Hardly past the door – 20 January 2021

Well, actually I was out today. I took the bins out tonight, but that was it.

It was such a dull depressing day and then it started raining. Last night it snowed, just as we were going to bed, but you wouldn’t have known it this morning. The thinnest scraping of snow on the cars was all that remained of the fluffy flakes that were falling just before midnight last night. The rain today soon finished even that off.

We had a new Covid reporter today. Sharon arrived just after 11.30 and we did the needful with the swabs, then answered her questions. Thankfully it was only raining today. If she had come tomorrow there’s a good chance she’d have been covered in snow by the time we were finished.

Lunch was a rather tasteless Vegan Pizza from Pizza Express. Some things just don’t work as vegan. Vegetarian, yes, but vegan cheese is a step too far. Afterwards we did think of going for a walk, but it was that horrible clinging drizzle and neither of us could think of a good reason for going out, so we each made a cup of coffee and sat back down.

PoD was a shot from the kitchen window of a starling having its daily bath. Shot through the window using my old 300mm lens on an adapter on the Sony. Not the best prospect, but the photo was useable and it worked, just!

I was nominated to make dinner tonight which was a Chicken Cobbler. The chicken was fine, but the cobbler was a bit stodgy. Lots of work to make and lots of chopping in preparation. Might try it again with some suggestions Scamp made. I can see them working.

Today Joe Biden became President and Donald Trump left under a cloud. Fred sent me this photo. I think it sums up the day perfectly.

We’re expecting heavy snow during the night and the quantity of that snowfall will determine what we do tomorrow.


A foggy day – 19 January 2021

Fog in the morning that seemed to disappear, then returned.

We had intended going for a walk in the morning because the weather fairies said it was going to rain in the afternoon. Unfortunately, they didn’t mention the fog that lingered for most of the morning. Luckily for us we didn’t go out, because we had a long phone call from Hazy. Thanks for the link to website, Hazy. Interesting way it presents your reading data. Also looked at Murderbot Diaries.  Look forward to seeing the circular weaving.  Video was very interesting.  I imagine I wouldn’t have the patience for that sort of creativity!

Ticked off the first of my list today by lugging the last of the Christmas decorations up into the loft an by then it was time for lunch, which was the last of Scamp’s “Just Soup”.

It was still a bit miserable outside, so Scamp decided to forego the joys of a damp walk in St Mo’s for the questionable entertainment of River City on the TV. I chose St Mo’s and walked round the back of the school to get today’s PoD which was some dewdrop sparkle on a cow parsley plant courtesy of the morning’s fog. It’s up on Flickr now, but joining it is a photo from exactly a year ago. A macro of some moss on an old tree branch. I thought it might be an interesting idea to post some old photos of the same day but a different year, starting with 2020 in January and hopefully 2019 in February and see how far back I get. I see a lot of folk doing similar things on Flickr. Mostly posting holiday photos, paired with photos of the dull lockdown lives we are leading now. Let’s face it, we need something to cheer us up.

Scamp had made Cauliflower Fritters for dinner. This is the second time she’s made them and they are really delicious. They were the starter and a fiery veg curry was the main. Boy! It was hot. We both needed ice cream to cool our mouths after that. It was hot, but strong on flavour too, so no real complaints from me.

Back to the list and then next thing to do was get rid of the heavy beard. It’s great on the cold days because it does keep my face warm, but it’s just not me, so it had to go. Only took about ten minutes to prune it back to its usual goatee. I feel so much more like myself now. “Buzz the Fuzz” was its name on my list of things to do!

A little more than a year ago a company called Affinity gave away 90 day ’trials’ of its software to encourage people to be more creative during Lockdown 1. One was a DTP package. One was a photo editing package very similar to Photoshop. One was a vector graphic design app. All of them were very good and also good value because they dropped the price by 50% if you wanted to buy them after the 90 days. I bought the photo editor because my Photoshop is really old and behind the times now. I don’t really have a need for vector graphic editors and besides I’ve used a couple of open source ones in the past quite successfully. However I don’t have a DTP package, so I bought their version today and it’s very capable. Much better than Apple’s Pages app which is what I’ve been using up until now. If you need any of these apps, Affinity is worth a look. They work on Mac, PC and as far as I can remember on iPad too. I’ll put a link at the end of the blog.

