Sunday, December 30, 2012

Killiney beach - views

Where else would you get such wonderful light? - Happy Birthday, E!

Killiney beach

Bracing walk on Killiney beach this morning!

Pouring Medium

I promised you greeting cards, didn't I? - they're quite thick, so I'd better let them dry for a few days before I put them in an envelope!

I've also started to play with my Liquitex String Gel, but I have to wait for it to dry some more before I take a picture. It doesn't flow as much as I thought it would, so I might spray a little water on it tomorrow. Or maybe I should heat the container with a hair dryer just before pouring?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

James Joyce Tower

On a Sunday, we often go to Sandycove for a walk at the seafront, going by the little beach and then over by Forty Foot and the James Joyce Tower. In all the years, we have never seen the tower open. It's maybe twenty years since I was last inside the museum and able to go to the top and look over the snot-green sea below.

But yesterday was not a Sunday! We love going for walks after Christmas, and we couldn't believe it when we saw the shutters open. With admission free, we hopped in and made our way straight up the stairs. Well, not exactly straight - it's a very narrow winding stairs, but it wasn't busy - there was just an Italian couple looking at the bits and pieces in the main room upstairs. Lovely views at the top, plenty of fresh air, and the sea was definitely snot-green. Pity we didn't have a camera!

The sign outside says it's open from 10 to 4, and the friendly gentleman inside told us it's open every day except Sundays. Hopefully, it will remain open. It was closed last Summer. Hopefully Failte Ireland have got their act together now. And it would be nice to see it open on Sundays too. Failte Ireland should know that Dublin is not just for tourists!

Pouring Medium

I found a big bottle of Liquitex Pouring Medium under the Christmas tree, with the promise of hours of fun and experimentation!

So, as soon as our visitors had gone home, I started mixing and tilting paints. The best acrylics to use is Liquitex Soft Body - they mix beautifully with the pouring medium, with very little stirring, which means that you can start working within 10 minutes, as there are no bubbles caught in the paint. I didn't have white soft body paint, mind you, and I used standard acrylic, which worked out just as good.

But it's messy business - wear old clothes, put plenty of old newspaper on the desk, and don't forget your gloves (I used hair colour plastic gloves, but I'm going to buy surgical gloves, less likely to get out of control and stick to the paint). Have all your colours ready before you start and don't be afraid to waste a little bit of paint - you need to pour enough so it will drip over the sides; otherwise, you will have gaps - and it's acrylics, so it dries quickly, so it's hard to fix these after the event. I poured a few coloured circles side by side, then I used a little wooden skewer to drag the colours across each other. Then, it's a matter of tilting in all directions until you like what you see. When it was all done, I set my board over two little jars, so it wouldn't stick to the newspaper. Then I covered the whole setup with a big Ikea cardboard box - the best advice I got (from a YouTube video I watched yesterday - but I can't find it now, so I can't give credit to the person who came up with the idea, sorry) - the surface will remain tacky for at least 24 hours, so any dust, or cat hair floating around, will stick to it and ruin your beautiful shiny painting!

This is only my second time playing with pouring medium. And it's looking much better than my first attempt. I'm thinking beautifully-coloured greeting cards next! And I haven't even looked at the jar of string gel that Santa included in his big bag of goodies!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Irish Weather Girls on Off the Rails

This link won't be live for very long, but it's a must-watch for all lovers of the Irish Weather Girls!

Click here!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Siobhan Ryan, black jumper, white shirt, 17 December

I'm not sure if this is a school teacher look, or, much more glamorous, another Audrey Hepburn look. Very simple outfit, but it is so lovely.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

One more for the road

Another beautiful piece from La Clemenza di Tito - an ensemble, like only Mozart can do them!

Jean Byrne, black top with basque, big pendant, and gold mini-skirt, 14 December

I was pretty sure I had seen this outfit on Jean Byrne a couple of weeks ago, but then I thought that the skirt looked a brighter gold than the previous time, and then I realised it was a proper mini-skirt! Unfortunately, the cameramen are not allowed to show us a full leg view, so you really can't see it properly. But I'm sure the boys on the online boards have noticed!


