Overnight sail trip

We’ve had our wee sailboat for almost a year now and although we’ve been out for several short sailing trips we’ve not been able to take the boat to a camping spot before. We tried a few weeks ago, but as the engine didn’t want to co-operate we had to turn back. That time we were also intending to leave the boat at anchor and sleep in our tent on land. This weekend we finally managed to get out, and stayed the night on the boat!

We had a SSW wind so spent about three or four hours sailing south to Eriskay (partially against the wind hence the time), where at first we anchored to the south west of Calabhaigh. But as soon as we had let the anchor down we realised that we would not be able to sleep at all there as the swell was catching us sideways. So we lifted anchor and sailed over into Caolas Eirisgeigh, anchoring to the east of Calabhaigh instead. This was a much calmer and safer spot, with pristine white sand a few meters down.

We left at high tide around 4:30pm, so it was around 8pm by the time we had anchored our second time. We immediately set up our sleeping bags and mats, and read for a while. Liam was playing Kate Rusby and soon enough we both, more or less, fell asleep. The only thing missing we both agreed was some hot chocolate.

Although we were in a calmer spot we were still rocked gently, which you would think would amount to lovely sleep, but instead we woke up often – mostly to check that we hadn’t dragged the anchor and were about to crash into a rock. We both had very vivid extended reality dreams, where we thought we were waking up because the boat was about to crash into something. The wind also picked up during the night, and as the boat turns into the wind we were being turned against the small swell – so not only did the wind running through the rigging get louder, the rocking intensified too.

It wasn’t until around 5 or 6am that it calmed down and we finally got some sleep. We were joking that we’d probably wake up at 4am and just decide to sail back home, but in the end we didn’t get up until 8am. Liam hoisted the sails as I steered us out of the Caolas and then northward. As we were sailing past Hairteamul we could hear really strange wailing, and were a bit creeped out even after we realised that the sound was coming from seals on the island.

We got back home around 11am which was low tide so we had to, yet again, anchor the boat. We put it in the same spot we did last time we got in at low tide, which is were boats were traditionally anchored before the marina was set up. When we went back out at high tide to collect the boat and put her at the mooring we had been joined by a Cornish sailing boat – apparently the majority of Cornish sailing boats are heading to the west of Scotland this year instead of to France, so I’m sure we’ll see plenty of beautiful traditional sailboats this summer.

The Rosa Rugosa have started blooming so the garden smells lovely!

Miraculously we managed to stay awake until 9pm, when we finally got our hot chocolates before going to bed.

A quick garden update and some scenic views

I’ve been much slower in getting my garden ready this year. Spring has been very late so I’ve only just planted my carrots, the only other thing already in the ground are potatoes. I’ve still not even started my beets, broccoli, or kale… But the leeks, celery, and cabbage are ready to be planted out, or at least potted on.

I’ve had good success with my flowers so far this year. My beloved dicentra, or bleeding heart, came up again this year and I adore it. I have vivid memories of this flower growing in my grandparents garden, and I’m so protective of it as it’s quite wind sensitive (not ideal when you live on an island in the Atlantic). It overwinters in the greenhouse and it’s not until I’m sure that it’s warm and calm enough outside that I bring it out and put it by the door. We have a little alcove, or sun trap, by the door that it lives in. It’s protected from harsh wind and rain there, but gets plenty of sun as it’s south facing.

When we were on the mainland in August of last year I picked up a number of tulip bulbs. I planted them up in my balcony planters and they all came up! I definitely planted them too far apart, so I’ll get more tulips or other bulbs to interplant next year. As you can see by the two photos above, my favourite flower colour is pink. It’s soft and unapologetically feminine but still loud and vibrant. My fuschia, hyacinths, stargazer lily, and dahlia are also in shades of pink. It’s my dream to have a garden with just a variety of pink flowers (maybe with a little bit of white in there for interest and contrast).

This year I am attempting lupins and poppies again, last year they didn’t do too well as I neglected them in the green house. I also wish I had planted cosmos again as they did grow in the greenhouse but they got a bit thirsty and I never potted them on. Silly, considering the seed packet only had a microscopic amount of seed for what I paid for it.

I’m also trying chamomile (nothing has come up yet…), echinacea (nothing coming up… tragic as they are SO beautiful. Pink!), and nasturtium, of which only two have come up. I thought nasturtium were easy to grow?! I still have hopes for the chamomile, but I’ll need to look up the best way to sprout echinacea before trying again.

