Sunday, 28 June 2009

The park, again

Thank goodness for some rain, or I'd have been out watering the garden yet again. We've had such amazing weather that a bit of rain is welcome. Unfortunately right now C's motorbike is sitting uncovered in the front drive, getting wet. His brother is over from Australia with the family (last time they all came was sixteen years ago and there were only three of them, now there are two girls). They were here today, so when we went for a walk in the park, we couldn't all fit in the car - so C went on the bike, and his brother borrowed my helmet and went along pillion. I think we walked a bit further than they were used to, but the girls really wanted to see some deer - and we did :D. Luckily I'd stuck my tele-zoom in the bag.

We had Rick Stein's Moroccan Tagine with Ras-el-Hanout and couscous, followed by homemade strawberry and vanilla icecreams, meringues and chocolate sauce. I think it's the first time I've cooked for anyone else who also works in the cooking field, so it was just slightly intimidating.

Phoenix Park in the evening

Another lovely sunny day yesterday. C was at a course all day, so we went for a walk in the park in the evening. The heron was very close, but the sun was right on his body and burnt the feathers out so much that I just had to make a close crop to salvage anything!
BBC World Service have a project at the moment called Save Our Sounds. Last night there was a Ugandan guy talking about the sound of rain. It set me thinking of memorable and evocative sounds for me...
The sea, for starters. We grew up near it, and always holidayed near it, and after I had a downstairs bedroom, I could slip out the window at night and climb to the top of a pine tree, and listen to the waves and the rustling of the pine needles, and watch the lighthouses.
Steam trains - for something that is already so out-of-date, it's amazing how instantly recognisable they are. Last December the Steam Preservation Society was running steam-train trips to visit Santa in Dublin. The very first time we heard one go past it was instantly recognisable. It was a shame I never could find a timetable for the trips, or I would have gone out to the level crossing to take a look.
The sound of cow or sheep bells (clarines in French) rising through the early morning mist in the Auvergne.
Some years back I took my parents to Birr Demesne for the day. A swan flew overhead, so close that we could hear the wind in its wings - musical and magical.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Bean soup

Another soup that does a light main meal or a substantial lunch: I really like this one, after I spiced it up a bit from the original. We had it for supper when C got home late on Monday night, with croutons, and then we finished the other half on Thursday evening with ciabatta warm from the oven.

Bean Soup - serves 4.
2 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp ground roast cumin seeds, salt and pepper
1 tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tomatoes peeled and chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Fresh coriander / cilantro

Heat the oil and fry the onion, celery and carrots for a few minutes. Add the garlic and roast cumin and fry for another minute. Pour over 1 litre of water, add the beans, bring to the boil and simmer covered for half an hour. Blend about half the solids till smooth, and return to the pan. Add the tomatoes and vinegar, season to taste and simmer for about ten minutes. Serve with croutons and chopped coriander or parsley.
Because of the slight Mexican feel to this, any of the herbs used in chili are good for extra flavour- oregano and thyme, or a bay leaf.
I know it's cheaper to buy the kidney beans, but then it takes more forethought to have them soaked and cooked; sometimes I remember, sometimes I use a tin for convenience.

Loads of buds in the garden, won't be long till there are some blooms at last.

Monday, 22 June 2009


I don't know when after will be!
I was sure that when this didn't arrive on Friday, that I would have to go to the sorting office for it one day this week, but our wonderful postman managed to squeeze it through the porch window! It's Aran-weight pure wool from the Shetland Islands, and I'm going to knit a modern Icelandic design with it. It knits in one piece from the neck down, so it's going to get a bit too big to bring into work quite quickly, I fear. I have to knit a tension sample too, because the pattern only comes in one size - medium/large, with a 47 1/2" chest. So I have a feeling that I'll probably knit it on one size smaller needle. Hard to know, as the last sweater I knit from the Icelandic collection I had to re-knit the whole thing as medium turned out to be a bit too small for comfort.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Wet Gazania

This morning was grey and drizzly. Not wet enough for an umbrella, not too wet to set up the camera and tripod outside. I mentioned my Gazanias that had survived the snow and hail of winter and the dought of neglect. Today was not the day for them to be showing their open faces, without any sunshine to entice them out. But they still looked very photogenic with the raindrops on them. At least, I thought so...

Saturday, 20 June 2009

What a difference a day makes...

Last year I planted some Iceland Poppies in a big planter pot to sit beside the front door. I've planted more of the same for this year, and they are coming along nicely but nowhere near flowering. Some of last year's must have seeded around, because this one is growing in the pot beside my rosemary...