Well, I had five things on my list today (odd number and a prime number too) and have scored all of them off. No list yet for tomorrow, but I’m sure something will come along. Maybe a painting with those paints Hazy. Also on the cards soon will be a gingerbread house, JIC.

Tomorrow is still forecast for snow and rain. What a nice mixture. We may go out for a walk if it stays dry long enough.

Affinity (used to be called Serif) – https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/

Planning is everything – 18 January 2021

Making a plan is just the start. Sticking to it is everything.

Today I had a plan. Things to do. I didn’t make a big long list and attempt to tick them all off. I know I’d cherry pick, choosing the ones I wanted to do and getting them done, leaving the rest for tomorrow or the next day. Much easier to make a short list of a few things and get them done. Three is a good number to start with. Odd numbers are good. More interesting.
Today’s list:
1. Go for a walk.
2. Get a photo.
3. Write a letter.
If I can achieve a task while engaged in another, that’s a bonus, but doesn’t leave space for an additional task. No, it leaves space for free time e.g. To play Angry Birds!

It was dry in the morning and we couldn’t decide it it was going to stay dry for long enough to go for a walk, but we both wanted to get out in the open air for a while so we went. As soon as we left the house the rain came on, as usual. We were out now and we were already wet, so we might as well go for a short walk round St Mo’s, maybe twice round.

The rain just kept coming. Sometimes light and sometimes heavy, but always there. We both knew that if we couldn’t feel it on our faces and we put our hoods down, it would start again, but we played its game anyway. We went round the pond twice. Once anti-clockwise and once clockwise. Didn’t see anything that encouraged me to take a camera out of the bag. We came home and had soup for lunch, Scamp’s “Just Soup”, good and thick.

Following its usual pattern, the rain went off, the clouds parted and the sun shone. I put my boots back on to fool it and went out into the garden instead to get a photo. The rain came back on, but I got half a dozen photos of buds on the rhododendron in the back garden. I loaded them into the computer and while Scamp talked to her wee sister on the phone, I went upstairs to write that letter. Three tasks completed.

Tonight’s dinner was more Just Soup and then Pasta a la Carbonara and a really good one too, even if I say so myself.

Today’s PoD was one of those six photos of the rhododendron buds.

Tomorrow’s list is almost full, and it looks as if the best time for a walk will be in the morning. Possibility of some snow tomorrow or Wednesday night.

Just walking in the rain – 17 January 2021

It was raining when we woke and it stayed raining until early afternoon.

When the rain switched off for a while, we went for a walk. Down to Broadwood Loch today along, with what seemed to be, hundreds of others. At first I thought there might be a football game on, or a BMX race perhaps. Both stadium and BMX track are close to one another and sandwich a big parking area between them. That big parking area was full of cars when we walked down over the boardwalk and across the dam. But it was neither the football nor the BMX that was drawing the crowds. It was the sunshine and the fresh air that enticed the people to leave their cars and walk round the loch. A conveyer belt of people, it seemed like, were walking round the big pond in both directions. We took a different route and walked round the exercise machines instead. Easier to maintain social distancing there.

We continued our walk up under the underpasses at the roundabout and it was there that the rain returned. It had made a tentative attempt at a shower earlier, but this had definitely the look of a whole afternoon of rain and that’s what it turned out to be. I could have sneaked in a quick circuit of St Mo’s, but I’d forgotten my phone and felt slightly compromised without it, so I joined Scamp and walked home instead.

I was in charge of dinner tonight and it was to be Lemon Chicken with Za’atar. Lots of lemons and lots of spices in a complicated recipe with a marinade. However it followed the standard rule of Acid, Oil, Salt and Spices or Herbs, so I trusted it. It was soon mixed up and put in the fridge to infuse with the chicken breasts for a couple of hours. Time to wash my red Bergy jacket that really, and I mean REALLY needs washed and proofed. With that done and the photos (all three of them) reviewed in Lightroom, it was time for a cup of tea.