I've mentioned Spotify a couple of times - it's a great music-searching and -playing tool - completely free if you use it from a PC or laptop (but you only get a free trial on mobile devices). As my laptop is upstairs where I work, it's perfect for me. Yes, it would be nice to listen to it on my iPad, but I really have no need for it. We have music in most rooms - more than I need.

Yes, there is advertising on the free version, but I don't mind. It's ideal if you want to listen to a piece of music, but you're not sure if you want to actually buy it. You can listen to it as often as you want, you can place it in a personal playlist, and then you can go looking for more music. Knowing myself, I'll still be listening to La Clemenza di Tito in the new year! When I was a teenager, I would play my Neil Diamond LPs over and over!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wolf Hall

I'm not sure how to describe Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. I have been well immersed in Henry VIII stories over the last year - I read The Boleyn Inheritance last summer and I've been watching The Tudors DVD boxset since last Christmas. So I was curious to find out how Mantel would tackle this well-known story. Well, I think she took a very different perspective - the book is almost impressionistic in style. It follows the timeline of events all right, but from a very personal perspective, in light, painterly, touches. I'm not sure I'm expressing this right - it's like the events themselves don't matter so much, but the feelings and thoughts and impressions at the core do.

The story follows Thomas Cromwell, from his youth up until the execution of Thomas More, but it doesn't focus so much on the big events or on the King, but on what goes on in Cromwell's head. Which I found fascinating.

However, if you're not familiar with the period, I really don't think it's the book to start with! While The Tudors TV series is silly in parts - Far too much sex, Jonathan Rhys Meyers never puts on weight as he plays an ageing Henry, and a view of the Pope's palace outside of Rome is very clearly Powerscourt House and Gardens in Co. Wicklow - it gives a good overview of who is who and how events unfold. If you can put up with the many sex scenes and the lack of historical detail (the women's dresses don't look right for the period, even), it's actually a good introduction to the period.

And I found similarities between the Thomas Cromwell of Wolf Hall and that of The Tudors (apart from the lack of weight gain, again), a man devoted to the King, a hard worker, an intelligent man. But Wolf Hall really gets us inside his head, his every thought, his love for his family, his appreciation of the finer things in life, his dedication to his work, his humanity.

I've got Mantel's next book, Bring up the Bodies, lined up on my Kindle. However, as I said, Wolf Hall is not the book to pick up if you want to learn the broad strokes of the period. But it's the perfect read if you're interested in the nitty gritty of what may or may not have gone on in Thomas Cromwell's head!

For other opinions and excerpts, have a look at this interesting little Tumblr!

Temptation Bread Pudding

Last weekend, I tried the Temptation Bread Pudding recipe from Aine McAteer's new book-in-the-making. Again, a very tasty dish, extremely easy to make, and full of healthy ingredients, like apples and maple syrup. I was a bit concerned when I poured the mix into the soufflé dishes that it looked very liquid, but when it came out of the oven, it was a perfect consistency. Again, a tasty winter homely treat. It joined the steamed apple and marmalade pudding in BB's top 5 favourite desserts! This weekend, I'm hoping to try out Aine's muffin recipe. I bought a muffin tin last week, as muffins haven't been part of my repertoire so far! BB is hoping they will work out!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

La Clemenza di Tito

Time flies in December! All of a sudden, there is so much to do!

I'm not a snob. I love Mozart, and most of all, I love Mozart operas! I've had La Clemenza di Tito in my CD  collection for years. It's always a bonus to go to see an opera when you're already familiar with the music! And the production at the Met HD show on the 1st of December was a real treat. It wasn't a modern show, although the Romans were dressed more like people from the time of Mozart (18th century, according to Wikipedia!), but you can do those things with opera, that's the beauty of it. I had a wonderful evening, letting the music take me. I think I can never tire of Mozart! Beautiful arias like "Del piu sublime soglio", or duets like "Ah perdona al primo affetto (video is not from the Met HD broadcast - there is actually very little of it on YouTube)" is all I need at the end of a busy day!

