Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

I haven’t poured my heart out about Ireland in a while. Over the course of a couple trips, my husband and I accumulated a nice collection of cardboard coasters from various pubs we shared a Guinness or two in. I made it a habit to write on each, what pub we were at, the city and the date, as well as nuances around us that we could remember and giggle at later. Well, I would giggle and he could belly laugh. Anyway, we found a full size Ireland poster and I’ve started to plot a small selection of the coasters according to region. I create many things, but this is one that really makes us reminisce and long for just another pint. It’ll be a highlight of our bar…whenever we create that.

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Past Lives: Who Were You Before?

This post could be the one that pushes me into either crazy territory or a relatable one.  I’m supposed to be truthful and share who I am in this blog, so I’ll get on with it.

Do you believe in past lives? Whether your religion abides by this belief or not, it might have crossed your mind.

I wasn’t raised to believe that we were reborn but there is something in me that leads me to believe that maybe I’ve been here on earth before. I don’t know who I was or where I was born. I don’t even know when I was here or how many times. I know that there are things I’ve been drawn to since I was a child, and these feelings drew me despite the fact that my family never led me there.

I grew up Irish/German Catholic, in America and in the 80’s. I have had a subconscious fear of someone stealing my shoes since I was a child and I’ve been drawn to 30’s and 40’s music even before my peers went through a rap and bad pop phase. I have however, since the time I began school, had a fascination with the Holocaust.  I’m not going to sit here and say this means anything, nor will I claim any actual connection to this time, but it’s a very odd feeling. I longed for Continue reading

Grandmom’s Spoons Are Better Than Yours

When you were little, did you ever stand by your Mom or your Grandmother at the kitchen counter, fascinated that they could effortlessly create something edible out of powders, liquids, chunks of produce or meat?  If you’re lucky, you did.  Even if they kept busy and didn’t explain what they were doing, it was fascinating to watch a grown-up with a flair for culinary creations.  I look back at these moments and find myself wishing I had asked more questions.  More importantly, I wish I had written down the answers I did get.  I will have to do that with my Mom next time I see her.

I am lucky that I come from a line of avid cooks and bakers, male and female on both sides of my family.  I will admit that the cooking bug may have skipped a couple people here or there, and the prominently Irish population opted for very plain dishes with minimal seasoning, but it was all good food.  I don’t remember a meal that I wouldn’t eat or that I disliked.  I trusted their ways, even when I was picky.  I remember wondering why hamburger meat was shoved into a green pepper or a plum into potato dough, but the final result was wonderful.  Now I can really go for some plum dumplings; those would be from the German/Hungarian side.

To coincide with my memories of the women in my life and my old soul, I wander through antique stores whenever I have any free time.  My favorite section is where you’ll find cooking tools because there are so many gadgets that don’t only look fascinating but are also so functional.  I try to decorate my kitchen with cooking tools, but only the ones that I can use and that do not appear to have lead paint chipping off the wooden handles.  True, they can’t be put in the dishwasher, but their style and efficiency are worth it.

The tools range from aluminum to copper, and the detail and quality can’t be matched by the goofy plastic options you’ll find at Target.  They were devised for a cook, for an avid homemaker who spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  The well used kind are just as promising as the mint looking ones, but they prove how well they can last.  The spoons have just the right shape for scooping, holes for slotting, edges for scraping and angles to maneuver into difficult corners to mix.  The mashers are sturdy, the grater’s lip lies across my bowl and my handled strainer lays on the edge of the pot so I don’t have to dirty a big awkward bowl style strainer.  My ball jars hold excess rice and beans and are gorgeous on a sunny day because they are an aqua blue.  And my favorite metal spatula is the only thing I can use to not break the yokes when I flip my eggs.

These may have been massed produced at one time, but clearly they’ve lasted for generations, at least a couple lifetimes anyway.  The worn handles make me daydream about how many cake batters were mixed and if the owner is gone or has just “upgraded” to new stuff.  I see “Made in the USA” stamped into the metal or funny patent names on my tools and more than in just the kitchen, I’m reminded of what the US used to be.  We used to make stuff.  These things are so simple, but make life so easy.  I like not using plastic or imported cheap materials, containing chemicals we will find are recalled in a couple years.

I wonder how many nifty things from my family had gone by the wayside and ended up in an antique store corner or in the trash.  (I also wonder why I just wrote nifty.)  I’m not a hoarder but I am sentimental.  I have such an appreciation for what used to be, but without letting that hinder my acceptance of what is current; well, maybe just spoons.  So what if I use a seventy year old spoon and listen to big band?  I did get this recipe off our iPad, so we’ll call the war of generations a tie…this time.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unfocused

After a redeye to Dublin, we rented a car and drove to New Grange. Everything seemed a little blurry that day, including our pictures.

This picture was purposely blurry and I love it that way because it is the only way to understand how it was taken. I took the picture through a stationary telescope at a visitor center, before we took a bit of a walk to meet a bus, which would drive us to the historic site. Included are also blurry/unfocused sheep as we took this walk, a picture of the telescope with New Grange in the distance and a better shot of the site, so you can get a good view of the megalithic site that is so fascinating to us.

©2012 Shannon Hadley

Irish Sheep

I always just liked my photography the way it was. Not the fact that it was simple and mostly luck, but I might have felt it was cheating to alter it in any way. That being said, I had a Groupon for a large canvas that I needed to order and I need a nice piece for my new home office. I played around with an image I found that just felt so calming to me. It is of sheep.