Planned acquisitions for next year include lily of the valley. I had some two years ago but they were kept too wet over winter and died. I love the scent and look of them, so I’ll try to get some for next year. I’d also love to get a peony. Maybe if my dahlia does well this year I can justify getting a peony too. This is a slippery slope… Luckily my stargazer lily, of which I started off with two bulbs three years ago, has multiplied and I now seem to have five little sprouting lilies! Last year I had three stalks produce flowers and I would be so happy if I had five this year.

In useful gardening, i.e. things we can eat, I’m expanding what we’re growing this year with leeks, celery, parsley root, and my little frivolous experiment is to grow strawberry spinach. Last year we got carrot root fly in the carrot bed, so this year I’m attempting to grow them, a fly-resistant variety too, in deep fish boxes by the side of the house (you can see them in the tulip photo). Hopefully they are deep enough! I also managed to get compost specific to tomatoes instead of regular (they both looked the same!) which smells like it’s made out of pine from some forestry excess. So it smells lovely but the feel is a little bit weird, very fibrous. Not sure my carrots will like it but I can’t put them where they were last year so…
I also didn’t have enough carrot seed for my intended four boxes, so in one and a half of the boxes I put parsley root instead. I’ve not tried this before, apparently it’s like a parsnip but the leaves can be used as parsley. I love a crop with more than one cropping part!

The leeks and celery will go together with the onion sets I planted earlier in the old carrot bed. I’m looking forward to seeing how the celery grows, as apparently it’s natural habitat is boggy ground. I’ll also put cabbage and beets next to them, followed by potatoes (some voluntary potatoes in the cabbage bed too), and then a row of broccoli and one of red kale where last years broccoli is now. I’ll most likely grow more kalettes in the same place they are now as they flower so beautifully.

Broccoli and kalette on the first of April, before they exploded into beautiful yellow flowers.

The strawberry spinach, which I think grows in North America (Alaska I’ve heard) is really interesting. The leaves can be eaten but it also crops an interesting red berry. It’s not that flavourful I don’t think, but I’ll give it a go.

I’ve been very lazy with garden photos this year so apologies for the lack of visual interest. I’ve compiled a number of beautiful photos from our island instead.

The walk out to the dam, as well as the view up to Uamh na Phrionnsa behind Ben Kenneth.

Twilight looking out from Gasaidh, sunset on Eriskay, and a 5am sunrise over Ben Kenneth. The last photo is from the morning when we took the ferry from Lochboisdale, via Castlebay, to Oban. From Oban we took another ferry to Mull and stayed the night there with friends. It was a flying visit (not a single photo was taken, oops) but so lovely to see the young girls, one of which we hadn’t even met yet in all her 18 months in this world.

Lastly, a comforting photo of a freshly filled tea jar (the mug is one of my favourites, made by the friend we visited on Mull’s mother), and the view of Calabaigh from Saga when we sailed over.

Since last time

A fair bit has happened since I last wrote a blog post. I lost most of my knitting-mojo after finishing my Wilkhaven (which I have been wearing practically everyday – enough that I was getting worried that my manager might say something). Instead I was reading as much as I could, but since I’m back in the office I’ve not got quite as much spare time. I’ve also opened the bakery up for orders again, so most days I’m baking for anything from an hour to three hours after I get home from work. It’s equally exhausting as it is rewarding.

We’ve managed to go on two sailings, one in Saga (our 11 foot Grimsay boat) to Calabhaigh, and one in the big sailboat out to Stulaigh (or almost). I’ve seen Calabhaigh many times coming in to Lochboisdale on the ferry, and I can see it from the garden too. It’s an island sitting just off the mainland with a ruined fort on it, which you can see in both photos below. The hill in the background of the first photo is Ben Kenneth, so the fort sits at a very advantageous point for monitoring what can come in and out of Lochboisdale.

I started collecting a children’s fiction book series following different horse breeds around the world, called The Horse Diaries. The stories are narrated by the horses themselves and are really sweet, and they have the most adorable illustrations. The book in the photo above, which I am sitting reading on the ruins on Calabhaigh, follows a Thoroughbread race horse called Risky Chance in California during the depression. I have probably 11 out of 18 books, and they’re all just fantastic.

