Just keep on cooking – 31 January 2020

This was going to be a busy day.

Crawford, Nancy, June and Ian were coming to dinner and I was doing the main course and the pudding. Main was fairly easy Cod with Braised Peas, Lentils and Bacon. Pudding was the worry. It was Crème Brûlée. Difficult to type, but hellish to make. Basically a baked cream custard with burnt sugar on top. I might have made it before from a packet, but never from eggs, cream, sugar and lots of beating. However, the only way to do it was to get started.

Before I started, I chucked some flour, water, yeast and butter in the mixer and beat it for 10 minutes. With that done, I boiled then simmered the cream and vanilla pod (forgot to mention that in the list of ingredients). While it was simmering I separated the yolks from the whites of four eggy-weggs and beat the living daylights out of them and some sugar with a balloon whisk. Finally gave up and used the electric hand mixer. Oh, thank goodness for the person who invented electric beaters! Mixed in the creamy stuff and beat it again until it thickened, except it didn’t thicken. I don’t know what I did wrong, it just wouldn’t thicken. Eventually I just filled the ramekin dishes with the yellow mixture and stuck then in a tray filled with water and baked them for about an hour. They looked better, but still not right, but I wasn’t caring they were set to cool and later went into the fridge as a punishment for not thickening properly.

Scamp went out to lunch with the witches and I managed to grab a five minute dry spell to get today’s PoD which is one of Scamp’s Christmas Roses (Heleborus Orientalis Lenten Rose). Scamp’s contribution to tonight’s meal had been made first thing this morning and was a lovely lentil soup made from a ham hock. Thick and tasty and a lot easier to make than the Crème Brûlée.

When she came home it was time to clear the table and set it out for dinner. The visitors arrived on time and we settled down to the food. The soup tasted great. The main course seemed to go down ok, but the Crème Brûlée was a disaster. It hadn’t set properly and the burnt sugar topping was brick hard.

Other than the pudding the night was a success and we staggered off to bed around 1am.

Tomorrow we may go to Perth. You will have gathered from the lateness of the blog and the last paragraph that this a catch up, so I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you whether we went to Perth or not!

Cold and Frosty – 19 January 2020

Not just the morning, either. Most of the day was cold at least.

Not a day for doing much. Certainly in the morning at least, not a lot done. Finally agreed to go to the manky Classic Grand (so inaccurately named) for the Salsa Ceilidh. That was about it for the morning.

After lunch I went out to take some photos in St Mo’s and after that I walked down to the shops to get enough stuff to make soup for tonight’s dinner, which was to be Tomato and Red Pepper soup. Well, we’ve had two days of heavy lunches which for me included lots of red meat, so making an effort today to be meat-free was a good idea. Scamp didn’t mind, in fact she was quite like minded and soup was easy and fairly quick to make. We could have a bowl of it before we went out dancing tonight. Soup and Salt ’n’ Pepper bread to dook. Yes, that would do nicely.

The walk to St Mo’s wasn’t the best. There was very little to see and the cold west wind wasn’t conducive to spending a lot of time framing up a shot. PoD was the Whin bush, also known as Gorse, looking really jaggy. Almost making it to PoD was a landscape shot of a beautiful sky. I’ve often faked a sky to look like that. Today I just photographed it. Nice to see that skies like that actually exist outside of someone’s imagination. Speaking of imagination, I’ve an idea for a fantasy shot. I got one of the elements of it today. Really need a starlit sky for the background and although I could just download one, it would be better to create one myself. Must look out some of my old photoshop reference books.

Made the soup when I came back and almost forgot about the dancing tonight. It was a good Sunday Social with lots of folk I haven’t seen for ages turning up. Spoke to Heather and John and wished them well for their trip to Cuba this Tuesday. Seven days with ten hours of dancing tuition booked. Maybe fun, might just be purgatory. We’ll no doubt find out when they return with lots of stories and lots of photos. Really wish we were going!!

Soup was good and will be better tomorrow. Soup always is. As for the rest of tomorrow, well it’s Gems and it’s Ballroom. Hopefully our bits and pieces of practice will have rubbed off some of the rough edges.

