Playful Roadside Artwork inspired by Patrick Kavanagh

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Playful Artwork at the Carrickmacross Bypass on the N2

Playful Artwork at the Carrickmacross Bypass on the N2

Ireland has quite a few roadside sculptures throughout the country.  I love seeing them and how they relate to the locality.  I pass this very fun sculpture about eight times a week. It is along the N2 Dublin to Derry road, at the Carrickmacross bypass.  It is easy to see, especially since the people are on stilts!

Carrickmacross N2 artwork5The work was commissioned by the Monaghan County Council. This location is very near Inniskeen which is the homeplace of the famous and well respected poet Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967).  The inspiration for the sculpture comes from a line in one of his poems “Come Dance with Kitty Stobling” which reads: Cavorting on mile-high stilts”.   There is a wonderful website about the life and works of Patrick Kavanagh. I’d recommend a visit! https://www.tcd.ie/English/patrickkavanagh/comedancewithkittystobling.html

Inspired by Patrick Kavanagh's poem Come Dance with Kitty Stobling

Inspired by Patrick Kavanagh’s poem Come Dance with Kitty Stobling

The artist is David Annand (http://www.davidannand.com/).  His work is throughout Ireland and the U.K. and is simply amazing.  There were engineers involved with this project too, so they must get a mention as well: CS Pringle.  It is initially through their website that I was able to find information about what the sculpture meant.  Sure, here’s one more link!  http://www.cspringle.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=89&Itemid=78

David Annand sculpture from Patrick Kavanagh's poem Come Dance with Kitty Stobling

David Annand sculpture from Patrick Kavanagh’s poem Come Dance with Kitty Stobling

An official marker.

An official marker.

It is wonderful how the works of a local poet can be remembered and thought upon through such a fun piece of (roadside) art.

Enjoy the art in your life :-)
Dana

A grand arrangement with eucalyptus, hydrangea & artichokes

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Kitty playing with eucalyptus leaves and hydrangea leaves

Kitty playing with eucalyptus leaves and hydrangea leaves

I have had four great big branches of eucalyptus hanging in my utility room (laundry room/bathroom/cat room/where coats, boots, shoes live room) for the past month.  I know, that is really shameful.  Truthfully, there wasn’t even enough room for it there.  My husband is quite the patient man when it comes to some of my projects!  I think the kids were starting to get annoyed with the branches and having to maneuver around them.  Kitty, on the other hand, rather enjoyed them.  It was great fun to jump on them and see how many leaves could fall to the floor during the night!  I knew that I wanted to use those lovely smelling leaves, I just wasn’t sure exactly what to do with them.

Finally, inspiration struck.  I stepped away from my inclination to make a wreath, and I went for using quite a large vase to create an arrangement.

Starting out

Starting out

Hmm, I wonder if I should comment on the state of my kitchen? :-)   Nah.  It was a busy day…  I started out with red tissue paper because Valentine’s Day is coming up.  My friend Louise mentioned that it was also a good color to help celebrate Chinese New Year!  Perfect timing!  After filling the bottom with the tissue paper, I then cut the branches to fit the vase and fill it out. It should be noted that I’m one to save just about everything. So I still had some dried Annabelle hydrangea, and three dried artichoke plants left from this past summer, as well as two branches of contorted hazel.  I was going to find a way to put it all in!

Close up of artichoke plant inside the vase

Close up of artichoke plant inside the vase

close up of two artichokes with their purple color

close up of artichoke

close up of two artichokes with their purple color

close up of two artichokes with their purple color

I didn’t want just eucalyptus. I wanted another element to the arrangement, that is why I put the flowers down inside the vase.  The poor Annabelles didn’t fare well while being squished and squashed into the vase… after the eucalyptus was in of course!  But I think it wasn’t too detrimental to their beauty.

Kitty. Posing.

Kitty. Posing.

You would seriously think my cat loves the camera.  He doesn’t. He just really wanted to play with all of the “stuff” I was working with!  He is a lovely cat, though.

