Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

We made the most yummiest goodest chocolate chip cookies in the world yesterday!  James said so, therefore it must be true.  In fact they were jolly nice - that crispy yet chewy way that you often get in a bought cookies, but without the list of additives as long as your arm.  Perfect.

So they weren't perfectly round and even.  A good lesson for Mama in letting go -  they are only chocolate chip cookies for goodness sake -even if they are the yummiest goodest ones in the world.  So I let go.....

And they turned out just perfectly.

Here is the recipe should you feel so inclined.

The Yummiest Goodest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World.

8 oz soft butter
8 oz caster sugar (they can be very sweet so feel free to add less)
1 large egg yolk
8 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 oz (approx) chocolate (either ready made chips or a chopped up bar - dark, milk, white or all 3 even)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Sift in dry ingredients and work into a dough
Add chocolate chips.

Turn out onto floured surface and make a cylinder shape. (I find it easier to flour some baking parchment or clingfilm and roll it up that way.  Dimensions vary according to you taste, but remember it has to fit into your fridge)
Chill for 30 mins at least. (We didn't wait that long, but it is easier to slice up if it is chilled and firm)
Cut into 1/2 inch slices place on greased trays.  bake at 170 C / 350 F  Gas 3 for about 20 mins.
When cookies start to turn brown around edges they are done.
Lift off very carefully onto a wire rack.  They will be very soft and fragile, but will soon crisp up, retaining that slightly squishy middle. ( Yes - I know the feeling well.)

You can add all sorts of flavourings  - grated orange zest is good - lovely with chocolate.  Replace a tablespoon of flour with a tblsp cocoa for double choc chip.  Nuts - yes! Ginger - why not?

This recipe makes lots and lots, but you don't have to bake them right away.  Slice them and open freeze on trays, and then decant into bags.  Let them thaw for about 10 mins before baking as above.

Alternatively - you can eat them straight from the bowl.

Let me know if you try them, and what goodies you add.  I am adding this to my new recipe page at the top.  It is a bit random right now, as I trawl through the blog to find them, but it's coming along. Tags are such a good idea - wish I had used them. xx

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sew what?

So - here we are - up to our ears, still, in boxes of books, toys, dishes and candle holders, all looking for a home.  Our first house guests of the summer arrive in less than 2 weeks time, and there are no curtains or blinds on the spare room windows - eek!  Out came the sewing machine today in an attempt to remedy that situation, but I was distracted by a boy wanting me to make him something.  Well - what else could I do?  I made him a snake.  A very goofy looking serpent, mind you, but the boy was pleased. Why do these simple quick projects end up taking for ever though?  I may yet be taping pages from the Stornoway Gazette onto the guest room windows, but - hey ho!
I do plan, at some stage to make the window blinds (shades) in the same fabric as Mr Snakey there - very coordinated.  I can picture it now.

Another thing I can picture very well is having a dedicated sewing room in the loft.  Oh my - I think I might even call it a studio! At the moment, any sewing means a major upheaval and take over of the kitchen table.  Simmering pots and piles of washing up are not really compatible with accurate cutting, straight seams and precious fabric, so I am getting very excited about this idea.  Mostly, I have to say, since last week, when I overcame my fear of stepping on and off ladders at the top, and actually saw what a wonderful huge space this is.  There are windows on both gable end walls, and most of it is floored.  There would be plenty of room for us all to have several little areas: for sewing, computer work, setting out train tracks, and as a library.  John has already been trialling some shelving ideas, which look great, so...watch this space!

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I sneaked down to the mainland for a few days last week - managing to avoid most of the airline chaos that buffeted the country, along with the high winds.  It was worth the dental appointment to see the family and catch up.

Along with a spot of shopping - mostly in my favourite yarn shop, just off the Grassmarket.

and a relaxed lunch - on my own - with only the latest copy of Interweave, and a nice glass of chilled white for company.
Catching up with Kristine in her new flat. 

Great to have some uninterrupted Grandmotherly time with Finlay
 and lovely Erin.  Look at those gorgeous chubby cheeks - mmmm!

Such a lovely time with them all.  I did see Kenneth and Louise too, but my battery had run out, so no photos there, sorry.  I will try to make up for that with more of Erin and Finlay (and the pink Grandma made cardigan which just fits.)
Back home now, and back to the land next week. xx

Weekend reflections - knitting reflections

I have been meaning to join in Weekend Reflections for a while now, so when I saw how this shot turned out, I could resist no longer. On a trip to visit family on the mainland, I had to call in to my favourite shop in Edinburgh - K1 knitting boutique just off the Grassmarket. Oh yes - I spent far too much, but you can never have enough yarn.
Join in and see reflections around the world at Newtown Daily Photo.

