A sideline project for an IT guy who likes to cook

Category: Scribbles (Page 3 of 4)

Coffee and the Forth Rail Bridge

Scribbles for the weekend #6

Today our coffee is by bike, the sun is shining, one of the nicer days of the week.  It’s a T-shirt kind of day. The last of the years sun, the warm September days that should be bottled in order to carry them through into winter.  There are people swimming in the sea, the usual noises of children playing on the periphery.  The tide is in and the sound of the waves crashing over the sand is a tonic for the soul.

Portobello beach front meets a number of demands, a clash of cultural differences.  Kim Wilde the ‘Kids in a America‘ blasts out the small arcade which feels like a small part of the 80’s wrapped in a bubble, outside an upmarket coffee van tapping into the coffee culture.  Further down the promenade next to the boat huts is the beach house café serving great food, great cakes and where we pick up our scone to go with our flasks.

From here we cycle along the promenade towards the old port area of Leith and the north Edinburgh cycle route which is just a brilliant network of disused repurposed railway routes.  Our ultimate destination is iconic Forth Railway bridge taking in the village of Cramond along the coast and through the country grounds of Dalmeny House.  A 30 mile or so round trip which my wife called out as one of her best ever days cycling.

We make it back in time to catch the last of the days sun in the garden, a small beer and a gin and tonic.  So if you prefer that to your coffee, your welcome to an aperitif.

Dinner this evening…. Sea Bass, picked up from the high street in Portobello (a wonderful little fish shop) served with samphire, warm mixed grains and z’atarr roasted squash.

The apples are starting to fall from the tree in the garden, a clear sign they are ready for the taking and with my son having a pal staying over a perfect opportunity for a crumble without feeling too guilty or eating too much as there is an extra teenager needing the fuel!   Apple and Rhubarb.  An excuse to use the spoils in the garden.

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.

Staring into the muesli


Monday and I want to press the reset button, start the week as I mean to go on. Managed to remember to put my watch alarm a good few meters away from the bed so I would have to get out to turn it off.

Reset, means doing that exercise that I said I would, that 10 mins of yoga before doing a 3k run round the park and writing a few things as I have my coffee and start what feels like a new term. This weekend we hit the milestone of depositing child number one at University and even though number two been back at school a couple of weeks. It definitely feels like we can now crack on as a three.

Started my week with a bit of James Clear and the 2 minute rule. I listen more than watch in the morning as I do my exercises and this I think encapsulates showing up.


Scribbles for the Weekend #5


The veg box brought us a little bag of tomatillos,  amazing tomato like balls of green wrapped in delicate little green paper lanterns. I’d never seen these before and fortunately the bag came with a recipe, a green chilli and a bulb of garlic to make a salsa.  Using the lime and a little sugar to dampen the acidity of a diced onion and then blitzing in a food processor.  Very refreshing, zingy flavour.


Piano started again and although I’m not thrilled at having to do scales I feel alive and excited about the fresh start.  The teacher has made me feel better than I thought I was and given me a renewed confidence that as an adult learner my efforts will be rewarded.

We’ve had a mixed bag of weather, a mini little heat wave and the wasps nest that I can see from my study window has been going crazy with activity.  Sometimes makes my stomach turn and then there are moments where I have to marvel at the runway to the entrance and how they just get on with it.

The main activity of the house has been revolving around the boy and his imminent departure to University.  As some folks read this we will be no doubt have dropped him off with his PC, a new wok (with a lid), a supply of staples on the food front and I mustn’t forget the lasagne in the freezer!  There will no doubt be a tearful goodbye as he starts a new adventure and I mustn’t forget a good podcast for the drive home to take our minds elsewhere.!

I’ve put my thoughts on playlists down into another post and if you’ve ever wondered how to create a spotify QR code, export the playlist itself the links are there.

It’s going to be odd just the three of us in the house and the signals have already been given that I need to cook less!  That fourth portion eater that we count on to hoover up the calories is going to be missed.  Menu wise we haven’t got much planned, I think we’ll all be in shock.

Hope you have a good weekend, and thanks 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.

