A busy day – 21 January 2022

Today we continued with the cooking and baking for tonight’s dinner.

Started early, making the dough for the bread. It was to be a full size loaf, and to save time (and effort), I made it in the mixer. That did most of the work, but the dough still needed more flour to be worked in because it was too wet. Actually I’d have been better making it by hand because you can feel whether the dough is too stiff or too wet and make adjustments as you go. Eventually I was happy with it and left it to prove.

By then it was nearly lunchtime. After that I took some time to get the ingredients organised for the main course. Rice weighed out, onions chopped and likewise cabbage. Scamp already had the fish defrosting.

With the prep done, I went for a walk down to the shops to get some beer for the visitors. I took the camera with me, of course but nothing really caught my eye. My favourite shot, and PoD was of the afternoon light illuminating a hogweed seed head. It wasn’t until I had the shot home and was inspecting it in Lightroom that I noticed the little ladybird tucked neatly in between the branches.

Beer bought, I headed home and helped set up the table. My ‘help’ really only meant I helped pull the table out and lay the table cloth. Then it was time to put the bread in the oven. It had risen well. It was when I was turning it out of the wicker basket on to the baking tray the whole thing deflated. A flat as a pancake loaf is not what I wanted for tonight. In a fit of pique, I bunged it in the bin and started again. If I’d thought about it, I’d have knocked the air out of it completely and set it for another prove. I didn’t stop to think. Too hasty sometimes, that’s me. Anyway, I made a smaller quantity, hand kneaded it this time and set it to prove. That gave me time for a coffee and to make a start on today’s Sudoku.

This time the dough rose much better than last and it went into the oven to bake, it had fallen slightly, but reinflated quickly in the hot oven. It came out fine. I’d just started the main course when the visitors arrived. I left Scamp to do the entertaining while I fried the onions and the rice and veg then added the fish stock and bunged everything into the oven which was just at the right temperature to bake the risotto for 20mins. That gave me a chance to have a beer with Crawford and chat to Nancy. After some time I checked the timer, only to find that I’d set it, but forgotten to start it! I needn’t have worried, my inbuilt clock and Scamp’s hint about “How’s the risotto doing?” saved the day. Basically it all worked fine. Later when Scamp and I discussed the day, we agreed that the combination of a heavy soup and far too much risotto had made the dinner a bit heavy. Her Sticky Toffee pudding and my second loaf had been the stars of the show.

It was early morning before we got to bed after half the dishes had completed their cycle in the dish washer and that’s why this is another catch-up. First one for a while.

Tomorrow we need to be up and out early for the first dance class for a long time.

Another day of swearing – 6 January 2022

Swearing at the printer and the coffee maker, making a loaf, taking a few photos and making the dinner. My day in a nutshell.

The printer was being bad. It was as simple as that. It would print perfectly, then stop, chuck out the next two pages and then put on its red light to show it wasn’t happy. After trying lots of different things that you aren’t interested in hearing, I did what I should have done ages ago and removed it in its entirety from the iMac. Then I reinstalled all the stuff I’d taken off, and it worked perfectly for the rest of the day!

The coffee maker was being bad. I cleaned the portafilter, checked the filter itself and made sure it was clean. I checked the little hole in the filter cup wasn’t clogged. Filled it with coffee and set it to work, except it didn’t. It just held its breath and grumped, not releasing any life-giving coffee. So in true John Cleese fashion I gave it a damn good thrashing. I took the filter cup upstairs and used a nail and a cross pein hammer to enlarge that tiny little hole. No coffee ground is going to get stuck in there now. Maybe a coffee bean might manage to get lodged, but no coffee grounds. It would probably have been better to use a 1mm drill, but I didn’t have any. It worked perfectly after the thrashing.

The loaf knew better than to mess me about. It just worked, perfectly. I let the mixer do the hard kneading work and at the end of the process, a perfectly baked and slightly odd shaped loaf graced the cooling rack. Nice to know that some things just do what they’re told.

Scamp had taken the Wee Red Car out for a spin in the morning, just to make sure its battery was well charged, and also to get some messages. Fruit, veg a half price Christmas Pudding and a packet of tooth brushes were here prizes today. Oh yes, and I can report that the wee red car is looking very pumped up after its run. Pumped up and sparkling, actually, as you can see!.

