Sunday, October 31, 2010

Christmas cards - Take 7

At this stage, I'm losing track of how many I've tried out, but this one is nice (also available on Zazzle)

(PS: still coughing non-stop - the good thing is that I know that a tickly cough is usually the sign that I'm getting better. The bad news is that the night-time coughing can go on for 2 weeks - I have 4 pillows to keep me propped-up.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Sore throat, sore ears, runny nose, tickly cough - Not Pleasant!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Meanwhile, back at base ...

... Willow was just so cosy


I was running low on inspiration for painting over the last few days- and this close-up is just what I needed - now - acrylics or watercolour? I think I'll start with acrylics - more immediate results

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Marlay Park

Another gorgeous day (after some very heavy showers around 6 yesterday evening). So we had to get out and about. At this time of the year, Marlay Park is the place to be if you want to catch the reds and yellows in the trees.

Here are 2 of the pictures Brendan took today - the swans are perfectly composed, aren't they?

Siobhan Ryan - 22 October - lace effect skirt and black top with see-through sleeves

I think this is quite a nice outfit, although the skirt may be a tad conservative for my taste.

Friday, October 22, 2010


We went to the movies last Saturday - there is always a great buzz in the IFI on Eustace Street - it's a good spot for a hot chocolate and a bit of people watching.

The movie was Restrepo, a documentary about an American platoon's tour of duty in a remote valley in Afghanistan. The title is the name of one of the soldiers who died in action, and who is very much missed by his friends. Most of the filming is onsite, while the soldiers are going about their business - building a new camp on top of a hill while being fired at, the boredom of it, the constant danger - they get fired at several times a day, the adrenaline pumping after a gun-fight ("better than crack" says one of them). And there are interviews with the survivors after they've left the valley, and how they're still struggling with the loss of their comrades. None of them seem to reflect much on the bigger picture - they're just there to do a job, they do it the best they can - they may feel bad when some of the locals get caught in the cross-fire, but they don't seem to dwell on it too long - as another day dawns, they have to deal with more fighting. During their time there, they build strong bonds with their fellow soldiers and that is the only thing that matters in the end.

What struck me the most is how young these guys are. One lad looked barely out of his teens - talking about how his mum is a hippie and didn't allow him toy guns when he was a kid, and now he fires the biggest gun of them all, and he loves it. And the captain mustn't have been older than 35 - and his language was more Pulp Fiction than I was comfortable with. It was almost funny seeing him "negotiating" with the local elders - they appeared to have so much dignity in their demeanour, while he couldn't seem to help himself using the f word in every sentence.

And also - the wild beauty of the Korangal valley, which nobody seems to notice any more, and its supposed strategic importance (this is a great article by the way - well worth reading). But then, after years of fighting and many deaths, the Americans decided to close their Korangal outpost in April 2010 (see Wikipedia article). What was the point of it all? I wonder will it be the same with the rest of the country - after so many years of war and death, the Americans will one day decide that they have to go because it's just not getting anywhere?

Siobhan Ryan - 21 October - wrap dress and wide belt

I have to say I quite like Siobhan Ryan's style - a sophisticated wrap dress yesterday, with a wide belt. She seems to have managed to stretch her budget - I don't think I've seen her with the same clothes twice yet. Or maybe she spends all her money in clothes?


One last picture from our visit to Airfield last weekend:

Rain on the Hills

Here is one of my recent watercolours. I used Masquepen masking fluid to delineate the hills, then painted the sky and created rain by tilting the paper back and forth with a fairly thick mix of neutral tint. Once that was dry, I painted the hills with my 3 favourite colours: permanent rose (PV19), ultramarine blue (PB29) and vanadium yellow (PY184), all from the Schmincke range. They mix beautifully and remain vibrant throughout.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bad roads in Ireland

OK - I've been lazy this week - I had lots of pictures that I prepared at the weekend, and I've posted these over  the last few days - a handy way to keep everybody amused, without having to spend too much time writing big long posts. At least I was well organised.

Now I'm a bit tired, but I'll start a rant about the state of Irish roads. Don't get me wrong - a lot of progress has been made in the last 10 years - we now have a motorway from Dublin to Cork, from Dublin to Galway, and nearly from Dublin to Limerick (I think there is a section that needs to be redone because of subsidence through a bog - "Oops we're building a road through a bog - Do you think it's  likely to sink? No No, trust me, all will be well. It's sinking? Really? Ah well, we'll rebuild it so"). But that's about it. Roads in Dublin are pretty good, we've got 3 lanes on the M50, we've got the Luas Green Line Extension. But once you go a little further, things are not so good.