A lovely blueish color!

A lovely blue-ish color!

I tried the vase in a couple of different places.  My hallways are bright and airy and I just wanted to fill that space.

Kitty not leaving the arrangement alone...

Kitty not leaving the arrangement alone…

I’ve finally decided on where to leave it, and the hallway really does smell lovely now.

I think I just might work best under pressure:  I made this in 20 minutes.  Because that is how much time I had before I had to go and collect my daughter from school.  Done. Finished. Everything cleaned up and put away.

Boy is there a lot of extra room in our utility room now!  Time to set up my seeds :-)

This arrangement was brought to you by the generosity of my neighbors Margaret & James who gave me all of the lovely eucalyptus and contorted hazel, and by my friend Susan who’s  hydrangea gave the finishing touches.  Thank you my friends!

Happy Chinese New Year!
Dana

Character in the garden with Leycesteria formosa (Himalayan Honeysuckle)

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Leycesteria formosa

Leycesteria formosa

Having something interesting to look at in the garden during the winter is something that most gardeners set out to achieve.  One plant that gives character to a garden throughout the summer and winter is the Leycesteria formosa, also known as Himalayan Honeysuckle or pheasant berry.  I hadn’t heard of, or taken notice of this lovely plant before seeing it in my friend Susan’s garden.  It’s funny what happens sometimes when you compliment someone’s garden … they just might share some of it with you!

A young Leycestria formosa plant

A young Leycestria formosa plant

When I first planted the Leycestria formosa, it appeared to be just a stem with some roots.  I was not sure how it was going to survive. Not only did it grow, but it has done well in my very windy garden.

Leycesteria formosa supported

Leycesteria formosa supported

The flowers are pretty, and hang down in clusters.

a cluster of drooping flowers

a cluster of drooping flowers

Still young Leycesteria formosa

Still young Leycesteria formosa

After the flowers are finished, the plant is adorned with lovely berries.

Berries late in season of Leycesteria formosa

Berries of Leycesteria formosa late in the season

While walking through a park in Dublin this past July, I noticed some mature Leycesteria formosa plants. They were beautiful and nearly as tall as me!

Mature plants in the park

Mature plants in the park

Close up in the park

Close up in the park

At the time, I was still unsure of the name so I appreciated the tag. For this post I’ve typed the name what feels like a hundred times so hopefully now I will remember it! :-)

ID tag

ID tag

The plant still has character in the winter.  Look at these stems:

Close up of the stems

Close up of the stems

Winter garden

Winter garden

They remind me of bamboo.  The stems are hollow and can grow as tall as 6 feet (1.8 meter) in one season.  The plant grows in moist, fertile soil.  As for maintenance, it should be cut back to the ground in the spring.

Late summer garden

Late summer garden

The Leycesteria formosa is on the left in the full garden photo above.  I’m really happy with it and how it changes throughout the seasons.

Are there any plants that you like to share?  I was able to share some of my strawberry plants recently.  What a great feeling, especially knowing that they are appreciated. A special thank you goes to Susan who has shared so much of her garden with me!

I hope your garden has lots of winter character.
Dana

Winter Blooms in my Irish Garden (An anemone steals the show!)

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Mr. Fokker Anemone

Mr. Fokker Anemone

When I think of winter certain things come to mind:  snow, cold temperatures, skiing, sledding, ice skating, hot chocolate!  Living in Ireland has changed that idea a bit for me. Our winters are usually fairly mild, with only a quick cold snap.  Snow is unusual. Cold is cold, but not like what I’d be used to while living in Central New York. And the winter is short. Really short if I look back to my days of having snow around until March!  I do miss the snowy side of winter.  But the tradeoff is having flowers in my garden even in January.

A frozen anemone

A frozen anemone

We had a deep freeze the other day: -5 degrees Celsius. I took some pictures in the morning, and by the afternoon the rain had come and everything thawed out!

