Friday, 25 February 2011

Paradise Abstract

The last of my photos from the Botanic Gardens. The photo challenge on SCS this week was to share photos straight from the camera, no editing apart from re-sizing to upload. My big weak points are not bother to frame properly because I can always crop later, and crooked horizons. That's a funny one, because I don't remember it being a problem with my old SLR - maybe it's to do with an increasingly sore shoulder. I'll have to be more diligent with some exercises...
It was so cold even in the sunshine last Saturday that as soon as I entered the greenhouse my lens steamed right up. I have a few pictures from the temperate zone area, but they could all charitably be described as soft focus. Luckily by the time I reached the central atrium the lens had unfogged again, and this was my shot straight from the camera.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Birds a-Plenty

Yesterday I was lucky enough to see the cormorants not just barrelling up the river at top speed and diving, but one of them perched on some debris in the river. I was having a hiccup with my lens. I didn't realise that it had accidentally got switched to manual focus only on the lens, but I knew it wasn't auto-focussing so I was doing my best with manual. Hard with glasses - I can see why people invest in the special dioptre eyecups. My first attempts with the grey wagtails (been seeing them a lot these last few weeks) aren't really very good, but a couple of the cormorant ones certainly came out OK. What a relief to find that somehow the switch had got pushed on in my bag and that the lens didn't need an expensive repair.

In the silhouetted image where I was looking up the river into the sun you can really see how hooked his beak is. At first I thought there was an annoying twig sticking up behind him till I realised it was just beak. It's almost hooked.

Three snatched shots from this morning. The first two are a blackcap, which I've never seen on the feeder before. I had to take the pictures through both back doors in case it flew off, so they're a bit grainy. I'll be keeping an extra-watchful eye out for the next while.

As it was a beautiful sunny morning I paid a quick visit to Farmleigh before going to pick up a reserved book at the library. I was just walking back to the car when I saw some movement in a cherry tree by the lake. I only had time to grab one quick shot before someone else came crunching along the gravel nearer the tree and the little bluetit was gone.


There were even some daffodils out already too, and some wood anemones which I am pretty sure weren't out last week.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Botanic Gardens, Fauna - a surfeit of squirrels

The squirrels were out in force on Saturday - I always enjoy watching them, and this time there was no C to tell me that they're just rodents. I have to admit that certainly in the photo of the one sitting up a tree, he's very rodent-like. I think it's because his tail isn't bushed up at all.
I was visiting a friend today, and her daughter gave me one of her gerbils to hold; she was so warm. I'd forgotten that, it's years and years since we had pets of that ilk. The sharp smell certainly brought back memories of our childhood guinea-pigs.

Whatever he was digging for, he was pretty to dig quite deep and quite persistently. I was sorry that, yet again, I had forgotten to bring any nuts, as I guess he was looking for food. Not that he looks thin or in any way starved after the hard winter!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Botanic Gardens, Flora

With today being damp, cold and windy we are both glad that we have yesterday to remember for the sunshine. I loved all the scents, too; not just the witch hazel but the Wintersweet which was blooming and scenting the little sensory garden. It's such a plain looking flower and such a beautiful scent.




Witch Hazel (Hamamelis)

Rhododendron bud

Rhododendron bloom

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Hello Sunshine, So Glad to See You

I got my blanket dry! Today was a beautiful crisp sunny morning. C was going out for a bike ride (I didn't realise there were going to be owls!!) and was up early, so I got up around the same time and headed out to the Botanic Gardens for my first visit of the year. It was still pretty cold when I got there just after nine, but I had a lovely time watching the squirrels, ducks, moorhens and other birds. And enjoying the flowers, of course. Something else I discovered was that without C I used the tripod a lot more, because I didn't feel I had to rush to take a picture quickly and move on. I know he's pretty patient, but I don't like to spend forever if I think he's waiting.

The Alpine House, and a miniature cherry or prunus of some sort that was in it. I should have looked at the tag in the pot - it was only about two and a half foot tall at the most.

These three are all down near the ponds. The sun was streaming through the trees and the dew on the bushes was evaporating in the heat - there were certainly some marvellous lighting effects this morning.

More to follow later on...
I went from there to the library and to pick up a few bits and pieces in Marks & Spencers, and by the time I got back here it was getting cloudier, so I was glad to have benefitted from the best of the day.

Before I left here in the morning, I saw not one nor even two ( I was fairly sure we have a pair of robins again, I've seen two a couple of times) but three robins out in the back. One of them saw the third one off pretty sharpish, so he obviously feels this is his territory. He was displaying, with his chest all puffed out like  in this photo from last year. I don't know whether it's entirely aggression towards the intruder, or partially to impress his mate. When I saw the two, I was hoping to see them feeding each other - maybe that will happen soon. I loved watching that last year!

I spent some profitable time in the afternoon cleaning my old 201K Singer sewing machine, after finding a manual online which showed how to remove the shuttle race. I'd been appalled to discover I couldn't get it working last week when I was trying to sew some badges onto C's leather jacket. In the end it turned out to be as basic as the fact I had the needle rotated through 90 degrees, but while I was re-educating myself I thought it was time it had a bit of a clean and oil too.

Shades of Pink

Just a last couple of photos from Farmleigh...

Friday, 18 February 2011

Farmleigh part 2

Yesterday in the mist the river was as smooth as silk. The lake in Farmleigh had been pretty calm the day before, and with the blue sky and sunshine it was great for reflections.

Signs of Spring

Relics of Autumn

Thursday, 17 February 2011

100% Humidity - help!!

I am trying to get a blanket dry. It's the third time I've washed it; the first time it blew off the line and got dirty. The second time it took too long to dry and got that sour smell. It was doing good yesterday till it got dark. This morning we had dense fog and 100% humidity. If I can't get it dry quickly it's going to have to go to the dry-cleaners! It's too big to fit in the machine, so washing it means doing it by hand in the bath...three times is more than enough.

It was, however, very picturesque in all the mist and fog. It amazed me to notice how much it also intensified all the smells in town. I suppose I can understand it on a scientific level - maybe all the aroma molecules get trapped with the amount of water in the air and don't dissipate as freely as normal. I've just never noticed it before as a side effect of fog, but I know from talking in work that it wasn't just me.

I had read about Upstart a couple of weeks ago. It was certainly refreshing to see some of the posters along Thomas Street this morning, as well as the regular election campaign posters. If you look close you can see the moisture beaded on this one! Shooting into what light there was didn't make for a great photo, but the other side was a poem in Irish - not as interesting to see.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Farmleigh, part one.

It's raining now, but this morning was bright and sunny and COLD. C forgot I was on a day off and woke me bright and even earlier than normal with a mug of coffee, so that got me going early. By the time Farmleigh was open I had hung two washes out, put a third one on and taken a trip to the recycling centre.
To my total delight almost the first thing I saw was a pair of jays. I spotted the colour in the undergrowth, the sort of pinky brown of a chaffinch but too big, and then I saw the flash of blue. It's only about the fourth time I've seen jays here in Ireland, and I've never seen two together before. I could only get a photo of one a t time, though.

Chaffinch in a cherry tree

Lots of signs of spring on the way too - catkins, magnolia buds, snowdrops a-plenty, crocuses and cyclamen, a beautiful winter jasmine. It's a shame I can't share a soundtrack of the birds singing their hearts out.

You can see the horses have their coats on - they certainly needed them. Even at 9.30 I still had to defrost the car windows.

I went to the butcher and greengrocer on the way back. I got a free cabbage in the butchers - and there I was thinking we'd take a break from it for a while! We had colcannon made with cabbage tonight, along with lamb shanks cooked with red onions, red wine and a little balsamic vinegar.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Bits and pieces

It's been a grey, dull week. I've been trying so hard to get a blanket dry - the first time I finally got it on the line it blew off and I had to wash it all over again.

Hitching a ride - of course he wasn't, but I had fun watching this juvenile gull for a while this morning.

