Friday, December 31, 2010

Twelve moments

A year of moments.  Moments spent in nature, with family, with friends. Moments of hope, joy and sadness.  Moments of loss, fun and beauty. Moments of life.
Blessings to all for 2011 xx

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Posted missing.

I missed out this montage from my previous post, but it was too late to sneak it  in after I realised.  Anyway, it deserves a post of its own.
Late on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, a postman knocked on the door with a couple of parcels and a pile of cards.  A visit from a postman - any delivery man, in fact, is such a rarity here, in Central Scotland, nowadays.  Since the start of this long Winter, we have had only about 5 deliveries in total from Royal Mail.  I am still waiting for items posted at the beginning of the month. I cannot imagine the chaos that must be going on in the sorting office.  I asked the postman how things were going, and he gave me a strange, haunted look and went off muttering.  Poor man.
Back home on the Island, we live next door to the post office.... (dreamy sigh...)
Enough - enough!  What was in those parcels?  Presents and love from lovely Blog ladies were there!

Pippa (When I get the time) sent a beautiful lavender filled heart, she had made from the same material as my kitchen blind. I love this fabric. Thank you Pippa - I will take this heart back up to the croft and hang it in my kitchen there.

On Liz's blog (Just hang on a minute), I won the Christmas candle in her giveaway.  My first ever blog prize.  It is a glittering handrolled beeswax candle scented studded with cloves.  How lovely is that?  But, somehow, a little Robin, made by Liz herself, must have flown into the parcel too.  Just in time to go on the Christmas tree. xx

And then cards - another little Robin from Liz - her blog was so full of inspiring Christmas crafts this year, and a fabulous card from Claire (Border Stories) - drawn by her younger son Felix.  I love it, and it makes me smile whenever I see it.  In fact, Mr Mosaic maker has kind of chopped the end off the photo, so here is another one.

Santa looks very warm and comfy there I have to say.

I love the connections I have made in this blog world.  People whom I would never ever meet in real life, but they just somehow click with me, and I know that were we to meet up, we would just carry on the conversation. 
I have met a few blog Mums at TM camp, and it was just like that.  We knew about each other - recognised the children - ice already broken -  natural and friendly. People would refer to things we had blogged about, as if we had chatted over a cup of tea the week before.  I loved it. It reminds me, though, how much we touch each others lives when we blog.  Thank you all for touching me with your kindness and friendship.

I am going to be making a few changes to the blog over the next week or so, as we get ready to head back (at last) to the croft.  Just cosmetic stuff, to reflect our new crofting/farming lifestyle.  A new name too!!  ??

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So, that was Christmas

      A bit of rough and tumble,  some playing in the snow, and time for reflection

Piles of wet snowy boots after winter walks, lots of dishes to wash, time for some quite reading and Charlie and Lola.

Gorgeous grandson,  slightly harrassed me doing some Christmas Eve baking, and completed Nativity table. 
Apparently the wise men may need a taxi, if the road gets too bad, according to James

(and I wish to make it clear that the soft drink in the middle photograph is absolutely nothing to do with me but belongs to the photographer!)

Then we woke up and -  it was Christmas!  No photos - you had to be there.  Presents were given, dinner was cooked and eaten, crackers pulled, jokes told, endless and rowdy game of Trivial Pursuit, more dishes washed, bed.  Nice!

So, James received his longed for kitchen.  Many meals have been made, and cups of tea served.  I am not sure if the lamb and dolphin puppets are waiting hungrily for their dinner, or if they are intended to be the ingredients.  Hmmmm!
And a picture of some gorgeous blond curls, just because.

And, my present.  A spinning wheel! I've not had much chance to try it out, but already I feel it is a very zen-like thing to do. I feel calm just thinking about it. Watch out for the sheep shearing post in early summer!
Enjoy these Daft Days. xx

I am just posting this link to BBC iplayer for a really nice local TV programme screened last night.  It is a whistle stop tour of the Hebrides.  I was actually in the Callanish Centre, having a coffee and cake with my sister, when the TV crew arrived to do their piece at the Standing Stones, so I am nearly famous!

It is about an hour long - not sure if it will work outside the UK, but hopefully it should. xx


Friday, December 24, 2010

Nollaig Chridheal

Every Blessing of the season to all.  Thank you for reading my blog, and for every lovely comment.  I have found such wonderful people through this space - thank you - thank you.  Have a very Merry Christmas. xxx

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sticks and stones?

Hmm - well that's what James has played with all day.
This morning, he grabbed a bundle of kindling from the wood basket and set up a railway track, which later became a ferry terminal.

before he built a multi-storey car park after lunch.  What a busy day!

