Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Which one will you get for Christmas?

I have a project in progress, but right now, it's been put on hold, as I've been busy working on the Christmas cards! Rather than go for the traditional Christmas look, I've decided to stick to what I'm good at. So, you'll all be getting an Aboriginal Snail this year. And remember that the snail is my home town's mascot (Namur - check it out, it's true). So it may not be relevant to Christmas, but it's very relevant to who I am and where I'm coming from!

So, here is the work in progress (if you have a favourite and you would like to get it for Christmas, let me know!):

Monday, October 29, 2007

Chair O Plane

We went into town today, cheered for the last few runners and walkers of the Dublin Marathon, arriving at the finish line on Merrion Square, and then went into the National Gallery. Our initial interest was an exhibition of Polish symbolist and modern art painters - there were a few interesting pieces, but what really caught my eye today was an exhibition of Jack Butler Yeats paintings, called Masquerade and Spectacle: The Circus and the Travelling Fair in the work of Jack B. Yeats.

I love Jack B. Yeats' bold bright vibrant paintings, and this exhibition, gathered from a number of private collections I think, was a delight. Pictures of clowns and crowds and "horses" on roller skates, and my favourite "Chair O Planes". Well, I didn't know what a chair-o-plane was before today, but Jack B. Yeats perfectly captured the movement, elation and feeling of dizziness. Unfortunately, I can't find any of the paintings from this exhibition on the web, and there is very little of Jack B. Yeats' other paintings on the web either. I found a reproduction of Men of Destiny, but it's very small and doesn't show the beautiful detail of it. I'm not sure if I've ever seen the original painting but if I didn't, then the reproduction I saw before must have been pretty good, as I've got a good picture of it in my mind. Now that I think of it, I must go back into town and buy the exhibition catalogue (the exhibition closes on Nov 11), as these paintings are just too gorgeous to forget.

It smells like Christmas

It's not even Halloween, and all the shops already have their Christmas decorations up, and Dunnes Stores has been selling Christmas wrapping paper for the last 2-3 weeks.

But that's not why it smells like Christmas! Brendan is cooking a ham for our dinner tonight and the house is filled with this strong sweet smell of Christmas. I can't wait - for my dinner that is!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Powerscourt

Today was another nice sunny day, quite unexpected. I thought that we were going to get a lot of rain this weekend, but, after a dull start, yesterday turned out sunny and warm (up to 20º), and when we woke up this morning, the sun was shining again. Last night was wet and windy, and I really was not expecting today to be sunny.

So, carpe diem and all the rest, we decided to make the most of the clocks falling back an hour, and we set out to Enniskerry, bright and early.

We parked the car in the village and walked up to Powerscourt. We didn't really want to walk through the gardens - we wanted to just walk the tree-lined avenue that leads to the house and offers glorious views of the Sugar Loaf. The trees were at their glorious golden best and we took plenty of pictures.

And of course, we had to have a peep at the new Ritz-Carlton, which is situated just to the side of the main property, in a little valley overlooking the Sugar Loaf. There was a lot of media attention recently, when the new Gordon Ramsay restaurant opened its doors. Brendan heard an interview with Gordon Ramsey himself on Newstalk Radio last week - apparently, the restaurant received 11,000 phone enquiries in its first week, and weekend tables are fully booked until the new year. We saw 2 maseratis (1 red, 1 yellow) and 2 bentleys on our way there. Plenty of money in this country - no doubt about it!

The hotel is big - the main access to it is a bit Las Vegas, with a big sweeping drive and car parking to the side, but the building itself is quite nice (better than the big square block of the Dublin Four Seasons, at least, which is not much of a comparison), from the outside at least. We were a bit too casually dressed to go in, I have to admit. But the 2-course lunch menu is a relatively affordable €30, so we might go there some time! I must check my lotto tickets - you never know!

And then, we had a leasurely scone and coffee/hot chocolate at the terrace of the main house, and enjoyed the sunshine. The hot chocolate was excellent, with a pink and a white marshmallow and a Cadbury's Flake.

