Thursday, 30 July 2009

A sunny day... we went for a walk in the park in the evening. The reflections were down by one of the ponds. C took a little bit of persuading to go that way, as there was less direct sunlight. So when we came up from the hollow we struck across the open grassy areas and encountered the deer. The sweetpeas are my own...

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Teasels and the Sparrow Family

I was out with my aunt today. The forecast was for rain, but we were able to sit out in the garden for a while before it was time to provide the tech support which is why I was really there. In fact it only started raining when I got to the train station. She has a beautiful old-fashioned rambling cottage-type garden (well, her house is a cottage. It used to be thatched, too, but the insurance on thatch is high, and at some stage she got slates on instead). Haven't had time to upload the pictures yet, but here are some teasels. And yes, they were tall - taller than me, at any rate.

Here too are more photos of the sparrows. Father and son, mother and daughter? Parent and child, at any rate!

Monday, 27 July 2009

At last...

C had a friend staying over the weekend, so on Sunday morning I was busy getting dinner organised. But within a couple of minutes of putting some seeds and nuts in the feeder, along came the usual sparrows, and also this Great Tit. He was even still there by the time I'd changed the lens on the camera. He seems to be much shyer than the sparrows, so I had to take the pictures through the glass door. If it's fine tomorrow, when I'm not working, I'll fill the feeder and then just sit quietly and see if he comes again. He's so scruffy that I can't help wondering if it's a juvenile.

The little robin fledgling came back too - he's just so adorable.

For anyone who likes reading, can I recommend "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows. And then can I recommend it again!I spotted on Judy Rozema's blog that she had been reading it with her book club. As I once worked in Guernsey, I went off to check it out, and when I was ordering something else from Amazon I bought it. Quite apart from all the memories it brought back of my time in Guernsey, it was such a delightful and charming book. As it is set just after the war it deals a bit with the German occupation of the island, which I knew quite a bit about. So some pages make you almost want to cry, but then on the next page you are laughing again at the wonderful characters. I wasn't sure if C would like it, as I think it's probably more of a woman's book. I was going to lend it to his mother first, as I know she will love it. But he picked it up when he'd finished his latest P.G. Wodehouse book and he's hooked.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Late last night...

Well, the sparrow (I think) wasn't too late last night. This little fledgling appeared on the wall just as I was trying to get dinner on the table. And I had a short lens on the camera, as C's birthday present had arrived and he was opening it. So a quick change to long lens, and a bit of distraction during dinner. Thing is, I thought at first it was the little baby bluetit I've seen...alas not.

The rose came from C's sister's house. The Australian contingent stayed there most of the time that they were in Dublin. They came for dinner on Saturday, and Maria brought two roses from the garden. It was lovely to have them - we have no roses in the garden here. But she said that just as she was picking them J&G got back from golf and caught her in the act. I've been meaning ever since to take a couple of photos before they wilted too much. I left it too late for the yellow one...

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

A real miscellany

Aniseed Biscuits
It must be almost thirty years since I last made these. I can remember leaving them on one of the storage heaters overnight to dry. I grew up in a large draughty house with sash windows which rattled in the wind, and no central heating till after I'd left home. In the sitting room and in the dining room we had two old storage heaters that Dad had got from the school he taught in. They must have been almost five feet wide, and a good foot and a half deep. Maybe my childhood memory has enlarged them, but certainly 3 people could sit comfortably on one, even if we weren't really meant to.
It's an American recipe, so the measurements are cups.
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour, sifted before measuring
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tblsp crushed aniseed. I ground mine coarsely in my spare coffee grinder.
Beat the eggs till light.
Add the sugar gradually, then the vanilla.
Sift the flour again with the baking powder, and beat it in to the eggs, along with the aniseed. It should be stiff enough to drop onto a tray and not spread out too much.
Drop by teaspoons onto greased trays and leave in a warm dry place for twelve hours.
Bake in a moderate oven, about 170C, till they just start turning golden.
Makes about 50.

We had these with two sorbets - this is the recipe for the pear one:
Pear Sorbet
Put 200 grams of sugar in a pan along with 100ml water. Stir gently over a low heat till the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and remove from heat after boiling for 1 minute only.
Peel, core and purée 2 large ripe pears, and immediately add the juice of two lemons. If the lemons are large, don't use all the juice. Add to the sugar syrup. When cold, freeze or churn. Near the end of the churning time add one lightly beaten egg white if you like a lighter sorbet.

I got a batch of ATCs finished today, a summer theme using Flourishes stamps.

