Socks and a hot curry – 14 May 2021

Scamp was off on a walk with Veronica and I was starting today’s painting early.

Scamp was booked for a walk with Veronica. Just a walk round Broadwood Loch. I was staying at home, hoping to get today’s sketch started early. Started, yes, finished, no. Today’s topic was A Pile of Socks. Not something I’d have chosen, but that’s what’s interesting about working your way through someone else’s list of topics. You don’t get the chance to draw and paint the easy stuff, you just do the best you can with what you’re offered. Sometimes it takes lateral thinking, sometimes there’s no way out, you just have to do it. I had a pile of socks to put away, so I used them as my starting point. Pencil sketch to start with, then some watercolour. That didn’t look quite right, so I added some watercolour pencil to it. That was better, but it still needed more. When Scamp came home from her walk, she suggested I add one of her socks to the mix. It couldn’t do any harm, so I added the yellow sock to the pile, partly tucked under another two. Yes, that altered the composition in a good way. You might recognise a bit of darning and Scamp’s sock, Hazy! I left it for a while and we had lunch.

Wednesday’s Challah bread was being cut down fast, but we both knew it wouldn’t stay fresh for much longer. The recipe that came with the ingredients said that the bread made great French Toast. That’s what we had for lunch. It was good, but the eggy mix didn’t really add anything to the bread. Also you expect French Toast to be savoury, but the bread is naturally sweet, so the tastes don’t really marry up.

After lunch and after hearing that Glasgow was likely to remain in Level 3 with rising cases of the Indian Variant, when almost the rest of Scotland would go to Level 2 on Monday, we rethought our plans for tomorrow. We’d considered going for a walk down Glasgow Green, but maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea now. We decided we’d go for a walk today at least because the weather was pleasantly mild and we’d leave tomorrow until tomorrow. We walked round St Mo’s, twice round the pond. On the second circuit I was photographing a fly on a Marsh Marigold when I noticed on a flower nearby just the hint of a spider’s front legs. Sure enough, there was a spider dangling from one of the petals. I assume it was waiting for some unsuspecting fly to drop in for lunch, the spider’s lunch. The flies must all have seen this trick before, because they kept a good distance away from the secret spider which became PoD.

Back home we were planning our dinner and Scamp suggested a curry mix. We’d bought a Biryani kit the last time we were in Waitrose and that’s what we made. It was supposed to be a “Two Chilli” curry. I think the printer must have missed out the “Twenty” before the “Two”. Boy, it was hot. It was tasty too, but you’d have to take it down a few notches before you noticed the taste. Thank goodness for a tub of yoghurt to cool our mouths down.

It was now time to decide if the socks stayed as sketch of the day or if they were replaced with something better. I decided they stayed, dated and signed the sketch and we were done.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere that’s not running scared from the Indian Variant. I have an idea, but you’ll need to wait until tomorrow to find out where!

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.


The Fort and the Vogon – 12 May 2021

This morning we were off to the great shopping extravaganza that goes by the name of The Fort. Before we went I started today’s bread of which more later.

We were out to get a new duvet. One for the spare bedroom. We had taken a few of them away to the skips some weeks ago. This one would replace them. I let Scamp do the choosing because she had a better idea of what she wanted. It was quickly chosen and I volunteered to wait in the queue to pay for it while she went to peruse what was available for the woman about town these days. It’s just so strange to be able to go in to an actual shop and touch things again, rather than page through a listing on a computer screen seeing things in 2D but not being able to imagine what they really look like.

I dumped the duvet in the car and went for a browse in Waterstones. I saw a few books by authors I like, but have missed on shelves in stores that have been boarded up for six months or more. I felt like I’d been marooned on a desert island since some time last year. I didn’t buy anything, but added a few names to my wish lists. We were both window shopping today, I think.

I did buy something in Boots, eventually. I needed a new cutter for my electric razor. I found it without any problem, but when I went to pay it was a different story. After I scanned the offending article and placed it in what I thought was the out tray the computer voice told me to place it in the correct area. So which one is the correct area? Neither of them were marked IN or OUT. I assumed the wrong tray, but without any hint from the machine how was I to know? When I tried to pay I was told to wait for an assistant. The bloke behind me was the assistant and he told me he had to sign me off because the thing I’d bought was a “restricted item”. I asked him why and he told me it was because it was a razor. I tried to complain that it was an electric razor, but to no avail. “Resistance is Useless” as Douglas Adams’ Vogon Captain said! He then took the razor head away to remove the security tag. I told him to be careful he didn’t cut himself but all I got was a blank look. Now he might have been smiling behind the mask, but I don’t think he’d been on the “Smile at the customer” course yet. Boots used to be a good place, now the machines are against you and the assistant don’t assist with a smile.

