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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Today’s guest picture is another from our friend Bruce’s Highland tour.  It shows McCaig’s Tower in Oban, a prominent granite folly overlooking the town.

oban folly

It was a rotten day here, rainy, cold and with gusty winds.  It was hard to see the birds at the feeder…

coal tit with seed

…but much easier to see Dropscone coming round with scones in his hand.  He is going to Glasgow for a week’s holiday at the weekend so I was glad that he was able to fit a little coffee drinking in before he went.  We were drinking some of the ‘awful lot of coffee’ from Brazil today  and it went well with the scones.

Dropscone left but the rain kept coming….

chaffinches

…and I stayed indoors and made some sweet potato soup for lunch and did the crossword.

The rain eased off a little after lunch so I put on my wellies and a big woolly hat, picked up my golfing brolly and went for a damp walk over three bridges.

There was very little to see but against the general greyness, a gull stood out…

sitting gull

…and a bare tree too.

bare tree

Although it was only a degree or two warmer than yesterday and it was drizzling, somehow walking was more pleasant so I extended my planned walk and went along the road to the pheasant hatchery…

pheasant hatchery road

…before walking back along the riverside path, looking across the field to the misty slopes of Castle Hill.

misty trees castleholm

One advantage of winter is that bridges are more visible once the leaves are off the trees.

Duchess Bridge

I was quite ready for a warming cup of tea and a slice of toast when I got home.

Since outdoor activity was off the menu now, I made use of my time by putting a parish magazine from 1967 onto the Archive website.  Sandy is scanning and formatting these and I add them to our collection.  (Those with time to kill can wander through them here.)

Then I put a week of the newspaper index into the database.  It was not an entirely wasted day.

Mrs Tootlepedal made a nourishing pasta dish for our tea and then I went to the final rehearsal of Langholm Sings before our concert in Lockerbie on Friday.  We sang through the whole programme which was reassuring but it might be a slight exaggeration to say that we were note perfect.  Fingers crossed for the concert.

Flying birds of the day were very hard to come by in the rain and gloom so this goldfinch was the best that I could manage.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Bruce’s Highland tour.  He stopped to take a picture of the Connel Bridge on the Oban road.  He has had lovely weather for his trip.

connel bridge

Our spell of sunny weather came to end today and it was rather chilly and grey with a brisk wind.  I am still looking after my leg so I was very happy to stay out of the wind and entertain Sandy to a cup of coffee.  While we were sipping and chatting, Nancy, our fellow archivist, arrived with the final sheets for 1898.  Every time we embark on recording a new year of the paper, we feel a surge of satisfaction.

When Sandy left, I watched the birds for a bit.  We are still not getting a great deal of traffic but from time to time, the feeder does get busy.

whirlwind at the feeder

Mostly it was pretty quiet and the chaffinches were able to land at their leisure…

landing chaffinch

…though some still needed a steadying wing.

one armed chaffinch

Trying to catch a coal tit in flight was as tricky as ever.

disappearing coal tit

Rather than face the chilly wind, I put some time in on the bike to nowhere in the garage.  It is a little dull but it does have the benefit of allowing me to moderate the effort I put in and keep things smooth.

Then I made some vegetable soup for lunch and was able to use an onion and potatoes from the store in our garage.  The onions will soon run out but there are a fair number of potatoes still to go.  It is doubly warming to eat a soup with home grown veg in it.

While I was making the soup, I kept an eye out.

The best looking chaffinch of the day was loud and proud….

resplendent chaffinch

…but down a below, a blackbird was skulking around.

creeping blackbird

After lunch, I went for a walk and as my leg seemed to have taken no hurt from the morning pedal, I even ventured on a slightly more hilly route and went round Gaskell’s Walk.

By this time of the year the sun is so low by three o’clock that it may shine on the hills…

sun on the hills november

…but it wasn’t shining on me down in the valley below.

