Thursday, December 31, 2009

MHBD's Mouth

OK, I probably won't get a chance to draw my nose today - busy with other things and the weather is good, so I'm planning to get out and about (or maybe I'm using delaying tactics, as my nose is not my favourite part of my anatomy).

But I drew my mouth yesterday, so there you go:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Face bits

I've started a little drawing project. I'm drawing a bit of my face each day. When it's done, I'll assemble it all in Photoshop Elements!

Yesterday, I did the eyes (following a technique from a book called "secrets to drawing realistic faces" by Carrie Stuart Parks - I didn't do my glasses - that's more advanced!):


Tomorrow the nose!!

Netherland

I'm using our few days off to catch up on all my arty things: drawing, painting, blogging. The weather is helping - it's been completely miserable, raining non-stop for the last 2 days. I haven't stepped outside today - Willow only went out once, and came back in 10 minutes later, all mucky. We had to catch him at the door and wipe his paws with kitchen paper (it's a 2-person job). He'll probably run around the house like a lunatic tonight, full of energy, all cooped up, bored and dying to get out.

But I didn't start this post planning to tell you all about our cat. I was going to talk about a book I read a few weeks ago, Netherland by Joseph O'Neill. Well, I'll try anyway, as I find it very hard to remember any details from books or movies after a month or so.

It's the story of Hans, a Dutch guy who lives in New York. After 9/11, his English wife is a freaked out and put off by the new America, she leaves him and goes back home with their young son. He is lonely and takes up cricket, a game he used to play as a kid. The other players are all immigrants, from the Caribbean and India. He's the only white man on the team. He becomes friends with a man from Trinidad - Chuck Ramkissoon. Friends may be a big name - there is a lot that he doesn't know about him, but it doesn't seem to bother him. Hans eventually goes back to England and is told a few years later that Chuck has been found dead in suspicious circumstances soon after his departure.

Don't let the cricket theme put you off. I know nothing about the game (or any game, not even tennis, for that matter), but I managed the technical terms no problem. It's an absorbing story, lonely and intense. I find it's very much a book of 2 halves - I wasn't that interested in Hans's life back in England, I have to admit, but I felt very much pulled in to his world in New York. There are mentions of The Great Gatsby in some of the reviews - I have to admit that's lost on me. It's a long time since I read that book, but I don't see any connections - Ok, maybe the shock of WWI vs the shock of 9/11, and the shady connections of a central character. But that's a bit stretched, isn't it? Mmm. I wonder if I still have The Great Gatsby anywhere, or maybe I'll find the Robert Redford movie somewhere...

Pan's Labyrinth


We watched Pan's Labyrinth on the telly last night (recorded a few weeks ago). I had heard about it at the Oscars, and thought it was a movie about the fantastic world into which a little girl retreats to escape reality. What I didn't realise was that the reality she is running away from is the brutality of Spain in 1944 after the civil war, with her step-father a sadistic captain fighting rebels hidden in the mountains. Yes, there is a fantasy world and the special effects are wonderful, but the real world is depicted in stark detail too, so be warned - some scenes were so graphic I couldn't watch.

An excellent movie. Very dark. No happy ending. Well worth seeing, but don't expect to be uplifted - this is not Hollywood. And definitely not one for the children.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bushy Park Watercolour

I've cut out the ugly lumpy leaves (not literally - I cropped the picture in Photoshop Elements - I then created a collage in Picasa with the pieces and picked one of the dark blues from the painting as a background). Much nicer. Photograph is a bit blurred. I'll take another one tomorrow if the sun shines - you can't beat natural light.








Bushy Park Watercolour


I finished the Bushy Park painting yesterday. After completing the reflections in the water (they worked out quite well actually), I removed the last bit of masking fluid and painted the leaves on the big tree. I then added a few splashes towards the bottom left - it was a bit empty there and the water's edge just disappeared in a line that took the eye straight out of the painting. After a few splashes of green in the top right corner, I felt the painting was well balanced. And I'm pretty happy with my tree on the right - I had masked it with masking film (the best thing for big shapes), and then I applied well-diluted ochre over the whole surface, and then a mix of payne's grey, ultramarine and lemon yellow for the shadows.

The green and gold leaves don't look so good, though - my masking fluid was giving me trouble, and I didn't define the shapes sharply enough. What was to be the crisp highlight of the painting ended up lumpy. The rest is pretty nice, and I've learned plenty. I might try out a bit of masking fluid on board again tomorrow and see what happens. I've got a fresh bottle and I'll try various application techniques - I'm not sure about the incredible nib - it keeps its shape all right, but I found it hard to draw a precise shape with it. Maybe I'll use one of my Uggly Brushes from Cheap Joes instead. Or maybe my drawing of the leaves was lumpy in the first place...

Check out this website for instructions on how to use masking fluid.

Willow under cover

Mary, Padraig, ... do not read any further. You will not like what you see!

Willow sleeps in the front bedroom, on the bed - during the day, he finds shelter in an Ikea laundry basket turned on its side - it's dark, it's cosy, nothing can attack from behind. At night, he favours a white teeshirt that I've strategically placed against a pillow towards the top of the bed.

But that's our guest bedroom. On the rare occasions when we have visitors, Willow has to find somewhere else to sleep (there are many soft chairs, sofas and beds for him to choose from).

However, he feels he's been evicted from his room and he's not one bit pleased. My parents close the bedroom door when they go to bed, so they don't get trampled upon in the middle of the night. But during the day, there's nobody there to guard access. Last Monday or Tuesday, I saw Willow strolling into the room. Then I saw his tail disappear under the quilt at the end of the bed, just beside the pillow my mother uses to elevate her legs. A warm spot - he stayed there for hours, and didn't even leave when my Mum went in for a nap in the afternoon. Cute or what!? (or horrifying, depending on your attitude towards cats!)

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Creative Licence


Check out this blog from the author of The Creative Licence, one of the books that Santa brought me this Christmas.

The plan is that his book is going to inspire me to draw and paint more and more! No more excuses! (and if you still feel there aren't enough hours in the day, here is one for you: http://www.dannygregory.com/?p=1148)

Christmas holidays

Slowly re-emerging after Christmas. My parents were over for the last week. They left yesterday lunchtime, after a good week, plenty of relaxation and good food (and Trains Trains Trains on the History HD channel!).