Got to go - had a call from a friend the other day, asking could she and her son stay overnight tonight on their way up to Ikea. Luckily the spare room is still tidy from C's friend staying last week, but I had to get the second bed out and up, and make more strawberry icecream as we'd just finished the last lot off. I had a scribbled recipe that is years old - it came from the first freezer cookery book that I can remember my mother buying, and she made it once or twice. I'd tried on and off over the years, but until we got our icecream maker, it never turned out quite right. Over the last 3 years I've been working on it, and this is my final version.

Strawberry Icecream.
Just under a pound of strawberries
6- 8 ounces sugar, according to taste.
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 a leaf of gelatine (a scant teaspoon)
About a cup / 8 fluid ounces whipping cream.
Puree the strawberries and sugar and leave for an hour or so.
Sponge the gelatine in the lemon juice and then warm to dissolve(if powdered) or soaked the leaf in cold water and then dissolve in the lemon juice. Do NOT boil the gelatine.
Put the strawberry puree and gelatin into the icecream maker, along with the un-whipped cream. Churn till ready to freeze.
We have the smaller size of the Magimix ice-cream maker, this fills it. I dream of having this Gaggia one some time - when we have enough space to leave it out on the counter. I think that anything that has to be put away each time is never going to get as much use...I used one like this when I worked in a restaurant, and I'd love to be able to make more than one batch at a time without waiting for the bowl to freeze again.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Finished, at last...

I thought I had the day off today, but got a phone-call at 8 to see could I go in. As it was such a miserable wet morning, I was as well off in work as at home. What luck to have had yesterday off instead, and the glorious weather. Anyway, I was able to finish sewing up this little baby jacket in work. Perfect timing, as I ordered some wool from Jamieson and Smith this week to knit a new jumper for myself. I'd knit a Guernsey style tunic for a friend's son (she has a backlog of knitting at the moment) and when I gave it to him, he gave me €40 to spend on wool for myself. He'd wanted to choose some for me, but choices here are pretty narrow these days. He'd probably have chosen well - all of twenty-something years ago when he was possibly still in his late teens, he chose some wool as a thank-you. While it was not one I would have bought myself ever, I loved the colour and wore the resulting jumper till there were holes in the elbows. It was my first introduction to the Kilcarra wools, which I still love for their texture. It just seems crazy that it's easier to get an Irish-made wool mail-order from the UK than it is to find it here.
Anyway, this is what I made for Ade's baby. I wouldn't have chosen to use navy for an African baby, but I offered her the choice of buying wool she wanted, or using this which I had, and at the end of the day it was her choice. Anything that's a change from pink, is what she said.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A Sunny Day Off

Last night I was just about to go to bed when I checked my mobile and found a message from work saying that today's training was cancelled. So I took advantage of a lovely sunny morning to go to Farmleigh for a walk. I was trying to find some photo opportunities with leading lines. Why is it that when you set out to look for something, it's so much harder than when it just happens by a lucky accident. If I could pick out pictures from my files with leading lines, it would be no problem. But today, all my lines were just lines and didn't seem to lead anywhere. C'est la vie.
It was still a lovely outing, warm and sunny and peaceful.
A couple of photos of the dogwood. The sun went behind a cloud, and I had to wait a while for it to come back out again.

And for today, this is the closest I could come to a photo with leading lines...

However, when I went to hang the washing out before I went for my walk, I spotted this on the patio...
...his shell was a bit cracked, so I think a bird might have spotted him too.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Baklava - not for the faint-hearted

We have a friend of C's staying for the weekend. On Thursday I decided to make a big tray of Baklava - turned out to be a good thing as by Thursday evening I knew I was coming down with a bad head-cold, and it was great to have something already done for weekend treats. We had some very disappointing baklava in Paris, bought at the market on Rue de Rennes/ bvd Raspail. Then we had some very nice Kataifi when we happened to find a little Greek deli near the Sacre Coeur - and got to pull out some rusty Greek, too.
For some reason the Asian and Indian shops don't seem to have the regular cinnamon quills at the moment, just what is very definitely bark. Slightly different taste, but not bad...

