A walk, a beer and a glass of wine – 17 May 2019

Another lazy start to another warm day.

Finally decided around midday that we would go in to Glasgow to get a birthday card and two miniatures of whisky. The reason for the whisky will become clear in a few weeks. Wandered through the Buchanan Galleries and bought two overpriced miniatures in the Whisky Shop. Across the road to Paperchase and bought a set of replacement black waterproof ink pens. Walked back up Buchanan Street and had lunch in Nero. A shared panini and a shared cake. Well, we are pensioners and have to be parsimonious. Scamp needed money from the bank and I was sent to get a plastic tub that would hold a miniature bottle of whisky. With that completed we drove home via Tesco and got the card.

Back home, (are you managing to keep up with this buying spree?) Scamp wrote the card and I checked that the bottle would fit in the tub. It did ( I bet you’re relieved). We walked over to Condorrat in the sunshine to post the card and on the way back we walked through St Mo’s so I could get a PoD which was yet another Large Red Damselfly. Rather than come straight home, Scamp suggested we continue on to the pub and I could have a quick beer and a wine for Scamp. The barman said he didn’t have any Shiraz, but he did have a Nottingham Hill. We both assured him Notting Hill would be fine. It was his first day on the job and here was I asking him for something that could have been in Swahili for all he knew. Mine was easier, just a pint of Stella. We sat in the ‘garden’ area at the back, in full sun, but sheltered from the cool east wind. It’s called a garden, but I think it’s a long time since anything has grown on that piece of land. We sat there for for about an hour sipping our drinks and discussing serious and slightly morbid topics.

Came home and I made Butter Chicken from a Spice Tailor packet served with rice and flatbread fried in a little olive oil. Quite delicious.

Today’s topic for sketching was An Old Machine. I don’t know if you’d call my dad’s hand drill a machine, but I would. Is it old? Well, I remember him getting the drill back in the ‘60s. Is that old enough for you?

Tomorrow we have no plans, but it’s raining tonight and it’s supposed to rain almost all day tomorrow. We may go out and we may not.

Embra – 20 April 2019

We’d said we’d go to Embra and we did.

Set off early and did our usual walk up from Haymarket station to Nero on Lothian Road then from there through the farmers market where I got a piece of Hogget Leg Steak and Scamp got a chunk of Focaccia. I also grabbed a PoD of the folk sitting in the sun.

From there we walked up to the Grassmarket and Scamp bought a wee bottle of Elderberry liqueur, although the rum liqueur they were selling tasted very nice. They didn’t have wee bottles of it, unfortunately, only big bottles. The place was mobbed. In fact Embra in general was mobbed. It was a beautiful day. Warm sunshine and very little wind which is strange for Embra because it quite often is the Windy City. I was beginning to regret wearing my leather jacket AND a jersey. One had to go, in fact, eventually both had to go.

We couldn’t decide where to go for lunch, so we headed for Princes Street Gardens via M&S where I went to get some fresh fruit while Scamp searched for the trousers she’s been looking for for the last week or so. I got the fruit, but Scamp didn’t find the trousers she wanted. However she did find a sun hat that looked good, so after some swithering about a colour, she opted for the plain white one.

We sat in the gardens for a while eating the fruit and people watching, but decided eventually that it was far too busy in Embra and we should just head for home. Went for the 2pm train and were there in plenty of time. Sat waiting for what seemed a long time when a message came over the tannoy that with apologies, the train was cancelled. There was nothing to do but walk back to the concourse and wait for the next train which was in half an hour. Then Scamp noticed that it too was cancelled. Apparently due to a signalling fault. She suggested we get the 2.15 train which wouldn’t stop at Croy, but we could go straight to Glasgow and get another train back. After all the ticket did say “Valid via any permitted route”, so we could have gone via Inverness if we’d fancied, but we didn’t, we just wanted to get home now. Got the 2.15 which did take us all the way to Glasgow and then got the Stirling train back to Croy. A journey that should have taken us 40mins had taken 2 hours. Strangely, the 2.15 train travelled exactly the same route as the one that was cancelled because of a signalling fault. Did they magically repair the fault for the 2.15 train to pass, but knew that it would be broken again when the 2.30 train was due to leave? Maybe they should just be more honest and say “Due to staff not being available because it was such a nice day”. Anyway, we got home.

Sat in the garden and scoffed a bottle of wine that had been in the fridge since Christmas. It would be getting near it’s sell-by date anyway!

