Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old Crafts: Dear Knitting

Hi.


So... I know we haven't spoken in ages, but I just wanted to give you your needles back... Oh, and this yarn! No, it doesn't fit my crochet hook*, that's why I'm giving it back. We had a fantastic relationship. It was short, yes, but there was a time when I thought you were the only needle craft for me. But... Well... You know how these things go.

I've mentioned before that I'm fighting with knitting, but that wasn't exactly right. Knitting and I had a nearly two year relationship and it was great! I made a few mediocre things, here and there. I really liked learning the stitches... But my heart just wasn't in it. It wasn't all my fault the relationship didn't work out though! Knitting is just so difficult to figure out. And it takes so much time! I'm an impatient gal! So we're on an extended and potentially infinite (but comfortable) break. I'll say hi to it at a party, but we won't be getting into any deep, meaningful conversations any time soon!

Now, I'm not saying I'm going to excel in crochet either! Our relationship may only last a year or so... But we've decided to have an open one. I'm fooling around with sewing too... Or well, sewing kinda came first, so wouldn't that make crochet the bit on the side? Well, anyway, who knows where these things will go.

I started crafting a few years before I started this blog. I'll never sell these things on Etsy or even in a local craft shop or market. I craft because it makes me happy, not because I'm good at it. And I don't craft too often either... Regularly enough, I suppose... But I'm studying for a PhD in Chemistry! It's more than a full time job.

I digress. My point is that I'm starting a very informal and irregular series on this blog devoted to Old Crafts.** A few things you should know about my these Old Crafts:
  • They may only be a month old.
  • The photos will probably not be the best.
  • They may not be that great themselves.
  • They may not be "typical" crafts.

It's something fun I've been thinking of doing. Last summer was really lovely! I accomplished some things I never thought I could, like growing from seed and making bread. And through these accomplishments, I always thought that I'd love to show these things off.*** So it seems I started my blog too late to show them off in real time, but better late than never.

Here's to proudly and unashamedly showing off our accomplishments!!

And so, maybe you've guessed that my first Old Craft will be knitting. Better to get it out of the way so I never have to think about it again. It all started when *the boys* got me a How-To-Knit-Beanbag-Animals Set for my 21st birthday, purely as a joke. Little blue plastic needles and a pitiful amount of synthetic yarn. But I loved it! Soon, I had six tiny animals on my bedside locker - a frog, a rabbit, a cat, a bird and... two other animals. I know I have pictures of the animals at home, but I can't access them from France obviously, so you'll just have to accept that they were AWESOME!!

Next up was a present for my Mother, a little knit heart in a 3D frame.


And then I made a few arm warmer things, three in total. One for my sister Emer, one for my sister Aoife and one for Aoife's boyfriend, Jason. The ones for Jason were commissioned for his birthday. Ooh là là! I never got a photo of the ones I made for Emer. I made them while my family and I were in Queensland for Christmas over two years ago. Crafts are a great thing to take abroad and pass the time. Here are photos of the arms warmers I made for Aoife and Jasoon.



I actually had a lot of fun making these! Shame I never made some for myself. Maybe next autumn, I'll crochet myself some gloves.

Not now though, now it's spring! We sat outside for lunch on Friday, eating pasta, and I managed to get sunburnt! Just a tiny bit on my arm, but really... Am I that Irish?? Yes, yes, I am. It was very overcast and rainy today, but I still bought sunglasses in anticipation of the sun that will arrive next week!

And speaking of next week... I've been keeping up a habit of posting at least once, if not twice, a week. And I do believe that regular posting in a blog is a good thing. But on Wednesday, after a separation of 67 days, my very lovely boyfriend will be in France. And I am so excited! I've got nearly all my work done in the lab and at the minute I'm writing up a report, something which can be done at home in Ireland. So, all going to plan, from Wednesday afternoon, I'll be finished at ENSIC and enjoying time with my tall man. We're spending two and a half days in Nancy and then three days in Paris. We plan to drink coffee, eat cheese, visit museums and flea markets and be sickly cute like all those French couples I've been wanting to maim on the streets of Nancy.

I can't believe I'll be home in Galway in nine days. I'll be honest and tell you all that I am homesick. This stay in France has been wonderful! I've gained a lot in my PhD, my linguistic skills and my adventures. But I want to go home now. I just can't wait! Nine days! So who knows, maybe the next time you hear from me, I'll be chilling in my lovely apartment in Ireland, wouldn't that be wonderful??

Wishing you all a wonderful week and rest of the weekend! 

Fiona


*I do have more than one crochet hook, but for the drama...

**I really couldn't come up with a better title.

***I'm nothing, if not honest.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flying visit to the Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps 127

Like, really flying!

But not really flying in that I flew...

Let me explain...

