A Look Back and a Happy New Year!

In Deuteronomy 33:29, we read these words:

Happy art thou O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!

Many times over the next couple of days, I will wish people a Happy New Year. There are many happinesses I would wish for them: good health, happy family lives, and successful employment or studies are just some of them.

But there is nothing I would wish more for them all than to be like those of whom the verse speaks - people saved by the Lord. For what is it if a person gains the whole world and loses his soul? 

New Year is a good time for looking forward, and also for looking back. Here's a quick look back at some of 2013's most popular posts (an terms of numbers of views).

January's most popular post was on oatmeal. It also shared the recipe I use for oatcakes.

In February, Jo Wheatley, the winner of the previous year's Great British Bake-off, visited Stornoway. The post, Bake-off day in Stornoway , proved popular.

Jo with my sister, Marina, Iona and myself.

Some of the baking was simply stunning: few more so than this wonderful creation.

March and this chat with Patrice seems to have had a lot of views.

These two photos were taken only a couple of hours apart. The Wee Guy had wanted to drop his Maths lesson to go outside in the snow. I was so glad I allowed him the pleasure of the little bit of snow, because a couple of hours later, the view looked like this ...

One of April's most popular posts was this one from when the Builder and I had our trip to London. This particular photo was taken shortly after the death of Lady Thatcher had been announced.

Westminster Abbey with its lowered flag.

In May, the readers seemed to enjoy reading of our first day in the peats this year.

And one of the most popular posts of the whole year was another peat related one: this time is about the Peats being Home.

The Remembrance Day post from November was another popular post. I am glad that so many are committed to 'never forgetting'.

The photo shows all who were involved in the Remembrance Service in one way or another.

And this post called Forty-seven Truths proved more popular than it probably deserved.

Seriously, how interesting can facts about me be?!

(Don't answer that out loud, thank you.)

Once again, I'd like to thank y'all for sticking with me. Many of you have been on this blogging journey with me almost since my first foray into cyberspace. It's been a great experience for me, and I've loved getting to know those of you who leave comments. Thank you for every time you've given encouragement, asked a question, or simply said Hi in the comments. 

None of us knows what 2014 has in store for us. I am thankful that my Heavenly Father has mapped out every providence that will come my way. I pray that whatever He has in store for me, that I will always say that 'God is good'. 

May you all have a truly Happy New Year. 


2014's Calender Photos

** Anna V, please contact me to give me your 

details so I can send you the calender you won!**

Davene, from Spilled ... because my Cup Overflows, asked me to show the photos I'd chosen for the 2014 calender. And so, here they are ...

The cover of the calender has this photo:

It shows some of the wild flowers that grow on our machair during the summer, and in the distance you can see our house. For a certain number of weeks each summer, the machair is cleared of all livestock and this gives these flowers the opportunity to grow and delight both our sense of sight and our sense of smell.

Ahhhhh ..... summer.

*      *      *   

 January's photo is of the Gearannan, on the West Side of the island.

This thatched village has been restored and some of the houses are now available for holiday lets. One of the homes is used as a museum which shows what island life was like in times past. The last of these homes were actually still home to folks right up until the 1970s. When the final few older residents moved to modern homes - homes without thatch, and all the additional work that entailed - the houses were given 'conservation status'.

The houses seem to us to belong to another world, and yet ... thick stone walls, their low profile, and the insulating thatch ... all these features make them ideal for the weather conditions here in Lewis. 

And the materials are all to be found locally. I can see Green Grants being issued for the building of this type of home in the future - yep, sounds like a plan, Mr government-green-grants Adviser.

Y'all heard it here first, folks ;)

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February's photo needs no explanation.

Well, okay, I ought to explain that he doesn't always look like this. 

This dirty? No.

This cute? Yep.

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March could be nothing else but the lambs.

Here are some of Big Brothers' gorgeous lambs. Between March and April, he spends practically all his wakened hours in the Maternity Ward. So far, he's never felt it necessary to call for my help.

Strange that ...

*      *      *    

We had a gorgeous spell of weather in April, and I nipped out one morning to take a walk along the beach.