Two hours later the chicken came out of the fridge smelling ‘interesting’. Poured it into a roasting tray and slid it into a hot oven for 45mins. Meanwhile I picked PoD which was a view looking across the ice sheet that covered Broadwood Loch. All three were the same view in different formats, portrait, landscape and squint. I picked my favourite and uploaded it.

Chicken came out of the oven smelling beautiful and so it tasted. All that prep had come good in the end and even although I don’t really like lemon in food, I enjoyed this recipe. Definitely worth making again with some subtle changes.

The big deal of the day was our first virtual dance class with Stewart & Jane. After a dodgy start when they started teaching a different version from the video they’d sent us, it worked out well and we coped with it fairly happily and without too many mistakes. Roll on next week. Today was Rumba part 1 and Mambo. Next week we continue with Rumba. Learned a lot tonight and enjoyed it.

Spoke to JIC and heard more detail about his recent good news. We can’t say too much about it just now, but glad he passed his MBA with Distinction. Well done that man.

Tomorrow we have no plans, other than to get our Tesco order. If it’s dry we may go for a walk. If it’s not we won’t. I’ve got a letter to write and the final Christmas decorations to put in the loft.

Under the weather – 16 January 2021

I suppose we’re always under the weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s rain or snow our sunshine, the weather is always above us, ergo we are always under the weather.

However I had a sore throat, was a bit shivery and ached all over just the typical symptoms of a cold. I could have languished in it and stayed in bed with a good book, but I was a big brave boy and I had things to do, so I forced myself to get up. As usual, a hot shower helped and a couple of fizzy vitamin C tabs kicked some more life into me, as did a cup of coffee. It was raining otherwise I’d have gone out for a walk, if it was dry, but instead I stayed in for the morning at least.

Lunch was beans on toast. When was the last time you had beans on toast? I can’t remember, but it was a long time ago. You forget just how good simple food can be. The rain had stopped, so I suggested to Scamp that we might go out for a walk and she agreed. Just a wander around St Mo’s would do today, sticking to the paths for once. No wandering into the woods, getting wet and making the cold worse. It got today’s PoD there which is a single seed on the cow parsley that I love. Apparently they are edible for humans as well as birds and taste slightly of aniseed. I may try them sometime. It looked as if all the ice had gone, but only from the grass and the paths. There were still ice floes on the pond. It was nice to see the ducks returning from their winter holiday in the Canary Isles. They flew in when we were on our second circuit. I hope they enjoyed the visit to their little yellow cousins.

Back home we were having good warming food for dinner. Mince ’n’ Tatties with Cabbage for me and Bubble ’n’ Squeak for Scamp. Again, plain, simple food. Before that there was Limoncello to make. I decanted the yellow liquor from the jar and ditched the lemon rind. Then, I mixed a cup of caster sugar with a cup of boiling water to make the syrup and poured it in in stages into the alcohol. Actually all the syrup was needed to sweeten the limoncello and then it could be poured into a vodka bottle with the remainder half filling an old limoncello bottle. One to go into the cupboard and one to chill in the fridge. Home made Limoncello. A great Christmas prezzy. Thank you again Scamp.

After dinner we watched a video of what we hope Stewart & Jane have planned for the first of the Sunday Zoom Dance Lessons. Actually looking forward to it now. Feeling much better after a decent walk round the pond in the afternoon and I’ve just taken the second of my vitamin C drinks of the day. Hoping to feel back to normal tomorrow.

So, tomorrow we’re hoping to do a bit of dance practise and that’s about it. Weather looks like today. Rain and sunny spells.

Fishing, Pizzas and Ironing – 15 January 2021

I should make it clear that I didn’t do all of these things, but I was a participant.

Pizza for lunch. Hand made dough while Scamp ironed things. Too many things in my opinion, but at times she’s a perfectionist and demands her own standards. The pizza dough looked great. IMO the finished pizza wasn’t quite as great, however, Scamp disagreed as was her right. Too long in the oven or the oven too high, I’m not sure. My excuse is that it’s been a long time since I’ve made a pizza. Must try harder.