There were things by the way to keep my kind off the chill.  The fence post at the Auld Stane Brig was a positive garden of delights today.

auld stane brig fence post

A fallen log was playing host to moss and fungus

fungus and moss

And the back of a fern revealed a delicate tracery.

back of a fern

When I got to the park, I thought that I ought to show the park wall in all its mossy glory…..

park wall overview

…and not just pick out the detail on the way.

park wall moss and lichenpark wall leaves

When I put the pictures from my walk on the computer in the evening, my favourite was this view of Meikleholm Hill, not just because of the sun on the hillside but because of the smoky effect of the willowherb seed heads in the foreground.

sun on the hills with rosebay willowherb

When I got back, I made a cup of tea for Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been busy at her pantomime dressmaking (there will be plackets) and Mike Tinker who called round.

They arranged to go to a public meeting in the evening regarding our local newspaper which is now owned by a community company.  I would have gone too but it was camera club night.

The next business was playing duets with Luke.  I am rather cross with him as it may well turn out that he will be a better player than me.   Ah well.

Mrs Tootlepedal cooked me  delicious fry-up for my tea and I went off to the camera club to learn about taking portraits.

Because of the newspaper meeting, our numbers were a bit down but two members had brought lighting equipment and there was lively discussion about lighting kit and exposure meters and members volunteered to be sitters.  I had a go at shooting them.

Stan

Stan without a flash

Andy

Andy with lighting and a reflector.

There is always plenty of discussion at our meetings and Thomas can be seen here showing Stan some of the many capabilities of the camera on a mobile phone while Corrie looks on.

dav

I took this picture with my new mobile phone which arrived today.   I am very pleased that the camera looks to be quite a bit better than the one on my old phone.

I will try to up my exercise a bit tomorrow, either inside or out as the weather permits.

The flying bird of the day is a ‘just-in-time’ chaffinch.

just flying chaffinch

 

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It was so gloomy today that I have looked back to Venetia’s Marseille trip for some sunshine to lighten up the post.  This fine boat is called Sherakhan.  It is registered in Rotterdam, and you can charter her with its 19-strong crew and space for 26 guests, for a mere half million dollars per week;  Mrs T and I are thinking of hiring it next week for a bit of a change and some sea air.

marseille charter

It was Remembrance Day today and it was a pity that an already sombre day should have been made much greyer by persistent rain in the morning.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to sing with the church choir.  The choir was only 11 strong and as the music for the service was provided by the Town Band, it probably didn’t make much difference to the total sound whether we sang or not.  However, we did sing a short unaccompanied hymn as an anthem so we did contribute our bit to the service.

I had made a pasta sauce in the slow cooker after breakfast and when we got back home, I made some lentil and vegetable soup for lunch and watched the birds.  A sparrow hawk had made an unavailing fly past down our drive just before I got the camera set up so I had to wait a while for the small birds to come back.  When they did arrive, it turned out to be goldfinch time.

goldfinches on two feeders

There were other birds too.  I can just see a chaffinch hiding behind the feeder here.

set of goldfinches

…and a coal tit was not afraid to share with bigger birds.

goldfinches with coal tit

The goldfinches came in scruffy…

scruffy goldfinch

…and smart turnouts.

smart goldfinch

This one looked very secure while waiting its turn on the feeder pole….

goldfinch perching

…but for coal tits with smaller feet, the wet and breezy weather made hanging on a trickier matter.

coal tits hanging on

A greenfinch looked as fed up with the weather as we were.

damp greenfinch

We didn’t have long to look at the birds though and after lunch, we went off to Carlisle to stock up with cheese and dates (and other necessities of life) and sing with the Carlisle Community Choir.

We set off in pouring rain but fortunately, the day brightened up a bit and the rain had stopped by the time that we got to Carlisle.

We are in full Christmas concert mode with the choir so we had a cheery couple of hours with tinkling bells and general good news.

The singing lessons and the speech therapist’s exercises are paying off and my voice stood up to a heavy day of warbling very well.  I hope to get back to exercising my leg tomorrow but looking at the forecast, the indoor bike may be as far as I can travel.

Among the mass of goldfinches, a chaffinch once again managed to capture the honour of being the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is the Silk Mill in Derby which was passed by my brother Andrew on a very calm day recently.  He notes that the rowing eight in the background seem to be lacking a sense of direction. Perhaps they are our Brexit negotiation team relaxing.

