8/29/2014

I am Home

(Written about a month ago; posted today. It's how I work...)

I'm home. Let me repeat that so y'all will get a flavour of what these words mean to me.

I. am. home.

In the past, we've been away from home for longer spells: the first time we went to the U.S of A, we were away a whole month! So what was the difference this time? Why were we so relieved to get home? Oh, that's easy - all our kids weren't with us. My parents were with us, Calum Stewart was with us for the first half of the trip, and DR came for a long weekend, but we missed being together as a family.

Big style.

Having said that, we were in such a beautiful place. It was just on the outskirts of Inverness, and I was able from time to time to come and sit on this bench ... on my own; with a book; listening to the sound of flowing water; in the sunshine.

In anyone's book, that is bliss.


The weather was gorgeous. For us Scots, it was HOT! 

That is just the way I like it.



What is it about the sound of running water that allows all your troubles to flow downstream with the current? 




On some occasions, I was joined down by the river by this fella, whose company is never unwelcome.




Despite the fact that he'd left his cache of weapons at home, 



I was reassured that I was still being well protected.



Inverness is not like Ness. Here you're able to find broken branches, which will suffice when no other weapons are at ones disposal.



Yup, I was safe from all enemy attacks, and so could read in peace.

What would I do without my Personal Protector? :)






8/25/2014

Ice Bucket Challenge ... with a Difference


We had a stunning sunset tonight again, so Katie, Calum Stewart, and I headed down to the beach just as the sun was sitting above the horizon.



However, our main reason wasn't to admire the beauty of the beach and sunset...



Katie had been nominated for the Ice Bucket challenge, and instead of having a bucket of iced water poured over her, she chose to dunk herself in the chilly North Atlantic instead.



I have no idea where these kids came from. Did I really breed them??



Her bravery knew no bounds ...



Erm ... hang on. Maybe it did, because despite running bravely into the water, 



she couldn't seem to find the courage to get her head fully submerged.



Go on, Katie! Head under!



I know my photos aren't proof - simply because I wasn't quick enough with my clicking, 



but the photo above is actually Katie coming up out of the water, having completely dunked herself!


Phew! Well done, Katie. 

The Alliance of Pro-life Students got your donation.

The Ness Fire Brigade got your choice of nomination.

I got a good laugh.

And you probably got a cold.

C'est la vie.



8/18/2014

Strawberry Tarts for Ever


I posted a photo of a Strawberry Tart on the Facebook page the other day, and some poor, deprived lady asked, 'What is that?'.

Probably American. (It's no fun saying that unless it's in that accent. You know the one ... )

"What is THAT?"

That, m'dear is a Strawberry Tart. That is yumminess on a plate; deliciousness in a tart.

That is also the easiest thing ever to make. And this is how I make them. 

I use the 6-2-6-2 recipe for my tarts. It's not really pastry, but I love it for all sweet tarts. I've shared it before in this post, and also in this post, where I make Apple Tart with it. Oh, and in that second post, the Wee Guy is still a Wee Guy! Waaah!

Okay, back to the Strawberry Tarts.  


Roll out the pastry, and cut out rounds.



I make different sizes: this is a medium tart, 



and these are smaller, bite-size ones.

The pie weights are great placed inside these little truffle papers - so handy then to lift them out once their job is done.



When I take the weights out, I normally give them another few minutes in the oven, just to dry the bottoms off.



The proper filling would be cream of some description, but I don't like 'real' cream, so this squeegy cream does the trick perfectly for me. It's also very handy!



Chuck a strawberry on top. You may, alternatively, place a suitably sized strawberry with great care in the centre of the squirted cream.



Either way, it's then time to pour over what makes what would be an okay-tart into a tart of deliciousness.



Strawberry tart jelly is yumminess in a bottle.



Just one word of warning. When you make these tarts, don't - whatever you do - let the Fire Brigade lads know they're around...



