Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Low Earth Orbit

Just had to post this stunning video of our beautiful planet, featuring footage provided and authorised by the European Space Agency (ESA). The music is by ambient psy-trance duo Grains of Sound and appears on their album Sine Language - Volume 3 (Under), the final part of a three-volume concept album about the transcendent power of music to communicate beyond the barriers of time, space, and culture...

Click here to view video full size, and here to listen to their whole album.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Game of Thrones Update

Over the past few months we’ve been avidly following the filming of Game of Thrones, HBO’s upcoming television series - click here for my earlier post and set photos. I’ll be glued to this series anyway when it premieres next April as I love the whole fantasy/medieval thing, but the fact it’s been filmed pretty much on our doorstep makes it even more enticing.

HBO recently released a new, behind the scenes video (see below) and the amount of detail in the sets and costumes is amazing. The snowy woodland location is Tollymore Forest Park
in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains (one of my favourite weekend walking haunts), and I should probably mention that the sunny scenes were filmed in Malta… if it looks wet, snowy or bleak then needless to say it’s Northern Ireland!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Flower Power Friday

"What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable."
~ Joseph Addison

Sorry I haven’t been around much recently in blogland. I’ve been busy gearing up for a few craft fairs, plus one of our beloved house buns has been quite poorly and needed a lot of tlc. Touch wood, she’s on the mend now and I’m gradually catching up on everyone’s blogs. Hope you all have a magical weekend!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

New Jewels!

I’ve recently added some new bracelets and necklaces to my Midnight Raven Artisan Jewellery website. As usual, there are loads more sparkly creations waiting in the wings for me to photograph – soon, very soon, I promise!

Luciana bracelet (Medieval Passions collection)

Wild Spirit bracelet (Balsam for the Soul collection)

Summer Memories bracelet (Enchanted Garden collection)

Friday, 5 November 2010

Flower Power Friday

“If you would attain to your highest, go look upon a flower; what the flower does willessly, that do willingly.”
~ Johann von Schiller

“When we look into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it. Without clouds, there could be no rain, and without rain there would be no flower.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Samhain Blessings

It’s Samhain at last! Time to celebrate the end of the harvest and also contemplate the cycle of death and rebirth as the cold, winter darkness looms.

The veil between our world and the spirit realm is at its thinnest tonight…

A sacred time for celebrating the memory of departed loved ones and honouring our ancestors…

Samhain marked the start of the New Year in the Celtic calendar, so this is a wonderful opportunity for letting go of anything that is holding you back. Look instead to the future and focus on the positive attributes you wish to bring into your life.

Wishing you all a very blessed and magical Samhain!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

An Ode to Autumn

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cell.” (read more)
~ John Keats, Ode To Autumn

“Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them -
The summer flowers depart -
Sit still - as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.” (read more)
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Autumn

“O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!” (read more)

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind

Friday, 22 October 2010

Flower Power Friday

“More than anything, I must have flowers, always, always.”
~ Claude Monet

“The flower that smells the sweetest is shy and lowly.”
~ William Wordsworth

“In joy or sadness, flowers are our constant friends.”
~ Kozuko Okakura

Saturday, 16 October 2010

A Bewitching Halloween Party

Beware the little black bunny in the witchy hat. She may look sweet and innocent, but don’t be fooled by that twitching nose and cutesy little tail, for the Countess…

and her fearsome sidekick, would happily have you for breakfast…

Together they rule with an iron paw from the lofty heights of their velvety castle, and every Halloween throw a spooktacularly creepy party where nothing is quite what it seems. Two human servants cater to their every whim, not least the Countess’s gruesome habit of bathing daily in carrot juice to keep her fur so beautifully soft and silky. Rumour has it she’s a rather distant cousin of Erzsébet Báthory.

Her lady-in-waiting has been working fiendishly hard this week preparing for the party and ‘tis feared she may have muddled her wheatgrass shots with absinthe. It’s not the first time this has happened and would certainly explain a thing or two!

And so without further ado, you are most welcome at this darkly enchanted Halloween party! Come and meet the other guests and help yourself to an array of magical nibbles – all unbaked for the undead…

The eye of newt pâté is really quite delicious washed down with a glass of the finest vintage venom…

Or maybe a cup of witches’ brew and a Green Goblin Cupcake will enchant your tastebuds?

