Saturday, 30 August 2014

Horse Chestnut Series - August!!

The August Horse Chestnut looks relatively unchanged from last month. Maybe a few less leaves from all the wind and rain we have had here in Ireland.
Soon all the leaves will be gone but for now I am still enjoying its rich greenness; the first sight I see when I draw the curtains each morning.
"Our chestnut tree is in full bloom.
It is covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year."
Anne Frank, 1944
The Horse Chestnut is popularly known as the Anne Frank Tree. From the window of the Annexe when Ann and her family were hiding from the Nazis, Ann could see a large horse chestnut tree. For her it symbolised hope...
"Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs, from my favourite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy."
Anne's tree outlived its namesake by over fifty years.
Over that period the tree developed an aggressive fungus and was weakened. In 2007, the local authorities decided that the tree needed to be cut down for safety as 42% of its wood was rotten. However, a group of supporters came together with a plan to build a support construction around the tree and take over its maintenance. Despite their best efforts, the tree was blown down in a storm in August 2010, breaking off a meter above the ground. It was thought to be 150-170 years old.
The Anne Frank Tree in 2006
Fortunately, a few years prior to the falling of the tree, the stewards from The Anne Frank House began propagating saplings from the tree. The saplings were donated to various locations across the US including The 9/11 Memorial Park in New York and so Anne's beloved Horse Chestnut tree lives on.
The saplings are "powerful reminders of the horrors borne by hate and bigotry" and "living monuments to Anne's pursuit of peace and tolerance".

Sapling from the Anne Frank Tree

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Horse Chestnut Series - July!!

"Summer has seen the flowers withered and died
But hides the new seed growing deep inside
Spikey green fruit swell with the sun and the rain
The circle of life coming round yet again"
It is now the end of July and officially the end of summer.

The Horse Chestnut now bears strange looking thorny green fruit; a result of the pollination that took place in March.

 These thick, fleshy casings have sharp little spikes on the outside to protect the precious seed within which will be released in the weeks to come.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Egg Box Three Ways!!

You know Mr. Auburn bought this lovely egg box back here and I said I would do something with it.
 Well I three times!
For a long while, it sat on our worktop just holding eggs perfectly well in its original pale wood state, then it got Annie Sloaned.

Cue Makeover #1.
In my wisdom I thought the ASCP duck egg wasn't a million miles from eau de nil, right? WRONG! It is 2 million. Also it was looking a little too pristine for our house.

 Makeover #2.
Perhaps if I tone it down by white washing over the duck egg, and distress the edges a little with some sand paper that will make it work in my kitchen.
(Sorry forgot to take picture at this stage, I was starting to get a little fed up by now!!)
It looked okay but still not right.
Who am I kidding, 99% of stuff in this house is off white or cream. Duck egg has to go!
Makeover #3
Repaint the whole thing in Original white and make it look old...
Once it was repainted in off white I decided to use some AS Craqueleur on it for some 'age'.
 This was my first time to use it but it was really simple and I love the effect it gives. First paint on the base coat in small strokes and leave to dry.  Then paint on the glaze and quickly dry with the hairdryer to make it crack! Thin coat = small crackles on small box.

Then the scary bit - dark wax. I was panicking a lot doing this thinking I had ruined it again at one point but actually you don't have to be scared. I just kept working it in and used a little clear wax on areas I thought were looking a little too mucky.

Loving Craqueleur!!
Third time's charm... dirty crackled off white fits right in I think!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Reloved Drawer Thingy!

I bought this in TK Max ages & ages ago because I really loved it and loved the price tag.
I brought it home and after disappointingly trying it in every room in the house, I conceded it that even though I loved it, the house didn't!
 This however was pre my Annie Sloan campaign!!
I gave it two coats of Original, 'a warm slightly creamy off white'....
...and distressed it quite a bit along the edges and to show off the lovely carved detail.
I decoupaged the insets of the little drawers with some Laura Ashley wallpaper I bought for about €6, eau de nil of course.
Now I've uttered the three magic little French words you know it's going to work don't you!
 The whole thing got a couple of coats of wax and suddenly, the dining room said she'd gladly have the new and improved drawer thingy...

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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Hola amigos!

 Just spent an amazing week in the city of Málaga with friends. I had never been before but it is such a beautiful city, I will definitely return.
It is one of the oldest cities in the world and therefore rich in history; in over 2,800 years it was founded by the Phoenicians, became a part of the Roman and Byzantine empires, came under Muslim Arabic and then Christian rule.
The people of Malaga appear deeply religious, most being Roman Catholic.
The city has a stunning cathedral Basílica de la Encarnación.

We were lucky enough to be in the city for an amazing procession on the Sunday evening, the streets were lined with people of all ages, men dressed in traditional robes carrying statues and beautifully decorated floats accompanied by music and song and showered with rose petals from the upper stories of buildings as they passed.

