Historic Castle Series: Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Entrance to Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan’s History

The name Eilean Donan means island of Donan. It was most likely named after the 6th century Irish Saint, Bishop Donan, who came to Scotland around 580 AD. There are several churches dedicated to Donan in the area and he could have formed a small cell or community on the island during the late 7th century.

View from Castle

The first fortified structure was built in the 13th century as a defensive measure, protecting the lands of Kintail between 800 & 1266 against the Vikings who controlled, raided and settled much of Northern Scotland and the Western Isles. From the mid 13th century on, the sea became the main highway with the power of the feuding clan chiefs in this “Sea Kingdom” of the Lord of the Isles. Eilean Donan offered the perfect defensive position.

The castle has changed size over the centuries. The largest was the medieval castle, with towers and a curtain wall that encompassed nearly the entire island. The main keep stood on the island’s highest point. By the end of the 14th century, the castle area was reduced to a fifth of its original size. This was due to the number of men required to defend the castle. Canons were introduced by the 16th century on a hornwork firing platform added to the east wall.

The Jacobite Risings in Scotland

Outside Castle

Eilean Donan also played a role in the Jacobite risings of the 17th and 18th centuries which resulted in the castle’s destruction.

In 1719 the castle was garrisoned by 46 Spanish soldiers who were supporting the Jacobites. They had established a magazine of gunpowder, and were awaiting the delivery of weapons and cannon from Spain. The English Government discovered the intended uprising and sent three heavily armed frigates The Flamborough, The Worcester, and The Enterprise to the area. The castle was bombarded for 3 days with limited success due to the enormous thick castle walls which were up to 14 feet thick in some places.

Finally, Captain Herdman of The Enterprise sent his men ashore and overwhelmed the Spanish defenders. Following the surrender, the government troops discovered the magazine of 343 barrels of gunpowder which was then used to blow up what had remained from the bombardment.

Eilean Donan

For 200 years, the ruins of Eilean Donan lay neglected and abandoned. Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911. Along with his Clerk of Works, Farquar Macrae, he dedicated the next 20 years of his life to the reconstruction of Eilean Donan, restoring her to her former glory. The castle was rebuilt according to the surviving ground plan of earlier phases and was formally completed in the July of 1932.

Eilean Donan Today

Eilean Donan has starred in many films including:

Bonnie Prince Charlie starring David Niven (1948)
The Master of Ballantreee starring Errol Flynn (1953)
The New Avengers (1976)
Highlander (1986)
Loch Ness (1996)
James Bond – The World is Not Enough (1999)

A more recent movie was Made of Honour, a romantic comedy from 2008 starring Patrick Dempsey & Michelle Monaghan.

Wedding at Eileen Donan

Besides movies, weddings are popular at the Castle. It’s well worth a visit if you are planning a trip to Scotland!

Al and I in front of Castle

Historic Castle Series: Inverary Castle, Scotland

Inverary Castle
Front Entrance Hallway to Inverary Castle

A Visit to Inverary Castle

Inverary Castle is located in Argyll, Scotland. It is the home of the 13th Duke of Argyll, Sir Torquhil Ian Campbell, his wife Eleanor and their family. The castle has played a major part in Scottish and British history. The displays inside the castle show how the family lived over many generations.

Welcome to Inverary Castle

The Front Entranceway

Hallway with Rifle Display

The most fascinating part of the entrance hallway, besides being so tall, is that there is a circular rifle display on the wall which is stunning.

Inside the Castle

Amazing Room Displays

Imagine living in a castle! Better yet, having to maintain all the furniture and the building itself.

The Dining Room and the China Display were fascinating. The china has been used at the castle over the generations of the Campbell Clan.

China Cabinet
The magnificent Dining Room
Inside the Kitchen

The Castle Gardens

The Castle In May

Visitors can walk around the gardens which are beautiful and well cared for.

Gardens on my visit

Inverary Castle is well worth a visit in Scotland. Further information is at:

https://www.inveraray-castle.com/

6 Facts About Cream Teas That You Didn’t Know!

A cream tea – Cornish or Devon?

