Sunday, November 12, 2017

Eleven













This boy is 11! Hard to get my head around that, and yet I can’t remember what it was like before he came into my world.  I started the blog the day after his second birthday, so some of you have watched him grow up. 

Back then, I never imagined where this particular parenting journey would take me. It’s certainly not how I envisaged - widowed, island-dwelling crofter, raising a son on my own. But it is what it is. I was lucky to have John around full time for those early years, laying a good foundation for him to grow and flourish. It was the best start, and I see the results of that grounding every day. He is a good boy, and I am so grateful for him. I think we make a good team.

And there was cake. Lemon sponge with cream cheese and lemon curd frosting, by request. I forgot to buy birthday cake candles, so improvised with tea lights on a foil covered board. It was fine.  There were cards and presents and meatballs and pasta, phone calls and face times - a good day. Yes, a good day. xx

Sunday, November 5, 2017

In my kitchen




 













I came home from holiday with a car load of squashes and pumpkins. Forget shoes and handbags - that’s the kind of shopping I like.  They’ve made a very attractive and instagrammable autumn display, but they will be used.

I still cook everyday. I was worried, now it is just James and I in the house, that it would be very easy to slip into a frozen pizza, toast and tea kind of existence. And there is definitely some of that.  But more often than not, I am still there, trying out something different, cooking from scratch, getting excited about a recipe. 
One Sunday afternoon I found myself in the kitchen, making a 3 course dinner for the two of us. I remember pausing briefly and asking myself why I was doing this - still going to all this trouble. I didn’t have to. But - I wanted to. It’s the process I enjoy, as well as the end result. It’s part of who I am. So I keep doing it. Nothing elaborate - good simple nourishing food. I just need to get better at the portion control. Also it helps that James likes chillies now. 

So what’s been appearing on my table these days.

Well - squash soup in a squash bowl! How cute is that? 
I used Jamie’s recipe just as it is,for the soup and served it in the hollowed out squash shells.

Another thing we brought back from holiday was chicken pox. James came down with it last week. True to his generation, he researched it on YouTube and came upon a video of recipes specifically for chicken pox sufferers. 
We made the banana, oatmeal and honey smoothie- very nice and soothing for the invalid. He is over it now and feeling a lot better.

Peanut butter and jam toast always hits the spot.

A Sunday breakfast of Molly Orangette’s* buckwheat pancakes and Nigel Slater’s fried apples with advocaat. How amazing was that? Answer - extremely.

Spiced banana muffins - nothing special but works every time - that’s all that needs saying there..

Home grown red cabbage braised with apples - perfect autumnal dish Recipe here.

I’m still picking cherry tomatoes from the polycrub, and I’ve also bottled a few jars of passata. Once the preserving was over, I froze the leftover tomato bits to use as a soup base. 
I simmered some in water for 10-20 minutes, strained it and then made soup with some whole cherry tomatoes, spring onion, soup pasta and basil. It was very light and tomatoey- completely delicious. 

Cook some bacon, onion and apples together with some sage. Wrap it in puff pastry and bake until golden. How can it fail?

Today we are making inroads into that pumpkin stash to accompany a sticky spicy masala roast chicken. Thank you Delicious magazine.
(The recipe is in the magazine, and not online)

What’s cooking in your kitchen these days? xx




*link is to cookwithoutakitchen blog


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Autumn Road Trip




























The thing about a road trip post is that it can either  turn into a primary school “what I did on my holiday” composition, or  it’s just an endless stream of photographs. A bit like when neighbours used to pop round with their Kodak paper envelopes filled with snaps from their fortnight in Blackpool. And - there’s no getting away from either here...

We started off in Inverness. Then there was 

Beautiful grandchildren 
A trip to a knitting festival 
Cool haircuts


Then we moved down to the Central Belt where there was

More beautiful grandchildren 

And I 

Visited Glasgow to try on mother of the groom outfits (didn’t get anything). 
Had long coffee stops and lunches. 
Went to Ikea
Visited a friend hadn’t seen in almost 20 years. (Was just as if I had seen her last week)

And then

We moved over to Edinburgh 
Saw an exhibition at the Potrait Gallery 
Enjoyed being in the city in Autumn 
Did more shopping- foody things mostly
Ate good food (not pictured)
Ate junk food (pictured)

We had a great time. Then we came home. Xx


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ways of being



Sometimes I laugh a lot
Sometimes I trip along quite happily, with a slight uneasiness hovering around.
Sometimes grief sneaks up and catches me unawares. 
Sometimes I actively invite grief in.

Mostly I am fine 

All of the above are perfectly acceptable ways of being.




Saturday, July 22, 2017

Random garden pickings




I love the bloom on red cabbage leaves - and those delicate veins tracing their way into every part of the surface - and how the water rolls around like silver glass beads. It's almost poetry.




These tomatoes are growing so abundantly. The branches are weighed down with fruits. I've never had such a good crop. They are just starting to show some colour too.



You know how you have a memorable meal - one that you conjure up in your mind when you are hungry? That "desert island dish" that sustains and nourishes you by just remembering it? Mine was about 15 years ago in the old cafeteria in the Louvre Museum, Paris. Chips, slices of ham and green beans turned in butter with garlic. There may have been a sauce, but those garlicky beans - oh yes...




Strawberries are where it all began. In my grandfather's garden. He had a vast strawberry patch - actually it probably wasn't that huge, but I remember it that way.  The taste of stolen sun warmed berries is my first garden memory. That and curly parsley.



I was very taken by the cheeky wee faces of these osteospermums nodding in the breeze. It's nice to grow things that make you smile. 



