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Artists who paints in oil en plein aire. Member of the three member Plein Aire Cottage Artists. Members: Mary Rose Holmes, Violetta Chandler and Helen Tilston

Friday, December 21, 2012

Until we meet again, may God Hold you in the palm of his hand


In the community computer room, we sat side by side viewing one computer screen and taking turns in selecting our favourite you tube artists.  It is her turn and she asks for her favourite group from the 60's Procol Harum and "Whiter Shade of Pale".

 As the tune ends, she enthuses "Isn't that just marvelous Helen;  I never knew what they looked like.  Her wheelchair she brings closer to the screen as we watch her late father playing with his orchestra and always, always she says "now Helen it is your turn to choose a song.  During my weekly visits we travel the world, listen to concerts, laugh at comedians.  Following a formal afternoon tea, with bone china cups and  cakes we return to her beautiful room.  As we wheel along the corridor we always stop to acknowledge the pen and wash portraits of her seven brothers and sisters, all painted on their second birthdays, then a painting of her beautiful father and mother.

Rose Ann, from childhood was a regular patient at various hospitals where surgeries were numerous.
Her glass is always half full.  Her needs simple.  She is generous, thoughtful and caring.  Possessing a photographic memory she can recall events and meetings with precision.  I first met her on our wedding day more than thirty years ago, she came to the church to extend her good wishes.

In Ireland, she is what we used call "A Black Irish Beauty".  Jet black hair, blue eyes and porcelain skin.

Rose Ann died on Friday, December 14th at the age of three score and nine.

I know I will miss her very much and the joy and fun we shared on those weekly visits.

Tomorrow is her funeral and snow is promised.  The poem "In memory of WB Yeats" by Auden comes to mind:

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree 
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Indian Rock's Beach: An Architect and a Boat Parade

The small community of Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, and specifically the residents who reside on the inter-coastal waters, host their Christmas parties on boat parade night.   Last evening was warm and the waters were calm.  The boats wind in and out of the canals and there are prizes for the best decorated boats.  
This past week  Sarasota Architectural Assoc.  honoured  award winning architect and resident of Indian Rocks Beach   Dwight E Holmes.
Holmes on  graduating  from Georgia Tech set his eyes on the Gulf Coast of Florida  and was hired by Mark Hampton
The Sarasota School of Architecture
The years: 1941 to 1966
The place: Sarasota, Florida
The story: Inflected by local climate, construction practices, regional culture, and Florida life-style, the work of the Sarasota School of Architecture founded by Ralph Twitchell and counting Paul Rudolph, Mark Hampton, Victor Lundy, Gene Leedy, and Jack West among its practitioners, marks a high point in the development of regional modernism in American architecture.
In Europe after World War I, a startling new approach to architectural design emerged. The International style (or Bauhaus as it was known under the European school that taught it) turned its back on historic precedent and exploited the new materials and technologies of the day. Traditional decorative elements or references to past architectural styles were swept away, producing a minimalist architecture of flat-roofed buildings with smooth, unornamented walls and delicate, carefully proportioned facades.
While the Sarasota School found its inspiration in part from the philosophies of the Bauhaus, it incorporated forms of regional Southern architecture, using patios, verandas, modular construction and raised floors to open up its buildings for greater ventilation in pre-air conditioning days. The style added a play of light and shadow, and the color and texture of indigenous low maintenance materials, softening the cold machine aesthetic of the Bauhaus. This approach to design strengthened the connection between architecture and environment, allowing Sarasota School buildings to respect and blend well into their sites. The result was a regional modernism which blurred the distinction between the indoors and outdoors and accommodated the lifestyle and climate of southern Florida.

"Sarasota in the 1950s was one of the most important places in the world for architectural creativity, where the greatest design movements of the day came together."
– Carl Abbott FAIA, original member of the Sarasota School of Architecture

 One of Holmes first projects was a home for his family in South Tampa.  Should it look familiar to you it has been featured in major magazines over the years and is studied by architectural students.

