Friday 31 January 2014

Photo Scavenger Hunt 2014

I always enjoy a photo scavenger hunt and sometimes join in on the ones over at so I was delighted when Louise at Ramblings of A Roachling posted a link to the hunt organised by Greenthumb.
As I only decided to join in today, I was lucky to discover that I had enough photos taken in January to match the topics - apart from one taken in late December.
I'll be much better organised in February -I hope!

J is for jewellery.

I don't have much 'good' jewellery, preferring cheap and cheerful costume jewellery. This Pandora bracelet and ring are among my favorite pieces as the charms were gifts from family and friends.


As I hadn't planned on taking part in the hunt, this was the most difficult photo to find. Taken during my  lunch break, a bit after 1pm.


This tape measure dates back to when I used to do a lot of sewing - and to before the fall of the Berlin Wall!


Tubes of paint belonging to my son who is hoping to go to art college.

A Corner

A corner of a vibrant abstract painting by an artist friend.


When our son was younger, he used to like to get hats from the local football club whenever we went on holiday. This one is from FC Porto - we were there when they won the league and there was great excitement as the whole city celebrated.


Stamps featuring Irish wildlife on a letter I received during the week.

Looking Down

Frosted leaves on the ground. This one taken from the end of December as we haven't had much frost this winter, mostly wind and rain.


Crowds of Garth Brooks fans queuing outside a shop to get tickets for his forthcoming Irish concerts.
The tickets went on sale on Thursday morning - some people started queuing on Tuesday! Not all were fans though as tickets went on sale on the internet within hours.


Fog is a natural occurrence which transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary.


I'm planning to start a healthy eating programme in February, cutting out sweets, biscuits,  and other fattening options, and eating more fruit, salads and smaller portions. I did it in November and was pleased with the results. Now that Christmas and January are out of the way, I feel like getting back to a healthier and more energetic routine.


I like  the warm colour of the roof in our local park contrasted with the cool hues of a foggy afternoon.

I look forward to seeing what everyone else found in January.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Dreaming of Spring

These days, I'm longing for Spring. Tantalising signs of this much longed for season are appearing everywhere. The hyacinth bulbs I bought fill the sitting room with their wonderful sweet scene, there's a profusion of snowdrops growing beside the old farmhouse down the lane, and the spring bulbs I planted in the autumn are popping up.
But our weather remains very unsettled. Sunshine, showers, wind, rain, fog, frost; we've had the lot this past week. More winter storms are forecast over the coming days, so it's still time for keeping warm, cooking wholesome food and dreaming of warmer days.

I made my favourite soup, leek and potato, for lunch today (will post the recipe later in the week) and
was delighted when I discovered the pansy flowering in the garden.
And I'm busy reading for The Year in Books. I've already finished 'Gone Girl' and am now reading and really enjoying Zadie Smith's 'NW' as well Richard Yeats short stories 'Eleven Kind of Loneliness' which are perfect for dipping into and savouring one at a time.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Keeping Warm and Making Soup

January. The warm glow of Christmas is a distant memory. That wonderful festival which brings light to the darkest days is over for another year. And it will be some time before spring arrives. There will be cold wet days and nights, many weeks of darkness, and colds and sniffles to survive, before we feel the warmth of the sun on our faces.
There's not much to be said it January's favour. True, it's the start of another year, a time for looking forward, for planning, for hoping, for resolutions and good intentions.
But, mostly it's cold and miserable. Money is short after Christmas expenditure and spring, let alone summer, seems a long way away.

There's a bonus, however, for lazy photographers like me who are adverse to setting their alarm clocks earlier than absolutely necessary. The late sunrise means I've been able to see some wonderful skies although rushing to work means I can't capture them apart from a quick snap taken across the fields before de-icing the car on a frost morning.

For me, January is all about keeping warm. Hibernating. It's about staying indoors in front of a warm log fire, cosying up with a book and a glass of red wine. Our cat Toffee has the right idea. He picks his spot on a favourite chair and sleeps for hours.
I also like to cook warming food for my family, traditional dishes likes stews, casseroles and soups.
One of my favourite soups is easy to make from store cupboard ingredients and is ready is around half an hour.
It's tasty and its Mediterranean flavours remind me of holidays to Italy, eating delicious simple food in small trattorias with red and white checkered table cloths.

