I seem to have really enjoyed my running over Easter, more than I expected to for some reason, even though the weather keeps flinging the odd curve-ball. I really wish that wind would just go once and for all, mainly because it’s affecting my judgment about what to wear for my runs, also because I hate battling against a the wind in general. I braved shorts for the run on Friday (I graduated from long sleeves to t-shirt the week before) though set off wearing a jacket over the t-shirt because it did feel cold at the outset. The jacket ended up coming off before I was even a mile in! Still, did over 8 miles on the road, apart from a small section through the woods at the caravan park. Saturday looked more promising with blue skies, sunshine and still that chilly breeze – I knew the sun would encourage a few folk out into the countryside, so formulated a route which I was willing to deviate from if there were too many people roaming about. The idea was to go towards the ford at the entrance to the wildlife reserve at Woodhall Dean, go along through the valley towards Black Loch to Halls, then on the track which would lead me into the wildlife reserve and back towards the farm. As it was, once at the ford, I spotted a number of cars already in the parking area – a couple having just arrived, with their occupants getting the walking boots/jacket out of their cars, ready to set off, so decided I would probably get to Halls and Pathhead (not to be confused with the Pathhead in Midlothian) and stick to the road through Spott.
I climbed the gate to get off the road and along through the valley, following a rough road for the shooting groups who go out from time to time. I came across a closed gate at Black Loch – one not normally closed – so climbed over to discover the reason for the closed gate at the far end – a large herd of cattle. As they were congregating on the flat, near the end gate, I went up a hillock to come down along the fence line towards the gate – the cattle shifted once they spotted me, wandering back in the direction of the loch, so I got over the gate, down to Halls, admiring the extension recently built on one of the houses near the farm house, then decided, as I had never being up the road to Pathhead, I would give that a go, knowing that I would be turning at the farmhouse there as the road goes no further. It was funny how much smaller the house looks at close quarters – it seems more imposing from further down the road – still a good sized house though. By this time, I changed my mind about going right towards Spott at the road end, instead heading over to Pitcox, then to Little Spott, then Spott. Just after Little Spott, I saw a car approaching the bend, coming in my direction. I found myself admiring the particular shade of green as I had entertained going for that colour when I last changed the car, then the car slowed down as it got closer, so I was thinking “nice driver” – it was only when there was a blast on the horn, did I realise it was James and Jen Addie, giving me a smile and a wave, obviously out for a nice drive – I hadn’t been able to see who was driving the car until they were at my side. Nice to see some friendly faces!
Yesterday, the weather felt that bit colder and it was duller, but I still went with the t-shirt, though back to the three-quarter length skins rather than shorts. I’d done the Harehead/Bothwell/Crichness route a few weeks ago, doing it the preferred way round, which is Harehead, then on to Bothwell and Crichness, so decided to do the loop the other way this time and try to round the nineteen and a half miles off to twenty by adding a little bit extra somewhere on the route. I gave myself the usual flatter three to four miles by way of a warm-up before heading up the climb from Elmscleuch, then onwards by the woods at Monynut, before the descent downwards past Crichness. There were loads of lambs bounding about the field just above Crichness – fawn-coloured fleeces with white faces and legs. The shepherdess passed on the quad giving a smile and a wave as she headed along with a sack of animal feed on the back. The lambs a little further down the hill had black faces and legs – after seeing a couple of fairly new wobbly-legged lambs, I spotted a sheep lying down, looking fit to burst, but decided it was a bit cold in the wind to hang about. Once in the valley, I went by Bothwell then, eventually, out on the Duns to Gifford road for about quarter of a mile, turning left to Harehead. Once I passed the barns, a short-haired black and white dog bounded down past the cottages to greet me and run alongside me. I suspected it was more used to herding sheep then runners, but it was giving me a nudge in the legs, as if encouraging me up the climb, giving my hand a lick as well as we headed round to sharp bend and up the back of the cottages. Once we reached the last outhouse, the dog stopped, as if there was an invisible boundary it couldn’t pass, so I was on my own again.