The sail to Stulaigh was more eventful. We had decided to camp there, anchoring the sailboat in one of the little inlets. There’s an old settlement nearby so the anchorage should be pretty good. We had a head wind going north so the journey up consisted of tacking in and out of the Minch for several hours. The swell was pretty high and I actually got a bit seasick. We eventually reached the sound of Stulaigh, but just as we’re planning on taking the sails down and motoring in to the anchorage we stumble upon a problem. The outboard won’t start. Most likely it’s been flooded, or some such thing, and it hasn’t yet dried out from our short motoring out of Lochboisdale.

We would have been okay sailing in, as the swell and wind has died down by this point, but the tide is going out, pushing us out with it. There was nothing more to it than to turn around and sail back home.

With tail wind the journey home took 40 minutes, quite the contrast to the three hours spent being pushed about by the swell and wind going northward. But we had a very pleasant sail back, with snacks and music. That night was also incredibly cold, and the wind shifted which means we would have struggled to sail back. So maybe it all worked out in the end.

The following day we took our packed dinner meant for Stulaigh and walked out to Loch Àirigh nighean Amhlaidh. Liam brought his fly fishing gear and although I think I brought both a knitting project and a book I mostly just sat and fed the fire. Liam didn’t catch any trout but the meatballs I had prepared were wonderful, a really great camping meal – complete with mashed potatoes, brown sauce, leeks cooked in white wine, and lingonberry jam.

Two days later we were reminded that it wasn’t quite spring yet. Actually all of April was terrible, full of hail, snow, and high winds. The photos below are taken one day apart. Although I am always delighted to see real snow (not hail, which is what they call snow here) it was a little disheartening seeing it in April when I was hoping for green grass and yellow daffodils.

We’ve had some decent days, too. Below is Loch Aineort. We had gone on a walk, me following halfway before turning back, and Liam climbing over the hill to see the old settlement on the other side. On my way back I took a different route, and ended up climbing my own wee hill, with a great view of Loch Aineort below. I think Liam went over one of the passes around the centre of the photo.

We’ve also engaged a fair bit with the local Eriskay Pony society, Comann Each nan Eilean. We became members a few years ago and have helped with website creation and some communications. Below is a photo from Eriskay before we had an evening meeting. It was a stunning night, absolutely no wind and bright sunshine on a cloudless sky. You can see Barra in the background to the right.

In more pony news, we’ve also taken over caring for one of the Society ponies. She’s a 20 year old mare whose owner sadly passed away a while ago, and whose widow is not in a position to fully care for her. She’s still living on the croft where she’s spent all her life (as we don’t have a croft ourselves), and she’s a sweetheart. Her owner is also a great lady, full of stories and smiles.

I go see her a few times a week after work, as she’s only down the road from the office. I usually bring some soaked pony nuts with me, and have helped her shed some of her winter fluff as she’s unfortunately alone in her pasture. As you can see by the ground in the photo below where she is standing by the gate waiting for me she’s shed a fair bit. She was so happy to stand there while I brushed her, but she’s wary of having her legs touched so I haven’t been able to pick her feet yet.

She’s lived, as far as we know, on the croft her whole life. She has a little bit of shelter, but for having lived outside for 20 years she is in great condition. According to one of the committee members of the society she’s the biggest Eriskay he’s ever seen, so it’s likely that she has some Highland in her. We know she’s not 100% Eriskay anyway.

The first of May also marked the day when the Eriskay herd of ponies get taken up the hill to the common grazing on Ben Scrien for the summer. Me and Liam “helped” as best as we could, mostly by providing a human barrier where possible. You can see Liam below having a cuddle with one of the yearlings. They are incredibly soft and fluffy at this stage, and they look so much like Icelandic horses (Liam is coincidentally wearing his Icelandic mittens, knit in léttlopi while we were in Iceland!).

Lastly, we also had our first (successful) camp of the year on the 15th of May. We camped out by Acarsaid in Eriskay, unfortunately not surrounded by ponies.

Spring has now sprung for real and the garden is full of bees and growth. I’m growing a couple of new things this year, but I’ll make another post about that. So for now I’ll leave you with a photo from my first (and only so far) swim with my wetsuit, and me enjoying a cup of tea in front of last year’s kalettes in the garden.

Wilkhaven in Black Isle Yarns

In 2019 I purchased a kit for a Wilkhaven sweater that included the pattern and the yarn, which was naturally dyed Shetland from Black Isle Yarns. I was quite intimidated by this pattern for a variety of reasons, partly because it was Sport/4-ply weight yarn and a Fair Isle pattern, but mostly because it was steeked.

So the kit sat around for a year or so until I decided to wind the yarn up before Christmas. It was going to be my Christmas knitting, but I ended up having to work on gifts instead – so I still hadn’t started in the new year.

I cast on on the 5th of January and flew through the pattern. The yarn is lovely and super soft, which surprised me because it is a 100% wool yarn. But I had never knit in Shetland before, and there is a reason why it’s called the British Merino.

Due to me mis-reading my swatch (yes I swatched and still managed to mess up) I was knitting a size larger than what I had yarn for. Luckily Julie from Black Isle Yarns was really supportive and was able to send me some extra yarn. I finished the sweater a few weeks later and I absolutely adore it. I’ve never knit something oversized before, and although I would prefer if I’d knit it one size down I can’t fault how gorgeous the pattern or the colours are.

January makings

I was furloughed for all of January, which I must say was amazing. I was able to focus entirely on things that make me happy. So I knit, I planned this year’s garden, I read, and I went on short excursions up in the hills with a thermos of tea. I’m certain that when I look back at this time that I “had to” spend at home, I’ll think I was so fortunate – which is probably a terrible thought to have in a pandemic. But the incessant focus on career and sitting at a desk or a computer for the vast majority of your waking hours has always bothered me. There is no time allowed for interests or hobbies – things that make me feel right, or like I have accomplished something. I’d much rather we could spend two or three hours at our desk jobs and then get to go out and work with our hands. Maybe the recent rise in interest in home steading and self sufficiency is a result of other people feeling the same way.

We had frost a couple of nights, but we also had a few days of real snow! It was so lovely to see since I haven’t really seen snow for several years.

Most of my knitting time this month was spent on my Wilkhaven sweater. I got a kit from Black Isle Yarns in 2019, which consisted of the pattern as well as some beautiful shades of Shetland yarn – two natural shades and two naturally dyed shades.
After knitting a swatch (yes, I’m trying to be a person who makes swatches) I found that my gauge was tighter than the pattern, so I decided to knit a size up. This was a mistake for two reasons. Firstly, because my gauge was knit flat which for me produces a slightly tighter gauge than I get in the round. I was also only off gauge by a tiny bit, so knitting in the round I will have met gauge easily. Secondly, the kits for each sizes were different and I got the kit for the smallest size.

So I was knitting an oversized version of an already oversized garment, and I then ran out of one of the dyed shades halfway down the first arm. I had a feeling that I would run out, but I was so against ripping back the whole body and starting again that I instead steeked the armhole, after which I could not rip back, and just kept knitting. Luckily for me, Julie of Black Isle Yarns was able to send me more of the indigo yarn which I had run out of and I was able to finish the sleeve. Halfway down the second sleeve, however, I ran out of the white yarn. I also only had 10g left of the gold. Again, Julie came to the rescue and sent me the 46g of white leftover from the cone, and I purchased another skein of the gold. I ended up using about 12g of the white, and actually had 2g of gold leftover without having to break into the new skein!

Even through my yarn and gauge struggle, this sweater has become my all time favourite make. The Shetland yarn is so wonderfully soft (there’s a reason it’s regarded as the British alternative to Merino), and the colours are really striking. I’m actually thinking of getting another kit once Julie dyes a few more up, and gift the one I’ve just finished to my mother.

While waiting for yarn refills I picked up a languishing work in progress. Thinking I had an arm and a half left to knit, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually only had half an arm left! It took me all of an hour or two to finish, and I had a finished project. It is child-sized though, but I really love it. I’m planning on making one for myself next, with natural shades of brown wool. It still needs buttons, and ideally a band to cover the steeks. It’s knit in acrylic, which I don’t buy anymore, but I like to use it from stash for children’s garments as they’re easier to wash and keep.

I also knit a lopapeysa in Álafosslopi which I’ve worn over my fleece when out in the garden, as well as a pair of socks for Liam.

I didn’t read an awful lot in January, as I was too obsessed with my Wilkhaven project to focus on much else. But I did finish the most recent book in a series I started last year – Firebrand in the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain. There’s a collection of short stories set in the same world published as well, and hopefully the next book will come out this autumn. After that I’m sure I’ll have to wait years and years until the series continues, as the author is rather slow in releasing work.

Sewing wise I pieced together the second set of fabric for my quilt. I now have to square them all before putting together into blocks, which is my least favourite thing to do, so the project has stalled a little.

I’m back to working remotely now in February and expecting to be back in the office at the end of the month.

First finished project of 2021

After finishing my Bear Hug Cowl (and a cabled headband) on the last day of December, I was feeling really inspired and excited to cast something new on. I’ve had a skein of mystery yarn (unknown content) that I got from a rug hooking shop in Cape Breton for a while, and I’ve been wanting to use it for its gorgeous colour, but it was really rustic and scratchy so I was unsure what I would make out of it. Really the most useful thing I could make was socks, so that’s what it turned in to!

I’ve had the skein sitting on my shelf for over a year, since we got home from our Canada trip in October 2019, and I’ve known that I wanted to pair it with a bit of white as I really enjoyed that contrast.
So I cast on a pair of socks, or slipper socks, and using some leftover yarn from Liam’s Eriskay geansaidh (in Uist Wool ‘Geòla’) I made a Latvian braid and a purl ridge for some colour contrast.

The last several pairs of socks I’ve made I have used the Fish Lips Kiss heel pattern, which is really pretty and easy. But I find that those socks don’t fit quite as well as socks with more traditional heels do, so for this pair I made a modified Eye of Partridge heel and it turned out great. I also incorporated some calf shaping for a better fit over the leg.

I didn’t follow a pattern for this sock, except for the heel, but I was inspired by the Lumi sock pattern by Fiber Tales, which features a Latvian braid and a slip stitch motif knit in bulky yarn. As this skein was closer to sport weight I simply made up my own interpretation of the pattern.

This year I’m really looking forward to knitting more with natural 100% wool. I still have a few skeins of hand dyed merino mix yarn in my stash, but I’ve been gravitating much more towards rustic yarns lately. I’ve already cast on for a jumper in Black Isle Yarns Shetland wool, and I’m so pleasantly surprised by how soft the Shetland is. I’d also love to knit more in Àlafoss Lopi and Léttlopi this year!

The Bear Hug cowl/faux polo (free pattern)

If there is one thing winter brings out in knitters it’s the understanding of the warmth and protection of wool. Although I knit all year it’s not until winter that I start to realise the importance and wonder of knitted wool garments. Wool is able to keep us warm and dry while still being breathable – a characteristic that only natural materials possess.

This winter there was one accessory in particular that I felt was missing. I was getting fed up of having to adjust my scarf and the collar of my jacket to close the gap between the two at my neck, so I decided to knit something to deal with this issue. When I was little I always wore a faux polo under my jacket or overalls. It kept my neck shielded from the wind while also providing extra warmth over the back and chest, blocking some of the cold that inevitably seeps in from the zip.

These faux polos have just become popular again this year, with a variety of patterns being released featuring all kinds of techniques and designs – cables, brioche, stranded colourwork, you name it. I decided to make my own pattern up, which I’ve shared as a PDF below, out of some 100% wool chunky weight yarn I got in the sale bin at the local yarn store by my mum in Sweden. I must admit that I love it so much that I wear it both outside and inside under my robe when the house feels a little cold.

Here’s the pattern!

One year and 100 books later

When I was preparing for my trip from South Uist to Sweden over Christmas last year I decided that I wanted to bring a “good book” with me to read on the journey. I hadn’t read much during the year at all, but I had remembered the joys a really good book can bring, and I thought it would be an excellent distraction while spending many hours on a plane, on a bus, or at an airport.

I went to Goodreads to scout something out, knowing that I wanted a story from the fantasy genre, and that the reviews of it would need to be almost exclusively fantastic – to ensure that it really was a “good book” and that I would actually sit and read it as opposed to just carry it around with me unread.

I chose Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, and it was everything I was looking for. I have a distinct memory of sitting on the small plane going from Benbecula airport to Glasgow early in the morning, turning over the first page of the book.
I finished it a few days later, while staying with my dad. I loved the book so much that I asked if we could go to the one book store in the city that was guaranteed to have the sequel. I read this book, Muse of Nightmares, even quicker.

