Tuesday, 25 December 2012


Today is Christmas Eve ...

Best wishes to you wherever you are...


For your email greetings
Cape Verde to California!


Sunday, 16 December 2012


Alastair and Ishie arrived this morning with mum and dad. Auntie Jean and Uncle John couldn't manage as they had to return south after their visit.

 It is always good to have helpers to decorate the house at Christmastime.

My Christmas tree decorations go back many, many years.  Each one has a story.  The ones that have survived tend to be the cloth ones as seen here.  Thanks to IKEA this year it is to be a fabric tree (photograph on a 2 metre piece of cotton) which has served our purposes perfectly. (Christmas without a tree, for me, is unthinkable!)  So this cloth one that I suspended from the pulley in spare room - playroom - workroom kept them busy with ornaments suspended from safety pins stuck in at strategic points on the 'branches'.

The supervisors who look like they have had one too many glasses of mulled wine!

 Alastair lives in hope ....  It might be called "doubling your chances"!

 Liz and I were at the Glasgow Cathedral Choral Society concert last night.  The heating in that vast place had broken down but they (through Historic Scotland)  had taken a leaf out of the pop concert people's book and brought in 4 heater-blowers to help things along.  The good news is that we were warm but the noise of the fans did not help the sound of the choir and orchestra... a small price to pay!  And anyhow, we just had to sing the carols more lustily!

* * * * * 

And where does all this leave the Christmas correspondence?

Migrated to the floor while coffee and scones took over the dining room table.

Friday, 14 December 2012


Another day, another publication off to the printers.

This stunning photograph of a yacht on the Clyde taken this year by Shona Shields was my absolute favourite of all the photos that were submitted by the Clyde Cruising Club members for the 2012 Photo Competition.

I use it as my screen saver on my computer; I think it is fab!

"SB 20 raising as the sun sets on east patch" by Shona Shields

Thursday, 13 December 2012


First ... there's the BAKING .......


Alastair and Ishie at their own kitchen counter icing Christmas cookies that I had baked earlier.

Of course, there is the sampling "to make sure it [the Betty Crocker icing]  hasn't gone off" !  It's a sort of ritual we have: the knife goes into the container first off and then a lot of licking goes on ... then we get down to business!

A whole cherry on the top goes a long way to brighten up the serving plate.  The kids love to carry the plate carefully about the room, offering their wares to the admiring adults.

And the SHOPPING ........

Off we go to the shops for that last Christmas present.  In this case we headed to Duncan's Yacht Chandlers for something for (big) Alastair.  Exactly what we wanted was there on the top shelf all packed nicely in its box.  Santa's elf, all 6 feet of him, was, as always, very obliging in an establishment where we have been customers for many, many years!

And lastly ... the CHRISTMAS CARDS .......

Mairi brought over gifts and Christmas cards from them all.  Here is Ishie's (nearly 6 years old) on the left and Alastair's (nearly 5 years old) on the right.

Ishie's printing is on the top card: letters well formed and making sentences.  Alastair's been learning his letters and is now putting them together.  He appears to really enjoy the physical process of holding and pencil and "drawing" the shapes.  He takes his time.  I wonder if he will form an interest in drawing, or maybe calligraphy?  And he is not even 5 years old yet!  (Ishie is more bizz, bizz, bizz - let's get this finished!)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Advent is about waiting. We are all doing a lot of waiting these days: the traffic is busier than ever with delivery vans everywhere (parked on every double yellow line) and the shops have queues building up as people prepare for Christmas gift-giving.

However there is waiting and waiting I have decided.  Last week I was waiting in the queue in Marks and Spencer's at Bearsden Cross.  The lady in front of me was with her 3 year old girl at the check-out.  The M&S lady turned to the little girl and asked "And what would you like for Christmas?"

Without missing a beat, the little girl replied "A Real Baby"!

Well I laughed and laughed!  Yes, I guess Christmas really is about A Real Baby and its arrival which Started It All, you might say.

We all remember coming up 6 years ago when Mairi was expecting their first baby at this time of year; it was all very exciting!   And, indeed, Baby Ishie arrived just before the bells on December 31st!

