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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He has gone to Wales for a jaunt and on his way, he stopped at the ancient city of Chester.

chester

I started the day by selling some postcards to the paper shop to help Archive Group funds and then visited the data miners in the new Archive Centre.  They were working hard in cramped conditions as an art exhibition had taken some of their space.

We were promised some sunshine today but it was rather grey and windy when I set off south to visit Mary, my singing teacher for another lesson.  After concentrating on basic technique and breathing in previous lessons, we moved towards singing a song today. This was exciting but it only went to prove how difficult it is to put lessons into actual practice as faced with having to think of notes and words at the same time, I relapsed into many of the bad habits that we had worked on eliminating.  However, there were moments when things went well and I had plenty to think about as I drove home.

As I neared home, I met better and better weather and by time that I got there, it was a lovely day.

I had a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch and then went out into the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.  The drumstick primula is nearly spherical and a cheery daisy winked at me from  the lawn but the recent frosty mornings have turned the tips of the magnolia petals brown…

white garden flwoers

There was some colour about too.

pink garden flowers

I helped Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been working hard all morning,  to get the first of the new vegetable beds level and then left her to sort out the soil while I went for a pedal.

I aimed to add a couple of miles to yesterday’s distance and that was enough to let me go for a circular trip of fourteen miles up the Wauchope valley, over the hill, and back down into the Esk valley.

It was quite windy so I was easily tempted into stopping for some pictures along the way.  I thought that I should note a bare tree as it will not be long until the trees are covered in leaves again.

bare tree wauchope school

I looked back down the Wauchope valley as I climbed up the hill.  It was a pastoral scene indeed…

pastoral scene wauchope

…with added calf.

calf

I was accompanied by the bleating of lambs as I went round.

new lambs

I liked this combination of blackthorn and pine tree at the Hollows…

blacthorn and pine Hollows

…but I liked this newly surfaced patch of road there even better.

repaired road Hollows

There had been some savage potholes the last time that I cycled through the hamlet.

Hollows Tower was open for business but the lack of cars in the car park showed that it probably wasn’t doing a lot.  It is still early in the year to expect tourists.

Gilnockie Tower

I didn’t see much in the way of wild flowers but there were celandines and dandelions here and there…

wild flowers in verge

…and I saw the wood anemone when I left my bike for a moment and walked down a fisherman’s path…

path down to river

…to the river at Broomholm.

Esk at Broomholm

As the leaves are not out yet, I could see the bridge to Broomholm Island through the branches.

Broomholm briodge

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had finished the veg bed and had added some compost at the far end to help the soil.  She has also dug in her winter beans which were grown as green manure.

new veg bed

Nearby, she has a planting of tulips.  They are Mystic Van Eijk, a pale pink variant….

mystic Van Eijk tulip

…of the ordinary Van Eijk tulips….

Van Eijk tulips

…which look very lovely when some low evening sunlight shines through them

Van Eijk tulip in evening

We sat on our new bench, enjoying the welcome warmth of the sun.  We were sheltered from the wind and thinking that life wasn’t too bad at all.

Then we went on for a cup of tea and the last of the home made ginger biscuits.

I had a look at the birds.  They had not eaten much seed at all during the day as not only had Mrs Tootlepedal been busy in the garden, but we had had builders in working on our roof as well.

It hadn’t improved the birds’ tempers at all.

goldfinch shouting at chaffinch

Then  Luke came round to play the flute and we rediscovered something that we already both knew very well, practice makes perfect.  Well, we weren’t quite perfect but we were both a lot better than we were last week and you can’t ask for anything more than that.

Sunday’s slow cooked lamb stew made another appearance for our evening meal and Mrs Tootlepedal made a tasty broad bean hummus to go with it.

The better weather means that we are due to have some chilly mornings, but the days should be fine for some time ahead so I hope to be able to get a few more cycling miles under my belt.  This will be a very good thing, as thanks to being off the bike for a month, I have a great deal more of me under my belt at the moment than is good for my health.

