A sideline project for an IT guy who likes to cook

Author: chef (Page 1 of 10)

Tall Trees

When hedges were small, I would cut through here.

It always feels strange being in the town and house of my youth. The one way system that changed a good twenty years ago still doesn’t sit well with me. The trees that were planted and I used to leap frog when I was a boy now tower over the area where they laid their roots. Something I couldn’t do, this was a town that couldn’t have given me the future I needed.

That said I always sleep well and I put it down to being in alignment with the planets magnetic core, that and a place that I feel safe in a deep down subconscious kind of way. I’m up and at em on a Sunday morning, having gone to bed at the back of ten. My mum though hasn’t changed always the night owl and a free spirit when it comes to a sense of routine.

The odd familiar creak of the house and the loose floor boards that I know not to stand on at risk of waking my dad and spoiling my early morning children’s TV is no longer a worry as I head down the stairs for a coffee.

Aside from the fridge, turning through it’s cycle of persistent cooling and the dripping tap it’s quiet. The Coffee is instant, a drop of milk and just my thoughts to keep me company.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

Apples ready?

Come on in, coffee is a Santa Cruz roast, the beans freshly ground. Something we brought back from our summer trip in California. Which seems so long ago as we open the curtains on 2nd weekend in September. The weather has distinctly changed, the long over due rain is no longer an issue as the city back turns back to its dreich and atmospheric self. I have a view of a bowling green out back, almost perfectly flat, the onslaught of rain showing the imperfections as the grass fails to drain. The sheer amount of water forming pools on the surface.

I missed last weeks share, we crammed so much into the weekend that I missed my slot of summarising. Saturday our first for a while in town, we took the opportunity to do our full on loop, taking in the weekly farmers market by the castle and back via Morningside. Roughly a good eight miles door to door.

Swept up a couple of organic veggies, sea bass and some brambles. Inspired by the guardians blackberry and beetroot salad that appeared a couple of weeks ago.

We had that small window to fit in a gardening session, long overdue. I hadn’t cut the grass in about seven weeks…yes before California. It’s been so dry and not needed it.

Not sure if the apples were ready, but went for a few, along with a couple stalks of rhubarb and kicked off the the crumble season.

There was chat at the table, other people families claiming there crumble was the best crumble and I kept quiet. My son continued, it felt like they’d just used breadcrumbs and I couldn’t understand why wouldn’t they add oats. Ours is the best crumble he proclaimed! I smiled and enjoyed the moment. Crumble is last meal territory for my wife and so easy to make…why wouldn’t you add oats. Every now and again I deviate, I might add a few ground nuts or try a different cook book recipe. We just enjoy it for the experimentation and a little self assurance knowing regardless of the fruit we will always come back to an oat and whole meal topping.

Sunday and we were back through to Glasgow, furniture assembly, fixing the cooker hood, replacing bulbs and putting up curtains. Things always take longer than you think and the minutes fly by absorbed in the list of jobs. The day flew by.

I’d made a Lasagna the night before so son number two only had to put it in the oven whilst we made our back over the central belt. Dinner on arrival.

The house is sleeping as I write this, it’s move in day today. The hall stacked with the items he’d brought back at the start of summer. I can picture this happening over the city as other parents prepare their vehicles and their young adults for another year of opportunity and learning. There will be tears, hopefully less than last year and sense of relief that we’ve entered into year two.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

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Painting to Glasgow

I’ve taken the passenger seat for the first time in ages, a sign of the fact I’m tired of the drive through to Glasgow! I’ve had a real taste of what commuting along the central belt might mean and feel blessed I’m lucky to live near my place of work. This is my seventh trip over in the space of eight. Probably been more times this month than I have in my life time. I also clocked my head on the half open boot as I walked into it. The side of my head throbbing, possible I had a few cartoon stars as it happened. So I’m taking a moment, to watch the world go by.

