Kentucky’s Fall Colors 2012

Fall is perhaps the most spectacular of all four seasons in Kentucky.  My eyes delight in autumnal bursts of vibrant, rustic colors.  Although the leaves may be dying, drifting slowly to the ground, there is something hopeful about crisp, fall air.

Autumn begins with subtle changes in light, a darkening of the evening hours, and a definitive hint of imminent change.  Before fall’s demise Jack Frost inevitably makes his first visit, delighting my children with our sparkling lawn.

 

There is such beauty in the golden hues of fall, a hidden promise in the fading and wilting happening all around us.

 

As summer fades and the days grow short, some complain about feeling blue.  For me, the trees light up the streets, the fields, the rivers, lifting my spirits.  I love to smell the first waft of smoke from a fireplace burning somewhere.  Summer has wound down, but autumn brings magic to the air.

Fall reminds me the year is nearly over, prodding me to look back and appreciate all the changes and wonderful events of the past year, before the whirlwind days of Christmas and the holidays.

Leaves floating lazily on the currents of a Kentucky creek remind me I can never stop the march of time.  “Just go with the flow” is a motto I often use in life.

I love fall in Kentucky.  The intense, humid heat of summer finally gives way to clear, warm days, reminding me of a “good” Irish summer.

Autumn in Kentucky glows with a deep, serious belief in its own magnificence.

Fall’s riotous color displays lift my heart.  I want to grow old like a leaf, full of color and light, drifting on the winds of time without a care in the world.

“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn

sunshine by staying in the house.  So I spend almost all the

daylight hours in the open air.”

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

“Autumn is a second spring,

when every leaf is a flower.”

- Albert Camus

 

 

“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.”

- William Cullen Bryant

 

And so, as you watch the world change around you this fall, remember the only constant in life is change. Embrace the season, letting your hidden colors glow.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th Of July

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“You have to love a nation that celebrates its

independence every July 4,

not with a parade of guns,

tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House

in a show of strength and muscle,

but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees,

the potato salad gets iffy,

and the flies die from happiness. 

You may think you have overeaten,

but it is patriotism.” 

 

 

~Erma Bombeck

 

This is one of my favorite patriotic quotations.

America celebrates its birthday, not by trying to impress the rest of the world with a show of force, but by focusing on family, friends, connection, and unity – the foundation of greatness for any nation.

And once again, I have found yet another reason why I love America.

 

Happy Birthday, America

 

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Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

Louisville’s Brown Hotel – Home Of The Kentucky Hot Brown

Louisville’s historic Brown Hotel will become home to many tourists visiting our city this week for the famous Kentucky Derby.  Revered as the finest hotel in the city its opulent two-story lobby is truly breathtaking.

To celebrate Derby Week I thought I might dedicate my posts to my new hometown and state.  So why not kick off with a photo tour of Louisville’s most loved hotel.

 

When I walk past The Brown,  I feel like I am once again walking in Dublin.  It’s Georgian-Renaissance facade reminds me of some of Dublin’s old hotels like the Gresham or the Shelbourne.  The elegant red awning offers shade from the sun and shelter from the rain, hearkening back to days long gone.  Somehow, this beautiful hotel makes me feel connected to Louisville and its illustrious past.

The hotel is probably most famous as the birthplace of The Hot Brown, a sandwich Louisville proudly claims as a true original.   In the 1920′s Chef Fred Schmidt created this delicious open-face turkey sandwich, smothered in a creamy mornay sauce and decorated with bacon, tomatoes and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Later this week I’ll try my hand at this classic Kentucky dish.  I picked up a copy of the recipe when I visited the Brown last week.  I may have to tweak it a little bit.  A full quart of cream is used for just two servings.  My arteries are screaming just thinking about it.  So stay tuned this week for my version of a Kentucky Hot Brown.

The welcoming hotel lobby is filled with decorative couches, chaise longues, grand pianos, decorative vases, wooden carvings and beautiful paintings.  Every corner seems to whisper:

“Sit down, relax and stay a while.”

 

Once seated my eyes were drawn upwards towards the ornate, hand-painted, coffered ceiling.  The plasterwork detail reminded me of some of the old castles and demesnes of Ireland, which were built in a bygone era when no expense was spared.

In the 1920′s over 1200 guests visited The Brown Hotel each night for dinner dances.  When midnight munchies struck hungry dancers invaded the restaurant, but grew tired of traditional ham and eggs.  The Hot Brown was born to satisfy these energetic dancers.

At every corner in the hotel my subconscious expected to bump into a dancer from yesteryear,  all decked out with hair freshly cut in a bouncing bob and a flapper dress with dancing fringes.

Or perhaps I might find a monocled gentleman reading in a quiet corner.

Louisville and The Brown Hotel are an integral part of Kentucky’s racing heritage.  Beautiful horse carvings stand proudly on marbled-topped tables, with decorative jockeys inspecting the “turf”.  The beautiful Bottocino marble flooring might be a little hard on those hooves.

Galloping horses remind me this town is dedicated to its favorite sport, a pastime my Irish compatriots also truly appreciate.

And so let the races begin.  Join me this week as we celebrate Kentucky, Louisville, and horse racing throughout the coming days.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

The American Curiosity Shop

Sunny afternoons are perfect for browsing around quaint little curiosity shops.  Small American towns boast some of the most fantastic gift shops in the world.  I love wandering around charming old streets and stores, taking in a little piece of America.

 

I love the term Curiosity Shop, probably because of  Charles Dicken’s novel The Old Curiosity Shop which was set in London.  But only since coming to America have I really grown to appreciate these whimsical stores.  Curiosity shops are definitely a reason why I love America.

