Monday, March 27, 2017

Mushroom Magic

If you don't know, I keep another blog at where I chronicle other creative pursuits as well as natural life in the Midwest. (I also keep another shop at where I specialize in hand crafted journals and old-fashioned quills). Over at Traveling Chariot, when the weather is right, I post Mushroom Mondays where I share my photos of the many unique, magical, and sometimes edible mushrooms. And since it's been raining again there are lots of fungi to be found. So if you'd like to meander through a woodland of toadstools, faerie caps, and magic hop on over HERE.

Friday, March 24, 2017

March Emerald Post

Well, I hope your spring is off to a colorful start and surely the predominant color of spring is green. Ireland and its awe-inspiring shades of green were the fertile seeds that grew into the March issue of Emerald Post, for March is the month we celebrate not only St. Patrick but Irish culture in general (albeit sometimes in ways that are inaccurate or misguided). Besides an annual St. Patrick's fest, I celebrate Ireland and spring by bringing fresh flowers inside, taking hot cups of tea outside, revisiting Irish films, books, and of course music, and cooking up my favorite Irish meals. 

The March Issue was a lot of fun to create and curate. To honor the Emerald Isle, I included a large print of a hand-painted watercolor map of Ireland.  

Also included in the March issue: a lovely postcard print of a gothic green doorway at St. Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny (which can still be obtained with 7 other postcards in the Portal Collection), a cute miniature notecard and envelope featuring a lucky 4-leaf clover, and a 5x7 print of my favorite - 40 Shades of Green Butterfly which mimics stained glass. The Butterfly print is available individually HERE. It's time now to go outside and enjoy Spring's bounty and gather inspiration for April's issue which is fast approaching.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Welcome Spring

Spring, or the Vernal Equinox, arrived yesterday in which day and night were equal. In Ireland many ancient portal tombs and cairns align with sunrises or sunsets of solstices & equinoxes. Loughcrew Cairns is one such ancient monument that aligns with the Spring Equinox. Watch the magical video below to see that sun illuminate the inside of a stone cairn. Read more about it HERE.

Here in the Midwest Spring arrived with a sultry 87 degrees and a gorgeous blood orange sunset. Back to normal today with rain (thank goodness) and 60s. Spring is such a delicious, refreshing season. I hope it lingers, though yesterday had me fearing it would get skipped altogether.

May Spring be beautiful, long, and green. May we be blessed with blooms and rain a plenty. May the season inspire your soul. Go outside and greet the it.

Countryside in County Kerry

Monday, March 20, 2017

Irish Surnames

Check out this article at  which includes a cute infographic making sense of many Irish surnames.  

               How Irish Are You? Your Last Name May Offer A Clue. Enter Your Last Name to Learn its Meaning and Origin.:  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

May you always have
walls for the wind,
a roof for the rain,
tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you,
those you love near you
and all your heart might desire 

-Irish Blessing

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Seafood Chowder at Inch Beach

I love to cook up hearty Irish dishes, especially in March but my all time favorite is Seafood Chowder. Now this isn't like your Clam Chowder. This is much more akin to heaven. The first time I ever had this food of the sea gods was on a cold, gray day in Sammy's Bar on Inch Beach on the Dingle Penninsula. Perhaps it was the wild waves just outside the window, the freshness of the fish, or perhaps is was the dreary weather and jet lag but I have held this dish in the highest esteem ever since. My main brag about it is that it contained so much seafood and so little potatoes (a flip flop of what I know in MO). I now look for this on every menu when we're in Ireland and I've had some other delicious variations but Inch Beach Seafood Chowder is at the top of the list.

When I'm at home, however, I love making a huge pot of this. Surprisingly, even with some frozen fish, this is incredible. I use Kevin Dundon's recipe of fish chowder as a spring board but alter it for American groceries:

- I usually add more onion and skip the leek
- Swap water or chicken stock for fish stock - both work fine
- Peeled shrimp instead of Dublin Bay Prawns
- heavy whipping cream for pouring cream, maybe a bit richer :)
- I've always omitted tarragon and smoked salmon because I didn't have any and $$
- Use any fish you like really, I usually use salmon and cod and mussels if I have any

The Esteemed Seafood Chowder and Bulmers

Sammy's Bar Restaurant and Café at Inch Beach

It is an pretty quick and easy, if not a little pricey, recipe and actually is a great leftover (that surprised me) Make a loaf of brown bread with it, spread some Kerry Gold Butter, crack open a Guinness and start the daydream!

Virtually Visit Ireland

Understandably not everyone can travel to the Celtic Isles and traipse around castle ruins. Even for those of us that have, it is always nice to revisit a place in spirit when we cannot in body. Thankfully to satisfy our appetites for the ancient, the crumbly, the stoic, and the arching magnificence that is a castle ruin - we can visit them on the web. Sometimes we stumble upon great interesting videos. Here are some of my favorites for you to watch as we near St. Patrick's Day:

*Click Full Screen on Videos to really enjoy !

Dundrum Castle is in County Down, Northern Ireland. We visited there in 2015. I was thrilled when I found this Time Team (an awesome long running BBC Archeology Show - any episode from Time Team is fascinating and so many are on YouTube) episode of an archeological dig at Dundrum Castle

Dundrum Castle

Now Dunluce Castle is near and dear to me. It is how I stumbled upon my Irish ancestry and my far off Irish ancestors, the MacQuillans, laid the first stones here on the cliffs of Antrim.