Coffee with the Cynics – 14 January 2020

You can’t beat the auld guys for cynicism. Don’t even try.

Out in the morning to get some chicken for tonight’s dinner, some chilli for an, as yet undisclosed, purpose and some photo paper to make a calendar for the three auld guys. Then it was down to work printing them and fitting them into their combs. Have way through the second calendar, the printer took a ‘wee flaky’ in other words, it ejected a sheet of unprinted paper and started flashing all the lights it had at its disposal. I swore at it and that didn’t help. I switched it off and back on again and that didn’t help either. Finally I resorted to the Val technique and switched it off, counted to 10 and switched it on again. That’s supposed to flush the printer’s capacitors and return it to something like factory settings. It worked. My technique would have worked too, but Scamp doesn’t like me kicking things. She says it does more harm than good. I say it doesn’t as long as you’ve got good strong boots on. We agree to disagree on that (but it would have worked). Calendars printed and assembled and in their bags, I headed out to pick up Colin. Scamp was an hour ahead of me, going to the same coffee place, going to meet Annette.

Picked up Colin at his house. He’s not too keen on driving except in bright sunshine because he needs a cataract op which should have been done a week ago, but was postponed until next week. I assured him it was nothing to worry about and everything would be so much brighter after that.

Val was buying the coffees when we arrived and Scamp with Annette were sitting just behind us, so I was on my best behaviour for a while. Topics under discussion today were The Who’s new album, Val’s Raspberry Pi adventures, The Young Royals and finally Mr Trump. We did go over other old ground, but that’s quite usual for us. Nostalgia is not what it used to be. Finally when we were all talked out we went our separate ways with me thinking “Is this the beginning of the end of the Auld Guys?” Have we talked ourselves out and need a rest for a while. Or do we just need to find a new outlet, or even a new coffee shop. Maybe next time we should adjourn to Tim Hortons to see if a change of scenery helps.

Drove back through the gathering gloom and that was only around 3pm. Daylight is at a premium in these dark January days. Hadn’t even taken the camera out of the bag today and on the way back from Colin’s, the rain started in earnest. By the time I reached home it had turned into sleet. Isn’t Scotland a lovely place at times?

PoD is of one of Scamp’s geraniums that sit flowering through the winter gloom on the bedroom window sill. This one is really past its best and should be having a rest, really, but it doesn’t seem to know how.

Tomorrow Scamp is out first for coffee with Isobel and I’m out next to go to the dentist for my six monthly checkup. Anything else is a bonus. Hoping for some free photons to light the scenery.

A bargain perhaps – 19 December 2019

One of those days when nothing seemed to happen.

Scamp went out to Tesco in the morning for essentials of the season. Shortbread and wrapping paper and stuff. I went out to B&Q and got a planter for her spring flowering bulbs. While I was out I parked at St Mo’s and went for a quick walk around the loch. The lighting was decent, but nothing great, much like the day. The sun stayed low all day and seemed to be having a problem cutting through the light cloud, resulting in a low amber coloured light. PoD was a trio of trees in silhouette.

Spent about an hour trying to finance Scamp’s game playing with a Google Play gift card, only to find that I’d paid it into the wrong account. Why do they make it so difficult and complicated.

Drove Scamp through the traffic jam of busses and cars taking weans home early from St Mo’s school. Christmas holidays have started in earnest. Scamp was going to Jeanette’s for Afternoon Tea, not High Tea as I described it yesterday. My mistake. I decided to go the long way home partly to avoid the traffic jam round the school and partly to see if there was anything more interesting to photograph. There wasn’t.

Wrapped up some secret stuff while I wouldn’t be disturbed and frittered away some more time on-line. That’s when I noticed an offer from ON1 reducing the price of version 2020 by a tenner. That sounded like my kind of offer. I’d been hoping they’d reduce the price over Christmas and New Year, but wasn’t sure. Paid the money and am now the owner of Photo RAW 2020. Not the “Happy” owner, just the owner. Some of the rough edges of the software are still there. The supposedly non-destructive editing isn’t exactly as it says on the tin. Most things are, but unless I’m missing something, there are elements that are still destructive. It’s certainly faster than the 2019 version. Much fewer ‘spinning beachballs’ and if they stick to their previous plan of removing the rough edges as the year goes on, I’ll forgive them.

