Mar 31, 2011

Irish Food

During the week of St. Patrick's Day I blogged about Irish food. I have to say that before I went, I held the belief a lot of people seem to hold--that Ireland is not known for its food. But I was wrong! I completely agree with this video, especially about the freshness and quality of its food. We asked at one restaurant why the hamburgers were so tasty. The waiter said, "Because we know where our beef comes from. We buy from local farmers and it's grass fed."

Just the other day someone made a remark to my husband about Irish food not being so great. Well, he hasn't been there!

Mar 30, 2011

The Writing Life

I recently began watching a DVD titled A Celtic Pilgrimage with John O'Donohue. His message about the landscape and what it meant to him growing up is inspiring, but I was surprised--and delighted--to hear him talk about writing.

"I'm a writer. And writing is a wonderful adventure. But it's also an extremely solitary and difficult task. Some days the lines come easily, but most days it's a struggle. In the world of the mind you work and work and work and work and yet you see so little return for your work. Because it's invisible work." ~John O'Donohue

He goes on to say that while you might work on something all week and not see progress and be tempted to say that you wasted a week, later the words come and that's because what seemed like an unproductive week really was laying the groundwork. He says God works like that. We are tempted to see winter as completely dead and spring as alive.

 But something is going on in the winter--preparation that enables spring to bring new life in nature. So it is with the words God has planted in our hearts to write. We have to get through the winter of writing, the time that seems unproductive but is really a time when ideas take root.

These writing winters are hard to endure, but there is always the hope of spring. It's coming.  I have to do the work of the mind during my writing winter--pondering, planning, dreaming, sketching out ideas. Spring is the time that the invisible work becomes visible. I'm awaiting spring with great anticipation.

Mar 28, 2011

Singing With the Harp

I was watching a YouTube Video of a woman married to a descendant of Yeats talking about how you seldom hear any singing with the harp, and she thought that was a shame because historically the harp was used to tell tales or sing. And I realized that she was right. The traveling poet would carry his harp and when he strummed it folks knew it was time to listen and would gather around.

Thankfully, there are still some telling a story with the harp.

Mar 25, 2011

A Blessing of Solitude

From Anam Cara by John O'Donohue

May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.

May you realize that you are never alone,
that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.

May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.

May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening.

May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.

Mar 23, 2011

John O'Donohue on Grief

John O'Donohue is best known for his book, Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom. He was a poet, philosopher, and scholar--from the back cover of the book. O'Donohue died unexpectedly in January 2008 just after his 52nd birthday. He was a former priest who left the priesthood to devote himself to writing and public speaking.

But in the words he left, I can see that he was more than all that. He offered a glimpse of Heaven and what God is like, and in that sense he was a messenger from God--not an angel but a brother who shared what God revealed to him. In the video below, he is reciting a poem he wrote called Beannacht, which means Blessing in Irish. Apparently he recorded this not long before his death.

I found the words to be comforting and a gentle hug to a grieving heart. My sister passed away last August and my dad last October. Grieving is not fun, and although it gets better, it never totally goes away. If you've lost a loved one, be sure and watch this.

Mar 21, 2011

Is the Spring Equinox for Christians?

It's a well known fact that pagans and new agers celebrate the seasons of the sun and moon, but what about Christians? I rarely hear any Christians speak of the seasons other than to welcome spring and fear winter. But  Who made the seasons anyway?

As I've said in previous posts, the ancient people knew the Creator before they knew His Name. They observed Him in creation and were humbled and awed and showed respect.

From the Carmina Gadelica:

The Sun 

Greetings to you, sun of the season 
And you walking high in the heavens 
Your steps strong on the wings of the heights 
And you the adored mother of the stars. 

It is you lying down in the harbor of danger (ie. the sea) 
Without bedevilment and without dread; 
It is you rising up on the peaked wave of peace 
Like a young queen in flower.

In this video you can see the spring solstice sunbeam being captured in this ancient tomb. I talked about Newgrange at the winter solstice. Knowth (rhymes with south) is also in the Boyne Valley.

