Saturday, November 30, 2013


Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those killed and injured in the Clutha Vaults tragedy. There are never any truly appropriate words for such an awful happening. We can only send love and light.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

My kitchen in November

I seem to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen these days, and by and large, it is a fine place to be. There's nothing like a warm kitchen, good smells from whatever is cooking, Radio 4 in the background, and a pot of tea on the go. Making the most of what there is, in the garden, storecupboard and 'fridge. I  have the very last of the tomatoes ripening on my windowsill. I'll give them another few days, then I will make more passata with the red ones and try some of Nigel Slater's ideas for the rest.

I am still picking beetroot from the garden, although the leaves are looking a bit wind-bedraggled now, and,  I found a forgotten row of rather large radishes in one of the fleece covered beds - so Beetroot, Radish and Apple chutney was born, and a great combination it is too. I used a standard chutney ratios - 2kg veg/fruit, 500g sugar and 1 pint white wine vinegar. I thought some Chinese flavours would work well here, so added a couple of star anise, a generous teaspoon of ginger and a cinnamon stick. Very nice. Oh - and I cooked the beetroot on its own first.

I needed some cream cheese to make frosting the other day, and remembered how easy it was to just make it. Ok - ricotta is not quite as tangy as a proper cream cheese - but it did the job.

I needed it for these delicious little snowball cakes. The school is having a cake sale today in aid of The Philippines. After raising money for Pudsey Bear a couple of weeks ago, the children felt they wanted to do something specific for this disaster, so cake it is. The recipe is at the end of the post.

I have quite a bit of meat coming back from the butchers in the next couple of weeks, so I have been rooting around in the freezers, using up what is lurking at the bottom. Most of the pork has gone, but there are a few bits - mostly small pieces of belly and hocks. In the past, I have tried various recipes for bacon, ham and pancetta, but never with great results. After scouring the internet though, I came across this method, which is a wet cure, using maple syrup. I followed the recipe completely, including the smoking technique.

 I love my stovetop smoker, I have to say (oh yes - I thought I might have mentioned it). So, anyway, after a couple of hours gentle smoking over crumbled peat, my hams emerged golden, glistening and delicious. Not too salty either, which was always the issue I had had in the past. I can't see these beauties lasting for long.
I have plans to do a corned beef tongue at the weekend too - yep - we know how to party here!

Snowball cakes.
4 oz butter
4 oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
5 oz self raising flour
1 oz shredded coconut

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add vanilla and eggs,fold in sifted flour and coconut.
Bake in 2 sandwich tins at 170 C (325F) until a toothpick comes out clean - about 15 - 20 minutes

Make cream cheese frosting with

8 oz cream cheese
60 g soft butter
2.5 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Then - put frosting and cake into a food processor and pulse until amalgamated.
(yes - you are going to turn your sponge cake into crumbs!)
Roll out the mixture into small balls, lay out on a sheet and freeze for a couple of hours.

Melt 2 or 3 bars of white chocolate over a pan of simmering water.
sprinkle coconut onto a tray - add edible glitter and muddle it through to mix.
roll each cake ball in the chocolate and then round the glittery coconut.
(this bit is fun - like rolling a real snowball along)
place on a wire rack to set.

I ran out of chocolate before the end, so I mixed up some glace icing and they tasted just as nice. And they do taste nice - very very nice - and they look so pretty there, in their frosty coats.

The possibilities for variation are endless here - chocolate cake - orange, lemon drizzle, chopped nuts - chocolate and peanut butter frosting!!!  I've just imagined a Christmas pudding one too - think I will do that for the Sunday school party.

I'll keep working on it...xx

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Seven Days

A snowy blustery start to the week gave way to mild, shining days, where the stillness was so thick you could touch it. I had a birthday - it was very happy - and there was cake (of course there was).
I started curing some ham, we visited one of our very favourite places (and people) to decorate gingerbread, found a hairy caterpillar. and walked in the golden light.
And off we go into another week - how fast they roll by! Wishing you a calm and sunny Seven Days ahead. xx

Monday, November 18, 2013

Let's hear it for the boys!

We are now at the end of the Crofting year - or is it the beginning? It's tupping time. Time indeed for the rams to go in with the ewes, and hopefully the results of that visit will be seen in the Spring. We have two rams, (or tups, as we call them) this year - meet Rocky and Rambo! They have just come down from the hill in the last couple of weeks and are currently building up their strength in the field by the house. They will go to join the ladies at the end of the month as we want our lambs to be born in late April or early May.  They are quite a pair, though - let me introduce them properly.

Rocky is a three year old, and is very mild mannered - a bit like his Dad, who was our tup last year. I like him very much, I have to say - he has a lovely face, and I am sure we would get good lambs from him. John is not convinced that he is up to the job, however, and it is true to say that he doesn't seem to be showing any signs of - well -  machismo, I suppose! We'll see what happens.

This chap, on the other hand, positively bristles with testosterone! Rambo is certainly ready for the task. Look at him there - pure attitude! He escaped last week, when we were moving the other sheep around, and we chased him round the village three times. He would not stop, even for the cattle grid. Eventually there were six of us tearing around in various vehicles trying to corrall him. He ran into someone's garden and we all followed in hot pursuit, hoping to get him in a corner. He ran straight at John, butting his leg on the way past (causing quite a nasty wound), turned round and stamped his foot at us, then took off round the village again. At last, we got him in a gateway and managed to pen him in, before getting him in the trailer. By this time he was absolutely wild, panting, stamping his foot, butting the trailer sides, prompting some hilarious comments about his vim and vigour!
Yes - I have a feeling that next year's lambs will come from him - hopefully his temper will have calmed down a bit by then.

So - for a couple of weeks it is boys only, then we will let them through the gate into the bottom field, where the girls are waiting. I'll keep you posted if there is any progress -in the meantime, I don't like the look of that sky - time to get inside! xx

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Colours of my week

As Winter approaches, and the days shorten, the weather has seemed pretty grey and stormy this week . Yet, as I look back over my photographs of the last seven days, I am struck by the beauty of the colours I see there - almost as if I have been drawn to capture the brightest moments.

:: The sea-loch mirrored the pinky-brown skies on a day where the wind blew in from the North.
:: I remembered to pick the vegetables and herbs from the garden before the darkness fell.
:: The shelf underneath the coffee table has been de-cluttered. I so love a tidy surface.
:: James wore pyjamas to school for a fundraising event.
:: Setting the table for a relaxed lunch with friends.
:: I picked the very last of the tomatoes - hoping some of them will ripen on the window sill.
:: Beautiful orange sunset accompanying our work.

I hope your week has been bright and colourful too. xx

Monday, November 11, 2013


We stand under a beautiful cloud dappled sky, watching as the poppy wreaths are laid at the  foot of the village memorial. In the silence, we remember those taken by war and conflict. Our thoughts this year are so close to home. We give thanks for loved ones who returned, and pray for their recovery. We wait, alongside these now familiar faces, each with their own reflections, until the silence is broken by the Precentor's voice, and we raise our voices with him as we sing Psalm 46.

God is our refuge and our strength,
in straits a present aid;
therefore although the Earth remove,
we will not be afraid:

The bottom picture is of my nephew, Scott, at his medal ceremony a few weeks ago. He is slowly improving from his injuries, but still has a way to go. We are proud of him, and are so thankful he is with us. The poignancy of remembrance is now absolutely real for us - and for many other families.  We will always remember....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Seven years

Seventh birthday celebrations in our home today. How did that happen so quickly?  We had such a lovely day and I am feeling so very grateful that this boy is in my life
Co-latha-breith sona, Sheumas. xx

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Seven Days

:: Stopping for a moment to take in the glorious colours of the land.

:: Harvesting the most fantastic carrots I have ever tasted.

:: Enjoying the Community Bonfire Night celebrations.

:: Making tomato chutney.

:: Having coffee at a friend and neighbour's house - loving her window view.

:: Pondering the fate of these fragrant quinces - a gift from the same friend.

:: Working outside in the clear cold air.

Just a few ordinary moments from the last Seven Days - moments of beauty, happiness and gratitude, that I can remember and cherish. Wishing you many small blessings in the week ahead.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Under the Sun - November

November 1st 07:41 hrs

October                                                                 September

November 3rd   Noon

October                                                                         September

November 3rd 16:32 hrs

October                                                                           September 

The Earth keeps turning as we head now into the darkest months. Getting a decent picture was tricky this time as banks of cloud seem to be perched permanently on the horizon.  (Apologies for the rather blurry sunrise too.) I am hoping there are enough landmarks in each image to give you an idea of how far along the sun has moved.
You can see previous posts by clicking on the label at the bottom of the post.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Seven Days

Random moments from the last Seven Days.

Visting the art exhibition.
Remembering those we loved
Watching for the school bus
Knitting by the fire
Picnicking on the beach

Time flashes by so quickly and I am glad to  capture these small but precious moments from the last week. Wishing you lots of special moments in the coming Seven Days.


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