Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Today, she posted a whole series of links to robot-themed items on Etsy, one of which caught my eye and I simply had to buy it. Isn't it fantastic? Total cost, including shipping to Ireland, was $14.50, so it's not going to break the bank either - not that it matters since it's payday tomorrow anyhow.
The artist is Tim Boyd, who trades as waterbears on Etsy and his other prints are well worth checking out. BTW, Etsy is an auction side for craft items and is a great alternative to eBay for unusual and alternative items.
Daughters of the Doge is one of my charity shop purchases. There are days when you go into a charity shop and you end up leaving with 10 books, simply because they seem to have interesting book after interesting book. It's a historical novel set in the mid 1550's, mainly in Venice. In fact, it was the sleek cover with its dusky image of a gondola which caught my eye.
Richard Stocker is a young English protestant. Unfortunately for him though, Catholic Queen Mary sits on the English throne and tensions are high between the religions. Richard's position is more precarious than most given the fact that he had been a companion to Lady Jane Gray, who had been executed by Queen Mary. All this is recounted in the first Richard Stocker novel, In the Shadow of Lady Jane, but rest assured, you do not have to have read the first novel to understand the events in this second novel.
Richard is unsure of his path in life, but fate offers him a chance to travel to Italy, more specifically Venice. He has a strong interest in medicine and being accepted to study at Padua University is a possibility. But while in Venice, he discovers a talent for art and drawing in the studio of the great artist Tintoretto. He also meets three remarkable, and beautiful women who all play their part in the development of his life. There is the stunning and calculating courtesan Veronica Franco who teaches him about the subtle undercurrents of Venetian life, the demure and intelligent Yasmeen, a Muslim who captures his heart and finally, captive nun Faustina. Together, these women represent the diversity of Venice and are the Daughters of the Doge.
It's a weird coincidence that I've just finished Sarah Dunant's amazing novel Sacred Hearts, also set in the world of Renaissance convents. Unfortunately though, this novel fails to reach the same heights as Dunant's book. It is somewhat repetitive and predictable with rather flat characters. The author does take the rather 21st century concept of not knowing your path in life and applies it to a character in the 16th century, but ultimately Charles fails to bring the main character to life.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
It was a meal of minor, irritating things, none of which were very bad on their own, but when added up mean that I probably won't be in a hurry back. Firstly was the musician playing the piano just inside the door. He was good, but the volume of his playing was just too much. Secondly, the tables are located far too close together. I really do have a fear of intimacy when dining. Thirdly, it took ages for the waitress to come and take our order.
When the food arrived (pizza Bar Italia for me, pizza Antica for him), it looked quite good. Fresh rocket leaves covered my pizza (something that I've loved ever since a trip to Pisa) while there were generous parmesan shavings on his. But something was lacking from the pizzas - no real tomato bite and mine quickly became soggy and dripped everywhere.
Ultimately, no real incentive to return - although I did notice a seemingly good value deal for a pizza and glass of wine during daytime hours.
Bar Italia IFSC, Custom House Square Lower, Mayor Street, Dublin 1. 01 - 670 2887
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I joined him there one day for lunch and I was immediately impresed by the smooth, sleek decor. It's more than clear that there has been a lot of effort and thought put into this enterprise. Opening the menu, I was pleased with the choice available and went for the mixed meat and cheese plate (€7.o0) while he chose the tagliatelle alla bosciaola (€7.00). Both dishes were impressive, especially the antipasto misto, which was more than generous (compared to the €14 spent in Meade's Bar, Cork later the same day).
The pasta portion was just the right size (Italian restaurants have a hard time in Ireland trying to convince us that a small portion of pasta is the right amount) and came with cream, mushrooms, ham and peas.
Add two dark intense espressos (at a brilliant €1.50 each), a small bottle of sparkling water and a glass of coke and the bill came to a total of €22. La dolce vita indeed.
Caffe Parigi, 17-19 Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin 2 . 01 - 679 0022
As the evening darkened, the fantastic "crab" stage and video screen became the star of the show. The colours changed throughout the night, and the screen moved up and down without us even noticing. Overall, it was a good concert, but not terribly enjoyable. Bono seems to build the crowd up, and then flattens it. The encore was a real let-down with no enjoyable tunes ringing in our ears as we went home.
