Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Rose

I really don't think I should show you the end result of that Christmas Rose - it looks Victorian - that's probably the nicest thing I can say about it. Not my finest effort.

This one I did afterwards isn't so bad - though it's not well balanced in terms of styles - the pot is nice and organic (painted wet in wet), whereas the flower is too precise and stiff (painted wet in dry). Some day I'll get it right - maybe.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

La maison du bonheur

I'd better get started with my reviews of Christmas movies - the rate at which I'm watching them is far exceeding the rate at which I'm writing about them, and I'll never muster the enthusiasm if I leave it for longer.

First movie of the holiday season: La Maison du Bonheur, on TV5. I never watch TV5. But my parents do when they are here, so I saw lots of French-speaking news and features (including an interesting adaptation of a Maupassant story, about a young handsome French painter and an overly-religious British woman who find themselves in a boarding house down the country somewhere in Brittany or Normandy. It doesn't end well.)

But La Maison du Bonheur, I loved. I haven't laughed so much in years! The story is simple and very complicated - Reasonable and slightly boring man (he's a little tight with money, actually) buys a country house on impulse (to prove he can be spontaneous?) without telling his wife. He tells a colleague who bids over him, but he manages to get the house anyway, at a much inflated price. But he loses his job (as a consequence of the rivalry with his now ex-colleague). The house is in need of repairs. The estate agent "kindly" offers to put his best team on the job (who needs architects, anyway?), and things go from bad to worse. His wife is not happy, but then, love prevails. After many gas explosions, wall collapses, injured visitors, water leaks and general consternation, all ends well that ends well.

It's very slapstick, but if you're in need of a pick-me-up (and if you speak French), it's the perfect choice.

Jonathan Livingstone, Seagull

Actually, no, it's an albatross. I used a photo taken by Brendan in New Zealand 3 years ago, and played with the sky in Sketchbook Pro.
PS: You may have guessed. The Christmas Rose watercolour is not going well. That background was never going to work. Actually, it would be a lovely background for a dandelion, wouldn't it. I might do that tomorrow to cheer myself up from my painting disasters!

Christmas Rose on iPad

The fact that it's no good isn't going to stop me though.

Plenty of interesting textures done with one of the cross-hatching pencils in Sketchbook Pro.

I'll just have to improve on my colours, composition, and basic drawing!

Christmas Rose - finger drawing on iPad

So many different media - I like drawing with Sketchbook Pro on the iPad. There is something very immediate about drawing with your fingers. Also, it's nice and neat. I'm messy when it comes to drawing with pencils - I can't do fine, clean lines. So the iPad is the perfect solution for me. I'm also practising with Art Academy on the Nintendo DS - following the lessons. It's good fun. I'll have to figure out a way of exporting the drawings & paintings, though.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Siobhan Ryan - 29 December - white top and black skirt

Siobhan was wearing a nice white top and black skirt this evening. But she wasn't well prepared, or maybe she was distracted - she seemed to have trouble finding her words; the weather was going to be dry, but also damp and misty; and it wasn't clear as to whether the colder weather would get to us on Friday or Sunday. An anonymous person posted a comment to one of my earlier posts about her constant swallowing. Well, personally, I think she has become more confident over the last couple of months, and I like her style. Tonight was just an off night. All of us can have one once in a while.

Christmas Rose

I'm going to have to sleep on this one. I painted this lovely background for my Christmas Rose. I wanted to experiment with violet blue and bright orange, and the result is quite dramatic. But it's so bright that I really don't know what to do about the rose itself. If I paint it in its natural reds and greens, it's going to look like Carnival in Rio. I could paint it in mixed greys, but the greys from bright orange and violet blue are quite brown. And surely we don't want that. Unless I dilute them a lot. But then the pale greys would disappear into the paper. I've tried a few greys in Photoshop - they all look really dull. Maybe a nice dark aubergine might work for the centre, and a greyed-out, paler, version for the outer leaves? Watch this space (but I get the feeling it's not going to work out!)

Christmas Rose

One of the things I love about Christmas is that I have lots of free time (once Stephen's Day is over, that is - before that, it feels like I don't have a minute to myself). I just love the week between Christmas and New Year - I long for it months in advance. There is no other time of the year when I have so much time to draw and paint. I would have time in the summer too, but I find it hard to set up my paints outside, and if the phone rings, I have to answer it, as we would be open for business. But between now and the 4th of January, I don't need to answer the phone, and we have long days with no commitments to the outside world. We can go for a walk, watch a movie, read a book, potter around the house. It's great. I love it.

And I love the shape of Christmas Roses. I got two lovely little ones in Lidl before Christmas, and I'm delighted with them. I'll try to keep them alive for as long as I can!

