Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Delicious Fruit Cheese

I have decided to make some foody gifts for neighbours this Christmas. One of the items going in the bag/basket/box (haven't worked that out yet) will be a fruit cheese.  This is a delicious confection - basically a very reduced and concentrated jelly, slices of which are delicious served with cheese (or eaten on it's own). This is a very versatile recipe and I would imagine most fruit would work well.  I made mine with apples and pears, adding a few cloves for some Christmas flavour.

 Chop your chosen fruit up and place in a large heavy pan, adding enough water to just cover.  Bring to boil and simmer until the fruit is soft and pulpy. I used 2 kg of fruit, but the exact amount doesn't really matter, as you weigh the pulp again later.

Press the fruit through a sieve (a plastic one is best) and then weigh the pulp. Return to your cleaned pan and add the same weight of granulated sugar.

Then you just let it simmer and bubble away until it is reduced to a glorious golden brown lava.  It is ready when you can draw your spoon through the cheese, and it leaves a clean line on the bottom of the pan for a second or two. About an hour or so.

Pour into hot jars or moulds, brushed with a little glycerine.  I had been collecting pretty china teacups from the charity shop, to use as the containers for my fruit cheese. Those little white ramekin dishes would look good too.

When filled, seal over the cheese with melted food grade wax.  I got mine from here.  Once this has hardened, the fruit cheese will last for a year.  I did this, only because I am giving these away as gifts, but you can also seal with those waxed discs and covers you get for preserve making.

Wrapped up and ready to go.

Ideally it should be left to mature for 4 - 6 weeks, but, let's just have a little taste - just to see, shall we?

A nice bit of cheddar and a small snifter of sloe gin to accompany it - the perfect appetiser.

I think this would work very well with cranberries - a slice of cranberry fruit cheese along with the Christmas turkey would be very pleasant indeed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Seven Days

We are in the midst of our Thanksgiving holiday weekend, on Lewis.  I don't know if it is at all related to the US Thanksgiving, but no turkeys are involved. Here it is a religious event; services of Thanksgiving have been held in churches all over the island today, and tomorrow is a local holiday.  So I have been thinking today of all the things I have been thankful for in these past Seven Days  

 It has been a stormy week - spent mostly indoors, with the lamps lit earlier now. I am thankful that we were safe and snug in our home, as the wind and rain lashed in from the sea.

I am thankful that the weather is not always like that - and  that we have spectacularly beautiful days too.  On this still blue Monday morning,  I pulled in to the side of the road to answer a call on my mobile.  As I sat there, chatting to my son, who was walking through the streets of Edinburgh, I was thankful for the modern technology that allowed that connection.

Thankful for my children, and for a lovely birthday evening out 

and for cosy, flickering peat fire flames.

I was thankful for dancing kitchen helpers,

and for warm, sweet smelling baths.

and nourishing food.

I am thankful that my Seven days have been filled with ordinary extraordinary pleasures.  I hope that you too have been touched by joy over this last week - thank you for reading. xxx

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Slo~o~o~wly rippling along

Well, as you can see,  progress is pretty slow with the Ripple. It takes me a whole evening to do a row, and even then i have to only concentrate on that - no peeking at online TV programme replays (sorry Hugh and Kirstie) or talking to my husband, or anything like that.  I still love it and want to be spending time with it, but there are so many other things happening too.
I had a slight colour crisis when I added that bright yellow, but I think I am ok with it now. I am just trying to decide what yarn to use next - white or green.  I think white followed by green -  yes?  I have just ordered a light tangerine and a beige to spice up the mix a bit.

I just thought I would put it beside my lovely Ikea pillowcases to see how it would look, and I am pretty pleased with it - actually really thrilled with it, considering the fact that I could not crochet at all until a few months ago. I will try and move this along a bit, but I can hear the tinkling sound of crocheted snowflakes calling me

And now to some reading.  Yes - the Christmas home style magazines are out.  These are my favourites, and it just wouldn't be Christmas without poring over the sparkly loveliness in these pages.  I am also still on a country village reading kick. A bit of gentle country crisis and intrigue in The Choir, by Joanna Trollope. Just getting into this one and meeting the various characters, but looking good so far.  I am also dipping in (frequently) to Country Things.  I love Alison Uttley - author of the Little Grey Rabbit stories, and other evocative books.  This is one of her memoirs, growing up on a farm in Derbyshire in the early years of the 1900s.  She writes here about listening to tales, toys, Christmas, country cures and farm kitchens.  I bought this one, second hand online and was delighted to find it was an old library book, stamped "Lincolnshire County Council"  I love books like that.  My favourite is one of James's which once graced the shelves in Tulsa City County Library.
There we are then - lots of yarns to be going on with.  I am happy to be joining in with Ginny at Small Things for Yarn Along once more.  Pop over and see what everyone else is up to.
And I would also like to wish everyone celebrating this weekend a very blessed time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giveaway winners

