Malahide Castle: A Gift From a Friend

Malahide was not on my list of places to see in Ireland. I heard about it from one of the walking tours in Dublin. I was on my fifth day in Dublin and decided to explore the small town by myself.

It is really easy to travel around the Dublin area. I walked everyplace and scoped out the bars and coffee shops. I think there are about as many coffee shops as there are bars.

I took the opportunity to take a train to Malahide and it was worth the experience.

Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle is located in Malahide, Dublin County, Ireland. Take the Irish Rail at the Dublin/Connaly station. The train leaves the station every 25 minutes. The time from Dublin to Malahide is about 30-35 minutes long.

This squirrel is in front of the Irish Rail and the Dublin/Connaly station

When you arrive in the town of Malahide, you can take this train or walk. The train is not free and many times is reserved for groups. The walk is about 20 minutes to the castle.

The train from the station to the castle

The castle grounds include the courtyards, a place to have coffee or a quick lunch, the garden with plants from all over the world, and a playground for young children.

A visual map of the castle and courtyard

Admission to Malahide Castle and the Gardens is $14.97.

Castle admission entrance

Malahide Castle is one of the oldest castles in Ireland. Malahide “Mullach Ide” means the “the hill of Ide” or “Ide’s sandhill” in Gaelic. The Vikings settled in Malahide in 795. King Henry II built the castle and gifted it to his friend Sir Richard Talbot. Sir Talbot provided his support and protected the King during the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The Talbots came to Ireland as a Norman family originally from France. They lived in the castle from 1185-1976. They were considered one of the most prominent and powerful Irish Catholic families in Dublin. When the Battle of the Boyne took place, fourteen members of the Talbot family sat down to have breakfast. They were killed before evening.

The dining room where the fourteen family members were killed

It is said that the little girl’s eyes will follow you all of the way up the stairs

Coat of arms “Hound and Wolf”

Rose Talbot, the last living relative, sold the castle to the State of Ireland to help pay the inheritance taxes.

Study room

Fireplace in Living Room

Remains of the Abbey. It was also used as a cemetary.

Talbot Botanical Gardens

The Talbot Botanical Gardens is a walled garden. It has seven greenhouses and a Victorian Conservatory. Plants from the Southern Hemisphere, Chile, and Australia, grow in the garden.

Victorian Conservatory

 

 

Plants from the Southern Hemisphere

Public areas and picnic grounds 

The City Malahide

Malahide is an affluent coastal suburban town.  One thousand people lived in Malahide in the early 19th century. The local industry was salt harvesting and other commercial operations importing coal and construction materials.

The population increased to 15,846 in 2011. It is now a seaside resort for wealthy Dublin city dwellers.

Malahide neighbourhood home

Mermaid by the sea

Malahide is a small town with a great personality. The people are friendly, the food is fresh, and not inundated with tourists. A car is not necessary to get around. It is easier to walk because there isn’t much parking available.

Malahide might not be on your list of places to visit in Ireland, but it should be.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Collage: Sunrise in Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills, Arizona is one of the most beautiful places to take Sunrise and Sunset photos. These were taken on Novemeber 6, 2017. They have not been touched up in anyway.

Seeing the sunrise every morning makes me feel everything is going to be alright.

It only takes five minutes to change from the photo above to the one below.

The way I see the world is different than how another might see it. That’s OK.

Appreciate what you have today. You might not have it tomorrow.

Only nature can paint a picture so beautiful and represent so many colors.

Have a great Day!

Gola (Gabhla) Island: A Photo Blog

The Island of Gola was once a prosperous fishing village of two hundred inhabitants. Fishing was not an industry that could be operated year round.

In the off-seasons, most of the able-bodied men, girls, and children left for rural Scotland. For six months they were farmers, domestic workers, and construction workers.

In the twentieth century, people on the island began migrating to rural Scotland and never returned to the island life.

The island comes alive in the Summer. Children play in the area, families bring food for picnics and swim in the pristine waters and beaches. There are no public facilities on the island. A small store provides snacks and drinks during the busy season.

Our group, The Ireland Writing Retreat, went on a four-hour hike around the island. We had lunch with Eddie and his wife, the only inhabitants of the island.

