O Caledonia

by Elspeth Barker –¬†1991

At the bottom of a great stone staircase, dressed in her mother’s black lace evening dress, twisted in murderous death, lies Janet. So end the sixteen years of Janet’s short life.

A life spent in a droughty Scottish Castle, where roses will not grow, and a jackdaw decides to live in the doll’s house.

A life peopled by prettier, smoother-haired siblings, a many with a face like the North Sea and the peculiar, whisky-swigging Cousin Lila

A life where Janet is perpetually misunderstood – and must turn from people, to animals, to books, to her own wild and wonderful imagination.

The ‘praises’ for this book and Maggie O’Farrell’s introduction really had me excited about this book! And Ms. Barker’s way with words is nice…

‘Winter descended on the glen; in mid-October came the first thin fall of snow, gone an hour later in the wet wind. the deer ventured down from the hills at dusk, tawny owls shrieked as they hunted through the darkness and shooting stars fled across the night sky. Leafless, the beeches and ashes shivered; the grass was parched with cold; pine and monkey-puzzle stood black and dominant. Only the red earth of the hill tracks retained its color; the puddles looked like pools of blood.

Of all the seasons this was the one Janet loved most.’

But the story was so mean! I just couldn’t like it. At all. Poor Janet. Maybe I missed something vital, but I found no satisfaction in this reading of any kind. Have any of you read it? Can you shine some light on what I missed?

On to something I’m sure I’ll like, a Janet McNeill book, The Maiden Dinosaur.

Collops of Beef

Katrina sent me home with a cute little cookbook, Favorite Scottish Recipes Traditional Caledonian Fare. I have several pages¬†marked that I want to make. Collops of Beef is the first one I’ve tried. I did make Cranachan after my first trip to Scotland, but Katrina sent me a link to a recipe for that on the BBC website. The same recipe is in this book. A delicious dessert! I’ll add that recipe at the end of this post, back to the beef…

Collops of Beef

1 1/2 lb. piece of braising steak, sliced into 4 pieces
1 onion, chopped
6 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
2 oz. butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bayleaf (optional)
3/4 pint beef stock

Set oven to 350* or Mark 4. Mix the flour with the salt and pepper. Coat the beef slices with seasoned flour. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Fry the collops for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside. Gently fry the onion and the mushrooms. Put the onion and mushrooms and a bayleaf (if desired) into a casserole. Lay the collops on top. Pour in the stock, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Serve with buttered mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. Rowan or redcurrant jelly goes well with this dish. Serves 4.

FullSizeRender-4This is before I added the beef stock. I did use a bayleaf. I would cook it for a half hour more next time. Love the art work!

FullSizeRender-3Finished product. We didn’t have a green vegetable though, a rather bland looking plate but it was delicious! The flavor was fantastic, I could have licked my plate!


1 pint double cream
3 tablespoons clear honey (heather honey is best)
3 tablespoons whisky
4 tablespoons thick, plain youghurt
1 oz. fine oatmeal
6 oz. raspberries

Toast the oatmeal in a pan under a hot grill until golden. Set aside to cool. Put the cream, honey and whisky in a bowl and whip together until it forms peaks. Fold in the yoghurt. Spoon the mixture into a serving dish and chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Before serving, sprinkle the oatmeal over the mixture and pile the raspberries in the centre. Serves 6.

Ideally Cranachan should be made with Crowd, a soft Scottish cheese but yoghurt makes a good substitute.

This wasn’t sweet enough for Bossman’s American tastebuds, but I loved it.


Abernethy and a Very Old Pictish Tower

A short stop in Abernethy to look at the Pictish Round Tower. One of only two left. We didn’t climb to the top, but you can! This tower was thought to have been built around 1100. Click on the link above for a look around the website for this tower!

Abernethy is a very ancient town, thought to date back over 2,000 years ago! We didn’t mooch around it much, really just stopped in to show me the tower. You can read about the town HERE.

This churches The Kirk of St. Bride and it was dedicated in 457 AD!
A monkey puzzle tree

This stone is dated to around 600 and was found on the foundation of a home and moved here to the tower last century. Pretty amazing to be around things so old!

And on my last evening in Scotland it gave me a double rainbow as a going away gift!

And that’s it for this trip! Maybe, if I’m lucky, there will be another one!

Stay tuned for Panama Beach Florida next! That’s where I am this week.

Peggy Ann

Balmerino Abbey

After a lovely visit with James Oswald and his partner, Barbara we rode over to roam around Balmerino Abbey and the little village of Balmerino. Gorgeous area.

Tradition claims that this Spanish Chestnut was planted by Queen Ermengarde at the foundation of the abbey in 1229. However the National Trust for Scotland has taken core borings which indicate that it is between 400 and 435 years old. It has props all over to hold up its old branches!

This is just a ruin along the road not far from James Oswald’s farm. He told me it was the ruins of Ballinbreich Castle, once home to the Leslie family IIRC.  The big house behind it across the Tay is Errol Park

Kenmore, Scotland

We drove through Kenmore on the way home from our trip to the Highlands. It was a surprise, a gem. Too bad we didn’t have time to put it on our list of places to explore. It’s a 16th century village and the Kenmore Hotel is the oldest Inn in Scotland. I’d love to get a chance to sleep there! If I’m remembering right it was built in the 1600’s and has been a continuously operating Inn since. 
These are just a few photos as we drove along.
This one is where they were doing some logging. They plant acres of trees for logging all over the hills. And in the water is a small fish farm. You see this type of scene all over Scotland.