I decided to go to a little place called Lauchernalp just up from the village of Wiler, in the middle of nowhere in Switzerland. Why? 'Cause my friend Alex, whom I met in Melbourne over a year ago, is working there at the moment. And it's the Swiss Alps!! And it seemed like a fun thing to do.

Swiss Alps 112

And it was! If a little hectic. My *first* train was due to leave at seven fifteen from Nancy Gare... And of course, of course, I had to set my alarm wrong and wake up at seven, which did not give me enough time to get a tram to the station. So cue a mild amount of freaking out and then rationalising and then realising I can just leave at nine fifteen. Win!

Swiss Alps 27

And... Six hours later I arrived at my destination. Phew! Three trains, four stations, one bus, one cable car. Long journey! But I had some cool new photos apps on my HTC phone and got very snap happy!

Swiss Phone Collage

And the mountain was wonderful! It was really breathtaking to be having a few (free) drinks while up about 2000 m with snow all around. And we were staying with the cutest couple who didn't speak a word of English but were still so sweet to me!

I woke up on Sunday morning to this:

Swiss Alps 101

And the rest of the day went something like this:

Swiss Alps 66 Fiona
*

Swiss Alps 47

Swiss Alps 77

Swiss Alps 119

Swiss Alps 85

Swiss Alps 82

Swiss Alps 120

It was a really great trip and I'm so glad I went, even if I was travelling forever to get there!

I hope you guys had fun weekends too! What did you get up to?

Fi xx

*Please note: These aren't my sunglasses. I had none and Alex only had these. So grateful for them though, the sun was fierce that day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Roasted Garlic Pizza

AGES ago, I came across a recipe for roasted garlic pizza... Now, this was long before I ever made a pizza from scratch. As I'm a hoarder, the recipe was dutifully saved to Evernote and forgotten about for a long time. 

Last summer, I made my first pizza dough... But it took so long! Between mixing, getting the dough all over my hands and waiting for it to rise and rise, I was starting to think that maybe home made pizza is more bother than it's worth.

I decided to give it one last try and I figured roasted garlic pizza could be fun!

And oh my!

I had found it. The easiest, tastiest and most fun pizza dough in the world. Now, I'll deduct points from this recipe due to the fact that the dough is so sticky and gets all over my hands every time. But that's the only deduction it gets. The whole thing takes about an hour, which does seem a lot... But half of that hour is spent waiting for the pizza to come out of the oven! I really like this recipe. It can be made in a normal bowl with a wooden spoon, no mixer or dough hook required, it needs a maximum of ten minutes to rise and it's fun! The dough comes out puffy and airy and the roasted garlic is just divine!

But unfortunately, the creator of this tasty pizza mix is gone from the Internetz. Or so it seems anyway. The link from the original recipe brings me nowhere and when I do a search, I just can't find the exact recipe. Boo! So that's why I'm posting the recipe here. Because the world needs to know! Please note that this is in no way my recipe, I've made pretty much no changes to the original. And if anyone knows where the original recipe can be credited, PLEASE let me know.

So, without further banter, here's the recipe:

Roasted Garlic Pizza

Roasted Garlic

1 head garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper


Peel away the loose paper from the head of garlic and cut off the top.

Place on tin foil and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Wrap garlic in foil and roast in oven preheated to 200 °C for about 30 minutes.



Meanwhile, make the...


Pizza Dough

2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
1 cup warm water
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil


Preheat oven to 200 °C. Combine yeast and water and stir until the yeast dissolves.

Add the flour, honey, salt and oil and stir using a wooden spoon.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Once garlic is cooked, allow to cool and then unwrap from foil.

Squeeze the garlic cloves out and smooth into a paste.

Press dough onto a baking sheet sprinkled with flour.

Spread the garlic on the pizza dough to the edge and top with shredded mozzarella, chorizo and oregano. Or whatever toppings you like!

Bake pizza for half an hour, until cheese in bubbling tastily!

Please excuse the bad photos. The lighting in my apartment at home is pretty awful.


I'm really missing my well-fitted-out kitchen back in Galway. I miss having an oven. An oven, jeez! You'd think that was standard, right? But no. This week I've been having some serious baked goods cravings. Luckily though, I made some Guinness chocolate cake mix this evening and will bake it in the tiny oven at work tomorrow in honour of St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patrick's Day! I'm not one for making lots of noise and drinking excessively on any day, let alone Paddy's Day. But my balloon modelling skills always mean that I'm wanted at some parade in some tiny town of Ireland. It's fun - I get to make kids happy, dress up and put on ridiculous make-up AND get paid for having fun! Although, at times, it is less than fun, if you've been walking all day, the kids are pushy and everywhere and you just need to sit down. But I do love it. Regretting not being at home and doing a parade this year. Oh well, I'm in France!