Now it is that time of year again with her 6th birthday soon.  But ... wait for it ... we have another bit of excitement:  Ishie and Alastair ... and the rest of us ... are going to be getting A Real Baby! No , not for Christmas but nonetheless, a wonderful Christmas present: Mairi is expecting a baby in June!

So while we wait, here is the line-up of the grandchildren's stockings:

Monday, 10 December 2012


I am planning a White Christmas!

At our Wine and Dine Dinner a couple of weeks ago, I selected 2 wines from the list and have now stocked the cupboard with a purchase from our local Majestic Wine store.

They are Coteaux du Giennois, Domaine de Villargean 2011, Sauvignon Blanc from France. The label says it is 100% Sauvignon Blanc which, as my friend David W. points out regarding Australian wine, in Australia when the label says Sauvignon Blanc, the grape content need only be 80% SB.  So I guess that is why the French put the "100%" information in.

This region is next to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé therefore is similar wine but not as costly.

The other wine is Viñalba Selección Torrontés 2012 from Mendoza, Argentina.  I had never tasted this grape before. I see on  their website  that the winemaker is originally from Bordeaux and seems to be doing great things in Argentina.  Again, nice wine, not as expensive as the taste would lead you to think.

What's the funny-looking tree?  It is an IKEA 2 metre long by 1.5 metre wide piece of cotton fabric with a photograph of a Christmas tree printed on it.  I hung it from the clothes pulley and draped it over the ironing board... viola!  This coming week the kids can help me decorate it!

Sunday, 9 December 2012


When is a Christmas cake not a cake but a dumpling?

My effort at a seasonal fruitcake, baked in medium and small loaf tins was not entirely successful. 

Having soaked the fruit in wine I should have drained off all the liquid before adding the fruit to the mix.  The batter, as seen above, resulted in being a bit on the 'sloppy' side.

Never mind.... the cake is a bit moist to the point of being more of a dumpling than something that leaves crumbs on the plate.

What to do?  Heat up a slice in the microwave and serve with custard.

Friday, 7 December 2012


Tis the time for Craft Fairs and Christmas Sales of Work.

Inger was through for the Norwegian Ladies Coffee Morning and Craft Fair.  The church hall was packed with everyone wanting to taste the waffles and homemade jam as well as the traditional biscuits, cake and open sandwiches.

My eye fell on these beautiful woolen mittens!  They were knitted by Inger's long-time friend Ragne so I was doubly delighted with my purchase. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012


Winter has arrived with a repeat pattern of the past 2 years - very, very cold, then snow, then thaw, then freezing temperatures.   We are back to sliding on ice everywhere we walk.

There is nothing for it, but to get off the wet clothes, dry out the boots and draw up a chair in front of the fire.  Time for a glass of gluhwein from Germany. (I heat it in the microwave for 10 seconds then add a few plump raisins.)

Monday, 3 December 2012


The Bearsden Fiddlers held their Annual Rally on Saturday.  Having been given some complimentary tickets a friend and I went along and enjoyed a great concert given to a full hall.

Some of our youngsters from the Junior orchestra turned out to play.  This included some of our present players (as we have finished for the season) but also some who are away at uni but came back to do a solo spot or play just for this concert.  

And the old guard are still there both present members and visitors who come every single year since they first started having these "rallies'. 

One of my favourite people spends much of her spare time playing her fiddle for different charities.  She has now produced a CD and all the money goes to the Cleft Lip and Palate Association, a cause she knows all about as she was born with a severe cleft lip and palate and has had many, many operations in her young life.  I wrote about her playing here  in 2008.

And to top off the evening I won a bottle of Grouse whisky in the raffle! 

Saturday, 1 December 2012


 The best jokes are the ones I get from Jane in Canada:

An Arab sheik was admitted to hospital for heart surgery, but prior to the surgery, the doctors needed to store his blood type in case the need arose. As the gentleman had a rare type of blood, it couldn't be found locally, so, the call went out.

Finally a Scotsman was located who had a similar blood type. The Scot willingly donated his blood for the Arab. 