Silk Mill

We had a very grey and dismal day here today and I made the best of it by having an extremely relaxing morning doing nothing at all.  It was the sort of day that Saturday newspapers, with their endless supplements full of guff, are made for.

Well, to tell the truth, I did do a little as I made a venison stew for the slow cooker and some potato and carrot soup for lunch.  The soup would have tasted better if I had remembered to put some onions in.

I did occasionally glance out of the kitchen window.  A collared dove looked about as fed up as I was…

wet dove in tree

…but a blue tit looked a little perkier…

blue tit on fat balls oct

…and even did some tricks to entertain me.

blue tit on fat balls oct (2)

The chaffinches were confused and flew in all directions at once.

confused flying chaffinches

A jackdaw took a dim view of the whole situation.  I know how it felt.

jackdaw on feeder oct

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting and I retired to the computer to waste time doing things so badly that they had to be done again.  In this way, I passed the time until I was driven out to stretch my legs by boredom.

I had a look round the garden before setting off on a short three bridges walk.

garden flower panel oct 20

I discovered that I had been underestimating the clematis in the back bed.  I thought that it had only had one flower but not only could I see a new flower coming,  I could clearly see a seed head as well so it may end up with three flowers for the year.

clematis panel oct 20

The autumn colour was not very exciting today….

dull autumn colour park

… but I was excited to see Mrs Tootlepedal driving over the Langholm Bridge on the way home after her meeting.

Mrs T driving home

The Christmas lights have been strung along the bridge already.  We must be the first town on the light erectors’ list this year.

There were almost as many leaves on the ground as there are still on the tree beside the suspension bridge….

fallen leaves beside Esk

…but they make a cheerful sight on the road.

fallen leaves beside Esk on street

Our lone gull was still standing on its rock staring fixedly down the river, presumably with the hope of seeing a friend coming.

lonely gull

It wasn’t a day for views so I noted the variety of lichens on the Sawmill Brig parapet…

lichen on sawmill brig

…the herb robert growing out of the wall opposite the sawmill….

herb robert

…and the water retaining moss on the top of the wall.

moss on sawmill wall

I took the new path round the bottom of the Castleholm…

new path castleholm

…and kept an eye out for fungus.

I didn’t have much luck and when I finally did see a crop on a tree beside the Scholar’s Field, some creature had got there first…

eaten fungus on tree

…and eaten my photo opportunity.

When I got in, I had a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal and then went off to practise  music for our Carlisle choir.  The musical director has very kindly made demos of herself singing the various parts for several of the trickier songs and I used these to help learn the tenor parts.  The trouble is that it is quite possible to persuade yourself that you can sing the parts only to find that it isn’t so easy with another eighty people singing different parts at the same time….especially if the composer or arranger has a taste for crunchy chords.  Still, any help is welcome.

Mrs Tootlepedal cooked some potatoes and marrow to go with the slow cooked venison stew but couldn’t get over the feeling that she was being watched as she prepared to eat her meal.

staring food

The flying bird of the day is a suitably gloomy chaffinch to match the weather.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to my by my sister Susan and shows a little autumn colour in her road in the heart of the big city.

autumn Ld Mgt Rd

I was faced with the task of finding the ideal moment for a bicycle ride somewhere between a cold morning and a wet afternoon and by exercising great skill* I found the perfect time.

It was still only 5°C when I set off  but there had been no sign of frost earlier so I wasn’t worried about hitting icy patches in shady places.  The wind was light but I was still pleased when some some sunshine made an appearance, as my legs always go round a little more enthusiastically when there is a bit of warmth about.

I was going round my customary 20 mile Canonbie route and had intended not to stop at all for photographs but the sight of my favourite Highland cattle in Canonbie grazing conveniently near the hedge was too good not to stop for an op.

highland coos

In spite of the fringe…

highland coo close up

…there must be room for a view as I got a steady stare with mouth open….

highland coo mouth open

…and mouth shut….

highland coo mouth shut

…as a blade of grass got a gentle rhythmical chewing.