(I still have a problem with ellipses, obviously)

Siobhan Ryan vs Jean Byrne

It's official, Siobhan Ryan has overtaken Jean Byrne in my Blogger Traffic Stats. Who would have thought we'd see the day?

Sakura on Christmas Day

Cherry Blossoms on Christmas Day? Surely not!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Angel

No, I'm not mad enough to make snow angels myself, but they do look very pretty - so "thank you" to whoever made this one. And let's hope that's the end of the snow now. Everything melted quickly this time around, but I think everybody in Ireland is now living with the fear that another cold/snow spell will hit us this winter. We're just not geared for it. Today, we went for a walk in Marlay Park - it was so lovely to get out of the house, stretch the legs and breathe the fresh air. It was positively balmy, with temperatures reaching 11 degrees today. That's my kind of Irish winter.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

True Blood

It seems that all series were closing for Christmas. Mad Men just finished a few weeks back, and True Blood the week before. Yes, I've watched the whole 2nd series (never saw the first), and I still don't know if I like it!

I've just watched a recap of Season 3 finale on their website (with no sound, so I have no idea what's going on), and I get the feeling I'll be watching it when it's available here!

It's a vampire-based story, set in the deep South, in a world where a synthetic blood has made it possible for vampires to survive without killing humans, and therefore become accepted in society. But not by everyone of course. And there are other types of creatures too, causing havoc through the small town of Bon Temps. The stories are good, the characters work well together, there is always an element of suspense that keeps you coming back. But, I don't know, the acting is so weird. It's really camp, completely over-acted, and yet, it's supposed to be serious (not like Buffy, where the dialog was always light-hearted). Or maybe it's not supposed to be serious, and I just don't get it (maybe my Belgian lack of a sense of humour)

Oh, make sure to watch/read Jessica's blog. The videos are very good. She is one of the best characters in the series! She's really funny.

And also the Wiki - with ads like "When you sleep in a coffin, it's easy to think outside the box", there is plenty there to keep you amused! But you'll have to find it yourself. I just can't figure out how I got to it from the main website!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fashion & Beauty Blog

Found this blog today, through a link on Twitter. I'm not a big fashion and beauty kind of girl, but it looks quite good. Makes me feel like I'm 16 again!

Siobhan Ryan - 21 December - Classy black dress

An anonymous commentator to one of my previous posts says that she is "hot hot". I think she looks really classy  in this black dress she was wearing last night:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Siobhan Ryan - 20 December - mustard-yellow top and trousers

Siobhan Ryan was on the news last night - she was the representative from Met Eireann giving a report on the snowy weather we're having these days. She was wearing a casual mustard-yellow top with a sleeveless tunic, over trousers. Good shades and a style she carries well.

Nice new hair colour, by the way.

My own snow report: current total of snow on the ground outside the house: 18 cm, including 9 cm since this morning, measured on the green bin sitting outside our drive (The black bins were collected by Panda, fair play to them, but I guess they just couldn't get back into the estate to collect the green bins)

Monday, December 20, 2010

More Snow

More snow showers today, but it turned into a longer spell between 3 and 6 today. We had planned to go out for a meal tonight but had to turn back as Sandyford Industrial Estate was gridlocked.

AlgoRythmes: Bonnes vacances de Noël, geekez bien !

I got this link from my brother and I think it's so good I have to share it! AlgoRythmes: Bonnes vacances de Noël, geekez bien !: "THE DIGITAL STORY OF THE NATIVITYenvoyé par ExcentricPT"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Siobhan Ryan - 12 December - aubergine dress

Siobhan is looking smartly festive in that dark purple dress. I think it's lovely on her. I wonder where she bought it?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Yummiest mincemeat & apple pie

Yummy - cooked perfectly - I reduced oven temperature to 170 as I baked it in a fan oven, with a silicone pie dish. 25 minutes was spot-on.

Next time, I'll make sure to get white spelt flour. I only had wholemeal spelt flour at home, which is perfect for the cookies, but a little bit too brown bready for apple pie. I got coconut oil in the health food shop in Dundrum Town Centre. I didn't get the gram and tapioca flours, just increased the quantities of spelt flour instead.

The Yummiest Apple Mincemeat Pie

After my last post on Aine McAteer's chocolate chip cookies, I was lucky to receive a comment from Aine herself with a recipe for a lovely apple pie.

I've just tried her recipe (I had to get a pie dish first!) and I'm happy to report that my first ever pastry looks and smells like it turned out good - I haven't tasted it yet. Full marks for straightforward steps that even a novice like me was able to follow. I kept the pastry cool and rolled it (with some help from Brendan) between sheets of greaseproof paper.

