The wanderer returns – 10 December 2018

Scamp was on the road this morning on the return journey from Blackpool.

I was on the road even earlier, but I was walking. Just a gentle stroll around St Mo’s ponds then a walk through the trees. I’d been up earlier to check the traps and found I’d got one rodent. I thought at first it was a mouse, but later realised it was probably a small rat. Either way, it wasn’t going anywhere so I left it to go and get some photos in the hoar frost that lay over everything. Some beautiful lighting at that time in the morning. It was one of those shots that made PoD.

Finished my walk by going in to Condorrat to get bread and a couple of rolls. One of the latter would be eaten with butter and jam, washed down with a cup of my new blend 2 parts Cuban and 1 part Kenyan beans. Count the air miles and therefore the amount of CO2 that has been spread across the world all because of my desire to drink coffee. It’s worth it.
The other roll would hold a medium-rare square sausage. So called because it’s square and it’s made of sausage meat. Clever use of language there.

After my coffee and the roll ’n’ jam, I disposed of the rodent in the trap and nearly lost a finger resetting the trap. Checked the other traps, but they were empty. Next I set to work on cutting and laying the new carpet tiles in the downstairs toilet. As usual with these things, I started out very slowly and deliberately, and finished by cutting corners, literally. You’d never tell. Strangely only one of the six tiles had its nap running the wrong way. It looks good, so good that Scamp didn’t even notice that it had been done. Not surprising as the colour of the tiles is remarkably close to the original. It’s only when you walk on the new tiles you realise the quality is much better than the thin tiles that are now in the boot of the car, ready to be taken to the dump. I think I earned that medium-rare square sausage on a well-fired roll.

Scamp eventually returned about 4pm and after dinner we went out to Salsa where we learned or for us, re-learned an old move: Setenta Batman. One of the moves which look impossible until you actually try it. Jamie G described part of it as a “Matrix style turn”. I agree, but I can do it.

Tomorrow, a lazy day, maybe a bit less cold than today, but today was much less cold than a year ago. Go look here!

Windy Willy – 23 October 2018

Windy Willy was whirling past the house this morning.

Willy went to bother some other folks in the afternoon, but has returned to blow on us this evening.

It was a day of eating out of the freezer, for no other reason than we’ve a lot of stuff in there that’s needing used up. Scamp chose a chunk of salmon and I chose a short rib. The salmon just needed defrosting, but the short rib needed a marinade to get to work on it once it had defrosted. I made my usual marinade. It’s got four basic ingredients:

  • An acid
  • A sugar
  • A salt
  • A flavouring

Today’s mix was

  • White wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar for the acid
  • A squirt of honey for the sugar
  • A shake of soy sauce for the salt
  • A spoonful of mustard for the flavour

You can make it using your own ingredients, but the basic Acid, Sugar, Salt, Flavouring mix works well. There’s probably a Phd Chemist who could explain why it works 😉 but I’m not really bothered, it just works for me.
I put the marinade into a poly bag, shook it a bit to make everything mix properly and then dumped the meat in it and left it to rest in the fridge for an hour. While I was waiting for the marinade to work its magic, I baked a pizza from a bit of dough I’d taken from the freezer with the meat. Pizza wasn’t startling, but it did for lunch. I’d also brought some dough from the freezer, so I baked that into a loaf. When it was done I fried the meat in some oil in the Le Creuse, added some chopped onion and a chopped pepper then put the lid on an put it in the oven and turned the gas down to gas 3. It worked away at that for an hour or so before I turned it down and added some water and a chopped carrot. Lots of work, but fairly easy work.

Scamp wasn’t for going out, so I went out for a walk along the Luggie and that’s where PoD came from. Slow shutter speed this time. No complicated Photoshop actions and scripts. Must look for a decent pair of boots. My usual boots have no grip in muddy clay and they’re beginning to leak. Also got Inktober 23 done. It wasn’t until I came home that I realised that I’d drawn the exact same sketch before.  Finally found it on Flickr.  It was drawn in July last year.

Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll be dancing if we can get past the closed streets because Hollywood is coming to Glasgow!