After the surgery, the Arab sent the Scotsman as appreciation for giving his blood, a new BMW, diamonds and US dollars.

A few days later, once again, the Arab had to go through a corrective surgery. His doctor telephoned the Scotsman who was more than happy to donate his blood again.

After the second surgery, the Arab sent the Scotsman a thank-you card and a box of Quality Street chocolates.

The Scotsman was shocked that the Arab did not reciprocate his kind gesture as he had done before.

He phoned the Arab & asked him: "I thought ye' might be a wee bit generous again; that you would give me a BMW, diamonds & money...

But you only gave me a thank-you card & a box of chocolates.."

To this the Arab replied: "Aye laddie, but I now hae' Scottish blood in ma veins".

Thursday, 29 November 2012


As the days shorten and the evenings lengthen here are some images on the dark side:

 Champagne at the Prizegiving evening.

The children put a plastic solar glowing star in the garden and this is it all arty with Photoshop.

 Candelabra from a dinner dance we attended last week, again "Photoshoped".

 Yacht on the Clyde, full spinnaker, made into a dark object with glowing edges.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


Now that the other commitments have finally been met it is time to turn my thinking toward Christmas.

A few things are on the critical path: a visit to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh in order to purchase some seriously good one-off cask strength whisky as presents for one or two folk.

I am a member so it is my pleasure to take people to the club room in Leith where there is lunch which can be ordered while one tries out some of the bottles on offer. 

Time to catch up with Inger! She has now retired so is free to be a Lady Who Lunches with the rest of us.  (Don't put too much emphasis on the "lady" bit ... but never mind!)

We stayed for several hours in the club room (converted from an old bonded wharehouse some years ago).   The weather was dry (unlike Glasgow) but oh my goodness ... are the streets of Edinburgh in a mess as they tear them up - block after block after block - to lay the lines for the trams that are to be installed.  There are diggers everywhere and transport in the centre is simply not possible.  It means looping around back streets to go anywhere.  It has been going on for several years and, really, it's getting worse!

So we had a lovely day with Inger as Iain joined us later in the day.   She hasn't changed a bit but ... oh my ... another thing that has not changed:

What is the best thing about Edinburgh?  It is (still!) the Glasgow train!

Saturday, 17 November 2012


The National Library of Scotland has acquired the archive of Patrick Leigh Fermor.  It has been bought with a grant from the John R Murray Charitable Trust which assists NLS in the care and promotion of access to the Library's John Murray Archive. Leigh Fermor was published by the Murray family.

National Library of Scotland link is here.

Its arrival at NLS was just before the publication of a new biography of Leigh Fermor,  An Adventure, by the writer and family friend Artemis Cooper. It is published by John Murray, October 2012.

Artemis is PLF's literary executor and a good friend. Her father, the historian John Julius Norwich was a friend of Paddy’s for many years. The book will fill in many of the gaps in his life story, including more details about the last stage of his 1934 journey through Bulgaria, Romania, and Thrace to Constantinople.

Jan Morris wrote a review in the Telegraph newspaper here

There is an another long and interesting article here written by Jan Morris at the time of PLF's death in June 2012. 

Lastly, there is masses of material about him on this website here.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


While there is much good design about, there is also a lot of bad.  Furthermore there is bad design produced by ?people/companies?/brands? that pride themselves in good design.

These are my current offerings simply because they are of a size and scale that can be photographed.  (Some day, sometime, will someone please photograph department store layout (e.g. IKEA), traffic lanes and pedestrian walkways that leave one shaking in fright or despair!)

[1]  The container for V8 Vegetable Juice Original.  Back of box states "Campbell Foods, Belgium".


Look at the foil disc that stays as a flap at the opening once the green cap is (with great effort) screwed off .... a perfect medium for germs.


[2]  The plastic container for Ocusan eye drops.  The plastic is so thick/stiff that, even using 2 hands to squeeze out the watery liquid (while trying to aim the drops correctly), I usually end up abandoning the effort.