Snack shop

Our transportation to Gola Island

An abandoned church

Many buildings are left abandoned. Most of them are still in their original condition.

Unbaptized Catholic babies cemetery

Unbaptized Catholic babies were not allowed to be buried with other Catholics. They were buried in this cemetery. People leave hand- painted colored stones in remembrance of their souls.

Hand-painted stones left behind by visitors

A white cross in the children’s cemetary

A memorial to two residents who died in 9/11

Grazing sheep

Farmers leave their goats and sheep on the island all year to graze. The blue stripe on the sheep indicates the owner. The sheep lead the life of luxury. They can eat and wander as much as they like. The farmers come to check on them when the weather permits.

Twin Cave

Tourists come on the island for the hiking adventure. A map and marked posts provide the directions. You must be careful. There have been hikers who have fallen over the cliffs.

The island of Gola in the distance

 

 

Frank Lloyd Wright: Cedar Rock, Iowa

“As we live and as we are, Simplicity – with a capital “S” – is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.”
Frank Lloyd Wright, The Natural House

I look around my house and wonder if I am living in Simplicity. Are there enough windows to let in the natural light? Are plants able to survive naturally in my house growing straight from the soil? Is there too much space?

A road trip through the Central part of Iowa brought me to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most complete designs. Cedar Rock in Quasqueton, Iowa. The house was completely designed for the personal use of Mr. and Mrs. Walter. Mr. Walter was a native of Quasqueton. He was a very successful businessman who owned the Iowa Road Building Company for thirty-seven years. He sold the company in 1944 to his employees. He wanted to retire and enjoy life. He and his wife became very involved in the arts. They admired the work that Frank Lloyd Wright had done on his architectural designs. They asked him to design their house.

Cedar Rock

Frank Lloyd Wright was the greatest architect of the 20th century. He designed more than 1,100 buildings before he passed away at the age of 91. Wright builtis the first house in Spring Green, Wisconsin where he grew up. He named it “Taliesin”. This building had to be built three times. It was destroyed by fire twice. The first caused by a “deranged servant” and the second by an electrical problem. He didn’t have much luck with wives either. He was married three times. The first two he divorced.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Cedar Rock home using the Usonian design. Usonian was the concept he wanted to use for designing homes for the middle-class families. Although I don’t think that many middle-class families between the time of 1944-1955 could afford to buy a house for $120,000.00. The house my parents bought in 1956 was about $8,000.00. We were classified as middle class. The Usonian homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright were tailor made for the individual and his family. The spaces in the house would be practical and functional. He incorporated “organic architecture”: fresh air, in-house plants, and the sunshine. There were no basements or attics for storage. If you needed to store something and not use it, then get rid of it. He would be very annoyed to walk into some modern-day houses because everything is kept whether needed or not.

No room for storage in this bedroom

The Cedar Rock house was completed in two years. The Walters made a list of the most important items they wanted to include in the house and Wright designed it their way. He chose the curtains, carpets, and picked out the accessories. The house came with furniture, appliances, and plants. The Walters brought their books and clothing. The house was move-in ready.

The natural decor was a must. These are colored rocks illuminated by the natural glow of the sun

The biggest room in the house is the “entertainment area”. This room has a grand piano, movable pillows to allow for more seating and a very small area for sitting and eating. The idea was to socialize with everyone and not to compartmentalize the people. Instead of standing in a corner you had to stand in the center. No wall flowers allowed. The entertainment area is all glass windows. The windows give you the feeling that you are outside in the garden and the woods. The view also includes the river. It’s a dinner without flies.  The skylights brighten the interior space and the windows above help release the hot air trapped near the ceiling.

Dining table

There are no air conditioners. An indoor garden has plants growing in the natural soil of the ground. Not planted in pots.

Plants growing straight from the floor

There is a separate entrance from the exit. This was to help the guests feel more comfortable. You could sneak out the door without the host noticing and you didn’t have to explain why you were leaving. The house is airtight. Our guide describes a night that had winds blowing at tornado strength and torrential rains and the house was not affected.

Cedar Rock “Entertainment Area”

Mr. Walters was a very avid boater. He had the biggest boat around at the time. He had a private boathouse designed so that he could get away without anyone knowing about it. Not even his wife. The boathouse is equipped with a bed. Maybe for longer nights.