Opposed to buying new books when I knew I had unread or unfinished books sitting at home in my old bedroom, the next story I picked up was A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas. I had read this several years ago when it first came out, but then not picked up the next installments as they came out the following years. After finishing this book I was on a seriously slippery slope, devouring stories quicker than I thought I was able to read. The second and third book in this series, A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin, were even more enthralling and I read late into the night, still rising early so I could get back to the story. I finished the novella, A Court of Frost and Starlight, just before heading back to South Uist. By then I knew I was not finished with fantasy, not by a long shot.

So I thought I would pick out my absolute favourite reads from this year, out of the 100 books I aimed to read (finishing at 105!), and reflect back on them. Maybe if I see this post a few years in the future I will be reminded to pick them back up, and hopefully experience some of the joy (and angst, heart-palpitations, or tears) that they brought me the first time I read them.

I’ve discovered that there are a few authors that I’m particularly fond of, so I’ll list my favourite reads from this year by author.

  1. Sarah J. Mass’ A Court of Thorns and Roses, Throne of Glass, and Crescent City series – favourite heroines
    I read ACOTAR (A Court of Thorns and Roses) while still in Sweden, as I already had the first and second book. This series brought me so much anxiety riddled excitement, and I actually re-read the whole series again in November – I might have to do yet another re-read before the fourth book comes out in February (the day after my birthday!).
    Once I finished ACOTAR I looked at Sarah’s other publications. I’d read the first Throne of Glass book years ago, but I wasn’t too impressed by it. On her Goodreads page I saw that she was venturing into Adult Fantasy, and as I was so smitten with ACOTAR I pre-ordered the book. As it wouldn’t come out for a few months, I decided to give TOG (Throne of Glass) another try. I ordered the box set, and although the first and second books weren’t on par with ACOTAR (though the first book there doesn’t compare to the second or third either), once I got to the third book I was again reading several hundred pages a day. It took me a while longer to get through Tower of Dawn, the sixth and second-to-last book in the series, as it’s from the perspective of a character I don’t like, and it takes place at the same time as the previous book. But I got through it and then read the very last book, Kingdom of Ash, in two days. I both cried and laughed while reading it, and I’m so looking forward to rereading the series to catch all the little things I missed or forgot.
    House of Earth and Blood, Sarah’s Adult Fantasy debut (although her previous books have enough explicit scenes to count more as New Adult than Young Adult), was truly intimidating when it arrived. But this 800-page hardback book did not disappoint. In fact, I’ve read it twice already, and I’ll probably read it again just before the second book comes out next year.
  2. Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer and Daughter of Smoke and Bonefavourite soft and fluffy
    I’ve already spoken about the Strange the Dreamer duology so I won’t linger on that, and write a bit about a different series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, instead. I picked this trilogy up because I really enjoyed Laini Taylor’s writing. She excels at incorporating forbidden romance/enemies to lovers into fantasy – there is no need to have a romantic element in a story if it is not done extremely well. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is no exception, and it gives you a heartache while simultaneously sighing contently. These stories are definitely YA, but if they had incorporated elements that fit them better into NA or Adult I think they would be even better.