The toing and throwing between the cities a result of my son starting his 2nd year at university and the final throws of painting a flat that’s seen some neglect. There’s been a Coldplay concert at Hampden Park, the national football stadium and some interviewing (more about that later)

Over the week I’ve been painting by myself, mainly door frames and the hall. A tiny space where you could barely swing a cat. I needed to know there would only be me who might touch something inadvertently. As we get close I’m wondering what kind of state I left the painting in and hoping that the time I spent there on my own was worth it.

The flasks are loaded with coffee for when we arrive, and I’m told there is a surprise home baked blueberry and polenta loaf. The van is packed with Ikea boxes, a good sign that we are getting closer.

Coldplay, is on the stereo, the family band and we have the Buenos Aires concert playing. Amazingly boy number two is listening with us rather than his own little sound bubble. It’s a chance to reflect on the amazing show we saw Tuesday evening.

As I mentioned earlier, a coincidence I was interviewing through in Glasgow as well. A set of grads facing into getting their career started in IT. I stayed over to try and avoid another motorway trip. A first night in the flat and an opportunity to walk into the centre where the recruitment was taking place. Enjoyed the light coming in through the windows.

I came across someone who’d had a placement in the pharmaceutical world, a SAS programmer. As I read this on the CV, I reflected and caught a breath. How could it be that time had gone by so fast, 25 years later here I was interviewing someone with a similar path to me.

As you can tell it’s been a busy old week, the idea of cooking a distant hope so it’s taken a backseat and I can totally see how easy it is to fall on a bad diet.

Thankfully there is a wind beneath my wings and a compass who keeps me straight…I feel blessed again. The blueberry loaf was magic by the way, thanks for joining me for coffee!

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

Braemar Farmers Market

A lovely little market, every 2nd Sunday, 10-3. Known as the Ghillies Larder

Just setting up, Ghillies Larder

We arrived early after packing the van up at the campsite, and needed to do a little loop round the village just to put the time in which wasn’t a problem on a glorious sunny day.

At the entrance a textile stall which my wife couldn’t resist. I commented on the prime location to the weaver and she agreed apart from the fact sometimes she gets attacked by the midges! We did a quick loop after that just to orientate ourselves and found ourselves talking to the the lady on the wine/italian delicatessen stall. From that moment on talking to each stall we visited.

The Bee keeper from Royal Deeside the most fascinating, a choice of honeys and I’d never thought to ask about the differences and why there is a clear runny, a more cloudy version and a heather honey. She explained (and seems obvious now) depends on what the bees had been collecting and the time of year. An explanation around how she keeps bees in different locations in order to ensure the different flavours. We joked about the midges, to find it wasn’t a laughing matter they were worse than the bees in that they got through the net. We also talked about the health benefits and the tests the universities are doing. Could have stayed for longer. I’ve still to open the jar I bought.

The award winning cheese maker from Drumturk, again a lovely lady armed with a Tupperware tub of samples. Before I knew it I was eating goats cheese, oh and had bought some, which has been the basis for my wraps this week. Just a few thin slithers, a little ham and some leaves.

The Highland Beef stall. The beef all bagged up and ready to go with a couple of offers with regard the price. At some point I wan’t to try smoking a piece of brisket on the BBQ (don’t ask….Roy Choi and his TV show has a lot to answer for!). I couldn’t resist the diced highland shoulder for a stew I know will save us at the weekend, slow cooked so there is something after a full day of painting.

The veg stall, that had the most vibrant selection of colours. A beautiful red cabbage, chard with yellow and red stalk bundles. Baby carrots just lifted. I came away with a little heavy bag and mentally compared it to our veggie box that I just cancelled. This half the price and more vibrant assuring myself I’d done the right thing given the cost of living. The box a luxury I can no longer afford.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you I’d met up with a long time friend for the first time in six months. He lives fifteen minutes away and no real excuse for not meeting up sooner other than we are both busy, similar path with teenagers and the work life balance. Great to catch up. We also attended a session at the book festival. Ricky Ross talking about his autobiography. Both my wife and I long time fans of the Band Deacon Blue. Followed by a meal out.

