Tomato Soup Recipe

I made Jamie Oliver's Spicy Tomato Soup the other day. I'm not a fan of tomato soup myself, so I thought I'd try a spicy one to make it more appealing to me.

Here's the recipe as it's posted on Jamie's site (yes, we're on first name terms):

  • Serves: 4-6
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cooking time: 20 mins
  • Total time: 30 mins
  • Skill level: Easy peasy
  • Costs: Cheap as chips
  • Spice level: Mild
  • Child friendly
  • Freezable


  • 1 jar of tomato and chilli pasta sauce
  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • A bunch of fresh coriander; leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 750g ripe tomatoes
  • 1 ltr chicken or vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4tbsp crème fraiche


Put your onion, garlic, carrot and coriander stalks into a large pot with a couple of lugs of olive oil. Cover and cook gently for 10 mins, stirring regularly to prevent colouring.

Meanwhile, drop the tomatoes into boiling water for a minute or two. Take them out, run them under the cold tap, then pinch the skins off, discard, and roughly chop the flesh. 

Add to the pan with the stick and the jar of tomato and chilli pasta sauce. Simmer for another 20 mins with the lid on.

Whizz your soup in a blender, then pour it back in the pan and season well. Serve with a good spoonful of crème fraiche in each bowl, a sprinkling of coriander leaves and a few chopped chillies if you dare!

I have to tell you - the boys loved it, but I couldn't bring myself to even taste it. Something about tomato soup...

How weird is that? I love spicy things, and so thought that spicing my tomato soup up might make me like it.

The verdict, which comes solely from the Builder and Big Brother, is that it was a definite winner. I will be making it again, but only cos they loved it.


Real Snow

Today, we had wonderful weather.

I took these photos this morning when I went on my daily 3-mile hike.

It looks like we have a huge fire somewhere behind our house, doesn't it?!

They're a hardy bunch, if a bit wary of the woman with the camera.

You'd think they'd know me by now.

Oh, maybe it's because they do know me that they're so wary. I bet you the Big Brother tells them a load of rubbish about me - you know, he probably tells them I don't know anything about sheep; and that I can't tell cows from bulls, or rams from sheep; and that I was really built for civilized city life.

It's all rubbish, you know.

The sky looks as though it's about to fall on us...

...and here's why. Another snow shower. Real, proper snow. I love it!

And then it stopped, just in time for the Wee Guy to get his Ice Road trucks on the move.

**PS. You didn't really believe me when I said about the 3-mile trek, did you?

Well, you don't all need to shout 'NO!!' at once. It might have been true. 


A Local Event

Today, this memorial was unveiled above Traigh Shanndaigh - the beach area we see from our home. Some members of our community raised money to erect a memorial here in memory of twelve men who were drowned near this spot in 1885.
The men, from the village of Eoropie - just across the bay from us - set out one Monday afternoon for some fishing. Although the weather was calm when they left, it soon changed, and later that afternoon the twelve men - six on each of the two fishing boats - were fighting to reach land.

It wasn't to be. For two hours they fought to land the boats but the storm made it impossible.

What makes the story even sadder is that for these two hours the villagers stood on the shore, watching helplessly as their loved ones struggled to get to shore.

All twelve men were lost, and only one body was ever recovered. This man's body was washed ashore and he was identified by his tatoo.

His remains were buried - not in the graveyard - but here, overlooking the sea. Just beyond the reach of the sea. The cairn of stones marking his grave is seen at the right of the photo.

His grave has been here for 125 years. The memorial, with a wreath which was placed today, is new. It shows the names of all those who were drowned.

In the foreground is a rock taken from Stoth - the tiny bay a mile or so round the coast from which the boats left on that fateful day.

The unveiling took place today in freezing temperatures. We had a windchill of -19C (-2F), so the service took place in the local Historical Society building, with only the actual unveiling taking place at the site.

On the right are the words of the first verses of Psalm 46, which we sang in Gaelic. 

And on the left are the words of a Gaelic song that was composed in memory of the tragedy of that day in 1885.

Here are some of those who gathered at the Comann Eachdraidh (Historical Society).

This man, Norman Smith, has been hoping to see this day for nearly 30 years - ever since he first researched the history of the tragedy for a Gaelic radio programme.

(Remind me, some day, to tell you something about this man's war time experiences.)

