Bakin’ Bagels – 28 February 2021

That’s not all we did today, but probably the most interesting thing.

I actually got up earlier than usual to start to tidy up the dining table. It was a shocking mess of cables, external hard drives, papers and just junk. All of it mine. Once it was fairly clear and not just dumped in another place, but filed away properly for once, I could start on the dough for the bagels. But first, it was time for a Sunday fry-up. Some traditions must be adhered to.

The bagel kit was part of my Christmas present from my son and his wife. Every month for six months a blue box appears on the mat with the ingredients and instructions to make some bread related food. This month’s had been languishing for a good few weeks. I’ve only once eaten a bagel and that was in Starbucks. As my daughter commented, it might not have been the most representative of bagels. All I knew about them was that they were boiled before they were baked, which sounded strange. Still, the dough awaited me. Got it mixed and kneaded and transferred to the bowl to prove (rise).

It would take a good hour or so for the dough to double in size, so we went for a walk in St Mo’s. The sky had started of milky white this morning and kept promising to clear, but it had just remained white all day. We went twice round the pond with lots of other folk who were also waiting for the emergence of that bit white disk in the sky. It didn’t happen and we all went home disappointed. All except one little girl with pale blue wellies who was discovering the delights of puddles and also the brilliant way that bulrushes smash into a thousand pieces when you bash them on the ground. Such simple pleasures are wasted on children.

I couldn’t see anything worth photographing, even with my new macro lens. I eventually settled on a shot of a park bench sitting under a tree. I spent an hour at home covering up the berm bend of a BMX track with grass in Lightroom and eventually made it PoD.

Back at the bakehouse I chopped up the dough into ten pieces and made them into doughnut shapes before boiling them in water for 45secs on each side (they float, you see). Then I sprinkled most of them with poppy seeds and baked them. The came out looking like the picture, but were a bit chewy and in need of some salt. However, having only once tried a bagel, I didn’t know if that was what they should taste like. I don’t know where you’d find anyone in Cumbersheugh who could tell you what a bagel is, far less where to buy one. Do you think Amazon sells them?

While I was bagel boiling and baking, Scamp was creating a fish pie. It’s one of her sister’s masterpieces and something we look forward to when we visit Skye. Hers was almost as good as the Skye Pie but was a lot of work. First cook the fish in milk, then let it cool. Make a sauce with the milk. Boil the potatoes and mash them with butter before assembling everything, adding some peas and bunging it in the fridge for a while. Finally baking it in the oven to heat it up and also to crisp up the potato topping. I thought it tasted fine, but Scamp, the perfectionist wasn’t sure. More investigation needed I think.

Dancing menu tonight was Mayfair Quickstep – Waltz Routine – Rumba Routine with new steps – Square Tango. We both felt we did really well with all of the above and Scamp got a quick thumbs up text from Stewart afterwards to confirm that we were doing well! Must keep up the good work during the week.

Final drawing for EDiF and 28DL was Bird Box. Mine was a simple wooden bird box like the ones we used to make in school. Birds don’t care about fancy painted details. All they are looking for is a place to hatch and rear their offspring. That’s what my drawing shows. All done for another year, although I may do EDiMay if the prompts take my fancy DV.

Spoke to JIC after the dance class and heard that they have actually been sitting out in their garden!!!  Probably without coats on too!!  What is the world coming to?

Our monthly Covid test is on the cards for tomorrow, otherwise the day is our own. Looks like a better day than today.

An improving day – 27 February 2021

It started off dull and foggy, but it ended up much better.

We hadn’t anywhere to go today and no real reason to go there anyway. However we drove over to Kilsyth on the pretext of going shopping in Lidl. I wanted a bottle of their excellent Hortus gin and Scamp wanted ‘messages’. We achieved our aim and got both. I was very good and didn’t open the gin right away when we got home. Instead, I went out for a walk in St Mo’s but that’s not where today’s PoD came from. I got that much earlier.

The light was beautifully soft for a while after the fog had lifted and so had the heaviest of the clouds. The freesias on the windowsill were looking great and I grabbed a few shots, but I knew they would look better on a dark background. I hung Scamp’s black cardigan on the handle of the window and banged off another half dozen shots, one of which Scamp chose as PoD. No cardigans were harmed making this picture.

The trip to St Mo’s was just because the light was improving and I did find some more subjects. A tiny little spider for one. The first spider I’ve seen this year. Another was a little branch from a weed with lots of water droplets, probably from the morning’s fog, shining brightly. It seemed to be one of those days when you couldn’t put a foot wrong. Except I did put both feet wrong and came home with wet sox again!