Having stopped once, I thought that I might as well stop again to show Hollows Tower in autumn.

Hollows Tower October

The ride was well timed because by the time we had had a light lunch and Mrs Tootlepedal had cut my hair, it had started to rain.

I settled down to practise the hymns for Sunday’s service and hoped that the rain might pass so that I could get out for a walk but when I looked out of the kitchen window later on…

great tit in wet plum tree

…it had got wetter and darker and not at all like a good day for a walk.

The traffic at the bird feeders was very light indeed and it took some time before the great tit in the picture above left the plum tree and came down to the feeder pole…

great tit on feeder pole

…and finally joined a couple of chaffinches at the seeds.

great tit on feeder

It continued to drizzle on and off so I gave up all hope of a stroll, put my cycling gear in the washing machine and and went shopping with Mrs Tootlepedal instead.   We are now the proud owners of some very fine clothes hangers.

There was just enough light when we got back to see a robin perched on one of the chairs at the feeders.

robin on seat

I made myself an evening meal which involved kidneys, red wine, various herbs and spices, mushrooms, a sweet pepper and a bed of rice and that concluded the entertainment for the day.

The best flying bird of the day that I could manage was a rather vague chaffinch being shouted at by an angry incumbent.

flying chaffinch

*Or just luck.  I had turned down an offer of scones from Dropscone so I am glad that the ride turned out to be enjoyable.

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Today’s guest picture comes from our neighbour Gavin who is on a visit to some Scottish islands.  He looked over the water to see the Paps of Jura.  In my distant youth I ran in a fell race that went right over the tops of those hills.  It was very hard work.

Paps of Jura

It was an all singing (but no dancing) day today and it set the  pattern for Sundays for the next few months with the Langholm Parish Church Choir in the morning and the Carlisle Community Choir in the afternoon.    It was just a pity that it was also fine and pretty calm so from a cycling point of view, it was a wasted day.

Still, it was good to cycle the few hundred yards to church in bright sunlight.  We said farewell to Scott our minister.  It was his last service before leaving to take up a post in Glasgow and he will be missed.

There was no choir practice so we had enough time to do a bit of gardening after the service and while Mrs Tootlepedal toiled, I did dead heading and some shredding….and looked about.

The chilly mornings lately have stopped the grass growing so I had time to spare to stare.

The garden was alive with butterflies with both buddleias pulling their weight…

two butterflies on buiddleia

…and many other plants offering attractions too.  Oddly, the sedum hasn’t pulled a single butterfly or bee in yet…

sedum with no bees

…although it looks quite inviting to me.

The Michaelmas daisies were literally covered with bees.

bees on daisy

Some flowers had found the chilly morning too much for them but a lot survived more or less well.

two rudbeckias

Short and tall rudbeckia

calendual and gaura

Calendula and gaura

two astrantias

Two sorts of astrantia

And the star of them all was a dahlia.

shiny dahlia

I went in and made some potato soup for my lunch and watched the birds while it cooked.

Daddy sparrow supervised the children on the mixed seed feeder…

sparrows on elder feeder

..and Blue and Great Tits took sunflower hearts off to peck at in the plum tree.

blue and great tit

Chaffinches leapt from the sunflower behind the feeder onto spare perches in the shade…

chaffinch landing

…while a little later on, a goldfinch enjoyed sunbathing.

sunny greenfinch

A jackdaw gave me a sideays look.

puzzled jackdaw

We had to go early to the choir to help give out and take in music at the start of the session.  Our new conductor was very impressed by the efficiency of the system.  This term, we have all been given lanyards with our names on.  This is to help members to remember who they are.

Our new conductor made an excellent start.  She is full of pep, knows her singing, has a great sense of humour and is very encouraging so all should go well.

We were able to buy a DVD recording of our last concert with Andrew, our old conductor and I put it on our DVD player when we got back with a great deal of trepidation.  I had two areas of concern.  One was the fact that I was standing in the front row near the conductor so I hoped that the video wouldn’t show me making faces or scratching my nose.  This turned out all right and both Mrs Tootlepedal and I appeared fully committed  and singing cheerfully whenever the camera rested on us.

