Sunday, 31 January 2010

Double Trouble

These are heading off in the post tomorrow - I was knitting away madly during any breaks in our training last week, so as to get them finished. It surprises me every time how much knitting there is in a hat, and with this beng a brioche rib, while extra stretchy and extra warm, is also extra slow!

The cards were made back in November for a Limited Supplies Challenge on SCS to make two cards using the same image and colours but different layouts. I knew they would be perfect for Esther and Victoria, who are 7 this week. And goodness I am glad I wasn't rushing to try get two cards made today.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Jack's Drinking Hole

I have a soft spot for jackdaws. We had a pet one, Socrates, for about fifteen years. He fell down the chimney in the school where my dad taught when he was just a chick, and by the time he was fledged, he was too used to people - and cats - to release into the wild. Some of the cats used to drape themselves over the top of his cage. His favourite food was mashed hardboiled egg. For a few weeks one summer we had a young seagull, Gulliver, who was brought to us by one of Dad's students, with a broken wing. He stayed in a large cage in the garden, living happily on a diet of tinned sardines, and never got all that tame, so releasing him back on the beach where he was found was no problem once his wing had healed up.
Today was such a bright, sunny (and frosty) day that when I walked down to get the paper and vegetables in the morning, I took my big camera, and spotted this jackdaw up in the tree. While I watched, he flew down to the bole of the tree, and started drinking away from some water which had gathered in a little hollow.
Then we went to the library - by a lovely coincidence someone who responded to my Freecycle offer of a bag of wool runs a toddler group there on Saturday mornings, and our books were due for returning by today at the latest.




Friday, 29 January 2010

Busy week

We had training in work this week - 8.30 for breakfast, 9 to 5 for two days. I took a lift in the mornings with C - it meant he dropped me off way too early; but the option was to leave the house before him and still only arrive at about quarter to nine, if the experiences of other people living along the same bus routes was anything to go by. The first morning I walked to fill in time. Yesterday there was more of a sunrise (usually I just see these from the bus, and by the time I get into town the glorious colours have faded), so I snapped this picture from the bridge at Heuston Station.

The photo challenge on Splitcoast this week was things beginning with P, which presented me with a plethora of possibilities.
Here's a sampler:

 Post Office on Earlsfort Terrace

Pedestrian Walkway
or Parallel Lines

Pots of Pink Paint


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Canal St Martin

I mentioned a few posts back that the reflections in the Liffey remind me of the Canal St Martin.
Well, this is a busy week, made busier by an unexpected visit to the dentist (a check-up was on my to-do list for February, I would have preferred NOT to have chipped a tooth over the weekend. However I was lucky enough to get a cancellation for 4 this afternoon - ideal for C to pick me up after work).
So I've picked out a few photos showing the canal in Paris. It's hard to believe that just the day before most of these photos were taken, it rained, and rained, and rained. We went to the Music Museum, which was a long ride out on the underground  - perfect for filling in a rainy day. The  museum is located at the Cité des Sciences, by the Bassin de la Villette, getting off the Metro at Stalingrad. The next day we joined the canal  at the point where Le Bassin de La Villette becomes the canal, and had a lovely walk down to the point where it disappears underground for a short while, near the Place de la République. It's the underground part that would put me off taking one of the tourist boat trips down it - it must surely be claustrophobic. These photos were taken in December 2007.

It comes out again at the Place de la Bastille, where it's just a few hundred metres down to the Seine. The photos of that stretch were taken on a later visit, when we accidentally came across the marina, and went back to it later on in the evening.

Just beyond this little footbridge is where the canal joins the Seine. It was starting to get a bit dark by this stage, and there was a security guard patrolling with a rather fierce looking Alsatian, but he told us it was fine to walk right down as far as the river. The walls up the side of the path along the river were still radiating warmth from the heat of the day. (More luck with the weather - this was March 2009, but so warm that sandals and a skirt would have been adequate a lot of the time.)
You can read a bit about the canal HERE. It's very different from the hustle and bustle of central Paris, and we'd certainly walk along it again. The canal features in the film Hotel du Nord, and also in Amélie.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Always Curious

The little robin is always the first to investigate when something new goes up.
This is the feeder I got during the snow, to hang the fatballs in. When I hung them directly from the tree, I'd see the little blue and coal tits pecking away - but then an hour later the whole ball would be gone. I was assuming that it was the pigeons or the magpies, extra hungry in the cold - but after we saw the squirrel, he's another candidate. I didn't look carefully enough in the pet shop, and there was a bar across the top which meant the only way of getting a fat ball in was to cut it up. So I've since got another more suitable feeder for the fatballs, and will use this one for peanuts. Yesterday was the first time I put the nuts in, and before I was back in the house, the robin was checking it out.