This was the same morning DR's run of Fire Service call-outs for moor fires began, but while I walked in these dunes, moor fires were the furthest thing from my mind. Early morning, I think, is the best time to wander down to the beach.

*      *      *

Occasionally, Calum and I take a wee wander over to town, and on this lovely May day, we chucked a flask into the car with some sandwiches, a couple of books, and of course, his sword and additional weaponry.

The castle grounds are so lovely, and worth having a day off school to go visit.

*      *      *

June: the Callanish Stones.

My Dad joined Katie, Calum and I the day we took a spin around the West Side and visited the Broch and the Callanish Stones. It would seem that these stones have been around for around 4000 years. Yes, that's four thousand...

*      *      *

July's photo is of the Wee Guy, aka Calum Stewart, helping in the taking home of the peats.

The tractor is a Massey Ferguson 35, and has been in the Builder's family since way before we were married. It's been responsible for taking many loads of peats home.

*      *      *

The photo I chose for August is from our friend, Calum's, trip to St Kilda. Our three St Kilda blog posts, Part I, Part II, and Part III, were amongst the most popular posts of 2013.

This is looking down on the Village Bay, Bàgh a' Bhaile, on a stunningly beautiful summer's day.

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We return to the Castle Grounds for September's photo.

This photo is taken from close to Cuddy Point, and shows the main part of Stornoway, the island's only town.

*      *      *

We stay in Stornoway for October's photo.

This photo is taken from the town, looking over the inner harbour to the castle from with the Castle Grounds takes their name. 

The castle was built by Sir James Matheson in the mid 19th century. Matheson, who'd made his money from the Chinese opium trade, had bought the island in 1844, and the castle and wonderful grounds are his lasting legacy.

*      *      *

November: an early sunset and a reminder that we will all, one day, die.

I love visiting the cemetery - not for morbid reasons, but because my visits bring reality home to me. My grandparents are buried here, as are the Builder's parents. There are graves belonging to many, many people I knew: some reached old age, and others were called out of this world way before the expected 'three score years and ten'. 

I am sad, yet rejoice, when I read some of the gravestones. They speak of people who are now in heaven, awaiting the resurrection. They are people with whom I will spend eternity, and together we will sing praises to the Lamb in the midst of the Throne.

There are some that make me weep: in the early part of last century, there were so many young children who died as a result of illnesses that are so easily cured now. How blessed we are with the age in which God's providence placed us.

Other graves speak of sons who never returned from the World Wars. That, in turn, speaks of unspeakable heartache and that makes my heart sore for mothers and fathers whose grief was unimaginable.

This also makes me thankful for the time in which I live.

*      *      *

December's photo was also taken by our friend, Calum, when he visited St Kilda. 

When I posted this photo on Homeschool's Facebook page recently, a lady contacted me to say that the closest house in the photo is where her mother was born, and where she lived until the final evacuation of the island in 1930. Wow! 

I find the scenes from St Kilda so poignant. I think any poet, or writer, or composer, or artist, who is struggling with inspiration ought to take a visit to this island.

The stones truly speak, even though the homes are empty and silent.


On the Run-up to Christmas, on Patrice's Porch

Our last chat before Christmas, Patrice. Doesn't time fly!

1. What is your favourite way to have potatoes?

I love potatoes. I really, really love 'em. 

I love baby 'new' potatoes with butter melted over them. Yum. 

I love creamed potatoes: lots of melted butter and milk added, and even some cream cheese. Double yum.

And I love a variety of takes on dauphinoise potatoes. I love leek sautéed in butter and added to the dauphinoise, and then grated cheese sprinkled on top before baking. Triple yum.

Duke of York Reds and Whites

When we're having fresh mackerel straight from the sea, there is nothing quite like our own earlies. Boiled in their skins and tasting awesome!

Our own Roosters from the year before last

There's the world of difference between the taste of home grown tatties and bought ones. 

As I mentioned, I love potatoes!

2. Do you keep your house toasty warm or a bit cooler?

I love warmth in the house. Ohhhh yes, inside, I love to be toasty and warm. Since we got the stove, our kitchen area is absolutely toasty! I may have mentioned (once or twice) on the blog that I love our stove. It's a similar love to the love I feel for potatoes: it goes deep, folks. Really deep.

But because we spend so much of our day here in the kitchen area with the stove, the rest of the house can end up being neglected. It's normally when we go up in the evening to sit in the Family Room, or even when we head up to bed that we realize just how cold the rest of the house is!

3. What would you most like to see under the tree?

Hmmmm, I really don't know. Let me think....

Help me out, folks. I really don't know. We don't do much in the way of presents for ourselves - it's mostly for the kiddos - so I've not really spent much time thinking about a gift I'd like.

Oh well, go on then - give us trans-Atlantic plane tickets for next year. Yeah, that would be nice!

4. Do you have an Elf on the Shelf? This one may not translate to other countries. Just tell us something you want if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Nope. I haven't a clue what that is, so I shall ramble on about something else. Rambling, as you know, Patrice, comes rather naturally to me.

Last night as we went to bed, the winds here in Ness had reached 90mph. Okay, so it wasn't over 100mph like we had the other day, but our older kids were a bit concerned because they were heading off on the ferry early this morning. 

Bleugh! My stomach is churning at the mere thought of the Minch on a windy morning. Of course, their concern wasn't how rough the sea was going to be, but that the ferry may not sail. That would be a disaster (the meaning of the word 'disaster' changes depending on the stage of life one is at. Yep, that's a fact.) because they were meeting up with some friends from London who now live in the US of A, and were flying up from London for two days just to see them.

Well, the London/USA kids' grandparents also live in Inverness and I'm sure visiting with them was really their reason for coming so far north. Or maybe not.

Anyway, to cut a long story short - erm, excuse me, I heard that guffaw: I can cut stories short. I can, you know - they did get away, they did meet up with their friends, and they are having a great time. 

I assume. I'm having to assume because I haven't heard from them. And I take that as a good sign.

Anyway, because the older kids are away, the Wee Guy and I were home alone today. We took a complete day off: we sat in front of the stove, read books, and had cups of tea. It was bliss! It was also such fun to read for a while, then listen to Calum telling about what he'd read, and his story would lead us onto some related topic and we'd just a good blether whilst dunking our biscuits in our cuppa.

Bliss, I tell y'all.

5. Have you put up a Christmas tree this year?

We haven't actually. When we took down last year's tree, we decided it looked a bit robach. It had seen better days, so it got the heave-ho. But if you're planning to buy a new Christmas tree, do it in the January sales. Don't leave it until December, when your money has other priorities! 

*      *      * 

Patrice, I believe you're not going to be on your porch next week. I'm not sure why you'd miss a week ... ? Maybe the weather? I'm quite sure there's nothing too important on next week. 

Please say Hi to Wendell, and tell him we're all glad he's out of the horsepital (Patrice, I love it!).

See y'all in two weeks' time.

Oh, and have a great Christmas, y'all. 




(Hint: it's not the Callanish Stones.)

I took this photo of the Callanish Stones when we visited both the Stones and the Broch earlier in the year. This photo is the June photo in Homeschool on the Croft's 2014 calender.

I have three of these calenders to give away, and will split them between the blog and my Homeschool on the Croft Facebook page

Please leave a comment here on the blog with the month of your birthday, and I'll choose a winner at random on Thursday evening at 10pm (UK time).

That will be 5pm if you're in Virginia. 

It'll be 1pm if you're in Washington State.

If you're in Russian, I think you'll be in bed, so get it done before bedtime on Thursday 19th December. 

By the way, Thursday 19th December is my brother's 50th birthday. If you see him around, please wish him a happy birthday. He loves attention, so he'll be chuffed to bits I did this.


But do it anyway. Because he did loads to me that I still need to get even for.

Like the night I was all ready to go out on a date and he soaked me with the shower. MY HAIR!!! Remember, these were the days of blow-drying and then tongs. And lots of hairspray. Oh yes, lots and lots. And I had to do my hair all over again. So please, if you see him in the next wee while, slap him on the back and wish him a very happy 50th birthday. 

