Yesterday's Walk

Catherine took her camera on her walk with Jackson yesterday.

I like it when she does this because I feel like I've been on a walk without having to move from my home.

The beach, taken from the machair

...and taken from the dunes area

My one-year-old boy in the dunes,

...and in the sea.

Jackson's paw prints

Some swans enjoying the sunshine and blue skies. This was before Jackson noticed them.

This is them escaping, after Jackson had noticed them.

And here's the Birthday Boy, enjoying the fact that he showed them who was Boss.


Happy Birthday, Jackson!

My wee baby is now 1. 

This was the day we took him home,

and one of his first ventures outside.

This was when he loved sleeping on someone's foot, 

and this was him posing.

These were the days when we spoilt him rotten. He has been through so many beds since he had this one. Labs love to chew - did y'all know that? 

Here he is playing with one of the dozen shoes he had in the garden,

and here is his intelligent dozy look.

Like ourselves, he sometimes forgets where his allegiance lies, 

...except when it comes to this allegiance. He never gets this one wrong.

Here, he is reminding me that 'His ancestors retrieved grouse for Royalty'.

...Er... does this look like a Royal Mutt to you guys?

This was the day I looked for a new home for him.

This was his first snowy playtime. He absolutely loved it.

And here he is trying to befriend John Wayne and Bruce Willis. They were having none of it.

Their loss, I tell him.

Happy Birthday, Jackson!
Don't let anyone tell you you're Goofy, Dumb, Dozy, Stupid, or Bonny-but-Dim.

We know otherwise.... Don't we?


Today ...

Today began with a beautiful sunny and frosty morning.

I had to head over to town, so I took a couple of photos while I was there... just because that's what bloggers do, isn't it?

Lews Castle, and...

the harbour.

In all the beauty of the day, my heart was heavy. Today in Ness, the funeral of a 16 year old boy was taking place here.

 After the church service, the cars all passed our house on their way to the cemetery. Over a hundred cars went in past us. It was a beautiful late afternoon, but for those who were mourning the loss of their son, their brother, their grandson, their friend, I doubt they saw much beauty around them.

My heart is so heavy tonight. I weep for the boy. On a human level, I weep for his mother... I keep wondering, How? How does a mother lay her son's body in a grave? Oh, the pain of letting him go. 

Teach us, Lord to number our days.

This was posted to my Facebook wall today:

What a blessing death is to those for whom it is but the opening of the gate into the presence of our Saviour. But, oh, what a dread, if we have lived our lives without Christ, and are being ushered into a Christless eternity.

"Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near." 


Just Life Here at Home

The Wee Guy is on his break. He has finished his Maths and headed out the door, shouting as he went: "Can't you see the fear in the eyes of the British Redcoats?".

"Oi!", I call, "You are British!".

"But today, I am fighting for freedom!".

You know what? I reckon that boy is learning right enough.

 I'm just not sure our guys have quite made up their minds as to where their hearts are.


...or across the Pond??

* * *          * * *          * * * 

For lunch today, we're having Courgette soup, made last summer when our courgettes were coming thick and fast. All the veg that were made into soups in late summer and in the autumn are now being appreciated by all.... (well, by me in particular, because I am enjoying them without having to make them). Soups in the freezer are the best thing ever.

When we go from this...

to this ...

and then to soup on our plates... Yep, it makes the work worthwhile

* * *         * * *         * * *

This morning, we read this in Jeremiah:

"Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not." Jer 45:5

... I thought they were striking words.

* * *         * * *         * * * 


More Chatting - with Dreams of the Perfect Climate

Hi Patrice! I wasn't able to join you last week, but it appears you weren't around yourself either! Sadly, I missed the visit with Wendell .... How could I?!

Today's questions have been set by a variety of Patrice's readers, so here we go...

