Join me on a Highlands Road Trip ...

While I was away (by the way, I'm home now - yeah, I know, even I can barely keep up with where I am, but for now I'm home), the Builder and I took a wee run around the Stratherrick and Loch Ness areas.

(And before I go any further, y'all DO know that a 'run' means a trip in the car....? None of you actually imagined for a minute that I was, you know, actually running? Phew, glad y'all were on the right tracks because after all, y'all know me well enough by now to know that I only run in emergency situations, and even then for a maximum of ten yards or so. Anyway, back to our car trip...)

I feel a bit the-king-is-dead-long-live-the-king ..esque. After all, I love the scenery here - the beaches, the sunsets, the moor and such like. Y'all know I love my island. But it seems like no sooner have we decided to move than here I am singing the praises of the scenery in another part of Scotland. Of course, the simple truth is this: Scotland is beautiful. Whether it's our beaches in Lewis, or the hills and lochs of the Great Glen, Scotland is stunningly scenic.

I have to be honest - its beauty just takes my breath away! Whilst on our road trip, I stopped the car a couple of times to take photos.

Okay, so it was more than a couple of times. A dozen.... or so. Well, what's a person to DO? Everywhere I looked, the beauty screamed out to stop, savour, and photograph. Except it didn't scream. The scenery I beheld doesn't scream. It is strong, and silent.

And very, very beautiful.

Looking down onto Loch Ruthven. 

The hills, the emptiness, the isolated croft house ... so Scottish, so emotive.

Those who live in this home are not so isolated nowadays. The internet, roads, and transport mean that they can speak to people and meet with them on a daily basis. But when I see these kinds of scenes, my mind always imagines what it was like in the earlier part of the 20th century, and in earlier times. Was the lady of the house lonely? Did she feel the isolation? Or was it so 'normal' that she didn't ever stop and think of it? Was she so busy raising her brood, gathering eggs, cooking and cleaning that she didn't have a minute of her day to feel loneliness?

I guess she may have had seasons of her life when life was busy, and other times when her distance from others may have been more keenly felt.

Of course, I have no way of knowing ... but these are often my thoughts driving though Highland Scotland.

I don't wish to bore you with an overdose of photos,

but I can't but give you some glimpses of what I saw.

Driving through Stratherrick, we passed the Free Presbyterian church. Again, my imagination saw past days of Godly men and women meeting to gather here each Lord's Day. I'm not sure if a congregation still meets here, but if they don't, then the people will have transport to drive to other villages or towns. 

And just beyond the church was this memorial.

To the glory of God and in memory of the men from Stratherrick who fell in the Great War 1914 - 1918

Their name shall live forever.
Bidh an ainm agus an cliù buan.

You fed up of photos yet?

Another isolated home; another opportunity for my thoughts to run riot.

I stopped the car every mile or so (and that's a lot of stops when we were driving a lot of miles ;) ). I could have stopped the car every yard or so!

We drove through the village of Foyers, which is now a definite must-visit-here-in-the-summer place. It was so pretty, and just beyond, almost hidden from our view was this campsite.

Right on the shores of Loch Ness.

What a fantastic time the holidaymakers must have been having over their Easter holiday with beautifully sunny weather over the past days.

And then, finally, we ourselves came alongside Loch Ness.

The sun was just dipping below the hills on the western side of the Loch.

Through the gorse bushes and the branches, you can (almost!) see Urquart Castle and the picturesque village of Drumnadrochit.

And just as Loch Ness ends and Loch Dochfour begins, directly across from Aldourie Castle Estate, is this bonny building.

I've yet to find out what it is, or was, but I shall make it my business to find out and will let y'all when I find out. 

And so there you have it. I'm so glad you were able to join us on our wee run the other evening. Methinks there will be plenty more to follow ...


Happy Birthday, Katie!

We have had two birthdays this week here. 

Y'all may or may not know that these two gifts were given to me on Mothering Sundays. Yep, on Mother's Day, 1995, I was given our first daughter; and on Mother's Day, 1997, I was given our second daughter.

How cool is that?!

Surely the best Mother's Day gifts ever!

My baby girl was 18 this week, so I thought I'd take some trips through Memory Lane to remind Katie of some things she's done, and places she's been in the past few years.

*      *      *

Katie, remember when yourself, Catherine, and myself went for our trip to Edinburgh?

This was where you first cut your hair short ...

.... and where you had great fun in the shops. 

*      *      *

Remember when the three of us went to Inverness for a wee trip?

...and you took me to McDonalds, where you both had a laugh at my expense when the tray arrived and I asked where the glass was.

