Friday, June 25, 2004

First Dinner Party…

And it looked like a potential disaster. One of our guests called to tell me that she is coming, but wouldn’t be her usual happy and festive self because her mum had just been diagnosed with a malignancy in her breast. Then my sister called and told me that our cousin Joann died at age 49 after being very ill with cancer.

I thought about calling it off, but I knew I could use some propping up and so could my friend. Seems to me that it is easy to be with friends during happy carefree days, but weathering storms together is what really builds strong relationships.

In Haddonfield, I entertained all the time. My house was always full of people eating, drinking, listening to music and talking about everything from local intrigue to politics. I loved the sort of salon atmosphere at my home and when I packed up, I could hear echoes of past dinners. It was hard for me to walk away from Potter Street. I had really made a life there and leaving, even for a wonderful relationship, was tough. Haddonfield is where I truly and totally came into my own as a person. I met many new people and forged new relationships as well as keeping and nurturing the old friendships and family ties that had sustained me as a single person for years. When I left there, I remembered the hundreds of meals we had all shared there, all the good times, deep conversations as well as low gossip sessions, hair cutting one crazy pizza night (another great thing – pizza night, usually a Friday, when we all let all week’s woes go), holidays, barbecues, famous tree trimming parties, all sorts of really wonderful and memorable times.

It was nice to cook for my friends, even nicer that two of my Haddonfield pals, Jenny and Paul, were among our guests. As I have said before, having them nearby is a real comfort. When I am homesick or just a little blue, I can get on the phone with Jenny and talk about South Jersey which inevitably leads to a laugh. They came, along with two other close friends making it just the six of us, and Henry. I had fun preparing the food. I made charmoula, which is a Moroccan paste to put on grilled chicken, fish, or pork. Not having a grill, I baked the chicken and got good results. Here’s how to make the charmoula:

¾ Cup fresh flat leaf parsley
¾ Cup fresh cilantro
2 t cumin powder
4 cloves garlic
1 t paprika
½ t cayenne pepper
3 T fresh lemon juice
6 T good olive oil
1 T tomato paste
salt to taste

Blend in food processor until smooth. Put in fridge overnight for maximum flavor blending. Put on top of meat, fish or poultry when it has about 10 minutes left to cook. Serve any leftover charmoula on the side. This recipe may be doubled. (Thank you, John Joyce, king of charmoula makers.) It really is quite yummy when served atop a bed of couscous. We also had zucchini, a nice arugula salad with my homemade vinaigrette dressing and a cherry clafouti. I think everyone was pleased with the food. Let’s put it this way, everything got demolished. Good sign.

Early in the evening it had been raining, and then the sun came out leaving a huge rainbow in the sky which was easily visible from our balcony. So beautiful, and just the silly little pick me up we all seemed to need.

It was a nice time, maybe a tad more subdued than is normal for us, but it was comforting to be together.

I Love Jen

It is easy to like Jen. Affable, engaging, she has impeccable social skills honed from her father Tony, who is the master, and from her years in sales, among other things. I will never forget the first time I met her at Melissa and Bill’s great place in Collingswood. She had been a bridesmaid in a wedding and was cutting out on the stiffs to go out with us to Dirty Frank’s in Philly. Her hair was lacquered to within an inch of its life and she appeared to be pulling hundreds of bobby pins from it. All the while kibitzing with us! I liked her, but had no clue of just how intertwined our lives would become.

At first when I met her, I thought she was a very pleasant, friendly and dare I say it, lightweight gal. Boy was I ever wrong. Over the years I have gotten to her on a deeper basis. There’s a lot going on under the surface with Jen. As cheerful as she can seem, she’s no twinkie. This is a woman with substance, who stands her ground, often quietly. I always marveled at the ease which with she appeared to live her life. Everything seemed to come effortlessly. Nothing seemed to rock her world. Until her mom died, I don’t think she internalized much, or questioned things. That’s when she came fully into her own. We talk about the death of her mom and my dad a lot and about the transforming effect it has had on each of us. We both weathered some pretty serious personal storms in the wake of those events. I know that my outlook on life changed after that and so did Jen’s. It’s easier to stand up for ourselves now, , and above all, to say no.