During spring break this year we stopped for ice cream in Pine Mountain, Georgia.  I spent a lovely few hours dawdling along Main Street, feasting my eyes on the lovely knick knacks on display.

I always think owners of souvenir shops are cool.  Look at this cute gal I found greeting customers outside one shop door.

Truth be told, there probably isn’t a single item for sale in a curiosity shop that could truly be categorized as a ‘need’.  Yet after rambling around the hodge podge of collectibles on display I just can’t help myself.  A list of ‘wants’ starts forming in the back of my mind.

Before long I start murmuring to myself:

“I want that!….. And that!….. And what about this!”

Everything is just so tempting!

Even a simple rocking chair screams “come in and see what we have inside!”

This beautiful pair are perfect for sipping a relaxed cup of coffee in the morning.  Makes you feel your own make-upless face ain’t half bad!

This crafty bench caught my eye the moment I passed by.

And what bird could resist a birdhouse like this one?

I went quackers for this pair.

My grandmother would have browsed then announced “there’s no money in this house for tricky trackies.”  She never had much extra to spend on non-essentials.  I always loved her turn of phrase.  I bet if she had a few extra pennies to spare she would have filled her shelves with all kinds of bits and bobs that took her fancy.

And definitely she would have loved this car license plate.  It was not for sale.  I spotted it on a classic old MG and thought it was oh so cute!

At first blush these little art shops may seem inconsequential.  Yet, after spending over twenty years living in America I have come to realize what an important role they play in supporting arts and crafts throughout the nation.  By displaying the superb craftsmanship of local artists these curiosity shops help preserve and celebrate their skills, helping shape our cultural heritage for today and tomorrow.

So when you have a few moments to spare, take the exit off the highway and explore the little slice of Americana that small town curiosity shops have to offer.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

Thanks America For An Abundance Of Clean Toilets

Potty training triplets involved developing an astute awareness of the nearest location of public restrooms.  During those first few months of independent toileting the words “I got to go” echoed through my brain.

Wherever we went I seemed to spend my time running to and from the bathroom, escorting one of my trio to their throne.  As I responded to all those urgent tinkling needs, I developed an appreciation for America’s abundance of toilets, bathrooms, rest rooms, loos, or whatever you choose to call the facilities.

Yes, I am going to christen America, the ‘Land of Toilets’.  Every time my sister visits from Ireland, she praises America for its numerous, clean bathrooms. So, here are my reasons for loving American toilets.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/elleyo/5239579277/Image Credit

Rest stops line the highway system, at well-paced intervals. You never have to drive for miles on end, in search of a clean loo. There is always a toilet at a gas station, a restaurant, or a rest stop.

Ireland has built some beautiful new motorways in the past ten years, but unfortunately the rest area plan was not completed at the same time as the roadways.

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/72213316@N00/3062414489/sizes/z/in/photostream/Image Credit

Toilets in America are free. One of my pet peeves in Dublin, is when I am absolutely dying to use the facilities – you know, when you think your eyeballs are turning a light, shade of primrose – and you discover you have to pay a euro to go. There is nothing worse than standing cross-legged, as you rummage through your purse for change.  Spending a penny has been adversely affected by inflation.  The privilege now requires a whole euro.

This year when we were in Ireland, I finally found the toilets on the tip-top floor of the St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Center in Dublin.  I rummaged through my purse trying to find my wallet for the requisite euro, while my four little ones crossed their legs and waited with a worried frown on each little face.  The attendant looked at them, then at me, before ushering us in quickly without payment.  Their frantic four-year old dancing did the trick.

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In America toilets are simply called ‘toilet’ or ‘rest room’, and not by the most confusing European term of all – ‘water closet’ or ‘WC’.

Many Irish directional signs, just display a big ‘WC ‘and an arrow. American tourists must be bewildered by where Irish toilets are hidden.

And trust me, public rest rooms are few and far between in Ireland when you get out of the large cities.  A  pub is your best bet in a small town, but usually you are expected to buy something, not just waltz in to use the ‘WC’.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaechler/2417947760/Image Credit

Thankfully, the toilet will not be a hole in the ground in America.   What more can I say on this topic?  I think the picture says it all!

Toilets are clean, and 99% of the time there will be soft toilet paper, not the crinkly, scraping, nonabsorbent, cheapo kind, sometimes provided in Ireland.

http://vintagerio.com/vintage_clip_art_g52-black_white_clipart_p2429.htmlImage Credit

No self-cleaning, cubicle-spraying device is going to ambush you, if you fail to leave the premises in a timely fashion. Paris is proud of the availability of self-cleaning toilets throughout the city. In Paris I used the facilities in a state of sheer anxiety, staring at the spray nozzles, in deadly fear one would spit even the tiniest of warning drops.

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The sign to the left reads:  “These toilets are automatically washed, disinfected and dried.”  Whatever you do, don’t open the door, change your mind, then close it again without exiting.

A handle, a pull chain, a button or a remote-control, tooshy detector creates a flush of formidable force in the good old USA. I visited India many moons ago. No automatic flushes guaranteed there. Most of the time a bucket or pail stood beneath a faucet. You filled the bucket with water, then emptied it down the hole-in-the-ground toilet to take care of business. A non-splash, pouring technique took many attempts to master.

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American toilet cubicles are spacious, unlike some of their European counterparts. In Ireland toilets have been added to some extremely old buildings, in very tight quarters. It’s a breath-holding, butt-squeezing, tummy-tucking maneuver, to re-zip a pair of jeans in some Irish public restrooms. There’s no resting in there, if you plan to return to public view looking anyway respectable.

And so I say thank you to America, for an abundance of toilets.  During the trying months of potty training three children, you made my life a little easier.

 

Slan agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom