Saturday, April 24, 2010

Apparently, I need to get a life

Thanks to my Jean Byrne posts, I got a mention in this forum: (search for mhbd on that page and you'll find it). Hey, there is no such thing as bad publicity!

And my life is great, thank you very much!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Flight Radar 24

This is a web site that was probably only visited by geeks and plane spotters. But now that it got a mention on the news, has probably seen its hit count rocket way up. Plenty of planes in the skies today - around Europe at least. I'm just looking at it now, and it's not showing anything over the East Coast of the US. I'm seeing a few over the West Coast. I'm not sure if it's a glitch? Hopefully the ash cloud from Eyjafjallajokull hasn't reached the US!

I guess we must be geeks: last Tuesday (I think it was Tuesday - the week went so quickly), we followed the progress of flight EIN2767 carrying passengers from the Canaries, as it was approaching Shannon and landed just about 19:15.

While browsing for pictures of that volcano (I'm not going to try to type its name again), I found an interesting blog: It's a blog of news about nature and science in general. I've spent the last 20 minutes or so browsing through it and I thought you might like it too.

I found this article in the Telegraph with photos of the Northern Lights near the volcano. Stunning images, so that's where I got the picture for this post!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jean Byrne - little red cardigan

No, no, no, no. Those little cardigans really don't do anything for you, Jean. They make you look fat, and they don't go with the black satin look. Please get rid of them.

Jean Byrne - Black and Silver jacket

This look is more conservative than her usual. While it's not bad, I don't think it's really her! It's a little bit old-fashioned.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


The Arboretum in the Botanic Gardens holds some lovely specimens - I'm no good at remembering tree names (in English or French), so I can't be precise about what we saw - but there were plenty -  big and small (no science bit with me!).

These 2 were an unusual pair:

Into the Wild

I finished reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. I don't read much non-fiction, but this was pretty good - it's the story of Chris McCandless, a young American who died in the wilderness in Alaska. After managing for 100 days, he died of starvation - the exact circumstances are unknown. Apparently, there was a lot of debate around the time of his death - some people saying that he was a foolish young man who wasn't prepared for living in the wild, others who argued that the fact that he survived 100 days is proof that he had done his homework and was well able to deal with his environment. The book explores at length the theme of young men's need to push the boundaries, to prove to themselves that they can accomplish great deeds in difficult circumstances, and their idealism in escaping society's focus on money and materialism.

There is a movie by the same name, which got good reviews, though it sounds like they've deviated from the story in the book somewhat.

It took me a good while to read this book, as I had downloaded it to my iPod Touch and I only read it whenever I'd be in the van waiting for Brendan if I accompanied him on a job. It's a perfect format for that kind of situation, but I don't think I'd be able to read on an iPod Touch for a long period of time.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Botanic Gardens

It was such a nice today that we decided to go to the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. In particular, I wanted to see the magnolias (though I wasn't sure if they had any there - they do). But there was so much more to see. It's a hidden gem. The entrance to the gardens is free, and the carpark is €2. I took lots of pictures of trees - plenty of drawing and painting projects in the making. The main greenhouse is gorgeous.And there were lots of people around, sitting on benches or in the grass - it felt like being in Central park.

Here is a picture of a succulent of some sort in the Cacti House. I love the subtle colours:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Magnolias are out

Saw a beautiful purple magnolia in Dundrum earlier today. The flowers were not open yet, and the buds looked like parrots' beaks, except purple.

Magnolias are a sign of spring - But it's just too cold.

For photos of magnolias, I found this website:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tree - Mount Merrion

ere is another interpretation of that lovely tree on Mount Merrion. This time, in watercolour, in a fairly big format (45x35cm). I love the tree, but my background isn't so good - too abstract and bare, and the sky's angle is all wrong, so I think I'll have another go.

Jean Byrne - White Dress

Speaking of the weather, Jean Byrne was wearing a simple white dress yesterday. Very flattering. Could have done with an accessory of some sort maybe. I know I know - most of the time, I give out that she over-accessorizes. It's tough finding the exact right balance. I struggle with that myself (but I'm not on the telly, so it really doesn't matter!). Lately, I've been looking for a nice long chunky necklace to wear over my Boden hippy dippy tunics (I have one in navy and one in pink), but everything I see is too dainty or too short. House of Fraser in Dundrum has some nice semi-precious stones - there is one I like in turquoise and red, but it wouldn't really go with anything, it's such an unusual colour combination.

PS- yes, it's still cold at night!

Spring at last

Here I am, blinded by the sun- yes, you heard me right, blinded by the sun, sitting in our back garden, trying to see my laptop screen. I wonder, would the iPad perform better in the sun?- the iPod Touch does fare better than a laptop screen after all (but I find the onscreen keyboard too painful).

