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. 





7/06/2014

Our Loss, Her Gain


Our congregation lost one of our older members this week, and her funeral took place here in Ness today. Until she suffered a stroke a couple of years ago, she sat across from us in church every Sunday, and walked out the aisle after each service with our family ..... No, let me get that right.... she walked out arm in arm with D.R, whom she adored! DR would wait for her, or she would wait for him, and they'd walk out smiling and laughing arm in arm every Sunday.

She was the epitome of a Joyful Christian. Through all of life's trials, she worshipped her Saviour, she spoke of her Lord, and she smiled at the world.

Someone said of her today that 'there was a hug in her every handshake'. So true! The love of Christ simply oozed out of her. What a joy for us to have had the privilege of knowing her.

Today her remains were placed next to the remains of her husband, who passed into glory forty years ago. Tonight, her body may be dead, but she has never been more alive. Her eyes closed the other day, but one day, on that great day of the resurrection, they will awaken to see Christ in all His beauty. Tonight, as we prepare for the Lord's Day, she has entered her eternal Lord's Day.

Her greatest joy on earth was Christ.... Her total joy now is Christ.

Those of us who are still walking the Pilgrim's way seek to display the same love and joy that Annie did. And tonight, we have just a little bit more longing for when we will see our Saviour face to face.


Soon, it will be us.


"Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outwith the gate. Let us go forth therefore outwith the camp, bearing His reproach, for here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come."
Hebrews 13: 12-14





7/02/2014

On Patrice's Porch ... and Needing Therapy.





I'm back on Patrice's porch, and oh boy, am I loving the Virginian weather! Yesterday, we got a wee hint of what summer in Virginia can be like - our temperatures here in Ness reached the heady heights of 70F, and we had almost no wind. It felt positively Mediterranean.

Today, we've had driving rain and winds of over 50mph. Aye, I guess I'm at home right enough ...

My sister and her kiddos were with me for the past couple of days, so I dragged took her out to the peats yesterday to lift what had been cut a few weeks back.

My sister and I are, erm ... different


Can you imagine me dressed this beautifully for the peats? In fact, don't answer that .... Can you imagine me dressed this beautifully at. all? Ever??

I just love spending time with my sister. Anyone who has a sister knows it's just such a gift. And thankfully, many who don't have a 'real' sister have been blessed with beloved friends who are like sisters. Anyway, despite my love for her, she doesn't appreciate my boots. 'Nuff said.

And so, onto your questions for today:


1. What do you think you would have liked most from my menu?

(Patrice had a party for her daughter last week, and if you go to her blog, you'll see the wonderful menu she had on offer)

Patrice, your menu looks amazing, but I'm going to go with the boiled new potatoes and butter. I am a real potato person and new tatties with butter are my ultimate choice. All the food looked amazing, though, and knowing so much of it was home-grown and home-made, would have made it all the more delicious.


2. Have you ever had an interesting experience with serving dinner guests?

Oh dear me ... I'm not sure I can bear to recount this horrific experience. Were I not Scottish, I'm sure I'd still be having counselling following this day in my experience.

It took place around twenty years ago, the Builder and I were living in Glasgow and we were still childless. It was Christmas and a couple who were friends of my parents asked us to join them and their family for Christmas dinner.

And now I want you to picture the scene.

The house is immaculate. The people are immaculate. The couple, in their 60s, are always immaculately dressed. They have two sons, who are both married and their wives are with them for the day. Yes, you guessed it - they are immaculate too. These ladies are petite, gorgeously dressed, and are, erm, well, let's just say they wouldn't be wearing my boots any time. 

Three immaculate couples. And the Builder and me. 

The table is covered in a crisp, white table cloth, and three red candles burn sedately throughout our meal time. 

Our meal is delicious and is served with no fuss, no mess. After dessert, our hostess brings through her home-made Christmas cake, covered in gorgeous white icing.

As our hostess thinks about passing tea and the cake around, she decides to blow the candles out, lest they cause any damage. She gives a little whoo. Just a gentle puff. The flames flicker slightly, mocking her attempt to extinguish them. She tries again.

Whoo. Gentle. Ladylike.

But unsuccessful.

Her gorgeously dressed, and equally sedate and ladylike daughter-in-law tries. A genteel whoo passes her lips. The flames barely notice.

Enter stage left .... Moi. Whilst watching the little puffs, the slight flicker in the flames, and the still burning candles, I'm thinking, 'Well, that's not going to put out the candles'.

So, she huffed. And she puffed. And she blew ....

Oh the flames were extinguished in a split second, but ... oh, horror of horrors. The deep red melted wax from the candles were everywhere.

I mean EVERYWHERE. On the hostess' dress. On her daughter-in-law's dress. On the WHITE tablecloth. And ALL over the beautifully iced cake.

Patrice, I am actually traumatized relating this story. I can feel the shame even now! I can still see the red splashes everywhere. And I can still hear the moments of silence following the ... the ... the event. I can feel the horror and I can remember the realization dawning on me on why these ladies had given genteel whoos.

See ... that's why I moved back to the Croft. I was clearly made for these shores.

Now, anyone have a number for a good therapist ... I feel I need one now.


3. What's your favourite beverage this summer?

Erm, tea. Of course it's tea, Patrice! Whether it's January or July, my favourite beverage is always tea.


4. Do you ever have bouquets of fresh flowers in your home?

Yes, I do, although they're bought in the supermarket, so I suppose 'fresh' is pushing it a bit. Catherine, from time to time, comes home with fresh flowers because she knows I love having them in the house. Right now, I have a vase of deep red roses in the kitchen.



Dearie me, here we are on 'deep red' again. Quick, ask me another question!


5. Tell me something interesting. Please.

Oh, I'm not sure how interesting it is, but DR will be 21 - yes, that's twenty-one - in a fortnight's time. We're planning a wee party for him and his, and our, friends. I've begun preparing food, and I've most certainly begun preparing mental lists! Last year, we had a BBQ in July and had a wonderful evening of food and fun and fellowship and singing.



Our lovely American friends were here at the time.



The young folks were back and fore from the 'football pitch' all evening, and when the sun went down, 



our peat campfire kept us warm.


 It was such a lovely evening, and some similar weather for this year's get-together would be wonderful. Unfortunately, one can't plan around weather in Lewis, so if the weather is unfavourable, we'll eat, talk, and sit inside, rather than outside.

Either way, I'm sure it will be a fun time.









6/26/2014

It Took a While, but ...


... we finally have some decor on our stair wall.

We've only been in our home for eight years. 

That's waaaay longer, of course, than I've actually had these pictures. But still ... these photos have sat in a cupboard, and then on a stool in the Family Room, awaiting their final resting place - the stair wall - for quite some time.

This week, though, Catherine decided the hall walls were going to be decorated. She pushed us to get the photos sorted, to decide where they were going to go, and then, tonight, to Just Do It.




All the photos are black and white, and they're all family snaps. They may get some tweaking over the next few weeks, but for now, I'm happy not to have an empty wall here.



And this finally found a home too. The wall where the door from the hall into the kitchen used to be doesn't look so bare now.

Family. Where life begins and love never ends.

I reckon I agree with that sentiment.

Oh, and I've decided our girls are never gonna leave home. We'd simply never get anything done if they did ...




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