Sunday, 31 August 2014

Why "Art" Needn't Be So Pretentious...

The new Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, stated recently on the radio that her policy was simple: “arts is for everyone.” I found this absolutely refreshing and wonderful, as it’s an issue that’s been playing on my mind for months and months.

Even the word “art” can be a little intimidating. We immediately think of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Lowry, Picasso, Monet… who perhaps we might know about, or perhaps might just be words thrown around to seem sophisticated.

In fact, art encompasses dozens of different media and within that, hundreds if not thousands of styles. Music, film, radio, television, literature, painting, photography, theatre… to name but a few. And frankly, we all need to stop being such snobs about it.

When it comes to art, there really are no rules—or at least, those rules that are in place are made to be broken. Art is undefined and undefinable.

For me, if I were to define it, I would say that art can be anything that makes us think or feel a certain way.
It can be very intimidating to state what our favourite TV programme, song, book, film, or any piece of art might be. So much so that this admission is often proceeded by a swift: “It’s my guilty pleasure” to excuse anything that might sound “uncultured”, or that terrifying four letter word… “mainstream”.

Everything is art, and I think it deserves to be appreciated. If you’re one of those people who refers to One Direction as “mainstream” or says they don’t make “real music”, remember that people once said similar about The Beatles. One man’s champagne being another man’s vinegar springs to mind. I’m just using One Direction as an example, by the way, as they’re in the media so much. I’m not even that big a fan myself, but if someone tells me that “Kiss You” made them look at life differently or gave them happiness, then who am I to argue?

My parents often sniff at my love of the BBC series Waterloo Road, and I don’t blame them: it’s hardly what you’d call “high-class entertainment”. It’s hardly what you’d call “art”...

A few months ago I was really angry with a loved one because they simply weren’t seeing things from my side. After a good, productive day of crying and fuming, I sat down in front of the telly and watched the episode where a young couple, Kevin and Dynasty have had a row. Dynasty is in the middle of having a right go at Kevin when things get blurry and distant, he begins to collapse…

He’s had a stroke. There’s a clot on his brain. He, a teenage boy, is rushed to hospital and may be about to die.

Immediately my mind snapped to my loved one. What would I do if I lost them suddenly like that? Now, in the middle of a fight? I realised that I didn’t hate them; I couldn’t. I realised that while I didn’t always like this person, while I might be angry like Dynasty was at Kevin, I didn’t know what I would do without them.
That night, I forgave my loved one. I told them just how important they were to me.

 Art makes you think. Art changes the way you look at a situation. It doesn’t just hang in the gallery; it isn’t just viewed through opera glasses. In life, art is everywhere. We need only look. 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Packing for Uni: My Favourite Books!

I decided to test out my talking/presenting skills for a change and give my readers a more multimedia experience--you can now become "watchers", too! I've never made a YouTube video before so I'm starting with one about which books I'll be brining to University and why. I really hope you enjoy it, and if you have any feedback I'd love to hear... because I honestly have no idea what I'm doing! Considering I've never made one before and did this with a digital camera balanced precariously on a music stand, the result could be a lot worse...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Dublin Zine Fair

Intrigued? For those of you out of the loop, zines are home-made, self-published booklets that might contain art, stories, essays or anything creative. It’s pronounced “zeen”, since the word comes from “magazine”, which is what a zine essentially is--except on a smaller scale and, to be honest, a lot more fun.

So on Saturday 16th August, myself and my best friend hopped on the bus to Dublin to attend the fourth annual Dublin Zine Fair at the Centre for Creative Practices on Pembroke Street. Ever the procrastinators—and procrastineaters—we’d been up until 11.30 the night before finishing our zines… so perhaps rather than “hopped”, we stumbled, zines and stall décor in tow.

We were so excited to be there, having gone both in 2012, when we promised we’d make zines someday, and 2013, when we dragged some other people along—roughly half of whom actually wanted to be there. We absolutely loved it both times and this year, as we finished our Leaving Cert exams, we became even more determined to return not just as customers, but as Zinesters.

We brought along two varieties of zine: “The Little Zine of Happiness”, which focused on the things you can do to try and let yourself be happy, as well as what happiness can mean for different people. This was all original content, some based on writing I’d done and enjoyed in the past.

The second zine was an edited compilation of some more popular posts from my first blog, Unlucky for Some. As I began work on this blog, and started to say goodbye to Unlucky for Some, it was nice to have a printed version made for myself, my readers, and some new faces at the fair.

Both zines were illustrated by my best friend who happens to be a fabulous artist. We called our publishing company “Bear and Wolf Production”—I’m Bear and she’s Wolf.  You can read about Bear and Wolf Productions on the Dublin Zine Fair website.

We’d never expected to make shedloads of cash, and ended up scraping together the bus fare home, just about, but were actually surprised and delighted by how much interest we got. I’ve been blogging for about eighteen months now, but to see my words in print felt much more serious, much more professional… satisfying, somehow. It was pretty nerve-wracking when people read the zines right in front of us, but such a lovely feeling to see them smile or laugh in all the right places. 

The stallholder next to us was Venus de Vilo, whose brand of horror-punk contrasted nicely with our bright orange zines! 

The only problem with a fair like this is that you will invariably end up buying more than you sell. There was so much amazing art on offer—most going for a song—that we had to nab several bargains. I’m going to do a separate “haul” post next week, so you can see what I bought in detail.
We’ve already got tons of ideas for some more zines, and have vowed to return in 2015. I want to write a handbook about Scoliosis surgery which I had a couple of years ago: the things I wish I’d known, etc. It’s safe to say that we caught the bug!

