Growing up, there was Blue. Blue the Mutt. He had the shortest, most bristly hair, not something that called out for long caresses. He had skin conditions, two different coloured eyes, and the body type of a Pot-Bellied Pig. He was, um, unfortunate looking.
But that dog could love. He was a lap dog, despite being triple the size of one. He didn't yelp. He was obedient and kind, and he lived to be one hundred years old. At least that's how it felt. By the time I was a teenager, I couldn't remember a time when Blue wasn't there.
Childhood passed and as I moved into adulthood, I didn't have a pet of my own. I was allergic to most, and lazy to boot. I adopted a kitten once, for about 2 days, before it scratched me and I pouted my way into having Mom take over its guardianship. Because, as some may know, my Mom is fully obsessed with keeping animals as pets.
When my step-Dad's birthday was approaching one year, it was decided that a dog would be the only appropriate gift to give. We drove out to the animal shelter and found "Bailey", a pure bred golden lab. On the drive home with beautiful Bailey, we passed a blaring fire truck and were serenaded with the most heart felt howl we had ever heard. Bailey was thus christened "Chief" and we spent many years ever after listening to him howl at the cue of a siren.
Chief was patient as a soul could be. His ears were used as teething implements for all the children in his life. He was the least threatening dog in the world, and therefore the worst guard dog one could ever employ. When a drunk from Hess Village helped himself to Mom and Jay's couch in the middle of the night, Chief was found cuddled up on the couch next to him.
No one concerned themselves more with your tears. If you approached him with an invisible ache in your heart, Chief knew, and would remain by your side until you felt better. He was possessive of his Master and was rewarded with a loyalty that never seized.
Yesterday, Mom and Jay said goodbye to Chief. Like Blue, I don't remember a time when they weren't a trio. It will be strange to imagine Jay sitting down with a coffee without Chief under the table, by his feet. Or Mom on the couch with a book, Chief curled up beside, letting out a contented side. He was their best friend.
And I feel:
- Like my belly doesn't fit in the frame
- My age
- Nervous that my midwife suggested hypnotherapy as a means of pain relief during labour
- That sleeping through the night is equal parts distant memory and desperate hope for the future
- The baby's hiccups
I've reached a whole new level of domestication. Gardening, cleaning, baking. I'm like, a real life housewife or something. This tart was a hybrid of a Portuguese recipe I found online and a jam tart we had in Banff over the weekend. The girls and I have been having proper tea and cake after I pick them up from school, and this happened to still be warm when we walked through the door.
You will need:
A pre-baked tart shell
150 grams of sliced almonds
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup jam
Okay, so I made a cookie based tart shell, but I shouldn't have. I have a tried and true pie crust that is made without any sugar that I should have done. The one above was too sweet and I'm hesitant to say, had too much butter. I will make the recipe again, but will either use my stand-by crust or buy a ready made one.
Carrying on ....
Bake your tart shell for about 15 minutes at a moderate oven temperature, until just starting to brown.
Remove from the oven and turn the temp up about 25 degrees. Spread your jam over the surface of your tart and set aside while you prepare the almond filling. (I used strawberry jam, but I think a cherry jam, with the toasted almonds, would be a great flavour combination.)
In a small saucepan, toast your almonds until just fragrant. Add your sugar, milk and butter, stir and let boil until thickened, about five minutes.
Pour the mix over your jam covered tart shell and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, until golden. Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of yogurt or cream. And tea, of course.
A normal check list for the beach might, at the very least, consist of a warm and sunny day. Instead, we went for moody and grey, and were nevertheless rewarded. Banff and neighbouring MacDuff, are the cutest little coastal towns. And at less than an hour's drive away, a perfect little getaway. This will be our go-to place for visitors, because our day went something like this.
Arrive at the coast, unbuckle, and emerge from the foggy car. Beam when your youngest says, in her most sincere voice, "Mommy, it's smells like yummy yummy water!" because it really does. Drag your pregnant ass down to the shore, over a bed of rocks, just to get splashed by a rogue wave. Gather far too many rocks, because they're all wet and glistening like crystals, you can't help yourself. Then pile back into the car, take a quick jaunt down the road and arrive at the mansion that says you're welcome for tea.