It will take me a little while to get back into the swing of things, after re-taking possession of our house. Spent most of today on my current watercolour project. Have got plenty more drawing and painting to do, and plenty of books and brushes and paper and paints to help me along the way!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bushy Park Watercolour

I'm onto my next project - back to watercolours for a bit. Much more familiar territory than acrylics, though my still life is encouraging enough.

I'm trying a pouring and splashing technique - great fun but very messy - my curtains are full of little dark dots, and I was glad of my new Cheap Joes' apron (my anniversary present!).


Masked the leaves and tree trunks. Poured about a dozen different colours and tilted the board back and forth to try to merge them gently. Then started splashing colour from the right.


And went on splashing from right to left. Half way through, I decided to do the water separately. I'm not sure how that's going to work for the reflections I've already painted. I'll have to float water through the lower half of the painting and hope that the existing greens and purples lift enough to look watery, but not so much that they start mixing and going muddy.

Airport rant

Snow brought chaos to airports around Northern Europe. And technology fails when you need it most. The site for Charleroi airport has been struggling all day, and now appears to be completely down. Thankfully, we had the DAA (Dublin Airport Authority?) site to keep us informed (better than their telephone helpline, which was so automated, it could only tell you that a flight was supposed to have departed 45 minutes earlier, but could not actually tell you whether that flight had taken off or not, and if not when it might take off!)

Town

Went into town yesterday for an hour or two - we had a few bits and pieces to pick up from Asia Market (it looks nothing like the photo - I think this is their "trade-only" warehouse in some industrial estate), so we decided to have a little potter around, to soak up the pre-Christmas atmosphere. There wasn't as much of a buzz as I had expected - while the streets were busy, the shops were not. Pleasant if you were buying something, but a bit disappointing if you were just looking like me!

Sad to say, but the atmosphere was much more festive in Dundrum Town Centre, where there was a big choir on the top floor singing carols for charity, that put you in Christmas mood as you walked in. The shops were fairly quiet (it was after 5 so I would expect that - though the centre was open until 9 pm last night). I asked a shop assistant in Marks & Spencers if they'd been busy, and she said it had been a steady stream, and this was the first time it was quiet in the whole day. The Belgian Truffles were still half price (so we bought another 2 boxes) and the big Belgian tin of biscuits was well reduced too (1kg cheaper than the 400g tin), so we stocked up on those too. You can never have enough of Belgian goodies!

Traffic was chaotic around the car park exits. We were walking so we didn't care (except it was very cold).

But what happened to the ice rink? It was closed, which we found very strange at 5pm. There were plenty of teenagers in the shopping centre, who, I'm sure, would have been happy to spend an hour or two ice-skating. There is no mention of it on the website - strange?

Hey, just found this on Boards.ie: "Hi everyone, just wondering if anyone knows why the Dundrum ice rink is not opening now? It was all set to go, so much work was done and it looked great and then they posted this on their Facebook? 
Dundrum On Ice* * * * * * * * Friday 11th December. We regret that due to circumstances beyond our control Dundrum on Ice has been cancelled for this season. People who have booked tickets through our on-line system will be refunded directly to the credit or laser card used to make the booking. Refunds will be processed within the next 7 days." I wonder did they have problems getting insurance or something like that?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Le corbeau et le renard

I was thinking of the Fables de La Fontaine the other day. I could remember the start of "Le corbeau et le renard", but the ending words were eluding me. I was looking at Le Soir today (it snowed in Belgium!) and found that Les Fables de La Fontaine was their recommended book for the week. So, I googled it and here we are:


Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché,
Tenait en son bec un fromage.
Maître Renard, par l'odeur alléché,
Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
"Hé ! bonjour, Monsieur du Corbeau.
Que vous êtes joli ! que vous me semblez beau !
Sans mentir, si votre ramage
Se rapporte à votre plumage,
Vous êtes le Phénix des hôtes de ces bois."
A ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie ;
Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.
Le Renard s'en saisit, et dit : "Mon bon Monsieur,
Apprenez que tout flatteur
Vit aux dépens de celui qui l'écoute :
Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute. "
Le Corbeau, honteux et confus,
Jura, mais un peu tard, qu'on ne l'y prendrait plus. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Veggie Loaf

Brendan treated me to lunch in Airfield last Saturday - I had a delicious veggie/nutty loaf with the standard 3 salads - generous portions and the loaf was tasty. The food is a bit "ladies who lunch", but it was good value and very enjoyable

The Other Boleyn Girl


I read the book a couple of years ago and loved it. So I got the movie on the web as a download for my iPod Touch, but it wasn't the one I was expecting - I thought I was getting the BBC drama, but I got the Hollywood movie instead, with Nathalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson as the 2 Boleyn sisters. Very lavish, beautiful costumes, and a good film overall. Nathalie Portman's portrayal of Anne Boleyn in particular I thought was excellent - seductive, manipulative, but ultimately doomed by her failure to produce a son for the king.

Yoga

After many years with Patricia Murphy, Lucinda and I decided in the summer that we wanted to try out a new yoga teacher. We found that Patricia was veering more towards fitness training than pure yoga, and it didn't appeal to us as much. So we found Lisa Burke, of the Danu Yoga Centre, through a hill-walking friend of Lucinda's. I tried a few drop-in classes in the summer, and we decided to enroll in September. We haven't looked back since. Plenty of stretches, breathing and relaxation, and also lots of challenging postures. We're learning new things at every class, new ways to twist and bend our bodies. And it's all in good fun - I feel happy after the class, uplifted and full of the joys of life. And the room is warm and softly lit, with pillows and cosy blankets at the ready for our relaxation at the end of our practice.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Solitaire

I've always been a fan of Solitaire on my computer. I find it's the best way to clear the mind before starting work. But I'm fully aware it's an addiction, really. When I used to work in Gecap (a long time ago), we had Tetris on our machines, and I could spend ages playing (if I had nothing else to do and if Mervyn wasn't in the office, which is not that often, now that I think of it!). I definitely don't want Tetris on my computer here, or that will be the end of my productive life!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Sound


This is my second preparatory painting - acrylic on board (about 21cm square). The photograph doesn't do it justice (I find it very hard to take pictures of acrylics, as the light bounces off them more than from watercolours). The black background has made a huge impact - even the yellows work better.