Some of these fellas would devour the plateful

(mentioning no names, of course, Alex ;) )






8/08/2014

Poppies for the Lost of Ness


Those of you who follow Homeschool on the Croft on Facebook will remember how, just a few weeks ago, our district was plunged into sadness following the tragic death of one of our young men. I had never met the boy, but in a place like Ness, sadness is contagious. There is always some connection with a family who suffers loss: you may have played football with the lad; or been at school with the parents. Maybe your neighbour is a close relative, or your family sat near the family in church. 

However tenuous, there is always some link, and if not a link that can be articulated, then the simple fact that "we're all from Ness" is enough.

That week saw a gloom descend over Ness. We all felt it, and it followed us through our daily tasks and chores. 

At the time, I remember thinking of what it must have been like in Ness during the Great War and the Second World War. There were no bombs falling on the people, that's true, but bad news was only a knock on the door from them. When that fateful telegram arrived with the words, 

We regret to inform you ....

Oh, the pain.

Yes, of course the pain for the family isn't to be compared with the general pain the district feels when we lose someone tragically. But knowing how that one death affected Ness last month made me think of how the whole of Ness must have ached, month after month, and year after year, for the duration of the two World Wars.


This month sees the anniversary of the beginning of WW1. Our nation declared war on Germany on August 4th, 1914, and our local historical society, Comunn Eachdraidh Nis had the wonderful idea of placing a commemorative poppy at the crofts and homes where lives were lost in combat during these years.


Our war memorial in Ness, naming those lost in both World Wars




Part of the village of Habost - where we live - on the memorial

The house numbers are in the furthest left column. 

Take a look. House number 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 16 (yes, they lost two sons), 17, 18a, 18a, 19, 19 (again, two lost from each of these homes) .... and so the list goes on.



It makes for painful reading

And so, at each of these crofts, and at all the crofts in this part of Lewis, poppies have been placed and will remain until the the hundredth anniversary of the end of this Great, and terrible, War.


This is where the Builder grew up. Like most of his generation, he grew up hearing nothing of what life was like at the time of the two World Wars. Painful memories were boxed away. The man lost here was 32 when he was killed, whilst serving with the Royal Navy Reserves.

Follow me from his family home on a short journey along the road ...


Right next door, this house now lies empty, but almost a hundred years ago, tears were being shed here for two beloved sons, both lost whilst serving with the Seaforth Highlanders. They were aged just 20 and 22.



Just two doors down from here. Another poppy.



Right next door. Another poppy. Another life lost.



And immediately next door. 



And, once again, right next door...

That is just in the space of a hundred yards or so. This is simply a sample of what our district looks like now. Who can begin to imagine the pain and sorrow that must have enveloped our community during these years? What a disservice we do to their memory, and to the liberty they were able to secure for us, if we ever forget.

In houses that now lie empty, in others where new generations of families now live, on crofts that now show only the remains of stones which once sheltered growing families, each and every poppy is a reminder that

Freedom is never free.




7/11/2014

A Day on Swainbost Beach



Of all the beaches I visit, my favourite has got to be Swainbost beach. Now, undoubtedly, part of my bias comes from the fact that this is the beach on which so many of my childhood memories were made. Growing up, this was My Beach.

But I also love it for what it has to offer: the mix of sand and rocks, and sea and rock pools. Places to shelter from any breeze that may be blowing, places to set out a picnic on a rock. I love it all!


Today's visit did not disappoint.



For the first hour, I read and took notes for my Bible study. 

Calum Stewart and my nephew, Ross, were having a wonderful time with their boogie boards, or simply sitting on the warm rocks and chatting.



After we'd been at the beach for an hour or so, some more folks joined us. My Mum - yes, my Mum! - came along with my niece and nephew, Iona and Owen, and some of Owen's friends.



The kids even managed to get Granny to dip her toes into the sea.

It was a very special day for me because the memories that make Swainbost beach such a wonderful place for me were all created with my Mum! Mum hadn't been on this beach since we were children until today, so it was a very special day for her. Today, she made more memories - not only with her own offspring, but with the next generation - her grandchildren.




Even Calum Stewart seemed lost in thought at times.




As the tide comes in, lovely pools form - pools with warmer water than the open sea. I remember playing in this very pool as a child.