Friday, May 27, 2011

This moment...

A single image, no words, capturing a precious moment from my week.  A simple moment that I want to pause, savour and remember.

I am so happy to be joining in with Soulemama this week - a very special week for her and her beautiful family.  I wish you all a joyful and wonderful weekend. xx

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Yarn along 3

I am happy to be joining in with Ginny at small things this week.
Two books to share, I had ordered Joel Salatin's The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer, but as soon as it was unwrapped, John nabbed it, and I have to be content with listening to him reading out snippets. I am looking forward to reading it myself. In the meantime I am reading The Hive by Bee Wilson. This is a lovely book, not about beekeeping, but a more philosophical and literary look at the bee in culture. It is from our visiting Library Van.
Knitting wise - I have started the Pure and Simple baby Cardigan from Weekend Knitting. This is for our nephew and his wife's baby, due in August. (You can see their wedding photo's here). I am using more of the Artesano superwash merino, this time in a soft cream.  I originally wanted to do this for Erin, but was put off because the pattern calls for two different needles to be used in each row, but in fact it is not as tricky as it first sounded.
Visit Yarn along to share what others are reading and knitting too. xx

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wet and windy weekend

The  dreich weather this weekend has been reminiscent of late November,  so we were mostly confined to the house.  We are all still sniffling with the dregs of this cold, so we really didn't mind too much, and we did have a few reminders of the sun to cheer us.

Settling down for the day, there was a spot of mending to catch up on, and the postman dropped in with a parcel from 'you know where'.  John disappeared with the Joel Salatin , but soon began to reappear to read out quotes and passages from the book.  A very inspiring man (both - of course!).  James decided to do some drawing, and got out the finger crayons.  These are great little things - you insert a finger inside the crayon and draw.  However, he is not really big on art, and pretty soon the crayons become props for other games - building towers, trains and ladders.

It was a time to make pie, check on our sourdough starter (nearly ready) and eat good homemade bread.

It was a time to catch up on all those little unfinished crafty projects, start on new ones, and dream about the next one after that.

 James was full of energy, and in between the heavy squally showers, he ran"faster than the wind" round and round the house. Must have been the Vitamin A. While he was outside, he collected stones and brought them in for a game.

There were plenty opportunities for rainbow spotting.

And later on we burned a few lumps of last year's peat.  Not a bad weekend at all, really.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Inside the peat bank

We may be up to our knees in mud and bog water these days, but being literally so close to the Earth affords us some intimate views of the beauty in the land. Shapes and colours we might otherwise miss are brought into delightful focus.

Finding treasure beneath our feet.  What jewels are scattered there if we look down.

Visit Friday's Nature Table @ The Magic Onions and join in the feast.

This moment....

No words - a single photo - capturing a precious moment between worlds.  Wishing you all a peaceful and blessed weekend.
Share in more special moments with Soulemama.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

From the peat bank

A dry-ish morning had us heading out to the peat bank early on.  We are hoping to get the peats cut over the next couple of weeks, give them the summer to dry out, and then stack them at the house for our winter fuel.  Many people do still cut their own peat - as one of the other Mums in the village said - "It's just so worth it"  And indeed it is - so off we went.
Our peat bank is a good bit out of the township, at the side of the main road, so our newbie flounderings are visible to the entire community as they drive by, tooting their horns and waving, not to mention the various camper vans and tourists who slow down just a bit, hoping to see some traditional crofting :)  Maybe I have appeared on someone else's blog post about their holiday?
Anyway let me give you a wee insight into our day.

These are our tools.  The flat spade for lifting the turf, and the tarisker is the blade shaped tool, which is the actual peat cutting implement.  We have 2 tariskers - one is the working one, and the other is an older one which has recently had the shaft replaced and we wanted to try it out.  We also have a spade which is designed for cutting the peats on your own.  It was made for us by one of the men at John's Gaelic group, and we were trying that out today too.  Normally only the tarisker and flat spade are required.

The first task is to turf the bank and expose the peat.  The turfs are placed down in the trench made by last years peat cutting, and they will regrow and so aid the regeneration of the moss. Our bank has not actually been cut for several years, so it has overgrown quite a bit. John was out and did the turfing a few days ago, so it was straight to work.

Anyway - the next stage is to cut the peats, using the tarisker, or peat iron.  This is really a two-man job - one to cut  and the other to catch and throw the peat block up onto the bank, but I needed John to operate the camera. Hopefully you can see the process, as demonstrated by yours truly here. We take turns at cutting and throwing.
In the past this was very much a community event, as whole villages and families all gathered to cut everyone's peats for the Winter.  Nowadays it seems to be smaller groups or husband and wife teams going out for a couple of hours when they can.  While I would appreciate a whole clan of folks helping out with the cutting throwing and laying out to dry, I was secretly relieved that my clumsy and slapdash methods did not come under too much scrutiny from the village elders.

