Saturday, 24 September 2016


It doesn't seem so long since Naomi got her first teeth and we were out to get her a toothbrush. Well, times have moved on far too fast and we now have a five year old that is very excited to have her first wobbly tooth! Her friends (mostly age six of course) have already started on their adult tooth journeys so she is more than happy to be joining the fun.

It's the one at the front, left of the middle two (her right). You can see that it's leaning into her mouth slightly.

Sunday, 4 September 2016


Yes, we like baking! Here are a couple of projects we've embarked on during the summer. First up, a date night lemon meringue pie.

Making meringue is considerably easier now we have an electric mixer/whisk.

This is quite an efficient recipe as the egg whites go into the meringue and the yolks go in to the lemony stuff.

Cook until it's satisfyingly brown.

Eat. Splendid.

The girls wanted to make fairy cakes - they mixed, assembled, and decorated them with only a little bit of help from me! Lydia's ones are the two at the top, Naomi's on the left, and Miriam's on the right.

The first week of Bake Off this year involved making Jaffa Cakes, so we thought we'd give them a go. Mary Berry's recipe is here.

The sponges came out pretty well.

No particular jelly is specified in the recipe, except "orange", so that seems easy enough.

Though the jelly took ages to set. We thought it could have done with some extra gelatin to stiffen it up.

However, it cut out nicely enough, so on to the chocolate stage.

As suspected, the jelly wasn't stiff enough. As soon as the hot chocolate was added the jelly melted and started to flow off.

A couple turned out pretty well, but the others looked a bit messy.

By the end, they didn't look great but they, and the orange chocolate lumps under the cooling rack, tasted just great. Definitely one to try again!

Saturday, 3 September 2016


This summer was slightly more successful than last when it came to the girls' gardening efforts. Not that this was all that difficult, we just needed a little sunlight and we were there! Here are some of the results...

Sunflowers grown from seeds that we harvested two years ago.
They did produce nice flowers (that I neglected to picture).
The only downside is that slugs ate all but two of the 8 plants.

We bought a strawberry plant this year, and got give another one.
Not bad for the first year!
Plenty of potatoes this year, and the broad beans and carrots came out well too.

The tomatoes have produced a few fruit now (all from the yellow one so far) but the only pepper so far fell off only part formed after a couple of weeks.

Not bad either!
The only downside to mucky activities.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Back in the USA

Ooh - pop culture references before 8am, whatever next!

Time to start catching up on summer. First up, I was away for almost two weeks at the annual GECCO conference, that you might remember me having been to in the past. We were very grateful to my Mum who came down to help Jay look after the girls while I was away. A visit from Grandma is always welcome :)

This year the conference was in Denver: a new part of the US for me as I've only ever been to states on the east coast before. I had a couple of things to present. These went pretty well and appear to have led to some new collaborations, which is always a good outcome! It was also a chance to catch up with several other people I work with - even though most are in the UK it's always easier to meet when we're thousands of miles from home...

Denver is a nice place, very clean and friendly with mountains visible everywhere, it reminded me of the couple of Canadian cities I've been to - but still definitely American. As my flights involved a change in New York, I also took a quick stopover in Pennsylvania to see my pastor friend Rick, who came over to Aberdeen to study a few years back and was part of our small group at church just after Jay and I got married. He is also Lydia's godfather (and very excited about it) and may well be coming for a visit to Scotland sometime soon.

Here's a wee tour of what I did.

The journey over was 25 hours from leaving my house to arriving at my hotel room, with a 6 hour wait at JFK airport.
It was a bit wet there, and we even got a little view of one of New York's bridges.
I just thought this plane looked cool!

A welcome sight at 1am after 25 hours of travel.

It's America, so the breakfasts are good!

Yes they are.

The view from my room. 

A few of us went on a quick trip downtown.
This is the freeway we had to cross over on the way to the train.
As with everything in America, the scale in impressive!

Downtown Denver is the tall bit.

BREAKING: Railway enthusiast spotted near station.

The state capitol. Quite impressive but there's more in a wee while.

Denver is "mile high city" and the state capitol has a marker on it to show where.
Well, it actually has three! They're not error bars - just refinements as they get better at measuring these things.

View from the capitol building. The mountains are never far away!

And neither is an "English" theme pub.

I could have done with some shoulder work by the end of the first week.

Now flying from Denver to the East Coast.
Can you tell why it's called the "Great Plains"?

There was a wee bit of rain after Rick picked me up from the airport.

Rick was serving as a pastor at a summer camp this year - so my brief holiday meant a stop over at camp.
A jolly nice place - very peaceful.
Also quite extensive - easily a mile square. 
I went for a bit of a wander around the grounds...

This is the hut that I was staying in. 
The final day I was there Rick needed to drive some campers to a climbing spot, so while we were waiting for the climbing to be done we did some sightseeing. A ride on a genuine American steam train at the Strasburg Railroad!

The railroad passes through Amish country. The Pennsylvania farmland often reminds me of bits of Aberdeenshire.

The train even has log fires for the colder parts of the year (not an issue during my visit)

Choo choo!

The climbing was happening at Chickies Rock. We went to take in the view...

Prettyeh? Apparently three mile island is visible from here, but I can't see it. 
Part of the land here was a little more industrial in the past - I just like how "wild west" this place looks.

The view from the hill behind the camp.

Only in America can "moving house" take on this meaning!

Just before heading home, we took a couple of detours on the way to the airport.
This is the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg.
Apparently it's designed to be even more impressive than the US Capitol in Washington DC.
They seem to have managed it!

A debating chamber to shame the house of Lords.

Did I mention the gold?

The state supreme court.

We also went for a quick drive through a military base which was surprisingly open to the public.

Look out for the tanks though...

We also stopped off at Roadside America - a model town of gargantuan proportions, and very American!

Visitors can push buttons to make the trains and so on move.
I've never seen a sign like this before!

More rain :(
The closest I got to New York City, on the way into JFK. 
That bridge we saw from the airport on the way in, but this time a bit closer.

The airline food was pretty good (Delta if you're wondering) but I was a bit interested to know what the "other flavor" could be!

On returning home, it was felt that a lovely meringue dessert would be a suitable welcome treat. It was!