The big question now is what size to go for - from what I've read on the web, the original is only 37 cm square. I thought it would be much bigger. I'm thinking of 60 cm square (it would fit on the pillar in the extension), but I'm not sure if the colours will hit off each other if the squares are too big. They currently are 1.5 cm each. I would have to make them about 5 cm each (roughly the same size as the squares on my Christmas cards). I don't know if the eye will process them in the same way. Right now, when I look at my mock-up, I see it as one unit, and the colours bounce off each other. Will 5cm squares sing the same song? Well, we won't know until we try, shall we?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ancient Sound, Abstract on Black

The clue is in the title - I'm now going to try it with a black undercoat before I paint the vibrant colours over. I've just completed a small practice run on bristol board, but it just doesn't sing to me.

A closer observation of the original online (seen below) is telling me that black is the foundation that makes the colours sparkle.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Intermission


Brendan got a loan of the Intermission DVD from Niall last week, and we watched it a few days ago. It was better than I expected, but I think that Brendan found it somewhat disappointing. It's an Irish movie, with Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney (of Star Trek fame), Cillian Murphy (known for his piercing blue eyes), Kelly MacDonald (she was in No Country for Old Men) and a few other familiar faces from the Irish cinema scene.

It's a gangster story, and it's also a love story (or multiple love stories). It's funny in parts, and violent in others. I found that the opening scene was quite a shocker. I'll say no more. I enjoyed it because it didn't take itself too seriously, but I think that's what Brendan didn't like about it - the fact that it's all a bit too slapstick. Also the fact that the acting style came straight out of "Fair City" (an Irish soap that neither of us can stand, as the acting is wooden and the lines all too predictable!).

Note that the credits state that "no animal was killed in the making of this movie". I wonder was the sheep already dead?

Still Life - Final

I finished my Still Life painting a couple of weeks ago, but was waiting for a bright day to take the photo without flash. Dimension is 23x30cm. It looks quite well in the sunshine (sunny and mild day today! Really lovely)

Next project? A commission from Brendan - he would like a big painting for the top of the stairs, something along the lines of Ancient Sound by Paul Klee. Looks easy? I'm experimenting with colours at the moment, and it's not looking too good. Maybe it will all come together when I fill in the last square, but right now it's too grey and brown for my taste (and I'm only using 3 colours + white + black).

Maybe I should go for completely different colours. I was quite inspired by the "Creatures of the Deep" episode of the BBC's Life series (narrated by David Attenborough). By the way, if you're curious about the technicalities behind it all, you'll find more information in the Wikipedia article - for instance: Do they film everything in the wild? How can they film a moving herd from a distance in a helicopter and it all looks so smooth?

The deep reds and browns on the starfish in the Antarctic, the flashing purples and whites of the mating and fighting cuttlefish, and of course the complete spectrum of the Great Barrier reef corals and fish. All wonderful hues, but which ones to pick?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

New Facebook Profile Picture


Since I got my hair cut and I got new glasses, I thought I would change my Facebook profile picture. Should I do the same for my Blog picture?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Gathering

When I started reading The Gathering by Anne Enright, I thought "aah - this is going to be a great book". But it lost its way after a few dozen pages. I thought the end was good too (though I can't for the life of me remember what it is), but I found that the middle part (80% of it) was dull. Maybe it's because I'm not Irish, but I find the stories of drunks in big Irish families too tedious for my liking. Well written no doubt, but not enough for me. Maybe I was expecting too much, as it won the Booker prize after all, but I was disappointed.

Gongs and Ananda

Last Saturday night, we went to Gongs with Lucinda & Ted. Food was good, and there was a great buzz, which helped me forget how dreary the red and black walls look. I had the salt&pepper squid for starter - it was a bit chewy, and there was too much of it, but it left a gorgeous tingle on the lips. For my main course, I chose the ginger, spring onion and chilly prawns. And I was surprised by how hot it was, just like the last time I ate there (granted, it was well over 6 months ago)! I should make better note of what I order, so I remember to try something else next time. Banana fritters and ice-cream was perfect dessert. Lovely evening.

Last night, we were out again, this time at Ananda's, with Niall & Rita. Had a great night. Service was poor, though - one girl (she had her dark hair up in a sophisticated up-do - "you know who you are") in particular had too much attitude and not enough customer care - she handed me the menu before I even got a chance to sit at the table, and didn't offer to take our coats. And when we told her we hadn't yet decided on our desserts, she nearly flicked her hair at us before turning her heels! No tip was left. What do you expect! But the food was good - Brendan's prawns were a tad overcooked, unfortunately, but mine were perfect (I had the seafood curry - prawns, white fish and a crab claw in a rich spicy bisque). My starter was delicious - guinea fowl with a coriander and lime marinade, and a yogurt and pomegranate side sauce that complemented it well. And 3 chips (I originally thought there were only 2, so finding the 3rd one under the breast of guinea fowl was a bonus!). The place was packed. The decor is gorgeous. Pity about the service. We've been there other times and the service has been perfect (the waiters there are generally more attentive than the waitresses, I find.). And when we went out, we found that it had been raining heavily, sleet actually, and the roads were quite slushy. But I managed to drive without skidding (Brendan tells me our car is a 4-wheel drive, which should handle quite well in these conditions). Rita and I admired each other's Boden clothes. And we discovered that Boden's men clothes are pretty good too!

The View

Every so often, I rediscover The View, the movie, literary and theatre review show presented by John Kelly. And I really enjoy it. It's such a mentally stimulating show, with intelligent discussion about the latest cinema and book releases.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Still Life - Step 4

Still a bit of tidying up to do with my shadows (the bottle's shadow is not the same direction as the jar's) and with the background curtain (not quite sure how to fix this - I think I need to simplify it, rather than render every fold in the light fabric). The 2nd picture, with the original setup and the photograph shows the colours better, in a more natural light, but do bear in mind that the painting is of the still life in artifical light, coming from the top and left, not with light from the window at the back.




Books

Just finished reading Doghead by Morten Ramsland, a book that Lisa recommended to me (She read it in Danish, naturally).
The New York Times review above gives a fair summary of the story.
While I enjoyed the story itself, despite its bleakness (alcohol abuse seems to be the root cause of a lot of evil in the Eriksson family's world), I didn't feel much warmth for the characters. Maybe they were too extreme in their behaviour, or maybe there were too many of them, and not enough time to develop each of them fully.
It's a good story, a bit of a farce in parts, and very bleak in others. Did I enjoy reading it? Yes. Would I read it again? Probably not.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Macbeth

Not the play, but the opera by Verdi. Macbeth was playing at the Gaiety Theatre last night, as part of the Opera Ireland season. Brendan accompanied me, and we enjoyed it. It was set in a strange time/place. Some of the costumes looked like WW I uniforms, others 20s and 40s party dresses, while some other scenes were reminiscent of Holocaust movies. I would have prefered something a bit more neutral in terms of setting, or at least more consistent. That said, the production was visually very strong - clever hanging windows/arches that were moved, turned, and even swung at high speed during a battle scene. Very few props, but stiking - I can't shake off the vision of drops of blood falling onto a white chair in the middle of the stage.