And then a wee rest and a shared cup of tea -

before we set the day's harvest out to dry. 

We'll keep cutting over the next couple of weeks, as the weather permits and then we should be able to lift them and stack them into little piles to dry out completely, but more on that another day.  

It is beautiful stuff when it is cut though - like rich, dense, chocolate fudge cake.  You could almost pour some double cream on that.
Aye, you fair work up an appetite after a morning at the peats!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Secret Life of Books.

Not much to report this week.  The weather has not been great, so we only got one morning at the peats, and various other matters kept us away from the croft.  James had a big day out with the Croileagan to see the Lewis Chessmen, do some artful stuff at An Lanntair, and go out for lunch, then he had a birthday party the next day.  John is involved in a tractor renovation project with a voluntary group, and I have had a bit of a cold. The blogging muse has been a bit lost somewhere in all that too, hence the short break.
 Still - no lolling around.  Our "stuff"  arrived from the mainland yesterday - the contents of our storage unit, that we have lived quite happily without for several weeks, were delivered. Our tidy, comfortable but small home was soon completely cluttered with boxes, cartons and baskets.  You may recall that it was mainly boxes of books, but I was quite surprised by the sheer number of candle sticks and holders I seem to have collected!  Anyway, we have almost found a place for everything, and any homeless items are now - well - in the loft - where else? Isn't that the way of things?  We move stuff from one attic to another. Sigh...

And so to those books. It was great to fill up all those empty bookshelves, and cover the wall with colour.  I am not one for deliberate placement - colour, subject, letter of the alphabet sort of coding.  Nope!  They just go up as they come.  It does mean that it can take a while to find the book you are looking for - usually you find two or three other ones along the way - often on a completely different subject. This haphazard system does throw up some interesting combinations too. As I sat back and contemplated my now full bookshelves I noticed some pretty unlikely bedfellows.
I am sure Tom Nairn would enjoy being beside Keir Hardie and Noam Chomsky, while Kazanstzakis could have a good old discussion with his older compatriot Homer. However, on another shelf, the younger Greek author might have a harder time from the Rev. Horne and The Coventanters.
I do feel a bit sorry for Hildegarde of Bingen - sandwiched as she is between Warren Buffet, and the neuroscientist Dr V. S. Ramachandran,who writes here about Phantoms in the Brain, but  I  am quite sure she will be able to hold her own.
"What are people for?", wonders Wendell Berry.  He may find some answers in the dictionary of Philosophy, but I wonder how he is faring with Gillespie Strang, that grasping, manipulative archetype of destructive capitalism on the other side of him.  Hopefully he in turn has been influenced by the Ten Poems to Change your life.
Two volumes of Schopenhauer - The World as Will and Idea (a fabulous charity shop find of my husband) are separated by a number of slim paperbacks, which include A Start in Smallholding, The Eclipse of Scottish Culture, Poultry and waterfowl problems, Essentials of Latin grammar, issue 189 of the now defunct Gaelic magazine Gairm, and The Tibetan Art of Living. A fair number of different ideas there I would think.
And, finally the very intellectual and serious grouping of Confucius, Rousseau and Frankl is hopefully enlivened by Miss Lillian Beckwith, and her patronising, yet delightful stories of Morag, Erchie et al.   Yes - a Hebridean Idyll - that's what they all need!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Not all work

We have had some time off and some fun on the beach.  These were taken at Ardroil beach on Monday.  Oh those Bank Holiday crowds!

A fabulous day - sunny, warm and never ending.  Such a busy time - just being.

So many  interesting and beautiful things to find on the beach.  

So many dunes to clamber up - and slide down again!

And the ever replenishing tide.  

Friday, May 6, 2011

This moment...

A single photo - no words - capturing a special, long awaited moment.  A moment that I want to pause, savour and remember. Wishing you a joyful weekend.

Joining in with Soulemama again this week.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Potatoes planted

and more potatoes

A cool shady seat for a tea break

Strawberries, salads and herbs

and parsley.   

The essence of Spring!

Our first harvest!

and the result.

Lots of hard work, taking advantage of this wonderful sunshine. More beds dug out today, ready for the carrots, onions and beetroot.  Temporary raised beds will serve for the rest of our veg crop, as we wait for the drainage work on both fields.  Now our focus shifts to the peat banks - no doubt the subject of a future post.
Not many words today - I am so tired - in such a good way. xx


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