We've had a long winter in Ireland this year - 2 weeks ago, there was snow falling, and the temperatures barely rose about 5 degrees during the day. The daffodils were 4 weeks late and none of the trees were budding. Well today is a different world altogether. We're sitting out (our garden furniture survived the winter well, with those green covers that are so ubiquitous in Irish gardens nowadays - I didn't think it would protect the wood so well against the rain, but it did). I've put factor 20 on my face and chest, and I'm hoping to get a bit of colour on my legs. The daffodils are in full bloom and there is a beautiful white cherry blossom around the corner. And it's hot.

And like every year, we are hoping for a good summer - but it's only 3 years since our last good summer, so I reckon we have a few more years to wait. It's just that the last 2 summers were so particularly bad, we feel we really deserve a good one this time.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Old Skirt

My drawings today were not great, so I decided to cheer myself up by showing you a drawing I did last week:
This is a skirt I used to wear a long long time ago, when my hips didn't seem to stick out quite as much. It is made of beautiful raw silk in the most gorgeous dark turquoise, with black embroidery at the bottom. It's really rich and full, and I love the idea of it - but it doesn't suit me any more. I'm not sure it ever did. But it made me feel wonderful, like a princess at the ball. It swings like a Vienese Waltz Ball!

I had bought it in Brussels in a shop on Rue Neuve called Mac & Maggie. It's probably long gone (the only site I can find is, but it's all in Dutch, so I have no idea if it's even related to that magic fashion shop).

This is a shop where I had also bought a dark green jersey dress with an empire neck line and a bouffant skirt (a skirt with an elastic at the bottom is not the most flattering for big hips, but I loved that dress too), and a brown opera swing coat with a big fake fur black colar. Somewhat wacky, but those clothes were really special. Unfortunately, I got rid of those 2 items, but I still have the skirt. I will most definitely never get to wear it again, but there is no way I'm parting with it.

So, there you are, that's the story behind that little drawing.

A Type of Beauty

A book to watch out for - coming out soon - A Type of Beauty, the Story of Kathleen Newton. I've read other book by Patricia O'Reilly, and I've really liked them, in particular Time and Destiny, a historical fiction about the Irish designer Eileen Gray. I know I'm biased, but the story of Kathleen Newton sounds like the perfect subject for a movie - exotic locations, a love story between a tragic heroine and a French painter,... what more would you ask for?

Mega Factories

Brendan taped an episode of Megafactories (on National Geographic Channel I think) for me - the Ikea mega-factories in Sweden and Poland, showing how the well-known Billy bookcase is made, from start to finish, and how the sofas are assembled, how the furniture is tested, etc.. Even how the forks are designed, and how a plastic model is made in a 3-D printer (Think the Replicator in Star Trek! Amazing what you'll find on Wikipedia!!). Really interesting stuff if you like to know how things are made. I enjoyed the one about the Winnebagos too! And the website gives the dates of the repeats. I've just noticed that there is one about how the New York Subway cars are built, showing 3 times tomorrow. I must ask Brendan to set the taping for that!

Jean Byrne - red dress

I like this red dress, and I think the gold jewelery goes really well with it:

The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

Phew! Done! The third book in the Millenium Trilogy, The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, was even harder to put down than the other 2. In a mix of hospital soap and courtroom drama, with plenty of twists and explosive turns of events, it was a very good read, and I'm really sorry now that the author, Stieg Larsson, is dead, and there won't be any more books to follow.

Thank you for the loan of the books, Mary! I'll be returning them shortly.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Paula Banks

Hey - I discovered this photographer on Twitter. Her name is Paula Banks, and she has some gorgeous photos on her blog:

Still posting to Zazzle

View more personalized gifts from Zazzle.

Tree - Mount Merrion

OK, this tree is not from as exotic a location as the previous one - but, believe me, Mount Merrion has some gorgeous trees!
I've increased the contrast in Photoshop Elements - the original is greyer (ultramarine + burnt umber watercolours). I thought this would look better in black.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Danny Gregory - art journaling

Danny Gregory is the author of the Creative Licence, one of the books that's inspired me to draw more (one drawing a day!).

I just found this lovely little video on the website with information about the Aquash Brush, Journal Craft. Have a look, it's really inspiring stuff if, like me, you're struggling with drawing:

Trees - Uluru

These were drawn using a fairly thick mix of ultramarine and burnt umber watercolours, poured into an Aquash Brush (the paint doesn't flow as smoothly as I expected, but it does produce a nice calligraphic effect - But now that I've read the instructions, I realise I was using them wrong - you're supposed to just put water in them, and apply watercolour with a watercolour pencil or watercolour pans - perfect for travelling)

Tree - Kew Gardens

A slightly better picture of my tree in Kew Gardens:

And this one taken with a better camera (Nikon D50):

Spot the difference!


