Friday, 30 April 2010

More Mami-Doodles

The first card is another one I made with Elisa's Midori set of images. We have so much gorgeous washi and chiyogami paper that we've bought here and there over the years, but I always find it hard to use any up. And if I am bad, C is ten times worse!  I did use some on this card. She is printed on white card and coloured with H2Os, with Liquid Pearls in her hair.

The second card was made with the Escargot and Champignon set. I like snails on cards, and use them often. I do not like them in the garden - they do so much damage so quickly. And slug pellets are unsightly. We have an engineering friend who put copper strips round all his tender vegetables, and then connected them all up to a battery on a pole, so that a mild current ran through them. It seemed to be sufficient to deter the snails and slugs without killing them, but was quite odd to see.
For my snail-shell and pebbles I used Glossy Accents, and Liquid Pearls on the mushroom. This time I printed the image on watercolour paper, with watercolour pencils and chalk pastels for colouring.

Thank you, Elisa. for inviting me to be your first Guest Designer. I had fun working with these images.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


The last mallard chicks were on the canal. As these ones were mostly swimming round the café in Farmleigh, it was much easier to get a couple of decent pictures. I am amazed how big their beaks are. I wonder are they like puppies growing into their big paws.

I always love the strong, vibrant colour of spurge. This one was growing beside a viburnum with an almost intoxicating smell.

I've just finished reading Zane Grey's  The Great Trek, set in Australia. I was interested to read it as in the past we've read a whole series of detective books set in Australia, with a half-caste detective (the Bony/Boney books by Arthur Upfield). Grey's book would have been set in an earlier period, and his descriptions of the Australian wildlife were so lovely to read. I'd love to see things like koalas, lyre birds, and the duck-billed platypus, in real life.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


I went out after dinner to take a photo of a card, and C was inside doing the dishes. So when I heard the cheeping robin, I called to him to come and pick up the camera. I'd better make sure the settings are more suitable next time, or else let him feed the bird and take photos myself, but he did a pretty good job.
This one cheeps more and more - it's only a guess, but my theory is that it's the female, and she is making verbal contact with the chicks in the nest, because I don't think it's far off, just in the hedgerow beyond the end of the wall. Certainly when they were feeding each other, I am sure it was the female who did the cheeping back then. But it's a safe bet that the cheeping one will come to our hands straight away, while the other is more hesitant and may not come at all, but make a foray into the porch instead.
The European robin is much smaller than the North American robin, only about 5" long, and weighing about half to three-quarters of an ounce, and both sexes are the same. The American robin is part of the thrush family. I can see why Colin Tudge, in his Secret Life of Birds says that there is a lot of confusion in the current taxonomy of birds.

Flowers, with a hint of the East

A welcome day off, and as it was warm and sunny, if somewhat windy, I took my new tripod on a trip to Farmleigh. The walled garden was full of all sorts of tulips. One of the gardeners I was talking to was saying how strange it was that some orange (think Montbretia colour) tulips went so well with the pink ones that they were planted with. She said more pink ones were due out at the back of the bed, and the alliums were in bud which will be purple, and something blue was just budding. But she was right - the orange looked great in there.


One not-so-hidden red tulip in a sea of daffodils, narcissi and anemones.

Here's my hint of the East - all these photos make me think of Japan.

Lots of little ducklings, too. I was regretting not having the video option on my point and shoot, but thinking that C would be able to use it. Which he would - if he hadn't forgotten it. He said he saw one little duckling chick raiding stuff from the swan's nest to nibble on.

Monday, 26 April 2010


This photo of some cowslips slipped through the net yesterday when I was uploading. I think of them as a wildflower, and always love seeing them growing in grass verges . When I was little I loved Alison Uttley's Little Grey Rabbit books, and she wrote about making cowslip balls. I've never seen enough in one place for that! I know they make good wine too, but again I've never seen enough for that. In Grey Rabbit's May Day, Fuzzypeg the little hedgehog makes cowslip balls for their May Day celebration, which was an English tradition.