A chaffinch once again is the flying bird of the day.  They are very reliable.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce who had been touring the border hills country when he stopped to take this picture of the waterfall known as The Grey Mare’s Tail.grey mare's tail

It was a theoretically warm day today with the thermometer registering 10 degrees but a very chilly northerly wind made it feel much cooler.  Still, it was dry as we cycled to church to sing in the choir so we weren’t complaining too much.

We had a cheerful set of hymns to sing today which made up for the grey weather.

When we got home, I took a general view from an upstairs window of the middle lawn which is currently surrounded by daffodils.  The shrubs are adding a bit of colour to the borders too.burst

 

Then I had a look at the birds while I drank a cup of coffee.  The sunflower hearts are quite big for the small birds’ beaks and there is a lot of spillage.

goldfinch untidy eater

There is always a ground squad about to make sure that none of the fallen seed is wasted.  I counted fifteen chaffinches waiting under the feeder for manna from heaven today.

Some of the chaffinches tried to get onto the perches but this one waved its wings ineffectually and didn’t shift any of the incumbents.

chaffinch waving at feeder

There was a steady churn of birds coming and going with some strong sentiments expressed along the way.

chaffinch in busy scene

There is not much happening in the garden at the moment so rather than walk around it, I went off for a pedal on my new bike.  I was well wrapped up and with the wind behind me, it was an unalloyed pleasure to cycle up to the top of the hill at Callister.  It was quite a bit harder to battle back down the hill into the town but I managed to go a little bit further than I did yesterday and a little bit faster too so I was quite happy.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had recovered her health well enough to have moved one of the new vegetable garden frames into place.  The new frames are intentionally narrower than the old frames so there will have to be some digging before they get fully settled in.

new bed in place

I noticed that more blossom had appeared on the plum tree so I recorded that fact before going for lunch.more plum blossom

After lunch, I had time to go through a few of the songs that we are doing with our Carlisle choir before it was time to go off to Carlisle to sing.  I spotted a goldfinch trying out the peanuts as I was getting ready to go out to the car.

goldfinch on nuts

It didn’t look very happy but it had a good nibble before it flew off.

Our choir practice was excellent.  Our conductor was in very good form and the choir was responsive so we got a lot done.  The current set of songs have a lot of good singing in them and are difficult enough to keep me working without being so hard as to make me depressed.

With two concerts, a church service and three practices since Tuesday, it has been a full week of singing and it is very heartening to find that the combination of speech therapy and singing lessons helped my previously creaky voice to survive.

We drove home in a sort of hazy sunshine but by the time that we got back to Langholm, it was all haze and no sunshine.  As we parked the car, I saw that the first of the Lithodora ‘Heavenly Blue’ flowers had appeared.

lithospermum

My camera resolutely refused to show just how blue the flower is so I will have to try again in a different light.

It had no problem even in the dim light with the glorious colour of the cowslippy things which are going from strength to strength….

cowslippy

…and it enjoyed the fresh green of a philadelphus by the hedge.

philadelphus

Although the light was fading now, there was enough left to show a redpoll visiting the feeder. It was just in time because although I had filled the feeder twice during the day, the seed was almost all gone again.

redpoll

I had made a slow cooked stew with a rolled shoulder of lamb in the morning before going to church and Mrs Tootlepedal cooked some mashed  potatoes and cabbage to go with it and the result was entirely satisfactory.  The slow cooker is a wonderful thing.

Looking at the forecast, an easterly wind is set to continue for several days so spring may remain on hold for a while.

The flying bird of the day is two chaffinches, looking a bit uncertain of which is the best way to go.  You can’t avoid Brexit metaphors these days.

flying chaffinches

Footnote:  I don’t generally use a photograph if I haven’t taken it on the day of the post but I found that I had overlooked this one from last Wednesday.  It was too bright to waste.

It shows the eye popping display of flowers at the Houghton Hall Garden Centre.  This is where Mrs Tootlepedal found her cheerful primrose for the chimney pot, though hers came from a subsidiary bench where bargains were to be found.

dav

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Today’s guest picture is the last of the Derby insects sent to me by my brother Andrew.

derby hornet

I am irresistibly reminded of my favourite limerick.  I remember it as:

There was a young man from St Bees,
Who was stung on the knee by a wasp.
When they said, “Does it hurt?”
He replied, “No, it doesn’t,
Thank goodness it wasn’t a hornet.”

