Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lessons from a Frog

I often write about books I am reading and those I have enjoyed.  I sometimes finish a book and ask the question why?  What was the purpose?  I not only want books I spend time with to entertain me, transport me or teach me,  I expect no less from the books I select to read in the classroom.  There are some wonderful children's books in bookstores and libraries.

This week it was all about the letter "Ff".  We talked about what "F" says and came up with a long list of words beginning with "F.  We painted, we traced, we wrote, we cut,  and we glued.  We painted frogs with eyes popping out of the top of their heads and legs going in every direction to climb our wall, and cut and glued a frog to hop home with us at the end of the day.

When story time rolled around I shared two of my favorite "frog" books.  These two books are not only beautifully illustrated, the bright colors drawing the eyes to the page,  the story has a rhythm allowing the children to participate in the story while delivering a message for children and adults alike.


Finklehopper Frog decides he wants to begin jogging.  He goes to the clothing store and buys the perfect jogging outfit and heads to the track.  On the way he runs into a dog and a cat who make fun of him and tease him about his clothes and the way he jogs.  Finklehopper is downhearted ready to give up until he meets Ruby Rabbit.  She encourages Finklehopper to continue by hopping along with him.  She explains we are all different.  Some of us are joggers and some are hoppers.  It is a wonderful lesson on being comfortable with who we are and with what we have.

In Finklehopper Frog Cheers, Finklehopper's friend Ruby Rabbit is preparing to run a marathon.  After sizing up the competition she is certain she will come in first until.....she spies the kangaroo.  She feels beat before the race begins.  Finklehopper encourages her to give it her best shot even when racing against a kangaroo.  She runs a noble race and comes in second.   By the end of the story Ruby learns it is not about winning, but participating, doing one's best and good sportsmanship.

Both books gave us wonderful examples of another important "Ff" word...the importance of being a good friend.  The children were eager to share other ways of being a good friend.

Spend a moment or two with a children's book,
read to a child
and have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Shakespeare and September Jam

Here we are in the final week of September.   Amazing how fast it has gone by.   September brings with her the anticipation of a new school year,  moving the linens to the cedar closet and replacing them with sweaters and sturdier clothes, and stirring hearty soups and stews as they simmer on the stove.  It truly is a season for all the senses.

September is also the time when the theaters and concert halls throw open their doors and raise the curtains once again to a new season.  From the time my tickets begin arriving I anxiously await the first show, adding the dates to my calendar and repeatedly checking to make sure I have everything scheduled correctly.

Saturday evening we attended the first production of the season at our local repertory theater, Shakespeare's "Henry V".  We were once again treated to amazing talent, both local and national, artful costumes and imaginative scenery all brought together on stage in an intimate setting.

image via
I have been in love with Williams Shakespeare since the moment I opened a worn and dusty volume of his works found on an obscure shelf in my junior high school Library.  I spent hours sitting on the front steps of my childhood home reading it aloud to my cat.  I am afraid I didn't understand what I was reading anymore than the cat, but I adored the words,  the rhythm and the way the words sounded when spoken out loud.

 A few years later I rushed to the movie theater to see the screen version of Romeo and Juliet (1968) and studied MacBeth in a high school English class, my enthusiasm maybe waning just a bit.    It was in college when my love was once again ignited when a Professor invited me to see a national Shakespeare company's performance of "King Lear".   I still remember the opening scene when Lear is brought on stage, his crown and robes removed and his eyes darkened.  He falls to his knees and the play begins.

I  studied Hamlet one semester feeling somewhat overwhelmed.  And, for many years while living in Texas would attend Shakespeare at Winedale.  Where for a minimum admission we would be treated  to a bowl of stew cooked in a caldron over an open fire and a glass of wine, before retreating to a nearby barn to experience a night of Shakespeare.   Over the years I have had the opportunity to see the stage productions of many many of his plays, yet it is that first performance of King Lear which remains my favorite.  

One could say, I suppose, I have, through the years, immersed myself in Shakespeare, yet truly even now I am not well versed I am afraid.  Though I assure you I continue to be mesmerized by the language, the rhythm and hearing the words spoken aloud. 


When I saw the recipe for September Jam posted by Elizabeth at  Pinecones and Acorns it sounded like something William Shakespeare might mention in a sonnet or it might be something stirred up in one of the dreams he frequently wrote into his plays.  As soon as I saw the picture of the jewel toned liquid I knew I was destined make it.  If the name alone, September Jam, is not inviting enough, it is a mixture of wine grapes, apples and figs.

I gathered all the ingredients, sterilized the jars and began.

I chopped and simmered and strained and simmered again.

You know how excited I am when I hear the popping of lids.

