Tuesday, 30 December 2008

ACHILTIBUIE JOURNEY

Iain drove up north to Achiltibuie, Wester Ross, with Alastair and Dawn. The MacLeods are from Achiltibuie and the youngsters wanted to visit the croft to see where Alastair's ancesters lived as well as visit the site of the smiddy where William MacLeod, Iain's grandfather, was the blacksmith.

They took lots of photos as the weather was particularly fine - clear and cold with frost, snow on the mountain tops and low cloud in the glens.

Buachaille Etive Mhor with Black Rock Cottage in the foreground, in Glencoe.


On the road to Ullapool is Loch Droma in the foreground with An Teallach, the mountain in the background.


Altandhu village, near Achiltibuie, in the foreground looking out to the Summer Isles.


Cloud over Loch Garry. The hills of Knoydart in the background.

Monday, 29 December 2008

DUNIRA CHRISTMAS - THE SETTING

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the wee ones waking up early and/or keeping folk awake half the night.

So it was with wee Alastair who kept chuntering in the night so that sleep for most of us was somewhat broken. Never mind! The only thing for it was to get him out of the house so people could get on with making breakfast and clearing up.

It was a cold morning dawn at 8:30 am and I pushed him in his pushchair out to greet the rising sun. The temperature was -0.5 degrees C.

An Alastiar-eye view east.


The road to the arboretum and the Hidden Garden.


Garden House in the morning light.


Early morning in The Sqaure.


The place is alive with numerous pheasants - male and female. Here are some feeding in the walled garden. A number of pheasant chicks were purchased with a view to future pheasant shoots. Either the birds have eluded the guns or the pheasant shoots never transpired ... there certainly are a lot of birds who have taken up residence!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

DUNIRA CHRISTMAS - DRAMATIS PERSONAE

We all gathered from the airts and pairts at Dunira (Perthshire) for Christmas dinner on Christmas Day. Alastair and Dawn drove north early in the morning from where they had been staying at a hunting lodge B&B in the Lake District.

Mairi and John and wee Ish and wee Alasair set off from Glasgow; we set off from Helensburgh and collected Big Ish and Bruce in Stirling.

Duck (cooked by Iain) and Dumpling (cooked by me) for Dinner.


The Welcome Party was out for Alastair and Dawn's arrival! Iain played Alastair't tune that he wrote called Alastair Mhor.

Left to right: Mairi with Ish, Alastair and Dawn, Iseabail with wee Alastair in pushchair, Iain and Bruce. John was unloading the car.

Pressie Time


Wee Ishie and Mum. Ishie will be 2 years old next week (New Year's Eve).


Dawn and Alastair brought lots of fun things to the party. Here is a Rudolph Wannabe wearing her Oshkosk overalls!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

CHRISTMAS FLIGHTS OF FANCY

Alastair and Dawn are winging their way across the North Pole today ... along with that big jolly fellow -getting ready to depart - with his sleigh full of toys and 8 reindeer!


And speaking of reindeer .....

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring.

Therefore, according to EVERY historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, EVERY single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be a girl.

We should've known... ONLY women would be able to drag a fat-ass man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost!

Monday, 22 December 2008

TWINKLERS' CHRISTMAS CONCERT

Ishie knows Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (along with the actions) from Nursery!

We are definitely on to something here! Time for a Real Live Production!

Please enjoy The Two Twinklers Plus One ............... ta dah ....................

Let the performance begin .....


Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are!



Up above the world so high ....
Like a diamond in the sky!

(please note actions by Guest Artiste with hands above her head!)


Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are!




* * * * * Coda * * * * *


The Last Word? The Lost Chord?



Sunday, 21 December 2008

CHRISTMAS IS FOR KIDS

Had great fun taking some photos for our Christmas letters. Wee Alastair has had his hair cut - only 11 months old! Mr Mischief Maker is crawling into and up over everything. Still a quiet, content wee fellow, he just loves exploring. And there is nothing more fun than the broom cupboard!