But I see that the original was by W S Gilbert who wrote:

There was an old man of St. Bees,
Who was stung in the arm by a wasp;
When they asked, “Does it hurt?”
He replied, “No, it doesn’t,
But I thought all the while ’twas a Hornet.”

With the greatest respect to WS, I think my version is snappier.

But I digress.

Dropscone recently took a boat trip across the North Sea to Amsterdam, coming back on what should have been the final day before Brexit and he dropped in this morning on his way back from the gym to have a cup of coffee and tell me about it.  His main impression was that Amsterdam is a very easy place in which to get run over by a cyclist.

I had resolved to have a very quiet day today as I was feeling far from my peak so after he left, I constrained my activity to a brief walk round the garden.

The cold and wet weather of the last week has put new growth on the back foot again and there are few developments but some flowers are doing well in spite of frost and rain.

wallflowers, dicentra, cardamine

And the fritillaries are fabulous.

fritillary in sun

There were sunny spells in the morning and these four chaffinches looked very cheerful in one of them.

four happy chaps

The blossom on the plum tree is just waiting for a warmer day to break out fully.

chaffinch in plum buds

The sunshine didn’t keep everyone happy as this study of a lady chaffinch giving a little siskin a kicking shows.

chaffinch kicking siskin

However, the siskin had the last laugh because it stayed in the perch and the chaffinch had to retire in confusion.

For the first time this year, we had several redpolls on the feeder at the same time and although they are small, like the siskins they are tough little birds and not afraid of anything.

three repolls

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off by herself to visit Matilda in Edinburgh (and her other grandparents who are visiting too). Matilda is basking in glory as she came second in her first ever dance competition yesterday and got a medal!

I stayed at home and mooched around in some showery weather until the skies cleared and I thought that my foot might benefit from a little walk.  I don’t want to seize up altogether and I have been severely limiting my exercise for five weeks now so it is important to keep moving, even if very slowly.

I walked up onto the Meikleholm hill and looked back to see the town bathed in sunshine while Whita Hill in the background was still under a cloud.

sunny town cloudy whita

Six minutes later, the town was in shadow and the hill was sunlit.  It was that sort of day, with a very brisk and chilly wind.

sunny whita cloudy town

I had intended to do a Grand Old Duke of York and go to the top of the hill and then come down again but I found a herd of cows in my way and thought better of it and went back down and continued my walk by going along the track to the Becks Burn.

I stopped and had a chat with Stan from the camera club who was walking  his dogs.  He told me that he has already sold a picture from the exhibition at Canonbie so that was good news.

I walked further along the track with one of the smallholders who have fields there.  There was no need to ask which were his sheep because as we approached his field they careered down towards him in the justified hope of some food.  He has already got some traditional spring lambs…

lamb oanel

…and there were other more exotic ones in a neighbouring field.

There were white things to see as I went along…

white things on walk

…and plenty of new growth in the hedgerow when I had crossed the burn and was walking down the road on the other side.

hedge buds

I crossed the Becks Burn again by this bridge which carries the Wauchope road back into the town.

becks bridge at Wauchope

In spite of the recent rain, there is still very little water in the stream after our dry spell in March.

As is so often the case, where there is a bridge and a wall, there is lichen.

Becks bridge lichen

I had thought of a slightly longer walk at this point but my foot put its foot down and told me to go straight home so I did.

When I got to Pool Corner, I lifted up two of the little squares of roofing felt which a nature lover has put there and underneath them, I found two baby slow worms and an adult.

slow worm and mat

Just before I got home, I passed a man with an unusual hedge.

quince fence

It is a quince hedge and he told me that when the fruits come, people pick them and bring him a jar of jelly in return.

When I got back, I found that there were more redpolls about…

redpoll pair

…and they weren’t averse to trying to establish a pecking order…

redpolls beak to beak

…though the one on the top right seems a bit astonished by the bad behaviour of the other two.

repolls flyting

I was cooking some ginger biscuits when Mike Tinker dropped in and I was more than a bit embarrassed to peer into the oven and to see no biscuits at all.  The little round balls of dough that should have melted out into flat biscuits were still little round balls of dough.  When I took them out of the oven (after Mike had gone), I found that they were dry, tasteless and inedible.