Playlists and how to export the list, create a code

Scribble & Scran: The Old Mix Tape

‘To me, making a tape is like writing a letter — there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again, and I wanted it to be a good one’ – Nick Hornby – High Fidelity

My dad would spend ages making a holiday tape, vinyl to tape, balancing the left and right signal, putting the needle in the right groove, not creating too much of a gap, taking the tape out, using a pinkie to just nudge it back a few seconds.  A complete distraction to packing or getting organised for the trip!

Some 40 years have passed and I can remember some of dads holiday tapes, a mix of Peter Frampton, Bob Marley, Olivia Newton John,  Charlie Dore and the haunting Pilot of the Airwaves brings back so many memories.  Especially of an old Ford transit parcel van that my dad converted one summer.   We camped on the beach and I’d sit in the front and watch the ships go by on the horizon, no phone or tablet to keep me entertained.

For some reason, that craziness before a trip and I can’t fathom out why was passed onto me.  Perhaps it’s those memories that spur me on and I usually have to create some kind of play list for a big holiday or a life event.  The odd tape still survives merely labelled ‘Mix Tape’, no inlay card so definitely mine.  The Honeymoon mix is amazingly labelled so easy to scan through.  There’s a stack of minidiscs that I can’t bring myself to throw out and a few silver disks in the CD drawer with only a couple of words to give the listener a clue as to the event they were recorded for (Germany 2006, France 2004 and York).

In one way I’m thankful it’s a lot easier today to make a playlist, who has time for putting needles on the record, turning it over and finding the right circular grove and queuing it up.   Although because it’s so quick it’s easier to break the unwritten rules.  The art of making a great playlist is lost in the mists of time.  That or I am over romanticising the whole thing and it’s just a bunch of songs to express a feeling.  I’m thinking about the rules of never repeating the artist, sticking to the right amount of songs that will fit onto the media you are using.  Can you imagine being constrained to 30 mins each side and adding a new song in at the start means re-recording the whole thing.  A play list can be however long you want it to be now, it self-documents and tells you how long it lasts for.  You’ll even get suggestions of what to add based on the list itself although these sometimes can be a little dubious!

The latest life event that called for a great playlist was for my son going off to university.  Spotify our family choice and a simple gift that wouldn’t load him down too much, doesn’t need a tape,  minidisk or cd.  He’d have nothing to play them on anyway….which just blows my mind!   My plan then was to create a track list of 10-15 songs or so.  Give a node to Guardians of the galaxy and call it Awesome Mix 1.   It still felt impersonal and too easy, so decided I wanted to make a flyer and include with it some thoughts and best wishes on a good luck card.

Creating the physical playlist was easy but the end to end process of sticking to 15 songs hard.  I’d keep remembering songs and it was way too easy, to find them, add them, and take them away.   I found myself going down memory rabbit holes, and had to ask myself what was I trying to do here.  I just wanted him to hear some good tunes that his dad liked, back in the day and one or two were from his childhood at the time.  In the end I settled on about 22 tracks and then it came to trying to export the text.

Turns out it’s quite hard using Spotify itself to export the text of a playlist in a way that you can use for editing despite all the drag and drop stuff I came across .  Thankfully I came across SpotListr which enabled me to create a comma separated file in seconds.  Which I then brought into excel and then formatted as a table.  I then transferred this to PowerPoint, on a page that was sized for my printer paper.  I then added a few photos, and a little text.

You can also create an album type cover for the playlist at Spotlistr Cover.  This will work as cover art for any playlist provider.

Over the lockdown period we tried a couple of restaurant boxes, one of them provided us with a specific Spotify QR playlist code.  Just click on search, use the camera and bish bash bosh…..the playlist is there.   It wasn’t quite the ambiance of the restaurant but a wonderful touch in providing some music where the choice had been made and you just had to listen.  This gave me the idea of creating the code, and you can do this here Spotify Codes.  This creates another little image file that can be added to the powerpoint slide.


Create an Export: SpotListr

Create the Cover: SpotListr 

Create the Code: Spotify Codes



Scribbles for the Weekend #4

Apricot Pie

September crept up on us this week, and it’s starting to feel dark when the alarm goes off.

Prom night came and went and I’m left reflecting where the time has gone.  It felt like yesterday when I put on a black tie and went hunting for adventure.  Amazed at the young man who stood before me and was more than happy to help with his tie.  It took me a couple of goes since it’s been a while living at work.