My little Fuzzypeg here is in need of some serious refurbishment. I was in hospital for my 5th birthday, having my tonsils out. While in hospital I got a lovely present from my dad of a "Rainbow Box", which was a clear perspex cube maybe about 5 or 6 inches along each side. Inside it were three sheets of coloured perspex, cyan, magenta and yellow, which were interlocked and overlapped. So depending on which angle you looked at it from, you got different colours. I kept that till it was too scratched to be worth keeping. When I got home from hospital, Fuzzypeg in his little pull-along carriage made from three-quarters of a coconut shell was behind the sofa, with the cord stretched out so that I could see it. I bought a lot of books myself with Christmas money and so on, but the one in the picture must have come from my Dad's family, because it's dated 1932, and he had to make a new cover for it for me as the old one was falling to bits.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Canal Walk

Had yesterday been lovely and sunny as the whole week had been, we were going to go to the Botanic Gardens. The weather didn't seem good enough to warrant the trip, so we settled for a walk along the canal, and Cranberry, Orange and Walnut muffins for lunch when we got back. We were entertained for a good length of the walk by six little mallard chicks (four brave ones venturing ahead, one mother, two laggards pottering along and investigating things along the bank). When he saw the speed the moved at, C realised it wasn't that surprising he hadn't found the ones in town on his lunchtime walk on Friday. And I think he also realised why I had told him where the video setting was on my point and shoot - I got very few shots worth keeping. They just scoot along so fast, and never stop moving. We finally got to a stretch where I could climb down to the canal edge - and the whole family turned back just before they reached it.

We had a lovely light, spicy Hyderabadi curry for lunch today:
Lamb with Onions and Mint  serves about 6
2 lb diced lamb pieces
1 lb onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced thinly
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne (hot chilli powder). I buy mine from Seasoned Pioneers and it is HOT, so I reduced this by half
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 clove crushed garlic
1 tsp turmeric
3 tblsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup / 4 fluid ounces firmly packed fresh coriander (cilantro) and the same again of mint
4-6 fresh green chillies, coarsely chopped
3 tbslp lemon juice.

Put all the ingredients down as far as and including the oil in a large pan, and add 3/4 pt / 2 cups water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for an hour. Remove lid, turn up the heat and reduce the liquid. C likes runny curries, so I skipped this step.
Blend the mint, coriander, lemon juice, fresh chillies and 2 tblsp water to a fine purée. Add to the meat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

This recipe comes from Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India.

Acclimatising one of the robins to feeding from my hand proceeds apace. Soon I think I can get C to try taking a photo, as one of them will now perch for over a minute on my hand, nibbling away, before flying off. It's so light that if you didn't feel the claws on your palm, you'd barely know it was there. They're only about 20 grammes according to one source I looked up. That's around three quarters of an ounce! Poor things, one of them looked very bedraggled after a heavy shower today, it made its breast look much more speckled.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Out and About in Town

I spotted this bright reflection in the Liffey this morning. I couldn't think what it was - but after I got beyond the bridge and could see, it was just a truck cab pulled in for a rest.

It was a rather pale, watery sunshine, but enough for a bus to reflect in the Guinness sign.


A weed growing on the wall along the river.

And this week I even have a contribution from C. He took my little camera this morning because he'd seen mallard chicks on the canal yesterday. They were gone today, but there is also a nesting swan. With the good weather a lot of people are out along the canal at lunch time, and the swans are quite threatening to anyone who gets too close.

Lorraine, thank you so much for everything. Including the feather :D  I am sorry I don't know how to rotate a brush in GIMP to make a better frame.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

A Munificence of Magnolias

I started my blog one year ago, with a photo of magnolias taken in the Botanic Gardens on Easter Sunday.
When I went to Farmleigh last week they were in full bloom, but I saved the pictures to share today to mark one year. Sorry there are so many - I could easily have uploaded twice as many. C suggested I needed to do some editing - I'd already deleted about sixty photos before he saw them.  Because he was out on a motorbike run, I could take my time more than if he had been with me.

And a card I made on Saturday, using one of the photos.

I have just got a lovely light carbon-fibre tripod which will be a welcome upgrade from my very good but VERY heavy old Uni-Loc tripod. Plus this new one fits into the backpack C gave me for Christmas.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Self Service at the All-Day Breakfast Bar

I was hanging the wash out yesterday when I heard some rustling from the back porch. A quick peek, and the two robins were in there helping themselves - and making an almighty mess spilling worms all over the place while they were at it. They hopped out when I went to get the camera, and then obligingly hopped back in again.