In the afternoon he held a dinner party for his teddies.  Pebbles from a candle jar and tartlet tins from the cupboard provided the food and plates.
On the busiest shopping day before Christmas too.  I like a bit of perspective.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Suspended for a moment in time

These Solstice days - when time is frozen.

The Sun stoops - low in the cold noon sky

Before turning his face quickly Southwards.

Leaving us to contemplate the gloaming.
As compensation for his fleeting visit.

All creation is waiting -

watching for signs.

The Moon - suspended.
Fullsome and ready to give birth.

 A pregnant pause

In the stillness - we can listen for our own voice.
In the darkness -  we can search for our own light.
In that space- between the breath - we can begin to renew ourselves.

And then - slowly - painfully

The wheel creaks - shudders -
And begins to turn once again.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Deep peace

The snow is still falling here and the garden remains white.  Every now and then, more flurries come down and tidy away our tracks.
 But we are snug and warm, preparing for the holiday and enjoying the peace of the season.

Well, with  two extra boys in this rather small house, this peace is not so much in the sense of stillness and quiet!  It is more the feeling of contentment and companionship  Content that we have all we need, and enjoying the companionship of my step-daughter, her husband and two sons, who are staying with us for a few days.
I posted last week about their Christmas gifts, which I had made.  We exchanged presents on Saturday after dinner, and the boys were really pleased with their art bags.  H, aged 7, pulled out his pencil roll and exclaimed 'Cooooollll!'  I was delighted -handmade is such a good feeling.
They got straight to work this morning - I love this image of H, staring up to Heaven for inspiration!

They happily drew and coloured and wrote all morning.  

 And John has had a bigger audience at story time.

Wishing you peace, wherever you find it to be.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas tree reflections.

We put our Christmas tree up the other day.  Every year I promise myself that it will go up at the beginning of Advent, but it never seems to work out that way.  Anyway, we managed to make it happen.  It is an artificial tree, but it has been part of the family for so many years - about 20 I think, and it is still looking good.  It will see many more Christmases yet.
James was so excited to see the tree and all the bags and boxes of decorations come down from that mysterious hole in the ceiling.  He ran around, pulling out decorations, exclaiming "Oh - do you remember this lovely thing - and this?"   Of course he wanted to hang the decorations on by himself, so I managed to suppress my perfectionist designer urges, and just go with the joy (at least until he is not around to see me surreptitiously move them around)

Over the years, like most families, we have amassed quite a collection of tree decorations, some tacky, some glamorous, some handmade, and all cherished. - I can recall where each one came from, and many have little stories that we remember each year. This rather dishevelled angel was one of the very first things I bought for my very first tree.  We keep trying to fix her hair, but she resists our efforts.The little woolen figure was made by Kristine when she was younger, and every face she drew looked like that. It makes me smile each year.  I also love the knitted Santa, that I bought when I worked in a Stroke unit. One of the relatives made them and sold them to raise funds for the ward. I think of those patients and their families, and wonder how they all fared - their lives turned upside down in the blink of an eye. 

One year I bought a set of beautiful jeweled fruit from a garden centre that was closing down - 2 apples and 2 pears.  They are so heavy, but I love how they sparkle and shine.  I also remember, from the same shop, but the year before, loving these delicate clear glass balls, they look like bubbles and reflect the light so beautifully.  Sadly I only have one left now.  The golden deer was purchased from yet another garden centre, on one of my last jaunts out with my Mother. It was one of our favourite lunch spots, and afterwards we enjoyed browsing around, and watching the amazing number of birds that flocked to the bird feeders. A trip before Christmas was always obligatory to see the seasonal displays.

The shiny pink fir cone is part of an unmatched set bought one Summer afternoon in a Paris flea market. As far away from Christmas as you can get, really, but what lovely romantic memories they hold.
When my elder daughter was very small, we visited a former colleague of mine one Christmas, and as we were leaving she asked Karen if she would like to chose something from her tree to put on hers.  She chose this little red stocking.  The years passed, we moved on to other jobs, our roads diverged, and we lost touch, but I still think of her every year as I place the little piece of felt on the tree.

It is not just the decorations themselves that stir the memories.  The boxes they are stored in have their own stories too.  This cheerful box, which now stores glass baubles, was originally a Diwali present from a former colleague of my husband.  I can still taste those sweet mangoes - they were, just as the lid says.  I love to see this sunny, brightly coloured box, as much as the glittering decorations it now contains.

