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Scottish Christmas Remembered

December 22, 2014 by Susan

At this time of year many of us pause to remember Christmases past. Do you remember receiving a special dress your mother made for you, or a the doll you were wishing for, or a new book by your favourite author (and you still have that book today)?  Perhaps you received a model train or Meccano set. Did you attend a Pantomime or the Nutcracker during the Christmas season? Do you remember hot cocoa with marshmallows and special baked goods on Christmas morning? Or perhaps a big family dinner after the presents were opened, did it feature ham, turkey, tourtière or haggis?

One of the fondest memories people have of this special season is of food, we bake (and eat!) cookies and special cakes, we bring out the eggnog, peppermint candy canes, ribbon candy, and oranges for the stockings. We prepare special meals and we invite friends to join us around the table. Food traditions are a big part of this season.

In Scotland Christmas Day didn’t become a public holiday until 1958, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) was, and still is, the big public holiday. Today as Christmas approaches, the winter days are short, with sunrise about 8:30 in the morning and dark skies again at about 3:30 in the afternoon so Christmas celebrations help to brighten up the long wintry evenings. A fire is set in the sitting room, the drapes are pulled against the darkness of the evening and in the kitchen a flurry of activity takes place as mincemeat pies are popped into the oven, fruit cake with thick marzipan icing is wrapped for giving to neighbours, and  preparations are made for the Christmas evening feast. Particular consideration is given to pudding (the general name for desserts of all kinds), would it be Sherry Trifle, Clootie Dumpling or perhaps Dundee Cake? Hmmm, this year for a memorable pudding, let’s try Cranachan, a lovely, creamy fruit and oat creation.

At West Hill House B&B this Christmas Dinner our guests will enjoy this scrumptious ‘pudding’ made following recipe I have used and adapted from the BBC Good Food. The number of servings depends on the size of the presentation glass but I’d say about 4 servings. The recipe is fairly happy to be adjusted according to your taste.

Ingredients:

Creamy and crunchy at the same time.

Creamy and crunchy at the same time.

  • 3T  original rolled oats (not instant oatmeal)
  • 1 cup of whole raspberries, blueberries or strawberries,
  • 1 t. white sugar (optional)
  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream, whipped  or Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 T. good whisky
  • 3 T. honey, lavender honey is especially nice

Putting this together should take about 15 minutes.

Place the oatmeal on a jelly roll pan under the broiler and toast until it smells nutty. This may happen very quickly so keep a careful eye and nose on what’s going on in the oven.

Remove from the oven and cool the oatmeal on the pan.

Take about 1/3 to 1/2 of the berries and puree them, adding the white sugar if needed for sweetness.

Whip the heavy cream while slowly adding the whisky until the cream will hold a peak. Be careful not to over whip. If you are using Greek yogurt instead of cream, carefully stir the whisky into the yogurt.

Fold in the oatmeal until it is nicely mixed.

Present in clear glass dessert dishes alternating layers of the cream mixture with the whole and pureed berries.

Drizzle the top with the honey.

Cool for a few minutes prior to serving.

Where ever you are on Christmas day, what ever your Christmas meal, may you be around a table with special friends and wish them, as we wish you, Merry Christmas and all the best for the coming year.

 

 

 

 

National Parks Week April 21-29

May 21, 2012 by Peter MacLaren

In Vermont we are proud of our woodlands, our mountains and our waterways. In fact, the mission of our Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is to practice and encourage a high quality of stewardship of Vermont’s environment by managing forests for sustainable use and by providing and promoting opportunities for compatible outdoor recreation. This mission echos the concern for the environment expressed by John Muir in the late 1800′s as he explored the vast magnificence of the natural wonders of the US west.

John Muir, a Scottish born American naturalist was an early advocate of the preservation of the American wilderness. His many writings tell of his adventures in nature and especially his love of the Sierra Nevada. An outspoken supporter and active defender of  nature preservation,  his enthusiasm for nature was boundless.

