So Much to be Thankful For

Well, I hardly know where to begin in my list of:

Things for Which to be Thankful over the past Day

I am so thankful that the electrical fault occurred through the day. I hate to think of, 'What ifs...', but... what if it had happened through the night? 

I am so thankful that we were at home. Had we been in town, or away for any time, Jackson would have been in on his own. Gulp. Can't go there.

I'm so thankful that it was one of the appliances in the garage that went on fire. The fire was contained in the garage, and although there is some smoke damage in the Utility Room, and we have soot in all the cupboards, that is nothing. compared with what we would have had the fire been somewhere in the house.

The garage windows were all closed, as well as the large up-and-over door. This meant that when the fire door between the garage and the Utility Room was shut, there was no air being fed to the fire. It had run out of oxygen even before the firemen arrived. Normally, the large door is open at that time of day, because the Wee Guy is in and out of the garage for his bike, or his trucks and toys. 

Catherine had been in the shower: but was out, and so was able to run out that door the second she heard the "GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. NOW!"

I was just going to have a shower, but decided to make the Sticky Toffee Puddings first. They never were made, but I was right there in the kitchen. I would hate that the girls would have had to have come looking for me, or that they would have been panicking and unsure what to do. Even for seconds.

I am thankful that our kids didn't question even for a split second: they heard the "GET OUT. NOW!"... and they got out. Now!

I am thankful that Jackson was right there in the Utility Room, and that he was out that door with Katie in a split second. I hate to think that if we'd all been coming out of the front door, and he was at the back door... All that time we stood waiting for the fire appliances to arrive - it was only 16 minutes, but seemed like so much longer - we'd have been hysterical thinking of Jackson stuck in there by himself. Yet, I know I wouldn't have opened a door and gone back in. I certainly wouldn't have allowed any of the kids to go back.

No, no. Rules for fire: Get out. Close all doors. Never go back.

I am so thankful that Katie had the presence of mind to grab her mobile on the way out of the house - she didn't detour for it - but it was right there on the edge of the table as she was heading out. She had the presence of mind to phone the Emergency Services as I was closing doors and heading out the front door. Without this phone, we'd have to have run out to my sister-in-law's house. 500 yards is a long way at a time like that.

Can't you see how good God was to us?

I cannot even begin to tell y'all what the firemen who came were like. These are local boys. We know them, and they know us. They couldn't have been kinder or more thoughtful, not to mention more professional. Really and truly, they are worth their weight in gold. 

They were so kind to me. The Builder wasn't home when they arrived, but I felt so safe once they arrived. There is nothing like having guys who have known you all your life dealing with a situation like this.

I truly think we live in the best place in the world. Sorry, Virginia. Sorry, South. Sorry, Pennsylvania. Sorry, Michigan. Ness is simply the best place in the world.

One of the firemen is an electrician. Having dealt with our fire, he spent all evening here sorting out our electrics and getting a temporary system up and running. One of the firemen made sure we had somewhere to go for dinner. Another came down later that evening to check we were all okay. A local plumber came down to check that our heating hadn't been affected.

Not to mention our extended family, who were all right here with us. 

I could go on and on. There really is nothing like living in a community such as we have here.

This morning as I was on my knees, and I was giving thanks for some of the many, many mercies of the previous day, I began thinking of the way the fire had been contained... windows shut, door shut, the plasterboard that lines the wall between the garage and the house. Building regulations meant that when the house was being built, two layers were put on that wall. I began thanking God for allowing men to invent this material. Then I thanked God for - not inventing - but creating this inflammable material inside plasterboard. What an infinitely wise God we have. He created some materials to burn; some to be precious and beautiful; and others to be inflammable. 

Such infinite wisdom; such infinite love and care; such infinite ability.

All these mercies. Such blessings. These are only a few. They were innumerable. 

The whole time we stood outside, I felt absolutely no anxiety for what was going on inside the garage or the house. That may be very odd, but my whole family was safe, and that was all I cared about. 

To all of you who commented on my previous post with kind and thoughtful comments, and to all who posted on Facebook with kind messages, thank you. It really does mean so much.


A Glimpse into my Afternoon

No time to write much just now, but these photos show the events at our house this afternoon.