These processions take place throughout the year, those of holy week being particularly special. Indeed one of Malaga's famous sons, Antonio Banderas returns to his brotherhood every Easter.
It is of course birthplace to world renown artist Pablo Picasso.
Picasso's childhood home was on the second floor of the building you see behind his statue in this picture. While Picasso left Malaga as a young boy he had always wanted his work exhibited in the city. His daughter-in-law worked to realise this dream and now it holds 285 works donated by the family in the beautifully converted Buenavista Palace.
It must be a wonderful place for budding artists; home to Picasso and Revello de Toro, so many art galleries to see, lectures and workshops to attend and inspiring views all around. Indeed they can been seen on every street creating their own impressions of the city.

Malaga is rich in culture. On the eve of San Juan (St. John) we were party to a spectacular festival on Malagueta beach. A massive concert stage was erected and various acts performed. Huge bonfires were alight on the beach which was thronged with people young and old; eating, drinking and dancing into the small hours. At midnight many took a dip in the sea to wash away evil for the year ahead.
Speaking of eating and drinking, I could not omit Tapas and Sangria, could I? From humble Spanish roots Sangria is now served around the world. Sangria is a sweet punch made with red wine and fruit, is served cold and is typically served to 'visitors'.

Along with the Sangria, Tapas is served in bars on every corner to the sound of Flamenco.
Huge varieties of small 'snack-size' dishes are served in small earthenware bowls. Some hot like meatballs in tomato sauce, prawns fried in garlic and oil (gambas al pil-pil), potato croquettes flavoured with ham, and some cold like cured meats, olives and cheeses. All equally delicious!

On our last night there we saw a Flamenco show. Flamenco is of course a type of Spanish folk music and dance with guitars and handclaps or palmas. It was absolutely enthralling, see for yourself...


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Horse Chestnut Series - June

As June draws to an end the showy flowers of early summer are all but gone.
As with lots of plants, the demise of their flowers gives way to fruit. This fruit will contain the seed or nut. The outer husk of this fruit is poisonous. In fact, the raw seed, bark, flower and leaf are all unsafe and can even cause death if ingested.
Looking at how huge the tree seems now in full leaf it reminded me of a poem my Granddad used to recite, a poem he learned in school as a boy; The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Under the spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can.
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.
As a child, I found it quite a sad poem about an honest, hardworking man who lost his wife at a young age and was trying to raise his children alone.
He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.
It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.
The "spreading Chestnut tree" that he writes of fell victim to progress in 1876 and was cut down in order to widen the street. The children of the town had a beautiful chair made from the wood of the tree and it was presented to Longfellow on his 72nd birthday. A portion of a verse from the poem was etched along the rails of the chair...
And the children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from the threshing-floor.
Longfellow was so touched by this gift from the children, he wrote a poem as a way of saying thanks...
From My Armchair
Am I a king, that I should call my own
This splendid Ebon throne?
Or by what reason, or what right divine,
Can I proclaim it mine?
Only perhaps, by right divine of song
It may to me belong;
Only because the spreading chestnut tree
Of old was sung by me.
There by the blacksmith's forge,
beside the street,
Its blossoms white and sweet
Enticed the bees, until it seemed alive,
And murmured like a hive.
And when the winds of autumn, with a shout,
Tossed its great arms about.
The shining chestnuts, bursting from the sheath,
Dropped to the ground beneath.
And now some fragments of its branches bare,
Shaped as a stately chair,
Have by my hearthstone found a home at last,
And a whisper of the past.
And thus, dear children, have ye made for me
This day a jubilee.
And to my more than threescore years and ten,
Brought back my youth again.
Only your love and remembrance could,
Give life to this dead wood,
And make these branches, leafless
now so long, Blossom again in song.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Blooming Marvellous!

The weekend before last my mother and I spent a lovely day at Bloom Festival which was held in the Phoenix Park. For those of you residing outside our fair green isle, Bloom is Ireland's largest gardening and food event. It's a bit like the Chelsea flower show in England. There were 30 amazing show gardens on display, a floral marquee with over 50 exhibitors, an Irish craft village and over 120 Irish artisan food producers. The weather might not have been the best but it's hard to dampen the Irish spirit...

Here are some of my best bits...
...a dreamy New England style beach garden...

Cape Cod Escape - Silver Medal

...a seemingly simple yet captivating concept garden...

'Messenger' - Gold Medal and Best in Category Winner
...the mildly comical yet genius silver-gilt winning Tayto Garden...
For those of you who don't recognise this guy, he is Mr.Tayto of the famous Irish crisps.
The planting was inspired by the ingredients involved in crisp making!!
...from Potato Packet....
...a North American cranberry farm I want to live in...
Wellbeing Wetlands - Gold Medal

...and not forgetting silver-gilt winning D'Garden...

...a typical inner city garden that Mrs. Brown herself might boast.

Mrs.Brown being Ireland's most famous mammy!!

There were hanging baskets like none I have ever seen...
He of Kitchen Hero fame and fellow blogger Donal Skehan tempting us with his beef and stout pies...
Why even President Higgins couldn't resist popping in...
Well it is technically in his back garden!!

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