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


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 ... "". 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, 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 (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 (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 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! 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, 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


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!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Kerry Sky - Watercolour

At long last ... it's done. After some agonising about how to render the foreground, I opted for a fairly abstract look, with nice earth colours worked wet-in-wet, which I think works quite well.

Now, onto my next project - I got homework from Moya - I will be rejoining her classes in the New Year, so I had better practise my acrylics skills. Though I have to say it's hard to beat watercolours.