It does seem like everyone drinks a large amount of coffee. However, tea is still popular too. My British parents drank tea with milk daily. Coffee wasn’t in our house as tea was the way to go! I always remember my mother, who lived through WW2, saying that she had to give up sugar in her tea, then milk and also get used to plain tea. She was so thankful when she could finally have milk back in her tea. One thing she never had was cream in her tea!

Cornish Cream Tea

What is a Cream Tea?

If you visit Victoria, you will have the chance for afternoon tea in various restaurants from the Oak Bay Tearoom, Butchart Gardens and even the Empress Hotel. Afternoon tea was introduced to England, in the year 1840, by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. She would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, which left a long period of time between lunch and dinner, so the afternoon tea was born. Others liked the idea and, before she knew it, the afternoon tea had become all the rage which included tea, dainty sandwiches and scones with cream and jam. Cream tea became part of the afternoon tea as well.

Cornish Cream Tea with Scones, Jam and Clotted Cream

Devon or Cornish – Which Is The Best Way?

Tea with scones and jam in Cornwall

What is the Difference?

Definitions:

The traditional cream tea, also referred to as Devonshire cream tea, is a specialty of Cornwall and Devon in England where a pot of tea is served with scones, clotted cream and jam. The scone is a single-serving unsweetened cake, with typical ingredients of flour, butter and milk. Clotted cream is a smooth, thick cream traditionally made in Devon and Cornwall. Unpasteurized cow’s milk is heated and left in a shallow pan for many hours which causes the cream to rise to the surface and “clot”.

Devon Cream Teas

The cream is like the butter. You wouldn’t put butter on jam.

Jam was expensive so you only needed a small amount on top.

You can get more cream if you place it on the scone first!

Devon Cream Tea

Cornish Cream Teas

It’s easier to spread with the cream on top and jam on the bottom of the scone.

You can taste the cream better on top!

You wouldn’t put cream on the bottom of a fruit salad.

Cornish Cream Tea

It Doesn’t Matter!

The main thing is to enjoy the cream tea or afternoon tea and use the cream and jam whichever way you like!

Afternoon Tea at Butchart Gardens in Victoria

I will be including a recipe for scones in my upcoming cookbook.

Food Safety Makes Sense

In my former career, I was a public health inspector/environmental health officer and ran my own business called Enviro-Food Consulting. I trained a large number of restaurant and foodservice workers on food safety techniques. One of my future projects is a blog book based on my last blog called Food Safety Makes Sense.

The public forgets that food poisoning cases are happening worldwide and are preventable. It makes sense for us to remember that food safety is important to all of us.

The Attitudes of Food Service Workers

I have taught many groups of workers from teens to seniors. The most interesting point to remember is that food safety is not treated seriously. Working in a restaurant is thought of as just another job. Management is not always supportive. If workers notice that management doesn’t take an interest in them, they are not concerned about food safety. That means sanitizing isn’t done carefully, hands are wiped not washed, and dirty cloths are not replaced. Sanitizing needs to be taken seriously.

Cappucino

Food Prepared & Purchased in A Typical Day

If you think about your typical day, many of us consume food made at home or nowadays may enjoy a takeout item including drinks such as coffee. We all forget how much we depend on the food supply chain to provide us with safe food to eat which won’t make us ill. Many cases of foodborne illness are not reported as symptoms tend to mimic the flu. There are times when you may not have had the flu but food poisoning instead.

Breakfast Egg Sandwich

Consider The Following Points

For example, if you had an egg sandwich for breakfast in a restaurant, do you consider the following points?

  1. How old is the egg that was used to make the sandwich?

2. Did the food handler preparing the sandwich wash his/her hands before preparing the sandwich?

3. Was the egg cooked properly to the correct temperature?

4. Was there any cross-contamination with other menu items being prepared on the grill or at the same time?

Food Handler Washing Hands
  1. Was the handwashing done properly not just using a shot of hand sanitizer? Hand sanitizers are wonderful when sinks with hot and cold water are not available. However, in a restaurant kitchen, there is a designated hand basin to use. Handwashing with hot or warm water and liquid soap sanitizes hands most effectively.
  2. Was the work area sanitized? This should be done with an approved sanitizer in a spray bottle and clean cloth. If the cloth is dirty, contaminants will be spread around the surfaces.
  3. Was the sandwich cooked to the proper temperature?
  4. Is the purchased sandwich hot, lukewarm or even cold? Uneven temperatures mean the food is in the Danger Zone where various food poisoning organisms can grow.