So today I learned how how to combine colour and black&white images using layers and masks. (Tutorial here). Here are two of my first efforts.
I was walking down Grafton Street a few days ago when I saw a street artist who was impersonating a bronze statue. The best thing... a pigeon had decided to use the statue as a perch.
Now I don't know if this was staged by the artist or not, but it really doesn't matter. People were snapping photos left, right and centre, so here's mine. Took it with my camera phone and zoomed in, so please excuse the quality
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I stopped into Wagamama for lunch recently and was pleased to see they have a lunch deal in place Monday - Friday until 5pm. €9.95 gets you a main from a decent list along with a complimentary drink, including a 330ml Tiger beer. Not too shabby at all.
Make sure to sign up to Wagamama member's area as well - special offers are often available to members.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
After a stroll around City Hall, we returned to Bedford Street and grabbed a table just before last orders in the Deli. I chose the local aged ribeye steak (£18) served with fries and a herb butter, while he chose the Deli Beef Burger with Jalapeño rarebit, fresh guacamole, oven dried tomato and French fries (£11).
The interior of the restaurant is wooden panelled painted an olive green and bottles of wine line the shelves. At nighttime the lighting is dim and very relaxing. Our food was delicious - both the steak and the burger had real beefy flavours and I just loved the herb butter and jalapeno rarebit on the burger. I can't remember the total cost, but I think that 3 glasses of wine and our two mains bought the bill to somewhere in the region of £44.
Deanes Deli, 44 Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7GH, United Kingdom. +44 (0)28 9024 8800
Monday, July 20, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Bethany is very disturbed and has been violent as well as spewing disaster scenarios. She has been receiving ECT treatment, and appears to be making progress. While in Art Therapy with Bethany, Gabrielle begins to see portents and omens in Bethany's work and begins to wonder if there is more to this girl's story than appears to meet the eye.
The story is set in the near-future where evnironmental disasters are more frequent and where an oppressive and foreboding heat dominates the days, setting an intense, gothic atmosphere in the book. Environmentalists and evangelists are powerful figures on the political landscape and there is a fevered feel in the air. Against this backdrop, Gabrielle still struggles to deal with her lot in life and her burgeoning new relationship with physicist Frazer Melville.
This is a gripping story with a grim environmental message. It is also a story of dealing with one's past (both for Bethany and Gabrielle) and facing into a future that you don't want to see. It's an emotional ride, but one that's worth taking.
Fast forward many years and Ned is the proud owner of the Pie-Hole (which even has a pie crust shaped roof) and is business partner to snappily-dressed, knitting obsessed private investigator, Emerson Cod (Chi McBride). Ned's reanimation skills come in handy when investigating murders, given that he can collect eye witness testimony from the dead themselves.
Things get turned around when one of the deceased folk turns out to be Ned's old sweetheart, Chuck (Anna Friel). Ned cannot bring himself to touch her again for a second time, thus keeping her alive and in his life - but at the price of never being able to touch her again!
Due to the writer's strike in the States, there are only nine episodes in Series 1 of the show, but they are nine beautifully imagined and lovingly created episodes. Mixing 50s and 60 fashion and primary colours into the show lends an amazing quirkiness and fantasty to the show. Throw in a fastastic appearance from Kristin Chenowith as Olive Snook, the Pie-Hole waitress who is in love with Ned, along with the charming characters of Chuck's aunts, the ex-synchronised swimmers knows as the Darling Mermaid Darlings.
Pushing Daisies is a charming, simple yet quirky romantic comedy. Great performances from the leading characters along with snappy dialogue and lots of romantic gazes all add up to create a television show that is truly memorable.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I always get excited when I see a gourmet brand - I think "Finally, the best bag of salt and vinegar crisps is here" and then I'm disappointed when they turn out to be too crunchy or not salt'n'vinegary enough. Take Real Crisps Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar flavour. Nice packaging and they come in around the €1 mark. They have a medium flavour and are just a tad too crispy for my liking. You could cut your gums eating these crisps.