As is generally the case with the Met productions, the cast was excellent, both vocally and in their acting skills. I particularly loved Elina Garanca as Sesto and Barbara Frittoli as the scheming and manipulative Vitellia. Barbara Frittoli brought a sense of lightness and frivolity to the role that I enjoyed.Vitellia is the kind of girl who wants the world to revolve around her.Yes, she was planning to get Tito assassinated, and playing with Sesto's feelings was all part of the plot, but OMG, let's not get distracted - it's all about poor Vitellia and keeping her happy! And when you have to wear a dress like that one, no wonder her nerves are fraught!

The next Met HD opera I'm going to is Berlioz's Les Troyens. I guess that won't be so much fun! I've just listened to a few minutes of it on Spotify so at least my ear knows what to expect, and it sounds very serious!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Boden flower

I actually didn't buy that long flowing skirt from the Boden summer 2009 catalog, but I did think about it! I had a long flowing summer skirt already (which I wear about twice a year!), so I really couldn't justify it! But I loved the flower embroidery at the bottom! PS: can't wait to see what surprises Santa chose for me on the Boden website!

Boden tee-shirt

Here is another one from the Summer 2009 Boden catalog. I bought this one in a neutral tobacco colour, but  the catalog showed it in green, which is quite pretty on a sunny day. There were lots of gorgeous clothes and accessories in that catalog! I could have bought it all! But we don't have enough warm days in Ireland to justify buying summer clothes every year. And two weeks in the South of France isn't enough, particularly when the Ryanair luggage restrictions stop you from bringing matching shoes for every outfit! And yet, when I look in my wardrobe, I see a lot of summer clothes. It's so hard to resist!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Steamed Apple & Marmalade Pudding

You all know that the only thing I do in the kitchen is desserts. BB is in charge of our daily meals and all special meals, including Christmas. He enjoys it. And he is good at it. And I wouldn't be - good at it, that is. But I do good desserts - thanks to Aine McAteer's book, Recipes to Nurture. Sadly, the book is out of print, and you can only get it used on Amazon. However, at £98.50, it's a little pricey.

But I have great news for you - Aine McAteer is working on a new book, with plenty of new recipes! How do I know this? Because I have been kindly asked by Ms McAteer herself to try out some of her new and reworked recipes! I am honoured! I asked her to send me only the desserts chapter. Let's face it, I'm unlikely to have much interest in the savoury recipes. (Though I see in my old post that I did a nice pumpkin soup, which I reprised a couple of months ago. And I use her recipe when I make miso soup.)

I'm really excited about these new recipes. I've only tried a couple so far. Between Christmas madness, which started before Halloween this year (Brown Thomas opened their Christmas shop in September, or was it August, even?), and work, and life in general, which doesn't include that much time in the kitchen on my part, I haven't found enough time. But what I've tried has been a resounding success!

Believe it or not, I had never made a steamed pudding in my life before. And it was more than a bit daunting. But the ingredients were simple, the steps looked straightforward enough, and I followed them faithfully, as I always do. The result? I think the picture here speaks for itself! A beautiful, tasty, homely, comforting, steamed pudding! BB declared it favourite dessert of the month!

Disclosure (I found that word in Newsweek - I always fancied the idea of using it too!): Just want to say I am not a relative of Aine McAteer, nor a close friend. I have never met her in my life. I just remember dropping her a note on her old website many moons ago, and when I joined Facebook, her name was in the FB suggestions, and we've been Facebook friends since!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Blue Moon

Talking about Picasa's Invert Colours Tool, what do you think of this one? (Original here)

And even more Paper Doodles

And when you're done playing with Paper, there is always Picasa! The "Invert Colours" tool is my favourite, along with "Orton-ish" and "Lomo-ish"

More Paper Doodles

More Paper doodles. Maybe it's the dark cold days that's inspiring me to draw scenes of summer at the beach! The lack of light. The grey skies. The driving rain. The frosty mornings.