He and Ishie tumble about and really don't seem to cause tears - quite amazing! Ishie will be 2 years old in a fortnight. More shots coming.....

Friday, 19 December 2008

CHRISTMAS CARD FANDANGO

Our annual Christmas card has now been printed! Peter who supplies the origianl pencil drawing chose the theme of The Fife Classics (which be seen elsewhere on this blog). Seol-n-Mara now needs a quick dab of paint on the hull and that will be Iain and I ready for the Great Writing Marathon!

Most people would qwell at the thought! Not me! I watched Nigella Lawson's Christmas Cookery programme on the box last night and she stated my feelings" "I just like the whole fandango!" She means, of course, making chocolate truffles, laced with brandy, rolled in a chocolate coating, topped of with (another) while chocolate dollop and then a cherry popped on top ... along with some angelica .... and probably there were even some candied gold balls on top of that!

No .... I mean sitting down with the paintbox - we are talking Paint-by-Number here - the fountain pen, the enclosures, the change of address labels and who knows what else? Then there are 2 address books to consult and update. Iain does The List and allocates "I" or "B" for the task, and, to be fair, he does his 50%.

So back to some more post which Iain picked up at the house yesterday. (That is the Christmas cake I made from Cornflower's recipe. A real treat to myself!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

CHRISTMAS CARDS GALORE!

After being confined to barracks for the past week with a stinking cold and cough I finally got out today. A most important trip to the printers was necessary. No, it was not for our usual Annual Christmas card which I delivered a fortnight ago but rather another commission I have decided upon.

I am probably the only person who enjoys Christmas for the cards. Giving cards; getting cards. And .... we get them in shoals! Here is our modified side-board with them starting to pile up, ever so happily, in the letters basket. You measure them in horizontal inches along the mantlepiece? I measure them in vertical inches in the basket!

Even as a child I always made a thing about cards - never present wrapping, funnily enough - and also letter writing. I like the feel of nice card and I like the activity of putting pen to paper. I wonder if this is because when we were learning to write at school (age 7?) as opposed to print, we were regularly given these writing drills called The MacLean Method of Writing. It involved doing repeated letters along the line. Come to think of it I think that this was training in what is called cursive (slanting) writing. Anyhow.... I just liked doing it and never tired of doing a row of capital M's or W's! (Who, for Heaven's Sake was MacLean?!)


So to this day, I write. By that I mean, I write cards and I use a fountain pen and take ages over the whole Christmas card exercise. "Palaver" it is not ... at least not in my book. And so, I guess it really is no surprise that we get given a lot. (Well, we have moved so it keeps us all up-to-date.)

So here are the cards coming in through our letter-box. Wonderful! Circular letters with family news? I don't have a problem with that. Again, I put the kettle on, slice a wedge of the Christmas cake I made this year and settle in for a good read.

But to my tale: I took some artwork to the printer's today and it is going to be for a couple of hundred personal notecards, full colour. I am chuffed with the way it is all turning out and will describe everything in full detail once the order is back and people have received their alloted number. Some people do all their Christmas shopping for presents on Amazon Books. It is a good system and, I have to say, works very well. Me? I get cards printed (well, this year, anyhow....). Done, finito for gift-giving.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

EDINBURGH CHRISTMAS SHOPPING

Had a very pleasant day last week in Edinburgh due to Maggie organising 2 tickets to a food tasting event at Harvey Nichols. This Most Expensive Department Store happens to be right next door to the Edinburgh Bus Station in the city centre. So nothing for it but we hopped on the Edinburgh bus and toodled through.

A cuppa at the top floor cafe/food hall in Jenners was the Absolute Business! For one thing you perch on stools and look out on to Princes Street below with the Scott Monument just on the left and the Castle opposite up on that Big Rock.

The above photo is my attempt at using my mobile camera for a shot oot the windy. The circular lights are the ferris wheel which is erected on Princes Street cheek by jowl with Sir Walt seated neath his Victorian monument. Just as well the fellow is dead; he would turn in his grave to see the kitch 'n' kulture.