  3. Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series – favourite good vs. evil
    Before the pandemic reached Scotland, me and Liam were in Edinburgh for a weekend. While Liam was occupied elsewhere I went in to a number of bookshops, most notably the Waterstones on Prince’s Street. I had a list with me of books I wanted to read, and since we don’t have any book shops in Uist I wanted to be able to browse (and feel and smell) before picking up my next read.
    By this point I had tired a little of romance plots (I had caught up on some YA fantasy where I wasn’t convinced by the romantic storylines and wanted a book where I would not be annoyed by it), so I specifically had books in mind where at least the first installment did not have a romantic element. I chose Kristen Britains Green Rider, because reviews said there was the barest of hint of romance at the very end, and also because it heavily featured horses. I think that’s one of the things that drew me to fantasy specifically – there is so much magic inherently involved in horses.
    This book reminded me a lot, plot-wise, of The Hobbit but with the majority of the characters being female. I always, always, appreciate representation of strong and independent female characters.
    Since finishing this book I’ve read five of the six books currently published, and even though I do regard the series highly, the incorporation of to me an unbelievable romance sub-plot has been detrimental. Writing romance is unfortunately not a strength of Kristen’s and if there was no romantic sub-plot these books would be so much better. But the fight between good and evil is fantastic in this series, and I have heard that the seventh book is coming out next year.
  4. Jennifer L. Armentrout’s From Blood and Ash series – favourite romance
    After hearing people gush about the two books out in this series on Instagram, I decided to download the ebook of the first installment, From Blood and Ash. I was a few chapters in when I decided that I was going to need a physical copy of the two published books, ASAP. Once they arrived I read the rest of the first book in two days, and the second but longer book, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, during my day off, staying up just past midnight to finish it. I was left speechless by both these two books, a feeling I hadn’t experienced since reading Sarah J. Maas. These books fulfilled my every need for strong female characters, slow-burn forbidden romance, and interesting story line. In fact, as soon as finishing the second book I went straight back to re-reading both of them. This did leave me in a bit of a book hangover – a sure sign of a great read! I’ve since managed to re-re-read the first book again, and I’m looking at picking the second up again soon.
  5. Ruby Dixon’s Aspect and Anchor series – favourite world building
    For a while I had thing for reading specifically fantasy romance, where the romance was front and center as opposed to sideline. I downloaded a few ebooks, most notably two series by Laura Thalassa (The Four Horsemen and The Bargainer), and read most of them in one or two sittings. I came across the Aspect and Anchor series while looking for my next read, and the promise of a portal fantasy featuring a slow-burn romance together with one of my favourite tropes, gods interacting with mortals, made me dive right in to the first book. I read through both books, each over 600 pages, as quickly as I could. These books delivered not just on the steamy romance, but also in the world building. It is clear that a lot of thought went in to both the stories and the world, and I was amazed at how perfectly things made sense and then how shocking every twist and turn was. There are only two bad things about this series. First, the covers are terrible and cliché. Second, there is no promise of when the next book will be out, only vague hopes that it will be spring 2021.

Looking back at everything I’ve read this past year, I’ve discovered a few things that all my favourite books have in common:

  • Written by women, about women
  • A female lead finding strength, courage, and undiscovered power
  • Gods interacting with or favouring mortals, or characters with god-like powers

I’m so excited for what next year will bring. I’ve already got at least four anticipated releases, and I’m hoping I’ll find just as many all-consuming, heart wrenching, anxiety inducing stories next year as I did this year.

An autumn update

The last of the asters (or Michaealmas daisies) have bloomed leaving the garden more green and yellow than purple. I’ve still got my favourite kalettes growing, however, and they together with the purple sprouting broccoli provide another source of colour in the garden.

I’ve been able to sit outside some, still, but with several blankets to keep me warm. Ideally I also bring a cup of tea to keep my hands warm while sitting outside reading.
A month or so ago I finished Nordic Tales, a beautifully illustrated collection of folk tales from Nordic countries. The stories themselves could have done with some editing (especially since folk tales are made to be read aloud!), but the illustrations were so wonderful I didn’t mind too much.

We’ve had a select few days where we’ve both been off work and the weather has allowed for a trip out in the sailboat. The last time we went out the wind was a bit too rough, and we ran out of fuel motoring in, and also managed to cut the rope to our tender. Needless to say this stressed me out some, but we’ve been out once since (in the photo above) and it was calm and wonderful – with no mishaps!

It’s also cool enough outside to require wearing knits everyday, which is so fantastic. I don’t have anything new for my own wardrobe, but Liam has his new lopapeysa, and I’m working on a vest for myself which I’ll make a post about when it’s finished. I’ve been using my lopi stash which consisted of half-used balls in a variety of colours to knit up three little lopapeysur in child sizes. I’m itching to order enough wool for one for myself, but I’m not yet willing to part with the money for it. I was thinking about selling the three little jumpers since I don’t have a child to put them on, but I’m also too attached and I can’t part with them just yet!

For a while I had very limited creative inspiration and most of my free time was spent reading. I’ve read around 85 books this year, which is more than I’ve ever read in a year before! I read quite a few over lockdown, but I’ve had a steady stream since the beginning of the year.

