A Friday Mish-mash

1. The other morning, I was speaking to the kids about the usefulness of writing down some of our experiences and blessings. When we are blessed by God in certain ways, we think we will never, ever forget what He has done for us, but ... we do. The next morning at worship, we sang these verses:

1 O thou my soul, bless God the Lord; and all that in me is Be stirred up his holy name to magnify and bless. 2 Bless, O my soul, the Lord thy God, and not forgetful be Of all his gracious benefits he hath bestowed on thee. 3 All thine iniquities who doth most graciously forgive: Who thy diseases all and pains doth heal, and thee relieve. 4 Who doth redeem thy life, that thou to death may'st not go down; Who thee with loving-kindness doth and tender mercies crown:

Although we have many, many temporal blessings, the Psalmist here mentions his greatest blessings:

.... his iniquities were graciously forgiven;

.... his spiritual disease was healed and the pain relieved;

.... his life was redeemed.

Do any of you keep a journal of spiritual experiences and blessings? For years I didn't, but I am so glad to look back now over things I wrote over the past few years. They cause me to give thanks all over again for the many blessings 'He has bestowed on me'.

2. Do y'all remember the fella who gave us the St Kilda posts? What ... You haven't read them? You can read the first of the posts here.

In case you don't think it's worth going to read them, I'll give you a couple of photos as 'tasters'. No hurry here: I'll wait.

The second post is here, and the third St Kilda post can be found here.

Oh, you're back. They're good, aren't they? Anyway, that fella, Calum, sent me this photo yesterday:

This is a Cheviot ewe with a male Texel cross lamb.

I knew that off the top off my head. I'm good at this whole recognizing-sheep-and-their-breeds stuff.


3. Catherine turned eighteen this week. Yes, my second child is now officially an adult, and I still feel like I'm only beginning to learn this being-a-parent business.

Our kids get to choose the menu when it's their birthday, and Catherine's choice this year was lamb shanks.

I was cooking ten shanks, and had three different ways of cooking them. 

Five of them went into the slow cooker with red wine and rosemary, as well as garlic, stock and seasoning. They bubbled happily in there for about eight hours, and made my kitchen smell delicious throughout the day. The recipe for those is here.

Three of the shanks were bundled up in cozy foil parcels with rosemary and thyme, butter, garlic and onion. They went into the oven for about two and a half hours. You can find Jamie Oliver's recipe here.

The final two were plain-Jane roasted. I had to roast some in this way to get that lovely almost-burnt stuff on the bottom of the roasting dish so that Catherine could have ordinary plain lamb gravy.

My order of preference was:

1. The foil wrapped shanks. The flavour of the butter and garlic through the meat, as well as the thyme gives this one winning status.

2. The slow-cooker shanks come a close second. The meat just fell off the bones, as it did with the foil wrapped ones. Oh, they were delicious.

3. I did like the onion-y roasted flavour of these, and if they weren't in competition with the other two, I'd be singing their praises. As it is, they come 3rd in my order.


Morning Machair in March.

Some areas of Scotland are knee deep in snow. Parts of the south-west have this snow and have been without electricity for five days now.

Meanwhile in Lewis ...

I took these photos around eight o'clock this morning. 

There wasn't a breath of wind, and although the temperature was only about 6 degrees Celsius, it felt gorgeously mild.

These first two photos are taken from the car, 

but, believe it or not, I actually went for a wee stroll.

I am in the dunes taking this photo. The dunes are on the far right of the first photos.

The sea was about as calm as I've ever seen it, and the sound of the little waves was magical.

I'll add another couple of photos just so you can savour some of the peace,

and the beauty, 

and the music which surrounded me.

The next lot of photos are taken from the machair. I stood in one place and took the first photo looking south-eastward.

There's our house!

And now, I guess I'm facing eastward, 

to the north ...

and round,


and finally, 

to the south.

Our weather in Lewis has been so dry, that in this photo you can see the evidence of a moor fire on the east side of the island. The Tolsta moor is on fire, and in the centre of this photo, you can see the smoke rising to join the morning clouds.


Patrice's Porch ... I'm on Time This Week Again!

Another Tuesday, another chat on Patrice's porch. Pull up a chair, get yourself a cuppa, and join our blether.

1. Melanie asks "What kinds of seafood have you tried and liked? What is the most unique seafood you've eaten?

Considering that I live right beside the sea - in fact, surrounded by sea - I ought to have eaten more seafood than I have. As it is, I've had prawns and lobster and scallops the most. I love these three.

We were blessed a few months ago with a gift of a bag of scallops.

When I say blessed, I really mean that.

Absolutely delicious.

And the Builder took this beauty home another night from work.

2.Anne says, "An unforgettable holiday moment is _____________________. (She's on the other side of that BIG pond. I believe a holiday is a vacation on this side. )

Ooh, that's me, Patrice! I probably asked this question because I have one of those 'unforgettable' moments stored in my memory: a moment that comes to the surface every now and again, and which we, as a family, re-tell from time to time. 

In 2001, my mum and I spent a week in London, Ontario. Whilst there, we were able to see some of the beautiful sights that province has to offer. One of these was, of course, Niagara Falls. 