Singing was good too - I particularly liked the Canadian soprano Michele Capalbo who played Lady Macbeth (follow that link to the end of the page to see her sing one of the songs from the opera for The View). She's obviously well used to filling much bigger opera houses with her beautifully powerful voice.

I didn't warm as much to Bruno Caproni's Macbeth - but I think it was just me - he got a major ovation at the end of the show. His singing was fine - I just had portrayed Macbeth in my head as a more cunning, calculating, cold, persona, and I found it hard to take him seriously in his ill-fitting uniform.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Movies

Watched a few movies on the telly in the last few weeks, some better than others:

Terminator 4: Watched that in our hotel in Westport - it was free - Just as well. I would have been very annoyed at paying good money for such rubbish. The fact that the quality of the picture was very poor didn't help. Even Christian Bale didn't manage to lift this movie out of its messy plot.

Swingers: Apparently it's the movie that put Vince Vaughn's name on the map. All I'll say is that he's put on an awful lot of weight since then. It was OK, but it didn't really do it for me.

Solaris - the original Russian movie. Very slow, very heavy, but makes a lot more sense than the Hollywood remake with George Clooney.

Goodbye Solo - saw that in the IFI a few weeks back. Very depressing - set in an industrial town in North Carolina, it's about an elderly man who is thinking of killing himself. A Senegalese taxi driver befriends him and tries to get him to connect with life again. Most of the shots are in the taxi, at night, so it's very dark - literally. The reviews were good, but it didn't work for me. "...a celebration of life" (Screen Daily's review quote on the website)? Not the movie I saw!

Raising Arizona - now that's a great movie - about Holly Hunter, an ex-cop who finds she can't have children and Nicolas Cage, her husband, an ex-convict, who will do anything to satisfy her need for a child. Completely mad - it's the Coen Brothers of course.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

World Cup

I'm probably the only person in the country not watching the world cup qualifier match between Ireland and France. We were beaten by France on Saturday, and the 2nd match is now taking place in France. We switched on the telly at the start of the 2nd half - It's  Ireland 1, France 0, so lots of hope in Irishmen's hearts everywhere.

I think I'll potter here for a while instead!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Baking

Last week, I baked my Aine McAteer signature chocolate chip cookies... and they failed! Major shock, they were all flat and crumbly (they tasted good though). What had gone wrong? I thought initially that my oven wasn't hot enough, as I had only turned it on halfway through the preparation.

But Brendan helped me figure it out ("What's different?" is his usual question in these situations) - and then I remembered that the dough looked quite gooey and flat before I put the trays in the oven. And the only thing different were my new Ikea mixing bowls! The theory is that there is some small amount of silicone left from the moulding (apparently, silicone is used so that the bowls don't stick to the moulds), and silicone makes the dough go flat.

So, I need to give them a good wash before I use them again. (And in case you're wondering, yes, they were washed in the dishwasher before I used them for the first time!)

I tested the theory by immediately baking another set, using my good old glass mixing bowl (well, it's really a salad bowl, which is why I so wanted the Ikea mixing bowls). And I baked the most beautiful cookies ever. Brendan was happy to eat them all, with plenty of help from me!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Still Life - Step 3

More layers. It's starting to look a bit more exciting, isn't it? Now that the shapes are more or less right (I did extend the bottleneck), I have started to give the objects a three-dimensional shape, by adding shading and highlights. I'm also working on the shadows behind the jar - but that needs a few more layers to look realistic, so bear with me. And no, it's not smoke coming out of the bottle, it's creases in the curtain behind it - more to do there too. And I need to fix the jar lid on the left - I think I know how I'm going to do that, hopefully without messing it all up.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic


Brendan has some special offer whereby we can download 10 free movies for my iPod Touch. I've downloaded 5 so far, and I watched Confessions of a Shopaholic last week. It's not quite as good as the book. But it's good fun - with no moral at the end of the story - and full of colour - blue, purple, orange, pink, and of course green - and so many clothes and accessories (most of them quite ugly, to be honest).

The idea is the same as the book, but the story is told differently in terms of when crucial things happen and how the characters interact - for instance, at the start of the movie, she's not working in a finance publication, but in a garden magazine. And how she handles the Finnish business partner is completely different. But it worked for me. If you're in the humour for something light and fluffy...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nice Tree in Bushy Park


Still Life - Step 2

I'm sure an art teacher would tell me to stop writing, start painting. But it is important to me to record my progress (or lack thereof), so you'll have to put up with me!


When you thought I hadn't been doing much, here is Step 2! First coat of colour (there is a name for it, but I've forgotten what it is) done on Sunday. Then I used white paint (which is not the same white as the canvas, but that's ok, as I'm going to be painting the background anyway) to correct mistakes in shapes. I think it's important to get the basic shapes right before I go into the detail. You would have thought that my bottle would be symmetrical, after all that measuring - It was not. I had to shave off about 2 mm on the right-hand side. The toughest bit is to get the "bumps" symmetrical, both on the bottle and the vase. Not quite there yet (and maybe never will be), but what I'm going to focus on for now is the height of the bottleneck. I'll take the opportunity to adjust the green of the bottle. After that I'll do my background, then the highlights and shadows - I haven't decided yet if I'm going to go for a natural or artificial light. I'll take a couple of photographs at the weekend and then I'll decide.

Does the vase look a bit too squat, I wonder? I'll have to remeasure. Though this photograph is taken from a higher point than when I'm sitting at the desk - hard to know when you have a height-adjustable chair.