1. Kimberly asks: How long have you blogged?

I had to go back and check my posts for this one. I began in March 2010, which means I've been blogging for almost 2 years. I could hardly believe it! Off the top of my head I'd have said about a year.... time flies when you're having fun, it would appear. Like you, Patrice, I vaguely remember planning something for my One Year Anniversary, but it didn't happen. In fact, let me go back and see what I did blog about a year on from my beginning....

Found them! I had the post of the Boys on the Beach - some photos I took of DR and his 'Mini-me', and on the day before that, I had a Jigsaw we'd made. I hadn't told our readers at that stage, but we already knew we were going to get a certain Mr Jackson.

2. Lana asks:What is the most difficult part of taking care of chickens?

I wouldn't know the answer to this one having never had chickens. I do keep telling myself that's gonna change, and we do plan to have some in the future. For now though? I'll allow the chicken-keepers to answer this question.

3. Susannah asks: Would you prefer to live where it's hot or cold?

Oh, that's easy! 

Or is it? My first thought is to shout out, 'Somewhere warm of course'. But my idea of warm is lovely temperatures in the 80s or 90s, with a delightful, but gentle, sea breeze to keep the air fresh. Then my summer would roll into Autumn and the leaves would turn brown, yellow and red, and the evenings and the morning would turn cooler, but we would still be enjoying some 70 degree temperatures through the day. And then, one late-November morning, I would waken up to frost on the ground, and know that winter had arrived. Oh, the skies would still be blue through the day, and starry at night. In December and January, beautiful white snow (er, is there any other colour??) would fall, blanketing the ground in bright beauty and the children would have a wonderful time sledging, building igloos and snowmen and having snowball fights. 

(Of course, in this wonderful world, nobody will even get hurt by a snowball hitting them on the cheek. Oh no! They wont feel the burning cold sensation on their toes, when the pain only subsides when numbness sets in. And the numbness subsides only to be replaced by chilblain agony. Dearie me.... No! Who spoiled my dreamland?!)

Well, I guess you can see by my ramblings that a place with the four seasons would suit me best. But, then again, who wouldn't choose that? Warm, but not unbearably hot, summers, and winters with snow and frost. 

Wikipedia says about our weather here: 

 In the Outer Hebrides the average temperature for the year is 6°C (44°F) in January and 14°C (57°F) in summer.

I know it's not the worst kind of climate, but seriously... wouldn't you opt for warmer summers and colder winters?

I do, however, love the changes in daylight we have. I love having long, almost endless, days in summer, and very short days in winter. Some other places in the world that are at our latitude, and so have similar day/night patterns as we have are:

Naknek, Alaska; 
Togiak, Alaska;  
Stikine Region, BC;  
High Level, Alberta;  
Churchill, Hudson Bay, Manitoba;  
Tobolsk, Siberia

Any of you from anywhere around there? Any of you ever been to any of these places, or places close by? I'd love to hear if you are, or have been.

4. Farm Girl asks: What sort of things are you looking forward to in 2012?

Oh.... erm... well... Can I say, 'More of the same'? I love seeing our kids growing and developing. Of course, with teenagers, that 'growing and developing' comes with its own challenges, but on the whole, I love it. We have no holiday plans for this year (though DR does!), but we do have other plans in the pipeline ... if they come to fruition, you will hear of them! 

5. Dreaming asks: What's for dinner?

Mince and tatties. How Scottish is that! Our mince came from cattle bred by people we know, just a few miles from here. Our carrots, turnip and potatoes all came from the plot. So it really felt like a home-grown and home-made meal.



This article, The Christian's Great Interest, on Tim Challies' blog last week, gave me food for thought.

It convicted me, but I have mixed feelings about my convictions. I am aware that we have been given different personalities, and that laughter and (outward) joy appear more easily to some than to others. I believe, looking back, that the Christians I knew as a child who had the greatest impact on me were those of a joyful personality to whom laughter came easily. I think of some of the elders who came to our home and who always had a word (and a sweetie) for me. I think of our local minister, here in Ness, who is still one of the Godliest men I know, but whose face in my mind always smiles. I think of the Christian ladies who visited us often, and I associate them with laughter and with Godliness. 