 

Dug wi’ a burst ba’ – 30 September 2018

Hazy wanted to Skype today. Skype said No!

Scamp got a message today from Hazy asking if we were free to Skype. It seemed a good way to test out Scamp’s new ‘puter’s communication setup. However …

We tried for about half an hour to get Skype to connect, well, that’s not entirely correct. We could see and hear Hazy, but nothing we did would allow her to see or hear us. We tried everything and eventually gave up on the shiny new HP and conducted the conversation on the iMac. After our virtual meeting was over, it was back to troubleshooting the PC version. I checked that the microphone was working in Wonderful Windows 10 and it was. I checked that the webcam was working in Wonderful Windows 10 and it was, however when we tried to combine these two successes in Skype it failed. Now who owns Skype? That’s right, Mickysoft. That probably explains why it didn’t work. Scamp told me not to waste the afternoon on it, but this was rapidly becoming a “dug wi’ a burst ba’ “ situation. I wasn’t going to let it go.

Eventually I had to give up. Uninstalled the troublesome Skype then re-installed it. When we got it working, but because Skype is a Mickysoft product, it registered it to Scamp’s login name, not the Skype name she’s had for the last fifty million years. Not only that, it had lost all her contacts. Uninstall and reinstall again and the same thing happened. Only once she’d logged out and logged in again could she change her Skype name. Why does Mickysoft screw up everything it gets its claws into? Finally we could communicate across the living room with a degree of feedback through Skype. I think we’re good to go now Hazy!

Most of the afternoon had gone, but there was some good light left, so I went for a walk around St Mo’s and spotted Mr Grey up a tree. He must have felt safe and secure there because he didn’t fly off even when I walked right to the shore of the pond and stole his soul for PoD. I was glad that I’d got him, because there was little else to photograph today.

Made some bread which we’ll need to have tomorrow because it was too late to have with our dinner. Also, the tomatoes that were roasting for the tomato soup are still in the tray in the oven because Mickysoft couldn’t leave Skype alone (and neither could I). That too will have to wait until tomorrow. However my lamb shoulder shank was very nice if a little fatty. The other one will do for tomorrow’s dinner. Scamp’s stuffed Portobello Mushroom looked dismal, but she declared it delightful.

Swallow Watch:  Almost forgot to mention, this week I did see some swallows flying very high and this is week 40.

Tomorrow? Well, it’s a free day. No Gems. What shall we do with it, I wonder?

Dragonflies, Porridge and Lentil Soup – 21 September 2018

Although not in that order.

Scamp was feeling a little under the weather this morning so I let her sleep on and got up and made some porridge for me. It’s a long while since I’ve had this Scottish breakfast. You can tell it’s the Scottish version if it comes unsweetened or even with added salt. Only sassenachs have honey / sugar / syrup on their porridge. Me? I take it as it comes. No salt and certainly nothing of a sugary nature. I make mine with oats, and milk. Boiled in the microwave for 2 minutes and 20 seconds. I find it funny, the looks I get, when we go on cruises and I add salt to my porridge. That look of horror from the english who don’t know any better 😉
After an hour or so, I took up her light breakfast. No porridge of any kind for Scamp. I was pleased to see her looking a lot better than yesterday.

We had an easy morning and after lunch Scamp instructed me in the noble art of making Lentil Soup. I’ve made soup before, in fact I’d half intended to make Tomato Soup for tonight’s dinner, but I’ve never attempted soup using the time honoured “a handful of this and a pinch of that and just about this amount of water”. It’s what my mum used in her cooking and what Scamp’s mum used too. I’m more a ‘time and temperature’ person, working to millilitres and grams where possible. Anyway, the soup turned out too thin, so I had to add “Just about a handful more lentils.” Then it was fine. I also made some bread using grams and millilitres, and felt so much more in control.

With the soup thickening and the bread proving, I walked over to St Mo’s to get some photos in the afternoon sunshine, because today we had sunshine almost all day. A bit of a breeze, but nothing like the gales we had midweek. PoD was the black dragonfly resting on the boardwalk over the mashes at St Mo’s. I used my usual method of taking a shot, moving closer, taking a shot, moving closer etc. Except, my final shots were taken at almost 1:1 and the dragonfly hadn’t even twitched. Maybe it was exhausted or maybe it was doing what dragons seem to do, sizing me up.