 Located in South Tampa this house was constructed more than forty years ago.  There are several unique houses in this area designed by Holmes

Holmes  designed a highrise building in  Sarasota, a Museum, several schools and continues to design and build spectacular award winning buildings.  His son, Scott Holmes a sought after young architect works with the firm

Architects: Carl Abbott introduces Dwight E Holmes

The audience listened attentively as Holmes responded to a question about LEED archicture and sustainable building (LEED = an internationally recognized green building certified system).
"If architects were doing their job properly and being responsible there would be no need"

 A soiree followed at the beautiful home of Janet Minker and Elliott Himelfarb

Architect JohnHowey, Marty Hill, Artist Mary Rose Holmes,  Dwight E Holmes, Carl Abbot and Janet Minker
How was your week?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

From The House of Edward & Ballymaloe House Recipe

Book "From the House of Edward, sits on top of handpainted chest by Josianne, "A Mother's Love Oil Painting Helen Tilston
Friends from Ireland are arriving any moment now.  Been 'n Guinness is in the oven, slowly simmering.  Darina Allen from Ballymaloe House created this version.

Ballymaloe Beef with Guinness

Beef with Guinness is ultra-easy to prepare, should be made several hours ahead (allowing you to spend time with your guests while you’re reheating the stew), and it makes the house smell wonderful while it is cooking. The Guinness stout beer not only helps tenderize the beef, it also gives a rich malty flavor to this chunky stew. It is fairly inexpensive, improves greatly overnight as stews are meant to.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
2 pounds lean stewing beef
3 Tablespoons oil
2 Tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed (optional)
2 Tablespoons tomato puree (paste), dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
1-1/4 cups Guinness stout beer
2 cups carrots, cut into chunks
Sprig of thyme
Trim the beef of any fat or gristle, cut into cubes of 2 inches (5cm) and toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. Season the flour with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of cayenne. Toss the meat in the mixture.
Heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Add the onions, crushed garlic, and tomato puree to the pan, cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a casserole, and pour some of the Guinness beer into the frying pan. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the caramelized meat juices on the pan.
Pour onto the meat with the remaining Guinness; add the carrots and the thyme. Stir, taste, and add a little more salt if necessary.
Cover with the lid of the casserole and simmer very gently until the meat is tender — 2 to 3 hours. The stew may be cooked on top of the stove or in a low oven at 300 degrees F. Taste and correct the seasoning. Scatter with lots of chopped parsley.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

PS  I took artistic licence and used short ribs instread of cubed beef.  I have used sirloin and premium cuts of meat in the past, with success.

I baked an apple tart. When in America, "apple pie" is a must

The Salvador Dali Museum, Tarpon Springs and Ringling Museum are on the itinerary.
Ballymaloe House - where we visited this Fall

The house is primped and aired for them.   This week my autographed  copy of From The House of Edward" Essays by Pamela Terry arrived.  I have been savouring the essays and like a precious and rare wine I feel it must be rationed and savoured.   It is a treasure and I strongly recommend it.

I have been following Pamela's blog for a couple of years and, like all whom I follow, my heart delights with each new posting.

Pamela has no idea that I am mentioning her book here today.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Art Show Judges

Ninety Nine Steps to the Beach, a triptych by Mary Rose Holmes, Violetta Chandles and Helen Tilston

My art partners Mary Rose Holmes, Violetta Chandler and I were asked by Leepa Rattner Museum and Artists' Faire Fine Art Gallery  to be the Judges of The Plein Air Paint Out in Tarpon Springs Florida.   Over four days, artists painted en plein air.  The Award Presentation was Sunday past.    This "Event" attracts many of North America's finest plein air painters.

Tarpon Springs, Florida
Tarpon Springs, is on the Gulf Coast of Florida, fifteen miles north of Clearwater Beach.
Settled by Greeks, where the language is still widely spoken.  This seaside town provides delicious Greek cuisine, OPA echoes through the narrow streets, as steaming plates are taken to tables by enthusiastic waiters.  Daily specials of the freshest, local  seafood are offered. 
 Bakeries offer baklava and sumptuous deserts. 