We make sure to walk around like we own the place afterward, but soon we're back in our car, heading home. That's when the girls burst out into whines because we didn't let them go swimming, or build a sandcastle, or have ice cream ...
We've started sowing seeds indoors since the weather outside is not conducive to gardening at the moment. This is foreign territory for me, but I'm learning. With the help of greener thumbs than I. "Katie, my seeds sprouted, NOW WHAT DO I DO?!?!" (Transplant the sprouts to bigger pots, in case you're as clueless as me.)
The girls are getting their own patch of dirt in our secret garden, (I'm not even joking, my childhood fantasies are coming true) and picked out their own seeds to start. Eloise picked carrots and Claudia picked poppies. Claudia wants to be able to bake with the seeds. Eloise likes to keep baby carrots as pets. So, yeah.
I have stuff I could write about, but my inclination to do so is nil. I am so one with the weather. The sun was shining the day we moved to Scotland and then stopped. Today's weather is as follows:
- Today: Cloudy with frequent snow showers, though sleety at first on low ground. Over inland Aberdeenshire some prolonged snowfalls with drifting on high ground. Moray seeing the best of the drier spells. Strong biting easterly winds, gales hills and coasts.
- Note: We are NOT Moray.
- Tonight: Further snow, heaviest over inland Aberdeenshire, heavy falls with blizzard conditions in places. Accumulations and drifting even on lowest ground. Strong east to northeasterly winds, gales in exposed areas.
- Note: We ARE inland Aberdeenshire.
"Biting" winds? Ugh.
It's one thing to live in the country and earn your lunch. Up at dawn, lifting, bending, aching. Manual labour, I think they call it. It's quite another to send the kids off to school and bake another batch of scones, while you look around at the snow on the ground and wonder what to do with yourself when the kitchen timer goes off. Besides, of course, eating the scone, with sweet jam and thick cream.
As there are no sidewalks near the house, and I have a cute little pram just waiting to be filled with a baby, finding a suitable walking place has been top of mind. I did fairly well with my weight this pregnancy, surely because I lived in a city without a car to get me anywhere. I don't want to spend the last month of pregnancy catching up on lost time.
Aden Park is a walker's paradise. Some trails are a little off the track, while others are perfectly paved and primed for Mom and Baby Group get togethers. We tried last week to make it a habit by going every day after school. Spring was in the air, and in our step. And then it snowed, and I'm back to making scones. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.
Hip, hip! for crossover holidays. This past Sunday was all about Mum in Scotland and a special fest was prepared at our (so far) favourite place, Aden Park. It's a sprawling estate that has miles and miles of walking paths and a great park to reward the kids with at the end. Also, the ruined mansion looks so akin to Downton Abbey, I'm fairly smitten.
Anyway, the Mother's Day fest was jointly held with the Aberdeenshire Heritage Fest. Our area's heritage is nearly exclusively farming, so there were fancy chickens and different types of wool to fondle. The girls, and then Aaron, made a bee line towards the spinning wheel and tried their hand. The woman was far too impressed with Aaron's handiwork. I just continued to fondle wool.
The lady who dresses herself in her pet's hair mentioned that there is an egg swap at the end of the month. It's free for hen owners and £2 for cluck-less members, such as myself. I have a chicken coop in the back garden though, perhaps it's time to enter the hipster world of chicken rearing?
Our blossoms have been blanketed and plans for sowing seeds have been moved indoors to tiny plastic greenhouses. Not that the girls mind. They finally get to build that long coveted snowman that apartment living just wasn't able to provide.
My level of maturity is being tested, and I'm failing miserably. We're in talks to buy a car from a man whose name is straight out of a Simpson's episode. Keep your fingers crossed, if we don't get it then I'm really going to be stuck in the country. And that's no good for anybody.