Lamb casserole

At a pub in Drumnadrochit in early October 2011 I sat with two wonderful ladies discussing a menu. We went back and forth trying to decide what to have. We decided to order three different dishes, place them in the centre of the table and rotate around them. That way we all had a bit of everything. (and we shared a plate of haggis as starter)

We had oven-baked salmon, chicken, and a lamb casserole. The starter was haggis in a creamy, whiskey sauce. It was all delicious! (menu can be found here). Having quite a bit of leftover lamb after making fårikål (I wrote about that here) I decided to have a go at making something similar to the lamb casserole from Scotland. And you know what? It was like I was back in Drumnadrochit! Son too ate a lot (Husband was at work, which is when I can serve lamb – he dinnae like the smell). This is how I did it:

I started of with a bit of lamb from yesterday’s dinner and the stock from the same meal. I made brown sauce (give me a shout if you do not know how) using the stock, added the mutton, a small handful of whole spelt (I didn’t have barley, so I went with what I had –  would recommend barley though) and a few diced carrots. Turn the heat down and put a lid on the pot. Leave until the carrots are almost perfect (poke them to check), then add a broccoli broken into small ‘bouquets’. A few more minutes with the lid on the broccoli will be done and the carrots will be perfect. I served with mashed root vegetables (potato, celery root, and parsnip) and a dash of lingonberry jam.

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Taking care of the Londoners

In a city as big as London I really must admire their ability to care for their inhabitants. The city I live in is dramatically smaller and never have I ever been made aware of uncontrolled pedestrians. Here they just appear out of the blue. They scare the crap out of me! Thank you London!

Growing old and fitting in

Last semester, the autumn of 2011, was quite relaxing. I had a lot of time on my hands, but I had a bunch of projects I had been postponing and that I then had time to get on with. After having Son I have been introduced to more and more people who knit. They’re mostly my age and have knitted for years already. The produce one gorgeous creation after the other, and their kids are dressed in the most adorable home-knitted clothes you can imagine. Whenever a friend has kids they’re there with the cutest little outfit, unique, with good colour combinations, and the perfect gift for a newborn world citizen. I can’t knit to save my life…

I had to do something though. Hour after hour I listened to them discuss the quality of different yarns, the recipes, and how to treat the finished garments. I turned to youtube. Then I found a book. I bought a needle. I bought a roll of yarn. And I taught myself how to crochet. It was quite easy. In only a short while I produced a hat for myself, one for son, another hat for myself (I scrapped the first – it was hideous), a set of handwarmers for myself, and a more complex set for my mom. But by then I had grown tired of it.

At least now I can, if I want to. And, while sitting in Aberdeen waiting for our flight home, I taught two of the world’s most wonderful ladies how to crochet as well. That way, when we’re approaching eighty and are sitting shaking together somewhere, we can shake while holding each our crochet needle. That way it’ll look like we’re doing something. We’ve even tried already! Not being eighty, but shaking with crochets needles in our hands. Shaking with laughter of the surreality of the three of us sitting in a room full of people with our needles and yarn. A few metres ahead of us sat three ladies a little older than us, 2-3 times older than us probably, but at least, they were knitting…

As the train left the station

The warm light looks welcoming

I was reading 1984 while in London before christmas. I haven’t finished the book yet, I really like it but the last weeks the few moments I’ve had to relax, I have not felt in the mood for sharing those moments with a book, no matter how much I like it. The book still has the bookmark in it, I still remember where I had to let go, and as soon as Husband’s back home and I’m spending the morning on the bus I’ll get back to the story.

But nobody enters and they close, revealing their taunting colours

Anyway, this post was not supposed to be an apology or explanation for not finishing a good book. What I wanted to show you were these photos I took while waiting for the train. Photos that I felt an urge to take there and then, but I couldn’t immediately say why I felt this urge. When I a little later sat down on the train and fished my book out of my bag I realised why. Big brother’s watching you…

Details of Dunnottar

Let me take you back to Scotland for a minute. It’s been a while, but I still have a few details I would like to share from my favourite castle: Dunnottar.

 We’ll start by the entrance. Walk through the gates, follow the narrow lane up towards the main buildings. Just inside the gate there’s a door on the left. The door is locked. On the right there’s a hole in the wall which has for a long time been closed (it’s the first time I’ve seen it available to visitors). I’ve just found unexplored ground and feel the excitement rise. The ground is a little slippery, the doorways are low and we have to bend our heads to enter. The hole is a narrow tunnel that turns further to the right and leads to a small room of only a few square metres. There is no roof though so light streams down from holes in the wall further up that have functioned as window in the floors above us. On the wall opposite us is an old looking door with a padlock…

We cannot go any further. Only our imagination is left to explore the room behind the door, the scent of wet stone, the enclosed rooms, and the mystery of what might have been. We return to the entrance of the castle and continue up the cobbled road leading up to the main buildings. We turn left and pass a small room. The room is dark, but the air changes and, although invisible in the darkness, you can feel the walls surrounding you. We have no torch, but a few flashes from the camera reveals a room that looks like it was never finished. There’s stones and rubble in the corners, and one wall is sloped, as if though someone have started digging to increase the size of the room, but given up. We return to the fresh air outside. Continue further up the road, passing a small hut where the entrance tickets are sold. We turn right, see a small tunnel in front of us. A railing has been set up on the right side, as the cobbles are slippery. The cobblestones are small and round, similar to those found on the surrounding beaches. Images of people crouching over the steps in front of us appear in our minds. Crouching while roughly jamming the stones into the ground. We do not want to lose our footing on the slippery stones so our eyes fix on the step in front of us. The cobblestones form a pattern. The image of the centuries-old stone layers change, they place the cobblestones with greater precision, patterns are debated and decisions are made…

Union Jack?

