Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Moments in my year.

Another year - and what a good one it was.  A year filled with beauty, joy, fun, laughter, sadness, and new horizons.  A year when we welcomed new members to our family - and said goodbye too. A year of hard work, mistakes, steep learning curves and the triumphs of achieving new skills. A year well spent.
Thank you all for being with me during these last twelve months - it has been wonderful having you along to share in the ups and downs of this crofting life.  I have so many plans and ideas for the coming year, so I do hope you will join me again.
Wishing you and your family blessings and joy for the year ahead.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas blessings

Christmas Day was lovely - slow, relaxing and full of quiet joy. No camera interference today, the images are all stored in my heart, but I can tell you that - presents were opened, carols were sung, happy calls to family made.  The rib roast of local grass-fed beef was superb, the Yorkshire pudding was perfect, and the sticky caramel sponges with crispy walnuts were sublime. Oh, yes - there was a bit of washing up to do too!

And a new member joined out little band - introducing Mick!  We didn't think we were ready to have another dog in our lives so soon after Robbie - but some things are meant to be, and here he is.  We are so glad to welcome him to our family.

It has been a very stormy few days, weather wise, so we are spending another quiet day by the fire, eating leftovers, playing with new toys, reading our Christmas books and just getting to know each other.
Peaceful holiday blessings to you all. xxx

Friday, December 23, 2011

And the wheel turns once more.

The darkest day had a little more significance for us yesterday, as we had a power failure on the island. This meant that our Croileagan Christmas party was held by lamplight and candle light.  Neighours with solid fuel and gas ovens warmed our sausage rolls and mince pies, and the whole event had an extra air of excitement.

We still managed to play our games - a combination of pass the parcel and forfeits, by wind-up lantern and battery operated cd player was a lot of fun.

Then it was out into the stormy day, heading for home.  A day when we never saw the sun at all -  and this was the closest I was willing to get to the stone circle.

And yet - the Sun did rise again this morning.  The light has returned to us for another year, and we begin our circle dance once more.

So - let the feasting begin!

Wishing you all love and blessings for a wonderful Christmas.  Thank you for all your beautiful words of friendship and support, as well as your time over the past year. xxx

Monday, December 19, 2011

One Midwinter Day

These dark Winter mornings have been keeping us in bed later each day.  When the light begins to creep round the edges of the blinds, the morning is  already well underway.  Time to dig out the alarm clock and try to get a bit of an earlier start made to the day.  James usually creeps through at some point in the night and is cosily snuggled between us, deeply asleep. I creep out from under the warm duvet and pad through to the dark kitchen.

I wait sleepily for the kettle to boil for that first magical restorative cup of tea-  I have left the oats to soak overnight for our breakfast porridge, so they will cook quickly when we are ready.

Enjoying the warmth from the cup in my hands, I make my way to the living room, and nestle on the couch, drinking my tea and thinking about the day ahead.  I make a list of tasks for the week, and decide which ones I will attempt to achieve today.  I never get through these list, but I like to write them anyway.  It does help bring some focus to the day.

The moon is still shining brightly in the Western sky. I stand at the door for a moment, feeling the frost creeping through my pyjamas and marvel once again at it's silver beauty.

Then the rest of the family awaken, and the house begins to come to life.

The dawn breaks at around 9.15 am, flooding the sky with a golden light.  

In these short days, the sun stays close to the horizon, and the sea-loch reflects the pink of the sky, bathing everything in a rosy glow.

This morning, I have a ham to cure and some cooking to be done for later. James is at a Christmas party in a village some way up the coast with the Croileagan - they have gone in the local mini-bus.  I have lots of time to myself then - what else can I cross off that list?  As the morning wears on, though,  and the dishes pile up in the sink, the call of the outdoors begins to whisper and then shout.  It is a glorious blue Midwinter's day...

Abandoning the dirty dishes and the unswept floor, I head off to pick James up at the end of the party.  A rainbow is reflected in the loch as I drive along.

James is having a good time at the party.  I arrive just as he is receiving his gift from "Santa", who besides his traditional red suit also seems to be wearing some very dark sunglasses. James confides that it is not the real Santa, but only someone dressed up. (One of the fathers or grandfathers perhaps - hence the dark glasses?) I suggest a picnic lunch, instead of a trip home on the bus, and he readily agrees.

We stop on the way down at this wonderful little deli, based on one of the crofts. Real food can be found in some surprising places.  We order sandwiches cut from a boule of onion seed bread. I have smoked venison and carmelised onion, and James opts for ham and roasted tomato relish. All home produced and local.  A hot tea for me, water for J and a chocolate and raspberry cake and we are good to go. 
 We are heading.... the beach! 

 And - breathe. 

This is one of James's favourite beaches, as he likes the shiny shells he sometimes finds here.  No shells today, but lots of  pebbles.  After our delicious lunch, he starts off, looking for the most beautiful stones he can find - and he finds lots - each one more fabulous than the last, and all are exclaimed over and examined in great detail, before being carefully placed in the empty tea carton.

Time slips away and we stay for longer than we meant to.  We are cold, but so happy and refreshed as we bundle back into the car and wend our way home.

Already the light is beginning to fade, as the sun slips lower.

And it is time to feed the pigs before dark and begin those evening chores. Oh, yes - and the washing up is still there.  Well - it always is.  xx

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Deck the Halls

A quick peek at our Christmas decorations.

Old and new ornaments on the tree, crowned by a beautiful fairy, who is even older than me! She looks so lovely in her new dress.

Candle and fire light reflected around the living room.

Christmassy scents and sights in the kitchen.