Kisses!

Fiona

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It’s done!

What do you think? You like? It took me quite a lot of time for something that looks so simple… Shocking really! I was changing and adding HTML all over the place.* The Internet really is a great tool for learning new things… Not that I learnt anything. It was mostly copy and paste. I now have an About Me page and a Daily Reads page on the sidebar. And I’ve expanded the main body of the blog greatly! Now, I’m not calling myself a photographer in any way, oh no, but I do love to take photos. And I wanted to make sure that this blog shows that and becomes a place I can share the photos I take. So… Bigger post body equals bigger photos, right? Yay!

And a big thank you to Paul for the banner! It’s lovely, isn’t it? It’s based around the tattoo that I got on my back over a year ago. I really love cats and butterflies.
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Besides working on this blog, I’ve been full on relaxing this weekend. I was awake at 12:30 on Saturday morning and out of the apartment at 3:30. A sleep in and eleven hour sleep that I really really needed! I’ve been going places and doing stuff every weekend since I got here and I was really feeling it. Waking up was getting so hard, as was sitting at a desk every day this week. So my only plan for this weekend was to get lots of rest…

And go to the flea market today! That was nice, walking down Grand Rue with stalls on either side. I mostly looked and admired. However, I did buy this beautiful tea cup and saucer.

Marche aux Puces

It’s lovely, isn’t it?? I’ve always wanted pretties like this. I just hope I can take it back to Ireland safely… Jeez, I very much hope it doesn’t break. It was made in Bavaria and that’s pretty much all I know about it, except, of course, that it’s so pretty!
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So I thought, while I have so much free time on my hands this weekend, I’d share some recent photos with you guys, let you know about the *little things* I’m getting up to.

I rented a bike at the start of this month…

Nancy Walk 3rd March 18

It’s fifteen euro cheaper than a monthly tram pass and good for me! I’m eating a lot of tasty food here – bread, gnocchi, cheese, pastries, macarons – that’s not very good for me at the end of the day. So cycling up and down hills for an hour a day is one step to keeping that little bit more fit… Until I can get home to Galway and start yoga again. And cycling is really so nice. It doesn’t rain too often here and I haven’t yet been rained on while cycling. Plus, I get to see a lot more of Nancy and find new streets and parks. Win! These are a few photos from little walks and cycles I’ve taken in the past month or so.

Nancyville 55

Eglise

Place Stanislas Retro 3


I got some tulips this week too! Oh, I love tulips!!

Tulips 1

Nelly went on a cycling tour of Holland last summer and brought me back some tulips bulbs, which I planted and watched grow… And then I left for France. And none of them had flowered by the time I left. Nelly’s taking care of them at the minute and she’s told me that one of the two indoor plants is gone and the other is thriving away! I’m one third delighted and two thirds annoyed that I don’t get to see it. I hear it’s purple, but maybe that was a rumour. So I treated myself to some cut tulips. And they’re very pretty.

Tulips 8Tulips Collage 1

And I’ve done a little bit of embroidery! Look, it’s a ladybird!

Embroidered Ladybird

I really know nothing about embroidery, so I was making all of this up as I went, but I really like the way it turned out. I’m glad Mollie’s started an Embroidery Basics series. I’ll certainly be checking this out every Thursday evening!

Yep, just a little idea of what I’ve been up to. What have you been up to this weekend?

Fi xx

*And I know no HTML.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Work in Progress...


I'm fixing things up around here, making my blog a bit prettier and personalizing it.

I see it as a sort of "awkward" stage for the little darling.

Sorry for the mess, please bear with me.

In the meantime, sit down, have some tea and strawberries... Or is that strawberry tea?

How are you guys?

Fiona

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Paris with the parents!!

Oh, wow, I was in Paris this weekend!!

Oh, wow, it was super!

Sacre Coeur 21

It was absolutely wonderful to see my parents and get huge hugs, especially after the past week. My parents are great great people and spending a weekend in their company was delightful. What did we do, you ask? Well… Lots! We decided, seeing as we had all been in Paris before, that we wouldn’t do the typical Paris stuff and so we spent most of our time in Montmartre. And, well, Montmartre is so lovely, why wouldn’t anyone want to do that?!

Affligem

On the night I arrived, we went for drinks… A few too many, judging by my headache on the Saturday morning. I was drinking Affligem all night, oh yummy!! But… Wow! Look at that bill, is that right? Nearly thirty euro for three drinks… Paris is expensive.