3/4 lb mixed nuts - I use about 4 oz each pistachios (unsalted), pecans and almonds. It's really a matter of personal preference.
1 oz granulated sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon (more is my preference)
1/2 lb butter
1 lb filo pastry. ( I use 2 packs of Jus-Rol, 6 sheets in each pack.
1 lb granulated sugar
3/4 pt water
2 large strips of lemon rind
1 cinnamon stick
6 tblsp honey - use a good one, the flavour will be noticeable.
I have a large turkey roasting tin I got when I was catering for an outdoor activity weekend. It's the same width as the filo sheets, but not as long, so I lay one down and then fold it back about a third of the way.
Chop the nuts finely, leaving a few more coarsely chopped for texture. Add the single ounce of sugar and cinnamon and stir together.
Melt the butter.
Spread about 5 layers of pastry in the roasting tin, brushing each layer lightly with butter. Continue for another 4 layers or so, alternating nuts with each layer, and continuing to brush with butter. Finish off with another 5 or 6 layers of pastry, keeping the top layer as perfect as possible. With a very sharp knife, mark into diamond shapes (about 2" each side). Pour any remaining butter over, and cook in a preheated oven at 170C for half an hour. Reduce the heat to about 150, and continue cooking for another half hour or so, till a good golden brown colour.
While it is cooking, make a syrup by combining the water, sugar, lemon rind and cinnamon stick together in a large pan. Bring to the boil, boil (not simmer) for 5 minutes and remove from the heat. Remove the cinnamon stick and lemon peel, and stir in the honey.
Remove the baklava from the oven when it's ready, and while it's still hot, pour over the syrup. Allow to cool before serving.
To go with this, here are a couple of photos from Corfu last year.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

City photos

Today we had training in work - and as it seemed set to be a fine sunny day I stuck my long lense in my bag. Shame the windows don't open very far, but even taken through the glass these pictures didn't seem to turn out too badly.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

More Flowers

Still some more photos from the Botanic Gardens. It was lovely weather today, and as I was off work I'd thought about going to Farmleigh for a walk - but stayed home and tidied my craft room instead.
Some more photos from the Botanic Gardens, instead. Got to check out my Gazania, though - to my surprise the tub has survived both lack of water and snow, and the first one flowered yesterday when the sun finally came out in the afternoon.
My own irises are nearly at an end - the frail little white ones have been the most prolific and there are still a couple of buds left.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Some ATCs

For the last week or so I have been making some ATCs for an Animal A-Z swap on SCS.
Time now to pack them up and post them off...

It bothers me a bit that the jaguar (cheetah masquerading as a jaguar - have you ever tried to find a jaguar stamp small enough to use on an ATC?) doesn't have eyes, but there was no way I was going to try to draw one on that I was happy with once, let alone thirteen times. I had fun making the Serendipity Scraps backgrounds for the jellyfish - it was something that I could do outdoors and enjoy the sun.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Recipe Time

I was just writing out this recipe to send my sister - it's the parmesan and rosemary focaccia that I made the weekend before last when we had such hot weather. The recipe originally came from one of Anna Thomas' books - From Anna's Kitchen. I reduced the parmesan by about half, and had to adjust the size as European ovens tend to be smaller than American ones. The first time I made this it was with the tail end of some Parmesan which I have a feeling came from Italy via London. Since, unfortunately, it was finished, I stretched to a lovely fresh, but expensive, wedge from M&S. It seems to be a bit saltier, and without the lovely granules, but still pretty good.
Parmesan and Rosemary Focaccia.
1/2 sachet instant yeast
1 lb strong flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp fruity olive oil ( I used Greek for this)
1 tbsp chopped FRESH rosemary
2 oz freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp salt crystals or flakes.
Mix yeast, flour salt, 1 tbsp of the oil, the rosemary and 11/2 oz of the Parmesan together in a large bowl. Add 1/2 pt lukewarm water, and knead or beat with dough hooks. It should be a soft dough. When it's smooth and elastic, put in a clean oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for an hour or so, till doubled in size.
Oil a large baking sheet - mine was about 13" square - and gently pat the dough to fit out to the edges. (Original recipe says a 16 x 12 oval, but our oven isn't that big.)
Cover with a tea-towel and leave for another half hour. The oven should be heated to 200C so that it's hot at the end of the half hour.
Brush the bread gently with the remaining oil, and press your fingers into it to dimple the surface. Sprinkle with the salt and remaining half ounce of Parmesan.
Bake for about half an hour or so till golden brown.

