Saturday, May 28, 2016

Our summer-planning, bird-watching blackboard wall

In the house I lived in for the first six years of my life, our parents (both teachers) put blackboard foil on one wall of the kitchen (it was dark green, like the blackboards at school, and I remember it being very big, though it probably wasn't), and we spent a lot of time drawing and writing on it. My lasting memory is of my older sister using it to teach me to read long before I was meant to learn it, which was not what my parents had envisaged - they were not the pushy type and had not installed it for educational purposes. She turned out to be the strictest teacher I ever had.

We are now picking up the blackboard-in-the-kitchen tradition. John decided that the deep wall between the kitchen and the sitting room (previously they were two separate rooms) would be the perfect place for some blackboard paint, and it divides the two areas nicely.

Right now it serves as our 'summer diary' (though he immediately started worrying that having this all-at-once view of the months ahead would make the time pass even faster) and, in the lower left corner, our bird watching log, with the names in Irish. We keep a copy of Ireland's Garden Birds on the window sill where we can see the bird feeder and bird bath.

My friend also gave me a roll of blackboard foil, which we are planning to use in our studio and on the side of a tall kitchen cupboard. The teacher-daughter (and part-time teacher myself) me is very pleased, and so is the artist me, though so far I haven't picked up the chalk yet.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Red's Road to Green


Busy Red Tractor has made the journey across the Atlantic, and Red's Road to Green, the children's book by Amie Ní Nualláin that I illustrated, is now available in Ireland and all other EU countries via the Etsy shop I share with my sister. For the US, the book is available via The Indie Celt.

I am looking forward to furnishing our new studio bit by bit, so I can spread out all the drawings and paintings for upcoming projects and get stuck in. Some of my paints are still stored away, and I still need a desk, which is my latest excuse for procrastination.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Beauty | Green angels and people

The last time I was at the hairdresser's (I only go once in a blue moon, a factor that may have contributed to the sad state of my hair) I was persuaded to buy the Wella salon-only products they sell, and I was happy with the shampoo, which lasted so long it was well worth the price. The conditioner and the keratin hair mask went some way to tame my frizzy hair, but unfortunately they also made my skin break out along the hairline and on my neck. Most hair products that are not shampoo seem to do that to my skin, although I suspect hormones play a role, too.

I always turn my pillow around after a night or two and use the other pillow after that, do the same with that one and then change the bedclothes, because what ends up on the pillowcase (oils from our skin and hair, plus any products that have been applied) is a well-known cause for breakouts. I also wear my hair up a lot of the time. But it still got worse, so after I used up the conditioner I decided that was the end of that, and I only use the mask before an event (at which I inevitably will wear my hair down, to cover the resulting spots, which then exacerbates it).

A few years ago I experimented with the baking soda and vinegar method, but gave up eventually, as my hair didn't look that great. I also used all-natural shampoo for a good while, but went back to the big brands again for some reason (ok, because I felt my hair looked better).

Recently I began to reconsider and decided to go back to natural products. The shop down the road stocks Green Angel, and John gave me the shampoo and conditioner as part of my birthday present. It's too early to say whether this conditioner doesn't cause breakouts, but so far, so clear, and my hair feels better (lighter, in a good way) even after only two uses. It also smells amazing. Lavender and neroli are two of my favourite scents, and using these in the shower is like being in a spa.

Another 'green' product I have started using is this Green People facial sun cream. Apparently it's the same stuff that's in the body version, just in a smaller bottle, so next time I will buy the latter. Sun screen can be very chalky, but this one goes on quite nicely and moisturises and doesn't cause spots. I like the company's philosophy, and 10% of their net profit goes to charities.

This is not a sponsored post and the links are not affiliate links.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

House update

rug and books

 bathroom work-in-progress

flowers from friends, and light at the end of day 1 of the Irish heatwave

We have been in the house for almost nine months now, which is hard to believe. With each year that passes I marvel more at how much some people get done in a year. Writing a novel. Having several art residencies, in different parts of the world, with a solo exhibition at the end of each (yes, I know somebody who does that). A year is quite short. I now realise that having a project is always great, and having several projects means everything seems to take a very long time.

A whole weekend can be taken up by painting one small area. A lot of time can be taken up by deciding what colours to choose (so we are keeping the testing out of colours to a minimum), and it is so much easier when choice is limited. We like the prepared walls, which almost look like properly painted white walls, so much that we are probably going to use different shades of white for most of the house. But for the bathroom we got a dark grey for the wall above the wood panelling, and we found a mirror that will look beautiful against it. It is just leaning against the wall for now. I am also beginning to see why it takes people ages to hang things.

John bought the rug in the first picture from the lovely weaver in the local crafts village (which is only a short walk from our house). We are using it in the sitting room for now, but it will go somewhere else. It looks good everywhere.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


I find myself getting the biggest sense of achievement from small repetitive tasks, and it seems as if I am only learning how to live now - I mean that on a big, philosophical level as well as in the most mundane sense. I have been an adult for long enough to have certain things figured out, but I keep catching myself thinking, if only I had started this ages ago. This evening I made a batch of granola and a tray of banana muffins, and I feel so prepared.

I am only getting the hang of meal planning and grocery shopping now. Having grown up in a household where nothing was wasted, I am always horrified when I read how much food people throw out in the West. I have always endeavoured to continue to live the way we did at home and generally succeeded at the not wasting part (if not the preparation), but during a recent crazy busy time we ate out a lot and ended up throwing out food, including a very black banana (this had never happened before. The one thing I can make in my sleep is banana bread). So now, with two trays emerging from the oven in one evening and an idea of what we are going to cook for the next few days (and nothing dying at the back of the fridge), I feel I have conquered this part of domesticity. 

Buddhism tells us that tasks such as weeding or mowing the lawn teach you the point of pointlessness, and I am really enjoying that. I remember as a child when it dawned on me that the joy of having just washed my hair would not last very long before I would have to do it again, and again, and again, and the panic (some sort of existential angst) that I felt. I cannot quite claim that I have mastered a zen-like immersion in everyday tasks, but I do derive genuine pleasure from them most of the time. It's as though I have finally pushed aside that daunting mountain of 'shoulds' and 'to-dos' and am living in the moment more, for now at least.