Scamp suggested we do a Golden Bowl (best Chinese food in Cumbersheugh) and I readily agreed. Chicken Chop Suey with Fried Rice for Scamp and Special Chow Mein for me. Washed down with a glass of Red.

In the evening we practised the waltz routine and it is looking good. Much more ‘together’ than it’s been all week. Partly due to S&J’s video, but more to do with Scamp breaking things down and working out whose foot goes where, when. We also found the real name of a song Stewart uses for the rumba routine. Tried Shazzam, but it’s rubbish now. Used Sound Hound and it worked first time. It’s now in the dance music folder in Spotify.

Today’s topic was “Chess”. I dug out my old wooden chess men and set them up to fight. Black lost. That’s what happens when you paint yourself into a corner.

If the weather is decent tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere.

Off to Motherwell again – 26 February 2021

We had promised ourselves a picnic somewhere today. The somewhere happened, the picnic didn’t.

When we left the house I was wondering if we’d get anywhere at all. We kept getting a message on the dashboard that there was a System Error with Start/Stop which is the technology that stops the engine to avoid excessive C02 going through the exhaust. Not a serious problem, but annoying and will need investigated by the garage. We did our best to ignore the incessant beeps and drove to Motherwell again to Barons Haugh for a walk in a different direction. We started out along the same path as last time, but turned in the opposite direction after about half a mile. We walked along a mucky path that eventually took us … almost back to the carpark, but we continued on and pretended we hadn’t noticed the carpark. We found a Japanese Garden that would have offended any Japanese folk who chose to visit it. It was a bit sorry looking. The water in the stream that wound through it was muddy, discoloured and full of rotting plants. It looked as if nobody had taken any time to look after it for some time. Such a pity and a disappointment.

Further on we found the “Big Hoose” which is private and exclusive by the looks of the cars in the forecourt. Outside it is the Covenanter’s Oak which is reputed to be the oldest tree in North Lanarkshire. Not a great claim to fame, but it’s an impressive tree. After that we wandered down the narrow ravine cut by the Dalziel Burn down to an old cemetery where my brother has taken some lovely photographs. Now I don’t like taking photos in cemeteries and didn’t take my camera out of its bag today. Back to the carpark was by a steep and fairly narrow single track road. Wouldn’t fancy meeting anyone coming the opposite way on this narrow road with high walls on each side. We drove home without any sign of the previous problems from the car. Still worth watching.

Scamp wanted to do “some dusting” after lunch and I wanted to get some more photos, but made a pig’s ear of all the settings on the camera and almost came home empty handed, but one shot worked really well and that’s what became PoD.

Today’s prompt was ‘Airplane’. I don’t like the word Airplane. I prefer Aircraft or Airies, but a prompt is a prompt. The sketch is based on a Handley Page Jetstream I saw at Brooklands in Surrey. The one there wasn’t in flying condition and probably never will be again, but it was a beautiful aircraft.

Very short practise session for the end of the waltz. Scamp had been working through it after her ‘dusting’ and seemed happy that we’ve ironed out that part of the routine at least. Now we just have to fix the rest of the dance!

No plans for tomorrow.

Dances with Wolves – 25 February 2021

Honestly, it will all become clear

It was a lovely morning which we kind of wasted by sitting inside. We had a webinar booked with the man from Falkirk. There is the risk that listening to someone who is so steeped in his subject may turn out to be heavy in jargon and ultimately tedious. No fear of that with this twosome. Both he and his sidekick explained the intricacies of the financial world in simple terms, leavened with a fair amount of humour. He and his female counterpart would make excellent teachers.

By the time we were through and had returned to the here and now, it was almost lunchtime so we had our toasted cheese and listened to Nic the Chick twisting and turning, trying to make everyone believe she’s squeaky clean. Now I much prefer the Sturgeon to the Salmond, but neither of them are to be believed. As my pal John would say, “You know they’re lying because their lips are moving.” That sums up politics and politicians as far as I’m concerned. To clear our heads we went for a walk.

We needed food for dinner, so we walked down to the shops, via St Mo’s because the weather was still good, if not as bright as it had been earlier. Came home laden with more than we had intended getting, but who’s counting how many cakes we need?

