Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Caught a Fish

Fabulous sunshine, crisp cold mornings...
Hard to believe these are taken within a few minutes of each other - moving angles changed the water from blue to brown.

What was interesting was that it's very obviously a flatfish of some sort that the heron caught, while all the fish I could see were the mullet, which were out in full force again today.  Obviously the Liffey supports a lot more life than I ever thought! I lost the stone from my engagement ring somewhere this morning. I don't even know where, but in the forlorn hope that it might have been when I pulled my camera out this morning, I walked back along the same side of the river. But the only glint of red I saw was a scrap of plastic from a car light.
Off now to pack my camera bag in the hope that tomorrow will be a nice day and I will feel a bit less under the weather, as C has to go to Birr again on business, and I'd like to go back again.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Liffey Swans

Recently I've been seeing a lot more than just the usual pair of swans on the Liffey - anything up to half a dozen. And I don't think that they are cygnets, I don't think they'd be in their adult plumage yet.
I had time after work to stop and take a few photos of these ones gently drifting downstream as they groomed themselves. It amazes me the difference high tide makes - how much nearer it brings them.

I am getting so fed up with Vodafone's broadband service - we're experiencing outages more and more often. This week I decided to start logging them, as I really don't know if we want to persevere till our contract was up. C was pretty fed up this evening when he was trying to listen to something on the radio and all of a sudden it went off air. Maybe if it happens a couple more times he'll be motivated to complain. I noticed that when I emailed about another issue and also asked about opting out because of the bad service, they dealt with the primary issue and studiously ignored the bad service question. Hmmm

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Bird Watch

I went out to do something in the garden and this little ball of fluff rocketed up from under the garden bench, where he must have been picking around in all the bits and pieces. I am not sure which of us got the bigger fright. It's just a little sparrow fledgling, but he was so puffed out and fluffy that he looked bigger than the adults.

And look, look - a juvenile robin. You can still see that his red breast hasn't developed totally, it still looks sort of "scaly" under his chin. Now to woo him with mealworms!

Got to look smart for this lady with the camera

I still feel a little bit scruffy

All groomed and looking good
 And help - it's not just the mahonia showing red, we saw quite a few leaves turning already when we were coming through the park today.

Saturday, 21 August 2010


I posted a photo the other day of the little blue tit and coal tit happily sharing the nut feeder.
Some sharing insects here...the magnolia was in the Botanic Gardens - I was surprised to see it in bloom at this time of year.

The sunflowers are in the garden. The ones growing in a tub are needing a lot of watering in this dry weather, you can see that the petals look a bit wilted!

King - or at least prince, since it's a juvenile gull - of all he surveys.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Sculptures in the Arboretum

I totally forgot about these till I was weeding some dud photos out of my August folder. These were in the Botanic Gardens - only last weekend! There were a few more, but these were my favourites. From a distance the deer looked like wood to me, but C said it was steel, I think. Being under the trees on a sunny day made for somewhat contrasty light, this is the best I could do...It was such a lovely surprise to come across them.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Date and Time

The photo challenge on SCS was Date and Time. I pulled a couple of Paris photos from my archives, but I also
snapped a few when I went into town after work to stock up on coffee.

O'Neill'sBar, Suffolk Street

Ballast House, Aston Quay

Heuston Station (mainline rail station)

And I took the last one in the yard at work this morning.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Bits and Pieces

Lots of activity on the bird front. We have a robin coming, but I don't think it's one of the pair from earlier in the year, and I don't think it's a juvenile either unless it was a very early hatching that has already developed the red breast. I will be working on getting it more used to people. The little baby coal tit, on the other hand, is very unafraid of people, and I often hear his little whistle and see him on the feeder when I am hanging washing out on the line. I also saw a young thrush today...
Two photos of the birds; the little blue tit and coal tit were happy to share and share alike on the feeder, but when the bigger great tit flies in, he takes over and anything else has to wait patiently.