Still Life - Step 1


I did get over my fear of the blank canvas eventually - I decided to measure, like I'd learned with Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain a few years ago (I do learn these things, then I move on to the next book and forget it all - by the way I just saw on the website there that they now supply a full portfolio to help you get started, with an angle finder and a proportion finder - both look like very useful tools - I don't have too much trouble with angles, but I am dreadful at measuring proportions with a pencil). I used my viewfinder, marked the major lines on it, then transcribed these to my canvas, and drew the shapes from there. I measured to ensure that my bottle was symmetrical, and I measured the height as well - though I have to make some adjustments to the bottleneck height - it's a bit too short.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Undiscovered Dublin

23 years in Dublin, and there are still places I haven't seen, or rather hadn't seen. I've crossed 2 off the list this weekend - Cabinteely Park and Bushy Park.

The forecast for yesterday was bad, wind, rain, cold, so we decided to go for an early walk, as it was dry. The day didn't turn out as wet as forecast, but we didn't know that at 10 o'clock. So we headed to Cabinteely Park. It never really brightened up, and we didn't see it at its best. We didn't find any car park (we parked in a nearby estate), but I do see from the map that there is a carpark. It's got good paths throughout, but it's not very exciting - just big lawns and a few trees and a kids' area. Will have to go back there on a sunny day to see if it's any better then.

Today was gloriously sunny, and we spent a good part of the day outdoors. We went to Airfield after lunch to check out progress on their pond (it's finished). Overall, the farm and grounds were in good shape, which is nice to see, as we had found that it was a bit neglected the last time we were over.


The highlight of the weekend for me was our walk in Bushy Park this morning. We drive by it several times a week coming and going from customers in the Terenure and Rathfarnham area, but we never stopped. I can't believe such a lovely park was so close to us all along and we never knew it. There is a multitude of paths, some following the Dodder, some inside the walls of the park, in woodlands, around ponds, big greens, up and down steps, there is plenty of variety, there is even a little kiosk where you can buy coffee to go. Some parts were busy with Sunday dog-walkers, strollers and joggers, other parts were really quiet. It's much larger than I expected, and on a day like today, it looked gorgeous. We'll definitely be back.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Blank Canvas

I'm doing all I can to avoid the moment when I have to start drawing the bottle and vase onto my blank canvas.
Last weekend, I happily mixed colours for my Christmas Cards. This weekend so far, I've spent time doing laundry, tidying up and baking (and also looking at funny websites - check these out on my Twitter - I still don't really get the point of this Twitter thing, but hey, I have to keep up with the times)

Maybe tomorrow!

In the meantime, those on our Christmas list will receive a little square cut out from this piece!


Perfect Biscuits?

As you know, I'm a regular baker of Aine McAteer's choc chip cookies - they are heavenly. A few weeks ago, I bought gorgeous cookie cutters in Ikea - lots of animal shapes, including a beautiful reindeer. So I tried another of Aine's biscuit recipes, designed for cutting into shapes, but it didn't work out for me. I'm not sure if it's because I didn't have enough arrowroot for thickening (I had only a little bit left - the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons). Somehow, I don't think it would have made much difference. My dough was really sticky. I floured the surface, and I floured the rolling pin, but the dough stuck to everything. And when I tried to cut it, the shape fell apart straight away (I knew that was going to happen, but I had to try it anyway.) I don't come from a baking background (my mum is famous for burning pancake mix, and while my granny was a great cook, I don't remember how she made her pastry for fruit tarts - I wasn't much of an assistant in her kitchen), so I have no idea how to roll pastry, or how to get it to the right consistency.

There are plenty of websites with information on this of course. I have found this one that says that the dough should be chilled in the fridge first - that might help. But their dough looks a lot firmer than mine, even before it goes into the fridge. Mine is quite elastic and definitely very sticky (and delicious to eat raw - no egg, so it's all right - really reminds me of my childhood). The mix for this recipe is slightly different from the chocolate chip cookie recipe, but maybe I should add more flour? In the end, I dropped the dough onto my baking trays and baked it anyway. Very nice taste, but I would really like to use my cookie cutters!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Oops, I did it again

I let myself be tempted and watched Grey's Anatomy again last night. Will I be able to resist a whole weekend without my fix?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Potions

My favourite potions of the moment are:


Naturelle d'Argan face cream - it is organic, and it feels lovely on the skin - it goes in very quickly. Argan oil is supposed to be very good. for the skin. If you don't believe me, believe this: "Exceptionnellement riche en Acides Gras insaturés, Oméga 6 (acide linoléique 30-35%) et Oméga 9 (acide oléique 45-50%), en Vitamine E ( 2 fois plus concentrée que dans l’huile d’Olive) et Polyphénol, l’huile d’Argan permet d'apporter des nutriments à la peau et joue un rôle majeur dans la fonction barrière de l’épiderme, qu’elle nourrit, protège et hydrate". Now, that has to be good for you! According to the website, the Naturelle d'Argan range uses Argan oil that has been treated to remove its strong smell - apparently it smells of cold tobacco! Another interesting fact: the Argan tree only grows in the Atlas region of Morrocco - its growth there has a number of benefits: not only do the trees help against the advance of the Sahara desert, but the sale of the Argan nuts is an important source of revenue for this poor region. (More on Wikipedia). The only problem? I'm not sure it's available in Ireland. I bought it in a pharmacy in Saint André de Roquelongue, the village next to Montséret in the Corbières.


Yves Rocher Culture Bio Awakening cream: its texture and smell is not that different from the Naturelle d'Argan. It feels really natural, although it has a lot more ingredients, 99.6% of which are of natural origin, whatever that means. I bought it in Namur, but they have a UK website. Actually, I got it as part of a  "discovery kit" with a day cream and a night cream for €5. I got a few other bits and pieces in the Yves Rocher shop in Namur last time I was over - they had special offers on a number of products, and I felt like a kid in a sweet shop!

Le Petit Marseillais shampoos, soaps and shower gels - these we discovered when we were on holidays in France. I don't think you can get them here. In France and Belgium, Le Petit Marseillais is standard super-market fare. I recommend the lavender soap, lavender liquid soap, lemon-verbena shower gel and nettle-lemon shampoo.


And in a different category, Method cleaning products - I love their granite cleaner, and most of all, their all purpose lavender-scented cleaner (which works wonderfully on granite too). I've just bought a mint bath cleaner and a glass cleaner, which I haven't tried yet. And I found them really helpful too. When I couldn't find their products in Tesco any more, Brendan emailed them for me, and they replied back very quickly, telling me that I could buy them in Homebase. I quick trip to Homebase Nugrove, and my stocks are replenished! Products are biodegradable and bottles recyclable (except the nozzles, but they tell us they're working on it!)