Today’s prompt was “Wolf” and since there are no wolves near where we live, I resorted to Google to find some likely subjects. With half a dozen chosen I dumped them into Google Drive and sat down to finish today’s Sudoku. Then I dumped some kidney beans, some chilli paste and a few hot peppers in yesterday’s bolognese and voila we have a chilli for tonight’s dinner. Scamp was having fish with veg and rice, so we agreed to half the rice between us and dinner was sorted. Mine was a bit tasteless, but boy it was hot. Wish I’d bought some sour cream at the shops.

After dinner had slid down, we attempted Stewart and Jane’s waltz Spin Turn. I tried it in my dancing shoes, but the didn’t slide enough on the carpet. I tried it in my sox, but the gripped the carpet too. I didn’t trust my bare feet to Scamp’s dancing shoes, but the most help was Scamp’s count of the beats and also slowing down Stewart and Jane’s tutorial video to 75%. I even found how to use iMovie to slow the video but not distort the speech. Perfect. Well, as close to perfect as we were going to get tonight.

I’d already sorted out PoD which is some Cladonia lichen with a little moss tree making a macro garden of sorts. Looks totally alien to me as most macro shots do. It’s a miniature world of its own. Time to tackle that wolf. I glanced at some tutorials on YouTube that promised methods for drawing realistic wolf heads, but most of them were from influencers who just shout at you and then stumble through 25 minutes of ‘tutorial’ with about 5 minutes of content. After suffering a few of these, I took my sketchpad and pencils up stairs, turned the heater on low and had a good look at the wolf pictures I’d found on Google. From them I built up a framework of a dog-like head and from there stretched out some parts and reduced others until a lupine head appeared. A little bit of yellow watercolour for the eye and we were done.

Tomorrow the weather looks settled, so I think we’ll try a drive somewhere with a flask of coffee and a couple of pieces. A February picnic.


A dry day at last – 24 February 2021

Today it was dry in the morning and it seemed a shame to waste the day.

So it was boots on and just a light raincoat, because it wasn’t really all that cold. It wasn’t warm either, well, it is Scotland in February so what do you expect? We walked down and around the Broadwood boardwalk. I attempted a few shots of a goosander that was feeding in the shallows, but the settings I was using yesterday wouldn’t be suitable for today’s camera/lens setup and the photos were junk. Lots of folk out walking along the dam wall, making good use of a dry day for a change.

On the way back home I took a detour round St Mo’s pond while Scamp headed home. Just the two circuits today and got talking to a bloke I sometimes see there. We discussed a chestnut brown headed duck we’d both just seen. Neither of us was sure what it was, then he suggested a Potchard and that sounded familiar. I checked when I got home and it looks like he was right. I’d got a couple of shots of it once I’d sorted out the settings. Later in the walk I spotted Mr Grey or one of his close relatives fishing in the reeds. However it was two Canada geese that made PoD. One of the few clear shots I had today with the Tamron 70-300mm on the adaptor.

Dinner tonight was ‘Rats’ for Scamp with a baked potato and Spaghetti Bolognese for me using mince that had been in the freezer since October 2020. Tasted fine. I might even have the rest for dinner tomorrow if it survives past lunch.

The prompt today was Golf. I’d already worked out what the painting, because it would be a painting, would be. As usual I roughed it out on the cheap Cass Art sketch book and as usual, that became the finished sketch. It’s not the best quality sketch book, far from it, but it has a lovely ‘tooth’ (the grain of the paper that catches the graphite of the pencil). It’s not so clever at holding the paint and the colours tend to be a bit muddy because the paper absorbs the water so much. It’s also not quite white, so that doesn’t help. With all that said, it’s great for working on with a pencil.

Golf is not a game I ever thought I’d excel at, and I was right. Others wax lyrical about it, but I just don’t see the point. I used to have a boss who played every Sunday and on a Monday morning all the folk in the office, including me, would skive off because he would be too busy discussing the day’s golf with the other golfers in the office. My father-in-law was a golfer too. My wife and I couldn’t get married on a Saturday morning because that was his day and time for playing golf. I think it’s the paraphernalia that fascinates people about golf. It’s the dress code, the shiny golf clubs and the language, the jargon of golf that makes them feel part of an elite group. I never was one for joining groups, elite or not. Maybe that’s why golf is not for me.

We watched Landscape Artist of the Year and we were both surprised and shocked at the artists that blagged their way to the final. I could paint better than them!

The weather looks even better for tomorrow. We may go somewhere. I’ll get the settings sorted before we go out!

A wild, windy and wet day – 23 February 2021

That’s quite enough alliteration for today thank you very much.