As you know we went to Kerry 2 weeks ago - Google Maps had given us an estimate of 4.5 hours from Dublin to Parknasilla (354km). As we got to Michelstown in less than 2 hours (on the new Dublin-Cork motorway), we thought we were going to get there a lot quicker. But the road from Michelstown to Killarney is an absolute disaster - narrow and twisty. If you're stuck behind a slow vehicle - like a caravan, or a little old man driving home from the pub on a Sunday afternoon - forget it, you're not going to be able to overtake them for miles and miles, and you'll be lucky to average 50km/h. The roads from Killarney to Sneem were equally twisty and narrow, but at least they are scenic, and there isn't as much traffic on them. But the Michelstown-Killarney is a complete disgrace in the 21st Century.

View Larger Map

Our government talks about promoting tourism as a major industry in Ireland (now that over 30,000 houses lie unoccupied in ghost estates - the building industry is well and truly dead), but we still don't have a proper road between Dublin and Killarney - the major tourism centre in the country, gateway to the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle peninsula - 2 areas of outstanding beauty.

I just don't get it.

They should stop talking about talks -don't get me started on the whole charade of the heads of the opposition parties meeting the Taoiseach after seeing the numbers from the Department of Finance - and then that's IT??? They agree that it's a tough target to reach the 3% European number by 2014 - I can't even remember what that 3% is - all I know is that it means tough budgets for the next 4 years, but that's the extent of their talks - nobody agrees on how to fix the problem, and the government is just busy commissioning reports and reporting on commissions, but doing nothing. They should start working and DO SOMETHING for a change. Build good roads down the country, train makers of uilleann pipes, build the metro, scrap the government jet, introduce proper expense reporting for TDs, stop sending officials on fact-finding missions around the world (with their wives). I think I've saved about a few millions already, and created hundreds of jobs in one go (sorry to the pilot of the government jet who would be losing his job with my scheme - maybe he can retrain as a uilleann pipe maker - apparently there is a serious shortage).

It's a great little country we live in!

End of rant!

PS: we came back via Cork - the roads were good, but it's quite a detour. It still took us nearly 4 and a half hours to get back.

Scarecrows from Airfield

A couple more scarecrows from Airfield:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christmas cards - Take 6 - the stamp

And here is a screen shot of the US custom stamp from my Zazzle store (use this link). Wouldn't you love to be able to use such beautiful stamps? But, no, not in Ireland - this Christmas, An Post will probably offer us another obscure painting of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus.

Christmas cards - Take 6

What about this one? (And it looks so pretty as a Zazzle card or mug (and I have a US custom postage version coming out soon)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


You'll find an excellent clip at the bottom of this link - 3 of the musicians from the Crash Ensemble playing Paran by John Zorn:

Zazzle Zazzle

It's that time of the year again:

View more personalized gifts from Zazzle.

Christmas cards - Take 3-4-5

Another few done with Masquepen masking fluid (I should have used a bigger brush to paint it more evenly):

Monday, October 18, 2010

Knife Skills

For anybody out there who loves cooking (not me, obviously)

Christmas cards - Take 2

Here is another one that I like, though the colours are not as strong - the green is a mix of phthalo blue and vanadium yellow. It might work better if I did an ultramarine background - it would give a nice purple where it mixes with the red. Decisions Decisions.


Here is a photo of Airfield's mini lake. I know it doesn't really give you an idea of what it looks like, but it's a nice photo all the same!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


This afternoon turned out better than forecast - instead of the advance of cloud and drizzle, we had glorious sunshine. So, around 4 o'clock, I declared that we should go to Airfield for a potter.

The piglets are getting big and have been moved to a field with their mammy. Plenty of excitement, grunting and running around when the farmer arrived with food.

The pond is looking well - the water is a lot clearer than in the summer, and the aquatic plants are thriving. Still no ducks, though - the white plastic duck hasn't attracted any live ones yet.

People had been busy making scarecrows today, and you will find some good-looking ones in 2 of the fields (in the allotment area and in the old meadow at the bottom of the estate).

Christmas cards

It's that time of the year again - I'm starting to think about the design of 2010's Christmas cards. Well, my theme this year is going to be the Christmas Rose, but I haven't found the perfect design yet, and, believe me, I have been busy experimenting already.

Here is one possible contender. Let me know what you think of it.