For those of you who missed the fair and have an interest in Zines, I’ll be selling the leftover ones on in the next couple of weeks. I’ll install a “shop” button on this site when they’re available.

In the meantime, if you’re any kind of artist or writer, why not have a Google and see if zine-making is for you.

Raspberry Tart

(This recipe by Catherine Ann Minnock first appeared on, all photos and original content copyright CA Minnock 2014) 

For the Pastry Case:


250g (10 oz) Plain Flour
50g (2 oz) Icing Sugar
150g (6 oz) Butter (or equivalent, I like Stork margarine but you can use any spread/butter you wish)
1 tbsp Water


1) Sieve the flour and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl.
2) Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingers repeatedly until it is all mixed together. The mix should look something halfway between breadcrumbs and sand.
3) Add in the water, just the tablespoon to start but more if needed, and use a butter knife to stir it until it begins to form a dough. Hands can be used if necessary... I’m not judging.
4) Roll out the dough on a floured surface (I always use a glass chopping board) and then fit it into a pyrex/enamel pie/tart dish. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect, it’s going to be covered up.
5) Prick the base of the pastry with a fork in a few places which will stop it from rising. Then bake it in the oven at 200 degrees for about 25-35 minutes.

For the Crème Pâtissière Filling: 


300 ml Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
3 Egg Yolks 
50g Sugar
2 tbsps Cornflour
2 tbsps Flour

Optional: 1 tbsp Brandy


1) Ensure you are using a thick-bottomed saucepan like I have in the picture,which will prevent the mix from overheating. Put the milk, vanilla and brandy (if using) into the saucepan and heat until it just begins to boil.
2) In a medium bowl, mix the yolks, flour, cornflour and sugar together thoroughly. Then pour on the milk and stir. Do not pour the mix into the milk as the egg will cook and curdle.
3) Once mixed, pour into the saucepan and return to a medium heat, stirring constantly.
4) If it looks lumpy, don’t panic, just keep stirring. Gradually a thick kind of custard will form as shown.

To Complete: 

Pour the crème pâtissière onto the pastry case once cooled, and sprinkle fresh, or defrosted frozen, raspberries on top.

Wonderful for dessert or afternoon tea. 

Bread and Butter Pudding

(This recipe by Catherine Ann Minnock first appeared on, all photos and original content copyright CA Minnock 2014) 

Ingredients/Equipment: (may vary with size/quantities required) 

A large ovenproof dish (e.g. lasagna dish)
White sliced bread (any will do, this is a great way to use up stale bread), enough to make up two layers in your dish
One egg
100g sugar


1) Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2) Grease your dish with a little butter.

3) Butter your bread just like you would for a sandwich.

4) Line the bottom of the dish with bread and sprinkle over as many raisins as you like.  

 5) Add another layer of bread and sprinkle with a few raisins (you can add some grated orange peel if you want to, but this doesn't bode well with certain family members so I tend to leave it out). 

6) Now for the delicious bit... trust me on this. Break the egg into a pint glass/ measuring jug and beat it with the sugar. Then fill the glass up to the top (or fill up to a pint) with milk. At this point, if you like, you could add some of your favourite spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, mixed spice...) or some vanilla.

7) Pour the mixture all over the bread. If it doesn't look like it’s covering well, you can just add some more milk.

8) Bake for about half an hour until golden and crunchy on top and solid but soft in the middle. Can be eaten hot as dessert, and the cold remains are great to be picked at long into the night. 

Here's how mine turned out! It might not win any beauty contests, but tastes amazing! 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Momentous Occasion

There's so much pressure going into this post: I think that's why it's taking me so long to write. It's the first one, the introduction, the Grand Opening of my Next Big Thing. In other words, it's gotta be good...

If you want to talk about pressure, I'm really no stranger to it. Let me introduce you to this envelope.

This is a pretty regular envelope containing a sheet of ordinary, albeit fairly fancy, paper. If you recognise it, then you too took the Leaving Cert at some point, perhaps recently. You alone understand the blood, sweat, tears and tantrums that went in to the past two years (and that was just your parents).

For me, that lead-up has extended for about four years, when I made the decision for various reasons that I would study Literature and History in England, where I lived until I was twelve. After looking at universities, this meant I had a firm goal. When I got my offer from UCAS from one of my favourite choices in November, I was over the moon... but the pressure was really on! I have to say that I really didn't enjoy Sixth Year, the year leading up to the big exams, and by the time I finished them I doubted I'd even get near the conditions of my offer.

Fast forward to the 13th August 2014, and I was clutching this envelope in my hand. Tears were running down my mum's shoulder as I buried my head in her soft cardigan and familiar smell, just like so many other times.

I had done it.

These were tears of happiness, relief, and to be perfectly honest, amazement. I'd far exceeded the grades I'd been hoping for, and my dream of several years had finally come true.

It's been a week since then and now everything is really starting to sink in. The next few weeks are going to be full of sewing, packing, washing, organising and, sadly, an awful lot of goodbye-for-now-ing.

The other reason this occasion is so momentous is that I'm starting this brand-new blog to tell you all about this crazy new ride I'm about to become a part of. It's going to be a bit more personal, more "about me" than my old blog (here if you've not seen it), and hopefully a bit more organised too with tabs at the top so you can find all your favourite posts: personal ones, recipes, crafts, reviews and anything else you or I might enjoy. You can also check out the "My Secret Diary" tab where I intend to write all about what I get up to each week. Friends and family: enjoy that! In addition, I'm hoping to make it look more professional and include more pictures for you to flick through.

So come and join me as I embark on my brand new adventure, both in cyberspace and in life. For all the trepidation and organisation, I'm so excited to be moving on with my life and delighted that you'll be joining me.

See you soon!

Catherine Ann x