Thursday, October 20, 2016

Kilmainham Gaol - Dublin Historic Prison (Review)

Hundred Year Old Prison Door - Dublin
On a recent trip to Dublin I had a meeting directly across the street from what seemed to be a very large tourist attraction. I learned it was Kilmainham Gaol prison and that I just had to take time to go! Super glad that I did - as a fan of history and wanting to get off the beaten path a bit. This was an excellent stop. 

I didn't realize much of the history of Ireland until I took this tour. The prison was built in 1787 and many key figures in Irish history were incarcerated and executed here. There could be some really fun costume/haunted house events here. Lots of details on various websites and books. 

Everyone has to go through on a tour - which is a good thing. Our guide was knowledgeable and fun. She put into context the conditions in the country versus the prison - sharing that some were trying to get put into prison as the conditions her, which were harsh (overcrowding, dirty, little food) were better than on the streets. The prison was for both women and men - noted somewhere that 40% of inmates could have been women. This was attributed to lack of employment opportunities or marriage after males emigrated. (women arrested for vagrancy or prostitution or other...)

Perhaps owing to my love of antiques like old woods - I was fascinated with the doors and metal work as you can see in the photos below.

Other Dublin / Ireland events and tours on my blog can be reviewed here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Preserving Fresh Herbs - Part 2

Before the frost in the next few weeks I'm scrambling to finish harvesting and preserving the fresh herbs from my garden. Herbs can be kept for a long time by drying or freezing (or transforming into another ingredient like a flavored oil or butter.) Some I scoop up and take indoors too - for example chives, parsley and basil. 

Most often herbs are kept for long periods by drying or freezing them. Some recommend using the oven or a dehydrator, but I find air drying is easiest, the least expensive, accessible to all, and keeps the flavor better. While air drying is a slow, the herb leaves should retain flavor oils than other methods mentioned. Microwaves can also start your herbs on fire (now that's a funny story to share some other time...) 
Formal Herb Garden - Dublin

How to Air Dry Herbs:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Old Trinity Library - Book of Kels; Dublin (Review)

A colleague had attended Trinity University in Dublin and insisted that, as an antique and book lover, that I take a visit to the Trinity Library and Book of Kels exhibit. When I learned that this site, the Long Room, was the inspiration for The Jedi Archives in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones (where they discovered that the planet had been erased) - yes I had to go!

Long Hall, Trinity Library, Dublin, Ireland - Sept 2015

These photos are from a visit in September 2015.

Book of Kels - Bible, Trinity Library, Dublin
The Book of Kels is an illustrated bible created by Celtic monks 1200 years ago. The exhibit has a great deal of history in the exhibit. Entry into the exhibit is times - but even then it was very crowded. A new portion of the book is shown each day. You can also see it in these digital archives. Today when people barely read a book or even write a letter - it is an interesting exercise to imaging how it could have taken so many people so many years to create this masterpiece. Some say it is one of Ireland's national treasures - which is easy to understand. No photos allowed - so I grabbed an image from the digital archive for your enjoyment. 

Other Dublin Day-trips and tours are reviewed in these blog updates.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Review - Glendalough, Wicklow Ireland

Tower - Glendalough, Ireland, 2016
On prior trips to Ireland I had gone on day-trips north of Dublin to Howth and explored the Botanic Garden.  

On this trip I had a half day free for another adventure, exploring more of Ireland. 

I had the good fortune to be invited down to the Wicklow area.  This is one of Ireland's National Parks and an easy day-trip from Dublin.

Although a raining overcast day (what else would it be?) this was a very enjoyable diversion! I think the light rain kept the majority our sightseers away - the trip did get very crowded towards the end of our stay. 

Our focus was hiking with a close second for good food and a bit of shopping - so it was recommended to try Glendalough and Sally Gap and then head to the coast.

Woodlands at Glendalough, Wicklow, Ireland

Glendalough is a pretty valley with bonus of historic sites and well groomed trails and easy access. There are ~9 trails that range from a few minutes to several hours or days. We started with the "green trail" to the ruins of an early christian settlement called Monastic City. We were fortunate to have gotten a very early start arriving as the parks opened. Later in the day the tour buses were pervasive and the trails a tad congested - at least near the visitor centers.

Please see below for some additional photos of the day. Other Dublin Day-trips and tours are reviewed in these blog updates.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Preserving Fresh Herbs

It's no secret that I love to grow my own herbs. When harvesting fresh herbs it's best to nearly decimate the perennials - so that often leaves me (pun intended) with large quantities of herbs at one time. That has lead me to investigate different ways to preserve their freshness. Keeping herbs fresh is mostly about water - preserving water in the plant and avoiding excess condensation on the leaves to cause rot.

For the love of fresh Herbs!
Leafy herbs - like parsley, basil or mint, do not keep as long as non-leafy ones (like tarragon, rosemary, chives, thyme, or dill.) More large leaves gives greater surface area for water loss and space to capture moisture which lends to rot. So keep that in mint when you harvest or buy fresh.

Once during a class, a gentleman asked me when fresh herbs were no longer suitable for use. I wanted to say "when they don't look fresh" :? but instead the reply was when the leaves turn dark, dry out or any part of the plant begins to show traces of mold or rot.  

Not all herbs are equal - they need to be treated differently. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Review - Powerscourt Gardens, Dublin Ireland

Powerscourt Tower Garden - 2016
One a recent trip to Europe I had the opportunity for a day trip from Dublin to visit Powerscourt Estate and GardensIt has been dubbed one of the most beautiful gardens in Ireland and at some points in history - perhaps the world.  The gardens were designed in the 1700's  with rose gardens, reflecting ponds, tree plantations, long vistas and even a pet cemetery. As you can imagine over 300 years - there could be lots of pets :(

Top-line - an enjoyable visit and nice to get out of the city. I would not say it compares in quality for gardens in other parts of the world..