Never mind. The mince pies were worth it - the best I have EVER tasted. They had an almond ingredient in the pastry and were wee pies, not huge things full of glue.

My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I went through to the main part of Jenners and saw in the atrium - a real .... REAL .... floor to ceiling Christmas tree. And you could smell it! The camera photo is not up to the job but that's OK ... no camera could get the expanse of it all! And to add to the lights on the tree and drapping the balconies there was ... yes real toys for real boys: a (probably?) 18 inch long remote controlled toy helicopter buzzing around the space to the fascination of we two 'Mothers of Boys of All Ages' !!! What a neat bit of kit! Yours for a mere £60.

And for Chocoholics or Shoe - o - holics a Chocolate Shoe!


My feeling is that Candy Canes like this are the result of creeping Americanisation. While they have been here for a good few years they are what I associate with my childhood at this time of year. I loved the mint flavour and I always liked how they hung on the branches of a Christmas tree. Heavens! Who buys these things nowadays?

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

PHONY-NESS

When is a phone not a phone? When it's a camera!

Mairi gave me a new mobile phone - a Nokia 6300. While I am ready, off-the-mark with the internet technology, i.e. email when it first came out (when was that?) and spending far to many hours surfing the web, I have never taken to mobile phones or should I say, mobile phone technology.

However, put a camera into it and I'm away laughing and dancing! I just love using a digital camera and once I decided to treat my new phone as a camera with a phone facility I got on a lot better.

These photos are my first test drive: Saturday shopping in Glasogw. My goodness but the streets are lively. By that I don't mean packed out with shoppers (in this climate of Credit Crunch) but alive with sounds of drummers and one (obligatory?) piper.

I am very impressed with the quality of the photo! Simply amazing technology, to my way of thinking! Yes, I had the setting at High Res. which meant I could only take a few photos. I have now learned where the Preference setting is located and have re-set it to Low Res. as the most I will ever do is put them on my blog.

Not one, but two, groups of drummers on Buchanan Street! Just look at these 60 year olds giving it lalldy! Ooops, the piper must be one of their sons or a camp follower.

Now this photo (above) is fuzzy. I have not mastered the art of holding the camera steady. I guess the trick is to tuck your elbow into your hip all the time trying to click using one hand.

The sound of a corp of drummers is very magnetic, i.e. one just has to change one's direction of travel (for me, it was heading to Princes Square) and go and see - I was going to say, 'listen' but you could hear them a mile away !

Glaswegians are very generous and this shot gives a typical gesture seen out on the street.

Lastly this was my first attempt at using the camera facility in the phone. I felt so self-conscious that the only photos I took were waist high! This is the entrance to a doorway in one of the many stone buildings of Victorian architecture in the city centre. Again the clarity of the test photo is astonishing for such a little, hand-held, size of kit!

Monday, 8 December 2008

WINTER MAGIC


"There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons....

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath...."

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

The opening lines of “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” speak of the declination of southern sunlight one always sees on bright winter afternoons. This is Iain's photo of Brian coming up behind him as they walked up Ben Uamh Beag, north-east of Callandar, on Sunday. An excellent photo - they had a great day!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

CHRISTMAS PREPARATIONS - BAKING

And so to the work of Christmas. Thankfully, time is something I have plenty of and therefore can set aside a morning, especially if it is raining !... to get the loaf pans out and start the yeast fermenting.



Inspired by this gal's blog, I found I had all the ingredients in the cupboard plus some booze that needed using up ... and started soaking the dried fruit for a Christmas cake. Not one of my best items when it comes to baking but thought I would try again. One reason was that the Marks and Spencer cake (smallish) that I bought recently was not as good as I had expected. Maybe my taste has changed?


Monday, 1 December 2008

GRANDMA'S PETS

Ishie and Alastair and I were out today in the winter sunshine. It was clear and cold but good to see that shiny ball of fire in the sky. Here are the up-to-date photos.

Ishie, 23 months, with her hair in bunches.


Alastair, 10 months, pushing the stools in a circuit from the dining area, under the counter, into the kitchen and back again.