So now she is my closest friend here in Munich, someone to whom I just went running in tears the other day, who bolsters me and makes me realize, at times, just how silly I am. I adore her and Paul, feel that I can confide in them about anything without being ridiculed. They introduced me to Chris too, which certainly buys them big points. Jen also introduced me to Joanna, an amazing gift in its own right.

It’s hard here without my huge entourage. I feel really lucky to have Jen and Paul, and of course several others. They have helped the transition a great deal. To be able to talk to Jen about Jersey is great. Makes home feel much closer. To paraphrase Martha, a very good thing.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Thinking about War

Driving through the German and Italian countryside these past few weeks, one cannot help but notice the beautiful fields of bright red poppies which have sprung up haphazardly everywhere. It is impossible for me to see a poppy, especially here in Europe, and not think of the First World War and John McCrae’s haunting poem “In Flanders Field”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw
The Torch: be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Having of late read several books set during the First and Second World Wars, and hearing news out of Baghdad every single day, I have been obsessed by war in general. Does anything change except the technology? Young people die and the world is horrified yet we still go on killing senselessly. I have thought about this a million times over the years and I keep coming back to a feeling that truly bothers me, that if man were truly peaceful and loving, war would not exist. I am an optimist and want to believe that man is good, yet when one looks at history, past and current, one is tempted to believe the worst, that we are exercising our free choice when we enter into a state of war.

I don’t pretend to have an answer. Looking for resources on this question, I came across a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that fascinated me, “While war and non-violence do sound contradictory, they are both conflict resolution vehicles. I have said time and again that Satyagraha (non-violent struggle) is not same as making peace. It is still a fight that has to be fought as bravely as a soldier in a war -- just the weapon is different.

Many people mistake non-violence as compromise or avoidance of conflict. It is not. On the other hand, it is standing up for what is right (truth) and justice. Fighting a violent war is better than accepting injustice. So, really there is no contradiction in fighting a just war, and believing in non-violence. Both are duties to be carried out to preserve justice and truth.”

Part of the problem is deciding what is and what isn’t just. Al Qaeda feels perfectly justified propagating violence on us. We felt justified enough in our outrage in the wake of September 11th to bomb Afghanistan. They think they are in the right and we superciliously believe we have the moral high ground. Lest you think I sympathize with them; I do not. However, I wonder if we are, indeed reaping what we have sown, for hundreds of years. I don’t know. I wish I did.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Marriage is love.

Abba Gold

One of the happiest weeks of my life was spent with my close friends Jenny and Paul, Joanna, and John and Tom in a rented villa in the wine town of Montalcino in Tuscany. It was October and the light shines differently in Italy in that month. It is diffused and seems to reflect off the newly mown fields of hay. Italy in October is a wonder. With my friends, it is a dream! Sitting at dinner sharing tastes and wine, drinking in the café afterwards are memories I cherish.

Where is this leading to Abba Gold, you ask? We had a rented car and we were driving allover the place singing songs. We got stuck on Abba for a bit and one afternoon at a rest stop, I saw a cassette of it and instead of us singing a cappella we sang along with the record the entire week. It’s happy music and every time I play it I think of my friends and that magical week. “Waterloo” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” are my two favorite songs. Pure pop songs, perfect in their simplicity.

I’ve been depressed this week and Abba, as silly as it may sound, is helping.

Several Days in Italy with Friends from Home

Lisa Evans and I became fast friends bonding over cooking, celebrity gossip, a mutual love of travel and a very similar value system. I thought that genteel Lisa would think I was a vulgar with my salty sense of humor and no holds barred approach to everything. Lucky me that she didn’t. She married Mike, who in a stretch could be a male version of me, only a tad naughtier!