Each year, around this time, I can't wait to be past Christmas, and to be watching for each day to get longer than the previous one... Only to be disappointed as Ireland rarely delivers on the hope of summer. Apparently, it's only once every 10 years that we get a good summer. And you never know when it's gonna happen. It could be in April, or in June, maybe even in August. If it hasn't happened by September, all hope of summer is lost. And then it's October, and it's time to look forward to Christmas again!

Paper doodles

It's been busy busy run run this week, and I haven't touched a paint brush. But I found time to doodle with Paper. As expected, I get lost in the colours, and forget to focus on composition and shape! But hey, does it matter? I'm having fun!

I am looking forward to the time after Christmas, where everything goes quiet, and I can paint every day to my heart's content. Right now, it's the pre-Christmas madness, and I just have to accept it, and go with the flow.

Siobhan Ryan, red dress, 7 December

Our weather girls are starting to bring out their festive outfits these days, each in their own style. Siobhan Ryan was wearing a pinky red dress yesterday, with flattering little cap sleeves.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Jean Byrne, black top with basque and skirt, red collar, 5 December

Interesting re-use of the black top with basque. This time with a red collar and a black skirt. Jean Byrne is looking very festive!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Jean Byrne, black lace outfit, 3 December

Another out-there outfit for Jean Byrne. It's hard to describe. Cat-woman meets Victorian widow? I like the long sleeves. Not sure about the lace. But then again, without the lace, it would be just a plain black jumpsuit, wouldn't it? And the necklace piece with the three large circular plates is definitely a show-stopper. I think Jean carries it off. What do you think?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Ruby Sparks

We watched Ruby Sparks last night.Lovely movie. It's the story of Calvin, a young writer, who's had one big novel 10 years ago, and nothing much since. He lives alone with his dog, Scotty, and doesn't really have many friends, apart from his brother and his therapist. It would seem the sales of his book are still enabling him to live well, in a fancy enough house overlooking LA. But he's lonely and he's having trouble writing. Until his therapist tells him to write a page about a dream he had about a beautiful girl. A few days later, he finds that the girl of his dreams is living with him. She has materialised out of the written page, and she's perfect. And she's real. Other people can see her too. She's quirky, beautiful, funny. She's got feelings. And she loves him. But is that enough for him? And for her?
He finds that if he writes about her, what he writes becomes real, so he can tweak her. Will he create a monster, or will he be generous enough to let her live her own life?
The story becomes darker than I had expected. But it's a lovely girly movie all the same.
And with a few good actors: The guy that did the older brother in Little Miss Sunshine (the brother that wouldn't talk, and who wanted to become a pilot, He looks as geeky now as he did then). Annette Benning. Antonio Banderas. And Zoe Kazan, who plays Ruby, is Elia Kazan's grand-daughter! And she wrote the screenplay for the movie! And according to Wikipedia, she's been dating Paul Dano, who plays Calvin, for 5 years.

Siobhan Ryan, black dress, 28 November

Siobhan Ryan was channeling Audrey Hepburn on Wednesday evening, in a beautiful LBD. Very festive and elegant.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Naughty or Nice

I came across this article about the 10 naughtiest dog breeds. A friend of ours was thinking of getting a new dog and was wondering what type to get, so I thought of her when I read it. We would love a dog ourselves, but we have a 12-year-old cat, whom we don't want to upset, obviously. We've read plenty of horror stories of cats disappearing after a new pet was brought into the home, and we don't want that to happen. We were thinking that a lurcher might  be a nice dog to have - they're apparently very lazy. But I read somewhere that they had a habit of running after cats - a bit like greyhounds run after rabbits? So, we're in a holding pattern at present.

And for those of you who prefer cats (though one doesn't necessarily exclude the other), there is an equally good cat website here!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Jordi Fornies exhibition at Filmbase - Olivier Cornet Gallery

Apparently, passersby were going "WOW" around Filmbase on Monday, when they were hanging Jordi Fornies's paintings for his current exhibition, Espacios, curated by the Olivier Cornet Gallery.

