Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Graduate

Brendan has been taping plenty of movies lately. I don't watch them all, but we watched The Graduate together, and enjoyed it a lot. Unfortunately, we missed the end, as RTE was running late. We'll have to rent the DVD some time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

face mask

Last week, I tried one of Lush's fresh face masks. It's called Ayesha, and it looks awful, green and bumpy, but it did a wonderful job on my skin, making it look and feel fresh and tight. It doesn't keep for very long, because it doesn't contain any preservatives, I guess, so I've applied it several times. I still have a little bit left, which I should use tonight, as it's past the date already! Just as well I intercepted it from my Christmas parcel. It wouldn't have looked nice on Christmas morning!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nos enfants nous accuseront

I got this link from Véronique, and I have to share it with you. After seeing this, I feel more strongly about eating organic food now. I have to admit we don't always buy organic - the choice of organic vegetables in shops isn't great here, and organic chicken is very expensive. But really, it shouldn't be about price, nor about tasting better than non-organic, it's about it not containing carcinogenic chemicals.

I don't think this movie will show in all the big cinemas around the world, but hopefully, like Al Gore's movie, it will help galvanize public opinion enough to change things.

I read somewhere recently that bees in the UK - I think - are not producing honey this year, and there is a big shortage. And a lot of common birds just don't seem to be there any more. These are signs that things are not going well. And we can no longer ignore those signs. What worries me at the moment is that all governments are focusing on the economy - that's all we're hearing, and for good reason, of course. But when the focus is on the economy, the environment, and our health, will suffer. I don't have any children of my own to worry about, but we have 7 nieces and nephews. It's for them I want a safe world. I'm not a big campaigner or militant to change the world. But I can do my bit, by buying organic. I hope you do too.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Midsummer Night's Dream

So, Benjamin Britten's opera was just lovely - completely weird, faithful to Shakespeare's play in spirit and words. The music was really sweet, the singing was glorious, and the whole production was nicely imaginative, without being abstract. My favourite bits were Pyramus and Thisby's love scene, Puck's beautiful dancing (and Horace Oliver's beautiful body of course!), Flavio Oliver's counter-tenor voice (which you can hear at this link), Bottom (Gerard O'Connor)'s hilarious braying, and the arias for the love triangle (or square, rather?) between Helena, Demetrius, Hermia and Lysander. I found that the little fairies were not as strong as could have been. Of course, the scenes with the dozen or so children are really sweet, but their voices didnt' carry that well.

If you would like to see most of the opera, in a production by the NorthWestern University, check out these 2 clips on YouTube. It's not as good as the Opera Ireland production, but it's nice to be able to see and listen to a long clip (unfortunately I can't find the 3rd and final act):

Clip 1

Clip 2

A Midsummer Nights' Dream

Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream was excellent. I'll tell you more about it in the next few days. In the meantime, here is another clip I found on YouTube, from one of the even lighter moments: Pyramus and Thisby (the quality of the video isn't great - it would be ok if whoever held the camera had made sure to film the singers' heads rather than their torsos and legs, but it's such a fun scene)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Madama Butterfly

Lucinda and I went to see Madama Butterfly at The Gaiety last night. I really enjoyed it - it was done in the simple style that I like - good lighting to indicate time of day and mood, and quite a bare set, with Japanese-type-sliding doors to open and close areas of the stage.

Last night, I found the lighting particularly good - there was one scene in Act II, where Butterfly, her servant Suzuki and her son, are sitting up, awaiting Pinkerton's return. No a word is sung, and there is no movement. This scene goes on for quite a good while, with beautiful beautiful music, and very slow changes in the lighting - at one point, there was a warm glow on Butterfly's intense face, and on the Buddha statue in a corner of the room. As the night goes on, and hope fades, the lighting turns almost to black and white - the scene looked like a sketch from a graphic novel, not quite manga, but very abstract. Yet, the strength of feelings is carried through, as Suzuki's posture slumps down, while Butterfly, refusing to lose hope, sits erect through the night.