So, a virtual live draw, taken on a mobile phone, so the sound is a bit quiet - and my hair is all over the place :)  Thank you all for taking part in the giveaway - it was such a fun thing to do.  So congratulations to Tracey from the lovely blog Clover,  who wins a bag of Hebridean goodies, and to Esther, who wins a little runner-up prize.  Could you both email me your address - thanks. 
Sorry I couldn't send you all something, but I will do another next year, or for my 500th post - whichever is first.

Mind you - I do have a few friends who are hosting  handmade giveaways just now, if you care to pop over and visit them.
Becks has a lovely knitted headband on offer.
Emily has made some cute festive stitch markers, and
Swanski is also offering some stitch markers along with a neat zippered pouch to keep them in.

What a wonderful generous world this blogland is.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Five - One

Well, this is me at 51.  A bit of a blurry shot, but not always a bad thing sometimes, especially when I am tired. It has been a busy and lovely day, and I am really happy to be who I am right here and right now.
I just really wanted to pop in and thank you all for your lovely messages and birthday wishes.  I appreciate every single one and I am holding them all in my heart.
I will be drawing the name of the giveaway winner tomorrow!! James and I will attempt a live video draw, so do watch out for that. Nighty night xxxx

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Seven Days

A different Seven Days for me this week, as I headed down to the mainland for the week. 

Dazzled by the bright lights again.

Enjoying the Edinburgh sights - the Castle, a favourite cafe, an interesting banner outside a church, and the Big Wheel going up, ready for the Christmas festival.

Catching up with dear family. My sister, Susan, and her husband were on a flying visit from Canada.  So lovely to see them, even if it was only for a short time.  Karen and lovely Erin - two beautiful smiling girls.  Kenneth, and his girlfriend Louise were good company when I was in Edinburgh, and Finlay, looking very thoughtful. Just so wonderful to spend some time with them all.

Another cafe?  Well, it's what you do on holiday  Pecan and stem ginger cake = very nice.  This is the famous coffee house where JKR wrote some of the first Harry Potter book.  I love the view of Edinburgh Castle from here - and I giggled at the joke some wag had added to this notice in the Ladies room.

Brilliant autumn colours - on trees for a change!

Gorgeous, sparkly, Christmassy loveliness at the Country Living magazine fair. So many beautiful things.  Karen, Erin and I had a really lovely day there.  Very inspiring.

And lets just have another cuddle, shall we?

What ordinary - extraordinary happenings have touched you in the last Seven Days?  If you would like to join in - on any day, please leave a link in the comments, and we can all share in the joy. xxx

*Don't forget about my anniversary Giveaway.  Comments can be left here until Monday!.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Leaving a light in the window

Because I will be away for a few days. Off down to Edinburgh for a solo jaunt, catching up with the rest of the family.  Looking forward to seeing Kenneth after a few months, and spending a lovely day with Karen, Finlay and Erin at the Country Living Christmas fair, lunching with Dad and then heading back home.
And - I will be staying in an hotel - on my own!  How exciting is that?  I feel really quite grown up.
I will be back here at the weekend with lots of photographs - see you all then.

And don't forget to enter my little giveaway, if you haven't already. xxxx

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Seven Days

Seven Days of mainly glorious sunshine and balmy weather. Seven Days of being outdoors, basking in the rays of this late Autumn sunshine. So many beautiful and joyful moments in this past week:

♥ Always entranced by this view - I love to capture the changing seasons from this hilltop.  Noticing how    the colours are - oh so slowly beginning to fade.

♥ Appreciating the joys of line dried laundry - always a satisfying sight.

♥ Enjoying an idle afternoon watching the boats slide across the mirrored surface of Stornoway harbour.

♥ Spending time down at our own shore, collecting sea glass and other treasures.

♥ Full Moon gazing.

♥ Patiently waiting while a small boy wonders how to spend his birthday money.

♥ And -  Remembering.

♥ ♥ ♥

So many things happen in our busy lives that I want to hold on to. Little things - things that might go unnoticed, or missed in the hurly burly. Nothing special and yet - oh - how completely special!
What ordinary - extraordinary happenings have touched you in the last Seven Days?  If you would like to join in - on any day, please leave a link in the comments, and we can all share in the joy.. xxx

*A reminder too about my anniversary Giveaway.  Comments can be left here until 21st November.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Loving and Giving - A Giveaway.

