Sunday, July 31, 2011

West Coast Wonders (part 1)

Mallaig harbour
Silver sands of Morar
On the sands at Morar
Near Castle Tioram
Castle Tioram
Mull ferry
Castle Tioram, Scotlan's west coast
Beer in front of the fire
The 'original' Calgary
Calgary bay, Isle Of Mull
Tobermory, Isle Of Mull
Loch Lagan
Ardvasar, Isle Of Skye
Jacobite steam train, Glenfinnan viaduct
It's no good... I've wasted far too much time on photos already today... I'm going to have to do this post in two parts!

You hear it said a lot, that the west coast of Scotland is "stunning" and you don't think much more of it, but after spending this week rambling over hills, driving round lochs and hopping across islands, I have to tell you it is all of that and more!

If it had been created as part of a virtual world you'd think it too indulgent. Round every corner there is a loch, or a ruined castle or a view that takes your breath away. Of course it is not perfect, we got VERY lucky with the weather this week and we mostly avoided the midges too. Some people come on holiday to Scotland and just get bitten and rained on - we did not.

So photos from top left then...

Mallaig Harbour
The Silver Sands of Morar
The dogs enjoying their holiday
Two views from and of Castle Tioram
The ferry to the Isle Of Mull
Castle Tioram
Fireside evening drink (yes, even in July)
The original Calgary
Calgary Bay
Tobermory, Isle Of Mull
Loch Lagan
Ardvasar, Isle Of Skye
Jacobite Steam train on the Glenfinnan viaduct, made famous by the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter

More photos later in the week. In the meantime, shall I put the kettle on? Are you all now booking flights to come and see Scotland?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

West coast taster

West coast taster

We're heading back east tomorrow after a truly amazing few days on the west coast. The scenery and the weather has exceeded every expectation we had, and I have tons of photos to sift through and post on the blog tomorrow, before we head off again for another couple of nights in the Cairngorns.

You can have this photo as a teaser though... fresh seafood for lunch today on the shores of Kishorn Loch. Absolute peace and quiet and brilliant sunshine...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Road trip

Road trip

We're off on a Highland road trip this week. Heading west to the inlets and islands of Northern Scotland. It's usually the wetter and more midge infested coastline, but judging by the weather forecast this week, we might just get lucky with the sunshine...

I've packed the SLR and a digital photography guide which I'm long overdue reading, along with clothing for every weather possible and my medical notes... just in case. Still three weeks to go and first babies are never on time, right?!

I hope to get the chance to post later in the week, until then have a peek at some of the Scottish west coast images that have been inspiring me this week on Flickr and keep your fingers crossed for some blue skies!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

WIP Wednesday (July 20th)

Hopping around the WIP Blogs last week, I have come to the conclusion I am something of a crafting oddity never having more than two quilts on the go, I hope this doesn't mean I'll be lead astray...

So this week's quilt is my Drunkard's Path. The top is finished and I've got as far as the basting, but I am now waiting on the delivery of a free motion presser foot for my sewing machine. In theory my machine (a Pfaff Expression 3.0) does a beautiful stippling, but I've always been too much of a coward to try it, however this quilt is small enough to experiment with... I just hope it doesn't all end in tears...

Drunkard's Path progress

You may recall that the larger baby quilt I made a few weeks ago was supposed to be a play mat? Well that plan's been scrapped, because as I was sewing this one it evolved into something that looked extremely like a play mat and in fact once I'd actually got the baby gym out of the box (you'd think I'd have done that before I made the first one, right?) I realised that the size and colours match it perfectly...

Drunkard's Path progress 2

So the circle quilt is now going to be a more general cot quilt, which might just leave me free to indulge myself with one final pre-baby quilt. I saw this in a sewing book...

Crib quilt inspiration

And it made me realise I can totally justify a little 20 x 24 inch crib quilt made with Moda's Sherbet Pips?

And after that, I'm torn between three projects, my choices are...

(1) Join the Summer Sampler Series and hope inspiration strikes me about what to do with all the finished blocks at the end!