I believe it is good to follow our Celtic ancestors' example and observe what God has done and continues to do in nature. Even more recent generations acknowledge the wonder and power of God through his creation.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

~From the late 19th century hymn.

Mar 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Ah, 'tis the day, lads and lasses! I'm home on my computer and other than running to the grocery this morning to pick up more beef for my Irish stew, I'll be at home. I'm not much of a party animal and in this country St. Patrick's Day is mostly about hanging out at a bar. That's not completely fair. There are plenty of communities putting on parades and offering lots of good live Irish music. But it is a weekday, and we're working, so....

I don't feel too bad though. We went to a parade last Saturday and we do the festival thing and go to some Celtic music concerts. But I am wearing green today. Are you?

I've had this blog long enough to accumulate a lot of articles on St. Patrick. These are only a few. Search the archives if you want to find more.

Why We Need St. Patrick
Instructions From St. Patrick
Celtic Voices
Happy St. Patrick's Day
Did St. Patrick Really Use the Shamrock to Prove a Point?

And speaking of wearing green... (listen to the song here.) Wearing a shamrock was a sign of Irish loyalty during a time when the Irish were struggling for freedom from the British.

O Paddy dear, and did ye hear the news that's goin' round?
The shamrock is by law forbid to grow on Irish ground!
No more Saint Patrick's Day we'll keep, his color can't be seen
For there's a cruel law ag'in the Wearin' o' the Green."
I met with Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand
And he said, "How's poor old Ireland, and how does she stand?"

"She's the most distressful country that ever yet was seen
For they're hanging men and women there for the Wearin' o' the Green."
"So if the color we must wear be England's cruel red
Let it remind us of the blood that Irishmen have shed
And pull the shamrock from your hat, and throw it on the sod
But never fear, 'twill take root there, though underfoot 'tis trod.
When laws can stop the blades of grass from growin' as they grow
And when the leaves in summer-time their color dare not show
Then I will change the color too I wear in my caubeen
But till that day, please God, I'll stick to the Wearin' o' the Green.

Have a great day and send me some pictures of your celebration. I might use them on the blog! :)

Mar 16, 2011

Cooking a St. Patrick's Day Feast

Are you making anything special? I'll be making this Guinness Irish Stew again this year. The photo on this recipe is mine, but I did not post the recipe itself. You are supposed to marinate the beef overnight so if you want to make it, start today!

I'll also be making Irish soda bread. Tom's work is having a St. Patrick's Day lunch carry-in, and he's bringing Irish soda bread. Someone else is bringing lasagne! Well, whatever!

Here's a recipe for soda bread I like. Yep, that's my photo again.

You could also make scones. We ate a lot of scones when were in Ireland. We had some that looked liked these:

And others that looked like these:
12 Mixed Scones - Raisin, Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon, Cranberry - Click Image to Close
I got these photos from the Internet. Haven't found a favorite recipe yet. But looking at these is making me hungry!

Of course, don't forget the Irish tea, and if you like, Guinness or Smithwick's.
Corned beef and cabbage? Well, if you must, but not for me. I've never been a fan.

I really should make Shepherd's Pie soon. I rarely get it out because the mashed potatoes are made with milk and I don't tolerate milk well. I make my own with soy. But how hard can it be? You might try it if you haven't.

What about an Irish fry? (Or in Northern Ireland, an Ulster Fry.) You have to eat it once while in Ireland, but I couldn't eat that way every morning. But still, so good! (I skip the black pudding.) Here's a recipe.

Of course, there is fish and chips. The Irish eat a lot of that. We had some while we were there but of course it's not a dish that is foreign to Americans. But fish and chips is an authentic Irish meal! I'm sure St. Patrick must have eaten some, don't you think? (I know, potatoes don't date that far back in Ireland, but surely he had some fried fish.)

My sister makes a whiskey cake for St. Patrick's Day. I haven't tried it yet, though. She lives in Tucson and I live in Ohio. But one day!

Do you have any favorites to share?

Mar 15, 2011

Oh, How Lucky!