Scamp texted to say she was getting a lift home from Annette who, like me is finding her Juke is more thirsty recently than she’d been led to believe. I imagine the cold weather means the car needs to run on ‘choke’ for longer than in the summer. I think we should just do away with winter and have Spring, Summer and Autumn. Returning to Spring after that. I’ll suggest it to Boris and I’m sure he’ll consider it in his next manifesto.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow, just for the fun of it!

The end of an era – 16 December 2019

Tonight we said goodbye to salsa and a lot of friends. Maybe not for ever, but for the foreseeable future.

The day started me making a loaf at around 9am, just after making breakfast. Next, a valiant attempt to clear up the living room and fit six chairs round a four legged table. Not quite squaring the circle, but something like it. After that, and a fair bit of bad grace on my part, I settled down, apologised and waited until Gems had arrived for their Christmas party before heading off to Larkhall to get my new glasses which are remarkably like my old glasses but only cost me £30 for undisclosed reasons. Mumbled explanation was that it was because “I hadn’t had the old ones for long and I’d lost them, so there were simply replacements …” No, it didn’t make sense to me either. However I was happy to tap my card and pay the £30.

Drove home via The Fort (I think I should try to get a room there. It seems I’m there more often than I’m at home) the visit was also for undisclosed reasons. Grabbed a photo of the bronze deer that decorate the place, but I wasn’t sure they’d make it to the PoD and I was right. Back home, PoD went to Fairy Nuff in her rightful place on the Christmas tree.

After dinner I think we dragged our feet a bit, not really wanting to go out to the STUC building for the last time. It was one of Jamie Gal’s exuberant Party dance classes. He makes up the most interesting and at the same time chaotic games for these nights. Tonight’s games went from the usual dancing with glow sticks and grab the Christmas hat to Dancing with Crackers(?!) and Stick the Nose on Rudolph. A bit like pin the tail on the donkey, but more manic and with salsa moves buttonholed in.  Finally the big hand went to 6 and the little hand went halfway between 8 and 9 and we had to go and speak to the man who has become more than a teacher, and more than a friend for the past 12 years. He’s become an institution. We both think he was expecting our bombshell.

The class is moving to Record Factory in the new year because the STUC building is being demolished to make way for yet more student flats. The Record Factory is less than ideal as a venue and too awkward for us to travel to every week. Jamie is becoming more sought after by universities throughout the country and beyond, which means he’ll be teaching salsa less and less. Although we will both miss his manic humour and teaching style, we have possibly found a new ballroom class in Cumbersheugh and that will be a boon on cold snowy nights. I think this is what you could call a Perfect Storm. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow to join the merry throng looking for pre-Christmas bargains of which there will be few!

Just a lazy day – 14 December 2019

Dull and wet about sums it up.

Scamp volunteered to go and help keep Tesco in business. I just helped bring the goodies in.

The most I did all day was bring the decorations down. For those who know what it means, the ‘letter’ made interesting reading. All those things we thought we’d know by now which, as it turned out were still as clear as mud.

Drove to John and Marion’s in the evening and were entertained by Ross with his stories. It’s good to see that he’s getting on in the world. The little boy who sang and acted “Tragedy!” is still inside there, though. Food as usual was great and the Panettone and Clementine trifle was excellent.

Arrived back home just before 11pm and watched Kelvin Fletcher win Strictly, proving me wrong! Bed about 1ish.

PoD was the Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) that sits on the back step.

Two late nights in a row. Must try harder tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get more photos taken too and possible we’ll get some dancing done.

The sun returns – 11 December 2019

It wasn’t lost after all. I was just having a rest yesterday.

I was out early today to make sure of capturing some of those little photons and storing them away in an SD card. Yes, I was taking foties. Scamp had already been out to the doc’s for her medication check and back again. I went over to St Mo’s and got some good light. Grabbed a PoD which is a low down macro shot of some sphagnum moss strands, looking like miniature evergreens. Got back just in time to go out again to meet Colin and Fred for coffee. Scamp was off again to see what the retail paradise that is the Town Centre had to offer the discerning shopper.