The other little robin is getting less timid - it will fly down to the patio for worms now, but won't stay and eat them on the ground - it flies straight back up to the wall to eat them.

We had this tomato and onion bake last night - it's been a while since I made it, but it always goes down well. I don't make a lot of bakes, but it's always nice having the preparation done and free time while it cooks.
Tomato and Onion Bake  serves 2
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1 red pepper, cut into thin strips.
3 medium tomatoes, skinned and sliced
breadcrumbs to cover
2 eggs
Melt a bit of butter in a frying pan and cook the pepper and onion over a low heat for at least ten minutes, till soft but not browned. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne.
Put into a greased ovenproof dish. Layer the tomatoes over this, seasoning again with salt and pepper. Sometimes I add a bit of fresh basil in with the tomatoes. Cover with breadcrumbs and dot with a bit more butter.
Bake in a medium hot oven - 175C, 350F for 30-40 minutes. Press the back of a large spoon into the top of the crumbs, to make shallow depressions. Crack the eggs in, season and return to the oven. Depending on the oven temperature and size of eggs, it should take 5 - 8 minutes till the whites are set.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Town birds...

Yesterday was such a grey and dreary day. I was visiting my GP, and then had coffee with a good friend. She was trying to offer me a lift to the train station - less than ten minutes walk, and while it was miserable, the weather wasn't so bad that I couldn't walk it easily. Mind you, it wasn't good enough to walk along the seafront, even though I had tucked my big camera into my bag in hope.
Today, by contrast, was bright and blue and sunny, with a mist rising from the ground in the crisp morning air. The photo of the magpies and their nest is just near my bus stop in the mornings. One of the guys in work says they have magpies on their road who steal the windscreen wiper blades from cars and use them for their nest. Sometimes people who have parked their cars there to get the train are surprised to come back and find the wiper blades gone - and if they ask any of the locals did they take them, they get shown the nest in the tree.
Magpies at home...

The bird sticker was along the quays - it's most definitely from a Dublin Bus poster.

Someone seems to be going around sticking a lot of stuff like that around - the parking pay-station just across the road has a bird that makes me think of  a jackdaw stuck to it, and one of the light-posts near the Law Society has a Victorian lady silhouette.

 Took a quick snap of the reflections in the Liffey after work. Sometimes it's calm enough for the reflections to run right to the wall, but not today. Seeing them always reminds me of a walk down the Canal St Martin in Paris, and the reflections of the houses there. I'll have to see can I rummage up a few pictures of that over the weekend.


This penguin winged her way over to Charlene for her birthday ; we have one here dressed in the colours of the football team C supports. I have to admit it was quite nice making one that didn't have to be child-friendly. So much easier to glue the eyes on than making little wool ones that have to be stitched tight all the way through the stuffing and trying to end up with them both looking identical. The lovely red wool from her hat and scarf set was bought several years ago for a bolero-style cardigan - and was the hardest wool I have ever knit with in my life. Even knitting fine 28-gauge wire is easier!! I've thrown the last scraps out after having rediscovered how bad it was to knit with.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Oranges Again

I wasn't working yesterday, so I took the afternoon to make marmalade. Just as I was starting, I was thinking how much the light was flickering, and thought it would be good to have a spare bulb on hand - it's not a standard one. A few minutes later it started flashing on and off, so I had to turn it off, and work by a little desk-lamp while the WD40 worked to loosen the shade enough for me to switch the bulb with the one from the hall. How lovely it was having an electric juicer - made life that much easier. I now have 12 lovely jars of marmalade - had to raid the collection set out for taking to the recycling centre to come up with enough jars.

 C bought me some Global knives about fifteen years ago or more - well before they became trendy. There was one shop in Ireland that sold them at the time, over in Galway. So for special occasions, he would add to my collection if he'd been over there on business. Apart from trying to keep them sharp  - I am not the best with a steel - I love them, and would certainly be happy to grow my collection with a couple more.