The Getaway Boathouse

The property has a very nice walkway and trail. The walkway goes out to the river and through the trees. I arrived early for the tour and decided to walk to the house. Tours are provided by boarding a wagon that is pulled by a tractor. You can not enter the house or walk around it without a tour guide.

Garden steps

Small trail from the Information center to the house

Mr. Walters passed away in 1981 and his wife followed in 1986. They had no children. Mrs. Walters donated the home to the Iowa Conservation Commission in 1982. The money left in her account when she passed was given to the Commission for the upkeep of the house. Her wish was to let other people come in and admire the beauty of the house.

The houses now are designed to be very big. They have attics or basement in the East or Midwest. Walk-in closets are a most for most new homes and families. In a Usonian house, the kitchen was very small. The size of a “butler’s” kitchen or a walk- in pantry. The hallways were narrow and book shelves were designed to blend in with the hallway. Having all windows eliminated the problem of interior decorating. Nature was the decoration.

The bedrooms are very small and so are the beds. The windows in the bedroom open out into the garden to give the feeling of being one with nature.

Master Bedroom

The official plaque of a Frank Llyod Wright Home

My house has a lot of windows to view the desert. My plants don’t grow straight from the ground. They are in pots that need to be watered often. There is too much space. My house has three bedrooms, a loft, a medium sized kitchen, living room, and three bathrooms. Only one bedroom, one bathroom, the kitchen, and loft are used every day. Wright would not be happy with the way I live. It is not very Usonian.

 

 

My First 10 Days of Retirement

Life is a circle. The first part is learning. Learning how to be someone, a child, a teenager, and an adult. The second part is teaching. Teaching your children and your students to be someone. The third part of life is back to learning . Learning how to be a retired person.

Carol Kubota

I have just completed my first ten days of retirement not counting holidays or weekends. I began counting on January 3 because all of my colleagues had to report back to work and I stayed home.

Staying Organized

When I was teaching, I did the same thing every day. Go to class, teach, come home, grade homework, prepare the next day’s lessons and repeat for five days. It was easy to keep track of my time. Now, every day is  Sunday or Saturday.

Now I have three calendars, one in my bag that I carry everywhere, one on my Outlook, and one on the refrigerator. The first thing I do when I wake up is to check the day and date on my cell phone.  I am always afraid I will miss something.

Retirement has a different meaning for each person. I was not ready to sit home, sleep in, or watch TV.  I didn’t have any plans to play golf, mahjong, or pickle ball. My idea of retirement was being able to leave a job that I no longer found challenging to a place where I could travel, write, and connect with my community.

Ten things I did in my first 10 days of retirement.
  1. Became a member of the Kiwanis club in Fountain Hills
  2. Had lunch with another retired educator and didn’t care about the time. Neither one of us glanced at our cell phones to check the time.
  3. Attended a six-hour training for Chloe, my Cocker Spaniel, to be a therapy dog
  4. Joined the Arizona State University book club
  5. Had an interview on Skype with a start-up travel group, Joey, in San Francisco
  6. Attended a  “Wanderful” meeting with  other women who like to travel
  7. Became a docent for the art tours in Fountain Hills
  8. Signed up for one class at Changing Hands bookstore for travel writing
  9. Coffee shop hopping around Phoenix
  10. Completed  two online writing classes

I spend about two hours a day on my computer trying to write enticing stories to attract readers to my web page. Writing is not easy and I am in the process of finding that out. Teaching was not easy when I first started, but with time and experience, it became less stressful. I hope that eventually, I will be able to write with clarity, enthusiasm, perfect punctuation, and a much bigger vocabulary.

This is the beginning of a new adventure and I want to invite my readers to come along with me.

 

 

A Gem in the Desert

The Desert Heat

Hot, sizzling summer days with temperatures of up to 112 F are coming to an end. No more waking up at 4:30 a.m. to walk the dog around the park or hike. Fountain Hills, Arizona is one of the best kept secrets. It is located about twenty five minutes from the greater Phoenix area  and is home to the tallest fountain in the world which shoots up to 560 ft everyday on the hour for about 15 minutes.  The fountain is the main attraction of the park. People come from all over to take pictures.