And to complete the experience, we had a look at the Avoca shop, where I got myself a lovely outfit - a long lace tunic with an underdress and a little wrap cardigan. All I need to do now is go to Costelloe+Costelloe and get myself a little necklace to go with it, and I'll be the bee's knees. I really like that expression, and also the fact that its origin is a bit of a mystery - have a look at this article.

After a drive through the mountains, with a quick stop at the German cemetery at Glencree, we came home, tired but happy! (If you are wondering why there is a German cemetery in Ireland, a neutral country in WW II, read this interesting article I have found)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

L'Officina

After a hard week's work, Brendan treated me to a meal in L'Officina in Dundrum Town Centre. We both needed to get out of the house to put work aside for a little while, and we wanted to try this restaurant, which is wedged between Mao and Milano, by the fountains. We had gone by it a few times, but it's easy to miss it. We had read a few good reviews, so we decided to try it out.

When we went in, we were told that we would have to come back in half an hour and they took our mobile number. We were barely gone 10 minutes and the phone rang. It was a nice surprise to get in earlier than expected.

We got a little table by the window, a little bit tight to get in, but once we were seated, it was comfortable and there was no through traffic, and we didn't feel like we were sitting on top of the people at the next table. There was a great buzz about the place, so you couldn't hear anybody else's conversation.

The food was delicious, really authentic Italian - I had a starter of parma ham, rocket salad, tomato and buffalo mozarella. Brendan had the mixed plate, with aubergine, courgette, salami, cheese, tomato and more. Both starters came with nice bread - a good start. For main course, I had linguine with squid, baby octopus and mussels. Brendan had ravioli. Mine was the better of the 2. We'll have to go back to try out the risotto, which Brendan had intended to get (long story...). And for dessert, Brendan had an apple tart (they had run out of the Apple Sponge Cake) and I had panacotta, which was to die for (but then again, I always think that panacotta is to die for, don't I?). I think it had a hint of cinnamon, which made it a real comfort food.

And the service was good, very friendly and efficient, without feeling rushed.

We'll definitely go back. It's very different from all the big chains typical of Dundrum Town Centre. So it was no surprise to find out that it is part of the same group of restaurants as Nonna Valentina near South Circular Road.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Belated birthday wishes

Le temps passe vite quand on n'a plus vingt ans (c'est de moi que je parle, bien sûr)! L'anniversaire de Marie-Gabrielle était le 18 octobre. Bon anniversaire! Je n'ai pas envoyé de carte!

Sandymount

We went for a walk on Sandymount strand yesterday afternoon. It was colder and darker than we had expected, but it was still nice to get a bit of fresh air. Despite the traffic - It seems that no matter where you're going these days, there are traffic jams awaiting you at every corner. Apparently an Irish minister on a recent trip to Moscow equated traffic jams with economic success and likened Moscow with Dublin on that count. Needless to say, the media are giving him a hard time over that comment!

The tide was out and the clouds made for a dramatic sky. The sun was shining over Howth on the other side of the bay.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Eagle has Landed

... Actually, it's The Hen! She's finally done! I have pumped up the colours a good bit, by adding several washes of the same colours over the hen, then I sprinkled plenty more paint over the background, to increase the contrast.

And here she is - what will we call her? I think Gertrude sounds nice - maybe I'll call her Gertie! What do you think?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mad Cat

Well, the cat isn't mad, actually. He's actually quite docile when we hold him like that - he doesn't seem to mind at all. Not that he has much choice. Because he's so heavy (9 Kg!), he probably doesn't have the strength to kick his back legs when we hold him like this (which is not very often, let me reassure you!)

New Hair Cut

I got a new hair cut a few weeks back. Went to a local lady, and I'm very happy with the result. I also like the colour (my trade secret is Garnier Nutrisse 6.66 Intense Red - don't tell anyone).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The King and I

well, not quite... but I did shake hands with King Albert II, and stood shoulder to shoulder with Queen Paola. Didn't quite manage to shake her hand, though. I'm not pushy enough! There was quite a crowd there, at the Belgian Ambassador's residence, as all these Belgians came out of the woodwork to meet the King and Queen, who had expressed the wish to meet their citizens while on their State visit to Ireland.

Brendan kindly agreed to go with me, and we stood there in the Ambassador's back garden for about an hour and a half, with about 200 other Belgians. There was plenty of champagne going around (we stuck to orange juice and coca cola!) and sad little appetizers. But we did get a mini-box of Leonidas on our way out, so it was all worth it.