It is three years since I began this online journal.  Initially started as a garden organiser, gradually incorporating more and more of myself in the words and pictures. I had no idea how much I would come to love my little space on the web, and how many wonderful friends I would meet here. Or, indeed that I would find myself writing to you today from a croft in the Western Isles, worrying more about cattle and sheep breeding than how my sweetcorn plants are germinating!

As a celebration then,  and a thank you for making this such a lovely place,  I am hosting a little giveaway.  I had great fun putting together a Hebridean lucky bag for my 300th post giveaway, so I thought I would do something similar this time - maybe with a more festive theme.

 If you would like to enter, then please leave a comment below. I am happy to ship worldwide (as before, followers will be entered twice). I hope you will join in.

You can leave comments until Monday 21st November (my birthday!) when we will draw the winning name.

Thank you all again for following our little adventures.  I am always delighted to have your company.



{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. Wishing you all a very happy weekend.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Around the croft.

It is a while since I have had a post about all the crofty goings on.  So here is a quick roundup for you.
The three little pigs are - well - getting bigger.  They are now too big to get through the fences, so the electric wire has been turned off and they have the run of the whole garden again.  Still lots of fun, but they are a bit boisterous - especially when you brave the pig pen with a bucket of food or water.

They are making a grand job of ploughing up the future veg patch though.  Confining them to a smaller area at first has been a good plan.  They just race around doing piggy things all day - going for nice long naps now and then. We are enjoying them so much right now.

There was another sheep fank today - this one was to bring the ewes in for tupping.  A tup is a ram, in case you are unfamiliar with sheep terminology.  We now have 5 ewes - all of whom will be visited by the tup next week.  Can you see Maddie Mor - there with her new yellow ear tag?  Both Maddies are looking wonderfully well after their time on the hill.  After their honeymoon, they will all go back up to a different part of the grazings, until nearer lambing time.  Soo, look out for spring lamb posts sometime in April!!!

And talking about honeymoons - well, I am afraid that Baby has had hers postponed.  We were all set to walk her up to see the bull last week, but discovered just in time, that he had been moved to the other end of the village.  Delia, her mother, was going to accompany her on her walk, but was to go into the field next door, to be with some of the other local cows.  Mother and daughter have never been separated and we certainly did not want either to be distressed.   After much discussion and consultation with more cattle savvy crofters, we decided to hold back. Our worry - and that of two of our mentors, was that Baby's calf, if we were lucky, would be due around the end of August - and it may take a couple of cycles for her to conceive.  So - the calf would be born as we approached Winter, and would miss the good grass, and have to face bad weather when it was still young. Far better to wait and try for a Spring calf.  Others feel that she should really be going to the bull to get started and we could catch up with the seasons later on, and we could always bring the calf inside.  What to do? Everyone seems so convincing.  We are still pondering the question -  I am sure that an answer will come.  Wonder what Joel would do?

On to simpler matters then. The fencing has begun - lots of posts and wire arrived on site last week, and our local fencing contractor has started already!

It looks beautiful running all the way down the bottom field there - so orderly.
  Check out the new drain too!

The garlic has been planted in the growing shed.  Once again I have gone for seed from The Really Garlicky Company, who grow in North East Scotland. I have always had good harvests of decent size bulbs with 4 or 5 nice fat cloves from this source.  That seaweed/manure compost is just so rich and good looking - this has been such a good bed - it has enabled me to do more growing this year than I'd thought.

I have planted out some of my winter greens in between the rows of garlic - catch cropping - Prickly seeded spinach,various lettuces, salad leaves and spring onions.  I have one chard plant left, celeriac and fennel are at the top of the picture, and a row of calendula at the front of the bed.  Further down, there is some dwarf green kale, parsley and other salads - but there isn't a photo - sorry.

And a little experiment to end with - a very overexposed shot of my witloof chicory roots that I am going to force into lovely little chicons.  Just enough for a nice starter for two!  ♥

It is always nice to take a wee walk around the croft - hope you enjoyed it too. xx

A big decision

One I had been putting off for a couple of years, but things were getting beyond my control, so when James surprisingly agreed, then we decided to go for it.

So we visited Kristine's friend, Louise, in her shop in the town.  
He sat beautifully still...

all the way through, like a perfect angel.

A bit unsure here - such a drastic change for a wee boy.

But not for long - a few minutes later, he was laughing and playing in the woodland park.

"See how fast I can run without all that hair, Mum!" 
 Ah well...


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