Hello...

Hello.
I knew at the beginning of the year that I wanted to let go of the blog. I am in a different place now and I need the space to work through a great many things. I intend to keep the archives up for a time, although I have removed the comment function.
If you have landed here - welcome and feel free to dip in to what was our life - once upon a time...
J xxx

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Weekend leftovers.


We are busy getting ready for the journey back to up to Lewis, so a short blogging break is about to ensue. This trip back down was extended by a couple of weeks due to our old dog becoming ill.  We thought were going to lose him, but after some skilled vetinary attention and some tlc, he is again as large as life.  Well, considerably smaller actually - he had picked up a skin infection and his coat had to be shaved off !  So, he is joining us at the croft a few months earlier than planned.  Things are a bit hectic here right now, as we work out how to accomodate the belongings we want to take with us, as well as the sewing machine, which is about to go into constant use, lots of fabric,  a large batch of James's toys, books and craft stuff, the juicer, the preserving pan and other bulky cooking items, several dozen jars of jam, jelly and other produce from this garden, etc, etc, and now a large dog in a crate!  So, amongst all the hustle and bustle, it is nice to remind myself of things that have made me smile over the last few days - like the simple beauty of a bowl of hawthorn berries from the garden;
or the weirdly fantastic fractal pattern in this romanesco broccoli, bought at the farmer's market on Saturday.

As the garden beds empty or are sown with green manure - the postman brings the excitement and promise of our best ever season yet!
and an early frost finds a small boy with no gloves to wear.  My elder son, home for the weekend, happily offers to hold my wool as I wind - a task he has always loved  - but now he helps me with the hands of a grown man.  His younger brother,small boy hands now warmly mittened, can happily ride his trike around the garden tomorrow.

But, the sun comes out, and the gloves are off again - and the socks and shoes!  Hands and toes playing in the sweet earth, chasing the hens - such wonderful, living playthings.  Well, the girls will lose their playmate for another few weeks, as we move back up to the Island.  Excitement is building - now  the croft is really, officially ours, and we can make a proper start.  See you there!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Back on the track.

At the beginning of last summer, I posted here about the new rail link being re-instated close to our home.  In it I lamented the loss of the cycle path, which had been built on the site of the original rail track, and over the years had become a wildlife haven and popular trail for the townsfolk.  Well, at last it has been re-opened - not officially mind you.  We can only use it on evenings and weekends, when there is no construction work, but still, it is as if we can breathe again.  On Sunday, after dinner, it was such a fine evening that we decided to head along for our first foray in almost 2 years. 
It is a fine surface to walk or cycle along, but - oh my - there really is a railway track right alongside!

Still, in a year or so, the vegetation will grow back, and with some tree planting along the way, we will never notice.  In fact, those trees on the right there really have grown considerably since our last visit here.
Some of the landmark sculptures have been returned (almost) to their original place.  Reaching 'The Pipes' was always far enough for our old dog, and he would start to turn back at this point.  He did the same on this walk.
James was quite concerned on finding this uprooted tree, and wondered if it would fit onto his trike.  "It could be our Christmas tree!" he reasoned.
So, it was a different walk, and yet, completely  familiar - those big skies are still there.
The buzzard and the finches still fly over their patch, but have new places to perch on.
 And, of course, Mother Earth has already begun to heal the wounds.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Handmade.


I decided a while ago to try and make many of my own Christmas presents this year, or, if not, to buy handmade instead.  This, hopefully should not entail too much work, as we tend to keep present exchanges within the immediate family.  So, to this end, I have been very inspired by  many creative women in the blog world, and would like to thank Denise for pointing me in the direction of Plain and Joyful Living's Handmade Holiday, which should give me some encouragement and motivation.
And now- here is my first offering. I always enjoy putting together themed hampers or gift bags, and I thought that some sensually indulgent beauty bags would go down well. For several weeks I have been macerating lavender; rosemary; and lemon peel in glass jars full of almond oil, on the conservatory windowsill, somehow miraculously escaping the attention of James. I strained these off today and added a few drops of the relevant essential oil and a few garnishes.  I will either decant the oil into pretty bottles, to use as a bath or skin oil, or use them to make a body butter or cream.