An early advocate of the idea of national parks, Muir petitioned the US Congress to pass the Nation Park bill which, when passed in 1890, brought about the creation of both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Today the name John Muir graces numerous trails, glaciers, camp-grounds and monuments in national park lands. Founded by Muir, The Sierra Club continues to be one of the most active and important conservation groups today.

If you watched the Ken Burns documentary on the National Parks you will remember the first part focuses on the life of John Muir.

Today in the United States, this Scottish born naturalist is referred to as the “Father of the National Parks”. Thank a Scot and go out and enjoy a national park this week.  April 21-29 is National Parks Week.

Father of the National Parks John Muir

“Father of the National Parks” John Muir April 21, 1838- December 24, 1914

 

National Tartan Day – in Boston

April 7, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

Peter in his MacLaren tartan kilt

Peter getting ready for Tartan Day

In 1998 National Tartan Day was officially recognized on a permanent basis when the U.S. Senate passed Global Scot, an organization that seeks to develop and expand Scotland’s standing in the global business community by utilising the talents of leading Scots, and of people with an affinity for Scotland, to establish a worldwide network of individuals who are outstanding in their field.

The occasion was very enjoyable and provided one of the rare opportunities for Peter to wear his kilt. It also transpired that the Consul is a Sugarbush skier so we are hoping to return the hospitality at West Hill House one of these days!

Links!

January 10, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

In addition to telling almost everything we can think about regarding West Hill House and the surrounding area, our website also has some useful links to other travel information.

Check these out for information on other B&Bs around the US and Canada that we can personally recommend, and for information about Scotland.

Almost every guest at West Hill House asks Peter about planning a visit to Scotland, or reminisces about visits already made. If you are interested in Scotland the links provide a good intro to helpful information and photos, but come and stay with us to talk some more…

The photo is of the famous Loch Ness. Click on it to be transported to Scotland!

Scotland 2009

August 11, 2009 by Peter MacLaren

Rob Roy's cave

Rob Roy's cave

Crathie Castle

Crathie Castle

Dundee City Center

Dundee City Center

Falkland Palace Gardens

Falkland Palace Gardens

Falkirk Wheel profile

Falkirk Wheel profile

Falkirk Wheel rotating

Falkirk Wheel rotating

It is Homecoming Year in Scotland in 2009, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the famed poet Robert Burns who was born in 1759. We took our first holiday since opening the B&B and spent 10 days visiting in July, mainly to see friends and family, but also to do some exploring. Here are some highlights:

  • A boat trip on the north end of Loch Lomond out of Tarbet.  Most visitors to Scotland’s largest loch tour the south end which has its own beauty, but the north end is more fiord like and quite awe inspiring, particularly on a cloudy day when the hills tower into the dark sky. This is Rob Roy country!
  • Royal Deeside is always spectacular, with its gorgeous vistas and many restored castles to visit. We dropped in at Drum Castle and Crathie Castle, both run by the National Trust for Scotland.  The gardens at Crathie are quite spectacular.
  • A city we have not visited before is Dundee.  The whole center of the city is now a beautiful pedestrian area with a huge selection of shops, cafés and restaurants.  Well worth stopping and spending a couple of hours just walking around. The area is surrounded by lots of multi-story parking.
  • A hidden gem in Fife, just south of St Andrews which is where most people go, is Falkland.  The Falkland Palace which dates to Mary Queen of Scots time is well worth a visit – also National Trust – again with beautiful gardens and one of the few catholic chapels that survived the purges of the Scottish Reformation. The surprise was the gorgeous village itself.  Every building is immaculate and there are flowers everywhere. The village even has a huge parking area hidden out of sight on a side road, which is a plus as many small towns in Scotland have limited parking.
  • And the highlight of our visit this year was the Falkirk Wheel which is a rotating boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. It is named after the nearby town of Falkirk in central Scotland. The two canals were previously connected by a series of 11 locks.
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