It is more than just tinseled trinkets that hang on those branches - our lives dangle there too. As I decide where to put our disheveled Angel, am I the same woman who first wondered that 30 odd years ago? How have I changed? What has remained the same?   I am reflected in the windows, and on the shiny baubles, along with the coloured lights, so this is a good time to look at that image in the glass, and turn inward to see if it matches up to the person I am inside. As we head towards the Winter Solstice, these memories and reflections blaze out,alongside the Christmas tree but we need the darkness in order to really see them clearly.
Solstice blessings to all.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Handmade holiday 2010

I  first saw the idea for an Art-on the go bag in The Creative Family, by Amanda Blake Soule.  I thought it was a great idea, but at the time, I had no-one to make it for.  Well, this year I am making 2 - yipee! My step-grandsons are now 7 and almost 5, so are the perfect age for this project - and I get to use some of my leftover tweed from the blinds I made in the Autumn.
It is basically a  drawstring bag made into a backpack.  I also made a pencil roll from more tweedy offcuts. In the bag,  I have added a tin of  beeswax crayons, a sharpener, a good drawing book, a mandala colouring book, and a book for reading.  No doubt some shiny gold chocolate coins will find their way in to the bag too.  Not entirely hand made, but I am pleased with it.  The second one will be finished tomorrow.  I have used blue for the bag, and reversed the colourway on the pencil roll.

My step-daughter, her husband and the two boys are coming over from Switzerland to stay with us on Friday for five days, so we will be having our present exchange during that time. We are all looking forward to their visit, as we haven't seen them for a year.  I hope they like their gifts

Can you see the Harris Tweed label on the inside of the pencil roll?  When I bought the tweed from the mill, the man asked me what I was making.  Thinking he was just expressing a friendly interest I answered - 'Two blinds and a cushion'  He then went behind a large counter,  unlocked a metal box and carefully extracted 3 of these coveted orb labels, which he handed over to me.  I felt as if I was being bestowed with a great honour, and reverently tucked them into my purse. It was so nice sewing them into the pencil rolls - I had a real sense that I was part of a great tradition.

Thank you to Tonya for the Handmade Holiday inspiration every week.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The ego has landed

You may remember this photograph from this post back in September. It was such a magical golden autumn day, and I took many photographs.  I really loved this one, and I had many lovely comments about it.
Well, I entered  it into a  photography competition run by a Scottish public body,  looking for Autumn pictures, and I received an email yesterday telling me it had been shortlisted for the final!  The winner will be chosen by the public in an online poll.

But - what to do?  Do I pass on the link to everyone on all my online haunts and ask them to vote for me?  I could ask my family to gather together their facebook friends, work colleagues and all, to vote en masse for my little bark boat.
It doesn't seem right to do that,  even though my ego is screaming 'GO FOR IT!' and telling me I am a fool for putting myself at such a disadvantage.

I am so delighted and astounded that my picture has been chosen - especially when it has such happy memories for me.  I feel as if I have won already - the prize is really a nominal one.

So I won't pass on the link, but I will appease my ego by showing off the photograph again.

And it makes a pleasant change from all the snow.:)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A reminder.

I wrote these words on the kitchen blackboard at the beginning of the year, to remind us to think before we speak.  Over the weeks and months they faded, and were overwritten by other things we had to remember - 'order coal'  'dog food' or various unidentified mobile phone numbers etc -  things of everyday life.
Over the last few days, I have been reminded of the wisdom of these words - not only in how we speak to each other as a family, but how we relate to others in this 'virtual' world.  Blog posts, comments on other's posts and forum comments can all be read in different ways, depending on the circumstances or frame of mind of the reader.

I will strive to keep these words in my heart as well as on my blackboard.  Blessings. xx

Friday, December 10, 2010

This moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember. 

I am joining in again with Soulemama this week.  Wishing you all peaceful blessings in this time of Advent

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Remains of the day.

As I go about the day, I often come across little scenarios that James has created. I love these still life representations of his imagination.  Sometimes they are fairly obvious, sometimes unexpected and sometimes completely baffling, but always a delight. Here are some from today.

 I wonder where he'll go tomorrow?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reality bites.

It snowed again today - 7 hours without stopping.  Scotland is at a standstill.  No doubt, as I type this, some poor folks will still be sitting in the motorway jams they have been in since 11 am this morning.
We have had no post, no deliveries, no buses for over a week. Nothing is moving, all is quiet.