MacQuillan Towers of Dunluce Castle, County Antrim, Ireland

Looking out to sea from the Mermaid's Cave beneath Dunluce

The Connolly Cove Channel on YouTube is full of awesome short videos from all over Ireland. Below is one that introduces us to some basic history of Dunluce (for more in depth info I like the book Dunluce Castle by Colin Breen). There is also some incredible scenic drone footage of Dunluce below that includes a seaside look at the mermaid's cave:

Don't forget I have many Irish travel post over at Traveling Chariot which you can access HERE

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Irish Wonders

Stone Fort - Grianan of Aileach, County Donegal

Drombeg Stone Circle, County Cork

Ballymoon Castle Ruins, County Carlow

Monday, March 13, 2017

My Irish Library

Here is just one of my Irish nooks - this one full of books. Especially near this time of year, I peruse my growing collection of books about or related to Ireland & its culture & history (the prettier ones make good St. Patrick's Day décor). Some of these I picked up on my travels, others I bought to prepare for journeys. Some of the more obscure or out-of-print ones seem to find me at a giant, semi-annual used book sale that I love to scour. My tastes tend toward Irish myth & legend, poetry, and ancient & Medieval history. This shelve is tidied up a bit for you all but many trinkets and knickknacks (i.e. coins, rocks, shells) are usually found strewn about here. I haven't written up a list of this collection but feel free to inquire about anything you see (or can't quite see). Happy Reading.   

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Irish Post

It's not too late to get your extra-Irish March Emerald Post. This edition features all the shades of green that make up the Emerald Isle in the form of a watercolor print, photo postcard, mini notecard, and large watercolor print map. Use the coupon code IRELAND10 to get 10% off anything in the Emerald Post Shop by March 31st.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Different Sort of Portal

My Portal Collection shows love to the architectural doors of Celtic lands but nature, especially an Irish forest, offers us many portals to other worlds, literal caverns of arching trees as well as sun dappled or shadowy worlds of our imaginations. I am grateful for the places that the natural realm takes me in my life and in my mind, with my feet and with my soul. Grateful, too, for the magical places I've been that have really transported me. I often include this quote by Stephen Graham in the journals I take on trips to remind me that doors are everywhere, but we must look for them:

As you sit on a hillside,
or lie prone under the trees of the forest,
or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream,
the great door,
that does not look like a door,

- Stephen Graham

Painting in the woods in my travel journal from last trip to Wales and S.W. England. 
Natures does seem to present me with actual doors, too, sometimes, though I think they lead to the Faerie Realm...

Monday, March 6, 2017

Glendalough, Ireland - The Valley of the Two Lakes

There is a magical, mystical place in a remote wooded valley, deep in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland. Some call it holy, many call it beautiful, but its name is Glendalough. Glen-duh-lock and it means Valley of the Two Lakes. It is a special place indeed. The woods which are now an Irish National Park are soft with moss and colored with that green light that only seems to shine in Irish woods. Hiking trails crisscross the seemingly ancient forest. The Poulanass waterfall rewards intrepid hikers who trek to its heights with a stunning view and the Glendasan river sings its song over the water-worn boulders below.

And then there is the history of this place. The ruins of an Early Christian Monastic settlement sit at the base of the woods. St. Kevin was a hermit and sought solitude and peace here at Glendalough in the 6th century. He later established a monastery here where he found peace with the wild animals of the woods. In fact, many of his legends involve animals, most famous is St. Kevin and the blackbird:

Legend holds that one day, St. Kevin, with his arms outstretched, knelt deep in prayer. As he did so a blackbird nested I his hand & laid an egg. St. Kevin, being compassionate & patient, did not move his hand nor remove the eggs until the birds hatched & flew away.

Today, many structures remain from the time of St. Kevin through later centuries when Glendalough served as a holy center. Tranquility, perhaps, is what the monks sought here and I can attest that here, tranquility remains.

This locus of peace and natural beauty seems to be at wild corner of Ireland, far from modernity but it is, in fact, just about an hour drive from the capital, Dublin. And if you ever go to Ireland, especially if you are only visiting Dublin, make a point to take a day bus trip to Glendalough. (Note: it's quite busy on weekends). It is such a great slice of the history, landscape, & soul of Ireland. 

My visits to Glendalough inspired a block print in February's Emerald Post and it is still available HERE.

We captured this view after we accidently took one of the longer, and much steeper trails that Glendalough has to offer. Pretty much worth it though.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Celtic Portal Collection

Always, I've been drawn to doorways, to portals, tunnels to other times. They are physically beautiful, metaphorically powerful, and always evocative, beckoning. There are so many exquisite doorways in the Celtic lands of Ireland & Scotland. They generously pepper my travel photos. I've collected 8 (this was a challenge) of my favorites to offer as Emerald Post's first collection. Go ahead, turn the handle, pass through. Wonders surely await .

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, you can get your hands on the Celtic Portal Collection of 4x6 photo Postcards. The stunning postcards transport you to lands & times faraway, to crumbling castle ruins, to ivy-clad cathedrals, to enchanted forests. Hop over the Emerald Post Shop to get your collection now or send a set for a charming, unique gift!

Eight high gloss, color rich, 4x6 Photo Postcards

Backsides printed for Postcard use, complete with Emerald Post Postmark.
Set is bound with unique Portal Collection Band and send in the standard green, hand addressed envelope to you.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Irish Cottage

Happy March! Spring is just around the corner.

A recent painting I completed on a shop window. Spreading some spring fever and a little (or a lot) of Irish charm.