I'm not a huge Puccini fan (not enough big ensemble pieces - Mozart is much more entertaining that way), but the music in Madama Butterfly is lovely, and the singing and acting was first class. My favourites (and everybody else's) were: Yunah Lee as Cio Cio San (Butterfly), Keith Olsen as Pinkerton, Marcel Vanaud (Belgian Baritone) as Sharpless, the consul, and Qiu Lin Zhang as Suzuki.

Hopefully Benjamen Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream tomorrow night will be as good. Looking at the article in the Irish Times, it should be exciting anyway!

I hope it's half as good as this production I found on YouTube. Here are 3 clips from it (in no particular order):

Indian Summer

Went out to the Indian Summer restaurant with Niall and Rita last Saturday. The food was as lovely as ever. Great buzz too. I think I prefer Indian Summer to Ananda - it's a warmer place, it doesn't feel as stuffy, and the food is delicious. I tried a lamb starter this time (I know! Living dangerously, not going for the Starter Platter!), and it was succulent!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Any ideas for good books?

I haven't heard of any good book lately, so I'm down to re-reading ones I've read before. I've just finished Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy (one of my favourites, this is my 3rd time reading it, and I enjoyed it as much as the first time - it's such a big page turner, at 1349 pages, and it has so many stories running through it, including some very interesting insights into India's political parties in the early years of independence, but don't be put off by those - it's also a darn good story. I'll read it again in a few years' time), and Alessandro Baricco's Silk (91 pages, and a lot fewer words, all in unexpressed emotions).

I found a BBC interview of Vikram Seth, which I'd like to share with you.

So if you know any good books, let me know

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thai Palace, Ennis

On Tuesday night, we decided to eat outside the hotel (we had eaten in the Town Hall the night before, where the food sounded better than it tasted, if you know what I mean) and we went to the Thai Palace in Ennis. It doesn't look like much - the decor is a bit cheap and cheerful, but the food was lovely.

Brendan had a chicken satay for starter, with a very nice homemade satay sauce. I had the tiger prawns deep fried in filo pastry, with sweet chilli sauce.
The main course was what made it for us, a Chicken with chilli and basil for Brendan and a Prawn Yellow curry for me (very mild). Both very flavoursome.
And they have excellent icecream - we shared a vanilla and chocolate Moevenpick (which I had never heard of) ice cream, and it left us very happy indeed.

Service was good, and it was excellent value at a little over €50 for the 2 of us.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Loop Head

And this one is of a big wave breaking against the cliffs on the Loop Head drive. We got a lot of salt spray on the car. We had to refill the windscreen wiper water tank - we couldn't see anything through the windscreen there was so much salt on it.


Here is a picture taken from the seafront in Lahinch. In the summer, this is packed with surfers. Not at this time of the year - the sea was very rough and the wind was freezing. Plenty of big clouds too - very dramatic skies.


We went down to Clare last Sunday, for a 3-day mini-break, courtesy of the Woodies vouchers (€100 discount - one of the good things about Recession Ireland!)

We stayed in the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis, where we got an average room (not as nice as the one we stayed in a few years ago, and certainly not as luxurious as the ones showing on the website), but it was quiet and we slept really well, so we're not complaining. It was excellent value for money, and we were lucky with the weather, so we didn't spend that much time in the hotel.

On the 1st day, we toured from Lahinch to Doolin, Fanore and Ballyvaughan. It was cold and blustery and showery, but really invigorating.

On the 2nd day, we drove down South to the Loop Head peninsula, taking in the breathtaking cliff views of the coastline. We got plenty more sunshine than expected. The forecast for the few days was not good. We got a lot of rain on the way down on Sunday, but got 3 sunny days after that, a real bonus.
We took lots and lots of pictures, which we'll have to sift through now. Great inspiration for painting! I just need to find the time. I had brought my pencils with me, but didn't go near them. Where does the time fly?

China Sichuan

Tempus Fugit and all the rest - Hard to keep up with things.

Anyways, we went to the China Sichuan restaurant last night. It's nearly 2 months since we last went, so I thought it would be nice to see how they were settling in to their new premises. Very well apparently. They got a very good review from Tom Doorley last weekend, and were ranked in the Top 10 restaurants in Dublin in an article in the Sunday Independent.