The Brain Splatter Cupcakes are to die for…

Fancy a slice of the Rest in Torment Pie? It’s truly out of this world…

Thanks for stopping by our macabre Halloween Party! Please excuse the unruly behaviour of some of the guests…

They’re only allowed out once a year and like to live it up a little…

(Photos © M. Ellis and P. Jordan)

And last but not least, a huge thank you to the wonderful Vanessa at A Fanciful Twist blog for organising today’s ghoulish event – click here to read Miss V’s party post and for links to the entire list of Halloween cyber-partiers.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Prelude to a Party

Just a quick reminder that we’re participating in Saturday’s Halloween blog party organised by Vanessa of A Fanciful Twist. The Mad Tea Party back in June was brilliant fun, and since Halloween is my favourite festival of the year by far, I’ve been whipping up some weird and positively unsightly raw dessert creations like a woman possessed!

Feeling in need of a little atmospheric music, I stumbled across this haunting Darklily video on YouTube last night – hope you enjoy it too, the magician sequences are pretty cool…

Anyhow, check back on Saturday for some party pics :-)

Friday, 8 October 2010

Fungi Friday

We’ve had a brilliant summer for fungi, but the sight (and smell!) of this impressive fairy ring really made my day last Sunday…

Glorious fly agarics beneath an ancient birch near Audley’s Castle on the shores of Strangford Lough

Although rain-battered now, they must have looked awesome in their prime…

The birch tree itself, was every bit as enchanting as the fly agarics…

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Snooping Around

Filming is currently underway at a number of locations in Northern Ireland for Game of Thrones, HBO’s upcoming television adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s medieval fantasy A Song of Ice and Fire. We’ve been out and about the past two weekends trying to catch a glimpse of the sets in Tollymore Forest Park and Castle Ward estate. Having read all of GRRM’s novels, my other half is a devoted fan and taking great pleasure in speculating on what’s being filmed where – I’m tagging merrily along, ever hopeful of running into Aidan Gillen or Sean Bean. You can catch up on all the latest filming news and rumours aplenty at the Winter Is Coming blog, and also see some photos we’ve contributed (right click here and here to view).

Below are a few of my pics from Castle Ward (taken Sunday 3rd Oct).

This archway could have been standing for centuries. It’s incredibly realistic, blending perfectly with the existing stone walls…

The next two images show part of the castle courtyard set-up for Winterfell – in the first shot, you can just about see a wolf statue in the doorway. They were taken through gaps in a timber-panelled gate, so unfortunately not the best quality…

A tantalising glimpse of Winterfell

Another section of the set, again tying in well with the original stone towers and outbuildings…

I really hope someone gives the Castle Ward donkeys a walk-on part – don’t they look desperate for international stardom?

A little muddy, but blissfully happy on a warm October morning!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Fly With Abandon

There’s something about turquoise that makes my soul sing. It looks a million dollars against sun-tanned skin and in the depths of winter can lift the spirits on even the gloomiest of days.

I was listening to Morcheeba’s ‘Dive Deep’ album before starting this necklace and ‘Enjoy the Ride’ (featuring Judie Tzuke) really stuck in my head - it always does every time I hear it! To me this song is about keeping it simple and living in the moment, a gentle reminder to not become bogged down in all the crap life throws at us and just enjoy the ride…

“With the moonlight to guide you
Feel the joy of being alive
The day that you stop running
Is the day that you arrive”
~ Morcheeba, Enjoy the Ride

(The full lyrics are available here).

Friday, 24 September 2010

Flower Power Friday

"'Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone."
~ Thomas Moore

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Mabon Blessings

The wheel of the year turns again with summer giving way to autumn tomorrow. Mabon (aka the Autumn Equinox), is the second of the three harvest festivals and a time of celebration and thanksgiving for the earth’s abundance. It’s also a time of balance since day and night are equal in length, and a great opportunity for personal introspection when we can reflect on our blessings and achievements of the past year and how we can bring more balance into our lives.

