Roses, Keys and Stitchery – 14 June 2021

A dull, cold day the temperature didn’t rise much above 14º.

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny, but windy day. Today was cold, windy and a bit dull, but you can’t win them all which might be the Scotland team’s motto having failed to win their first game in the Euros.

Annette visited today and keys changed hands. I’ll say no more than that. While Scamp and her were deep in conversation I cut two fading roses, took them upstairs and set up a small tabletop studio to photograph them before they completely fell apart. For the first time ever, I think, I used the MBP as a monitor and shot the pictures tethered to the Sony. Once you get past the restrictions of using the poor Sony software, the results were really good. The whole process could have been a lot easier if a bit of thought and some better programming had been put in place by Sony, but at least it worked and was an improvement over the phone app I’d used before. One of the rose photos got PoD. Annette was leaving just as I was finishing. It was strange to see her red Juke sitting just up the hill from our blue Micra. I still miss the Juke a bit, but I prefer the better mpg of the Micra.

Lunch was another quiche with the same ingredients, smoked salmon and broccoli, as last time, but this time we used a tortilla wrap for the base. So much simpler. It was voted a success. Worth doing again but with an extra egg next time.

I’d bought myself a pair of walking trousers last week and like the previous pair I got last year, they were too long. Tonight I got the sewing machine out tonight and folded up the hem on the legs and sewed it. I thought the poor machine was going to have a heart attack as it hammered away at the heavy cotton which was triple thickness and even thicker at the seams. However it seemed come through it unscathed. Just to be sure I did a wee test piece after I was finished both legs and it sounded fine again.

I’m still thinking about formatting the disk on the iMac and re-installing the OS. Too many little quirks are appearing. I think there is a lot of junk on the OS and also in the unused programs that is just taking up space. Tonight I think I’ve discovered how to copy off the Keychain and then re-install it. That would be very useful.
The foregoing is really just for my benefit.

Tomorrow we’re waiting for the post. We may go out for a spin.

We were up early again – 17 November 2020

That’s Friday sorted

Not to go out this time, but we both got up early because we had a phone call booked with British Gas to agree a suitable day to get the new boiler installed. The call would be some time between 9.30am and 1pm today, hence our decision to get up and face the day. Of course, we could have just lain in bed and taken the call there, but just in case those clever British Gas bods had a way of turning on the webcam that might be fitted to our landline phone and caught us lounging around, we decided it would be safer to get up and have breakfast downstairs.

The call came at just after 11am. The first available slot they could offer was Friday 20th November. Couldn’t they have come sooner? We didn’t ask that question, we just said “That will do nicely.” Boiler get delivered between 7 and 9am on the day and the fitter arrives at 9am. It will probably take most of the day. Now Thursday is to be a very cold day with wind from the north and scattered wintry showers that might just reach us. Let’s hope Friday is a balmy sun drenched day.

The other thing that happens on Friday is we go up to Level 4 of the Scottish government anti-covid restrictions. It starts at 6pm on Friday and lasts for three weeks. It shouldn’t make much difference to us, really. We probably won’t feel like travelling far if the cold weather continues. We’ll be legally restricted to the NL council area for that time. Legally, because the restrictions have now been written into law and can be enforced by the police. They’ll be installing smart cameras and have unmarked police cars on the motorway at Castlecary to trap any unwary travellers hoping to nip along to Falkirk on the fly. Three weeks of no fun and local walks I think.

It rained almost all day and with gusty winds too, it was a day for working inside. Before lunch I repaired two of my masks and produced a really neat job, even if I say so myself. If the rainy weather continues, I may make another one or two. Maybe even try a new design I saw somewhere.

It was a truly awful day today. After the good news about the boiler I grabbed a rucksack and walked down to the shops in the rain. Scamp was baking so she stayed in. The rucksack was a great idea for going to the shops. We go there to get stuff for the dinner and to stretch our legs, not our arms, and today’s lot was quite heavy. I may use that wee bag again.