Very loudly, preferably.

Okay, now that I've got that off my chest, I'll remind y'all again ...

Comment with the month of your birthday, and go 'into the hat' for Thursday night's draw.

And head over to my facebook page if you want your name 'in the hat' again. Remember, 10pm Thursday night...

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Neil.

Love you!


Sitting in Patrice's Cozy Kitchen for Today's Blether

Good afternoon, Patrice. I'm looking forward to a hot cuppa and a good yarn today. Our weather today is so mild: our temperature has been around 11C all day - very mild for this time of year, and we even had the sun make an appearance in the afternoon. Mind you, we did have winds of around 50mph all day, so it wouldn't be the weather for sitting outside. That would be too much to ask altogether.

And so to your questions, Patrice:

1. Have you baked any Christmas cookies yet?

I don't tend to bake Christmas cookies, Patrice - not ones that are specifically Christmas-y anyway. And we don't make a Christmas cake because nobody here likes fruit cake. Nope. Nobody. At all.

Over the Christmas holidays, I expect to be doing a fair bit of cooking and baking, but much of what I'll be making will have a same-ness feel about it. I tend to only make what the Builder and the kids really enjoy, and that doesn't change at this time of year. So, very boring, all in all.

2. Have you finished your shopping yet? 

You're having a laugh! Unless it's around 5pm on the 24th of December, it's very unlikely that I will have finished my Christmas shopping. 

Yes, every year is going to be different. And yes, every year turns out the same.

One point to note in my defense: I do not like Christmas shopping in November. There's something just not ... well, it's just not Christmas-y enough to do my Christmas shopping.

Add that to my general disorganisation, which plagues my life from day to day, and you get my annual last-minute mad-but-fun shopping dashes.

3. If you had reindeer like the story of Santa, what would you name them? (Be creative. Remember, they were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Coment, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph.) If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go on to the next question.

Stroll on! I had no idea! No, really - I had no idea that Santa had all these reindeer. In my deprived childhood I only ever heard of Rudolph. He must have been the main man. The top dog. Or simply the reindeer of whom songs are sung. Yes, maybe that's it.

Okay, let me think. Our (and I use our in the loosest possible sense of the word. I'm aware they're Big Brother's) rams have so far been named John Wayne, Bruce (Willis), and Sylvester (Stallone - obviously). The next one, apparently, is going to be Arnie. So, do I make my reindeer Men's Men, and give them names following on from the rams' names? It's a possibility, but I'm not sure I can think of another five hunky-chunky-men's-men after whom to name them. I know you have what's-his-name in the Bourne movies, but he ain't quite your Bruce Willis, let's face it. And you've got the other fella in the Mission Impossible movies, but he sure doesn't cut the mustard if you're comparing him with Sylvester.

It seems like real chunky hunks are hard to find. Ohhhh .... unless I began closer to home. 

Ah-aaaah - have you seen the Builder, Big Brother and Baby Brother.


Ahem, I'm hastily clarifying that I am swooning only for the Builder, but I'm sure others would happily swoon at the others.

Phew! I'm glad they don't read my blog!

I know I only gave you three names, Patrice, but I'm not sure Santa would need any more, if he had these three fellas to help. Yep, that's Santa sorted.

It's also time I moved quickly on to the next question.

4. What was the most memorable Christmas gift you ever gave or received?

All these Christmas questions are doing this Presbyterian's head in, Patrice. Right, let me think.

Oh yes, I know for certain the best Christmas present we gave: two years ago, completely unbeknown to our kids, the Builder and I booked flights for us all to head across to Canada and America. On Christmas morning we gave each of the kids a pack of travel toiletries, for which they thanked us....

We then asked what their presents had in common and gave them each the envelope with their tickets across the Atlantic in them! We all flew out the following April for what was an amazing never-to-be-forgotten holiday. I wish we were going to be doing the same this Christmas!

5. Please tell me something new, interesting, or funny. Also, Wendell could use some encouraging words to feel better - just saying :)

Something new:

We have a beautiful girl whom we are sponsoring in India. Her name is Mansa, and she already has a very special place in my heart.

