there was a lovely bowl of hot, steaming lentil soup waiting and a room full of McGonks wanting to see the photos of the day's mini-adventure. Sending the littlest member of the clan out as a scout seemed like a good idea at the time, but he didn't quite grasp the concept of surveying the lie of the land. Perhaps next time he'll concentrate more on his mission than playing at swinging from trees.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Clan McGonk Welcomes You All

Welcome to Clan McGonk!

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a clan of Scottish gonks, many of them known as McGonks. As the years passed, new rulers and new rules came to the lands of Scottish gonks and this, in turn, saw the demise of these tough, hardly little creatures. In fact, many of them had to go into hiding! They searched out the darkest recesses, hiding out until long forgotten. For many, they found themselves confined to the realms of understair cupboards, boxrooms and even BINS!

McGonks were never meant to be toys - although there were gonk toys. McGonks, for me, were a token reminder (and very hard reminder, if inadvertently hit by one) of the hardy Scots and their tough ways of surviving a cold and, for many, inhospitable environment. Wastefulness was everywhere and the humans wanted bigger and better 'playthings'.

By the late 1990's, simply, frugal little gonks were a thing of the past - overtaken by the techno-furry, whizzkid known as the Furby! Now, once again, the fabulous techno-Furby has resurfaced, but we're ready for them this time!

Archie McGonk says,
"Fun can be frugal, fun can be free, you don't need a fortune to have fun with me!"

The ancient tribes of McGonks were never overly adventurous, that seems to have been their problem. Brave, yes, without doubt, but not as adventurous as our modern-day heroes. But nowadays, a McGonk can go almost anywhere, be it by horseback, bicycle, plane, train or automobile. In fact, once you have a McGonk as a friend, it will willingly accompany you almost anywhere you want to go.

Clan McGonk is ruled firmly, but fairly, by the red king. Being of Scottish descent, many of the clan names are of old Celtic or Gaelic origin, so Ruaidhri McGonk is well named. Ruaidhri ('Rory' to you and I) means 'red king'. He has set up home, along with many of his kinsfolk, in Thrift Cottage. His sidekick, Bhreac, is easily spotted and never mistaken. (Bhreac is gaelic for speckled.)

McGonks are very frugal - they hate waste and try to make the most of everything they find, recycling everything from bottle tops to buttons, scraps of fabric, cardboard and even shredded paper. They love recycling! In fact, they even have pet worms to help recycle the mealtime scraps into 'worm juice' plant food, which can then be used to feed the fruit trees and vegetable plants.

Thrift Cottage lies in the heart of the tiny kingdom of Frugaldom, which lies along an ancient hill ridge in the Machars area of Galloway, southwest Scotland. It is from here that they have succeeded in re-establishing a small clan of McGonks, one that is growing steadily, ady by day. Indeed, several have already left and are on their way to investigate other corners of Britain.

Right now, Angus McGonk is preparing to set off and amke his way even further afield... across land and sea, sand and surf, all the way to Egypt!

During the coming months, years and, possibly, decades, we will be following these adventures, recording the trials and tribulations of the various McGonks as they set out to conquer the 21st Century world. It's sure to be a rollercoaster ride but it is one in which ANYONE can take part. All you need is your own McGonk.

We have already set up the McGonks Adoption Agency at http://frugaldom.ebid.net but if you would prefer to make your own, then check back here soon to become part of our 'make a McGonk workshop. It will be online here, free for anyone to enjoy.

We'll be back very soon with more news of Clan McGonk and details of the free workshop. In the meantime, you can subscribe to this blog and come visit Clan McGonk on Facebook, where you can add your own McGonk photos and news. There's also a McGonks website at www.mcgonks.com that should make it easier for folks to remember where to find us.

Until next time x