Looks like nothing?

Now you see why they're here...

We discovered a fire in the garage, against the wall that backs onto our Utility Room.

It seems as if an electrical fault in one of our freezers was the cause.

I was so thankful that we have a local fire crew. They were at our home 16 minutes after our 999 call.

And here is the inside of our garage now.

I can't write too much just now. We are having dinner at my sister-in-laws. I could write and write about the number of causes for thankfulness I have. There are so many, and I will write as soon as I can.

Letters from the Past

My mum gave me this bundle of papers the other day: a bundle full of newspaper cuttings, old momentos, funny poems and all sorts of interesting titbits from decades past.

Amongst it all are a couple of letters from my mum’s Auntie Catherine (Kate), whom I mentioned in this post. She left our island in 1924, on the SS Marloch, and died in British Columbian sanatorium just a few years later. One of these letters was written to a cousin of Auntie Catriona, and here are some snippets of that letter:

My dear cousin,
Had your lovely letter a while ago of which I was very pleased, and to learn by it that you are all enjoying the best of health which is a great blessing from the Lord.
Well my dear, I am very thankful indeed to be able to give you a good account of myself and the Barvas boy that’s here [mentioned in this post]. I see him every night. He comes to the window to speak to me. He is a dear boy and a good boy too [‘good boy’ here is a translation of ‘balach math’, meaning he was a believer]. Tomorrow is New Year’s Day and Xmas is over again. Oh how thankful we ought to be to the Lord that we have seen another year coming to an end, and it is Himself that knows who will see the next one coming to an end. Last winter, I never thought I would see this one. Everyone will go when his time comes, but the question is who is ready to go when the Bridegroom comes. We never know when He will come. “Dèanaibh faire air an adhbhar sin, do bhrìgh nach aithne dhuibh an latha no an uair air an tig Mac an Duine.” (‘Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. Matt 25:13)

Oh, Annie dear, how I would love to be among you. Tomorrow you will have the New Year’s Service and all the rest of the week [there would be a meeting each evening for the whole of the first week of each year]. Oh, Annie dear, make good use of the privileges you have there. I was in church last Tuesday myself and the Barvas boy listening to an English minister. The text he had was, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all men’. This was for the Xmas service. Xmas day means a lot when you come to think on the wonder of that verse, ‘agus rugadh dhuibh an diugh Slànaighear ann am baile Dhaibhidh, neach is e Criosd an Tighearna'. ('For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord' Luke 2:11). Did you ever think about that old Christian in the second chapter of Luke called Simeon, and what he said when Christ was taken into the temple: ‘Oir chunnaic mo shùilean do shlàinte’ (For mine eyes have seen thy salvation’). But blessed are those who have not seen but believe. Oh Annie, my heart is full tonight!

How I would love to be with you. You made me laugh when I read your letter about when you were in Lowestoft trying to get a hold of Roddy’s hand. I wouldn’t be a bit scared of him now, the way I used to be. Wasn’t the verse he had lovely. It’s special. ‘Eil barrachd gràdh agad dhomhsa orra sin’ (Loves thou me more than these?) [I have no way of knowing what was said in Annie’s letter to her.) Do you know, Annie, that sometimes I feel so good in my soul that I would like to fly out of this body and be forever with the Lord Jesus. 'Who can separate us from the love of Christ'. Let us follow the Lamb, wherever He goes.

I got a nice letter from Malcom Morrison a while ago. I think the world of him anyway, and you were saying that he thinks a lot of me. Oh well, it’s a good thing someone does! May the Lord grant that I will meet him yet before I die. I was so pleased to hear that he sat at the Lord’s Table. Well, dear, you will remember me when you hear him singing. Oh my, ‘s e dùrachd mo chridhe agus m’ ùrnaigh ri Dia [the desire of my heart and my prayer is] to meet you all where there is no more parting, where the Lamb of God will be. My heart would break if I would think that I wasn’t going to be among God’s people in His Glory. Oh, never mind, dear, it wont be long until this night is over.

I am sure Angus is still home. I didn’t answer his letter yet.

