It's been quiet round here over the past month or so, but I've not been slacking (honest). Since Lùnastal and the kids going back to school shortly after, I've been concentrating on writing and doing the odd job here and there, and – unfortunately but not surprisingly – dealing with back problems again. It's officially been a year since I had surgery and I had a good run but I was never going to be totally pain or problem free. Ah well.
With the kids back at school, so comes the homework and the projects they'll concentrate on for the term, and it's ended up being a happy coincidence. Much to their delight they're both doing their favourite subject respectively – Rosie is doing "Under the Sea" (she desperately wants to be a mermaid), while Tom is doing "Space." For his birthday just over a week ago he asked for a telescope and a microscope, "Because space is AWESOME and so are small things," he said. So the in-laws obliged with the telescope and we got him the microscope, and an unnecessary amount of Lego Technic, along with a trip to the Glasgow Science Centre, which was equally AWESOME. Unfortunately it's rained pretty solidly ever since his birthday so the telescope hasn't seen much use yet, but it looks like next week might improve.
For Rosie's part, she's loving every minute of her school project and is becoming increasingly worried about the well-being of sea creatures – especially as far as pollution is concerned. So after hearing at length about all the kinds of things fish or birds might get stuck in "and they might die, mum, they might die," I suggested that maybe we should go to the beach and pick up some rubbish if the weather was up to it this weekend.
It so happened that this weekend was also some kind of national beach clean up day, and we could've gone to a local beach and joined a group of volunteers, but that was too far away to walk and Mr Seren is away working. A bit of community spirit would've been nice, but the local beach it was. We took the dogs with us, some carrier bags, and some snacks, and we went "fishing for brambles" along the way and got a good stash. I think this is officially Rosie's most favourite time of year because FREE FRUIT MUM, and every day, when we come home from school, we have to stop and "fish" for blackberries in the bushes along the way. It is the bestest thing ever, when you're six, although it's very important to leave enough for the birds, isn't it mum?
Once we got to the beach and the kids had refuelled, we put our gloves on and set to work. My back wasn't up to much but I managed to fill a bag. Tom was more interested in the rocks, to be honest, but he filled a bag too. Rosie was by far the most enthusiastic in the litter-picking, and she ended up filling two bags. We didn't find anything too untoward on the beach – a bunch of bottles that were mostly still full of juice, empty cans of beer, bottle caps, wrappers, and bits of plastic:
We would've got more had I been up to it, but it's a start.
The seaweed is dying off now and coming to the shore in heaps – helped by a recent storm, I'm sure:
Manannán's having an autumnal clearout.
Before we left we made some equinox offerings to the spirits of the beach, and to Manannán out at sea. We left some of the blackberries for him, along with some bits I'd brought with us from home, and built a wee cairn as we usually do, and set off back home, only stopping to dump our rubbish at the first bin we came to. Rosie insisted she carry some bags "to be helpful" and Tom gallantly took charge of Mungo.
Back at home, I realised I was out of oatmeal to make the kind of bannock I usually do, and so instead of a more seasonally appropriate struthan, I decided to try out a recipe from Skye that was shared by one of the members on the Gaelic Polytheism group; it's pretty similar to the struthan, but sweeter (I didn't put the coating on because I didn't have enough golden syrup, but I don't think it needed it, really). I blessed it as I made it and added some blackberries to the dough, and then bunged it in the oven, and:
It turned out pretty well for a first go! Although I'm not quite sure why some of the berries tried to make a break for it. The berries were a little wet so the dough went a bit slimy and I had to apply more flour, and my oven was a little too hot so the inside very nearly didn't cook properly (although traditional recipes tend to prefer "well-fired" baked goods, so it was probably about right. "Well-fired" translates as "burnt" to you and me – so if you ever burn anything in future, just say it's cooked to a traditional Scottish recipe), so it's a bit browner than I would normally do it, but the blackberries were a very tasty addition. Next time I might add a little mixed spice to compliment the berries, but once it was cooked I tried a bit with butter and then a bit with jam and they were both equally delicious. The kids had them for pudding after dinner and really enjoyed them, so we'll definitely be having them again. We had a quarter each and the final quarter (the one with the berries that tried to escape) went out as an offering.
I hadn't really intended to do much for the festival, and I usually celebrate it on the day of Là Fhèill Mìcheil itself (the 25th), but our trip to the beach kind of meant it made sense to just go with it. And thoughts are turning to Samhainn already, mainly because the shops are already full of festive sweets and the kids are getting all excited. The Hallowe'en buckets are ready. Rosie wants to dress up as a meerkat. Don't ask me why; I have no clue.