Posts Tagged ‘tea cakes’

Today’s guest picture is from my sister Mary who visited the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

Tragalgar Square

It was a sunny day here when we got up but far too cold to be able to risk a cycle ride with frost about so I pottered about until Sandy arrived with some Archive Group documents and we had a cup of coffee.  He and Nancy did a great job in moving Archive Group to their new premises with the help of a very obliging pair of ‘moving men’ and we hope that our data miners will soon get used to the new surroundings.

Dropscone has been  our landlord in our old premises for many years and we hope that he will be able find a good use for them now that we are gone.

When Sandy left, he took the sunshine with him and the day got progressively gloomier as it went on.  I decided to cook some tea cakes, using a method that is easy but time consuming in  the preparation of the dough so I had time to look out of the window at the passing show.

It was perching time for the goldfinches.

goldfinches perching

goldfinch on feeder

Once again, the old sunflower stalk was a handy staging post.

goldfinch on sunflower

Sometimes goldfinches waited for sparrows to move….

goldfinch and sparrow

…and sometimes sparrows encouraged goldfinches to move….

goldfinches and sparrow

…and sometimes chaffinches managed to get a look in too.

chaffinces staring at goldfinch

The tea cake method involves very light stretching of the dough rather than heavy kneading but it has gaps of a quarter of an hour between stretches so I had many looks out of the window while waiting for the next stretch and as well as birds at the feeder, I saw a dunnock…


…and a blackbird scavenging for fallen seeds on the ground.

blackbird below

After a while, the dough was ready for its first rising so I had lunch and then while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to see a screening of a Degas exhibition at the Buccleuch Centre, I went off to collect my new bicycle from the bike shop where it had been having a service.  Although I had taken it in to the Carlisle branch, they had kindly brought it back to the shop in Longtown for me to collect it so I didn’t have far to go.

When I got home, I divided the tea cake dough into balls for the second rise and considered my options.

The day had got very gloomy by this time, with a brisk breeze and a hint of rain so once again I neither walked nor pedalled but went to work on my computer until Mrs Tootlepedal got back from her screening when we had a cup of tea.

Then it was time to bake the tea cakes and since the recipe is generally fool proof, they came out quite well.


They enlivened with currants and raisins and spiced with cinnamon and ginger.

In the evening, one of the tenors from Langholm Sings came round and we did a little practising.  We shall see if it pays off when we meet tomorrow for our next rehearsal.

The forecast for tomorrow is appalling so I don’t think that there will be any chance of a pedal on my newly serviced bike.

In fact, November has not been kind to me from a cycling point of view recently.  I see that I only did 58 miles last year in the whole month because the weather was very poor and I had a persistent cold and so far I have only done half that distance this year with three days to go.  I might have to take issue with the poet who thought that April is the cruellest month.

The flying bird of the day is two goldfinches showing off their flying skills.

Flying goldfinches



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Today’s guest picture shows the Belper River Gardens which my brother Andrew enjoyed on a visit to the town.  The land was donated by the adjacent Strutt’s Mill owner, who wanted to thank his workforce.

Belper Garden

A rather brief blog today for three reasons, I didn’t do anything interesting during the day, a concert in the evening went on longer than I expected and we have to get up very early tomorrow to go to Newcastle.

The most interesting event of the morning was the arrival of Dropscone bearing traditional Friday treacle scones. He is 75 tomorrow and I thought that he was looking pretty perky under the circumstances.

I had thought of a little bike ride but a combination of very brisk winds and some rain put me off and by the time that things had brightened up, I was engaged in watching the Scottish Cup Final.  I don’t usually watch a lot of football these days but I have been a Hibs supporter since 1962 and although they haven’t won the cup for over 100 years, you always live in hope.

Hope was realised at the very last minute today.

I had a quick walk round the garden but the wind made taking flower pictures rather tricky.  However, I have never worried about taking less than perfect pictures so here are some close-ups to go with yesterday’s wider views.