Anyway, as I am writing to yourself, it’s just the same.
I was up for Xmas dinner last Saturday and Annie, dear, I felt thankful to be able to do so. I enjoyed it very much. There were 26 tables in the dining room and 6 at each table so you can imagine all the crowd that was there. The doctors and nurses were waiting on us all. They really tried to make everything as cheery as possible for the patients but I would enjoy a Gaelic service more. I got about 20 presents this Xmas and 20 cards from all over, and very useful presents indeed from people I never expected. I really was surprised to get so many, and the girl that’s with me got about 35. Well, my dear Annie, I am sure by the time my letter reaches home, you’ll have the sad news about Mac Mairi Phadraig from Port. I was told that he died in Trail lately with a tumour that was growing near his brain, the same trouble as my cousin Angus from Dell had. How sad to hear of our own dear home boys laid to rest in Trail so far away from their beloved ones, but it doesn’t matter where the body is laid to rest – it’s the soul – to know where that’s going.

Now my dear, I think I’ve said enough just now. It’s after nine and I am supposed to have my lights out soon, so remember me, dear, at the Throne of Grace . And remember me when Roddy is preaching and when Malcolm Morrison is singing. The dear soul. Love to Angus and to you all. Also the MacRitchies and not forgetting your uncle Callum. I never answered his letter. I don’t like to bother him – that’s why. Love to your crew, and to everyone. How are they in our own house?

Write again soon. I am so longing to hear from you.
Your loving cousin, Kate.
Happy New Year to you all.

Doesn't it make you cry... All on her own, in Canada. Dying of TB, and not a family member in sight. And yet, 'underneath were the everlasting arms'. She was safe in the arms of Jesus, so I shouldn't feel so sad. She passed away shortly after this letter was written, and it's easily seen from the letter that her soul was prepared for meeting her Saviour. What joy there was then for her! No more sadness, no more missing her homeland, or family or friends. No more parting. I'm glad I know this about her, otherwise I'd be really sad.

Here she is, photographed during the First World War, just a few years before she emigrated.


Andrew Pudewa on "Freedomship" Education

This fellow, Andrew Pudewa, has been a frequent visitor in our home over the past four years. 

Er, well, let me clarify: his DVDs are oft watched and heard. He himself has never actually been here. Though I hasten to add he'd be most welcome if it ever happened that he was passing this way.

As one does. 

I listened to this recently, and thought I'd share it. He has so many interesting thoughts on education in general, and can articulate so much of what would be on my own mind ... only more articulately that I could.

If you click on the link, and scroll down to his photo, you can then press Watch Now to hear his wise words of wisdom. 


This Week's Natter on Patrice's Porch

It's only Wednesday, and I'm on Patrice's Porch. Grab a chair and enjoy our wee chat.

What's your favorite kind of soup?

Well, I do love my soups! My favourite ... as I race through all the soups in my mind ... may be leek and potato. 

Oh, hang on. It may actually be Scotch Broth. Yes. On a winter's day, a bowl of Scotch Broth with fresh, warm bread is just what the doctor ordered. 

Do you prefer a movie or a play?

Er... a play? You mean, like with a stage and actors and stuff?? Ahem - this is Lewis. I've never seen a play, unless you count kids at school doing Jack and the Beanstalk, or something similar.  

And movies come on DVDs and get watched in our Family Room. Is that what you meant?

What was your most unusual birthday celebration? (It can be the most unusual celebration you attended, if you wish.)

Oh boy. This is tough. It's not that I cannot think of the most unusual birthday celebration I've ever had. It's not even that I cannot think of the best birthday celebration I've ever had. I simply cannot think of any. My birthdays normally come and go like any other day. Is that really sad? My next birthday will be my 45th. Is that a special one? Do you think I ought to put in some request? Depending on the day of the week, I may just decide to put my feet up, and have others do all the housework and food for the day. And all the kids can have a day off schooling.

Right, I've just gone for a look: my birthday is on a Friday. I may do the whole spoil-me-for-a-day routine. On the other hand, I will have to run the kids to swimming. And do the shopping. And make dinner.  

Ask me nearer the time - I'll let y'all know how it's looking.

What position were you in your family- oldest, middle, youngest, only?

