Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Putting a bird on it


 Matt Adrian

 Juliette Bates

At the suggestion of one of the lovely women in my class a group of us went to see the Da Vinci drawings in the National Gallery. I would have travelled to Dublin even if they only had had one of the drawings on show, or so I say now, but the reality is that I often miss out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like this when they involve longer distances, and it takes someone else's initiative to prompt me to make the trip. It was wonderful to see the drawings in real life and marvel at how well preserved they were.

Whenever I go to a museum, I make sure I have time to visit the museum shop afterwards. Some of the best art books I have are from museum shops; those shops are such treasure troves. This time I left empty-handed, only to find that John had bought this book on birds in art. We seem to be building a little bird-book library, and this is a delightful addition. I just realised I ended up taking photos of several crow paintings and of birds with humans, but those only form a small part of the selection in this book. It is a joy to dip into. 

Both the exhibition and this book have left me with that feeling of excitement and wonder that needs cultivating, as it can be elusive in day-to-day life. I finally have a desk (two, in fact; lucky me) in my studio and am settling in, gathering my canvases and paints and ideas and anxious to get started again.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Book launch

My lovely friends in the office organised a book launch for the three books I illustrated that were published this year. I am so grateful to them and to everyone who came and supported us - I was touched to see so many familiar (and some new) faces. Unfortunately none of the writers were there (due to geographical distance - Amie is in the US - and illness), but Amie's family plus friend came up from Co.Clare, and it was great to meet them. Another writer - the one and only June Favre - read from Ulysses to mark Bloomsday.

My little nephew was in entertaining form, and it was wonderful to have him and my sister there. People are so good. It is occasions like yesterday and the get-togethers we have had at the house over the last few weeks that I have to pinch myself - I am so lucky to have such good friends and that part of my family is over here as well. My other nephew and his parents were visiting last week, and I miss them (and my mom) more than ever now. The older I get, the more acutely I feel what family means, but that's for another post.

First photo by me, all others by Deirdre Lydon

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Food | Chutney, chocolate and washing up

John was in Cork a few weeks ago and brought back a lovely spiced apricot chutney from the English Market. When it was gone, I attempted to recreate it. The ingredients were simply apricots and coriander seeds (such a good combination), vinegar and sugar. All the recipes I looked up had quite a few additional ingredients, but I wanted to keep it simple and made it with the above (200g dried apricots, 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander, 200ml apple cider vinegar, 90g brown sugar), adding an onion and 25 grams of raisins (mainly to bulk it up, as I only had a small bag of dried apricots) and a bit of lemon juice. I followed Delia's instructions with regard to the cooking time and loosely based the ratio of the quantities on her recipe, and the result is lovely. We eat it with cheese and bread and add it to stir fries.

Overall we try to keep our sugar intake low, while not excluding it completely (see the chutney!). John is stricter, as he reckons he is an abstainer, not a moderator, whereas I am happy to make exceptions and won't refuse cake. The most important change has been to not eat processed biscuits and cakes. If it is homemade and has recognisable ingredients, it is fine - everything in moderation, of course. I use honey, maple syrup and coconut blossom sugar in my baking.

Yesterday I made these no-sugar bites, and the raspberries are actually sweetener enough. They taste best half frozen or straight from the fridge.

(Also pictured in the food photos: my friend gave me this gorgeous children's book about Frida Kahlo.)

In other sensory news, I love this washing-up liquid (another John find, when the shop didn't have Ecover, which I used for years). It smells of lemon balm and is certified by Ecocert.