Yes, they laughed often ... but never about spiritual and eternal matters. 

And I think this is the difference. Matters of the soul, whilst often joyful - indeed, so joyful that I could almost burst - are never amusing. 

I have had times - thankfully they have been relatively short-lived - when I couldn't laugh. My providence at the time wrapped everything in a blanket of greyness. I found it difficult to look at our wonderful sunsets and see any beauty. The beauty of the sea seemed masked. The awesomeness and the wonder of the creation surrounding me didn't seem able to move me at all. All was dull, and grey, and drab. I was sad, hurt, tearful.

When these times passed, I was so thankful for joy to be my portion once again. The sound of laughter, and the ability to laugh, were such blessings to me. Had I not gone through these times, I think I would see things differently now, but I have had times like these. I feel sure that I will go through times of little-joy and no-laughter again - probably times of harder and deeper grief - but, for now, I cannot but give thanks for the times I have of joy and laughter. My laughter is almost always supplied by my children, for whom I thank God every day. I know that our children can bring heartache as well as laughter; sorrow as well as joy. For this reason, I count our times of laughter as great blessings and wonderful gifts from my loving Father.

My children, though, know that there are some things of which I can never laugh. Matters of the soul - eternal matters - are never funny. 

Never, ever, ever. 

If I laugh at sin, I pray I repent of that, and that my children are aware that this, in itself, is sinful. When I see sin in myself, in them, or in others ... I can never laugh at that. Sinning against a holy, omnipotent, omnipresent God can never make us smile. If it does, I pray forgiveness for this.

And so, back to the original article. I am glad Tim published it, and glad I read it. It is helpful for me to question myself, and to bring myself to a more 'centred' position if I have gone too far to the left or to the right. 

And just to say to you all: in all my laughter, levity and fun, there are certain things that are true, and maybe I don't speak of them often enough...

We have all been given life. One day, we will all die. We have a soul which will never die. We will spend eternity either in Heaven or in Hell. Salvation in this life, and eternity in Heaven is possible in only one way, and that is through Jesus Christ, who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life". If you don't know Christ Jesus as your own personal Saviour, I urge you to seek Him with your whole heart. The Gospel (which means 'good news') is that 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners' (1Tim 1:15).

When Christ is your Saviour, your Comforter, your Constant in this ever-changing world, you find that the best kind of laughter - the laughter that is able to rejoice in the world and gifts God has given you - comes more easily. 

You will also find that tears come more easily: tears for those whom you love who are still outside of Christ; tears for those who mourn; tears for those whose lot in life is so different to what the sovereign God has given me.

And tears of joy - when the emotion of knowing what Christ Jesus has done for me .... 'that saved a wretch like me'; of knowing that when my time here comes to an end, the beginning of an eternity with my Saviour begins. When I think of these things, I may not laugh outwardly, but my soul overflows with joy, nonetheless.

(Today, my heart is sore for the family of a boy who passed away at the weekend. He was Catherine's age. None of us knows how we would survive this kind of heartache, and for now I 'mourn with those who mourn'. And I give thanks for the providence God has ordained for me which, today, is so different from what another mother is going through.)


Jackson... and unwanted Jowls

Here's my boy looking out our kitchen window the other morning. Just after this photo was taken, he noticed his auntie (in the red jacket) to his left. His interest, mind you, was in the two collies she had with her.

The sock was dropped, and the 'bright, intelligent' look appeared.

Holding my head up high... If it wasn't for the jowl, I'd look a million dollars.

Seriously, the jowl...

Here's him without it. Doesn't he look gooood? 

My velvety ears, and soft eyes. Gorgeous.

This photo is worth showing so you can see that we do, occasionally, have blue bits in our sky.

Blue bits and even shadows.

And my wee baby silently looking on...


More Gaelic for you to Listen to...