Just a couple more wonderful things I love about Autumn.

If you haven't discovered Pinecones and Acorn yet please check it out.  Elizabeth finds the most divine interiors, interesting articles and delicious recipes to share.  And, she is always reading something wonderful.  Enjoy!

photos are mine unless otherwise noted

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Welcome Autumn

I have been holding my breath in anticipation of the first day of Autumn.   It is the day I can turn, with a smile,  and wave goodbye to summer.   The temperatures will continue to rise in the afternoons, but her fingers are slowly beginning to lose her grip as  morning awakens cool and crisp. 

Eager to welcome a new season I began gathering  the beginnings for  season's transition.

I trimmed the last of the fading hydrangea,

found a seed pod or two,

a few miniature cobs of indian corn and bit of bittersweet.
Unpacked a few things preserved from previous years.

Filled the basket hanging on the door.

Welcome dear Autumn.
I hope you stay awhile.

How did you welcome the first weekend of Autumn?


A little blogging business....

Last of summer roses
It has come to my attention my email followers have been deleted.
I'm not for sure what happen or why.  I appreciate each and everyone who follows me either here or through email.    If you so desire I hope you will reenter your email address.  I apologize for any inconvenience.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It Must be Shared!

My family really prefers, I think, to be left out of my blogging adventure.  I am almost always okay with that.  I understand I didn't ask anyone before I began this journey.  They have every right to ask I not post their beautiful faces on Living Life.  I have been known to mention them and on occasion show a picture, only with their permission of course.   I hope they always understand I do it out of pride.

Today is no different!  
This is big and must be shared.
I need to brag.

Congratulations Kyle on passing your bar exam.
We are so very excited and proud of you.

Here's to both of you!
You made good decisions.  You unselfishly supported one another 
while each took their turn with graduate studies.
And now you can turn the page and begin to write a brand new chapter.

Go out and celebrate...
You both deserve it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


"What makes the gardens at Powerscourt so remarkable is their grandeur of scale combined, as so rarely happens, with great delicacy and refinement of detail.  Their setting is superb, but their design and execution are worthy of it.  Meticulously kept, every part of the gardens rewards the closest study.  Powerscourt is a magnificent example of an aristocratic garden laid out with taste, knowledge and imagination."  
Peter Coats ( "Great Gardens of the Western World")

A five minute walk from our hotel lead us to the Powerscourt house and garden.     

Originally built in 1300  the castle was remodeled in the 18th century by a well-known German architect Richard Castle, under the commission of Richard Wingfield.   The mansion was designed around the footprint of the original small castle.  The gardens, in the beginning, were laid out as parklands and terraces.  It was during the next century the gardens and landscape became the public gardens I had the opportunity to tour.

Here are a few things that caught my eye and imagination.

The Pepper Pot tower was built in 1911 to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales.

The view atop the tower was breathtaking.

The Viscount's private walk from the tower through the American garden of unique cypress trees led us into

the Japanese garden where we found
so many hidden spots to

to stop and meditate.

I loved this grouping of trees.  
I thought it looked quite mystical.  
I almost expected a fairy to flit about at any moment.

Just past the trees we happened upon a cemetery.  There were no graves of Viscounts or other royals.
This was the resting place for all the beloved pets, including a favorite cow who had cared for the family by giving them numerous gallons of milk.

Passing through the gate into the walled garden we found

the herbaceous border

and further in, the cutting gardens.

I loved looking up at all the chimneys as I exited back onto the terraces.

One of the many urns lining the Italian garden

In 1974 while refurbishing the house a fire broke out in the early morning hours.  Little could be saved other than the outer shell.  The roof and most of the rooms were destroyed.

The Powerscourt house is now the home of the Avoca cafe', bakery

I resisted but I don't know how
and shops specializing in unique Irish foods and designs.

I wanted to take this home.
What began as a short morning outing ended up being a day long excursion walking down paths and walkways created so long ago I truly cannot wrap my brain around it.  

These are the thoughts which stop me in my tracks and send me to the history books.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rainy Day and Last Few Pages

It has been a busy week getting back into my routine at home and at school.
My Friday afternoon didn't work out quite as I had planned, but all is well that ends well...
or so the saying goes.

Once I returned home I began hearing drops falling on the skylights in the sunroom.   Although I am still a bit skittish when I hear the drip drip drip of water, this was the sound of rain and it was warmly welcomed. 

I took care of a few chores around the house then settled in to finish  the last 50 pages of The Lost Wife.

I began it shortly before leaving for Ireland, and honestly, I stayed too busy to spend too much time with it.   The late afternoon rain gave me an excuse to sit down and finish.

