Monday, 31 January 2011

Cloudy Monday

There was the most beautiful fiery red sunrise this morning, and then lovely clouds for quite some time after that. I had time to go out and take a couple of photos of the red sky before it was time to go to work - C had the dentist, so he was up later than normal and I was up earlier. Then once the sky had got more blue in it, the swoosh cloud that I'd seen earlier was even more noticeable. And by the time I got to work, while the sky was totally light, the clouds were still very dramatic.

A grey wagtail is a very small bird, especially when you're trying to take a picture of it across the river. But seeing it flit up and down the Liffey like a yellow butterfly brightened my day, so even though it's a crummy picture I'm still going to share it. I knew we'd finished work too late for me to make an early bus, even if I jogged all the way, so instead I took time to enjoy watching the wagtail. When I first saw it, it was just about 3 metres from me on the quay wall, but then it flew off over to the other side, landing on various perches up along the river. I've sometimes seen them on the canal here, but I don't feel I've seen one on the Liffey before.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Busy busy

Where did this week go!
And how have I taken so many photos that there's a new folder on my memory card!
When I was walking out to the bus yesterday there was a perfect half moon. When I saw it it was just emerging from the clouds, but by the time I'd fished the camera out of my bag the clouds had moved on a bit.

I think this is one of my favourite cards for January - a swan on the canal just before Christmas, and some swan's feathers that I picked up one day in the summer.

A day off tomorrow, so I am already in weekend mode. Maybe some peanut butter cookies tomorrow? The forecast certainly doesn't suggest that I'll be going out for a long walk anywhere. It was bitterly cold today, my hands got quite painful when I hadn't bothered putting my gloves on on the way home.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

SIng, sing a song

Boy, this has been some week. I was sick at the start, then DH's bike was sick. Yesterday we got a new battery, so he'll be back on the road again tomorrow and glad of it. His brother was disappointed on Tuesday as he was really looking forward to a ride on the Ducati, but after spending the best part of three quarters of an hour trying to start it, C gave up and they got the train.

On Friday evening we dropped some sloes I had in the freezer over to the people who own the cottage we go to in Clare. They tell us that they spotted a likely site within walking distance of the cottage if we're down at the right time this year. We then went on to dinner with another friend and got to meet her absolute doll of a little black Staffie. The last one they had, many years ago, was bigger and brindle and altogether a more macho looking dog, although he was a real softie. Little Lil reminded me more of Babe, not least because she snuffled around just like in the film, but even the way she moved. And yesterday evening we had friends visiting and staying over - just as well I held on to my big bag of Duplo, it had a good workout.
The Splitcoast photo challenge this week was Sing, Sing a Song. The back-story to my choice for the challenge was that when I was looking at the letters that had already been used, the first ones were SATB. Instantly I saw soprano, alto, tenor, bass. Way back we used to have a group that met in our house to do 4-part singing, we even made a home-recording. Then some of that group moved on and moved away, and a few younger friends, still in college, joined in for a year or so, but by the time they finished college the whole thing just faded out. Since we were distinctly short of females at that stage, and C normally had to sing alto it was coming to an end anyway. I don't believe I've used things like all my little mini quiche dishes and cream-horn moulds since those days...
The weather on Monday gave me a rainbow, of sorts, but didn't allow me to get the chimney tops I really wanted the next day. Tuesday was so wet and wild and windy that even with a weight, I am not sure the tripod would have stayed put.

Somewhere over the rainbow...

Away above the chimney tops...

Rainy days and Mondays...

I can see clearly now...

Leaving on a jet plane...

After the initial mild and wet start to the week (water restrictions now pretty much lifted) it turned bitterly cold, so that the frost stayed on the paths all day in the shade ,and was so heavy it looked like snow. I spotted this hydrangea on the way to work one of those mornings.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Quick walk...