My best attempts could only rummage up seven lids (that includes raiding the one from the jar of bay-leaves by the cooker) - but luckily I knew I had some cellophane jam-jar covers - and where to find them. Which is more than could be said for the muslin to tie the pips in when I was simmering the peel and pulp. Instead of in with the teatowels, or even the overflow teatowels, it was in with my dress-making fabrics. Why?

I also made some cookies with a couple more Seville oranges this afternoon.  They have a lovely tang from the bitter oranges, but I'll certainly try them again with ordinary oranges another time. C managed 2 with his coffee before dinner, and another two for dessert afterwards.

Orange and chocolate chip cookies - makes approx 28
4 oz butter
5 oz caster sugar
finely grated zest from 2 Seville oranges
8 oz flour, sifted with 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 oz good chocolate chips.
Cream butter, sugar and zest till light and fluffy. Beat the egg and vanilla together and add gradually to butter mix. Stir in the flour with a spoon, or the mixer on low. Add 1 tblsp cold water. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Form into small walnut-sized balls and place on trays lined with greaseproof paper. Press down with a fork - dip the fork in water if it's sticking to the dough too much. Bake for 12-15 minutes in a moderate oven - I think mine was set to about 150C.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Snow Flowers

I've just been tidying, editing and deleting a lot of photos.
Here's a quick pick of some of the plants in the snow.


As my bulbs are mostly in tubs and troughs, I knew they had quite possibly frozen solid in the cold weather. I mean, my goodness, even the water still in the condenser unit of the tumble-dryer froze - and that was in the shed! So it was lovely this afternoon to see a little green shoot peeking up. I'd gone to inspect them as C saw a grey squirrel digging in one of them, and I was afraid he might have been digging up the bulbs to eat!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Angels in the Castle

These are a couple of photos from Friday 8th, when I met C in town after work. After having helped  a couple of Italian tourists I encountered near the cathedral to find their way to Dublin Castle, I headed there myself. I don't know if they knew about this exhibition or were just seeing the castle as part of their Dublin sight-seeing - I certainly hadn't heard anything about it. The angels are part of an exhibition called Beacons of Hope, which will be travelling round Ireland. I think I was lucky to see them - their scheduled departure was delayed by the snow.

  From a single mould, sculpted in fibreglass, we are producing a limited number of beautifully crafted, 2.4m/8 foot tall, specially designed Angels, created as a blank canvas.
We have invited some of Ireland's finest artists, musicians, sports people and celebrities along with a number of international guests to participate and support this fun initiative by painting and decorating one of our angels using their own designs to show the nation their interpretation of Hope.
Following the launch of the initiative in November. The Angels will be displayed in Dublin until the end of December. In January and February the Angels tour selected counties in the North and South of Ireland. At the end of the tour, the Angels will return to Dublin and will be auctioned in aid of three vital charities: Gaisce – The President's Awards, First Step Georgia and Right to Sight


Saturday, 16 January 2010

Winter Warmer - Bottled Sunshine

The last two places we lived, there were great independent greengrocers, who would get anything you asked for if they could get it themselves at the market the next morning.
Where we live now, we are lucky enough to still have a small  greengrocer. However, he doesn't go to market,  he just gets everything delivered, and you just have to hope that he has what you need, improvise, or try elsewhere. A couple of years ago when I made enquiries about marmalade oranges, he said there was no interest in them. In view of the fact that he stocks Chinese Leaves, I found that rather a surprising statement, but as he didn't offer to get any for me, I left it at that.
Yesterday I was so pleased to find them in the supermarket. I think it's a shame they have such a short season, because there are so many things you can do with them apart from just making marmalade.
Today, as we are flat out of Grand Marnier and almost out of Cointreau, I put some of them towards making some Seville Orange Liqueur.
This is the zest and juice from 8 Seville oranges, just under a pound of sugar, a little cinnamon and coriander, and then a bottle of brandy to finish it off. It should be ready to filter and bottle in about a month - then it will go into orange sauces, chocolate mousse and whatever.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Five Green Bottles

More photos from last weekend. I loved the tiny little bits of colour in mostly monochromatic scenes.
For some reason the one with people walking through the little wooded passage reminds me a bit of Lowry paintings.

Five Green Bottles...

Walking through the woods...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Late Friday Evening...