Why I love Boden

I'm not a shopper - I have no interest in going through the shops and trying things on. But I love Boden. I get nearly all my clothes online on their website, even jeans - the sizes are so consistent that it's rare now that I buy something that doesn't fit (and if it doesn't, I send it back - OK - I lose in the postage, as the free return deals don't apply outside of the UK, but it's better than keeping something that doesn't work).

What I love most about Boden is their quirky finishing touches, in particular their linings. I know nobody else sees the lining, but I know it's there, and it makes me feel special!

Exhibit A: my lovely conservative beige coat with mad big flower lining. Oh, I so wish it was reversible!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dramatic sky

Another view from the Ring of Kerry, between Waterville and Caherdaniel:

Only in Ireland

You have to see it to believe it - on the last leg of our drive around the ring of Kerry 2 weeks ago, we stopped at a dramatic sightseeing viewpoint overlooking the sea before the road sweeps down to Caherdaniel. There were a few tourists there, and also a man with his van, 2 sheep, a little dog in a basket, and a CAT. The sheep, a bit spooked, kept running toward the road, and the man kept gathering them beside him. The dog wasn't budging. And the cat seemed to be quite happy there - there were no houses nearby, just a car park, a cliff and a road. How could it be comfortable in that environment? Would it not want to be sitting by a fire instead? Maybe it's got a cosy corner in the van. I can't believe that this man brings his ménagerie there every day - as  photo opportunity for tourists. We didn't take any pictures - or we would have had to pay him, I'm sure. All this very tidy - I even saw the man sweeping sheep droppings from the car park before a coach pulled in!

Just in case you're wondering

In my previous post, I may have made it sound like I knew all these musicians and composers so well. I don't. I'm a fan of Dawn Upshaw, and I know Osvaldo Golijov because Upshaw is his muse and I've got a few CDs of his music sung by her.

But I had never heard of the Crash Ensemble, Donnacha Dennehy, Iarla O'Lionaird or any of the others until I checked out the Crash Ensemble website, which is full of good information. It's amazing what you can learn from the web and regurgitate in five minutes!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dawn Upshaw and the Crash Ensemble

It's hard to keep up with my busy life. I've been in catch-up mode since we got back from Kerry. This weekend just flew - we were working on Saturday morning, and then we went into town on Sunday for a quick errand, and I did a bit of painting, and then the weekend was gone - in a flash - disappeared.

So, bear with me while I tell you about events in my life that happened weeks ago. OK. This one isn't that bad - it was the weekend before last, on the Saturday evening, a dirty dark wet night. We drove into Kilmainham for a concert by Dawn Upshaw and the Crash Ensemble.

The great hall is not the best in terms of acoustics - I found that, when she was belting out the high notes, Dawn Upshaw's voice bounced between the walls, with a strange echo effect. But that aside, it was a lovely evening. We got good seats - not too close, with plenty of leg room for Brendan. Upshaw sang some Osvaldo Golijov songs first, and was followed by Iarla O'Lionaird, a sean-nos singer, who performed Gra agus Bas, a Donnacha Dennehy piece. After the interval, the string section treated us to John Zorn's Paran, a piece that will remind you of Fiddler on the Roof. And then, the beautiful That the Night Come, a piece composed by Donnacha Dennehy, based on some of Yeats poems.

I'm a fan of Golijov, so of course I'm going to say that it was good.

While I found Gra Agus Bas (Love and Death) discordant (I think there were too many instruments competing for my attention), Iarla O'Lionaird's voice was beautiful and carried the piece through.

Paran was really enjoyable - based on Jewish tunes with a modern twist - the double-bass and the cello were absolutely fabulous - foot-tapping stuff. I must find out who the cello player is - she was in one of the bands that played at one of the JK Ensemble sessions.

I don't know much about Yeats poetry. The only line I can quote is "Are changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born" (I think this line accompanied some Bord Failte advertising in the 80s), and I didn't even know what poem it comes from until I looked it up just now (Easter 1916). I really enjoyed the soft music and the beautiful words of That the Night Come. The overall effect was perfect. The piece was commissioned by Dawn Upshaw and this was its World Premiere. Looking forward to the CD.

If you want a more erudite review of the concert, you'll find one here.

And don't forget to check out the Crash Ensemble website's media page. One of my favourites is "Loops for Ancient-Giant-Nude-Hairy Warriors Racing Down the Slopes of Battle".