Escaping with the spoils

After seeing them so fearless in the porch, and not even startled when I used the flash, I decided to experiment today by holding my hand out with worms in it - and one of them, after a bit of hopping around, decided that it was safe! And not just once or twice, but several times. The other one is a bit more timid - I'm guessing it's the one we've been feeding all winter who was the braver one.

We had the most delicious pineapple sorbet tonight. I can't remember what put it into C's head a while back that he would like some. It was just when the greengrocer ran out really nice pineapples, but he had some good ones back in again and I bought two on Saturday.
We will most definitely be having this again. We do have an icecream maker - not the one of my dreams, but one where you pre-freeze the bowl and then churn it on the counter. It was a wedding anniversary present to ourselves a few years back. But I used to make icecreams and sorbets even when we didn't, just giving them a good vigorous stir every half hour or so till they were too frozen. And a tiny amount of gelatine can be a big help, too.

Pineapple Sorbet:
12 ounces fresh pineapple, chopped roughly
Juice of one lemon
5 ounces sugar (just over half a cup)
2 egg-whites.

Blend the pineapple till smooth. Add the sugar and lemon juice and blend again. If you're able to use a liquidiser with a large bowl, add the egg-whites and blend again for a couple of minutes. Otherwise lightly whisk the whites and fold them into the pineapple purée in a bowl. Chill for about half an hour and then churn till thick and creamy and ready to freeze.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Sunny, Sunny Day

Sunshine, sunshine and more sunshine. C went on the motorbike run that the guys had to call off last time they tried going it because it was so misty. Not a chance of that today, they had their full Irish outside when they got to Laragh.
I spent part of the morning in Farmleigh, and most of the rest of the day in the garden.  C decided he wasn't hungry enough for roast chicken and lemon sponge pudding, so we had pizza instead. A good excuse to use the fresh yeast someone kindly gave me.  I just need to make sure I don't mix up the spare pizza dough that went into the freezer with the Naan bread dough.

 The robins again made hay while the sun shone, scavenging everywhere I had dug to see what titbits they could find. C said he saw them seeing off an interloper - they know where they are well off. In fact, I saw them fly out of the back porch yesterday - I think they had made a unilateral decision to raid the tub of mealworms. I also had a dove in the back porch - I think it might have been hoping to forage in the sack of seeds, but then the door blew shut.
Some poor bird is homeless  - I found this nest on the path in Farmleigh. It was ever so soft to feel, and as light as a feather. Looking at the feathers in it, where they are coloured at the tips, it could possibly be a chaffinch, or even a robin. It was mostly moss and lichen, and about four to five inches across.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Gardening with the birds...

I've been trying to dig part of the border at a time, so as not to end up too stiff. You can see I haven't quote got as far as where the little robin is in the first picture. I am not sure what it was up to, it was peering around and then flapping it's wing. A bit the way some birds to to act as a decoy when a predator is too near their nest. In this case, as the second robin appeared in no time, it was almost as if it was signalling. Surely not, though!

 I love this upward shot - I was lying on the grass waiting for the robin to land in my bowl of compost, but took this while it was perched on the wall above me.

Checking the weed container out for any tasty titbits...

I was honoured to be invited as April Guest Designer for Mami Doodles by Elisa. I love Elisa's style - if I scrapped, I'd like my pages to look like hers. We informally swap ATCs and cards from time to time - I have an ATC with a predecessor of the little Midori girl sitting under my monitor right now.
I am not a big fan of digital images - mostly because they don't seem to work well with watercolours. But I had great fun with the images Elisa sent me - I've liked Asian style images as long as I can remember. As soon as I saw the paper piecing image, I wanted to make a little paper doll you could dress.
There are tabs on her dresses, but then I also used Sailor two-way glue as repositionable glue, so that I could "hang" them in the wardrobe. And although originally I was going to just pop the little girl up on thick foam dots, I realised that she'd be easier to dress if you could remove her altogether, so I used a Basic Grey magnetic snap to attach her to the card.  Then all my ideas of how to make a suitable background were too complicated, so I just used some fancy textured Bazzill and a little cloud of butterflies.
Kimono papers were downloaded from the Canon Creative website, scaling them down. I reckon the whole card could be tied with nice ribbon or else a belly band in more of the chiyogami paper to keep it closed - it would sort of tie in with the little obi.
Apart from the wardrobe and the interchangeable dresses, it doesn't bear a whole load of relationship to my original concept, but I certainly had fun.