First morning light over the frosty field

First morning light over the frosty field

This close-up of the crystals is my favorite

This close-up of the crystals is my favorite

Frosty evergreenToday was yet another mild day, 8 degrees Celsius, and sunny.  I am not complaining, I just hope it has been cold enough to keep the slugs at bay!  My garden has a few flowers which are blooming. The anemone have multiplied over the past few years. They don’t seem to mind that it is January.  Also giving some color in the garden are a few daisies and a black-eyed Susan plant!  I think they are simply confused. The primrose are a lovely bright color. There is also a lot of green in my ditch wall garden from poppies. Lots and lots of poppies!

The day after the frost

The day after the frost

This is flowering in January.

This is flowering in January.

A sunny winter day

A sunny winter day

January in the garden

January in the garden

Dogwood plant

Dogwood plant  has lovely red branches

Our area has really been very fortunate with the weather.  Even just seeing the sun for a bit of the day is refreshing to the soul.

Evening view from the front yard

Evening view from the front yard

The very last rose.

The very last rose.

Do you have any flowers growing in your winter garden?
Happy winter!
Dana

Sharing some of the bounty … and a pumpkin bread recipe

Pumpkin bread

Pumpkin bread

Every year there is a different fruit or vegetable that just outshines all of the rest. One year it was pickling cukes while another year it was potatoes. This year the hands-down winner has to be our pumpkins.  The growing conditions this summer were quite good for all of the garden, but the pumpkins seemed to like the warmth the best!  You can see some of my pumpkin pictures from earlier in the summer here: http://mominthegarden.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/the-vegetable-gardens-summertime-review/ We had a bumper crop of high quality organic baking pumpkins.  I am now down to my last two.

The large pumpkin  in front was used for this post.  And then there were two...

The large pumpkin in front in the top left picture was used for this post.  I have saved the seeds from quite a few of the pumpkins, so these are going in the compost.  And then there were two…

I made soup a few times, but the rest of the pumpkins were used to make pumpkin bread.  A batch makes two loaves. This is perfect as it means one to keep and one to give away.  There is always someone to say “thank you” to, or “thinking of you”, or “I really thought you’d enjoy this”!  I love sharing food, and I love connecting with people.

Pumpkin bread and a cup of tea

Pumpkin bread and a cup of tea

Having a bumper crop of pumpkins suits me perfectly! The bread has been really well received.  I think it helps that pumpkin bread (which really and truthfully should be called cake) is American and a new and unusual taste to the Irish.  My family love it. :-)

The recipe itself comes to me from a very dear friend. She also shares a love of gardening and cooking and has turned that love into a business: Curly Locks Gourmet Food.  She started with pepper jelly with peppers from her garden. The business has grown to include a complete line of jellies and sauces.  Even their jars are pretty! You can check them out here:  http://curlylocksjelly.com/index.html 

Curly Locks Pepper Jelly

Curly Locks Pepper Jelly

Now back to the pumpkin bread recipe. I’ve adjusted the recipe for using fresh pumpkin.

Baking pumpkin bread on a sunny day

Baking pumpkin bread on a sunny day

Kathleen Komar’s Pumpkin Bread recipe

4 eggs
1 cup oil or apple sauce
3 cups sugar (I use Demerara)
2 cups fresh pureed pumpkin
½ cup nutmeats
3 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp each: ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon
½ tsp ground clove
¾ tsp salt

Combine eggs, oil and sugar. Sift dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients. Grease and flour 2 bread tins (9 x 5 inch). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 176 degrees C.  Place pans in oven (to keep heat circulating, avoid placing side by side and above each other). Bake for 60 minutes, turning pans around half way through.  Bread is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Per Kathleen’s recipe, if using canned pumpkin, you will have to add 2 to 3 cups water and bake for nearly another hour.

Finished baked pumpkin bread

Finished baking

Is there someone special in your life that would enjoy something baked by you?  It is a great excuse to visit someone you haven’t seen in a while.  You will be glad you did, and so will they!

