Aberdeen, Inverurie, and a Delightful 'Find'

As y'all may know, Mum and Dad have been out in Aberdeenshire with us for this week. It's been so good having them here, and so good for them, too, to see where we are living, to realise it really isn't so far away after all, and to simply chill out with us for a few days.

Inverurie is a lovely wee town for browsing. (We actually spent today shopping in Aberdeen, and even my Mum had had enough after about four hours.)

My Mum 'having had enough' of shopping is practically unheard of. She is a kind of shop-or-browse-until-you-drop kinda gal. I am not. I simply don't get the pleasure in going around shops, whether to browse or to buy. If I need something, I would love to have someone find it for me and it arrive on my doorstep without my ever needing to walk through shop door. And as for browsing .... gimme strength, folks, do people actually do that for fun??

Anyway, back to Inverurie. A girl at Katie's work had recommended a wee cafe, called The Dormouse & Teacup. Four days ago, on our first trip into Inverurie, we asked for directions to this establishment, and within seconds of stepping in the door, we were smitten!

Our tea was served from this pot and into this cup and saucer. How could we not be smitten?!

On that first day, Mum had a pancake (even the strawberry jam is home made), followed by a Raspberry and Coconut sponge. Along with my cuppa, I had Lemon, Lime and Coconut sponge. And my Dad had a Victoria Sponge. 

All were home made and were absolutely delicious. Dad's cappuccino and Calum Stewart's Latte were also spot on. But even better than the yummy baking was the fabulous staff. They were so lovely and made what would have been a pleasant enough afternoon cuppa into something much more.

The following day, when we visited again for our afternoon cuppa-and-cake, we met not only Lucy, who runs the cutely named establishment, but also her husband. Seeing I had Calum Stewart's mobile in my hand, and I'd already spent at least three minutes getting a selfie of myself, Mum, and Dad, I asked Lucy and her husband to join me for another selfie.

(CS reckons I took about seven minutes attempting my first selfie, but we reckon he's prone to exaggeration.)

Here's Lucy and her hubby. If you're ever in Inverurie, drop in. The Dormouse & Teacup opened about a year ago, after they'd come up with the idea whilst on a date night, and spent almost a year planning and preparing for the actual opening. I do love hearing of business enterprises that have been thought up, been planned, and are now being successfully run by folks who love what they do.

Below is the first selfie I took. This, just to prove to y'all that I did it. Successfully.

We had such a laugh that day. It was my birthday and somehow that was mentioned in one of our blethers with Lucy and the waitress. It was said that I was in my 50th year, and so the dear ladies there secretly piped melted chocolate on a place and stuck a candle in a gorgeous salted caramel macaroon!

I'm aware that a picture speaks a thousand words, so I want to tell y'all very loudly that I was forty-nine this week, not fifty. And yet, I'm pretty sure that if I'm around for my 50th next year, some of you will be saying, "I'm sure I remember her being 50 last year".  Aye, you will.... you just wait and see.

Well, poor Lucy was so embarrassed that she'd got my age wrong, but I assured her that her guess work was pretty good and that I wasn't in the slightest offended that she reckoned I looked fifty.

Nope, not in the slightest.

And to prove it, I even came back with Mum and Dad the following day! This time we came for lunch, and even though I don't have photos of the food (I know - unforgivable, considering I blog), I have to tell you that Dad's Warm Smoked Salmon Salad was out of this world. Its presentation, which we all saw, and its taste, for which only Dad can vouch (yeah, I know, he didn't even offer me a taste. Disgraceful.) were equally delightful. My Sweet Potato and Roasted Pepper Soup was everything a soup ought to be. 
Tasty. Warming. Perfect.

And so, will we be returning for more lunches, more teas and cakes, and undoubtedly more chat and laughter. Having had a taste of Aberdeen, I am delighted to hear Mum sing the praises of Inverurie as 'where I want to shop from now on'. When it comes to shopping, small towns are so much more enjoyable than cities. I like the pace at which they go. I like the smaller shops, in which staff often have a vested interest in the success of the business. I do love finding - and will have to spend some proper time looking for - a local greengrocer, baker, and butcher ... even though I do have to admit to having had my folks bring out white pudding and beef sausages from my favourite Stornoway butcher. I do love 'Willie MacLeod's sausages', and in all our years in Glasgow before moving back home, I never bought a sausage in the city. Every time we came home, or when anyone was coming to visit us in Glasgow, our freezer would end up loaded with these Stornoway sausages. It would seem that tradition is going to carry on now that we've moved away from home again.

Still, Inverurie has an interesting array of shops, and as far as shopping can be enjoyable, this is my kind of browsing.