Last year when Joanna and I were in Italy with Jenny and Paul, Lisa and Mike joined us for a few days and we had a great deal of fun drinking and eating and talking constantly about food. When we tired of food, we veered off to politics, but we always returned back to food. Lisa and I can spend hours discussing the merits of Le Creuset cookware, or Viking stoves, or cuts of meat. Many nights have been spent in either of our kitchens drinking a bottle of wine and discussing cooking techniques. What a great way to become friends. I would tell her about my all time culinary heroes, my sister Gina, who is the best all around cook I have ever known, Joanna, who excels at the old favorites like spaghetti and meatballs, and John Joyce, who can make the most beautiful cakes in the world, whip up a wicked pesto from basil in his garden and mix a mojito! It was fun getting to know her.

So when she and Mike, who I love to pieces as well, said they were coming to Europe, we worked like crazy to find a place to meet that was mutually convenient for both couples. We settled on Lake Como in Northern Italy which was the most absolutely perfect place in the world.

Chris and I drove down through the Swiss Alps. For me, it was very exciting, five countries in one morning – Germany, Austria, Switzerland, tiny Liechtenstein, Switzerland and finally Italy. It was a terrifying drive, up a high mountain snow filled pass with at least a hundred hair pin turns. It was white knuckle time for both of us. Chris appeared confident, but that night over drinks he told me succinctly that we’d be finding another route home.

Lake Como is simply the most beautiful place on earth, stunning. High mountains studded with villages coming straight down to the water. Ochre and pink colored buildings everywhere, palm trees and bougainvilleas; the entire landscape was opulent and magical. We spent our time together easily, eating, drinking and laughing. Chris got a huge kick out of Mike, who puts the “I” in individual. We had some really good belly laughs of a very blue nature! It was lovely to see them

Seduced by Ireland

I had been to Ireland before and thought it beautiful. However, for some reason I wasn’t overly thrilled with the prospect of returning, but was quite happily surprised by my reaction to our days spent there.

If Italy is a sophisticated woman with secrets, then Ireland is a wide open and genuine farm girl. I was disarmed by the smiling people immediately. I ran right into someone on O’Connell Street in Dublin and was expecting the colder Munich response and was floored when the gentleman apologized and we both ended up laughing!

There’s an ease and gentleness about the Irish people that is very appealing. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, laughing and grinning. How much of this happiness is Guinness driven I couldn’t begin to guess, but it is very engaging.

After our days at the wedding in Dublin, we drove down to the South for a few days of dramatic coastal scenery. To me, there is nothing like the combination of mountains and sea and West Cork and Kerry both delivered in this aspect. We spent an entire day driving around the Mizen Peninsula, which was full of rugged cliffs and secluded beaches. We stopped often to admire the jaw droppingly beautiful views. It was a great day for us, one I think we will remember when we are old.

We also spend a few days in the North. Chris’ friend Brian hails from Port Stewart, about 20 miles from Derry, but light years away in that it is an idyllic beach town whereas Derry has struggled for years with what the Irish call “The Troubles”. We spent a few days with Brian and his girlfriend Triona exploring the Causeway Coast, home of the world famous Giant’s Causeway and the surrounding area. The Giant’s Causeway is an amazing spot, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a formation of hexagonal basalt columns coming out of the sea.

There’s a charming fable surrounding this beautiful spot. In actuality it was formed by volcanic activity 60 million years ago, but I like to think it happened as follows. The tale is that it was built by an Ulster Giant named Finn McCool. He supposedly built it during an argument with the Scottish giant whose name is Benandonner. As the argument dragged on, McCool built the causeway. The folklore suggests that Finn became frightened of the immense Scottish giant and ran home when intimidated. Benandonner, however, followed him across the Causeway. This is where the story gets sort of cute. Finn’s wife disguised him as a baby, putting him to “sleep” in a crib. When Benandonner arrived and saw the size of the baby, he figured the father would be ten times his size, and went running back to Scotland, tearing up the Causeway on his way back. It’s a sweet tale, and to my mind, quintessentially Irish.