Back home for lunch. We’d intended going to Costa, but the queue was far too long. Heavens, there was even a queue for Starbucks and they don’t even sell coffee, they sell Starbucks and you probably don’t want to know what’s in that. After lunch Scamp went to post another birthday card. I stayed home and struggled with another hard Sudoku after that, the rain came on. That gave me the incentive to finish this month’s bread which was Challah. It was lovely tasting bread, but oh what a faff to make. Dough was made from flour, yeast, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, two eggs, milk and water. Try kneading that for ten minutes. It’s a tough job being a baker. Anyway, the hard part was still to come. The dough had to be cut into six equal parts and each part was to be rolled out until it was 45cm long. It felt as if it was made of rubber. As soon as I’d stretched it and rolled it out, it shrank back to about half its size. Then the six sausages had to be plaited into a loaf. Mine looked ok, as long as you didn’t look too carefully. I allowed it to rise, then baked it after a final wash with beaten egg. It looked and tasted lovely when it came out he oven. I was impressed.

Went over to St Mo’s to unwind and see if there was anything interesting. PoD finally went to a dandelion trio. One bald one with all the ‘parachutes’ blown away. One with the ‘Dandelion Clock’ still intact and one bright yellow flower still to go through the metamorphosis. A picture of a neat little hoverfly, the first one I’ve captured this year almost made it, but not quite.

Sketch of the day was a pile of dishes which was what the prompt asked for. I was quite pleased with the result.

Tomorrow we have no plans, although the weather looks wet.

Rain – 10 May 2021

That could have been the callsign for the day. Rain … Dry … Repeat!

In the morning, Scamp braved the rain and wind to go to Condorrat to post a birthday card for Moira. I stayed in and painted the first of two paintings to get my EDiM back on track. I also performed some open heart surgery on the new Oly which not only had a hair on the sensor, but also a tiny wee speck of something sticky too. It might have been a bit of sap from the trees in St Mo’s, or a bit of chewing gum (joke!). Whatever it was, it would need a wet clean to get rid of it. At the weekend I’d found an unopened pack containing three swabs and a tiny little bottle of expensive sensor cleaner. They were actually meant for an APS-C sensor, but I knew that the long edge of the MFT sensor is almost the same size as the short edge of an APS-C, so they would fit with a downward stroke on the Oly. I realise I should have put in a <Technospeak> warning before that explanation, but you’re a big boy now and can take the occasional bit of Technospeak, JIC.
Two wipes with the swab and it was done and I now have a clean, unsticky sensor again.

When Scamp returned, dry, from Condorrat we had lunch which was yesterday’s Chicken and Black Beans, and watched the rain for a while before I started on the second painting. I was almost finished when there was a knock at the door. I’d completely forgotten we were getting a Tesco order today, and here was the poor bloke standing in the rain with the baskets. Quickly got the baskets emptied and returned then stored the groceries in the appropriate racks. After that I finished off the painting while Scamp read.

After checking the weather, we decided we’d manage a walk in St Mo’s, maybe even a couple of circuits of the pond, and that’s what we did. I got my PoD which is a fern ‘crozier’. I also found a bramble bush with last year’s leaves still attached in their autumn colours. Autumn leaves in May! These particular leaves have survived the winter snow and winds and are still hanging in there.

Dinner was a lighter than normal tomato pasta because we’d had a fairly substantial lunch. Later we had a couple of runs through the Bellissimo Cha-Cha we’d started yesterday, a couple successful turns of Catherine Waltz and finished up with a Tango.

That was about it for a warm but wet Monday with temperature reaching 15º. Out to lunch tomorrow, with the chance of some landscape photography if the weather is obliging.


We went shopping – 9 May 2021

In the morning we went shopping for chicken and fruit and stuff.

I was a bit of a mixed bag of weather today. Some light rain and a few gusts of wind, but overall, quite a good day. We went shopping in the morning, just down to the shops with a walk around St Mo’s for me flung in for good measure. That’s when I got today’s PoD. It was a wee daisy sitting up proud against the sky, with a dandelion flower as supporting act. Walking across the boardwalk I got caught in one of those April showers that come in May. It was heavy, but only lasted for a few minutes. Just one circuit of the pond, then it was time to go home for lunch.