Middle. My brother is 3 years older than me. I adored him when I was growing up. He was my hero. My sister is 6 years younger than me. That gap is nothing now, but it's too big a gap when you're young. She was the cutest wee thing imaginable. She had blonde curls, and was so photogenic. We laugh about the photos mum and dad have. 

My brother was the first child, so there are loads of him. A whole album devoted just to him.

My wee sister was cute and photogenic, and loved the camera. Or maybe the camera loved her. Or was the adoration mutual? Yes, I believe it was. Polaroid cameras had been invented too, so there is a shelf full of albums with photos of her.

Me? I think there are a couple of photos of me dotted here and there. But only if I'm holding my baby sister, or being held by my big brother.

Only joking! Kinda. 

Do you think it's given me a complex? Actually, to this day, both my brother and sister are so photogenic, and I, er, am not. I like to dwell on the photogenic-ness of them as opposed to me, cos I like to blame the camera for them always looking good, and me.... well, let's just say, they got the looks in our family!

Me? I got...I got... I'm sure I got something. Get back to me on that one too. I'll think of something. I will think of something.

Please finish this: Star shine. Star bright. First star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might have this wish I wish tonight...

Er... never heard of this one! You want me to make a wish?

A serious one? I wish for all my children to be saved. Each one to be brought into the City of Refuge, under the protection of the blood of Christ.

A lighthearted one? I wish...our mortgage was paid. Too big an ask? Okay... I wish ... to see my friend in Virginia. Either in Virginia, or here in Scotland. 

That would Make My Day.

This has nothing to do with Patrice's chat, but this morning, as we all sat around discussing our plans for the day, DR began doing Churchill's speech. You know the one:

 'We will fight them on the beaches....'.

He was doing it in Churchill's voice, and by the time he'd 

"...we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."...

Guess what? I was in tears. Pass-me-the-tissues type tears.

Of course, my children mock. Oh, how they mock! But really, they don't make speeches like this any more. 

In fact, they don't make leaders like this any more.

Well, Patrice, I've loved having another natter with you. I'm off for a wee wander around your farm. I feel like I know all your animals, but I realise they don't know me, so I'm gonna introduce myself.

Do you think they'll understand my accent? I guarantee they'll never have heard any like it before now.

See you next week!


This Week on the Greenery Front

This week, I do believe we have some progress in the greenhouse ...

 My chillis are beginning to grow! It seems so late in the year, but they may have, very thoughtfully, been planning their readiness to coincide with the tomatoes being ready.

I say that because, today, I glimpsed a tint of red in amongst all the greenery.

Do you see it?! 

I have so many tomatoes - almost all of them some variety of cherry tomato - and I am desperate for some red.

'Red, tomatoes. D'ya hear me? RED!'

When our Romanesco and Cauliflower were ready so early this year, I thought I'd plant more seed and try planting more seedlings. Here are the seedlings just now. 
 It may be too late to plant them this year, but hopefully I will have taken note and next year, I shall have seedlings ready to put into the ground when the other plants are harvested.

I planted two varieties of Cauliflower this year: Winter Pilgrim and All Year Round. The Winter Pilgrim is still in the ground and has some way to go before it's ready for lifting. I guess that fits with its name.

The All Year Round is the cauliflower we've already lifted and either eaten or frozen. It was ready so quickly - I reckon it was only in the ground (from seedling stage) for around 5-6 weeks. This would be the variety I'd have ready for re-planting next year.

So much to learn...

The carrots on the right of this photo also have two varieties. They both look similar, but the row nearest the middle of the photo is producing short, stumpy carrots, whereas the other two rows have long, straight carrots.

Now generally in this life I have nothing against short and stumpy. Short is just fine. But not with carrots. Yet another note to take for next year.

If I don't get around to writing all these tidbits of information in my notebook, this blog will be my source of reference come next March. Yet another proof of the usefulness of the blog.

(Let's face it, I need all the proof I can get.)

You like the cabbage? We didn't plant so many this year, and now we're kind of sorry. For some reason, I didn't sow any red cabbage seed, and I'm really sorry about that now. Oh well, we live and learn.

At the moment, the main work in the plot is weeding. There is so much of it to be done, and it simply never ends. 