Came home and had soup and bread for dinner with a recovering Scamp. She does do a good lesson on soup making.

Tomorrow if the weather fairies are correct, should be a decent day, so we may go out for a run in a shiny clean Juke. Where, is open to suggestions!

Preparation Day – 6 July 2018

A day of bad coffee, pizzas and surprise visitors

A trip to Tesco in the morning bought almost all the ingredients for tomorrows dinner with Crawford & Nancy and June & Ian. Scamp set to to build the dessert while I sat around and solved today’s Sudoku. We all have skills, we just have to utilise them the way we see best. After the prep was done, we went out for what Scamp called “a Light Lunch”. After ticking off the likely venues on our fingers, we plumped for Craigend Nursery. It’s a plant nursery, but their big claim to fame is their restaurant/cafe. We used to go there a lot, but now not so much. I know why. Burnt water pretending it’s coffee and a panini you could hammer in nails with was not what Scamp meant by “a Light Lunch”. Having said that, her Fish Finger Sandwich which was three sandwiches of hefty sliced bread filled with deep fried fish was lovely. Three slice was too much for her, so I helped her clear her plate. The attention to detail and desire to satisfy customers was evident when the girl making up the bill asked “Was everything alright?” and Scamp replied “No, not the best”. The girl’s reply was “Sorry”. No desire to ask what was wrong or even to pass it up the chain if she felt she couldn’t help us, just “Sorry”. We’re sorry too. This used to be a good place for a lunch, light or otherwise. Now it’s a victim of its own success.

Back home and there was cleaning to be done. There were also photos to be taken and I know which of these tasks was on my to-do list. Grabbed my cameras and drove down to Auchinstarry to look for the elusive kingfisher. Didn’t find it, but I did find Mrs Swan out with the weans. That became PoD. Most interesting shot was a green caterpillar on a mission to cross my path as quickly as possible. Maybe it was going to a meeting or something. Used the new macro lens at ground level to get a more interesting point of view. Oh it was hot. The day had started just over 16ºc but it must have been well above twenty now.

Walked back and made some bread dough to try out Scamp’s idea of bread rolls pinched from Epicurean, then sat in the garden for a while with Scamp, but without a drink as I was nominated driver for tonight, taking Scamp and Moira to a witches evening in Bonnybridge. It was after I got back and was halfway through dividing up the dough into the individual rolls, while heating my pizza dinner that our surprise visitors arrived. Crawford & Nancy stood on the doorstep thinking I was joking when I said it was tomorrow night they should be coming. I don’t know who was more embarrassed, them or me. I invited them in, but told them that Scamp was out for the night, but they refused. Hope they come back tomorrow!

I had intended getting a pizza from Domino’s, but after asking for an anchovy and olive pizza and being taken through the script:

“Did you say it was a pizza you wanted?” YES.
“What size pizza?” MEDIUM
“What would you like on it?” Anchovy and Olive
“Did you say Olive?” YES, and Anchovy
“We don’t have anchovies.” FORGET IT

Poor wee soul, he seemed surprised. Why didn’t I want his pizza. He could have told me at the start that they didn’t do anchovies, but that would have taken him off-script into the dangerous territory where you have to think and that just won’t do!

So, tomorrow. Should be making starter in the morning then Scamp will be assembling dessert and maybe we’ll go for lunch somewhere, but not Craigend.

Thunderbolts and Lightning – 1 June 2018

Very, very frightening.

Not really all that frightening as it turned out, and it didn’t last all that long either. It was a dull morning when we woke, but then the sun came out for a little while and we decided to risk a visit to Waitrose in Stirling to get the makings of tomorrow’s dinner. John and Marion were coming to dinner tomorrow and Scamp had a menu in mind that needed lots of things. I had nothing in mind. To be more exact, I had nothing in MY mind. I was just dodging along and being the driver today. Came back laden with goodies of all different kinds from the great Waitrose.