Ricky Ross

I was tickled by the image of Shaun the Sheep being part of the Artemis Programme and can’t wait to hear more about his exploits!

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

Sunny Braemar

It’s early, I joke with my life we are a last up! 6:15am and the campsite is well and truely asleep. The sky is turning over for a new day and we feel blessed. The cloud already lifting and we are hoping for another adventure.

We bagged a couple of Munro’s yesterday, cycling from the campsite, an amazing blue sky day and a round loop yesterday and today we are hoping for the same except a much longer cycle in.

It’s nearly the vans 10th year and the first time we’ve camped out it in just the two of us. We joke about being one of those camping couples. With a tinge of sadness time has moved on where the boys would pop there heads down through the hatch and look at us upside down.

Coffee is essential it gets us going, a big bowl of muesli and we are away. Ben Avon is calling.

Determined to post a coffee share this week, it’s been a fortnight since I last shared and its flown by. I started typing for the last one but the chores got in the way. Having just taken the keys for the next year at university residence for the big man. It needed a lot of paint! So a couple of trips through to Glasgow, full on up and down a ladder and I felt like I’d been to a boot camp. Oh how my body was sore on Monday, a little like today as I do a final read through.

This weekend has been a tonic being out in the fresh air and I’m ready for the week ahead.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

California Road Trip – Weekend Coffee Share

California Road Trip

A double coffee this morning in an attempt to put the body clock right. We are eight hours out and all out of sorts. Back from a dream holiday, one of those that are planned in the head for years, perhaps even as a child. Locations you see in films, the holiday brochure that sits on the bookshelf in the one day section. A holiday we’d been planning long before Covid was even mentioned anywhere. The trip to coincide with my wife turning 50 and school finishing up before university. In amongst those years of dreaming, we booked flights and then all that obviously got blown out the water and essentially it became a roll over trip a year on.

The run up was fraught. Work was crazy and knowing I was going to be taking 3 weeks out meant I wanted and needed to do more in order to make sure the ship ran smoothly whilst I was away.

Add to that I got COVID just in that panic period. I was petrified it would be me that stopped us from travelling. I was petrified I’d pass it on to the boys or my wife and that we’d end up cancelling again.

Although I was functioning I felt that I lost 2 weeks of my life in a fog, separated from the family. Kept at a distance for meals. Remote working to keep the plates spinning. Willing the ailment to leave my system so we could travel. Amazingly days before, the tests started to turn negative and the rest as we say is history.

I can’t quite believe the time that has passed and we are back from California. I hope to write more about the trip which covered off:

  • San Francisco
  • Napa
  • Kirkwood/Tahoe
  • Yosemite
  • Santa Cruz

We kept our tour very small in the grand scheme of things. An attempt to enjoy our days, to not be in the car everyday and in an effort to do quality, not quantity.

I kept a tiny jotter through the journey and although mentally I’m committing to writing this up I know that Monday is just around the corner…..and that reality will bite!

Time to get back to it.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.


I thought I’d follow the theme that Natalie started with her post in Cork Town and the Don River Post for the weekend Coffee Share.

These flowers are amazing.  Starting off like miniature golf balls, and then an explosion into beautiful colours as they enfold.  The wind is unwelcome as it batters the long stalks trying to pry the petals away.  If these were fireworks then peonies to my mind would be the rockets.  Short big bursts of powerful colour.

Our garden is starting to explode along with neighbours gardens. Mid June is an amazing time for colour.

London Jubilee

This weeks share is from London. Her majesty has given us an extra bank holiday! Bolted it onto a Friday, shuffled one from the end of May and joined them together in order to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee. We were ahead of the game on our travel plans. Trying to time it best with coming out of lock down, in the end deciding to stay on the home turf and soak up some of the atmosphere about the capital city.