If you want to hear more Gaelic being spoken (without the bonus of seeing me in the flesh), you can click on this link. I was being interviewed for a short time on a Gaelic radio programme yesterday about homeschooling. The slot begins at 20:05 mins and lasts until 34:40.

Happy listening!


Just a Thought...

An online friend of mine was being criticized the other day for having online friends whom she'd never met, and may never meet (this side of heaven, anyway). When we got talking about it (online!), it got me thinking...

I have been so incredibly blessed by some people whom I've never met, and will probably never meet this side of eternity, through online sermons, lectures and blogs. I have also been blessed beyond words by online friendships God has placed in my life. I have friends for whom I pray, and who pray for me - and I don't just mean that we give each other a mention on our knees before God. I mean true, burdened prayer. Folks who've not experienced the kind of bond that can exist outside of the normal face-to-face meetings may wonder at how genuine, how helpful, how real such bonds can be. In many ways, I don't blame them - I'd have been rather skeptical myself, had I not been blessed with such things in my life.

My friend, the other day, was being warned by her friends that, 'you  may not even like them if you met them in real life'. This made me think of my dear friend, Mr Spurgeon. You see, I am blessed by the words of this man again and again. His words are an encouragement to me. They warm my heart, make me see more of the beauty of my Saviour. They make me love Him more; hate my sin more.

But the truth is: I have never, and will never, meet him on this side of eternity. Had I been alive at the same time as he was, and had I met him 'in real life', I may not have liked him that much (I'm quite sure he wouldn't have been too 'taken' with me...), but the truth remains - through his words, whether on the page, or on the screen, he is a great source of blessing and encouragement to me.

So, the next time any of you are questioned about the possibility of online friendships being true, worthwhile or 'real', maybe you ought to think of some godly writer who 'being dead yet speaketh'. In eternity, when we do finally meet, there will be no sin, and no possibility of us not liking each other, and we will rejoice that God used the one to bless the other.

And to those of you who have been an encouragement to me over the past year or so; and to those of you who have truly become dear friends, and who are ever before me in my prayers.... even if it's God's will that we never meet here on earth, it is true that both emotionally and spiritually, y'all have been a great blessing in my life.

And if God wills it that we do get to meet here.... I do pray we like each other too ;)


You Needing a Laugh?

Those of you who follow Homeschool on the Croft on Facebook will already know that we were without internet from Saturday morning until this morning.

We almost had to call 999 for our kids. After all, Saturday night had been set as a plan-the-next-holiday-to-America evening for DR and, er, someone else. And when America is on some people's minds, well, it aint the time for the internet to be dying on us.

If you follow Homeschool over on FB, you will also know that last Wednesday evening was designated split-your-sides-over-Anne's-fashion-twenty-years-ago night. 

I seriously can't believe I'm doing this, but I don't want my blog readers to be disadvantaged in any way. Just cos y'all don't do Facebook, it doesn't mean you ought not to risk dying laughing at me.

Okay, are you guys ready for this? In the following video, at 16 seconds, I'm the one wrapping the parcel. I seriously am not going to comment on the hair, nor on the fashion. 

Not. one. word.

And then at around 1:24, I am coming up the escalator.

I really oughtn't be doing this to myself. But if you need to feel good about yourself, or if you really, really need a good laugh, have a watch.


Spurgeon's Daily Reading for Yesterday

Do any of you read Spurgeon's Morning and Evening? (It's online too.) No matter how many times I read it, I never tire of the wonderful warm and encouraging word this man of God has for my soul. Surely, he is one who, 'being dead, yet speaketh'.

Yesterday (Jan 11th), he was speaking on, "I have prayed for thee" - Jesus' words to the beloved disciple, Peter. How glad I am that Peter was a disciple. How thankful I am that God's Word didn't give us an account of perfect men who never put a food, or word, wrong. And how merciful God was to Peter, in his sin, his pride, his fall. Merciful. And kind. And tender.

Oh the tenderness of our Saviour!