(2) Make the Charming Stars quilt from the Moda Bakeshop in a Kingsize and possibly get it longarm quilted?

(3) Use my Robert Kaufmann solid charm packs to make something like this or this. But not actually quite sure for what purpose!

Please leave a comment with your vote, I need all the help I can get!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Visiting Beagle

We've had an extra Beagle in the house today. I'm a sucker for saving a dog from a long day stuck at home alone, so when her owner's dog walker let her down, I said we'd look after her. The plan was not to walk any of the three dogs until the husband came home from work in the afternoon, but the hounds were having none of that!

So instead I went out in the rain with the bump, and 3 dogs on leads that got continually twisted round each other. Did they come back and then spend the rest of the day quietly resting? Did they heck...

Do not be fooled by those cute puppy dog eyes, after a day of emptied bins, barking at workmen and rearranging our possessions, this dog has made me realise how well trained our two really are!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our Sunday breakfast

A couple of weeks ago husband and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. Those of you who have already been-there-done-that, may recall that the fourth anniversary is the particularly uninspiring combination of fruit or flowers (traditional) or appliances (modern). Despite husband's proclamations that an Apple iPad was the perfect gift on both counts (so not happening!) I eventually settled on buying him a coffee machine for the office, and in return I got a waffle iron.

We picked up the waffle habit when we lived in Canada and just assumed on returning to the UK we'd be able to buy them in the frozen food section, but not so! Waffles apparently only exist in the UK in potato form or in restaurants, so an entire country's population is missing out on one of the best breakfasts around.

We're currently working our way through a waffle recipe book. This morning's mix was Belgian waffles which are moister and denser than the classic batter mix. They went down extremely well not just with us, but with visiting adults and children, and when you serve them up with bowls of fresh summer fruits, you can almost kid yourself it's a really healthy breakfast...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

English Madeleines

English Madeleines

It's funny what you wake up in the morning feeling inspired to do! I haven't made Madeleines since I was a child, but we have some visitors coming today and for some reason I decided they'd be the perfect cakes to make.

A little bit of Googling for inspiration revealed my interpretation of Madeleines was very different to most people's, and I now know that what I made are actually known as "English Madeleines", and are very different from the American kind.

I couldn't find a recipe anywhere, so bluffed my way partly from memory, partly from an adapted Victoria Sponge recipe and the results were great! (and my mother who has an official Madeleine recipe confirmed later it's nearly exactly the same as this)

If you fancy making these you'll need some dariole moulds, but if you aren't particular about the shape of the cakes, muffin trays or whatever you have to hand would probably do you just as well. This quantity filled 9 dariole moulds.

125g butter
125g sugar
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
Couple of drops of vanilla essence
1 tablespoon hot water

Cream the butter and sugar, add both eggs and vanilla essence with a tablespoon of flour, mix well, then fold in the remaining flour. Divide between the well greased moulds filling them 3/4 full.

Cooking English Madeleines

Bake at 180c for about 15 minutes or until the cakes are firm and golden.

Cooking English Madeleines

Let the cakes cool in their tins and then turn on to a cooling rack. Trim the rounded tops, so that each end of the cake is flat. Resist the urge to eat all the trimmings, save yourself for the finished result!

Turn cakes upside down on newly cut (wider) end. Using a skewer, coat the cakes in about 6 tablespoons of strawberry jam which you have warmed over the hob. (I ran out of strawberry jam halfway through and used apricot too, and it was just as good) then coat in desicated coconut and finally top with half a glace cherry.

Cooking English Madeleines

And voila, the ultimate, slightly retro English tea cake!

English Madeleines

I'd love to know if anyone makes their own!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Elgin cathedral

Elgin cathedral ceiling

It's a glorious day here in Scotland today, so I've been out to Elgin Cathedral and climbed the tower to get a view of the city. I'm actually quite delighted I can still climb a cathedral tower at 35 weeks pregnant, so I'm making the most of it.

The sunshine and fresh air was lovely, but the harsh shadows were not conducive to taking good photos, however I am rather pleased with this one which was taken inside one of the cathedral buildings - They don't make ceilings like that anymore!