Came home and had lunch which for me was a piece on Brie, Apple slices and Honey. On brown bread it’s an absolute delight. Sat on the step at the back door eating this and watching the clouds massing. Wunderground app predicted thunderstorms by 2.15pm. It was now 1.30pm and it looked like they were on track with their predictions. At about 2.20pm the first drops of rain fell and then the distant thunder started. Soon it was all round us and lightning flashes too. It only lasted about half an hour, but the rain stayed for a couple of hours before fading away. We’d got the plants out of the greenhouse at the first drops of rain and I’m sure the plants enjoyed their little downpour. Saved us watering them. When we were sitting watching the rain I was thinking how lucky it was that we hadn’t gone to Gardening Scotland today, its opening day. It will still be there on Sunday I’m sure.

I had intended going out to St Mo’s after the rain stopped and the sun came out, but I decided instead to take some garden photos and the little spider got PoD. I found a tick on my leg this morning. Probably only the second or third this year, so I’ve made myself a solemn promise; no more walking through the long grass until the first frost.

Dinner tonight was disappointing. It was a steak from Morrisons and it was as tough as old boots, not that I’ve actually eaten Old Boots, but from the reactions of those who have, it’s not a pleasant experience.

Tomorrow, as I said, we have visitors to dinner. I’ve not got much to prepare, just a loaf, sourdough of course. Hopefully it will be risen and ready to bake tomorrow morning. Maybe we’ll go in to the town for an hour or so in the morning after the baker has deemed the loaf edible.

Dull, dull, dull – 20 May 2018

Just in case you didn’t guess, today was a bit dull.

In the morning we drove in to Glasgow because Scamp had an appointment with M&S to spend some money. I was looking for photos. We both got what we intended to get. Scamp completed her swimsuit ensemble and I got a few photos I’d been looking for. My favourite and PoD is above.

<Technospeak>
When we got home I resumed my work on trying to figure out what was wrong with Scamp’s computer which wouldn’t respond properly to Autoplay any more. I eventually found the problem and the solution in an old post on the internet. It involved a complicated bit of deletion using the registry editor Regedit, also known as “The Hand Grenade” (what happens if I pull this little pin out?). Luckily I was very careful which pins I pulled out and nothing went bang afterwards, but what did happen was that Autoplay now plays nice. Not perfect, just nice. Perfectly may mean more work tomorrow or some other day. For now, it nearly works.
</Technospeak>

I made dinner tonight which was the complicated and not very successful Aloo Saag. Not as good as last time. The spinach sauce was too thick and there was a taste in there that just didn’t gel. I might water it down slightly tomorrow for lunch. I also baked another sourdough loaf which was slightly more successful than the first, but not as good as the last one.  Middling.  Still some work to be done on consistency of the dough and baking time.

It being such a dull day, I couldn’t even be bothered going over to St Mo’s to get more photos. I’d got the ones I wanted. This is the photo I went to take. The candelabra its twin are in an alley just off Queen Street and I’ve often wondered why these ornate lights are there in an alley that just hold dustbins. Maybe there’s a story there waiting to be unearthed. It didn’t win PoD because the group discussing The Duke (not to be confused with The Red Juke) was more interesting.

Did a bit of sketching while watching a boring Jools Holland, but I really need to do more, and before Wednesday. That may be the plan for tomorrow. Some decent sketching. Scamp’s going out to meet Isobel in the morning. Busy week this week, something on every day.

MOT, Perth and Sourdough Friends – 1 May 2018

April wasn’t the only month of early rises. We were up and out early today too.

Scamp’s wee red car was going to the car doctor for its annual checkup today. After we dropped it off, we came home to have breakfast and decide what to do with our free day. We settled on a visit to Perth to get some coffee and tea for me. The drive up north was without event and we got parked easily in the town car park. That’s one of the advantages of going midweek, the parking is so much easier. Walked in to town in the sunshine, but with a chilly wind at our back.