Marks & Spencer do a decent packet of handcooked Salt and Vinegar crisps (€1) which hit the spot quite nicely, but my favourite own-brand crisp came from Lidl in a big bag. However, they seem to have stopped selling them, instead replacing them with odd lamb flavoured crisps.
Ultimately, it's hard to beat our own Tayto's and sometimes Walker's. Homegrown is best. But if you can offer any advice on other salt and vinegar crisps that you think are worth trying, please let me know!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The convent of Santa Caterina in Ferrarra has just accepted its newest novice, the angelically-voiced Serafina. Except Serafina does not want to be there and devotes all her energies to escape. The dispensary mistress, Zuana, is appointed to bring this troubled soul into the fold, thus bringing Zuana firmly into the political life of the convent.
Dunant paints a fascinating post of a world where many intelligent and religious spent their lives cloistered together. The artistic devote their time to the pursuit of music, singing and other activites, but these "frivolous" activities are under threat from stern reforms sweeping through the outside world. It is against this backdrop that the abbess hopes to use the amazing voice of Serafina to bring fame to the convent, but Serafina has her own plans. Interal divisions and strife within the convent are also conspiring to use Serafina for their own ends.
The plot is rich and layered which keeps the reader engrossed and Dunant brings the convent world to glorious, breathing life. There is an intriguing dichotomy in this small female world which is in turn subject to the whims of the external male-dominated world. Thoroughly well recommended reading.
Gifts of War is the debut novel from Mackenzie Ford (a pseudonym adopted by a writer of historical work). It starts on that historic Christmas in the trenches of WWI when Germans and English alike put down their weapons and celebrated Christmas together. Hal, an English officer, meets Wilhelm, his German counterpart, who asks him to pass a photograph to Sam, his English fiancee reassuring her that he is safe and well. Hal is surprised at the fact that a German has a British fiancee, but agrees to pass the message on whenever he can.
However, Hal is fascinated by Sam's photo, and when he meets her in the flesh, he is captivated. In fact he is captivated to the point where he omits to mention Wilhelm, but instead starts to court Sam himself. Sam is in a tough position, she has a young son from her relationship with Wilhelm. Being an unmarried mother in WWI England is bad enough, but at least no one knows that her son is half-German. Hal eventually wins Sam over and they enter into a life of conveniance. A wife will help Hal in his burgeoning intelligence career in London, while Sam will have a husband and her son will have a father.
Although Hal is in love with Sam, she does not return the feeling as she is still very much in love with Wilhelm but she is willing to accept a relationship with Hal. It is here that the selfishness of the two main characters becomes apparent, and indeed, they appear well-suited. Hal hides Wilhem's truth from Sam, while Sam gives Hal everything but her heart.
The historical detail with which this novel is imbued brings the story to life, but the somewhat cold main characters can annoy the reader at times. All throughout the story, the reader wonders what resolution will come about, but the ending is weak and unstaisfying. It is a pity as the story is morally interesting. The side character of Hal's sister, Isobel, a nurse working at the war front, is quite emotional and bring a lot of warmth and depth to the character of Hal that is otherwise missing.
It is an interesting piece of historical fiction, which challenges many traditional values of the time. The story is a little unpolished at times, maybe because this is Ford's first fictional novel, and is ultimately let down by an ending that fails to resolve the issues raised. However, it's still very much worth a read. It will be quite interesting to see what Ford writes next.
Cake Cafe is tucked behind the Daintree Paper shop on Camden Street and it is possible to access the cafe simply by entering Daintree and walking out the back door to the cafe. Alternatively, you can gain access via Pleasants Place. It's small with an open kitchen and several tables dotted outside. It's even possible to sit outside when it's raining as some tables are located in the wooden bicycle shed.
The menu is simple and features a daily-upated tart, terrine, toast, salad, soup and hot pot along with staples such as beans on toast and sardines on toast. It's also open for breakfast. All food and drinks are served on a hodge-podge of old china, chips and all and it all works together to create a delightfully eclectic atmosphere - not unlike visting your dear old grandma who never threw anything way and was a nifty baker to boot.
I enjoyed the terrine of the day, a smoked mackarel pate served with hot buttered thick toast, salad and red cabbage pickle. Extremely satisfying and good value. The toast of the day was an intrguing banana, bacon and honey but the thought of the post-lunch lull that it would surely induce deterred me from trying it out.