Price of the Drinks

We went into the city on Saturday, to the Musée d’Orsay to check out some Impressionist art. Has anyone been? My jaw dropped once I walked inside* and I was so frustrated that I couldn’t take any pictures. The museum is in an old train station and it’s incredible! It’s big, bright, beautiful and so full of character. If you’re interested, here is a history of the train station and museum. It’s filled with great art, but still so spacious and airy. My favourites were all the statues in the centre aisle, and the Monet and Van Gogh. And the shop seemed great too! I didn’t spend too much time there, but if I get a chance, I’ll be going back just to check it out.** Mum, Dad and I took some photos outside by some animal statues.

Musee d'Orsay Statues

And I especially love this picture.

Musee d'Orsay 10

Then it was on to the Catacombs, which were interesting.

Catacombs 9

“The Catacombs gather the remainders of approximately six million Parisian, transferred between the end from 18e century and the middle from the 19e century, progressively of the closing of the cemeteries for reason of insalubrity. Along a labyrinth of obscure galleries and narrow corridors , the visitor discovers the bones laid out in a "romantico-macabre" decoration. Pillars, bells of subsidence or bath of feet of the quarrymen evoke the origin of the places, the limestone quarries, while sharpening the curiosity of the visitor. This underground museum restores the history of Parisian and invites to a voyage out of time.”

It was definitely an experience, but strangely unsettling at the same time. I really didn’t know what to think about it.

Jardin de Luxembourg 5

Oh, and we also strolled through the Jardin de Luxembourg! See that smile? I like my parents.

Jardin de Luxembourg 11

And what did we do Saturday evening? Where did we go for dinner? For a drink?

Moulin Rouge 1

Oh, the Moulin Rouge, of course! We’re fancy like that! Well… This was definitely a treat and it was fantastic!! Unfortunately, again, I would have loved to take photos of the theatre and dining room inside, but had to leave my camera in the cloakroom. ): Probably due to the amount of boobs and sophisticatedly naked ladies on the stage. The dinner was very French and I got a half bottle of Champagne all to myself. And the show was great! I was afraid it would be somewhat tacky and cheap, and I’d be cringing throughout, bit it was the complete opposite, the height of class! And those women!! They made me pretty jealous with their tiny waists, flat tummies and toned bodies. I never expected I’d get to see a show at the Moulin Rouge, but so so glad I did! Thanks Mum and Dad.

Moulin Rouge 10

Compared to Saturday, Sunday was a much more relaxing day. We had breakfast in the Cafe les Deux Moulins… I sort of gave us no choice but to eat there. This is the cafe that Amelie worked in and I’m a big Amelie fan. I was really excited to check it out and it doesn’t seem to have changed much from the movie. The Tabac counter is gone and it seems to be a bit pinker, but I can’t be sure of that. And they had good coffee, which is always good!

Cafe les Deux Moulins

We hopped on the metro after and ended up at the Père Lachaise cemetery, in which we visited the graves of so many great people, such as Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, the scientist Lavoisier’s wife. She’s mentioned a lot in this documentary I talked about a while back. Chopin. Gay-Lussac, another science-type guy.

Pere Lachaise 32

And, of course, my absolute favourite writer, Oscar Wilde.***

Pere Lachaise 25

And then back to Montmartre for the Sacre Coeur, a walk about and some lovely dinner and drinks, before hopping onto a train back to Nancy!

Sacre Coeur 8

I had such a terrific weekend, thanks Mum and Dad!!

xx

Fi

*With my free ticket… I love being under 26 in France!

**Hear that, Paul?

***I received my first Oscar Wilde book, “The Happy Prince and Other Stories”, when I was young… Either in 1991 or 1994. The year is written on the inside cover of the book, but I don’t have it here. I loved it! The stories evoked so much from me, in imagination, emotion and awe. I especially loved “The Nightingale and the Rose”.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

“And he told me that I’d done alright…”

One of my gerbils, Samson Rory Gerbil, passed away today.

Paul did his best to make Samson comfortable, to the extent that he massaged his lungs and tried to clear his airways and stayed with him all morning and afternoon. But he was nearly three years old and the vet wasn’t sure but said he probably had pneumonia. The vet was so nice that he’ll be burying Samson in his garden beside his daffodils this evening, because neither Paul nor I have proper gardens. I’m so grateful for that.

Samson was the most beautiful little animal. He was the sophistication to his brother Christopher’s craziness. When I was picking them out at the pet shop, I picked Chris because he was running all over the tank, full of energy! And Sam, I picked because he was the first little gerbil I noticed in the sleeping pile of four. He was always curious and sweet. And he will be missed so much.

I’m so sad that I couldn’t be there to take care of him myself, but I know he couldn’t have been more cared for than with Paul.

I don’t have any good pictures of Samson here in Nancy, but this one was taken back in 2008, when he was just six or seven months old. Himself and Chris were helping me pack for a trip to Malta.


Gerbils 9


“Beneath the stars came falling on our heads.”

Thanks for a great few years, Sam, you were awesome.
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