Later in the afternoon I went for a second bite of the cherry and found a great swathe of small white flowers. I couldn’t remember their name at first, but knew they was related to Oxalis, then the name came to me, Wood Sorrel. They were interesting, but not as interesting as the Daisy and Dandelion combination from the morning. It wasn’t until I was looking at the photos of the Daisy that I noticed a big straggly ‘dust bunny’. Dust bunnies are small dark dots on a photo and are caused by dust particles on the sensor. This was a bit of hair or a fibre from a jacket. It was easy to remove from the sensor, but the picture took a while to clean up. I’ll probably need to clean the sensor tomorrow to remove any residue.

Dinner tonight was courtesy of Scamp and was Chicken Chilli Pot and although the promised heat was turned down, it was tasty and there’s more left for tomorrow’s lunch.

Dancing tonight started with the Catherine Waltz. We seemed to do well enough to be awarded a ‘pass’. Next was a Cha-Cha and I found it hard to keep up with the music. I’d eventually managed to put together all the parts in the right order, but my feet kept going in the wrong place and too far behind the music! Lastly it was the Midnight Jive which I’m beginning to get to grips with. An exhausting hour.

Spoke to JIC later and hear all his news for down south. How strange it must be to go in to work one day a week and work from home all the rest of the time. I find it hard to come to terms with things like that these days, but for those who need to do it, it must be an even stranger feeling.

Didn’t quite have enough time for today’s sketch but I’m hoping to catch up with the work tomorrow. That and also the sketch for tomorrow, plus, of course the PoD. So glad I don’t have to go in to work, even for one day!

We needed some rain for the garden – 8 May 2021

Today we got it.

We went out for a walk in the morning when it was just a drizzle that was falling from the sky. If we’d gone out half an hour earlier we’d have had a dry walk, but then again, if we’d gone out half an hour later we’d have been soaked. We just got a little bit wet. Came home, had a coffee and sat and watched the rain. I hadn’t taken one photo on the morning walk. I just hoped it would dry up later and I’d get the chance to capture some photons.

Lunch was Tortellini fairly fresh stuff, soft and tasty. Not like the dried pasta variety which never really softens properly until you boil it for ages, then you lose all the stuffing. Like most things, it’s worth the extra to get good pasta. Struggled with Lightroom after lunch. I don’t know what the problem is. I blamed the virus killer I installed, but now I’m thinking it’s the update to Mojave (MacOS 10.14) that Lightroom doesn’t like. There are some folk writing on the InterWeb about it and I’m beginning to think it’s true, because the new laptop is running Catalina (MacOS 10.15) and it just refuses to allow Lightroom to install on it. Perhaps Mojave was the thin end of the wedge and it just causes problems for my long in the tooth, old Lightroom. Such a pity, because up until now it has been bombproof. Still, nothing lasts for ever.

Finally I gave in. The birds were singing, which is usually a sign of a dry spell. I put my boots on and grabbed the camera. Scamp was hard at work preparing a rhubarb pie and a small apple pie to go with tonight’s dinner which was Giant Fish Fingers, New potatoes and Marrowfat Peas. I did get some photos on the new Oly. My favourites were the Cowslip flowers with the raindrops still fresh on them and one of them got PoD. Actually the rain was still falling, but I didn’t mind it much. I stood watching the swallows dive and spin around St Mo’s pond catching insects on the wing and occasionally just skimming across the surface of the pond, presumably catching them as they hatched and lay defenceless on the surface film. Fascinating to watch, but pointless to try to catch. That’s not to say I didn’t try.

Dinner was as excellent as I hoped it would be and, even better, there’s more rhubarb pie for tomorrow. The two of us scoffed the apple pie between us. Some of Scamp’s best pastry skills on show today with a light, crisp pie that tasted as good as it looked.

A short dance practise tonight just to make sure we can indeed perform the Catherine Waltz to music. I’m sure that’s my problem. Dancing it without music doesn’t seem to be a problem, it’s when we try to keep to the soundtrack that things go wrong. Hopefully tomorrow’s class will show us to be faultless.

Today’s topic for EDiM was Eyes, Ears, Nose, Hand or Feet. I chose Hand and made a mess of it. I know I left it too late, but I finally got the grip of it by making a fist of it!

Tomorrow, hopefully there will be less rain and it won’t stay all day. A little dry time would be good, weather fairies. If you’re listening.


Out to lunch – 7 May 2021

We managed to grab one of the last remaining slots for lunch today at The Cotton House in Longcroft.

Since we were late in booking this busy Cantonese restaurant we were given a one hour slot at 12noon. We’ve been there many times and we know that a one hour slot is quite sufficient for a starter, main course and a coffee or China tea (never any room for a pudding!). So it was today. Starter for Scamp was Prawn Cocktail and Chicken Satay for me. Then Chicken Chow Mein for two. We were finished by 12.45 and on our way back to Cumbersheugh.