Our last day was spent in Belfast. We stayed at the Europa Hotel, which, though it once had the reputation of being the most bombed hotel in Europe, now has been redone to luxury standards. Our main reason for visiting Belfast was to see the murals in both the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods. We had been reading about them, and thought that in addition to seeing all the homages to the famine, we ought to see something depicting the sectarian violence in Belfast. We took an hour and a half long personal black taxi tour in which the driver explained the nuances of the murals. It was incredibly fascinating as well as very sad. The tour took us through the Protestant neighborhood of the Shankill Road, as well as the Catholic neighborhood of the Falls Road. We were prepared for a somewhat grim and surreal experience by an earlier sighting of the Orange Order donning their regalia and getting ready for a march. For those of you unfamiliar with this group, the Orange Order is a Protestant organization which arose in the wake of the Battle of the Boyne which was won by William of Orange who successfully drove King James, a Catholic, into exile thereby establishing Protestant supremacy. It struck me that for Protestants in Northern Ireland, the day of celebration, July 12, is somewhat akin to our Fourth of July. I found the Orange Order to be very disturbing and think that their practice of marching menacingly through Catholic neighborhoods to be mean-spirited and violence inducing. Seeing tehm dressed in full regalia gave me the creeps as if I were seeing the KKK assemble. July 12 is a day of bonfires. In the Shankill Road neighborhood on June 6th when we visited there were huge piles of trash, furniture and pallets all stacked up somewhat haphazardly in preparation for the bonfires in which the tricolor flags of Ireland are burnt as well as effigies of the Pope, the head of what the Protestants refer to as the “Church of Rome”. I saw a little red headed boy of about seven years old playing atop the trash pile it was heartbreaking when I started to think about the larger picture.

The murals themselves were fascinating. I admit to a bias, but even Chris, who grew up in the Protestant Church of England, agreed with me that the Protestant murals were mostly of an aggressive paramilitary nature and appeared to extol violence. Their strident murals were full of hooded gunmen with weapons. There were several glorifying William of Orange, or King Billy, as he is “affectionately” known. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. We made a brief stop at the so-called Peace Wall, a huge partition separating the Protestant neighborhood from the Catholic. We then drove through the gates (which are closed at night) to the Falls Road neighborhood and saw the other side of the story. As I said, my bias has always been on the side of the downtrodden and oppressed Catholics. I am not sure if the painters of the Catholic murals have better advisors than the Protestants do, but their murals were of a more pacifist nature. Believe me, I know the violence that the Catholics have wrongly unfurled on the Protestants. I deplore it. Woven into the Catholic murals were paintings of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. Do you see where I am headed? They were aligning themselves with the side of justice, or right. To me, it seemed brilliant. Paintings of famous hunger strikers such as Bobby Sand were decorated with doves and other symbols of peace. As I said, I just think the Catholics understand public relations much better.

On the Catholic side, homes backed right up to the Peace Wall, which was several stories high. The backs of the homes were fortified and the wall was scarred with black burn marks. Our driver, a Protestant, explained that the Protestants throw petrol bombs over the wall which bounce off the fortifications and explode against the Wall. Unspeakable. Kids live in those houses. Don’t let your lucky Haddonfield children complain about anything. They aren’t climbing on trash piles and having bombs chucked at their homes.

It was a tough tour to take, but a very eye opening one. I am glad I had a chance to see it. I think it’s really important to see the dark side of places as well as the beautiful scenic sides. For the same reason I felt it necessary to see Dachau, I felt it very important to see Belfast.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Henry Takes A Beating

Henry came back from the kennel with lacerations allover his back and legs. Apparently some bigger dog attacked him. I am angry and upset beyond belief. This is the second time that my docile, wonderful dog has been hurt by a more aggressive member of his own species. It truly breaks my heart. I don’t understand how it happened. Frau Kufner was apologetic but not exactly forthcoming with an explanation. In theory, it sounds great to have all the dogs together, but not if one goes after another!