Despite the hammering rain and the wind, Scamp wanted to go for a walk down to the shops because we were running short on fruit. It wasn’t so bad when we were out, until we realised we had the wind at our back, but on the way home it was literally in our face. I’d thought I might take a detour through St Mo’s on the way back, but I decided that was not the thing to do in the rain, and besides we were carrying two bags of messages and my detour would have left Scamp with both, so we just went home.

I did go out a short while later when the rain stopped. The rain might have stopped, but the wind felt worse and unbelievably I was almost blown off my feet. Scamp keeps on telling me I’m getting thin and I just laugh, but maybe this once she’s right. I’ll have to stock up on steak pies and fish suppers to increase my BMI and lower my centre of gravity. I took a few photos, but nothing really stood out. Luckily I’d taken the opportunity of a grab shot on my way out. I’d seen this little dog’s collar with the red bow a few days ago and meant to get a photo. I did today and it became PoD. The rest of the shots were almost all out of focus. I was all for sending the lens back, but then relented because with the weather conditions we’re having, it’s hardly a fair test of the lens’ ability. I’ve got 30 days to make up my mind.

Spoke to Hazy later in the day and it seems that they are settling in to their ‘new’ place quite well. No activity from any river dwelling spirits yet though. If that means nothing to you, try reading the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch

Tonight Scamp got her jag. Same one as me, Astra Zeneca. So hopefully that will take some of the stress out of life for a while. Boris the Bungler made his Roadmap out of Lockdown public yesterday and Nic the Chick made her proclamation today. A couple of nice wee sarcastic jags of her own at the London Lad. Also a more sensible and cautious path out for Scotland. I don’t really mind how long it takes (within reason), just as long as it works.

Today’s prompt was “Miami” and I couldn’t think what to do for it. I finally settled on Miami Vice, the ’80s version of Crocket and Tubbs. Drew a machine vice and put a Miami logo on it. Don’t tell anyone, but if you look carefully you’ll see that I spelt Miami wrong! Twice! I could have altered it digitally in the photo but an eraser was quicker in the end!  The Palomino Blackwing pencils are really soft.  They must be about a 6B and it takes very little to smear them all over the page.  That’s why it looks so dirty.

Tomorrow seems like a re-run of today, if slightly calmer. We may go for a walk somewhere, or we may not. I’ve baking to do.

Sunshine again – 22 February 2021

Beautiful morning, so up and out in the morning.

We drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the towpath of the canal out to Twechar and back along the old railway. On the way out we saw two Goosanders with two ducklings. First time I’ve seen baby goosanders. Loads of cyclists out this morning making good use of the springlike weather. We found some snowdrops at the start of the railway path, a great swathe of them. Wonderful views of the hills too. It was good to be standing in the countryside, actually IN the countryside for a change.

The walk back along the railway was a bit of a disappointment. The works that have been ongoing since autumn and now proudly advertised with a big billboard are still only part complete. True, the path through Dumbreck Marshes had been upgraded and a couple of the big holes where the River Kelvin had worn away the side of the paths had been repaired. How long the repairs will last I wouldn’t like to say, but that was it. That’s a good few month’s ‘work’ with very little to show for it. Scamp seemed to just accept it and I ranted about what a waste of money it was. Then I shut up … for a while.

Drove back for lunch and did a bit of painting, catching up on yesterday’s sketches that I’d had a mental block with. Finally got yesterday’s and today’s drawings done. PoD was a gloomy looking landscape shot of sheep in a field near Auchinstarry.

All in all, it was a good day. Still experimenting with and testing the new lens. Trying different subjects. Today’s sheep picture was taken with it and although it’s classed as a short telephoto, it does produce really sharp landscape images. I’ve still not quite worked out how to best use it as the macro it’s supposed to be. To be honest, though, it’s not the best time of year to be photographing macros. In another two or three weeks there might be some more interesting things to photograph.

Tomorrow it is going to rain a lot, by the look of the weather map, so we will be stuck inside I presume because we’ve only one pair of wellies between us!

“It might sound dull … – 20 February 2021

… but dull’s sometimes all we have.” Admiral Fallow.

Another day when the sun didn’t seem to want to come out to play. It was dry for a while in the morning, but then the rain started again and it did want to come out to play. In fact it enjoyed it so much it stay all day. It’s probably still out there splashing in the puddles.

