Springing With Flowers

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes

beautiful spring flowers

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”
– William Wordsworth

spring quotes

“Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

spring flower quotes

“A flower’s appeal is in its contradictions – so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect.”
– Adabella Radici

flower quotes

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
– Claude Monet

spring poems

Happy Mother’s Day!

“The ordinarily decent impulses the ordinary man learned at his mother’s knee are our last line of defense against the wickedness of overweening power at home and abroad.”  – John Dos Passos (novelist, 1896-1970)

Mother's day quotesThe importance of mothers is beautifully captured in the below excerpt from the book What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Tina Santi Flaherty (2004):

“The memory of our mother never leaves us – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  That Jackie Kennedy Onassis was an exceptionally good mother even her harshest detractors readily acknowledge. Motherhood was what mattered most to Jackie. She believed that absolutely nothing came before the welfare of her children. Indeed, she referred to her efforts in raising Caroline and John Jr. as the best thing she’d ever done, saying she wanted to be remembered for that achievement more than for any other. She once remarked, ‘If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.’”

A Poem For Spring

As we warmly welcome the bright and cheerful colors of Spring, enjoy the poem below by Walt Whitman – a reminder of all the good and beautiful “miracles” that surround us daily.

Walt Whitman miracles poem

“Miracles”
by Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819-1892)

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love…
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

“Once You Have Slept on an Island…”

“In the middle of the Pacific ocean where East meets West, 
Is an Island of fire and ice, Home of the volcano and doorway, 
To another dimension and a different reality. Here magic lives, 
Where the Earth herself liquefies and nothing is quite as it seems.” – Pila of Hawaii 

Hawaii poems
Kauai, Hawaii

March, a month signaling the budding of a new season, is a time for “Spring” breaking — students breaking from the tiresome cycle of classroom lectures and late night studying, adults breaking from a grueling schedule of business meetings and client deadlines, and all of us breaking from the cold, dark days of winter.

Many will break away to the coast of Florida, some maybe to the Caribbean, still others to far-off destinations. But here at ATG, we’ve always “breaked” at an island (Hilton Head Island) — an island with windswept beaches, transcendent sunrises (see below), and a soothing calmness felt in the warm, sand swirling winds.

Its beauty and serenity has kept us returning for more than 30 years, replenishing, restoring and reinvigorating our vitamin-D deprived souls.

There certainly is something about an island. After all, as Rachel Lyman Field writes in the poem below, “Once you have slept on island, you’ll never be quite the same.”

For a little island destination inspiration, check out the 10 islands below that were Traverlers’ Choice Awards for 2015. Happy Spring Break-ing!

Top Ten Island Destinations (via TripAdvisor):

  1.  Providenciales – Turks and Cacos
  2.  Maui – United States
  3.  Roatan – Hondurus
  4.  Santorini – Greece
  5.  Ko Tao – Thailand
  6.  Madeira – Portugal
  7.  Bali – Indonesia
  8.  Mauritius
  9.  Bora Bora – French Polynesia
  10.  Fernando De Noronha – Brazil
Hilton Head Island sunrise
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina; March 2016

“If once you have slept on an Island,

you’ll never be quite the same;

you may look as you looked before,

and go by the same old name.

You may hustle about in street and shop,

you may sit at home and sew,

but you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls

wherever your feet may go.

You may chat with neighbors of this and that

and close to the fire keep,

but you’ll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell

and tides beat through your sleep.

And you won’t know why and you can’t say how

such change upon you came,

but once you have slept on an island

you’ll never be quite the same.”

– Rachel Lyman Field

Read also:

“The Island Poem”
by Margaret Haig

The Island was there surrounded by sea,
Where the family stayed, so much to see;

The birds flying in the sky, and on the water too,
Yes! They were enjoying their holiday, it’s true.

The Island stretched for many a mile, they could see,
With plenty of shells, and sand, the sunsets so pretty;
The Coconut palms, and date palms, to walk in the cool,
And the children enjoyed it all, for there was no school.

The husband enjoyed to go fishing each day,
The children loved to run on the sand and play;
The wife, she enjoyed it too, to rest under the tree,
Then she called them all at night, it is time for tea.

The Island holiday soon came to an end,
The children said, our holiday we can pretend;
That we are still on our lovely holiday retreat,
And remember the birds, and the birds so sweet.

