Monday, 31 May 2010

More post-rain photos

Just a few more photos from Saturday - including one poor very waterlogged bumblebee.

This plant was so full of water around the stem - almost two inches. The pair of opposing leaves grows as one piece from the stem, and then splits into two, so it makes a perfect water container.

Poor bedraggled Mr. Bee

Sunday was much better weather. Plan A had been to do the Cliff Walk from Bray to Greystones, but I think C is still getting over his abscess, infection and two lots of antibiotics, so for a less energetic plan B we went to Mount Usher gardens, taking advantage of being so much nearer than usual. Still haven't uploaded my photos, so they will follow later on this week. I was so pleased that we got to see the Handkerchief Trees in flower, I haven't managed that for more than twenty years.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Sunshine After the Rain

Last Saturday was shorts, suntan lotion and sitting on the beach catching up with friends. This Saturday was umbrellas, raincoats and lighting the fire! That's a real treat, as we don't have an open fire at home; it's not exactly an open fire here, being a wood-burning stove, but it still smells just as good. When the rain had dwindled to just a fine mist and the sun came out, the garden was so full of photo-ops that I'll have to make two posts, one today and one tomorrow. We were standing by the pond at one stage when C felt something jump against his leg - a minute later and we spotted a big frog taking a dive into the pond. There are still tadpoles too, which I would have thought was late in a normal summer.

Goodness, I'll be glad to get back to the GIMP for my editing next week. For some peculiar reason Photofiltre, which was what I had previously installed on my aunt's PC for easy resizing when she wants to email photos, changes all my photos to 314dpi, and I don't understand the options for editing colour and contrast. So it's lucky these all came out of the camera ready to go.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Bits and Pieces

Bella is our other charge this week. Another rescue dog, but she must have a lot of Rottweiler in her. She's as beautiful, in looks and nature, as her name suggests, although now she's getting to be an old lady and a bit stiff and slow.

The bracken is growing just beside one of the water-features in the garden, and was beautifully backlit the other night.

We haven't seen many birds apart from starlings and sparrows - a great tit, that's about it. One of the bird feeders is almost totally hidden in a tree now that the leaves have grown, and it's funny to see the sparrows flying in to the tree, then a whole lot of rustling leaves and out they fly again. When we were out last night we saw swifts nesting in the eaves of a house down the road. To make up for the lack of variety outside my aunt has a whole bunch of bird pictures and sculptures and figures, including this little robin. You can see how thick the house walls are.

This Old Man cactus is certainly old enough - I can remember it in my grandmother's house, and she died when I was eleven! It was only a few inches tall back then.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Walking Across Town

As C left in time to get into work for 8, which is when he likes to start, I would have been colossally early for work if I'd done anything other than walk over from Baggot Street. Although it was quite a bit cooler than Monday, and not quite as sunny, it still gave me some chances to take photos I wouldn't normally take - and I was still in work an hour early.
Baggot Street, street lighting

Bluebells in the Huguenot Graveyard

I don't quite know what custom this horse and carriage was hoping for at eight in the morning, but maybe he just likes to get the first place in the row of parking reserved for horses and carriages, as I also saw him on Monday.

Clock at Johnson's Court, Grafton Street

George's  Street Arcade

Dame Street, near Dublin Castle

Monday, 24 May 2010

Garden Photos

Two and a half hours to get home from when I left work - the trains to Greystones just go every half hour, more or less, and I just missed one by about two minutes. I am so glad I asked to be rostered for as few days as possible this week - helped along  by the fact that we can't work at all tomorrow due to improvements being carried out. C got home in under 40 minutes - not a whole lot longer than it takes him to get home normally. Lucky him!!
Some more photos from the garden - the iris that opened up, hellebore starting to go to seed, and some little yellow poppies against a patch of forget-me-nots. The hellebore were odd, because they had anything from three to five of the seed pods per flower. I'll have to have a closer look and see why.

And one of our charges, the younger of the two dogs. She was more or less a feral dog rescued by a local charity from a hospital where she was scavenging round the kitchens for food. She's probably mostly lurcher, and even after obedience training and a dog-whisperer is still not good with other dogs (understatement!!), but she has a lovely affectionate nature.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Somewhere in the country

Oh my goodness, has it been a good weekend to be out of Dublin. For May, the weather has been spectacular. As I was driving up the road to my aunt's house, I could see what I thought was maybe a gorse fire on this side of Bray Head - dense white smoke. But when CiarĂ¡n arrived, he said it had been thick mist - his boots were still wet with it. It was nice to discover that since my aunt had her driveway extended, we can fit her car, our car and the motorbike all in the drive and still close the gate. I thought one of the dogs was nearly going to jump the gate with excitement when I arrived. I took a photo of her today, but I'll have to edit on the laptop - minimal programs on this PC, and trying to size in Paint has left me with only partial images. Still, here are a couple of photos from yesterday. We spent the morning on the beach (after coffee) with friends who are home from Africa. Used to the Indian Ocean and Durban, two of them had still braved the sea in Bray for a swim before meeting us! I saw the doorway with the sheep as we walked down to meet them...

One view from the driveway of our little suntrap here, and one photo of the irises beside the little pond, backlit by the morning sun.