At the far end of the castle we enter a rather large room, but the ceiling is low. A window at the far edge has increased in size over the years and is now simply a big hole in the wall. A placard on the wall near the entrance tells horrific storied of people who’ve been held captive in the room. More than a hundred souls have been trapped here at the same time. The room feels cold. It chills you to the bone. The hole in the wall opens for the rays of the sun to reach the dirt floor. We walk slowly over to the hole. The rays reach us and their warmth make us even more aware of the cold we feel inside. The outer wall runs straight down to the cliffs and ferocious sea. To our right there’s a small stretch of grass it’s far from the hole, impossible to reach, but by tilting the camera, finding the right angle, it looks like it could be reached with a careful, strong, and lucky leap. The view is beautiful. We shudder. Of those who escaped there were few survivors…

Lazy friday morning

Honestly it’s not all that lazy, or the morning is slightly lazy, but then I have to be super effective for the rest of the day. I’m working from home today. Which means after dropping Son off in kindergarten I went home, made myself a cup of tea and sat down in the kitchen with a pile of work. I have candles burning, a cup of custom-made (!) black tea and a bit of fruit on the side.

I visited a local tea shop earlier this week looking for a fruity black tea. These dark days require something stronger than green tea to keep me going from morning till night. Unfortunately the only teas that met my requirements were pre-bagged – tea-bags are just not as much fun as loose-weight tea. Part of my daily routine is to find a bag of tea, bring it up to my nose, inhale deeply and truly enjoy the scent, before I turn on the kettle and prepare the cup of tea. You can’t do that with a tea-bag… The shopkeeper soon realised that a carton of peach flavoured black tea would not make me happy, no matter how good the quality of the tea was. Lucky for me he still knew what to do to keep me coming back to the shop: he found my favourite plain black tea among the number of huge jars sitting on a table in the middle of the shop. He then lead me to the other side of the table where I sniffed out my favourite fruit tea. Then he mixed the two, sending me home with my own blend. I think I have to go back and find the perfect blend for every mood and every need! The tea I came home with is a black tea with passionfruit (there must be citrus in it as well). A perfect round smooth taste from the perfect black tea, and a shock of vibrant fruit flavours from the large pieces of dried fruit. Perfect!

As you can see I’m having the perfect start to the weekend (all I need now is an increase of songs in my spotify playlist – I need writing-friendly, good-spirited music that’s perfect for efficient days in front of my Mac. Do you have any songs you could recommend?). I hope you’re having a wonderful Friday and that your weekend will be a blast 🙂

A new hobby

At one time I found myself walking arm in arm with my mother in law, both giggling, with Husband walking in front of us swearing and mumbling. Apparently we perceived the situation a little differently as we walked through a small forest in complete darkness, following a small arrow and a blinking dot on my iPhone…

Another time, this time out at dusk, we parked the car in the outskirts of a forest, walked a few hundred metres and found ourselves at the edge of a small stone circle (think stonehenge en miniature)… 

I giggled as I climbed a set of stairs leading up to a church and the connected graveyard. Husband and my youngest brother-in-law accompanied me on our quest to find a memorial bust containing some inscribed dates which would give us a hint about where to go next… 

 

A treasure hunt by the sea coincides with a beautiful sunset

As if I don’t have enough thoughts spinning in that poor little head of mine, I have also taken on a new hobby. Actually, it’s not ‘my’ hobby, I’ve forced it upon both Husband and Son too (and my in-laws and soon my parents, but that’s a different story). Son knows it simply as treasure hunting. Husband has dug out the competitor in him and is hooked. And I love every aspect of it. This activity gets us out of the house more, shows us new places, often amazing places, and every now and again it requires a wee bit of brainwork. You’ve probably heard of it already, it’s called geocaching.

Anyhow, I’ll try to explain it simply: there’s an online community of cachers (who refer to non-cachers as muggles). Cachers hunt caches and place caches. A cache is a small container varying in size from a little less than a sugar cube, to a small bath-tup, but are mostly the size of a smallish lunch-box. A cache is hidden somewhere, often in a location of some importance to the cacher who hid it, and made available for other cachers to find. The location of the cache is given as gps coordinates so the cache can be found by using a gps (or a phone with gps). All caches contain a log book which is signed by finders. After finding a cache you also log your visit online. The website then keeps track of all the caches you’ve found.

A rather compelling cache hid well from the passing muggles

We found our first caches in the neighbourhood. A wee stroll after picking up Son from kindergarten, a few minutes of searching under bushes and in the cracks of the mountain resulted in a few smilies (found caches are registered as smiling faces on a map). Son is ecstatic when he finds a treasure (a pirate scimitar is now an obligatory item for all treasure hunts) and often there are small items to trade with so he gets to bring home a prize. Boy do I have a lot of places to show you! More to come 🙂