Saturday, 28 July 2007

Bastille Day …weekend? Part III

Bastille-Day-Fireworks-Quay-Side-Scotland The gorgeous evening was topped off by a fantastic fireworks display but it proved difficult to photograph against the backdrop of a turquoise twilight. As the last puff of smoke drifted off into the night sky, applause from the spectators on the shore and in the boats carried out over the loch and signalled the end of a perfect day!

The display started at about 11 pm...


By 11:30 pm it was over...

The sounds of a guitar, quiet talk and soft laughter lasted ‘til well after midnight but Sunday had arrived and the great Boules championship would soon begin!

Friday, 27 July 2007

Bastille Day … Weekend? Part II

The mama Panda and baby were made and donated by Christine to raffle for the charities...

Scottish-Highlands-Pub The Steam trains were popular with young and old...

Irish-Wolfhounds-Scotland The ladies at the baked goods stall had lots of tasty treats...

Scottish-Highlands-Flower-Sale Flowers and plants were very popular... We found a rare, varigated mint to add to our collection...


The dogs are Irish Deer Hounds (more neighbours) and they are big! Unfortunately the picture doesn't adequately show their size...

Crepes (pancakes) freshly made, were sold on and off all day...

Bastille Day … Weekend? Part I

With all that’s been happening here, I’m very behind with the latest from our patch of Scotland! One of the biggest events of the Otter Ferry calendar for the last 15 years has been the Bastille Day weekend (14th and 15th of this month). This year was our first and also our last…first for obvious reasons (being new residents) and last because Alain and Dorothy, of the Oystercatcher Pub and Restaurant, are moving back to France at the end of the year. They are going to be hugely missed…but that is a whole other story; in the meantime, these people sure know how to throw a party!

A terrific storm the night before dumped plenty of rain on the scene but Saturday dawned partly totally cloudy, wet and windy and then it just got better and better. By noon, the sun was winning and shone down on the yachts bobbing on the sparkling water, and on the cars that overflowed the parking lot and lined the roadside in every direction.

Despite the sunshine, the breeze remained cool until the afternoon and the start of the festivities was heralded by the sound of the Scottish smallpipes, (shown in the photo) beautifully played by Jim, who together with his lovely wife Ann, lives just up the road.

Community involvement meant that many of the neighbours were out and about. Jumble and second-hand books, model steam trains, a bouncy castle, raffles, baked goods, flowers and plants, crepes, hand made greeting cards and hamburgers on the grill gave visitors lots to do. The bustle down on the waters edge saw many motorboats docking at the pontoon and plenty of people enjoyed the ambience (and a cold drink) from the tables set out on the grass. All in all, some 500+ people joined in to mark the weekend. Proceeds from sales and raffles benefited the British Heart Foundation and the Cowal Hospice to a total of £426.36.

Canopies protected some of the stalls and others were out in the open but the rain stayed away for the whole weekend. This must have been appreciated by those who found themselves in one of the many tents that had sprung up like mushrooms on the grass in the back garden of the OC and others that spilled out onto the edges of the roadside...


Note: I'm posting in sections 'cause for some strange reason I can only upload a few pictures at a timeOyster-Catcher-Bastille-Day-Scottish-Highlands

And then I uploaded this one twice! Sigh...sorry.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Another View of the Loch…

For the last month, I have been working at a little restaurant, fifteen miles up the loch, commuting to and fro along the single-track road I wrote about here. The drive is beautiful, the scenery breathtaking and I count my blessings that I live and work in such a lovely place. Driving to work in the mornings I see some of our neighbours on the way; a red deer doe, in an open meadow, stands watching me as I drive past. A bit further on, there is a twenty or thirty yard section of the verge that is both playground and pantry for a group of rabbits. One of the last characters on my journey is a magnificent pheasant cock (just like the one below) who spends every morning on a certain section of old stonewall; he is so punctual that if I don’t see him, I know I’m either too early or too late! There are many others, but these ones are notable for their consistency.

It’s been interesting… finding myself back in the ranks of the workforce; jobs are few and far between out here. When I heard about this position, as a chef, I was disbelieving…the hours are so good and the situation so pleasant that I had to give it a shot and I’m enjoying it immensely! Perfect fit, I guess!

There’s no doubt about it, the transition back to working woman hasn’t been all smooth; my blog, for one has suffered while I adjusted to my new schedule, but one month on I am getting on top of the new hours. Having a husband who is willing to get to grips with thorny issues like dishes and bathrooms is absolutely recommended but M has taken this role to another level altogether! I’ve had new curtain rods installed throughout the house and the curtains all hung (first week), a steam cleaned and streamlined kitchen (second week), a re-designed and re-decorated bathroom (third and fourth weeks) and all accomplished in between M’s usual workshop, garden and internet tasks…now we just have to finishing editing all our photo’s and I will update with the happenings here at Otter Ferry!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

A Little Something Mmmm…

Since we’re not the only ones experiencing confusing weather and many of us are wet as well as chilly, here’s a recipe that’s a great antidote for grey days! I've made this cake twice in the last three days and it's really worth the get a lot of very tasty cake for very little effort!

This cake’s a cinch to make; keeps for a week (if it lasts that long) and gets better each day. It’s deep, dark and delicious with a fragrant aroma redolent of exotic islands and faraway lands and best of all you can adjust the spice to suit you and your family. I like to chop up crystallised ginger and add it at the end but you could substitute pecan nuts or bittersweet chocolate chips or just add all three if you can’t make up your mind. And should the sun come out, like ours did yesterday for a little while, try a piece with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream…yummy!

No you can't eat it...It's a picture

Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cake

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C - Grease and flour a 9 by 13 inch / 23 by 33 cms cake pan

1 ½ cups self-raising flour
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 - 3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 - 2 tsp ground mixed spice
2 – 3 tsp ground powdered ginger
4 tsp cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 cup soft brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup plain yogurt, soured milk or buttermilk
½ cup molasses
1 cup melted butter
½ cup chopped crystallised ginger or chopped pecans or bittersweet chocolate chips

Sift the first eight ingredients together into a suitable bowl. Beat the eggs with a whisk or mixer in a large mixing bowl until foamy. Add the sugar and the next three ingredients, beating until well mixed. Fold in the flour mixture and the ginger pieces until combined, don’t over mix. Put batter into prepared pan and jiggle it until level. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes until the centre springs back when lightly touched and the sides have shrunk slightly, away from the pan’s edges.

Allow to cool slightly then glaze with the following:

Juice of one fresh lemon
Enough Icing sugar to make a paste the consistency of thick cream

Mix until smooth and then pour in the middle of the still-warm cake and spread evenly over the middle. The glaze should seep to the edges as it cools.


(Note - this recipe makes 16 to 20 portions, great for sharing!)
The pictures were taken in the kitchen and just outside the window is our un-mowable lawn! Un-mowable because it's too wet right now for our mower. The grass is about the only thing growing out there; all the herbs and flowers are just waiting. The chili plants, an experiment I'll admit, haven't grown since they were planted out over a month ago so I think I'll have to bring them in and put them on a sunny windowsill. Oops! What sun?

Hope you’re all enjoying the summer, whatever the weather, and for those of you in America, have a happy, safe Fourth of July!

Sunday, 1 July 2007

The End of Summer, What Summer...Already?

This may sound like a complaint… it isn’t. In our early years of farming, we learnt to live with and not complain about the weather, whatever weather we got. Weather watching is something we enjoy and as the new kids on the block, we watch and (hopefully) learn. But as I dig our winter comforter and hot water bottles out of storage on this last day of June, I’m pondering the whole phenomena of climate change and how it impacts on us in this first decade of the 21st century.

Before we left Africa, climate change was an accepted fact in our corner of the southern hemisphere; this may have been prompted by those holes in the ozone located very near us (over Antarctica) and the drift of popular opinion in our old ecologically aware society! Whatever the reasons, drastic changes in local weather patterns coupled with National Geographic reports, increased incidents of skin cancer and news of extreme weather around the globe provided persuasive evidence of Global Warming. But most interesting of all for us, has been to discover that here in the ‘frozen north’ (no it’s not that bad – I’m just being dramatic) climate change is a matter of opinion; there are some people who don’t believe it’s a man made effect, but rather a natural Earth cycle.

Because gardening is something we love to do, we have ongoing conversations with local inhabitants about the conditions that prevail here and what we can expect in the way of weather. And the results after eight months; winter was too long but too mild, spring lived up to advanced billing only by being totally unpredictable and summer…well maybe it’s still coming?
Meanwhile spare a thought for those in Britain, Asia and Australia who have been flooded out of their homes this June. So no, I’m not complaining, just commenting on the weather whose only certainty is just how uncertain it has become!

Until then, out come the jackets and the woollies, ditto the big comforter and the hot water bottles and now I’m really wishing I’d bought some flannel sheets on the end of season sales.Speaking to our sons in Johannesburg on Wednesday night as snow began to fall there for the first time in 26 years, we could hardly complain about the cold. But then it is winter in the southern hemisphere… where did the Scottish summer go?


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