The carrots also have to be thinned weekly (I like doing it this way so we get to eat these...

... and they are delicious.

So, how does your garden grow?

I'm linking today to Homestead Revival's Bloghop.


Patience may be a Virtue, but we all have our Limits

If you follow Homeschool on the Croft on Facebook, you'll already know that I spent 46 (yes, that's forty-six) minutes on a freephone number today, just waiting to be answered. Forty-six minutes of constant ringing, the sound of which was broken only by a woman's recorded voice which said:

"Thank you for your patience. We promise to answer you as soon as possible."

Patience, did you say? Patience?!!

I think not. 

Not even a Vivaldi's Season to pass the time. Nothing, but, 'Thank you for your.....'.

When my call was finally answered, I was so busy doing something else, and had become so accustomed to the permanent ringing and repetitive Thank-you-for-... message, that I hadn't a clue what to say to this woman who said, 

'Hello, may I help you?'

May I help you?  

'Er,' I think to myself, intelligently ...

'Get yourself together, woman,' I think sternly ... 

'Sort out your thoughts,' I tell myself, whilst sorting out the papers on my lap.

The least these companies could do is give you some kind of four-minute warning. Something like, 

'Thank you for your patience. We know you have now been waiting for 42 minutes, and we realise that your brain will have reached a slumbering stage. Please begin the process of wakening up. We will alert you again in 2 minutes, at which stage you ought to gather together all papers relevant to this call. This will allow some coherence when we do finally persuade our staff to finish their coffee and natter, to come off Facebook, and answer your call. Your cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated.'


Cherry Franzipan Recipe

Cherry Franzipan

Shortcrust Pastry

I have two alternatives for the pastry. Here's Option 1:

6oz (175g) plain flour
3oz (75g) soft butter/marg
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
1 egg

Mix all ingredients together with a fork to form a firm dough.
Knead slightly, roll out and use to line an 8" flan ring.

Here's Option 2:

Ever since I discovered Option 2 a couple of months ago, I go for this option. Every time.


4 oz (100g) margarine
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
3 oz (75g) semolina
1 egg
2 oz (50g) cherries
4 oz (100g) marzipan
3 oz (75g) raisins
icing sugar for dusting

1. Beat margarine, sugar, semolina and egg together until smooth and creamy.
2. Chop cherries and marzipan and add, with raisins, to mixture.
3. Spread mixture into prepared pastry case.
4. Bake in a pre-heated oven 180C/350F/Gas 4 for 35-40 mins
5. Sprinkle with icing sugar when cold, and cut into wedges.

I make four of them together because the cooker will easily take them, and because Margaret Thatcher once told me that she always filled her oven when she had it heated up.

I have to tell y'all this. I don't like cherries. I'm not too struck on marzipan. I don't like baked fruit. 

Yet I love franzipan. Go figure!


Beetroot - not out of a Jar

Sooooo.... tried something new tonight.

I followed this recipe for roasting beetroot - beetroot being something I've never cooked with nor eaten. In fact, the only beetroot I've ever come across is the beetroot in a jar, and it's not something that appealed to me very much.

Here they are ready for going into the oven.

The dressing had olive oil; balsamic vinegar (though I had none in, so I used white wine vinegar instead - haven't a clue if this made a huge difference or not!), lemon juice, garlic, salt and black pepper. Some fresh thyme and blobs of butter were sprinkled on top. They were covered in foil, cooked for, er, some time (I forgot to check the time), and then they were duly eaten.

I was pleasantly surprised with the taste and the texture of them. Just as well, cos we've got a fair number of them in the plot, so they'll have to be eaten one way or another...

Oh, this probably sounds really stupid, but I couldn't get over how deeply pink they were. I think it may have been a sign: the juice was just a tad darker than my hair was way back when I was 17 ;)

I now have pink fingers. I also have a pink dish towel, a pink cloth and a pink blob on a kitchen cupboard. Oh, and a blob of pink on my t-shirt. 

And just to show you that in this house presentation means, er... nothing, here's the Builder's plate tonight.

Before ...