And oops, I watched a Grey's Anatomy this evening. Couldn't resist. Now I'll have to skip Thursday and wait for the weekend!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Grey's Anatomy

Wow - I'm way behind! We're currently watching Series 3 of Grey's Anatomy on DVD, and I thought we were one - maybe two - seasons behind, but I've just found out that Season 6 is showing. Way behind!

And I didn't put Series 4 on my Christmas list, so it will be a while before we catch up! Just as well, as we still have about a dozen episodes to watch from the current set, and then we'll be going back to Seasons 6 & 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

And I've started to ration myself - I could watch Grey's Anatomy every night, but I've decided that twice a week is plenty - leaving me time for painting and blogging, which I had been neglecting lately. I'm not allowed to watch the next episode until Thursday!

Mmmm.... I think I might watch a little bit of Confessions of a Shopaholic (very slow website - be warned) on my iPod Touch instead!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sea Rescue

Yesterday morning was glorious - sunny, breezy and quite warm - temperatures got up to 17 degrees (it's all changed now, wet and windy and temperatures are dropping - it was 9 degrees at noon, as we were leaving the house to do our shopping). As we knew this good weather wasn't going to last, we went for a walk on the South Wall. The wind there was quite strong, so we were glad we had brought our fleecies, and I was glad of my hat.


On the way back, we noticed a kite surfer in difficulty in the water. Someone told us that the Dun Laoghaire life boat had been contacted - we confirmed this with a young guy who was standing on a wall and waving at the surfer - he had made the call himself - he said the surfer was a novice, and really, nobody should have been kite surfing that morning as the offshore wind was quite strong. Brendan spotted the life boat on its way from Dun Laoghaire, as another boat arrived from the Dublin Harbour side (possibly a pilot boat). Then a dinghy arrived on the scene, also from the Dublin side, and they got him out of the water. All is well that ends well. We saw the surfer standing in the dinghy - he seemed to be OK. 


It's not every day you see a sea rescue.

An Education


We decided to escape from the house last night - we're not a kid-friendly household, and we don't give to trick-or-treaters at Halloween. Some years, we stay in, but the incessant ringing of the door bell is too much of a headache.

So we headed into town (in between the heavy showers - we managed to stay dry), had a bite to eat in Saba, a Thai restaurant on Clarendon Street. They serve a fixed-price lunch menu until 6 - very good value @ just under €16 per person for 2 courses + coffee/tea. The food was pretty good, but the service wasn't. The waitress who took our starter plates away from the table never even asked if everything was OK, and the Maître d' didn't acknowledge us as we were leaving .

We then headed to the IFI, where we had booked tickets for An Education, a film for which Brendan had heard good things. Really enjoyed it - an excellent movie, set in the early sixties - sixteen-year-old Jenny falls for an older man, David. A bright girl, she's been working hard to get into Oxford, but she falls for the glamorous life-style that David introduces her to - concerts, restaurants, weekends in Paris, ... He's a real charmer, and her family have fallen for him as much as she has. But all is not as it seems - and money doesn't grow on trees...

I can't recommend this movie enough - well-paced story, great characters, and the clothes are gorgeous too.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pots & Tubes


Here is the final product of my "Pots & Tubes" project. I know that my big white pot is not quite convincing (something wrong with my ellipses - very difficult, ellipses!), and that the paint brush is not straight (run a ruler through it and you'll see) and my paint tubes are fatter than the originals, but this is as far as I can bring it without doing a complete repaint job.
On the other hand, I'm very proud of my shading on the paint brush (and of the bristles too), and I love my background colours!


So, for my next project? More ellipses and difficult shapes! A wine bottle and a Louis Mulcahy vase. What's the bet that my vase's shape will be all wrong? But, hey, it's the taking part that counts!

In Good Company

While I'm talking Movies, here is another one we watched recently - This is one Brendan recorded - In Good Company - with Dennis Quaid and a youngish Scarlett Johansson. The last movie with Dennis Quaid that I saw was The Day After Tomorrow, and you know what I thought of that! So it was a nice surprise that Dennis Quaid didn't over-act too much in this one. And it's a good story, and it doesn't end in the typical Hollywood fashion. Basic story is: Sales executive (D. Quaid) finds himself demoted in a merger. His new boss (Topher Grace - what a strange name!) is a young shark (but he's actually quite nice). D. Quaid's daughter (S. Johansson of course) ends up going out with the young man, and it all gets complicated. All that in the typical madness of mergers and acquisition - people sacked, offices moved, 360-degree evaluations, orders coming from an anonymous "above", jargon-jargon speeches by executives, etc.

A bit over the top, but it worked for me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Hangover

When in Westport a couple of weeks ago, we watched a few movies, as the hotel was offering them for free. The first one we watched was The Hangover. I know I know, it doesn't sound like my kind of movie. But actually, it was very funny - not politically correct, but well paced, with plenty of gags and good lines. Young man goes to Vegas with his friends and his future brother-in-law for his bachelor party. The following morning, his friends wake up in their trashed hotel suite, but the groom-to-be is missing. And there is a baby in the living room, and a tiger in the bathroom, and nobody remembers anything about the night before. So they start retracing their steps ... I didn't think I'd like it but I did.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Cloud Appreciation Society

Just watched a program on BBC HD about Clouds. Check out the Cloud Appreciation Society website. I must send them some of my photos of beautiful clouds!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bray, Three Rock

We went for a walk in Bray this morning - first the seafront, then up to the cliff walk. It was a bit mucky from the rain over the last few days, but it was a sunny morning and it was warm. I ended up in a teeshirt. Overall, about an hour's walk. Not a patch on Croagh Patrick, but better than sitting at home doing nothing.


Last weekend, full of enthusiasm after our big climb, we went up to Three Rock, in the Dublin Mountains, not far from us really (if there were no houses at the back, we'd see it from our bedroom window). It's quite a steep climb - but it's a paved road most of the way, so nothing quite as hard as Croagh Patrick, and the ascent doesn't start at sea level, far from it actually (I'm not sure what altitude the car park is at - the summit is at 450m according to Wikipedia). Still, it felt good - plenty of fresh air and good aerobic exercise.
Is it the Sugar Loaf I see in the distance? Tempted? Mmmm. Maybe.