Anyway, I'm delighted that Dawn Upshaw was back in Ireland. I hope she enjoyed her musical collaboration with Donnacha Dennehy and the Crash Ensemble and that she'll be back again soon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jean Byrne - white leather?, black leather, red dress

8, 9 & 10 October.
The red dress is still a favourite of mine.
I'm not so sure about the white outfit - is it leather?
And the black leather tunic is quite flattering, but I don't like the asymmetric bit at the front (but that's just me - I don't like anything one-shouldered or hanging more on one side than the other)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Rossbeigh beach

One of the finds of our visit to Kerry was Rossbeigh beach, near Glenbeigh. It's on the Ring of Kerry, and it looks just like a flip image of Inch beach on the Dingle peninsula, and when you look at the satellite picture, you understand why!

View Larger Map

We had a bright blustery day and it was perfect for our walk on the beach, until we turned back, into the wind. At that stage, I was so glad of Brendan's woolly hat!

And be warned - out of season, the public toilets at the start of the beach are locked - only in Ireland! And Bord Failte wonder why tourists are not coming back! Just as well I have a strong bladder.

We had lunch in the Towers Hotel in Glenbeigh (check out the History section for Ryan's Daughter connections and reference to De Gaulle, who my mother told me visited Sneem on a number of occasions). Old-fashioned pub, but the food was pretty good - I had a ham and cheddar ciabatta - tasty big portion, french fries and a nice salad, and Brendan had a bowl of very good nachos - all for €14.

The picture on the left is one I found through Google, advertising a hotel in the area, but I thought it gives a good idea of the beauty of the beach! I'd say it's busy in the summer, though. If you enlarge the picture, you can almost see all the cars parked along the road.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Parknasilla Hotel

Sorry for the silence over the last few days. We decided to avail of hotel special offers (and my G Club Card, which I won at a Discover Ireland competition/lottery last summer) and headed down to Kerry on Sunday for a 3-night break in Parknasilla Hotel. Padraig had recommended it to Brendan, after he and his family spent a few days there in the summer, and we were curious to try it out.

We were not disappointed. While the room we were given was not great, everything else was perfect. It took us all of 10 minutes to get over the room bit.

Let me talk about the room first and get that out of the way: the bed was excellent - big and soft and cosy with good pillows; the lounger chairs at the window were very good, and we did have a view (partially obstructed, but a view all the same - much better than the rooms at the back of the hotel, that face onto a path and a dark wooded area). But the bathroom was very old - clean, but old and tired-looking (and the door to the bathroom had seen better days). The round table at the window looked made of cheap wood, and the floor was very creaky. And our final gripe is that there were no sockets that could be used at the little desk (only lamp sockets there - not much use to us). That's it. As I said, we got over that very quickly. Apparently, some of the rooms in the main house were upgraded 2 years ago, so it may be worth requesting one of these at time of booking.

Service was excellent - porter, reception, restaurant, spa - even the young man who hoovers the stairs in the morning had a smile on his face when saying hello to us.

Food was great - good breakfast buffet, and gorgeous menu at dinnertime. My favourites were the scallops with beetroot sauce, the pan-fried halibut with potatoes & leeks and a tomato concasse, and of course the banoffee. Brendan's highlights were the steak  - cooked to perfection, and the duck - the best duck he's ever had, he says!

Lovely lounges all around, with open fires in the evening, and candles everywhere (I suppress my safety officer instinct here!). Perfect for reading a book in the afternoon or for a drink after dinner. And there are some very nice paintings dotted all around the corridors and lounges.

Lots of walks around the coast in the hotel grounds - we saw seals basking in the sun in the shallows across the bay. And what a view across the water - the Beara peninsula in all its glory, no matter what the weather. Benches dotted everywhere to rest your legs while you're taking in the views. There were plenty more paths that we didn't get around to exploring - looking forward to checking them out next time around.

And of course, the spa - big square pool, which we had to ourselves most of the time (avoid school holidays, though, if you don't want to share the pool with hordes of Irish children!). It has the best view across the bay, water temperature is perfect, the showers are very nice (big powerful shower head, nice shampoo and shower gel). And the Thermal spa is clean and warm and relaxing. I recommend the aromatherapy steam room and the warm loungers (just like in the pictures on their website!). And there is a small but perfectly equipped gym (which they don't seem to advertise on their website).

Overall, a wonderful stay there. We'll be back.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Siobhan Ryan - 5 October - Ultramarine Dress & Mole belt

Actually, I don't know the name for the colour of her belt, but let's call it "mole" for now. It's a very popular hue for accessories this autumn. I saw a lot of bags in that colour in Belgium when I was there a couple of weeks ago. And it works well with the ultramarine dress.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Busy Busy Run Run

Too busy to post this week, but a few minutes of Stumbling has provided a few items for me to regurgitate:

Acoustic Kitty

Cuban Tree Frog, Florida