Something interesting:

We are having major problems right now with our internet connection. That is not, by any stretch of the imagination, interesting. It is, however, maddening.

Something funny:

Our girls. Not that they're going to make you laugh, but they make me laugh so much.  

And to Wendell, well ... what more encouraging words could I give him than to promise I'll be back again next week to see him. If I could, I'd bring Jackson along - I have a feeling they'd be great friends.

I know Wendell hasn't been toddy lately, Patrice. I hate seeing animals unwell, so I do hope - for your sake, and for his - that he gets well very soon.

Again, Patrice, thank you so much for hosting our weekly chat. When we get together next, we will be really close to Christmas.


Off the Porch, but still Meeting up with Patrice

Hi Patrice! It's great to be back with you again. I've missed you these past couple of weeks, and so am especially looking forward to our wee blether. 

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving Day, and that you remembered to chuck the scales out before the day actually arrived.

And so to today's questions and, as always, thank you for hosting our (almost) weekly get-together.

1. Please tell me the three most valuable things you learned as a child or young person.

(i) I learnt that I needed a Saviour. I knew from as far back as my memory goes that I couldn't get to heaven without Christ Jesus saving me. I'd say this is the most valuable thing I learnt as a child.

(ii) I learnt not to be too concerned about what others thought of me. (Of course, whilst passing through my teen years, I reckon I forgot this valuable lesson: like most teenagers, I thought far too much of the opinions of others, but once these years past, the childhood lesson was found to be deeply ingrained.)

(iii) I learnt that the Bible was a real, living book and that it applied to every area of life. That means I can do the dishes to God's glory; or not. I can spend my spare time to God's glory; or not. I can raise my kids to God's glory; or not. I can dress, read, spend my money, speak to friends, plan the future to God's glory ... or not. 

I remember my Dad speaking about what was known as the 'Protestant Work Ethic' and the reason behind it. It was because God's Word was real to these people and the way they worked was affected to such a great extent by God's Word. It was because the Bible wasn't a book just for Sundays, but for every day and every situation. I read recently that Luther said this:

'If my cobbler is a Christian, I will not expect the shoes he makes me to have little crosses on them. I will, however, expect the shoes to be the best he could possibly make.'

Yes! If we are Christians, everything we do ought to be done to God's glory. Sadly I fall waaaaay short of this - every minute of every day of my life ...

2. Did you participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

I was safely ensconced right here, Patrice, so was kept well away from any Black Friday or Cyber Monday related sale.

3. Do you pray?

Yes, I do, but what's amazing isn't so much that I pray, but that the God who created the heavens and the earth, who is King of kings and Lord of lords hears me.

He hears me! That is amazing. Although I've prayed ever since I became a Christian, I can truly say that prayer has become more precious to me as I've gone on in my Christian life. I realize now, and am realizing more and more, that my Lord not only hears me but delights to hear me. To think that the all holy, all wise, all powerful, all good God would delight to hear a sinner like me come to Him ...

pouring out my praise - poor as it is; 

pouring out my confession - repetitive and incomplete as it is; 

pouring out my desires and needs - pathetic as they sometimes are ...

and yet He delights to hear me, His child, coming my Father, with all my praise, my confession and my pleadings. What a God He is!

4. Have you been invited to any parties to celebrate Christmas or New Year?

Dearie me, Patrice. I'm a Scot. A Highlander. A Presbyterian. You forget yourself!!

5. Have you ever owned cowboy boots or a cowboy hat? Or a cowboy?? Tee-hee :) Just had to throw that one in for fun!

Well, Patrice, I don't have a cowboy hat; nor do I have cowboy boots ...

BUT I have my very own Cowboy. Although he's normally known as the Builder, he can morph into being my Cowboy too.

(I do realise that at forty-seven years of age, I'm not supposed to be swooning over my husband of twenty-something years. (Erm, not that he is twenty-something - clearly. He's been my husband for twenty-something years. That was clear, right?) But - supposed to or not - swooning it is.

My kids are gonna love this.

And as for boots, much as I love cowboy boots, these are still #1.

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