Saturday, 31 January 2009

A Week of Small Things : 4

Out for a walk on a pretty wild day, head down against the wind, hoping that the rain doesn't suddenly bucket down. Small things, but oh, such good things - stiles for example. Fences seem to say "Keep Out" (even if we do know technically we can walk almost anywhere in Scotland), whereas a stile says "Welcome, come on in, have a wander..." The person who makes a stile seems a very welcoming kind of creature. Thank you very much indeed.

Well, how can you not think these are rather lovely? Small but quite perfectly formed.

Now this drystane dyke is something seen all over the Highlands, but it is really beautiful. Built with great skill, no doubt with quite a few bruised fingers and maybe toes. Very sustainable too, from local material, and then enduring for years and years. And now it is the home of lots of wee tiny beasties and lichens. Can concrete do all that? And be so visually pleasing?

They're just trees. But I love them!

Enjoy the weekend.

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Friday, 30 January 2009

A Week of Small Things: 3

Every week, since the boys were tiny, a group of us from L'Arche Inverness have met for lunch at our home on Fridays. Sometimes we've met more often, but Fridays have remained constant. The lineup has changed occasionally, but Syd and Lilias have been faithful to the Friday Lunch. Lunch is such a Small Thing. Soup, bread, cheese. Always good strong coffee....and tea! Sometimes (quite frequently) laughter and silly jokes , especially with Syd. Sometimes we're just tired, quiet and even plain old grumpy. But long live the Friday Lunch! It's such a source of love and life.

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Thursday, 29 January 2009

A Week of Small Things: 2

Here are the Small Things inspiring me on a freezing, blustery day: the second flower unfolding on the narcissus....

The tart juiceness of winter oranges....

clean sheets and cosy quilts...

And of course, the fire...

Have a toasty evening!

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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A Week of Small Things: 1

In the amazing world of Blogland, I'm constantly finding sites of incredible beauty and talent - often created by other women, who perhaps will never have a book published or even make their living with their skills. Nonetheless, their work is humbling and enriching, and yet it is easy to feel a little overawed. So I found myself asking, why am I doing this blog? Certainly, I want to connect with friends and family, but I'm not in the market for competing with anyone else. I realise that most of all, I want to see my life as it really is. All too often our days are spent rushing around fulfilling various demands. There isn't much time to see or remember what is happening day to day, that is actually very beautiful in its' simplicity. Much of my life is taken up with small things - nothing earth shattering, but the simple stuff of the everyday journey. And I know that as I grow older, I won't remember the details. So, for a week, at least, I will be sharing with you the small things of my life, and perhaps inspiring you to see the beauty in the small things of your life.

Like coffee and toast...

Finished homework (!)

Building train tracks and having adventures...

A pile of cords all washed and folded...

Playing farmers...


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Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Invitation

Mmm, don't you love it when you wake up to a beautiful sunny Saturday? Frost on the ground and sun in the sky - just perfect. So, after a long lazy breakfast with a friend staying over, we couldn't resist the invitation to go out....

or to jump on all the icy puddles...

following the track...

climbing the hill...

soaking in the winter colours...
the first picnic of the year, (with frozen toes, I'll admit) lounging on mounds of heather with hot tea and oatcakes....

And then, after several hours of being out, the glow of coming home with rosy cheeks, to lounge around reading Tintin together, making pancakes, more tea, more knitting - yes, the perfect day. Thanks for the invitation.

And thank you to everyone who has sent me such nice comments or emails - I know this is the only the first week, but I've enjoyed it so much and learnt masses along the way. Have a great weekend.

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My Place

When the bread's been made, the guinea pigs have been cuddled and all is well in the world of my boys then I fill up my teacup and head to my favourite place. It's perfectly located, between the warmth of the fire and mountain views of the window, in the centre of the house and not too far from anyone. I can sit and ponder a while or admire the hyacinths coming into bloom, inhaling their sweet fragrance. It's my wee corner of peace, of prayer and of course, of knitting.

Here is the current work in the progress, advancing ever so slowly. The wool is an aran tweed of unknown provenance (bought at a bargain price at a jumble sale of craft materials), but what a find! It is flecked with lovely colours echoing the landscape. I'm making a simple bolero type cardi (for myself) from the Rowan book 'Scottish Island Knits'. I'm still a knitting novice, but I find the whole process very relaxing and meditative (when it's going well!).

So, where's your favourite place right now?