Brendan took all the pictures, with the result that I don't have a single picture of him there! Hopefully he'll make it to the screen (there were 3 or 4 TV crews, so watch out for us - I'm the one with the green top and the big grin on her face!!)

Me and the King. That's my back you see, as I shook hands with him and told him how delighted I was to meet him, and was his leg better!!! I couldn't think of anything else to say! My parents had told me he had fallen down the stairs at the palace a while back and was still limping.

Me and the Queen. I would say that I was driving the body guards mad, as I kept creeping forward in my feeble attempts to shake hands and say Hello. We should definitely have hired a child for the day - those with children definitely got the attention!

And, No, not a Ferrero Rocher in sight! Sorry to disappoint you!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bullock Harbour

We went over to Bullock Harbour yesterday. It was a lot duller than on Saturday, and a lot cooler too. All the boats were in, and the seals kept a low profile - "no fish, no seals" I heard somebody say, which is quite true. We took a few pictures, but the light was fading, although it was not even 4. This is the best picture I got.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

And now, without the knee

I had iMovie HD on the Mac all along...but saving it in Quicktime format makes the file a lot larger than AVI. Unfortunately, I can't see an option to save the clip as AVI in iMovie HD.
video

Video of Willow (and my knee)

I just had to try this thing in Blogger where you can insert a video, just like when you insert a picture (dead easy, except I don't have any video-editing software on my Mac (not that I know of anyway), so I couldn't cut the bit at the end where the camera pans over my knee.

The music in the background is whatever was playing on the JK Ensemble playback on RTE.

video

Keeping Faith

Mary and Padraig had given me 2 books by Jodi Picoult for my birthday. Well, I'm not sure what part Padraig had in the purchase, really... On our weekly walk a few days before my birthday, I had told Mary I had just finished reading a book by Jodi Picoult, called My Sister's Keeper, and I had enjoyed it so much that I felt I would be reading a lot more books by the same author. Little did I know that she was fishing for ideas as to what present to get me. It was such a thoughtful present, I was really touched.

I had a lot of books to read through the summer (most of them on loan from Mary), so I've only just finished the first of the birthday presents, Keeping Faith. I devoured it - it was a great read. The themes are motherhood and, well, faith. You wouldn't think that either of these would appeal to me, but I found the story very engaging and I couldn't put it down. I've now started the next one, The Tenth Circle, and I'm already completely absorbed by it. Great to know that Jodi Picoult is a very prolific author - plenty more ideas for Birthday & Christmas presents!!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Greystones

We had a job down in Greystones this morning, and the sun was shining, so we decided to make a day of it and had a nice little walk around the sea front. The main beach near the harbour is a big beach with big pebbles - not a good beach for walking, particularly with sandals. So, we headed towards the town on the sea front and discovered a big flat sandy beach. I had never been down that side of town (just at the back of the Dart station), and it was a surprise to find such a nice spot. Greystones is quite scenic, with Bray head on one side and the Wicklow mountains at the back, clear seas, and a quaint, old charm. It hasn't been developed much, and still looks like a traditional fishing village, quite a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of towns in Ireland. On a warm sunny day like today, the whole world looked beautiful. And to top it all, we had good old fish and chips, sitting on some rocks on the beach.

A pity we had not brought our camera with us (the picture above is from the Wikipedia entry). And if the information I have just read (see this website) is correct, the lovely views will soon be gone, as a major marina development has been approved, with the building of hundreds of apartments. What is wrong with this country? How can developers get away with this? Don't tell me that no money has changed hands to get something on such a large scale approved for a small sleepy town like Greystones?? If the pictures are anything to go by, the development doesn't look too bad (go to Clifden and you'll find 10 times worse!), but it's completely out of character - Greystones is nice because it is old-fashioned and quaint. Why make it into a posh, snazzy marina?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Birthdays this month

October will see Marie-Gabrielle's birthday, on the 18th.

I've been too busy to do much work on The Hen, but it's amazing what an hour or two of work over the weekend can do. I'm very happy with the head, but I still have a lot of work to get the colours right on the body.