I am Home

(Written about a month ago; posted today. It's how I work...)

I'm home. Let me repeat that so y'all will get a flavour of what these words mean to me.

I. am. home.

In the past, we've been away from home for longer spells: the first time we went to the U.S of A, we were away a whole month! So what was the difference this time? Why were we so relieved to get home? Oh, that's easy - all our kids weren't with us. My parents were with us, Calum Stewart was with us for the first half of the trip, and DR came for a long weekend, but we missed being together as a family.

Big style.

Having said that, we were in such a beautiful place. It was just on the outskirts of Inverness, and I was able from time to time to come and sit on this bench ... on my own; with a book; listening to the sound of flowing water; in the sunshine.

In anyone's book, that is bliss.

The weather was gorgeous. For us Scots, it was HOT! 

That is just the way I like it.

What is it about the sound of running water that allows all your troubles to flow downstream with the current? 

On some occasions, I was joined down by the river by this fella, whose company is never unwelcome.

Despite the fact that he'd left his cache of weapons at home, 

I was reassured that I was still being well protected.

Inverness is not like Ness. Here you're able to find broken branches, which will suffice when no other weapons are at ones disposal.

Yup, I was safe from all enemy attacks, and so could read in peace.

What would I do without my Personal Protector? :)


Ice Bucket Challenge ... with a Difference

We had a stunning sunset tonight again, so Katie, Calum Stewart, and I headed down to the beach just as the sun was sitting above the horizon.

However, our main reason wasn't to admire the beauty of the beach and sunset...

Katie had been nominated for the Ice Bucket challenge, and instead of having a bucket of iced water poured over her, she chose to dunk herself in the chilly North Atlantic instead.

I have no idea where these kids came from. Did I really breed them??

Her bravery knew no bounds ...

Erm ... hang on. Maybe it did, because despite running bravely into the water, 

she couldn't seem to find the courage to get her head fully submerged.

Go on, Katie! Head under!

I know my photos aren't proof - simply because I wasn't quick enough with my clicking, 

but the photo above is actually Katie coming up out of the water, having completely dunked herself!

Phew! Well done, Katie. 

The Alliance of Pro-life Students got your donation.

The Ness Fire Brigade got your choice of nomination.

I got a good laugh.

And you probably got a cold.

C'est la vie.


Strawberry Tarts for Ever

I posted a photo of a Strawberry Tart on the Facebook page the other day, and some poor, deprived lady asked, 'What is that?'.

Probably American. (It's no fun saying that unless it's in that accent. You know the one ... )

"What is THAT?"

That, m'dear is a Strawberry Tart. That is yumminess on a plate; deliciousness in a tart.

That is also the easiest thing ever to make. And this is how I make them. 

I use the 6-2-6-2 recipe for my tarts. It's not really pastry, but I love it for all sweet tarts. I've shared it before in this post, and also in this post, where I make Apple Tart with it. Oh, and in that second post, the Wee Guy is still a Wee Guy! Waaah!

Okay, back to the Strawberry Tarts.  

Roll out the pastry, and cut out rounds.

I make different sizes: this is a medium tart, 

and these are smaller, bite-size ones.

The pie weights are great placed inside these little truffle papers - so handy then to lift them out once their job is done.

When I take the weights out, I normally give them another few minutes in the oven, just to dry the bottoms off.

The proper filling would be cream of some description, but I don't like 'real' cream, so this squeegy cream does the trick perfectly for me. It's also very handy!

Chuck a strawberry on top. You may, alternatively, place a suitably sized strawberry with great care in the centre of the squirted cream.

Either way, it's then time to pour over what makes what would be an okay-tart into a tart of deliciousness.

Strawberry tart jelly is yumminess in a bottle.

Just one word of warning. When you make these tarts, don't - whatever you do - let the Fire Brigade lads know they're around...

Some of these fellas would devour the plateful

(mentioning no names, of course, Alex ;) )


Poppies for the Lost of Ness

Those of you who follow Homeschool on the Croft on Facebook will remember how, just a few weeks ago, our district was plunged into sadness following the tragic death of one of our young men. I had never met the boy, but in a place like Ness, sadness is contagious. There is always some connection with a family who suffers loss: you may have played football with the lad; or been at school with the parents. Maybe your neighbour is a close relative, or your family sat near the family in church. 

However tenuous, there is always some link, and if not a link that can be articulated, then the simple fact that "we're all from Ness" is enough.

That week saw a gloom descend over Ness. We all felt it, and it followed us through our daily tasks and chores. 

At the time, I remember thinking of what it must have been like in Ness during the Great War and the Second World War. There were no bombs falling on the people, that's true, but bad news was only a knock on the door from them. When that fateful telegram arrived with the words, 

We regret to inform you ....

Oh, the pain.

Yes, of course the pain for the family isn't to be compared with the general pain the district feels when we lose someone tragically. But knowing how that one death affected Ness last month made me think of how the whole of Ness must have ached, month after month, and year after year, for the duration of the two World Wars.

This month sees the anniversary of the beginning of WW1. Our nation declared war on Germany on August 4th, 1914, and our local historical society, Comunn Eachdraidh Nis had the wonderful idea of placing a commemorative poppy at the crofts and homes where lives were lost in combat during these years.

Our war memorial in Ness, naming those lost in both World Wars

Part of the village of Habost - where we live - on the memorial

The house numbers are in the furthest left column. 

Take a look. House number 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 16 (yes, they lost two sons), 17, 18a, 18a, 19, 19 (again, two lost from each of these homes) .... and so the list goes on.

It makes for painful reading

And so, at each of these crofts, and at all the crofts in this part of Lewis, poppies have been placed and will remain until the the hundredth anniversary of the end of this Great, and terrible, War.

This is where the Builder grew up. Like most of his generation, he grew up hearing nothing of what life was like at the time of the two World Wars. Painful memories were boxed away. The man lost here was 32 when he was killed, whilst serving with the Royal Navy Reserves.

Follow me from his family home on a short journey along the road ...

Right next door, this house now lies empty, but almost a hundred years ago, tears were being shed here for two beloved sons, both lost whilst serving with the Seaforth Highlanders. They were aged just 20 and 22.

Just two doors down from here. Another poppy.

Right next door. Another poppy. Another life lost.

And immediately next door. 

And, once again, right next door...

That is just in the space of a hundred yards or so. This is simply a sample of what our district looks like now. Who can begin to imagine the pain and sorrow that must have enveloped our community during these years? What a disservice we do to their memory, and to the liberty they were able to secure for us, if we ever forget.

In houses that now lie empty, in others where new generations of families now live, on crofts that now show only the remains of stones which once sheltered growing families, each and every poppy is a reminder that

Freedom is never free.

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