Aren't we so blessed to have such opportunities for fun, laughter, and enjoyment in our lives. What gifts these things are from God. When we hear of such devastation and such evil taking place in other nations and cities, we can only praise God in the words of the Psalmist: "Unto me the lines have fallen in very pleasant places."

Certainly, I can say these words, and I'm sure so many of you can too. As we approach this season of Thanksgiving, I do wish I could truly say that I was as thankful over this past year as I ought to have been. So many big things for which to give thanks. And so many 'little' things too. 


Another Family Wedding

 The Builder's Baby Brother got married last week. 

It was such a joyful event for our families. 

And aren't they simply the handsomest couple you've ever seen? 

(Doesn't that sound sufficiently Mrs Bennett-esque. It's really quite an achievement when one begins to sound like Mrs B without even trying. Or maybe a worry, rather than achievement.)

Either way, they are a wonderful looking pair. 

Just as all the guests were lining up for a group photo, I was able to sneak this photo of the bride's hair. Isn't it gorgeous :)

*      *      *

Instead of a traditional wedding cake, they had this impressive stack of macaroons.

Ohhhhh. Yum.

Raspberry macaroons, pistachio, salted caramel, chocolate orange .... the list goes on and on. 

So did our eating of them.

*      *      *

The wedding also gave us the opportunity to get a photo of ALL the cousins.

Don't they look fab?!

Although, I have to be honest .... it took some work to get them all looking so, erm, presentable.

First we had this ...

and then we had this ...

C'mon, folks, third time lucky, eh?

Maybe not. As I say, it took a while, but eventually we were able to get them all looking reasonable.

More than reasonable, wouldn't y'all say. These guys are such a wonderful bunch of kids. It's so hard for us to have taken our Wee Guy - sorry, Calum Stewart (I'm still not used to calling him by his name!) so far away from them. I'm concerned he'll end up needing therapy as the years go on. Or even worse, that he'll be putting us in an old folks' home when we're old as a punishment. 

Oh well, we'll always have DR, Catherine, and Katie to look after us. Isn't that right, kiddos?

And talking of kiddos...

My boys were there ...

And my girls were there ...

and our new kiddo too. Everyone was there, and so I was in my happy place.

*      *      *

After the speeches, and the meal, everyone gathered for some music and dance.

Here are the Bride and Groom taking part in one of the the Eightsome reels. Not many folks could dance a Scottish Strip the Willow that elegantly in such a dress. 

Of course, I would be just as elegant. But I know y'all know that anyway. 

Yeah. Right.

Another Strip the Willow. Such fun!

And here are Stewart and Marie, this time taking part in a Virginian Barn Dance. 

With a name like that, who could not love it!

What blessings we have in our lives! Marriage is such a God-given blessing, and families are such a God-given blessing. Last Friday we were able to be part of both these wonderful gifts our loving Creator has given us. We thank Him for marriage and for families; for siblings and for nieces and nephews; and for times of joy, when we rejoice with them who do rejoice (Romans 12:15).


A Saturday Afternoon of Baking and of Trees

Now, just because space is limited in my new kitchen compared with my old kitchen, that is no excuse not to have baking in for the Builder. In fact, no excuse is any excuse for not having baking in, isn't that right?

Yup, it is. And anyone who looks that good in a kilt can make any demands of me. 

Apologies. I digress. We were baking, weren't we?

Space is limited, and I had a bit of, erm, fun finding a place in which to put the bowl and the waiting cake tins. Having this kind of kitchen space takes me back to when we were first married and living in Glasgow. 

In Ness, I used to take all the ingredients for a recipe out and have them all to hand beside me. You all remember the island in my kitchen, right? Now, I take each ingredient out of the cupboard and jolly well get it back in there before taking the next ingredient out! 

Lemon loaves never go wrong, and the recipe I use is an old favourite from the Free Church cookbook. I blogged the recipe here.

I also made The Pioneer  Woman's Pumpkin Sheet cake. I love this sheet cake, topped with cream cheese icing. The recipes are found here, on PW's wonderful site.

If you make this sheet cake, please make sure you top it with the cream cheese icing. It's seriously, deliciously moreish.

In between loaves being in the oven and sheet cakes cooling down, I took my camera outside to snap a couple of shots of the beautiful trees in front of the cottage.

Did I already mention we have trees here in this neck of the woods?

Lots and lots of trees.

Right now, they are full of the variety that Autumn gives.

In fact, because they are so lovely and because they change almost every day, and because the lower Autumnal sunlight adds warmth to their beauty, I am almost inclined to forgive them for blocking so much of the spectacular countryside from my view.

I cropped this photo, just so you'd get a glimpse of what's hidden behind the trees. You see now why it's hard to love them being there ....

But now you see why they're so easy to forgive. They are a delight.