Today I made some dough which I would in turn make into a couple of pizzas for dinner tonight. They were very nice pizzas too. Lots of tomato sauce and anchovies covered with mozzarella cheese that had been in the freezer since last year. It keeps perfectly, you know, at least the grated stuff does. Not sure I’d like to freeze the fresh mozzarella balls though.  Scamp baked an apple pie with our own apples that she had frozen back in the late summer.  As always, she wasn’t totally happy with it, but I had no complaints.

PoD was a collection of knives, scissors and secateurs that usually live in a ceramic pot in the kitchen. I tipped them on to the work surface to wash out the pot. When I saw them with the light coming in from the kitchen window they looked interesting, so I took some photos and with a few tweaks and the help of a preset I’d downloaded from a bloke called Mark Galer, they became PoD.

Today’s prompt was Spoon. I was generous and raised the bid to three spoons. Odd number again. Drawn in ink because there isn’t much colour, except reflected colour, in spoons. I photographed the finished drawing, then tried putting on a wet wash which would make the ink run and create shadows, but it just didn’t work. Glad I photographed the original pen drawing.

Tomorrow is forecast to be better than today, which wouldn’t be difficult. We may go out for a walk.


It rained – 19 February 2021

All day.

In the morning I started today’s sketch. My thoughts are that although it’s good being able to draw under the daylight bulb in the ‘drawing room’, it’s much better to work with natural daylight, even if it is a poor light at times. Also, if I get the drawing done early then hopefully I’ll get to bed at a reasonable hour.

It worked today. The topic was ‘Yoga’. Many moons ago I did go to a yoga class run by a police sergeant in the gym of a Larkhall school. I became quite addicted to it. When I retired I thought I might take it up again, but the classes were always booked solid and eventually I gave up trying. Maybe once we are out of lockdown I may try again.
As you can see, I couldn’t settle on a subject, so this is a page from my sketchbook and I think the two poses fit quite well. That was a tough prompt, but quite enjoyable.

The furthest we went today was down to the shops for milk. What exciting lives we lead. I didn’t even risk a walk in St Mo’s in case I got the new toy wet (although it is ‘weatherproof’ but probably not ‘Scottish weather proof’). Instead, I took today’s PoD in the warm and dry of the kitchen. It’s a tiny little Narcissus that came in a posy of flowers that Scamp had tastefully arranged in a vase. An old vase that belonged to my mum. It was a six second exposure on a tripod and I really liked it. Great detail in the petals.

Dinner came courtesy of The Chippy in Condorrat. I walked through the rain to get one small fish supper (Scamp’s) and one large fish supper (Mine). They tasted great but I knew I’d be getting the repeats of them all evening and I was right. Might need some Gaviscon tonight to fight the inevitable heartburn.

Found my first tick tonight. On my leg just below the knee, on the sock line. Looks like walks into the wild wood of St Mo’s, or anywhere else for that matter, will be off the cards until at least autumn.

Tomorrow looks like more rain, so we might go out if we can find a dry half hour.

Testing the new toy – 18 February 2021

Before we got to that, there was the subject of some shearing to be done.

It didn’t take all that long to reduce my overgrown locks to a mess pile on the painting room floor.  I managed most of it myself, but had to rely on Scamp to do the tidying up at the back.  I remember one of my colleagues at work saying that his grandfather stood in front of a mirror with scissors in one hand and a small mirror in the other and cut his own hair.  His acceptance of this skill always bemused me.  He said, “Of course he was a blacksmith, so he was used to it.”  Used to what, I always asked myself.  Are all hairdressers failed blacksmiths or are all blacksmiths failed hairdressers?  Answers, as usual, on a postcard.  Anyway after the hair had been cut to my and Scamp’s satisfaction and the hair hoovered up, I started today’s Sudoku feeling much lighter.

It was a bit of a dull day.  Not really encouraging us to go out for our daily walk.  In fact it wasn’t until late in the afternoon that I took the new macro lens for a walk in St Mo’s.  I found yesterday’s orange ladybird hiding in a crevice in a tree and that made PoD.  Walked to the shops and bought some stuff for tonight’s dinner which was a rehash of Tuesday’s chilli.  Tonight’s was better, but not as hot as a chilli should be, despite the addition of more chilli paste.

Today’s prompt was “carrots”.  Being a generous person, I gave them three carrots.  Subjects for painting should always be in odd numbered batches.  Don’t know why, but odd numbers of items are always more interesting than even numbered ones.  I eventually moved away from the sketch book and painted on cheap Flying Tiger 300gsm watercolour block.  I was happy with the 3 carrots.

Tomorrow is Friday and we’ve no plans.  Hopefully not as dull a day as today.