It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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Things have been very busy for the last few weeks, with lots of glass to get ready for all the Christmas shops popping up around the country.

I’m delighted to have my handmade fused glass on sale in Galway’s ‘Granny Likes It’ on Abbeygate Street…now open!

You can always find it in the gorgeous Glasson Craft Gallery in Co. Westmeath, just outside Athlone.

And now, I’m thrilled to be included in Dublin’s newest retail outlet for quality Irish art and craft… the tasty Irish Design Selection in the Westbury Mall, off Grafton Street.

With so much making, baking and boxing going on, the studio became a very busy spot. Here’s a picture of my constant companion, and would-be helper, Pip the poodle!

Pip the Poodle

It’s a dog’s life!

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Kitchen Cobwebs for Halloween

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Spooky...or time for a Spring clean?!
Boredom is the enemy as far as I’m concerned, so yesterday, I decided the time was right to give my plants an autumn makeover. I grow a few ivy plants above my kitchen cabinets, and I climbed up to take away the dead leaves.
It occurred to me that this was the perfect opportunity to decorate for Halloween, so I started draping cobwebs across my plants. (I had to get rid of all the real cobwebs first, of course!!) Then, creativity got the better of me, and I stretched the cobwebs from one end of the room to the other.
It wasn’t long until the kitchen resembled a scene from Great Expectations, and, according to my son, I didn’t look unlike Miss Havisham either!
At least I know who I’ll be dressing up as this year! Happy Halloween!

Gur Cake comes to Monaghan

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I’m looking forward to displaying my hand made glass at this weekend’s Taste of Monaghan festival.  It’s a chance to combine my two great passions… my glass work, and of course, food!

I don’t know about you, but I know my own childhood memories are peppered with food associations.  Any other Dubs out there (that is, people from Dublin, Ireland), at least those of a certain vintage, will remember Gur Cake.  The name supposedly comes from the slang word ‘gurrier’ – a young Dublin rascal!  In fact, Gur Cake is the same as Chester Cake or Fruit Slice.

It was created long ago, and is cheap and easy to make.  I suspect it was developed to make something sweet and satisfying out of leftovers… with our current economic status, maybe this is the perfect time to bring it back, although it may never have gone away!

It’s hard to be specific with a recipe, as every bakery, and family, had their own take on Gur Cake.  At its simplest, it is a mixture of bread and fruit, baked in a roasting dish, between two layers of pastry.  When cool, it is cut into generous slabs, and is filling and satisfying!  Here’s how to go about it… experiment and find a recipe to suit yourselves!

Break up a small white loaf (or cake or brioche), stale is fine, in a bowl.  Add enough liquid to bind.  I used about a quarter pint of milk… but think of tea, espresso, perhaps a dollop of brandy, or Irish whisky! Add a beaten egg, 500g dried fruit, a cup of caster sugar, the grated rind and juice of a lemon, a teaspoon of mixed spice, a spoonful of treacle to give it its traditional dark colour, and mix it all up.

Roll out enough shortcrust pastry to cover the base of a deep, square baking dish, or roasting tray.  Spoon the gur filling on top, and cover with another layer of shortcrust pastry.  Prick the top with a fork, brush with beaten egg, and bake in a moderate oven (about 180C) for about 40 minutes.

When cool, dust with icing sugar if you’d like, cut into squares… and enjoy!  Serve it up to a Dub near you, and listen to them reminisce!

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A Little Bowl of Sunshine on a Wintery Day

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Any of you who really know me will know that I’m a BIG fan of the Irish lifestyle store, Avoca.  I love everything about Avoca, specially their Kilmacanogue store, and most especially the FOOD!

So here’s one of Avoca’s great recipes from their first cookbook: Tomato, Lentil & Orange Soup.  My only complaint about it, is that it doesn’t make enough soup to satisfy a family, so I usually triple the ingredients!

