The Dewdrop goes out – 6 July 2021

It was a much better day than we anticipated.

Scamp was off for coffee with Isobel in the morning and I wasn’t invited. I wasn’t particularly bothered by the non-invite because I had my own plans for the day.

I’d planned that if the day was set fair, I’d take Dewdrop out for a spin. Just a short run, nothing too strenuous because I’ve not been cycling since about September last year and I wasn’t entirely sure I’d remember how to ‘go a bike’. It was easy. Dewdrop was docile and put up with me missing gears and struggling with the SPD plates on my shoes. We soon covered the 3 miles I’d earmarked as our first day out in 2021.

I had to lift the bike over a five bar gate on to the rutted old path alongside the railway. I didn’t get all the way along the path because I could see in the distance a JCB working near the end and as this path is technically private land I didn’t want to have to explain my intentions. Those intentions were to get some insect photos. So I cut my journey short and went looking for something less interesting, but still photographable.

I found it. The ‘It’ in question was a Burnet Moth and not just one, there were hundreds of them some, three to a flower. I think they were 5 Spot although they may be 6 Spot. It’s difficult to tell because the spots sometimes merge and also somtimes you get misled and find you’re counting a spot on the underwing.  Burnet moths are day flying insects and despite their startling appearance, aren’t all that rare. However they only seem to appear around here for a few days. I must just have hit it lucky today. I grabbed a few shots of course.

The other strange sight was a black slug emerging from a puddle where it had been completely submerged. As far as I could remember, slugs can’t breathe underwater, but this one was crawling along the bottom of the puddle, before it hauled itself out and then crawled over to another puddle to cross it head just above the water. Such a strange sight. I took photos … of course (on Flickr), but now I think about it, I should have taken a short video too. Is this the true origin of the Loch Ness Monster?  Is Nessie a gigantic slug?

When I got home, Scamp was back from her ‘coffee’ outing, although she said there seemed to be very little actual coffee in her cup. Maybe it was a ‘babychino’ rather than a latte.

After lunch Scamp started defrosting the freezer. It was my fault. Last night I didn’t close the door properly after I took the last of the ice cream out. The door stayed open until Scamp was going to bed around 11pm. That would mean it was gently losing its ice for about five hours. When we opened the door this morning it looked as if Frosty the Snowman had been in the freezer all night. Everything was covered in a layer of white frost. The freezer was needing defrosted anyway, so this was the incentive we needed. That’s one way of looking at it, anyway. After about an hour this afternoon with both of us taking turns at the defrosting process it was deemed clear enough to restart the freeze process. We put back about 60% of the contents. The rest were either too old to be worth keeping or Scamp didn’t think they were safe to refreeze. I’ll check next and every time and close that freezer door properly now.

Scamp made dinner tonight, a Prawn & Pea Risotto. Really lovely. Just enough mint in it to flavour the peas without overwhelming the whole thing.

We had a quick dance practise tonight just to make sure we can do the basic rumba, cha-cha and foxtrot. After a bit of discussion we came to agree on the correct moves in the correct places!

Tomorrow we may go out for a walk if the weather stays dry. It almost stayed dry today, just a little shower to remind us it was still there.



Walking in the rain – 3 July 2021

Twice I walked in the rain today. Once with Scamp and once by myself. Both times were enjoyable experiences.

It started off as a sunny summer’s day, but we knew it wouldn’t last. Our weather forecaster device, the weather fairies and the weather apps on our phones told us it was going to be wet today with the possibility of thunder storms too. With that in mind, we went out for a walk around St Mo’s in the morning before the deluge. Actually the dry spell lasted longer than we’d anticipated, but by 1pm it was starting to rain.

At first there wasn’t much rain. Just a shower, the edge of a cloud. After that we thought we’d manage a walk to the shops to get something for dinner, but it was waiting and we thought we’d just stay put until this heavier shower was past. It didn’t last long, but it was a heavy shower. When it had stopped we put rain coats on and went for that walk to the shops.

We got there and back again without getting too wet, in fact you could almost see the streets drying, there was so much heat in the ground. Back home I had a look through this morning’s photos and there wasn’t a lot there, so I was just considering going out again when the third wave struck and it was much longer and heavier than before. I looked again and wondered if there was just enough for a PoD. I decided to wait out the shower and when it was finally spent I dressed lightly but with a raincoat and went out to get some wet weather photos.

I found lots of slugs and snails out enjoying the wet weather. They seem to relish the rain, probably because it makes it easier for them to ‘walk’ on the rough stones of the paths. One of those shelled gastropod achieved PoD as it made its way across my path. I saw a couple of frogs and a larger toad which was a possible PoD but was pipped by the snail.

We had a short practise of the new Rumba routine Queen of Hearts as well as the Cha-Cha. It seems like the Cha-Cha will be featured tomorrow and it’s likely the teachers will also want to make sure we’ve been doing our homework on the Rumba too. Best to be prepared.

Tomorrow looks like an inside sort of day with heavy rain and thunderstorms on the cards. No great plans for a walk then!

Rebels without a clue – 10 March 2021

We broke the law today! I hope you’re reading this Queen Nic!

Just to be clear, we were driving to Stirling, which is outwith our region of North Lanarkshire, but the horn had stopped working on my car. For some reason, the garage wouldn’t come to me, so I had to drive there. Still, technically we were breaking the rules. We were being rebels. ‘Rebels without a clue’ as Tom Petty sang.

The car was only in the garage for about 45minutes in which time they fixed the horn (loose connection) gave it a full checkup, counted the wheels, then washed it and sanitised it too. I think I may loosen another wire in a few weeks time, nothing too serious or dangerous and take it in again to get it fixed and hope it will be washed again. There’s a Scottish expression, “Why have a dug and bark yersel’ ?” In other words, If someone is willing to do the work for you, why should you do it?

Since we felt we had good reason to be in Stirling and since we’d be passing Waitrose on our way home, it would have been foolish not to take the opportunity to visit, just for a few minutes. So, a ‘few minutes’ later and a fair few quid lighter we drove home with three very full bags of ‘essentials’. We were just discussing our visit on the way home and we reckon it might be about six months since we’ve been to Stirling! Hopefully we’ll get back soon.

After lunch I cooked some stew that had been in the freezer for far too long, added a three pork sausages and two chopped onions to the mix and poured in half a bottle of Newcastle Brown. Brought the whole thing to the boil then set it to simmer gently for as long as it takes. Scamp was staying home being sensible because it was getting a bit wet outside, but I took the Sony with the long Tamron zoom and went over to St Mo’s to bother the frogs, probably for one last time. It was actually a chance to test out the lens in manual focus mode and it worked quite well. That’s why there’s another frog photo in this blog. This time it’s the PoD.

That was about all we did today. Stew was ok, but the meat was a bit stringy and tough in places. Scamp says it was just the cut of beef that was at fault, not my cooking. I’m happy to take her word for it.

By the way, Hazy.  Fred was quite dismissive about the actual Beverly Brook.  Here’s his reply “Donald it looks a bit shallow, if you look at the banks it could put a couple of feet on it.”  Some people have no sense of the magic of a place!

The wind is returning again and driving more rain into the front window. It’s supposed to get worse in the early hours of Thursday before it calm down a bit during the day. We might just manage a dry spell when we can go out for a walk.

Sunshine in small doses – 9 March 2021

Sunshine in more ways than one.  Then wind and rain later. Typical Scottish weather.

The day was calm for most of the time, but this evening there’s a wind howling around the house. But there was a little sunshine in the afternoon, when Her Majesty the Nicola made her proclamation that groups of four people two households may meet in the open from Friday. Why do we have to wait until Friday? Because Nicola says so, of course!

We didn’t have much to do today and although it was fairly dry there was just the hint that drizzly rain would catch you if you went out. I went out in the afternoon to go for a circuit or two of St Mo’s and then extend the walk in the direction of the shops to get some veg for tonight’s dinner.

I had read some suggestions for the Tamron long zoom’s problems. It appears the drive motor in the camera may be failing, which would account for the squeal that comes from it when I switch on. I’m not sure if that’s the reason or not. I’m thinking it might be more a fault in the adapter. It was a real cheapo one and not very well quoted. However, another old lens I have, a Sigma works quite happily with the adapter. Also, and probably the most telling, is the number of repair tutorials on YouTube for that lens. My plan now is to visit Val and get him to try it on the old Nikon D70 he has. If the lens works on that, it’s the adapter that’s at fault and I can happily sell it. If it doesn’t work on the D70 it’s probably the lens that’s at fault and I might as well bin it. It’s costing me nothing just now, so I’ll leave it be for a while.

So, off I went to visit the frogs again today armed with the new Sigma macro which worked quite well yesterday, but as backup I carried my old Oly M1 with a 200mm lens. I got a few shots of the cavorting frogs with both cameras. In the end it was a picture of some Cladonia lichen that got PoD, but because you are such patient and devoted readers, here’s my favourite frog pic of the day. I called it “The Voyeurs.”

Dinner tonight was a stir fry and I enjoyed it, but it had egg noodles in it and Scamp doesn’t like noodles, preferring rice. My fault. I bought the noodles.

We watched another excruciating episode of Drawers Off tonight. I may have to give up on this week’s episodes. None of the participants have the faintest idea how structure a painting. I realise it’s ‘edutainment’, but it should have at least one foot in reality.

Tomorrow we have an early(ish) rise because we’re off, illegally crossing county boundaries so I can hopefully get the horn on my car fixed at the Nissan garage, with the possibility of a little drop-in at Waitrose on the way home, because we’re almost there anyway.

Frogs – 8 March 2021

Hundreds of them. All of them, it seemed, busy making more frogs.

The day started wet, but we watched the weather monitor (the birdbath) carefully and eventually when the ripples from the raindrops disappeared, we knew we had a window of dry weather.

Without waiting for second bidding, we were out and walking down to the shops. It’s not a very exciting task, a walk to the shops, but it’s a measure of the boredom we all feel that this everyday occurrence becomes the highlight of the day. The visit was successfully completed and lunch was served.

I went out for a walk after lunch and that’s where I saw the frogs. The pond was bulging with them, all with one thing on their minds, making babies. Well, eventually there will probably little froglets, but the frogspawn was being laid down thickly today. The frogs were too far away for a decent image with the kit lens I had, so I went back to get the long zoom. However, either it or the adapter, or more likely both were having a hissy fit and the lens just wouldn’t autofocus. I gave up in disgust and went back with the macro which is longer than the kit lens, but considerably shorter than the zoom. The result of which is the lack of any good frog photos for PoD. Instead I have promoted the arty photo of some catkins to that spot. Tomorrow, if I get a dry spell, I’m hoping to take the recalcitrant combo of lens and adapter and use them in manual focus mode to grab the shot of the frogs for tomorrow’s PoD. No promises, just a possible work around. One last thought on Frogs before I leave the subject for today: If you’re reading this on computer, you can click on a link on the right hand side for “A Year Ago Today”.  If you navigate from there to the 8th March 2020, you will find how predictable frogs can be.

We had ‘white pasta’ (Fusilli a la Carbonara) for dinner, but on Val’s recommendation, I used Pecorino cheese instead of Parmesan. Scamp said it tasted different but neither better nor worse. I didn’t like it so much as the usual parmesan. Pecorino is much milder and creamier than parmesan. Maybe next time I’ll use a mixture.

Fred phoned me tonight and we talked for an hour or so about various topics including politics and the new comedy series “Drawers Off” where five amateur ‘artists’ take turns at being a partially nude model for the others to paint or draw. Last week was quite interesting, but not quite the quality of art I expected. Tonight’s was just cringe worthy, both Fred and I agreed on that. If you want to see what I mean take a look. It’s only a half hour slot and being at 5.30pm on C4 there’s nothing to scare the horses, except perhaps the final ‘art works’.

Tomorrow looks like wind and rain which might be fine for the frogs, but not so good for the photography. We’ll just have to take it as it comes. Oh yes, and we might hear an announcement from Her Majesty the Nicola about a slight loosening of the rules governing group meeting outdoors.

Christmas Prezzies … already – 28 October 2020

Today we were off to collect some Christmas Prezzies that Scamp had ordered.