  • Pros - a great historic site and good long vistas over the formal garden, very nice cafe
  • Cons - a bit of a distance, trails beyond the core garden are not well maintained, on the bus route so can get crowded, pricey.
One the way back into Dublin we took the coast road and spent time at the James Joyce Museum which was quaint and  very interesting. 

Entrance to Powerscourt Estate and Garden 2016
Please read on for some photos of the day. Also see my other reviews of Ireland sites and adventures.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Writing a Eulogy for an Abusive Parent - Honest and Respectful Approach

Every day there are millions of people who lose loved ones. Some portion of those people, like me, may have lost an abusive or less-than loving parent and be wondering: Should I go to the funeral of my abusive parent?, How do you have a funeral for a bad parent?,  How do I give a Eulogy for my abusive parent?  I struggled for many weeks with this dilemma.  I'm one of 5 kids and all of them kept saying "someone needs to say something." Yet nobody was raising a hand. As one of the children planning the funeral, it seemed like it would fall to me. It seemed like they all assumed I would handle it. I'm one of the strong ones, albeit a tad of an outsider within the family... 

How could I attend the funeral for a woman that physically and mentally abused me, a bad mother, a grandmother who was critical and difficult with my children, an alcoholic and prescription drug abusing woman who had fits of rage, a woman who I believe sexually abused my older brother. a mother that put family members in the hospital with injuries she inflicted? This woman, my mom has just passed away - I was numb. I didn't want to be around my siblings. I didn't want to go anywhere let alone the funeral. I couldn't decide how to be respectful yet honest. There was no way I was going to stand up saying she was the best mother ever. Yet I didn't want to write a scathing eulogy. I wanted to be honest about her poor treatment and how I felt - that was mixed emotions. 

After much deliberation about what my mother had done to me and for me - I choose a road with subtle sign posts to the informed listener of the story of my mother's treatment of her children. It's here in between the lines, in the words said or not said. Here is how I wrote a eulogy for my bad-mom who didn't really love me or her other kids. Here is how my grieving and healing began.

I'm posting a portion of my eulogy here - so perhaps others might have a bit of a guide to how one person approached their own difficult situation.  This is a long long blog...

Friday, March 18, 2016

For the love of Irises

Springtime means irises and I'm lucky to have many varieties in my garden. Did you know that name iris comes from the Greek work for rainbow.  I have a pluthera of blue/purple, white, and yellow colored iris perennials. Most I've secured free off Craigslist or Freecycle. I have a few unique and native ones I purchased which I'm nurturing. 

It's not a native flower for U.S. gardeners - its originally from Syria. While used in perfumes, medicinals, and even to produce beer and wine, for me it's purely decorative.  I do have some challenges being in a cold climate garden. Not all iris varieties will do well with such a short growing period. 

Want to get inspired by iris? Check to see if there is a local flower show with this theme or try to visit one of the Historic Iris Display Gardens. My closed one in a state away and they have a wonderful end of season "garage sale" which I'm already planning on attending in July. Now that's planning! 

Iris - endless variety

Here are some tips for growing iris in a cold climate garden: 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ireland National Botanic Garden - Dublin (Review)

Entrance - Dublin National Botanic Garden
When on holiday I am compelled to visit local Botanic Gardens. You can see my prior reviews of the Huntington Garden in California, then Denver Botanic Garden, the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, the Bird Haven Conservatory outside Chicago... well you get the points. I love these places.  So I was delighted when I was able to drag my traveling companion to Ireland's National Botanic Garden located just outside Dublin. Easy to reach by bus!

I was attracted to the location based on the history. The first glass houses were built in the 1700's - then expanded as unusual plants from around the world started to make their way to Ireland. Between 1840 - 1860 the major glass display houses were created. This is the same time as conservatories were springing up in Chicago. It was so nice to see the similarities and differences. Oh the Victorian / Edwardian times when strolling in Greenhouses was the best day out, and when great strides were made in understanding the plant kingdom. 

Dublin National Botanic Garden

A very interesting role of this garden was the assessment of exotic trees to the Ireland environment. Strolling the grounds these old trees look simultaneously majestic and out of place. Many of these are planted in groves - so you can see several different species of Oak tree, Larch, Holly and others side by side.

Here's a quick review of garden overall - in addition I have some specific posts for the Rose Garden and an outdoor Dahlia display at the Dublin National Botanic Garden. 

All photos taken in the spring of 2015. Also see my other reviews of Ireland sites and adventures.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Veg Garden Envy and Creative Ideas

Raised Bed - Vegetable Garden
This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit a very avid home gardener in Austin, Texas. I have a serious case of garden envy going.  Even though I visited in the off season - it was easy to tell that there was a good deal of planning and learning that went into this garden design.

From the overview photo you can catch a glimpse of the numerous raised beds, use of arbors too. Off to the side are more raised beds in the shade, a field for native flowers, a spot where a cistern is going up this year, and fruit trees including an olive. The front yard also has a man-made creek running through it for wild-life. One of the features that helps make this a certified wildlife habitat.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Antiquing in Germany

Friedrichsplatz Square
Photo From:
I have a number of posts on antiquing and also on some of my travels. Generally I end up seeing lots of botanic gardens while on holiday. This week, as I am traveling in Germany, I happened to come across a street which was filled with antique shops while out for a long walk and a little exercise!

 These shops were in the area of Friedrichsplatz Square - this is from 1800's. Gorgeous arched walkways around the square. Centerpiece garden and fountain. I bet this is stunning in the summertime. Concerts on the square would be fun!

I was ever so pleased!