On doing new things

This weekend I made a Tik Tok and drank a Negroni and both of these were firsts for me, or strictly speaking the Negroni was a first time enjoying a properly made Negroni at home – surprised it has taken me so long to embrace this cocktail du jour.

These accidental firsts are not part of an active quest to do new things or me ticking off a bucket list, more a reflection of my butterfly mind and a preference to hop, skip, and jump to the new to avoid doing all the boring old stuff I need to deal with.

Wind back to a couple of weeks ago when the sun was shining in Edinburgh & inspired more by optimism than the reality I bought a couple of cute tins of ready-made Negroni – thinking to enjoy these outdoors as a pre fish supper aperitif. This story has, as many weather dependent stories do in Scotland, a rather muted conclusion when the clouds rolled in from the hills and the appeal of drinking or dining Alfresco evaporated.

Blossom watching at the Meadows

Against the plummeting temperatures and grey skies,the tiny cute tin of Negroni was a ray of sunshine- the contents were delicious straight up and made a refreshing long drink with sparkling water added.

Pocket Negroni

So this weekend with research made on the perfect serve ( Stanley Tucci food memoir – Taste My Life Through Food page 9 ) – and ingredients purchased, my husband was appointed barman /mixologist. He created a splendid Negroni even if we had a bit of an exchange of views over some of the finer details around the correct glass to use and whether it was over ice or without.

I am so late to the party on the Negroni front and is odd to have missed out on this joyous experience for so long – what was I thinking? Maybe I missed the cocktail memo or I was washing my hair or just not paying attention. Regardless of the reasons for the oversight I am now happy to raise a glass to this wonderful late discovery. ( and as a note of caution to myself and any new to this delicious cocktail – Negronis are deceptively strong ) ūü•ī

Cheers !

Cheers

So to the Tik Tok – my daughter was home & so on hand to provide instruction and a steady hand for filming. Dinner was to be lamb with peas, onions and vermouth, a Diana Henry recipe from her book Simple (another first, trying this recipe) and I thought it a good subject for Tik Tok.

Leg of roast lamb with peas and onions
Lamb with peas, vermouth, and onions

Now and again I make amateur recordings of the food I am cooking and post these on Instagram stories. My filming style might be generously described as ‘unpolished’ and the finished output depends on various factors including – how behind schedule I am, how many glasses of wine the cook has enjoyed ( I do channel my inner Keith Floyd ), and whether I am making the recipe for the first time. Readers – do remember to read the recipe all the way through.

Diana Henry – cookery book

I have no specialist kit to speak of other than my phone and my husband is usually watching football so it’s usually a lone effort,without tripods or flattering lighting. I tend to film in between cooking & often miss lots of steps, and navigating the fine line between verisimilitude and burning dinner is quite the balancing act.


The end result is rarely a ‚Äėhow to‚Äô guide, more a cook along and sharing.

My daughter Ellen who is almost a millennial and naturally a digital native, is at ease with phone technology, but more than that she has a really good eye for photography and infinite patience when working with her dear old Mum.

Ellen was both art director and videographer for Tik Tok number 1 – but she did give me small tasks to complete unaided – like choosing the music and cooking the lamb.

For a first attempt using some of the easier Tik Tok functions and effects,I was quite pleased with the finished film and it may have opened up a whole new set of distractions for me from the eternal unfinished ‚Äėto do‚Äô list.

The finished film is hereūüĎá

Tik Tok

First run in a while

Contrary to the blog description, I have not been mostly talking about running, or to be more accurate I have not been talking about anything for quite a while- a full year since the last post.

Nor have I been running as often as I used to – so today I did both.

I went for a short run – saw an early yellow flower & thought I might as well break the writing drought.

tiny little numbers

pictures of numbers

 

I can’t quite remember when I started taking pictures of numbers, but I love typography and commercial art and perhaps an interest in these tiny artworks is a by-product of that.

I don’t have any rules as to what constitutes a ‘good’ number – it’s very subjective and there is no formula – it just depends on what tickles my fancy ūüėČ

It might be a carefully painted number in gold leaf above a door, or brass numbers screwed on a bit squint. I love a weathered number on a stone gatepost – but am equally fond of a 70s style ‘stick-on’ decal against a garish painted door.

number 98

On doors and gateposts, these tiny numbers sit sentry both welcoming and protecting and while houses are extended and reconfigured over the years – often the house number remains unchanged. Sometimes I wonder about what lives the number may have witnessed, and the tales it might tell, if only numbers could talk.

Some numbers seem to have more of a personality than others – cheeky, austere, whimsical, stalwart and for those, I pen a short caption by way of description.

This is entirely my own interpretation of the number persona and others may not see the cheeky insouciance I see – or the flirty nature of a particular digit as I do. My tendency to anthropomorphise numbers does often depend on the mood I am in when snapping.


