Dreaming of Some Place Green (…and it’s not Ireland)

The Greenbrier ResortWhile it may officially be “spring”, not a lot of green has necessarily “sprung” around New England quite yet – which is probably why I’ve been dreaming lately of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, located in the “wild and wonderful” state of West Virginia.

As a proud barefoot West Virginian hillbilly – who moved to New England over thirty years ago and spends three quarters of the year wearing winter boots – I long to be, as John Denver sings, taken home “to the place I belong” in the hills of West Virginia, especially during this time of year where there truly is a full-fledged, hope-filled daffodil spring. Read more

It’s Maple Syrup Season – And We’re Sticking To It!

Pancake recipeYou may associate the warm, delicious and comforting breakfast food “pancakes” – otherwise known as “Johnnnycakes”, “flapjacks” and “griddle cakes” – as a distinctly American dish, but their origin extends back to the beginning of man with two simple ingredients made useful by natural elements.

“Water and a fistful of pounded grain poured upon a hot rock in the sun must have been the world’s first pancake, the very first bread”, writes Dorian Leigh Parker in the introduction to her book, Pancakes: From Flapjacks to Crepes. Read more

Have Your Drink and Eat It, Too

Chocolate cupcake recipe
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Murray

St. Paddy’s Day may be over, but there’s no way I’m waiting another year to make Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes – they’re just too good.

The deliciously moist Guinness chocolate cake, smooth whiskey ganache filling, and rich Bailey’s buttercream frosting made for one spectacular and “boozy” dessert. If you’ve ever tasted an Irish car bomb, then you know these flavors work well together – the sum becoming something greater than its parts. Read more

‘Springing’ Into Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

spring time quotesPlease note: this piece was also published in The Huffington Post.

It seems rather fitting that the birthday of the late Fred McFeely Rogers (1928-2003) – the renowned, award-winning creator and host of the creative children’s television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – falls on the first day of Spring each year, March 20.

I can hardly think of a better way to welcome our long lost “neighbor” – the much anticipated, desperately needed Spring season – than to recall the catchy tune Mister Rogers routinely sang with a warm and friendly demeanor during the beginning of each show:

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,
a beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?…
…Won’t you be my neighbor?” Read more

Quotes to Add a Little ‘Spring’ to Your Step

mr rogers quotesHappy Spring! Add a little “spring” to your step with ATG’s top 10 inspirational quotes from the book, Life’s Journey According to Mister Rogers:

1. “’Someone else’s action should not determine your response.’ It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And yet what if someone else’s action should be shouting angry words at us or hitting us with a rotten tomato? That doesn’t affect what we do in response? Not if our compassion is genuine. Not if our love is the kind the Dalai Lama advocates.”

2. “’The outside is never as much as the inside…’ As you may know by now, that’s one of the major themes of our work: The invisible essential. Oh, the outsides of life are important, but the insides are what enhance so much of the rest.” Read more

Charming Billy: Alice McDermott’s Irish American Novel

Charming Billy Book ReviewIn celebration of St. Patrick’s Day 2015, ATG is exploring “All Things Irish.” Below is a book review of the Irish American novel Charming Billy by Alice McDermott.

Alcoholism. Loyalty. Generosity. Poverty. Catholicism. Redemption. And love. These are the central themes running through Alice McDermott’s award-winning Irish American novel, Charming Billy (1998), which tells the story of the life and trials of one Billy Lynch – an enigmatic Irish American man from Queens, NY who seemingly succumbed to alcoholism after “losing” the love of his life.

Full of insight into the culture, values and struggles of Irish Americans, McDermott also offers glimpses into the stereotypes associated with the Irish, such as references to “Paddy,” Irish policemen, and the song “Danny Boy”*, while sprinkling episodes of humor throughout, giving this novel a distinctly Irish American feel.

As one might expect of such a novel, faith and Catholicism – and the subsequent guilt that is so characteristic among Irish Catholics – play a prominent role as the story unfolds. “I was certain I was going to hell…”, says Billy’s love interest, Eva, during their childhood. “…don’t all children think they’re going to hell?” Read more

Cooking, Baking & Riverdancing to Traditional Irish Tunes

Shepherd's Pie RecipeIn celebration of St. Patrick’s Day 2015, ATG is exploring “All Things Irish.” Below is a small sampling of some great Irish music to play (and dance to!) while cooking Shepherd’s Pie for dinner or baking Irish scones and cookies for teatime.  

A few of our favorite Irish songs: Patriots Game, Galway Bay, Irish Rover, Red is the Rose, Fields of Athenry, Shipping up to Boston (Dropkick Murphy’s), Carrickfergus, Mountain Dew, Finnegan’s Wake, Voyage (by Johnny Dunhan) andToora-Loora-Looral (Irish Lullaby). You can also listen to other traditional Irish music.

Read more

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

We’ll be wrapping up our feature of “All Things Irish” this week…stay tuned for a few more Irish “treats”!

St. Patrick's Day HistoryYour guide to “All Things Irish”:

 What one Irish American thinks about St. Patrick’s Day

 How we can use the “luck of the Irish” in our everyday lives

 Why the Irish just can’t help their “fighting irish” instincts

 What traditional Irish songs you’d likely hear in a bar in Dublin

 Why you should watch the Irish movie “Some Mother’s Son

Delicious Irish dishes you’ll want to try

Irish songs to sing, bake and riverdance to (with recipes)

A classic Irish american novel by Alice McDermott

And a little bit of that classic Irish humor…

Irish humor

The Culture of Irish Music

Pub in Dublin Ireland
Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland; Photo courtesy of J Kevin Crowley via http://www.jkevincrowleyphoto.com

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day 2015, ATG is exploring “All Things Irish.” Below ATG contributor and professional photographer J Kevin Crowley reflects on his experience with traditional Irish music while studying in Dublin, Ireland. 

The Irish are historically famous for a few things, some more well known than others, some rooted in truth more than others: The land of “Saints & Scholars” speaks to its poets and writers, and its almost ubiquitous Catholic culture. They’re also known for their hospitality, their cheese, and even their smoked salmon.

Of course, around this time of year, and specifically on March 17th, you’re probably focused on the Irish proclivity for “the drink”, be it whiskey or Guinness, and their music, which fills pubs around the world with artists ranging from the Dubliners to the Chieftains, and even the Dropkick Murphys, depending on the bar. Read more

Some Mother’s Son: The 1981 Belfast Prison Hunger Strike

Some Mother's Son Movie ReviewIn celebration of St. Patrick’s Day 2015, ATG is exploring “All Things Irish” for the next couple weeks. Below we review the Irish movie “Some Mother’s Son.” Stay tuned for more! 

It was with a faint memory of the 1981 hunger strikes in Northern Ireland that I recently watched Some Mother’s Son* (1996) – a movie based on the true story of the young IRA (Irish Republican Army) martyrs who began a hunger strike while being held in a British prison in Belfast for their involvement in IRA terrorist activities.

Refusing to be treated as criminals by wearing their assigned prisoner uniforms, the IRA members began their hunger strike in an attempt to be recognized by the British government as “political prisoners of war.”  Ten of the twenty-one men jailed ended up dying as martyrs for their cause, including Bobby Sands, their leader who was elected to parliament while in prison and whose funeral was attended by over 100,000 people. Read more