It had been a very dull, wet and cold day with not a hint of sunshine until about 3pm when the sun broke loose from the clouds and shone on Cumbersheugh! On with the boots, camera in the bag and out looking for photos. I managed to grab a few shots of a couple of Coots before the swans came, demanding to be fed. Tomorrow I’ll take them some of the bread I made on Sunday. They won’t come asking again. They might not even get to the other side of the pond before they have that sinking feeling. It was a heavy loaf.

Dinner was Chicken Curry made with real chicken dated August 2021. Last year’s chicken that had been hiding at the back of the freezer. That poor cooker. It had all its four rings burning brightly. It’s a wonder it didn’t melt! One ring for the curry, one for the rice, one for the flat bread and one for the leftover chicken that couldn’t be re-frozen or put into the fridge while raw, but could go in after it had been cooked. Maybe it was because I couldn’t stand the heat, but I was finding it hard to keep my cool in the kitchen. More swearing ensued. Finish the day as you started it, that’s my motto!

Tomorrow there is snow forecast. In fact as I look out the window, it’s arriving early. We might manage a walk tomorrow, it depends if we get snowed in or not!

A sprinkling of snow – 26 December 2021

Just a dusting, that’s all and even that turned to rain quite quickly.

It didn’t matter, we weren’t going anywhere today. Too cold. Too lazy. Too little chance of getting a parking space back home. Instead, I mixed the flour, salt, yeast, butter and water and kneaded the mixture for over 10 minutes then set it to prove in a bowl covered with clingfilm, then went back to the Sudoku I hadn’t finished yesterday. Gave up on that and it was time for lunch.

It was Sunday and lunch on a Sunday always centres around eggs, mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes, black pudding and sausage in various combinations and quantities. All that to be eaten while watching and listening to Andrew Marr mauling one of a long list of politicians. Unfortunately last week was his last show, so today we ate in silence. I’ll bet a few of those mauled politicians would be licking their previous wounds and breathing a sigh of relief.

The weather wasn’t getting any better. Still cold, still wet, but that hasn’t stopped me before and it didn’t stop me today. Big jacket on, boots, hat and gloves on and I lugged my trusty A7ii over to St Mo’s to find something interesting to photograph. My chosen target would have been a deer. I actually saw one quite close up today, certainly within the range of the 55-210mm lens I’d left on the table back home. It didn’t stay in my sights for long and was soon laughing its way across the rough grass and into the trees.

I did get a PoD which was the jaggy spikes of a whin bush, one with a watery drip at the end of the jaggy bit. It was almost beaten by a slimy looking mushroom/toadstool with an interesting pattern on its stem. I’m pretty sure I also got a photo of a chanterelle, but can’t be certain. When I got back I checked the bread dough and it was looking ready for its final shaping and proving which is best done in a sort of cane basket that creates a spiral pattern on the finished loaf and also forms the finished loaf into a sort of beehive shape, like you see in Pooh Bear books.

While I was uploading my pictures to the Mac, Scamp declared it Gin O’Clock and I agreed with all but the gin. Instead, I had a Rum ’n’ Coke, Dark Matter rum. That put a heat in me.

Back to the still unfinished Sudoku and gave in. Loaded it into an app in my phone and finished it with technological help. Done! Thankfully one of my prezzies from Scamp was a new 365 day Sudoku calendar. It’s not been opened yet. Almost a week to wait.

The bread turned out a bit flatter than I’d have liked although it tasted ok.  Too much butter in the mix, I think. Must try harder.

Dinner tonight was yesterday’s chicken bits with potatoes and brussel sprouts.

After dinner drinks were the usual latte laced with Kahlua for Scamp and a Barraquito with layers of Condensed Milk, Licor 43, Espresso and Frothy Milk for me.  The only place we’ve seen it is in Tenerife.  Mine was definitely high octane!

We’ve not seen the weather for tomorrow, but a quick glance at the weather app on my phone would seem to rule out the possibility of going far.

Feeding the Jucks – 3 December 2021

Feeding the jucks with the wrong food, apparently.

It was a lazy start to the day. Not really cold, dull and cloudy with the occasional burst of sunshine. Not enough sunshine and not really warm enough to encourage me to leave the comfort of the house though. It wasn’t until after lunch that I took that step. Scamp wasn’t really interested in going for a walk, and I didn’t blame her.