Picture of Doogort beach


Achill

As part of our trip to the West last week, we spent a day on Achill island. I had this dream of a real wild place, but found that it was quite densely populated, and that it is linked to the mainland by a bridge over Achill Sound. And you can also find it on Twitter and Facebook - scary or what!

The weather was quite miserable - the cloud never lifted over Keel. The other side of the island was getting a glimpse of sunshine, and the light in Doogort was magical. We had the beach more or less to ourselves (and a very eager puppy sheep dog who wanted to play fetch).

Calvey's Restaurant, supposedly the best place to eat on the island, was closed (for the season I presume). There was a nice-looking coffee shop in Keel, but it was mobbed by tour buses when we got there, and we were not in the mood for queuing, so we ended up having a soup in a pub somewhere - it was advertised as homemade, but the last home it saw was a packet of Knor. Just as well we had nice food in the hotel in Westport.

Still, I was glad to see Achill, as this was my first time there. I'm sure it's gorgeous when the sun shines. Looking at the Achill Tourism website, it certainly looks like a good place for hill walking and the blue flag beaches do benefit from a hint of sunshine.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stumble Upon

I was reading Cheap Joe's blog yesterday, one of the sites I'm a fan of on Facebook, and I clicked this button called "My Stumbles", and I stumbled upon ... "www.stumbleupon.com". You pick a few categories, then you click on "Stumble", and you discover all sorts of sites and blogs. Perfect to while away the time if you were stuck in an airport.

Be warned, though. It's completely addictive!

Cheap Lunches

After a tough job on Saturday morning, we decided that we needed a treat, so we went down to Ananda in Dundrum Town Centre. They have a special lunchtime menu - they call it tapas, I'm not sure why - a choice of 4 starters (you can either choose vegetarian or non-vegetarian, but you can't mix), a main course with rice, and tea or coffee. All for €16. We had the non-vegetarian starter: 1 fish, 1 chicken, 1 prawn and 1 lamb, each with its own flavoursome sauce. I had a Goan prawn curry for my main - it was perfect, and the portion was quite generous for lunchtime. Since Brendan decided to have a coffee, I had a green tea.
All very nice. Service was very good. The place was nearly empty - that was at about 1:30 on a Saturday, when the shopping centre itself was buzzing. Hard to believe it was so quiet, given the overall quality and the price.

Then today we went into town to catch a movie and we decided to try Jimmy Chung on Eden Quay. Brendan had read about it in a Sunday paper a while back I think. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet. We thought that the weekend lunch was €12.90. It turned out to be €9.95. Less than €20 for the 2 of us. And the food was quite decent. Plenty of choice, most of it pretty good (the beef with cashew nuts was just so-so). Brendan particularly enjoyed his hot and sour soup. And, for me, the banana fritter, syrup and ice-cream alone was worth the trip! Not quite as refined as Ananda, but excellent value!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pots & Tubes



I have started this new project in acrylics - it's a simple still life, with paint tubes, a gesso jar and a paint brush. Sounds simple? Well, believe me it's not.


My main problem is drawing of course - I had to completely erase my original drawing - I think I was measuring things wrong, and it looked out of proportion; lines didn't meet where they should. That's often my problem - I measure with a pencil, but I'm not precise enough, or I get confused and everything is out of kilter. It would be so much easier to take a photograph and trace, but I guess I would never learn if I continue tracing.


And I have no idea how to represent shading in acrylics - I'm going to have to go over those paint tubes again, mixing my shading colours with the base colour as I go along rather than adding a big blob of grey over pure white. It's really frustrating, but I'll get there hopefully.

For a week, I'd been looking at my base painting - with just the main colours in place, and it looked awful - the background was dull and I had great difficulty actually sitting down and starting my second layer.


At last, I'm getting to a stage where I'm actually enjoying it. I spent a bit of time on it today, and it's starting to take shape. I have a lot more work to get my shading to look natural -the paint brush is particularly difficult - there are so many reflections that my eyes get confused; and the jar of gesso is tough too - the top of a jar is an ellipse, and ellipses are my nemesis - and then the shading at the top is still a mystery to me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Social Networking

In our job, we always have to keep up with the technology and with new trends in computing.

A few months ago, I set up a Facebook account. You'll find me on www.facebook.com, and search for my full name. I don't post very much, but it's a handy way to find out what goes on in people's lives. And I like the feature by which you can become a fan of a website - I'm a fan of Cheap Joes Art Supplies, John Kelly Ensemble, and  Indian Summer. I haven't tried out all the applications that my nieces seem to be keen on. I'm probably a bit too old for those!

Then, I discovered mobile Blogger. You can send posts to your blog from your mobile phone. You can register from your dashboard to link your email on your phone with your blog. Then, it's just a matter of sending an email from your phone to go@blogger.com (if you're in the US, you can send a text to a special number). You can even send pictures. You'd only do this if you have a very brief post you want to write and you have no access to a computer... So I'm not going to use this very often, but it's good to know it's there. But I have to borrow Brendan's phone, as I can't use it with my own phone - it's so ancient it doesn't support email and it doesn't have a built-in camera. It's one of those Nokias that were very popular 5-7 years ago - they came in silver and also in golden. I used to have a golden one, but I dropped it a few years ago, and it broke. Then I started using Brendan's silver one, and I've had it since. I don't want to buy a new phone when this one is still working for phone and text, so I'm waiting for it to break down. I have an iPod Touch, which is the perfect complement for this antiquated phone. I don't see the point of buying an iPhone, as long as it doesn't include a still camera.

And now, I also have a Twitter account. You'll find me at www.twitter.com/MHBD1 (someone in Brazil already got MHBD!) I don't have any followers yet, probably because I haven't posted any earth-shattering comments yet. To be honest, I don't really see the point. Who wants to know what I had for breakfast this morning? But it's very popular, so I have to know a bit about it.

I think I have a MySpace, but I can't remember my settings - aaah. Just found them. It's www.myspace.com/MHBD1. It looks a bit sad - I have 0 friends there!! I don't know how people keep up with all these things.

And then, I'm also selling mobile phone wallpaper on www.voeveo.com! Really exciting stuff. Well, I've only got one picture there, but I must post more. You'll find me on the recent seller uploads, and also in the independent seller listing under MHBD.

Oh, and I'm also on LinkedIn! There is an ITP reunion coming up soon, and the person who is organising it used LinkedIn to communicate with us all. You'll find me at www.linkedin.com, and search for my full name.

No wonder I haven't found the time to write my blogs recently - so busy being a social bee!