A bit of brain racking ensued (as far as I still have a brain to rack) and a second look at the recipe told me that I must have forgotten to put the sugar in.  I made a second batch, hoping not to miss out some other vital ingredient this time.  I must have got everything in because I got some undeniable biscuits out of the oven and they tasted quite good.  I am going to have one or two with a cup of tea when I finish writing this post.  Or even three.

In the absence of Mrs Tootlepedal, I had a very quiet evening in.

The flying bird of the day is a sunny chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from camera club member Simon.  He suggested the theme for tonight’s meeting and then found that he couldn’t come.  He sent me this contribution  in lieu.  Prizes (token) for telling me where he was.

IMG_0007

Yet another grey and windy day welcomed us when we woke.  Everybody I met had the same thought in mind, “Why does it feel so cold when the thermometer says it should feel fairly warm?”  A brisk and mysteriously chilly south wind, which should be bringing up warm air, was the culprit.

After breakfast, there was a brief sunny interlude. I had to go and collect a key for the camera club meeting and was pleased to spot oyster catchers beside the river on my way back.

P1160973

We have got quite a number now, circling above the town with their strident calls.  Those who live along the banks of the rivers have mixed feelings about the oyster catchers as the birds often fly around in the middle of the night, waking the residents up with their piercing shrieks.  It is a high price to pay for the coming of spring.

Talking of spring, I saw the first blossoms appearing on the riverside trees…

P1160974

…and the daffodils are starting to come out in earnest in the garden.

P1160975

I fixed up an appointment with my physiotherapist for the afternoon and settled down to do the crossword, have coffee, practise a song or two and watch the birds.

A plump greenfinch turned up…

seated goldfinch and plump greenfinch

…and looked to be rather aggrieved at the seeds on offer.

plump greenfinch

Several siskins also arrived and hung about on top of the feeder…

siskins on top of feeder

…while below, a greenfinch threatened a goldfinch’s peace of mind.

greenfinch and goldfinch

The siskins soon got down and dirty and joined in the fun.

siskin and chaffinch at feeder

I thought that I ought to test my foot so that I could givea good explanation of where it was hurting to the physio so I went for a short stroll.

My foot was sore but usable so I pottered round Gaskell’s Walk.  It was getting greyer all the time and the views weren’t very exciting….

dull whita scene

…so I kept my head down and looked for a variety of mosses.  They weren’t hard to find.

Top left and right were growing on walls, bottom left on the ground and bottom right on a tree stump.

four gaskell mosses

I couldn’t pass the lichens by without a nod in their direction.

Top left and right on a fence post, bottom left on an old tree stump and bottom right on a wall.

four gaskells lichens

As I got to the end of my walk, the white duck flew past and settled in the Wauchope.  He had a conventionally coloured lady friend with him but they flew off before I could take the pair of them together.

white duck in wauchope

The theme for the camera club meeting was street scenes so George kindly posed for me with the dog who was talking him for a walk to the park.

George with dog

It wasn’t long after I got home that it started raining but it didn’t come to much so when I had to drive to Powfoot to see the physio after lunch, driving was no great trial and the rain had stopped by the time that I got to the sea shore.  I did see a few birds with my binoculars but they were too far off to photograph.

powfoot seascape

The physio listened to my report, shook her head in a rather thoughtful way and decided that some traction might be a good idea.  I have suffered from a niggling back for many years so a little traction usually does me some good and I was happy to get stretched out on her infernal machine.  It certainly made my back feel a lot better and only time will tell if it has had a beneficial effect on my foot but I feel a visit to the doctor coming on if things don’t improve.

I hadn’t been home long before Mrs Tootlepedal called out that there were big birds in the garden.  She was right.

Two partridges were pecking about under the feeder.  The partridge shooting season is over now so these birds can feed without running into danger.  This one looked as though it might have difficulty getting off the ground.

partridge in garden

While I was away, Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy with her paint brush.

horse with paunted ears

Dappling is the next thing on the rocking horse restoration menu.  This is a nervous business and Mrs Tootlepedal is giving it a lot of thought.