I noticed a tulip which had been lurking behind other plants


And the clump of yellow tulips are developing a dainty red fringe to their petals


The leaves have come out on the magnolia and I like the effect this creates

Jacob's ladder

The Jacob’s ladder is climbing ever higher


And the geums are growing well too.

In the back border there are Sweet Woodruff….

sweet woodruff

…which Mrs Tootlepedal is pleased about and persistent Spanish Bluebells….

Spanish bluebells

…with which she is not so happy.  She has dug up a great number this year but they keep on coming.

Also in the back border are some old friends….


…and a new arrival, Camassia…


…which looks very exciting.

In the vegetable garden there is the almost equally exciting sight of the first potatoes getting above ground…


Also in a vegetable bed is a promising peony….


…which is going to earn its keep as a cut flower rather than show off in a border.

I did one other thing as well as drinking coffee and watching football, the only useful thing that I did all day.  I made some tea cakes.  As neither Mrs Tootlepedal nor I are keen on eating too much at the moment, I made the tea cakes using half portions of the recipe which was a bit of a nervous business (one and a half eggs are tricky to find) but they turned out well….


There were nine on the tray a few minutes ago

…and they had to be locked up for their own protection.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a fun trip to the municipal dump with some of the tree roots which she has dug up and combined  this with some shopping and a visit to a garden centre to get yet more plants for the garden.

In the evening, we went off to the Buccleuch Centre to hear a concert by Eddi Reader, a Scottish chanteuse of great distinction.  She has a wonderful voice and gave us a varied programme of new and traditional songs, including some from her early incarnation as a pop star with Fairground Attraction.  My only beef, which is a common complaint for me, was that the sound was turned up far too much and her sound engineer had put on so much reverb that some of the pure quality of her voice was lost.  There were only five musicians on stage but they made more noise than a 170 strong choir and orchestra ensemble had made last week in Glasgow.  Still, she is a great singer and I enjoyed the concert.

Still no flying birds and no substitutes today.

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Today’s picture from my brother Andrew shows an impressive glacier at the Homer Tunnel in New Zealand’s South Island which he visited a couple of weeks ago..

The Glacier at the Homer Tunnel

Although we had to get up an hour earlier because of the clock change, it was brilliantly sunny so we noticed no difference in the light.  The birds enjoyed the early morning sun as well.

siskins and chaffinch

Two siskins and a chaffinch improving their tans.

Two chaffinches

Two male chaffinches

The bright sun couldn’t make up for the fact that it was below zero though and while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir, I retired back to bed until the day warmed up enough to cycle.

I felt that I needed to have a pedal because my spreadsheet told me that I still had twenty miles to go to get to the 300 miles for the month which is my minimum target.  I was a bit surprised because I thought that I had already reached the target but a computer cannot lie, especially when it is a spreadsheet.  By 11 o’clock the temperature had reached 3° and I put on as many layers as I could and set out to pedal round the morning run.  The east wind had sunk a bit to the south and I reckoned this was the most wind friendly ride that I could find.

The council have been busy filling in many of the potholes on the route and the worst bit of road has been resurfaced.  This, added to the dry weather, made the roads quite agreeable to cycle along and I enjoyed myself although my legs complained every time I hit a bit of steep uphill.

When I revisited my spreadsheet to add the mileage to it, I discovered that I had failed to change the number of days that it was adding up from the 28 in February to the 31 in March and that I had already exceeded the 300 miles before I set out today.  Garbage in, garbage out as they say of computers.  I didn’t regret going for the ride though and if my legs had felt better, the conditions would have been pleasant enough for a longer trip.

While I had been out, Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy in the gardening fulfilling a long felt need to tidy up a border outside the kitchen window.

