Sunsets, Spanish, and Spending

Yeah, we're doing alliteration .... why do y'all ask? 

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The sunsets are now happening earlier in the evenings, and the sun is setting further to the west. It's amazing how quickly the seasons come and then move on, giving way to the next season.

It's always good to be assured that, "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Genesis 8:22)

This was what I called the kids to see last evening. As always, the photo simply does not do the beauty justice, but as it's not possible for y'all to land on my doorstep evening after evening, then a photo must suffice.

Just a few minutes later, the sky looked quite different. I was glad I caught it, because the colours didn't last long at all.

You see, it always pays to be close to a window at the time of the sun's daily Adios!

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Can you tell the Wee Guy - who is no longer the Wee Guy, but is Calum Stewart - and I are learning Spanish? Si. We spend an hour every morning with Rosetta Stone's Spanish, and then we spend a shorter time in the afternoon doing some revision.

I am having to make myself keep up. It ain't easy when you're forty-seven ... that is why I'm doing a language with CS now. Young brains an' all that.

For example, the other day, when Jackson was doing what he's doing in this photo, I said:

"Un perro esta come."

"No!" corrected Calum, "He is not eating."

"Un perro esta corre?"

"Noooooooo, mum! El esta durmiendo!"

Okay, okay, mate. I'll get it right sometime ...

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Now, talking of Jackson and eating. While we were away in summer, the Builder came back to the house in which we were saying with the announcement that he'd bought Jackson some new bowls.

Fine, I thought. Good thinking, I thought. 

Later, when I went into the car, THESE were the bowls I saw.


For the DOG!!! (no offence, Jackson).

"Honey.... do you know how often I've looked at Mason Cash bowls for the kitchen, but convinced myself that the cakes will taste just the same when made in a plain old £3.99 bowl and resisted the temptation to buy them???"

For. the. dog....

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Clearly, the Wee Guy's reading habits are a good deal more useful than the Builder's have ever been.

This is what I 'caught' him engrossed in today. He is loving it! I reckon he needs to sit his father down some day soon and give him some of Dave's and Rachel's (yes, he's on first-name terms with them) advice. 


Today's Referendum ...

Traditionally, people have kept their voting decisions to themselves. When I was growing up, and since I've grown up, asking a person how they voted in a General Election was somewhat akin to asking what their bank balance was.

It simply wasn't the done thing, dear.

This referendum campaign has been very different. I'm not sure why this is the case. It could be the new social-media world in which we now live, where hearts are worn on sleeves - or at least on screens. If we don't keep what we're having for dinner private, why should we keep our voting intention? We tell the world when our baby shows his first tooth, takes his first step, and throws his first tantrum, so why not tell the world what our political allegiances are.

And so, instead of sticking with a good, Scottish attitude of keeping one's own business private, social media has been filled with thoughts, feelings, and arguments.  Some of these have been fun; some have been well-mannered and polite; but some have been less-than-pleasant, sadly. Let's hope, post-referendum, those who were rather more vociferous than was necessary, and those who were on the receiving end of such comments will all be able to live and work together.

Here was our day, in photos ...

Here's Katie, heading out with her polling card to vote for the first time. This referendum gave the opportunity to 16 and 17 year olds to vote. In the UK, the normal voting age is 18.

This was an interesting development. Many people reckoned this concession to Alex Salmond and the Independence campaign was not wise, and may have ended up making the difference between an eventual Yes vote or No. It was thought the younger voters might lean more heavily towards a Yes.

We'll have to wait for the statistical break-down of the results to be clear on how this age group voted. The days ahead will, no doubt, be filled with the analysis of every jot and tittle of the statistics.

Catherine was the first in the family to vote. She was heading to Glasgow after work, so she voted before she left for Stornoway in the morning. 

The fog you see in the photo led to the cancellation of her plane, so she ended up not heading south after all.

As I write this (in the middle of the night!), some of the results have become to come in. The same fog that kept Catherine's feet firmly on the ground earlier in the evening is rumoured to be keeping the planes that were to be taking ballot papers to counting centres around the Western Isles grounded too. That will probably delay the declaration of our local results.