The Lost Wife is not a pretty story.   It is not a happy story.  It is a multi-layered story of first love and the role love and memories of love have in one's ultimate survival under the most horrendous events.  It is also a story of strength of family and loyalty.  We begin in Prague shortly before the Nazi occupation and end decades later in New York celebrating an upcoming wedding.

In the Author's Notes, Alyson Richman states she did not set out to write a romance, but a story about an artist who survives the Holocaust, however her story took an unexpected turn.   Many of the characters and events are from actual accounts woven together into one, making this novel even more poignant.

There were times during my reading I didn't know if I wanted or could continue.  Some of the details are too inhumane.  They are stories we do not want to think could really occur, but stories I strongly believe we must never forget lest we allow history to repeat itself.  Thus as hard as it is to read the holocaust story even in fiction, authors should never cease telling it.

I appreciate that Ms. Richman did not succumb to ending the book with a fairytale happy ever after ending, but gave us simply a moment of intimate recollection.

This was the end of my "summer reading frenzy".  My book group met and selected
our books for the year while I was away.  It is an interesting and as always an eclectic selection.

Today has been another rainy day giving me the opportunity
to begin our September book.
I already have an opinion, but I will wait until I am finished
to make my final judgement....
for what it is worth.

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

More pictures from Ireland to come.

Friday, September 14, 2012

An Introduction

It is hard to believe that this time two weeks ago I was flying across the North Atlantic to begin my Ireland adventure.

The first three days of our trip were spent on the beautiful Powerscourt estate in the mountains of Wicklow.   As we entered the gate and began our drive into the property our driver gave us a brief history lesson of the area.  

Powerscourt was first established in the 12th century as an "important strategic site" by anglo-normans.  Named after the family, le Poer (Power) who held possession of the property and built the initial castle in 1300, the estate has passed through the hands of powerful families (O'Tooles and  FitzGeralds,  Earls of Kildare).   In 1603 the properties were given to Sir Richard Wingfield and remained with his descendants for over 350 years.  

 As our escort drove he spoke of Viscounts, castles, waterfalls, gardens and fires.  All of which I wanted to research further.

   Castles?  Gardens?  
My travel weary brain began stirring; I couldn't wait to exit the car to begin my adventure. 

 A late evening tour around the hotel gave me only a sample of what lie ahead. 

Lush gardens

I felt a little bit like "Alice in Wonderland"
An outdoor game of chess just waiting to be played...
if one could actually move the life size pieces.

A meditative walk around the labyrinth or 

maybe a just quiet stroll along a country road. 

How many pictures can you take of one view?  A lot!
No matter the time of day or the direction the feet carried me there were amazing views
to leave me speechless.

Sunset from my balcony.
I couldn't wait to go to bed just so I could wake up and begin exploring...

castles and gardens and a walk into the village.

Would there be time to see it all?

(all photographs  were taken by me)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


One might think the first thing to draw my attention once we arrived in Ireland would be the beautiful green landscape.  The landscape is indeed lovely and it most certainly is green, but as our driver drove through the streets of Dublin and into the surrounding villages the thing I first noticed was the colorful doors.   Passing blocks of row houses and single homes I could not help but notice no two adjoining homes sported the same color door.

I never ask nor did anyone offer up if neighbors planned with one another on the chosen color or if somehow it was mandated that this door be blue, this one yellow with a white or brown door on either end.  I did however come to the conclusion I was not the only one to think this was something special when after days of taking pictures of the doors I happened upon a poster titled "Doors of Dublin".  

via google
The blues, reds, yellows and whites were not limited to the boundries of Dublin.  I found them in Enniskerry, Dun Laoghaire, and Monkstown as well. 

There are a few different stories of why the doors are painted in a rainbow of colors.  One is the wives painted the doors so their husbands when returning from a night at the Pubs would be able to find their own home.   Another states when Queen Elizabeth passed away it was ordered all doors in the United Kingdom be painted black and in rebellion the folks of Ireland painted their doors in the vibrant colors they are today.  Personally I like the first.

I met so many welcoming people along the narrow winding village roads, in the shops and pubs, on the trains, standing in queue to catch the bus and in the busy streets of Dublin.  They were always willing to stop and show me the way, answer a question or share a story.  They enjoy a good story and a laugh as much as I.

And so I begin my tale with the doors, the perfect metaphor of the warmness and generosity I received from the people who live behind those doors of many colors.

The people, my most vivid memory. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

It Has Been a Very Long Day

It was a fabulous seven days falling in love with Ireland and it's delightful people.
I can't wait to share my experiences with you, but it has been a long twenty four hours either running to make connections or sitting on an airplane and I am planning on getting a really good nights rest.

Sleep well!  I will be catching up with everyone tomorrow.  Have a wonderful Sunday!