Inside the Ivy Cottage on Bertie

Living creatively in an old house

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

La Shona Fhéile Pádraig. 

In celebration of St.Patrick’s Day I am sharing a few snapshots from my recent trip to Ireland: (This is a slideshow, if you see a black screen, click on it and it should start.)

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Some of my photos from Ireland have been used to create this mixed media canvas. It is our St. Patrick’s Day decoration.

Photos of trip-14
Mixed Media, 30 X 30 cm

Tip: Because the photos were printed using  an inkjet printer, they were  first sealed with Krylon clear matte finish spray before incorporating them into the project.

Enjoy the green! 



Snow Storm

Winter is not exiting gracefully! After a relatively easy, snowless season, we were hit with 48 hours of snow fall. This is the view from an upstairs window:

snow day-2

Not needing to go anywhere, it was a great opportunity to be absorbed in a good book:

snow day-1
“Snow Day” Acrylic on canvas 51 x 51 cm

Were you snowed in too? If so, how did you enjoy the day?


My Bags Are Packed…

and ready for my trip to Ireland tomorrow!


But these aren’t the ones I’m taking with me! My travel bags are modern, relatively light  weight, expandable and roll along on four wheels. The suitcases in the photo represent travel luggage from various decades of the previous century. They were picked up at various antique shops, thrift stores and yard sales. I love their grunginess and that I can stack them. More than just dust collectors, they are handy  for storing art supplies and unfinished projects.

One case, however, is just for “decorative purposes”. It is a vanity case  that accompanied a young woman as she emigrated from Italy to New York, more than one hundred years ago. I bought it from her elderly great grandson.

The interior:

Some of the containers, the hairbrush, and comb are made with “French Ivory”:

Some of the containers are glass with sterling silver lids! I think the little box on the right is for jewellery.

There is a little mirror inserted in a pocket on the lid. It is encased in leather and has a tab for hanging, as seen on the back.


In addition to the hairbrush and comb, included are a pocket knife and these two implements:vanity-case-8

Any idea what these were used for?


A Valentine for You


Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

A Teacup’s Tale


Many years ago, when I was a poor, struggling student, I bought my first bone china teacup and saucer at a sidewalk sale. I did feel some guilt about spending the $2 to purchase it, because I was living on a $10 a week budget. (I did say this was many years ago.)

A summer or two later I had a summer job as a clerk in a  “china shop”. Tourists flocked into the shop and  spent hundreds of dollars buying Lladro, Royal Doulton, and Hummel figurines. Those held little interest for me, but I loved the bone china teacups with their pretty florals, delicacy and translucence. Over the course of that summer, I added four sets to the first. Now I had  a cup and saucer “collection”, as defined by my friend who  told me that once you have three of something, it is a “collection”.

Over the decades that followed a few more cups and saucers were added, mostly as gifts. These lovely teacups spent most of the time hidden away in a cupboard so that I didn’t have to dust them. However, I always brought out a couple to serve tea whenever my MIL (mother-in-law) visited.

That all changed just a few years ago. I was browsing through a charity thrift shop and saw quite a number of bone china cups and saucers in their inventory. It saddened me that these beautiful cups and saucers had been basically discarded, not wanted. As soon as I returned home, I pulled my teacups  from the cupboard and set them out on the sideboard where their beauty could be appreciated. I have discovered that keeping them dusted is quite a joy, too: I use different one each day.

I still have that first cup and saucer, too, although it has been re-purposed.

To be continued…














Afternoon Tea, Part 2


Lemons are such a versatile fruit. They can be used for cleaning, personal care,  and savoury food. (Think lemon pie, and lemon chicken.) Because lemons are so useful, I stock up whenever they are advertised as a special. The secret to keeping them fresh for weeks is to refrigerate them in a zip-lock bag.

I wanted to make lemon curd to spread on the Irish soda bread that I had baked for “Afternoon Tea”, so was glad to have had some lemons on hand.


To prepare lemon curd, I pulled a few tools out of the gadget drawer:

a rasp






a citrus juicer


an egg separator


and a wire whisk



Lemon Curd:

With the rasp, grate the yellow part of the rind from 2 lemons into a small saucepan. The white part of the rind is bitter so avoid grating into it.

Next, cut the lemons in half. Using the citrus juicer squeeze out enough juice to measure 1/4 cup. Remove any pits before adding the juice to the saucepan.

Stir in 5 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt.

Next separate 3 egg yolks from their whites. The egg separator gadget makes this very easy. I prefer to do this one egg at time into a small bowl, because I want to remove those squiggly white things that are attached to the yolks. Add the yolks  to the juice mixture.

Finally, add 4 tablespoons of butter to the saucepan. Place the saucepan over a low heat and use the whisk to stir constantly until the mixture thickens, about 12 minutes. Pour the mixture into a glass container. Allow to cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge.

