Decorating Autumn

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Since I’ve started making my peace with our tiny apartment, I’ve been paring down my collection of seasonal decorations. I’ve never been one for plastic decorations in the house; the pieces that get kept tend to be sturdy favorites in matreials I like to look at and touch, like wood and wool and sturdy glass. These are the items I pull out again, year after year.

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Even then I cheat. These wool pumpkins store flat, to be stuffed with whatever I have around in the fall: carrier bags, old t-shirts, summer socks.

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Nature fills in the rest. Distributing acorn squash around the house allows us to keep several on hand at any given moment, even with our tiny kitchen. I could eat them every day for the entire fall and not get tired of a well-cooked acorn squash. Perhaps it’s because they are so seasonal; you can’t get them here in the warmer months, so I revel in squashes in the fall.

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Every time I open a squash, it’s like being a kid with an enormous pumpkin again. The smell, the perfect scoop-shaped soup spoon to scrape the seeds out. The pumpkiny smell.

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Biting into an apple is just the same, a flashback to picking in the orchards at home. (Scotland is not known for its orchards.) Apples bred for long-distance grocery store shipping just don’t taste like apples, not like an utterly unshippable cox, so for the entirety of the fall season I revel in the red cheeks.

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Even in the city, there’s just enough nature to bring some inside. If I can’t cut fir branches for Christmas, the dying grasses and fallen leaves are plentiful enough for autumn.

And my orchids are blooming! NTS sure knows how to give a girl flowers. He brought these home over two years ago. This must be the second bloom for the lighter flowers, and the fifth for the fuscias.

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To be sure, I’m writing away too madly at my dissertation to devote much time to decoration (or blogging). I haven’t long now, and I’m panicking enough for any two people. But anything that takes me out-of-doors, or that offers a peaceful pace for my tired eye to rest, is a boon in these parlous times.

Colouring

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I’m still neck-deep in dissertation-writing, but the worst–the first draft–is over. As of Friday, I had dissertation leaking out my ears, to the point that I couldn’t write anything. So I gave up on writing for the weekend to enjoy Edinburgh while we were still here.

Edinburgh Castle hadn’t changed noticeably since the last time we were there, but it was sunny. I spent a fair portion of our leisurely time there ogling the art deco carvings and gargoyles of the Scottish National War Memorial. It was built in a style to harmonize with the fifteenth-century parts of the castle–you wouldn’t suspect that it was built in the twenties by the architecture. Until you see the inscription over the door, and the clean lines of the plaques and statues. I have to say, art deco gargoyles are the best. (One lion has feathered wings, the other dragony wings.)

And NTS discovered my favorite adult coloring book ever. Or should I say, my favourite colouring book?

Truth in Packaging

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Hello, Dear Reader. Fear not; the blog has not gone where good blogs go (or bad ones, either). Also, NTS and I have not died. I am in the final throes of writing my dissertation. My mental reserves are rather focused at present. But they got distracted by massive pile of meat in my refrigerator.

Like this haggis.

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You don’t often see an ingredient list that’s so very frank.

Or such a very excellent domain name for a venerable business.

Preparations

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People prepare for big events in different ways. This is especially true in a community that re-enacts lifestyles that span eight centuries, none of them recent. (Unless you’re a medieval researcher. I have been heard to absentmindedly dismiss things after 1350 as “too modern”.)

Some people hand-sew insane garb. Others brew and infuse wild concoctions. Some of us–those travelling by train with only their suitcases, perhaps–marshal our wild organizational skills.

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(The short handle and drawstring were inspired by this bag. The size, pockets, bottle loops and execution are my own design.)

Meet my feast bag. In a world where you can’t fit a basket in an overhead bin, this beauty has been on my to-do list for a long time.

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I’m not sure how a simple bag took as long as it did to sew. The french seams, reinforced pocket corners, and serging may have contributed slightly. But now it has every feature I’ve been wanting in a feast bag. Including–and this is key–the ability to pack flat.

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Yes, it has a whisky pocket. Two, in fact.

As far as garb goes, I hope my two gowns and three shifts will suffice. It’s not like I’m going to western Pennsylvania.

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Although, on that subject, you know you’re from Scotland when you look forward to visiting Wales for the warm, dry weather.

When life hands you a pile of 14th-century manuscripts…

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Writing is hard. The last few months of dissertation writing are really hard.

So usually, when settling down to some really heavy writing, I batten on to a phrase that resonates from someone who has been in the trenches and fought their way out.

Invariably, this involves colored pencils and multiple fonts.

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Words based on Gail Carriger’s.

Sometimes a person just has to art.

Sea-Stained Glass

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Over the course of college and grad school, I’ve found that the more important and intensive the research project, the more intensely I throw myself into other activities in the pauses. When I need a break, I need a really good break.