I have an ever expanding clump of elecampane down by the gate. I always forget about it until suddenly I see a thousand tiny suns glowing in the corner. The flower buds are so cool - they look as if they are about to spiral outwards into space and form galaxies and planetary systems, which I guess is essentially what happens. There is something very elemental about elecampane...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Checking in


A quick hello from the home renovation trenches. I'm about to hit another peak in this roller-coaster ride I've been on since March. What looked on paper to be a few simple alterations and refurbishments, have totally taken over our lives, not to mention every room in the house. I think there could be the faintest pinpoint of light at the end of this tunnel, so I'm aiming for that. Meanwhile I have what seems to be about 5 miles of woodwork to finish glossing and a few acres of wallpaper to scrape before tomorrow, so better drink that tea and get moving. xx

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Oh Canada...


































We went to Canada.

Exactly a year ago, we set off on our first inter-continental journey to visit my sister and her family. It was a daunting prospect - multiple stages, overnight stays, meetups with relatives in airport cafes in between flights - finding our way through the maze of terminals at Heathrow, but, miraculously, everything worked out and we arrived safely. It was wonderful and different, and yet so familiar. I hadn't seen my niece or nephews since they were teens, and here they were all grown up with jobs and partners and homes of their own - how I loved the adults they have become. It was good to spend time with my sister and brother-in law in their beautiful home in the woods. I spent many hours sitting outside chatting to my sister - catching up with where we are, and looking back at where we've been.

We did amazing things - sightseeing, eating, shopping, relaxing in stunning surroundings, and just celebrating being there. My daughter, son in law and grandchildren came over to join us half way through our trip. By then, I had screwed up my courage, hired a car and hit those freeways. That was a major achievement for me, I can tell you. The magical summer continued - picnics by the lake, flip-flops, barbecues, sitting out late on the back porch, and a never to be forgotten road trip to Niagara Falls. It was all so special - every moment.

It was the first big and really new thing we had done without John. And how he would have loved it.  It was sad to think that we were making memories that he wasn't going to be part of - but I guess that in itself brought him along. I wondered if I might have taken more of a back seat - literally - if he had been there. Would I have driven the 401 in my flip-flops? I don't know, but I did it, clinging on to that steering wheel in terror and desperately keeping track of all those traffic lanes!

It feels a bit like a betrayal somehow - this sense of enjoyment - this expansion of myself, when he is no longer here.  And I think that is the point - it is my Self that needs to expand into the space left by my husband, It is a place that contains him and the love we had for each other. Not moving on and leaving him behind, but using what we created in our life together to move forward - flip-flops and all.



But - Oh Canada - we loved you and we will be back. xx






Thursday, June 8, 2017

Feeling my way.

 

If the path before you is clear, you are probably on someone else's.

                                                                                                                        (J. Campbell)


So - where to start - what to say? I really don't know what I want to do with the blog this time around. Everything has changed and yet it all seems much the same. What made me log on, last week, type a few words and hit the publish button? Not a clue - and yet, here I am, sitting in front of this screen again. I guess I will just have to keep going and see where I end up. It might be a bit of a disjointed mish-mash (very like that metaphor), but I'm really just feeling my way right now, so thank you for bearing with me.

It's over two years since John died. I miss him.

James and I are still here, with no plans to move anywhere else. We are ok. We have been living in a kind of bubble really - just getting through the days as best we can. We now have a puppy, a rescue barn cat, and we are renovating the house. I had a lot of work done on the garden last year. We have been to Canada and Norway. I have a new grandson. My elder son and his fiancee are getting married in less than a year. I have so much to be thankful for  - so much to look forward to.

My first year as a widow was hard - but in a way, I was protected by the numbness that accompanied the grief. We faced all those first times, and were relieved to 'get them out of the way'. I felt the loss of his presence every single day, so I was surprised at how difficult it was when we faced the first big anniversary - a whole year without him. I thought it was just another day, like all the other 364, but it was different. Almost as if my body knew something had happened on that day and needed me to properly acknowledge it.

This year was equally hard, in a different way. It is harsher, somehow - more real. I've had more days when I have felt utterly alone. I think probably because I have been moving on with day to day life, dealing with the problems and decisions that come with that. I am more confined to home too, as I need to be around for James. Most of the time, I am fine - I've always liked my own company, and I'm not lonely. There is a difference.

Coming up to the two year anniversary was sad. It seemed as if I remembered the events of John's last few weeks with such clarity, almost reliving them, moment by moment in my mind. I recalled things I hadn't thought about before in amazing detail. The difference this time was that I knew what the ending was going to be...

So, that's in in a nutshell really, those last couple of years.  I'll keep drifting on for now, although I do feel stronger, and a bit more purposeful lately. I know I glossed over a few happenings there - new babies, puppies and kittens - I'll get back to those in a future post, once I get back into my stride. Meanwhile, thank you all so much for such a lovely welcome. It felt good to be back.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hello...



What country, Friends, is this?

                                  (W. Shakespeare)

So - two years have passed. It's been a hard, intense and sad stage of my journey. I think I can just see the faintest shadow of a coastline out there on the horizon. I wasn't prepared for this voyage, so, obviously I have no map or compass to hand. I have no idea what the terrain of this unknown land is going to be - whether I will find smooth white sands, or jagged rocks. Will I rise serenely from the surf like Botticelli's Venus, or drag myself painfully over the shingle? What else will wash up beside me on the shore? I don't know. But, here I am. I feel the tide beginning to turn and it is pulling me back in.

Land Ahoy.... 

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