There are a delicious array of homemade cakes on the counter, all freshly baked and so angelic looking that you simply have to taste. A fantastically soft Victoria sponge filled with cream and fresh strawberries was simply divine.
Total cost including one pot of tea (served in a mismatched pot and lid) came to E13.55.
The Cake Cafe, The Daintree Building, Pleasants Place, Dublin 2. 01 - 478 9394
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Will, the nerdy geeky one, is sent to a local comprehensive following his parent's divorce and subsequent removal from private school. While there, he befriends lovesick Simon, sex pest Jay and happy golucky but dim Neil. They form a group that is not quite cool, not quite uncool - a precarious position in the social strata of secondary education.
These two short series revolve about the main driving desire of the lads - sex. Unsurprisigly, their quests to appear cool, meet girls and get off lead to many embarassing, laugh out loud situations. There are many times when you will find yourself shouting at the telly "Don't do it lads, don't do it!" - but they go and do it. Excellent viewing.
The boxset of two seasons is probably the best way to see the show, as there are only a handful of episodes in each season and you will watch one episode after another - it's that good.
We drove through Carlingford, Co Louth recently on one of those weird Irish days where the sun is shining yet the rain is pouring. We parked near the castle, and were walking towards it when the heavens opened. We were drenched in literally seconds but the skies cleared as quickly as they darkened.
Carlingford is a very attractive little town, nestled alongside the Mourne Mountains. Judging by the pubs and cafes in the town, it could be a great place to go for a short break, as I'd say that you're guaranteed a fair old time at night.
I had been in town where I had treated myself to a glass of wine at the bar of Cafe Novo at the Westbury Hotel. It was a very nice glass of wine, but it would want to be at E8 a glass. But fair play to the barman for topping up my glass for free when I managed to catch it with my arm and spilled half of it.
With the other half in tow, we went to the Yuelaixing restaurant on Parnell Street. The establishment has been there for ages, but I suspect that they change hands quite regularly - hence the name that Google cannot find.
We ordered a plate of seafood dumplings (E5.50), a braised seabass (E9.80) and Yu Xiang shredded pork (E7.50). I ordered a glass of house red wine, which turned out to be fairly vile (think port flavours) and himself had some Qing Tao beer. The seabass, cooked whole in ginger, garlic and other nice flavours, turned out to be delicious and fell apart at the touch of the chopstick. My pork was spicy in bitesized pieces. The dumplings had been steamed and then panfried, with a lovely meaty filling.
Total bill was E31.80 for two substantial courses along with dumplings and alcohol. It was really more than we could eat! Yuelaixing is another good traditional chinese restaurant to add to the Dublin repetoire.
Yuelaixing, Parnell Street, Dublin 1. 01 - 872 8847
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
You'd immediately say Bounty, right?
Well apparently the Bounty bar isn't distinctive enough to warrant a European community trademark. The manufacturer, Mars, applied for a trademark on the basis of its unique "three dimensional nature" which was granted in 2003, but overturned following an appeal by manufacturer Ludwig Schokolade.
The European Court also said that a survey carried out by Mars in six of the then 15 member states - United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands - did not necessarily mean the Bounty Bar's shape was regarded as a unique selling point throughout the EU.
What do you think? Can a manufacturer copyright a bar's shape - assuming that it doesn't carry a trademark or logo?
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Blood Ties is a 2006 television series based on the Vicki Nelson series of books from Tanya Huff. Christina Cox plays Vicki Nelson, a private investigator who was forced to retire from Homicide due to a progressively worsening eye conditioner. One day she is hired by a goth to investigate the death of her boyfriend and her investigation leads her into the world of the occult, where she meets Henry Fitzroy.
Turns out Henry is a 500 year old vampire and the illegitimate son of Henry VIIII. An investigative partnership develops with the inevitable romantic and flirtacious undertones. But competing for Vicki's affections is Mike Celluci, her ex homicide partner and erstwhile lover.
Christina Cox turns in a wise-cracking, high octane performance as Vicki, but the show fails to shine and reach the same heights as comparable shows such as Buffy and the recent Moonlight.
