The Most Beautiful Building in Belfast Ireland: Day Eleven  

Posted by Heidi

Each town and city in Ireland has its own personality.  The same is true of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; they are two different countries with many subtle differences.  They were once all the same country, of course, but Dublin, the capitol of the ROI, was mostly built out during the Georgian era, whereas Belfast, the capitol of NI, boasts the most surviving Victorian buildings in all of Ireland.  The difference between Georgian and Victorian?  If Georgian architecture is the cake, Victorian style is the icing.  And I do so love cake frosting. 

Our time in Belfast was short and we didn't see as much as I would have liked--partly because I couldn't tear myself away from the Belfast City Hall, what I call the most beautiful building in Belfast.  As such, it deserves its own blog post. 

At the front of the building one finds the memory garden for victims of the Titanic.  Something I did not know about the Titanic before my visit to Ireland was how many of the people hired to work on the ship were Irish.  So many, in fact, there is a Titanic Museum, also in Belfast (more on that in my next post).  You can read about it and the inscription HERE.

I love the windows in this building.  This photo was taken from a great distance as these windows were on the second story but one can still see how beautiful they are.

These ground floor windows are in the cafeteria/restaurant;  I like the way the building across the street is reflected in the panes of glass.

This sculpture greets you as you enter the building.  It depicts the Earl of Belfast.  My research (scant and rapid) leads me to believe that the last man to hold that particular title died in 1883 but I can't be sure--the Wikipedia entry redirects to the Marquess of Donegall and it is all a bit confusing.  However, I think it is safe to assume he is depicted here due to the name of the city.  The plaque above the statue lists the council members in 1906, the year the building was completed. 

There are many parts to this building and I so wish we had been allowed to go up the stairs to the upper floor.  There was plenty to admire on the ground floor, however.  Be sure to click on the photos to view the lovelies larger.

I would not want to be the one responsible for keeping this place dusted.  (I'm sure the feeling would be mutual as I am a woeful duster.)

The amount of work and dedication and talents and the sheer number of delicious scrolls is mind boggling.

I wish I had paid more attention (or remembered what I read) about this window.  I suspect it is a rendering of St. Michael but I don't really know. Finally, we had seen all there was to see below stairs and I turned my full attention to the staircase and what I could see of what was above. 

I have seen photos online of the first floor (what Americans would refer to as the second floor) rotunda so I suppose they do allow visitors up there. I wish they had the day we were there.  The pictures promise even more beauty than we saw.

To read my other Ireland posts, go HERE to find links to the others. 


Simple Delicous Shepherd's Pie Irish Soda Bread Muffins and Pistachio Shortbread Cookies for St Patrick's Day  

Posted by Heidi

We started the day out with a walk in the foothills near our home.  During the few months that we enjoy green hills, I am always struck by how much it looks like Ireland.  Now that I have been there, I can say with absolute authority--it does!  In fact, there were places in Ireland where I felt like I was at home in Northern California.  I am so blessed to live here and so blessed to have visited Ireland. 

Ireland's national traditional colors are the gold and the green.  We see this in nature at this time of year and it is beautiful.

Setting a lovely table enhances any meal.  I used treasures that I acquired in Ireland as well as other pieces that I already owned (I have been crazy for Ireland for many decades so have collected quite a bit).

I also decorate the house for St. Patrick's Day.  I am not Catholic and my Irish blood is scant but I think all holidays are fun.  I love my little Irish lass doll with her cloth body and papier mache head.  Someone took great care in cutting out all of those shamrocks for her skirt.

I chose to make Shepherd's Pie (with hamburger since we are not fans of lamb) Irish soda bread muffins (gluten free) and Pistachio Shortbread cookies (both a gluten free and a glutinous version).

This Shepherd's Pie is very simple and incredibly delicious.  Peel four large potatoes and boil until cooked.  Mash them up with a little butter and about half a cup of shredded cheese (whatever kind you like).  As you are doing this, brown a pound (or two if you like) of hambuger.  When cooked, add beef broth and let it simmer a bit so that it isn't watery.  Fill a baking dish (any size and shape--the more potatoes and beef you use, the bigger the pan--these amounts will fit into a 9X9 cake pan) with the meat and spread evenly.  Pour frozen, mixed vegetables (whatever you like) evenly over the meat--use as many as you wish and will fit in your pan.  You can use fresh, too, but some things you will need to cook first, such as carrots.  Corn, peas, green beans, should be fine uncooked at this point.  Spread the cheesy potatoes evenly over the whole thing, add seasonings according to taste, and put in the oven for 25 minutes at 275 degrees.  I suppose you could leave it in longer if you like your potatoes browned.  Serve hot--yum!