 [3]  Leather watch strap with buckle.  The top photo shows how it sits on my arm.  The straps are sufficiently unequal to make the topside clock face and the buckle sit weighted to each side. I have tried putting an elastic band on one side to keep it from sliding around... about 40% successful, i.e. it stops it sliding completely out of sight!

 [4] Espresso Coffee Machines.  No, it is not the noise of them that rates an entry here, it is the milk heating jet and the practice of cleaning it (or not).   Next time you stand at a counter waiting for your espresso look at the way the equipment is laid out and used.  When they go to make you latte or whatever, they take the cup up to the milk jet (white arrow) and the  jet heats everything up (or whatever it does).  When the cup is taken away, the dripping metal jet is either left as is or wiped with a cloth*.

In this photo, from Wikipedia, it actually has a wine coloured cloth hanging on a hook (blue arrow).  Milk is one of the best media for growing germs; cloth or no cloth - this design guarantees it.

* Watch how it is usually a J-cloth and it's the one that is used to wipe the spills on the counter or trays ... you get my drift!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


Soup-making has never been easier now that there are these wonderful hand-held stick liquidizers which seem to have replaced the counter-top glass jug-type containers.  Today I thought of Louise as I stuck my head in the fridge to survey the leftovers from a dinner party on Saturday plus some week old vegetables that are in the crisper box in the bottom on the fridge.

And that is what gives this soup its name: BOF, i.e. "bottom of fridge" ... as passed on to me by Louise many years ago.

So ... today it was a lot of potatoes plus some celery and one rubbery looking red pepper.  After browning an ordinary onion the coursely chopped veg are added, then the stock from the leg of lamb at the weekend.  Once that is cooked in the pressure cooker (as is my habit) a good zap with the blender being careful not to over-do it finishes the basic soup.  (The idea is that you take the implement to the soup pot rather than the other way around; that to me is real progress in the kitchen.)

However, as it was a really dreach West of Scotland day today, I threw in a handful of barley and cooked the whole thing a bit longer. Done ... chunky, thick and delicious!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


I am very keen on the internet video lectures entitled TED Lectures. |These are lectures given by very articulate people in big conference halls anywhere in the world for an invited audience who pay (lots!).

There was one in Edinburgh in July.  In our part of the world we have similar twice-monthly lectures in the winter season here in Glasgow.  They are run by the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow.

As TED says "Great talks to stir your curiosity"

wTED Talks Infographic

Attribution to OnlineClasses.org

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Ishie is with us today as she is off school - running a temperature and full of the cold. She arrived this morning with her Dora video under her arm. I finally got it to work after pressing every button on the handset (as is my practice)!

I was through in the kitchen making soup when I hear a wail, "I can't make out what they're saying!" "Oh heavens!" thinks I with my Public Health Nurse background "Has the child an ear infection?"

I squat down in front of the TV, "Can you not hear Ishie?" ... at which point Dora and her Explorer friends highlight the problem: it's all in Spanish!!!!

Monday, 5 November 2012


Our Junior Orchestra held its final concert on Saturday.  The 25 players aged from 10 to 16 years played for their parents and friends.  The season is now finished until we start again next August.  (The children are too busy with Christmas and extra-curricular  activities to do any more.)

I can now get on with all the other things that get put on hold while I run around trying to attend to the various details relating to this concert. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012


The autumn colours are superb just now.  But the leaves are starting to go...


Driving past Stirling Castle I pulled the car over into a lay-by and jumped out to take a picture of the castle and of the adjacent areas (below).  As I did this other cars copied me, i.e. pulled over; drivers got out of their cars, whipped out their iPhones and holding them at arms' length captured the colours.

Ladies who lunch ... Having arrived at the restaurant for the Canadian Ladies Luncheon I took a few shots of the Canadian-like colours and then headed for my twice yearly 'fix' of Canadian accents!

Thursday, 25 October 2012


After I brought the children back from school we went out into the garden.  Iain was working on his joinery bench.  I sat on the wall with a cup of tea ... then went back inside for my camera in order to catch the light (3:30 pm) shining through the lime tree leaves.

Ishie and Alastair run around outside (which certainly saves on the clearing up inside!)