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?