My flute pupil Luke came.  He is still recovering from a bad cold so we took things easily after missing a couple of weeks.  It was good to be back playing duets again.

After tea, I went off to the camera club where we had an excellent selection of pictures once again.  Most of the other members had taken the theme a lot more seriously than me and as they are a well travelled lot we had street scenes from Majorca, Tenerife, Madagascar, Cuba, Edinburgh, India, Thailand and more.  In addition we had some beautiful pictures of local scenes in the recent snow so we were very well entertained.

And there were biscuits.

Mrs Tootlepedal made some home made ginger biscuits during the day so any chance of losing a little of my additional winter weight has gone out of the window for the time being.  They are delicious.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with its eye on a perch.

flying chaffinch

 

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After Ada’s picture of walking in the mountains of Tenerife, I have another mountain scene as guest picture of the day today.  This snowy view from Hoch-Ybrig in Switzerland was sent to me by Dropscone’s niece Hilary, who was skiing there with her family.

Hoch-Ybrig, Switzerland

A click on the pic will spread the picture on a wider scene.

We had a pervasively gloomy day here, a bit warmer but very grey and much windier, not an attractive proposition for cycling or walking.  Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy day with visits to the dentist, the information hub to put up Buccleuch Centre posters and then the Buccleuch Centre itself where she had lunch before doing the front of house for a screening about the Young Picasso.  As she stayed for the screening, I saw very little of her until she came back in time for a cup of tea with me and Mike Tinker who had dropped in later in the day.

While she was out, I tried to avoid walking on my sore foot and passed the time by listening to the radio, doing various puzzles in the paper and of course, watching the birds.

Goldfinches were the flavour of the day.

Sometimes all was calm…

goldfinches quartet

…and at other times it was all go in every direction.

goldfinches coming and going

Occasionally, chaffinches tried to join the fun.

goldfinches and chaffinches

And we have been getting regular visits from collared doves.

doctored collared dove

I used Photoshop to remove a rather messy background from this shot.

I noticed a robin on the arm of the garden chair….

robin on arm of chair

…and then I noticed that there was a robin on the back of the chair…

robin on back of chair

…and then I noticed that there were in fact, two robins, an unusual sight.

two robins

I did have a wander round the garden but there was nothing new to see except a single potential new crocus.

potential crocus

I did pick up a walnut and to my surprise, it was in very good condition and Mike and Mrs T had half each with their cup of tea.

After Mike had left, I got my slow bike out and cycled half a mile round the new town just for sake of getting out of the house.  It had been raining for much of the afternoon, but it had stopped now.  It didn’t make much difference to the gloom though as the clouds were still firmly clamped down over our hills.

clouds over Langholm

A row of ducks were lined up on the edge of the main flow of the river.  They were peering anxiously about and for all the world they looked as though they were waiting for a bus to arrive.

ducks at the waters edge

Since I was having a quiet day in, I got the bread machine to make me some dough and used the result to make 18 rolls.  The bread machine makes a wonderfully elastic dough and the rolls came out well.

bread rools

My flute pupil Luke had missed our Monday meeting because of a cold and although he was hoping to come today, the cold still had him in its grip so we will meet next week instead.  I practised by myself which was no bad thing as I have to work hard to keep up with him as he gets better.

I will get about a bit more tomorrow as I am off to the physio and hope to use the trip to take a picture or two while I am out.

The flying bird of the day is one of those goldfinches, concentrating hard as it comes in to the feeder..

flying goldfinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture, sent to us by their proud grandfather and used here with the permission of their mother, shows a talented trio made up of Mrs Tootlepedal’s great nephew and nieces giving the von Trapp family a run for their money.

3fcd8950-27c5-4385-a78b-257bcc030db2

After our chilly spell, the thermometer rose today and the snow and frost disappeared.  On the down side, some fairly persistent drizzle arrived instead.

I was very pleased to have the grey morning brightened by the appearance of Dropscone bearing the traditional Friday treacle scones and we enjoyed a cup of coffee, a chat and the scones in the kitchen while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to have coffee with ex-work colleagues elsewhere.