The temperature was cooling down when I finally took the steps that led me outside. Toting both cameras again. A6000 with the macro lens and A7m2 with the standard lens for a change. I also had a loaf of green speckled bread under my arm to feed the ever hungry ducks and swans. That was my first task, to feed those hungry beaks.

A great way to start a food fight is to chuck a slice of bread into St Mo’s pond. Gulls, ducks, swans, coots and geese all diving in as if they’d never been fed for weeks. More like minutes, actually. With all the bread gone and the big daddy swan hissing his discontent at me, I emptied all the crumbs from the paper and went on my way.

I met a bloke who told me I shouldn’t really be feeding the birds with bread, because it’s not good for them. He wasn’t quite as confrontational as that, nor was he as blunt, but I got his message. I asked him what I should be giving them and he replied, sweetcorn. Apparently the enjoy sweetcorn and it’s good for them. Easily digested, he said. Then we discussed the age of the swans and how they live in different ponds, the same way we go visiting relatives and friends in other parts of the country. He did seem to know a fair bit about them and was happy to share his knowledge without making a nuisance of himself.

While I was walking round the pond thinking about what he’d said, I spotted some Canada geese in one of the quieter and deeper parts of the pond. Canada geese sometimes overwinter at the pond, but get a hard time from the resident two swans who are forever hustling them about. I took a few photos with the 6000 and the birds didn’t immediately fly away. In fact they swam a bit closer. I took some more shots with the A7 and the sun came out, lighting the trees on the far side of the pond. Potential PoD in the bag.

I was heading for the rough ground behind the pond hoping for a similar shot to yesterday’s with the low sun giving some warm light. I was much too early, probably an hour too early. I did get an interesting shot with decent light of a single cow parsley stem holding water drops in its claw-like seed heads. Another possible PoD.

After processing at home it was the geese that won the day, but the cow parsley shot is in Flickr for your perusal. Not a bad day’s photography, and a bit of information on feeding the swans stored away.

Dinner tonight was Chicken Biriyani. Spicy hot and not really a great taste. Apparently it can do some damage to your liver too. Don’t think we’ll be eating enough of it to do that much damage.

Tomorrow we may be going to dance class. To that end, Scamp and I had a quick practise of the Christmas Pudding Rock. Just a made up Christmas sequence dance. A bit of fun. Other than that, not much planned.


Lazy Sunday – 5 September 2021

Just as the weather fairies predicted, dull with the chance of wet later.

Last night when I was reading in bed I felt a scratch under my watch strap. It was a little eight legged friend, an arachnid, but not a spider. A little tic. It hadn’t actually pierced the skin but was wandering around looking for a good place to do so. I managed to get it on to my finger and from there on to my bedroom cabinet where its wanderings came to an end. I’ve now worked out how and where it got onto my hand and for that reason I wasn’t going to re-photograph the fungi I saw yesterday.

Instead, I made some bread. Complicated bread with dried tomatoes, garlic granules, dried basil, grated mozzarella, a medium egg and 120ml of milk as well as the usual bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar and warm water. When mixed together in the correct proportions, proved, rolled and lots of other things it was baked and produced a Pane Bianco. It smelled lovely after it was baked and tasted quite good too. Maybe not quite as good a the smell promised, but certainly worth the effort.

The furthest we walked today was down to the shops to get some veg for dinner. All today’s photos were taken in or around the house. My favourite and therefore PoD was a slow shutter/low ISO shot of a Berberis bush in the back garden.

Dinner was a chicken pasty with potatoes and mixed greens. Down to earth food is sometimes best. Watched the Dutch GP and was pleased that Verstappen won convincingly. Also like that Bottas showed a bit of spirit by going against team orders. It looks like he won’t be at Mercedes next year, so he has little to lose now, and possibly everything to gain. Good man.

That was it for a lazy Sunday. There could be worse ways to spend your time.

Tomorrow we may go out for a run if it’s dry and take some interesting landscape shots to get away from constant macros. It’s raining now. Just like the weather fairies predicted.

Just another Sunday – 15 August 2021

Sunday is a lazy day. That about summed it up.