C has been interested for quite some time in origamic architecture, and has made several creations over the last few years. In fact, he's even started work on designing his own template for the Customs House, but that's an ongoing job. Anyway, he was making this one of St. Peter's Basilica for a colleague in work, and he started talking about needing a magnifying lamp. So on Monday I went off looking, and although I spent more than I intended, I bought a light that looks stylish enough to use all the time, and for work purposes you can slot in a magnifying glass and a clamp. I reckoned that if I got one of the ones that you have to clamp to the table it was less likely to get used, because of having to be taken down and put away each time. I can see using this one for embroidery myself, too, so he has to share it with me. This is his finished result, delivered this morning.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Mixed Bag

The WT challenge on SCS this week was to use buttons. It was time to use the most beautiful button Lorraine sent in a package for my birthday. Vintage isn't my normal style, but the button seemed to call for it.

We had guests on Friday night as well as Monday. I couldn't remember how punctual M was, and he's been living abroad for nine years now so I was allowing that they might be delayed by traffic too, so I chose a low-maintenance, delay-tolerant  dinner. Ronald Johnson's Buttermilk Fried Chicken, with baked potatoes, a green salad and a carrot, orange and date salad, followed by Baileys Chocolate Chip icecream, chocolate sauce and meringues. I felt I had to do icecream - when we met up at the BBQ we were at on the Bank Holiday, he was reminiscing to his wife about a kiwi and passionfruit icecream I used to make, back in the days when he was still in college and this was highly exotic. I remember too the first time he invited us round for dinner. He asked was there anything we didn't like, to which C replied he didn't like pasta and he didn't really like chilli con carne (gosh, he's become a lot more tolerant over the years). M said that in one fell swoop that eliminated his student repertoire. I can't actually remember what he did give us - although I seem to recall profiteroles, perhaps.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Ronald Johnson, The American Table)
1 chicken jointed into 4 pieces ( I usually buy breast pieces on the bone)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 small onion, half a carrot, one stick celery, 1 bay leaf
seasoned flour
oil for frying

Cut the tips off the chicken wings and put in a pan with the carcase, neck and giblets. Add water, and the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf and simmer for at least an hour. Drain and reserve stock.

Marinate the chicken in buttermilk to cover, with the chopped parsley, for several hours or overnight.
Lift the chicken pieces out of the buttermilk and straight away shake in seasoned flour till well covered.
Heat 1/2" vegetable oil over medium-high heat and fry the chicken till golden brown on both sides, two pieces at a time. Place in a ovenproof dish which will contain them all in one layer. Pour the buttermilk in so that it comes about halfway up the chicken pieces.
Cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours at 300F, 150C, till tender and crisp on top. Remove the chicken pieces and keep warm.
Add some of the stock to the buttermilk in the cooking dish, then liquidise till smooth. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat adding more stock as necessary to get the consistency of thick cream.
He suggest serving this with hot biscuits - but I can imagine C turning his nose up at the idea - they are definitely not a European accompaniment to savoury dishes. He would expect them for morning coffee or an afternoon or high tea, not dinner!

I haven't seen the heron on the Liffey for a long time. But on Friday morning it was a very low tide and he was standing on the bank just below James Joyce bridge. Then he flew up river towards Heuston Station. I like these pictures as they are such a different setting to the usual park ones. You can see the seaweed in the first one, when he was on the mud bank at the James Joyce bridge. In the second I like all the ripples, even if they might make it a hard picture to look at if you had a headache! And the third one, although it's not a good exposure because all the light reflecting from a still patch of water made it too contrasty, I really like the arty feel to it with the burnt-out white "frame" round it.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

A bright, bright sunshiny day...

We both had a lousy night last night. I could have blamed the coffee I had after dinner (we had visitors again), but C didn't have any and slept just as badly. Anyway, it was a bright sunshiny day when we woke, so we had a quick breakfast and went to the Botanic Gardens, which were full of autumn beauty. There was the bonus of a sculpture exhibition in the arboretum -  some photos to follow later on.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Finally some sun...flower

I don't know where the time goes. I don't even remember Saturday. On Sunday we made a spur of the moment decision to have a barbecue, as it was so warm and sunny. So that meant dinner was a bit later than usual, and then we had to go out in the evening when we realised it was our last chance to see a friend who was over from Spain with all her family. She reckoned it was two and a half years since we'd last seen the kids - and seeing how much the younger two had grown, that's probably true. C enjoyed getting a lesson from the kids in how to roll his Rs. It's something he does as a singing exercise, and struggles with. Apparently the oldest of the three (the only one who lived in Ireland) had to get lessons in how to do it properly when they settled in Spain. The funny thing is that C can do it when he's NOT trying - there are two or three words in particular - like drama - where he tends to roll the r noticeably. But when it comes to singing it on a scale - no way, José.
It seems strange to me that the sunflowers I planted in a tub (thinking they were runner beans) have grown at least twice as tall as the ones planted in the garden border which has now had compost dug into it three times. But that's the case - being in the tub, they are so tall that to get a front-on view I need to stand on a chair.