He’ll be fine. The wounds, which are all shaved and cleaned, are healing nicely, but he looks awful and is walking very slowly. I just cannot imagine what was going through his sweet little mind when this happened.

This presents us with a real dilemma. Chris has a trip to South Africa coming up in two weeks and I am able to accompany him. It is a fabulous opportunity for me to visit a part of the world I have been fascinated by my whole life. However, I don’t know how I feel about leaving H. Is that crazy or what? I really feel a strong responsibility to him and do not want to leave him to get hurt again. Anyone want to fly over here and take care of him?

Two Deaths

The death of Ronald Reagan didn’t move me at all. Even though I was unable to understand his huge popularity in life, I was still bowled over by the sentiment and grief expressed by my fellow Americans. It was as if he had become a deity overnight. I did feel for his wife, who whether I liked her or not, really loved and stood by her husband. I also felt sorry for his kids who had had difficulties in their relationships with both of their parents. It is not easy letting go of someone when there are regrets about the past. I hope everything was resolved for them before their dad got ill. But I won’t bore you with my personal opinions on Ronnie. If you know me, you can well imagine what I think.

Ray Charles’ death touched me deeply. Ray’s voice told you that he felt things differently, stronger than most people. Can you hear “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray without being moved? I certainly can’t. I listened to a little tribute to him this morning and one of the songs played was Ray’s version of “America the Beautiful”. Why did I feel more patriotic when I heard that than when I heard the “Star Spangled Banner” at President Reagan’s funeral? Who knows? Bye, Ray, we’ll really miss you….

A Yummy Dinner

After weeks of eating out in Italy and in Ireland, it was great to come home and cook! I made this risotto last night. It was creamy and loaded with flavor. In addition to the chicken stock I added a bit of white wine which gave it a fresh taste.

Risotto of Greens, Garlic, Anchovies and Capers
by Antony Worrall Thompson

Servings: 4
Level of difficulty: Intermediate
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes


2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
350g Arborio rice
8 handfuls of salad leaves (rocket, spinach, escarole, mustard greens), roughly torn
55g unsalted butter
115g Parmesan, freshly grated
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp tiny capers, drained and rinsed

You will need:

Cook's knife, chopping board, saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon, ladle


1. Pour the stock into a large saucepan, bring to the boil and keep it simmering all the time that you are making the risotto.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes until softened but not browned.

3. Add the anchovies and rice and stir to coat the grains in the oil. Cook for 2 minutes until the rice becomes translucent.

4. Add a ladle or two of stock. Stir the rice until it has absorbed most of the stock. Add a little more stock and repeat. Continue to add stock little by little until the rice is almost cooked. The mixture should be creamy without being too wet.

5. Add the greens and cook for a further 3 minutes until the leaves have wilted. Fold in the butter and Parmesan and stir to combine. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

6. Just before serving fold in the capers. Serve immediately
Books I’ve Read Lately

Running With Scissors & Dry, both by Augusten Burroughs. RWS is an account of Burroughs’ completely screwed up childhood and is at once both haunting and hilarious. There’s some truly disturbing chapters, yet they are fascinating and redeemed by their humor. Dry is Burroughs’ true tale of his battle with alcoholism in the crazy world of New York advertising. His journey towards sobriety is, again, like RWS, harrowing in parts, yet very witty. Both are well worth a read.

On Green Dolphin Street, Charlotte Gray, and Birdsong – all by Sebastian Faulks. These three books are all informed by war, and each is compulsively readable. The best was Birdsong, a treatise on World War I as well as a love story. I was having a hard time reading certain parts of it. Not being as well informed about trench warfare in the Great War as I might have been, I was shocked by his unflinching descriptions. It isn’t an easy or light book, but it is well worth some time.