Success in the kitchen included an open apricot pie made with wholemeal flour.  The vultures came and went and even a request for it being made at their birthday a good eight months away.   To say it was a keeper is an understatement.

The small roast shoulder of lamb from organic Combe Farm worked well in a one pot of potatoes, carrot, parsnip and  fennel.  Slow cooked for a three hours, the fennel wasn’t in a good state towards the end so while the meat was resting it got blitzed into a gravy…or the word velouté feels more appropriate.

The polenta/corn meal eat downtown continues and I found a new technique of roasting from Anna del Conte.  It went well, so much left over though, which got fried and used for lunch with salad.

This weekend has a bit of a BBQ instore, the boy has got his pals round, another fair well with friends (I do not remember this build up!).  The usual burger and grilled veggies, a peanut butter cheesecake and I’m planning to get the pancake balls machine that we brought back from Denmark out.  Hopefully there will be leftovers!  Definitely planning to get a slice of that cheesecake!

Younger brother is quietly getting on with things in the background, trying his best not to rock the boat.  The house is emotional as we work through our last 8 or so days together before university starts.

Hope you have a good weekend, and thanks 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.

Scribbles for the Weekend #3



It’s that time of year in Edinburgh, waking up most days to mist or is it rain or perhaps somewhere in between.  I don’t think it’s quite dreich either.  By mid after the sun burns it off and we are left with a glorious warmth.

Start of the week we all got up grumpy, trying to get our heads round the new routine.  The first Monday morning back to school.   We are silently clashing heads, no arguments are required we are all struggling with the fact it was Monday morning.

I vowed to start the new exercises the physio gave me for my hip.  The ones that have been sat on my computer for a week or so now.  As I write this though I can claim to have 3 days in the bag and although I’m sat here drinking coffee, feeling guilty for not doing them this morning I can pat myself on the back for starting them.

With the back to school routine kicking in, I’m going to choose a few cookery books to work through for the next 12 weeks.  I thought about having 5 on the go, but as I type up my selection I’m reminded about spreading myself to thinly and not achieving.  Why not dig deep and really learn from these books.


Dishoom – From Bombay with love (a 2019 Christmas present!)

Home Cookery Year – In order to scratch my seasonal cooking itch

Nigella – Cook Eat Repeat, for inspiration both in my writing and cooking


Last weekend, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, with a variation on the lentil soup I posted using a small squash from the garden and a sweet potato rather than carrots.   Made a Hazelnut meringue and after a few minutes of presentation it felt like it had been visited by locusts, gone in one sitting.  A classic Beef and Ale stew, doctored with Kidney Beans and Aubergines.  Dabbled with anchovy’s and spinach as well as tackling the bag of polenta that I’d brought back from Italy a good 18 months ago.

I’m left thinking about this weekend…and only a couple left before the big man heads to Uni to find that my thinking around menu’s (I use the word loosely) is blown out the water.  In part the kids routine a last minute I’m going wild camping with my pals from son number one who’s trying to stay clear of folk so doesn’t miss his prom next week!  Also some self sabotage in that I’m going to meet a colleague from work for dinner tonight, a last minute impromptu, it’s been too long kind of decision.  In fact it’s been 18 months too long.   I’ve declared Sunday evening as a family tea and banned any other line of thinking.   It’s the only way I’m going to tackle the small frozen shoulder of lamb that’s been sitting in the freezer for some time.

At the back of my mind I’m thinking how do I squeeze in Gary’s Blackbean stew (a regular poster to the coffeeshare).  I’ve not been able to source the key ingredient from the local supermarket I frequent….so need to source/track them down at some point.  I’ve also got a book to pick up….and I’m ashamed to say it’s another cookery book.  My excuse is that it comes with the tickets that we bought as the authors are doing a promotional tour.

Nearly forgot to tell you that I kicked off the weekly veg box delivery and already feeling the pressure around what to do with some of the items……….rest assured it will all get eaten one way or another.


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.

Scribbles for the Weekend #2

What a week,  the implementation went to plan but a BAU issue hit the ropes.   Confusion reigned, the support rota kicked in as it was felt it was weekend related and caused me to get called out.   Then ensued a roller coaster of tiredness.  I was on high alert for the next few nights causing me quite a bit of angst.  Cancelled a camping trip, too tired and depressed to contemplate hitting the hills.  Add to this the eldest who was in self isolation because he happened to sit next to a pal at the cinema who’s just been confirmed COVID positive.