 While I have enjoyed this short hiatus from the hurly burly, ten days of snow is beginning to impact on our lives a bit. We are not prepared for Winters like this, and it has made me stop and reflect on just what our real needs are, and what we can learn from this experience. Food, warmth and waterproof clothing are the main necessities.  Thankfully, we have good outdoor Winter wear, although it is becoming a drag having to get all kitted up in the boots, trousers, anorak, hat, gloves and find a spade, even just to empty the bins!  Recycling and composting are much more difficult when we have to dig our way to the bins. Ah well.

Apart from fresh milk, I have not needed to buy any food since before the storm.  Our store cupboard and tiny freezer have provided us with warm and nutritious meals, and one of the hens is still laying.  We make bread or scones, soups, stews and grain dishes. Who knows, I may even need to open that packet of organic amaranth that has lived on the dry goods shelf for a couple of years.  Our fresh veg is running  low.  Plenty onions and roots, but the green stuff is buried under deep deep snow.  Yesterday, craving some fresh kale, I ventured down to the veg plot. I waded through snow up to the top of my thighs, ducked below a telephone cable that had come down in the garden and headed for where I hoped was the kale patch.  I forgot the spade !!! I dug down, down, down with my bare hands and found a frozen stalk of kale.  Scrabbling around and pulling frantically, I collected enough for dinner, and headed back up to plunge my freezing hands under the hot tap.

 How to address this in the future?  next year we will be living and growing on the croft.  it may - no, it will, take a year or so to really get established, but our plan is to be as self sufficient in fruit and veg as we possibly can. Our biggest problem has always been the storage of produce.  We are pretty good at growing, but harvesting and storing has not been our forte.Now we have out buildings and a barn, which we will restore, but they are not  close to the house, so not very' permaculture', as my husband says.  I have always been taken with the idea of root cellars, so you can imagine my delight when we uncovered the remains of an old byre, in the garden, a few feet away from  the croft house (see above)  It is pretty tumble down and overgrown, but much of the structure is still there, not to mention the old flagstone floor.  Our neighbour has an old stone building right next to our fence, and he has said we can use the stone from that to build up the walls.  My vision is for a low, longish but narrow structure, full of fresh and preserved produce.  Crocks of fermented, dried and pickled veg will line the shelves, and roots and greens will be stored at floor level.  I see it very clearly.

 We are running out of coal and wood.  We are waiting on a delivery, but the transport chaos here means we could be waiting a long time.  Sitting by the fireside on these dark cold nights provides much more than physical warmth - it nourishes the soul.  When we have not been looking out of the window, marvelling at the dancing snowflakes, we have gazed deeply into the flickering caverns of the fire.
Fuel self-sufficiency is our first acheivable goal for next year. As crofters, we have been allocated our own peat bank. Peat was the crofters main source of fuel,but this practice died out years ago, as folk installed 'the oil' to heat their homes. Now, of course, there has been a bit of a revival with the high oil prices.  We will be heading out to the peats next spring, so no doubt there will be plenty of blog posts about that.  This impressive stack is sadly not ours, but one in the next village.  It is what we are aiming for.

And so, back to the here and now.  Meal planning is becoming more of a challenge, we wait until dusk to light the fire, and we have a leak in the conservatory.  It is not bad, but it is persistent, and we cannot see where it is coming from. It is where the conservatory roof joins on to the house wall, so we suspect it could be a loose piece of flashing, but the snow is deep on the roof and we can't trace it.  At least it is only the seasonal table that is out of action, so I am thankful for that.

It has, however, meant that Mother Mary has been flooded out and has had to move to temporary accommodation. Some things never change.  Still, she resolutely moves along that star path towards the light, as always, full of Grace.
Warm wishes to you all. xx

Saturday, December 4, 2010

For the Birds

The cold snowy weather brings the birds flocking into the garden. Their hunger makes them more tolerant of our presence near them, and we delight in watching them peck at the bird table, or swing from the feeders.
The blackbird Lauds the sunrise with his beautiful plainsong. 

But all too soon, the morning rush hour begins and it is back to business. This feeder is a very popular breakfast stop.

Always a queue for a perch here. Think it needs a refill - Service please!

Some customers prefer to start with the fruit platter - chilled apples still on the tree.

The bird table d'hote is always popular, of course.
and we have lots more room downstairs. (don't you love their tiny fragile feet!)

Then, sit back, relax and enjoy the music.

It's great fun, running a bird cafe.  Visit Veronika's blog for a wonderful birdseed flapjack recipe.

With thanks to the Blackbirds, Robin, Sparrow family, Blue-tit, Great-tit, Dunnock and Chaffinch for making this post possible.  You enrich my soul with your presence.


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