This year I participated in the Irish Fireside's Lucky Leprechaun Gift Exchange. You buy an Irish-themed gift for around $10 and send it to the person they match you with. Then someone else sends you something. Since I love all things Irish, how could I go wrong?

I sent a copy of Celtic Wisdom to Keith in New Mexico. He sent me an email telling me it fit him perfectly because of his Irish ancestry and his Christian heritage. Of course, that made me happy!

And I received a book as well. Pamela from Wisconsin sent me this book, The Big Little Book of Irish Wit & Wisdom. I have some Irish saying books, but I didn't have this one.

St. Patrick was a gentleman
Who through strategy and stealth
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here's a toasting to his health:
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good St. Patrick
And see all those snakes again.

Here's a riddle from the book:
Patch upon patch
Without any stitches
Riddle me that
And I'll buy you some britches.
(The book has the answer. Care to give it a try?)

If you haven't visited the Irish Fireside blog or listened to the podcast, what are you waiting for?
Irish Fireside.

Mar 14, 2011

Dublin, OH St. Patrick's Day Parade

Dublin, OH, puts on a fine parade the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day. In fact, US News & World Report named this parade as one of the top ten in the country.

These parades originated not in Ireland, but in America by Irish immigrants. The first parade is said to have been held in New York City in 1762 (before America was a country!) but Boston supposedly had the earliest informal parade way back in 1737.

New York's parade, however, will this year recognize its 249th year.

The parade in Dublin, OH, has much more modern roots--the 1980's. It draws a crowd of about 20,000, which is pretty good considering what the weather in Central Ohio is often like in March. This year, however, was wonderfully sunny and fairly mild. A great day for the parade.

Besides these balloons, Dublin had two gigantic shamrocks.

There were also high school marching bands, several Irish dancing schools, jugglers, clowns, the usual politicians, Irish wolfhounds, other dogs, youth football clubs, police and firefighters, local restaurants, and tons of candy throwers (although they didn't throw but carefully put the candy in the kid's bags.) I'm sure there were more groups in the parade that I've forgotten. An hour before the parade started, The Hooligans performed some traditional Irish tunes. This a local Irish-American band, but on at least one web site I read before the parade, they were confused with a Celtic rock band. Big difference. Here's the Columbus band and here is the other one. Didn't matter to me. I like them both!

The parade kicked off with a flash mob. You might have seen a flash mob before, but I had only seen them on YouTube before this. So far I haven't found this particular day on YouTube to show you, but it was fun to watch even though I didn't get a real good view.

Even though St. Patrick's Day parades are not traditionally Irish, they are fun and a good way to celebrate whether you're Irish or not.

Mar 11, 2011

Celtic Christian Season of Lent

Someone shared this link with me and I thought it would be appropriate to share here.

Not every Christian today observes Lent, the forty days preceding Easter. Not everyone gives something up. Those who do, use this time, and whatever sacrifice they choose to make, as a season to prepare his/her heart to accept the meaning of Calvary. This post might help you observe lent in a Celtic way.

Celtic Crossovers: May the Lent of the Irish Be With You.

Wishing you a season of spiritual growth and renewal.

Mar 9, 2011

The Willow

On the grounds of the monastery in Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland, we found these willow shelters charming and inviting.

The willow is a perfect fit for Ireland's moist, temperate climate. Did you know that in Northern Ireland the willow plant is being explored as a possible source of energy? Ireland imports most of its fuel. It's very expensive and the reason why most homes are kept cool. Looking at biofuel alternatives makes sense.

  • This project by school children sums up the uses of willow pretty well.
  • This blogger is growing willow on her property in Ireland.

The view from the willow shelter in Rostrevor.
The roof of the willow structure. Sitting on the bench and looking skyward is great for bird watching.
I would love to have something like this in my yard. How about you?

Mar 7, 2011

What Surprised You the Most About Ireland?

Last weekend I had a lovely time speaking to a group of ladies at their annual book tea. Fun, fun! Love to talk to readers (and even some other writers) who are passionate about books.

One question, from my friend Kathy, was, "What surprised you the most about Ireland when you visited?" She knew that I had long wanted to go and just went last fall. My answer was all over the place, and I told the group that I could--if given no time restraint--talk about that all day!