One of our local ministers spoke from Psalm 116  

"What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people"

And some members of the local choir and a teacher sang the Gaelic song.

After a minute's silence, a local piper played the tune Bays of Harris on the bagpipes.

And then we headed to the headland.

Anne Marvin researched the story for her degree dissertation and is worth hearing talk of the individual families involved.

History is always fascinating. But when the history involves families belonging to our own community, it is especially worth delving into.

It is good for us too to remember tragedies of this nature. It at least causes us to thank God for the many benefits and luxuries we have that our forefathers did not.


Tim Hawkins - A Homeschool Family

Some parents of homeschooled kids like to insist that homeschooling results in perfectly normal children.

Oh yeah?

Let me tell you a story.

Catherine, our eldest, often goes to her swimming club - which is held in Stornoway - on the bus. Now, this bus is not only a public service bus; it's also the bus that takes the school kids home after their day in the institution...er, sorry, ...in school.

So, picture the scene. Catherine is sitting on the bus. Surrounded by 'normal' school kids. She has earphones in her ears, listening to music she has downloaded onto her phone. She relaxes in the seat listening to the soundtrack from The Young Victoria. 

Have you heard it? Good, isn't it?

Anyway, just as one of the tracks finishes, she hears the sound of this. (Go to this link, and play the recording near the bottom of the post.) 

Have you listened? No? You must.

Go on - I'll wait.

Okay. On the bus, this is the song Catherine hears playing. Loudly.

Her first thought is, 'Oh, I didn't realise I'd put this song in the Young Victoria file.'

She then realises that the song isn't coming through her earphones. It's her ringtone. And the whole bus is listening.

She thinks it's great fun.

Normal teenager? Uh, I think not.


If you ask me, the video below sums it up. Many of you will have seen this before, but it's so funny, it really is worth watching again.

You just gotta laugh.

So, next time you hear someone ask whether homeschooling results in normal kids.....just think of Catherine!

(Thanks to Pioneer Woman for her rendition of There's No Business Like Showbusiness!)


Another Multiple Choice

I now have two friends who have told me in the past couple of days that they are totally organised for Christmas.

This mean that I am either:

a) a Jew, and don't celebrate Christmas

b) an FP (non-Scots just will not get this!), and ditto above


c) totally disorganised.

Take your pick.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Tomorrow, we have a thanksgiving service at our church too, although our thanksgiving day bears no resemblance to your one.

I remember hearing of an old lady who lived on our island when things were very different to the way they are now. She was poor. I mean, really poor.

She sat at her table one day and all she had on her plate was a chunk of bread. She bowed her head to give thanks, and was heard to say these words:

"All this, and Christ besides"

If only Christ had the place in our hearts He had in this woman's heart!

She needed nothing more. Pray we would have this spirit too. After all, if we have Christ as our Saviour, we have everything.


God bless y'all as you spend time with family and loved ones.

Enjoy your meal. Enjoy each other. Enjoy the day off. Just don't forget the One who has given us all that we have.

Love y'all.  

17th Century for the Wee Guy

As we approached the American Thanksgiving last year, we were reading this book.
The Wee Guy was also studying 17th Century History. It was a fascinating time - both the 17th century and our time of studying it.

We had a lapbook from A Journey Through Learning, and we had a great time learning about King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I; about King James (I of England; VI of Scotland) and the Separatists

about the Mayflower, the Mayflower Compact and about the First Americans.

We went on to learn the amazing story of Squanto and of the First Thanksgiving

and decorated our walls.

We had a great time studying this period of history, and the fascination with it has never left the Wee Guy.

This year, we are moving further West. We're loving the Little House books, and the insight into this period of American history.

Bulging Cupboards.....Lean Souls??

We read Psalm 106 this morning at family worship.

(In God's providence, we will have Psalm 107 tomorrow - Thanksgiving - which begins, 'O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever.')

But back to this morning: 

Psalm 106 begins by telling us how God dealt with the children of Israel, and how they were wondrously and miraculously saved from Egypt. Having been taken through the Red Sea, and having seen their enemies destroyed,

 '...they sang His praise'. (v12)

It's looking so hopeful. But only for one verse.

Just one verse!