These Irish Soda Bread Muffins are gluten free and very yummy.  The recipe is from the King Arthur Flour website.  I substituted equal amounts of flour for 1/4th cup coconut flour and 1/4th cup ground flax because they are tasty, good for you, and help hold gluten free baking together better.  Also, I did not sprinkle sugar on top.  In fact, if you like more traditional soda bread, I would add less sugar in the recipe, as well.  We liked them sweet--they were so good!

I baked gluten free cupcakes with whipped cream frosting and purchased regular ones for those in the house who don't eat gluten-free (it is not difficult to guess which ones are mine and which are store bought).

The Pistachio Shortbread Cookies are also a King Arthur Flour recipe. (The KAF version uses crushed pistachios on the top but I was fine with the amount of nuts already in the pudding mix.) The flour is added last so, right before, I divided the dough (this recipe is about two cups total at this point) and added gluten free flour to one and wheat flour to the other.  The recipe does not mention using a spring form pan as a very easy way to release these cookies (use parchment paper).  I did and it worked great.  Since I don't have two and needed to bake them at the same time, I put the gluten free dough on a regular cookie sheet lined with parchment and rolled it out into a circle about the same size as the spring form pan.  Since I don't have the expensive cookie press pans, etc., or a shamrock cookie cutter small enough, I used a 1" heart shaped cookie cutter to make the Irish knot work on the cookies.  A sprinkling of shamrock quins from Fancy Flours perked these right up.  These were delicious and really satisfied my craving for both sugar cookies and shortbread.

We ended the day out on the back patio by our "Celtic Corner" and enjoyed the beautiful, mild weather.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Chic 'n Shabby Pink and White Romantic Decor For Spring  

Posted by Heidi


Romancing the home:  I love it!  As soon as the winter holidays are over, I can't wait to return things to my most loved white and pink color palette--with a few additions.  It seems that I am never done.  This chair is my newest piece. 

Paired with my Valentine's Day roses from my husband, it is sweeter than ever.  And if any think he might feel uncomfortable in such a feminine room, no such thing--he enjoys the peace and tranquility.

I found the chair at a thrift store as it was below.  Since it has already been recovered and is separated from its sisters, I had no problem painting it.  If it had been in its original condition, I would not have touched it (nor would I have been able to afford it). 

These are the original carved roses that everyone sighs over.

When a creamy white paint is added, the shape captures the eye. 

It's the glorious curves and angles that make my heart sing.

I covered the chair with a balloon shade valance that I picked up a few weeks earlier at a different thrift store.  When I got it home, I just couldn't find a place to make it work.  Now it graces this chair with a skirt, a ruffled back and a bustle.  Love it!

Once the chair was in place, the magazine rack looked a bit plain, somehow.  So, I painted and added this sirocco shelf (I turned it upside down) that had been hanging around in the garage until I found just the right place for it. 
The more roses and curves the better.  The same goes for chairs.  This one has been around for a while--I sat in it to write most of my books.  It now has a weak leg and has been relegated to a mostly decorative function.  However, it's the box under it that is another new addition.

This chest holds my children's great-grandparents' wedding flatware.  Back in the depression, people couldn't afford sterling silver for their forks and spoons so these are stainless, but they are very pretty and the box is gorgeous.  It was very much scraped up but it has such wonderful detailing that I wanted to bring that out.  White paint does it, every time.

The box in candlelight looks different than it does during the day.

I love how different light lends paint different shades throughout the day and evening.

I suppose that is why I love white paint so much---I LOVE light. This ironstone compote with its cache of porcelain cups glows in the lamplight.

And here they are glowing in sunlight.

So pretty, either way.

White pops against colored walls and brightens the whole room.

Even bits of pale pink pops against so much white. 

This photo was taken last summer when the crepe myrtle trees were blooming.
As well as this one.  I love how the bouquet of roses (a birthday gift from my 12 year old son) glows in the light they are catching.  Since this photo was taken, the framed photos on the wall have a new look.

Remember this photo from this post?

With the help of magnetic paint, it has a new life on that wall in the corner as an image board.  I can cram many more images in one spot and it is fun to change the images with the seasons and my mood.

More roses catching the light streaming through my antique gothic church window, a gift from my daughter.
When you fill your home with reflective surfaces, it's a place where light dwells.
Next time:  Another visit to one of California's loveliest cities.