When Dropscone left, I looked at the birds and found that it was largely a goldfinch day.

In spite of the rain…

goldfinch in the rain

…they arrived from all directions, left…

goldfinch touching down

…right….

goldfinch arriving

…and above.

three stacked goldfinches

Perhaps because of the rain, there were outbreaks of ill bred behaviour involving shouting  between goldfinches…

flying goldfinch goldfich barney

…and between goldfinch and chaffinch.

chaffinch goldfinch barney

I dithered about after lunch, hoping to go for a cycle ride as it was warm enough at 5°C and the rain stopped from time to time.  Needless to say I only had to put my cycling gear on to make it rain quite hard.  I was just contemplating the bike to nowhere in the garage when the rain eased off to a light drizzle and I set off up the road.

By the time that I had done three miles, the rain had cleared and although it was still a dull day….

cleuchfoot valley

…I was able to cycle 20 miles without getting really wet.  As this was the first ride for some time, I was pleased to have done it and I was even more pleased to find that it seems to have helped my foot problem rather than harmed it.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal broke from her crochet work to make me a cup of tea.  She has been beavering away at the blanket and it is growing bigger all the time.  She has just downloaded the new set of colours and is already hard at work on them.

crochet blanket

45 double rows of colour represents three weeks of hard work but the final number of rows is still a secret so there is much work still to be done.

Upstairs the gesso on the rocking is quietly drying.

I made a sausage and tomato stew for my evening meal, making use of a tapsi recipe to provide it with a spicy flavour.  This was a result of the excellent meal we had had in Edinburgh yesterday which included a tapsi dish.  Although my stew was nothing like a genuine tapsi dish which should be vegetarian and baked, I did use a lot of vegetables and the flavour was excellent.

Alison, my Friday night accompanist, is still recovering from a shoulder injury so there was no music in the evening but she and Mike came round anyway and we enjoyed a glass of wine and conversation instead.

All in all, a dull, damp day passed as pleasantly as it could.

A final goldfinch in the morning drizzle is the flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who took this charming view of St Paul’s  Cathedral across the river from the cafe outside the Tate Modern art gallery which she was visiting.

st pauls

We had plenty of sunshine here…

very sunny chaffinch

…and quite a few birds…

two sunny goldfinches

…on what would have been a grand day for a walk or even a pedal if I had wrapped up well enough but I was overcome by a most unusual outbreak of good sense and stayed at home instead.

I have been suffering from a rather sore right foot lately and have been trying to walk it off but by last night I had been reduced to limping.  This is not a satisfactory state of affairs because limping only makes things worse so I went for a day of complete rest today in an effort to get things on a better footing before going to Edinburgh tomorrow.  Time will tell if I have improved things but at least I can be confident that I haven’t made them worse.

As a result, I did many puzzles in the paper, put two weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, mooched around and put a good deal of effort into practising songs for church and choir.

I looked out of the window a lot too.

robin on chair

At this time of year, the feeder is in the shadow of either our or our next door neighbour’s house for most of the day so it may have been the lack of light that was making this goldfinch concentrate so hard on pinpointing the feeder perch.

concentrating flying goldfinch

The wrecking crew of peckers were back digging up the lawn again…

pecking wreckers

…and goldfinches and chaffinches were in perpetual motion at the feeder…

busy feeder

…sometimes getting in the way of good flying bird of the day shots.

flying goldfinch and flying chaffinch

Mrs Tootlepedal suggested that I might find making some ginger biscuits a useful way of spending some time and I took her up on that.  I also took her advice on exactly when to take the biscuits out of the oven and I am happy to say that it was very sound advice as you can see.

I managed to take this picture before all the biscuits had disappeared.

ginger biscuits

It was hard to lurk about inside when the day outside was so bright…

walnut tree

…but we are in for a run of weather from the north so the day gradually got colder as it went on in spite of the sun and it has got down to 2°C as I write this and it is going to freeze overnight which will be a shock after a spell of relative mildness.

I did find a fairly sunny flying bird of the day and a goldfinch makes a change from all the chaffinches.

flying goldfinch

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