What You Need:
A little olive oil
One onion, finely chopped
One clove of garlic, crushed
One tin of chopped tomatoes
One tin of mixed beans
One litre chicken stock (I use a Knorr stockpot)
A good pinch of mixed herbs
Some broken lengths of spaghetti or pasta shapes for soup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grated parmesan to serve

Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a saucepan until soft and translucent. Add the hot stock, the tomatoes, beans, mixed herbs and seasoning. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the pasta and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Serve with grated parmesan. It's also delicious with a handful of baby spinach leaves or fresh basil added at the end.

Saturday 18 January 2014

A Year In Books

One of  my (very few) New Year resolutions was to read more books in 2014.
I used to read all the time. 
Almost every spare moment was spent with my head in a book. 
As an only child of book-loving parents, it was natural, in those pre-internet, pre-social media days, that I would find entertainment and adventures  within the pages of a book.
I graduated from Enid Blyton to children's classics, from popular fiction to pretty much anything I could get my hands on. As I read the odd racy bestseller, a friend's conservative mother would say, 'she's reading what?' 
That continued through my student  years and my 'twenties. Even when parenthood came along,  I'd still manage to find find time to read books by favourite authors. Instead of reading a book a week, I managed a book a month.
Then, along came the internet into our home and an endless supply of material to distract me from the finely crafted printed word.
Reading became something I only did if I was sick or on holidays, and once I got an iPad, even that couldn't be guaranteed.
So one of my resolutions for 2014 is to get back to reading. Not ebooks but real books. 
Books that I can pop in my  handbag to read over coffee without worrying about spilling said coffee over an expensive electronic device.
Thanks to Karen at A Quiet Corner , I found out about the year long reading challenge being hosted by Laura from Circle of Pine Trees,  and I decided to join.

I've already read my first book of the year, 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn.
I'd read a review of it  on a blog last weekend and thought it sounded interesting, even though thrillers aren't normally my cup of tea.
So when I saw a copy of it while leaving a bag of clothes into a local charity shop, I bought it.
So for the last three days, I couldn't put it down as I want to find out what exactly happened to Amy who has disappeared on her fifth wedding anniversary.
Was it the husband (it's always the husband)  or someone or something else?
Without giving anything away, I'll say I really enjoyed around two thirds of the book. There were lots of surprises and twists, and the writing swept me along. But then, to me anyway, the plot began to get silly and I didn't like the ending. Interestingly, I've since read that Flynn is changing the ending for the film script. 
Now, I feel I want to get back to reading some literary fiction and 'Eleven Kinds of Loneliness' by Richard Yates is the next book I intend reading.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Living on the Edge

We live on the edge. Almost. Almost on the edge of the Irish sea. There's nowhere I'd rather live.

From our kitchen window, I can see the mountains. If I stand on my toes, I can see the shimmer of sea on the horizon through the bathroom window.

The sea is a constant in my life.  I missed it those short years when I lived away from home while attending college many years ago.

Our daily dog walks take us to the shore and I welcome the opportunity to breath the sea air, listen to the call of the seabirds and clear my head after a day's work.
The estuary and mudflats present an ever changing canvass. 

The sinking winter sun turns the shorefront into a photographer's paradise and reminds us just how beautiful nature can be.
Last week, however, the sea became our enemy. As storm Christine lashed the Irish shores,  the seawater poured over the embankment which protects the low-lying reclaimed land where we live. Fortunately, the levee held but it was a nerve wreaking experience watching the sea flow across the fields, stopping just yards from our home.
As the raging storm coincided with high tides, we spent an anxious few days living on the edge. We'd been flooded before so put our 'flood plan' into action, moving everything upstairs, erecting  the floodgates in the front and back door, packing overnight bags, and planning what we'd do with the pets if we had to move out. 
Luckily our fears weren't realised - this time anyway. 

It's now up to the Irish government to make funds available so that coastal communities don't have to live in fear.
In our case, the county council have plans to raise and strengthen the embankment - a relatively straight forward task once funding is in place.
More complex solutions will be needed elsewhere to protect those living along the coast, including a number of major towns and cities.