Monday, July 6, 2009
I just cannot believe that they eliminated Jade from the final of Britain's Next Top Model. Time after time she has delivered beautiful photos but on the top of that, she appears to be a genuinely nice person. Sure she is thin (she has battled an eating disorder) but as she said herself, she's getting stronger.
The two finalists, Sophie and Mecia, are good looking women but neither has the star quality that Jade possessed. To boot, Sophie just strikes me as an incredibly duplicitious person. She seems to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. How that silly girl made the final and is being held up as a potential winner is beyond me.
I'm rooting for Mecia to win, but that really is only because the clear winner is no longer in the competition.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Today in Waterford, I went through the clearance rails with a vengance. I found a Tahari Arthur S. Levine black crepe shift dress (sleeveless and knee-length) with a lovely satin neckline for E10!! And I got a grey Hoxton Chic skirt that will do nicely for work for E3. I know that Tahari is a fairly medium priced (think $250 for a suit) line of American womenswear, so E10 for a dress is pretty good. It will be ideal for work.
To top that all off, I bought a Prestige curry pan pressure cooker for E35 and a bottle of Crema Balsemcio di Fragola (Strawberry balsamic glaze) for E5. We've been thinking about buying a pressure cooker for a while now, and when we saw one on the shelf in TK Maxx today, we didn't say no.
Now, if only they'd have gas torches in stock the next time I'm in. That would do nicely.
Lysandra is a Spartan prietess (think of the 300) who is sold into slavery when washed up on a beach following a shipwreck. She is an arrogant, detached person, who views anyone who is not Spartan as practically barbarian. But she has been trained since childhood in the arts of war, a fact not lost on her new owner.
She is sent to training camp for gladiatrices, where her attitude sets her apart from the others. Her unwillingness to submit to slavery drives her and ultimately depresses her. I just could not warm to the character of Lysandra. She appears cold, aloof and without sympathy for those around her. Even when she loses her lover, it's hard to be sympathetic.
The novel is packed full of activity - from graphic scenes of fights in the areans to emotional outbursts between the main characters. There's a definite lesbian hint to this novel - it's full of strong, independant women who can fight. It's got plenty of historical detail but ultimately, it's devoid of emotion and the ending is so abrupt and anti-climatic that you'll wonder where the rest of the book went.
We went for lunch today's to Wongson's with the in-laws. Wongson's is offering a two course meal (main + tea/coffee for E9-11ish) but you can add in a starter for just E1.5o. So overall, a three course lunch can come in around the E12 mark if you stay away from the more expensive options.
I went for wontons as a starter and Wongson's special beef as a main. 4 huge wontons arrived with a really meaty prawn filling. A delicious tomato-chili sauce accompanied them, which was definitely above the norm. My main turned out to be a huge portion of thin-sliced beef and vegetables in a dark, sweet spicy sauce. It reminded me of hoi-sin, with a chilli kick and it had a definite hint of caramel. Other mains were tom yum prawns, hot garlic beef and crispy onion chilli.
Wongson's does good, regular Chinese food with generous servings. I think that there's also an early bird menu with 3 courses for E18.95 (or there abouts). If you're an authentic chinese food junkie (like us) then it won't set your world on fire. If however, you want a good chinese meal, then it's definitely an option. Total cost for 4 starters, 4 mains (including tea/coffee) was E45.
Wongson's, John Collins House, High Street, Waterford. 051 - 854 866
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Though Bulmers has cut its wholesale price to publicans by 10 per cent, there is no guarantee that pub owners will pass on all the savings to drinkers. Part of the aim of the advertising announcing the price cut is to ensure pub customers know about it.
Right so. I've heard of places where a pint bottle is costing around the €5 mark, so some pubs are passing on the value, but it does appear that other pubs aren't being so nice.
I've commented previously on the Stout Bar, Rathmines where I paid €5.80 for a Bulmer's pear. Well, I paid the same (€5.80) last night in Coman's of Rathgar. It's a disgrace that publicans are continuing to act as if people still have money to burn. Why are they resisting price reductions, when it's clear that the cost of living in every other aspect is decreasing?