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.

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.

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.

 

The world is warming up – 10 January 2021

And it’s raining.

I liked the snow. I even liked the ice, but like an old friend who overstays his welcome, it was good to see it go. Today it was on its way to another place that needed snow and ice.

We decided to go for a walk in the morning because it was dry and the temperature was above zero. Almost as soon as we closed the door, the rain started. We intended walking round St Mo’s, but without grippers, that was going to be a tough trek, so instead we walked round along the pavement beside the road and just took our time to go the longest road we could to get back to the house. Not the most scenic of routes and the camera stayed safely in the bag the whole time. I intended going out myself for a walk later, but that didn’t happen.

Instead we had lunch and then I started to make some soup. I remember my mum pouring boiling water from a kettle on the leeks in the garden and me digging them up to make soup. That’s what I did today. My last three leeks were meant to make the soup on New Year’s Day, but we never got round to it. Today we came out of the big freeze and although the ice and snow were leaving us, they still held the raised bed in their grasp, so I had to resort to my mum’s trick with the kettle. It worked and the leeks came out. Well, two of them did, the third one broke getting it out, but I did manage to get both halves eventually and they were going to be cut up anyway.

With the soup on the go, I started doing the prep for the veggie chilli we were having for dinner. We’d decided that we’d use what we had in the fridge for the chilli. Peppers, onions, carrots and butternut squash all went in to the pot along with a tin of tomatoes and a litre of stock. It was a bit monotone, more yellow than I’d intended, but I chopped up two of my small jalapeños that I’ve kept in the freezer, thinking they would provide some heat if not any colour. The didn’t do much of anything for the chilli. After thinking about it, I remembered that Sim, and expert on chillies and said she’d put the whole chilli into a curry seeds included. I’d been too careful, removing all the seeds. Next time I’ll use the whole chopped up pepper. Probably that will make it too hot! The soup was a bit thin, but ok. The chilli was a bit bland in colour and taste, but both together filled a space.

We were supposed to be taking part in a Zoom dance class tonight. Scamp was really looking forward to it, but I wasn’t. I always feel so uncoordinated in a dance class, a ballroom class anyway, but I was willing to put up with it for Scamp. She had the booking confirmed by the teacher and we were ready to go at 7pm. That slot came and went, so most of the Zoom dances start at 7.30pm, so that was probably the start time for a lesson too. 7.30pm came and went with no message to give us the starting link. We eventually gave up at 8.30pm. Scamp is going to text the teacher tomorrow to see what the problem was.

Spoke to JIC afterwards and were amazed by his revelation that work in many of the labs in the UK is having to be shelved because many of the consumable tools are not being replaced because Covid research and vaccine development is being prioritised. It’s not until you hear from someone at the ‘coalface’ that you realise the different problems this pandemic is creating for everyone. These things don’t make it to the evening news!

PoD was a macro of raindrops on a kale leaf. The leaf is now in today’s soup. Some of the raindrops will be too!

Tomorrow we may attempt a walk somewhere and to be honest, the cars need a run to keep them healthy too. So maybe a drive to somewhere for our daily exercise walk.

Hooray! It’s raining – 9 January 2021

A strange thing for someone living in Scotland to sat, but it’s good to see the end of the white stuff.

We waited until the temperature was in the positive range and then went out to clean the cars and fire them up for maybe the second time this year. I swear there was more water on the inside of the windscreen of my car from condensation than there was on the outside from snow and ice. Luckily both our cars heat up quickly, so it wasn’t a long wait. I was more worried about Scamp’s car because the temperature was below -7ºc last night. Thankfully she got her car serviced when she had her MOT done and it has a fairly new battery too. Hopefully if the weather opens up as it’s predicted to do we’ll get out for a run and get the wheels turning again.

Lunch was a burger from the butcher in Condorrat. Tasted fine and although it started off looking a bit thin, it plumped up well in the pan. I’d a bit of an upset stomach after that, but I don’t think it was the burger to blame. I think it was more likely to be too many sweeties which I was eating last night. I think it’s sorted now and even if it isn’t, a wee glass of whisky tonight will probably settle it.