 DR and I headed down to our local sports hall, where the polling station was situated, in the afternoon. As we were driving down there, we were talking about how privileged we are that we are the future of our nation is being decided with a referendum and not by guns and bombs. Having spent our lives in peacetime, we tend to take this for granted.

As I said yesterday on my Facebook page:

Twenty-four hours from now our polls will close. Scotland will have decided.

In the past, I would have lost sleep over this referendum. Not now ... I am persuaded what to vote, and I pray my vote will be cast for the right reasons. I am applying what I believe to be sanctified common sense, and praying that our land would (to steal Glasgow's motto) 'flourish by the preaching of God's Word and the praising of His name'. These hopes would appear to be crazy hopes, given the political, religious, and moral climate of our land. But God ... God is able.

Whatever happens tomorrow, God is on the Throne. The outcome has been in His plan from all eternity. Nations come and nations go, but His kingdom *will* come. Our desires may, or may not, come to fruition, but His will *will* be done. The Gospel may leave the shores of our dear land, like many here would wish for, but one day, the earth *will* be filled with His glory.

And so, as I lay the matter before the Lord, I do so knowing that He rules and over-rules in all things.

Our nation needs God more than it needs independence. 

It needs the riches of Christ more than it needs the pound sterling. 

It needs the Spirit poured out more than it needs oil.

Please pray for Scotland, and for the UK, for our leaders and politicians. For the most part they 'do what is right in their own eyes', and God is in none of their thoughts.


Our Morning 'Family' Worship

(This post, too, was written at the beginning of the summer, but never posted.)

A number of years ago, I began reading through the Bible at our morning worship, a chapter each morning.

Today, we read this chapter ...

I really am not sure how long it took us. My morning worships with the children only happen on 'school days'. At weekends, the Builder is here, and he takes worship, so at five chapters per week, with the Builder's annual holidays taken out (because obviously, he's here with us then, too!), I reckon it probably took us around six years. Yes, you read that correctly - SIX years! 

I also have to say that it's been my favourite reading of the Bible ever. I've been a Christian for almost thirty years, and I've never got so much out of reading whole books of the Bible.

Each morning, our format was this (mostly, anyway. There were occasional changes):

- we read a chapter every day (very occasionally, if it was very long, we'd 'halve' the chapter). Then we'd talk about what we'd read.

- we sang some verses of a Psalm (normally the Psalm the Wee Guy was learning at the time)

- we read one - yes ONE - verse each from the book of Proverbs. The Book of Proverbs is the only book of the Bible we didn't read chapter by chapter. Instead, we read the bulk of it verse by verse - as I said, one verse each per day (so normally five verses, decreasing to three, depending on which children were present and which kids had moved onto working/studying outside of the home). By the way, we got so much out of the Book of Proverbs by reading it in this way. Again, we'd speak about some of the lessons from that day's verses.

- we'd conclude our time of worship with prayer.

I'm not sure how the children will remember these years of morning worship times, but I remember them - and I think I always will - as a very, very special time in my life. I loved having a non-rushed time of reading and talking and singing and praying with my children every morning. I loved seeing things in Scripture like I was seeing them for the very first time. I loved being able to talk with my children about sermons I'd heard over the years on certain verses or chapters, and how what I'd learned all these years ago had never left me. Time - unrushed time - spent with my kids whilst reading and learning from the Word, is one of the most precious gifts I could have been given in this life.

So ... what were my favourite sections?

Genesis: this is always a favourite of mine. There is so much of Christ in Genesis, and I will always be grateful to the first pastor I had when I became a Christian for preaching Christ to us from every corner of the Bible. Genesis became a favourite of mine back then. One of my favourite verses in Scripture - it could actually be my very favourite - is found in chapter 3.

"Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make 
coats of skins, and clothed them." (v.21)

Adam and Eve were naked before God, ashamed and frightened. How precious that God came to seek them out, called them, and then He covered them with a covering that came from a blood sacrifice, surely.

I love that it was GOD who made the covering, and who then covered them. What a wonderful picture of Christ's robe of righteousness which God places on those He has sought out and called! 