We have another set of visitors arriving tomorrow, so I'm hoping the sunshine lasts for a few days while we do some exploring.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Applique circles quilt

Applique circles quilt

Two quilts in two weeks? There's no stopping me!

This is the first of many quilts I'll be making for our baby who is due next month. I'm loving being able to work on small quilts AND keep them. Before I found out I was pregnant I'd run out of excuses to make a quilt in anything but a superking size for us, but they'll hopefully be lots of excuses to make mini quilts over the next few years.

Applique Circle Quilt

This quilt is exactly a yard square and is intended to be used as a play mat with a baby gym. The fabric I used is from Moda's It's A Hoot range. I'm slowly learning that there tends to be a bit of a lag between me buying fabric and actually using it for a project, by which stage the yardage has often sold out.

I learned my lesson this time and bought two packs of charm squares and yardage as soon as I saw it on sale. I had a few reservations that the colours were a bit girlie (we don't know what we're having) but when mixed together I think it looks sufficiently unisex....

Applique circles quilt

I had a new tool to play with when I did the binding for this quilt. Previously I have always used this method to finish attaching the binding. It produces great results, but is fiddlely to do. Then when I was searching youtube for quilting tutorial videos for my sister, I found this video which recommends using a binding tool to achieve exactly the same finish. After finally tracking a UK store down that sold them and waiting for the stock to arrive, I can confidently say I won't be going back to the old method!

Applique circles quilt

I also bought myself a copy of Block Party- The Modern Quilting Bee. I have been wanting to get involved with or organise a quilting bee for ages and there are some great ideas and patterns in the book. I'm just trying to decide whether it would be insanity to start a bee with a new baby on the way, or whether it would actually be a rather nice manageable size quilting project - what do you think and would anyone be interested in joining the fun?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Work in progress

Quilting corner

I thought I'd share with you a sneak peak of what I have been working on this week. This is my first circles quilt and the first quilt in a very long while which I'll actually be keeping

I've got as far as the hand sewing of the binding, so there should be some photos of the finished article in the next few days...

By the way if you like my 'Stay Calm.." poster, it's a free download from this lovely lady.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Light evenings

Duffus Castle, Moray

The absolute best thing about summers in the Scottish Highlands are the light evenings.

At the moment sun is setting at about 10:30pm (a full two and a half hours later than Cyprus) and light again at 4am. The hours in between are not true darkness either, there is always a rather eerie distant glow on the horizon.

Duffus Castle, Moray

Duffus Castle, Moray

It means that when the weather is good, there are wonderful opportunities for late night walks through the deserted countryside. Last night we took the dogs to Duffus Castle. It was about 9:30pm when I took these photos, the sky was blue, and apart from one other couple, we had the place to ourselves.

Duffus castle sign

And an unexpected bonus! It turns out that if you have dogs that are prone to running off and not returning, all you need to do is stick them in the grounds of a castle surrounded by a deep moat and their escape plans are thwarted - Ha!

Macy at Duffus Castle

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day 2011

We are not Canadian, but at least once a year we like to pretend we are.

We spent the first two years of our married life living in Alberta and also own a Canadian dog... Clearly this is reason enough to jump on the bandwagon and celebrate a nation other than our own's national day.

Every year we like to baffle a new selection of neighbours with a patriotic flag display and liberal distribution of maple flavoured treats. In Cyprus we still had some of our old BATUS colleagues to help authenticate our celebrations, but this year we are lone lunatics in the middle of the Scottish Highlands.

I'd like to think that should we ever decide to move countries, points will be awarded on our immigration application for the diligence we have shown celebrating the nation's birthday, as well as the (frankly ludicrous) number of Canadian flags we own and the gallons of maple syrup we consume each year.

Talking of which, maple syrup is also quite obviously an obligatory ingredient in anything you choose to bake to mark Canada Day. This year I picked banana and maple syrup muffins, topped with a rush order of toothpick Canadian Flags. You don't have to be as tenuously Canadian as we are to enjoy them, so if you have the time and the ingredients I urge you to give the recipe a try, as my Canadian friends would say, it's awesome.
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