I'll let you know how it tastes after dinner!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Wire

I thought I had mentioned The Wire before, but I can only find a fleeting comment about it in my previous posts. It deserves much more than a fleeting comment. We finished the box set a couple of weeks back. I highly recommend it - it's not just about cops and drug dealers. It explores the whole money trail - the unions, the developers, the politicians, the role of the media, and there is a whole Season focused on the schools -  it shows how little hope there is for these kids - heart-breaking - out of all the kids we get to know, only two get out of the game - one gets a job in a shoe-shop, the other is more or less adopted by an ex-cop (sounds strange, but it works).

Great characters, many of them dead by the time the whole show is over. I think my favourite is Omar - he's a bit like Robin Hood, except he doesn't give to the poor, he just robs the rich drug dealers!

In many ways, it's completely depressing in its depiction of corruption, how the police hierarchy are only interested in meeting statistics set by the mayor's office, how the real bad guys get away with everything, and it's only the young kids on the corners who pay the hard price. But there are many more dimensions to it - there is plenty of humour (with a main character like McNulty, you just never know what to expect), and with so many characters on both sides of the law, plenty of stories to make it into a rich tapestry of life in Baltimore (and I guess of many other American inner-cities).

Oh, I did give it another mention a while back. I knew I had mentioned the sub-titles some time back. They are a life-saver - don't try to watch it without sub-titles.

And before I go, a special mention to Aiden Gillen, an Irish actor who plays an ambitious politician. You may have seen him in Love/Hate on RTE, where he plays, ironically enough, a top Dublin drug dealer.

PS: I got the picture of Omar from this website, where you'll find an in-depth review.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dawn/Dusk at Caraguilhes

Another interpretation on the same theme of low sun over snowy fields in the Corbières. This time with lots of textures rather than smooth washes.

Take 1 - sky done with cling film, and sun scrubbed with a Cheap Joes scrubber brush. At that stage, I thought it wasn't going to work - the colours were clashing too much, the sky looked contrived, and the hills were way too blue:

Take 2 - I added a wash of orange over everything to bring it all together (the same mix as I had used for the sky - red violet + green yellow - PV19+PB29+PY184 - the blue in very small amounts, just enough to dull the permanent rose). And all of a sudden, it worked:

Now, I'm thinking of painting it again, but with a yellow orange + violet blue mix (cadmium red + cadmium yellow + ultramarine blue). I just played with those colours and they produce some deep khakis and petrol blues that glow beside the yellow orange.

A great book if you want to explore textures is "Watercolour Textures" by Ann Blockley. It provided all the technical information I needed for this painting.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Obsessed with the weather

I got to yoga class last night (thanks to Brendan who gave me a lift). But I haven't been out much in the last few days, and cabin fever has definitely set in. I'm sick of this weather - I was hoping for a big thaw today, but it looks like it's going to be slow and gradual, then it will get colder again next week. When I lived in Belgium, weather like this (and much colder than this) wasn't such a big deal - everybody cleared their footpaths, the roads were clear and we got on with it. I just remember having to push my Dad's car up the ramp to get to the house when there was heavy snow, with my Mum and my brother. We were useless at it. Often, we ended up having to ask our neighbour across the road, Francine, a strong woman, who always managed to single-handedly push the car the whole way up the ramp.

If, like me, you've become obsessed with the weather, check out Met Eireann's 5 day forecast - it gives temperatures, wind and precipitation.

PS: the 3 of us who turned up at yoga yesterday generated a lot of heat - The Danu Yoga Centre was nice and warm, and Lisa kept us moving at a good pace. It felt good after 2 weeks of not going to the gym! And special thanks to her husband who had done a great job at clearing the path!


It took a few attempts, but I think I got the essence of angels OK in these sketches. What do you think? Done with the mirror image tool in Sketchbook Pro on iPad.

Also in white on my Facebook!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tiger in Snow

Found this photo on a blog while looking for images of the snow in Ireland in Google.

Big Snow 2010

PS - still no thaw. It snowed again on Monday evening. No snow yesterday, but still cold. I was very brave on Monday and drove to a customer all by myself. As soon as you leave the main roads, it's like going cross-country skiing. I had no problem, except for sweaty armpits!

Just Like Heaven

I reviewed Just Like Heaven before. I saw it on a flight - was it to Australia? But I had great memories of it, so when I saw it was showing on the telly, I asked Brendan to tape it for me (I still haven't mastered the UPC remote control).

And I loved it just as much this time - it's romantic, it's funny, it's sad, it's happy. It's such a rare treat nowadays to find a good romantic comedy.