Gardener's tools

She was pleased to have done something that had been on her mind for some time.  I admired the work and the hordes of birds which descended on the feeder as soon she had come inside.


brambling mania

mixed bag of birds

mixed bag of birds

This was a fairly typical scene as long as there was any seed in the feeder.   The seed goes down at an alarming rate and if we don’t get some warmer weather to encourage growth in the fields, trees and hedges, I will have to win the lottery.

I was very pleased to see a rare visitor to the garden.


This is the first thrush that I have photographed in the garden since I started three years ago.  I am not saying that there hasn’t been a thrush in the garden in that time because they are fairly common round here but this is certainly the first one that has come to the feeders while I have been watching them.


It came under the feeder and picked up a little food but didn’t linger.

There was a very puffed up chaffinch there too.


It always amazes me when they actually fly off.

After lunch, I went into the garden to sieve some more compost.  I have nearly emptied one of our compost bays and this will give me the chance to turn the other two bays.  I did a moderate amount of sieving and then went and spiked a bit more of the front lawn.  This is nearly finished too but will need top dressing.

I rationed myself to a short period of gardening as last time out, I did too much and had to take more time than I wanted to recover.

I did take the opportunity to look at the crocuses which were making a good show in the sunshine.




They come in various shades of blue.

Mrs Tootlepedal purchased and planted out  50 winter aconites and they have taken well.

winter aconites

We can only hope that some at least will come up next year as they are hard to establish.

I spent the rest of the afternoon making bread in the bread maker (preparation time: 2 minutes, cooking time 2 hours) and some tea cakes by traditional methods (preparation time: three hours, cooking time 13 minutes).    You can see why I usually use the bread maker.  It makes very nice bread too.

We were visited by a stately wood pigeon in the late afternoon.

wood pigeon

I took several flying birds during the day.

flying chaffinch

Photographic note: I took this at f8 which gives a bit more depth to the picture but didn’t let me get it as sharp as I would like.


This one was at f6.3

The flying bird of the day though was a chaffinch showing that it can get a seed from the feeder without stopping at all.

flying chaffinch with seed



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Today’s picture shows a rainbow seen from the top of Whita Hill.  It was taken by my daughter Annie who was on a walk with Mrs Tootlepedal that I wasn’t able to join.


In spite of a brisk north wind, the day was warm and bright enough for Dropscone and I to enjoy a pedal the wrong way round the traditional morning run.  We went the wrong way round to get the best out of the wind and it worked out well.  We were able to introduce Annie to the delights of a girdle scone with coffee when we returned.   She was very impressed.

It had been bright enough to take a photo at breakfast time which made a welcome change.


Chaffinches are always our earliest visitors of the day at the moment.

After Dropscone left, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to work and Annie and I set about making another batch of tea cakes since all the ones we had made before had now been eaten.  In the gaps  while we were waiting for things to happen to the dough, we found useful thongs to do so no time was wasted in sitting and looking at dough rising.

 I also found time to look out of the window before we started cooking.


There were a couple of bramblings about during the day.

After the dough preparation had been completed, there was time while we waited for the final rising of the tea cakes, to set the camera up outside with the remote control in place.  Unlike the other day, this was not very successful  but I did manage to catch one of the bramblings again.


I know why the session was not so successful and I will try again when the weather permits and hope to have learned from the experience.

Not many birds came to the feeder while the camera was outside.  As soon as I took the camera in, they flocked to the feeder.  They know how to wind me up.

busy feeder

After lunch, Annie and Mrs Tootlepedal went off for a scenic drive and a walk in the good sunshine.  Sadly I wasn’t able to go with them as I had to stay in and look after the tea cake cooking and meet with some visitors from the health board.  They are consulting people involved in volunteer groups in the town with a view to ensuring that everyone who needs to know can find out about all that is going on in the town so that they can join in activities which will improve their health and/or well being generally.  This is an admirable aim but whether they can achieve it, is another matter.  I have promised to help where I can.

While I was waiting for them to arrive, I wandered round the garden looking for the last elements of colour for the record.