The rain got heavier in the afternoon and St Mo’s wasn’t calling me to take photos. It’s fine in the snow and even in the ice, but slush is not the most photographic of sights in my eyes. Instead, today’s PoD is a shot of the front door. It’s one of those things you see every day, yet never notice it. I took a photo of it on my phone as I was heading to bed last night and it looked really pretty with the colours of the stained glass and the layers of colour from the snow, the grass and the streetlights. This one took a while longer to take with the camera on a tripod and a time exposure of 30 seconds! Actually it was almost totally dark outside although it looks like daytime.

Dinner was fish fingers, egg and spaghetti (from a tin). A staple when someone in the house isn’t feeling great.

We sat and enjoyed Some Like It Hot starring Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Black & white comedy from 1959. Just a brilliant film. Good way to end the night.

Tomorrow more rain is forecast. Hopefully that will wipe away the remains of the snow and ice and with the temperature at present at a balmy 5ºc it should be a more comfortable day. We may go a walk in the rain.

 

More snow – 8 January 2021

Woke to another dusting of snow. A light dusting this time.

Fed the birds to keep them happy and tried to defrost the birdbath, not that any of the birds would have been suicidal enough to attempt a bath in this weather, but they might appreciate some liquid water to drink. Lunch was Scamp’s savoury slice which warmed us up on a decidedly cold day. After that and a cup of coffee we felt it was safe enough to go for a walk to the shops to get today’s dinner. Which was to be Neil’s Italian Chicken.

On the way back I took a detour round St Mo’s in search of some beautiful sunny weather and some snow. I found both. The paths were slippy and I didn’t have my YakTrax with me, so I was trying to be careful and managed not to fall or even to slip … very much. Got my photos and even made my first ever video with the Sony camera. It was of a crow rolling in the snow! I’m guessing it was getting the snow crystals into its feathers to help it dust off the mites that were harbouring there.

Back home we spoke to Hazy who was eager to find out all about yesterday’s mysterious visitor. I was forgetting that Neil D had already performed the “cotton bud down the throat” trick with the same gagging response we had.

When we came off the phone we found that the washing machine was stuck at the spin cycle. It was still displaying 12 minutes to go, but the Spin light was flashing. Also there was a fair amount of water in the machine. We managed to get it to drain some of the water out and Scamp removed the wet clothes and took them up to drip off in the shower. Useful things showers! I found the drain pipe and drained off the remaining water, then tried to remove the pump filter. It wouldn’t budge. This machine is about 20 years old and I’ve maybe once needed to remove this filter. Either it is baked in or there is something inside blocking it. My money is on the second one and if I’m right, it’s money, some coins, that are doing the blocking. The only way to get into the filter is to turn the machine on its side and remove it from the bottom. Now that’s easier said than done because if I recall correctly there is a big block of concrete that acts as ballast for the rotation of the drum and moving that is going to be a job for a JCB. Scamp said a firm NO to that course of action. We tried the machine again and Lo and Behold, it worked. Not at its best, but we did get all the washing spun dry(ish). How long it will work before the aforementioned blockage returns I don’t know. We spent a good half an hour looking at prices and reviews of washing machines, then had a shortened version of the dinner we’d proposed, namely fried chicken with potatoes and broccoli. Then G&Ts all round.

Watched The Serpent on TV. Weren’t impressed, couldn’t be bothered with all the jumping back and forward through time so junked it. A bit of a wasted day, but it was good to talk to Hazy and I enjoyed both of my walks. PoD was a shot looking through the woods in St Mo’s.

Tonight a temperature of -7ºc is predicted. It’s already down to -6.5ºc, so it looks like the prediction may come true. Thankfully it may rain on Saturday or Sunday. When is the last time I’ve made a statement like that? I don’t think we’ll be going far.