Fast forward to 2007, and the Builder and I, along with our four kids, are going abroad for our first family holiday ever. We fly to Toronto, spend a couple of days with my relative in London, Ontario and then head to Niagara. Bear in mind that I have seen the Falls, but nobody else in the family has. I had done all the planning for this holiday - the Builder made it clear that he simply wanted to 'turn up' and enjoy it - and I'd booked a hotel suite which promised a wall-to-wall window looking right out onto the Falls.

When we came to the hotel, we came to the back of the building, having seen nothing of Niagara itself. (We had sauntered along back roads from London to Niagara, enjoying a relaxed drive through the countryside.) At this point, I was unsure what the view from the suite was going to be like. I knew what the hotel website told me it was going to be like, but one can never be sure ... 

And so I allowed everyone else to go in ahead of me, head to the window while I waited with baited breath for a reaction. I was not disappointed! Their reaction said it all: the view was perfect - more than the photos online had shown, in fact!

This moment was only one of so many unforgettable moments on that unforgettable holiday. We all talk often of the moment we arrived at the home of our (Scottish) friends in Michigan, after a 12-hour drive from Virginia. That moment we all said, 'That's the house!', and saw our friends for the first time since they left their homeland to make their home across the Pond. 

Would someone now pass the Kleenex? *Sniff*....

3. Arlene wants to know, "When was the last time you tried something new?"

Umm. Something new? 

Erm .... new?

People do new things? When they have kids? 

4. Becky asks, "Who or what inspires you?"

I'm tempted to ask, 'I'm inspired??'. Let me think about this for a moment ...

You know, a walk in our graveyard always inspires me.

I see the stone at my grandparents' grave, and I thank God for the family into which he brought me. 

I look beyond their headstone, and see the stone of my great-uncle, whose Godliness and cheerfulness are in my memory as an inspiration of how to live, and how to endear others to our Saviour.

The beauty of this sea inspires me, 

as does the combination of a machair full of summer flowers and a pair of chicken legs playing football.

This pair ...

and this pair 

inspire me.

And finally, some scenes from the hand of the Master Artist, 

whose creative beauty surrounds me,

in this place I call home.

Who could fail to be inspired by such wonders of God's creation?

5. Madonna wants to know," How did you chose the names of your children. Wendell adds,"If you don't have kids, how do you choose pet names?"

Oh, I can answer this quite easily, although - as y'all know with me - easy doesn't mean short.

Child #1
We named him Donald Ross: Donald is after his paternal grandfather; Ross is for my dad - it's his middle name.

Child #2
Catherine Petra - Both my mum and the Builder's mum were called Catherine. So she is named after her two grannies. Petra is named for a friend I had in college and who was killed in a car accident when we were only seventeen.

Child #3
Katie was named after an elderly cousin of my mum's, who was like a great-aunt to me. I know it's unfortunate that Katie and Catherine are so alike, but to me, they suit their specific names. Katie is a Katie.

Child #4
This was the only baby whose gender we knew before he was born. Do you remember me telling y'all about my Grampa? Well, his name was Calum, and I was really keen to have a child named after him. When our Wee Guy was born, the Builder suggested calling him Calum Stewart - the names of the Builder's two brothers. So the Wee Guy has the amazing privilege of being named after my Grampa, Big Brother and Baby Brother.  

Child #5 
AKA Dog #1. Jackson was named after Mr Thomas Stonewall Jackson. Please don't judge me if you're a Northerner. You'd need to be Scottish to understand.... Thank you.

And you know I love you all. Y'all, and you all.

Have a great week, y'all. Oh, I'm heading to London next week.

Did you hear me? I said I was heading to London! And - wait for it - I'm going with the Builder.

I can hardly believe it myself.... More on this to follow, no doubt.


Me and My Toast


Every time I hear the toaster pop, I waken up.

I don't mean that I am simply not asleep any more, 

I mean that I am really awake.

Awake. And questioning.

"How long do I have to wait?" 

"How much butter can you get onto that toast?"

And finally it arrives.

Mum even likes to torment me by making lick my lips countless times before she'll actually give me the butter-lathered toast.

And while I wait, I attempt my Angry Look.

Mum just laughs, so it clearly doesn't work very well.

In future, I will use only my Pathetic Look.

Oh, and mum says to tell y'all that she keeps the butter for herself. I am relegated to that spread-stuff-that-has-who-knows-what-in-it.

Huh! She has clearly forgotten that I have Royal Blood in me.  I'll bet the Queen's corgis get butter.


Stornoway Coastguard Helicopter Drops By

Yesterday, we heard the Coastguard helicopter flying overhead, and then saw it heading down towards the machair. So, in the custom of true bloggers, I headed down to the machair with the camera. 

You can't see much of the helicopter, but the day was so lovely, the sea such a lovely colour, and my enjoyment at simply being outside so great, that I clicked away anyway.

(When I say I was outside, I  mean I was outside of the house. Being inside the car still counts as outside in my world. Thank you for understanding.)

The helicopter hovered for a while and dropped one of the Coastguards close to a gulley.