One of the irises had opened up today. Hopefully tomorrow I'll get some photos onto the laptop and edited to size. But it's going to be a longer haul into work than normal from here, that is for sure!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Feeding Time on the Duck Pond

It turned into such a glorious afternoon late in the day. After C got home from work and had had his coffee, instead of him painting the garden wall we went for a walk in the park. For once I remembered to bring some bread for the ducks. Aren't these little baby coots such ugly things. They were tiny, too, I think they must have been very young, they are still quite bald. I couldn't help wondering about the startling red heads  - could it be to make it easier for the parents to spot them? You'd think it would certainly make it easier for predators to see them. All the adults were feeding them with the breadcrumbs.

A while back in Farmleigh I saw a heron catch and eat quite a big fish. He's not above taking some bread either, though. He hove into view just as C was lamenting that there was no heron to be seen.

This mallard was giving himself a good washing, we really enjoyed watching him. Some of the pictures all you can see is the water splashing all over him  - I liked these ones when you can see his wings.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


I never did get round to uploading any more than the pictures of the Solomon's Seal and the blackbird from our last visit to Farmleigh. Time to rectify that...
I mentioned that one day I had seen the orange and pink tulips out together, and by the next time we want, whatever the blue flower is was out in full bloom too.

Isn't the colour and gloss in this hortensia magnificent!


Assuming that the volcanic ash doesn't impact flights tomorrow, we will be out in my aunt's house for over a  week, so by the next time we get to Farmleigh I expect it will have moved from spring mode into summer.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Feeling Blue?

This was another week where I was hosting the SCS photo challenge while Angie is with her folks. When I checked back through all the old challenges, blue is a colour that hadn't been used yet, so I chose that. When I think of blues, I think of all the Greek blues, so strong and vivid. I guess their sunshine helps! For my photo I took a picture of some Lapis Lazuli cufflinks that I bought C one year. We used to work for a company that imported and distributed fine-art supplies. The pigment required for Ultramarine comes from Lapis Lazuli, and pretty much the main source for it is in Afghanistan. At the time when we were working in that company, there was a lot of disruption to the supply because of whichever war was going on at the time, so quite often the artist's quality ultramarine wasn't available, just the synthetic French Ultramarine. According to Philip Ball in his wonderful book Bright Earth, The Invention of Colour, ultramarine was one of the most costly pigments in mediaeval times, along with gold and vermilion. In fact at times it was even more costly than gold. And this is the reason why the Madonna's robes were so often painted in blue - if a patron was paying for a painting, he wanted it to be seen that he could afford the best. With the introduction of oil paints ultramarine became less suitable because of the way it interacted with the oil base. It's a book that is well worth reading.

I had fun making this card over the weekend, using the photo from my blog header. And my wallpaper on C's laptop. It was a chance photo, too - I'd gone down to the marina when I was doing the Saturday morning shopping, hoping to capture something we'd seen the night before just as my battery died. Coming back I walked up past the train station and passed a cluster of poppies with bees and those hover insects hovering all round them. The button was the spare one from a dress I made some years back, red cotton with black edging round the neck and sleeves. I always like to buy one extra in case I need it - but of course I always sew them on so well that I never do.

The first of my Orchid irises burst from bud into bloom over the weekend. I grew them from seed several years ago, not expecting to succeed, so there is still a real sense of achievement every time they come into flower. As there's no sense of scale, these aren't more than about ten inches high at the most.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

A Mixed Bag

Alas and alack, we don't see our little robins too much. I think they've moved nest so that they are now nesting at the end of next door's garden, and not ours. And while they do fly in for food, it's when they're passing, not whenever they hear the back door open. And I only just ordered some more mealworms by mail order when I couldn't get them in town. I hope they'll be back soon, I am glad we had the time when they were feeding from our hands before they moved on.
We do have a whole bunch of little baby sparrows - on some of them you can still see a bit of the yellow gape at the corners of their beaks, but not too much on this little one.

Still on the wedding card trail, as C's colleague just took the punched white flowers, and said she'd like something plainer for the second card. Vodafone seem to have some issues with broadband in the greater Dublin area. Their website (during the brief time I managed to get online) and their helpline said they were experiencing technical difficulties in the 01 and 046 areas, which they were working on resolving. However, when I asked C to look at, he said some people had posted that they just needed to change their username and password in the modem settings. Sure enough, that got me online again,  but I made the beaded dragonflies in the morning while I was offline and watching The Mikado, which I took out from the library the night before. If she doesn't like the dragonfly card - well, our anniversary is in a couple of weeks!

Seen this morning when I went out to get the paper and meat for the weekend.

We had these potatoes the other night. They are not for those who are worried about calories, but I operate on the all things in moderation principle, and while I do believe in using full cream and real butter when it's called for, we also eat a lot of vegetarian and low-fat food. We eat very little processed food - sometimes two or three weeks can go by without even opening a single tin.
The recipe came originally from Ronald Johnson's The American Table, which is a well-worn and well-used book. The onions are my addition, I like the flavour they add to the cream. We have this with steak or with roasts, usually.

Farmhouse Skillet Creamed Potatoes   serves 4
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
2 tblsp / 1oz butter
4 - 5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4" slices (I feel mine are a bit thicker)
salt, pepper and  nutmeg
1 medium white onion, cut into half and then cut into thin slices.

Put the cream, milk and butter into a large frying pan. Add the sliced potatoes and onions and season to taste. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce to a very low heat. Cook gently for half an hour. Turn the potatoes over carefully, uncover and continue to cook for another half hour, till the potatoes are tender and the sauce is thick and creamy. Adjust seasoning and serve.