In the morning, Scamp cut some of her sweet peas which have not been nearly as prolific as in previous years. If I was to hazard a guess at the reason, I’d say it was the container that was the problem. Scamp used to plant her sweet peas in an old orange box. That wasn’t the colour of the box (it was painted blue) it was previous use of the container. It was a wooden box that used to hold oranges. As you can imagine, it was fairly old, dating from a time before cardboard boxes. It was falling apart and she made up her mind last year to take it apart and replace it with a plastic trough. I think the sweet peas prefer the traditional orange box. I have no proof of this, it’s just my opinion, based on a life eating oranges.

While she was gathering the flowers I started making a loaf, just an ordinary loaf, nothing fancy. Left that to prove after messing up the proportions of water to flour. You’d think by this time I’d have a better idea of how much water to use, but my excuse is that I haven’t made a loaf for a long while.

After I’d tidied up the kitchen and Scamp had arranged the flowers in a vase with an extra bloom from her rose, Troika, I offered to photograph it. An old piece of crushed velvet became the backdrop and the whole thing sat on the draining board of the kitchen sink. One of the images became PoD. We went for a walk in St Mo’s in the afternoon and I collected a few more photos, but nothing as good as the flowers. I did get a dragon or two, but they weren’t really all that successful.

Back home I got busy preparing my dinner main course which was going to be Lamb Tagine, using two lamb neck fillets. Pan fried the lamb with spices, dates and a chopped onion. Added orange juice and water and transferred the lot to the slow cooker to chug away do its work for a couple of hours. Then it was time to get the bread ready for its second prove, which I did and then went for a second walk in St Mo’s looking for beasties this time. I found a grasshopper and a shield bug that was striding out along the kerb of the boardwalk. The grasshopper almost beat the flowers to first place, but I liked the colour combinations of the flowers.

Bread baked well and tasted fine. Tagine was great, but needed three hours slow cooking, not the two in the recipe. Scamp had a piece of trout and we shared calabrese and some of our potatoes. All were deemed good.

Tomorrow we may go out for a spin somewhere scenic!

Driving – 11 June 2021

A second visit to Ravenscraig.

We had just left the house when the rain started, but it didn’t linger. It was only telling us that it was still there, still wetting the ground, still watering thirsty plants, still wetting the washing that should have been drying on the ‘whirly’. We picked up Shona and then drove out to Ravenscraig. Accidentally I took a different route which seemed much quicker than the one the sat nav thought was best. We drove past my old work place in Newarthill, now a housing estate with no sign of the huge factory that once stood there.

It took a bit longer for Shona to get her jag, this her second AZ jag. She seemed little bothered by the event, although she was probably relieved the the whole thing was over, or at least over for now. We drove back to Cumbersheugh and went for coffee in Costa at the end of the depressing Antonine Centre. I wondered, not for the first time, what Antoninus Pius would have thought of this concrete and steel monstrosity that now bears his name. Shona had insisted that she was buying today and we agreed that would be great. Even Costa coffee has improved since lockdown has been eased. For one thing, they’ve gone back to using real cups and saucers, not those big cardboard half pint tumblers they used when everyone had to do take-away. For another they simply fill the cup now, rather than attempt to fill the big half pint tumbler with water to make sure it was filled to the brim although they still only put a single shot of coffee in it. It wasn’t just Costa either, Nero were just as bad. Today’s PoD came from Costa. Looking up from my seat at the lattice of dirty windows and just the corner of a manky water stained ’sail’ above the Costa cafe counter.

We sat and drank our coffee while we listened to Shona’s news. Some bad, but mostly good. It’s heartening to hear that she seems to be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a long tunnel, but it appears that the light is real. Then it was time to take her home and thank her for lunch.

Before we’d gone out this morning I’d made the dough for a Spelt and Walnut loaf. It had been proving for about four hours and was ready to be shaped into a loaf ready for the oven. Once that was done, I could turn my thought to dinner. It was to be a quiche filled with broccoli and chunks of smoked salmon, a recipe I’d pinched from Jackie. I didn’t have time to make the shortcrust pastry for the base, so I drove up to Tesco to get some ready made. Bumped into Mrs Begg from CHS and had a few words with her. Back home I was happy to be led through the mysteries of making a quiche by Scamp and as soon as the bread came out of the oven, the quiche replaced it with a small apple turnover too, to make best use of the left over pastry. Loaf, quiche and turnover were successful.