We then read,

They soon forgot His works; they waited not for His counsel; (v13)

Is your first reaction, 'I would never have acted like that'? Well, I'm not so sure we don't. Doesn't God deliver us time and time again - be it from danger, from sin, or from trials..... and time and time again, we praise Him for a time ... and soon forget our deliverance.

Very quickly, we are back to our moaning and complaining ways. 

Very quickly we forget all He has done for us, and we take our blessings for granted. 

Very quickly, we begin worrying again, despite His promises and His provision for us in the past.

We really aren't that different to the children of Israel after all, are we?

God provided salvation for them. Salvation

They were redeemed by His mighty acts. Redemption!

Released from bondage. Liberty!

Surely, their praise would last forever! How could they ever forget God's goodness to them?

But, we are told, they:

'lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert'. (v14)

However, the next verse is the one that made me stop and take notice.

This is what God did in answer to their lusting and their complaining and their lack of thanksgiving.

And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul. (v15)

Is this what God has given us? We lack for nothing. Our cupboards are full to overflowing. But are our souls lean? 

And let us answer this honestly: what deprivations would we be willing to suffer to have our souls full?

I need to ask myself this question. And I need to search my soul and be honest in my answer.


Nehemiah's Wall Builder

Nehemiah 4: 17, 18 says:

"They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded."

The Wee Guy has clearly taken this to heart.

Weapons at the ready. This is him at lunchtime.

And this is him back to work. Engrossed in his book, shield (pan lid!) on one side, sword on the other.

If any modern-day Nehemiah is looking for a wall-builder, you know where to come looking. 


Saturday....a Belated Part 3!

I told you there was one other incident.

The Builder fancied another visit to A&E. So he did this.

The photos were taken in the treatment room with my phone. That's why they're unclear. But you get the picture...

...crushed in the hinge of the van door.

 Do you see the top of the finger? Doesn't look quite right, does it?

That's 'cos there's a broken bone up there.


Today...Part 2

Here are DR and Catherine with their hoard of medals.

They did so well. 

I am now exhausted. You guys have no idea the energy one has to expend on the sidelines.

The sun that shone so brightly all day set like this.

And now, at half-past ten at night I have just sat with a cup of tea. 

There was another, er....incident... today, but I shall have to wait until Monday to reveal all. 

(I need Catherine to get photos from my phone onto the laptop. It's all too complicated for me!)

Oh - one more thing: Mr Wayne didn't get booted out of the ladies' camp today. It's next week, and that was my mistake. Obviously.


Today - I made Tomato Soup for the first time ever. You see, I don't like Tomato Soup myself, so I never made it! Until today. Recipe to follow.

Today - is sunny. I mean, it's gorgeously sunny. And still - no wind. I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.

Today - Mr Wayne gets the boot out of the ladies' field. Time will tell if he lives up to his reputation.

Today - is the day of the swimming competition of the Lewis and Harris Sports Festival. I'll let you know later how our competitors get on. I'll also let you know whether I embarrass myself or my kids with my poolside behaviour. It has been known in the past.


Lemon Cake

The Happy Housewife wants our favourite lemon recipes today for a link-up.

If she's looking to do something in return, I'll take some of the home-grown lemons pictured on her blog. Don't they look wonderful!

Here's one of our favourites. A simple Lemon Cake.

4oz (100g) soft butter/marg
6oz (175g) castor sugar
60z (175g) self-raising flour
4 tblsp milk
2 large eggs
rind and juice of 1 lemon
3 tblsp icing sugar

1. Beat together: butter/marg, castor sugar, flour, milk, eggs and rind.

This is one of my favourite things about this recipe: everything goes into the bowl and it all gets beaten together. Simplicity is bliss, don't you reckon?

2. Spoon mixture into a greased a lined 2lb loaf tin.

(I made double, and so have 2 loaves)

3. Bake in a pre-heated oven 180C/350F for 40 mins.

4. Dissolve icing sugar in lemon juice over a low heat, and pour over cake while cake is still warm. Leave to cool in tin.

That's the official recipe. 

I like to stick a skewer in the top of the cake just before I pour the icing over it. That means it seeps into the cake nicely.

Okay, okay, so it's not a skewer. You know what it's like: whatever's to hand...

Also - my oven prefers 170C for 50-55 mins. You'll know your own oven best, and sometimes it takes a while to get it right with a new recipe.

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