I was at the opening of the exhibition last night, and I was certainly wowed. I had already seen Mr. Fornies's smaller works, as they were on show at the Olivier Cornet Gallery last week, and I had seen photographs of the bigger pieces on Facebook. But you have to see them in the flesh! Even with the crowds there, blocking the view, those pieces are impressive.

But it's the textures I love about his work, the layering, the scratching, the gold leaf. And the colours, the reds, the golds, the greens, most of them rendered in encaustic (which I think is a mixing of beeswax and pigments, applied hot - it's so vibrant). I would love to have big big walls to accommodate pieces like "Enchanted Moment", "Memories of our Dawn" or "A Quiet Conversation" (pictured here, with Jordi Fornies). But the smaller pieces are equally striking - I love "The Sixteen Necessary Steps", a set of colourful squares that look to be emerging from an icy cavern or frothy water, or from the fog of time.

There are paintings for all pockets - the "Fragment" series, 9x9cm, enamel, oil, resin and gold leaf on aluminium plate, is gorgeous, and quite affordable.

We picked up an exhibition catalog - with beautiful photographs of the works on display (though note that some of the colours are not quite true to the originals), and a CD of the music especially composed by Mark Hennessy to evoke some of the paintings from this stunning collection. We listened to the CD when we got home last night, while flicking through the catalog - beautiful music to go with beautiful paintings. A fantastic idea to weave music in to enhance the experience!

Espacios is on show at Filmbase, Curved Street, Temple Bar, until the 16th of December. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Made with Paper - new colours and colour mixing

FiftyThree have introduced new colour palettes and colour mixing in the Paper app - this is very exciting. While it was good to have a limited number of hues - it forced me to be imaginative with what I had and also to focus on drawing -, I love playing with paints and I can see endless possibilities.

Following on their existing business model, there is a charge for this addon - but €1.79 is a small price to get all the colours of the rainbow at your fingertip - literally.

It's got me started drawing again! Here is a lovely cardi and skirt from the Boden 2009 collection, which I drew last night. I didn't buy the skirt, too girly for me, but the cardigan was a great purchase, lovely with a dress or jeans, light but warm. Perfect for balmy summer evenings, if only we had more of those in this country!

PS: I have a tendency to draw the models fatter than they are - I've never been good at measuring!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Siobhan Ryan, black dress, low cleavage, 18 November

I'm sure the boys on the forums will be talking about this dress for weeks to come! From a girl's perspective, though, it's the perfect LBD for a young slim woman. You'll notice how Siobhan Ryan's hair is brushed forward, perhaps to tone down the effect somewhat?

The Tempest

I often know within the first ten minutes if I'm going to love an opera. With The Tempest, I knew the moment Miranda fell asleep and slipped down the prompter's hatch that I was going to love it. Of course, it's based on Shakespeare, so I knew the story would be good. But I didn't know what to expect in terms of production - though with Robert Lepage producing, I knew I would enjoy it. (How many times have I used the work "know/knew" in these few lines?)

Not that I liked the singing that much, I have to say, but the music was gorgeous and the sets (Prospero's island is a reproduction of La Scala's opera house, and we see it from various perspectives as the action unfolds), the costumes (including Prospero's tattooing), the acting, the acrobatics (Ariel is singing while hanging from a swinging chandelier - though I think there might have been a double for that part), the lighting (how the stormy sea is evoked through a moving sheet lit in blue) - it all worked beautifully - it was imaginative, fun, passionate, gripping. .

When I say that I wasn't that crazy about the singing, maybe it was the parsing of the words. Too modern for me - I like melodious arias and Mozart-like duets and trios and quartets! I think the main character that didn't work for me is Ariel, the sprite who is working for Prospero. Ariel  has high notes the whole time. Yes, maybe it does represent the character well, but it's not that pleasing to the ear. Don't get me wrong, the character was wonderfully executed by Audrey Luna, but I just don't like the sound of a high soprano!