And now back in for a cuppa and some of the lemon loaf. As you can see, I need to be quick, given that the Builder and the Wee Guy were nibbling whilst I was snapping.

'If you snooze you lose', is their motto.


Sunshine, Trees, a Walk, and Some Stunning Scenery

Our cottage sits on the side of a hill. From the front of the cottage, we look down the hill - primarily at trees, albeit beautifully coloured trees at this time of year. And so the trees are forgiven for hiding the countryside beyond.

However, today we headed out the back of the house ...

and into the wooded area behind the cottage.

The sun was shining, it was the mildest of November days, and Katie and Calum Stewart  persuaded me to head out into the sunshine.

Katie, like me, stuck to the tracks, whilst the Wee Guy took less conventional routes.

These trees are tall. 

The aged parent (that's me) was way fitter than the pair who were following me up the path.

C'mon guys! 

The day was stunning. The view was beyond stunning, if that is possible. Our frequent stops on the way up the path had nothing to do with the steepness of the climb and our own general lack of fitness, did it, Katie?

Nope. Not at all. Our frequent stops were simply to drink in some of the beauty around us.

Above the tree line, there was little growing but heather. Most of it had a real beyond-summer look to it, but here and there, there were splashes of colour still remaining.

I do love the way some plants cling on to summer for as long as possible, extending their flowering season and so giving us the pleasure of their colourful beauty well after their allotted time has passed. It feels like they've gone above and beyond their call of duty, for no reason other than to give us added pleasure.

Bennachie is right behind where we live, and although we weren't climbing Bennachie, we climbed to the top of part of this ridge.

Clearly a number of folks had added their own stone to this càrn over the years. It was so beautiful today, we could easily have sat having a picnic here. As it was, we'd come food-less (never excusable), and so we simply drank in the beauty around us.

Here's Bennachie, south of where we were. All being well, we'll reach the fort at the top one day. After all, to not go to where a fort is would be, well, unforgivable. Ain't that right, CS?

It was a fair way up our chosen path, but an easy enough walk. And of course the descent was great fun! I'm so glad I persuaded myself to leave my work, forget my ironing, and even ignore the fact that Calum Stewart had done his History, but not his Maths or any of his other work, and siezed the moment.

Winter isn't far off, and so enjoying this Indian summer kinda day was important. What was even more important was simply enjoying some outdoor fun with the Wee Guy, who isn't wee any more, and who is, at least, still living with us.

Unlike the two older kids who've deserted us. What's all that about, eh? What on earth has possessed them to think of living away from their Mum and Dad. I mean ... they're still babies, for crying out loud.

Well, they were just a couple of short years ago.


On My Doorstep...

I have more wedding posts in the offing, but lest you get fed up of me rambling on about the most important event in world history ....okay, in our lives at least .... I shall change the subject for this post.

A couple of months ago, DR and I were driving somewhere outside of the Inverness area, when I made him stop so I could photograph this scene.

I was saying to him that this kind of scene is probably my all-time favourite of all the scenic scenes I see. I do love the actual scene, but I think there’s something more going on inside my heart or my mind when I see this. Yes, it’s beautiful for my eyes to behold, but my heart feels something too. I get something of the satisfaction the farmer must feel when he sees his field at this stage. He has planted, God has watered, and the fruits of the farmer’s labours are to be seen. It’s almost the time of year when he’s going to be able to rest a little. The hard work has paid off, and the results are there to be seen. 

Bales in a field really move me.

And so, how can I not praise God that He has now placed me in a situation where, if I move 100 yds from my door, this is what I see:

And the following photo gives you a flavour of what I have to ‘endure’ on the short 3-mile drive into Inverurie, our nearest town:

And I love this photo too ...

Some people may see a landscape spoilt by man’s modern living. Pylons and windmills, they may say, ruin what could be an idyllic rural scene. But to be honest, I don’t see it that way. Yes, I see the beauty of a rural scene, but in a rather strange way, the evidence of modern blessings enhance the scene for me.

Does that make sense to y’all? It may or may not, but I’m quite used to not being made sense of in many quarters. C’est la vie!

Oh, and in case y'all hadn't noticed ... Scotland is beautiful! East, west, north and south - they all have different scenery, but I can't be the only one to be simply blown away by it.


My Sister ...

There are so many angles from which to come at our recent wedding, but this one is going to concentrate on my sister and me.

A few months back, Marina and I were involved in a radio programme being broadcast on what was, apparently World Sibling Day.

We spoke (and laughed) about what it means to have a sister, and on our similarities in the things that really matter to us – our faith and our families, in particular. We also spoke on some of the (many) differences in us in the things that don’t – to her – matter so much: you know, things like history, and politics, and such like. And on the other hand, things that don’t – to me – matter so much: you know, like fashion, and dress sense and such like.