After a Nero coffee to sustain us, we went our separate ways for a while. Scamp went to M&S and I went book hunting. First stop was the Oxfam book shop where I usually find an art book or two. Today it was just the one. A book on watercolour. While I was in the shop my phone buzzed. Thinking it was the garage about the car, I answered. The lady on the other end told that according to their records I’d had an accident and I wasn’t at fault. Was that correct? I told her yes that was correct, but I had been killed in the accident. This seemed to be off her script and she asked me to repeat it. I told her I had been killed and I was now dead. I then told her it was my ghost she was talking to. She then got back on the script and I cut the connection. I realise now I should have gone “Woooooo!” Before I hung up. The woman at the till in the shop gave me a strange look and I explained it was simply an ambulance chaser and I liked to have a little play with them before I hung up. The last time I had the same scripted question from an ambulance chaser, my reply was “No, I was completely to blame, that’s why I’m in prison now. Please don’t call me on this number again I only use it to order my drugs.” The woman behind the till laughed and said “Good for you. I must try that some time.”

From the cheap bookshop I went to the expensive one, Waterstones. There was a reading group just breaking up when I went in and they were sitting right in front of the painting books. I did manage to inveigle my way in to get a look at a couple of the books, but then earwigged a conversation about Sourdough. It was when the woman said “… so when I come down the stairs in the morning I look in the jar [of starter} and say ‘how’s may little babies this morning’”. That’s when I knew she was genuine. I told her I’d baked my first successful sourdough loaf yesterday, but that it was almost completely scoffed by Scamp and me. She was really interested and asked how old my ‘babies’ were and I told her they were just over 14 days old and growing stronger each day. I think she was gratified that other ‘ordinary’ folk took up the cudgels of sourdough baking. I wished her luck with her first loaf and went out to find Scamp.

We went and bought loads of coffee and tea, but on the way Eagle Eyed Scamp saw a sale in a sports shop with some natty looking trainers in the window at a knock down price. She just can’t pass on a bargain, so it was with a shoebox in the bag that we walked down to the coffee shop.

Got to the car park and the phone rang. From the garage this time, to say the car had passed and was ready to collect. Perfect timing. When we were driving out of the car park, there was nobody in the cabin and the notice said that as there was nobody to take the fare, please leave the car park smartly. We didn’t need a second bidding. £3 saved is £3 off the price of Scamp’s smart new trainers.

Lunch in Morrison’s cafe and then back south with the weather worsening with every mile. It rained almost half the way home. Not heavy, just there and no more. Dropped Scamp off to pick up the car and came home.

I’d taken one photo today and I didn’t think it was very interesting but after processing it, it looked not too bad. It was a mosaic in the Main Street of Perth. I don’t remember seeing it before. We rarely look down. We rarely look up. We walk with our eyes open, but we don’t SEE what’s around us. We’re too busy making up to-do lists and worrying about inconsequential things we can’t change. We should be more mindful. Today’s PoD isn’t the mosaic, but it is on Flickr. Today’s PoD is the Weeman. It’s been in my head for about a week now!

Tomorrow is dancing in the afternoon, but for the reasons outlined yesterday, we will forego the pleasure of salsa at night.

Magic Millarochy – 30 April 2018

I got up at just after 8.30 this morning to make the breakfast and to fire up the oven because it was sourdough baking time again.

Yes, I’d made the leaven on Saturday and used it on Sunday to make the dough. This time I thought I’d made a stiffer dough, but when I left the dough to stand ( you don’t knead sourdough with this recipe, you fold it and then allow it to stand for half an hour or so) it became quite wet and sloppy again. That said, it had been rising happily overnight in it’s cane basket and now looked ready to bake, so I whacked it (gently) on to the pizza stone that came out blazing hot from the oven and it promptly slumped down again like a balloon that was blown up a week ago and is now a bit slack. Oh well, nothing ventured etc. I hacked into the top of it to give it space to rise and put it into the fiery furnace for about 45 minutes. When I took it out and tapped the bottom it sounded ’toom’ which was one of my mum’s words. It means empty or hollow. Try using it some time. Anyway, a hollow sound is good.