Tomorrow we may go dancing in the Record Factory.

Frosty (no snowman) – 2 January 2019

I woke around 4am this morning and looked out. I thought it had been snowing, but I was mistaken.

Although we were both up and about fairly early, we couldn’t get our little ducks in a row properly so wasted a fair bit of time, although I did make some bread. My main task today was to get the calendars sorted and hopefully posted. I managed the former with the calendars punched, clipped and bagged, but when Scamp took a walk to Condorrat to post them, the A4 parcels wouldn’t fit in the post box. Obviously our post boxes are Eurosceptic Remainer boxes, not happy with these new fangled European metric sizes. So she had to bring them back and hopefully they’ll be posted tomorrow.

When she came back, it was my time to get out. I took a walk over to St Mo’s to see if the frosty stuff was still there. It was, and it was everywhere. My favourite shot and PoD is of a little twig frozen to the surface of a wee pond. To take it, I set the ISO to 200 manually focused at about the right distance and set the self timer. Then I could rest the Nikon on the ice and press the shutter release. It’s a good method if the ice is thick enough to hold the camera! I was holding the strap all the time just in case. This was the best of about four shots. I saw some other potential images, but would probably use the Oly for them if I get another day like today, because then I could see what the camera was seeing through the phone app. I’ll keep it in mind.  It was cold out there.  Temperature was allegedly -0.6ºc when I came in, but it felt a lot colder than that.  It’s now 1.6ºc, but still feels cold.

Scamp claimed dinner tonight. ‘Rats’ for her (no pun intended) and mince pie for me. Beans and potatoes for me and just potatoes for Scamp. Simply superb! Then it was more of the crumble for pudding and it had significantly improved since yesterday, but alas it is now gone.

Tomorrow I need to get up early to fix the kitchen light and after that we’re going out somewhere. Cabin fever is setting in.

Just the essentials – 26 December 2018

The essentials in question were milk, churros, strawberries and chocolate raisins

Felt a lot better when I woke today, and even better still after a shower. It felt like my head was my own again. It didn’t help with today’s Sudoku puzzle. You’d think that they’d make it a bit easier at Christmas, wouldn’t you? But no. Today’s was a real stinker. When I eventually solved it I had a cup of Christmas Blend coffee and then went out for a walk, I was feeling that good.

I walked over to St Mo’s, saw the group of seagulls standing on a wee hillock and took the shot. Then I went round the pond and was heading towards the Marks & Spencer food place at Broadwood roundabout, but had to stop and catch my breath because I was knackered. It’s amazing how a simple thing like a cold can sap your energy. However, I was on a mission. I was hunter-gatherer and I was out to get milk. Also the weather was more much more conducive to being out than it had been for the last few days.  No blue sky, but the clouds were quite high and it wasn’t raining.

Got to the shop and grabbed the Milk. That was when I saw the Churros and decided they’d be good for later. Next I chanced upon some Strawberries, Egyptian strawberries, but I wasn’t going to hold that against them, especially as they were reduced, being near their sell by date. Finally I grabbed a packet of Chocolate Raisins, which Scamp loves, as a thank-you for putting up with me yesterday. Got to the counter and the woman asked me “Any fuel?” I said “No, just the essentials. milk, churros, strawberries and chocolate raisins.” That made her smile, and me too when she replied “That will be £9.18 for your essentials then!” The walk back was a bit slower than the walk there and I managed to get the basis of this shot. It is a fake of course. The sky came from a library shot, but the Cow Parsley was real today. Blended seamlessly in ON1 2019.

After that we set to and cleared out the bottom level of the cupboard next to the bathroom as Angela next door said that the rodents in her house had chewed their way in there and started sniffing around some Christmas prezzies she had stored in there. We didn’t find any evidence of rodents in ours, but oh boy there was a whole load of junk, most of which has now been bagged ready to go to the dump on the next available day.

Today’s dinner was a much simpler and less extravagant affair than yesterday’s. Starter was Scamp’s “Just Lentil Soup”. Main was veg pakora I got at the butchers the other day and it was plenty hot and spicy. Pudding was a Fruited Caramel Brandy Pudding with a Brandy Caramel Sauce Centre. Quite a mouthful, as was the pudding. Oh yes, and I baked a loaf that we haven’t cut open yet, but looks good

Tomorrow we may take some plastic bags of rubbish to the tip. Maybe a walk and a light lunch somewhere too.

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.