Monday, 28 January 2013


Auntie Mary in Salmon Arm gave me these cookie molds at Christmastime.  They are made of pottery: one is a wheat sheaf and the other is holly leaves.

The only cookie mold I have ever had was a 9 inch wooden circle with a Scotch thistle carving but it has long gone into that Black Hole that exists when moving house.

So I decided to substitute a wheaf sheaf for a Scotch thistle when making shortbread for the Burns Supper at Mairi and John's this past week.

Mary also gave me my mother's (i.e. her sister) shortbread recipe which is this:


3 cups of flour             (16 oz)
3/4 cup butter               (6 oz)
1 cup light brown sugar     (8 oz)
Pinch of salt

It is not what might be called "traditional shortbread" (for Scotland) which is this, out of the Glasgow Dough School book, i.e. Glasgow Cookery Book, John Smith, 1970:


8 oz flour            (doubled is 16 oz)
 4 oz butter             (doubled is 8 oz)
2 oz sugar          (doubled is 4 oz)


Bake til golden brown being careful not to burn if dough has been rolled thinly.

Shortbread for afters: the whisky is Scotch Malt Whisky Society Liqueur (Macallan's based) of some years ago; the china (Wedgewood Belle Fleur) is a wedding present from Iseabai and the liqueur (or sherry) glass was a present from Norman Tennant to be used as a vase for flowers.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


The number of grandchildren is increasing!  At our age it is wonderful to have 'arrivals' in our life to replace the 'departures'!  There are now 3 with Mairi expecting another baby in June.

Here is Iain David MacLeod, called Indy, who is 16 months in this photo taken at Christmastime in Vancouver. He features elsewhere in this blog.  Mum and Dad, Dawn and Alastair are finding they have a budding mountaineer on their hands as he now is the age when he has to climb up on to everything.  I think he looks mostly like Grandpa Dave.

Mairi and John have 2 children and are expecting a third in early June.  So, with the aid of modern technology in the form of an ultra-sound scan image, here is the line-up:

 Alastair at nearly 5 years old.

Ishbel at 6 years old

 Baby Albiston at 20 weeks: this is the time fetal abnormalities are looked for, e.g. cleft lip, spina bifida, heart anomalies.  All is well.  No.... I do not know the sex.

The blue blanket was Mairi's "blanky" which she dragged around until age of 2 years old.  It was crotcheted by Iseabail and the ribbon is a third or fourth replacement of the original.

Monday, 21 January 2013


A gift to us last year was this lovely book "Discovering the Millau Viaduct" by Patricia Vergne Rochès and Tony Rochan "in close collaboration with Michel Virlogeux The Structural Engineer who designed the Millau Viaduct."  Details in footnote.

Michel and his wife Hélène visited us last year in order to go sailing on the West Coast of Scotland.  They met our grandchildren and sent us this children's book about the building of this bridge.

Alastair (nearly 5 years old) pulled it off the shelf in the kitchen this week and he and Ishbel (6 years old) were enjoying having a look at it.

Alastair liked this page best especially the red drawing of a line of cars (traffic jam in the Millau Valley).

Isbel is a good reader and now sounds out all the words.

But look at this: after we had read the book together (with some heavy editing by Grandma) they dumped out the box of Lego and made a construction of pier supports for a bridge like they had been reading about in the book!

Full marks Monsieur Virolgeux and your 2 authors!  

And, for what it is worth,  the statistics for the number of hits for this website always - yes, month after month -  record my posting on the Millau Viaduct ... actually it was about Michel, "Le Concepteur" . The most popular by far is this post of June 2008  here   and to lesser extent here in a post of May 2010).

Oh ... and this is it!


Discovering the Millau Viaduct, This one is in English, i.e. ISBN 978-2-9531888-2-9.

A la découverte du viaduc de Millau, 10 Euros, as seen on their website

Sunday, 20 January 2013


This is the last in the series of photos of our trip to Canada for the 2012 Christmas and New Year season.  These are the photos of our trip to Salmon Arm (Shuswap area of British (Columbia) at New Year.  The weather was lovely but very cold.  The Greyhound bus drivers did a first rate job in their drive up (in snow and he had to tape down a flapping outside panel using duck tape) and back again to Vancouver (in snow - re-routed due to accident on highway to Kamloops).  


 Look closely to see engine at the front of this train with its huge snowplow blade.  (iPhone photo)

I took this picture through the window of the moving bus. It is a lovely wooden church at Monte Lake.  Don't know the name - weather was poor so not great photo but to me it was quite charming.  (Mental note: must go back and find it another time....)

Saturday, 19 January 2013


My computer is Mac OX 10.7.5.  The Mail (email) program has been upgraded.  I could open up Mail 5.3 but there was no Menu Bar.  (I could quit by pressing Control Q.) 

When opening it up, it flashed and then the whole screen was taken up by the Mail window.