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Thursday, 22 January 2009

Our Daily Bread

How lovely, I was thinking to post this recipe, when I was just emailed and asked if I would, so Family Hornung, this is especially for you...I humbly present the Perfect Bread recipe:

(This makes two biggish loaves - all my tins are of various sizes, but I usually double the recipe and we end up with four different loaves - that's helpful, isn't it?)

Here we go:

75g oats - whatever kind take your fancy

25g sunflower seeds

500g strong white flour or granary flour

425g strong brown, or wholemeal (sometimes I mix various types of flours, in various quantities to make up the weight, without making the loaf too heavy - right now I'm really into Lidl's rye breadmix flour, and I just add about 225g of that and 200g wholemeal)

1 level tablespoon salt (or less, to your taste)

1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1 sachet fast action dried yeast

Mix all of this lot up in a big bowl, then add:

600ml tepid water (200ml boiling water + 400ml cold)

1-2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil

This is the messy part!

Mix it all up with a spoon as much as you can then sprinkle a clean surface with flour and have extra for hands etc. Tip the contents of the bowl out and knead for about 5 - 10 mins. Kneading is not very technical, in our house it is known as "Roll and Squish" - you get the idea. Knead until the dough is nice and smooth and not sticky. Then oil your loaf tins and divide the dough between them, punching it down into the corners:

Then sprinkle the top of each liberally with flour. My wee helper likes to make pretty patterns in the top using biscuit cutters. It's a good touch. Cover with cling film - the flour on the tops of the loaves stops it from sticking. Leave the bread in a warmish place for, oh, ages, (an hour or two - our house is not very warm!) until the dough has doubled in size. Meanwhile, have a cuppa, go for a walk, work, whatever...then stick the oven on. You want it nice and hot:

Gas Mark 8/230 C/450 F/200 Fan oven

Bake for 20 mins in a fan oven or 30 mins otherwise. It should be nicely browned on top, come out the tin easily and sound somewhat hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack covered with a teatowel (for a softer crust).

This freezes well and makes stupendous toast.

Breadmaking is one of my almost weekly joys; it's cheap, messy, fun and very satisfying for all concerned. And no-one ever says that they don't want to eat it - hurrah!

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Cold But Happy

Well, as my sister would say, it's still butt freezing here, and will be for several months (this is the Highlands after all, hey ho). However, there are days that are so beautiful that it's hard to stay in, and a wee wander in the wood is calling out. What rewards and tranquility, if one is muffled up. Some things are just as beautiful in their winter state....

And then there is the reward of hot tea and maybe some buttered toast. Does it get any better than that?
Recipe for my modestly entitled 'Perfect Bread' coming along soon...

PS Those of you having troubles leaving comments should find it easier now - I hope I have sorted it out!

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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

New Faces in the Family

One or two introductions today...

At Christmas our family was joined by two new delightful creatures, swiftly christened 'Ticklish' and 'Squeak', seen here reducing Syd and Lilias into a mass of loving tenderness. They came to us from a neighbour, and we saw them at only 1 day old. Baby guinea pigs are possibly the cutest things on the planet! Tha iad snog, nach eil? Annie, they are just waiting for you!

Occasionally other types of creatures pop up in our household:

I love it when there has been something creative done without any kind of parental intervention or encouragement, even if it means death to the Parent Council AGM letter, ahem...Still, it's not a bad excuse for not turning up to certain events...

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Sunday, 18 January 2009

A Celebration and a Surprise

This weekend we celebrated with another man dear to our family's heart; Happy Birthday Syd! Also a member of L'Arche and a faithful friend to my wee lads. It is surely a sign of his significance in our community that many of us braved icy winds to pack into Syd's living room (and up the stairs) to share this most auspicious of days - it's probably impolite to share exactly how many years he has been walking and cycling the planet...anyway, the scones were fantastic and we hope you have a wonderful year ahead.

A bit of a surprise this morning - snow! Well, it has been freezing for a couple of days and there's been that certain smell in the air, but even so, what a delight to wake up and find this...I'm almost as excited as the boys about it.

Normally I'm not a winter person, I usually retreat into my duvet and have to prodded hard to come out before spring. However, to my surprise, I'm loving winter this year. Moving last August out of Inverness and into the wilds has given me a new energy and intense appreciation for where we live. This contact with nature makes me feel alive and peaceful, in a way even a lovely city like Inverness never did. Nonetheless, when it gets really icy, and the wind is howling, where do I like to be?

This evening, not too far away from this particular spot...

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