 Also found in this chapter are these words:  

"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise its heel."  (v.15)

I once heard a minister say that this was the key verse in all of Scripture - that everything in the Word that precedes this verse is leading up to it; and everything else in Scripture follows from it. 

For more of Christ in Genesis, you have Noah's ark, a wonderful picture of the security found in Christ; Melchizedek, King of Salem; Abraham and the sacrificing of his most beloved son; the wonderful type of Christ found in Joseph, the feeder of all who came to him ... I could go on and on.

But my favourite readings were yet to come, and they came from Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. I was completely blown away by these books. Yeah, I know, not what you'd normally think of as blowing-away-books-of-the-Bible.

Some of the chapters in Exodus dealing with God's precise direction were such a blessing to me. The minute detail given in some of the later chapters in Exodus concerning the building and furnishing of the Tabernacle made me realise like never before the care God takes with His own worship. I've never quite appreciated before this just how definite God was with all aspects of His worship, and the way in which he left nothing to our own imagination ... not even to the sanctified imagination of Godly men. I loved - really loved - reading this section of the Bible.

I've always loved reading Leviticus, and this time was no different. Seeing different aspects of Christ's Person and His work in the sacrifices was such a joy. It was a great joy to read of them with our children, and be able to speak to them of things I'd heard taught before they were even born.

And so, we reached the very last chapter of the Bible. Having read the beautiful promises of Isaiah, and his oh-so-clear record of the anguish of our Lord's sufferings that would come; having ploughed - yes ploughed - through parts of Daniel and Ezekiel; having grown to love Boaz, Daniel and Nehemiah all the more; having wept through parts of the Gospels when I had to read what 'wicked hands' had done to my Saviour; having seen, like never before, Christ's care for the whole man - soul (of course), but also body; having delighted in Paul's letters, especially to the Romans and to the Ephesians (read Ephesians 1.... oh, what joy!); and having had the delight of reading through the letter to the Hebrews - one of my favourite books of the Bible (yes, I have a few!) .... actually, this was my favourite reading of Hebrews ever, because the Old Testament was still so new in our minds, and it all made so much sense! We could hear it through Jewish ears .... I digress!

So, having read all these wonderful words, yes, I still say that the first books of the Bible were my absolute favourite.

(We are now reading from the beginning again. Now, I only have D.R and Calum Stewart in the mornings. I miss the girls :(  ...but am loving our morning discussions with my boys. Right now, we're at Exodus 13.)


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.


A Day on Swainbost Beach

Of all the beaches I visit, my favourite has got to be Swainbost beach. Now, undoubtedly, part of my bias comes from the fact that this is the beach on which so many of my childhood memories were made. Growing up, this was My Beach.

But I also love it for what it has to offer: the mix of sand and rocks, and sea and rock pools. Places to shelter from any breeze that may be blowing, places to set out a picnic on a rock. I love it all!

Today's visit did not disappoint.

For the first hour, I read and took notes for my Bible study. 

Calum Stewart and my nephew, Ross, were having a wonderful time with their boogie boards, or simply sitting on the warm rocks and chatting.

After we'd been at the beach for an hour or so, some more folks joined us. My Mum - yes, my Mum! - came along with my niece and nephew, Iona and Owen, and some of Owen's friends.

The kids even managed to get Granny to dip her toes into the sea.

It was a very special day for me because the memories that make Swainbost beach such a wonderful place for me were all created with my Mum! Mum hadn't been on this beach since we were children until today, so it was a very special day for her. Today, she made more memories - not only with her own offspring, but with the next generation - her grandchildren.

Even Calum Stewart seemed lost in thought at times.

As the tide comes in, lovely pools form - pools with warmer water than the open sea. I remember playing in this very pool as a child.

Looking north towards the Eye of the Butt from the beach itself, 

... and from the machair. The machair flowers are so lovely at this time of year. To have the wonderful pinks and yellows and purples of the flowers, and the deep blues, turquoises and greens of the sea all in one picture is truly a delight.

Eye candy.

And finally ... just to prove that I did get my feet wet ...

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