I’d already taken what I was sure would be my PoD. It was two of my carrots. The birds pulled most of the first lot out then the snails finished almost all or the rest off. I eventually resorted to the blue slug pellets and that seemed to put an end to their raids. The two you see were all that was left to two rows of them in my raised bed. I’ve got a few growing in the ‘Tattie Bags’, but they’re not making much headway there at all. I think these two are my lot for this year. If I get a chance to grow them next year I’ll stretch some black thread across the bed like my mum did. It terrifies the sparrows and finches. The tiny wee carrots tasted lovely.

Hopefully we’re going to The Fort tomorrow I’m hoping to rebuild the camera box that sits in my black shoulder bag and am intending to use either Plastazote (Thick, strong foam plastic) or Foamboard (A sandwich of card outer layers and a middle layer of Styrofoam). Both of these thing I should be able to get in Hobbycraft at The Fort. Scamp’s going for something too, but as yet it is undisclosed.

Scamp’s booked to get her hair cut tomorrow afternoon, so we have to drive to the shops in the morning. Another early rise in store.

Stitchery and Boozy Pudding – 8 November 2020

A day for putting things right. A day for mending. A wet, dull day. A day for getting things done.

The main reason I was mending and putting things right and also for getting (some) things done was that it was indeed a wet, dull day.

Before lunch I’d made some bread, well made the dough at least, well made the dough in the mixer and then adjusted it by hand. That was the delicate, skilled work. The rest was just grunt work. After lunch I adjourned to the sewing room where three pairs of jeans awaited my attentions. Scamp stayed downstairs and talked to herself while she made a … well, let’s contract it to Boozy Christmas Pudding, it’s got a much longer name than that, but cutting to the chase, that’s it. Once assembled it was to be cooked for three and a half hours in a slow cooker. It looked messy, so I let her get on with it.

First thing for me to do was fix a worn pocket in one pair of jeans. As the next pair would need exactly the same repair done, so ideally I should make all my mistakes on the first pair and then sail through the second. For once, that’s exactly what happened. The first pair was a pain in the backside. Cut the wrong shape of patch. Got in a fankle (another good Scots word) sewing the patch onto the pocket. Eventually got it fixed and it looked and felt ok, so I went down to see how the chef was getting on. She was almost ready to put the assembled pudding in the slow cooker. Got it in without too much trouble which meant she had three and a half hours to sit and wait. I started jeans two’s pocket.

This one was easier and soon I had two useable pairs of jeans that had been malingering in the back bedroom for months. The next pair needed a hem turned up. It was a bit of a struggle to get the sewing machine to accept that it could actually pierce the double, double thickness of denim that would form at the doubled up side seams, but with a bit of a run at it, together we achieved a reasonable result. Like the pockets, once I’d done one leg, the other one was a dawdle. Make that three pairs completed!

We were having Duck Legs with Orange Sauce for dinner. Actually M&S had done the hard work. All I had to do was take the duck legs out of the bag and bake them in the oven I’d just taken the loaf out of, for 30 mins. Covered them in Orange Sauce after that and another ten minutes in the oven saw them cooked. They actually tasted really good. I wondered as I was eating mine if they had both come from the same duck. Were they ‘handed’, you know, left and right legs? I hadn’t thought to look. They both looked about the same size, but how would you know these things? We rarely think that what we’re eating walked this earth with us. Maybe I should go vegan. Nope, chicken curry would put an end to that idea!

The time to open the slow cooker had arrived and Scamp carefully undid the string that held the tinfoil lid in place and the smell that wafted out was simply divine! Boozy? Yes. Fruity? Yes. We got a big slice each and slathered it in cream and discovered that it tasted as good as the smell. The rest is now in the fridge for tomorrow, but I fear it won’t taste as good as today’s offering. Pity, Hazy. It’s got eggs in it.