Happy baking and sharing in 2014!
Dana

Pruning Roses in my new Bradley’s Gloves

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Summertime blooms

Summertime blooms

My roses had a spectacular year in 2013.  They had beautiful blooms all throughout the summer and into the fall.  I confess that I didn’t prune them last year. While I’m confessing, I’d might as well add that I had no idea how to prune them.  So this year I decided to figure it out.  Really, Google makes learning new things so much easier.

Roses throughout the summer

Roses throughout the summer

A garden full of roses

A garden full of roses

It is funny how some things just fall into place. I was at a craft fair in December where I picked up a fabulous pair of pruning gloves, at an even more fabulous price.  I love a bargain!  That was the final push to prune the roses.

Leather Bradley pruning gloves

Leather Bradley’s pruning gloves

The leather for the hands is so soft. I love them! You can buy a pair here: http://www.bradleysthetannery.co.uk/gardening/gloves/leather-pruning-gloves

Bradley pruning gloves

Bradley’s pruning gloves

Here’s a look at the roses before I started:

Rose bush before pruning

Rose bush before pruning

They looked really bad.  They should be pruned every year, during their dormant time; late fall through February for me.  Here’s the hard part, I had to cut… a lot.  I found it quite daunting!  From what I learned on-line (via Steve McShane’s Nursery), I first cut-off any dead branches.  Then I cut the branches at a 45 degree angle about 6 to 8 inches from the base of the plant.  There should only be between 3 and 5 canes when finished pruning (that is the hard part!).

Rose plants before being pruned

Rose plants before being pruned

There was a great deal of cutting to do!  I just had to think positive that it is good for the plants. :-)  What a difference in how they looked after I had finished.

Three pruned rose plants

Three pruned rose plants

Pruned to 6-8 inches above the base

Pruned to 6-8 inches above the base

After pruning them, I finished clearing away all of the leaf litter.  The plants had black spot this year, so it is really important that I clear everything away.  I still need to add an organic fertilizer to finish this up.  But for now, I’m happy with how the plants look.

Pruned rose plants

Pruned rose plants

Pruned rose garden

Pruned rose garden

There will be another post on organically treating of rose plants in early spring, before any signs of black spot appear. This will be a new adventure for me, which I am looking forward to since I really don’t like the use of harmful chemicals! But that is another blog post…

I hope you enjoyed seeing my roses again.  Going through all of my photos from summer just reminds me of how quickly the seasons change. Before we know it, it will be spring again!

Happy New Year!
Dana

Roses to look forward to...

Roses to look forward to…

Organic Rubine Red Brussels Sprouts

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Sprouts (and turnip) picked in the Sun and a look at the plant on a frosty morning

Sprouts (and turnip) picked in the Sun and a look at the plant on a frosty morning

We have patiently waited for our Brussels Sprouts (Organic Rubine Red) to be ready to harvest.  Just in time to fulfill the Irish tradition of serving sprouts for Christmas, our Rubine Red sprouts were ready to be picked this week! I was thankful that my husband had gone out into the garden while it was still sunny.  We had our first hard frost this week, which gives everything a lovely crystal look, but is cold to be harvesting vegetables!

Preparing our purple sprouts

Preparing our purple sprouts

My husband enjoys cooking, even more so when he doesn’t use a recipe.  So I can tell you that they tasted delicious, but I can’t give you an exact recipe!  He boiled them for a few minutes with some rashers (similar to Canadian bacon), and then baked them in the oven while the turkey was cooking.  They looked pretty too, being rather purple in color.  I know that earlier in the season I had mentioned that I really didn’t want to plant them again due to the issue we had with caterpillars. But given how good they tasted, I think we will try growing them again. This time we will cover the young plants with fleece to prevent the moths from laying their eggs. Hopefully that will keep the caterpillar population down!

A touch of frost on the Rubine Red Organic Brussels Sprouts plant

A touch of frost on the Rubine Red Organic Brussels Sprouts plant

The day was just so peaceful and frosty and sunny!

A look at the frozen garden

A look at the frozen garden

A freezing day on the 25th of December 2013

A freezing day on the 25th of December 2013

I took some pictures at the beginning of December that I must share with you in my next post.  I had daisies blooming!  I might make that a “wordless” post this week.