It's not just me who enjoyed Garden in the Clouds so much - I've been hearing chuckles coming from C now and again, and comments on various things he's read. Since he is most definitely NOT a gardener, I think that cements its place on a list of good gift-books.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Currently reading...

...The Garden in the Clouds by Anthony Woodward. I got it from the library the second last time I was there. Last time I went,  earlier this week, I discovered that they have 'upgraded' to self-service. Which is a pity, really; I always enjoyed the personal exchanges with a librarian. The system is still not fully bug-free, either. Four of my books wouldn't return via self-service and had to be returned manually. While I waited for that to happen, so I could take out more without my card overflowing, I let someone go ahead of me. Ignoring all on-screen instructions he put his card in for returns, and then nearly left without it. And I can tell already that The Garden in the Clouds won't work as a self-service return, it doesn't have the requisite magnetic insert.
Anyway, it's a delightful book, which will be going on my list of suitable gift books, and taking a place in my favourite gardening-related books along with Amanda Hesser's The Cook and The Gardener, and James Fenton's A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed. I was reading his chapter on bee-keeping on the bus on the way home from work today, and I laughed till I had tears in my eyes. It brought back a lot of memories of when we had a hive in the garden - the stickiness that he wrote about when harvesting the honey, the intoxicating smell, bees trying to get into the house...

We had this lamb dish over the Bank Holiday weekend. I don't know where my sister got her recipe, which she calls Jammy Chops. Mine originally came from an Australian Women's Weekly book, Best Ever Slimmers Recipes. I once worked for a very weight-conscious woman, whose kitchen was well furnished with books like that, and Rosemary Conley's Hip and Thigh Diet. I have it titled as Herbed Lamb Chops.

Herbed Lamb Chops
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 loin lamb chops
1 tsp cornflour / cornstarch
1 tblsp chopped fresh mint
pinch of dried or chopped fresh rosemary
1 tblsp mint jelly ( personally, if I didn't always have plenty of homemade mint jelly, I'd use redcurrant any day, rather than a commercial mint one)
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp vinegar - I usually use mint sauce for this, as like mint jelly, I always have a jar of homemade mint sauce in the fridge.

Lightly oil a pan, heat and fry the garlic and chops, till chops are cooked as preferred. Remove from pan and keep warm.
Mix all the sauce ingredients together, add to pan and stir till it has come to the boil and thickened. Return chops to pan and stir briefly.
As C likes wet rather than dry dishes, I usually add about half a cup of cold water to the sauce ingredients, so that it's a sauce rather than a glaze.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Baby Blue

My intention for today was to share a couple of recipes, but time is short. C made a sudden decision to go to a BBQ we were invited to by a friend of the host. I presume the host knows we are coming!! And of course, being a Bank Holiday Monday, there's not much sign of any sunshine. But at least it's not raining, either...
Anyway, when I was going out to put the wash on this morning, little baby blue was around -we've seen a bit of this little juvenile blue tit. His head is so drab compared to the adult plumage, but you can just see a hint of blue in his tail feathers.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Swan Lake - Pas de Deux

It was a very showery day today, but in the evening we went for a walk along the canal after dinner.
I only did ballet very briefly when I was young - the year I started turned out also to be one of the years my mum had pneumonia, so then I just went straight back home after school instead of going to ballet. But I've always enjoyed watching it, even if I couldn't say what a pas de deux or an entrechat is.

Signs of rain

The rainbow became even more spectacular shortly after this, but with a handful of swans feathers I was too slow in changing to a wide-angle lens. As we were walking back up the main road we met an American family from New York trying to find the hotel where they had left their car. We weren't much help, I am afraid, but as he pointed out, it was still bright and he had a super-sized umbrella in case the rain started again.