Other numbers need no description and their beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

When I was training for a marathon a few years ago, like a trainspotter, I had a notion to collect a full set of numbers 1- 26, but I soon gave up on this when my eye was more often drawn to 2s and 3s and 5s – and never finding a 26 or 14 that made the cut.

As a hobby, it suits me to be free to take pictures of those numbers that appeal and so my collection of number pics will always have doubles and triples and omissions as there will always be some that for whatever reason I just don’t like.

As a photographic subject, it is one of almost infinite possibilities – the world is full of numbers and I am happy to just keep surreptitiously snapping as I encounter those that catch my eye.

Christmas cake baking – and running of course. Day 3

IMG_2451Today I decided to bake a Christmas cake. I used to get a bit hung up about baking the Christmas cake on a set day in November, but I decided it does not make any difference to the flavour so I just bake it a few weeks before Christmas whenever I can find some spare hours.

Making the cake is pretty straightforward – especially since I have started using a recipe recommended to me by my friend Sally at fitnaturally. Sally got this recipe from her¬†neighbour and friend – Mrs Williams – sadly no longer around – and it is both the easiest and nicest Christmas cake recipe I have tried. I also like the thought of Mrs Williams skills in baking being shared far and wide, and enduring. That’s¬†the lovely thing about baking and passing on recipes.

So Mrs Williams Christmas cake recipe¬†is kind of an ‘all in one’ method – where you put the fruit, sugar, butter and spices into a pot then heat them up.

Then you add all the other ingredients to the cooled fruit mixture, give it a good mix and that’s it!

I find the hardest part of baking a Christmas cake is lining the tin, and with the long slow cooking, it is important to line it properly.  But though it is a fiddly job Рit is an enjoyable ritual of sorts Рwrapping the cake in its jacket of brown paper and string. And there is something very comforting about the gathering of ingredients, the preparation and then the aroma of Christmas cake baking that gets me in the festive mood.

Before baking the cake – I went on my day 3 run with Alison. Today we went on another of our weekend routes where we run from Colinton to Stockbridge. It is around 6 miles and pretty much downhill all the way following the water of Leith – so lots of running through woodland. We then get the bus or a lift back, so it’s an easy 6 miles.

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We could run there and back and many runners would do this by way of a longer Sunday run, but I am not training for any race at the moment and one thing I have realised over the years of doing run streaks- is that there is no point adding in extra mileage if you don’t¬†have to.

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As it was, we had a very enjoyable social run rounded up nicely by a breakfast of fried egg roll and coffee at the Water of Leith bistro.

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Day 3: 6.01 miles

December total : 14.32 miles

Weather : fresh and sunny 4 degrees

Running in the background

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Like brushing my teeth or remembering to take a scarf when its cold , running has moved from being a thing requiring planning and effort to just something I do.

That’s not to say I do not make arrangements to find time to run, and none more so when I know there is a mileage challenge needing attention, or with winter approaching and the shortening days, there is a bit more consideration needed around running in weather hazards and darkness.

But recently when beyond running, I have been going through a period of change (on Friday I left my job after 8 years  and there are some unknowns on the horizon work-wise), making time to run has felt effortless Рand comforting.

My 999 mileage target is on track – almost half way through November the total sits at 865 miles – and with 50 days left of this year,that means I just have to average 2.68 miles each day between now and December 31st.

I am hoping in the next couple of weeks to fit in some longer runs to take me to 900 miles by the end of November, and have signed up to run every day in December. So barring injury or any major disaster I am optimistic.

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Running the seasons

Based on a highly unscientific sample of fellow runners, I have come to the conclusion that Autumn is the favoured season of most. Autumn, or Fall as those across the ocean prefer to describe these months, certainly wins on the light stakes Рwith soft pink sunrises and hot red sunsets.  Even the grey flat days have an elegant beauty.

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Come late afternoon there is ample opportunity to run through cool sunshine, catching the beauty of orange, red and yellow leaved trees bathed in golden light as backdrop.

And if October weather is kind and free of storms, the stillness brings with it mists and mellow fruitfulness and easy running in cool, quiet air.

While the days shorten and we all know that winter is just around the corner, nature says goodbye for now – leaving in a blaze of glory before hibernating till spring.

Elemental island run – Tiree

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Just over a  week ago I visited the island of Tiree for the first time Рand to use a cheesy but appropriate cliché РI was blown away by the place.

It is a strange kind of otherness and contrast to one late Friday afternoon, leave the plasticky confines of Glasgow airport departures – with its shiny duty free, unimaginative bars and rainy windows and then barely an hour later find yourself transported to somewhere so different that it feels like the place you left behind had never existed.

It is the joy of the weekend break of course – but some breaks offer more solace than others, and none more so than that provided by a small Scottish island – where the wind blows in all directions, sea is everywhere and the weather is so magical and changeable you can spend the whole weekend just watching it run through its’ repertoire.

I managed a couple of runs while I was there and while Tiree is pretty flat, the wind does make for a bit of a tough workout. It also means you have to keep your wits about you as running on roads with wind whistling and howling ¬†– you don’t hear cars approaching until they are upon you.