Is it a case that the visual production is stronger than the music? Well, there was so much to take in visually, that I think I would need to listen to the music on its own to really appreciate it. Anyways, the Met's mini-site is worth a look and a listen if you have the time (though I found the video streaming was stuttering, but maybe it was my laptop?). As for me, I must check if I can find a recording on spotify (it's not an opera that I imagine myself listening to on a regular basis, so I don't think I'll be buying the CD. I would buy the DVD of this production, if it becomes available, though.).

PS: Just found it on spotify - I had to search for Thomas Adès with the accent (alt-138) - other searches didn't bring it up. Well, I'll be off listening to it now.Will report back at a later time!

Chainsaw massacre

Another "heavy inspiration" from a painting I found on Pinterest". A fantastic way to build my confidence in abstract acrylics techniques. I called this one, "Drooping Flowers", or "Chainsaw Massacre".

Again, I went for a different format from the original, and I used much darker tones, more autumnal.

I'll be going back to watercolours for my next painting. So much that inspires me!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jean Byrne, black top with basque, gold skirt, BIG necklace, 17 November

New outfit for Jean Byrne last night! Hallelujah! Beautiful long-sleeved black top with a basque - very much in fashion this winter. Dark gold skirt - first hint of the festive season! And a showpiece pendant/necklace, which makes her knuckle duster ring look small!
Jean is back in style!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Evelyn Cusack, black skirt white top, 12 November

Another lovely outfit that shows off Evelyn Cusack's slim body - black skirt and white long-sleeved teeshirt with relief pattern.

Why is it I wonder that Evelyn Cusack and Siobhan Ryan are wearing new clothes all the time, whereas Jean Byrne has been wearing the same for a year or two (tobacco and black polka dot jacket anyone?)? Is Jean spending her budget on big rings and other striking jewellery instead?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Siobhan Ryan, 10 November, black and coloured square top

I missed the weather yesterday, but BB told me that Siobhan Ryan was wearing an interesting top, so I had to check it out. He was right - it's like two Hermès scarves sewn together. Quite striking.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Jean Byrne, black dress with side zip and BIG ring, 7 Nove

I'm not sure I've seen this black dress with a side zip before? Anyways, it's quite flattering. And what a ring! Real knuckle duster material! Not to mention the bracelet on her wrist.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Heavy inspiration

Between a trip to Belgium, a sprained ankle and a heavy cold, I haven't had much time for art lately. But I had a good day Sunday and did this abstract painting in acrylics. I worked on a re-used 40x40cm canvas, which gave me some nice subtle textures. I was "heavily inspired" by a painting I came across on Pinterest recently. I would love to be able to come up with such a lovely composition myself some day - I'm planning to do little sketches in pastels to see what might work. I will just have to keep practicing! When I finally have an abstract painting worth showing, I'll call it "Heavenly Inspiration", or maybe "Perspiration", whichever is more appropriate!

Evelyn Cusack, 5 November, black skirt, bright top

This outfit shows off Evelyn Cusack's slim figure.

Monday, November 05, 2012

One-man Star Wars Trilogy

If you're a Star Wars fan, you'll enjoy One Man Star Wars Trilogy. We saw it at the Mill Theatre last week. The show is touring Ireland at the moment.

We had seen it off Broadway a good few years ago, and we had as much fun this time - though I have to say that some of the lines were lost on me. Maybe he's saying his lines faster than he used to? After 3000 shows, I can see how that would happen. Or maybe, it's such a long time since I saw the movies that I couldn't remember all of the scenes he was depicting?

This is strictly for committed fans! But if you are a fan, you will love this show. If you are not, you'll be wondering what it's all about!

Looking forward to the one-man Lord of the Rings next spring! I will definitely need to watch the movie again before that one!

WIGS - Christine

Most of the WIGS series have a common thread of women in crisis, whether it's a poker game going badly, a decision about getting married, an old junkie boyfriend re-appearing out of the blue. So far, none of the ones I've seen are "Pretty Woman" happy-ever-after kind of stories. Some are more light-hearted than others (I found Jan quite whacky, whereas Blue was really dark). I've just finished watching Christine, with America Ferrera (Ugly Betty to you and me). It's about a beautiful young woman on an evening of speed dating. All is not what it seems, and bit by bit, we get to discover what Christine is really after, and why she seems so tense.