I have also begun to knit up some wash cloths from linen yarn, and I am quite pleased with the result.  Add a soft beeswax lipbalm, a couple of bathmelts maybe and a handmade soap from my neighbour, tuck them all into a calico tote bag, and I think that would be a lovely gift.  I would like one anyway, and that is a good enough reason. 
I could also use the rosemary and lemon in a foody type bag, but I will see how I do with the body pampering sets first.  I will post more of my ideas as they progress, but don't be looking for a weekly update or anything, At least it's a beginning.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn Garden Rainbow


Red and Yellow and Pink and Green



Orange and Purple and Blue




I can sing a Rainbow, sing a Rainbow, sing a Rainbow too.



So many vibrant colours in the autumn garden - they just sing out loud.  We have been listening with our eyes to this wonderful rainbow growing in our back yard.
 
Lyrics to Sing a Rainbow by  Arthur Hamilton (1953)



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Equinox

We spent the day thinking about Autumn; gratitude for the harvest; and the balance between light and darkness that hangs on this day.  We read seasonal stories and made apple candles for our harvest meal.

We enjoyed local food that reminded us of our festival - a bowl of steaming chunky root vegetable broth with  sourdough bread, followed by earthy baked potatoes and yellow Scottish cheddar, washed down with apple juice.

 James and I created a special Equinox cake - half dark and half light.  It was most impressive.  I had the idea for this cake several equinoxes ago, but never seemed to find the time.  We made time today though - a simple sponge cake recipe - remove half to another bowl - add orange zest to one and sieved cocoa powder to the other. Make up a buttercream icing and in the same way, add melted chocolate to one half, and the juice of the orange to the other. This will have to be a new tradition - twice a year too!

And then, with full, thankful bellies, we retired to the front room, to enjoy our first indoor fire since the vernal equinox.  James was enthralled by the flickering flames and the crackling and hissing of the logs, and excitedly whispered to us to 'listen - listen!'  How lovely and cosy it was to sit together and weave pictures from the firelight, as the rain rattled off the windows.
Wishing you Autumnal Blessings and an abundant harvest.


Edited to add.
I have been asked by a lovely reader for my sponge cake recipe.  So here it is

6 oz soft butter
6 oz sugar.
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
8 oz self raising flour (or 8 oz plain flour and 3 level teaspoons baking powder)

Cream both together until very light and fluffy

Add eggs one at a time and beat well, scraping bottom of bowl each time.
Add vanilla essence
Fold in  sieved flour (and bp if using) and mix gently until just combined.
Pour into well greased 7 inch sandwich tins and level with a spatula

Bake for 20 -25 mins at 350 deg (180c or Gas mark 4)

Leave to sit in tin for 5 mins or so, then remove and cool on rack.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Autumn Walk

We are so enjoying these fine early Autumn days.  Mostly we just stay around the garden, but at least once  a week, we visit local woodlands or parks. We appreciate the inevitable changes in the trees and country side as the month progresses.  Here are some snippets from out walk this week.  The main find under the canopy was acorns.  Mostly still green, but beginning to fall.  James is always on the look out for those Acorn boys from one of his favourite tales - Woody, Hazel and Little Pip.

Fallen trees make great rocking horses,

and this wide sunken walk is great for running along, and up and down.

We find many interesting and beautiful delights in this woodland park.

and then we finish off with the last ice cream of the Summer (the little kiosk in the park is still open until the weekend),

before we wend our way home with treasures for our Autumn table.

Join in Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions to see more Autumn - or Spring treasures from around the world.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another September Birthday

My Dad's this time.  So, another birthday, another lunch, another cake.  Traditionally for Papa's birthday, though, we have a Clootie Dumpling. The boys, of course are always very happy to assist if there is a candle or two to blow out!


