Saturday, April 7, 2018

Irish Spring

A little bit of color while Old Man Winter makes one more visit to the Midwest. I plucked these blooms to save them from the cold and nestled them into an Irish tea tin I brought back from travels a few years back. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Secret of Kells

Blog of Kells
Arguably one of Ireland's greatest treasures, the 9th century illuminated manuscript, The Book Of Kells, is an ornately decorated edition of the four Gospels in Latin. Highly skilled scribes produced a book so full of vibrantly colored inks and stunning gold leaf that it is still an object of beauty and awe after so many years. It also illustrates the convergence of Christianity with the culture of Ireland, which you can see by the use of Irish motifs like knotwork interlacing, spirals, and zoomorphic designs. It is on display (well, two pages of it at a time) at Trinity College Dublin. After all these years it is still a source of inspiration.

Created in 2009, the Irish animated film, The Secret of Kells, tells the story of the famed book. It also displays a vibrant tapestry of Irish Christianity and ancient customs that have endured in Ireland. It tells the story of the creation of the Book of Kells through Brendan, a young monk living at the Abbey of Kells. It is a charming, historical, yet highly creative look at medieval Ireland and the story behind one of the most famous books in the world. The stunning animation mimics the artistry of the Book of Kells, with spirals, knotwork, arches, and mystery. And true to the culture of Ireland, it also intertwines the ancient ways and beliefs of Ireland by way of mystical woodlands and mythical creatures. It has the essence of a fairy tale but so much more. If you've yet to see this stellar film it is surely worth watching for the knowledge it provides, the mesmerizing artistry, and the magic that Ireland does so well.   

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Goblin's Way: The Art of JB Monge

A while back I stumbled onto the Goblin's Way and was instantly smitten, enchanted, & bewitched with the characters brought to life by the skillful, imaginative, & completely unique hand of Jean-Baptiste Monge, an illustrator, character designer, & visual development artist. He has a real affinity for faeries of the Celtic lands. Here is a sampling or his Irish characters in honor of this most Irish of Months but you must hop over to sometime and explore the enchanting world of Goblin's Way and all of its inhabitants or browse his creations in the Goblin's Way Etsy Shop.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Detailed shamrock carving at Jerpoint Abbey, Ireland
Ireland in a fog

Stairs leading to monastic ruins on Skellig Michael, Ireland
Giveaway winners are: bridgethat19, ichabod2003, and crbfilipiak. Please email me at

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Saint Patrick

Below is a useful graphic (click link to see larger version) I ran across for those of us less informed about Ireland's Patron Saint, Patrick. Did you know...his real name was Maewyn ? He wasn't Irish at all !! Brush up on a little Saint Patrick history then head over to Tourism Ireland to test your knowledge with a QUIZ.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Traditional Music: The Heartbeat of Ireland

"Irish music has always been intensely pictorial, constantly throwing up images to the listener. Irish music is visual, it's tactile. You can feel it. You can smell it. It's all around you. Irish music is earthy. Irish music is of the people and of the land. It's full of life & emotion. It's exciting & moving. It lives & it breathes. To best understand that, you need to stand & watch it happen right in front of you."  -Water From the Well Liner Notes

The last post covered Dublin Pubs and got me looking back at the Musical Pub Tours that we've taken. I have, for quite some time, loved Traditional Irish music. Perhaps I can hear an ancestral rhythm within it or inklings or the bluegrass I've grown up around. One thing is for sure, it is lively, fun, passionate music. Here is but a sample from our pub tour (yes that second one is sung in Irish): 

Around home, I listen to a lot of The Chieftains, a staple in Irish trad or folk music Forming in 1962, they have a long history and a huge catalog of music. They've collaborated with many other musicians from different genres over the years as well.  A few of my favorite albums are "Water From the Well," "Boil the Breakfast Early" and "Chieftains 7." Recently, I've taken to listening to the Irish music stations on Pandora. They even have a St. Patrick's Day channel which combines some traditional Irish with harder pub rock and even some old sea shanties. Happy Listening!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Pubs of Dublin

Oliver St. John Gogarty's Bar, Temple Bar Area, Dublin

While there are certainly other things you must do while in Dublin (like see Saint Patrick's Cathedral, visit Kilmainham Gaol, walk the quays of the River Liffey, etc), stopping in a pub for a pint is great way to take part in Irish culture. My first introduction to pub culture was a lovely documentary I watched before ever setting foot in Ireland. PBS produced a wonderful piece called "The Historic Pubs of Dublin" hosted by the late, great Frank McCourt, a native Irishman. He takes you on a tour of some the oldest pubs in Dublin, imparting their rich history and exploring pub culture along the way. It is definitely worth a watch. You can watch the hour long video HERE on YouTube or at the bottom of this page.

M.J. O'Neill's on Suffolk Street Dublin 

Inside O'Neill's Pub - lots of little rooms & snugs
We have chased down many of these old ancient pubs, many of which were frequented by some of Ireland's cherished personalities such as James Joyce, Brenden Behan, & Jonathan Swift. You might strike up a conversation with a local, witness a close football (soccer) game on the telly, or be delighted with some traditional music.

The Long Hall Pub on Georges Street 

The Brazen Head, oldest pub in Dublin, established in 1198

Garden area of Brazen Head

Traditional Irish music will lure me straight into a pub and one of my favorite things to experience in Ireland. In Dublin, you can take part in a Musical Pub Tour which is a lovely way to visit some historic pubs while listening to great traditional music, learning about Irish music and pub culture from two guides who play for you at each place (this is not a raucous night of pint after pint, pub after pub).  I've taken THIS TOUR twice and loved every minute and learned so much. 

Our musician guides on the Musical Pub Tour

PBS Historic Pubs of Dublin with Frank McCourt:

The Temple Bar in the area known as Temple Bar - named after Sir William Temple and "Bar" used to refer to a raised estuary sandbank used for walking upon. Now, it seems to refer to a different kinds of bar. This particular pub, The Temple Bar, as well as this area, are considered to be very touristy and peopled by partiers. It's still a very interesting place worth visiting, even if you don't stay long. There are some very old and iconic pubs just up the street from here.