On Friday it was our anniversary. Easy to cook meal was steak, onions, Russian Hill potatoes and sugar snaps, with a very nice Italian wine - a 2004 Barolo. Chocolate mousse to follow;
Chocolate Mousse.
4 ounces dark, good quality chocolate.
1 ounce butter - unsalted if possible but not necessary
4 eggs, separated
Finely grated zest from one orange.
Gently melt chocolate and butter over hot water and cool.
Beat the egg yolks at high speed till thick and creamy - at least 5 minutes. Fold in the chocolate.
Beat the whites till stiff but not dry.
Fold a quarter of the whites into the yolk and chocolate mix, and then fold this into the remaining whites.
It's meant to serve six - I made 4, because I was using some little teacups that I'd bought in a Japanese shop in Paris.

Sunday, 7 June 2009


The photo challenge on SCS this week was shoes.
Since the weather took a sudden unexpected turn for the better after the torrential rains of yesterday, and is expected to get worse again during the week, I thought I'd take advantage of the sunshine and take a picture this evening.
(I am not a shoe person - I am happiest in my bare feet. My days of running barefoot in the woods or up in the hills are probably long gone, (any running these days is just when I know that if I jog all the way to the bus stop from work I have a good chance of making the early bus), but I still kick my shoes off as soon as I am in the front door. In all the time that I did run barefoot, I only ever hurt my feet twice - I am sure that when you run barefoot you compensate much more for the ground than you do in shoes. After all, the time I really hurt them was when they got too cold to feel the groound as I ran. Well - who'd expect a major hailstorm at the end of April when it had been a fine spring day !! Before the storm, I'd been sitting on a tree trunk watching a vixen and her cubs playing in the clearing.)

However, I do have some favourite shoes. This pair was a lucky find, and cost more than I would have spent if they hadn't gone so perfectly with the dress. The dress itself was expensive fabric when I made it eighteen or nineteen years ago - but as I still wear it every summer, it would have been cheap at half the price.

And here's an old photo from 1991. Not wearing those shoes in it, though!

Wet Wet Wet

My goodness, from heatwave to floods. We were lucky; no major flooding on the roads we were on, just heavy rain almost non-stop. It was unfortunate that the knob for adjusting the heating in the car had got stuck with all the hot air being directed at our faces, but luckily we have a portable fan for the dashboard which we could direct at the window to keep it fairly clear.
These pictures were taken along the seafront in Greystones. As we had seen a northbound train just as we were driving under the bridge at the North Beach, I knew we had time to spare before my aunt and uncle would arrive on their southbound train.
I can remember as a child that often in the winter storms seaweed would be blown right across the road, and sometimes the wind would be so strong that you could lean back on it.
There was so much spray yesterday that I had to take the pictures in a hurry - if I could taste salt spray on my face, I sure didn't want it on the camera! It wasn't even meant to be all that windy of a day - I think it's just that I miss living by the sea.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Bridges 3

Last night I was meeting C in town after work for a kebab, and snapped a couple more pictures. Just with my pocket camera; I was travelling light as I was taking a lift home on the back of the bike.
The Ha'penny Bridge - so called because it was first built in 1816 to replace a fleet of ferry boats; the builder was allowed to charge a halfpenny toll for each person crossing. My recollections are that it used to be a dark green - must look in some old books!

Also Grattan Bridge - built in the 1750s and remodelled in 1872.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Bridges 2

Here are a couple of better pictures of James Joyce Bridge - you can see an overall view in yesteday's post. I tried for a picture of the next bridge up, but really I think I need to get off at the next bus stop and have the sun behind me, instead of shooting into it. Watch this space, I'll keep trying!
The first of these is taken from the north bank of the river, the second from the south bank.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


The photo challenge this week on SCS was bridges.
I checked the tide tables (the river is still quite tidal where I cross it on the way to work) and reckoned it was worth sticking the wide-angle lens on my camera and a quick jog to catch the early bus and see what I could get before work.
The first photo, of the James Joyce bridge, isn't the best. It's the one I most often cross on the way to work and I have a lot of better pictures on my pocket camera, but this is today's photo. This bridge was built in 2003

The second bridge is the Rory O'More Bridge - I never knew that till today as I've never found a name on it, and I just think of it as the St. Helen's Foundry Bridge. The current bridge was erected in 1871, with the first bridge having been built in 1670. Apparently it's also known as Queen Victoria Bridge and Victoria and Albert Bridge. Those make sense, as that stretch of the quays is Victoria Quay. With no name I've ever seen till I looked it up tonight, I think of it as the St. Helen's Foundry bridge.

I skipped Frank Sherwin bridge - not very attractive.
The last one is Sean Heuston bridge, which is just across from the mainline rail station. The tram runs over it on the way to the city centre. It was built in 1821.