Do You Still Want to Eat the Egg Sandwich?

After thinking about all these points, do you still want to eat the egg sandwich?

Food safety affects us all though we take this for granted even in the pandemic! Food safety does make sense.

More Breakfast Food

What Is The Inspiration for a Character in a Book?

What is the inspiration for a character when writing a book? Inspiration can take many forms and ends up providing the author with characters that can be used in the book being written.

Inspiration Helps Authors with Book Titles

What Inspires the Name of a Character?

When I first started thinking of ideas for my children’s book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles, I took inspiration from my own children to create the characters. My daughter loved fairies when she was very young so that provided me with the idea for four fairies. Adventures are always fun when you are a child so the idea that the fairies had to go on an adventure was born. Then, the names came easily as I chose names of her friends from elementary school. Now there are three books in the series. The names in Book 3 – The Fairy Hollow Gold Treasure Adventure came from a few relatives including a great niece and nephew! With pirates names such as Captain Bootlace Bill, Lightning Lance and Notorious Nigel, who can resist finding out where the gold treasure is with their help?

Characters from Book 3 The Fairy Hollow Gold Treasure Adventure

What Should Characters Wear?

Authors need to describe their characters. In The Fairy Hollow Chronicles, the four fairies are tiny so it was easy to have them dressed in ballerina tutus with their hair in buns. Ballerinas always wear buns. Young girls who take ballet enjoy wearing the tutus and having their hair in buns. The mayor in the book needed to be in a suit as he means business. The idea for the toad came from various stories I read as a child and also the toad character fits the mayor character perfectly.

The four fairies in tutus from Book 1 – The Fairy Hollow Chronicles
Character of Mayor Dayle from The Fairy Hollow Chronicles

For my future book on my Mother’s work with Canadian soldiers during WW2, I can draw inspiration from the photo below which shows her dining out with friends in Vancouver. Three women drinking coffee or tea and eating pastries while smiling with their hats on! The hats are quite fascinating and also all appear to be wearing dresses. All these clues help an author when writing a story to place the characters at a specific period in time. This photo was taken on my Mother’s arrival in Vancouver after the war ended and she had volunteered at the Beaver Club in London. This photo will help me decide on the ending of the book!

My mother having tea with two friends.

Photographs

Ideas for other books that I am writing came from photographs. Sometimes a photograph can inspire an author to write a story based on what might be happening in that photo. The photos from WW2 in England are an inspiration and ask me to write about what the young men and women in the photos are laughing about, worried about, thinking about and how the war affected them. As the daughter of parents who went through WW2, I am intrigued to include in my book these points to round out my characters.

My mother and her friend in 1935 – A photograph for inspiration – What is going on in this photo?

Inspiration is the Summary of Many Ideas

The inspiration for characters in a book comes from everything including family, friends, photos, artwork, current fashion, and the author’s imagination. By using all these ideas, the characters come to life which makes enjoyable reading for all of us.

Opportunities for Young Women in WW2 in England

Women today do not know how far we have come. It wasn’t that long ago that women were raised to get married and that was it. No career was to be considered. Not even university. Here are some points I discovered while doing the research for my book.

A Job in London


While researching my book Olive’s Obsession based on Olive working at the Beaver Club in London during the war, I have found that there were not many choices for young women. Olive, who in real life was my mother, went to Pitman’s College in London to learn shorthand. She then went on to learn typing and worked as a secretary for such amazing companies as Quaker Oats and the EverReady Battery Company. The Ever Ready Battery Company got bombed during the war and very fortunately all the staff were gone as it was night time so no one lost their lives.

Life in London

Olive and her friend in London in WW2

My Mother always said that she was in London working but did not see a lot of war going on. She maybe said that so that we, my sister and I, growing up would not think she had suffered. They all suffered severely especially with the bomb shelters being in the tube at any hour when the alarm sounded. Also, the lack of food and rationing books that had to be presented when purchasing food. Everything was for the war effort.