Spoke to JIC tonight just as I was beginning a swearing session at the Sony for not working with the remote app on my phone. The poor boy wasn’t feeling well with clogged sinuses, and on his weekend off too. That’s just not fair. However we talked for a while about Mr Trump, boilers and stuff.

I went back up to the Photography room (because the sewing machine had been put away again) and proceeded to take today’s PoD manually. Came down stairs and tried again, because I’m like a dug wi’ a burst ba’, and lo and behold the bloody thing worked. I’ve a feeling it’s only doing it to annoy me!

Tomorrow evening we are doing a WhatsApp with a man from British Gas to see how much they want to supply and fit a new boiler. The one we have at present is about 20 years old. We’ll be talking big numbers, I’m sure.

A day for getting things done – 14 October 2020

The sewing machine came out for a while.

I’d misplaced one of the pleated masks I’d made for myself and it was the most comfortable one I had. The fitted masks are very neat, but they don’t feel that comfortable on, especially when you need to talk. Talking and yawning mean the mask has to stretch and because I’m making the masks from cotton fabric, which doesn’t stretch, so instead it rides up over my chin or pulls down exposing my nose to the cold. They may look elegant, but the pleated mask has enough stretch in the pleats to allow some jaw movement. Besides they are easier to make, once you work out how to stitch pleats. I should have said they are usually easier to make. Today the stitching fairies were having a day off. However, after an hour or so both Scamp and I have a new mask each. Scamp has stars on one side (to celebrate the fact that she’s just announced that she can see Mars tonight) and stripes on the other! Mine has Dr Who on one side and frogs on the other. Stylish!

After the swearing and the stitching I took the Sony 7 out for a walk in St Mo’s, but the light was low and results were disappointing. The brightest thing I saw was the PoD. It’s a Berberis bush that grows beside the path to St Mo’s. Beautiful orange and red leaves. So startling against the dark green foliage. Ticks the box every autumn. While I was out I saw a long skein of geese coming in from the north west and heading almost directly overhead. They were constantly separating into smaller groups and then rejoining. ‘Talking’ to each other all the time. Fascinating.

Fish and Chips for dinner tonight. What’s not to like and Scamp had baked a couple of cakes too!

Sketch topic was Armour. My take on modern armour is a motorcycle helmet, and that’s what you see here.

Tomorrow we may go for a run somewhere, although we need to be back for Scamp to get her flu jag. Let’s hope it doesn’t hurt.

Take the time to take a walk – 23 August 2020

Even in the rain.

We were denied our walk yesterday because of the crowds at Coatbridge, but today we were on home turf and we were determined to get out for a walk. We set out to walk around our Broadwood route, then the rain came on and we thought we might have to revert to a walk as far as the shops, but we held fast and continued the walk. It did rain a lot, light at first and then heavier, but we got round the route with only damp jackets, not soaked to the skin. Dropped in at M&S for a chicken, and some veg for tonight’s dinner. Walked back up the road to have lunch.

After lunch I stitched up two masks, one for Scamp and one for Shona. Shona’s was fairly easy to make and was based on the one Lucy made for Scamp and me. Scamp’s one was the basic one from a pattern Hazy gave me and was a nightmare to stitch today. Elastic slipped out of the stitches, thread broke in the middle of stitching a straight part and pleats slipped out when I was stitching them, but now they are done and I’m relatively happy with them.

Later I took a camera for a walk in St Mo’s because I’d got nothing on this morning’s walk. I managed to slide down a steep muddy bank on my hands and knees. Thankfully nobody was there to see me and I managed to clean my hands and remove most of the muck from my jeans with some wet grass. How are the mighty fallen! I did get two photos that were worth the walk, and the indignity. PoD went to a low level shot of a buttercup on the boardwalk. It was a close thing, because the next best was a tiny hoverfly sheltering beneath a grass stem.