With my loaf cooling on the rack, I started to plan the rest of my day. It was a beautiful day too, Blue skies all round and a temperature that was just entering the teens. This was a Gems day, so I thought I’d go a run for a change and chose Millarochy Bay as my destination. After sharing the first cut of the loaf with Scamp, I used it to make up a packed lunch and with a flask and the makings of coffee I got in the car. Set the satnav for the postcode of the campsite near the bay and off I went. I followed the directions until I reached a sign that said ‘Road Closed’. Little was I to know that would be the first of many. Made the recommended detour and after being stuck behind a slow moving truck full of asphalt, no doubt going somewhere to fill in potholes, I took the turning to my next ‘Road Closed’. Found the detour again and was almost at my turn off when I came across a third ‘Road Closed’. This time my turn off came just before the road did close. After that it was plain sailing and I arrived at Millarochy Bay just about fifteen minutes after the satnav had initially predicted.

The carpark was very, very busy, but I was lucky enough to find a free space. Had my lunch looking out at a view similar to the PoD you see at the top of the page. Went for a walk and got a few photos, well just over fifty, but who’s counting. It was still a beautiful day and it was getting even warmer. Unfortunately it was soon time to go so I had to pack up and head back. This time the satnav took me out towards Stirling and although it was a greater travelling distance, it was on much faster roads, much wider roads too.

Started processing the photos in Lightroom and also in ON1 which I bought last night. It’s not nearly as bad as I’d initially thought and is really very adaptable. You get lost in it very easily with all the options and variations available. Some of the effects are a bit tacky and probably not much use, but some are very useful. More on this app as I dig deeper in to its potential uses.

Salsa tonight was a bit underwhelming. Too many leaders in the 6.30 class so I helped out in Will’s. Jamie’s was disappointing. Too many obscure and pointless moves now. Just because they are weird, they aren’t necessarily wonderful. Salsa moves have to be stylish or adventurous. The ones we’ve been doing for the last month have been neither. No Salsa next Monday as it’s a Bank Holiday and probably none for us on Wednesday because he won’t be taking the class. That may mean Shannon which would not be good or perhaps Irene and Andrew which I’d rather avoid.

Tomorrow Scamp’s car goes in for MOT, so we have a free day after we drop it off.

Oh, one last thing. We were driving home and came to the traffic lights at Charing Cross in Glasgow and noticed a sign saying M8 Closed Eastbound (that’s us). Oh no! The curse of the Road Closed rears its ugly head again. When the lights turned green, everybody seemed to ignore it, so that’s what we did too and there were no road works to be seen. Probably somebody’s idea of a joke, just to annoy me!

Just a Friday – 27 April 2018

No early rise today, no dramas with central heating, just a Friday.

Just a lazy start to the day and after solving the Sudoku and after lunch I drove Scamp up the ‘Toonie’ to have lunch with the other three ‘Witches’ while I converted my last surviving paper Bank of England £10 note into a safe RBS plastic tenner. After that I bought some peas to plant, a hook to make into a boot rack (DIY) and some more 10p silk emulsion paint testers to use as gesso on corrugated cardboard panels. That will make them ready to receive some oil paint.

Came home and slapped the cheapo gesso on a cardboard panel and it looks better than the matt emulsion panels I’d made earlier in the week. Started a landscape on one of those matt emulsion panels using cheapo (again) water soluble oils. Reeves oils, not nearly as good as the Rowney or W&N ones. You get what you pay for. Still, it looked quite a lively landscape. Liked it.

Baked a loaf that had been rising in a new banneton cane basket I’d bought yesterday. Grudged the money for it, probably because it wasn’t cheapo, but you do get what you pay for because the loaf turned out perfectly round and tasted good too.

Dinner was gammon steak with sausages, egg and griddles pineapple slices. Lovely. By then Scamp had returned just in time to get ready to go out to a concert with Isobel 15 minutes later. I was taxi driver tonight. Didn’t mind it because it gave me time to develop my photos. Not a lot of material tonight as it’s been a bit of mixed up day and the weather has been the most mixed of all with rain showers, hail and bright sunshine. The PoD is the rather sad looking starling sitting on the back fence.

Just back now from taking Isobel home from the concert at Cumbernauld Theatre and then driving Scamp home. Amazed that I found a space to park in when we got home.

Tomorrow we’d planned to go to Millport (over the sea), but the weather looks as if it will be much like today, so maybe we’ll shelf that for a better day and look for something else to do.