It was a good question because Kathy knew that I had studied, and read, and researched all things Irish (especially all ancient things Irish) for a very long time. Certainly my visit contained some of the expected. But any journey worth undertaking is sprinkled with the unexpected, and it's those wee surprises that stick in your mind the most it seems to me.

One surprise was the color. I expected the vivid green grass, of course, and was not disappointed. Tom even took a close up photo of the grass dripping with morning dew.

But when we got to the Giant's Causeway and the northern coast, the sapphire blue of the Atlantic Ocean bordered by dark gray volcanic rock and that beautiful green grass...unbelievably beautiful. Many of our days in Ireland were sunny, casting the landscape in excellent light. Sunny days in Ireland? That was another surprise!

Another surprise was that we could just walk up and around and through many ancient structures. Sometimes we were the only visitors. With only a few exceptions, there were no barriers or signs that said, "Don't touch!" The downside, of course, is that some of the sites were vandalized and crumbling, but much of it was sound and quite beautiful in an ancient sort of way.

Tea was no surprise. And we love tea and fit right in. Except for the fact that we eschewed the milk. But what was a surprise was sitting down to tea with members of Northern Ireland's Assembly in the Parliament Buildings as they were waiting to take a vote. A friend had taken us there because his friend is a MLA or Member of the Legislative Assembly. The tea was unexpected as was the fact that they offered green tea!

Another tea surprise: no iced tea in Ireland. They didn't seem to know what it was. Those who did said no, they didn't have any. They thought you had to buy it in a bottle, apparently, and didn't know how to make it. So if I wanted a cold drink I stayed with still or sparkling water (still being the opposite of sparkling.)

Another surprise (see I told you I could talk about this all day!) was the still and peace and awe I felt when I stepped inside the little church at Saul.

These are only a few unexpected things. I have more and maybe I'll talk about those later.

I'd love to hear some of your surprises if you've been to Ireland or any other Celtic country OR any other trip you may have journeyed on.

Blessings on your journey!

Mar 4, 2011

Crumbling History

This is sad, but it's hard to hold nature at bay. All the more reason to make another trip to Ireland soon!

Mar 1, 2011

Happy St. David's Day!

St. David is the patron saint of Wales. Wales is a Celtic country that gets little recognition. I remember listening to a baseball broadcast where the announcers were talking about one of their colleagues, Chris Welsh. They said, "He's Irish, isn't he?" "No, I think he's Scottish." His name is Welsh, for heaven's sake!

Admittedly, I've given hardly any attention to this wee Celtic country on Celtic Voices either. Until now.

The people of Wales were early Christians, like the Irish. But unlike the Irish patron saint, St. Patrick, St. David is not well known. Other than the fact that his death is mentioned in a 10th century manuscript, there is not much documentation on the bishop's life. But there are legends! The lives and stories of St. David were written down about 500 years after his death. Things like his mother was a nun who had been violated, his birth was foretold by St. Patrick thirty years earlier, his father was a king or a prince, he cured his teacher of blindness...

Ever wonder where the expression about March coming in like lion and out like a lamb came from? St. David's birth, at the end of the month, was gentle like the dove often pictured on his shoulder. His death, on March 1st, came like a lion. Well, that's one story anyway.

From The Catholic Encyclopedia:

One of his first acts was to hold, in the year 569, yet another synod called "Victory", against the Pelagians, of which the decrees were confirmed by the pope. With the permission of King Arthur he removed his see from Caerleon to Menevia, whence he governed the British Church for many years with great holiness and wisdom. He died at the great age of 147, on the day predicted by himself a week earlier. His body is said to have been translated to Glastonbury in the year 966.

It is impossible to discover in this story how much, if any, is true. Some of it has obviously been invented for controversial purposes. 

St. David's Day is a matter of national pride for the people of Wales. It was not celebrated until the 18th century. Here's a fine list of things you should know about the celebration in Wales.

So, here's to the Welsh! Our Celtic brothers and sisters!