After much indecision C chose a large guitar case for his birthday present. The UPS guy was very curious about what it was, when he carried it into the house for me. That is one present that is not going to be wrapped!!
It's been on and off rain all day, and I had to wait in for UPS, so here's a photo from when we were training - Industrial Abstract.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Flying visit

Busy weekend, with my sister calling on Friday night, and C's brother and family from Australia here on Saturday. I was hoping to have time to type out the recipe for the aniseed biscuits I made at the weekend - but not tonight. They went down well on Saturday. I wasn't too sure - aniseed is not to everybody's taste, but I'd forgotten that they figure in Greek cuisine a bit. The ones I brought in for my supervisor in work went down well too - I'll bring her in a few more tomorrow since I have to work (not plan A!).
The SCS photo challenge last week was something to sit on. There are a couple of lovely street sculptures in town which I will try to get a picture of some day, but there was no time to make it in last week. I had thought of, and dismissed, the kitchen chairs and my office chair, and then suddenly in bed the other night I thought of the piano stool. So here is one ancient piano stool and one old and slightly shabby but still very tuneful piano. Along with the chaffinch. Why is it that when I only had a little compact digital, there were bluetits and great tits galore, hanging off the feeder every time I went out. Complete with a young bluetit who flew into the shed when I was doing the wash one day, and I had an awful time making sure he got out again, without panicking him too much. But this year the tits that are around have turned into shy, timid creatures - I got one very dark and dim shot of a little one today, but certainly not worth keeping, let alone posting.
Hope to be back with a couple of recipes later on this week.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Sparrows feeding.

I was out taking a photo of a card I made today when I saw both a chaffinch and a Great Tit hopping around in the tree next door, and the tit was taking peanuts from the feeder. So, I changed up to my zoom lens and sat for the next half hour on the floor of the back porch. No more sightings of either the chaffinch or the tit - just lots of sparrows. But I played around a bit with fast shutter speeds.

Australian relatives coming again on Saturday. Maria (who cooks professionally herself) liked the homemade icecreams last time, but told me afterwards she is a bit lactose intolerant. So after thinking of various options, I am going to make pear sorbet, blackberry sorbet and anise cookies for dessert. Had to remember to tuck the icecream-maker bowl into the freezer this morning!
Here's the card I made today:

So here is the card I made...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Misty Morning Flowers

When C was leaving this morning, early to take the car in for a service, he just commented that it was dry. When I got up it was so misty that I tucked my big camera into my bag, hoping for a good atmospheric shot of the swans on the Liffey. I even came back for my lens hood, because there was so much moisture in the air. Well, by the time I got into town there was enough sun peeking through to have burnt any mist off, but because I always leave the house in good time, I was able to snatch these shots in a garden on the way to the bus-stop. I was happy to salvage something from the morning - when I did get into town it's the first morning for a couple of weeks that the swans haven't been there.
There was good sunshine later, and then a totally torrential downpour. To cap it all, I'd unplugged the router this morning, and when I plugged it back in, no wireless connections were working and it took a while to get the radio and laptop back up and running again. When all I really wanted to do was go to bed and sleep for a couple of hours :-(

Monday, 13 July 2009

Baby bird and wet iris

This is an older photo from when the irises were out. But in view of the constant heavy showers today, and since I came across it while pruning my back-garden pictures, here it is.
Along with these of what I think is a young sparrow preening itself. All a bit back-lit, but not too bad on the whole...He just looks like such a ball of fluff!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Butterfly Beauty

The only reason the camera was out in the garden with me yesterday when the baby robin appeared was that DH had spotted this butterfly warming itself on the garden wall just as he was finishing up mowing the grass. Isn't it a beauty?

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Overdose of robins

C was cutting the grass this morning, and afterwards this little fledgling appeared. We are almost certain it's a robin, from its posture and its fearlessness. I missed him pulling out a worm - at that stage I was back inside making a Swiss Roll for morning coffee, but through the kitchen window I could see him tugging away and tugging, till he flew off with it. I love the way he is standing tall in the third picture.
So of course the card I made today was sticking with the bird theme!

Friday, 10 July 2009

Where's Wally and Urban Scarecrows.

With the summer holidays here, the traffic in the mornings is much lighter, and really I could get the next bus in to work - but it's hard to change my morning routine. And if I'm in even earlier than I want to arrive in work, then I can always walk around a bit. Not that getting into work early is a problem - always a good chance to get some knitting done.
Today I saw these urban scarecrows up Bridgefoot Street. To describe that site as allotments is probably to glorify it somewhat; it's a site scheduled for redevelopment (after the economy improves, no doubt) with a few small garden patches in it.