This picture was captured while my husband drove us from the tip of Northern Ireland to Dublin, at the very end of our last trip there. We were desperately trying to beat the huge snow storm we had dodged our entire trip and this was taken just before we lost our luck at outrunning it. There is something calming about sheep; except the sheep that have the red blotches; this just seems morbid to me. I can deal with splotches of green or blue on their coats for farmer identification, but the first few times I saw splotches of red on a sheep my first reaction was
Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sun

I realize the sun is supposed to set on Galway Bay in Ireland, but I can guarantee that these are early morning shots as we awoke in Salthill, Galway and headed north toward Connemara. Though I thought these might be terrible at the time, capturing the sun this way, I’ve grown to love these because I can almost feel how bright and crisp that morning felt as I revisit these.  The road was icy and the glare was strong, but it was tough to complain after a full Irish breakfast and a long ride to Westport ahead of us.

I love a reason to post about Ireland.

 

O Shakespeare, Shakespeare! Wherefore art thou Shakespeare

Every opportunity I get, or can afford rather, I jump at the chance to venture to something new for us.  Last week we visited Fonthill Castle, this week, Shakespeare.

I love literature and any classic written works, but sometimes they are intimidating to me.  It’s likely because I attempted my first go at a Charles Dickens classic when I was twelve.  I couldn’t get through the first chapter and it really gave me anxiety to pursue any scholarly type works.  In my mind, I had the idea that if there are entire programs dedicated to particularly authors or pieces of writing at Harvard, I probably wouldn’t understand it.  I know this negative mindset is not healthy and crushes ones’ ego, but in all honesty, that’s how I felt.

Needless to say, I always wanted to learn more about Shakespeare.  Tonight jumpstarted this because even though it’s the most typical play in his collection, the opportunity to see Romeo and Juliet half-price made my wallet wince less than my “I’m an individual” persona.  Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Through

Clonmacnoise: Founded 545-548 AD

The buildings and monuments shown however, appear to range from the 10th-17th centuries, with most falling earlier in this time period.

This day was bitter cold, but it was impossible to leave and refrain from taking shots through surviving stone towers, churches and crosses, either into other structures or through to the River Shannon, in Ireland.  These were taken with a simple camera and frozen fingers, I hope you can still mentally capture the beauty of a place that holds so much history.  It is the sight of worship and battle.

An Irish Ballad for St. Patrick’s Day

It’s only appropriate as we approach St. Paddy’s Day, that I indulge myself in more Ireland talk. On our first trip to Ireland, we tried not to plan and follow the stone walls to wherever they might lead us. We did a few things that Rick Steves suggested too, however. Though we spent most of our trip travelling around the Irish countryside and avoiding crowded tourist destinations, we did spend a couple nights in Dublin and took in the Musical Pub Crawl.

I fell in love with Irish music on this trip.

The music ranged from traditional to humorous and of course included beautiful and mournful ballads. The musicians that lead the crawl vary from night to night, based on traveling musician schedules and we were lucky enough to have Anthony Bools. His voice had so much character and fit the tone for each type of song chosen.

They had a professionally recorded CD compilation of various musicians that lead the tour and it has been a mainstay on my Ipod for a few years now. I couldn’t have been more pleased to have heard this particular song live, with fiddle accompaniment and later have a version to play at home, while I dreamed of Guinness and seisúns. I do suggest the tour if you are interested in learning about Irish music. The real feel of a seisún can be found in a good local pub, where the musicians play amongst themselves instead of to a crowd but this is an opportunity for a musician to take a moment between songs and discuss the fundamentals of the music and the instruments that are so specific to this type of music.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  Slainte!

Haunted By My Irish Great-Grandfather

I’ve written about my ancestry research before.  It’s something I love and hate, because it’s thrilling to find a piece of the puzzle and incredibly frustrating to find either nothing or to confirm your initial theories were false.

I found a crucial piece to our family puzzle last night.  I confirmed all the vitals of my Great Grandfather; a man I never met, my father never knew and his father barely knew.  His World War I draft card says he was 5’7 with red hair and green eyes.  He immigrated by himself at the age of sixteen from Ireland.  His ship ran ashore leaving Liverpool before coasting onto Philadelphia.  He was a steelworker and laborer.  He married an Irish girl here and housed her widowed father and two younger brothers; all of them laborers.  They lost a baby girl as an infant and died fairly young themselves.  The census says he could read and write, but the signature on his Naturalization paperwork leads me to believe he was not accustomed to holding a pen of any kind.

He left his family behind at the age of thirteen, to make a living in England as a coal miner.  After three years in the soot, he left for America.  I haven’t a clue what became of the rest of his family.  I’m having difficulty with his parents’ names and the time span of Irish records I need were either lost in a warehouse fire in 1922 in Dublin or destroyed by the Irish Free State purposely.

While in Ireland for our honeymoon, and I met with a county genealogist who gave me records from my family.  It seemed too easy.  I don’t want to say they tried to fool me, but I was fooled.  I have records for someone of the same name, in the same town but it doesn’t add up.  I’ve done this long enough to know that back then, records and dates were not consistent and often disregarded, but I’m dying to figure out the answers.  As a researcher and history buff by nature, I can’t feel settled until I can go further.  I don’t want to go harass any distant relatives; on the contrary, I’ve had Irishmen contact me in regards to possible connections.

There is simply something to be said about learning where you come from and feeling that you share some sort of trait or identity with those who came before us.  I was the only one in my family with hair that glows red and though my eyes are often hazel, they shine green regularly.  I’d like to think somewhere along the way, it’s trickled down to me alongside my fondness for Ireland.  Maybe that is a bit too romantic, but whenever my husband comments on how red my hair looks a particular day, I can’t help but admit that I’ve been dreaming of the Galway Bay.