I was feeling pretty sick yesterday afternoon and all night. However, when today was a beautiful bright, sunny (and very cold!) morning, I thought maybe a quick walk would help clear my head. My brother-in-law is coming for dinner this evening, and as he heads back to Australia this week, it wasn't the sort of date that could be re-scheduled. I've made a  Crème Caramel, always appetising, just got to get it cool in time. The problem was that my walk wasn't as short as it was meant to be - I was nearly back at the car when I realised I'd lost a lens cap. I'd already lost one last time I was in Farmleigh, so this time I tried retracing my steps and was lucky enough to find it before I'd gone too far. I think the problem is if it falls out of my pocket on the grass or the lakeside paths, I just don't hear it fall. I'd also spent quite a while watching the birds on the feeder - I saw blue, coal and great tits, and a chaffinch scavenging underneath.

That witch hazel smelled so sweet. Got to dash, time to get on with the rest of dinner.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

C is for Collection

I took a photo of one of these display shelves for the current SCS challenge which was to take the same picture with and without flash. But it had been in the back of my mind all week that they would have been a good subject for the C challenge, so today I took photos of all three of them. They are all atrociously dusty - I do the tops every week, but no way am I taking each and every thimble out. With so many, and going back so many years, at this stage I don't even remember who some of them came from, which is a pity. Most of the enamelled ones came from Portobello Market and little shops around Covent Garden, from when I worked in the UK. The Chester one was when I met DH in Liverpool at his sister's after we got engaged. We bought his wedding ring in Chester. I am guessing that my Dad probably got the Science Museum one as he used to take a school trip over to London every year. There are two tailor's thimbles, those are the ones with no top - they are also called sewing rings. I find them quite easy to use, but in fact my regular sewing thimble doesn't live here at all, but on the mantelpiece in the sitting-room.
It's hard to choose a favourite - I like the Brambley Hedge ones, and the little hand-painted Christmas robin, and the cedar waxwing.
I think I'll have to try for better photos another day - the one I originally took for the photo challenge was when we had bright sunshine flooding in, whereas today has been wet, wild and extremely windy all day.

Some time back I gave a recipe for what my sister calls Jammy Chops. Last weekend, while looking through one of Ronald Johnson's books I found a similar idea for pork chops, and tried it out. It was very nice -we don't eat a lot of pork, but I'll remember it to try again.

Pork Chops with a Currant Glaze - from Ronald Johnson's Simple Fare

4 large loin pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 tblsp oil
1/4 cup chicken stock (2 fluid ounces)
1/4 cup redcurrant jelly
1 1/2 tblsp Dijon mustard
2 tbslp red wine vinegar

Heat the oil in a frying pan of suitable size to take all the chops. Fry them over medium heat till golden brown on each side. Pour out almost all the fat (leave about 1 tblsp), add the chicken stock, cover and cook over a low heat for half an hour. Add more stock if necessary, and I turned mine over half way through. Warm the redcurrant jelly and mustard, stir to mix and add to the pan after the half hour. Cook for another 15 minutes, turning once. Remove and keep warm while you add the vinegar to the sauce in the pan and boil rapidly to reduce to a thick sauce.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Birds, mostly

I managed to get a moderately OK couple of photos of a coal tit for the C challenge. There was a pair of them at the feeder yesterday.

Although the dunnock (hedge sparrow) isn't nearly as entertaining to watch as the sparrows, I still love to see them in their sober brown plumage.

I liked this front on picture of the robin - he almost looks a bit egg-shaped.

A lovely sky on the way into work this morning...

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Quick snaps

B is for Burglar,
C is for Crescent.
I've been wondering why the feeder has been going down so quickly recently. I think now that this starling and his mates have something to do with it. I've seen pigeons on the patio, too, but I don't think they could possibly land on the feeder, they must just be scavenging from what falls to the ground. I'd prefer it if the starlings didn't come, because they eat so much - but in this cold weather I am sure they need all the energy they can get. I'll just have to take a trip and get more seed some time this week. And I do enjoy listening to them chattering away amongst themselves. C said he saw a redwing when he was taking the tree out to the collection point - again no surprise with the cold weather.
I was trying to grab a coal-tit photo for the C challenge, but he flew off before I got a decent one. I did see the moon later on; I'd noticed how much of a crescent it was when we were out on Thursday night.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Creative Collection of Cs

The Splitcoast photo challenge this week was the letter C.
Lots of Cs here...

A china cup from a set I have that used to belong to my grandmother. We didn't often use them, but I certainly remember that from time time an elderly colleague of my dad's, and his wife, used to visit for High Tea, and these were the cups we used for them, along with a silver muffin-warmer which I have and still use from time to time.

This cat with his Cheshire grin is a souvenir from our first camping holiday in Kerry in 1991. Some years later my parents moved there, so their little Kerry cat moved back to his home county.

Church, clock, cupola - this is St.Paul's church on Arran Quay, currently not in use.

Graveyard for Christmas trees before they get chipped and spread as mulch on the green areas around Fingal. I love the smell while they are working at the chipping - they come along with a shredder every morning for a week or so. Our tree is heading there this evening - I took all the decorations off this morning and it's now waiting outside the door.

And two abstracts - Crunchy salt along the paths in work (it's been really cold this week. I had to de-ice the windscreen twice yesterday morning, and we had to de-ice it twice in the evening too, as C sprayed it from from the washer just after we started moving, and the water all froze on the screen instantly), and the Chaos that is my desk, even though I give it a general tidy every single day. Thank goodness C is of the belief that being creative = being messy, so it bothers me more than it does him.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Not the eclipse.

There was a partial eclipse here this morning - it was pretty cloudy, and I wasn't anywhere where I could see the horizon, but I am sure that these amazing light effects were part and parcel of the event. As you can see from the third photo, the way the light was catching the vapour looked like sheets of flame - it was really wonderful to see. It really was dark, too. C was commenting on that when he got home from work and I said I had a couple of photos to show him.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Recipe Time

I was so sure this recipe was here that when I wanted to make it yesterday, this was my first port of call. Second port of call was all my sent e-mails - now it's where it should be in my Recipe folder. The amounts are all a bit random because it's a recipe that has developed over the years from a recipe I got for a raspberry cheesecake from a Scottish girl who was over here for a wedding, over 25 years ago.
C's brother was coming for dinner yesterday, and since I've picked up C's cold I wasn't doing anything that was too much trouble - glazed loin of bacon, a gratin of  potatoes and some vegetables. But with a new bottle of Baileys, and cream cheese in the fridge I sent C out to buy some digestive biscuits.

Baileys Cheesecake:

For the base - 8 oz. digestive biscuits crushed, and 4 oz melted butter. Press into a lined 8" tin with a loose base.
Filling: I used 1 leaf of gelatine, which I think is equivalent to one generous teaspoon, (5ml measure) and I dissolved it in the Baileys, in a mug sitting in a saucepan of hot water. With powdered gelatine you should put the Baileys in the mug first and then sprinkle the gelatine on top, and leave for a few minutes before warming to dissolve. I guess I must have used at least 3 or 4 tablespoons of Baileys at this stage.
Beat together one large pack (as close to 250g as possible, because there's a smaller one) of cream cheese  and 2 ounces of caster sugar. Stir in 1 small carton (1/4 pint or150 ml) natural yoghurt. Try not to use one with too sour a flavour,  Greek yoghurt would do equally well.  Gently fold in  one 250 ml (1/2 US pint) carton of cream, whipped till thick but not stiff. Stir in Baileys and dissolved gelatine, adding Baileys to taste - no idea how much I used. Pour over the base and chill.

I splattered this with some melted dark chocolate after removing from the tin. This makes a light cheesecake topping, it will hold its shape when you cut it, but is still creamy rather than set. With slight variations it's the same recipe I use for strawberry and lemon cheesecakes too.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year

Hoping your path in 2011 takes you to good places...

and thank you for sharing my (largely pictorial) take on the world around me.