James decorated his own room. He made the wonderful ribbon wreath at Croileagan (play school) and he set up the Nativity scene on his window ledge all by himself.  I love how the dolphin was there.

But right now, he is very interested in our latest decoration.  I wonder how long it will last?

Wishing you all blessings of light and warmth in this, the week before Christmas

Friday, December 16, 2011

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 happy to be joining in again with Soulemama this week. Warmest wishes to you all

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Shopping in Stornoway

So, what is there to do on a dark Midwinter afternoon in Stornoway?  Go Shopping of course!  Lets see if we can find a bit of Christmas sparkle. Come along with me.

There are some lovely shiny things at the Arts Centre, An Lanntair, and an excellent exhibition on just now. Not to mention the coffee and cakes.  But no time for that now.  Across the street, Inspiration has the most gorgeous shimmery dress in the window ~ sigh.

Okay then - round the corner to Murdo MacLean's - our department store.  Every town should have a shop like this.  In fact, every town used to have one, until out of town shopping centres took over.  Don't you love that Santa?  A wee bit further along there is K Macdonald's, pharmacist and gift shop.  How cool is that window display?

Oh - just got to quickly nip into the bank. Can you wait there a minute?  Thanks.

Right then - across the road to the Hebridean Chocolate shop.  This is what is known as a pop-up shop; only open until Christmas.  Shame really, as the chocolate really is delicious. but we can buy it all year round in other outlets all over the island.  James wants to go and see if the RNLI shop is open, but it isn't, so instead we will cross over and look at the stunning display in the Hebridean Jewellery shop.  Very, very nice place.

Ah - one of my favourites now.  The Good Food Boutique.  A delicatessen and purveyor of fine foods.  My favourite place for cheeses and all sorts of goodies.  James particularly wants you to notice this gingerbread house.  I think he remembers my farcical attempts at creating one last year, and doesn't want to miss out again. Is that a hint James?

Back down the street now, we pass Wee W's - formerly the Woolworth's store.  Santa looks a bit too comfy there.  I hope he wakes up in time!

And on round to the loveliness of Mosaic - gorgeous vintage-themed homewares and candles, and next door is Delights - another yummy delicatessen - but different to the Good Food Boutique, so I really have to visit both, don't you think?  It has a nice coffee bar too.

Heading home now, let's stop in for a chat with Linzi.  Her shop, Linzi's Yummies is certainly the yummiest smelling shop in town.  She makes all her own stock - candles, soaps, bath bombs etc - sls free too. And what's more she is a really lovely lady. 

Well, that's about it for today, although there are lots of other great places that i didn't have time to visit.  Anyway,  I hope you enjoyed our little shopping trip.  Thirsty work though.  Lets have some raspberry lemonade. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yarn along

Just a quickie today, as I am sneaking off to a certain shop in town when a boy is otherwise occupied.  I decided at the last minute to  knit a pebble vest for my nephew.  I have been inspired by all the lovely grey knits I have seen on Yarn Along lately, so I was delighted to see some grey Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran discounted at our fabulous local yarn store.  Just the job.  The cute gingerbread man stitch marker came from Emily - thank you xxx  In fact, I have been overcome by a sudden need to knit more last minute presents.  Why can't this happen in Ferbruary?

I am reading the latest Joel Salatin - Folks this just ain't normal.  Man - he just hit the spot every time! I think I love him (in a very chaste and innocent way).  His chapter on aeroplane food packaging, which I read last night, made me laugh out loud, while nodding furiously in agreement.
James and I have been reading Alison Uttley's Stories for Christmas.  Just completely charming, and delightful. Full of magic and wonder.

Join in over at Ginny's place for more yarns. xxx

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A good way with cranberries

This is a lovely way to use some of the gorgeous red cranberries that are on sale right now - in a delicious Christmassy, spicy, jammy relish.  The original recipe for a cranberry mincemeat was posted on my old blog a couple of years ago, but  I have tweaked it a wee bit since then.  Here is my latest version - very yummy, if I say so myself.

2 lb 8 oz cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 large cooking apples (I used bramleys)
2 teaspoons mixed spice
8 oz butter
6 or 7 fl oz maple syrup

Cook together until the butter has melted and the fruit is beginning to soften (don't let it get too soft at this stage)

Then add

About 1 lb 4 oz of sugar (brown preferably, but I had a mixture of soft brown and golden caster sugar 
                                       to make up the weight)

6 oz of chopped candied peel
4 fl oz cointreau (my preference as I think the orange flavour goes well with here, but brandy or rum 
                           would work too)

Mix in until sugar is dissolved, then simmer until the fruit is nice and soft, but still whole.  Ladle into hot sterilised jars and cover with a waxed disc, just as you would for other preserves.  The butter will coat the fruit as it cools, stopping the fermentation you sometimes get with other mincemeat recipes.

We made some cranberry mincemeat pies  - just roll out some shortcrust pastry, stamp into rounds and spoon some of the cranberry mincemeat into each pastry shell.  Add a little pastry star, brush with beaten egg, and bake at 350 deg (180 c) until -

- golden brown and delicious.  Dust with icing sugar and enjoy.

But don't let you children wander through to your carpeted front room with them though.  Make them sit at the kitchen table.

Pop a festive fabric hat on some of the jars to give as presents.

But keep plenty for your own kitchen too, as it is very versatile as well as delicious.  It can be used in traditional mince pies, as a compote with ice cream,  or any number of dessert ideas.  You could even use it as a cranberry sauce with the turkey, or later with cold cuts and sandwiches - lovely with the Christmas ham.  And it keeps well too - an all round winner. xxx

Once opened, keep in the fridge and use up within 2 weeks.


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