We're trying to burn a few more calories than usual - so we're walking quite a bit - I tend to always walk for small local errands (going to the chemist or to the corner shop), and we do tend to do one good walk at weekends (one round of Marlay Park or Bray Seafront, Airfield if the weather is not so good). But this long weekend, we've done that little bit more that hopefully will help keep my legs in shape - Friday: Dalkey from Coliemore Harbour to Bullock Harbour and back; Saturday: Airfield; Today: Greystones seafront - we went quite a distance over the blocks along the railway track, walking a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes. My poor little legs are tired.

Speed Stacking

As you'll see from the comment I received on my post on Speed Stacking, this is a lot more work than it looks. Yes, I admit, I've never tried it myself (far too clumsy!)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Brothers & Sisters

Just finished watching an episode of Brothers & Sisters (Series 4) - it's all big feelings, life and death, marriages and births, all set in gorgeous surroundings, big houses, beautiful clothes. And I love it all.

And how many shows have got so many big stars acting in it: Sally Field, Rob Lowe, Callista Flockhart (Ally McBeal), Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under) , Patricia Wettig (Thirty Something), Ken Olin (Thirty Something). And that's only half the cast (the rest are unknown to me, but have equally important roles in the story line)

Watching it on a Saturday afternoon is one of my treats and I love it.

The Girl who Played with Fire

Just finished The Girl who Played with Fire. And immediately started The Girl who Kicked the Hornests' Nest.

A loser story than the first book - perhaps because the 2 main protagonists spend most of the book apart. But it gripped me just as good. And what a finale!

Third installment, so far, is quite slow going, but no doubt will get into gear very soon.

Speed Stacking

I had never heard about Speed Stacking - until this morning, when it got a mention on Countrywide on Radio 1 this morning. Some lucky kid had qualified to go to the Speed Stacking World Championships in Denver Colorado, but it wasn't clear to me how it worked, until the child mentioned YouTube, and up I was in a flash, to get my iPod Touch and check it out.

Well, have a look yourself:

Apparently, some PE teachers get the kids to do speed stacking during their PE hour if the weather is too bad for kicking a ball outdoors. If I was a parent, I don't think I'd be very happy with that - maybe good for eye to hand coordination, but not great aerobic exercise!

Jean Byrne - that fur scarf again

Last night, Jean Byrne was wearing her fur scarf again - very flattering leather outfit - she's got the body for it - but I really don't like that fur scarf. I've got nothing against fur per se - I just find that it doesn't go with the outfit at all. I think a bold piece of jewellery would work better!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Tree - Kew Gardens

I took a good few pictures of trees when we were in Kew Gardens. I love the strong shapes, the rich greens - trees is something I'd like to be able to paint better. So, let's practice (I've temporarily set aside my current acrylics project - maybe I bit more than I can chew, and I have a bit of a mental block about it, but I just don't know what my next step should be.)

Here is one of my favourite trees, in watercolour (I'll take another photo tomorrow, as this one is a bit blurred):

Drawing - Trees and Shadows

Here is one of the drawings I've made recently. We were in Airfield a few weeks back and the sun was streaming through the trees. It created dramatic shadows. I drew this from a photo I took. While the photograph was all about Spring, I decided to make this drawing really stark, cold, harsh Winter light

Fast Food Nation

Brendan had read this book called Fast Food Nation a few years back (and that more or less coincided with our decision not to eat hamburgers from fast food chains anymore). I never read the book, but I was quite interested in watching the movie, which Brendan had recorded recently.

The Wikipedia article about the book makes for stark reading about the fast food and soft drink industries. Note that there is a request for more third-party references in the article - was that put up by a representative from those industries to somehow discredit the article or is it a genuine comment? We don't know, of course, but between that and the movie, I can safely say I will never eat another burger (any time I've been to a MacDonald in the last few years, I've eaten a Filet O Fish - not sure if it's any better). I don't drink soft drinks - I think that they are just empty calories (calories but no nutrition) and I don't like anything with aspartane or other sweeteners in them. Plus my body doesn't like fizzy drinks. So, what do I drink? Filtered water, orange juice, apple juice (both made from concentrate) and green tea. And the occasional cranberry juice.

The movie Fast Food Nation was very good. It's a low-key kind of movie - not sure if it's supposed to be a documentary or a work of fiction - apparently, the story in the book is based on interviews with real people. There are plenty of fairly big stars in it, mostly in secondary roles - Bruce Willis, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawkes, Greg Kinnear (the father in Little Miss Sunshine), Kris Kristofferson, Avril Lavigne, and a good few unknowns in the main roles (playing mostly Mexican illegal aliens working in a meat-processing plant). It's a movie where you care about what happens to the people, a good movie in my book