There are still some pretty leaves on the berberis


Mrs Tootlepedal’s favourite grasses were blowing in the wind.

pink rose

The last rose in the garden. This is the pink rose looking very washed out.



This tattered remnants of a foxglove survive.

I cheated and looked out of the front gate and across the road to enjoy our neighbour’s bush, glowing in the low sun.

Liz's shrub

At out back door there is a hardy winter jasmine.

Winter jasmine

After the health people left, I put the tea cakes in to cook and although I forgot to give them a beaten egg wash in the excitement of the visit, they came out pretty well again and I am now confident that I can repeat the recipe if I need to.

I just had time to take a couple of more shots before the light had faded too much.


A jackdaw struggling to get a grip on the fat ball feeder.


That’s better.

I took a perching chaffinch, well fluffed up against the increasing chill of the late afternoon.


And finished with a blue tit which took the place of the jackdaw on the fat balls.

blue tit

Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie came in from their drive and walk, having done a bit of shopping for our tea.  They enjoyed one or two of the freshly made tea cakes as a reward for their endeavours.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to our choir and enjoyed singing and conduction respectively.  In spite of a rather reduced attendance of sopranos and altos, the gentlemen were able to sing with such taste and the women with such vigour that we had a pretty well balanced choir.   What is very pleasing is that a small group of the singers are taking the choir seriously enough to come and have some music reading practice before we start.  It is a paradox of groups like ours that people can only have fun if everyone takes it seriously.

I did manage to catch a flying bird of the day.

flying brambling


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Today’s picture is another from my sister Susan’s recent trip to Croatia.  I have put it in to bring a little ray of sunshine to a grey day.

croatian cataraman

It was a very grey day here with the temperature hovering just above freezing for most of the morning.  This put paid to any idea of cycling and as  Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie were tired after their trip from London yesterday, we all had a most relaxing day doing very little.

I glanced out of the window from time to time and to begin with, there was nothing but chaffinches to be seen.


Later on, a small flock of goldfinches turned up too.


There were several occasions when there were no birds to be seen at all thanks to a couple of swoops from our local sparrowhawk.  It didn’t stop to get its photo taken though.

blue tit

It was a day for photographing birds sitting very still

great tit

Or posing

The camfeeder is attracting a steady flow of visitors and I will connect it up next week.

Blue tit

coal tit

We went out after lunch to visit a show of painting, woodwork and photography which was on in the Town Hall gallery.  I was very impressed by the photography which gave me quite an incentive to try to improve my work.  We met Bruce and Lesley there and Bruce nobly offered to get me some of my favourite French butter as he was going to Hawick for the afternoon.   I have a very good class of friends.

After our visit to gallery, we did a little shopping and then a question came up.  Annie is keen  to go and see the starlings at Gretna but she was also keen to show me a recipe for making really good tea cakes.  The tea cakes require a good deal of time in the preparation and there would not be time to see starlings and cook cakes.  A discussion was held and a decision was made.

The result:

Tea cakes

That’s more like it:  the recipe was by Dan Leppard

A good decision.  They were delicious.

This was a combined effort between Annie and myself with Annie taking the lead while I looked and learned and lent an occasional helping hand.

The preparations for the tea cakes took about three hours in all to prepare and cook but a great deal less time to consume.  While the cakes were rising, I wasted a bit of the afternoon by watching Scotland trying and failing to play rugby which was depressing.    Another moment of waiting was filled by playing recorder duets with Annie, which was much more fun.   The rest of the evening was spent slumped in front of the telly.  This is rare for me but it was well worth it for once as it included Strictly Come Dancing and two episodes of the latest version of the wonderful Danish police thriller, The Killing.  It has been a very pleasant day.

I didn’t have a great day on my actual birthday but as presents I have got 300 biscuits, an Art Garfunkle CD and a book about Bradley Wiggins.  Mrs Tootlepedal has returned, our daughter is visiting and we are going to Edinburgh to see both our sons tomorrow.  Who could ask for anything more?   Well perhaps I will just have another of those biscuits.