Sponge is harvested from the waters and is available for sale

Artist Mary Rose Holmes viewing art in progress

Easels occupied the dock area, bayou, streets and bi-ways of Tarpon Springs.

Between judging and the presentation of ribbons and party, we took time to practice our trade

Artists Mary Rose, Helen and Violetta painting at Tarpon Springs

Artist Helen Tilston views  pastel paintings

The work submitted was superb and selecting winners was a time consuming and careful task
Violetta and Mary Rose planning presentation speech

Best of Show ribbon pinned by Heather Risley Owner of Gallery

Best of show:  Carole Loiacono
Second Place:  Kathy Detrano
Third Place:     Cathy Morgan

We kept our presentation speech short and Violetta added this beautiful line:

"Shostakovich said artists just need three things:  "Praise, Praise and more Praise"

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Towers on Foot or by horseback

The Gatehouse at the Towers - Helen Tilston

Arriving at Ballysaggartmore Towers, Co. Waterford, Ireland felt like entering a story book or the setting for Lord of The Rings.   They were built in 1850 by Arthur Kiely-Ussher for his wife who wanted to live in a large house. The plan was to build a large castle but having built the bridge, its towers and the gate lodge, the money ran out so work on the castle never began. Instead they had to settle for a much more modest house which was demolished in the 1930s.

The beginning of our walk at the Towers, the sun was shining, Photo Helen Tilston

If the towers are anything to go by, the castle would have been spectacular.

The watchtower at the Towers, photo Helen Tilston
 Between the Lodge and the Towers is a distance of 2 miles.  Walking is the only way, unless one has their own horse.  I can imagine the joy of riding through this forest on horse-back or even better on horse-back, riding side-saddle, as my niece Evelyn Glynn so chooses.

My niece, Evelyn Glynn riding side-saddle and jumping too, photo M. Glynn

The moss encrused tree seemed to dance, photo: Helen Tilston
About one mile into our walk we spot this tree.  Trees of this rare  beauty need rain and as we stood admiring  her the heavens opened and we got drenched.

Tower, Helen Tilston
We had no option but to continue our walk

Tower, tunnel - Helen Tilston
Through this tunnel and another half mile and we shall be at our car.  I look up and spot a Falcon

This song comes to mind and my brother Thomas, who has a beautiful singing voice  and I sing loudly, Mike joins in the chorus.  As we sang the lyrics, Mike wondered if the composer wrote this when visiting "The Towers"

Luke Kelly and the Dubliners. "Song for Ireland"

I am very inspired and shall be painting my memories of this special day.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Exhorbitant Car Insurance Rates for Young Drivers

It is Friday and Sheila's birthday. "A" and I have decided to take her to lunch.  They pick me up and "A" is driving this super sporty 2-door car.  The new Mustang.  I am obliged to sit in the back seat.  Not an easy feat (feet -pun intended) as I wrap myself in pretzel form and slide in.  The car is brand new and has a great sound. Vroom! Vroom! My knuckles cling to the seat as she skids the tires exiting my driveway.  Male drivers roll down their windows and remark: "Nice car Lady"  Next red light:  "Hey Lady- wanna drag"**
The car had wide tyres and hugs the road.

Jonathan, "A"'s  son  is eleven years old.  He is a hard working and brilliant student who constantly gets A's in all subjects.  He loves cars and knows all makes and models but his all time favourite is the new Mustang.

"A" tells us that this is her son, Jonathan's new car, just delivered this week.  Each Friday she plans to drive "His" car to school to pick him up.    In Florida, younger teens at sixteen years of age can drive and all seem to get their driver's license and cars at this age.  Public transit is not very dependable  and if it exists the timetable and routings do not have the frequency needed.

Insurance for young drivers with new cars is frightfully expensive.

Jonathan's parents believe that Jonathan will be motivated to keep  his high grades and will be able to polish and look after his car for the next five years.  He will then  drive and also avail of  lower insurance on his Mustang car will be five years old by that time.

** In N. America to drag is to race.

Mustang Sally - By Wilson Pickett.

When I first heard this song by Wilson Pickett  I was a school girl living in Ireland. My brothers who were singers would ask me to take down the lyrics in shorthand.  We used listen to "The Teen and Twenty Disc Club from Radio Luxenburg each Wednesday night, hosted by Jimmy Saville.  I had no idea what Mustang Sally meant or what the song was about (Mustang cars still have not reached Ireland's shore)


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dromana House - our visit

Dromana House and Gardens offers tours during the early months of summer.
We were very fortunate to be given a private tour, by the family, when we visited in September.
The House has been in the Villiers-Stuart family and their descendants for 21 generations.
 Dromana is situated high above the Blackwater River in County Waterford, Ireland.
 The House was originally a medieval castle built by the powerful FitzGerald family. By the end of the 17th Century, Dromana House was destroyed after a number of sieges but it was rebuilt. Between the 1750s and 1820s many additions were made to the house including a “great bow-sided ballroom.” There were also two large walled gardens on the estate.
During the 1820s the Dromana estate was in ownership of 30,000 acres.  Today there is 30 acres of gardens and approximately 600 acres of forest land.
 The avenue, which stretches up to 4 kilometres, is now publicly owned with the Hindu Gothic styled gate lodge over the River Finisk leading to Dromana House

 Our guide, the mother of current owner Barbara Grubb passionately told us the history of all 21 generations.  This she told through portraits and family photographs. One, the Countess of Desmond who apparently lived until she was 140 years old.

 As we prepared to take or leave I questioned a sketch of Daniel O"Connell in the hallway. Beneath the sketch was this desk upon which was drafted the "Catholic Emancipation Act"

Upon this desk was drafted "The Catholic Emancipation Act"

Daniel O'Connell

Daniel O'Connell (6 August 1775 – 15 May 1847); often referred to as The Liberator, or The Emancipator, was an Irish  political leader in the first half of the 19th century. He campaigned for Caholic Emancipation —the right for Catholics to sit in the Westminster Parliament denied for over 100 years.
View from Dromana Castle facing north toward the Vee

The Blackwater River by Dromana House, Helen Tilston

We are silent as we consider the history of this house and that 21 generations have lived here.  The current owner has two young sons and history shall continue.

 As we drive home, we play this Cd


Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Skellig Islands, our Adventure

Our visit to Skellig Michael, September 22, 2012 Helen Tilston

For several years, The Skellig Islands known as Skellig Michael (Gaelic: Sceilig Mhichíl or Sceilig Mór ) and Little Skellig  in the Atlantic, approximately ten miles from Portmagee, Co Kerry, IRELAND  have been calling me.  I had read George Bernard Shaw's letter to his friend Jackson which was written on 18 September 1910 from the  Parknasila Hotel of his expedition to Skellig Michael.

Our boat in the quiet waters as we depart Portmagee

Two weeks ago our confirmation phone  call to Boatman, Brendan Casey,  ascertained that sailing was "a go".  Our twelve seater boat departed at 10:00 a.m. from Portmagee.  We were warned to wear warm clothing, sturdy hiking shoes and bring water and a snack.  Our  schedule was to spend two hours on Great Skellig and climb the 600 steps to the top of the rock and view the ruins of monastic life.

The harbour was calm and the day sunny and warm.