They were very keen to help him unwrap his present, but only because they had plans for the box.  Well, a watercolour easel isn't really very interesting when you are 2 and 3 - but an empty cardboard box!  Now that has some serious possibilities!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day to night

I saw this Day to Night bag  on the Autumn edition of Rhythm of the Home magazine.  The idea really appealed to me.  It is a reversible bag with a night-time side and a daytime side. In the morning, it is packed with your night-time essentials - jammies, cosy socks, bedtime storybook and  cuddly penguin. All day it waits, ready on the chair by your bed, and then -

 
it's all there for you at bedtime. No more frantic hunt the slipper and disrupting the evening flow.  And then, once you are ready for bed, the bag is filled up with the clothes you need for the morning, enabling you to spend those extra minutes doing something more fulfilling than scrabbling through drawers and laundry baskets for vests and a matching sock.
Fabulous time saving  idea, and  a great addition to the bedtime/morning routiney thing.  Well, of course I know that you don't  need an actual bag, and, maybe I could be more organised and simply lay the things out under the pillow, or on the chair or whatever, but this is much more fun.  And besides, I get to show off something I actually made myself!

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Autumn baby is 21!


Hair the colour of the season she was born in, my baby girl is now 21!  Vivacious, funny, beautiful and kind - hearted. It seems no time at all since that evening she was born, and I fell head over heels in love with that head of red fuzzy hair.  Now here she is all grown up, ready to enter adulthood in her own inimitable way.

 
We gave her a piece of keepsake jewellery and also this beautiful, gentle angel to watch over her.  Handmade with love by the very talented Tracey, who blogs here.
We had a family lunch at our favourite restaurant on Saturday, which was a mad riot as usual.  Lots of laughter and lovely food, and then back home for a squidgy chocolate cake and something fizzy!.  Grandson Finlay, at 2 years old, obviously considers himself the candle blowing out expert. 
Not quite sure what secret those two boys were sharing, but I think it might have had something to do with cake!


So, since we were altogether,  we thought we would use the opportunity to have one of those nice, wholesome, family photographs taken. Not much chance with my cheeky bunch and probably just as well there is no audio accompaniment. Well we tried.... not the most artistic series of shots, but they do make me smile:)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

We went to the woods,

 and we thought we saw a wood sprite flitting in and out the trees!  He was just a blur at first - so fast - where did he go?

Is he hiding in behind a toadstool?


Wait!  Is that him sitting down on that mossy rock?


Quietly now - don't scare him away.



If we're lucky, we might see him doing his Autumn dance.

There are many more sprites and fairies dancing on  Friday's nature table at The Magic Onions

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Apples for jam

The fruit harvest this year is abundant - I am sure the proper Winter had something to do with it.  As we will soon leaving for the Island again, we made a start with the first of our two apple trees. James loved trying this strange fruit picking contraption for the higher branches.  It became a game - 'Higher - higher - over a bit - got it!'

Experience has taught me not to pick more fruit than I can deal with at one preserving session.  So we picked enough for our first batch.


And we had to leave enough to eat straight from the tree - the best way, according to James.


Into the pan to cook with cinnamon and cloves,

and then the juice dripped slowly through a jelly bag.  We boiled up this juice with the same amount of sugar until set - and it sets very quickly!

 So there we have our spiced apple jelly - served here with a nice, but blurry treacle scone. (usual scone recipe, but melt the butter with a dollop of treacle/blackstrap molasses and add a teaspoon of mixed spice to the flour.) Then there are the plums, the tomatoes,  and the pears; and then back on Lewis, the crab apples... Happy canning:)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Messing about on the river.

Today we awoke to an Autumn mist, which by mid morning had burned off to reveal a gloriously hot Summer day.  After our chores and a bit of shopping, we headed into the woods and straight for the whispering water.  There we spent the rest of the day, messing about on the river. Just paddling about..

watching the dappled sunlight play on the water and leaves...

... playing with bark boats - we wondered if the Acorn boys and Hazel were on this one -

...and, of course, no day on the river is complete without a spot of fishing. 
A perfect way to spend the afternoon.

And we found some treasure for our Autumn nature table.
There are more Nature Table posts at The Magic Onions every Friday. Sail over on our bark boat and see.

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