That’s Ironing and Pizza covered. The ‘Fishing’ is a bit of a red herring :-). What it really means is we “went for the messages”. We drove to M&S because we had a fairly long list of stuff to get and Scamp was coming down with the cold, but still wanted to get out the house for a while. Driving to M&S was the right solution today. The main items on the list by far was fish. Fish in its many varieties and colours. Fish on a Friday is traditional in some places, so it made sense. We got a few bits of veg too. Just a general shop really. We’ve got a Tesco delivery booked for Monday but sometimes you like to see what you’re buying, especially fruit and veg which Tesco are a bit hit and miss with. I think they throw some of the fruit into the basket from the other side of the shop.

So, Fishing, Pizzas and Ironing covered and explained. Another load of washing went into the new machine and came out drier than they did from the old one. I went for a walk in St Mo’s to get some more of the moss photos using a macro lens on my ancient Oly E-PL5. Solid and chunky. Hardly any plastic went into its construction, just glass and metal really. For such a tiny wee camera it weighs a ton. PoD was the little water drop jewel on a moss fruiting body. If you look on Flickr you’ll see its neighbour, the ‘Periscopes’.

Hazy: I finished Tales from the Folly, the short story collection we talked about. I’d managed to spin it out to one story a day, well, sometimes two a day. Mostly very good with the inevitable one or two duff ones. Good recommendation, thanks.
Now waiting for the price of “What Abigail Did …” to come down to a reasonable price, once it appears, that is. Now starting the last in the Slow Horses series. Another one I’ve been keeping on the back burner for a long time.

No plans for tomorrow. Weather looks cold and wet. I might paint something.

Back in business – 14 January 2021

No more using the washboard in the sink and then pressing the water out of the clothes with the wringer.  If none of the foregoing made any sense to you, then don’t worry. You’re just too young to understand.

Snow, and lots of it was forecast for today. At least 10cm (4” in old money) would have fallen by 8am. I woke at about 630am and yes, there was a covering, but only that. Some footprints probably from Wullie, who lives at the corner, and Hamish the dog were visible, but it looked decidedly wet underneath. By 9am another scraping of snow had fallen, but already it was sleet that was falling. It looked like the weather fairies were crying Wolf! again. One day they’ll get it right and we’ll be caught out.

I got a text later in the morning to say that the washing machine would be delivered between 2.45 and 6.45pm. That gave me enough time for lunch and a quick walk round St Mo’s before they arrived. So after lunch I grabbed a couple of cameras and headed off to the snowy wastes of St Mo’s. Land of adventure and snow. Found a few worthwhile things to photograph. Dropped in at my old pal, the white spotted ladybird which was still dozing away dreaming of eating aphids. PoD was going to be either a slow shutter shot of some snowmelt running in a newly formed burn by the side of the path or a low viewpoint shot of some moss fruits poking their heads above the snow. After St Mo’s, I walked over to Condorrat to get bread and milk. On my way there I got the call from the Currys workies to say they’d be 20 – 25mins. Just enough time to do the shopping. They passed me on the way home. But the time I got to the house they had disconnected the old machine and were wheeling the new one in. It took them about 15mins total from start to finish.

One of the blokes had checked that it was taking water in and pumping it out and that the spin and wash were working. Then he set it up for an initial wash cycle of 30 mins to clean all the piping and the drum I expect. When they had left, Scamp read and reread the instruction book and so did I, but we were none the wiser. First attempt was a failure. Second one worked perfectly. I was surprised at how quiet it was on the wash cycle, but a bit noisier in the spin which admittedly was faster than the old machine. It did do a bit of a wobble dance at full speed. It’s early days yet, but it seems to do everything we need and none of the things that would only confuse us.