The coffee snobs centred around pubs in Glasgow (a common topic among us), books and the NHS. Given that tomorrow is polling day and Fred is a political animal, it was strange that the merits and demerits of the leading campaigners did not enter into our conversation. Maybe it’s not all that strange. I think we’re all a bit jaded with the whole shebang. It’s become a tactical election. Pick the person you don’t want to win and vote for anyone else. Much like the old Scottish football question:
Question – “Who are you supporting in the World Cup?”
Answer – “Anyone who’s playing England!”
(Notice that Scotland is never mentioned. We don’t do the World Cup.)

Drove home into glaringly blinding sunshine to collect Scamp and take her to the doc’s again, this time to get her flu jag. By the time we were coming home, the sun had set and the day was sliding into evening.

When Scamp had been out earlier, she had bought the makings of Stir Fried Prawns with Singapore Noodles. Sounded great. I volunteered to make it. It tasted as good as it sounds. The sauce that came with it was labelled Soy, Chilli and Ginger, but it smelled like simple Brown Sauce, the stuff that comes out of a square bottle with letters HP at the top. The strange thing was it didn’t taste anything like it! Must have been my cooking skills that transformed it.

The weather has turned back to rain again and it’s forecast to further turn to snow during the early hours of tomorrow morning. We’re booked to take Isobel to Monklands in the morning. Let’s hope the snow has gone by then.

Meeting up – 5 December 2019

Back to The Fort again.

We were off to The Fort to meet Crawford and Nancy for lunch today. It was a great catch-up and great lunch in Frankie & Benny’s. It was strange having something that wasn’t breakfast at F&B’s. We’ve only ever been to one of their restaurants for breakfast when we’ve been jetting off to some warm place. Fish ’n’ Chips for four and everyone agreed the lunch was excellent. Drove back through the rain vowing we’d catch up again in the new year.

Long before we got home, around 2.30 the headlights turned themselves on automatically making it feel dark already. Heavy rain and gale force winds didn’t encourage me to go out and get some photos. Instead I started making a bow tie for tomorrow’s dance and Scamp started on wrapping up some parcels in a new ethical way. After a couple of hours of trying, I gave up and chopped the whole thing up. Don’t know what went wrong, but I think I need to be more accurate with my cutting out. Scamp’s parcels are done, finished and packed in a a bag. I’m jealous. I may try another bow tie tomorrow, but there seems to be less rain forecast for tomorrow afternoon and with the strong winds still in evidence, there may be breaks in the cloud to let some sunshine in, so I may go and take some photos instead.

Today’s PoD is the Weemen trying to find out exactly what went wrong with the sewing process. Not the use of a hazmat suit and the hard hats. H&S is very important to weemen.

So tomorrow we may go dancing, I may take some photos and I may make a bow tie. Scamp has no plans at present.

Out before 11am? – 29 November 2019

That’s just too easy!

I didn’t even bother to have a shower before I went out this morning (filfy beast). I just got up and went out and the first shot was taken at 9.39am. Unfortunately, at 9.38am I realised I’d forgotten to put the Oly in my bag and the camera I had, the Teazer2, wasn’t set to take sensible photos. I don’t know what buttons I’d pressed on it the last time I’d used it, but the ISO was set at 80 (just usable). The touch screen didn’t work (don’t know why). It wouldn’t focus any closer than about 1metre. Quite simply it was AAaaargh!!! Easiest way out of this mess was to use the magic 4K photo. That’s what I did. Once I had one in the bag that I knew was in focus somewhere in the fifty odd shots this remarkable camera takes in a second and a half, I applied logic and reset it to factory settings and once I’d switched on the RAW setting and switched off the annoying beep, we were sort of in business. First worthwhile shot was 9.51. Not bad after such a poor start. Of course what I should have done was go home, pick up the Oly and start again, but the light was changing and I didn’t want to waste it. I got a few shots that looked as if they’d be useable once they’d been Lightroomed into submission. Also saw some Hair Ice. Read about it, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. Strange looking and feeling stuff. Went home, cold but reasonably happy.