Once up the hill, I could see the line of the forest stretching into the distance (the reason I prefer the route the other way round – this bit just feels tougher), plus I noticed to my left that the clouds were closing in – the wind turbines seemed to be vanishing under the low cloud – and I caught the rain just a little further along the track. Once I got to the junction in the forest, I got a little shelter, but soon started to feel quite cold once the wind hit again. So, cold and wet with around five miles still to go – not ideal, but nothing else to do except keep going. With about two and a half miles to go, three vehicles passed in short succession, then a few cyclists. I don’t know if it was the wet, the cold, or a combination of both with wearing the skins, but I had the sensation of being naked from the waist down!! That feeling only passed once I got further downhill towards Elmscleuch, when decency was restored. The run turned out to be nearly seven minutes quicker than the one a few weeks ago – maybe the need for a hot shower made me run that bit quicker (or the sense that I was streaking round the countryside).
I got some tidying done in the garden over the weekend, a couple of small sewing projects, a little painting and some baking – of course.I’d done some baking for the clubs 10K a couple of weeks ago, to then realise we were pretty low on cake ourselves, so I’ve rectified that situation with a couple of recipes from the Humming Bird “Cake Days” book – an orange, almond and yoghurt cake (a first try of that one - glad I opted for the bigger tin than the recipe suggested) and a firm favourite, the coffee and chocolate loaf, to which I added some chunks of chocolate. I’ve also made Chetnas Cumin Loaf again. It would be rude not to!
|New lambs, same old fascination with that drain cover.|
|Noticed on Thursday evening that this beautiful Amelanchier Lamarckii in my garden had finally come in to blossom!|
|The Clematis Macropetala finally reaching new heights|
|Jazzy new peg bag|
|Orange, Almond and Honey Cake|
We have twice had Stuart’s lovely parents along for their tea recently – Mother’s Day and George’s birthday last Saturday. On both occasions, the dessert was decided on first, well before the rest of the meal was thought out.
It was while we were watching Mary Berry on TV, making a sticky toffee pudding, that Stuart announced that that should be the dessert on Mother’s Day, so that was the starting point and I eventually settled on some crispy pancakes to start, an onion tarte tatin (a Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall) and vanilla ice-cream to go with the sticky toffee pudding – the pudding recipe itself coming from the first of the Great British Bake-Off books. I just made a standard pancake batter for the starter and made the pancakes in advance. Once they were cold, I used a side-plate to trim them all down into a neat shape and made a thick white sauce, adding a little grated cheese towards the end. Once this had cooled, I added small cubes of cheese to it, brushed the edges of the pancakes with beaten egg and put some of the cheese mixture in the middle, folding the pancake in half, dipping in the egg and coating with polenta, then frying. As the last time I did a crispy pancake was sometime in the 90’s, I thought it was about time I aired that recipe again.
So, with my Father-In-Laws birthday, when prompted, Stuart came up with the suggestion of cheesecake for dessert. Now, I love cheesecake and have a significant number of recipes for cheesecakes – actually a whole book dedicated to them, whether baked, uncooked, frozen, biscuit or pasty based. Years ago Stuart and I, while holidaying in Blair Atholl, had the urge for cheesecake and though there was nothing more to do than go to a local shop and getting one. Foolish people – we finally managed to buy the last two slices of two different cheesecakes in a small bakery in Braemar, which we shared between us. We still talk about that grand quest for cheesecake! Anyway, I digress, the Birthday tea. I was still undecided by the Friday night – Stuart had suggested lasagne, so I thought I would run with that one – the starter was dependent on whether I could get ripe avocadoes on Saturday morning. So, the starter was a guacamole from “The Vegeterrean: Italian Vegetarian Cooking” by Malu Simoes and Alberto Musacchio – a few extra ingredients to the basic guacamole, with a bean salad. I made the pasta for the lasagne – guesswork with the amount of flour, two eggs, salt – and layered it with a basic tomato sauce, alternated with some green beans, cubed courgette and asparagus in a béchamel sauce, a little sprinkle of grated parmesan on the last layer of pasta and some reserved asparagus dotted over the top, then baked 180C for 25 – 30 minutes. The cheesecake was one with soft fruits through the mixture and more soft fruits piled on top to serve – taken from the Hummingbird “Cake Days” book. It all seemed to go down quite well, as did the remainder of the cheesecake the following day, with a coffee, after I’d had a pleasant run with Dr Jones and Harry (sorry Harry, no cheesecake for you).
|Need to perfect the tomato roses........maybe life's too short!|