A flying bird in the morning mist:


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Today’s picture shows a siskin on the peanut feeder.


It gets pride of place because the peanut situation has had to be rethought.  I had noticed very little traffic on the peanut feeders of late and when I came to think about the matter, I realised that because the peanuts in the feeders were going so slowly, they had in fact now been purchased a long time ago.  I checked them out and found signs of mould so I threw them away and went up to the town to buy some fresh ones.  The peanut seller told me that he had had very slow take up of his peanuts in his backyard but that when he turned to a different supplier, the birds had returned with relish.  I have bought some of his new peanuts and await with interest to see if there is renewed activity on our feeders.

The seed feeders continue to do brisk business.

chaffinch and goldfinch

I don't know how the camera has recorded such a marked difference in size between these two birds.

It was another beautiful, sunny day but once again the near zero temperatures put me off the idea of cycling so after lunch,  while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a meeting of the Embroiderers’ Guild, I packed my camera and set off for a walk.

I went through the town and along a walk that runs along the lower slopes of Whita Hill.  It is a good walking track through the woods at the start.


The views through the sunlit woodland were delightful.

Whita woods

Finally the track leaves the woods for more open country.  This is the last wooded section.

The gully

As I climbed up this little gully, I heard my name being called and looking over the ridge on the right, I saw Mrs Bell, an indefatigable walker and a work colleague of Mrs Tootlepedal.

Mrs Bell

Leaving the woods, I walked briskly along to Broomholmshiels and then turned up the road to the moorland bird feeders. I knew that Dr Barlow was not well and wondered if the feeders might need filling.  On my way I saw a buzzard fly up to perch high on a pylon.

buzzard on pylon

Seeing a buzzard perched there makes you realise just how big these structures are.

When I got to the feeders, they did indeed need filling but there was no spare seed in the bins so I was only able to top up the peanut feeders.  They were soon very busy.


Three greenfinches and a blue tit

blue and great tit

A blue and a great tit. The blue tit has a ring on its right leg.

coal tit

A coal tit

To my great delight a woodpecker landed on a tree.

woodpecker on tree

It backed slowly down the tree trunk and then hopped nimbly onto the feeder.

woodpecker on feeder

This bird doesn't seem to be ringed


I was even more delighted when a second woodpecker put in an appearance.

two woodpeckers

It used the same approach of landing on a tree first


woodpecker on feeder

I was just looking forward to having a fine time shooting double pecker activity when a car drew up and a voice shouted, “Hello Tom.”  Rather too late, he added, “Oh, were you taking photographs?”

“I was,” I said, “but I am not now.”

Just as the birds began to return, a sparrowhawk flew across in front of me and scattered them again so I gave up and walked home.

I passed Broomholmshiels farmhouse with Whita in the background.


I walked down the road until I came to a dismantled railway bridge where I was able to walk for a short while along the old railway.

old railway

From there I was soon back at Skippers Bridge.  I am impressed by the skill of the scaffolders who have covered the old distillery building with their work.

Distillery with scaffolding

I was able to walk home along the river bank because the recent landslip has been efficiently cleared away.  I arrived home exactly as Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her meeting.

The rest of the day was spent making bread in the bread machine (preparation time 2 minutes) and tea cakes to a recipe from the book that my daughter Annie recently sent us (preparation time 3 hours).  Will the tea cakes be 90 times tastier than the bread?

They look alright.

Tea cakes

I may have been a bit heavy on the currants.

Preliminary taste testing seems to show that the preparation time was well spent.  The crucial test will be how they taste when they have been toasted tomorrow.  Toasted tea cakes with  lashings of butter…life hasn’t anything to show more fair.

I had a good time watching two hours of Danish political drama on the telly in the later evening.  Chachun a son gout as they say.



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