Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bird

Brendan took this picture in Marley Park last week. Isn't it fantastic?


Willow

I have this idea of a big drawing of Willow's head, but I need to practise my drawing techniques first. I don't draw very neatly by nature, so I need to learn the skill. I'm not sure how to go about it except practise. And I haven't done any drawing all summer, so I'm a bit rusty. Practise is what I did this evening. I used a 3B for this, which tends to smudge. I'm going to have to use a drier pencil.


After drawing the full face, I tried to focus on the eyes. It looks a bit weird, like some Hindu deity! I find it very hard to get the shape right, which will be a problem when I try to draw this to a larger scale. I'm going to have to measure more and practise more. And that's just the right eye!


When I have the drawing figured out, I'd like to transfer it to watercolour - that will be a challenge of a completely different scale altogether!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Green Hills NZ

I'm finding very little time for painting these days. This is our busy time, workwise, so I need to snatch a few minutes here and there if I really want to practise. I just need to push myself a bit to get back into drawing and painting.What I really need to do is draw more, so I've set myself a difficult project: draw Willow. I've got a lovely picture of him I'm going to use, but I also want to do some action drawings.
In the meantime, here is the latest adventure, painted from a photo I took from the campervan in New Zealand:

Brendan likes it better than I do. I think it's a bit dull, but I'm quite proud of my greens (and of the fence, of course), which can be a bit of a struggle at times (it took 2 sets of Aboriginal snails to get them right!).

  • The green in the foreground is a mix of Hookers Green and Vanadium Yellow (my favourite colour when it comes to mixing greens!).
  • The green in the middle is an Emerald Green pencil from the Derwent AquaTone range.
  • The big hills in the foreground are Sap Green and Yellow Ochre.
  • And the hills in the background are Hookers Green and Yellow Ochre.

There you are - all my tricks revealed!

Here is the original photograph:









Life after E-days

We've settled back into our normal life after the extension was completed about a month ago. Although the builders are gone, we still have a few bits and pieces to finish, but seem to have very little time to get around to it. This week, the kitchen fitters were over to fit the last 2 panels, so it's nice and tidy now. We've ordered 2 new bins from Woodies. Actually, they were supposed to call today to let us know they were in. I'll have to call them tomorrow. Sometimes, I get really frustrated having to chase people. For instance: I've emailed our insurance company with a very simple question. So far, I've received 6 (SIX) automated emails, but no reply yet.

Got to go. Dinner is ready.

Knocked Up

Not Me! The Movie!

It was showing on one of the Sky channels during the week, and it was pleasant enough. Better than "27 Dresses", anyway, but that's not hard. The story is very simple. Katherine Heigl (of Grey's Anatomy fame) gets pregnant by a guy she met once in a club. He's a bit of a slob and a loser, but he is nice. She decides to keep the baby. Happy ever after (more or less). It wasn't as funny as I thought it would be. Actually, the funniest character in the whole thing was Heigl's boss's assistant, who doesn't particularly like Heigl. She's only in 2 scenes, but she was hilarious, very dead-pan, a bit like a character from The Office.

I really think that they don't make romantic comedies like in the old days, like When Harry Met Sally, Truly Madly Deeply or Moonstruck! You can probably guess my age from these movies!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Sopranos

We watched the last of The Sopranos on Friday night. We're a bit slow and we never got to watch it on TV. We just got the box sets over time, and we'd go through phases of watching an episode every few days to not watching them for months.

The last series was much better than the previous one I think, with all the cracks appearing, bit by bit. The ending was a surprise and a shock. I won't tell you what it was, just in case you're one of the last people on earth who hasn't seen the series, but all I'll say is that I was expecting a big shoot-out!

What will we watch now? We've started watching Mad Men, the series about the lives of advertising executives and their families in the 60s. And we're also watching NY-LON on 4OD. It's an oldish series, but we obviously missed it completely when it first came out.

And we must be due another Grey's Anatomy box set - I think we've seen Series 3.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Indian Summer

Yes, today is our Indian Summer, beautiful sunshine and warm air, but it is not what this is about. I went to the Indian Summer restaurant with Lucinda and Carmel last Thursday. We had a lovely evening there. It was busier than I expected at 7 o'clock when we arrived. We took our time and we were amongst the last few customers to leave. The food was lovely as usual. I didn't venture from my staples - starter platter & red snapper for main course. We had too much rice - next time, I must remember to order one rice less than there are people sharing, particularly if eating naans, which we did. We got a mixed naan basket, which included a sweet naan, with coconut. It tasted like a sweet pancake. Very tasty.
As Lucinda and Carmel were having tea and coffee, I decided to try the masala tea. A warming tea, with cinnamon and other spices (which I could not identify of course).

More furniture

It's taking longer than I thought to put the finishing touches to the house, but I think you need to live in the place for a while before you can decide on furniture and accessories. We have a table and chairs on order, which should arrive around the first week in October. Until then, we don't want to put in anything more in the extension itself, for fear of cluttering it.