Knitting in Plain English – Maggie Righetti. All you folks at Starbucks know how consumed I became with knitting so that a knitting primer is on my list should come as no surprise. This woman is practical and funny and cuts right through the crap. If you are at all interested in knitting, this book should be on your shelf.

Virgins of Venice – Mary Laven. This book is about Renaissance convents in Venice, and deftly explores the notion of dumping unwanted, unmarriageable daughters of the nobility into the convent, which was a disaster for both the women and the church which was filled with nuns without a true vocation. As a result of this imprisonment, the nuns began to rebel and the cloisters became rife with intrigue. I picked it up when I was in Venice and started reading it there. Mary Laven is a Cambridge professor and this is a scholarly work, but highly readable. It’s got an underlying feminist twist to it as well, which I found compelling.

The Murder of Helen Jewett - Patricia Cline Cohen. Good detective piece about the real
life murder of a prostitute in early 1800’s New York. It’s a good social history of the city in its early days. Sex and murder, two of my favorite themes! Not for everyone’s tastes, but those of you with, shall we say, more prurient interests might enjoy this.

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold. This spooky book was so compelling that I picked it up one morning and stop reading it until I had finished that evening. It’s a coming of age story, but a tragic one. It’s about loss and mourning and though unrelentingly sad, is transcendent too. It was a gripping read. Worth a day on the couch! Sebold’s memoir Lucky, a dark story about the author’s rape at age 18 is on the next pile of books I plan to plow through!

What Was She Thinking: Notes On A Scandal – Zoe Heller. Run, do not walk, to the library and get this one, a great read on a teacher in her forties having a dalliance with her 15 year old student. Told through the eyes of a friend of the offending teacher, this book has got it all. The friend is a bitter, lonely spinster who becomes obsessed with the teacher, a bohemian, upper class beauty whose life is a tangled weave. I loved this book on many levels.

Hitler’s Niece – Ron Hansen. A truly mesmerizing novel that explores Hitler’s true life relationship with his niece, Geli Raubal, who ultimately killed herself (or did she?), during a turbulent relationship with the dictator. For me, this book was fascinating on several levels, not the least of which that it is set in Munich, and many of the scenes take place in our neighborhood, Schwabing, through which Hitler cut a deep path during his inauspicious early beginnings as well as on his rise to power as the Fuhrer.

Against All Enemies: America’s War on Terror – Richard Clarke. Clarke’s take on the Bush administration’s bungling of the war on terror as well as their obsession with Saddam Hussein. Clarke worked for Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton and Bush 2, and paints a really compelling picture of how our country, somewhat unwittingly, allowed an organization like Al-Qaeda to grow and flourish. He saves his most scathing observations for W though. W comes off as vastly incompetent as well as downright scary. I am not sure what I think about this book, as in some ways it seems very opportunistic. However, whatever you think of Clarke, the picture he paints of the chaos and panic at the highest levels of government on the morning of September 11th is riveting. Worth a read

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Jack & Henry, Munich 2004
Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Deification of Ronald Reagan

At the risk of offending some of you, I just cannot sit back and watch silently as Ronald Reagan is transformed into a godlike figure. None of this will come as any surprise to those who know me at all.

I have been grappling for years with Reagan’s popularity among my fellow citizens. The guy was a lightweight B-movie actor who did more damage to our country in his eight years in office than our most reviled president, Richard Nixon. Thanks to Reagan, we saw our deficit soar, largely in part to his ill advised tax cuts and defense spending on such preposterous things as the proposed Star Wars Missile Defense System. Our country was embarrassed globally by the Iran Contra Affair which marked the unfortunate entrance of Oliver North into the popular lexicon. The rich got richer, and the poor got poorer. Nancy employed an astrologer to tell her the most judicious days for her and Ronnie to act on things. His stance against reproductive rights was appalling. However, as I look back on his long list of offenses, I think the worst thing about him was his incredible callousness when the country began to deal with the burgeoning AIDS crisis. His inactions probably caused the disease to spread much further than it would have had serious interventions been put into place. It was a reaction to the Christian right and most likely to his own latent homophobia. It was sickening.