Our going there was very much a spur of the moment. I rang at 6, and we managed to get a table for 6:30. It being Wednesday night, I wasn't expecting much trouble getting a table, but, according to the Maître d', the phones have been hopping since the favourable review, and the 1st dining room filled up quickly. Not bad for a Wednesday evening in Recession Ireland.

Brendan stuck to some of his favourite dishes, while I explored the specials - The prawn and ginger dumplings were sweet and light, and had a perfect consistency. A pity there was only 3. I would have eaten a dozen of them, they were so good! For my main course, I had the cod with corriander - perfectly cooked, with lovely flavours, and a bit of a kick to it, which I hadn't expected. We stayed away from desserts - I need to lose a bit of weight around the waist, and I'm not very successful at restraining my food intake!!

As always, there was a good buzz around the place. Must take my parents there over Christmas.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Blue Seas

This series was inspired by the Indian Ocean seen from Western Australia, from Perth to Margaret River. Such intensely blue skies, and dark seas.

Don't be surprised if you find one of these as your Christmas card this year (I can't be doing watercolour aboriginal snails every year, pretty as they were)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Blue Sea 2

Blue Sea

I got myself a BIG canvas today (762x610mm), to paint my cheap imitation (I'm using up vouchers I won in a Bord Gais competition this summer. Thank you Bord Gais!).

So, to get myself ready, I'm painting little squares (6x6cm) in acrylics. Eventually, I would love to paint one of these in a big size, but I don't think I'm ready for that yet (and I'll need to buy a lot of blue paint, big paint brushes, and a few palettes so I can mix enough paint in one go).

Let see how my cheap imitation goes first!

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Last night, I rediscovered an old favourite of mine, Mary Chapin Carpenter's album Come On Come On. I can't remember when I got it, was it a friend who had recommended it, or had I read about it at the time? A few months ago, I found this cassette tape (yes, it still works, and I still have a cassette player!) in my collection. I downloaded the album from an online shop last night and we listened to it for an hour. There are so many good songs on it, it's unbelievable, and it was such a joy to rediscover every single one of them. She is great with words ("Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug" is a pretty good example, I think!) and the melodies are only gorgeous. She is classified as a country artist, but to me, that's too limiting a classification.

If you'd like to see and hear her, check out YouTube, where you'll find plenty of concert footage - I like Come On Come On, Passionate Kisses, The Bug (despite the poor quality of the video!), and Only a Dream.

PS: I got the photograph from Wikipedia, and as far as I understand, almost all pictures from Wikipedia are licensed for re-use, which is good to know.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


I'm struggling a bit to keep my blog up to date these dates. Work is busy busy. We went to see Brendan's dad on Friday afternoon, and we worked today, so not much time for anything. Brendan is cooking dinner. I'm looking forward to our lamb, roast potatoes, braised celeri and carrots. It all smells delicious. My appetite has been whetted by working on the Bistro One website this evening, so I'll be ready for my food when it's ready.

Last Monday was a bank holiday, and we treated ourselves to an Indian meal out, in a new restaurant in Dundrum Town Centre, Ananda. We had heard about it, as it is a collaboration between the owners of the Jaipur restaurant and a celebrity chef who wrote one of Brendan's Indian recipe books. It got a good review in one of the Sunday papers, so we had to try it. It was hard to find, a few steps up from the Kentucky Fried Chicken upstairs from the cinemas. Not a great location for passing trade. But once you open the door, you're in a different world. It's very nicely done, modern ethnic design, a bit Las Vegas (big lampshades and 3 or 4 areas with a different feel to them), but very cosy all the same.

I tried a crab starter - it was very small, beautifully presented, and a bit rich to my taste, but I'm glad I didn't have any more, or I would have been even more of a beached whale by the end of the meal. Brendan had a spicy kebab I think - it was good, but too spicy for me (perfect for Brendan).

For main courses, we tried the combination dishes (I can't for the life of me remember what they're called) - Brendan had the meat/seafood combo, and I had the vegetarian one. We ended up with 4 dishes each, plus rice and naan breads. It was very rich, each with distinctive flavours. Very nice. Next time, I would probably try one of the other main dishes, but this was a good way to sample their menu.