Back home Scamp had guessed that I’d want the coffee machine on and it was warming up nicely when I got in. Once I’d thawed out and had looked at the results of the mornings work, and with a cup of hot Cuban coffee in me, I felt more human and knew I had at least one shot in the bag.

After that I footered (another great word) about for a while adjusting that and pruning that and generally wasting time until lunch, because it was still cold. When I went out it was just cresting the zero line. Now it was a fairly tropical 4ºc. Scamp was going out in the afternoon with the witches to celebrate one of them being released from a life of bondage at HMRC. That meant I had the afternoon and early evening to myself.

First things first, after she left, I started cooking the mince for my favourite Mince ’n’ Tatties with a slice of beetroot, except there were no tatties, so I had to bundle up again and drive down to M&S to get some. I thought the new shops would be a flash in the pan thing, but it really is becoming a boon, not having to drive round the new traffic calmed roundabout and up the road to Tesco. Yes, they are a great idea.

Finally got round to programming the second light controller for the living room. We’ve only had it for about ten years! Now we have two controlled lights. Progress!

Watched another episode of His Dark Materials although the TIVO box nearly gave up the ghost the first two times I tried to view the recording. I think we may need a new one, or possibly a new provider. Virgin Media are not the most helpful company in the world. Brilliant computer graphics in the scenes of The North. Totally believable.

Scamp arrived back home just after 8pm, driven back with Jeanette by James. I wonder if Jeanette has ever said those famous words “Home James!” Must ask her sometime.

PoD was a shot from the morning. Camera placed gingerly on the ice of a frozen pond and shutter triggered by a 2 second timer. Great idea, old technology in a very able camera.

Hopefully going out to lunch tomorrow although temperatures of -4ºc predicted overnight.

Coffee – 26 November 2019

Three auld guys moaning.

The three auld guys in question were Fred, Val and myself. It was more of a discussion than a moan today. We hadn’t met for quite some time, so there was a lot to discuss. Books exchanged, new tech demonstrated and coffee drunk. Even made plans for a bite to eat and a possible pint in Glasgow soon. Thankfully no politics muddied the the waters.

Drove home and found that my much needed tea and always needed coffee had been delivered by the DPD man. Such a clever and useful delivery service, flexible too. Worth the three quid I paid for it.

Scamp wasn’t feeling too great but she was still having lunch when I got back. It was too wet to go back out again and I had no notion of what I could photograph in the dull, dark landscape, and anyway it was raining, so I settled for an inside ‘flooer’ photo instead. When Scamp came back she got a phone call from the doc’s to say that there was a prescription for antibiotics waiting for her. I volunteered to go for it as it was getting dark now. I didn’t even bother to take a camera. Flooers it was then.

When I got back from the chemist and after a quick raid of Tesco, I made some soup along the lines of Scamp’s Just Soup and that was dinner with a couple of slices of good bread. Not home made bread, but good all the same.

<Technospeak>
Thought I could do the fancy 4K Post Focus trick with the new camera but then realised if I was going to use room lighting with low ISO it wouldn’t work. The Post Focus trick takes about twenty odd shots in 1-2 seconds. To get them all taken in that short time, it needs to use electronic shutter and the electronic shutter don’t work with exposure times greater than 1/30th of a second. Basically, this is a bright daylight only trick. Bummer.
</Technospeak>

Got the shot done using the E-M1 and it’s a rose from some cut flowers. Not exactly what I had in mind, but it works, and it’s PoD.

I was playing around with a trial version of a new prog called Luminar4. It has the amazing ability to change the sky in a landscape instantly to any one of about 40 different ones. It apparently uses AI to accomplish it. It really is a brilliant trick, but where’s the fun in doing it instantly when you can take an hour or so in Lightroom and ON1 to do it with a lot of swearing? AI? Not for me I prefer LOI. Lack Of Intelligence.  Typical result below.  Original sky on the left.

Tomorrow if we’re fit we’re hoping to go dancing.