We got a nice chair for the computer desk. It's a low chair from Instore - it's a bit Austin Powerish, but it's quite comfortable and I like its wacky colour. We found however that the chair was marking the floor, so we've put in our sitting room rug under it. The shape of it is wrong - it should be longer and narrower - but the colours look lovely by our Traby shelf. So, I guess we'll have to go looking for a new rug now.

We still have to paint the bannister and get carpet for the stairs and landing, but there always seems to be something else to do. We'll get there eventually!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Flat-Pack Man III

We went to Ikea one last time on Friday, to buy a kitchen trolley. We had been thinking about it for a while, but we wanted to see how we settled in the kitchen before buying more furniture. It was great to have all that floor space, but it was a long way back and forth from the fridge to the counter, getting my morning cereal ready.


So we got a Varde kitchen trolley, and Brendan assembled it beautifully.


That's it now, no more trips to Ikea until they open in Dublin, hopefully in the New Year. Though Carmel heard somewhere that there are further delays, to do with the M50. I guess they can't open until the M50 is ready to take on the extra traffic. Ah well!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rigoletto

Lucinda and I went to Rigoletto last Thursday, at the Gaiety Theatre. We got the Luas in and barely made it in time. We were literally the last 2 to get in before they closed the doors - we had just left it a bit too tight, and the curtain up was at 7:30 sharp, as advertised. I find that classical concerts are one of the few things that start on time in this country - probably to do with the musicians' union rules or something.

The show was part of the Anna Livia Dublin International Opera Festival, whose founder and artistic director is Bernadette Greevy.

We both enjoyed the night, as the singing and the acting was gorgeous. The sets, on the other hand, were dreadful, really plasticky (I'm talking plastic grapes in bowls here!), and didn't work well in such a dynamic opera, where some of the scenes include 2 viewpoints, e.g. Gilda and Rigoletto outside Sparfucile's house and Sparfucile and his sister Maddalena inside. Very hard to present this in a realistic way. The first time I saw Rigoletto at an Opera Ireland production, it was done in a much more modern, abstract way, which worked much better.

But that said, the sets didn't really matter, given the strength of the top 3 singers, Scott Piper (The Duke of Mantua), Mikolaj Zalasinski (Rigoletto, the court jester) and Talise Trevigne (Gilda, Rigoletto's daughter). All 3 were fantastic singers, and excellent actors too.

Scott Piper's duke of Mantua managed not only to seduce all the women onstage, but also the audience offstage (despite being a little bit overweight!).

Mikolaj Zalasinski had probably the toughest role, as Rigoletto is onstage more or less through the whole opera - a fantastic actor - he plays the court jester who finds that the whole court is against him when the Duke of Mantua seduces his daughter - He managed to bring a lot of energy to the character of Rigoletto, while at the same time making you feel sorry for Rigoletto's plight. His voice was fantastic throughout.

And Talise Trevigne's Gilda was a real surprise - I thought she brought out Gilda's rebellious streak out perfectly. Her Gilda is not just an innocent young woman who falls (and is fallen by) the wrong man. She is her own woman who decides to take her life in her own hands (for the wrong reasons, of course, silly girl!) rather than following what daddy says. She had the most beautiful and powerful voice. And she is a stunning-looking woman, with the highest cheekbones I've ever seen!

For a clip of Ms Trevigne, check out RTE's The View. (You will need Real Player to play the clip)

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Return of Flat-Pack Man

After a well-deserved break from his furniture-building duties, Flat-Pack Man is back. Today, he built my Malm bedside table (pick the oak veneer option). It integrates beautifully with our Malm bed, and it's bigger than you'd think. I thought that I would have to find alternative storage for some of the items I had in my previous (Protea Pine) bedside table, but not so. It all fits perfectly, and I have some spare capacity.

I just love re-arranging things in new presses and drawers - it's all so neat and tidy!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yoga

I'm a devoted yoga student - I've been going to classes in Airfield for years. But our teacher, Patricia Murphy, had to move her classes to St John's GAA in Marley Park, as Airfield didn't want to have classes in the evenings any more. Apparently, it cost them too much to keep someone there to close up if there was only one class. You'd think they would have tried to attract other classes. It's a great location, with plenty of car parking, but I get the feeling that they couldn't be bothered. Go figure!

Anyways, we had our first class in the new spot on Tuesday, and it was quite nice - a nice big room with a wooden floor, and views of Marley. The only hassle is that I can't walk to it any more, but Lucinda and I will alternate the driving, so it won't be so bad. The traffic was OK, we got there in less than 15 minutes, so we can't complain.

The class was lovely, and I'm looking forward to getting fit over the next few months. We haven't been great at going to the gym during the summer, as we had to be home for the builders, so I feel I need to get into shape - and tone up those batwing arms and flabby thighs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Salmon Fish Cakes

Who needs another recipe book when you have Recipes to Nurture? The recipes are healthy and easy - perfect for me in other words.