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I read a truly unreasonable amount of fiction (granted, with all the practice, I read fast, but still.)

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Sometimes I take up running. Briefly.

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This week, I wrapped all my Christmas presents to take home, sewed most of my garb for Raglan 2016, and took up the production of sea glass sun catchers.

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Post-Secondary, My Dear Watson

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I keep scaring myself of blogging with images of trolling through the glut of photos we took in Iceland, or enumerating all the things that have been keeping me from blogging. Bugger that. If you can’t write ten pages every day, write a paragraph. So here are some right-sized snippets from my life. I’m pretty sure nobody reads this blog for the cogent explanations, anyway. No use setting yourself up for that much disappointment.

1. My new summer houppelande, for Raglan

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2. A candle to lighten the darker hours of my research, as I enter the final phase of dissertating

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3. And a little something for after

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4. A great big basket of Christmas presents to take home this summer (in my signature Earth-friendly wrappings)

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5. And a hobby to keep some summer in the house when winter rolls around again (and keep me sane in the meantime)

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Food Pr0n

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The first iced coffee of the season, and a patch of sunshine to enjoy it on. Oh frabjous day!

I don’t have an instagram account. (At least, I don’t think I do. Not like that twitter account that’s theoretically open somewhere in the interwebs. Lurking beneath the surface with all of the wrecked ships, which sink to that magical depth where pressure and buoyancy cancel each other out and drift, out of sight, for time uncounted. Right next to my LiveJournal account.)

You would think, therefore, that you would be safe from pictures of other people’s lunches here at FarOuterHebrides. Today you are, technically, since this is dinner. I’m not sure that’s any indication of moral ascendancy on my part though.

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On the other hand, I really want to show off these Reubens and quasi-Rachels (Leahs?) piled with homemade sauerkraut and sauerruben (like sauerkraut, but made with julienned turnip/swede). Ascendancy be damned.

After starting sweet potatoes for dinner last night, I decided the time was ripe to check up on my sauerkraut. My last batch was terrible, I think because the cabbage wasn’t wet enough. Compounded with the fact that I’m not sure I’d ever tasted saurkraut before, except on hot dogs. This time I compensated by skipping the massaging step (it’s not like I wanted to make my sauerkraut mushier, anyway) and pouring in water until there was a good half inch of standing brine above the top layer.

Mindful of my previous failure, I had sort been ignoring the neglected ferment on my counter, hoping it would go away. Last night I finaly bit the bullet and opened it.

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BRID Does this taste like sauerkraut to you?

NTS Maybe? I’ve only had it maybe once. It’s very… mustardy.

BRID The amount of mustard seed I put in there will do that, yes. But what are we going to do with it? It’s too salty to eat on its own. I wish I had some pastrami. Like that’s going to happen here.

NTS Pulls pastrami out of the fridge.

BRID Seriously? But anyway, there’s nothing to put it on.

NTS Pulls out entire loaf of rye bread.

BRID You’ve got to be joking.

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Welcome to my home, the delicatessen of Edinburgh. Pickle?

Sauerkraut recipe and sauerruben recipe. As mentioned, I didn’t massage either of these, just mixed the veg with the appropriate amount of salt, let sit 15 minutes, packed it into jars, and covered with water to about half an inch above the top of the veg. I didn’t notice any taste difference between my first batch of sauerruben, which I duly massaged, and this unmassaged batch. Thus laziness prevails. 

Islay Whisky Rout, part 2

Islay, part 1 can be found here.

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No pictures from Caol Ila. But we did learn to pronounce it, thus putting to rest the speculation of so many parties.

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Malting (germinating) barley.

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Toddler in the smoking shed. Got to start ’em young.

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Which is not to say they’re not explicit about workplace safety.

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Malt mill.

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The holding tanks hold 8 tonnes of malted barley. Eight.

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This is just the very top of a barrel (the mash tun) that goes down a good story and a half below the slat platform.

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The yeast doing its work in the giant mash tun. The yeast turn the sugar water, made from soaking the ground malted barley in hot water, into a sort of beer. It would be refreshing if cold, but it leaves a weird aftertaste; it’s definitely not for drinking at this stage.

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This guy, on the other hand, is all for drinking.

Bowmore whiskies are delicious. Some tasting notes (mine, not the ones on the boxes):

Bowmore 12
– smooth and very rich
– delicious for evening sipping

Distillery Strength, 13 year
– rich & very strong
– excellent finish, lingers for a long time
– great for really slow sipping

Tempest 10 year
– light & grassy, light oak leaf notes (like Cairn O’Mohr oak leaf wine)
– tastes like spring, like germinating barley & young grass