I usually complain about the condensing of the year. You know the sort of thing. After the schools go back in August the first Xmas cards start appearing. We’ve hardly got Christmas and New Year out of the way and the Easter Eggs are on the shelves. However, Christmas prezzies in October is just good planning, Scamp says. We found the place, just a normal house in an everyday street where the maker lived. That’s the way things are now. Ideas are seen online. Discussions are done and prices agreed on Messenger. Purchases are made online and items are collected from the maker’s home. I suppose it’s better than using Amazon, and at least we are supporting small businesses, which is a good thing.

With that done we drove up to a retail park in Bishopbriggs. Probably as close as you could get to the diametric opposite of the small business we had just left. I attempted some visual retail therapy in Currys, which was a waste of time because there were so few pieces of tech on the shelves. Another loser to the online market place. The problem with that approach is where to you find someone to advise you on a purchase? Where is there a salesperson you can trust to give you sound advice? The other question you should ask yourself is “Would I buy my item from that salesperson, knowing that I can get a better deal by logging on to Amazon?” It’s the old chicken and egg quandary. Scamp got what she wanted. I got what I deserved. Then we went for coffee in Costa and drove home after using up our allocation of 30 mins.

Soup for lunch, then I went out to St Mo’s to get some photos in the two hour window the weather app said I’d get. The sun almost came out and the Larches shone in the unexpected light. They surprise me every year with their bright yellow needles. I also has that strange vision of snowflakes, walking down the avenue of trees with the yellow needles blowing in the wind and looking just like snow. A branch of a larch with its bright needles still attached and a pinecone too made PoD.

Just before dinner while I was working on the PoD and Scamp was reading, someone knocked on the door. It was the Tesco delivery! We’d completely forgotten about it. Rushed to empty the crates and let the driver get on his way. Dinner was one of Scamp’s specialities, Stir-fry. This was a Chicken Stir-fry with all the fancy veg. Quite delicious.

Sketch of the day was Float. I’d decided about a week ago that today’s drawing centre around a fishing float. It looked a bit dull, just a view of a fishing float from below, so I searched for sort of cartoon drawings of fish and adapted one of them to add to the sketch, then added a few rocks and sand on the bottom of the water. That brightened it up. I’m happy with it.

That was about it for the day. These autumn days are so short now. We really should get up and out early to make the most of them. We watched the first episode of Roadkill. We’re both still undecided about it. We’ve another episode recorded and we may watch it tomorrow. Tomorrow however we are booked for a full day of wind and rain, which seems to happen about every second day just now.

An almost wasted day – 12 October 2020

Today was wet.

Not thumping down torrential wet, more a smirr that strengthened to a drizzle, then returned to a smirr again. Almost turned itself off to catch the unwary before continuing again as a slightly heavier drizzle. Look, just give us a soaking and be done with it, but no it was lazy rain.

I was struggling with the Sony website today. I have never seen such a convoluted piece of badly written HTML. Ok, Hazy I hear you, nobody uses HTML any more, but the coding on that site is horrendous. Captchas, don’t talk to me about Captchas. Those infuriating “Prove you’re not a robot” nine picture grids where you have to identify ‘crosswalks’. I live in Scotland you moron, we don’t have crosswalks. We don’t even have happywalks these days. Eventually got through the maze of crosswalks, bicycles, school buses and traffic lights, only to be told “There’s been a problem”. No kidding, a problem eh? On this magnificent piece of artistic code, there’s been a problem. The only reason I was there was to download a shitty app that didn’t work because it needed another piece of code that it wanted me to download after I’d signed into another webpage. What, and go through all that Captcha nonsense again? I think not. Sony I know none of your grunts are reading this, but you really need to employ humans to do your coding. The monkeys you have just now are simply messing you about.

There, that’s got that out of my system. By the time I’d given up on Sony and had lunch the clouds were lifting, literally, the clouds outside the window were lifting. I went out to buy some milk and got today’s PoD on the way back as the sun came out. It’s pretty good, but it would have been better if I’d remembered to set the ISO back to a reasonably 400 rather than the 6400 I’d been using for practise earlier. Still, it shows the power of a full frame sensor. Every year I promise myself I won’t shoot the golden leaves we get in autumn. Every year I give in to the temptation, and so it was this year. Low, warm coloured sun just lights everything up and I’m lost in it.