Have you ever been to an Island, for a holiday?
Maybe you travelled far, to Queensland, is what you’d say;
Or was it somewhere in the Islands of the south see?
You’ll know it was a holiday to feel so very free.

 

A Weary Traveler, a Pint of Guinness and a Pot of Stew

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings*

Hotel Doolin
“Doolin Ale”

We arrived at the little inn in the tiny village of Doolin*, near the Cliffs of Moher, in the thick darkness of late evening, weary and hungry from traveling all day in the cold, rainy winds of an Irish November. With few options for replenishment, we stumbled back into the darkness, down the narrow road and entered into McGann’s, the local pub whose cozy warmth and Irish hospitality would keep us returning for the following two nights.

With the luck of the Irish on our side, we arrived just before the kitchen closed, sitting down at a table side fire and enjoying a magical, memorable evening of nourishing food (the best Guinness Beef Stew we’ve had), thirst-quenching pints of “Doolin Ale” and soulful live Irish music that one can only expect in a town that has been deemed the traditional music capital of Ireland.

In the spirit of All Things Irish, we share three recipes below to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Sláinte!

*Rumor has it that Doolin inspired J.R.R. Tolkien in the creation of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

McGann's Pub Doolin Ireland

Beef and Guinness Stew (taken from the Simon Pearce cookbook, A Way of Living)

Ingredients:
2 & 1/2 pounds of beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil

Instructions:
Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large stewpot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and brown the beef in batches, adding 1 tablespoon olive oil to each batch, over medium high heat. Using slotted spoon, remove the beef from the pot and set aside.

3 carrots, peeled and sliced (blanch and set aside)

1 large onion
2-3 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. flour
1 bottle Guinness Stout
2-3 cups beef stock

Add onions and a small amount of olive oil to the stewpot and cook over medium heat until translucent. Once the onions are caramelized, add garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and cook for 5 minutes. Add flour and mix well. Add the browned beef back to the pot and add the Guinness. Bring to a boil and add beef stock. Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 &1/2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Add the carrots and adjust the seasonings before serving.

Guinness Beef Stew Recipe

Oven Roasted Potatoes (taken from the Simon Pearce cookbook, A Way of Living)

Ingredients:
2 pounds small red potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika

Instructions:
Cut potatoes in quarters.  In a bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet in one layer (do not overcrowd). Roast for at least 1 hour in 400 degree F oven or until brown and crisp. Flip twice during cooking to brown every.

Cheddar Chive Scones (taken from the Standard Baking Company’s book Pastries)

Ingredients for the scones:
2 cups flour
1/3 cup Stone-Ground Cornmeal
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, chilled
1 Egg
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1 & 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese

Ingredients for the topping:
1/4 cup Stone-Ground Cornmeal
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Instructions:
Make the topping by combining the cornmeal, cheese, and pepper and mixing until the texture resembles a course meal. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Break up any remaining lumps with your fingertips. Add the cubed butter and work it into the flour mixture using your fingertips until a few pea-size chunks of butter remain.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and half-and-half. Pour into the flour mixture land, using your hands or a rubber spatula, fold everything together until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Add the chives and cheese and mix until just combined.

With an ice cream scoop, scoop a golf ball-size portion and dip it into the topping mixture to coat. Place on a greased baking sheet with the topping facing up. Repeat with the rest of the dough spacing about 2 inches apart.

Bake in 400 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 12 minutes for even baking. They will be golden brown and feel firm in the center when done. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

McGann's Pub Doolin Ireland

Chocolate Irish Cream Tart
Enjoy with a cup of delicious Irish coffee with baileys!

Ingredients for the chocolate filling:
1 cup plus 1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/8 cup whiskey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. instant espresso powder
Pinch of Salt
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup sugar

Ingredients for the ganache:
3 tablespoons Irish Cream liquor
3/4 cup chopped white chocolate
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
Bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish

Instructions for the chocolate filling:
Set aside the 1/4 cup of chocolate. Place the remaining chocolate in a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is completely melt. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Whisk in the whiskey. The mixture will be stiff initially, but will become smooth as you continue whisking. Whisk in the vanilla, espresso powder, salt, and yokes. Set aside.

In another bowl beat the egg whites on medium speed until they are frothy and opaque.