Dinner tonight was the chicken we got in the morning, served with roasted veg. Then Scamp suggested she’d make a fruit crumble with some of the frozen fruit I’m putting into my porridge in the morning. I had to tell her that I’d planned on making that for tomorrow’s pudding. Annoyed, but Scamp’s version would always trump mine for taste, texture and just about everything else.

The rain continued on and off all evening but there was a lovely golden sunset after all that wet stuff.

Tomorrow Scamp is intending going for coffee with Isobel and whoever else turns up!

Another hot one – 28 May 2020

Out for a walk, but only to the shops today.

Walked down to the shops to get tonight’s dinner and ended up with a fair bit more than that. That’s the problem with having to take a trolley (no baskets). There’s a tendency to lift more than you really need, and that’s what we did. Went to get a curry for dinner and came home with three bags full of stuff and a bunch of flowers. Wore our new facemasks in the shop. First thoughts are that the elastic is too tight and my mask is a bit small. Maybe I’ve just got a big head!

Listened with interest to Nick the Chick’s declaration about what phase 1 of the release from lockdown will mean. I like her delivery. It seems sensible, professional and calculated. Still don’t like her, but despite her small stature and big heels, she is head and shoulders above Bumbling Boris. Some nice little snipes from her about Dominic Cummings too. Nothing that could be seen as libel or slander, but quite pointed none the less.

Spent the afternoon trying to copy Lucy’s mask. I think I made a fair go of it, but I’m still not sure how to easily join the outside skin to the inside like she did. It’s definitely not as neat as her professional looking stitchery. May try a slightly different shape tomorrow.

Went for a walk in St Mo’s while Scamp soaked up the sun in the garden. She was well protected with factor 50, I know, I’m the one who has to rub it in to her back and today I dried my hands by rubbing the remainder into my face. Got some photos of a bright green spider. After some research I discovered it was a Cucumber Green Spider and fairly common. I’ve never seen one here before. Only one damselfly and it was far too skittish to get a decent shot of.

Sat in the garden after dinner which was actually quite good. For once I’d say it needed a bit of salt, but Scamp didn’t! Sat with a glass or red and took in some rays. Then went to do today’s sketch which is poor, very poor. The task was to sketch A Water Tap. I chose the plastic tap on the wash hand basin in the downstairs toilet, because I was fed up with drawing metal. The only good thing about drawing in a toilet is there is a place to sit!

Tomorrow! Tomorrow we will be allowed a tiny smidgin of our freedom back. We may go out for a run somewhere!

Stay at home – 14 May 2020

Sometimes I obey the rules, sometimes I don’t. Today I did.

Scamp asked me to make her a custom facemark, like mine but from different fabric. She chose dark blue gardening print for her mask, with a light blue reverse. Surprisingly it only took me an hour and a bit to make it. When I made mine it took me about two hours and it was much uglier than hers. The first one I made is very clumsy by comparison and took about four hours all in. Just to make this one different from mine, I added a barrier between the two cloth layers. I’ve read that you can use coffee filter paper as the barrier, but I didn’t have any, so I used a double thickness of thin interfacing instead. It is a bit restrictive, but not too bad. She seemed pleased with it and we agreed that we should wear them when we’re in shops. It will feel strange at first and it may not be all that effective, but it will be better than nothing. At least folk will get a laugh out of my Mickey Mouse Mask!

I didn’t have a photo today and I didn’t really want to go for a walk in St Mo’s, so I grabbed some photos of flowers in the garden. My favourite was the Aquilegia which doesn’t have a name but is quite a delicate looking flower and it got PoD. It was a close run thing with Scamp’s Azalea, Koningsstein. I posted both on Flickr, but the aquilegia still won.

It was cold today, despite the forecast south wind. The sun was here and gone all day and there were heavy clouds threatening rain all day, but not came. It looks now as if we will get a few heavy showers at the weekend. We’ll wait and see.

Not a lot else of note today but Scamp made an excellent Fish ’n’ Chips for dinner with a beautiful piece of Haddock. Really enjoyed that.