Sketch prompt today was ’Slippery’. I almost gave up and did my own thing, because I’m beginning to hate these vague prompts. Too airy fairy for me. However for another day I stuck to the script and drew a frog. They don’t come much more slippery than a frog, unless they’re an MP. I think I prefer frogs. You know where you are with a frog.

That was about it for today. Tomorrow I hope we’ll go out somewhere for a walk in the autumn sun and I’ll forget about Captchas and the ISO will be set to something sensible, maybe even Auto, and we can enjoy the light. Before that, I’m booked for coffee with Val.

Dull and damp – 22 June 2020

That just about sums it up for today.

Scamp was feeling a bit a bit queasy in the morning and only had a very light lunch. She didn’t feel like going anywhere, but that wasn’t a problem because the morning weather was dull leaden skies and a fair smattering of showers.

We needed milk and bread, we also needed to get out of the house. A walk in the fresh air would do us the world of good, so we walked to the shops. Not surprisingly the rain had ensured that there weren’t any big queues with the possible exception of Home Bargains which always has at least a few folk queueing. I think people queue up outside it after the doors are shut and locked at 6pm. It just seems to be what you do outside this great retail experience. We weren’t going there. We just nipped into The Food Warehouse, or Iceland as you will know it and got the essentials. That means bread, milk and chocolate biscuits. Walked back home and although we’d been prepared for one of the showers that had bedevilled us all morning, we never saw a single raindrop.

Back home I decided I’d risk a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is either a ‘toadlet’ or a ‘froglet’. I’ve yet to find a good way of telling these amphibians apart. Saw quite a few of them making heavy weather of their crossing from one side of the path to the other. Given that the stones they are navigating through, and over, are bigger than them, it must have been an exhausting journey. Most seemed to make it across safely.

Back home, Scamp was feeling a bit better. A gentle bit of retail therapy works wonders and if this Lockdown is teaching us anything, it’s that we need to take our time. Dinner was plain fare. Just spaghetti with a tomato sauce.

Today I made the decision to abandon the list and paint or draw something that interests me for a change. There are only a few days left in the list anyway and about fifty percent of these lists are just copied from the previous year, so I wasn’t missing much. Today I chose a walk we did on the bridlepaths around Baldock with JIC and Sim many years ago. It’s from a photo and dates from 2013. I remember that day well. I painted it in watercolour on watercolour paper that Scamp gave me for Christmas. This the first thing I’ve completed using it and it’s much nicer to paint on than the sketch book I’ve been using.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It rather depends on the weather and how Scamp is feeling.

A Toy of the rack – 11 June 2020

I’ve been looking for a decent quality second-hand macro lens. Today it appeared on the Wex website, but not for long.

The lens I was looking for was an Olympus 60mm f2.8 M.Zuiko macro lens. I have a very hardworking Lumix 30mm f2.8 macro at present. It produces immaculate photos of ‘beasties’ as Scamp calls them. However, (there’s always a however!) you have to get really close to an insect to get a decent large image. Sometimes that’s quite easy, but often trying to get your piece of glass in place 10.5cm from the subject is just going too close to the insect. The Olympus 60mm allows you to be almost twice that distance away and still get the same shot. 10cm is a lot when you’re trying to capture a skittish dragonfly. I’ve seen a few of the Oly 60s for sale on different websites, but they were all well used and quite worn. This one, this morning, was almost brand new and for a price I was willing to pay. Snapped it up and with a bit of luck it will arrive tomorrow. If not it will be Monday.

That was the morning taken care of. After lunch I went out for a spin hoping to get some photos in an improving day. Came home empty handed to find Scamp just finishing repotting the new little acer she got last week. She’d also fed the magnolia and the acer with ericaceous dressing. I still hadn’t found any photos and as the sun was coming out, I got togged up and took the dewdrop out for a run. Wheel and especially the brake disk is still bedding in, but getting better each time. Walked the bike round Mosswater Nature Reserve behind Blackwood. Met a bloke who was running round it with his son. He had a curious way of counting the laps they’d done. All done with stones placed in different patterns on the viewpoint. A line of pebbles counted the number of times they’d done the round trip and a pile of them counted something else. It was all a bit beyond me. I left them too it and walked round past the ponds, noting that appearance of some damselflies and a few dragonflies. Possible targets for that new lens when it comes.  On the way back I stopped at St Mo’s and grabbed a shot of a little froglet, or zoglet, wandering back to the pond.  Tiny little thing about 1cm long. That was PoD sorted.