But we both know, probably at this stage of our lives more than at any other, the preciousness and blessing in having a sister. Seven years of a difference may seem like a fair bit when you’re young; but when you’re our age (of course, Marina is still very young....), seven years seems much less of a gap.

Over the weeks and especially the days leading up to the wedding, I saw more than at any other time of my life, just what it was to have a sister. Apart from the number of times she answered my, ‘What do you think, Marina?’ questions – invaluable, at a time when I had a million questions going around in my head. 

She is so good at saying, depending on the situation:

“oh, that’s a good idea!”
or, “What? That’s a rubbish idea!”
or, “Hmm, let me think about that. Let’s see how that would work”

But simply having her around for moral support, and for very, very necessary light relief was incalculably beneficial for me.

And so, in this tribute-to-Marina and to sisters everywhere, you’ll forgive the load of Marina-and-I photos in this post.

I’m beginning at the morning of the wedding. I had to include this photo of Marina and her beautiful daughter, Iona. 

Marina has her, ‘Erm, excuse me, but who made this tea, and why is it not to my satisfaction?’ expression on her face, while Iona sits so beautifully serene beside her.

We all had the benefit of being together in Inverness all week – Marina and Iona, along with our whole family (and Elissa, Catherine and DR’s American friend, who had the pleasure of meeting Marina and myself for the first time, but Elissa is for another blog post). It was such fun for us all simply being together. We had three days before the actual wedding of coming and going, to-ing and fro-ing, but also of simply chilling, relaxing, and having light-hearted banter. All this time, I was so very aware that this pleasure of simply being together was a luxury. I wanted to savour it, and having Marina there added to the enjoyment so much, not only for me, but for the kids too.

So, back to the wedding morning....

Our good friend, Donald (known as Twin) – who is responsible for taking practically all the photos I can show you – was with us the morning of the wedding. He and Marina were in school together, so they go back a long way. Old friendships are fabulous, don’t you think. Twin’s camera was useful, but his constant source of laughter was truly invaluable.

Here, he’s taken Marina and I outside (I forget why, but he possibly had no logical reason other than to grab a few snaps on his phone), and is trying – successfully – to make us laugh.

The difference between Marina and I is that she is able to laugh elegantly. She keeps her composure and her good looks, while I ... well, you can see how I laugh at Twin’s comments. One day, I shall grow up to be just as mature as Marina.

Or maybe not.

And you know, the relationship between Marina and I doesn’t stop at us two. As the years have gone on, and Iona has grown up and grown to love Catherine and Katie more and more, and our own girls have grown closer and closer to Marina, the extent of our love has widened as well as deepened.

Isn’t it good that Iona has such good role models ....

Yeah. Right.

So many of the memories we made over the past year or two have included Iona as well as Marina. Both Marina and I have noticed more and more over the years that our kids are happiest at events when they’re all there together. It’s a joy for us, and clearly a joy for them too. For myself, I’m a different person when I know Marina is involved with our preparations, and when she’s there by my side.

From 18th birthday parties to 21st birthdays to Hen Days, Iona, as well as Marina, has been part of them all, and she and our girls have grown to be more than simply first cousins. As I said, having a sister has benefits that widen and deepen and begin to include so many more people than just the two of us.

Here’s my dear sister and her long-suffering very fortunate husband. Strangely, although Marina and I are very different in so many ways, we went for very similar fellas, I’d say. We both got great husbands. God was truly good to us both in that regard.

Having the same foundation in our lives makes our relationship more than simply that of genetic sisters. We are sisters in Christ too, a relationship  that will last beyond this life, and transcends even the closest of familial relationships. The combination of the two is so precious.

I also think that being different ...

in our natures – I am so glad for who she is, and her constant ability to make me laugh (especially at myself); I love how easy it is for her to speak of matters of the soul and of what she has recently been reading or hearing of our Saviour, and her enthusiasm when she learns something new

in our interests – I reckon her lack of interest in my ‘pet subjects’ .... you know, things like the American War between the States, or the history of Fascism in Europe, or the progression of a European Union, etc etc, enhances our relationship. In fact, as I write these things, I can see her eyes glaze over and I can feel that look she gives me. It says something like, 'Anne, I know there's a noise coming out of your mouth, but to us normal people, it's nothing more than that: noise. I'm officially zoned out. You are officially boring. I want tea and cake. Zip it."

Isn't that right, Marina?

Despite, and probably because of these differences, I love my sister so very much. And now that we've moved away, I miss her more than I can say. Yes, I know we can be in touch every day - and how I love modern technology for this! but I still miss that I can't just hop in the car and pop in for tea and cake and chat (as long as I keep off my pet subjects, eh, Marina!)

So to all you sisters out there, remember this: y'all are the best thing since sliced bread. 

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