Can you imagine being in the same job for Seventy years!  I’m in admiration, albeit I know it’s come with a certain amount of privilege and support.  I’m definitely in the camp of it being something the nation should join together on, be it through a street party, watching the spectacle on TV or just sitting in the garden on a Friday afternoon because of the extra days holiday.

We took the train Wednesday and even that was a treat.  A Four and a half hour journey, the four of us at a table enjoying a picnic, some reading and the company.   On arrival, some sense of familiarity with Kings Cross Station, but also the feeling of being new, the bearings slightly disorientated as we topped up our old Oyster cards for the London transport system.   Next stop Hammersmith, where home would be for the next few nights.

Wednesday evening was really just about settling in, I cooked tea, supplies from the Little Waitrose round the corner.  Fresh bought Pasta (it cooks really quick), a tub of sauce (it’s allowed when travelling), some greens and a few diced thighs to satiate the protein crazed teenagers.

Thursday, the trooping of the colour.  We were just there to soak up the atmosphere to try and get close and enjoy what London had to offer.   It started with the bus in to town, where at some point the bus and traffic were all brought to a halt.   A luxury vehicle cruised by sandwiched by Police motorbikes, the bus whispers confirming it was William.  All I saw was someone’s hat!  We got off at Wellington Arch and managed to get into the top part of green park.   At which point we weren’t going to get any closer and went for a quiet coffee and a pastry.   A little explore of the streets, soaking up the sun.  My main ask was to see the fly by, which I thought would maybe the red arrows or a couple of jets.   Seventy aircraft flew over, from helicopters to big old birds, spitfires, jets in formation of a Seventy and the red arrows showing the signature red, white and blue colours.   The streets of London coming to a halt as they looked to the skies, cheers for the spitfires and cheers for the red arrows.  A great sight, and then to be part of the crowds dissipating as folk passed by in both refinery and union jacks in equals measure.   Princess Eugenie also drove past us at one point.

I’d booked a table at the River Café a few months in advance, knowing it was a stones throw from where we staying leaving the boys with Pizza for tea.  The Café as it’s name underplays the quality of the Italian food (and the cost) on offer. It’s a well known institution so commands a steep price.   Jamie Oliver famously started his career off here with a chance documentary.  Numerous cookbooks and enhanced folklore in amongst the food scene and I can see why.  I thoroughly enjoyed a crab starter (after I’d stopped embarrassingly spilling it over myself with a knock of a fork!), followed by a spatchcocked Pigeon and the infamous chocolate nemesis.  My wife, buffalo mozzarella, Monkfish and an almond tart.  A suitable bottle of wine alongside, even after I ordered it I couldn’t remember where it was from!

Friday, was about Kew Gardens, although knowing the boys wouldn’t surface for a little while that morning we went for a run along the River Thames.  My wife is the main runner in the family and she was desperate for a change of scene.  The stomping ground at home stale.  I myself was just determined to make 5k my goal.  The sun was shining and being by the side of the river and on the flat was a great help.

Saturday, more culture the boys wanted to hit the Science Museum, and my wife and I thought we’d tackle the V and A.  What a place, I’m so annoyed I’ve never been before.  The architecture itself is just astonishing, before  we even started looking at the collections.  We also came across a street party with some great food stalls a wide open park where we just soaked up the vibe and the sunshine.  Listened to a few tunes by the guys on the steel drums.  Some nice covers of Michael Jackson and David Bowie. 

Next up the bikes that frequent every corner,  £2 for 24 hours with every half hour free as long as the bike is checked in we got ourselves back home in one piece to catch the evening concert that would be going on a few miles down the road.

Sunday, the train back home. We have all taken our own individual naps at some point. My son has just shown me a photo of the both of us sleeping….is there no respect!

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

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Academic Wrap

Wedding Buses

Yesterday I was struggling to think about what I might write for this post.  I put a few words down, deleted them and then put a few more words down and then deleted them and gave up and carried on with my day!