Here is what Spurgeon had to say yesterday:

How encouraging is the thought of the Redeemer's never-ceasing intercession for us. When we pray, He pleads for us; and when we are not praying, He is advocating our cause, and by His supplications shielding us from unseen dangers. Notice the word of comfort addressed to Peter - "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but"... but what? ... "But go and pray for yourself" - that would have been good advice but it is not so written. Neither does he say, "But I will keep you watchful, and so you shall be preserved." That were a great blessing. No, it is, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." We little know what we owe to our Saviour's prayers. When we reach the hill-tops of heaven, and look back upon all the way whereby the Lord our God hath led us, how we shall praise Him who, before the eternal throne, undid the mishcief which Satan was doing upon earth. How shall we thank Him because He never held His peace, but day and night pointed to the wounds upon His hands, and carried our names upon His breastplate! Even before Satan had begun to tempt, Jesus had forestalled him and entered a plea in heaven. Mercy outruns malice. Mark, He does not say, 'Satan has sifted you, and therefore I will pray', but 'Satan hath desired to have you.' He checks Satan even in his very desire, and nips it in the bud. He does not say, "But I have desired to pray for you." No, but "I have prayed for you: I have done it already; I have gone to court and entered a counterplea even before an accusation is made." O Jesus, what a comfort it is that thou hast pleaded our cause against our unseen enemies; countermined their mines, and unmasked their ambushes. Here is a matter for joy, gratitude, hope and confidence.

As Spurgeon says here, how little we know of what we are kept from because of the prayers of our Saviour, our eternal intercessor. 

"Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." (Ps 110; Hebrews 5:6)

The last (added, I believe) verse of the hymn Amazing Grace says,

When we've been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
than when we first begun.

Praise God this is so! For we will never run out of reasons for which to praise our Saviour.


Back Chatting with Patrice. It's Been a While

Well, Patrice, I have missed our weekly chats so much. Now that life has returned to some level of normality, hopefully I'll be back with you each week, and I'm delighted to be joining yourself and the other ladies today.

We were just having a laugh here just now: The Builder was asking the kids what LOL stood for, and Catherine was telling the story of a lady who texted her daughter to let her know her great aunt had passed away. The text read:

Auntie Marie has passed away. Lol x

Her daughter phoned her that evening and asked her to read out the text she'd sent her earlier on. Mum read it: Auntie Marie has passed away. Lots of love x

Just shows you.... Make sure you know your abbreviations. It could be a matter of life and death!

So to today's questions:

1. How often do you wear a skirt or dress?

Well, as y'all know, my favoured attire is...

... though believe it or not, I wore a skirt to town today. Flat brown boots, and a knee length skirt. Er, no, not these boots. Town is not worthy of them.

I wear a skirt or dress to church, so that's twice on Sunday, and to our midweek meeting. Apart from that, I have to be honest my skirts don't get too much of an airing. Much to my mother's horror. Sorry Mum... 

2. Did you feel unmotivated after Christmas and New Year?

Well, our holidays were so busy - that wonderful busy-ness that comes from being blessed with a home, family and friends, and visiting and food aplenty. Blessings indeed. We began our 'real life' yesterday, and so far - a long 48 hours later - I feel totally motivated. (I'm glad I'm not answering this on Friday!) 

I tend to get spurned on to 'better things' at the beginning of each term, and have to fight to keep it up as the term goes on. So for now, I'm feeling pretty motivated.

Now all I need is to reacquaint myself and the treadmill. 

Patrice, quick - ask the next question. Quiiiiick!

3. What was the last thing that made you say "Wow"?

The other day, I saw an incredible wave crashing over the Butt, and definitely said "Wow!". (And yes, I called the kids to see it too. And they obliged :)

The waves the other day made the waves in this photo seem like something a child would make in the bath. I love the way it all seems to happen in slow motion. The best of the wave the other day was that the sea was coming in towards the Butt, but the wind was from the North, so it was pushing the sea spray in the opposite direction. It was fabulous to watch. 