The view from our front yard

The view from our front yard

I really like the views of fields around our house; add a little sunlight and my camera and I are happy!

We really did have a lovely, peaceful Christmas.  I hope yours was lovely, too.
Merry Christmas!

Dana

Later on that same frosty day...

Later on that same frosty day…  Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Making a snowman cake topper on Christmas eve

Nativity in the snow

Nativity in the snow

It is Christmas eve and there is an excitement in the air!  Our kids were especially delighted that it actually snowed today, a rather uncommon occurrence where we live in Ireland.  It was so pretty to see.

A church in Corduff, Carrickmacross being dusted with snow

A church in Corduff, Carrickmacross being dusted with snow

My three kids and I were out and about in the snow

My three kids and I were out and about in the snow

They were completely giddy today!  There was such a relaxed feeling among them which was so nice to see.  We just had a few things to get done, and then my husband and I could join them in their giddiness! First on the list was icing my Christmas cake.

Marzipan covered fruit cake

Marzipan covered fruit cake

My daughter and husband made the marzipan icing and covered the fruit cake with it the other day.  Now all that was left was the white icing.  Last year I used a smooth fondant style. But this year I felt like making (an easier) snow icing.  It is made of egg whites, icing sugar, and glycerine.  Mix it all up, and throw it on the cake!

Snow icing covered fruit cake

Snow icing covered fruit cake

That is so much more my personality than a neat smooth fondant icing!  I really like the look.  I made a snowman to go on top of the cake, except my snowman is too big to fit in the cake container, and to be honest he is probably a bit big for the cake too!

Snowman cake topper

Snowman cake topper and a wee Christmas tree

I absolutely do not have the patience to make perfect little cute faces with icing. So when I finished this snowman I let out a whoop of relief! (can I say that?)  I was very happy with his face, while completely annoyed with the candycane. But enough was enough, and I surrendered to a less than perfect candycane in order to keep my sanity, and make room in the kitchen for my husband to cook us dinner.

Snowman (unfinished)

Snowman (unfinished)

Snowman with some cookies

Snowman with some cookies

My daughter made some cookies today, too. She set up one of the trees with Mr. Snowman. :-)

A bit of visiting, a bit of baking, a bit of shopping, all done in preparation for tomorrow!  It can be so easy for us to forget the meaning behind Christmas.  Hopefully, though, the kids will know in their hearts what Christmas is really all about.

Nativity ornament

The reason for the season.

Merry Christmas to all of my family and friends, including (and especially!) my blogging friends and followers!

In peace,
Dana

Making a simple Christmas wreath

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Christmas wreath 2013

Christmas wreath 2013

We finally hung our Christmas wreath outside!  The weather has continued to be rather mild in temperature, although there has been quite a lot of rain. Thankfully, the sun has also come to visit us even if for short visits.

Christmas wreath 2013

Christmas wreath 2013

I had one more straw wreath frame, and greens left over from my large outdoor wreath, so I decided to make another wreath to give away.  I really enjoy making them, especially when working with eucalyptus, pittosporum (Tom Thumb) and lovely evergreens.

Straw wreath form

Straw wreath form

It does take some time to cut the greens into a small(ish) size, and then pin them into the wreath form. But it isn’t difficult to do, especially when using floral pins.

Floral pins and garden sheers

Floral pins and garden sheers

Piece by piece you pin the greens on!

Filling in the greens to cover the straw.

Filling in the greens to cover the straw.

The evergreens are just my base. I wanted the color and different textures from the Tom Thumb Pittosporum and eucalyptus to be the main focus of the wreath.

Adding Tom Thumb Pittosporum for texture and color

Adding Tom Thumb Pittosporum for texture and color

Filling in with pittosporum

Filling in with pittosporum

The family were watching A Christmas Carol while I was finishing up the wreath. I could watch too, from where I was working.  It was an animated version, but still quite scary! We are finally on a break from all of our activities and able to relax together as a family.  I’m so glad we have taken the time to watch those Christmas movies (even if for the 100th time!).