Fortunately I’ve still taken the days off we were going to take and we decided to play tourist in our own town.  Caught up on a bit of shopping and found a new book shop Topping & Co, which was just an amazing find and wish I’d known about it sooner.

We had lunch out just the two of us for a change.  The Olive Branch Bistro Edinburgh and couldn’t resist trying the:

  • Crispy shredded duck leg, watermelon, pomegranate, orange salad with dukkah and passion fruit
  • Roast aubergine, pepper and spinach katsu curry, coconut rice and dukkah flatbread
  • Cheese cake of the day, Dark Chocolate and Baileys

Today as I write this the sun is shining through the window (it was supposed to be raining) and my sons PCR test has come back negative.   A sense of normality is resuming in my mind as I take it easy and think about the day.

With the rollercoaster of the working week my excuses for not tackling any of Grannies box of recipes seem valid.   I’ve not really got myself in the frame of mind for writing full stop although amazingly I did finish the header for a soup recipe that has been keeping me sustained for the last couple of weeks.  Definitely a keeper and a recipe for life.

Lentil SoupI’m a big fan of a hearty soup and this one I come back to time and time again.  It’s very versatile and great for tweaking in relation to any vegetables that might be left over in the fridge. Initially it started off as bacon and lentil and then I found a chilli languishing with the carrots.   Mainly because the supermarkets don’t sell single chillies and so with a little ginger and some mixed spice it became a spiced lentil soup.  Then with a little leftover chicken from the BBQ I added another tweak to make bbq’d chicken soup.  Mainly keep to the core and then add your own touches and enjoy playing with it.

As we meet over coffee we are heading into the last week of August, which means autumn is definitely approaching for us in the northern hemisphere.  I’ve been thinking about what I might like to achieve as the new academic year starts.  It feels like a good time to knuckle down to something.  I managed to pick up a couple of music books for some fresh inspiration on the piano.  There are a few new cook books taking my eye, but I need to really hit the ones I’ve already got and promised to study.  I’m going to try choose 3-5 and really get the most of them rather than just turning the pages and looking for the next!


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.







Scribbles for the Weekend #1

There is a slight nip to the air in the mornings, definitely going back to school weather. As the world keeps spinning a slight change for us this year in that only one of the boys is heading back to school and the other moves on to university. The ebb flow of the house changing again, the longing for a routine to resume to normality at the same time a realisation that we will be one down in a months time. There are a little errands that are appearing here and there, sort a budget out, choose a laptop and pay the deposit on accommodation that bring it home to the mind.

The organisation of a suit for the leaving school dance really played with the memory cells taking me back 30 years to the time I bought my own, with the photograph that my mum took at the side of the house.

The week has flown by and I’ve had a mixed bag of success with the goals I’d set myself.

  • Refreshed the number on the door using a gold paint. My hat goes off to the old school sign painter.
  • We’d bought a drive away awning for the camper a few years ago, barely used and with guys growing it was time to move it on.
  • Present for nephew, xbox one game
  • Updated my about page, only a week or so after the rebrand
  • Added in my Instagram feed: https://www.instagram.com/scribbleandscran
  • Made my first your tube video (more an experiment and an adventure!)
  • The obvious putting in a solid weeks work, last weeks wobble and the challenge came to pass, I survived, and now I have a weekends implementation ahead of me.

Alongside that though we have some scran on the agenda:

For the weekend – the main event. The BBQ is being rolled out for a vegan meal! Might sound like an oxymoron (if I knew what one was). Ok one vegan, and 7 flexitarians of which 2 teenagers ours will eat anything and 2 teenagers who might not eat anything. The BBQ is a great way of trying to cater for all. Starting off with grilled aubergine, courgettes and peppers before sullying the grill with meat. It’s very likely the last of our summer gatherings. We’ll be trying to stay outside making use of the new shelter. Albeit we are are free to have folk into the house now that Scotland has moved out of level zero.

Other meals:

  • Smoked salmon that I brought back from Ullapool will make an appearance
  • Apple and Rhubarb crumble, the Bramleys have started appearing like bowling balls and I couldn’t resist
  • BBQ’d chicken and Lentil Soup

I thought I’d end this share with a walk round the garden, there feels like so many things are going on at the moment.