No plans for tomorrow, but I may phone Wheelcraft to enquire after my front wheel.

Out in the world again – 7 April 2020

We ventured out today, just for exercise. On purpose we didn’t go to the beach or to our second home in Fife.

We didn’t go out to the beach or Fife, but just in case there was somebody somewhere listening in to our conversation, Scamp sneakily said we could walk over to Condorrat (where there are shops that sell essential foodstuffs). That way, the powers that be, the police, the government and MI6 wouldn’t suspect that we were going to St Mo’s. It was a clever ruse, and it had me fooled too. I thought we were going to the butchers to get a nice juicy steak for dinner, but instead of turning right at the end of the path past the (now locked) swing park, we turned left, crossed the road and walked through St Mo’s. The diversion might have had me fooled, but the invisible trackers, that are now being designed to be injected into our bodies secretly in the anti-virus when its made, wouldn’t have been fooled by the change of direction. They would have reported back and sent a fleet of drones to pinpoint our location for a squad car of armed police to detain us under their new emergency powers. At least, that’s what I read on the InterWeb last night.

Anyway, in the real world, we went for a walk in St Mo’s. It was fairly quiet with no cars in the car park and only a handful of people walking around in the sunshine taking in all the vitamin D that was available. There wasn’t much to see, but I did take another low down landscape for St Mo’s from the far side of the pond. I’d say that it was the best of the photos I took today, but it was really one of only two photo that survived the cull when I got them into the ‘puter back home. The main reason I didn’t take any more was that the battery indicator on the camera was flashing red, warning me no doubt that it was about to shut down. I’ve never seen it flash red before and the camera did take about three hours to replenish the battery from my fastest fast charger, so it must have been pretty empty.

Back home I managed to repair the pocket on a pair of jeans. I hate throwing out a perfectly good pair of jeans, just because the pockets are worn through, not with cash I hasten to add, but with my keys. Making the repair pocket isn’t a problem, it’s the topology of pockets that gives me a headache. It’s like working with a cloth Klein Bottle, where the inside becomes the outside and vice versa, plus you have to work out how to get the bloody thing into a position that allows the sewing machine needle to do its work. Finally after three dummy runs, with me as senior dummy, I botched it together. It’s not the finest piece of sewing I’ve done, but I think I’ve saved another pair of jeans from the bin. Now I’ve just found another pair in need of a new pocket. I’ll possibly leave that until next week when my head has stopped hurting.

According to government sources tonight, Boris is in good spirits and is stable. It didn’t mention exactly what the spirits were and if it was overindulging in them that had led to the initial instability. We wish him well. Better the devil you know …

Tomorrow is the big day. The weather doesn’t look great, but I think we may go looking for a park bench, quietly.

Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl – 24 March 2020

Today is Scamp’s birthday, but because of Covid 19 we stayed at home.

Breakfast in bed for her, and for me. Actually that’s nothing unusual for us. One thing that retirement has taught me is that there’s no need to rush anymore. If it needs done, it will get done. If it didn’t get done, then it wasn’t needing done in the first place. After Scamp opened her parcels and almost choked at the antics of her ‘Dancing Cat’, we both finished the chapters of the books we were reading and got on with the day.

I sewed a torn seam on two of my shirt pockets, caused by stuffing my phone and my glasses in there. After finishing one shirt and starting another I promptly lost the needle and panicked because a lost needle can be a really dangerous thing in a house. You’ve heard the expression “Turned the house upside down” when looking for something? We turned the three seater sofa upside down … and then shook it, but no needle. We hoovered, we tentatively searched between the cushions. Finally, I went upstairs to carefully strip off all the clothes I was wearing to see if the needle had become lodged in them, and that’s when Scamp shouted that she’d found it. It was still tacked into the shirt I had finished repairing. We’d both looked and looked at that shirt without finding it, but there it was. Thank goodness.

