Sunday, 23 December 2007

Of This and That…

Winter whispers around Otter Ferry reminding us that he’s waiting in the wings. We’ve been fortunate so far and it’s easy to forget that there’s potential to get so much colder! For people from warmer climes, we pat our selves on the back constantly for handling this extreme weather so well, haha! Really, it’s not so bad; after all, the climate in the western highlands is quite mild compared to the rest of northern Europe thanks to the Gulf Stream.

Preparations for Christmas have been low-key…my biggest achievement has been to stay away from the local town ‘til after the holidays. What would we do without the Internet? Village trips for supplies are great…there’s a lot of small community spirit happily adding to the festive feeling and most people are cheery and laid-back! It’s easy to “feel the season” here and this year we even have a little tree for the first time in many years. Baking and sewing have been keeping me busy, while M is occupied in the workshop, and adds to the whole rural idyll. Part of the fun has been trying to keep life as simple as possible, not easy to do normally, but so achievable over Christmas!

Lately, out in Blogland, I’ve really been drawn to American Primitive style and since painting wasn’t an option (I have too much unfinished work), I settled on something stitched. Digging around the ragbag produced some plaids and checks and I experimented with a much-needed hot-water bottle cover for my first attempt!

~~~~~~~~~~ Obsolete Shirts and a Dress ~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~ Ta Da...The Finished Product ~~~~~~~~

Well it’s a bit wonky – but it works! There's a lot of satisfaction giving useless items a new purpose although more practice is definitely needed here! I'm off to do it again...this one's for M!

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying a peaceful break before the big day...

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Thunder, Lightening, a Hot Drink and Oties…

Last night was dramatic; long before nightfall the wind was whipping the loch into a frenzy of whitecaps. Black clouds banked up over the hills on the other side and as darkness descended (just after 4 pm) the sky was lit by intermittent flashes and rolling, rumbling thunder.

The Rayburn was out-performing anything we had managed to achieve last winter, with a new grate, thanks to the kindness of a dear friend; who gave us the one from her soon-to-be-replaced old faithful. Having worked late, with supper long gone and the weather growling ‘round the house, it was time for coffee and a snack so I made a batch of these South African favourites. They’re quick and easy and if you don’t have all the ingredients, they still work with substitutions.


500ml / 2 C oatmeal (not instant) quick cooking is fine
250ml / 1 C flour - I use fine whole-wheat flour
250ml / 1 C shredded coconut - I use dried or desiccated coconut
200 ml / 4/5 C sugar - any type, white is OK, soft brown is yummy too!
250 g / 1 ½ sticks margarine - This seems like a lot of trans fat! I used 125grams butter!
15 ml / 1 Tblsp. golden syrup – I didn’t have golden, maple worked well.
5 ml / 1 tsp. baking soda
5 ml / 1 tsp. baking powder

Melt margarine and syrup together in a large pot.
Add baking soda and stir.
The mixture will froth up; just keep stirring until it has all frothed up.
Add all remaining ingredients and mix well.
Press into a greased baking sheet. (I used my roasting pan)
Dough must be 1 1/2 cm thick.
Bake at 350F for 25 minutes. (Adjust time according to thickness-golden brown is good!)
While still hot, cut into squares and leave to set before removing to cooling rack.

M thought that this batch was a bit dry so next time I’ll use about 200 grams of butter. Although I’ve made heaps of these over the years, it’s only lately that I’ve been trying to make some of our favourite recipes healthier. I always kid myself that these are good for us because of the oats, coconut and whole-wheat flour! When our sons were small, a tray of Crunchies would easily disappear in an afternoon (although I get thirty squares out of each batch) but they can last for two or three days in an airtight container.

The Rayburn made short work of these…they were ready and brown after only fifteen minutes! Oh boy, but then we had to wait until they cooled down enough to eat! The birds loved the crumbs from the baking tin this morning and we’ve got biscuits for the weekend. There’s something so satisfying in having a tin full of homemade goodies, no additives or other nasties…I feel very virtuous!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Photos, Fountains and Walking Sticks…

A kind neighbour has given me a photograph of the Rankin fountain taken around 1910 (thank you, Tom)! The strange carving on the fountain has been lost or removed at some stage because it’s not there now and it seems the pipe has been extended! I've also been told that there is supposed to be another fountain (not a monument – but also at the roadside) on the loch-side road to Strachur. Were fountains like this a common feature by the tracks and lanes here in Scotland in the 19th Century?

Many other photos’ that came with the fountain picture should fill in some more of the Otter Ferry “story” as soon as I’m able to research them fully.

While I’ve been messing about with buttons and history, M has been busy with diverse restoration. Some lovely walking sticks that have been hanging around for months finally got the attention they deserved. Walking sticks are big here in Scotland, all shapes and sizes, with carved horn handles on hazel sticks being the traditional favourites.

Like many collectable objects, walking sticks and canes have been elaborated on in amazing ways over the years and hallmarked silver examples are not uncommon. This one is a very nice, late Victorian, Arts & Crafts style on bamboo. All of these sticks were black with dirt and needed thorough cleaning before we could put them up on eBay...
These small but necessary jobs that seem so tedious when days are long and warm, are perfectly designed for the cold and dark of winter. Working inside the studio and workshop, we are blessed by the warmth of the stove, the views of the loch and the company of friends and neighbours. Plenty of opportunity for quiet reflection, plotting new projects and looking forward...
Wishing you all a warm and wonderful weekend!


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