Watched an hour of nostalgia on BBC 4. A Singers Songwriters compilation that we hadn’t seen before. Wonderful music by singers we’d grown up listening to.

No plans for tomorrow. Today has been a day of passing showers, some of which took some time to pass by. Tomorrow looks the same.

Driving – 29 May 2021

Another beautiful day dawned and we were going out.

The plan was to go to Perth. That was the focal point of the run, but there were lots of other places we could visit along the way, or afterwards. As Driver, I chose Amulree as a place to visit along the way. I’d been looking at some old photos on Flickr of the church at Amulree and fancied taking some photos of it with the newer technology I now had. We plumbed Amulree into the sat nav and off we went.

The sat nav took us by a strange route, away from the very busy motorway and up into the hills. Then a twisty turny series of direction changes through Crieff before exiting into the hills again. By then I was completely lost and was just following the route blindly. However, about half an hour after we left the motorway, we drove down into Amulree with the church looking resplendent in the sunshine.

Scamp chose to stay in the car while I plodded off with a camera and a tripod to see if the church looked the same. It did. It had been painted since the last time we’d been which had been a few years ago. Other than that, not much had changed in the church or the graveyard. I don’t like taking photos in a graveyard, even if the headstones are not my prime interest, but for some reason I don’t have a problem at Amulree. I took about forty pictures and two of my favourites are in Flickr. Hopefully I’ll get more posted in the next few days. My PoD was the landscape shot you see here. I had just finished when another four visitors arrived, not photogs, just tourists. They didn’t give me any bother and were just looking around. Saw a wee painted stone on the entrance to the Kirk. I think it was one of the painted stones that people left lying around to be found when Covid was at its peak last year. It was neatly tucked away waiting to be found.

We drove on and found that we were only about 20 minutes away from Perth. Ah! This was the road I remembered. This was the way we came the last times. Back on to the A9 and heading for Perth we joined the queue dragging its heels along at 40mph through five or six miles of roadworks. It felt like a lot longer than that! I eventually got fed up and took a slip road off the wagon trail and followed my nose until we arrived in Perth. Finally found that half the car park had been turned into a Covid-19 testing place. Not only that, the attendant’s box had been removed and replaced with four parking meters. Paid our money and went for a walk in the town. For many years the old church in the the town has been falling into rack and ruin. Only pigeons seemed to live in it. Then scaffolding was put in place and chain link fences closed it off. Now it’s been gutted, really gutted and is in the process of being turned into an open air market. Great idea. Although part of it seems to have been removed, the remainder has been consolidated and even the clock in the tower is at the right time. Got some coffee and some tea and also a loaf from the Italian bakery. Scamp got a tee shirt.

Next stop was Glendoick garden centre on the Dundee road. We got some Calendula plants, a Prima Ballerina rose, a Gypsophila plant and planter to put them in. Then we were on the way home again.

It was a beautiful day with really high temperatures. The thermometer in the car was reading 27c on the way home.

Dinner tonight was a slice of yesterday’s frittata with chips I got from the chip shop in Condorrat.

Today’s sketch was a stapler. I drew my staple gun. A heavy duty metal one that has served me well for years.

Tomorrow is forecast to be the same as today, if not hotter. We’ll believe it when we see it.

Dull, dull, dull – 13 May 2021

White sky this morning. No texture in the clouds, just milky white

At least it was dry and it remained so all day. The furthest we got was a walk down to the shops and back. Apart from the ‘messages’, Scamp got some Bizzy Lizzies for her Wanderella planter that hangs by the back door. She did get some last week too, but they turned out to be too big for the holes in the planter and were used up elsewhere. These ones were much smaller and fitted perfectly. I got some chocolate limes to which I’m addicted. Tonight I divided them up into bags of five. When I go out for a walk I allow myself one bag. When they’re done, that’s it until the next day. If I put ten in the bag, I’d just eat them all without thinking about it, that’s why I limit myself to five. Not much chance of a walk in St Mo’s today though.

Last night I found a tick. First one for ages. Today I found another. That’s the walk in the woods at St Mo’s off the list until the first hard frost, because the ticks don’t seem to like the cold. Neither do I, but I hate ticks and that makes the cold bearable.