I needed to replace the cutter on my electric razor and Scamp was looking for prezzies for two children. We got the prezzies, but no razor spares in Boots. Maybe we’ll be more successful at The Fort during the week. If not, then its Amazon to the rescue again.

Back home a parcel had arrived for me. It was a 6 stop Neutral Density filter which would allow me to slow down the shutter speed of the camera to give water that strange dreamlike look. I’ve had a hankering for one for quite a while and finally gave in to myself and bought one. That settled it, I was going out for a walk along the Luggie to test it out. I took the Benbo tripod with me. For this type of photography you really need a tripod and the Benbo is so good at getting into awkward positions. It’s also a lot lighter than my big Manfrotto tripod.

Once I got to my chosen site and set up, I took a few shots, but knew they weren’t going to make the cut. Wandered down the water and found a place I’d used before with the old railway bridge in the background and the shots from there were much better. There would have been more of them, but I hadn’t noticed the splashes of water on the filter. That didn’t damage the filter, but it did mean a few more than normal ended in the bin during the cull. Today’s PoD is one of the best.

While I was out, Scamp had been on a cleaning spree, mainly the bathroom, but also anything that didn’t move was fair game I think. I’m glad I was out or I might just have fallen foul of the scrubbing brush too.

We swithered about having a seat in the garden and were almost ready to get the chairs out when a very big black cloud made its way between us and the sun and that scuppered our chances of an afternoon alfresco glass of wine. Later we shared an pizza and it seemed a shame to open the bottle of wine and not sample it, so that’s what we did. It was Friday after all.

Today’s prompt was Weeds. I chose a Dandelion. The scourge of all gardeners, it seems. Actually I like them. From a photographer’s point of view they are a source of interest in the summer when the butterflies are about. In the late summer and early autumn they produce those photogenic ‘dandelion clocks’. What’s not to like? As my mum used to say, “A weed is just a plant in the wrong place.” So, it was a painting of a dandelion that made today’s EDiM offering.

Tomorrow looks miserable from a weather perspective. I really don’t see us doing very much, although there might be a dry hour in the morning when we might get out for a walk.


Off to Stirling legally – 6 May 2021

The last time we went shopping in Stirling we were bending the Covid rules slightly.

Today it was legal. We are in the same level as Stirling, in fact all of Scotland is in the same level at present, although Sturgeon still points out that if we’re not good little mice, we WILL be put on the naughty step. Her battle cry of “I will treat you like adults” seems to have been forgotten at times.

Before we went, we exercised our legal right and voted. There wasn’t a great queue at the polling station, in fact there was only one other person in our lane. We had brought our own pencils with us although there were pencils available. Strangely, there was a box for “Used Pencils”. I wondered what they were going to do with them. Would they wash them tonight after the polls closed and keep them for the next election, or heaven forbid, for a referendum? Would they lock them up in a cupboard for 48 hours to make sure they were virus free for the next use? Would they ship them off to some third world country to be used in schools and give other children a chance to catch the virus? Who knows. One Use Pencils. What a waste of money. I wonder if anyone nicked their pencil or were they afraid of being called back and forced to put the offending article in the Used Pencils box.

After the arduous task of voting, we drove through the rain to Stirling. All we wanted was to wander round a different supermarket and see what they were offering that Tesco and M&S weren’t. We did get some stuff. Mainly food. Scamp bought some fish and I bought some meat. We did find some things that we couldn’t get back at the shops or Tesco, but it was really the feeling that we’d been away for the morning. That’s what mattered.

Back home and after lunch I did a quick sketch of a wood screw to practise today’s prompt A Screw. As usual, the quick sketch became the finished article with just a touch of Paynes Grey to add a bit of form to the screw.

After that, and between showers, I planted up two wee Basil cuttings I’d taken a few weeks ago. Scamp had read somewhere that if you cut a fairly long stem from a basil plant and put it in some water on the window ledge it will grow roots. Both of the cuttings we’d made have now got fairly substantial roots. Now they are planted in some compost and sitting on the window ledge upstairs where they’ll get a fair bit of sun.

Finally the rain abated and I went for a walk in St Mo’s. PoD turned out to be a Cladonia lichen looking almost translucent in the sun that had appeared from somewhere. As I headed home the rain came on again. The sun doesn’t stay long here. Take your chance when it comes, that’s the rule.

Chicken Thighs and Peas for dinner tonight. Easy to do and great tasting.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to get to The Cotton House for lunch. Nothing else planned.