Dinner was to be Muttar Paneer (Peas and Indian Cheese) and since my writing was on the instruction book I got to make it. Many moons ago I went on a one day cookery course and they taught us about Mise En Place. It means “everything in its place”. Scamp always encourages me to do it and I did it today. It makes a great reduction to the stress levels when you have all your ingredients and utensils just there where you need them. I’d like to say everything went like clockwork, but it wasn’t quite as smooth as that. The curry was a bit hot, but very tasty. Scamp never even mentioned that the paneer was squeaky. One of her pet hates.

PoD turned out to be the moss picture. There just wasn’t enough water coming down that burn to give the impression I was trying to get and the 1/5second shutter speed meant there was a bit too much softness. Tripod next time and more water.

Tomorrow we have no plans. I got milk and bread today so there is no need for us to venture into crowded shops.

Washing Machine Blues – 13 January 2021

It was one of those days that didn’t entice you to go out. Then the rain came on.

A request had been made for a loaf and I’m the bread maker, if not winner, in the house, so I weighed the ingredients and put them in the mixer and turned it on for ten minutes. Covered the mixing bowl with cling and left the bread to prove.

It was round about then the washing machine suddenly went silent and the spin light started flashing again. I knew the procedure. Turn it off, wait until the door clicks its unlock signal and haul out the two towels that were sodden with water then drain the sump. Load in one towel and a litre of water, switch it on and let it spin. It didn’t spin this time. Ok, unload it again, drain the sump and then leave it for a while, ten minutes should be enough, and try again. This time it worked. A wet towel came out. Nowhere near dry enough really, but a lot better than the waterlogged one we put in. Repeat the procedure from “drain the sump …” and try again with towel two. That one worked, but by this time, Scamp was researching washing machines with Which and pricing them on AO.com. I knew the game was up. We couldn’t go through this charade every time we had washing to do. I settled down to check Currys. They price matched everything Scamp was looking at, but could deliver and fit tomorrow. Long story short. The new washing machine is booked to be delivered and fitted tomorrow afternoon. The old one which weighs a hefty 65kb will be taken away by them.

By then it was time for the bread to go to second prove and nearly time for our weekly visit from Barbara. She arrived just as the rain got a bit more aggressive. We picked up our sample kit at the door and agreed we’d do the rest of the survey stuff over the phone. With that done and the samples picked up we could tick off another thing done.

I was having Blackpudding and Mince Meatballs with Marinara Sauce for dinner. Scamp was having Veg Sausage, Mushrooms and some Marinara Sauce. Both served with a baked potato. Bread was in the oven and came out looking a bit flat, but turned out to be perfectly fine.

After dinner I just couldn’t resist the temptation to drill out the drain plug in the washing machine to see what was causing the problem. I found it. The remains of an old school pencil smashed into tiny little bits and one big bit. Big enough to jam the pump. So I’d imagine the pump will have been damaged and we already suspected that the motor was ageing, so maybe that pencil did us a favour and forced our hand.

Neither of us was interested in going out today because it was really grim out there. Today’s PoD was an abstract. Two forks interlinked and lit by an LED torch. Various filters and presets added in Lightroom. Just a bit of nonsense to fill a space in the 365.

Heavy snow is predicted for tomorrow morning. It was predicted for this morning too and never materialised. Perhaps it just got the day wrong. Hopefully we’ll know tomorrow.

Walking the Canal – 12 January 2021

It was a cold start this morning, but it was worth it.

We both agreed we should go out today in the bright sunshine and under a blue sky. I defrosted the car again, but this time we both bundled into it and drove down to Auchinstarry and had a walk along the footpath almost as far as Twechar. A few other folk were also out taking advantage of the cold dry morning. The canal didn’t look as if it had thawed out this year. Lots of boulders and tree branches sitting on the ice were testament to that. I know the branches could have been floating down the canal, but I doubt they would have been that high out of the water. The boulders and stones? That’s a different story. That ice hadn’t melted for ages, maybe since the last ice age, or at least since about December last year. The path too was icy and we had to tread carefully. It’s a rough tarmac path and usually it gives good grip, but it felt like the ice had melted there and just as it was beginning to flow, the temperature had dropped again and it was frozen in place. Possibly it was black ice which is always more difficult to see than the usual frost.