Once I felt some inspiration again I found free dressmaking patterns online through an American website that sells linen, based in LA. They have so many beautiful patterns, and almost all are free to download and print out. The dress above is their Noor pattern. I reduced the length of the skirt to be more flattering to my stature, and when I make it again I’ll probably take in a little bit of the skirt width as well as it is very gathered. I made mine out of an old 100% cotton curtain, and with the blue floral print in combination with the gathered skirt I feel like it’s almost an interpretation of some historical dress. The addition of pockets (a necessity when sewing for youself!) only makes this more true.I’d love to get some navy linen to make this dress up in, but for now I’m so pleased with it in reclaimed materials.
I also made a ‘peasant blouse’ out of a bed sheet and I’m super pleased with it too. I’m thinking about making one up for my mum and my sister for Christmas.

The brassicas are thriving in the garden. We’ve just started harvesting our first purple sprouting broccoli which we had with dinner yesterday. The brussel sprouts and kalettes are coming along wonderfully, and our three cabbages are trying their best too. We’ve been harvesting carrots (and beets) regularly. It’s truly magical being able to go into the garden to collect food for dinner, even if it includes getting a bit muddy in the process. Next year I’m hoping to grow more staples – I’m thinking of adding onions, parsnips, and celery to the mix. These are items that we often get from the shop, but that we could totally grow at home (not too confident in the celery but we’ll try!).

Lots of tea, chai, and hot chocolates have been drunk in the last few weeks. Liam has developed a taste for my loose leaf tea I get in Sweden, so we’ve been sharing cups regularly. I should have just enough to last us until going home for Christmas! It’s been a good clear out of my tea cupboard (I feel so fortunate to have a whole tea cupboard!), but I still have an abundance of French Earl Grey in particular. I find this blend a bit too strong, and as it works best with sugar and lemon as opposed to my preferred honey and cream I don’t often gravitate towards it. I might give it as gifts instead to ensure that it gets used.

We had a wonderful dinner for Canadian Thanksgiving/Indigenous Peoples Day. We used our own potatoes, carrots, and beets. I cooked the chicken on a bed of leeks, butter, and white wine, and we also had cabbage cooked with a grated apple which turned out great. And of course, a pumpkin pie! I’m a bit amazed that I was able to put it all together after coming home from work! A roast chicken and vegetable dinner is on my top five favourite foods, right up there with meatballs with lingonberry jam, and a nice homemade pasta.
The tiny cobs of corn were also from the garden, the greenhouse specifically. I grew this Native American/Glass Gem corn mostly to use as decoration, and it really is beautiful albeit tiny.

I’m feeling great now that I can wear all my knitwear again, and that it’s the season of harvest and of staying in with a nice book. It suits me just perfectly! I’ll do a wrap up of everything I’ve read later this year or early next, as well as my goals for next years garden and for making and crafting.

Camping on a misty island

The forecast for this weekend promised sun, and so we decided to bring the tent and our sleeping bags to Vallay, an island off North Uist only accessible at low tide. South Uist offered brilliant sunshine, but once we passed into Benbecula the mist was heavy. North Uist was the same, but the mist wasn’t too cold so we decided to go ahead with the trip.

On the island is a great house, now in ruin, built in 1902. The only current inhabitants are the highland cattle that graze around it, but after peeking in through the windows you can imagine how grand the house must have been.

We made camp on another small island off Vallay, where the ruin of an old chapel is – this one much older than the houses and walled gardens we walked through. I had brought my wetsuit which I got second hand recently, and I was eager to use it for the first time. Unfortunately the beaches were a steep drop off, and the waves and currents were too difficult and dangerous to go into. I’ll try out the wetsuit at a more known beach instead.

Although the day and evening were misty, the night was clear. Shortly after the sun had set we walked up a small hill and witnessed a crescent moon low in the horizon, it looked like sailboat on the ocean. The moon then set too, and the stars became brighter. As we sat by the fire we could see Mars through the smoke, and Venus over our shoulder.

We were lulled to sleep by the waves, and I would have slept very well if only I had a pillow!
The following morning I read for an hour and a half while Liam snoozed. We then packed out bags and walked out to the big house. There we dropped our bags to explore. Liam went across the island while I peeked at the ruined houses before sitting on the shore with my book, watching the tide slowly go out.

Once the tide was far enough out we walked across to get back to the car. The one thing I wish I had brought with me on this quick trip was a thermos of tea, so once we got home I made up a pot and enjoyed three full cups. Next time I’ll be sure to bring it!