Siobhan Ryan, orange top, 2 November

I personally prefer this look to the previous day's skirt for Siobhan Ryan. It's young, bright and flattering.

Siobhan Ryan, purple leather skirt, 1 November

It's really more pink than purple, and you can't really see it very well in the photograph. My question is - how big is Siobhan Ryan's wardrobe?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Lady of the Rivers

I had to go to Belgium at short notice last week. So, I grabbed my Kindle, and it was the best thing ever. I had a few books downloaded, and I chose Philippa Gregory's The Lady of the Rivers.

I have read several of Gregory's books about the Tudors (with three more to read still), I've watched The Tudors box set, the two film versions of The Other Boleyn Girl, Donizetti's opera Anna Bolena, and I'm currently reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. I find that all this historical fiction is a wonderful way to discover eras that I knew nothing about (I didn't study English history at school, nor college).

The Lady of the Rivers is part of The Cousins' War Series, otherwise known as the War of the Roses. I can't claim at this point that I know as much about this period as I do now about the Tudors, but I'm getting there. I didn't know that England had taken over substantial swathes of France, for instance, nor that Joan of Arc was executed by the English Regent of France.

As always with Philippa Gregory's books, the story is told by a woman who is at the centre of events. In this case, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, a descendant of Melusina, the river goddess, who, after her first husband dies, marries for love, and finds her life buffeted in the power struggles of the War of the Roses. It's hard to know of course where history stops and fiction starts, but Philippa Gregory appears to do her homework well, making her characters completely believable in their historical context. I'm looking forward to reading plenty more of her books.


Despite a sprained ankle, I went to the Met HD production of Otello on Saturday. Maybe because of the throbbing pain in my foot, I found it difficult to engage with the performance. I had hoped that the passion and beauty of opera would distract me from pedestrian preoccupations, but it didn't do the trick.

I can't blame Renée Fleming - she was a beautiful Desdemona and it was worth staying through Act 4 just to see her Willow song and Ave Maria. I can't blame Falk Struckmann either, who played a convincing Iago, full of anger and resentment, finding every opportunity to manipulate Otello's feelings. The production, while traditional, was good, with well-designed sets, costumes and chorus. And Johan Botha's voice was good, despite a cold from which he was just recovering. But I found Mr Botha's Otello lacking in something. All I can think of now is his blue eyes wide open in love, anger, jealousy, horror - it seemed to be his only way of expressing the character's emotions.

Otello is only my second Verdi opera - I love Rigoletto, and I was expecting to be blown away by Otello. But it didn't quite work for me. Let's blame it on the ankle.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Siobhan Ryan, black tank top and skirt, 25 October

A summery look for Siobhan Ryan last Thursday. It will be too cold for short sleeves today. She was right about today's forecast. A very frosty start indeed.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A slim Evelyn Cusack

Evelyn Cusack is looking lovely and slim these days, and always a happy smile!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Christmas cards

I've been planning my Christmas cards already. And I am not alone.

Someone just bought 30 cards from my Zazzle store. It's a lovely print of a Christmas Rose, which I painted in watercolours. I ordered this for myself a while back, and the quality of the print is really gorgeous. Thirty people are in for a treat when they receive their Christmas cards!

They also ordered a pack of matching stamps, which I would love to buy too, but since they're only valid in the US, there isn't much point! But I'm sure they will look equally beautiful!