Painting from a list – 5 May 2021

Scamp was off having coffee with June this morning and I was painting.

I eventually gave up on the alphabetic list of fruits and veg. Yesterday was bad enough with Dewberries, but if today had gone ahead, Elderberries would have been the only fruit or veg that started with the letter ‘E’. No, I gave up and used the official EDiM listing which was published on Flickr. It’s got a few strange ones, but strange prompts make you think that little bit more and that’s part of the game. Take today’s for example: A Pen Sharpener. Do people still use quill pens that need sharpened. After all, that’s what a penknife was invented for, but who in their right mind is going to carry a swan’s quill, a bottle of ink and a lethal weapon just so they can jot down a quick note to self? Certainly not me, but I played along part of the way and sketched my old penknife which I confess I’ve never used for sharpening pens. It’s an old knife now, probably more than 30 years old, possibly a lot older. I enjoyed painting today. I think it’s not being in total control of the prompt that I enjoy. Roll on tomorrow when the subject is A Screw! I wonder what I’ll draw.

When Scamp returned and we’d had lunch, we went for a quick walk round St Mo’s where we got caught in a hail storm. Just a short one, but it just shows how cold it is this spring. From the circuit of the pond we continued down to the shops. Scamp went to get foodstuffs from M&S and I went to Home Bargains for wrapping paper for a pretty going to Wales. On the way back I took a detour back round St Mo’s. That’s where I got today’s PoD which is a fern ‘crozier’ opening up. I liked the details in the fronds and the tiny spores that will form fully and disperse when they’re ripe.

I’d agreed to make dinner tonight which was to be haddock and cabbage baked risotto. Possibly the easiest of risottos to make, it sounds disgusting, but he cabbage really works with the rice and the smoked fish. All the hard work is done by the oven, so no spending half an hour ladling stock into a pot with rice and constantly stirring it. Fry the onions, add the rice, cook for a short while, bung in the cabbage and stock and put the whole thing in the oven with a lid. After 20 minutes, it’s done. Stir in the fish and cook for another 5mins to cook the fish. Serve.

We’re really getting excited for the voting in the Scottish elections tomorrow. That was sarcasm. I don’t care who wins, I just want to see how they are going to achieve all the fictitious targets they’ve set themselves. A hung parliament is my prediction. Unfortunately, I don’t think you are allowed to hang them these days!

Tomorrow, apart from casting our vote (bring your own pencil), we have no plans.


Canal, Herons and Ducklings – 4 May 2021

Today started wet, but with the promise of better things to come shortly.

For once the weather fairies got it right. By about 10.30, the weather was improving and the rain had stopped. We drove down to Auchinstarry and got parked right away. We walked along the Forth & Clyde canal to Twechar. Along the way we saw Mrs Mallard out for a swim with the chicks and further along we found a grey heron stalking its prey on the far side of the canal. Mrs Mallard and the young yins got PoD for obvious cuteness reasons. The heron almost made it to PoD but then it plunged its beak into the shallows and came up empty. You could almost hear it say “Damn and Blast” or something of that order! If it had caught a minnow or a little perch I might have made the capture PoD, but it didn’t, so PoD went to the Cute Family.

Walked back along the old railway and found that the ongoing works to improve the burn and the paths had forced the closure of one of the main paths. It had been open the last time we walked along there, but not now. Work was supposed to be complete by January 2021, but perhaps rain stopped work or Covid 19 reduced the workforce or … (Fill in a suitable, but not necessarily believable third reason). There wasn’t much to see on the way back and the rain we’d been avoiding was being blown in from the west, so I didn’t waste too much time. Light on the hills was not as good as it could have been because of the clouds advancing with the rain.

Home via Croy and then on to Tesco. I did wonder how sensible it was driving a blue car through Croy, but it was uneventful today. Loaded up with mainly bread, milk and fruit at Tesco and then home for lunch.

In the afternoon I completed today’s painting which was Dewberries. No, I hadn’t heard of them either, but they fitted with day four of EDiM and it was either that or a Star Wars themed sketch for “May the Fourth be with you” day. Both the Dewberries and yesterday’s Carrots are now on Flickr.

Tied up my peas to encourage them to climb up the netting of the frame for the raised bed. Also swathed the rosemary bush because sub zero temperatures are forecast for tonight. My Dodecatheon or Shooting Star plant was also needing staking because of the cold east wind that had appeared in the afternoon. Replaced one of the pea plants which had got broken, probably by wind damage, but tying them back to the netting should prevent any more accidents.

That was about it for today. Tomorrow Scamp is out for coffee with June in the morning and I’m hoping to get some painting done for letter E.