Two more signs for last week's photo challenge on SCS. The first one caught my eye as being a signpost on a poster. The second one comes from a series of different signs relating to transporting Guinness. I chose this one because my mother used to have a good friend whose husband was an electrician on the Guinness  barges, and this was one of the boats he worked on. My old sewing machine is a legacy from them. I meant to take a picture of it, but today rather disappeared. It's in a lovely wooden case, and Ed electrified it for his wife. Some time back when my Brother needed servicing I had the old Singer out to make curtains for my brother. The guy who came to service the Brother recognised the exact model of the Singer just from looking at the case, and told me never to get rid of it. It only goes forward and back, nothing fancy, not even zigzag, but I'll certainly hold on to it until it needs parts that aren't available.

And some spring flowers - I saw the hellebore in work this morning, and the card is my first attempt at making a rose from grunge paper. Since C is on the unromantic side of things at the best of times, and whatever the equivalent of the Grinch is for St. Valentine's Day, I made this into an anniversary card, and I'll just have to hope I can find it in June.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Curse of the Everlasting Cabbage...Musings on Minestrone

It's a bit unfair to call it a curse, actually, and it's not quite everlasting, but...
I bought a cabbage when I did a big supermarket shop last week (normally I buy most of my veg in a local greengrocer, but when I'm doing a supermarket shop I'll top up there), and I hadn't quite realised how big it was.
We had a quarter that night in the form of Gujerati Style Cabbage and Carrots as our main dish, with a small amount of leftover lamb curry, and naan bread. We had a quarter last night  just as plain boiled cabbage. A quarter went into this big pot of minestrone which was our lunch today and will do two more meals!

And that still leaves a quarter - I think I'll try an Indian recipe for cabbage and peas early next week.

The last minestrone we had was a vegetarian version; today I used a different one and added a small amount of pancetta which added just the right amount of smoky richness which I had missed from the vegetarian version, nice as it was. Trust C to spot the difference straight away and ask what it was. Since he also didn't believe that cabbage was a standard ingredient, it was out with Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking  (one recipe, no bacon of any sort, cabbage) and Elizabeth David's Italian Food (three recipes for what I would consider "classic" minestrone, all with cabbage, all with some form of bacon). After his follow-up reading I'd like to think he now knows that parmesan is also a standard ingredient, but I know he'll reject it if I offer it grated on top the next time we have it. Since I intend making a parmesan and rosemary focaccia, if he doesn't get it one way he'll get it another.

It was not so windy today, but still wet and grey and gloomy. I didn't even bother taking a camera when I walked down to the vegetable shop, but I did try a new recipe for gingerbread with orange juice. It's just afternoon coffee time now, so I'll see how it turned out.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Rainy Wednesday

Actually it didn't start raining till just before I left work to go into town. In view of the rain, town turned into a flying visit - post office, bank and a new guitar strap, strings and flute cleaning cloth. From then on it got windier and more and more showery. Just before C got home from work I spotted this beautiful rainbow through my skylight, and dashed down the ladder to capture it while the light was still so good. I especially liked the way the sky within the inner bow is still all stormy looking, while beyond the second bow it's a sunny blue sky.

The photo challenge on SCS this week is signs...
 My first photo is C signing "husband" in Irish sign language. It's something I find fascinating to see. Last year in Greece there was an elderly man who used to come down for a swim every day, and I noticed at least three people who could talk to him in sign language. And one day recently when I was on the Luas (tram), there were three people talking in a most animated fashion. One was speaking, one was signing and one was the interpreter. Just a couple of weeks ago a friend was telling me that she had heard of a signing choir, who sign in time with the music. I'd love to see that!

Off to the dentist tomorrow morning. I had to rearrange my work days because C made the appointment last week when he was making one for himself, but he didn't tell me when it was till after I had got my hours for this week. So I switched to work today and be off tomorrow. Mild panic, then, when I got a text reminder from the dentist yesterday saying I had an appointment for this morning. I rang straight away, and was relieved that it is indeed tomorrow.