The other concern was what the choir was going to sound like.  This turned out well too as we sounded well prepared and pretty musical so the DVD will be a good memento of the very enjoyable years under Andrew’s direction.

Mrs Tootlepedal had made the slow cooked stew in the morning and it turned out very well.  With the addition of some home grown potatoes and marrow, it rounded a very satisfactory day off well.

The flying bird of the day came out of the shade of the sunflower.

flyinh chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture, sent to me by her father, shows Matilda posing with flowers in the botanic gardens in Edinburgh.

Matilda and flower

The forecast had suggested that if I wanted to cycle in dry conditions, a prompt start might be advisable as rain was on the way by midday  It seemed like a plausible prediction so I arranged with Dropscone for coffee at eleven and set off after breakfast to go round my customary 20 mile Canonbie circuit.

Although I could see rain across the plain below when I got to the top of the hill after 5 miles, I stuck to my belief in the forecast and pedalled on.  I took the precaution though of not stopping to take any pictures as I went round and my only pause was to answer a text from Sandy on the possibility of coffee.  I got round dry.

Both Dropscone and Sandy arrived on cue for coffee (and scones with apple jelly) and I was interested to find that Dropscone had a acquired a new second hand car as his previous vehicle after well over 100,000 miles had come to the end of its useful life.  His new vehicle is a youthful 7 year old.  It was also interesting to find out that Sandy had bought a new camera as his old pocket camera had also come to the end of its days.

After coffee, with the rain still holding off, Mrs Tootlepedal and I did some gardening.  I mowed a lawn and did some shredding while Mrs Tootlepedal was in Attila the Gardener mode and did useful clearing up and letting light in.

I let some light into my camera.

The new bed continues to thrive and there are even a few second flush delphiniums threatening to come out.

poppies in new bed

Old friends are still flowering:

fuchsia, camanula and cornflower

It has been a good year for the fuchsias, the campanula is on its second burst and the cornflowers have been out all summer.

cosmos, marigold and anemone

The cosmos continues to delight, the French marigolds shine on after the carrots they protect have all been eaten and the Japanese anemones light up a dark corner of the garden.

Elsewhere there were small insects to make up for the lack of butterflies.

bug on dahlia

Easy to spot on the dahlia but harder to see hidden in a lamium flower.

bug in lamium

Mrs Tootlepedal has tried a new more dainty hosta this year and they are just coming into flower.

little hosta

A few flowers on a new dicentra offer promise of a great sensation next year.

new dicentra

And the onset of autumn can no longer be denied…

virginia creeper

…even though summer sights are still to be seen.

sunflowers

A small yellow weed with a prickly leaf has sprouted in the soon to be dismantled strawberry bed.

yellow weed

We had to leave the garden when the promised rain started at lunchtime and as it is still continuing as I wrote this in the evening, the only other flowers that I saw today were tastefully arranged by the head gardener in a vase indoors.

vase of flowers

I had plenty of Archive Group work to do though so I wasn’t bored and I found time to set up the tripod and get the camera to do some bird watching.

The sparrows were back, both on the seed feeder….

four sparrows

The one on the right looks as though it is smoking not snacking

…and on the fat balls.

sparrows on fatballs

A few chaffinches appeared and with the sparrows went in for sideways flying in a big way.

sideways birds

There was formation flying as well.

flying sparrow and chaffinch in unison

Later in the afternoon, while Mrs Tootlepedal did her embroidery accounts on the computer, I made a pound of raspberries that I had picked before the rain arrived into two jars of quick raspberry jam.

Then my flute pupil Luke came and we started work on a trio sonata by Quantz which is quite demanding on finger agility and counting skills so we won’t be short of things to practice when the long nights draw in.

We are in for that meteorological paradox, a steady spell of changeable weather and gardening, cycling and walking will be a hit and miss affair for the next ten days.  It helps when, like today, the forecast is accurate.  I live in hope on that front.

The flying bird of the day is an elegantly arched  chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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