Summer activities that take place everywhere in the USA take place in the Fall and Winter  in Fountain Hills. People come out of their summer caves and walk the trail that goes up a hill and another that goes around the park. The distance around the park is 1.5 miles. The park trail is popular with families, couples and dogs. Walk anywhere between 5:00-7:00 a.m. and you will find all kinds of dogs with their owners. People are very friendly and greet you with a “Good Morning” and a smile.

October is the time when the “Snowbirds” begin to find their way back from their summer retreats in their home states . Half of the population of Fountain Hills in the fall and winter months is made up of short term visitors. In the Fall and Winter there are disk golf championships, outdoor festivals, two extremely well know art festivals and outdoor markets where you can buy local food. Arizona is known for its lemons, grapefruit, lettuce, cotton, and cabbage.

The fountain is in the middle of a man- made lake which is filled with reclaimed water. There are signs everywhere warning people not to swim in the water. Fishing is not allowed. The ducks don’t seem to bother to read the signs. There are many geese, ducks, blue herons,egrets who nest and hatch their babies in nests that are high up in the trees. Coyotes roam the neighborhood at night and in the early mornings therefore these birds spend much of their time protecting their babies from these predators. Carp is the main type of fish that is found in the lake. There are also rare sightings of turtles and frogs.

 

President’s Corner and More

Fountain Park is a place for strolling around and looking at the numerous statues that are hiding in the park. Sculptures that are memories of people in the city who have passed are nestled under trees and perched on pedestals. A sculpture of a cocker spaniel with it’s head resting on the toes of a pair of bronzed hiking shoes, is a memory of his owner who passed away from cancer. The sculpture sits under a palo verde tree which blossoms with beautiful yellow flowers. Another sculpture is a little girl perched on a pedestal holding a butterfly and extending her hands out to everyone who passes by. As you approach the corner of the park you will see one of the most sought after photo locations in the park. Five presidents, Ted Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington sitting and standing around a bench discussing the politics of yesteryear.  Visitors sit on the bench or in the laps of the presidents for their “picture with the president”. The corner is referred to as Fount Rushmore or President’s corner by the locals.

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An Abundance of Desert Flowers

A variety of desert flowers and cacti such as the Argentinian Giant which produces one of the biggest flowers sits proudly  in the garden with her arms laid out in front of her. It is a photographer’s dream to capture a great picture when in bloom. People stand in line to take pictures of this great plant. Other cacti include the giant saguaro with its many arms stretching as if it reaching towards the sky. Some of the saguaro cacti in the desert are more than a thousand years old.  They are protected and it is illegal to cut one down. The garden is well taken care of by volunteers. Flowers are always blooming in Arizona, even in the winter.

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Sunrise! Sunset!

Families with children, retired couples and singles with their dogs sit on the benches and watch the sunset and the sunrise. The sunsets and sunrises are the most beautiful in Arizona because the background is the mountains. Cloud cover will produce the best pictures ever.

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Fountain Hills is surrounded by mountains. It is one of the most beautiful places in Arizona to visit in the Fall and Winter. There is a small trail, Lake Overlook Trail, that can be hiked in no more than forty-five minutes. Once you get to the top of the trail, you will find a photographer’s paradise. As you look around you will see mountains, fruit orchards, and the Fountain Park. In the winter the mountains are snow covered, no worries, you will not have to drive through it or shovel it off your sidewalks.

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Fountain Hills, Arizona

Coyotes and Javelinas, wild, aggressive, really ugly pigs, roam the neighborhood as if they own the place. They usually come out in the early morning and late evenings. You can hear the coyotes howl on many winter nights usually after they have caught their prey. They feed on the jackrabbits who run around in the desert.

It is easy to walk around Fountain Hills because it is small. You can walk to the downtown area, get a cup of coffee, sit outside and talk to your friends. You can do all of this while your friends are dodging snowstorms, shoveling snow, and wearing heavy outerwear in other parts of the US.  They will be envious! Put this article down and come to Fountain Hills and see for yourself.

Facts:

Fountain Hills has a local population of 23,235.

The Average High in summer is 115F

The Average Low in winter is 42F

 

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