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.

Courage to Continue

Cup, Whisk & Keyboard

I made the mistake of checking my mail before going to bed last night and one email haunted me through the night. It wasn’t personal, at the same time it rocked my sense of purpose and integrity. Just one thing after another yesterday and this frustratingly broke the camel’s back in terms of me thinking why is everything so hard, like being asked to move a truck by the same person who is sat in the front seat pulling the handbrake on saying go faster. I’m there at the front of the truck ropes around my shoulders straining with the weight like the world’s strongest man putting one foot in front of another. Then someone throws a couple of logs in front of me like a bunch of Ewoks trying to take down a Scout Walker.

It’s all in my mind I know, and I can choose where to go with this. I’m sat upright in bed looking out the window with my coffee, the rainclouds drifting over the top of Arthur’s seat. At the same time as staring out the window I’m checking in with the writing community and I come across the words ‘Sometimes the courage is to continue. To choose to wake up again and face the process of leaning into life and love’. It’s a southing balm for my thoughts as is the quote that dropped into my mailbox from the James Clear bulletin:

Writer Jeanette Winterson on the connection between art and an open mind:
“Most of us spend a lot of time censoring everything that we see and hear. Does it fit with our world picture? And if it doesn’t, how can we shut it out, how can we ignore it, how can we challenge it? We are continually threatened in life, it’s true. But once you are alone with a book, and it’s also true with a picture or with music, all those defenses drop and you can enter into a quite different space where you will learn to think differently about yourself.”
Source: Women at Work Vol II: Interviews from the Paris Review​

It’s rained through the night, a much needed down pour for the garden and a sense of a new day shapes in my mind. I’m inclined to post my thoughts with courage and with my imperfections.



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.

The Front Door

Front Door and Coffee

Last time we had coffee I wrote about the porch door and the small repairs I was making along with a fresh lick of paint.  What I didn’t mention at the time was that this was all prompted by having the front door replaced.  Which in some ways broke my heart.   The door I’m sure had been the original I’m sure from 1890.  A beast of a thing, in two halves.  Unfortunately, it really had bowed.  Let in all manor of the elements and didn’t really close properly and therefore didn’t lock properly.  This was back in November and we’ve had nothing but trouble with it since it being painted, and it started to warm up.   Being made of wood it started to have a mind of its own trying to burst free.

The good news is that it got it’s final lick of paint on Friday after several calls and emails.  Only took a couple of hours.  So infuriating.  As time goes by we will forget this drama in our lives.

Again the gap between us having coffee has been too long and I can’t believe Natalie has hosted 22 of them, which is amazing!  April was the last time I contributed, so I feel I need to bring you up to speed.

I’ve cheated on you!  I’ve be writing elsewhere which I’m sorry about and I hope you forgive me!  The cookery book that I wanted to write just wasn’t happening.  I was disappointed with myself and the realisation that lockdown hadn’t afforded me the miracle of more time and the power of magic.  Miraculously I felt the weight was going to drop off and I’d be able to play all those piano pieces I’ve always wanted to play!  I’d wanted to come out of it hoping to have achieved something more.  Instead I probably worked more and dreamt more.

So since that last blog post in April I’ve signed up for a writing in community project.   Six months to write a book which in reality is more like 6 months to show up daily and write something and we’ll see what happens.   Some days it’s a sentence, some days it’s page of the things running through my head and it’s been really good.  I also found myself a piano teacher who is willing to take on an adult and 3 lessons in it’s been so liberating to feel I’m back at the keys with a goal each fortnight.  Let’s not mention the piano scales, however with the more conventional set there has been a slight improvement.  A minor lifestyle change of trying to live a more Mediterranean diet with less carbs has seen the loss of a kilogram (a 2lb bag of sugar) which has given me more energy.

On reflection though lockdown did achieve these things by allowing me, mentally to go on a journey.  I listened to many podcasts in the self help space.  I succumbed to an audible subscription and everyday I try to put something into play from the learnings.  Start small, show up and do the essentials.   It’s a theme that gets repeated over and over again.

Back to the coffee…a lovely weekend here in Edinburgh.  A treat to get a scone in with a takeaway coffee, sit on the links and watch the bustle of the city come back to life.


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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