I always feel a little melancholic at Mabon, knowing that the dank, dark winter is fast approaching. I guess I’m a summer bunny at heart, ceaselessly yearning for the heat of the sun and long, light-filled days!

Halloween Party!

Something wicked this way comes! Don your finest, witchiest attire and join us for a hauntingly magical Halloween Party on 16th October…

If you’d like to participate, just pop over to Vanessa’s enchanting blog, A Fanciful Twist, to find out more!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Back to Reality

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, we’ve been up in the mountains in Andalucia for a much-needed break. I’ve taken oodles of pics (over 850 in 2 weeks) and will share some here when I get a chance to go through them all!

Sadly, it’s back to reality now and boy am I missing the sight of Alpujarran villages clinging to rugged hillsides, starry nights spent chilling out under the linden trees at Bar 'El Tilo' in Capileira, and the wild, windswept Atlantic coast around Tarifa...

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Sweet Treats

I owe Connie a big ‘thank you’ for asking recently about rosewater. It’s wonderful when lightly drizzled over a fruit salad, but I’d never actually thought about incorporating it in raw cookies or cakes before. Connie is a very talented artist and metalsmith, and if you have a spare minute pop over to the blog, Saschi and Squee, which she shares with her friend, Ashley.

I’ve had loads of fun concocting a few rosewater-flavoured sweets using ground almonds as a base (see recipes below). There are some other desserty things in the pipeline too that need a little more refinement, so I’ll save those for another day.

First up, Pistachio Rosewater Sweets (yeah, I know it needs a more inspiring name – all suggestions welcome!). I love the utter simplicity of this raw food recipe: just four wholesome ingredients that taste out of this world when combined.

Pistachio Rosewater Sweets

1 cup raw almond meal
½ cup pistachios (shelled)
2 dessertspoons raw honey
1 dessertspoon organic rosewater

Add all ingredients to the food processor and process until evenly mixed and binding together. Press into a silicone mould or use your fingers to form the dough into small, bite-sized balls.

I also made Pecan Pudding Sweets – these tasted remarkably like Christmas pudding and even had that warming, alcoholic kick thanks to a new organic vanilla extract I decided to try. Despite giving the bottle a good shake, I managed to add a dessertspoon of neat ethanol with just the teeniest hint of vanilla! It was potent stuff, I can tell ya! You might prefer to make these using an alcohol-free vanilla extract or vanilla powder so as not to overpower the delicate flavour of the rosewater…

Pecan Pudding Sweets

1 cup almond meal
½ cup pecans
1½ teaspoons orange extract (or a few drops orange essential oil)
1 dessertspoon organic rosewater
1 dessertspoon vanilla extract
1½ dessertspoons raw honey

Add all ingredients to the food processor and process until evenly mixed and binding together. Press into a silicone mould or use your fingers to form the dough into small, bite-sized balls.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Apricot Almond Cookies

I seem to have developed a strange obsession with apricots of late, sneaking them into everything when no one’s looking! Here are a couple of my fave recipes for luscious apricot sweet eats…

Apricot Almond Cookies

1 cup raw almonds
Two-thirds cup dried apricots
¼ cup desiccated coconut
2 heaped dessertspoons raw almond butter
2 teaspoons raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Small pinch Celtic sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt

Using a food processor or coffee grinder, process raw almonds into small pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add dried apricots to food processor and process until well broken down. Return the ground almonds, add coconut and salt, then blend until evenly mixed. Add remaining ingredients and process again until mixture begins sticking together. Press into a silicone mould and refrigerate for a couple of hours to firm up before serving. Will keep for a week or longer in the fridge.

This is such a versatile recipe and I’ve used it in several raw desserts over the past few weeks as both a tart crust and crumble mix. It’s lovely served as an apricot cobbler with fresh, sliced apricots (toss them in a bowl with a little honey and vanilla extract before adding to the crumble). If you have more time available then you really can’t beat a raw Apricot Almond Tart.

Firmly press the above cookie mixture into a cake tin or pie tray, ensuring the crust reaches about an inch up the sides. Leave in the fridge to firm up while you make the filling.