I tried the salmon fish cakes yesterday, and it was another big success for Aine McAteer! I had a bit of trouble with my breadcrumbs - I never thought of using our hand-held food processor to make breadcrumbs, so they were chunky and the little patties looked a bit silly with bits of bread sticking out. But it all worked out in the end when it was cooked. We slightly overcooked them, but they were tasty all the same.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Books

I'm still reading "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth. 3rd time and still enjoying it, but I only get to read 3 or 4 pages a day, so I've got another few weeks before I'm done with it. Anybody got any good books to recommend?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

China Sichuan

What will I talk about now that the extension is all done? I think I'll just go back to my good old topics: watercolours, books, eating out, music. Not quite as focussed as a blog about building an extension, but it doesn't really matter.

So, let's get started!

We tried out the new China Sichuan last night. They recently moved from their old haunt in Stillorgan to a beautiful new restaurant in The Forum, Ballymoss Road in Sandyford Industrial Estate. It's a strange location. Not that easy to drive to - a lot of one way streets in the estate make it difficult to reach. The simplest way to get to it is to park in the Luas car park and walk across the road. It's at the bottom of one of the apartment blocks in a quiet cul-de-sac just across the way from the Stillorgan Luas stop. Once you're in, you forget you are in an Industrial Estate, so don't be put off by it.

We decided to make an evening of it, and invited Padraig and Mary, who were regular diners in the Stillorgan location, within close walking distance of their house.

We arrived around 6:30, and were greeted by Kevin. We were seated in the quieter of the 2 dining rooms, which suited us perfectly. The air conditioning was a bit cold, but the Maître d' promptly adjusted it on our request and we were very comfortable for the rest of the evening.

The décor is a lot more tasteful than in the old location, very posh and discreet, with a few hints at Chinese influences, such as a bamboo glass panel, a black lacquer screen with Chinese characters. The tables are bigger too, and we were a good distance from the next table.

There was a good buzz about the place, and by the time we left, at about 8:30, our dining room had filled up with a big party at a long table behind us.

The staff seem to be mostly new. Kevin did the meeting and greeting, while his parents seemed to keep more of a background role. There were a good few waiters around, all looking very professional. The Maître d' is Irish, and very polished. He knew his menu inside out (a much smaller menu, it has to be said, but nicely complimented by specials - more about these shortly) and was very good at explaining the various dishes that we asked about. He also described the specials very well, tempting us into trying 3 out of the 4 specials - a pork dumpling, a pork belly main dish, and a pork liver starter. I had the liver of course, and it was to die for, very thinly cut, well cooked and very sweet, and perfectly complemented by a dark sweet sauce. The boys had a starter platter, with some of the China Sichuan's old favourites - shredded squid, bon-bon chicken and cold spice beef, along with a spring roll and another dumpling-type dish. I thought the presentation of the starter platter wasn't great - it was a bit packed together on a small plate, and it could have done with a few colourful vegetables to liven it up - the colour was too brown and not very appealing. Mary had the dumpling, which was served in the bambou basket and looked very nice.

For main courses, we had the crispy pork belly (delicious, with a simple mustard - it should have been served with some veggies on the side maybe), prawn with ginger and spring onion (simple but nice), a spicy kung po (I think?) chicken (served spicy as requested) and a hot pot chicken dish (I can't remember what it was called - it was a very homely dish, in a nice sauce, and even a few potatoes).

And for dessert, we persuaded Padraig to order the Peoni special (it tasted a bit like a fig roll, and was presented beautifully, like 3 little peoni flowers opening - I was the only one to like it), Brendan had a mango custard dish (not bad - would be lovely on a hot summer night), and Mary and myself had the toffee banana - the good old banana fritter, but presented beautifully, as 6 or 7 little banana fritter balls, dipped into a toffee sauce by the waiters while we watched, and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. It was delicious, needless to say.

I really enjoyed the experience, and we were pleasantly surprised by the bill - roughly the same as in the old place. It has lost a bit of the feeling of the old restaurant, where you felt you could go on a Tuesday night if there was nothing in the fridge. This is definitely more the place for a special meal, but that's not going to stop us. We'll be back.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

That's it

The last of the pictures:






Glossy or what? I've just spent the last hour cleaning these kitchen doors. Just as well we don't have children with grubby little hands, or I'd be going mad!


I'm going to have to find something else to talk about now.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

And more

There are only 2 more pictures, I promise. We're still tidying up the house, so it's not 100% ready for viewing. We were expecting the fitter from Craftstone today, but then Ernest told us it would be next week - no explanation why. So, we still don't have our bin unit and the back panel for the breakfast bar.



I emptied the last of the boxes this evening, and we still have a few bits and pieces that need to be sorted in the front bedroom. I think we'll tackle painting the bannisters this weekend (it's that or do the cleaning and ironing, as our cleaning lady has quit!), and then we can order a new carpet for the stairs and landing (we're currently down to the under-carpet mat, so it's not pretty).


Next time we're in Ikea, we're going to get plenty more boxes to fit in the Traby shelf. The little CD box sets you see here are very handy for bits and pieces. And we also have bigger red boxes for bulkier items.