...and after

 Marks for presentation: 0
Marks for eating all your dinner, dear hubby: 10


My Weekly Natter with Patrice

The thing about arriving on Patrice's porch on a Thursday instead of Wednesday is that I miss all the other ladies and their chats.

Mind you, it does mean I have Patrice and her tea and cakes all to myself. Method in my madness, you see.

Have you ever colored your hair? If so, what colors have you tried?

Oh dear me. Patrice, I'm not sure you ought to have brought this up.

When I was a teenager, I trained for 2 years to become a hairdresser. I was away from home, and - as one does in hairdressing college - I pretty much went through the range of shades for hair colour. However, one shade... er, hang on... one colour kinda takes the biscuit. I'd coloured my hair blonde - that's bad enough to think of now - but then we dyed the front area a cerise pink colour. My hair had the 1980 flicks all around the area that framed my face, so these flicks were a bright, bonny cerise colour.

At the end of this term, I was coming home for a break. I still remember my Mum's face when she saw me coming off the ferry. Suffice to say it wasn't the most welcoming welcome I've ever had in my life.

Oh my, oh my, Patrice. That brings back memories.... 

I haven't coloured my hair for 25 years, so all the colouring really is a distant memory....

What's your favorite kind of music?

I do enjoy music. I don't like all kinds of music, and much of what may pass for music wouldn't be music in my mind. There are some kinds of music which were very much part of my life before I was converted and, although I'd possibly still enjoy the music, I'm not sure that it would be beneficial for me to take my heart where the music would lead it.

The kind of music I listen to depends on the circumstances. I love Enaudi's music, and will often play that in the kitchen while I work

This is beautiful.

I often listen to the classic hymns, or classical music too. I honestly find music so emotive that I do try and be careful what I have on. Being a country bumpkin, country music would always have been a favourite. I think my boots would choose this genre, but there's quite some time since I played it myself.

What are the last three movies you watched?

Mmm. Well, we watched the Chicken Run the other night together. Normally, winter in our time for family movie nights, but we did fit one in recently and watched this one (again!). It's so well done. Really, I think the adults love it more than the kids. Oh hang on - maybe that's only me!

We were given The King's Speech last week and the Builder and I sat and watched it. I had heard a bit about the language in the movie. Mmmm. I wished we hadn't watched it. 

Aside from the language issue.... I just didn't think the movie was up to much. I wasn't keen on the way King George VI was portrayed, and I didn't like Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen Mother (not that she was Queen Mum then, but that's what she is to all of our generation!). Even with the swears edited out, I wouldn't go out of my way to watch this movie.

Can you tell I'm playing for time here, because I'm struggling to think of a third movie. It's summer! Summer means no movies! I'm quite sure that one of the period dramas that find their way onto our screen on a regular basis would have been in the 'last three'. My guess is Pride and Prejudice (now, that's where Mr Firth shines. Er, Anne, you're a married spud, you're a married spud...) 

Do you remember your first pet?

Oh yes. Her name was Game, she was a miniature Shetland Collie and she was absolutely gorgeous. For years and years, I'd pleaded with Mum and Dad to buy me one, and when I was twelve years old, Game came into our home. My mum still gets emotional when she speaks about her. By the time she died, I was living away, married and with my own baby, but my mum was absolutely devastated. 

What was the best or most interesting "back to school" thing from your childhood?

Er, Hmmmm. Give me a minute here.

Nope. Can't think. I'm not sure we did 'back to school' things. It's Lewis. We just got on with things. No niceties here, Patrice.

But talking of 'back to school'. We kinda began today. We got a bit of a start, and will spend today and tomorrow getting used to new materials, sorting out our schedule (er - why did you all splutter on your coffee. I do have a schedule. It sits nice decorating my kitchen wall. Sometimes, I even look at it.), and making sure we've got all the equipment and stationary we need. Everything we ordered online has come, which is a real bonus. So it's 'off to work we go'!

The schools on the island went back today too - it's much earlier in Scotland than in England. That's why us Scots have always been more ejoocated than them South of the Border. You didn't know we were? Oh yes, it's a commonly known fact. Here in Scotland, anyway.

Actually, Patrice, it's so sunny right now, and there is so little wind, that we could almost have had this chat on our porch. 

If we had one.

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