The Memory Keeper's Daughter


Lovely book by Kim Edwards. The story is heart-wrenching, but very beautiful.How a split-second decision can change lives forever, and how children with Down Syndrome were treated in the 60's. Also a good perspective on expectations about a married woman's place in society, in the mid 60s, and as it evolved over the years.

It looks like a TV drama of it was made too, but I'm not sure it's available in Europe.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Croagh Patrick photos

Could not attach pictures to my last post, so here they are now:



Croagh Patrick

We climbed Croagh Patrick on Monday! Brendan had been looking at hotels around Westport a few weeks ago, but we had done nothing more about it. Then, on Thursday evening, Brendan brought up the idea of travelling on Sunday for a 3-day break - special offers etc. - as the weather forecast was quite good for the few days ahead. So, carpe diem and all the rest, we finished all the jobs we had to do on Friday and Saturday, I did my hair colour on Saturday evening, we packed (not lightly - one of the advantages of travelling by car), made arrangements for Willow, and we set out around 10:30 on Sunday morning. The journey wasn't as long as I had feared. The road to Westport, while a little roundabout, was pretty good and we made good time. We checked into the Wesport Plaza (check out Brendan's review on Trip Advisor) at about 2:30, and then went about exploring the town for a bit.

After a lovely meal in the hotel restaurant on the Sunday evening, an early night and a hearty breakfast, we set out for Murrisk, where the path to Croagh Patrick starts, at sea level. We didn't know much about the climb, except that Croagh Patrick is about 770 m high and that the average walk takes 2 hours up and 1.5 hours down. Well, it took us nearly 5 hours round trip, including a good half hour at the top.

Lucinda had advised me to take a stick with me, and I'm so glad she did. I had a monopod that Brendan uses for the camera, and without that third leg, I don't think I would have been able to make it. I might have been able to climb up, but there is no way I would have been able to come down the mountain without the mountain rescue helicopter! (If you're ever at our house, ask Brendan to show you the video footage of me coming down the mountain - it's very funny!)

How people climb this barefoot, I don't know. I had good hiking boots, practical trousers (yoga leggings - nice and light), plenty of layers, a hat, water and snacks, and I needed it all.

Although it was a Monday morning, there were quite a few people on the path, some experienced hill-walkers, who were nearly running the whole way up and running even faster on the way down, some fit young American tourists (probably on a gap year) and people like us, who needed plenty of breaks - my heart was beating so loud that I needed to stop every 5 minutes, even at the start of the ascent. By the time we got to the start of the really steep climb (about 40 degrees), it was sheer stubborness that kept me going, and the encouragement from people who were walking down and lying to us, telling us there was only another 10 minutes to go. It had clouded over a good bit by the time we got to the top and it was really cold - so cold that I had to go and take off my sweaty tee-shirt and pile on the layers to keep warm. We were glad of our provisions - Belgian chocolate (Côte d'Or - noir), bananas and pecan "Cuisine de France" pie. There are toilets at the top (as well as at the bottom and the halfway point), so we had plenty of water to drink too.

Walking down was even harder than climbing up - I kept looking back and could not believe I had just been up that mountain, on that steep, ridiculously stony path. I laughed the whole way down, thankful that I had a stick, otherwise, I would have been on my behind the whole way down and it would have taken twice as long. My left knee was in bits by the time we got down, and my legs were like jelly, but what a sense of achievement! I don't think I'll ever climb Croagh Patrick again, but I'm so glad I did it!

See feedback from other walkers.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Geeks

These 2 guys were the youngest model air plane flyers (or do you call them pilots?) at the air show. Like most of them, they worked as a pair (you need one to hold the plane steady before take-off while the other works the controls, or, occasionally, you need someone to get the propellor going (a dangerous job if you're not careful).

The one on the right was an excellent acrobatics pilot (ok, let's call them pilots - that's what it says on their tee-shirts after all). The one on the left was the helicopter pilot - not so exciting.

Forgot to say that there were also glider pilots, along with a special plane to take the glider up into the air! Did I ever tell you that I learned how to fly a glider when I was 16? I wasn't very good at it, so I didn't get my licence, but I spent 2 weeks one summer learning - I was really bad at take off, where I had great difficulty keeping my glider steady with the plane ahead, but I was very good at landing (probably the relief of getting back to the ground!).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Aéromodélisme


A fancy word for model air planes - on the last day of our holiday in France last June, we went to a model plane air show. It was a hot day and we had done all the touring we wanted so we headed for Lézignan-Corbières airport, and, for the next couple of hours, we watched model plane enthusiasts (mostly geeks and elderly men) fly their little or not-so-little planes. Acrobatics is really what it's all about, and they were all quite skilled (says I, who would probably crash one of those planes in less than a minute - and not even because you slammed the door on my Yaris - I don't even have a Yaris!). All, except the helicopter pilot - I guess you can't really do much with a helicopter, except go up and down and stay steady. Not very exciting. The Ken doll parachutists were more exciting than the helicopter, even!


My favourite was quite a sizeable plane with a Barbie doll head in it. Well maybe there was a full-sized doll in it, I didn't check, but she looked just like those Barbie heads you got to practise your hair-dressing skills (I never had one by the way - I was getting too old for dolls by the time they came on the market). Well, she had arms too, but she really looked like a Barbie. Anyway, judge for yourself! I wonder how that man's grand-daughter feels about her favourite doll being used for flying a plane?

PS - the village in the background of the first picture is Conilhac-Corbières, where we spent the last couple of days of our holiday.

Mosquitoes in Ireland?

We were in County Mayo over the last few days (more about this later), and I got bitten by mosquitoes! How do I know? Because my body over-reacts to all bites and I now have bumps on my neck, my arms and my right ear (yes, that's very itchy!). It might be midges, but I thought that midges don't bite. In my 23 years in Ireland, I've never been bitten. A sign of climate change? What next? Snakes?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Speculoos Paste


Véronique had told me about Speculoos spreadable paste, and it sounded like heaven (very sinful, given the amount of sugar in it, but heaven all the same), and she was right. It's absolutely delicious, and I'm addicated.

The good thing about it, though, is that it's full of Omega 3, thanks to the rapeseed oil used in the recipe. I'll have to check the non-branded versions - they probably have hydrogenated fats instead, and therefore are very bad for you. Whereas the original Lotus one is good for me, I'm convinced of it!