I also spotted Wally in the doorway of number 84 on another street.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Cinnamon, Cassia and a Stir-fry

Some time back I mentioned that I was having trouble getting proper cinnamon quills. In the end, I managed to find some in bulk in a health food shop in Greystones. Below is a picture of all I could find in the Asian and Chinese shops, with the type of quill that I was looking for in the centre.. The packaging says that this is the true cinnamon, but anything I can find leaves me thinking that my original cinnamon is the right one, and that the barky one may well be Chinese cinnamon but is possibly really cassia? The barky one has a warmer sort of scent, but a bit less aromatic.

This is one of C's favourite meals, he has been rhapsodising about it all evening. Originally it came from a BBC Good Food magazine, I've adapted it somewhat over time.
Water chestnuts were something else I was having trouble finding in the supermarkets, but I got them in an Asian shop in town last week.
Noodle Stir-Fry - 3 medium or two large servings
2 nests of fine or medium egg-noodles
6 tbsp each orange juice and light soy sauce - preferably a low-salt one
1 tsp of sugar, 1/2 tsp cornflour/cornstarch, 1 tsp orange zest
1 tbsp oil,
1/2 tbsp grated ginger, 1 clove crushed garlic
1 red pepper, finely sliced
2 tbsp sherry
1 carrot and 1 courgette cut in fine strips (I use the julienne blade on a mandolin)
2 ounces mangetout peas finely sliced
1/2 tin water chestnuts, drained and sliced
3 or 4 spring onions/ green onions
Some fried cashew nuts for garnish
Cook the noodles according to instructions on pack and drain - approx 4 minutes in boiling water.
Mix together the soy sauce, orange juice and zest, cornflour and sugar and set aside.
Heat the oil and fry the ginger and garlic briefly.
Add the sherry and peppers and stir-fry over a hot ring for 1 minute. The sherry should pretty much all have boiled away by then.
Add the carrots, mangetout and courgette and fry for 3 minutes.
Add the water chestnuts and most of the chopped spring onions, reserving a few for garnish. Fry for 1 minute.
Stir in the noodles, add the sauce ingredients and stir-fry till heated through.
Serve on hot plates, with remaining chopped spring onions and fried cashew nuts for garnish.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Dropping by...

C's birthday, so a busy weekend. Had to find a token present on Friday, as he still hasn't chosen his main present, and then I made a double batch of peanut-butter cookies so that we could bring some to a BBQ over at his sister's. They went down well with everybody from the youngest to the oldest. His sister was especially happy as she has a couple of allergies that mean she can't risk a lot of bought biscuits.
More and more rain, but in a brief dry spell we were out on the patio and C spotted this odd double marigold.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

What a change in the weather.

It has been so hot and dry for so long, with just the occasional rain in the night. Last night I woke up about four, to find we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. My PC was on upstairs because I was running a defrag, so I thought vaguely about getting up and turning it off - but in the end stayed in bed and hoped for the best, because there was at least 8 seconds between the lightning and the thunder.
It's rained most of today, too, but in one brief break I went out to get some bread and milk, and spotted this by the front door. Surprised to see the gazania even open when there had been no sunshine. Once of the stations along the DART line was closed due to flooding, so it must have been quite bad in places.

We had quite a nice Bombay chicken stew tonight. C doesn't like lentils, as he often tells me. Split peas are alright, lentils are not. But his plate was spotless, so maybe I can make it again. It was pretty much red lentils simmered for three quarters of an hour with some finely chopped onion, green chilli pepper, turmeric and ground cumin. Then I added the chicken cut into chunks, and a bit of salt, and cooked till tender. Near the end I addedd some green runner beans cut into short 1cm pieces. To finish off I added some onions and cumin seeds and the rest of the chilli fried till crisp in a bit of oil, and some vinegar. Should have been lemon juice, but not a lemon in the house. So it was a toss up between tamarind and vinegar to give the tartness.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


For whatever reason, I don't often post card pictures here. But I was very pleased with this card that I made for C's birthday, which is next weekend.
And on the bird theme, all of a sudden we seem to be having more birds around. Last year and the year before there were a lot of bluetits and great tits, but until last week I have seen very few of either. It's lovely to see them back again. Also this lovely chaffinch has been a regular visitor for the last week or two. And one day last week when I dug a new flower bed, a robin was in seventh heaven scavenging all the worms he could get from the compost I was digging in. I didn't get a picture, as it was just when C was due home from his course, so it was time to start getting dinner ready - not time to spend half an hour waiting for a suitable photo opportunity :D.
So here's a robin card instead of a real robin.