Just a selection of pictures from Friday evening in town. It was really getting a bit too dark for shooting without a tripod by the time I'd walked in from work. All these were taken in the grounds of Dublin Castle - the peacock weather vane is on the Chester Beatty Library, which is the museum for Oriental Art. It's also where one of my favourite restaurants is - the Silk Road Café. I just wish they opened in the evenings.


In the wake of the snow, we had no water yesterday. For some reason, even though today there are water tankers in two locations very near us, we are alright again. Perhaps the council were trying to restore water today to people who had to do without yesterday.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Sunday in the Park

When I measured the snow in the back garden this morning, it was six inches deep. Yesterday I'd bought a new feeder, to try to stop big birds eating all the fat balls up too quickly, so this morning it was lovely to see two coal tits pecking away at it.
After breakfast we went to the park for a walk...Next time I re-read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books I will have a much better understanding of how hard work it must have been breaking trails in the snow - it wasn't long before my calves were aching when we walked cross country. We saw lots of birds, including a tiny little wren foraging away on a tree. We also saw some dedicated bikers, a couple of whom were having trouble getting enough traction in the snow going uphill, and one guy who had one of those surfing kites, and presumably was aiming to snowboard along. It was snowing heavily just then - too cold for us to stand and wait to see did he achieve lift-off. We saw the kite up once, but he didn't have whatever he was going to use - skis or snowboard or whatever it was, so he just let it fall again.

Her owner said that they had always thought Dotty was whiter, till they saw her in the snow!

Ducks on one of the lakes

The other lake, a lot more frozen than it was on Christmas Day. All we saw on it today was one hooded crow.

Although we were in an area where the deer normally congregate, this pair racing through the snow were the only two we saw all morning. A photo can't capture the magic of seeing them springing along.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Walking on Water

Not us - too risky.
This morning we decided that by the time we had de-iced the car (by the time C had de-iced the car) we could be almost at the library if we walked. So we took about half an hour with photo stops, plus waiting for a train to go through the level crossing. Not bad, given that C walks more slowly  than I do.
To my astonishment and amazement, he was still up for another walk along the canal in the afternoon, having seen in the morning how lovely it looked all frozen.
These pictures are all from the afternoon walk: we saw an awful lot of bird and animal tracks on the ice. My guess, from the size, is that this was a moorhen. What the little mammal tracks we saw are I am not sure - some could have been rabbits, fox, maybe even an otter: some of them were quite large.

The angles of some of the photos are a bit off. Well, I certainly didn't want to risk falling 6 or 7 feet down into that icy water by getting any closer to the bank!

View from the bridge - therefore with proper perspective, as the only hazard was cars passing by. More tracks, as you can see in the bottom left corner.

Can you believe these next two are the same spot! One was taken in the sunshine about ten to four, and the second was taken about half an hour later, when it was already starting to turn dark, and was snowing again.
I wouldn't even have spotted that they were the same, except that in rotating the sunshine one, I had to crop it a bit, and cropped out the funny object lying on the ice.

And one last one...

 I haven't done a big supermarket shop since before Christmas, so we've been having store-cupboard meals supplemented by the local butcher and green-grocer. C is not at all a fan of pasta, but on my account he will put up with it from time to time. This macaroni cheese is one that he actually likes.

Macaroni Cheese - to serve 4
1/2 lb suitable pasta - penne, quills, elbows
1 sliced onion
at least a dozen cherry tomatoes - more for us!
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut in quarters
3 tblsp breadcrumbs
2 tblsp finely grated Red Leicester or similar sharp red cheese
1 1/2 oz butter (3 tblsp)
1 1/2 oz flour  (3 tblsp)
1 pint(   2 1/2 US cups) milk
5 oz grated Red Leicester
pinch of cayenne and salt for seasoning.
Cook the macaroni and onion in a large pan of boiling, lightly salted water. Cook as long as your pasta requires. Drain well and put in a heatproof dish.
While cooking the pasta, make the cheese sauce by melting butter, adding flour, then milk and simmering for a couple of minutes when it comes to the boil. Add the grated cheese and season to taste. Pour the sauce over the pasta, gently sir in the hard-boiled eggs. Arrange the tomatoes, cut in half, over the top. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and cheese and grill for about 5 minutes under a pre-heated grill till the top is golden brown.