When it hovered at its lowest, you could see so much spray coming up from the water.

I assumed it was an exercise, but it turns out they were indeed rescuing a fellow who'd gone down the cliffs after his dog.

Thankfully, nobody was hurt.

See the hole in the rock here. That's the Eye of the Butt.

That's there from when the Vikings first came to Lewis, loved the island so much and decided they wanted to tow it back to Norway.

Tall tale?? Not a bit of it. True story.

(Well, the part where the Vikings came to Lewis is true. And the bit that says they loved Lewis is true. Two out of three ain't bad, is it?)

The chopper flew across Eoropie to the lighthouse and landed there.

Aren't you glad I'm here to give you another snippet of useless information? Yep, I thought so.


On Time with Patrice's Porch Chat

Thanks again, Patrice, for your questions. I'm actually joining y'all this week on the correct day ... things are looking up!

1. Furry Bottoms asks: Did you grow up in a small town, or a big town? Did you like it?

I grew up about a mile from where I now live. It isn't a town of any description, but a village. In Lewis, if you live outside of the main town, Stornoway, you probably live in a village. A number of villages come together to form a district. As we all know, Ness is the only district worth mentioning. 

Ness is at the top of the island, looking down on all others.

 Ness is located in Outer Hebrides
Here we are: Lewis is the largest, and most northerly of the Western Isles, and Ness is the 'tip' part of the island. As you know, our house looks west onto the Atlantic Ocean.

I posted this photo on Facebook last night.

This was taken last summer. When I sit in my favourite chair in the Family Room, this is what I see as the sun sets over the Atlantic. Much as I love the winter, with its short days and long, dark evenings, I must say that I'm quite looking forward to this scene out my window once more.

2. Lisa wants to know: If you could pick one song to hear for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Hmmm ... It would have to be a pretty amazing song not to get on my nerves over a whole lifetime of hearing it! 

This past week, Psalm 103 has been made very precious to me, and knowing that I would never tire of God's Word being sung in my hearing, I think I'll choose this, Lisa.

Here are the first few verses of it, in the Scottish Metrical version:

1 O thou my soul, bless God the Lord; and all that in me is Be stirred up his holy name to magnify and bless. 2 Bless, O my soul, the Lord thy God, and not forgetful be Of all his gracious benefits he hath bestowed on thee. 3 All thine iniquities who doth most graciously forgive: Who thy diseases all and pains doth heal, and thee relieve. 4 Who doth redeem thy life, that thou to death may'st not go down; Who thee with loving-kindness doth and tender mercies crown: 5 Who with abundance of good things doth satisfy thy mouth; So that, ev'n as the eagle's age, renewed is thy youth.

If you click on this link, from YouTube, you will hear these verses sung, a cappella.

3. Karen asks: What are your pet peeves?

Well, I'm such a gracious, patient person, nothing really gets on my nerves.

Okay, okay ... y'all don't need to choke on your coffee. No, I didn't think y'all would believe that - not for a minute!

So, my pet peeves ... How long do you have?

(i) Sloppy service. 

You know, I get out for a meal occasionally. Very, very occasionally. If I am being treated to a night away from my own kitchen, even if it's to an inexpensive cafe or restaurant, I want decent service. I don't want to feel like I'm intruding on the waitress's time just by turning up. I do want a spotlessly clean table - it aint rocket science. I want my server to smile. She, or he, doesn't need to be gooey or over-the-top: I just want pleasantness. Unpleasant service spoils my night, and if this is my only eating-out-night in the whole year, then you have spoiled my one and only night off in the year. 

That is not on. Y'all hear me?

(ii) Run-on sentences.

Give me strength! This isn't rocket science either. How is it that those who are of my parents' generation can write proper, basic sentences, yet so many of the letters sent to me through the post are filled with run-on sentences. Find the full-stop on your keyboard and Use It!

(iii) Political correctness (gone mad).

Ohhhhh boy ... I'm not sure if I can even begin on this one. If I begin, where will I end? ('Er, probably in court, Anne.')

So, yes. I think I shall leave that one. Suffice to say it drives. me. nuts.

(iv) Those who assume that if you disagree with their opinion, you are automatically discounting them as friends, acquaintances, or even fellow human beings. You know what? I am happy to debate a point, and still remain friendly. 

It may also be worth noting that if I remain friendly, it doesn't necessarily mean I agree with your opinions.

Just so y'all know.

Told you I was gracious and patient and that very little riled me. Aren't y'all glad you know me?

4. Colletta says: Do you remember your dreams? Are they in color or black and white? What is the craziest dream you've ever had?

I think my dreams are in colour. The funny thing is that most of my dreams take place in the house in which I grew up. Even when the Builder and the kids are part of my dream, I almost always seem to be in or around my old home. Do others have themselves placed in the homes of their childhood?

I have had dreams in which I've been yarning to the Queen, blethering to Prince Charles, or chatting to Ally McCoist. I'm sure that's perfectly normal.

Isn't it?

5. Rachel asks: What is the perfect pair of shoes for you?

Oh, Rachel, that is easy.

Nuff said.

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