A glass?? In McDonalds?!?! Clearly, I had a lot to learn...

*      *      *

And remember our overnight trip to London? Our whistlestop tour of the city, and then our non-stop drive from the south of London all the way to Inverness.

Fun times .... even though the Boris Bikes were clearly not made for people who are as, erm, vertically challenged as you and me ...

*      *      *

 Remember when you decided to do the Ice Bucket challenge ... in the Atlantic!

... when you got to vote for the first time?

when you got the first glimpse of Catherine in a wedding dress?

When we had a fun photo-shoot down on the beach?

And remember when your older siblings went off to Europe without you?

Just as well you've got a forgiving nature, eh? :)

*      *      *

You're happy with tools in your hand ...

Yup, you're in your element when you're armed and dangerous ...

But you are happiest behind the wheel of ... well, of any vehicle!

On the other hand, we are happiest when you do your stuff in the kitchen.

No matter what you turn your hand to, it all turns out delicious, whether the mint fudge, 

or the yummy Victoria Sponge.

*     *     *

Eighteen years ago, Katie, God gave us our second daughter, our third child. 


Over the years, you've made us laugh so much; you've brought us so much joy ...

You really are our very Special K...

and I love you.

More and more with each year that passes.


This Past Week ...

This past week has been, erm, interesting.

Not, of course, that my interesting will necessarily be your interesting. But the nature of blogging is that we, as bloggers, ramble on regardless.

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On Tuesday morning, our dear, dear friends left us once again for their mainland home. Alex and Elsie have been coming to our communion weekend for a number of years, and our pleasure at having them increases every time. (If you don't know how we first met, you'll find the story in this post.)

We'd had such a lovely time of worship after breakfast that morning. We sang Psalm 84 - always lovely - and Alex read Isaiah 58: 6-14. The words meant so much to me, as did Alex's beautiful and heartfelt prayer at the end.

Oh, what a joy to spend time with our brothers and sisters in Christ! What a joy Heaven will be when we never have to say Goodbye!

The sign says Welcome, but we were, of course, saying our Goodbyes. This time was different from their previous departures from our home in that we realise this may be their last time here. Of course, we're glad that we will - all being well - see more of them when we move to the mainland, but nevertheless, there is a poignancy to seeing them leave this home, in which so many wonderful memories have been made, for the last time.

*     *     *

Late one afternoon last week, we had a a knock at the door, resulting in our first viewers! This couple - she has local connections; he now has work on the island - had been told this house would soon be on the market, so she knocked on the door to ask if, indeed, that was the case. We spoke and then I asked her for 20 minutes, at which time her and her husband could have a look round.

Oh yes, I did need these 20 minutes! And it's amazing how tidy one can make a house look in that space of time. I really must practice this more often - not just when viewers come around, but all the time. A tidy house is both welcoming and relaxing, don't you think?

After they left, I took some photos of all the rooms. I know that photos show up things that the naked eye (at least the untrained eye) doesn't catch. And, sure enough, many of the rooms have little bits and bobs I'd change before displaying photos on an official 'For Sale' site. The house will 'officially' be for sale in a couple of weeks' time.

Here is the Guest Bedroom ...

What do you notice? What would you change? What would you add? Give me all the tips you can think of, please.

And here is the Hall, taken from the front door. Again ... whatcha'll reckon?

And the kitchen. I was having a laugh with the couple who came to see it, admitting that there was no smell of freshly ground coffee, no bread baking in the oven, giving off that welcoming aroma that would entice prospective buyers! Twenty minutes was useful, but not long enough for that!

The Family Room is what it is. I love this room. It's relaxing, it's comfortable, it's FULL of memories. It's also full of books, which makes my heart sing a little, but when I saw the photo, I realised that the books look untidy. They don't - in a photo - do for me what they do in real life. 

Does that make sense?

What do you think? Honesty, please ... remember, you're helping me :)

*     *     * 

This week, too, was the week in which I finished our lovely sponsored girl's blanket. It's so unusual to be able to send anything like this to India, but in God's providence, a team are heading out from England to Compassion's headquarters in India next week, and they said they were able to take it out with them and see that my dear wee girl gets it.

It's such a blessing to sponsor a child. If you don't already, please consider doing it.

Compassion (I know there are others too, including an American Compassion) do such an amazing work, and the stories adults, who were once sponsored children, are able to tell of what their education allowed them to do are so inspiring.

*     *     *

How can I leave the week without giving you some evidence of our changed weather! 