Gradually add the sugar, beating until the whites are stiff enough to hold a peak when you lift the whisk out of the mixture.

Gently fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula. Fold in half of the remaining whites, then the reserved 1/4 cup chopped chocolate, followed by the remaining whites.

Spoon the filling into the prepared tart shells, filling them 1/2 inch from the top. Place the filled tarts in the freezer for 2 hours, until firm.

Irish coffee with baileys
McGann’s Baileys Irish Cream Coffee

Instructions for the ganache:
In a small saucepan, heat the Irish cream to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the white chocolate. When the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

When the mixture is completely cool, whisk in the butter. Refrigerate for about 5 minutes, remove from the refrigerator, and which again. Repeat in this manner, whisking until the ganache is light and creamy. Set it aside at room temperature.

For the Tart
Use Pepperidge Farms ready made frozen tarts or use a favorite recipe.

Baking and finishing the tarts:
Bake the tarts in a 350 degree F oven on a baking sheet for about 15-18 minutes. Be sure to rotate the baking sheet after 8 minutes, the filling will have puffed up and started to crack. Let tarts cool and then spoon about a tablespoon of the ganache on each tart and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

March: All Things Saint-ly

“Why were the saints, saints?

Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful,

patient when it was difficult to be patient;

Cathedral in Rome Italy
Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola; Rome, Italy

and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still,

and kept silent when they wanted to talk,

and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable.

St. Giles Cathedral Edinburgh
St. Giles’ Cathedral; Edinburgh, Scotland

That was all.

It was quite simple and always will be.”

St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Dublin, Ireland

Waiting for a Ship from Spring

The icy cold waters of winter are breaking up, spring is on the near horizon, the final episode of the final season of Downton Abbey has almost aired…and the presidential candidates are steaming ahead to Super Tuesday.

Change is in the air.

2016 presidential campaign

“When the Ship Comes In” by Bob Dylan, 1963, from the album The Times They Are A-Changin’

Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathing.
Like the stillness in the wind
‘Fore the hurricane begins,
The hour when the ship comes in.

Oh the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking.
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking.

Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they’ll be smiling.
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand,
The shout that the ship comes in.

And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken.
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean.

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline.
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck,
The hour that the ship comes in.

Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin.’
And the ship’s wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watching’.

Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreaming’.
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real,
The hour when the ship comes in.

Then they’ll raise their hands,
Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands,
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered.
And like Pharaoh’s tribe,
They’ll be drowned in the tide,
And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered.

See also “Turning to Dylan During the Winds of Change” and some thoughts on the 2016 presidential election.

Happy Presidents’ Day!

“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.  It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people.  Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” – Ronald Reagan (40th President of the United States of America)

Ronald Reagan quotes on freedom

See also a reflection on the 2016 Presidential race and some thought provoking quotes from Thomas Jefferson

Happy Valentine’s Day!

“Love is the energizing elixir of the universe,
the cause and effect of all harmonies,
light’s brilliance and the heat in wine and fire,
it is the aroma of perfumes
and the breath of the Divinity;
it is the Life in all being.”
–Rumi (Persian poet, 1207-1273)

Quotes on love

“The thought manifests as the word,
The word manifests as the deed.
The deed develops into habit.
And the habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its ways with care.
And let it spring from love,
born out of concern for all beings.”
–Buddha

Valentines Day quotes

“Love is a treasure, yet nothing to possess.
Love is a way, a way of being in the world.”
–Ingrid Goff-Maidoff (poet)

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged cupid painted blind.”
–Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Try some royal Valentine’s Day recipes and winter cocktails to warm your heart (and cheeks!)

The Magic of a Winter Evening Sky

“Always without formulating the concept, I had based my sense of being in the world partly on an unreasoned conviction that certain areas of the earth’s surface contained more magic than others.”  – From Without Stopping by Paul Bowles (composer and author, 1910-1999)

NYC Reservoir Central Park
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Central Park, New York City; 2016

“For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see, saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be.” – From “Locksley Hall” by Alfred Lord Tennyson (English poet, 1809-1892)

Sunset quotes
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Central Park, New York City; 2016

“The most beautiful gift of nature is that it gives one pleasure to look around and try to comprehend what we see.” – Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Ohio River Sunset
Ohio River, PA; 2016