By then it was coffee time and after calming down and some discussion we chose to stay at home today. Nobody, but nobody was moving their cars out. Maybe we stayed at home, but that didn’t mean we didn’t go out. Scamp planted out her two boxes of pansies in the front garden. She also did a bit of weeding and some feeding of her plants. She did a bit more pruning of bushes and plants in the back garden too.

<Technospeak>
I must admit I was tempted to go out for a walk, but I thought I’d better obey Boris’s Rules and stay home. So I took the Benbo out to the garden and set up the E-M1 and macro lens on it, turned on ‘focus stacking’ and took some 15 shots of a crocus flower. The focus stacking allows you to take a rapid number of shots, all at slightly incasing focus distances. My aim was to get a set of shots with focus settings from the very front of the nearest petal to the furthest back petal. Eventually I worked out it should be about 9 shots, not 15. Focus stacking works best with a totally still subject, and just as I pressed the shutter button each time, a tiny wee breeze would blow and start to make the crocus nod its head. I finally got the sequence I wanted without the breeze and could pack up and go inside. There I squirted the shots into the piece of software that does the magic and merges the 9 shots into one. The result you see here is what it looks like. It was done using Affinity Photo. Thanks again Hazy!
</Technospeak>

I became so engrossed in this process I forgot that I was making dinner tonight. Carrot & Lentil Curry. A long time favourite of ours. Got it made and left it to keep warm just in time to go and speak to Hazy, Neil-D, JIC, Sim and Vixen. We didn’t actually speak to Tilly and Penny, but we knew they were there too. All through the magic of Zoom™. We were very impressed with the software. Scamp was desperate to show off the Dancing Cat. I think Hazy & Neil-D thought it was funny. JIC & Sim not so much. I could just see JIC mouthing “What the hell is that” or something similar. It didn’t matter, the main thing is Scamp thought it was brilliant!

That was a good day. Curry was good. Flat bread was better and even better still was the orange and rhubarb jelly, which was superb! Best of all was the look on Scamp’s face when the Dancing Cat started his routine this morning!!

Tomorrow? Possibly more of the same, but without Zoom™.

Beadbags, planter ponds and fairy wings – 12 January 2020

It was dry today, but there was still a lot of water about.

It was when we were looking out the window this morning that Scamp noticed we had a new pond in one of her planters. The water was easily 50mm deep. I tipped out most of the water and moved the planter over to a dryer bit of the garden where it could drain away more easily. However, the pot was so heavy it still sank down into the soil, thereby blocking the drainage holes again. Even when I lifted it up onto the step, the holes were still being blocked. I finally resorted to using two pieces of wood to act as supports to raise the pot up off the concrete step and finally the water began to drain. The water I’d poured off initially was still sitting on the depression the pot had made when I last looked. That’s how saturated the ground it today.

Scamp had a birthday present for one of her friends and I wanted a new Sudoku calendar, so we headed to The Fort which is the nearest place with a bookshop. While she went to shop for a prezzy, I went to Waterstones and got my calendar half price. Result! Next thing she wanted was crepe paper to make the fairy’s underskirt. Got that and returned to wait for Scamp in the car.

Back home after lunch I took two cameras and the new ‘beadbag’ out to St Mo’s to test the practicality of it and to get some photos, hopefully. The best of the day, and PoD, was a sunset view along the boardwalk, not take with the assistance of the beadbag, but I did get a photo of it being used.

Back home I removed the wings from the fairy, photocopied them in the scanner and used the photocopy as a template to cut out a new pair of sparkly wings. They’re not perfect, but they are a lot better than the ones she had at Christmas. Scamp, meanwhile, worked on the underskirt which is what she wanted the crepe paper for. It’s looking good and if she can get the dress cleaned properly we’ll be ready to reassemble the Christmas Fairy.

Gave the MBP another full charge today and it seems be working properly with its new battery, touch wood.

Tomorrow I’m planning to post some calendars and write some letters. Gems will be here too! Back to the same old, same old.