Not that there were many cars to avoid on my most memorable run – where I set out with a forecast of 45 mph winds – a smattering of rain but very mild temperature. Perfect for the kite surfers I saw on the beach – and quite a joy when I had this wind advantage behind me for the first mile or so.

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Earlier I had almost talked myself out of running but once out was glad that I did step out. It was a 5 mile out and back and the fiercest section was running towards Gott Bay into the wind that was whipping off the water – and where it did feel a bit as if I was running backwards.

Running along the beach was fun and exfoliating and then the skies darkened and it started raining – the wind dropped to a modest 21 mph making the return leg easier – but by this time wind had been replaced with heavy rain – making my last few miles a bit refreshing.

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Tiree has almost too much sky and clouds and sea and beauty to take in on a short visit and in the few days I was there – I was very aware of being in a quite different place and of feeling the weather systems constantly change around me.

Elemental

 

Rainy Friday run

Most Fridays by the time I get home , I just feel like pouring a glass of wine, eating some salty snacks and mellowing out the week that was. Is a very nice way to unwind and start the weekend.

But now and again¬†I make an effort to run after work on a Friday , and when I do wonder why I don’t do it more often.

A couple of glasses of Sauvignon blanc and some of my favourite Tyrrell crisps is an enjoyable way to soften the edges of the working week and to punctuate the start of the weekend Рbut an end of week  run seems to deliver a bigger benefit on the mood enhancing front.

And by way of a bonus РI am writing this at 8am the day after with a clear head and a bit more energy than usual.

This week I have not managed to do much running or exercise generally. I hurt my back on Sunday and it has put me off running a bit ( or maybe for once it made sense to listen to my body telling me to rest and recover).

The weather has been doing that cruel thing of delivering magical sunny, warm days during the working week Рonly for it to return to more typical Scottish August rain come Friday.  But despite this weekend change of weather, as I walked back from the train station dodging puddles and car splashes РI could feel the freshness in the air and was really looking forward to getting out in the rain Рfeeling it on my skin and clearing my head.

Maybe not the best conditions for taking pictures, but perfect salve for the soul.

Aug rainy blog - 1 (6)

stronga, faster, longer – and other running ambitions

Aug blog post - 1

This morning  I was running uphill into a big fat headwind when I saw a trailer captioned STRONGA Рhow very handy for me as I was very much in need of an inspirational slogan at that time. Out on my usual Sunday run but feeling a bit under-inspired, on one of those run days when the distance ambition in my head was not matched by the capacity of my legs.

Not by way of an excuse but aside from my body sluggishness, the  weather today was a bit weird as the air temperature felt like August but the winds were more like those we get in November.

I am not training for any race and am in a bit of the doldrums training wise – even though I keep saying I don’t really need a race goal to keep running, and just want to run for running’s sake, it seems a struggle to keep training focused when there is no looming race deadline, or a run streak challenge to fulfil.

Earlier this year I contemplated signing up for a full marathon, but talked myself out of it Рmaybe next year. So then I thought I might just train for a marathon but not enter one Рso was planning to start running  longer distances, to see how it felt to run beyond my furthest distance to date of  13.1 miles , but I have not managed to run beyond 10miles since my last race in March.

It seems my need for a deadline to succeed pervades my running as it does everything else.

Goals aside – I am back into a running groove of weekend runs mostly with Alison, and we have a new favourite route that takes us from our usual start point pretty much downhill all the way to Stockbridge. There we sometimes round the run off with a coffee and then Alison’s husband very kindly meets us and takes us home – to save the uphill return leg.

Although I am not quite achieving any running greatness in terms of performance improvements – be that increased speed or distance, it is nice to try out new routes and make more of the social aspects of running , now we are both largely free of weekend parental responsibilities.

While I do take satisfaction from running faster, getting fitter and do harbour a small ambition to run a marathon one day- mostly I love running for friendship and sociability – for the shared confidences, the listening and the laughter, and as today’s run demonstrated the wide and varied topics of conversation we somehow manage to cover as the miles whizz past.

Aug blog post - 1

springwatch

This past week the sun has been shining most days and at last it feels as if nature is coming to life after a cold long winter and slow Spring.

I have been watching the BBC programme Springwatch these past couple of weeks and learning a lot about nature that I did not know. I tend to think I am fairly unsentimental about animals and nature and understand the natural order, ecology and how food chains work ,but it has been a bit of an eye opener to discover that birds I previously thought of as fairly benign garden visitors with a veggie persuasion are much more carnivorous and predatory than I realised.

It highlights the struggle that birds go through each season just to survive and keep the family line going.

Each year we have a pair of blackbirds who nest in our garden, and these together with sparrows, tits, starlings and the odd toad give us our own Springwatch. And coinciding with our garden wildlife getting active  Рa week of sunshine has brought our neglected garden to life, perfect to sit in on these longer June days.

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