We turned just before Twechar because the path narrows at that stretch and there isn’t so much to see. Scamp wasn’t impressed. I think she wanted to carry on to Kirkintilloch, but I suspected a roadblock or a path block with fifty Kirky polis waiting for us as we passed Twechar and attempted to enter East Dunbartonshire without reasonable cause. The polis would all start arguing about who would get to write the On The Spot fine and who would pocket the money. We’d have to be quiet as we sneaked away while the argument grew more and more heated. The Twechar polis would then be brought in and they in turn would challenge the Kirkintilloch polis with forming an unruly mob and breaking Covid-19 rules. That’s why we turned back. Nothing to do with the lack of photo opportunities or that I was getting cold.

The walk back was just as scenic as the walk there and I was pretty sure I’d one, if not two candidates for PoD in the bag. Passed more folk out walking in the sunshine, everyone making sure they were keeping a decent social distance. It was Scamp who noticed that the stretches of the canal that were in the sun were still frozen solid while the ice in the areas in the shade looked a lot thinner. We didn’t come to any sensible reason why. Answers on a postcard please if you have knowledge of this anomaly.

I did think of going back out again after lunch (poached egg on toast), to try out an idea for a photo, but decided I’d keep my idea until tomorrow, when more ice and possibly snow is forecast to descend.

With some time on my hands I finished off the Toilet Calendar which is finished and hanging in the little room. Both of us are pleased with it. It’s got twelve photos, six from each of us of sunny climes.

Dinner tonight was Fish and Cabbage Risotto. Sounds mingin’, I know but it’s quite delicious.

Tomorrow we have our second visit from Barbara ready to administer another test and ask more searching questions. This time we will be ready with answers without looking blankly at each other, saying “Um? … Ah? … I’m not sure.” Possibly a walk in the morning again, but this time closer to home.

Almost Tropical – 11 January 2021

When I got up to make the breakfast today the thermometer was reading 7.9ºc outside. That’s almost tropical!

After a cup of coffee and a quick glance over Flickr, Instagram and FB and, of course a quick pencil in of some clues to today’s Mild sudoku we made our plans for the day. I was still struggling with the A5 calendar for the downstairs toilet and Scamp was driving over to her sister’s to deliver a parcel. I got a bit further with the calendar, but was considering shelling out for a commercial DTP package as all the open source ones had bits missing or a mysterious way of working that I couldn’t follow. The Scamp returned and we had lunch which was yesterday’s soup with some tortellini flung in to add a bit of extra flavour. Now I don’t know if it was the tortellini or the soup, but something didn’t agree with Scamp and we decided to shelf our plans for a walk until everything settled down.

After an hour or so she declared herself a lot better and thought a walk in the fresh air would do her some good. The rain that had been plaguing us on and off had dried up and gone elsewhere, so we got our boots on and went over to St Mo’s to see if the ice had gone. Thankfully it was almost gone, with just a little floating ice island in the middle of the pond for the gulls to land on. I found today’s PoD hanging on the branch of a tree. The white fur of the ear muffs really stood out against the dark of the woods behind.

Walked back and I resigned myself to completing the calendar using Apple Pages and Numbers. The Mac version of Word and Excel respectively. Good because they now come free with the OS, but nothing to write home about or even to write home on. With that said, they were completing the task and after a bit of work I had a master page made.

Not wanting to tempt fate we decided to pass on the Veg Chilli and settled for a standard Monday dinner of ‘Red Spaghetti’. Basically a tomato sauce with whatever the fridge had available and in date flung in. It seemed to work fine with no after effects.

While I had been making dinner, Scamp had been busy, initially making a short list of holiday pictures for the calendar. However she’d also found a folder of photos taken in 2009. Our first cruise, and tonight we sat and watched nostalgically as images of a younger couple, who looked a bit like us but with fewer wrinkles, flitted across the TV screen. Chromecast is a wonderful thing.

Tomorrow looks good in the morning, with the weather deteriorating as the day progresses. Scamp drove her car up to her sister’s today. I might drive mine for us to have a walk along the canal.