This morning though whilst having my coffee I picked up the phone to find the big man had texted, a picture,  proof that he’d started his packing. The sign that his first year at university had come to an end.  There’d been a big build up to this point, the end of exams a couple of weeks ago allowing him to let his hair down and with folk gradually leaving for home he was starting to feel a little melancholy.

Offering some fatherly advice back I texted back.  Looking forward to having you home.  It’s come round so quick.  Make the most of your day today, but don’t be sad 🙂   Just enjoy the calm, the peace, reflect and success of completing your first year!  What an achievement! See you tomorrow.

Going to be odd being back to the four of us, I’d like to say I’d got the portion control right  on the cooking front whilst he’s been away.  I haven’t, so it will be good for the waste line to have the fourth mouth to hoover the extras up.  I have though,  got used to the milk not disappearing and cereal not disappearing so quickly.  You think a plague of locusts has attacked the Muesli when he visits…I’m now thinking we should have got more in.

My youngest son finishes his first set of exams for this Monday, and as the resident IT manager in the house it’s been my job to go through the computing science past papers.  I’m amazed at the level and how relevant it is to the day job.  I don’t remember my equivalent exam back in the day and certainly don’t remember my dad sitting beside me as we tackled the past papers.  It’s been a slog but we’ve got through it.

So although it’s the end of May…it feels like the start of something new, the boys both coming to an end of their academic years and the idea of a break sounds nice.

And the red buses? It’s random I know. they were just so cheery seeing them just round the corner near the church today. Big old red London buses in Edinburgh. I had to stop and take a picture! Happy weekend folks.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

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Dates, Dates, Dates

Aonach Beag
Aonach Beag

Up early this morning, coffee and straight to a notepad.  My head buzzing, a consolidation of all the things that have been whirling around my head.  The project I’ve found myself in, it’s not moving forward due to too many people asking what we need to do, why aren’t we progressing, maybe we need another project manager to manage the discussion around what needs to be project managed.  I want to scream out…..the project manager doesn’t actually do the work you know.  Dates, Dates, Dates….raggghhh. Deep down, I’m making a difference there is movement and we are starting to gain traction.

Welcome, lets do coffee!   It’s Friday and Natalie does a fantastic job of hosting the weekend coffee share.  I dropped off the rails for a while now.  I’d made a good fist of it from the start of the year and then bam….return to office, the new project, the bathroom and the kids exams kind of hit us big time.  The space in my head albeit filled to bursting.  Then to  escape, rather than write  a dose of sunshine comes along, a change in the season so time to get out in the garden and out into the mountains.

Last Saturday I made a solo trip to Dalwhinnie and covered four Munro’s (roughly 18k) plus a 16km cycle in and a 16km back.  There was an option of taking in two more which some people do. Some people walk the 16k, camp do the 4, sleep, do the 2 and then walk out. For me staring up at that 5th mountain with a cycle back still to do, and not to mention the 2 hour drive home….it was enough.

The Aonach Beag Four, Cairn Dearg, Geal Chàrn, Aonach Beag, Beinn Èibhinn. In old money a round trip of 32 miles.  Which doesn’t feel too bad written down…but Saturday eve and Sunday I was sore.  

…..it’s Saturday afternoon now, and a feeling of calm starting to come over me for a couple of days. Rather than heading out into the hills, we are spending the time at home. A few jobs to catch up the house in restoring a state of calm about the place. The downstairs loo completed on Tuesday, a disruption of a good six-seven weeks. It’s nearly over (the radiator still to go in).

Farmers Market, Beach

A cycle about town doing the messages, the butchers the farmers market and a coffee down by the beach.

Menu looking a little something like this:

Saturday: Sweet Potato Gratin, a little Salmon, and Samphire as a main for dinner

Sunday: A quiche of squash, and ham for lunch. Then Beetroot and mince patties for dinner.

Thanks for popping by and reading the rambles of a cook and a wannabe munroist, hoping to the tame the resistance of writing!

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

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