Was my answer predictable?! (At least it wasn't a sunset....wrong time of year for that!)

4. Do you shop with a list, or do you 'wing it'?

Oh dear. Me and my lists. I faithfully write a list before I head off to town every single week. 

And one of two things happens:

a) I may leave the list on the kitchen worktop. This is a very common occurrence. 

b) I may reach the last aisle in Tesco and remember... The List. I go sporghail (sorry, no English word.... just imagine some very elegant searching in a very neat and tidy handbag... ahem) in my sack bag, only to give up and hope the essentials were all remembered. Of course, the essentials always include these essential items that others may not class as essential. Essentially, they consist of chocolate. Other essentials may be overlooked, but one's sanity and well-being is too important to be forgotten. Anyone else find this??

Fortunately we have a couple of local shops here in Ness (where would we be without them!) for my inevitable 'forgets'. I ought to make a New Year resolution to do with lists, or essentials, or something ...

'A' New Year resolution, Anne?? Plural, methinks. Plural.

5. What questions would you like me to ask on our Chat?

Oh, Patrice, you know my imagination is rubbish! Have we spoken about holidays - in the past, in the future, or in our imagination? New Year resolutions? What you love most about where you live? What you'd change about where you live?!

Thankfully, we've got lots of company today, so ask the others... they'll have good ideas.

It's been so good being back with you on the porch - well, inside, I know - but we still like to call it the porch, don't we? I hope y'all have a great week, and have the joy of the Lord, the peace that passes understanding and a greater love for our Saviour than we've ever had before.

Wouldn't that make it a great week...


Food. I May be Becoming Obsessed

Maybe this has been common knowledge throughout the rest of the Western world, and if it has been, I don't know why nobody ever told me. Thank you to a lady from our village who told me just a couple of weeks ago that she always chopped up her carrots, leeks and turnip, bagged them and froze them.  No par-boiling; no blanching. Nothing. Just straight from the plot to the freezer. 

Today, I added another four bags of chopped turnip to the half-dozen already in the freezer. This is so handy for when I'll be making Scotch Broth with little time.

No, not with a little Thyme, but with little time.

Bags of chopped turnip, ready to throw into a pan of Scotch Broth at a later date.

And seeing as I'm talking of my vegetables (I know, you've missed hearing of them), here are some of my peeled and chopped veggies from Saturday.

All from The Plot.... yes, I did say it (and not just once): 
'It's so amazing. Ah-ma-zing!'

Well, it is!

Now, y'all will be thinking I'm obsessed with food, but I have to show you this...

Dawn's carrot cake. 

These are not the days on which to be making New Year resolutions. Unless the resolution is to eat as much cake as possible.

Of every cake I have ever eaten, this is simply the best.

The Best.

If cakes were actors, this would be Colin Firth in that scene.

If cakes were cars, this would be the Land Rover Discovery (not that there are many apparent similarities, but they are both my favourite in their respective classes).

If cakes were holidays, this carrot cake would fly me to Vancouver, take me East across Canada, through the Rockies, over the Prairies, all the way to the fishing villages of Nova Scotia.

It would then drive me south into the USA, through the New England coast, and keep driving until we reached New Jersey. There, it would allow me to wallow in the luxury of 'our seaside home' (remember it?) for a while, before heading me into Virginia....ahhhh, Virginia, land of Mr Jackson (you remember him?), into North Carolina, across the Blue Ridge Mountains..... Ahhh from where we'd head West and drive into the sunset day after day after day. 

Into the Wild West....

Er... I seem to have got slightly carried away here. Food does that to me.

And this old favourite, PW's Chocolate Sheet cake, sat on the counter on Saturday, waiting to be remembered. Even cakes aren't keen on being usurped by bigger, better ones.

'Chocolate sheet cake, I can assure you, you will not be forgotten.' 

We shall not cease to bake you. Over and over and over. If you guys have never tried it, make it. You wont regret it.

Though your waistline may...

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