Apricot Almond Tart Filling:
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup fresh apricots (about 7 or 8 with stones removed)
½ cup coconut milk
2 heaped dessertspoons lecithin
20ml coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 dessertspoons raw agave

Add the coconut and pitted apricots to the food processor and process until creamy. Then add remaining ingredients and process again until mixture starts to thicken. Scoop filling onto the crust and refrigerate for a couple of hours to firm up. Sprinkle with sliced almonds before serving if desired. The assembled tart will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Flower Power Friday

There’s a little pot of Anagallis ‘Gentian Blue’ blooming in a sunny spot at my back door. The flowers are a mesmerising shade of deep sapphire blue and utterly entrancing as they sway in the summer breeze…

“The actual flower is the plant's highest fulfilment, and are not here exclusively for herbaria, county floras and plant geography: they are here first of all for delight.”
~ John Ruskin

Living a Creative Life

I’ve been musing recently about how much less effort it takes to live life by just following the herd, and yet, how many brilliant, creative ideas and opportunities are lost in doing so? Then a fantastic quote landed in my inbox as a timely reminder of why it’s good to dance to your own beat:

"Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity."
~ Christopher Morley

The concept of doing something that no one else would be daft enough to do is sheer genius. How often do we come up with an idea but reject it because it’s too absurd, juvenile, or we worry that others won’t ‘get it’? What if those very ideas we brush aside are gems of inspiration that could potentially catapult us from feeling like a struggling artist/craftsperson/whatever to actually finding true success and fulfilment…

So next time you dream up something that’s totally off the wall, run with it to see where it leads!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

New Jewels!

I’ve been adding some new designs to the Midnight Raven Artisan Jewellery website recently. Plenty more to come, of course, I’m just really behind with my photos and descriptions as usual!

I love making jewellery that evokes a sense of the past and this piece positively oozes vintage glamour from the Art Deco style sterling silver beads down to the cool, ridged orbs of vintage ‘Siam’ Swarovski crystal. The pink, red and mauve colour combo works well, so I’ll definitely be using it again in some shape or form!

Heyday necklace (Balsam for the Soul collection)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Coconut Lime Cuptarts

Lime and coconut are one of those great combinations that just scream ‘summer’! I had a couple of limes needing using and a carton of organic coconut milk made from the pulp and juice of green coconuts, which I thought would complement the zing of the lime. It was a bit of an experiment, which luckily turned out perfectly first time. The result is basically a hybrid cupcake / tart – so cuptarts sums them up nicely. Love that word!


1 cup walnuts

1 cup desiccated coconut

½ cup stoned dates

Tiny pinch Celtic sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt

1 cup desiccated coconut

¼ cup lime juice (2 limes)

½ cup coconut milk

2 dessertspoons lecithin

5 dessertspoons liquid coconut oil

2 dessertspoons raw agave

2 tsp vanilla extract

Add the ingredients for the base to the food processor and process until crumbly (be careful not to overprocess the walnuts). Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. Then add all the filling ingredients to the food processor and blend until evenly mixed. Transfer to a separate bowl and place in fridge for a couple of hours to thicken. To assemble the cuptarts, firmly press the base mixture into the bottom of each silicone muffin mould and around the edges, creating a well in the centre. Spoon a generous amount of lime and coconut filling into each cuptart and decorate with shredded coconut.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Flower Power Friday

“For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love.”
~ Kahlil Gibran

Monday, 16 August 2010


Life is full of brilliant synchronicities, don't you think? I hadn’t read Max Ehrmann’s poem, ‘Desiderata’ in a long, long time, and then it popped up twice in a matter of weeks when Cygnus Books featured it on their blog and a few verses were read out at my uncle’s funeral. Just thought I’d post the full version here as Ehrmann’s message is all too pertinent – especially in these times of uncertainty and turmoil around the world it’s reassuring to know that “the universe is unfolding as it should”.


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

~ Max Ehrmann, 1927

Friday, 6 August 2010

Flower Power Friday

Considering how badly I neglect my roses (forgetting to prune them at the right time of year, feed them and so on!), they’ve bloomed beautifully this summer…

"If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars?"
~ G.K. Chesterton

"How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses and violets and morning dew!"
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Mystery glows in the rose bed and the secret is hidden in the rose."
~ Farid ud-din Attar (12th-century Persian alchemist)