This recipe makes about one cup of tangy lemon curd and will keep nicely for two weeks in the fridge. That is, if there is any left!



Afternoon Tea

The other day, I was delighted to have afternoon tea with a friend who lives gluten-free. Most days I just have a cup of tea as “pick-me-up”  when I get home from work, before preparing supper. It is so nice to have a reason to make it more special. In the morning I baked a loaf of “tea bread” – Irish Soda Bread and cooked up a small batch of lemon curd to spread on the bread. It was a good way to use up a couple of lemons that had seen better days.

My favourite Irish Soda Bread Recipe:

3 3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour*

2 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 cup Thompson raisins

1/4 cup white sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (roughly)

1 1/3 cup milk that has been soured with 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Simmer for 5 minutes then drain and let cool somewhat.

In a large bowl, stir the dry ingredients together until well combined. Add the butter pieces and blend into the flour mixture with your fingers until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Mix in the drained raisins. Add the milk and stir in with a fork to form a slightly sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and shape into a mound. With a sharp knife, cut a cross into the top of the dough about 1/2 inch deep. Brush the loaf top with milk and bake for 50 – 60 minutes. The loaf crust should be golden and firm. Remove the loaf from the oven to a cooling rack for the first ten minutes. Then take the loaf off the baking sheet and let it cool completely on the wire rack.


To my vegetarian friends: I suppose you could try this recipe  with coconut oil, but I don’t know what you could use in place of the milk.

*Gluten -free all-purpose flour used in this recipe: 2 cups brown rice flour, 1 cup millet flour, 1 cup sorghum flour, 1 1/3 cup tapioca starch, 1 1/3 cup potato starch mixed together. This makes more than is needed for this recipe.

Part 2 of afternoon tea to come…


Cooking Comfort

Home cooked soups and stews are the ultimate comfort food especially when the weather outside is cool and damp. I particularly like making soup because  it allows me to be creative with whatever ingredients are on hand. Yesterday I needed to empty the fridge of leftovers, so out came my favourite crock pot. I love this crock pot because of its shape (tall and thin) and it doesn’t overheat or overcook food, and it was a gift from a very special person.

After doing the breakfast dishes, I put the following leftovers into the crock pot :

1 cup steamed cauliflower florets

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 carrot chopped

1 leek chopped

1 handful of chopped spinach

1/2 pint stewed tomatoes

1/2 a  yellow onion, peeled and chopped

1 not-quite-full quart of chicken stock

To this I added 1 quart of water, and 3 small russet potatoes cubed.

I turned the crock pot on high for the first hour, then let it cook the rest of the day on low.


About 1 hour before supper, I added 1 leftover chicken-turkey sausage, sliced. I tasted the soup at this point and decided it needed a dash of Kosher salt. Perfect!


What a comforting meal to end a busy, blustery day. Nutritious and delicious.

This made about 2 quarts of soup, enough for two generous servings (and more leftovers).

Note: For vegetarians: use vegetable stock, omit the sausage.


Where has THIS been all my life?

When I was a child, I spent quite a bit of time at the home of one of my closest friends. Taking up a fair lot of floor space in their kitchen, stood a foreign-to-me contraption. Curiosity of course got the better of me, so I had to ask what it was. My friend informed me that it was a “mangler”* and its purpose was to iron table cloths, sheets, towels etc. She removed the cover to show me the machine. Wow! It looked like the wringer on my mother’s washing machine, but on steroids! Actually the rollers were encased in cloth unlike the rubber wringer rollers.

Apparently machines similar to this are still available under the name “mangle” and “rotary irons”.

Having suffered the chore of ironing my entire life using a hand held iron, I have often skipped the chore entirely. Really, who has the time? But I certainly don’t want to give up the floor space that a mangle needs. Then, quite accidentally while googling a place to repair my sewing machine (which is another story) I discovered that a solution exists: a steam press. While it doesn’t work quite the same as a rotary iron, it accomplishes the job of pressing in half the time and doesn’t take up much real estate.

A search on You Tube and then on Amazon led me to the “Magic Steam Press” by Singer. It arrived on my doorstep two days later. (Free shipping with Amazon Prime).


I am in love with this. Being a sewer , the steam press is particularly useful. I can now quickly and efficiently press wrinkly pre-washed fabric.

For our Christmas dinner table, pressing the linen table cloth and napkins was so much fun!

Tip: My mother-in-law told me to dampen linen, put it in a plastic bag, and then chill in the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes before ironing. It really makes it easier to get the wrinkles out.

Now, what needs pressing?

*Further note: Until I googled looking for a royalty-free image to use in this entry, I really thought the machine in question was  called a “mangler”. Well, that just shows that you can learn something new everyday.

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