Hey, I just found my original post about this film - February 2006! Tempus fugit and all the rest.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Mad Men

Great season of Mad Men this year (Season 4) - I felt it had more of a storyline than the previous series, which were all style and anguish, but little action. This Season had more of a sense of purpose. Don tries to give up drinking, he meets a career woman who is very much his equal, Peggy grows more confident and learns how to say No, Sally Draper (Don's daughter) goes to therapy, Joan's husband goes to Vietnam, the world is changing, and the Surgeon General declares that cigarettes give you cancer! Betty is the only one who doesn't move on - she is still stuck in an "everybody's out to get me" funk.

Don't read too much of the site if you haven't seen the season finale, though - it gives away a lot.One section you can read is the 1960s Handbook - really interesting to see how much of the background stories are fact-based.

And of course, don't forget the Fashion File (although there are some spoilers in there to). I didn't read it all - it looks like every episode is dissected with fashion scissors.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Star Trek movie

OK, it's just called Star Trek, and I'm probably the last Trekkie fan to watch it. We had downloaded it a while back, but I felt that an iPod Touch screen would be too small for it really. So when I got my lovely new iPad, I transferred it over and watched it last Thursday or Friday.

At that stage, I had all my paperwork up-to-date, I had done everything I could for customers who needed our help, and I wasn't going to set foot outside in the snow, so it was the perfect time for a movie.

It was very good - if you're a Star Trek fan, that is. The first part is pure Star Trek - big space battle scene, big baddie, big hero, big human angle. Then it moves more into a standard Hollywood film for a large part of the action - chase scenes, cheeky chappie, tongue-in-cheek dialog, to appeal to the younger generation, I guess. It moves back to classic Star Trek mode for the final part, as Leonard Nimoy's Spock makes an appearance. Though I have to say I've grown quite fond of the young Spock as played by Zachary Quinto (of Heroes fame).

I'm a Next Generation girl, but I know my classic Star Trek characters - James T. Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Dr McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, and it was very entertaining to see them all as just-graduated cadets and to discover how they get to meet each other and how they interact.

Big movie needs a big screen, yes? Well, I just watched the first scene back on my iPod Touch, and it's actually quite good - very sharp.

Hey, look at that, someone went to the trouble of creating a little collage of the old and new Star Trek actors. They look good!

Sunday, December 05, 2010


One of the places we visited on our trip to Kerry in October is Derrynane. The local tourist map was indicating a  good beach in the area, but we had some trouble finding it - it's well hidden, and all the better for that! My tip is that you should follow the signs for Derrynane house, associated with Daniel O'Connell (not to be mixed with Daniel O'Donnell)

We parked in the car park beside the house, which was closed. There was hardly anybody there - the weather wasn't great - we had to run back to the car as a shower approached. When we set out again, the sun was shining, and stayed with us for the duration of our walk.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Aine McAteer's chocolate chip cookies

After a week of snow and ice (and no end in sight to slippery roads and footpaths), I felt  I needed a treat. So I baked Aine McAteer's chocolate chip cookies, and I felt better immediately! They are the perfect comfort cookie. And while they are not exactly slimline, they are much better for you than store-bought biscuits.

I wonder does Aine have a good, easy, recipe for apple tart? One of our customers kindly gave us a bagful of apples from her orchard. I've made an apple & pear crumble, but I've got tons more apples to use. I've never made pastry, so I need a very simple recipe!

Christmas Tree ornament

I couldn't resist buying some of my own creations on Zazzle, including this gorgeous little Christmas tree ornament based on this drawing I did with Sketchbook Pro on my shiny new iPad (I love it, I love it). Also available in green!

Friday, December 03, 2010


Here is a little angel I drew yesterday, using Sketchbook Pro on my new iPad. Isn't he pretty?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Big Snow 2010

And now, the doomer and gloomer pictures. After more snow this evening.

But I'm happy to report that most kids appeared to be at school today - at least they were not on the green throwing snowballs at passersby!

Pictures of the Big Snow 2010 - Part 7

Here is the last of the pretty pictures, from last Sunday.

Pictures of the Big Snow 2010 - Part 6

It looked pretty last Sunday, but, at this stage, I've had enough of it. And we had further heavy falls this afternoon and during rush hour. I just want things to go back to normal (though I did enjoy watching a movie this afternoon!)

Pictures of the Big Snow 2010 - Part 5

Strange plant in Airfield

Those pictures were taken on Sunday, and we've had a lot more snow since. Plenty yesterday, and it's starting again this morning. Definitely more snow than last January. And no thaw at all. 

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Thugs is the only word I have to describe the boys on our estate who are throwing snow balls at all cars going through the main road into the estate. And not only that, but also at women walking by. And don't try to point out to them that it's not funny. Those boys are operating in packs and they'll talk back at you, then throw another snowball at you as soon as you have your back turned. Little rats is what they are.

First Christmas tree

We saw our first Christmas tree today! Do you believe it? Very christmassy with the snow!

Pictures of the Big Snow 2010 - Part 4

Leaf on the Snow