Looking north towards the Eye of the Butt from the beach itself, 



... and from the machair. The machair flowers are so lovely at this time of year. To have the wonderful pinks and yellows and purples of the flowers, and the deep blues, turquoises and greens of the sea all in one picture is truly a delight.

Eye candy.



And finally ... just to prove that I did get my feet wet ...



7/10/2014

Summer in Ness, and Summer on Patrice's Porch




Believe it or not, Patrice, I'm reluctant to leave our own weather to come to Virginia today. Yes, we have had a few perfect summer days, and today I'm savouring more of the same. I'm heading off to the beach later today, so I'll answer your questions, have a wee chat with y'all, and then head back to our sunny Ness ....

After all, this weather doesn't happen here too often :)


1. Do you like cucumbers?

Hmmm, I can take 'em or leave 'em. I'm not overly keen on them, but if you put them on my plate, Patrice, I'd eat them. However, I don't like tomatoes at all.

Horror!

I enjoy tomato sauces, but I cannot go tomatoes at. all.


2. How good a housekeeper are you?

Ooh, please may I skip this question, Miss?  No!

Well, 'I'm not great' has to be the honest answer to that question. I wish I was much more efficient, much tidier, much more organised.

I do love having an open door, and would hope that visitors would always feel welcome. I do, however, wish they were always welcomed into a tidy home.


3. Please finish this: To spend a day ___________ would be amazing!

Reading!

That was easy! But I'll embellish it slightly. If I could have a day sitting out in the sun whilst reading, that would be even better.

And if I was being plied with cups of tea, biscuits and cake on a regular basis, my day would be further enhanced.

And if I were to end the day gazing at this view ...



whilst still being fed tea and cake, it really would be the perfect end to the perfect day.

Actually, this photo - taken tonight from my Family Room window - was the perfect end to a perfect day. And d'you know what? I spent a good part of the afternoon sitting outside, in the sun, reading.

The only part that doesn't fit with the 'perfect scenario' is the fact that there was nobody making tea for me.


4. How do you handle times with you are 'down' or 'blue'?

I look out of my window.

Well, that's only part of the story of course, but quite seriously, the view outside of my window really and truly does lift my mood. I think beauty does that. And beauty for all the senses helps.

So, the sound of beautiful music can lift my mood. The taste of beautiful food can bring me more alive. The sight of beautiful views like the ones I'm blessed with on my doorstep. The company of friends and family whom I love soon lifts the blues.

And above all of them, having communion with my Lord, and meditating on His Word... That really does alter me.

I'm aware that answer may be slightly flippant, but for low-level, and very temporary blues, these things can surely help.

I have had times of deeper blues too. That hue is much harder to deal with, and cannot be sorted by reading a few words on this blog. Our friend, Dr David Murray, wrote a book recently called Christians get depressed Too. It can be found here.


It is worth getting if you are struggling with depression - and maybe you haven't even recognized what you have as depression. This book may help you in recognition of it too. 


5. Have you started using essential oils, since they have become so popular?

No, Patrice, I haven't, though I'm coming across folks who are using them more and more. Just recently actually, I was thinking about the amazing world God has made for us to enjoy and from which to benefit, and I couldn't help thinking that I am sure He has created so many herbs that have the answer to very many illnesses and troubles. It's something I'd like to learn more of, and may set aside time soon to do that.

Thanks for these questions, Patrice, and once again I've enjoyed spending time with you this week.

Unlike other weeks, mind you, I am rushing home to our own gorgeous weather now! 

On Tuesday evening, I nipped outside to take some photos - erm, yes, I left the comfort of my chair and ventured down to the machair. The sun was just setting and the beach and machair were so peaceful. Serious therapy.



Can you spot the lone surfer to the far left of the photo?



Marina (my sister) was over with me for the evening, but d'ya know what? It was worth leaving her scintillating conversation to savour the beauty and the smell of the machair just as the sun said its farewell for another day.




After the sun had set, I took this photo from the machair, looking up towards Swainbost and Cross. The warmth of the day and the calm of the evening gave a striking ground mist which added to the sense of peace and tranquility. 





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