Voluntary Work in the Red Cross

Volunteers in the Red Cross

What Were Your Opportunities?

As for the opportunities, you were either a teacher, nurse or secretary. You were expected to marry young otherwise you were considered an “old maid” which many dreaded. If you were a member of the aristocracy, then you were expected to marry high up. No career was in the cards for you. That explains why volunteer work became popular with the aristocracy as they were appearing to do good for the lower classes. The class system existed in Great Britain at the time.

Ladies Having Tea in London

Life has changed for women since the events of World War II thankfully. It is not necessary to only get married or have just a few careers to choose from such as nurse or teacher. I am finding previous correspondence written by my mother which details what she and her friends were experiencing during and after the war. More to follow as I delve into the Beaver Log and other writings from this time!

Children’s Books Mean So Much

Children’s books are meant to challenge their imaginations, provide stories they can relate to and improve their literacy. Books can accomplish this in many ways and promote a life-long love of reading.

Illustrations Are Important

A young reader with the first book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles

As a children’s book author, I know how important it is to have illustrations with the story. The story comes alive when children see the characters which ignite their curiosity. Movies and videos for kids don’t always allow them to use their imaginations. Imagination is a powerful tool and helps the child create or use their mind to imagine what could be or what the characters could do.

The third book in the series The Fairy Hollow Chronicles – The Fairy Hollow Gold Treasure Adventure

In my Fairy Hollow Chronicles series, my illustrator, Barbara Warwick, used vivid colors and attention to detail to bring the characters to life. What children see on the above book cover are three pirates. However, look at the details which bring them to life. The Captain has a sword and a skull and crossbones on his cap. The second pirate is tall with a black eye patch cover over his eye and is barefoot! The cat looks interesting with the tiny pirates hat on the cat’s head! The third pirate is wearing the large gold buckle on his belt, high top boots and a black eye patch cover on his right eye. Now the reader has a visual description of what the characters look like which helps to understand the story.

Writer’s Tool Kit

Writers of children’s books really need to appeal to children and can do so by challenging their imagination and use of descriptive words. Books can have simple wording or use more complex phrases again to challenge the child’s mind. One tool for the children’s book author is the use of colorful illustrations. Children are fascinated by different color images. In the story above, the child is not just walking down a path but is wearing bright-colored shoes, pink overalls, with flowers, her pet dog and cat, her doll and last of all her baby brother all in the same scene. There is a lot going on in this scene. The reader can discuss with the child when reading the book together which is what the author had in mind.

Stories That Children Can Relate To

Rupert Bear in his famous yearly annual for children

Happy Endings

Children like stories with happy endings. With Rupert, children can look at the world of adventure and fun through different animals who are dressed in brightly colored clothing. These animals would not be like this in real life. However, the characters are helpful to children to think about the world they live in and their friends and family in a different light. They will want to join Rupert and his friends on adventures too!

Sally with her children’s book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles illustrated by Barbie Warwick

The Best Part

By making children’s books colorful, interesting, challenging and fun to read, children are off to a great start in the world of books. They will enjoy reading as they get older and venture into longer books with no illustrations. Most importantly, children’s books help children begin their journey into literacy which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Another young reader with her Grandma reading The Fairy Hollow Chronicles!

Back To School Lunch Safety

Safely Prepared Lunches Are Important

I always get asked questions on children’s school lunches. Parents ask if lunches are not refrigerated, how can they be safe? Of course, most of us attended school and didn’t have insulated lunch boxes or ice gel packs and did not become ill. However, there are some steps to take that will help reduce the risk of food poisoning and provide a safe lunch.

Here are safety tips for parents:

Temperature Control

** When preparing sandwiches, use either frozen bread or refrigerate the night before. Otherwise, pack with cold drinks, a frozen juice box or an ice pack in an insulated lunch box and that will keep food cool enough until lunch time.

Sandwich

** Remind children to throw away perishable leftovers and recycle packaging when possible. Use individual containers and don’t re-use food packaging as this increases the risk of cross-contamination. As allergies are an increasing concern with children, any re-used packaging could contain an allergen, eg. peanut butter, which can be placed onto another food, eg. cheese, causing an allergic reaction.