Reagan as beloved American patriot. It’s just so wrong. I was 25 years old when Reagan was first elected in 1984 and remember the incredulity I felt when people of my age told me they were supporting him. It’s akin to the feelings I have when ordinary middle class people tell me that they love George W. Bush. Simply put, Reagan didn’t, and Bush doesn’t, look out for us! Yet we supported Reagan overwhelmingly, and we are only now just beginning to question W en masse. What the hell is wrong with us that we couldn’t suss out Reagan or Bush?

Am I totally off the mark here? I understand well the phenomenon of forgetting the bad things when someone dies, and that’s okay if it’s someone in your family, but to my mind not at all okay if it is your president.

But that’s just my two cents.
Irish Wedding

The reason we went to Ireland was to attend the wedding of Chris’ good friends Will, who is British, and Tara, who is a raving beauty of an Irish girl with dark hair, fair skin and an explosive large as life personality. One cannot help but be drawn to this woman who has a warmth and generosity about her as well as a salty as hell outlook on the world. I liked Will too, but that boy is going to be living in his wife’s shadow! From the looks of it, he doesn’t appear to mind!
They were unable to marry in the Catholic Church because of some glitch so they married in the Church of Ireland, which is Protestant (as is Will). It was a really lovely service. One of Tara’s friends sang “Mna na hEireann (The Women of Ireland)” a cappella and in Gaelic and it truly was a transcendent experience, haunting and beautiful.
The wedding was a blast. It was held at Clontarf Castle, a big imposing medieval looking place all sorts of animal heads on the wall (Can I ever look at a mounted deer without thinking of Tom Bullock? I think not!) Everyone was really friendly. Tons of Chris’ friends who I hadn’t yet met were there and they all really went out of their way to be nice to me. It was great. I enjoyed talking to everyone. It was a mixed crowd of Brits and Irish, but every last person was interested in chatting and laughing. I really felt very comfortable. And truthfully, I have never met funnier people than Chris’ British pals. These people seem to have cornered the market on wit.

The wedding went on till six in the morning with songs being sung and all sorts of hijinks. The next day Will and Tara had hired a bus and somehow fifty of us managed to go to a pub high in the Dublin Hills for an all day session of Irish music and Guinness drinking. It was a great time. The bride and groom really let down their hair as did the assembled group. We were there for seven hours…..needless to say, dropped into bed and slept like a baby afterwards.

Count Your Blessings

The serendipitous nature of my life has been pointed out to me most poignantly recently by the terminal illness of my cousin Joanne, who is 49 and in the last stages of brain cancer. I have sauntered through life, mostly unscathed with a few exceptions (which most of you folks all know about). My life has truly been charmed in so many ways with wonderful loving people, a love of nature and art, an ability to travel extensively and learn about the world and so many other things. Joanne’s life hasn’t been so easy. She’s had some hard knocks and reversals. Why am I lucky in this respect and she isn’t? Is it luck of birth or fate? I don’t know. All I know is that she is suffering and I am traipsing around Europe with a man I love and who loves me back with passion. The juxtaposition between our lives saddens me and makes me realize how good my life is, how very precious it is.

Count your blessings. Love your family and friends well. That’s what life is all about.
Transit of Venus

I just spent the better part of this morning outside trying to view the Transit of Venus through a pinhole projector of my own making. The phenomenon known as the Transit of Venus occurs when Venus passes directly between the earth and the sun and appears as a black dot crossing the sun. It hasn’t happened in 122 years so I thought I would take advantage of this opportunity to see it for myself. However, it happens two times in 8 years every 120 years or so, so perhaps in 8 years it will be visible from the East Coast the States. Am I a geek or what?

If you are interested, here’s a web site that has some interesting information -