Apart from slapping Germoline and TCP on the tick bites, I found time to delve into the old NAS drive’s hard drive. I found that if I booted from a Linux distro (a live Linux installation on a USB stick) on the Mac, I could access the drive. All the files are still there on the hard drive, but the drive is formatted to Linux and can’t be read on a Mac or PC. What I didn’t know was that I could drag the files from the old NAS drive on to an NTFS (PC) formatted memory stick and load them on to the Mac. I wanted Office 11 for Mac and that was in the downloads I’d stored on the old NAS. It worked! Well, it almost worked. The new Mac is running Catalina and it doesn’t allow you to open any 32 bit apps. Office 11 is a 32 bit app. Game Over. Apparently I can still get Office for free by connecting to iCloud. A bit cumbersome, but it might work.

In the afternoon I did a bit of photography in the garden and that’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a Strawberry & Cream Aquilegia with a Spirea bush behind. That was in the hour or so of sunshine we had today. I managed to get a few shots of plants just coming in to flower. Good to see it.

Today’s sketch was to be A Close Up View of Something. I chose the pliers of the multi-tool I drew earlier in the week. Lots of lovely detail in the mechanics of the tool which allows the jaws to open and close, but to fold away again when you’re finished. Cleverly designed.

I forgot to post a photo of the Challah bread I made. As you can see we really needed to test it, even before I could get the photo taken. It’s just as nice today.

No plans for tomorrow. Scamp and Veronica are out in the morning, so I might get some painting done.


Baking – 7 April 2021

Today I was making Cheese & Garlic Tear and Share.

First thing to do today was make the dough.

Kneading, for some reason is good for increasing your step count. I think it’s the constant rhythmic movement of the wrist when kneading the dough that makes the Fitbit think you’re walking, when you’re actually standing on the spot. Ten minutes of kneading for the dough then an hour and a bit of rest for the dough and the baker. That gave me enough time to get the majority of today’s Sudoku done.

By lunchtime it looked as if the dough was about to burst out of its clingfilm covered bowl, but I let it stay there until I’d finished my French Toast or Eggy Bread to some. Scamp was off to meet Veronica and go for a walk with her round Broadwood Loch. I was keeping up my virtual step count with an extra bit of kneading. The next bit was a bit dull. The big ball of dough had to be divided into 24 equal balls and each one was to be filled with some mozzarella. Actually it was quite relaxing once I got into the zone. Packed twelve of my cheese stuffed balls into two round tins, left one to rise and put the other one in the fridge for tomorrow. Baked the tin of doughballs that had now risen and merged together after drizzling them with melted butter, garlic and parsley. This is definitely not a low calorie bread. The bread looked exactly like the picture in the recipe. I was impressed. So was Scamp. The only thing wrong with it was that the cheese I’d so carefully hidden in the balls, had disappeared. Maybe tomorrow’s will be better. Still it was a tasty tear and share. Thanks again JIC and Sim.

Just as it was coming out of the oven, Scamp appeared. I guessed I’d have time for a photo expedition to St Mo’s, so with a newly cleaned sensor and a single lens I went off to seek some subjects. There wasn’t much directional light and you know how much I like Light! I did however find today’s PoD on my weary plod home. It’s a Horse Chestnut bud recognisable by the scar just beneath the smaller buds. Seen from the front it looks like a horses hoof print with little nail holes too. Hence the name Horse Chestnut.

Dinner tonight was fish ’n’ chips. Fish on a Wednesday is a tradition in the house and tonight was no exception. Scamp has cleverly found a way to reduce the smell of the cooking oil, by lighting a scented candle in the kitchen. It works wonders.

We had a quick practise of the three dances we know and without a word of lie, we hardly put a foot wrong.  Why does it all go to pot when we’re dancing in (virtual) class on Sunday?  It must be the pressure of dancing for the teachers and knowing they are watching.

Watched Line of Duty tonight and am still looking for the User’s Manual to explain exactly what is going on!

A parcel seemed to arrive today but seems to have been spirited away. Also spirited away is the Fairy Garden. In my St Mo’s walk today I wondered if it had been vandalised, but no. Every single piece of the garden had disappeared, including the stars hanging from the trees, all the little doors and even the washing had been taken in! All gone back to fairyland I presume.

Must get this blog posted and get to bed. No plans for tomorrow, other than breakfast in bed.