Eucalyptus added with the pittosporum

Eucalyptus added with the pittosporum

Now I had to decide how to embellish it!  I decided to go with a very simple look.

A few gold balls

A few gold balls

A gold French horn

A gold French horn

A gold bow

A gold bow

Watching that video on how to make a bow on Youtube has come in handy this season!

A simple Christmas wreath

A simple Christmas wreath

I was really happy with the finished wreath.  Yeah, I was having second thoughts about giving it away!  :-)  But it was for some special people (my in-laws!) so I stuck to my original plan and gave it to them.

Photo with no flash

Photo with no flash

Christmas is almost here.  I have enjoyed getting ready by visiting with neighbors,  friends and family and sharing our baked goods.  Mostly, I’ve enjoyed our time together as a family.  I hope you are able to enjoy time with your friends and family, too.

Merry Christmas!
Dana

A handmade star

My friend Susan made this star for me!  Isn’t it fabulous?

Two more sleeps!

Two more sleeps!

Orange & Clove Pomander Wreath

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How it all begins...

How it all begins…

Last week I went to a fabulous craft fair.  There were hundreds of very talented crafts people there.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I can’t wait to go again next year! So many wonderful ideas.  One item that I loved was a wreath made from dried limes, oranges and cinnamon sticks.  I tried drying fruit once before, unsuccessfully I might add. So I wasn’t interested in doing that, but I was interested in working with cinnamon.  Cinnamon, cloves, oranges; I was on a mission.  It has been years since I last made a pomander (something aromatic that used to be for scenting linens/clothes). They are quite easy to make.  A simple cooking thermometer can be used to poke small holes into an orange.  This is where you can be creative with different designs!  I did a fancy “S” on two sides, and then rows of three on the other sides.

Cooking thermometer used to make holes in an orange.

The cloves go in easily when using a cooking thermometer to make holes in an orange.

Rows of three on two sides, and a fancy "S" on the other sides.

Rows of three on two sides, and a fancy “S” on the other sides.

I used a ribbon just to break up the space, and I pinned it on the top and bottom to keep it in place.  Easy enough!  Now, what to do with the pomander?  I decided on making a table wreath arrangement.  I used a straw framed circle wreath, floral pins (or “u” pins), greens and my garden shears.

Straw frame circle wreath

Straw frame circle wreath

Garden shears, eucalyptus, holly, and evergreens.

Garden shears, eucalyptus, holly, and evergreens

I really enjoy working with my hands and getting a little creative time.  To me, this is the fun part of getting ready for Christmas!  Being given eucalyptus from my neighbor the other day really made me smile.  I’ve added eucalyptus to my “need to buy for the garden” list!  How awesome to have such different textures and colors right there in the back/front yard!  It smells lovely, too!

table wreath in process

table wreath in process. (You can see the plastic plate in the center)

clove & orange pomander with cinnamon sticks

clove & orange pomander with cinnamon sticks

I used a small rubber band to keep three cinnamon sticks in place, and then tied them with a ribbon.  I used three oranges, and paired them with three cinnamon sticks.  I had a large pretty white candle that fit in the center of the wreath nicely.  I was delighted that it all just came together.  The arrangement is sitting on a clear plastic plate.

aerial view - groups of threes!

aerial view – groups of threes!

We didn’t have any red berries last year, yet this year there are so many!  I just had to use them.  :-)

Clove & Orange Pomander Wreath

Clove & Orange Pomander Wreath

You can see the lights to our Christmas tree in the background.

Finished candle table arrangement made of clove & orange pomander with cinnamon.

Finished candle table arrangement made of clove & orange pomander with cinnamon.

I hope your Christmas preparations are going well and that you are able to enjoy the process!  Slowing down is the hardest part for me.  I just need to speed things up for a couple more days and THEN, hopefully, I can slow the pace down!

Merry Christmas!
Dana

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