Got home to find Scamp just finishing grass cutting at the front of the house and trimming the edges with her new fancy edging shears.

Hopefully we’ll get another dry day tomorrow, and get out for a run, but we’re not doing the sort of run that involves pebbles in piles on a viewpoint!

Frogs, Frogs, Frogs – 8 March 2020

No, not plagues of them, that was in Egypt. Here it was an invasion of frogs.

In the morning it was bread making that was occupying me. I got that done fairly easily. Forget all the rigmarole of different kinds of kneading, the last three loaves I’ve made have used the same method.

  1. Weigh out the flour, butter, yeast and salt.
  2. Weigh in the water. Yes, I know water is a liquid quantity, but 160ml of water weighs 160gms.
  3. Add a pook of sugar. Technically it’s a pinch, but my mum always called it a ‘pook’. Always trust your mum.
  4. Mix it up quickly with a metal spoon.
  5. Adjust the flour or water quantity to make it wet enough to mix, but dry enough to be lifted from the measuring bowl without it dripping everywhere.
  6. Drag it about in the bowl. Squash it and pummel it, but keep it in the bowl. Keep moving it around until it feels smooth to the touch. If it’s too dry or too wet, repeat step 5.
  7. If you’re feeling daring you can scoop it out of the bowl and go for a walk around the house squeezing and squashing it as you go. Bread dough likes to see its surroundings.
  8. Dust the bowl with flour and dump the dough gently in the bottom and leave for about an hour in a warm place with a tea towel covering the bowl. The dough by this time is exhausted and needs to sleep.

The rest of the process is simply the baking. You’ve done the hard part, the kneading. Easy kneading.

So, with the dough sleeping, I started on my dinner.

Dinner for me was slow roasted short ribs. Scamp took the easy option, salmon fillet. The ribs had been living in the freezer for almost a year, so I had brought them out yesterday and allowed them to thaw out. Today I mixed up my marinade which is Oil, Salt, Acid, Sugar and herbs. All as confirmed by the book Hazy bought me a year ago. Thank you again, Hazy. Olive Oil, Sea Salt, plus some Soy Sauce, Balsamic Vinegar, Honey with some Rosemary and Thyme. I added a bit of French Mustard to help the oil emulsify with the other ingredients once I’d whisked them together. Poured equal quantities of the marinade into three flavour lock bags and put a short rib in each. Stuck them in the fridge to soak up all that goodness and went for a walk.

Walked over to St Mo’s in the rain and found the inundation of frogs I’d mentioned. A week or so ago I’d found a couple of frogs cavorting in one of the wee burns that someone had cut through the woods, but this wasn’t just a couple, this was a couple of hundred. Clambering over one another and creating great rafts of frog spawn. Last year’s frogs were a bit low on IQ and had sprayed all their eggs over the flooded flood plain. When that dried out they were let to desiccate under the early summer sun. It’s really a miracle that any survived to procreate this year. Today’s PoD is one of those frogs relaxing after a tough morning.

Back home it was lunch first, then time to shape the bread and help Scamp clear out some stuff to go to the skips tomorrow. Roasted the marinaded short ribs but left them too long. Should have kept them at 2 hours, but turned the heat in the oven down to gas 2-3, I think. May try again some time soon.

Spoke to JIC later and got his take on panic buying and Covid 19 which hasn’t changed since last week. Keep Calm and Carry On is his sensible advice. Mine is Whit’s Fur Ye Won’t Go By Ye. Pretty much the same thing. Why is everyone fixated on panic buying toilet rolls and why do people want to buy all the tinned veg and potatoes? Who wants to live on tinned potatoes?? Not JIC and not me either.

The recipes above are for my reference and as a memory jogger for me, but feel free to try them. No guarantees of success, but they do work and the Oil, Salt, Acid, Sugar marinade definitely works. It’s even scientific (ish).

Tomorrow my new Benbo, not Benro and certainly not Bento, tripod should be delivered to a shop in Glasgow. Wrestling an octopus is one of the more generous descriptions of using it. Hopefully I’ll let you know if I agree soon.