Skellig Michael A Christian monastery was founded on the island at some point between the 6th and 8th century, and was continuously occupied until its abandonment in the late 12th century.The remains of this monastery, along with most of the island itself, were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996.  In Geeorge Bernard Shaw's letter, he describes Skellig Michael from which I quote "AT the top amazing beehives of flat rubble stones, each overlapping the one below until the circle meets in a dome  -  cells, oratories, churches, and outside them cemeteries, wells, crosses, all clustering like shells on a prodigious rock pinnacle with precipes sheer down on every hand and lodged on the projecting stone coffins made apparently by giants and dropped there God knows how.
Most incredible of all, the lighthouse keeper will not take a tip, but sits proud melancholy and haunted in his kitchen after placing all his pantry at our disposal"

Our 12 seater boat awaiting passengers, I have a seat starboard side, within chatting distance of Our Boatman, Brendan

Two boats departed five minutes apart.   As we exited the calm channel  and enjoyed viewing rural life from our comfortable boat this was soon to change.  Suddenly the ocean began to swell and waves began forming and we clung tightly (I have bruises on my arms and legs from leaning and clinging) A wave washed overboard  on our port side and the  passengers in its path got soaked.  An unusually large wave struck out boat and  suddenly sick bags were distributed by  Captain Brendan with more than half our passengers now sea-sick. Oil skin coats were also given to us.   As we neared Skellig Michael, our Captain radioed the  other boat and it was determined  we could not land on  Skellig Michael - the waves washing over  the dock were 7 feet high.  We were disappointed but understood. 
A Gannet with a wingspan of of close to 72 inches screeched by me, as if to say "I know you are disappointed"

The ocean swelled some more

Waves lapping on our dock area, preventing a landing
 We circled Skellig Michael, home to storm petrels, puffins and manx shearwaters
Then onward to Little Skellig, a seabird sanctuary, home to gannets, fulmar, guilllemots, razorbills, kittiwake  and puffins.

Little Skellig Island, photo Helen Tilston
Little Skellig white with  gannets and their guano (photo Helen Tilston)

The roar of waves as they pummelled the rocks, the screeching sound of the gannets as our boat rocked along and recalling life for the monks who lived, self sufficient on Skellig Michael was my meditation on this Sunday morning.  I shall never forget this experience and look forward to re-visiting  Skellig Michael soon -  perhaps during the month of June when the puffins are in residence.

Puffin on Skellig Michael (photo Brendan Casey)

Captain Brendan switched on the radio and RTE Lyric FM was playing this tune, which will be  associated with The Skelligs

Have you visited Skellig Michael?

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Harp symbol of Ireland and Guinness

Youghal, Co Cork Ireland, Photo: Helen Tilston

My morning walk to the bakery through the walled city of Youghal brings me past this shop.
It speaks softly to me as I head towards the baker for our morning cake of soda bread, scones and daily ration of bread and a treat, perhaps a meringue.
Photo of our kitchen-table, overlooking the Blackwater River which 50 yards away feeds into the Irish sea

  The shop-keeper now knows me from repeat visits and as he hands me my change I ponder the symbol of the harp on the coins

 Since 1922, the government of Ireland has used a  left-facing harp, based on the harp in the library at Trinity College Dublin as its state symbol. The harp emblem is used on official state seals and documents including the Irish passport and has appeared on Irish coinage  from the Middle Ages to the current Irish imprints of Euro coins. Note:  The Harp faces left.

On March 17th, the Feast day of St. Patrick, this symbol or badge is worn in Ireland, plus a few springs of shamrock, picked fresh from the hedge rows. 

Many visitors to Ireland enjoy a glass or pint or Guinness, the famous drink of stout manufactured in Ireland since Arthur Guinness started brewing ales from 1759 at the  St. James's Gate Brewery, Dublin. On 31 December 1759. It is said, he signed (up to) a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum for the unused brewery.  Ten years later, on 19 May 1769, Guinness first exported his ale: he shipped six-and-a-half barrels to Great Britain.

Guinness also use the Harp as their symbol.  You will note the harp faces to the right in their logo and advertising.

I leave you with this beautiful Irish Harpist and singer, Orla Fallon singing a very special song for you.

Do you suppose the composer of Carrickfergus  patronized establishments that served Guinness?