This soup is gorgeous, and simple to make.  It’s good enough for lunch, for dinner, for a special starter… it’s even good enough to cheer anyone up on this miserable, wet, wintery day!  Make it, and enjoy!

1 onion, peeled and chopped
50g butter
1 orange
1 garlic clove, peeled & crushed
400g can chopped tomatoes
50g red lentils
300ml vegetable stock

Gently cook the onion in the butter for 10 minutes without browning.  (Meanwhile, grate the zest from the orange, then peel it, and chop the flesh.)
Add the garlic to the pot, stir, then add the orange zest and orange pieces, along with the tomatoes, lentils and stock.  Stir the pot, bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked.  Stir from time to time, so the lentils don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Puree in a blender, then reheat gently and season to taste.  You may need to add a little boiling water, as it gets pretty thick!

Dress with chopped fresh mint, if you have it, and serve, for instant warmth!

Tomato, Lentil & Orange Soup

A little bowl of sunshine for a winter’s day!

 

A Secret World

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Unbeknownst to most people, there’s a whole secret world full of busy, busy people at this time of year.  All around the planet, toy makers, card makers, designers and craft workers are beavering away in a land of tinsel, holly, Santa, snowflakes and sparkles.

For the last few weeks, I’ve joined the ranks and turned my creative attention to the forthcoming holiday season… Is it too soon to use the ‘C’ word?!

Admittedly, in Ireland, we don’t get great weather, and the summer season was a write-off, but nevertheless, there’s no sign of winter outside.  Yet, inside, I’m dreaming of a Christmas tree, heavy with decorations, glistening near a log fire… of mittens, woolly hats and scarves keeping little children warm while they play outside in the snow… of frosty nights, starry skies, and counting the number of sleeps ’til the Big Man himself pays his visit!

My studio has become a hive of festive activity, even though it’s only September!  And, I’m getting into the spirit of it all… here’s a sneak peek at the results so far!

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Little fused glass holly decorations, just coming out of the kiln!

If you’d like to get your hands on my little decorations, you can order them on Etsy … Happy Holidays!!

Heartache to LURVE!!

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I’m so delighted that Niamh’s happy with the recycled Waterford Crystal sculpture…!

Niamh O'Connor Art

For several years now living in the corner of my kitchen I have had a heartache vase – I called it this because every single time I looked at it – it broke my heart, a stunning Waterford crystal vase given to me on the occasion of our wedding 11 years ago (next Thursday ) by my very best girlfriends! My beloved cracked it and it has sat forlorn for the last few years facing the wall…but no longer!!

You see I am a very lucky girl, with wonderful talented people all about me…..Grace Brennan of Kings Forge Glass in Mullyash here in Co. Monaghan ( my buddy my pal and fellow blogger) took pity on me and my heartache ( Oh ok yes I beged begggggggged her, like really!!) And by the powers, magic and talent that is her immeasurable skill in glass fusing and with a sprinkle of…

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Fabulous & Friends pop-up in Clones!

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For this weekend only, Clones is transformed from Irish rural town, to festival HQ, as they celebrate their annual Clones Canal Capers Festival.

As part of the madness, the Fabulous creative crew, along with invited friends, are opening their popular pop-up shop once again.

Encaustic artist Niamh O’Connor, together with silk painter Louise Loughman, with help from well-known painter Roisin Duffy, transformed the vacant premises at Diamond DIY from this ….

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… to this …

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The shop looks amazing!  Open daily this weekend only Friday – Sunday 7-9 September 2012 from 10am-6pm. All the work is handmade in Co. Monaghan.  Participating artists include those named above, along with Liz Christy‘s handwoven shawls and scarves; natural soaps and more from Irish Scentsations, Dorinda McCormack‘s handwoven handbags and purses, and some of my own Kings Forge Glass.  There’s lots more local crafts besides, and a visit is without doubt most worthwhile.

Might be an ideal opportunity to pick up some early Christmas gifts… all handmade with pride, in Monaghan.

Hope to you you there!