Our mornings have been breathtakingly beautiful. When I open a window, or open the back door, and the only sounds I hear and the skylarks and the sound of the sea (so beautifully termed in Gaelic: Ceòl na mara - and what an apt term, because it really is music to my ears).

There is such peace and joy flowing from sitting in silence, looking at this scene, before the busy-ness of the day descends.

Later in the day, the colours are much more vivid, 

and then, even later in the day ...

new colours delight our senses.

Yes, my fairly constant stream of sunset photos has begun ... And how my kids know it!


Memories, Part II

Some of the best memories of our time in this home come from when folks came to stay with us. It's been a great blessing to have a home that made it easy to have lots and lots of people come and stay. I do hope, when we're settled on the mainland, that we will again have an open home for all kinds of strays .....

... like this bunch who came all the way from Washington State. From the West coast of America to the West coast of Europe. A long treck, ladies, but worth it, I'm hoping.

They happened to be here at the time of our annual DR's-birthday-general-summer-campfire-get-together, and along with plenty football, food, and cake, we had some great outside singing too.

Great memories!

They also happened to be here during our warmest spell that year, and had a great time with the girls touring Harris and enjoying themselves on Luskentyre beach.

Of course, like all good things, their trip here came to an end. I hope, ladies, you'll come visit us in our new home, and we'll show you another part of our lovely country.

*     *     *

This is my cousin, my sister, my friend. She, along with her husband and family were the first visitors who ever stayed with us in this house. We moved in on Saturday and they came on the Monday for a holiday. It was such a joy to me to share our home with them.

Every single time we meet is special. I sure hope that will not change when we move from here. Indeed I'm hoping for many more opportunities to meet, given that only the A9 will separate us, rather than the A9 and the Minch.

*     *     *

Heather, from Life in the Valley, and her lovely daughter came to visit too.

We had fun ten-pin bowling, 

and of course on our wide open person-less beach!

So much sea ... so much space!

*     *     *

Sometimes, when certain folks come to stay, you almost forget they're 'visitors'. Laurie, who spent some time on the island, became to us all not a visitor, but almost one of the family. We all missed her so much when she returned to her native Pennsylvania. I mean seriously - what's PA got that we don't have? 

(Okay, maybe you don't need to answer that one ...)

As I said, she wasn't treated like a visitor, but came with us to the peats, planted vegetables with us, and baked the most amazing Coffee Cake.

Please come back soon, Laurie!

*     *     *

Now, do y'all remember our dear friends, Alex and Elsie? This post tells how we first met, and God's providence in bringing us together has been such a blessing to us, and I hope to them too. They are loved so much by us all, and the children absolutely adore them!

When we're on the mainland, we'll be much closer to them and that is a definite bonus for us.

*     *     *

We've even had - wait for it - Sasannaich staying with us. Okay, so biologically they're much more Scottish than they are English, 

and on a practical level, they helped with the housework, and even - wait for THIS - 

got DR helping with the housework.


And 'faint' is what they almost did this day ...

when they decided to take a dip in the Atlantic ... during the first week of January.

Brave? Or simply mad? You decide :)

*     *     *

Of course, our most important guests are those closest to us. Mum and Dad are regular visitors and I do not take for granted my privilege in still having my parents around. 

Not only are they around, but they're full of beans!

Take Dad ...

Here he is (with the Builder) on his iPad. Now, Dad had never had an item of technology until he got this as a present for his and mum's Golden Wedding anniversary. He has loved it ever since.

He comes to me at times and shows me all his commentaries, and how he highlights paragraphs and stores them somewhere else, and keeps all his notes in this one place, and is able to cross-reference .... 

Good grief, man. I'm LOST! I haven't a clue what he's on about, but the iPad has been the best thing ever for him.

The next photo gives you some idea just of how 'full of beans' he is. 

Yes, this is my Dad.

If our kids are doing something - ANYthing - he is right in there with them.

Mum and I stayed in the warmth. Even the photos were taken by the kids.

Now, talking of family ...

My townie sister has been known to have the odd sleepover here. Would y'all believe me if I said these were sombre, serious nights? 

Yeah, I thought not. 

In the photo (above) she's on her way to the peats with me. Yes, I had the audacity to drag her to the moor with me. I'd forgotten that town ladies don't DO peats. 

(Or if they do, they do them in pink.)

*     *     *

And finally, onto more recent stay-ers. 

Now that John is becoming part of our family, we've also had the pleasure of having his family stay with us. What fun we had over New Year with John, Matthew and their parents! 

In-laws, out-laws. Call them what you will, but I'm all for extending families. :)

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