PS: If you're thinking of buying Christmas cards, check out my Navajo Christmas Tree. I've ordered it too and it looks really well!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mary Chapin Carpenter in Dublin

If you were hoping for Mary Chapin Carpenter's greatest hits, last night's concert at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, was not the concert for you. The artist is currently on a UK and Ireland tour with her friend Shawn Colvin, and they chose to do lesser known songs, covers and numbers from their respective new albums. It was my first opportunity ever to see Mary Chapin Carpenter live and I was looking forward to it. I didn't know Shawn Colvin at all, and I have to admit I was disappointed not to get more of Chapin Carpenter's better known songs. That said, I enjoyed discovering Colvin, a fabulous voice (a much higher register than Chapin Carpenter), and a performer who enjoys being on stage. But I found that, because they took it in turns to sing (sometimes accompanying each other, sometimes not), it broke the flow of the evening. They did a couple of smashing duets that worked well, and I also found that Colvin's voice was lovely in harmony to Chapin Carpenter's songs. The other way round didn't work so well. Maybe it was the miking, but Mary Chapin Carpenter's voice didn't come through very clear. I thought it was me, but BB thought the same.
Two fantastic performers. Beautiful music. A lovely evening. But somehow the sum of the parts didn't quite add up. Give us more of the greatest hits, please!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Favourite Music

I know Pinterest is about visuals, but it's also a very handy way to keep collections. On this board, I've pinned my favourite music. I've got eclectic tastes, I agree!


I struggled with this design before, maybe a year ago. I was trying to capture it in watercolours, but it didn't work out at all - the fine criss-crossing stems, the delicate umbrellas. But yesterday I saw a drawing on the FiftyThree website which reminded me of it (except much better than mine), so I decided to tackle it again, this time using Paper on my iPad. It needs some refinement, but I like the effect all the same. Maybe it will inspire me to have another go with this theme in  watercolours again.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Siobhan Ryan, 14 October, crushed raspberry dress

Nice bold colour, lovely cut to this figure-hugging dress - a perfect fit. Siobhan Ryan looks good in these types of dresses.

Skippy Dies

The reviews said it was funny. It's not. Skippy Dies is a dark dark book. Teenagers, drugs, violence, sex abuse, blow-jobs in back alleys, despair, bullying, anorexia, death, but most of all, the cover-ups, the code of silence, the good old boys sticking together to protect themselves.

It took me a good while to get into it. I felt it was supposed to be funny, but I thought there was something wrong with me, because I didn't find it hilarious. I couldn't read more than a few pages every night. And it's a big book. Well over 600 pages. I nearly gave up on it. But thankfully, I stuck to it, and it found its pace. And it was a very satisfying read after all.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Coeliac-friendly Fudgy Chocolate brownie cake

I got a recipe for chocolate brownie cake from Lorna at least two years ago. Why I didn't try it earlier, I don't know? Of course I knew it was gorgeous. Lorna had served it to us on two occasions and it was the best dessert ever ever. Maybe, I also guessed it was addictive. But the reality is 10 times more intense than the memory! It is gooey and chocolatey and rich and satisfying.  I am going to have a sliver every day until the whole cake tin is empty. I will think about it mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and after dinner too. Maybe I will dream of it too. I hope the calorie count won't give me nightmares - 300g of dark chocolate, 250g of butter, 200g of caster sugar, 150g of ground almonds, 4 eggs, ...We just did the count this morning. It's around the 5000-calorie mark. OK, we'll share it equally between the two of us, but even if it takes us all week to finish it, that will be a full day's calorie intake over what we normally eat. So, I decided to skip my square of dark chocolate this lunchtime. Not that it will make much difference. And how long will I be able to hold?

But the good news is that this cake is 100% coeliac-friendly. No flour, and you can use gluten-free baking powder. Isn't that fantastic!

I can't wait till my next slice!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Malala Yousafzai

What kind of monsters shoot a 14-year old girl who wants to go to school?

Samantha Who?

I had a look at Cecelia Ahern's website recently, and found out that she was the creator of Samantha Who?, the TV series. I had read PS: I love you a few years ago and loved it (didn't like the movie so much) and I had noticed that Samantha Who? was available on Netflix. Since I had just finished watching a boxset of the Tudors (more about that some other time), I decided to start watching Samantha Who?

I've only seen the Pilot so far, but I think I'm going to like it. It's funny, witty, she wears lovely clothes, her boyfriend is nice (though he might not be on the scene much longer, since she cheated on him), her parents are wacky, and it's all a bit frantic.

I'll keep you posted.