 Alastair's Art

I sorted the problem by the "empirical" method, by that I mean I tried clicking on various keys and the following worked:

[1] Hold down the Shift Key.  Keep holding it down.
[2] Click on Mail in dock to open it up.
[3] Place cursor at top of the screen so that when the Menu bar appears and then disappears you are ready to quickly do [4]
[4] Click wherever you can when menu bar flashes before it "disappears"


Friday, 18 January 2013


Christmas and New Year visiting in Vancouver meant we had to mark the seasonal celebrations with the occasional glass of wine.

To this end Dawn and Alastair pulled out bottles kept for High Days and Holidays and I purchased some as a gift for the household.  By the way, I was delighted to see many outlets for purchasing wine in  the form of Wine Shops as there has always been only the one outlet, i.e. Government Liquor Stores, which sold alcohol in the past. 

This bottle Dawn had saved from a trip to California: Maggio, Petite Sirah, Lodi, 2011.  As a website says, the wine is made from "old P[etite] S[irah] vines when he bought Oak Ridge Vineyards in 2001 and couldn't wait to bottle it."  Every mouthful was absolutely lovely!

Another one of Dawn's with happy memories of being taken around the establishment: this is Chateau  Montelena, Napa Valley, Chardonnay, 2007.   Lots of details of crop and character are here. We all agreed that it was "an elegant, well balanced, classically styled Montelena Chardonnay with exceptional precision and nuance."

We bought this bottle in Edgemont Fine Wines, North Vancouver, V7R 2N4 (no website yet): Callipoe, Figure Eight,  Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, 2011. I bought it because of the label i.e. it is the name of a fiddle tune (jig) written by D Richardson.  I bought it thinking it was an "elegant" wine. 


At the same time I bought this wine: Killer Cab, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010, Pacific Breeze Winery, New Westminster,  because of the funky label and it said it was an Urban Wine.  I bought it thinking it was a "funky" wine.

When  served at a meal for friends the Callipoe was acclaimed by all; the Killer Cab was not.  Well, no surprises here, I guess. (Give KC a miss.)

This Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut (Pinot Noir and Chardonnnay) was lovely at New Year.  One of Dawn's and enjoyed by all.  Award winning ... read all about it here


A New Year visit at Auntie Mary's in Salmon Arm.   I bought this bottle of Sileni, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2011, in the Government Liquor Store on Front Street. It was lovely for a lunchtime drink after coming in from the snow-covered street with icicles dripping in the midday sun.

*  See Post-Script below...

Our last day before flying home: a bottle of Cloudy Bay, Chardonnay (?2011) in the hotel bedroom while packing our bags.  It really was nothing special despite being twice the price of most brands.  Was it the fact that all there was to drink it out of was the bathroom tumbler?  Nice, but not twice or three times as nice as some of the above lower priced labels.


Upon arrival home after flying Vancouver to London to Glasgow Maggie offered this Trah Lah Lah Lah, Carcassone (France),  65%Merlot/35%Cabernet Sauvignon, no year on label, with the evening meal she had prepared.  It was heavenly!  (Yes, I was travel-weary and ... yes ... I was glad to be home!)  I am out to buy a case ... which was the point of her showing me this bottle knowing I would just love the label!  Available from Naked Wines here


*  Post-Script to this story:

Now this wine I have talked about previously here.  (October 17, 2012) I said it was an "Australian Shiraz 2008.   It is from South Eastern Australia (is from 20-60 year old Barossa vines and raised in American oak) and produced and bottled by R Wines."   I bought it for the label which is quite an interesting story.

It is one I bought in Vancouver a year ago (from the Government Liquor Board store in Oakridge mall) and tried to buy some more on line after returning to Glasgow.  Not possible.  I found the firm had gone into receivership.  When I checked out the possibility of Alastair getting more he and I found there were very few bottles available, according to the website of stocks in various places in B.C.  I let the matter drop.

However, when I was in the (relatively) small Liquor Store in Salmon Arm, lo and behold,  there were DOZENS of these bottles on display! As they say in Canada  "Eh?!"

My advice: go and buy some ... I cannot but you may as well enjoy it while stocks last.


Post Post Script!

Indy 'helping' Dawn and I with our trolly of shopping!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


While in Vancouver I spent some pleasant hours taking Alastair and Dawn's dog, Nessie, out to the park across the road opposite the Van Dusen Gardens on Oak Street. 

 With only my iPhone to hand I took this photo of an inversion over downtown Vancouver at 10 am just before New Year's Day.  (You have to look hard to see the tall buildings sticking up through the low lying cloud.)

Turning 180 degrees I caught Nessie in the sunlight shining through the trees in the park. 

Nessie is an Australian Blue Heeler breed of cattle dog... and a great dog she is - full of fun and obeys commands immediately and correctly.

Apparently these dogs were bred from Northumbrian Heelers and dingos in Australia. So with that thought in mind here is a "doctored" photo (using Photoshop) turning day into something ghostly ... maybe from the aboriginal Dreamland.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Our first stop after we arrived in Vancouver was The Whole Food Store on on West 8th Avenue.