** Wash all fruits and vegetables with tap water and then dry with paper towel before adding to the lunch box.

** Insulated bottles can also be used to keep hot food out of the temperature danger zone. Fill the bottle first with boiling water, empty and fill with the hot food.

Sandwich & Salad

** Most importantly, wash your hands before preparing your child’s lunch.

Stay on the Right Track

School lunches safety prepared will help children start back to school safely and ensure a great start to the new school year!

Tips for Food Safety at Easter

Easter Foods

Easter is a wonderful time of year when we gather and share a meal or hunt for Easter eggs! As it is raining this weekend, many Easter egg hunts will be inside!

Safe Preparation

Egg Safety

I remember dying eggs as a child and watching the changing colors. Another fun thing to do was an Easter Egg roll where hard-boiled eggs were painted and rolled down the kitchen floor. Not very food safe for sure!

When working with eggs for a meal or for decorating, do not let them sit out at room temperature for more than two hours.

Remember to keep hard-cooked eggs in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

All cooked egg dishes should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 74 C as measured by a food thermometer.

If you plan to eat the Easter eggs you decorate, then be sure to use only food-grade dye. One suggestion is to make two sets of eggs. Children can decorate and hide one set and the other can be saved for eating. You can also use plastic eggs for your Easter egg hunt.

Main Meals

Traditional Foods

If you are serving ham or poultry this Easter, here are some important tips for safe preparation.

Easter Hams

Ham is a popular meat for the Easter table. Different types of ham require different preparation methods. Ham is either ready-to-eat or requires cooking before eating. Be sure to read the package instructions carefully.

  • Fresh, uncooked hams must be cooked to reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 74C.
  • Ready-to-eat hams are cooked at the plant and can be safely eaten right out of the package and can be served cold or heated to serve warm.

Chicken & Turkey

Properly defrost the poultry in the refrigerator or in a sink with cold water.

Prepare the poultry for cooking. Either place the stuffing inside the bird before placing in the oven OR cook the stuffing separately. The stuffing acts as a sponge and can hold in bacteria such as Salmonella if not cooked properly.

Cool the poultry after serving and cut into smaller pieces and place in the refrigerator.

Do not use the same plate for raw poultry and cooked poultry. Keep raw and cooked utensils separate.

Easter Display

Happy Easter!

Have a wonderful Easter safe meal whichever foods you choose to serve!

6 Tips To Reduce Produce Food Costs

Salad Greens

We are all feeling the inflation rise with higher prices for fruits and vegetables.

What Can You Do?

Fresh Strawberries

Here are some tips to help you make wise decisions when buying these items and also help you keep produce safe.

Choose Quality

It’s best to choose produce that is not damaged or bruised.

When buying pre-cut, bagged or packaged produce, such as salad greens or half a cantaloupe, check that the produce is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

Bagged Kale Slaw

Store Safely

Most of us know to always store fresh fruits and vegetables separately from raw meats, poultry and seafood when taking groceries home from the store. There was a case of raw blood from a torn hamburger meat package dripping onto raw salad greens which caused an outbreak of E. Coli! This was preventable if the vegetables and raw meat had been packed separately at the grocery store.

Separate For Safety

Use separate cutting boards for produce, raw meat, poultry & seafood

It’s very important to keep raw fruits and vegetables separate from raw meats and seafood, and also to use separate kitchen utensils for these items. When finished with food preparation, always wash the knives and cutting boards in hot soapy water or the dishwasher.

Saving Money

Raw Carrots

Tips To Follow

You can save money on produce with these helpful tips:

*Buy produce which is cold and refrigerate immediately when home.

*Use clean and sanitary utensils for food preparation.

*Cut away damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating.

*Do not wash fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent or a commercial produce wash as these steps are not effective.

*Even if you do not plan to eat the skin of fruits and vegetables, wash with water first to prevent dirt and bacteria transferring from the surface when peeling or cutting.

*Use a clean produce brush to scrub firm produce with water such as melons and cucumbers which will also remove surface contaminants.

Salad with a meal

By following these tips, you will reduce produce wastage and reduce your food costs!