My eyes were out on stocks! All that wonderful produce ranging from British Columbia Delicious apples (which I used to take in my school lunch box every day) through to citrus fruit and avocados from USA ... and enormous, juicy mangoes from Australia!

But the pick of the bunch had to be these pomegranates which were the size of grapefruit!

We had Peter and Irene to dinner and my idea was to buy some BC wine and have the pomegrantes in a fruit salad for dessert.  The wine was Killer Cab which I bought (a) for the funky label and (b) because it was described (in small print) as an "Urban Wine" and was based, according to the label, in New Westminster, B.C.  Don't ask me about the wine: it was red and rough.  Enough said. (I am still puzzled by what an "urban" wine is; it seems the grapes are from California. What's all this "B.C. wine" then?)
I shall move on ... to the absolute pièce de résistance: pomegrantes!

Iain made the main course; I did the dessert.  In the manner of Addressing to the Haggis I simply had to demonstrate how to get the seeds out of a pomegranate!

Nigella Lawson demonstrates on a YouTube video how amazingly simple it all is: you simply cut the fruit in  half, take a rolling pin (or piece of firewood if you don't have one) and strike it sharply causing the fleshy, juicy seeds to fly out into the bowl you have handy to receive them.

Voilà! That's is all there is to it!  (Watch they don't fly out on to your guest seated next to you, the one wearing the creamy white Dior jumpsuit..!)

Nothing for it, but I had to go and buy another one which we had on chocolate ice-cream New Year's Eve ... and for those who partake, a Scotch Malt Whisky Society dram!

Monday, 14 January 2013


Dawn and Alastair's wee boy, Iain David (called "Indy") is now 16 months old.  He came into the world with the cards stacked against him but, as we saw on our visit to Vancouver, he is getting on just fine.  Indy was diagnosed with a retinoblastoma of his left eye when he was 6 weeks old and had his left eye removed in November 2011. 

He was fitted with a prosthesis in January 2012.  Every 3 months he has to have an examination under anaesthetic to check for any further cancer in the other eye.  The photo above shows Alastair in the prep room with Indy as he awaits the nurses who take him in for the EUA.  I accompanied Alastair and Dawn at the Vancouver Women's and Children's Hospital and was very impressed with how everything was managed. He was neither up nor down after the examination; Dawn was there to breat-feed him as soon as he came round.

Soon after Christmas Indy underwent an operation to graft some fatty tissue from his left thigh into his left eye socket in order to build it up. Again it was the same hospital and doctor and the same routine of fasting, operation and Dawn on hand to breast-feed him when he came round.

The eyelid was stitched shut and was covered with a metal sheild which has small holes in it (for aeration).  He didn't pull at it and, again, was up and about the next day, eating and playing and getting into mischief.

He is just like any other child of 16 months - eating with a spoon (getting it everywhere including his bandages), running around, babbling and turning pages of a book. He moves really well and is very "centred" when he moves up and down stairs i.e. hanging on to the rail properly.  He doesn't walk into walls, or bang himself any more than any other child would.


The eyelid is stitched shut (no prosthesis in);  it is clean and healing well.   (One of the stitches in his leg came out and that involved a visit back to the hospital and a very long wait while the more urgent cases got attended to.) Fortunately Indy (and everyone else) has been free of coughs and colds especially at this time of year.  ( I am sure the fact that Dawn is still breast-feeding has a lot to do with this.)  This means that when a space comes available for doing some surgery he is able to be taken.

His socket healed well.  There is a "keeper" in it to help maintain the shape.  It is made of white (?synthetic?) material and stays in until it is time to replace the prosthesis.

So  Indy is coming on just fine. Alastair and Dawn continue to deal extremely well on a day to day basis looking after his needs especially in relation to keeping the eye clean and protected.  The doctor must be heartened to have parents who are vigilant like this!

Lastly, here is the wee fella on Christmas Eve dressed in his finery as we all went out to dinner.

Saturday, 12 January 2013


We are now back from Canada: back from visiting friends and relations and back from all that white stuff! This post will form the first of a series about our trip to Vancouver and Salmon Arm, British Columbia, over the Christmas and New Year season.

 My brother and I in Salmon Arm

Heading for Glasgow Airport.  In the distance is the sunset which Iain said reminded him of an Australian bush fire!  In the middle distance is Ailsa Craig (rock) situated in the Clyde Estuary.

That green land below the thick cloud is the Ayrshire coast.  This is me thinking GREEN (it is January after all!) not FOG, GREY CLOUD and DARK AT 4:30 PM!

The Welcome: 

A feast for travel-weary eyes were these flowers in the front hall of Maggie and Brian's house as we arrived for dinner which Maggie had prepared. Brian collected us at the airport after a very long 2 stage (and as pleasant as could be expected for the circumstances) British Airways flight (Vancouver - London Heathrow - Glasgow).